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NBA Conspiracy Theories Confirmed (sort of) June 11, 2008

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In the NBA it seems to be common knowledge that the superstars usually get the benefit of the doubt in terms of fouls called for and against them . . . it’s so obvious that it can’t even be argued. However, the speculation that NBA games are sometimes fixed didn’t really seem that plausable – sure the league wants exciting series to last more games, and the better teams in the championships – but there really wasn’t any tangible proof of any flagrant wrongdoing. Then along comes NBA ref Tim Donaghy, who was nailed on gambling charges for betting on NBA games, many of which he was officiating. OK conspiracy theorists, here’s the latest article on how games HAVE been altered. Hey, you can choose to believe him or not, but you have to admit that with this knowldege a lot more seems to make sense . . .

Ex-NBA Referee: Playoff Series Manipulated
Jun 10, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) -NBA referees, influenced by cozy relationships with league officials, rigged a 2002 playoff series to force it to a revenue-boosting seven games, a former referee at the center of a gambling scandal alleged Tuesday.

Without identifying anyone or naming teams, Tim Donaghy also claimed the NBA routinely encouraged refs to ring up bogus fouls to manipulate results but discouraged them from calling technical fouls on star players to keep them in games and protect ticket sales and television ratings.

Speaking before the start of the NBA finals Game 3 featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, NBA commissioner David Stern called the allegations baseless.

“All I can say is that he’s looking for anything that will somehow shorten the sentence, and it’s not going to happen,” Stern said.

The allegations were contained in a letter filed by a lawyer for Donaghy, who pleaded guilty last year to felony charges alleging he took cash payoffs from gamblers and bet on games himself. The 41-year-old Donaghy faces up to 33 months in prison at sentencing on July 14.

“If the NBA wanted a team to succeed, league officials would inform referees that opposing players were getting away with violations,” the letter said. “Referees then would call fouls on certain players, frequently resulting in victory for the opposing team.”

The league called Donaghy’s allegations false and self-serving, saying the scandal was limited to him and two co-defendants, both former high school classmates who also pleaded guilty to gambling charges.

Donaghy’s lawyer has sought to convince a federal judge in Brooklyn that Donaghy, of Bradenton, Fla., deserves more credit for coming forward before he was charged to disclose behind-the-scenes misconduct within the NBA. The letter, filed Monday, suggests prosecutors have hurt Donaghy’s chances for a lesser prison term by downplaying the extent of his cooperation.

Donaghy’s attorney, John Lauro, and prosecutors declined comment.

“He’s a singing, cooperating witness who is trying to get as light a sentence as he can,” Stern said. “He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he is not the only one who engaged in criminal activity. The U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI, have fully investigated it, and Mr. Donaghy is the only one who is guilty of a crime. And he will be sentenced for that crime regardless of the desperate attempts to implicate as many people as he can.”

In one of several allegations of corrupt refereeing, Donaghy said he learned in May 2002 that two referees known as “company men” were working a best-of-seven series in which “Team 5” was leading 3-2. In the sixth game, he alleged the referees purposely ignored personal fouls and called “made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6.”

“Team 6” won the game and came back to win the series, the letter said.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings series went to seven games during the 2002 playoffs. And the Lakers went on to win the championship.

At the time, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the League of Fans, a sports industry watchdog group, sent a letter to Stern complaining about the officiating in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

The Lakers, who beat Sacramento 106-102 in that game in Los Angeles, shot 27 free throws in the final quarter and scored 16 of their last 18 points at the line.

The letter also alleged manipulation during a 2005 playoff series.

“Team 3 lost the first two games in the series and Team 3’s owner complained to NBA officials,” the letter said. “Team 3’s owner alleged that referees were letting a Team 4 player get away with illegal screens. NBA Executive Y told Referee Supervisor Z that the referees for that game were to enforce the screening rules strictly against that Team 4 player. … The referees followed the league’s instructions and Team 3 came back from behind to win the series. The NBA benefited from this because it prolonged the series, resulting in more tickets sold and more televised games.”

In that same series, the letter says “Team 3” lost the first two games of the series and that team owner complained to NBA officials. The letter also alleges that the opposing team’s coach later was fined $100,000 after revealing an NBA official informed him of the behind-the-scenes instructions.

