FauxPolitik

Friday, September 30, 2005

Ain't We Got Fun! Look out, Bill Bennett is shooting his mouth off again:
Bennett, who held prominent posts in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down."
The story does make it obvious in the next paragraph that Bennett was not outlining what he believes to be proper policy, but he's still going to regret this one, I predict. Look, I don't much like Bennett. He's a prig and a hypocrite, and I think he should just fade away. That said, I'm a little tired of every public figure needing to apologize for every third word simply because someone found it "hurtful" or "insensitive." It's silly.

First, the majority of crime most urban areas, especially violent crime, is attributable to the black population. It's a fact; you can't argue with it, though you don't have to like it. Second, some analyses have shown an apparent link between the rise of legal abortion and the drop in crime. Now, Bennett's facile connection of the two may or may not be correct (simply as a numerical matter, I would guess that crime would drop, if only based on the reduced numbers of people born into circumstances that correlate with crime, which happens, indisputably, to a higher proportion of black children), but the point is that it's not necessarily racist, or even wrong, to speculate upon. That said, it's probably stupid to say it really loudly in public these days.

This reminds me of the "Bell Curve" controversy of the last decade. Now, I read The Bell Curve, and I didn't find any racism in it, though Herrnstein and Murray, it's authors, were accused of just that. What I did find was that two respected social scientists saw an unusual statistical anomaly -- that among Asians, whites, and blacks, Asians generally measure highest on standard IQ tests, whites lower, blacks lower still. (They took the unusual step of publishing all of their data, too.) Then they asked, why might this pattern occur? And the usual suspects stepped forward and shouted, "How dare you ask that!" Brilliant. Better that we all remain ignorant than ask a question that might offend someone's delicate sensibilities.

Now, I'll grant you, Bennett's comments don't amount to an academic treatise, nor is he publishing data on the subject. Still, we shouldn't be afraid to say these things. I'm nominally pro-choice (for philosophical reasons), but with what I consider a healthy distate for abortion itself. Still, there are policy matters to be considered in light of statistical evidence that legal abortion lowers crime. Nobody sensible is saying that because of this correlation, we should encourage abortion, and particularly among black people. But there are social implications in this that are unrelated to abortion. Who gets pregnant? What are the economic and social circumstances? What are the social sevices/welfare incentives to have children? To avoid pregnancy? Throw in the questions that do directly relate to abortion policy/legality, and you've got a big ol' mess that people aren't talking about much, if only because some of the conclusions they might draw are, to be frank, politically incorrect.

If you disagree with Bennett, that's fine, but tell me why. Explain to me where he's wrong. But if you just think he shouldn't say such things because they are "hurtful" and "insensitive" then you need to get yourself a goddamn life.

Runaway brides: Just imagine, Eno, if J. Howard Marshall had married a dozen Anna Nicoles. We'd need a couple Supreme Courts plus federalized Sally Jesse to handle the estate.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stay Off the Toboggan! Glen Whitman, guest posting at Balko's place, has this post on gay marriage. Relevant bit:
The reason we should care -- and the reason gay-marriage advocates do care -- about gay marriage is that we support freedom of association, freedom of contract, and self-ownership. But if these claims provide the basis for gay marriage, they provide a strong argument for polygamy as well-- so long as it is practiced voluntarily by all parties involved. Outlawing polygamy means interfering with people's ability to intimately associate with whomever they wish on terms they find mutually agreeable. So the right-wing slippery slope argument makes a good deal of sense. But it's a slippery slope toward freedom, the kind we should jump on with a toboggan.
Yikes! First things first: I support gay marriage, for the rather pragmatic reason that the government gives benefits to married couples that gay couples generally cannot have. My preferred solution, as we've been over, is no bennies for anybody. Second best, gay couples get bennies too. Now, that said, I'm strictly opposed to polygamy until and unless enforceable law or policy is established that sombody's 28 spouses won't be hijacking my wallet by way of those benefits. Imagine, for instance, a near future in which John Q. Swinger passes away, and all the Mrs. Swingers (and a couple of Mr. Swingers with impeccable fashion sense) insist that they are entitled to a fair settlement from Social Security. Now imagine your Social Security "contribution" rates on a Saturn V trajectory.

I've argued this before, and others have said, "Of course the government wouldn't let that happen." Why the hell not? This is just the kind of thing that the federal government f*cks up, in many small ways, day after day. Look at the kinds of people who have sued to sneak under the ADA umbrella since that bill became law, for example.

The only freedom at the end of this slippery slope is the freedom to live off my tax dollars. Homosexual marriage, multiple marriage, vegisexual marriage, whatever the hell you want. Screw your cocker spaniel for all I care, as long as I don't pay for the Alpo and the 2-in-1 collar.

Non-Pajamas: Over to the right you'll see that Michael Totten has been added to the Second Opinions list. He's on his way to Beirut right now, and I'm looking forward to some good reporting, from one of the few bloggers actually plying the hard reporting beat. If there's one drawback to blogging, it's that most of it is semi-informed bloviating from people watching TV. (Us, for example.) Nice to see that it's not true for everyone. Good luck, Totten. Better to travel hopefully . . .

Wanna Bet?: You know what Scalia is doing right now?

Having his clerks scour the Constitution for where it says that in the event of a death of the sitting Chief Justice, the position has to go to the sweatiest remaining justice on the Bench.

International Freedom Center - buh-bye: From Take Back The Memorial:
Alliance of 15 Major 9/11 Family Groups Says: Thank You, Governor!
New York, N.Y.---September 29, 2005---The alliance of 15 major 9/11 family groups applauds the decision by Governor George E. Pataki to remove the International Freedom Center (IFC) from the World Trade Center Memorial site. Responding to concerns voiced by 9/11 families and New York City's first responders that the IFC would dilute and detract from the history of the 9/11 attacks and engage in controversial programming which would dishonor the victims on a site dedicated to their memory, the governor demanded that the IFC be moved elsewhere.
We are deeply grateful to Governor Pataki for taking this decisive action after the IFC issued its latest report on their plans for the center. We believe he did so after giving its organizers a fair opportunity to demonstrate that their institution would respectfully fulfill the memorial's mission.
We also appreciate the important bi-partisan support of Senator Hillary Clinton, Congressmen Peter King, Vito Fossella and John Sweeney, as well as the support of the UFA, FASNY, UFOA, PBA, Rudy Giuliani and others who all understood that this memorial belongs to all Americans, and that we have a public trust to future generations who will come to this site hoping to pay their respects and learn the important story of that day, a day of heartbreaking loss, uncommon valor and the coming together of a nation.
We look forward to their continued support as we pursue our common goal of ensuring that from the ashes of the World Trade Center site rises a 9/11 Memorial and Museum on a Memorial site dedicated solely to the stories of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 and their aftermath with enough space to accommodate visitors safely and tell the story fully. As the future of the Memorial site is honed, the tactic of portraying the 9/11 families as divided must end. The goal is clear. The mission joined by the majority. We sincerely hope that the LMDC and the WTC Memorial Foundation will not ignore these voices as we attempt to resolve the outstanding issues in unity.
We and the tens of thousands of supporters who fought for this memorial did so, not because we wish to turn these few acres in Lower Manhattan into a cemetery or convert the site into one of enduring sadness. We did so because of our unshakable belief that this is Sacred Ground, that the truth should be told there, and that the core values of our nation will be amply demonstrated by the lives remembered, the deeds done and the spirit reawakened.

Blogging Suspended: The thing with Chicago didn't work out, so I'm off to NY...well, NJ, for my latest tryout.

Zimmerman: I'll skip the Dylan lecture. It's all there in the FauxPolitik archives. I'll just say this: The "Dylan" generation is unwilling to admit that this guy's stuff made a lot of sense in the midst of LSD's claw-like grip on the reasoning centers of the brain, but not so much 30-40 years down the road.

