Monday, December 31, 2007
Most of you have probably already punched out, but for anyone who's made it this far, onward!
News Story of the Year
Many to choose from, as always: The takeover of Gaza by Hamas was a biggie. The downward spiral in Zimbabwe, while not as catastrophic as I thought it would be (but it ain't over yet) was also big. The crash of the housing market and the disintegration of the sub-prime mortgage sector had enormous impact which has not yet been fully played out. For me, it comes down to two major stories: The near-revolution in Burma and the turning of the tide in Iraq.
Personally, I was most caught up in the Burma story, although I know I'm in the very small minority. I can't explain my fascination with Burma, but I am enthralled. To see the monkhood defy the authorities as they did in late summer/early fall was exciting, even thrilling. The high point came when the monks marched by Suu Kyi's home/prison, with her silently watching, tears evident. Of course, it all came to naught as the fascist thugs in power turned the army's guns on the monks and civilians, and the world, after some lip-service, turned to other topics. Hope, which for a brief moment appeared to be turning into something more, is in very, very short supply on the streets of Rangoon these days.
In terms of world impact, of course, the situation in Iraq has far more impact. The right wing press has been saying, for some time, the tide has been turning. The troops on the ground started saying the same thing mid-year, and now the evidence seems obvious: Stability is emerging, and we dare hope for a reasonably happy outcome.
Worth the cost? Hell no. Not even close in terms of the money, equipment, good will, and, most of all, lives that have been squandered in this catastrophe. But a stable Iraq seems a real possibility now, which was the goal (I think) all along.
How will history judge this endeavor? I have no idea. Probably more favorably than we do now, but it's impossible to say with any certainty. The legacy of the GWB presidency is indelibly linked to the historical view of the Iraq effort. I think its a real possibility that, 20 years from now, the whole bit is viewed as a success, and maybe even a great success. Crazy? Stupid? Naive? Maybe. Call me in 2027 and lets compare notes, shall we?
Sports Story of the Year
Again, some contenders: The Cowboys' return to greatness (we'll see in January if its real or a parity-induced mirage), the Mavericks' fall from greatness (the window slammed shut in a hurry, didn't it?), the invincibility of the New England Patriots, the somewhat anti-climactic continued greatness of the Red Sox, Beckham in America (well, maybe), the rise of Sidney Crosby, and many other compelling events are all possibilities.
To me, the steroids brouhaha in baseball was the big one, even if it, too, was anti-climactic. From my perspective, the entire game of baseball has been sullied, and every major record achieved in the past 25 years is suspect. No one is surprised to hear Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or any of the other names in the Mitchell Report. But think about it: Do you now doubt the true greatness of some, if not all, of the big stars of the recent past? Reggie Jackson? Tony Gwynn? Cal Ripken Jr? Even the hallowed and revered Nolan Ryan? I do. And I hate that.
Local Story of the Year
Oh, where to start (or end) here? The election of the great (I hope) Tom Leppert to the Dallas Mayor's office? The defeat of the revisionist Trinity River nay-sayers? The unveiling of the Jerry Dome and all that went with it?
I'm going with an obscure one, but one that hits very close to home, and one that I think has the potential to put a major crimp in the stratospheric growth of my home town of Frisco TX. And that is the failure of all involved to do something about Eldorado Parkway. This major east-west artery of Frisco has seen MASSIVE development over the past two years or so, with gigantic shopping and housing developments lining it nearly from stem to stern. And yet it remains a poorly lit, poorly paved, poorly controlled two-lane country road. The traffic jams on Eldorado Parkway at nearly any hour of the day or night are becoming the stuff of legend. I will go MILES out of my way to avoid it. The solution remains elusive, as the city of Frisco and TxDOT continue to wrangle over who should do what to relieve the situation. I feel for the people (good friends of ours included) who have built homes along Eldorado, in many cases BEAUTIFUL homes, but who's quality of life suffers dramatically from their inability to literally get out of their driveways during rush hour.
Story to Watch in 2008
There are the obvious ones, such as the US presidential election and (God, I hope) the resolution of the Iraq boondoggle, among many many others. However, the one I hope, and expect, to see is "The Beginning of the End of the Petroleum Era".
I think it's time, and I think, in 2008, we'll begin to see it. The rise of the hybrid (already well under way) and the all-electric car, the rebirth of nuclear, the advance of battery technology, and perhaps some things we're not thinking much about now, all will, I really hope and believe, start to move us away from our dependence on oil. Don't sell your Exxon stock yet - this is going to take many years - but I think we'll start to see some real movement in 2008.
On the Family Front
As Robynne and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary, our son is seven, our daughter turns 10, and we approach our 3rd year in Frisco, there is much to be thankful for and much to look forward to.
Professionally, 2007 saw Catapult Systems establish ourselves as a major player in the Dallas IT market, and the arrows are all pointing up precipitously for 2008. Robynne continued to add to her legend in the North Dallas pediatric community, the RES-Q Wedge finally became available online, and all trends for next year are positive. Our daughter, fast approaching the teenage years, has re found her stride academically and has matured so much I can't believe it. Our son continues in good health (Tyrosinemia Type 1 is very manageable thus far, thank God) and continues to charm everyone around him. We have great hopes for his emotional and behavioral growth in 2008.
The extended family had its ups and downs in 2007. Minor (mostly) health issues in some quarters, and perhaps somewhat less-minor marital issues in others were more than offset by professional successes, milestones like starting school, going away to camp, new jobs, and new opportunities. We got to see some family members we hadn't seen in some time, almost everyone got to travel a bit, with some mixed results, and I think we all enter 2008 looking forward to continued successes.
We end our family's 2007 with a net positive on all fronts, and look forward to continued good things in 2008. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Holiday Season, and a happy, peaceful, and healthy 2008.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Every bit of video available, along with numerous eyewitness quotes, agree that a gunman fired three shots at Bhutto as she stood in the sunroof of her vehicle. However, the official story is that she was not hit by the shots and was, instead, killed when her head was smashed against the interior of the vehicle when the bomb was triggered.
The Channel 4 video seem to show, pretty clearly, that she was hit by at least one of the shots. Further, there's no indication that her head hit anything inside her bomb-proof vehicle. No one else inside the vehicle was injured.
