Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, October 24, 2003

Maybe I Should Go Satellite

I keep thinking about it, but I hate having to sign any more service contracts. Our cable bills keep rising, even as we cut back on service. News like this, though, makes me start to think more seriously about it.

The fiercest battle in sports right now isn't in any stadium or arena, but in the media and in Washington and on Wall Street. That's where ESPN and Cox Communications (COX: Research, Estimates) are battling over how, and for how much, the nation's No. 4 cable operator will carry the popular all-sports network.

Cox CEO Jim Robbins has decried the per-subscriber fees being demanded by ESPN and competitor Fox Sports, and is proposing putting the high-priced sports networks on their own premium cost tier or dropping them altogether.

"If the price tag for sports is too high, our customers shouldn't be forced to pay for it," said Robbins at a recent analyst conference. He said ESPN accounts for only 4 percent of viewership on Cox systems spread across 30 states. But the $2.61 a month Cox pays ESPN for each of its 6.3 million subscribers equals 18 percent of the fees it pays networks.

We're not on Cox. We're on Comcast, formerly we were AT&T and before that (oh, forget it...), but I imagine this will happen with all cable providers soon enough.

A bunch of my neighbors have the dish, so I know the reception is good in the area. Of course, there is the added bonus of being able to get NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings; not to mention the ESPN College football and basketball pay-per-view. But, I suspect the wife would veto; and that would make it almost worse -- to have the ability but not be able to take advantage of it -- ugh.

A day of nothing

I am not a graceful man. I am awkward and clumsy. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm and timing. I can't keep a beat. It's pathetic.

My wife is not that much better. Very uncoordinated. Though, she does have rhythm and can keep a beat.

We've long joked that Angie is facing an uphill battle.

She proved us right. My daughter is no longer perfect.

She chipped a tooth the other night in the bathtub.

It happened Wednesday night at the end of her bath. I was giving the bath, so I have to bear the guilt and the baleful glares of my wife. In a way, it's probably better that it happened on my watch then my wife. I can live with the guilt, and shrug most of it off as just something that will happen with kids. The wife, though, would just be wracked with guilt and shame. Replaying it over and over, blaming herself and being miserable about it.

What happened? Well, our tub has one of those stupid, sliding screen doors, rather than a curtain. So, when Angie moves around in the tub, she can kind of isolate herself from us until we move both screens to the other end. Well, she's walking around in the tub -- as she often does -- and decides to start trying to climb the wall in the back corner. She gets a wet foot up, pushes off, and slips chipping a top front tooth on the tub and cutting the inside of her lip.

Much screaming ensues.

By the time bedtime rolls around, she is fine. Happy, no more pain, but a slightly swollen upper lip.

The chip was rather small, and not terribly noticeable. But it's a chip, and should be checked out. The next morning, a couple calls confirm that Angie is already on the dental insurance. Then a search for in-network pediatric dentists and a little Google searching for any information. Call the office, they squeeze us into a late afternoon appointment.

The dentist examines it, says the tooth is still sound -- the chip absorbed the impact of the blow -- some discoloration may occur, but there is no need to do anything else. No need to sedate Angie and work on her teeth.

Went to a nearby mall for no good reason, other than it was cold and wet and Angie and I needed to walk around. Met the wife for dinner at Skyline Chili. Watched Angie torture a dish of spaghetti -- amazing that I can do that without my stomach turning, of course it's my kid "eating," not some other parent's obnoxious brat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Bad Play Call

I've been going back and forth about posting on Gregg Easterbrook, his comments on his blog, and the subsequent firing from ESPN Page 2, with his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column.

Everybody has posted, and what do I have to add that is much different? The answer: not much, but what the hell, I'm pissed off enough by this:

This is the entire public statement from ESPN -- there is no link.

In the context of the page.

ESPN/Disney is completely silent over the whole thing. All that is certain, is that Gregg Easterbrook appears to no longer exist on ESPN, his archives are gone. There will be no trace of his existence there, once the notice comes down. ESPN willingly flutters between being a sports news resource -- and holding itself out as having journalistic standards -- and being merely an entertainment conglomerate. It's unwillingness to discuss or even mention the subject tells everyone where it is placing itself in this instance.

But it leaves the question hanging out there. Was Easterbrook fired for the extremely dumb statement regarding Jewish movie executives, for which he profusely apologized, -- all of which he wrote on a site, in no way affiliated or connected to ESPN or Disney -- and has been defended against being anti-Semitic (though not for making a rather anti-Semitic comment) -- and I believe that he is not.

Easterbook was being a moral scold regarding the violence contained in the movie Kill Bill, in his criticism he called out Miramax and Disney chiefs, Weinstein and Eisner, for producing and releasing it. He essentially said that Jews, especially, should be more sensitive to the violence and not be so willing to worship the money it produces. Basically, suggesting the stereotype that Jews worship money, and that Jews are held to a higher standard. Both parts set off a torrent of criticism in blogs. And the subsequent firing by ESPN created tons of regret; and some recriminations (which I found myself in large agreement).