At best, I'm willing to grant him an exception on the basis of my "Bringing Up Baby" rule, which states that a modern audience cannot be expected to recognize everything that was groundshaking, rulebreaking, or just plain new in a cultural artifact. Even so, within the folk tradition, he was certainly pretty mainstream until he rocked out. One could argue, in fact, that his only genuine innovation occurred when he did plug his goddamn guitar in and drove the folkies nuts.

He was a minor, overrated talent, and represented a victory of public desires and perception over actual musical/literary skill.

The baby boomers keep the Dylan flame alive because, naturally, everything from their generation is the apotheosis of cultural experience. But the groovy, Woodstock-y, nascent "no-nukes" spirit that they all remember so fondly is not the defining moment of the generation. Elvis integrating rock and roll would be less of a stretch, or Little Richard and Chuck Berry integration radio airplay and record sales, or four musically uneducated Liverpudlians completely rewriting the rules of pop music. But more likely, it would be the rise of so-called corporate rock. Or disco. This was the generation, after all, that moved into early middle age to the sounds of Bread, the Bee Gees, and "Hooked on Classics."

Protein subtlety: Ever so soft-spoken:
THE WORLD AWAITS THE GRAINY INTERNET PICS OF REPUBLICAN DAN DREIER’S GAY REPUBLICAN COCK OF INTERIM HOUSE LEADERSHIP, John!

Mixing Up the Medicine: No one has mentioned yet the Scorsese treatment of Dylan in his three-plus-hour movie that recently aired on PBS. I don't remember if this is the week that Eno doesn't like PBS, but in any event, I thought I'd give it a shout-out.

The "movie" (which is really just an editing job by Scorsese with a few interviews thrown in) covers Dylan's rise to folk-glory, and leaves us just as he's turning on the amps, and belting out "Like a Rolling Stone". Here's what made an impression on me:

1. We all know Dylan's debt to Guthrie. He is the first to acknowledge. What I didn't know was that he really went out of his way to meet the man, and then, rather than just copy him, he decided to take the spirit of Guthrie's songs (hope tinged with cynicism, stripped down message, no holds barred), and then invent his own version of folk. He did a spot-on mimicry job of Woody, when the moment took him, but he never was reduced to just flat-out copying.

2. Dylan was a master with the press. Some of the funniest scenes were these "square" newspeople trying to get Dylan to define himself or his songs. I really don't think he was trying to be evasisve; Dylan spent time working on his songs, but didn't ever consider where they fit in the "protest movement," or try to market his image. So, when one moron wearing a Trotskyite fur hat and thick-framed glasses tries to get Dylan to state what the significance there was to his wearing a Triumph Motorcycles t-shirt on the cover of "Highway 61 Revisited", we get this response: he just happened to be wearing the shirt on a day he was sitting on the steps on a day someone took his picture. The interviewer, not to let his dissertation topic be so utterly eviscerated, then said, well, what about your use of motorcycles throughout your songs as imagery? Dylan responds: "Well, we all like motorcycles, don't we?" The room erupts. Other similar examples follow (my other favorite is the woman who asks him whether he likes subtle or direct imagery in his songs. Dylan asks what that means. She admits she read in a movie magazine that he prefers subtle imagery -- essentially confessing she has never heard one of his songs).

3. I never quite grasped the collective angst over Dylan turning to the dark side of "rock" (i.e. electric guitars). People would boo him, yell at him, and give these awful reactions to anything that wasn't a straightforward rendition of "Hard Rain" or "Tambourine Man". It was funny seeing him play half a concert with acoustic and harmonica, then invite what was soon to become The Band out to get bluesy. Near riots; amazing. Like the audience is ever right. Dylan was obviously conflicted about it, as he idolized some of the folkies (like Seeger), but he wasn't, again, about to pigeonhole himself for the comfort of others.

Anyway, a good show for those who needed to brush up on Dylan, like me. Even during his current interview, that runs throughout, he comes across as sensible and likeable, which, quite obviously, have not always been his strong suits.

The DeLay Indictment: Information is scarce, to say the least. So far, this is the best thing I've read on the subject:
I loved what Nancy Pelosi said about this. The Republicans have a "culture of corruption." Yes, we are unworthy to breathe the same air as the party of Traficant, Rostenkowski, Ted Kennedy, Bob Torricelli, Bill Clinton, Webb Hubbell, Charlie Trie, Bert Lance, Sandy Berger. . . do I really have to repeat the whole list of crooks and weasels? Please, Nancy. Give it a rest.

The best thing about the Pelosi quote is the total disregard for the presumption of innocence. It's funnier when a Democrat does that, because they work so hard to enlarge the rights and privileges of violent criminals, and they whine about the presumption until you bleed from the ears. Couple that with the fact that the prosecutor has refused to reveal his evidence -— meaning it is completely impossible for Pelosi to know what she’s talking about -— and you have to laugh, unless you’re a totally humorless liberal beyond the reach of irony.

ANY liberal who says DeLay is guilty, while the grand jury proceedings are kept secret and the evidence has not been revealed, is a complete idiot and hypocrite. In fact, I would say the announcement of the indictment will serve as a good litmus test as to whether a given liberal is a reasonable person or a hopeless moonbat.

I'm not a big fan of Tom DeLay. He represents most of what I hate about the modern "conservative" movement. People tend to call him "effective" and "a strong majority leader." I haven't seen him leading any charges to cut spending in any serious way, reduce pork and waste, and eliminate the totally unserious federal projects and responsibilities that glut up the budget. In my mind that makes him an asshole. But the Democrats are grandstanding in an unforgivable way. Call me when there is a smoking gun, or a blue dress. From what's available publically, Tom DeLay is being indicted on less evidence, and less clear evidence, than existed to indict Al "Consecutively Numbered Money Orders from Buddhist Monastics" Gore.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Damned Norwegians: Are they gone yet? Is it safe to blog again?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hello, Oslo! We love you, and you're giving us Instapundit-like traffic (well, not really). But I have to ask you to please drop a note in the comments. Let us know why the sudden surge in FP's popularity in Norway. I'm almost afraid to ask, since I'm imagining Babelfish rendering one of Flyer's typically evenhanded posts into something rather controversial up Norway . . . uh, way.

Anyhow, welcome. I thought I'd bone up on (that is, familiarize myself with) your country. Now, here is Oslo in the winter. Or is it summer? Can't tell. It looks a bit like a New England town, but with no drunken Irish people visible on the streets. Nobody visible on the street, since it's probably -54 degrees in this picture.

Here is the airport train, which is called, I believe, the Flytoget. A perfect name, really, for a train that you fly to get. Note the almost preternatural cleanliness. Two days ago, I never heard of the place. Today, I'm moving there. What are your political asylum laws like? Any special slots for people who live under the jackboot of America's totalitarian smoking laws?

Here's something cool about Norway: When Hitler tried to establish a puppet regime in Norway, under Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegians -- unlike the French -- would have none of it, and the Nazis were forced to remove Quisling. (Look here to read why the paperclip, worn as a lapel pin, was the symbol of the Norwegian resistance.)

This is Trondheim, where the University is. Jesus, eh? What the hell are you doing on the internet with that outside? This is what my city looks like. Here's a picture of our City Hall. It's hard to walk inside.

Lies, Damned Lies, and . . .: No Child Left Behind statistics? That's how it's looking. I'm currently working on a project that requires sorting and analyzing data reported under NCLB requirements. (The data for Massachusetts are here, sorted by county, if you're interested.) The system is pretty straightforward. You can see figures like enrollment, poverty level, MCAS scores (that's our standardized test, for you non-Massholes), and percent of teachers considered "highly qualified." Two things jump out from the data.

First, the "highly qualified" techer percentage doesn't appear to correlate at all with school success. I think it's probably an empty designation, like the teacher with the master's degree who sleeps through class, versus the paraprofessional-certificate teacher's aide who is awake and contributing.

