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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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Family Outing

My usual Saturday morning consists of getting the wife and Angie out of the house to Angie's play/music class while I do work around the house (or more likely just relax and read or surf the internet). This time we did something else. I drove them out to class and I went off for a cup of coffee at a nearby Borders, then after the class we went to Madison, Ohio. The wife needed some specialty cross-stitch items and there is a store there for her complete indulgence in this. She ended up spending over an hour in the store, ordering more stuff that we will have to pick up when it comes in, and spending a decent amount of coin on threads, patterns and needles. She deserves it and more.
Angie and I were left to putter around the little downtown area in the mean while. We spent the time in the village square. At first we thought there was a classic car display in the square, but quickly learned it was actually a wedding. Apparently the happy couple were part of a classic car club, so they all gathered with their cars in the square for the ceremony before driving off.

 Posted by Hello

Angie actually had a good time running around the little park/village square. Things for her to climb on, and places for her to sit as well.

When I wasn't chasing after her, I was amused to notice that people actually lived in the apartments above the rather standard little downtown area businesses you would expect in a little rural area like that. It gets especially driven home when you see a clothesline above the outdoor dining area. Posted by Hello

A Sitcom Gag or Sublot ...

In real life: a big, fat, hairy lawsuit about to happen.

The body of a man who died in a waiting room at Southwest General Health Center may have gone unnoticed for at least 23 hours because nurses thought he was sleeping.

No one could say Friday exactly why or when 55-year-old Robert F. Johnson came to the hospital, what caused his death or how long his body lay on a couch in a room off the second-floor intensive-care ward.

Johnson's widow wants answers.

As bad as it sounds on first blush, it doesn't appear that Johnson actually went to the hospital for a medical problem. He never checked in, and actually may have gone there to get some sleep when he stormed out of the house following an argument with his wife.

Sadly, you can bet there are attorneys lining up around the block of the widow's door to file a lawsuit.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Eastlake Getting Deeper

The City of Eastlake budget deficit has grown from $3.2 million to $3.7 million in the last 6 months. That according to the Ohio Auditor's Office. The city is now looking at additional budget cuts. Eastlake's whole plan now appears to hinge on passing the levy on August 3. Even with the levy passing, they are going to have to make additional cuts.

I also would not be surprised (with the deficit growing and expected payments they will have to make in a couple years to make up the shortfall on the bonds for the ballpark) if they end up keeping the garbage collection fee in place or require partial payment. Despite their claims that they will rescind it after this year if the levy passes.

All the elected officials are trying to pretend that there won't have to be major, major cuts; but it looks like the state appointed,  Financial Planning and Supervision Commission are going to hold the city's feet to the fire about implementing additional cuts. Good.


Just Seems Wrong

My last summer living in Pittsburgh was a haze of alcohol. We drank constantly. One of the bars we found ourselves frequenting was out in Homestead, Chiodo's. I can't give you details -- because, I honestly don't have any clear memories. My friends and I were very serious about our drinking at the time. I don't think I can possibly stress that enough. I remember it being loud, busy and fun. I remember always having positive memories about the place and looking forward to the next visit.

A special visit might be needed during the upcoming Pitt football season.

Chiodo's Tavern, a Homestead landmark that made its reputation serving beers to tired steel workers but survived long after the giant plant across the tracks closed down, could be making way for a Walgreens drugstore.

A Cincinnati developer yesterday filed an application that details plans to put the national drugstore chain's second store in this area on West Eighth Avenue, near the base of the Homestead Grays Bridge.

Anchor Properties is seeking permission to demolish the existing Chiodo's Bar, a Subway restaurant and 76 gas station. A new Subway would be built, along with the drugstore and a parking area, according to paperwork submitted at the borough office.
The neighborhood around Chiodo's has changed dramatically since the U.S. Steel Homestead Works plant was torn down and replaced by the Waterfront shopping area. Hundreds of cars come across the bridge to the Loews movie theater and the big-box stores at the Waterfront. Officials are still working to bring that energy across the railroad tracks onto Homestead's main street, Eighth Avenue.
Way to attract that energy. Tear down a bar and put up a Walgreens and a Subway. The owner of Chiodo's couldn't be reached, so the full story isn't out. Strange to keep seeing all the old haunts disappearing after 10 years.


And He Was So Close

Can you believe he is conceding? Or that he was still officially running?

Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich plans to endorse John Kerry for president today, ending his long-shot bid for the nation's highest office only days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

<>Kucinich is expected to fly to Michigan for a joint appearance with Kerry, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at a Na tional Urban League conference in Detroit.
Kucinich, the last candidate to pull out of the Democratic race, is scheduled to address the Democratic convention next Wednesday night.
Kucinich ended up winning many of his delegates in later contests after all the other major candidates had pulled out. He argued repeatedly that it made sense for him to stay in the race all the way to the convention so he and his supporters could try to influence the direction of the Democratic Party, most notably in its platform.

At the platform committee's final meeting in Florida this month, however, Kucinich's outnumbered supporters ended up bowing to Kerry forces who opposed his push for a platform plank calling for a quick pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Kucinich didn't even win his own district in the Ohio primary.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Don't Blame The Stadium

A City of Eastlake financial update. The city is still broke. It was broke in the beginning of the year. It was broke in April when the Mayor retired for "health reasons." It was broke in May just before the State began oversight of the budget, and after. Even worse when the lumpsum payments to the former mayor and others for unused sick and vacation days.

A week or so ago, there was a flyer jammed in our door urging our support for the new levy Eastlake needs to pass. It did supply some information (and a bit that was disingenuous) like explaining that the levy would replace the garbage collection fee that was enacted during the budget cuts. That is a switch. It had been presented that the new tax would be in addition to the garbage fee (I'm really curious how they can eliminate their deficit, hire 3 more firemen and no other layoffs plus eliminate the garbage fee after this year -- all while being lest costly than the present garbage fee for the average homeowner). There was one thing missing from the flyer urging us to vote in favor of the levy. Some niggling little thing that you would think enthusiasts of the levy would mention -- when the special vote would take place. That's right, they managed to forget to mention that the vote would be on August 3.

Today the Lake County newspaper, the News Herald has an editorial in support of the levy. There was also an article in the paper on the levy (referenced in the editorial) but being one of those annoying zwire newspaper websites, they didn't put the story online. I'm not surprised, since they had previously supported the plan when it called for the garbage collection fee and the new levy. There was this little nugget in the middle of the editorial though, that made me snicker.

And by the way, the new Eastlake Ballpark has nothing to do with the city's general fund problems. The stadium was built with bonds on which the next payment is not due until next June. By then, anticipated federal and state funding should be in hand.
Must... make... clear... ballpark... we.... backed... not... the... problem... There... are... no... problems.

The thing about those funds ($5.8 million). They were supposed to be "in hand" last year. Also not in hand, the anticipated $5 million from naming rights. Problem is, no one has stepped up and met that price. The News Herald has done its level best to ignore the stadium and its additional costs that the City of Eastlake can't pass off on the bonds and separate debt financing plus the expected long term costs to the City that should be factored in or Eastlake will be in a crunch again in just a few years. You know, things like needed road improvements, land acquisition costs, wetlands, the cost of paying to relocate displaced businesses. Even the replacement Mayor has said that the city will have to help make up shortfalls in the next few years.

The News Herald editorial board is trying to hide the ball on this. The new ballpark can't be blamed for the present budget problems in Eastlake, but it is a major white elephant for the city to address in its budget in the next few years, and will be rearing its head quite frequently.

I'll Believe It When It Happens

Right up there with seeing Arafat willingly give up power, the Red Sox or Cubs winning a World Series, and actually comprehending song lyrics when sung by Bob Dylan. It would have to be the EU actually suspending its subsidies for the Palestinian Authority because of corruption by Arafat and his cronies. I mean its not like they haven't had plenty of past examples, so why should this be any different.

Amidst corruption allegations and a leadership crisis, a growing chorus of German politicians are calling for measures to be taken against the government of Yasser Arafat, including a freezing of European Union aid.
Allegations that Arafat misappropriated international funds emerged earlier this week when German public broadcaster ARD ran a report with documents showing that Arafat wired $5.1 million in September 2001 to a personal account at the Arab Bank in Cairo. The report said the millions may also have included international aid money.

Millions into his personal account "may also have included international aid?" Where the hell else is the PA getting any money to allow that kind of skimming off the top?

In the next breath after German politicians threaten to push to cut aid, they then backtrack. Saying, they really don't want to and don't think it will come to that. Uh-huh.

This German paper also has summary round-ups of other European papers reactions to what has been happening in Gaza and the West Bank. I found this one, most enlightening (if an accurate summary -- no English version of the paper it seems):
The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger pointedly noted that the Palestinians hungered and suffered under the Israelis while their own political leaders drove around in air-conditioned sedans and decorated their bathrooms with Italian marble funded by international aid money. The Genf-based paper observed that under the leadership of Yassir Arafat corruption and nepotism have become synonyms for authority. "Today Arafat is harvesting the fruits of the Palestinians' anger," it concluded.
Somehow with the Palestinian leaders who kept the aid money from their people to enrich themselves, the Palestinians hungered and suffered under the Israelis. Interesting who they still choose to blame.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

He Hasn't Cared Since the Braves Left Boston

If this doesn't cost Kerry some votes in New England, nothing will.
So who puts the bug in candidates' ears about seeming what they are not? John Kerry last week professed to be a big fan of "Manny Ortez," then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to "David Ortez." No, that was Dave (Baby) Cortez and "The Happy Organ." A few years back Kerry went on a Boston station with Eddie Andelman and said "my favorite Red Sox player of all time is The Walking Man, Eddie Yost," who never played for the Red Sox.