That would correspond with the 2005 first-round playoff series between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks, in which Mark Cuban complained to officials and Jeff Van Gundy was fined.

Donaghy’s letter said that in the first of several meetings with prosecutors and the FBI in New York in 2007, he named names while describing “various examples of improper interactions and relationships between referees and other league employees, such as players, coaches and management.” For example, it said, referees broke NBA rules by hitting up players for autographs, socializing with coaches and accepting meals and merchandise from teams.

“The NBA remains vigilant in protecting the integrity of our game and has fully cooperated with the government at every stage of its investigation,” Richard Buchanan, NBA executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “The only criminal activity uncovered is Mr. Donaghy’s.”

Donaghy, who pleaded guilty last year to charges he conspired to engage in wire fraud and transmitted betting information through interstate commerce, has said he made NBA bets for four years, even wagering on games he worked. He also admitted recommending bets to high-stakes gamblers and collecting $5,000 if his picks hit.

Sheriff Joe is at it again! May 20, 2008

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The following information was forwarded to me by a friend, and I do remember seeing him on “60 Minutes” back a while ago. For the record I think this guy is spot-on with his assessment of criminals and the handling of his prison system. I’ve never understood how violent, hardened criminals should be allowed the same “rights” as the rest of the law-abiding citizens who are not in prison. Well, Sheriff Joe has a system that’s legal, extremely tough on his inmates, and it seems to work well both as a deterrent and an education in basic human values. Other systems should learn from this example…

You all may remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona , who painted the jail cells pink and made the inmates wear pink prison garb. Well………SHERIFF JOE IS AT IT AGAIN!

Maricopa County was spending approx. $18 million dollars a year on stray animals, like cats and dogs. Sheriff Joe offered to take the department over, and the County Supervisors said okay. The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. They feed and care for the strays. Every animal in his care is taken out and walked twice daily. He now has prisoners who are experts in animal nutrition and behavior. They give great classes for anyone who’d like to adopt an animal. He has literally taken stray dogs off the street, given them to the care of prisoners, and had them place in dog shows.

The best part? His budget for the entire department is now under $3 million. We [the writer of this article] adopted a Weimaraner from a Maricopa County shelter two years ago. He was neutered, and current on all shots, in great health, and even had a microchip inserted the day we got him. Cost them $78.

The prisoners get the benefit of about $0.28 an hour for working, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day. Most of his budget is for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals.

I have long wondered when the rest of the country would take a look at the way he runs the jail system, and copy some of his ideas. He has a huge farm, donated to the county years ago, where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand.

He has a pretty good sized hog farm, which provides meat, and fertilizer. It fertilizes the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and you can buy a living Christmas tree for $6 – $8 for the Holidays, and plant it later. We have six trees in our yard from the Prison.

Yup, he was reelected last year with 83% of the vote.

Now he’s in trouble with the ACLU again. He painted all his buses and vehicles with a mural that has a special hotline phone number painted on it, where you can call and report suspected illegal aliens. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement wasn’t doing enough in his eyes, so he had 40 deputies trained specifically for enforcing immigration laws, started up his hotline, and bought 4 new buses just for hauling folks back to the border. He’s kind of a ‘Git-R Dun’ kind of Sheriff.

To those of you not familiar with Joe Arpaio, he is the Maricopa Arizona County Sheriff and he keeps getting elected over and over. This is one of the reasons why: Sheriff Joe Arpaio created the ‘ Tent City Jail’. Some of the things he’s done with the jail are the following:

  • He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.
  • He stopped smoking and access to obscene magazines in the jails.
  • Took away their weights.
  • Cut off all but ‘G’ movies.
  • He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects.
  • Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn’t get sued for discrimination.
  • He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails, so he hooked up the cable TV again only let in the Disney Channel and the Weather Channel. When asked why the Weather Channel, he replied, “So they will know how hot it’s gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”
  • He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them, ‘This isn’t the Ritz Carlton…..If you don’t like it, don’t come back.’

More On The Arizona Sheriff:
With temperatures being even hotter than usual in phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record), the Associated Press reports: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts. On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached 138 degrees inside the week before. Many were also swathed in wet, pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their pink socks. ‘It feels like we are in a furnace,’ said James Zanzot, an inmate who has lived in the tents for one year. ‘It’s inhumane.’ Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: ‘It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!’