Second, the poverty rates at inner city schools are astounding, which leads me to believe they're being fudged, or the designation is wide-ranging. It's not unusual to look at an inner city school (this "magnet" school, for instance) and see an 83.9 percent "low income" figure. That means that you are buying lunch for 83.9 percent of the kids at that school. Look, I understand poverty. I used to live in the very neighborhood where that magnet school is located. It's not pretty (and neither were the hookers). But I'm sure that more that 16 percent of the families can afford to make lunch for their kids. A hell of a lot more than 16 percent of the kids who went to that school had clothes that were no more than a degree off the fashion curve. Their older brothers all had plenty of bling and enough money for gin or Cisco.

The odd thing is that, while poverty seems to correlate with low MCAS scores, it's not a simple relationship. One school with a 7 percent poverty rate had 40 percent profieciency in 6th grade math. (Statewide average for 2004 was 42.) Another school with a 48 percent poverty rate showed higher profieciency (45 percent) for the same grade and subject. Those aren't the rule, mind you, and it's certainly easy to see how a typical social scientist would look at these figures and "see" the evidence of low-income Americans getting shafted in school. My feeling is that it's more subtle than that.

Another thing: alternative schools. Would you expect a technology-focused school called the "Accelerated Learning Lab" to feature higher math scores? Only 9 percent of their 6th graders were proficient on the math test. Privitization fans? City charter schools were almost uniformly well below average, though not as low as their neighboring public schools. Magnet schools did no better either. (Though, it seems to me, that the argument for both charter and magnet schools still holds water.)

Anyhow, if anything interesting turns up in the analysis, I'll mention it.

Fashion Assassin: No, not yet another fl*p-fl*p (I dare not speak their name) diatribe. Summer is officially over, and it's bound to get cold enough soon, so their days are numbered.

I'm over the male persuasion. Just a list of mistakes I'm seeing young men (mostly), who seem about 2-5 years out of college making as they try to adjust from ripped cargoes, team jerseys, and yes, fl*p-fl*ps:

1. Goatees are over. Unless you're a bounty hunter or maybe a professional poker player, give it up, take out your newly-purchased eighteen-blade razor and give it a whirl (well, not a whirl, you'd kill yourself).

2. Dark grey dockers, maroon button-down, maroon tie, quasi-futuristic too-shiny black "shoes". No, no, no f*cking no. Unless you're in an area without electricity and you simply cannot see what you're putting on in the morning.

3. Hair gel. Read the directions -- the tubes always say use a "nickel-sized" dollop and apply evenly. Not, squeeze half the bottle and use only on the front of your head. A little body, some lift -- all acceptable. But when detrius from the street becomes affixed to one of the three horns just above your hairline, well, maybe ease off next time.

4. Ear-lobe expanding "jewelry". Not sure when that ever became acceptable. If you ride a bike delivering packages for a living, then fine, such adornment is de rigeur. But I haven't met a woman yet (and I meet a lot, if you know what I mean) who though large gaping holes in your ears was a sign of mating compatability. You know, that stuff don't close up by itself. On the other hand, you do have two handy places to put stuff, like pencils, cigarettes and christmas ornaments.

5. And those god ugly Scandinavian-patterned shirts...I mean, what is up...Oh...hi Sven. Good to see you again here at FP. What's that? No...did I type Scandinavian?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

He just wanted to get in my briefs: Diane Feinstein wasn't satisfied with John Roberts' legal credentials and impersonal answers to her probing questions on end-of-life issues.
I attempted to get a sense of his temperament and values. And I asked him about the end-of-life decisions: clearly, decisions that are gut-wrenching, difficult and extremely personal. Rather than talking to me as a son, a husband, a father--which I specifically requested he do--he gave a very detached response.

He's just like those guys that hurt her in the past. They pretend to listen, but they don't really care. And share their feelings? Not a chance. Guys just want one thing.

Hey DiFi, two scoops of Rocky Road and Beaches on DVD will make everything better.

Via James Taranto.

Down, Boy! From Rolling Stone's "The Briefing" feature:
No More Mr. Nice Guy Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has been heralded as Mr. Clean -- a sunny and genuinely likable. But judging by his record, Mr. Mean may be closer to the mark. In his legal opinions and memos, Roberts brandishes an acid with that barely conceals his contempt for women, minorities, children and even animals. An endangered species is nothing but a "hapless toad." Police should "treat children like children," even if it means arresting kids for eating a single french fry on the subway. Affirmative action requires "the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates." The coup de grace? In a 1984 case, Roberts tarred future Sen. Olympia Snowe and two other female Republican House members as "radical" for their efforts to secure equal pay for women. Roberts suggested the women adopt a quasi-Marxist slogan: "From each according to his ability, to each according to their gender."
Jesus. Just think, this Middle American Mussolini, this Reaganite Radical, is allowed to walk free -- nay, allowed to sit like Zeus at the top of our judicial branch of government! -- while a true hero and patriot like Mumia languishes in jail. Liberals of the world, you might as well just kill yourselves now. Go ahead, use my legal, registered, no-safety-lock firearm. You don't want to be around when Bush nominates an actual conservative to the bench.

How the hell Scalia ever got out of committee, I'll never know.

F*cked: Imagine you're homeless thanks to Katrina. Imagine you have no options, no family nearby. What're you going to do? Then, the friendly, patriotic, god-fearin' citizens of Houston take you in. You're saved, your kids can go to school. You're thanking god for this sprawling oasis that Exxon built when suddenly . . .

It's like a nightmare, ain't it.

An Unusual Statistic: Over the past 48 hours, 59% of out blog's visits have been from here: the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Mostly, though not exclusively, one page view per visit. The exceptions are interesting, though: Multiple page views, some over an hour surfing Fauxpolitik. No referring URL available for any of the visits.

Just out of curiousity, have either of you been making derogatory comments about Scandanavian geeks? If so, the bastards are on to you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

And you can fit a case of chaw in it: Quick, you only have a short amount of time left to bid on some priceless memorabilia. No, not an Elvis jumpsuit. Nope, not a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Silly, it's Robbie Gordon's helmet -- you know the one he threw at Darryl Waltrip in last week's race in New Hampshire? Now, how much would you bid for something so ummmm, memorable as that? $20? Well, okay, brand new it's probably worth like $1000, so given a few dents, nicks, and scars from uhhhh, being thrown across the track, let's say $750.

What's that you say? Freaking over $9 million???

Oh, the proceeds go to Katrina relief. Big E would approve.

I wonder how much we could get for Roddick's racquet from the U.S. Open --- hardly used! Yukyukyuk.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pork patrol: There's a lot of much deserved scrutiny on pork-barrel politics these days, particularly the recently passed transportation bill, in light of the ever expanding price tag of rebuilding a post-Katrina Gulf Coast. I'm all for turning off congress' pork spigot, and many of those in the blogosphere are not johnny-come-latelys to the issue. But it makes me uncomfortable to hear people in the media to suddenly be claiming X should be done because of Katrina or cut because of it. It just has too much of the old "for the children" ring to it.

Stupid wasteful pork barrel projects are stupid and wasteful regardless of any natural disaster. Worthwhile projects are worthwhile regardless of same. Fighting in Iraq is no more or less a good idea because New Orleans got a bath and Don Young's "bridge to nowhere" was gluttonous a month ago. But I wasn't hearing a lot of talk about pork projects on CNN a month ago.

I'm happy with just about anything that exposes wasteful spending, but I'm not comfortable with using Katrina as a big wet towel with which to snap the backsides of politicians on either side of the aisle. When disaster slips from our national consciousness the cries for fiscal discipline will still be coming from Stephen Moore. But will anyone still be listening.

Sharpen your resume: Wanna job at the White House? Well, here's what you'll make.

What I can't tell is whether the list of staffers makes the payroll seem bloated, or whether I should be amazed the place gets as much done as it does.