Guess someone didn't do a good job briefing him. Must have been one of his Yankee advisors.

French Offense

A friend e-mailed me this morning about the Israel/France flap:

The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, where Dad works, is catty-cornered from the French Embassy. Dad said this morning that the general feeling at the U.S. Embassy is that they've never seen so many pissed off Frenchmen across the street. Most of the Americans think that it's hilarious. I guess the French Embassy even released something condemning Sharon's comments to the Armenian press.

Although Armenians have at least one fairly obvious thing in common with Jews, they also tend to favor France a lot. France is pretty much the only country to officially recognize the 1915-1916 genocide and demand and admission of wrongdoing from Turkey. Amazingly enough, even Israel and the U.S. stubbornly refuse to do that much. I guess they need the Turks's friendship or something.

But overall, I think most Armenians are more concerned with finding something to eat these days. So this is pretty much a large digression...

The whole thing is very silly to me. Israeli PM, Ariel Sharon was more explicit than he has been in the past that French Jews should emigrate to Israel to escape the rampant Anti-Semitism in France. How bad has it been getting?

The latest French government figures show 510 anti-Jewish acts or threats in the first six months of 2004 - compared to 593 for all of last year.

In recent years there have been bomb attacks against a number of synagogues and Jewish schools in France.

Jewish tombs have also been desecrated.

The French Government took great offense, as was stated more accurately, "French officials protest stating that they need the punching bags."

The crazy unilateralist cowboy President of France, Jacques Chirac, immediately announced that Sharon would not be welcome in France until he explained his statement in a satisfactory manner.

Come on. Given the French Government these days and their propping of the Palestinian Authority through the EU (and not to mention that France is where Mrs. Arafat and his kids live), Sharon wouldn't really be welcome under any circumstances.

Now if he were a thuggish, repressive dictator like Robert Mugabe, then...

Inner Geek Attack

I spent the entire evening completely engrossed in a 3-year old, 35-part recap of a comic book storyline from 1994-1997. No, I'm not kidding. It started with this link to another blog with an amazing discourse on comic books, myth, continuity and lots else. In that post was the link to the 35-parter.
I was  a regular reader/addict of comics for about 15 years (1984-1999) until I quit cold. Well over 20,000 comics. I still have all of my comics. Hopefully they will one day pay for my daughter's education.
The recap covered a period in the Spider-Man comics. In this period, I was still collecting comics but had lost interest in Spider-Man. The stories had gotten stale, and despite the popularity of the villain, I hated the Venom character. The other problem, and for non-comic book readers this will sound ridiculous, was that the Spider-Man stories had gotten too outlandish, too cosmic, too big. It was more Iron Man/Fantastic Four/Avengers in scope and not enough NYC, fighting actual criminals, stopping thieves.  Trust me.
Spider-Man had been one of my favorites growing up. Not an uncommon thing for a sarcastic nerd. Still even I had given up on them during one of my many re-evaluations of how many books I was reading in a month/comic book budget cuts. At the time, Spider-Man was easy to cut because of the aforementioned storylines; but also because of the gimmick of running multi-part stories across the various Spider-Man titles.
I hated this gimmick because it meant various writers and artists doing different chapters. It rarely flowed well as a story, you would jump in characterizations and visual styles from one chapter to the next. I got why from a business perspective (albeit, one that didn't really respect the customer) since it would force the reader to buy all the titles to keep up with the storyline; and even from an editorial/continuity perspective it made sense because it kept one title from going too far away from another in the Spider-Man universe.
I found myself coming back to Spider-Man when I learned that J.M. DeMatteis would be writing one of the books. I had hoped that I could just read his stories, but quickly found myself contending with the cross-book storylines. I gave up about 6 or 7 issues in. Roughly around Amazing Spider-Man #400. Part was the cross-book storyline, but the major part was the storyline itself, and the subject of the 35-parter -- "The Clone Saga." Yes, that's right a Spider-Clone. To be fair, this actually went back to 1975 in the Spider-Man stories, but in the Marvel Universe, it was 5 years ago. The clone of Spider-Man was believed dead, but actually lived (in any comics, unless you have a corpse, and often not even then, you always presume they are alive somewhere). Now he's back. But was he really the clone or was it the guy who's been living Spider-Man/Peter Parker's life all this time really the clone. You get it, right?
I gave up in disgust. I saw where it was going. And even with all the possible twists and turns, it could only end 2 ways. One of which would eventually have to be discarded.
So why did I get so engrossed in a recap of a storyline I was disgusted by, 10 years ago? Because the recap was done with backstory. Providing commentary to the recaps was  Glenn Greenberg, who was the assistant editor on the Spider-books at the time.
Glenn seemed to "get" Spider-Man (at least from my perspective). Talking about the problem with some of the guys Spider-Man was fighting, he decries the cosmic scale of Spider-Man's opponents of the time. He pretty much nails what was driving it, and the problem with another set of Marvel books.