WAY TO GO, SHERIFF! Maybe if all prisons were like this one there would be a lot less crime and/or repeat offenders. Criminals should be punished for their crimes – not live in luxury until it’s time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things taxpayers can’t afford to have for themselves.

Battle of the Ballparks in Chicago May 2, 2008

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I’m “borrowing” again from the Chicago Tribune for this article, as it’s interesting to baseball fans on both sides in Chicago.  At the bottom is a ranking/comparison of U.S. Cellular vs. Cleveland’s Progressive Park (#1 overall) and Wrigley Field vs. Milwaukee’s Miller Park (#2 overall, #1 in NL).  For the most part I agree with both articles & the rankings, but of course I have a few comments to share.  First and foremost, the articles are supposed to be about why this is your favorite ballpark, not ripping apart another one.  Listen, I love Steve Dahl and still enjoy his show, but in his opening comments (and then more shortly thereafter) he’s magnified the glaring weakness that affects most Sox fans – the inability to carry on a conversation about baseball without mentioning something derogatory about the Cubs.   I say “most” because there are a scant few that actually realize the Cubs are not their direct threat and worry more about Cleveland, Detroit & Minnesota.  So this is my message to the majority of Sox fans – get over it already.  You’re probably not going to be the most popular team in the Chicagoland area, ever, or at least in our lifetimes.  So what?  You’ve won a World Series in the recent past and have a contingency of loyal fans.  Be happy with the accomplishments, as the crazy bitterness reflects badly on both you as a fan and on your team.

I’ve been to the four ballparks mentioned numerous times and feel the rankings make sense.  Miller Park is truly a great place to see a ball game – excellent facilities, great food/drinks, easy in & out, and extremely family friendly.  Not much else around there, but it’s not in a horrible neighborhood either.  Progressive Park is absolutely outstanding on virtually all levels, and I’d actually bump them up a few notches on hospitality as I found the fans very friendly.  The Cell ranks higher than Wrigley (8 vs. 15) primarily due to the better facilities, is more family friendly and is definitely easier in terms of access (parking, etc.).  I think they rank the atmosphere there a bit higher than it should be, but I’m a bit biased.  On that note, there are few if any places that will beat Wrigley in terms of tradition, atmosphere, and the absolute fun of a great surrounding neighborhood.  Yes, some of us do actually go there to watch baseball though the extra partying certainly helps create a very fun event.  In regards to Fan IQ – funny!  Both are in the top third, but Sox rank #4 while Cubs rank #8.  What probably drags the Cubs down a bit are the thousands of people just there for the party…plus all the extra alcohol kills brain cells.

To give the Chicago Tribune credit – the original articles that follow can be found here, here, here and here.

Here’s why Wrigley Field is No. 1 to me
By Ron Santo
As told to Paul Sullivan
May 1, 2008

I can only go back to when I signed with the Chicago Cubs to give you an idea of how I feel about this ballpark. I’d been watching it on TV in Seattle, where I was born and raised, and there was always something about Wrigley Field that intrigued me.

When I got here, two years after my senior year, I’m walking out of the corner clubhouse with Ernie Banks and there’s nobody in the stands, and the feeling I had was unbelievable — walking with Ernie and walking on that grass. I felt like I was walking on air. There was an electricity and an atmosphere that I’d never experienced in my life. Any ballplayer that’s ever played here can tell you about that great atmosphere, and anybody who’s come here to watch a game feels the exact same way.

This, to me, is a ballpark that helps the fans relate to the players because of its intimacy. They’re right on top of you, and that’s special. You look at a ballpark like Wrigley that holds 41,000, and it’s packed every game, despite not having a team that’s gone to a World Series in most of their lifetimes. People just love to come here, and it’s a park you just love watching baseball in.

To me, it’s the No. 1 park, and I think if you went and asked all the players who played here back in my day, they’d say the same thing. It’s a hitters’ ballpark, and everybody gets that feeling that anything can happen today. Everywhere you go, you see it. Cubs fans never lose their allegiance, or their love, for Wrigley Field.