Now one has to wonder why the Musharraf government is lying about something as seemingly trivial as this. What difference does it make how, exactly, she died? If they're lying about this, what else are they lying about?
If Musharraf can be solidly linked to the killing, there's no telling what happens. Whatever it is that does happen won't be good.
Friday, December 28, 2007
This is the pro-Taliban Pakistani militant who is the leader in the clubhouse for the coveted title (in South Waziristan, at least) "mastermind of the Bhutto assassination".
This dude has Bad News written all over him.
The current thinking is that extremists are behind this despicable act. Bhutto supporters still blame Musharraf and the ISI, but, at least according to the media, this seems unlikely. From my less-than-expert perspective, I agree - Musharraf has WAY too much to lose if he gets caught with blood on his hands.
Three mice are sitting at a bar in a pretty rough neighborhood late at night trying to impress each other about how tough they are. The first mouse orders a scotch, gulps it down and slams the glass on the bar. He turns to the second mouse and says, "When I see a mousetrap, I lie on my back and set it off with my foot. When the bar comes down, I catch it in my teeth, bench press it 20 times to work up an appetite, and then make off with the cheese."
The second mouse orders two shots of bourbon, slams them down and nearly breaks the glasses on the bar. He turns to the first mouse and replies, "Yeah, well, when I see rat poison, I collect as much as I can, take it home, grind it into a powder, and add it to my coffee each morning so I can get a good buzz going for the rest of the day."
The first mouse and the second mouse then turn to the third mouse. The third mouse lets out a long sigh and says to the first two, "I don't have time for this bullsh**. I gotta go home and screw the cat."
I'm not going to spend any time on Ms. Bhutto's past. She had her share of controversy, and there are (or were, I guess) legitimate questions regarding her ability to unite and lead Pakistan had she won upcoming elections. None of that matters now - her death at the hands of a as-yet-unnamed jihadist is nothing short of a tragedy for Pakistan, South Asia, and the world. Its difficult to see anything positive coming out of this event.
However, it's done.
The questions I have today are:
- Who did it?
- Who will benefit?
- Who will suffer?
The first two questions are closely related. The obvious answer to both is Musharraf. Bhutto was clearly his chief rival and main opposition in the upcoming elections, so it's easy to see a short-term gain for the current President.
You can't dismiss this sort of motivation completely, but I'm not so sure.
Musharraf is hanging on by his fingernails. His whole bit is based on being able to provide internal security, and he's currently failing (badly) at it. The extremists are not in his fan club, and have tried to top him off at least twice. Any incident which contributes to the "out-of-control" impression only serves to weaken the current administration. I mean, come on - the guy has suspended the constitution, imposed emergency rule, trampled on what civil rights there are in Pakistan, muzzled the press, attempted to crush the judiciary, and he STILL can't slow down the AQ/Taliban suicide squads?
I think the average Syed and Mohammed on the street is a little disenchanted w/ Musharraf and has been for a while. Current events are not helping his standing.
The fundamentalists seem the most obvious candidates for responsibility here. Maybe they're too easy - Musharraf and the ISI have to know how easy they are for this, and, if we're going to be Machiavellian about this, well, that's just pin-the-tail-on-the-Taliban waiting to happen, isn't it?
If we try to go the less-cynical route, AQ, the Taliban, and Pakistan's home-grown fundamentalists certainly seem to fit the profile, don't they? Bhutto was a secular (relatively), progressive (again, relatively) woman from a privileged family who (most egregious of all) actually had a chance to win power democratically. There's a list of descriptors guaranteed to fry the beard off the average militant Islamic fundamentalist, no?
These guys are perfect for it.
By the way, this backfires on them if they get caught. If the Pakis can dig up some real proof that AQ, the Taliban, or the Waziristan All-Stars are involved, Musharraf is finally going to have some support for really going into the North West Frontier provinces and kicking some fundamentalist butts.
Also on the list of "who benefits" - fellow-former-PM (and fellow-alleged-crook) Nawaz Sharif. Sharif was going to get his a** kicked in the elections anyway. Now, though, he gets to take the moral high ground by boycotting the election. His standing, which likely would have been eroded significantly by a poor showing in the polls, instead takes a giant turn upwards as the new "moral center" of the opposition. I don't for one second think Sharif had anything to do with Bhutto's killing, but there's no doubt he benefits from it.
Who suffers? The average Syed and Mohammed do, as their country descends into more violence and less stability. Whether the elections are held as scheduled or not, Pakistan has taken a HUGE step backwards on the road to rule of law and stability.
Pakistani women lose big time. A role model for ambitious girls has been turned into a cautionary, perhaps dissuading, tale. The fundamentalists, who want to turn the clock back 600 years and, in the process, transform women into human livestock, become more powerful and get closer to running the show.
The world community takes it on the chin as well. Pakistan, a nuclear power, is no closer to becoming a stable state or calming influence on this most unstable of regions.The nut-jobs, who would use those nuclear weapons in their unilateral religious war against anyone and everyone who is not exactly like them, are that much closer to the levers of power. And a voice, flawed thought it may have been, which called out for reconciliation and moderation, has been violently silenced.
God, what a bummer.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The NFL Network, and its exclusive games, has been a sore spot for me, and the football-viewing public in general, for two seasons now. Thanks to the NFL's swordfight with Time Warner and Comcast, the majority of Americans cannot see the NFL Network even if they wanted to. For the most part, I doubt they want to very much. Game presentation on the league's new toy is terrible, with a lame pre- and post-game show, mediocre (at best) graphics, and the world's worst play-by-play announcer in Bryant Gumbel.
Regardless, the Pats-Giants game is potentially somewhat historic, as the Pats (in case you have been living under a rock somewhere) have the opportunity to finish the first 16-0 regular season ever.
The NFL, shockingly, is giving all of America the opportunity to do so. Perhaps it was the Holiday Season which overcame the greed-bags in the League office. Or, perhaps slightly more likely, it was Sen. Leahy's not-too-subtle suggestion that congress might take a new look at the NFL's anti-trust exemption.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The letter, from one James Wilson of Dallas, has to do with the debate regarding the teaching of Intelligent Design in classrooms, and it completely crystallizes the issue for me. Here is the letter:
Re: "Protect, don't prohibit," by Roger Adams, Tuesday Letters.
