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The Tally Ho

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sore Winners

The White Sox win the division! Some fans are so excited that they will call up random strangers with the glad news; a friend of one of my coworkers called up the office, and when asked if she wanted to leave a message, began with "It's not important," and continued on to, "I-just-found-out-the-White-Sox-won-and-they're-in-the-playoffs, -and-I'm-so-excited-I-wanted-to-call-and-tell-her" with nervous giggles. I had no idea our Em was a Sox fan! WBEZ (local public radio) covered the win and the reaction of other Sox fans; sadly, they were more typical. There were four interviewees asked how they felt about the victory and what the chances were of a Sox World Series (I can't find a clip because it was a local news update, please forgive the paraphrase) and they went sumthin' like this:

1. I think it's great we won the division and Chicago has done something great... you know, those Cub fans say they're really Chicago fans, but if you look at them now, they don't look too happy. They hate to see us win.
2. This is excellent and I can't wait for the playoffs... the Sox are a great team, totally different from you get at Wrigley Field. This is real baseball. This is not the Cubs.
3. It's been a long drought and we're due for a win, due to go all the way... if you look at it, the two teams that have gone the longest without a Series are the Cubs, and then the Sox. The Cubs say they're cursed, but we're not cursed. We've just had bad teams.
4. (female) I know they're not gonna make it to the World Series, I know they're gonna choke, but I've still got to say, (whoo!) GO SOX!!

The rest of the quotes are reconstructed. The basic points of the four folks were, "Cubs hate us/Cubs suck/we're not cursed like the Cubs are/they're going to lose big, but go Sox!" These were the only four clips that were played. First, as a Cubs fan, I will say that I'm pleased. It's nice to have our town do something good, and the Sox really do have exceptional moments on the field. Sure, I mourn the Cubs' missed opportunities, but I do that every year and I'm used to it by now. I'm genuinely glad for the Sox. However, as for the rest:
1. Our field is WAY better than yours.
2. Have a little faith, would ya? If their own fans don't believe in them, their road will be rocky.
3. Your team is too cursed, even if you won't admit it. 1917? Black Sox, anyone? We got our curse from a goat. You got yours from foul play and bad karma. You've only made it worse by being bitchy fans since then.

Even Elwood was appalled, and he's a tough cookie. I'm not foolish enough to prognosticate on any particular players, but the Sox have got stellar skills as individual ball players. If they pull together as a team, there's no reason they can't make--and win--the Series. And I'm looking forward to watching every minute, as long as I don't have to do it in the Cell with a bunch of bitter, constipated fans.

I think I'll call up Em's friend and see if we can watch the game with her. Go, Widger!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, it is once again time for celebration. Firstly, summer is over – dead and gone. Gone again for seven or eight months… hot weather is the plague of humanity. Today was the first day of tolerable weather since early June. It was brilliant! No sweat while walking and no jacket needed at night – though I still prefer jacket weather. Today reminded me of an English summer. Secondly, this is the last week of the baseball season – which is basically the start of postseason play.

Until last nights rained out game I thought the Boston Red Sox were going to win the East. The rainout caused the Sox to not only play a double header – which traditionally are hard to sweep, but that due to Wade Miller’s season being over, Tim Wakefield will have to pitch on three days rest against the Yankees Randy Johnson on Friday. To make things worse, Baltimore has lost nine straight games and has showed little fight. So now, I would actually say that it is completely even Steven. What the East may come down to, and even a playoff birth for one of these teams, is which collection of starters can go more innings? Which team can avoid using their middle relievers. I say advantage to the BoSox in this regard as Schilling, Wells, Arroyo, and Wakefield have all been in this situation before and Matt Clement has moments of brilliance while the Yankees high priced off season pick ups have been duds (Wright, Pavano, and Brown), thus relying on the always tough Randy Johnson; a solid Mussina – and the three biggest surprises, Wang, Chacon, and Aaron Small who all are not use to these situations. But still, it is hard to pick a winner. Sure, David Ortiz and A-Rod may be their teams MVPs, but I think Tim Wakefield and Aaron Small have been overlooked down the stretch. The worry of the rotation is actually Curt Schilling. He has the tendency to turn it on, but take tonight as an example – the Red Sox have scored five runs in four innings and it may not be enough for Schilling. Any time a Red Sox or Yankees pitcher can’t make it through the seventh (or minimum the sixth) the game is over. Remember then 1990 Cincinnati Reds? They had the “Nasty Boys.” Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers. Three closers, all were capable of pitching two innings each. When it came to the playoffs that year, the Reds finished 8-2 and a World Series ring. It is what every team lacks.

