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Saturday, February 01, 2003

Seeking to Repeat as Idiotarian of the Year

Jimmy Carter, in his desire to hold the crown, has released:

A Statement By President Carter: An Alternative To War

I don't have the energy at this point to fully Fisk this piece of drivel. I'll just get to the "highlights"

Recent vituperative attacks on U.S. policy by famous and respected men like Nelson Mandela and John Le Carré, although excessive, are echoed in a Web site poll conducted by the European edition of TIME magazine. The question was "Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" With several hundred thousand votes cast, the responses were: North Korea, 7 percent; Iraq, 8 percent; the United States, 84 percent. This is a gross distortion of our nation's character, and America is not inclined to let foreign voices answer the preeminent question that President Bush is presenting to the world, but it is sobering to realize how much doubt and consternation has been raised about our motives for war in the absence of convincing proof of a genuine threat from Iraq.

Excessive? Mandela holds the US responsible for atrocities around the world, says we are about to plunge the world into a holocaust, and we ignore the UN because of racism. Or that deep thinker LeCarre, was excessive? I would the call comments delusional.

A frickin' Web poll? One that lumps us with Iraq and North Korea? He thinks that is a sign of doubt overseas? Well, he was a politician. I guess he's conditioned to take any poll seriously.

As for the doubts from Europe, apparently Jimmy is choosing to ignore that open letter of support from the leaders of England, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Hungary. Not to mention Albania and Romania offering support; and Ireland is in. Hell, here's a convenient graphic to tell you who's in or out.

At the same time, satellite observations of North Korea have indicated that nuclear fuel rods, frozen under international surveillance since 1994, are now being moved from the Yongbyon site to an undisclosed destination, possibly for reprocessing into explosives. It is imperative that this threat to Asian stability be met with aggressive diplomacy.

Aggressive Diplomacy? What the hell does he mean by that? Sending more diplomats and members of the foreign service to talk? There's a winner. Might he mean sanctions, but North Korea doesn't export any thing. Does he mean cutting off the humanitarian aid we do provide? To me aggressive diplomacy means a threat of violence, but Carter is advocating against war. Someone, anyone, tell me what he means.

Finally, we get to the "alternative to war."

Since it is obvious that Saddam Hussein has the capability and desire to build an arsenal of prohibited weapons and probably has some of them hidden within his country, what can be done to prevent the development of a real Iraqi threat? The most obvious answer is a sustained and enlarged inspection team, deployed as a permanent entity until the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council determine that its presence is no longer needed. For almost eight years following the Gulf War until it was withdrawn four years ago, UNSCOM proved to be very effective in locating and destroying Iraq's formidable arsenal, including more than 900 missiles and biological and chemical weapons left over from their previous war with Iran.

Even if Iraq should come into full compliance now, such follow-up monitoring will be necessary. The cost of an on-site inspection team would be minuscule compared to war, Saddam would have no choice except to comply, the results would be certain, military and civilian casualties would be avoided, there would be almost unanimous worldwide support, and the United States could regain its leadership in combating the real threat of international terrorism.

That's it? That's his solution? A permanent UN weapons inspection in Iraq?

"almost eight years following the Gulf War until it was withdrawn four years ago..." Withdrawn? Yeah, they were withdrawn after they were kicked out. Is he trying to pretend that the inspection report didn't happen:

The document indicates that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi air force between 1983 and 1998, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tons. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for. . .

I turn to biological weapons. I mention the issue of anthrax to the council on previous occasions, and I come back to it as it is an important one. Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 liters of this biological warfare agent, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.

Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction.

There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared and that at least some of this was retained over the declared destruction date. It might still exist. . . .

As I reported to the council on the 19th of December last year, Iraq did not declare a significant quantity, some 650 kilos, of bacterial growth media, which was acknowledged as reported in Iraq's submission to the Amorim panel in February 1999. As a part of its 7 December 2002 declaration Iraq resubmitted the Amorim panel document but the table showing this particular import of media was not included. The absence of this table would appear to be deliberate, as the pages of the resubmitted document were renumbered.

In the letter of 24th of January this year to the president of the Security Council, Iraq's foreign minister stated that, I quote, "All imported quantities of growth media were declared." This is not evidence. I note that the quantity of media involved would suffice to produce, for example, about 5,000 liters of concentrated anthrax.

Correct me if I'm wrong, Jimmy, but wouldn't the only way Iraq would consent to this sort of infringement on his sovereignty would be with the threat of war? What would be the "final straw?" Without a final straw, it's a hollow threat and Iraq would keep playing hide-and-seek with inspections until throwing them out -- again! Wouldn't that looming threat necessitate having a larger, permanent military presence in the Gulf? Wouldn't such a presence be more fuel for the fearsome "Arab street" as still more evidence of evil American imperialism?

Here is one final thought about this "alternative" and the entire text. Carter is supposed to be a great humanitarian, with a keen sense of compassion and caring. Where is Carter's concern for the people in Iraq? His entire work is devoid of any desire to see Saddam Hussein removed from power. In fact, the plan calls for keeping Hussein in power, just limiting his malevolence to his own people -- just civilians.