The objection to the teaching of Intelligent Design in public school biology classes isn't about religion, or the constitutional separation of church and state. It's about what "science" means.
Intelligent design holds that life is too complex to have arisen on its own, and that an unnamed intelligence must be partly responsible. This flies in the face of the nature of scientific inquiry. Any explanation of natural processes that includes a higher power is not scientific, because it cannot be tested and supported or disproved.
English literature courses don't include War and Peace or other Russian works, regardless of their merit – they're simply not part of the subject matter.
What the religious anti-evolution forces see as an attempt to push God out of the classroom is, in reality, an attempt to limit science curriculum to science subjects.
Bravo, Mr. Wilson! Let's get away from the "Does religion belong in the classroom" bit, because it will never be resolved satisfactorily. Let's, instead, focus on what's really at issue here!
Friday, December 21, 2007
The boys spent a rather awkward segment trying to explain what has happened and what will be forthcoming on The Ticket during afternoon drive. Unfortunately for them, and for us, this situation does not, in any way, lend itself to full disclosure. Starting with (I presume) HIPAA constraints, then working its way into contract termination, cease-and-desist orders from Greg Williams' lawyers, and non-compete clauses from Cumulus, there's very little that can be said publicly. Which places the on-air staff at The Ticket, and Rhnyer and Co in particular, in a very difficult position.
The Ticket has achieved its staggering success, in large part, through its open-kimono on-air policy. No one gets away with "non-disclosure" and, as a result, we, the listening public, get let in on all sorts of behind-the-scenes tom-foolery. It's fun to be part of the club, and The Ticket has always rewarded its loyal listeners with an all-access pass to the clubhouse. If you're a fellow P-1, you know what I'm talking about.
In this case, however, the clubhouse door is firmly shut, and has to remain so due to the aforementioned legalities. With tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands, I have no idea) of people listening in, there's no such thing as a "little" slip-up. Given that, I was somewhat surprised Rhyner was willing to talk about the subject at all.
He and his cohorts did talk, but didn't say much. They were less emphatic than I was yesterday about the now-certain divorce from the Hambonita, but Rhyner did acknowledge that Greg Williams' time on the show is at an end. He went on to inform us a new voice would be added to the afternoon airwaves, which did surprise me. I thought it a done deal that Corby Davidson would continue in the co-pilot's seat. Likely he will (Rhyner did say he felt Corby is the number 2 guy), and perhaps a Richie Whitt or Robert Wilonsky will join as a few-segment-a-day add-on. Or perhaps Kevin Scott will become the new third wheel. Or perhaps someone not yet heard will become a new yuk-monkey. We'll have to stay tuned to find out.
And I will stay tuned.
I suspect many of The Hardline's loyal listenership, myself included, feel somewhat left out, which is not what we're used to from our afternoon drive companions. However, given the factors in play in this situation, I have no suggestions for the station as to how they could have handled it any better. Bitter divorces, with lots of back-story and baggage, which certainly seems to describe what's going on here, are painful, messy, and fraught with legal landmines. When they're carried out in public, in front of the masses, they're even worse.
First off, I COULD NOT wait to see this movie. I saw the first trailer on IMDB months ago and was entranced. Will Smith as the last human on Earth, living in a deserted and collapsing NYC - it looked amazing.
Then, not so long ago, I downloaded the original screenplay, written by Mark Protosevich, who has not written much else. It's fantastic, definitely worth a read.
OK, so the movie opens. I have a vacation day, kids in school, wife at work. I know the wife isn't going to want to see this, so I go catch the early matinee (five bucks) at the local Cinemark. I am literally grinning from ear to ear when the lights go down.
An hour and a half later, I was pretty disappointed.
Will Smith is good, maybe great, as very solitary Robert Neville, a military scientist who may have been somewhat responsible for the initial spread of the "Krippen Virus". KV, as it's called once or twice in the film, transforms its victims (like 99% of humanity and some portion of the animal kingdom - dogs, at least) into mutant, mindless vampire zombies or somesuch. Most of the movie occurs three years after the outbreak of the virus, following a failed attempt to cure cancer.
The decimation of humanity is pretty close to complete, and Neville has only had his family's German Shepherd, Samantha, for company since the outbreak. Neville and doggie continue to live in Greenwich Village, spending their days gathering vegetables from a Times Square garden, hunting deer in Midtown, and trapping vampires for Neville's experimental "cures" for the virus. Their nights are spent bunkered down in Neville's Washington Square brownstone (I guess military science pays pretty well), staying low and out of sight from the "darkstalkers" (the vampires).
The first half of the movie is really well done. The deserted NYC is well portrayed, although I thought some things were in too good shape - I would have expected a lot more deterioration, but what the heck do I know? Regardless, the total absence of humans is eerie as hell. Smith does a convincing job of portraying a man who's gone a little crazy from the solitude.
An early sequence, where Neville goes after his dog into a dark, spooky warehouse, scared the crap out of me. It was an example of outstanding film-making and acting. Neville came across as a real human, albeit a lot braver than I would have been. I would have stayed at the door and hollered "Sam!" until I was hoarse. No way I would have gone into the bowels of the building after her!
The "darkstalkers" were disappointing. Sort of grown-up versions of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, they were nothing like the thinking, speaking, plotting "hemocytes" of Protosevich's screenplay. At least one of them appears to have some feelings (his mate (?) is a less-than-willing subject of one of Neville's experiments) and some inclination to revenge, but he in no way resembles "Cortman" from the screenplay.
The second half of the movie lost me. While I thought Smith's character's actions were explainable and consistent, he became much less sympathetic and heroic. If he's truly a "legend", and has already exhibited some larger-than-life capabilities, I thought he would have acted more, well, "legendary".
My first thought when the credits ran was "bummer". Perhaps the screenplay raised my expectations too high. Regardless, it's worth a checkout when it hits cable or Netflix, but I wouldn't pay full price to see it.
Which is a disappointment of the highest order.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
It's terribly sad that it came to this, but Williams' drug problems were, apparently, too much for management or his on-air bretheren to get past.