Now I believe ESPN fired Easterbrook because he criticized Disney and its related company. Why? ESPN/Disney has a history of not tolerating criticism from its employees and exerting control over their other public activities. Two examples spring to mind.

IN the late 90s while Keith Olbermann was still with ESPN, he did an unauthorized appearance on "The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn" (a former Sportscenter anchor with whom he was still friends) to promote a book about Sportscenter. For that, he was suspended for a month. Last, Tony Kornheiser who has a radio show on ESPN radio and co-hosts "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN was suspended 2 weeks for criticizing an action by ESPN. Neither was publicly reported, but made it into gossip and rumor.

By comparison, last spring, Bob Ryan, a longtime sports columnist at the Boston Globe, was suspended by his paper for a month after making public comments about wanting to hit the wife of NBA star, Jason Kidd. After his suspension ended, he has returned to his regular appearances on "The Sports Reporters" with no further problems. Of course, Ryan had lots of friends at ESPN willing to defend him and try and help him keep around. Easterbrook was an online columnist who was not a "real" sportswriter, and didn't have the cache built up to have anyone go to bat for him.

Also, has no problem publishing Hunter S. Thompson -- someone who doesn't exactly write uncontroversial stuff for ESPN.

George W. Bush is a baseball man, so I wonder about who he'll chose to win the Series this year, if only to know who to stay away from.

I have never had much faith in our embattled child President's decision-making powers. He comes from a long line of Losers ... I know that is not what you want to hear/read at this time, especially if you happen to be serving in the doomsday mess that is currently the U.S. Army.

I take no pleasure in being Right in my dark predictions about the fate of our military intervention in the heart of the Muslim world. It is immensely depressing to me. Nobody likes to be betting against the Home team, no matter how hopeless they are.

or this:

The Rumsfield-Cheney axis has self-destructed right in front of our eyes, along with the once-proud Perle-Wolfowitz bund that is turning to wax. They somehow managed to blow it all, like a gang of kids on a looting spree, between January and July, or even less. It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.

Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years. Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent war Zone, our national Economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon's "war strategy" has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by Mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.

The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it. Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.

The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.

Of course, his criticisms are towards the President of the US, not the president of Disney.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Sure, Why Not

So, it turns out a fictional comic book superhero, the Thing, is Jewish.

Of course. A former college football star, turned test pilot for the military. It's a comic book. Moe Berg would be proud.

Not that there haven't been great Jewish college football players. My alma mater has one of the all-time greats -- Marshall Goldberg.

True story, he did a speaking engagement in the late 50s at my father's Synagogue. Goldberg, at one point, was wondering why there weren't more Jews playing football. My father heard my grandmother mutter, "Because most Jews are smarter than that."

Monday, October 20, 2003

Whiskey Island Update

It's been a while since I mentioned Whiskey Island. I intended to write something last week, but I was busy with other things.

Still I saw this article last week (subs. req'd) in Crain's Cleveland

Cuyahoga County is closing in on buying the contested Whiskey Island property in a deal that, if consummated, would give the community its much-discussed lakefront park and would place county commissioners on more equal footing with the city of Cleveland when it comes to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority planning for the future.

The move, by itself, would not change the way the Port Authority is run or alter any future plans. But it would enhance the county's influence over the planning process vis-à-vis the city of Cleveland, which appoints six of the nine members of the Port Authority's board of directors.

Commissioners, who make the other three port board appointments, in part want that type of leverage because they're skeptical that the Port Authority's growth projections - and its plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipation of that growth - are overblown.
Since negotiations with Whiskey Island Partners were broken off, the Port Authority has moved to begin eminent domain proceedings to wrestle the property from the owner. A sale to the county, another public entity, would stymie the eminent domain proceedings, forcing the Port Authority to work more closely with commissioners.

You can't pursue eminent domain when a different public entity owns the property. This was why the rhetoric between the Mayor's office and the County Commissioners was so heated.

It's a really good article, full of details on how little is made public about the workings of the Port Authority. The County will have the upper-hand with the Port Authority with the property, and it appears to be just about complete.

But regardless of the city's plans and the port's eminent domain action, the county appears poised to buy the land. The owner, Whiskey Island Partners, has offered to sell the land for $5.4 million and the marina for $2.6 million. The partnership's general partner, Dan T. Moore III, is also willing to kick in $600,000 to help establish a park. The commissioners are expected to hire a real estate lawyer on Tuesday to help finalize details with Moore.

Unlike the city run park plan -- which no one seems to believe would last considering the City of Cleveland's inability to maintain other parks (most got turned over to the Metroparks, an independent county agency) -- the County plan immediately sees it being operated by the Metroparks or Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The problem for Cleveland and the Port Authority, is they will no longer control the size of the park and they won't be able to expand the Port at will if/when they move.