Friday, January 31, 2003

LeBron Got Cocky

LeBron James, the most famous high-school basketball player in the US lost his high school playing eligibility today. James had been cleared in receiving the $50,000+ Hummer 2 vehicle from his mother. What did him in, were two "retro" jerseys. A Gale Sayers, Chicago Bears jersey and a Wes Unseld, Washington Bullets Jersey. Total value $845, retail. Unlike the H2, James received the free jerseys directly and because of his athletic fame. A violation of the Ohio High School Athletic Association rules. James received the jerseys from the owner of Next Urban Gear and Music, who was not identified, in exchange for posing for some pictures to be hung in the store. Also not identified was which store. There are four stores listed. If I had to guess, I'd say it was the Shaker Heights store (though the North Randall locations are geographically closer).

UPDATE: It was the Shaker Heights store.

I didn't care much about the H2. Even if he got the car based on his future earnings (it is rumored that Adidas, Nike, and Reebok all have multi-million dollar contracts at the ready for him to sign -- even before he enters the NBA draft), I don't have a real problem with that since I think he has some right to cash in on himself while everyone else is. The OHSAA had no rules (at that time, you can bet that will change) about that, but in this matter the rules were clear

Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaws state that an athlete forfeits his or her amateur status by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving money or gifts of monetary value."

More specifically, the OHSAA 2002-03 Athletic Eligibility Information Bulletin states in part that, "You may receive an award or merchandise as a result of your participation in school or non-school competition from any source, provided the value does not exceed $100 per award."

It seems pretty clear, at this time, that he violated the rule. My feeling is that he got a little too cocky. He felt that if he could get over with the H2, no one would bother with the little stuff. He just believed he was untouchable. Ultimately, he was stupid.

As for Next Urban Gear and Music, well that is interesting that the owner is unknown. There isn't anything on the web except this transcript from WCPN (Cleveland public radio) from 2001

Tarice Sims–In the store Next Urban Gear, hip hop music serenades a few customers who are looking for the latest in trendy hip hop fashion - things like oversize baggy pants, and bright colored sweatshirts for men and, tight jeans and halter tops for the women. Like the name of the store says, this is the next big thing in fashion. Robert Rosenthal is the president of Next Urban Gear. Until 1998 the business was known as Chagrin Department Store or Chagrin River Clothing Store. Chagrin carried to preppy suburban style clothing and weekend wear. Rosenthal says since they switched over to urban gear business has improved.

Robert Rosenthal–We saw an increase in our business, we saw that our reach was better in terms of getting our customers through the door and we saw that there was more demand for the product that we sold.

TS–Rosenthal says Chagrin catered to people in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties. Their new customers are much younger. Next is one of several urban gear stores in the Cleveland area that target to the hip-hop consumer.

Now that is one hell of a transition. From vanilla prep to urban street.

Demanding Transparency of the Process?

So, I'm guessing the Plain Dealer has found itself outside the loop in determining the details of the convention center. It's pure speculation, of course, but it would explain the PD's sudden annoyance at the lack of details about the planned convention center.

Unfortunately, they are doing it in what has for too long been The Cleveland Way: behind closed doors. Leaders of the business groups say they are trying to gather information so they can make informed comparisons of four proposals currently on the table. Once they have that data, they may or may not hold public meetings.

Yes, it is important to have good information. But information that's really good certainly can be shared with the public so that it can be independently analyzed and verified. A decision-making process that's fair and objective can stand up to public scrutiny.

Besides, how in the world can this city's corporate leaders expect to settle on a convention center site without public input? Maybe someone in this city has an idea that the insiders never considered, a concern they brushed off. More than corporate interests are at stake here.

Yes, much more. Of course the fact that the PD is cheerleading yet another big downtown construction project and the tax that goes with it (Gateway, the Jake, Browns Stadium, and so on), might be one of those other interests.

This can't be a new problem. The whole matter has been vague ever since the business leaders were instructed to work out the details back in December -- some eight plus weeks ago.

Even if every action of the convention center review is performed with utter fairness, the mere fact that it is being done outside the public view's will make it easier for the nay-sayers to say the fix was in. The people of this county will foot the bill. They deserve every opportunity to understand how it was calculated.

Ever see how sausage is made?

Taking Out the Smoke

Looks like I won't make it to Ireland in time.

A once unthinkable change is coming to one of the social hubs of Ireland: The pub is going smoke free.

The government said yesterday that it will ban smoking from all workplaces including pubs, where a pint and a cigarette have long gone hand in hand.

"This ban will mean a massive cultural change for people right around this country," Health Minister Micheal Martin said in announcing the new rules.

The change is so significant that the government has given the public 11 months notice before enforcing the ban: The law takes effect Jan. 1.

That just sucks. I hate the anti-smoking ordinances in bars. I don't even smoke, but I expect it in the air when I'm drinking in a bar.

Martin said the Health Department surveyed opinion among Ireland's 3.8 million people, about 70 percent of whom don't smoke, and decided that designating no smoking areas within pubs simply wouldn't work. Maureen Mulvihill, promotions manager at the Irish Heart Foundation, said thousands of nonsmokers like her were uncomfortable in pubs but would now go more often.

That's just a load of crap. The people who claim they don't go to bars because of the smoke will just make other excuses.

There are people who don't like to go to bars, and people who don't. The wife doesn't really like going to bars. I love them. While she hates the smoke, if the bars were smoke free, she wouldn't be any more interested in going to them than before. (You know it's true.)

Dishonesty in Views

Even the New Republic is taking shots at the NY Times Editorial Board.