Funny seeing people like Rove making "only" $161k. Then you realize: once he's done, it's fat city from here on out.

I wonder what FDR or Lincoln would have thought of this being one of the top jobs: "Assistant to President and Director of Faith-based and Community Initiatives." Well, I guess considering Lincoln didn't even have the Secret Service (to speak of), he would have just laughed and waxed eloquently.

Anyway, I want this one: "Ethics Advisor (Detailee)." This has to be the cushiest job in all of politics, regardless of administration. I'll take the pay cut.

MORE: Actually, this pays less, but it sounds like perk city: "Director of Mail Analysis."

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Gripe: I meant to publish a lot of stuff this weekend, but I spent the time hitting the sauce instead. Went to a creole restaurant in town on Friday night. The service was just as slow as you find in the south, but it was worth the wait. The next night, though, at the local chop house, was a disappointment. And here we get to my pet peeve of the day:

Caesar Salad is not, in any universe, made with mayonaisse. If you want to make a nice Romaine salad with a mayo dressing, great; but it is not in any way, shape, or form a Caesar. I'm guessing the knucklehead executive chef with his diploma from Johnson & Wales, or wherever, knows this. They know it in most restaurants, but they continue to make awful salads, drowning in dressing, and call them . . . you know. Is it that nobody likes a real Caesar, or that they are afraid of the -- gasp -- raw egg? Whatever it is, you can be sure that 95% of American restaurants will serve some soggy, mayonaisse-y crap. With anchovy paste.

More: No gripe on the creole place though. It was excellent. (In New England? Go figure.) Good jambalaya, nice 'gator and sausage, and even a respectable pulled pork, even though I've never had decent barbecue in New Orleans. I'll take you there, Flyer. It's your kind of place.

If only you were more of a snob, I'd like you better: I've heard some crazy explanations in my day about the reasons why tennis is losing its popularity, but perhaps none so off-the-wall as Slate offers us today: because everyone can afford to play it, no one wants to.

Sure, the author gives lip service to the fact that the matches are more boring, because the players are more boring, and no one can see, much less appreciate, a 130mph serve, but really, if tennis could just be more like...more like...............golf...............then it would be more interesting. See, Tiger doesn't wear shorts, and ummm, golf matches are played mostly at private clubs, so ummmm, see??!?

I don't question that Americans are social-climbers at heart, but to suggest that the reason golf is surging and tennis waning is because golf is elitist is just....so freaking elitist. Golf is more popular because of one word: Tiger. End of sentence, end of story. Even I, golf hater, will watch golf (at least the majors) because Tiger is playing. Short of that, I might like to stick around and see how Lefty wins or loses a tourney.

Tennis is boring because all the players are. The Williams girls gave the game a brief shot in the arm, but their all-too-evident laissez faire attitude instills the same in the same in the audience. Roddick is verging on being a one-serve wonder; Davenport, the Russians...all too inconsistent. The Maestro...he is a thing of beauty to watch play, but when no one can step up to the plate with him (not even Steffi's husband), then we are left with no one to cheer for.

Tiger's invincibility raised the game of golf up to new levels. His supposed fall, took it even higher. We all love a champion, but we secretly love the little guy too. Tennis has no little guy...it has Gulliver, and it has its Lilliputians; FeeFiFoFum, with no "Englishmun". Please, someone, rescue my tennis fairy tale.

Successful fundraiser: Our Katrina Pub Crawl on Saturday night in Charlotte brought in over $5,000 in individual donations, before what we get from the bars who are all kicking in a percent of sales for the day. Not too bad, I'd say.

Very few people were unwilling to donate, and most of these you could tell were suffereing from charity fatigue. A lot of "I gave at the office." I can sympathize. Lots of others, though, gave more than the requested $10. All greatly appreciated.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lying liars and the lies they tell: Remember Andrew Sullivan? You know, the gay conservative pundit who seemed to have the blogosphere in thrall from about 2002 through the first half of 2004? Yeah, that guy who suddenly went bat shit during the months leading up to the presidential election, getting so worked up into a lather that he threatened, nay promised, he was quitting blogging? Hell, even Eno took him at his word and dropped him from our illustrious and award-winning blogroll.

Well, for a guy who had quit blogging, he sure ummm, blogs a lot! Worse still, Sullivan, who took "blegging" to a whole 'nother level (successfully I might add -- raking in thousands of dollars), is still asking for your money...to fund his operations.

Now, again, if you want to pay for his howling at the moon, please go ahead. It's your money and a free blogosphere. But FOR A GUY WHO QUIT BLOGGING** HE SURE HAS A LOT OF NERVE ASKING FOR OUR MONEY TO KEEP BLOGGING++!

Luckily, we here at FauxPolitik promise to keep chugging along and while Eno's compensation demands have gotten a little out of hand lately (we don't even have a hook-up for a bidet), our budget allows us to maintain the consistent high quality you've all come to expect.


**He said he'd come back in maybe nine months, so if he "quit" in February, he's still got two months to cool his heels. In any event, my argument remains quite sound.

++But if anyone wants to give me one of those Apple Nanos...I won't complain -- it will be our little secret.

Katrina: The Gathering

This, at first blush, seems rather insensitive to those displaced, killed, etc. by the hurricane, but upon reading through the site, you can see that it's really a critique of the press and government, so you know...have at it!

Good news from NOLA: Just spoke with a good friend in New Orleans, and was pleased to learn that both his home, his parents' home, and his business/warehouse are basically fine (all three structures are in Metairie, a part of Jefferson Parish that didn't get flooded, at least not much of it). He was able to sleep in his own bed last night for the first time, and is getting the business up and running again (moving and storage, so that will be interesting). Some stores are beginning to reopen and different sections of the city are slowly coming back to life. Uptown residents, for instance, can begin returning next week.

Lakeview, Chalmette, Gentilly, and New Orleans East are out of luck for quite some time, though, obviously. Lower 9th Ward is being bulldozed, mostly, and there are still "cars on top of houses" in Chalmette.

He gladly accepted his $2,000 from FEMA, direct deposited to his bank account, to pay for travel and living expenses for the past few weeks, although his company kept paying his salary. And he spent the rest on a new handgun, so hopefully he'll be safe.

Fond memories of hours wasted: Baylen Linnekin, posting at his own blog and at our friend The Agitator's blog, tells us that NHL '94 has been voted the best video game of all time by visitors to Boston.com. This is the only video game that I ever got truly addicted to, in fact the only I've ever played enough to get good at, and hence enjoy to its fullest.

Another side of this story, though, is how odd it is that with all the improvements in graphics and sound quality, not to mention a flood of games with celebrity involvement/endorsement, the "best ever" is game from over ten years ago. And it's a hockey game, for cryin' out loud. Hockey's about as popular as log-rolling in this country, as we've learned all too well in the past year. But it makes for the best video game? Okay.

Says something, I think, about nostalgia, and about how people in Boston are, unlike most of the population, psychotic when it comes to hockey. Or just, you know, psychotic.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogging Suspended: I've just been called to go suit up as the back-up QB for the Chicago Bears. I should be back in oh...a week.

What Does Jeff Goldstein Have Against Gays?: Just kidding about the lede -- just trying to do what MSM does in reporting on Katrina -- you know, ignore the substance, go for the stylish attack on Bush.

Because, Jeff, like, eviscerates Andrew Sullivan's recent attempt to show how FEMA's perceived iffy response will cause Iranian generals to invade the lower 48...or something like that, who can tell with Sully these days. Anyway, read Jeff, he's got it going on today.

With half his brain tied behind his back: Great observation from Dahlia on the Roberts hearings: Roberts is toying with the Senators -- as he should be. While these pompous windbags go on and on about everything but what is germane to the confirmation process, Roberts pretends to listen and then gives them answers that only go to show the great, great disparity between the power of his mind and the collective power of the Mind of the Senate.