Will Wrigley still be here in 50 or 60 years? I don’t know that. I don’t have an answer. Heck, I never thought I’d ever see Wrigley Field with lights, but they’re here and they’re great.

But I’ve got to believe that when you look at Wrigley, you’re also talking about Wrigleyville. It’s all about leaving the ballpark after the game and going to the bars and restaurants. It’s one big happy family here, with nothing but parties. It’s a wonderful place, and absolutely the best ballpark in baseball.

Here’s why U.S. Cellular is No. 1 to me
By Steve Dahl
As told to Matt Lynch
May 1, 2008

There is so much to love about U.S .Cellular Field that it’s hard to know where to begin. It has plenty of parking, funnel cakes, urinals … what else could a baseball fan possibly need? Unlike its counterpart across town, the White Sox have kept up with all of the latest ballpark innovations. They have mastered the use of electronic scorekeeping. They have installed a JumboTron.

They have outfitted the bathrooms with the most up-to-date urinal technology available.

I always hear the “at least we fill up our park” refrain from Cubs fans, but that’s because we White Sox fans are more discriminating and only show up if the team is winning. Or if it’s half-price night.

Playing hardball like that spurred the team to make improvements that have really made a world of difference in the atmosphere, particularly changing the seats from a blinding bright blue to a more welcoming green and reconfiguring the upper deck.

U.S. Cellular has given my family numerous fond memories over the years. One of my favorites was watching Bo Jackson crush a home run during the team’s home opener in 1993 on his first swing. Bo had just made his amazing comeback from receiving an artificial hip. He dedicated the hit to his mother, who had passed away that spring.

We also watched the White Sox sweep their way to a World Series victory. Sharing the 2005 playoffs and World Series championship with my sons was definitely special for me. It was cold and wet, but extremely heartwarming.

The food at U.S. Cellular Field has also been a source of many memories. Most recently, I remember the 20 pounds of White Sox-related weight I put on last season, because I am still trying to lose them.

It’s that combination of funnel cake, ample parking and fond memories that keeps me coming back to the South Side when I need my baseball fix.

Also, did I mention they have urinals?

Top 10 is nice … but Cleveland rocks
May 1, 2008

Comparing the Cell to Cleveland’s Progressive Park, the former Jacobs Field, the No. 1-ranked venue in all of baseball.

The Cell Progressive
2 FOOD 6
4 FAN IQ 9

Old style no match for Milwaukee’s best
May 1, 2008

Comparing the North Side shrine to the No. 1-ranked venue in the National League (No. 2 overall), Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Wrigley Miller
22 FOOD 1
8 FAN IQ 10

Tax Time in America April 14, 2008

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With April 15th bearing down on us, here’s a nice little poem and info to make you smile (well, maybe not):

Tax his land, Tax his bed, Tax the table at which he’s fed.

Tax his tractor, Tax his mule, Teach him taxes are the rule.

Tax his cow, Tax his goat, Tax his pants, Tax his coat.

Tax his ties, Tax his shirt, Tax his work, Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco, Tax his drink, Tax him if he tries to think.

Tax his cigars, Tax his beers, If he cries, then Tax his tears.

Tax his car, Tax his gas, Find other ways to tax his ass.

Tax all he has, then let him know that you won’t be done till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers, then Tax him some more, Tax him till He’s good and sore.

Then tax his coffin, Tax his grave, Tax the sod in which he’s laid.

Put these words upon his tomb, “Taxes drove me to my doom…”

When he’s gone, do not relax, its time to apply the Inheritance Tax!

Following is a “funny” little list of just some of the taxes that are our responsibility:

Accounts Receivable Tax

Building Permit Tax

CDL license Tax

Cigarette Tax

Corporate Income Tax

Dog License Tax

Excise Taxes

Federal Income Tax

Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

Fishing License Tax

Food License Tax

Fuel Permit Tax

Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)

Gross Receipts Tax

Hunting License Tax

Inheritance Tax

Inventory Tax

IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

Liquor Tax

Luxury Taxes

Marriage License Tax

Medicare Tax

Personal Property Tax

Property Tax

Real Estate Tax

Service Charge Tax

Social Security Tax

Road Usage Tax

Sales Tax

Recreational Vehicle Tax

School Tax

State Income Tax

State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)

Telephone Federal Excise Tax

Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax

Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes

Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax

Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax

Telephone State and Local Tax

Telephone Usage Charge Tax

Utility Taxes

Vehicle License Registration Tax

Vehicle Sales Tax

Watercraft Registration Tax

Well Permit Tax

Workers Compensation Tax


Here’s the kicker – NOT ONE of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened? Can you spell “politicians”??