The editorials of The New York Times are a good showcase of the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics. The Times is worth dwelling on not only because of its great influence but also because its opposition to war is carefully calibrated, closely matching the views of mainstream Democrats rather than those of angry street demonstrators. In fact, as the Iraq debate raged last fall, the paper's editorials professed to share the same goals as the administration. Last September the Times declared, "What really counts in this conflict ... is the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms." The Times stressed that Iraqis must cooperate actively, not merely fail to put up resistance, in order to avoid war. Iraq "must provide a full and accurate list of its unconventional weapons programs," the Times insisted on November 9. The following month it added that, to succeed, the inspectors "will need cooperation from knowledgeable Iraqis." Indeed, in its November editorial the Times explicitly sanctioned a unilateral war if Iraq failed to actively disarm: "If Baghdad violates any of these provisions [emphasis added], Washington should insist that the Security Council enforce its decision. Only if the council fails to approve the serious consequences it now invokes--generally understood to be military measures--should Washington consider acting alone."

The time to "judge Baghdad's overall cooperation and decide whether Iraq can be disarmed by peaceful means alone," the Times noted in late December, would be when Blix offered his report to the Security Council after the first 60 days of inspections. Now that moment has arrived-- and with it undeniable proof that Baghdad has not offered the active cooperation deemed essential by the Times. You might think, then, that the paper would cite its previous criteria and endorse war. Not at all. Instead, the Times has already raised the bar. An editorial published the day after Blix's report pleaded that "the inspectors should be granted additional time" so they can "produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps." This echoed the logic of the previous Sunday's editorial, which declared, "There are some threats and some causes that require fighting even if America has to fight alone, but this isn't one of them." Disarmament, which the paper previously called "the unwavering goal" and "the lodestar of American and United Nations policy," has been reduced to a mere preference to be undertaken only if or when international opinion embraces it.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

All-Star Maneuverings Under the Radar

Probably more significant in a way than the league winner of the baseball all-star game getting home field advantage was this nugget that almost everyone missed.

Sandy Alderson, Major League Baseball's vice president of operations, will take over the selection of the remaining all-star roster (after the starters, that are voted by the fans, are selected) with some (read: limited) input from the managers. In the past, the managers of the all-star team selected the remaining players. The only stipulation was that every team had to have a representative. The problem with letting the manager pick, was that he would often pick a parcel of his own players. Joe Torre, has been especially guilty of it, and noticed since he has selected the last four AL rosters; though Brenly (Diamondbacks), Valentine (formerly of the Mets), Cox (Braves) and other managers have been as bad.

I think this is great, and so does Rob Neyer

This is vintage Alderson. When someone does get the story and calls him for a comment, he says something that absolutely cannot be denied. It's true, managers don't determine the composition of their rosters during the regular season. So why do they suddenly, for just one game that everybody's watching, get the final say?

Well, one could argue that the managers have to manage the games, and the managers know better than anybody which players they need. But of course, Alderson's already answered that argument. And if managers really were the best at knowing which players they need, wouldn't at least a few of them have that power during the rest of the season? No, the fact is that managers don't have the perspective to make such decisions. They're too close ... just as Mike Scioscia is too close to the Angels, to be allowed to decide how many of them will be All-Stars in 2003.
Think about it. All-Star bonuses are not, as a rule, huge sums. Perhaps $100,000 or so. For a baseball franchise, even in these times of fiscal restraint, $100,000 isn't that much money. And so there's little reason for the Commissioner's Office to even care if a prospective All-Star has the bonus clause in his contract.

The prospective All-Star, on the other hand, cares a lot. For at least a few of them, $100,000 is still a considerable sum of money. And more to the point, making the All-Star team is still a considerable honor for most players. So you put Mike Scioscia in an awkward position, a position in which he might have to choose between one of his own players and another, just slightly more deserving, player from another team.

So who's he going to pick? He has to live with his decision for (at least) the rest of the season, so he's probably going to pick his own guy. So you end up with five shortstops on the roster, as Joe Torre did last summer because he just couldn't bear to leave Derek Jeter off the roster.

Is having Alderson serve as a sort of "All-Star Czar" the perfect solution? No, it's probably not. But the fact is that whoever's in charge is going to be criticized...

I think the managers will like it too. Oh, some may like being control freaks, but they now get spared having to answer stupid questions as to why he took Player A over B.

Mandela slides further away

I don't know what to say. Nelson Mandela has apparently lost all perspective and/or his mind.

Nelson Mandela slammed President Bush and his stance on Iraq, saying, "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America."

He said this at the International Women's Forum, whose site is an exclusive members only. Apparently, he now wants to inject race into the matter.

"It is a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing in Iraq," Mandela told an audience in Johannesburg. "What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust," he added, to loud applause.

"Both Bush as well as Tony Blair are undermining an idea (the United Nations) which was sponsored by their predecessors," Mandela said. "Is this because the secretary general of the United Nations (Ghanaian Kofi Annan) is now a black man? They never did that when secretary generals were white."

And of course, the reason for this, is ... oil.

"All that he wants is Iraqi oil because Iraq produces 64 percent of oil in the world," Mandela said. "What Bush wants is to get hold of that oil."

Oil? Doesn't he know this is all about anti-gravity technology?

Mandela has turned into a way past his prime rock star, still looking for the spotlight.

Slightly Incoherent, but Bear With Me

I do not not know quite where to begin, so I'll start with this: there are moments where my wife's naivete still stun me -- will literally drive me to drink. This may come as a shock, but I have a slight cynical bent. I tend to look at thinks with the proverbial jaundiced eye.