I'm of the opinion, and I'm obviously in the minority, that a judge gets to sit on the bench if she's smart, not a criminal, and has a body of work to show a depth and breadth of ability. That's it. The President gets to pick who he wants. If you don't like it, try to win the next election.

You can't pigeon-hole a judge on how he would rule on X, Y or Roe. A judge cannot make calls in a vaccum. Each set of facts is impacted by the law differently, and to simply ask whether Roberts would overturn Roe is meaningless. There could conceivably be a very compelling reason why the precedent should be ignored or reversed, wholly apart from "mere" personal preference.

When Roberts wrote, long, long ago, of the "so called right to privacy" in the Constitution, that's because the right to privacy is just that: implied. It took many years and a whole bunch of words for the constitutional "right" of privacy to be put into the Constitution, and then even more years and words for it to be stretched around as many issues as it has been. Hey, I'm in favor of a loose interpretation of the Document, but unless it's explicit, it's implied, and in that case, it's fair game to say something is "so called."

To the Senators: give up, to the extent you already haven't, and move on to trying to restrain yourself from making complete asses of your names in dealing with Katrina.

Also Overheard: Much ado is being made over the various ill-advised statements by our government leaders in the wake of Katrina. They range from vapid to outright outrageous, and partisan or not, one has to take them to task for many of the quotes. I, as an intrepid journalist, could not let the following quotes remain out of the public realm:

1. "Now come on, you have to admit, you've always wanted a swimming pool, huh kids?" House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) to a group of children in Baton Rouge, LA.

2. "Boy, I bet you could make one big ol' pot of gumbo with all this water. But you know, without the dead bodies." President Bush to relief workers in New Orleans.

3. "This will provide me with the opportunity to wear my tall black boots again." Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, to herself, in her bathroom, three days after the levee broke.

4. "We have directed all available resources to proceed directly to Los Angeles to address this growing disas...(interrupted by aide)....I mean of course Louisiana...which you know, is kinda confusing because they both have 'L.A.' as their initials, and ... I need to make some phone calls, excuse me." FEMA Director, Michael Brown in a news conference, September 1, 2005.

5. "Brownie, you are doing one heck of a job cleaning out your desk." President Bush to former FEMA Director Michael Brown."

6. "He's a major leage asshole." "Yeah, big time." Exchange between President Bush and Vice President Cheney during break in news conference, referring to Mayor of New Orleans.

7. "The South will rise again! I mean...my house...my HOUSE will rise again." Trent Lott to group of refugess in Mississppi.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bon Voyage: Some bloggers are in fact real writers who go places and report what they see. Michael Totten is one of them, and he's heading overseas again for more reporting from the trenches.

I've been reading his blog more often the past few months because I think a) he's a good, professional writer who isn't just venting his spleen b) he tries to look at issues from different perspectives, rather than just trying to figure out what his "side" will say and parrot the company line. Nobody's 100% objective, but I think Totten does a good job of keeping an open mind. I'm looking forward to reading what he has to say from places like Iran and Syria.

Of course, he's no P.J., but the master seems to be in semi-retirement.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Energy Bill: Here's the beginning of an editorial from my newspaper on the energy bill in light of gas price hikes these past couple of weeks:
With the U.S. spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a minute to buy foreign oil, it may come as a surprise that the 1,724-page energy bill recently signed into law by President Bush does not address increasing vehicle fuel efficiency.

Some believe that is just the way Bush, a former Texas oilman, wanted it.

Whoops, my bad! That's the beginning of my paper's "news" story on the subject.

Open Wrap: Don't everyone jump up at once to congratulate me for picking both the men's and women's winner in Queens. Sure, you say, Federer was an easy pick. But I bet that, after Andre had rallied to win the second set, and had Roger down a break in the third, you thought -- just for a moment -- "Andre is about to do to Federer what he did to Blake." I thought it. As for Clijsters: Who else looked likely?

I'll say this about Federer: He can be the most exciting player to watch, and then he can also be rather dull and clinical. Most of his victory over Andre was rather clinical. He's best when he's fighting for the match. Much like Sampras, he dominates the field so much that he can be a bit boring to watch. Let's hope that someone steps up to challenge him, or men's tennis could become even more of a snooze than the 90s were. Sampras, after all, never won Roland Garros. Federer, on the other hand, has the right game to win it repeatedly.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sue Me: No, that's not the name of a Korean junior tennis sensation. It's my response to Flyer, who takes me to task in the comments for predicting a good Federer-Nalbandian match. I agree that it was a cakewalk. That said, here's what you got in that match that Agassi-Blake didn't offer: You got to see a man, running full chat across the court, whip a one-handed backhand cross court on the fly and have it smack the line and still have enough kick to bounce out of his opponent's reach. And dis you see his effortless passing shot that almost knocked the racquet out of Nalbandian's hands? Watching Agassi is fine, but watching Federer is like watching ballet. Sweaty ballet. With bushy eybrows. Okay, it's not ballet, but it's still amazing.

Predictions? I'll take Federer (surprise!) over Ginepri in the finals, following Ginepri's stunning straight-set takedown of Agassi. (What the hell; you can't pick all favorites.) For the chicks, the semi matches have already started, so I won't take picks there. I'll just take Clijsters in the final.

Oh, and now that Lllllllleyton has dumped Clijsters, she should get together with Ginepri, since both their names are vaguely gynecological.

Slideshow: Via Sully, a very good, very long series of photos that detail the buildup to Katrina, the immediate aftermath and its optimism, and the long decline into misery. It takes a while to go through. Amazing shots, though.

Final Open Predictions: Okay, first the easy one: Federer over Hewitt in straight sets. There's no reason to believe that Hewitt all of the sudden has Federer figured out, and given that Hewitt's game has been short of consistently good, and the Maestro has dropped like one set all tournament, it should be short work.

It's hard to measure the effect the US Open has on Agassi. Clearly, the place has inspired him to play well here, sometimes very well, but given all his talent, he's "only" won it twice (granted he had that guy Sampras to deal with for most of his career). Ginipri is a cipher - is he really good, or just riding a streak? With two Americans in the same match, the crowd pretty much has to side with Agassi as the sentimental favorite, which could really take the winds out of Ginipri, who otherwise gets great "home team" applause. Let's say Andre in 4.

If it's Agassi vs. Federer, again, nothing reasonable suggests that Federer would lose. He's a decade younger, the best player, and just on top of his fucking game. Give Agassi a token set, but it has to be the Maestro in 4.

MORE: (forgot the womenfolk)

First the boring match: Peirce v. Dementieva. Here we have the rejuvenated French-American (or AngloFranco) vs. the true blood Russky. Peirce, one of the first women to get all roided out, but who has faded badly over the past few years, vs. a woman with a 60mph second serve, but otherwise bounds all over the court with good shots. This is purely a gut call, as neither was supposed to be here: Peirce in straight sets. I'm guessing she's motivated to have made it, and knows her window of opportunity is slamming shut.

Now on to the big match. Shari v. Kim "Can I Buy a Vowel" Clijsters. This should be a very good match, for all the obvious reasons. Both are tough mentally. Kim "My Name is Uncomfortably Suggestive" Clijsters has been to the finals here; Maria has won Wimby. Both are powerful and seemingly healthy (which for Kim "Can You Believe Hewitt Chose Me to Bang?" Clijsters is no mean feat). The question is who has the higher ceiling; who has already peaked? All signs point to Kim "I Can Crush You with My Thighs" Clijsters" running out of gas, as the crowd increasingly falls in lust with Maria, who, it would seem, is still on the rise in terms of her ability. I see a tougher three-setter, with Sharipova taking the match.

Finals: Sharipova over Peirce in 2.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wet Blanket: And you know I hate to be one, but I thought the Blake-Agassi match was a snoozer. Maybe I was pissed that the Davenport match went so long (talk about not playing your best game; jesus, she was awful). I'm back in rehearsals for the play now, so being up late isn't agreeing with me.