And to think that when making calls to service companies, I still have to ‘press 1’ for English!!!

Thanks to Patty for forwarding this gem to me!

BASEBALL IS BACK!!! March 30, 2008

Posted by Mongo in Baseball.
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Here we go…another baseball season is beginning, and once again there are high expectations for the Cubs. This year they’re so high that experts are actually picking them to make the World Series – some even to win it all. As a goofy die-hard Cubs fan I sometimes get caught up in the hype but have wisely learned to temper my expectations. Still, there’s always that glimmer of hope that this may be the year. Could it really be here???

I’d like to take a moment to share an article written by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. He covers 100 questions for 100 years of the Cubs. Exciting, humorous, interesting and, well, let’s face it – pretty sad all rolled up into one giant article. Enjoy!

The Chicago Cubs: 100 questions for 100 years

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune staff reporter
March 29, 2008
(click here for the link to the article on Chicagotribune.com)

As the Cubs enter their 100th season without a World Series title, Paul Sullivan asks and answers 100 questions about their dubious run.

1. What is the tastiest treat ever sold at Wrigley Field?

Frosty malts. As Steve Goodman sang: “Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt, and I’ll be ready to die.”

2. In front of which player did the black cat walk near the visitors’ dugout on that infamous day at Shea Stadium in 1969?

Ron Santo. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.

3. Whose toupee caught fire on that infamous day at Shea Stadium in 2003?

Ron Santo. Luckily, it wasn’t “the gamer.”

4. Which Cub took a sledgehammer to strength coach Tim Buss’ car this spring?

Carlos Zambrano. Maybe he thought it belonged to Michael Barrett.

5. Which two current Cubs pitched back-to-back one-hitters in 2001?

Jon Lieber against Cincinnati on May 24 and Kerry Wood against Milwaukee on May 25. Now they’re in the bullpen.

6. Which Cub’s dropped third strike against Pittsburgh in the ninth inning of the last game in 1974 gave the Pirates the division title over St. Louis?

Steve Swisher. His son, Nick, now plays for the White Sox.

7. What was the name of the greasy doughnut shop on Clark Street just west of the park?

Yum-Yum Donuts. The Cubs’ media relations department now works there.

8. Which Cubs reliever told Mitchell report investigators he watched two Cubs teammates inject themselves with steroids at their spring training residence in 1999?

Matt Karchner. The Cubs gave up top prospect Jon Garland for Karchner in Ed Lynch’s ’98 masterpiece.

9. To whom was LaTroy Hawkins referring when he interrupted a group interview and asked the subject, “Is it true that your teammates have nicknamed you Mr. Bitterman?”?

Mark Prior. That was the last time Hawkins impersonated a reporter.

10. Which trainer threatened to blow the whistle on Cubs management after he was fired following the ’04 season, only to have his case thrown out of court?

Sandy Krum. He later took a job on the TV reality show “The Biggest Loser.” Seriously.

11. How did the Cubs block rooftop views to force building owners to pay for having for-profit rooftop parties during games?

Balloons. “Probably not one of my better thoughts,” Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney acknowledged.

12. Where did reliever Kyle Farnsworth go until 4 a.m. the nights before day games as his Cubs career was going to waste?

Tai’s Till 4 on Ashland Avenue. Perhaps fittingly, Farnsworth now plays in the city that never sleeps.

13. Who said he would jump off the John Hancock Center if the Cubs blew the pennant in 1969?

Catcher Gene Oliver. They did, but he didn’t.

14. What is the name of the annoying song that Whitney Houston covered on Sammy Sosa‘s mix CD that played on his boom box almost every day in 2004?

Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” a song the ’04 Cubs thoroughly hated.

15. Which Cub smashed Sosa’s boom box?

Still a mystery. Whoever it is should fess up, take a bow and allow us to move on.

16. Which Cubs manager said he was fined for inciting fans to litter the field?

Dusty Baker, after umpire C.B. Bucknor ejected him during a heated April 2004 game vs. the Reds and fans threw debris on the field.