So, this morning while checking the headlines I noticed that an adult bookstore nearby was going to have its peep show room/booths shut down. Apparently the bookstore, which has been there for around 25 years, also operates around 15 peep show booths. The Eastlake Police Department started visiting the place undercover between June 2000 and August 2002 at least 28 times. They discovered that sex was going on in the booths and in the parking lot of the store. According to the story:

Current and former workers at the store said they saw people having sex in the video booths, the parking lot and behind the store.

The Eastlake police file has statements claiming that some employees also had sex with customers.

Four Eastlake police officers testified on Dec. 2 that they were solicited by other men for sex while at the bookstore.

A police file shows Eastlake plainclothes police went to the store nearly 30 times in a two-year period ending last August.

Each stop revealed unsanitary conditions, including semen on the floors and walls, records show.

Seedy, trashy and disgusting. The story effectively removed any possible curiosity I could have about the place.

This brings me back to the beginning. I mentioned the story to my wife as we passed the place on our way back from the grocery store. She seemed genuinely surprised. Especially as to peep shows. Apparently she never noticed the big signs covering the store's windows that advertise the peep shows. Her shock grows at the fact that people would have sex there, and that propositioning would occur. [Cripes, she works at a juvenile court, she, herself, has used the term crack whore to describe some of the parents; they need places to ply their trade.] Even more shocked that men at an adult bookstore/peep show/crack whore clearance center would proposition other men. I had to explain how all of this takes place, creating very unwanted images in my brain.

I am now finishing a healthy glass of Makers Mark bourbon to help deaden the images that are residing in my skull.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Swimsuit Edition

The National Geographic Swimsuit issue is out.

I have no other comments, I just wanted to post a picture of a babe in a bikini.

Speaking of Human Rights...

One of the (many) reasons I have for not taking too seriously the s**t that comes from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, is their hyperbolic responses to events in the West and how they quickly descend into moral equivalence. It weakens the message when prisoners captured in Afghanistan during military operations are awarded the same status of tortured political prisoners in China who are guilty of practicing an outlawed religion.

Question: Who would you rather see chairing the UN Human Rights Commission? Libya or Australia?

Judging by this piece from the global advocacy director of Human Rights Watch in New York, it's Australia -- barely.

Most of it is a hit piece on Australia over the Afghan refugees that showed up, and have been held in detention centers while they have their visa applications processed. Never mind the lack of documents or identification -- that tends to slow down any application. What barbaric society would dare to not let them in, and be free without investigation? To read this piece, Australia is only a short step away from death squads roaming the streets. And of course the lovely accusation that it will do the "dirty work" for the US.

Australia has done a lot for the human rights cause over the years, including helping to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and bring the commission into being. But given its deteriorating record on human rights and its hostile attitude to international scrutiny, Australia might well prove to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.
And Australia can be relied on to do the dirty work for Washington on many important human rights issues at the commission and elsewhere. Australia initially stood up to US pressure in deciding to join the International Criminal Court last June. But since then it has been negotiating a side deal with the US that would grant immunity to US personnel in the unlikely event Australia was ever asked to hand them over to the court. The US has been leaning on all its allies for impunity agreements of this kind, but Australia looks set to be the first Western nation to crack.

Australia is no Libya when it comes to human rights, but it shouldn't be assumed to be a white knight either.

How is the UN Relevant

In the last 8 months, Syria has assumed the UN Security Council Presidency, Libya chairs the UN Commission on Human Rights, and now this.

Iraq to chair U.N. disarmament conference

At the rules-minded United Nations, it's not a country's status with international weapons inspectors, but the letters in its name that determine which member state chairs the Conference on Disarmament.
Iraq will take its turn as the head of the conference, a U.N. spokesman said, because of a "purely automatic rotation by alphabetical order."

The system is good. The system must be followed. There can be no deviation.

Leopard Never Changes His Spots

Here’s a shock, Pete Rose, is apparently pissing away his best shot at reinstatement. Bud Selig is so desperate for some good publicity, he is considering letting Rose back into Baseball. Of course, as Jim Litke reports, Rose has done his best to blow it.

Rose continues to live like he played -- with reckless abandon. Just about everything Pete has picked up since he put down his bat has turned out to be trouble. Last week's revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has slapped a lien on a home he owns in suburban Los Angeles suggests that nothing has changed.
One Cincinnati paper reported the tax troubles. A second Cincinnati paper reported that Rose was seen gambling at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas and hanging around the sports book at nearby Caesars Palace.

Two high-ranking officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press last week that baseball's security department began investigating Rose earlier this month. But both stories apparently caught the commissioner by surprise. What was particularly stunning was the timing -- both of them coming when Rose's chances for reinstatement were better than at any time since the late Bart Giamatti, then the commissioner, banished Rose from baseball in August 1989.
Now, as Rose himself might say, all bets are off.

Passing Pete off as rehabilitated was impossible even before this latest round of setbacks. Giamatti said that Rose would have to ``reconfigure'' his life before he would be reconsidered for reinstatement, and while there's nothing to suggest he's done anything illegal, recent events have made clear that the only reconfiguring Rose is doing at the moment is calculating the changing odds on a tote board.
any case, if Selig and his inner circle are fast becoming convinced of anything, it's that Rose isn't likely to change. Like Tonya Harding, another disgraced flimflam artist, he's decided to play the victim and keep asking for do-overs until the end of time. The difference between the two -- so far -- is that Harding didn't show up on the Home Shopping Network selling souvenirs the same night she got thrown out of her sport.