The other great race going on is the ChiSox and the Indians. They seem like polar opposites this season. ChiSox started off with a bang and have crawled their way into the last week – but have started a winning streak at the perfect time. Cleveland got hot as Chicago got cold. You can say that Chicago doesn’t have a mighty offense, but their starting pitching this year has been great. A week ago I thought they were finished and that Cleveland would win the division and Chicago would fall out of the playoffs. Now I think Chicago will win the division and we have a three way race between Cleveland, Boston, and New York.

Now, the Wests – Oakland is done, Angels are in. The NL West is a complete shame. The worst team in the NL East (Nationals or Mets) would win the West. In essence, the NL shows a flaw in the playoff system. If the wild card is suppose to be the best team that is not a division winner – in an attempt to get the four best teams in a division to face off. Only in the NL, besides St. Louis and Houston, the best teams are all in the East.

What would I like to see? St. Louis has a fantastic team, but otherwise the National League isn’t where I think it is at. Look at the top five teams in the American League… all of which can make it to the big show.

I love Autumn.

Update: Cleveland lost. Chicago lost. Unless an enormous meltdown Chicago is at minimum the Wild Card and almost certainly the division winner. Boston lost and basically used their entire bull pen tonight. Yanks are about to lose as well - but managed to not use Gordon or Rivera (at least last time I checked - and no reason to after that.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Brownie Back to do a Heckuva Job

I can't make this up. In great Bush Administration fashion, Brownie is back - this time as a consultant to help evaluate FEMA!
And, that's when it was revealed that FEMA had apparently rehired a former employee as a consultant. You might recognize his name, too - Mike Brown.

At a meeting with staff of the special House committee looking into Katrina preparations today, the disgraced and displaced former FEMA director said he had rejoined the agency as a consultant to "provide a review" of how the agency functioned before, during, and after the storm. This according to two congressional sources.

A congressional aide told NBC News nobody's sure - but it is assumed Brown is being paid by FEMA. He is to testify tomorrow before that House committee, prompting our colleague Howard Fineman to joke that only in Washington would a man on his way to the electric chair be paid to belt himself in.

But the timing - Brown's announcement to the staffers came just hours after the arrest of Sheehan in Washington for not having a permit to sit down rather than just march - suggests that the political tin ear is back in control at The White House.

Okay, I am going to start a contest. If you were a Congressman, what questions would you ask Mr. Brown aboutassessmentsments regarding FEMA's role in the Katrina cleanup. Congressman Wells (I-NY) wdefinitelyately ask him if in his review he concluded whether or not he should have been fired, and if they concluded whether or not actual disaster relief experience is needed."

Best question gets a beer. To be fair, Mr. Brown didn't hire himself, and in reality - yes BushCo shouldn't have nominated him - but the Senate who confirmed him is just as liable.

Don't burn that book!

Mimazu has just reminded us that today is the start of the ALA's "Banned Books" week. Reading over the list of 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000, I notice that seven of them (to my knowledge) are instructional books on sex and puberty aimed at young adults. (At least another six are YA fiction on the same topics, and four are nonfictional instruction on those topics for adults. This is just a count of books that I've read or are aware of; I didn't go Googling. And I didn't count any Judy Blume books I haven't read, although I'm guessing they would increase the total.) Most of these challenges are from school libraries, who seem to be taking "abstinence-only" to a new level.

Inexplicably, number 88 on the "banned" list is "Where's Waldo?" by Martin Hanford. Is this the book I think it is, with the cartoon guy in the red and white shirt? Why would anyone want to ban him? Someone clue me in, please.

From Eisenhower at the Dartmouth commencement in 1953, a snippet of speech entitled "Don't Join the Book Burners".
Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It's almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.

And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they're accessible to others is unquestioned, or it's not America.

—Dwight David Eisenhower

Sadly, we seem to have not gotten the message, if Robert Fisk can be believed; some parents in Colorado are even trying this at home. Poke around the ALA website awhile, then see if you can find something scandalous to read.

Friday, September 23, 2005

With fans like these...

...who needs a rivalry?