For the first two sets, I kept waiting for the announcers to call up to Agassi's hotel room, in an attempt to talk him into showing up for the match. The second two sets were an edge-of-the-seat wait for Blake to finally land a first serve. (There was one point in the fourth set, when Blake finally did land a first serve; Agassi blasted the return past him easily, probably because Blake was busy fishing in his pockets for the second serve ball, or standing dumbfounded that his serve was good.)

.No, this was not top-notch tennis, though there were some decent moments. First of all, thank god it went to a tiebreak. Another blowout set on either side would have been too boring to contemplate. Second, there were some mements when Agassi showed that he could still pull out some angles that few men in tennis could hit. I can't think of anyone much faster than Blake, but even he was huffing and puffing while Agassi dug in and dictated the point, much the way Blake dictated the points against Nadal. But most of the time, it seemed like one guy or the other was making a dumb shot or a rookie unforced error. Blake hit a lot of suckers to Agassi's forehand. And Agassi put a lot of Blake's milquetoasty second serves into the net.

Yes, it was impressive to see Agassi pull it together mentally. But the match was decided just as much by Blake completely falling to pieces. Some are comparing it to Connors-Krickstein in 1991. In a word, no. Not even close. Excitement? I thought Blake-Robredo and Blake-Nadal were better matches, as was Gasquet-Ljubicic. The second set of Federer-Rochus was about the most exciting hour of tennis, if only for that sawed-off little Belgian's tremendous ability to hang in with the world number one, however briefly.

Wouldn't it have been impressive to see Agassi and Blake playing their A-games at the same time? Alas, it happened for only a few minutes last night, if at all.

I have high hopes for Federer-Nalbandian. It's usually a good, tight match. And Agassi-Ginepri might be pretty good. But last night, looking back, I should have taken the sleep instead.

Agassi: Like an idiot I stayed up till 1:30 to watch the match last night, caught up as I am in tennis this year. I feel really bad for Blake, who could and should have won the match at several points, but playing two great sets doesn't mean bupkus if you can't close it out. Agassi was just tougher, even though he was clearly dominated by Blake, particularly when Blake's first serve was falling in. It's the difference between a champion and a very talented player.

It was the most exciting tennis match I've seen in who knows how long. I don't know how well Agassi will do in the next round(s), since last night will be tough to recover from, but he proved he's still a contender.

A Match for the Ages: I only caught highlights, but from what I saw and read, Blake and Agassi rewarded those fans who toughed it out into the wee hours. A true American Classic.

More interesting still, with Ginipri making it into the Semis, we're guaranteed an American in the Finals; something the women cannot claim with Peirce (well, she's really American, but pretends to be French) ousting Davenport, and Venus falling as well. Not trying to be jingoistic, just pulling for our countryme...er...people.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Open Blogging: Some observations and comments, on various facets of the tournament:

Is anyone else ready to see someone, anyone, beat the snot out of Maria "Loud Mary" Sharapova in straight six-love sets? Jesus, and I thought Monica Seles was a noisy player. Maria's shrieking is intolerable. And her dad looks like he's ready to be the next tennis hanger-on to stab someone.

Blake and Agassi: For many years, Blake played a lot like Agassi. He concentrated on baseline defense, returned hard, and hustled. This year he's coming to the net a lot more. Nobody's going to confuse him with Johnny Mac at the net, but he holds his own. What's more, he shows that he recognizes Federer's multifaceted game as the best way to dominate. Tonight, he may show us that he has grown past his idol. Certainly his legs will hold out longer. My guess is Blake in four.

Do the Williams sisters even bother to practice anymore?

When Andre retires, maybe he and Steffi could play mixed doubles. I mean, look at how well Navratilova is doing at nearly 50 years old.

In defense of duct tape: At Cold Fury the case is made that Tom Ridge's "Readiness Kits," the ones that included food, water and duct tape, might have come in a tad handy during the worst natural disaster in America in the past centruy or so.

Do you remember when the last Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, told us that to be prepared for emergencies, we should put together a readiness kit? I do. The kit layout is suggested at Ready.Gov. The portion of the kit for dealing with attacks and natural disasters should have, ideally, “at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food” and a corresponding amount of water - a gallon per day per person.

Yet when he announced the suggested measures that we all take to prepare for potential terror attacks or natural disasters, he was met with nothing but mockery. So much so, that his name is synonymous with duct tape - since that’s the only thing anybody in the MSM (or for that matter the lefty blogosphere) cared to discuss.

Thanks for undercutting it, my patriotic left wing friends, and calling it partisan scare mongering. What kind of a warped mind, can spin basic common sense as partisan bickering.

Sure it could have helped, but my bet is that not many poor people in New Orleans would have taken the time or effort to prepare such kit no matter how much Tom Ridge called for it or if every Democrat in the state had called it the greatest idea since the go-cup. After all, for most of these people "preparedness" means putting a pot of rice on to cook before you know what you're making for dinner.

Still, it's not a bad idea for anyone living in a vulnerable area.

The Interdictor: Checking in with the NOLA blogger Eno linked to last week. He has an amusing story about the 82nd Airborne busting into their building.
If you want to play soldier with me, I will make you play it a lot longer than you had in mind.
Heh.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Future of New Orleans: Re: talk of where/how/if to rebuild the city, this from George Friedman at Stratfor.
It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would assume, the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far north as they can be and still be accessed by ocean-going vessels. The need for ships to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river going north. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: The United States needs a city right there.
It's a rather long discussion, but it details the importance of the ports in New Orleans and Southern Louisiana. I have a feeling economics will win the day in this debate. If there is no other economically efficient alternative, NOLA will be rebuilt right smack where it is right now. Hopefully better.

Sean Penn is my hero: At least if this is true, because it takes guts to be so monumentally stupid and still think you can save the world.
Sean Penn planned a personal rescue of Katrina victims over the weekend but forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of his boat. The vessel began to take on water within seconds of its launch, forcing Penn to frantically bail water out with a red plastic cup. Additionally, the boat's motor failed to start and those aboard were forced to use paddles.
With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"
At least Penn wasn't slow to respond, though.

Via the Superficial.

Picks ahoy: Yeah I rushed through these at the last minute. Didn't even have time to consult Alabama Slim's 1-800 number which guarantees 2 locks of the week for just $19.95.

AFC East: New England. Two time defenders get benefit of doubtat least through regular season.

AFC North: Pittsburgh. Brian Billick is the antichrist and Jamal Lewis is injured. The two + games he'll miss will keep him from getting truly in sync with the offense after being out of camp with suspensions and surgery rehab.

AFC South: Indianapolis: Most talented team in NFL just signed Corey Simon to help out defense. He helped Philly last year, he'll do the same this year.

AFC West: San Diego: Offense will be enough to get them out of weak division. Maybe.

NFC East: Phildelphia. The meltdown is beginning between T.O. and McNabb, but it won't matter till the playoffs.

NFC North: Green Bay has one more shot with Favre and he knows it. They'll win ugly, but they'll win.

NFC South: Carolina. Please God, no injuries.

NFC West: Seattle. Talent to spare, but will their heads be screwed on straight this year. I think so.

AFC Wildcards: NY Jets Tennessee

NFC Wildcards: Atlanta Dallas

Super Bowl: Change the name to the Flyer Curse, Indy over Carolina.

First coach fired: None during the season. All the worst teams have first or second year coaches and they'll have a grace period. Exept Detroit, but since that's going to take total mangement restructuring, as Razor suggests, I think it'll happen after the season.

First QB benched: Tim Rattay, and it'll onlyget worse for SF.

Most improved: NY Giants. Little Manning will come around nicely this year.