That memory alone should serve to keep the commissioner from considering any request for reinstatement anytime soon. A member of Selig's inner circle told the New York Daily News that “he's not going to make this decision and end up being embarrassed by it.''

The Hall of Fame has so far managed to keep Rose out. His response was to set up shop down the street and hawk his own merchandise during induction ceremonies. If baseball decides to let him in through the front door, it would only be a matter of time before the furniture would start turning up for sale on eBay.

Keep Rose out of baseball.

More on Pudge

Finally, a sports column that agrees with me, in questioning the sanity of Pudge Rodriguez signing the contract with the Marlins.

It's difficult to figure out who looks dumber, the Marlins for their misguided public-relations grab in signing catcher Ivan Rodriguez or Rodriguez for gambling that he can rebuild his value by switching leagues, spending a year in south Florida exile and going from one of the game's best hitting parks to one of the worst.
Rodriguez's agent, Jeff Moorad, is mistaken if he thinks the free-agent market is going to rebound dramatically next year. It's possible Rodriguez will put together a monster season and look smart for accepting a one-year, $10 million deal from the Marlins instead of a three-year, $21 million offer from the Orioles. But the odds of that happening aren't good.

First, Rodriguez must stay healthy, something he failed to do the past three seasons, when he appeared in an average of 103 games. Second, he must refute the contention of many scouts and executives that he cares more about throwing out would-be basestealers than handling a pitching staff. Third, he must post big numbers with a team that could get buried playing in baseball's most improved division, the National League East.

Rodriguez's best option was to pressure the Rangers into a comparable one-year deal before he became a free agent. His next best option was to accept the Orioles' offer and stay in the American League, where he occasionally could have served as a designated hitter considering his career includes more than 1,400 games behind the plate. Instead, he chose to endure meager crowds and two-hour rain delays by joining an NL team that is clearly worse than it was at this time a year ago.
Owner Jeffrey Loria's answer -- "We were dealing with a great and special opportunity to sign a special player" -- is owner-speak for, "We're desperate." For one thing, Rodriguez no longer is that special. His inattentive game-calling, downplayed by Marlins officials, could hinder the team's gifted young pitchers. His .831 career on-base/slugging percentage (OPS) is lower than Millar's .871 and Floyd's .855. And his offensive value will further diminish at Pro Player Stadium.

Just a classic example of why some teams remain bad for a long time.

Susan Sarandon, Isolationist

Lileks goes over the SOTU, but the best was his deft takedown of Susan Sarandon.

The line that clarified everything: I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country – your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.

It brought to mind Susan Sarandon’s ad, in which she argues against a military effort to depose Saddam. “What,” she asks, “has Iraq done to us?”

Aside from shoot at our pilots, and attempt to kill an ex-President, I’ll grant that they’ve done no more to us than Hitler did to the US in the 30s. But that’s not the point. Sarandon has turned into the very thing her ilk decries: an insular self-satisfied wealthy Westerner who couldn’t care less what happens in other countries, as long as no Americans get a nick.



@$# Blogger was down most of the morning. Looks like it's back.

Slowing down the Convention Center

Originally, the business groups were supposed to have a decision on where they wanted the new convention center by the end of the month. Then it was pushed to mid-February. Now, they might push it further. Ostensibly, it is out of a desire "to get it right." The reality, it appears, is that with Forest City and Jacobs aggressively pushing the worst of all plans; it is hurting the chances of reaching a consensus on a location. This is probably the only good to come from the Warehouse/Public Square plan.

Getting a location decided is essential for finishing the plans. Once the plans are done, the County Commissioners need to be bought sold on the merits of the tax plan, and of course all additional goodies for their constituencies and pet projects. The politicians and the business leaders wanted this quickly, so they have time to sell it to the public and get it on the November ballots. Also, if this is to happen they need to move the renewal levy for county health and human services from November to May (though they may have already taken care of that), or they would have no chance of getting the tax money.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Covention Center Rantings

It's a little more than two weeks from the Valentines Day Deadline. On February 14, the business leaders of Cleveland are supposed to reach a decision on where they want a new convention center to be built. If you are just catching up with this, and need the background, go to my past links here, here, here, here and here. On Sunday, the Plain Dealer ran an article detailing the many faults of the present convention center, and how conventions are staying away or hate the place.

According to an article in this week's Crain's Cleveland Business (subscription req'd.), the business leaders are split on either building on where the present convention center is (called the Mall C site) or a site between the Warehouse District and Public Square. (Both the PD article and this one, almost speak of the new convention center as if it is assured to occur. I find this thoroughly depressing.) This is down from four sites.This isn't too surprising, since the using the present location would mean the city wouldn't have to purchase the land. The other location is being backed by two of the most powerful groups in the county -- Forest City Enterprises and Richard E. Jacobs (as in Jacobs Field and former Indian owner).

[Okay, this is a bit strange, but I have the print version of the Crain's article in front of me and I just noticed that it is different from the online version that is ostensibly listed as being the same story. The print story is not listed in the site. I scanned the print version in to my computer to quote from it. I'll try to make clear where any quotes come from. The print story, focuses more on the push by Forest City and Dick Jacobs for their spot (Warehouse/Public Square). It is the more interesting one. The online story deals more with the problems of both and what is expected from modern convention centers as far as space requirements and truck traffic and docks for loading and unloading.]

