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, August 13, 2004

When Election Season Really Arrives

I know the ads have been going for a while, but until I see that one thing. Until that moment, it really doesn't feel like the Presidential election is getting close or anywhere near reality. Today, I saw it while out running errands. Outside of the Post Office in Willoughby. A makeshift lemonade stand promoting Lyndon LaRouche's 2004 Presidential Campaign.

Now it feels like there's an election.

Weekly versus Daily

This disturbingly man-crushlike glowing sloppy kiss (it's not even close to being a review) on Bill Maher's show on HBO by Tom Shales reminded me of something I've thought about for a while. The difficulty in doing a show 4-5 times a week versus a weekly show.

It started when I noticed all the negative comments about Dennis Miller's CNBC show (and not just because he now runs more to the right). The common complaint was that it wasn't as good as his show on HBO. No s**t. He couldn't swear, and didn't have a week to prepare. Of course it wouldn't be as crisp.

Now Bill Maher has been doing his HBO show for a while to rave reviews. Again, there were a lot of comments about how much better it was than "Politically Incorrect." Once more a weekly show versus a nightly show. They can't all be gold folks.

Still this Shales piece is downright embarrassing. He might as well get down on his knees for Maher and... Well, never mind what he should do. Let's just say it would be less submissive, and leave it at that.

And why does Shales feel the need to attack the "Daily Show" to build up Maher's? Different formats and again, not a weekly program. It really changes the whole dynamic.
Asked to comment on TV's most overpraised series, "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, Maher begs off. Host Jon Stewart, he says, is a friend. But "The Daily Show" hasn't nearly the chutzpah of "Real Time," and Stewart looks into the camera begging, pleading to be loved. He sometimes looks as though he's either kissing the lens or using it as a mirror to fix his lipstick.
I really don't have any strong feelings about Maher, but this article almost turns me off to the show.

Another Shocking Discovery

A Palestinian gunman shot and killed an Israeli security guard and his dog outside a West Bank settlement. The Palestinian was shot and killed after he tried to grab the security guard's rifle and run.

Now for the fun fact. The "gunman" was identified as a Palestinian police officer from a nearby village. Hard to imagine part of the Palestinian police or security forces involved in a sniper/terror attack. I'm sure the Palestinian Authority in no way sanctioned or condoned such activity.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Crap, We're Back on Vietnam

Part of me doesn't even want to bring this up. I keep saying that the election shouldn't be about Vietnam or who did what during that time. Yet here it is again. This time because John Kerry's paper trail of speaking about his seared memories of trips to Cambodia while serving in 'Nam.

Now I firmly believe that Kerry served with honor, valor and distinction in Vietnam. Whether he had other motives and long term plans is not important. He went, he served, great. I don't care about his anti-war activities upon returning home, either. Not a problem to me.

I really care about the here and now. Problem is, Kerry only seems to talk about his Vietnam period. The media seems compliant in that. Not talking or writing about what he has been doing for 20 years in the Senate. All I get is that he may or may not have been one of the more liberal Senators -- that's helpful.

In a way, you have to be amazed that Kerry got away with this for so long. There is a very dedicated number of people who look to debunk the false claims of valor. Chief among them is a Dallas stockbroker and former Vietnam vet, H.G. "Jug" Burkett. Burkett, who considers Bush a draft dodger, has a mad-on for Kerry because of Kerry's anti-war activities. He has been fighting for years to get Kerry's full service records.

In an interesting article, there is an interesting note that kind of jibes with how to this point, the media has ignored the story.
Some fakers are compulsive liars who convince themselves of the truth of their own stories. And while most fakers are trying to bolster fragile egos, some use their stories for grander aims: to win elections, steal money, hype their public images as entertainers or business executives, make political statements for or against U.S. military actions.

When confronted with evidence of their duplicity, Burkett said, most will stick with their stories, even presenting doctored and forged documents for support. "It's very rare that they'll cough it up."
And what happens when someone questions the record of a veteran quoted in a news story? Most of the time, Burkett said, reporters, editors and producers refuse to admit their mistakes.