17. Whose double was wiped out when Bucknor ruled he had batted out of order after Baker allegedly failed to inform Bucknor of a double switch, leading to Baker’s ejection?

Ramon Martinez.

18. Who is Dow Finsterwald, and what position did he play?

Finsterwald was a golfer and didn’t play anywhere. But the 1958 PGA champion’s golf tip of the day was shown after Cubs games on WGN in the 1960s.

19. Who is “Stan” from one of Bill Veeck‘s first promotions, “Smile with Stan”?

Stan Hack. Veeck, then 21, decided one day in 1935 to hand out mirrors to fans with Hack’s picture on the back. Naturally, fans used them to reflect sunlight into opposing batters’ eyes, and the umpires threatened to have the Cubs forfeit the game. Mirrors later were banned.

20. Who were Sammy Sosa’s best friends during the great home run race of ’98?

Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.

21. What was the name of the fictional Cubs character invented by Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko?

Dave Ding-Dong, a parody of a Tribune column “written” by slugger Dave Kingman, actually ghostwritten by a Tribune staffer.

22. What likely was the loudest moment ever at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field?

Kerry Wood’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. Hope sprung eternal, at least until the inevitable collapse.

23. Where does the term “Dump Durocher clique” come from?

A letter to fans printed in a newspaper ad after owner P.K. Wrigley bought space near the end of the 1971 season to give a vote of confidence to beleaguered manager Leo Durocher. “Leo is the team manager, and the ‘Dump Durocher clique’ might as well give up,” Wrigley wrote.

24. Who is the most reviled umpire in Cubs history?

Bruce Froemming, who retired after the 2007 season. Froemming’s final Cubs-related incident was criticizing manager Lou Piniella for kicking dirt on Mark Wegner last June.

25. To whom was departing manager Herman Franks referring when he said: “I just got tired of being around him. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to manage if I have to look at that face every day.”

Mike Vail. Franks unloaded on Vail, Kingman (“flaky”), Bill Buckner (“nuts”) and others after being fired at the tail end of the ’79 season. Did any manager ever dislike his players more than Franks?

26. To whom was Ken Holtzman referring when he said the Cubs needed a manager “who can relate to the modern players and the modern system. A guy who refuses to deal with reality is going to have trouble”?

Franks. No team ever disliked its manager more than the ’79 Cubs did Franks.

27. Whom did Dusty Baker claim committed “assault with a deadly belly?”

Reliever Antonio Alfonseca, after he belly-bumped rookie umpire Justin Klemm during a game against the Cardinals in the 2003 race.

28. What did Tribune Co. pay for the Cubs in 1981?

The Wrigley family sold the Cubs for $20.5 million. Now the club may be sold for close to $1 billion.

29. Which former Cubs general manager, returning to town as manager of the Yankees, said of Cubs fans, “I still can’t believe people here respect losing that much”?

Dallas Green, asking Chicago reporters in 1989 why Cubs fans had such deep-seated feelings for the ill-fated ’69 Cubs.

30. Who holds the Cubs’ single-season record for home runs by a pitcher?

Fergie Jenkins (1971) and Carlos Zambrano (2006), with six apiece. Zambrano hit only two homers in 2007 and vows to rebound in ’08.

31. Which Chicago manager once said, “What am I, a piece of garbage in Lake Michigan?”?

Don Zimmer, after being fired for giving an ultimatum to team President Don Grenesko to renew his contract in May 1991.

32. Which current Cubs player has been accused of streaking outside a Lincoln Park establishment known as Stanley’s?

Ryan Dempster. He steadfastly denies the story, insisting it’s a Chicago urban legend.

33. Which incoming Cubs manager said he didn’t expect to “make great changes or use pseudo-psychology” to stop the losing?

Jim Essian. “It’s my job to provide a spark,” Essian said. He turned out to be one of the more spark-free managers in Cubs history. The Cubs went 59-63 under him in 1991.

34. Who was responsible for buying Ronnie Woo-Woo new teeth in 2000?

The Chicago Sun-Times.

35. Which newspaper reported in 1987 that Ronnie Woo-Woo had “vanished amid murder rumors?”

Also the Chicago Sun-Times. The Tribune located him working in a pizza parlor.