Good luck and Godspeed, Hambonita. As Richie states, I fear you'll miss The Ticket more than The Ticket misses you, but I, for one, do appreciate the years of entertainment you were a part of.
How nice would it be to have an easy-to-see, visual indication of your wife's true state of agitation when all she'll tell you is that she's "fine"?
The invitation comes via Al-Sahab, AQ's media arm, and is posted on various Islamic Web sites. The instructions are to submit your questions thru several Islamic Web forums, and al-Zawahiri will answer them "as much as he is able and at the soonest possible occasion". Whether this means he'll reply via a new video or audio message, Web post, personalized return email, or chiseled on to stone tablets is unclear.
No doubt a large number of funny, funny people will submit penetrating questions like, "Why are you guys such dicks?" or "Does Osama really smell like a goat?". But I'm hopeful some substantive questions will get passed along as well. My own might be something like, "Once you re-establish the Caliphate, what sort of contact would you have with the rest of the world?" or "How is it that Allah, who loves peace, gets behind flying passenger airplanes into crowded office buildings?"
It is a bit surprising to see AQ reaching out to the world, albeit in a very limited way. Obviously, no questions submitted are going to cause al-Zawahiri or anyone else in the AQ hierarchy to rethink their beliefs, and it's not like these guys are open to a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Still, it is an interesting opportunity to learn a bit more about AQ and, perhaps, to find some ammunition in the continuing fight to discredit and, ultimately, get rid of them.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
In addition, Frisco Style magazine did a write-up on the product and its creation, which I thought I'd link here. It's worth a read, and contains some excellent pictures of Robynne, Dr. and Mrs. Troop, and our kids.
Go check it out!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Winehouse has become a bigger and bigger train wreck since she hit the big time, which is a tragic shame. I love her sound, but at the rate she's going, she'll be dead before the end of 2008.
Monday, December 17, 2007
There are several culprits who need calling out, and a few who really need to be let off the hook. To wit:
Our Golden Boys on offense, Jason Garrett and Tony Romo, are probably the most culpable. For reasons I don't understand, the Cowboys completely abandoned the run early on, and never came back to it. They are clearly a pass-first team, but have successfully used the run to keep defenses honest. They bailed on it yesterday, and the guy who calls the plays (Mr. Garrett - who knows a hell of a lot more than I do about all things football) clearly did so for some purpose which remains a mystery to me.
Instead of a bit of running, the Cowboys stuck with a passing game that flat wasn't working. Some of the misfiring can, and should, be laid at the feet of the Eagle defense. Jim Johnson had his boys in the right places at the right times. But I think more of the responsibility lies w/ our newly rich QB. Romo was awful. His normal laser accuracy was barely in evidence, with overthrows, underthrows, you-name-its flying all over the place. The receivers didn't do him many favors, with TO Owens and Sam Hurd having the most obvious cement-hands. But Romo so totally didn't have it yesterday.
Props to the defense, with special shout-outs to Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, both of whom had monster games. The defense played well enough to win. They bounced back well from getting torched by Detroit last week and did their part.
I have to pause for moment to single out Roy Williams for some special scorn. Is he the dumbest human in sports? When the league enacts a rule specifically to prevent a tactic you have employed to injure three different players, and goes so far as to name the rule after you, it might be a good idea to refrain from the newly-outlawed tactic, right? So it is w/ Roy and the so-called "horse-collar" tackle. You would think Roy would steer clear of this move, right? Right? Not so much - he drags Donovan McNabb down by the back of the shoulder pads, then throws a fit when he gets flagged for it. Roy, you are an idiot. You deserve the suspension you got from the league, and you deserve a beating from your team-mates.
While we're calling out players for individual actions, Brian Westbrook deserves special mention, but for a completely different reason. When he gave up a sure touchdown with two minutes left to, instead, ensure his team could run out the clock and prevent the Cowboys from getting the ball again, I was stunned. This was the most unselfish, headiest play I think I have ever seen. I was a fan of Westbrook's before. Now, I'm in awe of the guy. Pure genius!
And a final note: For those of you who think Jessica Simpson was to blame for Romo's performance or the loss itself, I have one question for you: Are you people high? Please tell me you're kidding. This theory is too stupid for me to even comment on. Tony, congratulations. I hope she's at every game. Keep it up. It gives me an excuse to post this:
This thing is by far the most-capable fighter ever built - forget about "air superiority", the F-22 is designed for "air dominance". I'm not completely sure why we need something like this today - the Chinese won't be able to build anything like it for another 50 years, and forget about anyone else. But it's fun to watch...
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I don't even know where to begin on this one. It has everything an excellent comic has to offer:
- A sense of reality(?)
- Great Characterization
- Wonderful Writing
- Fantastic Art
- Unique Storytelling
- An Appeal to All Ages
- Did I mention Action?
For years now my 10-year-old son and I have enjoyed the proverbial "heck" out of this comic.
Being a former high school English teacher I like to concentrate on the writing above all else (because without good writing, you got "poo" for a product). Invincible is written by the inimitable (and prolific) Robert Kirkman. Kirkman not only knows how to tell a story, but his use of dialogue to add to characterization is almost unheard of in the comics industry (OK, I'll admit it, there is a chance that Brian Michael Bendis, in his prime, was better). Not only is he able to write dialogue that sounds like people actually speak, but his sense of timing and humor make you continuously want to turn the page. Kirkman is one of my personal gods walking hard on this earth. Almost everything he writes is gold (including another of my favorites, The Walking Dead). I am serious when I tell you, this is a great read -- suitable for all ages.
Next is the art. Invincible is currently drawn by Ryan Ottley. His lines are clean, emotions are perfectly captured, movement is evident, and action is rendered in a manner that you feel every punch, kick, smash, burn, and whack. Ottley can create some serious blood and gore, which may disturb the "chillin" of a more sensitive nature (apparently not a 10-year-old boy, though), and sometimes it can be a bit gratuitous -- but it is always rendered in a way that almost makes it beautiful.
Invincible does have a bit of a complicated story line (for a great synopsis see this Wikipedia entry), but it is pretty easy to jump on board at any point. The smartest thing to do (in my estimation) is go back to the beginning. This is very easy to do by getting your hands on the trade paperbacks that have been coming out at a fairly regular pace.