With the best Spider-Man villains, you understand who they are and what they want. For example, they're master criminals seeking to become the absolute crimelord of New York . Or they're high-tech thieves out for wealth and glory . Or they're power-mad lunatics . Or they're simply career criminals with super-powers . You get the idea. Even Venom has an understandable motivation, as contrived as it is. But with Traveller... there just wasn't anything that you could really put your finger on, and it was difficult to get interested in him, at least from my point of view.

This kind of thing was going on in the X-Men books all the time back then - these new villains would show up with a lot of flash and hype, with a lot of mystery and veiled references surrounding them. And in the end, nothing would come of it. None of them ended up having any real staying power, because they were so half-baked, ill-defined, and poorly developed. As a budding writer at the time, I learned a very important lesson from watching this happen at Marvel: try to know who your characters are before you introduce them. Maybe not every last detail of their lives and histories, but at least know who they are, what they want, their connections to the other characters in the story, their powers and abilities, and their weaknesses. It's kind of like Method acting for writing.

Looking back, I think Traveller may have been an attempt to introduce an X-Men-like villain into the Spider-Man universe, with the thinking that what was working for the X-Men books at that time would also work for Spider-Man. I don't know for sure, but that's my theory.

For the record, that was part of why I eventually quit on the X-Men.
The back story is really interesting because it gets deep into how the whole "Clone Saga" got dragged out far longer than originally intended. Sales in comics were slumping, but the Spider-books were holding the line and even getting better. Because of this, the sales and marketing departments got more involved and really pushed to extend the storyline far beyond what was intended so as to keep the sales strong.
Like I said, this has unleashed a part of my inner-geek and I will have to write a little more about this.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

It's Disturbingly Impressive

The end of Arafat's relevance and/or existence has been written so many times since before and after the Oslo Accords of 1993, that I hesitate to think this could truly be the beginning of the end (though history will probably say the beginning of the end was the rejection of the deal back in 2000 and the launch of Intifada II), and even Meryl believes Arafat will somehow survive as always . Still, with news like this

Militants sacked and burned Palestinian government offices Sunday, the latest sign of growing anger over Yasser Arafat 's decision to reach into his old guard and choose a loyalist relative as his new security chief.

A confrontation was brewing between Arafat ? reluctant to yield significant power ? and Palestinian militants, including some of Arafat's own officers. They are demanding deep reforms and new faces, Palestinian analysts said.

The divide between the two sides centered on the appointment of Moussa Arafat, Arafat's cousin, as the new head of Palestinian security. Many Palestinians rejected him as a symbol of corruption and cronyism, propelling long-held dissatisfaction into the open.

Dozens of masked gunmen marched through the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza after sundown Sunday, chanting, "No to Moussa Arafat, yes to reform." In the Rafah refugee camp, gunmen exchanged fire with guards at preventive security headquarters. No casualties were reported.
In addition, the head of their naval police (who knew?) resigned after being put under Moussa's thumb along with the heads of intelligence and preventive security. Arguably these thugs were hardly reformers and their resignations probably have as much to do with their loss of power. Still, the fact that they see that siding with Arafat is not the way for long term power amongst the Palestinians says something. Even Arafat's own Al-Aqsa and Fatah terror groups are openly agitating for Arafat to step down.

Then there is the latest resignation by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia -- once again rejected by Arafat. He's attempted to resign a few times before in his 10 months in office, but under the laws there, Arafat has to accept it to take effect. So each time, they've "negotiated" and supposed accommodations would take place so he would come back to the job.

You can't help but marvel at the timing of this apparent implosion of Palestinian factions. Within a week or so of the sham "advisory opinion" of the World Court to declare the Israeli security fence illegal, the Palestinians do their very best to show one of the reasons it was built.


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