This leaves the City of Cleveland officials struggling to save face and work with the County Commissioners -- really just work to find a way that doesn't totally humiliate the Mayor's office and her people who have managed to totally bungle this.

The Non-Correction, Correction

A week ago (and this is really sad, because it shows just how slow the Cleveland Plain Dealer writers can be to pick up a theme) Tom Brazaitis used the "Bush lied about the imminent threat of Iraq" idea to complain about the $87 billion request for rebuilding Iraq.

Bush persuaded the American people that a pre-emptive strike against Iraq was necessary to ward off the "imminent threat" that Saddam Hussein would use weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

This was started back in July.

In the heated controversy over whether the President misled the nation with false intelligence about Iraq, accuracy is crucial. Critics, after all, are accusing the Bush administration of making a misleading case for war using questionable evidence. But a new ad from the Democratic National Committee shows that some of his critics are guilty of inaccuracy as well.

The advertisement, which has received a great deal of news coverage despite airing in only a few markets so far, begins with simulated typing on-screen that reads "In his State of the Union address George W. Bush told us of an imminent threat."

And so on, and so on does the theme continue. The authorization from Congress required no such showing, and in fact, Sen. Byrd (D-WV), unsuccessfully attempted to add an amendment seeking proof of an imminent threat (no truth to the rumor that he also wanted an additional $1 billion for some new buildings and roads in West Virginia).

Here's what Bush said in his State of the Union:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

The whole argument leading up to the war was the issue of a pre-emptive attack by the US and what that means for foreign policy. Somewhere after the fact, it got shifted to an issue of a war based on an imminent threat. Howard Dean opposed going to war with Iraq, because there was no imminent threat from the country.

There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. The question is, is he an immediate threat? The president has not yet made the case for that.
But I'm not convinced yet and the president has not yet made the case, nor has he ever said, this is an immediate threat.

Getting back to Brazaitis. He was called out on his claim, and spent an entire column this week defending himself for being an idiot, titling the column

The president just implied 'imminent threat'

That's right, his defense is that he wasn't paying attention to what was actually said. The entire column is simply arguing that Bush and the administration didn't directly say it, but it was implied and manipulated; and that he -- the columnist, a man paid to pay attention and write about national affairs -- wasn't really listening.

My transgression in wrongly asserting that the president had warned of an "imminent threat" pales next to the administration's manipulation of intelligence reports so that they bore little resemblance to the actual facts but fit perfectly into the president's plan to complete the job his father started but did not finish a dozen years earlier. Let's be honest. The president took us to war because he wanted to and because he could.

Speaking of honesty, Brazaitis shows some of his own by including the "Bush went to war for his father" line.

This leads to a great article from the Washington Post on "Bush Haters." The whole article is worth reading. It is funny to me, to see the same lather the hard right worked itself into over Clinton be repeated on the other side.

Mainstream journalism, with its traditional parameters, has somehow failed to connect with the notion that there are lots of Americans who walk around sputtering about Dubya -- despite fairly healthy approval ratings for a third-year incumbent. The press was filled with stories about Clinton-haters, but Bush-hating is either more restrained or more out of control, depending on who's keeping score.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Apparently, the letter writer who so got under Brazaitis's skin that he named him in the column is an Instapundit reader. Prof. Reynolds reaches the same conclusion I did -- that Brazaitis was not really listening, not paying attention like he was paid to do. Hell of a defense.

They Make it Too Easy

Who are "they?" Why the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board of course. They give their recommendations to the residents of Lakewood, Ohio on Issues 47 and 48. This regards the eminent domain abuse going on in Lakewood -- where the city will take the property and then give it to a private developer (the "public good" in all of this is in the higher taxes that come from the use by the private developer).

Issue 47 is whether to vote yes or no on the present project (the PDEB says yes).

Issue 48 would require a public vote on any major development project in the city -- as opposed to just being approved by the Lakewood City Council. In other words, it would provide direct voting on a project rather than representative voting. Well, the PDEB can't countenance the idea that voters might directly express their opinions so, they say no. Actually, their reasoning is to compare it to California.

Issue 48 is a California-esque measure requiring that almost any significant development in the city be approved by the voters. It is a destructive proposal that would virtually guarantee Lakewood's demise. It must be defeated.

No reason is needed. It is conclusive in and of its self. It's bad! Bad I say.

Interesting how this particular project should face a direct vote but all future ones shouldn't. Why is that? The PDEB supported putting this project on the ballot. What's wrong with avoiding the problems that arose in this case in the future?

As for the PDEB supporting the eminent domain proceedings and the shady nature of the whole issue of "blight" and "public good," well this is how they finesse it.

Like some Lakewood residents who oppose the West End project, we understand and acknowledge that eminent domain can be an emotional process that sometimes seems to fail the fairness test.

Right. It just seems unfair sometimes. But it really isn't in this case.


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