Bowden, the "Black Hawk Down" author, found this to be true when he did his own investigation of the media's handling of this problem: Many journalists simply didn't care about finding out the truth. "It was just an outrage," Bowden said. "It was frankly somewhat disillusioning to me."

The media and the public live by stereotypes; rarely do they willingly forsake long-held beliefs. It's not an easy battle to challenge oft-repeated stories of a community hero's valor, or to correct a flawed but long-accepted historical record.
So now, Kerry is coming in for a beating because his service record wasn't enough. He had to take it even further. He has been telling an apparent lie for years. All I could think of was Tim Johnson, the former manager of the Toronto Blue Jays who lost his job in '99 after it was revealed that all of his war stories (that he used mainly to motivate players) were complete lies. Johnson was a Marine Corps reservist.

I wish I could remember the spin some tried to put out for Johnson, that it was a not uncommon occurrence. That many from the Vietnam era lied or exaggerated their records, not to deceive but for deep psychological reasons of the time. I wonder when that argument will be advanced for Kerry.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Money and Fame

This is (presently) Sacramento King's player Peja Stojakovic. This is the model, he is currently dating. Any questions?

Must Purchase Firearm, Soon

Every father with a child probably thinks about it. I would think more frequently if you have a daughter. You need something to clean when the boys come by to pick her up for a date. I can't believe I find myself thinking this strongly about it (and the concealed weapon permit) this soon.

It started a couple weeks ago. It was a wet couple days and I broke down and took her to the mall, so she could play in the little caged play area they had. A boy, maybe 3 or 4 spent most of the time just following her. I wouldn't bother me, except that the boy just wasn't smiling. He just watched and went where she went, but always hanging a few feet back. Seemed very intent about watching her. Made me very nervous. At what age does stalking characteristics start? Posted by Hello

Today, I realized Angie may force me to act. She is already an accomplished flirt. We went into the backyard to play this morning. Our neighborhood has closely grouped houses, separated by plenty of 4-foot chain-link fences. Directly behind our house is another backyard. An elderly couple lives there, but during the day, they often watch their grandkids -- three boys with ages of roughly 3, 6 and 10. The boys were running around in the backyard, and Angie went to fence to watch them play. She started giggling as she watched them, and managed to get their attention. First the 3-year old wandered over, then the 6-year old. They waved and started talking to her. At that point, she seemingly lost interest, and started playing in the yard. But then... She would turn and glance to make sure they were still paying attention to her.

These boys, separated by the fence, were engrossed in watching her and being ignored by her. Even the 10-year old came over to watch. Is it something innate in both sexes? Girls to know how to get their attention and then ignore them like a good flirt? Boys to be sucked in and not know what else to do?

I'm off to the side, wondering how bad it really would be for me to start drinking bourbon at 11 am while watching the kid (just play a lot of Elmo's World DVDs).

As an added bonus, the wife came home absolutely wiped. She asked me to take Angie to the play class for Angie this evening. At this class, a little 2-3-year old boy apparently always goes up to Angie to give her a hug. Not tonight. We got to class, and the boy (the wife gave me a rough description) took a couple steps towards her, and then saw me rather than the wife, and veered off.

At least I can make the toddlers nervous.

Lazy-Assed Destroyer

That would be my Wu Tang name, bitch. Works for me.

Involuntary Martyrs

Sadly, it was only a matter of time before a bomb (suicide or just car is unclear at this time) went off in Israel again.
A car bomb exploded between two Israeli army checkpoints on a busy transit route
outside Jerusalem Wednesday, killing two Palestinians and wounding 16 people in
the first such attack for six months.

Not the first attack in six months, but the first "successful" attack in six months. Big difference. Yeah, the Israeli crackdown on Palestinian terrorists and the security barrier is doing nothing for Israeli security.