Even more exciting is the notion that Invincible has been optioned to be made into a feature film. Nothing says success like the big screen, and Kirkman's creation should transfer beautifully to film.
Now quit reading this and get your hands on Invincible. Don't ever say I didn't do anything for you.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
From BoingBoing today: The CIA may have destroyed a videotape of a particularly, um, "aggressive" interrogation of a couple of AQ suspects. The reason given for the alleged destruction of evidence is to "protect agency operatives from legal consequences".
Let's get a couple of things out of the way first, shall we?
First, our intelligence agencies use interrogation tactics which I think we can all agree constitute "torture". If you aren't sure waterboarding is torture, I invite you to read Andy McNab's latest, wherein his protagonist undergoes a waterboarding session, described in McNab's hallmark vivid prose.
It's torture. It may not be a Sears Die Hard hooked up to your naughty bits, but it's torture.
Second, not all that many of us would have thought this was a bad idea on Sept 12, 2001. I'm not saying torture is not a bad idea. And don't get all defensive about this either. Think about it - would you REALLY have objected so strongly to fake-drowning Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the day after his boys killed 3,000 Americans? Or would you have volunteered to fill the buckets? Be honest, now.
Third, AQ giggles their fanatical little aces off whenever we get our knickers in a twist over "aggressive interrogations". Ask the Russians about the respectful and subtle interrogation methods the mujaheddin used on their prisoners back in the 80s (you know, when Osama and Omar were collecting the CIA's "SAMs and Semtex" Happy Meal toys). If you can find anyone with first-hand experience. Ask the KBR truck drivers who get lifted in Iraq or the NGO reps who never come home from Somalia how much AQ and its franchisees care for their prisoners.
I'm not saying two wrongs make a right. I'm just saying the other guys are not exactly constrained by morality on this matter.
Glad we got those things out of the way.
This accusation, if true, is one of the most disturbing things I've heard since Iran-Contra. In fact, I'm trying to think of anything more disturbing since Iran-Contra and coming up blank.
Either this is a country ruled by law or it isn't. If it is ruled by law, then the law applies to all. You don't get to set it aside because you think someone is trying to kill you.
Wait a second. Yes, you do. It's called self-defense. Is that the rationalization?
Maybe so, but it sure doesn't explain the destruction of evidence. The Bloated Irishman from Hyannisport compares this egregious disregard for our nation's laws to the gap in the Watergate tapes, and he's right. This is simple and blatant cover-up, clearly actions intended to avoid prosecution and legal recourse against the participants.
I can go with you, a little, on the torture bit. I've said it before - the CIA has the toughest job I can think of this side of Israeli policeman. On the day after the next terrorist attack on the US, we'll all ask the boys and girls in Langley what they did to prevent that attack, and the only screams will come when they admit they didn't lean on their prisoners enough.
It's the obstruction bit I can't abide...
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Let's forget for a moment that this Cowboy defense still looks shaky as hell. Let's forget TO Owens being, for all intents and purposes, shut out. Let's forget the Lions, a team which seems to expect to lose, making the Cowboys look inept for the vast majority of the game.
Let's just focus, for the rest of today, on the young Jedi master wearing number 9. Tony Romo continues to lead a charmed life, rallying his team, once again, to grab a win when a loss seemed inevitable. Some others have thrown around the term "best season ever for a Cowboy QB", which is, when you stop to think about Aikman, Staubach, White, and Meredith, really saying something. I think I'm on board with the sentiment.
Friday, December 07, 2007
The sad story seems destined to drag out into the New Year, and sad is the only way to describe it. Williams has long been a fan favorite, and appeared, at one time, to be the most down-to-earth and genuine of the Ticket on-air staff. As has been mentioned here, his performance in recent months had degraded noticeably, and it appears that he's completely burned bridges with both his on-air brethren and management.
I remain a loyal Ticket listener, and fan of the afternoon drive program, whatever it will be called in the future. Corby Davidson, Danny Balis, and the occasional drive-by fill-in are all more engaged and engaging than Williams had been recently, and the show is still funny. I'll continue to be by the channel, but wish Williams well in his future endeavors.
Back in February, he screened 15 minutes of the film at the Berlin International Film Festival for selected distributors. Apparently, he has made the insinuation that he had found Uncle Osama. Adding fuel to the rumor mill, DP Daniel Marracino is quoted in Variety as saying, "We've definitely got the Holy Grail."
There are only about a million things wrong with this story, including:
1. We're supposed to believe this knucklehead accomplished what the entire intelligence community and military of the US and UK have failed to do over the past six plus years.
2. He's been silent about it for nearly a year, when the entire Western World would have benefited from a clue or two.
3. He turned down the $25 million price tag currently on Uncle Osama's head, courtesy of the US govt, in return for a few million from the Weinsteins. And, presumably, his "artistic integrity".
The film is slated to premiere at Sundance in 2008. We'll see. I am skeptical, to say the very least.
Warning: The language is a bit salty, but you'll emerge mostly unscathed. "This is a dark f___ing period" may be the line of the year.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
You know, in High School, when I first was assigned to read selections from Walt's poetic opus, Leaves of Grass, I found myself confused and slightly turned off. Who was this Old Man from an Old Time using Old Words and what could it possibly have to do with my life as an awkward teen in Dallas, Texas full of romantic notions of Bukowski and Brautigan, Kerouac and Ginsberg? My ear attunded to the sound of fear, the sound of desperation -- beat, punk, down.
It still resonates in my ear. Mr. Williams, my sophomore English Teacher, was like a god to me. This man took me and turned me inside out, causing my eyes to be filled with worlds I had never dreamed of in my quest for depravity. If Mr. Williams told me it was going to be profound, then I had to believe him.
I try to talk softly when I talk to myself outloud. It puts everyone else in a more comfortable position.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The Detroit Lions are next on the schedule for your Dallas Cowboys. I think we all agree: This should not be a repeat of the drubbing the Cowboys took from Detroit last year.
Certainly the folks in Detroit don't think so. The Lions have, after starting promisingly at 6-2, reverted to their usual, utterly disappointing form. And there are some shots being taken by the press. I know, I'm shocked too.