New New Orleans? Steve Green writes:
[W]hat we've seen there this last week is something new to us Americans. We've seen looting. We've seen riots. We've seen incivility. We've seen natural disasters. We've seen how government can screw things up, and we've seen how government tends to get to the scene too late, and with too little.
But enough about the Rodney King trial.
However, I'm not sure we've ever seen all those things wrapped up into one soggy package before. And we've certainly never seen, in modern times, an entire major city removed from our map.
Read the rest. It includes pond scum, Snake Plissken, topless Mardi Gras women, and other delights, plus wild public policy ideas.

Razor Sharp Picks: Okay, you can all head to Vegas after reading my picks for the NFL season -- just be sure to play poker or blackjack or something; for heaven's sake, don't bet on any NFL games based on my predictions!

AFC East
: New England. You can't put a fork in them yet, although this is the season that will sorely test the "genius" label of Belly. Both top assistants gone, along with some of his veteran defensive muscle.

AFC North
: Baltimore. I think Pittsburgh is going to be off to a rough start with both starting RBs hurt, and having to rely on Rothlisburger to carry the day. Baltimore has that incredible defense, and has enough weapons on offense to score more than 13 pts, which is all the defense will allow. The QB is shaky, but just hand it off then...

AFC South
: Some are picking Jacksonville. I don't know why. The Colts will win the division; but can they beat New England this year? Probably the last year the team will feature Peyton, Edgerrin and Marvin all together.

AFC West
: For some reason I want to pick Oakland and then I look at that team's defense. Still looking...nope, can't find it. Let's say San Diego, with KC having a good shot if the stars align and its defense can find its stride. Otherwise, Brees, Tomlinson, Gates plus a solid D, should carry a weak division.

AFC Wild Card: Pittsburgh and KC (I just don't buy what the Jets are selling).

NFC East: Iggles. Some turmoil, but T.O. will play. McNabb in his prime, good cadre of running backs, Westbrook being one of the most dangerous of all time. Defense may be better than last year, with best secondary in the game. Great kicker. Coaching staff has been together for 6 years, which is forever. Must-win year b/c T.O. is gone afterwards, barring some sort of miracle.

NFC North
: It's gotta be Minnesota. Too strong offensively and have worked on the defense in the off-season. Green Bay will be game, but perhaps is getting a bit gamey overall.

NFC South
: Carolina. Everyone's Cinderella pick, and I'm not one to argue. Too much talent; very good coach; decent schedule. Tampa Bay still two years away -- needs an offense. New Orleans -- they have bigger issues right now.

NFC West: St. Louis. Weak, weak division. Eno likes AZ to improve, and hey, it can't get much worse, but I dunno -- Kurt Warner's mojo is more lost than Andy Roddick's (and how pissed off must AmEx be right now making Roddick the focal point of its ad campaign, in an "ironic" spin, only to have it be a self-fulfilling prophesy -- some things you simply can't make up).

Wildcards: Dallas, Atlanta.

Superbowl
: Iggles vs. San Diego (I know, I know), with the Birds winning in a blow-out.

First coach to get fired
: Mariucci. Lions fall to say, 2-7, Mooch gets the boot. Matt Millen steps down from front office to show how bad he can really muck things up.

T.O. Suspension: I agree...he plays all season, barring injury.

First QB Benched: Harrington. The Lions will have to be content with hosting SuperBowl.

Biggest Improvement: Washington. I think the NFC East will return to its glory days of having at least three competitive teams - once Gibbs gets his QB issues straightened out, there is no reason why it won't be a decent team.

Flyer, your turn...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Beads for everyone: Some friends of mine are arranging a Katrina fundraiser with some local bars here in Charlotte. Mardi Gras on Montford (St.) they're calling it. This is a crowd that doesn't need an excuse to drink heavily, but they like looking for one anyway. And raising money for charity isn't a bad excuse, if I may say so. (I'm opposed to the name for a number of reasons, mostly that the event is on a Saturday, not on a "Mardi." I was shouted down for being a dork.)

They wanted to give away strings of beads to everyone who pays their cover charge and were going to buy or get them donated from a store. Well, I just emptied my bag of beads that I have trucked around with me for five years, through numerous residences, for no apparent reason. I never looked at them or did anything with them. It's not like I run around the house in Mardi Gras beads shouting "Throw me something, Mister" to the dogs. The most useless souvenirs imaginable.

Glad I saved them. Glad they'll be put to good use. Glad they'll finally be gone from my attic. And in case you're curious I counted out almost 300 strings of beads, but I remember throwing out twice as many few years ago, the "shit beads" as we called them. The crappy ones that are left on Bourbon St. after the last parade. All mine are high quality, though still pretty ordinary colored beads. I had about 15 strings of really cool, unique, large and decorative beads, with medallions and other ornaments. I won't give those away, but maybe I'll auction them off for donations.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Destiny? Well, it's a long way to go to the final, but James Blake beat Rafael Nadal and then some. He won that match with authority. Each tournament usually features a player who, finalist or not, announces his presence in a way that can't be ignored. At the Open this year, Blake is announcing his arrival as a contender.

Great match, great win.

Rebuilding: Like I said before, New Orleans doesn't face the challenge of having been physically erased, like parts of Mississipi. Some infrastructure remains. Still, anyone who has ever had even a few feet of water in their house knows that the word "repair" doesn't cover it.

Another thing: if ever a city was in need of a major effort, it was NOLA. It was, essentially, still a segregated city. It had some of the worst projects and slums I'd ever seen (and, as Flyer noted, I haven't seen the worst the city had). The schools were unanimously recognized as horrendous, the police force inept, the political structure an onion of corrupt layer after layer. I don't mean to suggest that New Orleans either deserved this or should "look on the bright side." But a realist needs to look at the opportunities that have been presented. Bring New Orleans into the 21st century in any rebuilding effort, or leave it as what it naturally would be: a small, well-flooded bayou.

Open Surprises: Federer won in straight sets last night, but it was uglier in person than on paper. Fabrice Santoro threw everything he had at Roger, and at times really seemed to shake him with some amazing cross-court shots and fearless net play. He came to the net on his second serve numerous times.

Yes, Federer came up with the shots he needed, as if by magic, when he needed them most. But he'd better hope that magic continues. Both Nadal and Blake seem young and hungry this week, and either one will eat Federer's lunch if he's not on his A-game.

More: Both Srichiphan and Grosjean, my two perennial dark horses at any slam event, look like they can sneak into the fourth round. Srichiphan beat the 6-seed Davydenko in straight sets, and before that beat El Aynaoui, who has been a quarterfinalist in Flushing twice, with ease. Grosjean beat 14-seed Thomas Johansson, and only needs to get past Tommy Robredo (who admittedly is having a good year on hard courts for a clay-courter) to reach the fourth.

Both their trips will likely end there, since Grosjean would face the winner of Nadal/Blake, and Srichiphan would see competition like Nalbandian and Hewitt. But both guys have the talent to go further, and both always seem to put up great matches, no matter who they play.

In case you missed it: Give James Taranto's Friday Best of the Web a read. Lots of good tidbits, including some commentary on our topic of the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Friday, September 02, 2005

To all those screaming: Do you not understand the meaning of "worst case scenario?" On Monday we all thought that NOLA had been spared destruction, as Katrina moved slightly east. But the fact is that on Tuesday the levees failed. If the hurricane had hit directly the same thing would have happened. The city would not have filled with water twice or even twice as fast. We got the worst possible event.

I'm sorry I keep saying the same thing, but I'm watching Lou Dobbs right now and I'm trying not to throw my chair at the TV. He's trying to bait Mel Watt into making charges of racism. Fortunately, Watt didn't bite.

Here's a statement from an official involved in disaster planning with FEMA last year:

After the drill, FEMA concluded that progress had been made, and that hurricane planning would continue.

But one of the drill participants, Col. Michael L. Brown, then-deputy director of the Louisiana emergency preparedness department, told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper that, in a worst-case scenario, there would be only so much government agencies could do.