The bomb was in the car (again, unsure if anyone was in the vehicle) in the checkpoint area between the security zone. As good an example as you are likely to get as to why it requires a large buffer zone for the borders.

Initial reports say the dead and 13 of the wounded were Palestinians. A 56-year old Palestinian was killed, and his 4-year old nephew is in critical condition. Three Israeli border policemen were seriously injured, so the final death toll may go up.

Arafat's Fatah terror group proclaimed their responsibility and announced that all Palestinians killed were privileged to be declared martyrs to their cause. I'm sure that is all any Palestinian really wants -- to be an involuntary martyr to the cause.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I Know Pittsburgh Is Bankrupt But...

I believe this would qualify as insult to injury.
Bruce Nord was visiting a friend in Shadyside on Saturday when he was robbed and carjacked.

Police recovered Nord's car but when he went get it from the impound yard, he was forced to pay $145 impound fee.

You have to love bureaucracy.

Cribbed Notes

On the subject of political advertising in Ohio when the polls show a close race, I wrote on August 1:
That puts me in the "loser" category since I live in one of the battleground states and can only expect the partisan crap on both sides to get worse over the radio, TV and in print.

I find polls like that useless for really saying anything meaningful at this point, but you can bet that both campaigns and 527 organizations will just see it as the need to put even more messages out about how the other side must not win.

Today, August 10, the Plain Dealer Editorial Board issues its view on the political advertising:
Ohioans will be waist-deep in muck by Labor Day. By November, they'll be fighting to keep their heads above the bilge as these surrogates for both major parties pour out millions in vitriol. It's the unforeseen consequence of well-intentioned campaign reform. And we are to be among its chief "beneficiaries." Washington, we don't quite know how to thank you.

Two explanations possible.

1. The result was so obvious that even the PDEB noticed after a while.

2. Someone on the PDEB has the good sense to read this blog and agreed with me.

I like #2, but I can't discount #1.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Out of the Pool

The weekend was pleasant and cool. An odd sight over the weekend to see all the home contractors out working even on Sunday to some degree. It has been such a wet summer that all of those contractors who depend on the weather at least being drier from May to September are desperately scrambling to get all of their jobs done. Saw roofers, driveway resealings, sidings, painting -- everything related to people's homes. There were the work trucks parked outside of houses all over the neighborhood. To say nothing of all the DIYers who were trying to get their time. Lot of jobs and businesses have been impacted by the weather this summer. Just something I never used to notice.

Today was warmer and much more humid. Took Angie over to the local pool at Jakse Park. She didn't show much interest in going into the wading pool today. Probably because it was colder than usual. She just sat at the edge scooping water out with one cup and pouring it into another. The little kids pool is separate from the primary pool. As usual it was mainly populated by teens and some kids in the 6-12 age group. What few adults there were, came with the 6-12 year-olds.

On the 45 of the hour, the whistle blows and it is time for adult swim. Soemthing every kid hated, and seems like even more of a waste of time at this pool. There were maybe 3 adults who got in the pool for their 15 minutes of tranquil water. So what do the kids and teens do? Obviously some hit the snack bar, others go outside the pool. Some of the younger kids (6-11) will try to come over to the little kids pool. Why they want to splash around in a 6 inch pool where babies and toddlers pee is beyond me, but they try. Often, though, a lifeguard will turn around when they hear all the splashing and yell for them to get out.

The teens will wander to the basketball court, over to the playground, or just outside and around the corner to smoke cigarrettes. I find it oddly amusing to see these 14, 15, 16 year-olds trying to get the practiced ease of handling a smoke the way their parents or relatives do. They just don't quite have the touch. There is always something awkward in the way they hold it or take a drag.

Then there are the teens who go back to a car. You know, 3 or 4 of them go to a car at the end of the lot. Sit in there for about ten minutes with the windows rolled up and the engine off. Kids, who do you think you're kidding? I mean it's not like the van at Fast Times at Ridgemont High but you aren't fooling anyone. Your eyes are red, you are walking really slow -- in that effort not to appear wasted -- and you can't look at anyone because you might start to laugh at any moment.