Their secondary is so bad, I expect cornerbacks to line up with their backs to the line of scrimmage, just to get a head start.
Things are not rosy in Detroit. They probably never are, but its apparently grimmer than usual in the sports pages.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Today's clip features former Dallas Star player-man Aaron Downey (still rattling around the league, btw) knocking the stuffing out of an opponent with one punch, followed by Razor Reaugh going absolutely nuts over it.
Last night (er, I mean Monday night - this one spent a couple of days in the "Draft" folder), America was treated to the most boring, ugliest, least compelling, and most unwatchable football game ever played.
I am, of course, referring to Pittsburgh 3 - Miami 0 on Monday Night Football, which was an insult to the institution of Monday Night Football, the sport in general, and its fans.
The grounds crew in Pittsburgh decided that the playing surface at Heinz Field had become too badly beaten during recent high school playoffs and a college game to be effective for a Monday night NFL game. Their solution? Lay new sod OVER the existing, beaten up grass. This, with rain predicted all day and into the evening on Monday.
Anyone who has ever laid sod in his/her yard knows that fresh sod is a mess. It slides around and turns into chocolate pudding when the relative humidity gets high, and turns to liquid in the rain. And that's when you lay it on top of tilled soil. Putting it on top of existing grass seems like it would make the situation even worse, right?
And so it did.
Lets forget this was a bad matchup under any circumstances. The Dolphins are barely an NFL team this season, with no offensive weapons to speak of, NOTHING at quarterback, a defense which is constantly on the field, shaky special teams, and inexperienced coaching. And don't even get me started on that worthless Ricky Williams - hurt after six carries? Oh dear. How much would you like to bet he's out for 3 or 4 weeks? Dude ought to be in JAIL for the amount of money he's stolen in his career. And what the HELL are the Dolphins doing taking him back? They have no one to blame but themselves.
Never mind all that. This could have been Patriots-Colts and it still would have been a horror show. The playing surface at Heinz Field would have embarrassed the six-man team from Borger High School. I am simply shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed their field to turn into The Bog on national TV. I'm shocked the NFL would permit it.
The way I see it, the NFL owes its fans for last night's travesty. And how are they going to replay us? By screwing us out of pretty much a game a week for the rest of the season with their stupid little pissing contest with Time Warner and Comcast over their NFL Network.
Thanks, you a-holes. Remember - what comes around goes around. You reap what you sow. A stitch in time saves nine. Feel free to add any other inane cliches you think might remotely apply here.
BTW, Mike Celizic, the MSNBC Sports "columnist" who routinely either puts me to sleep or makes me shake my head in the sheer wonderment that someone pays him to express his opinions, actually writes a sensible column on the asinine NFL Network-cable J.O.S. today.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The story, as I hear it, is U2 were set to release the song as a single, but decided not to at the last minute as Bono couldn't belt it out night after night on tour. Since the single wasn't released, the video was binned as well.
After viewing, I have to say that Western Civilization didn't miss much by not seeing this thing for 20-ish years. I guess this is all there was to videos back in 1987, and we've come a long way since then. I'm pretty underwhelmed.
And what is up with Bono's hair, anyway? I've heard it called "Jesus hair", but I still think "super-mullet". Either way, it's not good. I could definitely do without the sweaty wife-beater and the gratuitous underarm hair as well.
Whatever. Its a new-to-you U2 video, so what's to complain about?
Friday, November 23, 2007
Looks like Greggo wound up on the wrong side of a cocaine problem (is there a right side?), has been, or is still, in rehab, and plans to return to the afternoon-drive airwaves sometime next week.
The question raised by all this is: How welcome will he be, both by his co-workers and his audience. No one has been harder on drug-using athletes than Williams, and the resulting apparent hypocrisy could be overwhelming. Many accused The Ticket of turning hypocritical in the wake of Carter Albrecht's tragic death - there was no trifecta talk after that event. I'll definitely cut Rhyner and company slack on that one - Albrecht's death was a horrible, close-to-home tragedy which may or may not have been the result of outside chemical influences. Williams' "do as I say, not as I do" actions may be harder to swallow.
The upshot, for me at least, is The Hardline has not missed a beat without Williams. More Corby Davidson, more Wilonsky, guests dropping in, most notably the under-rated Kevin Scott and good old Richie Whitt himself, has more than made up for Williams, who was was in noticeable decline prior to his sudden Oct 12 mid-show departure. Always prone to the mis-speak and random goofball comment, Williams was, in the months leading up to his disappearing act, often guilty of tuning out the show around him, making inane and irrelevant comments, and being clearly out-of-sorts. If that's the Greggo who's coming back next week, um, buddy, don't bother...
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Well, it's never too late, especially when you write a blog no one reads. So, let's talk Cowboys-Jets for a moment, shall we?
The Cowboys are favored by a stunning 14 points over the lowly Jets. As I've mentioned before, point spreads over 10 in the NFL give me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. I wouldn't touch this game as a gambler with Medieval jousting lance. However, with that said, the Cowboys should, SHOULD, kill 'em.
Some reasons the Cowboys might not kill 'em:
- With all apologies to Wade Phillips' 3-4 genius, this defense is not that good. The Redskins, with a friggin SEC QB not named Manning, exposed this thing for what it is. And what it is is a suspect group that struggles to mount a consistent pass rush and has big holes when the safeties are asked to cover.
- Special teams are, in a word, scary. These guys give up some big returns almost every game, and the Jets, for all their patheticness, can return kicks. I can easily see 14 points coming off special teams mistakes.
- Running game. What running game? JJones and MBIII looked to have a little something last year, when they each had a specific role. The suspect JJT, writing in the DMN this morning, made a good point when he put forth the hypothesis that these guys are being mis-used when they alternate series, which has been the case more often than not this year. Romo the Jedi Knight and the suddenly-prolific TO Owens have been producing enough, more than enough, to cover for the near-absence of a coherent running game, but you'd think this weakness would jump up and bite Dallas eventually.
Even with all that, I'm still thinking Cowboys, and perhaps a laugher.