"Residents need to know they'll be on their own for several days in a situation like this," Brown, who is not related to the FEMA director, told the paper.

That's pretty much what's happened. It's not easy to watch suffering, and the overwhelming media coverage makes it hard to avoid. I'm not surprised people are angry and I'm aware that the Natl. Guard probably wasn't moved in fast enough or in large enough numbers to maintain security. But short of that I don't know what could have been different. Everyone is screaming "not enough is being done" and some are saying they're ahsamed of our government. I'm watching people work tirelessly to try to deal with an impossible situation. I may find reason to criticize in the future, but I'm not the least bit ashamed.


David Vitter freaks out: From WWL-TV's Katrina Blog:

3:07 P.M. - BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter said FEMA's efforts to deal with the hurricane have been completely ineffective, and he called the federal government's response a failure.

"I think FEMA has been completely dysfunctional and is completely overwhelmed, and I don't know why. This situation was utterly predictable," said Vitter, R-Metairie. "It seems like there was no coherent plan, which I don't understand because this precise scenario has been predicted for 20 years," he said.

I'm sorry, but recognizing the worst case scenario is a long way from coiming up with a plan to deal with it. I just watched a live helicopter rescue. The camera followed a chopper hovering over a house, a rescuer lowered down past various roofs and windows until he stopped at a particular window and began to help an individual out. How did he know where the person was? If they were responding to a call, how did they find the right building with all that water? This is a total logistical impossibility that no amount of planning could have dealt with. David Vitter's career entails many years of service to the State of Louisiana. You think he might have done something about a "coherent plan" in that time.


Frying pan to fire: Just heard from my friend Steven, a Louisiana Natl. Guard captain who's been in Iraq for the past year. He's just been informed that upon his return from rotation next week he'll be activated for 6 months of duty in New Orleans. Lovely.

As Stephen would say, "Required Reading": Will Collier, over at Vodka, says the rest of what I've been thinking, but haven't written, but with much better support and detail, as opposed to my usual hems, haws and mindless speculation.

Death of New Orleans: Micheal Ledeen on NRO.
New Orleans is one of a handful of cities that are defined in large part by the recognition that it can all come to an end most any day. Joel Lockhart Dyer wrote that "New Orleans is North America's Venice; both cities are living on borrowed time." New Orleans and Venice are both subject to the vagaries of the water gods, and both have acted sporadically to fend off their seemingly inevitable fate. But their basic response to the looming disaster has been defiance, a ritual assertion of life in the face of the inevitable, and an embrace of human frailty that echoes the frailty of the city itself.

Put otherwise, let's have a hurricane party.

The worst case scenario: is a looter of somebody getting shot and killed by a guardsman. You think there's criticism of the federal response now, just wait for that to happen.
"Bush late to respond, shoots to kill."

One More Thing: How about Agassi, who is nearly eligible for Social Security, hanging on against Ivo Karlovic in three tiebreaker sets? Ivo is a powerhouse server. Plus he's nearly a foot taller than Andre. Sure, he's not exactly a player's player, but he has the kind of pace that can wear down a has-been pretty quickly.

If ever there was a test for those creaky old bones, the Croatian Sensation was it. Kudos to Andre.

Bush in NOLA: While I said in comments earlier that I don't think it's fair to blame the administration for the chaos that's ensued in New Orleans, I will say that I think Bush has showed a pretty tin ear this week, the same one that he has for just about everything else. While I voted for him, and like him in some respects, he's just not good at showing that he's engaged in a situation. Every piece of information he gets must come in briefing papers.

Bush's greatest moment came after 9/11, when he went to ground zero and took the megaphone in his hand and showed his support for the people hurt there. It was powerful stuff, because it didn't come across as scripted or phony. Why he didn't make a similar show on, say, Wednesday, I don't know. I guess he's going to do that today, but it's too late. It'll come off all wrong, now.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that whatever Hurricane Plan was in place on Monday wasn't going to work on Tuesday. The flood petty much ruined any chance of commencing normal evacuation and cleanup activities. I don't find much fault with FEMA or others for not being able to execute as swiftly as desired. Nobody could have, not with any plan. You just can't plan for 8 feet of water.

But losing control of the security situation wasn't inevitable. Plenty of blame goes to Mayor Nagin, who I think has shown himself to be way over his head, and other local officials. The federal agencies deserve plenty of blame, as well, though. I think they all realize they dropped the ball, but they've picked it back up and are doing the best they can. More suffering ensued because of mistakes all around, but that's what happens with natural disasters.

Now, the Important Stuff: The Blake/Nadal match on Saturday could end up being the best of the fortnight. If you saw James Blake manhandle Igor Andreev last night, you can tell that his footwork, always a strength, has improved. He almost never looked off balance, he patrolled the baseline confidently, he came to the net with a lot of poise, and he just looked comfortable. Plus, his shot placement was phenomenal. He saw more white lines last night than Aerosmith in the late 70s. I'll grant that Andreev is a specialty player, but he's an experienced pro, and Blake handled him in a way that Nadal could not handle Scoville Jenkins (essentially a junior player on a wildcard) on Wednesday. Nadal and Jenkins are roughly the same age, but Jenkins played like an amateur. He didn't play badly so much as inconsistently -- and when he was on target, he gave Nadal some serious headaches. (With some strong coaching, Jenkins could be a contender.)

Anyhoo, Blake sure looks good. Perhaps not Maestro good, but like a bit of a cinderella. Does he have that whiff of destiny, Razor?

NFL Time: Presented with minimal cribbing from chowderheads: For division winners I'll take New England, Pittsburgh, Indy, and Denver in the AFC. For the NFC, I think Parcells really does know what he's doing, so Dallas, Minnesota, Carolina, Seattle. It's silly to go deep in picking all the wildcards, so I'll pick the ones that will emerge: Bengals in the AFC, Cardinals in the NFC. Arizona will ride the wildcard into the superbowl, only to lose to Indy.

Bonus round: Joe Gibbs will be fired first, Owens will not be suspended in the regular season, Cleveland's Trent Dilfer will get benched (although Chicago will wish they could bench Jeff Blake, but they have nobody else) and Arizona, obviously, will have the biggest improvement from '04.

So there. All predictions guaranteed to be similar to coin toss in predictive power.

Great NOLA Blog: I just started reading this, so I am not entirely sure what to make of it, but this appears to be maintained by some employees of a company called Intercosmos Media Group. One or more of the employees has military training and is putting it to good use in manning his outpost at his company, and communicating with various agencies regarding the plight down there. Moreover, he takes a ton of pictures. Very good reporting.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Future of N'awlins: I will, of course, defer to our resident expert on NOLA, but in reading this other expert, my impression of the city's future is quite grim.

His take: the city, as we knew it, is gone. Most tellingly, NOLA is a city with minor industrial/commercial base, but a very large gambling/tourism/hospitality base. Meaning, the city is typically populated by a work force and the tourists said work force serves. Does a full-time population of 500,000 warrant a full-scale re-building? Moreover, given that it will be between 2-4 months before the city is even dried out, the absolute minimum for being able to host any significant degree of out-of-towners again would have be at least a year. First, you have to clean up. Then you have to make it safe. Then you have to re-do all the infrastructure and utilities. Then you have to re-build homes, apartments and hotels. Then, all the social services have to be re-implemented.

All this while the area is sucking state and federal money like there's no tomorrow. Said otherwise, there is no revenue being generated, from within, and without that revenue, besides general contractors, who will want to go back?

Restaurants, casinos, bars - none of them will be adequately supported by local population plus re-construction workforce. Certainly nothing like the pre-flood levels that business owners were used to.

This is not to pile on or somehow "blame" the city of New Orleans for its predicament, just that half of the allure of NOLA was its historical architecture and unique history. With all the demolition that will have to occur, one of two things happens: (1) the city is re-imagined from the ground up or (2) "Welcome to Disney NOLA!!"