From the Print Story:

Forest City Enterprises Inc. co-chairman Albert Ratner and former Indians owner Richard E. Jacobs are combining forces to win the convention center for a site spanning West Third and West Sixth streets. Their plan for a site between Public Square and the Warehouse District not only would bring a new look to downtown, but it would connect directly to their megaprojects dating from the late 1980s and early 1990s — Forest City's Tower City Center complex and Mr. Jacobs' Marriott Cleveland at Key Center.

Both received huge subsidies and tax breaks from the city and county to build these and some other projects. Now it's time to up the profitability by having their land bought and turned into a convention center and then be the nearby hotels and shopping. The Yiddish word, chutzpah, keeps echoing in my brain when I read about this.

The Mall C site's backers are smaller investors and developers who bet their own millions in the 1990s on lower Euclid Avenue and the Gateway area. Also in that corner are those who think a bigger convention center than the Ratner-Jacobs site affords would be more marketable for the city.

Just to be clear, the Mall C people hardly come into this with clean hands.

While Forest City and Mr. Jacobs' Richard E. Jacobs Group real estate concern each have been successful in the past at winning concessions from public bodies, they now are figuring out how to woo a new generation of politicos who prize consensus-driven decisionmaking.

"Have been successful in the past at winning concessions from public bodies."??? That's like saying Anheuser-Busch has been successful at creating brand awareness for Budweiser.

Since December, Forest City officials and Mr. Jacobs have prepared and aired their own plan for the convention center at West Third and West Sixth streets on what's known as the "superblock" site. The site previously was dismissed as being too small for the convention center the city needs.

Their proposal would install a 230,000-square-foot exhibit hall on a single floor. Another exhibit hall of the same size or 100,000 square feet could be built above it if needed in the future.

The online story quickly makes it clear that the Warehouse/Public Square location does not meet "modern" convention center requirements.

Steven Hacker, president of the International Association of Exhibition Management, an association based in Dallas that studies and promotes the trade show industry, said the staging area or "marshalling yard" for trucks is a key factor when event organizers consider a city's venue. More important, he said, is the physical layout and location of a building and how it affects the set-up and labor costs that event organizers incur.

Mr. Hacker said show organizers usually invite added expense when using a multilevel venue rather than one that offers a large, contiguous space on one level, because multilevel buildings require more set-up time. Also, dividing a large show among two floors, or presenting two shows simultaneously, disrupts the flow of patron traffic and interrupts the synchronization of an event, Mr. Hacker said.
Mr. Roman said an updated plan by LMN Architects of Seattle for a new convention center at Mall C incorporates a staging area somewhere north of Lakeside Avenue, though a specific location still is under examination. Mr. Roman said he didn't know where a truck staging area for the West Third Street site might be proposed. William Voegele, Forest City's regional director of development and spokesman for the convention center project, didn't return a phone call last week inquiring about a specific truck traffic plan.
Mr. Roman said a 1999 PricewaterhouseCoopers study still being used as a blueprint for convention center planning suggests that a new convention center feature 350,000 square feet of exhibition space. That size would make Cleveland more competitive with rivals such as Columbus and Pittsburgh, which have expanded their convention centers in the last few years.

Now, I am against any new convention center because I don't believe it would come anywhere close to repaying the costs and waste. Still, I can't believe Forest City/Jacobs would submit a plan that is actually being considered, that would be too small and despised by the sacred convention organizers as a good plan. I mean, the advantage for someone like me, is that it would be such an easy target to ridicule, mock and explain the reasons not to pay for such a monstrosity. What possible reasons could be put forward for it?

However, William Voegele, Forest City regional director for development, said an above-ground site offers the city the chance to get a new image.

"It would become an icon for Cleveland's progress," he said.

Oh? "An icon for Cleveland's progress." You mean like Jacobs Field, the BP building, Gateway, the Rock Hall, Browns Stadium, Galleria, and the Science Center were all symbols of Cleveland's progress? All it would be an icon of is Cleveland's ongoing stupidity, desperation, and shot-sightedness in thinking these things will be the key to revitalizing downtown or the entire area.

All they do is spread the cost out for the entire region to the benefit of a few developers. This is not a complaint against the rich, the elite, capitalism and/or business. I have nothing against wealth. I like money. I wish I had more. I like the fact that I am in a free market economy. I do, however, have a problem with public funds and governments willingly making me and the entire community bend over for someone elses benefit.

The mammoth structure would rise 120 feet from street level. Mr. Voegle said part of the site would be devoted to a street-level, mixed-use complex with retailers and restaurants.

Pluses of the plan are that it would provide direct connections to 1,300 hotel rooms at the Renaissance Hotel Cleveland and the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott.

A 900-bed hotel could be constructed next to Tower City Mr. Voegle said. Mr. Jacobs' site on Public Square remains available as a future development site, perhaps as a hotel.

That's the extent of the real benefits? That it would be really, really close to the hotels and more empty retail space could be created. Look around downtown Cleveland. There isn't a shortage of available retail and restaurant space. I also love how more space could be made available for more hotels, on additional land nearby -- owned by Jacobs.