Nothing is different no matter where you are or when it seems.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Wine Gouging

I admit, as much as I love alcohol, I don't drink a lot of wine. I like wine, but when I'm at a bar it's beer or hard liquor (excepting when I'm at a wine bar). At home, I would drink it more except that the wife has a bad sulfur allergy and asthma that keeps her from having more than half a glass -- and I hate letting a bottle go to waste so I usually end up drinking the whole thing.

Since I don't have wine very often, I stick to wines I trust or have heard from others is good (mainly from California, Australia and sometimes Washington). Needless to say, I have consumed very little Ohio wine. I don't know them, and their prices aren't that good to make it worth the risk.

Now, I've noted before that liquor and wine prices controlled by the state are cheaper in Pennsylvania than in Ohio. Last time I visited Pennsylvania, my uncle and I stopped at a state store to pick up some wines for dinner. I noticed then that the wines were usually $2 dollars cheaper in Pennsylvania (for modestly priced wine -- $10-15 per bottle).

It seems that part of the reason Ohio wine prices are so much higher is the mark-up system. Ohio law dictates not only a 50% mark-up on the price by retailers of the wine, but there is a 33% mark-up by wholesalers. There's a great kicker for this mark-up that I just learned: only 7% of the 33% mark-up goes to the state. The rest is the cut for the wholesaler, in addition to their own mark-ups as middlemen.

Now an Ohio legislator wants to eliminate the mandatory wholesaler mark-up for at least the Ohio wine producers. Actually, he wants it flat out eliminated, but the article suggests that it might be a compromise of sorts.

Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz thinks differently, however, and the two-term Republican from Cincinnati has the clout to do something about it.

Seitz, who chairs committees on civil and commercial law in the Ohio House, introduced a bill July 15 that would abolish the mandatory, 33 percent mark-up fee that liquor wholesalers have to add to the cost of any wine purchased in the state.

Seitz said the mandatory mark-up hits consumers in the pocketbook, and that reform is long overdue.

"To the best of my knowledge, only one other state - Washington - currently imposes a wholesale minimum mark-up on wine."

Not surprisingly the wholesalers are opposed. Surprisingly, the Ohio Wine Producers Association is split on the bill. Apparently, some of them are afraid that it won't help them enough because the present bill would also drop the price for non-Ohio wines as well.

The article has competing viewpoints from a couple local winery owners. Donald Woodward, owner of Old Firehouse Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake (and yes, that is the actual name of the town) is very much in favor of the end of the ban. He notes that his wine is produced at a cost of under $39 for a case (12 750 mL bottles), but after all the mandatory mark-ups, retails for over $72. Wines that a winery sell on site are not subject to the mark-up, but that doesn't give much market penetration.

Meanwhile, Chalet Debonne owner, Tony Debevc, opposes the end of the mark-up because he thinks it would hurt Ohio wineries in the long term. I think there's a little self-interest in Debevc's position. On his winery's website, it notes that it is the largest estate bottled winery in Ohio -- so market penetration in Ohio is not much of an issue for this winery. If anything, keeping other Ohio wines from cutting into their sales would be a good reason to keep the mark-ups in place.

I like the take from Woodward who responds to fears and critics of abolishing the wholesaler mark-up:

"Hey, if people want to drink cheap California wine, that's their business," he said. "What we need is less regulation on our product."

I can't disagree with that. I think, he just earned a purchase from me.

Reading and writing about this post convinced me to open the white we were given this past Christmas/Hanukkah. I've been hesitant to try it since I distrust most wine with an Amish horse and buggy on the label. I'm not particularly enthused about the Frost Fire (too fruity which just evokes way too many personal comparisons to Manischewitz), but the wife likes it. She keeps popping back to the computer room to take another sip.


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