Tonight I got the opportunity to go to a White Sox game against the Twins. They didn't win, unfortunately, but there were exciting moments and the food, as usual, was great. I even found a couple of players to cheer for: Aaron Rowand made some fantastic catches along the back wall, and Chris Widger, though unremarkable in the role of catcher, has a great name and a friendly face. The fans, however, left something to be desired. We were sandwiched between two groups of men who knew a lot about their Sox, but didn't seem particularly heartened by that knowledge. A sample of quotes:
(2nd inning) It's so quiet, man. It's like the fans have already given up and they know we're going to lose."
(8?th inning, arrival of Marte) "What's up with the new pitcher? What does the manager think he's doing? They tried to fire him last week! We may as well go home now!" After each ball the pitcher throws, our section boos louder. After the pitcher walks his first batter, the crowd erupts in catcalls. New pitcher is pulled. The crowd applauds, and not in a nice way. After another pitcher comes on, and fails to retire his first batter, they scream louder. "Man, they shoulda left Marte in so HE coulda walked that guy."
(10th inning) "They deserve to lose. They had so many chances to win and they didn't take them. They oughta just lose."

During all of these remarks, the game is tied. There was no score until the fifth inning, and when the Sox hit a homer, they all cheered and started praying for rain so that the game would be called as a Sox victory. The heavens complied. Then the Twins got a run and they sat there, in pouring rain, bitching some more. They second-guessed all the calls. They harassed the players for missing catches or not running fast enough. "Idiots," "losers," and "lame" were their exact terms. They actually didn't swear that much, so I suppose they thought they were being polite, but the snide tone made up for it. As Elwood said: If you really hate the team that much, why are you here?

Me? I'm kind of sad, I sat in the rain and didn't get to see the Sox win. However, I got some knitting done (socks, of course!), and there were some folks in the next section over wearing rally caps in the last inning. So perhaps there's some hope for the White Sox fan base. A man outside was selling a faux-Cubs style shirt with the words: "Wrigley Field: The World's Largest Gay Bar". A couple players had Sox jerseys with "Cubs Suck" across the back where the name is supposed to be. So I guess they're united about something. But if they can't stand the Cubs, and can't stand their own team, it follows that they just can't like baseball that much.

Sox marketing doesn't help: there are vague references to "grinder ball" (mmm, sammich!) and the Jumbotron and neon crawl above the skyboxes that the MLB seems to be prescribing for its new stadiums. It's no longer Comiskey Park, but "the Cell" sounds appropriately ominous for a growling, embittered (and generally outstanding) team. However, a team is on precarious ground when they're first in the nation (as they were recently) and their fans can't stop criticising them.

The Cubs live in a fantasy world, it's true. We go watch our boys play in their itty-bitty park, and when the game gets dull we can watch the parties on the rooftops across the street. Sometimes they win, and we celebrate. Mostly they don't, and we have a beer and a hotdog and enjoy the sunshine. We shake our heads at the Sox and wonder why they hate us so much. Maybe it's because we know, even if Patterson gets in trouble for saying it, that it's ony a game.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thoughts on Roberts

I've been listening to the confirmation hearings only sporadically, as I zip from school to school and try to find a parking space. The more I hear of him, the more convinced I am that he will be appointed, and the more convinced I am that he will not be on my side regarding social issues. He is studiously avoiding any controversial answer, without giving the feeling that he's dodging a question while pretending to answer it. Roberts continues to argue that the things he wrote as a lawyer are simply that--explicating and defending his clients' stance on an issue, not his own. After hearing so many conservative arguments on behalf of so many clients, it's tough for me to believe that those are not his views. However, we can't filibuster him because of the clients he didn't take on. He even got the committee to chuckle this afternoon when asked to comment on the dreaded Second Nomination (he said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on future nominations, except to say that he approved of some of the Prez's past nominees--meaning himself).

I also can't help but be a little charmed by his writing style. Anne Kornblut's August 29 NYTimes article "In Re Grammar, Roberts's Stance Is Crystal Clear"* states:

...diligence is a trademark of even Judge Roberts's most mundane memorandums, thousands of which have been made public in recent weeks as he prepares for his confirmation hearings. Time and again in his White House work, he singled out improper usage, though often in a wry tone suggesting a scholar's passion for the English language more than an effort to find fault or boast.

In a memorandum to Mr. Fielding, written in 1983 about a draft document on the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, Mr. Roberts declared, "I have no legal objections, but do have two grammatical ones." Calling for parallelism, Roberts requested that a "him" be changed to "them," and "limit" and "make" to "limiting" and "making."

In a memorandum the next year, responding to a letter from David T. Willard, an elementary school superintendent in Illinois who opposed the administration's education policies, Mr. Roberts again concluded that no legal issues needed to be addressed by the White House counsel. But he took the opportunity to note, "The letter is very sarcastic, although Willard inadvertently proves our point about the quality of public education by incorrectly using 'affect' for 'effect.'"