And, for a BIG change, the early game is not a time-waste. Detroit is not as silly as usual, and I still am not sold on Green Bay. I think this is a decent game. I'm going to go against my heart and pull for the Packers, but mostly because I want to see them come into the Partially Domed Rathole on 114 next week with the big record, setting up a major stop-down for everyone in the DFW Metroplex of Love.
And the late game? Well, Time Warner and the NFL Network are still miles apart, so I'll have to settle for highlights on ESPN. I hate that these organizations can't get their you-know-what together, and I'm getting the short end of the stick shoved up my wazoo as a result. But that's another post for another day.
Go (insert your team here)!
As Jews, we don't do the Christmas or Easter thing, so Thanksgiving has always been the big family holiday for us. We've never had much in the way of tradition around the day, just that we try to get as many family members as possible under a single roof, which is a good enough tradition for me. The more the better. I sincerely hope we can gather more each year, both family and friends.
The best Thanksgivings for me have occurred in two places: Our house and my uncle and aunt's house back in the day.
Thanksgivings in our house, esp since we moved to the palace in Frisco a couple of years ago, are great, and I hope to have it here more often than not. It's difficult with some wrinkles in the extended family which have come up recently, and I certainly don't mind going elsewhere for Thanksgiving dinner. But I really like having a lot of family at our place. It was one of the big reasons I wanted to build this joint in the first place. Having the kids running around upstairs, and good, interesting conversation in every room, lots of wine bottles opened, TONS of food filling the kitchen, both ovens going, it's all great. I especially like it when the weather is Thanksgiving-ish - cold, even grey, never a given in Texas. It makes the house seem warmer. Love it!
The very best Thanksgivings, however, were at my uncle and aunt's huge old house in Western Massachusetts. The house was perfect for large gatherings - I have no idea how big that place was in terms of square feet, but, trust me, it was gi-normous. Getting there was a bit of a challenge, so we always stayed for the long weekend, which was part of the greatness. It was always cold, snow was a player several times, and it felt very, very American, and I mean everything good about being American. I always thought, and still think, that's what Thanksgiving ought to be. I hope we establish that sort of feeling at our house when we host the meal.
Other things I like about Thanksgiving - football (of course); lots to drink; lots of laughs; a meal I actually like to eat (NEVER happens during Jewish holiday - I hate most Jewish food); lots of activity in the house; lots of sports talk, politics talk, kid talk, guy talk; no work worries for a few days; the start of the Holiday Season (which I like even if we don't do Christmas); the change in the weather.
Thanksgiving is, nearly without fail, my favorite day of the year. I look forward to it every year, and some of my best memories are from Thanksgivings past.
I hope you and your family have a Thanksgiving to enjoy, even savor. I hope you enjoy your time with your loved ones.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I am, as I said, 40. My hair is both graying and falling out at the same time I seem to be rapidly losing weight (probably due to the stress of my new job -- more on that in a minute). But this is neither hair nor there (wha-ha-ha).
Politically, I lean to the left -- sometimes really left. Dennis Kucinich, although unelectable because he actually makes sense and speaks from his heart, is my mouthpiece. I supported Carol Mosely Braun in the last election.
My reading habits reflect the dichotomy that tends to seep into many aspects of my life-- I am an avid reader of both Poetry and Comic Books. My favorite poets are Russell Edson, Charles Simic, Stephen Dobyns, and of course, above all, for sweeping majesty and that tightening testicle raw emotion, my lover, my friend, my holy trinity wrapped up in a great gray beard, dear departed Walt Whitman.
My taste in comics runs from typical superhero fare from Marvel comics and the less known Image comics (especially my and my son's favorite Invincible and my personal favorite, The Walking Dead) To a new facination with horror comics. I am no fan of DC comics, as they tend to talk down to their audience and their continuity has become confusing and preposterous.
I have much to say about the state of education today, having been a High School English teacher for 9 years and now a Charter School Administrator (at Sierra Montessori Academy), but I will save all this for a later post, when I have more time and feel more confident in what I have to say (no matter how puerile or wonky).
Just wanted to say hello.
I'll be back soon. Have a Happy Slaughter of the Mal-Treated Turkeys Day!
For those of you not from Texas, a "norther" is a massive cold front blowing down from the wilds of western Canada, virtually unimpeded by trees, hills, or manmade structures between the tundra and the DFW Metroplex of Love. Think about it - what's between us and the Great White North? Bismark ND? Omaha? OK City? Not much.
The sky turns the color of a battleship, the wind turns in the blink of an eye from warm southerly to biting northerly, and the mercury drops like Lindsay Lohan's knickers. It's rather dramatic.
When I woke up this morning, the temp down the street (courtesy of wunderground.com) was a balmy 68 or so. Now, at 10:30 Central, it's 54 and dropping fast.
It's late November, and it's about time.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
My favorite was Jason Garrett's triumph over hte Packers back in the glory days, which came in at #3.
The blonde leaned over and said ''Burrrrrrr Gurrrrrr Kingggg.''
Sarkozy was elected on a platform of reducing the incredibly inefficient socialist labor bureaucracy and making French business competitive on the global playing field. The French workers, conditioned by decades of socialist labor union coddling, are not too terribly thrilled with the idea of having to actually work for a living, and are letting Sarkozy know it.
I expect Sarkozy to stand his ground. He was elected to get control of this thing, to reduce unemployment from the stratospheric current numbers, to increase efficiency, and to generally make French goods attractive on the world market, which they currently are not. He had to have expected a showdown with the local commies was coming sooner rather than later, and has to have a plan for it.
This is no more than round one in what promises to be a long battle, one Sarkozy has to win if France is ever going to be relevant again.
Monday, November 19, 2007
For $400, you can purchase the Kindle device, which sounds like it has some very cool features. It has wireless connectivity to the Amazon Kindle store (via FREE Sprint EVDO), where you can purchase books for about $10 a pop, subscribe to magazines and newspapers, and purchase content from many mainstream blogs. All of your content gets downloaded directly to the Kindle via wireless (amazingly, FREE - stoke of genius on Amazon's part), with most books downloading in a minute or less.
The CNET review sounds encouraging, more or less. Their take is that content is too expensive and there aren't enough options for where to buy it, which sorta sounds like the original iTunes argument.