To be fair, this location would be very near to the Warehouse district, which is much better than the flats for restaurants, clubs and bars. The Warehouse district, is arguably one of the few true bright spots in the attempts to revitalize downtown Cleveland in the 90s. It really took off in the mid-to-late-90s. But, then you plop a building down on one side of it, taking away much of the parking that is already a major problem in the area, and hem it's expansion -- already limited by the lake and the rivers -- so that it can't get any better or bigger. What a great plan!

So, Mall C must be the better site, with a single floor of around 360,000 square feet. Surely this will meet the needs of the conventions Cleveland hopes to compete for.

(from the online article)
Mr. Sublett disagrees that 350,000 square feet is sufficient.

"Even second-tier shows can take up 500,000 square feet easily," he said, referring to trade shows that occur regularly in cities such as Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

The consequence of choosing the site that best fits the needs of customers as well as the city will be felt for a long time, Mr. Roman said.

"This is a decision that will affect Cleveland for the next 40 years," he said.

40 Years? That's it? And it would already be insufficient? The facts seem to speak for themselves.


More on Superbowl Ads

Here is an excellent collection of news articles on the superbowl ads, along with some other sites that discuss the superbowl (yes a shameless plug since it, includes my comments). Also, Eric Neel's write-up gets extra mention because he discusses more than the ads. He goes into the halftime show and the pregame stuff. There seems to be a lot of annoyance/resentment about Shania Twain lip-synching during the halftime show. The wife and I were annoyed and neither of us are big fans (of her music).

Shania Twain's whole thing. Excuse me, Ms. Twain? Cher called, she wants her outfit back. Plus, 15 yards for lip-synching, 15 more for the Hall-and-Oates over-the-shoulder keyboard thing in the band, and 15 and loss of down for the gratuitous ride up the cherry-picker -- and by the way, who brought her down? Is she still up there? Can I hope?

Then there was Brian Murphy with probably the best description of her outfit.

All that said, I am not an enormo-fan of Shania Twain's music. I am, however, an enormo-fan of Shania Twain's being. Did you check out that outfit she had on? What was that: Canadian dominatrix meets Nashville casting couch? The thigh-high boots were a little much for the PG-13 audience, but rest assured -- from the Auxiliary Press Box in the north end zone, we had her covered via binocs.

Yes, everyone enjoyed the view of the outfit, or as Jon Stewart said last night on the Daily Show (rough paraphrase), "Ooh, look at her breasts."

Just a theory as to the real annoyance with the Shania lip-synching, is that she has pushed this image as being a real singer, a performer, someone who would never do that. As the wife said, "Britney Spears couldn't sing a damn at the Superbowl [a couple years ago], but at least she made the attempt."

Letter Writing

The evolution of letter writing campaigns. The article focuses on letters to the editor, but the same thing is geared towards Congress. A truly bipartisan activity of fake grass-roots activism. It's interesting to watch the growing sophistication on both sides.

The people who edit the letters pages disagree, generally believing that letters should be the work of those who sign them. Armed with Internet search engines and e-mail lists of their own, they are mapping Web sites and alerting each other about the form letters appearing in their mailboxes.

"We type phrases into Google all the time," said Susan Clotfelter, the letters editor at The Denver Post. "We hate to be fooled." The Post published at least two form letters last year: one in support of the budget proposal of President Bush and one in support of the terrorism stance of Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota.
The editors issue alerts and queries on a 600-member e-mail list run by the National Conference of Editorial Writers. Last week, for example, an editor from Nebraska posted a questionable letter about the Pledge of Allegiance and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Within minutes, editors from Wisconsin, Tennessee, Illinois and Nebraska responded, saying they had received the same letter.

"It's instant communication among us," said Lynnell Burkett, the editorial page editor of The San Antonio Express-News. "It's extremely helpful, every day, several times a day."
Editors say the groups are becoming more sophisticated and the letters harder to spot. Last week, The Wisconsin State Journal of Madison received a number of letters in support of abortion rights that referred to the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to abortion.

The editors were suspicious. But no two letters were exactly alike. A few technical errors in some of the later e-mails, however, showed that they had come from, operated by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

At its Web site, users were encouraged to mix and match paragraphs from about 10 form letters. They could send their newly created letters to any of a number of publications in Wisconsin.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live

The Jimmy Kimmel Live show premiered last night. I don't know if it will be any good, but I do know it didn't get any help from the way ABC chose to launch it.

I thought I would at least watch the first episode, since it was following the superbowl. Whoops, not quite. Instead the geniuses at ABC Programming and Marketing chose to put it on at the time it would appear during the week, 12:05 am on Sunday and show Alias right afterwards followed by the late local news. Good plan. People have been at parties, they have been drinking since at least 6 pm, they have to work tomorrow. Who was actually watching it?

Of course the game went later, I was watching my local news after midnight. I went to bed, around 12:30, and the show still had not started. I think the show may actually be decent based on the writers. The question to me is, will ABC give it a real shot (at least a year)? Or will they bail when it gets creamed during the first 3 months in the ratings, and takes abuse from critics who will automatically hold "girls jumping on trampolines" against Kimmel and the show?

Super Bowl Ad Takes

So, with a Superbowl that had no real meaning to me, and our plans falling through, I thought I'd be a bit of a geek and take note of the ads that caught my attention.

Explanation of methodology -- totally subjective, fairly moderate drinking (martinis, gin and tonics and beer) starting about 4:30 pm.

Overall impression -- not a particularly great year. Only one really jumped out at me. There were some that made me smile, but only one made me laugh.