I wouldn't support his nomination on the basis of his writing style, but it does soothe the sting a little to know that at least the man can communicate. He also shouldn't ever be able to argue that his meaning was unclear. Or, perhaps I'm just primed after a few days of obnoxious typos at home and at work.

Speaking with one of my colleagues, I mentioned that I was unable to rant and write screeds about Roberts because there is no smoking gun, because I'm worried about the second nomination, and because frankly, I'm tired. He replied that if we were getting tired and didn't care, it would be extremely difficult to mobilize anyone else. I agree with him, but I think there's some percentage in choosing our battles. After giving us a not-obviously-fundy-wacko candidate, Bush might try to throw a bone to his social conservative base to distract them from the hurricane disaster. That nomination (I'm dreadfully frightened it will be Priscilla Owen) is the one we absolutely must fight.

Or perhaps I'm just distracted by his articulate, proofreading ways. Your thoughts?
*Full text, as always, is available by asking nicely. "Roberts's" and "memorandums" are the author's choices, not mine.

UPDATE: John Tierney wants to ask some different questions of Roberts, such as: "Your passion for correct grammar and syntax is well known, but you have yet to inform the American people of your position on the serial comma. In the phrase 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' should there be a comma after 'liberty'?" It's a hoot. Go read. Then come back and comment.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Davis-Bacon Act

This law says that federally funded workers must be paid at the "locally prevailing wage". It has just been suspended by President Bush in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida damaged by hurricane. Unfortunately, his proclamation does not require that the contractors which hire these workers change the rates that they charge the federal government, so it doesn't really shrink the federal bill for services.

The small bright spot of all this devestation lies in the reconstruction jobs that will be needed in the next year. I'm very much in favor of reconstruction, but I belive that the money needed should go home with the workers, not fatten the corporations that are coordinating the work. Besides, low wages mean that the most skilled workers won't be lured back to the area, which will make matters worse when the next storm hits. Halliburton would be okay with that, of course, because it means they'd get another huge cleanup contract.

NYTimes editorial (no byline) is here. (Ask the archivist--me--if you want the article text after NYT takes it down.) It's not too early to speak to our congresscritters about this.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back to School

Here in Chicago, good gas prices are only about fifteen cents above what they were pre-Katrina: $3.09, up from my most recent fill-up of $2.94 the Saturday before the storm. On Wednesday, driving to a site, I found one station on Chicago Ave. that was selling regular unleaded at $3.75, and another one about a mile and a half away that was still at $2.99. Neither shop had a significant line. It amazes me how lightly we are affected by the Southern economy. I know that the entire Southeast saw shortages and partial delivery; so where was our gas coming from?

Amazingly, my employer has already responded by raising my mileage rate. That's just one reason why I love them. It's a good thing, too, since I have been to six different sites this week, with five more school meetings scheduled for next week. I still get a nerdy thrill out of the beginning of the school year, with all the new backpacks and shiny binders. Our city is only slated to have about 1500 displaced persons, and I haven't heard that any of the neighbor kids will be hanging out in my classrooms. If the topic comes up at any of the meetings this month, however, you can bet I'll be buying them school supplies. As long as I get to come along to the office supply store when the purchases are made.

The hurricane news seems pretty comprehensive already, and I hate to jump into the echo chamber. I have a tough time comprehending the magnitude of disaster, since it is so far out of the scope of my personal experience. I am embarrassed to admit, I am almost as shocked to realize that the Cafe du Monde is closed as I am to read about the corpses left out on the street. One relates to my personal experience; the other sounds like a horror movie, and I've spent years telling myself that those things just weren't real. That may be the problem with lots of folks in this country: we watch pretend carnage and reassure ourselves that it was a story and didn't really happen. Then when we're faced with actual carnage, either far away or in the state next door, our minds tend to ask whether it's just a story someone made up. The Guardian is discounting stories of violence, at the same time it revels in the irony of Homeland Security's pronouncement that September is "National Preparedness Month". One editorial also states the fact/makes the argument that "The US should not need help." He's right; we shouldn't. I am shamed. I am also ashamed that women in need, once again, are expected to acqueisce to unreasonable demands if they want to get rescued. Even if it only happened once, it's horrifying.

Wells is stepping back from the Tally Ho, so if you've got questions and comments, send 'em my way. I'm striving for a better balance of quality and quantity over here. Are the other Villagers still reading? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.