I stumbled across the Kindle while browsing Amazon for some maps and books (the wife and I are headed to NYC for a little Holiday Season fun - look for some travel blogging in the not-too-distant future) and had to stop down to read all about it. I am so ready for a real e-book reader, with wireless access and a good ergonomic design. It sounds like the Kindle is pretty darn close. Definitely worth watching.
UPDATE: The Kindle is the cover story in this week's Newsweek, which just hit the old mailbox today.
UPDATE UPDATE: Oh dear. The other side of the coin. Mark Pilgrim gives a litany of reasons why the Kindle is a steaming pile of Amazon hypocrisy and a soon-to-be disaster. Cory Doctorow chimes in with a few additional points as well.
Friday, November 16, 2007
As a resident of exurban Dallas, and one who's job takes him all over the metro area on a regular basis, I've developed some hot sports opinions regarding the transportation grid in our fair burg.
I'll sum those opinions up in a single word for you: INADEQUATE.
Roadwork in the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex of Love is omnipresent. If we aren't building a High Five, then we're extending a North Dallas Tollway or slogging through expansion of a State Highway 121 or widening an Interstate 35. If I had any brains at all, I'd chuck this consulting thing and buy a motor grader and a back-hoe or two and go into road construction.
But I've noticed a huge disparity in the projects that get started and, more importantly, that get completed. Toll roads like the aforementioned North Dallas Tollway, which was completed on schedule and is now a WONDERFUL part of my daily commuting life regardless of where I'm headed (and which probably tacks an extra $20 grand onto the value of my house), get started and completed on schedule. Publicly funded projects like the also-aforementioned I-35 south of Dallas seem to drag on for YEARS, with no end in sight.
State Highway 121 thru Denton and Collin counties is another great example. Publicly funded for years and years, the project to make a real highway out of what was essentially a country road has dragged on and on, making the road virtually impassable since the late 90s and probably irrevocably destroying an aging bedroom community called The Colony. Here lately, though, ownership of the road and the project has transferred to the North Texas Tollway Authority and there is hope that 121 will become a viable alternative route across the northern part of the area before I'm too old to drive it.
What has prompted this post is an opinion piece in the Metro section of today's DMN. In it, Duane Green rails a bit about the concept of double taxation, which has become the rallying cry of the anti-toll road contingent in these parts. Green points out that he's paying taxes to build roads in the form of a $0.20-per-gallon gasoline tax, so why should he have to pay a toll to a private company for the privilege of driving their toll road in addition.
It's a legitimate point.
To be fair, Green also points out that this tax has not increased since 1991. His solution is to raise the tax (he suggests raising it a nickel a gallon) in an effort to make state funds more available to complete the projects underway and to start new ones.
Seems reasonable, right?
I'm not so sure.
Here's the fiscal conservative in me coming out (I used to call it the "fiscal Republican" in me, but GWB has pretty much killed that sentiment, but that's another post for another day), but I just don't have faith that the state government can manage these projects as effectively as a private enterprise.
The NTTA, love 'em or hate 'em (and I LOVE them), gets stuff done. Why? Because there's a profit motive for them to do so, of course. My take: Dude, if you can build the roads, I'm happy as heck to pay my Toll Tag bill every month.
I trust NTTA to manage their people, projects, and cash a lot more than I trust Rick (Gov. Good Hair) Perry and his minions. And who takes over after Perry takes up residence at the Naval Observatory in a few years? Hell, this state almost elected Clayton Williams governor a few years back. Does he, or someone like him, need to be running around with responsibility for my $0.25 a gallon? No effing way!
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I fundamentally think more roads and more internal combustion engines driving more miles are not sustainable solutions to the problem. We ultimately need to break the paradigm, for any of about 2 million reasons. However, electric vehicles aren't getting here quickly enough, and I have a major problem with people who insist light rail and busses are practical in our sprawling Metroplex of Love. They're not now and never will be.
Here's the upshot to me: We have a real need for improved transportation in this area. Roads are it, for the foreseeable future. How do we most expeditiously build those roads? Answer: We don't let the nincompoops in Austin manage it. We let the wonders of free enterprise do it for us.
The thing that grabs me about this chase is how often innocent civilians are placed in harms way. The cops have Garcia illuminated with the Night Sun helicopter. Should they just back off and let the helicopter keep up with him, or is it too easy for him to elude it? I dunno, but this would have scared the crap out of me if I were cruising down Marsalis Ave that evening.
"That's mighty nice of you," Willis answered, "but I don't think Pa would like me to."
"Aw come on boy," the farmer insisted.
"Well okay," the boy finally agreed, and added, "but Pa won't like it."
After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked his host. "I feel a lot better now, but I know Pa is going to be real upset."
"Don't be foolish!" the neighbor said with a smile. "By the way, where is he?"
"Under the wagon."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Since that time, no one connected with The Ticket or parent company Cumulus Media have had ANYthing to say about fan-favorite Williams.
Williams (he of many, many nicknames, including The Hammer, The Ham-Bonita, Huggy Bear, The Husky Hugger, and on and on) has battled addiction in the recent past. His bad back led to serious problems concerning prescription pain pills and a stint in rehab back in 2004. Over the past few months, he's appeared to be confused and distracted on the air, and has been suffering from an "allergy" attack which has left him barely intelligible for weeks on end. There has been much informal speculation that Greggo (another nickname) has relapsed and is back in the Lindsay Lohan Suite at a local rehab center.
Fueling the speculation was The Hammer's left-high-and-dry broadcast partners, who worked in obscure references such as playing Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" as return music, followed by a pre-recorded drop of Greggo shouting "No! No! NO!" I'm not so sure they've got his back.
Well, word from the great Richie Whitt on Unfair Park is that he's spoken to Williams, the absence is drug-related, he's been in rehab, and he wants to come back to The Hardline by the end of the month.
I am a huge fan of The Ticket in general, The Hardline in particular. The show is an integral part of my day, and never fails to provide laughs no matter what sort of day I've had. Williams has been a HUGE contributor to the overwhelming success of the station. To a guy on the outside, it sure seems like The Hammer deserves another chance. But it's not me he abandoned in the middle of a show...