Movie Ads
Strictly action/adventure time. No ads for romantic-comedies or much else

6:48 -- The Hulk -- Ooooohhhh! This looks like it will rock! The CGI Hulk looks amazing.
6:52 -- The Matrix Sequels -- Lots of flashy images; not sure what is going on; more of a teaser than anything else.
7:19 -- Daredevil -- Ads for Daredevil have already been airing, but this ads some more with more Elektra.
7:47 -- Terminator 3 -- Did they really need to make this movie?
8:51 -- Charlie's Angels 2 -- Guilty pleasure
Notable by its omission, X-Men 2

Budweiser/Bud Light Ads
The Bud people usually do the best group of ads. I'd say they succeeded again this year.

6:33 -- Instant Replay. Budweiser. Building on the horses playing football from the last couple of years. A real Zebra watching the replay over and over while the horses wait for the decision. Great start to their ad night. Probably my favorite.
6:48 -- Strongman Competition. Bud Light. Strongest Man spoof, where the contestants are supposed to carry a fridge filled with Bud Light on their back. The fridge keeps getting stolen by apparently weaker, frailer bystanders. The wife liked this one best of all the beer ads.
6:58 -- Parade Clown. Bud Light. Very visual. A parade going down the street, a guy dressed as a clown walking upside down (feet look like hands, and his head is covered looking like the butt. Stops in a bar during the parade to get a Bud Light. Everyone stares as he drinks through his "ass." Ends by asking the bartender about getting a hot dog, response, "I don't think so." Caused an involuntary smirk, despite the gross-out factor.
7:19 -- No Pets. Bud Light. Guy walking his dog, a smallish black dog with lots of hair hard to see face. Wants to stop for a beer at a bar, but the sign says "no pets." Solution, walks into the bar with the dog balanced on his head like bad dreadlocks, speaks with a Jamaican accent. Eh.
7:30 -- Sea Shell. Bud Light. Guy watches another guy use a seashell as part of a successful come on to a couple of women at the beach. He decides to try it, but it turns out there is a crab in the shell, that clamps on his ear. A bit predictable.
8:49 -- Future Mother-in-Law. Bud Light. Guy warned before meeting his girlfriend's mother to be aware that that will be what she looks like in the future. He answers the door, mother looks very young and pretty... but can't get through the door. Cartoon-like wide ass.
9:00 -- 3rd Arm. Bud Light. Couple on a date, guy had a third arm added to allow him to do more. Weird but not as funny as hoped.
9:25 -- Touchdown. Budweiser. Couple out at a bar. Girl is droning on about some other couple, guy is apparently listening but is watching the football game and superimposes the game call over her voice "He's to the 50... the 40... 30..." Ends with her complimenting him on being such a good listener. Amused smile. One that gets a lot of guys discretely nodding their heads.

Nothing in any of the Sierra Mist ads really grabbed me.
6:44 -- Pepsi Twist. Osbournes/Osmonds. Please end the '70s now. Ozzy and his brood, Donnie and Marie in jumpsuits, then a kicker with Florence Henderson.
8:35 -- Diet Pepsi. Part of the "think young" campaign. A rowdy, loud, and muddy rock concert. In the middle of it all, a teen looks next to him and says, "dad?" Okay, but it's been done.

The Rest
In order, by when seen

4:55 -- Trident. 4 out of 5 Dentists surveyed, recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. Explores the "theory" as to the 5th dentist and why. Very amusing, and a good idea to have some fun with Trident's own cache in pop culture. Aired first during pre-game and again at 7:29
5:16 -- The Practice moving to a new day and time. Spoofing Miller Lite's babe fave cat fight over "Taste's great! Less Filling!" with two beefcakes arguing over "Better night! New Time!" Then cut to the women in the show watching the ad. Mildly amusing.
5:23 -- Hanes Tagless. Michael Jordan saying, "It's gotta be the tags." Notable for adding Jackie Chan doing all twists and jumps to get at the tag that is causing him to itch. Aired again at 7:22.
6:58 -- H&R Block. Willie Nelson forced to shave his beard for a razor company because his accountant screwed up his taxes. Fun little play with Willie's real tax problems.
7:10 -- Visa Debit Card. Yao Ming in NYC trying to write a check. Yo! Yao! Over and over. This will be annoying really fast.
7:48 -- Levi Jeans, Type 1. Buffalo stampede, part for couple wearing the jeans. Visually engaging, but a bit cold.

The Winner
8:59 -- Reebok. Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Funny, strange, surreal. Probably the one everyone will talk about (if they were still watching at that point, because quite frankly the game had gotten quite dull at that point).

More of that Old Europe Wisdom

France has passed a law making it a punishable offense to defile the national flag or insult the Marseillaise (national anthem) (via Tim Blair).

a backlash from free speech advocates who believe the conservative government is imposing a nannyish new moral order.

The legislation, which was passed on Thursday, allows for a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of almost £5,000 for anyone found guilty of insulting the national flag or anthem. The police say it will be next to impossible to enforce.

The law was passed with almost no opposition from the minority socialists. They called it a "baited" Bill and feared that by opposing it they might seem to be encouraging insults to the flag and national anthem.

A nannyish economic/business order is fine, but morals are straight out.

Naturally all other flags and anthems may continue to be insulted. So, the law passed, with the "liberal" parties in parliment rolling over for fear of appearing unpatriotic, why how very American of them.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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