36. Who hit Benito Santiago and was ejected in retaliation for Eric Show hitting Andre Dawson in the face, prompting Dawson to charge the mound and start a bench-clearing brawl?

Cubs rookie starter Greg Maddux. “I’ll play behind him anytime,” Dawson said after getting 22 stitches in his cheek.

37. Who said of Cubs fans: “About 85 percent of the world is working … the other 15 percent come out here.”?

The immortal Lee Elia in his 1983 tirade. The updated version: About 85 percent of the world is working, and only 15 percent can afford Cubs tickets.

38. To whom was the immortal Elia referring when he complained “We’ve never heard of this guy” after the Braves rookie beat the Cubs with a homer and three RBIs?

Gerald Perry. Elia was fired for the remark, which GM Dallas Green called “an embarrassment to the team and the whole organization.” Elia later coached under Lou Piniella. Perry is in his second year as the Cubs’ hitting coach.

39. Which Cubs manager once replaced Joe Pepitone as hitting coach of the New York Yankees?

Piniella. Everyone in baseball either has worked with or been replaced by Sweet Lou.

40. What company’s name was displayed on the rotating ad board behind home plate during the fateful top of the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS?

Radio Shack.

41. Which Cubs manager said at his introductory news conference, “I’m still the same SOB I always was.”?

Leo Durocher.

42. Before he became Cubs manager, Durocher scouted what fictional TV character in a 1960s sitcom?

Jethro Bodine, who was using performance-enhancing possum grease on his pitches when Durocher, playing himself, scouted him for the Dodgers in an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

43. Which former Cubs catcher once was traded for himself?

The immortal Harry Chiti, who was purchased by the Mets from Cleveland in April 1962 for a player to be named, then sent back to Cleveland two months later as that player.

44. Which Cubs minor-league instructor was fired for critical comments against the organization?

Jimmy Piersall, who said upon Jim Riggleman’s firing that “two other guys” should be fired: Andy MacPhail and Ed Lynch.

45. Which Cubs legend was nicknamed “Handy Andy”?

No, not Andy MacPhail. It was Andy Pafko.

46. Who threw the pitch to Babe Ruth when Ruth called his shot at Wrigley in the 1932 World Series?

Charlie Root. It is the most famous pitch in Wrigley Field history.

47. Who threw the pitch that Luis Castillo fouled off toward Steve Bartman in left field in Game 6 of the NLCS?

Mark Prior. It is the second most famous pitch in Wrigley Field history.

48. Where is the so-called Bartman seat?

Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113.

49. Which Cubs ball girl was fired for appearing nude in Playboy?

Marla Collins. At least it was favorable publicity.

50. What was the worst trade in Cubs history not involving Lou Brock?

Dealing two-time batting champion Bill Madlock to San Francisco for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros in January 1977. “When these players are impossible to deal with, I’d rather let somebody else have them,” owner P.K. Wrigley said. Madlock won two more batting titles.

51. Which 1950s-era Cubs outfield was so slow it was dubbed “the Quicksand Kids” by Mike Royko?

Hank Sauer in left, Frank Baumholtz in center and Ralph Kiner in right.

52. Which Cubs double-play combo led its team to the College World Series title?

Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot at LSU in 2000.

53. When did the Cubs turn their last triple play at Wrigley Field?

June 2, 1983, against Pittsburgh. Rick Rhoden grounded to Ron Cey, who tagged third and threw to Ryne Sandberg at second for another force. Sandberg threw to Bill Buckner at first for the third out.

54. Which Cubs player did in-studio sportscasts for WGN-TV in the 1960s?

Ernie Banks: “And then I came to the plate.”

55. When Bill Murray subbed for Harry Caray in the TV booth, which Montreal outfielder did he describe as “break-dancing” while botching a fly ball?

Mitch Webster, who played for the ’89 Cubs.

56. Who sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS?

Billy Corgan. “It’s still a painful thing,” Corgan said later. “How do we know that 25 years from now we’re not going to look back and say, ‘That’s as close as we came’?”

57. What did Felix Pie twist this spring to cause men all over Chicago to groan?

A testicle. It’s still a painful thing.

58. Which Cubs manager said upon his exit: “We had more unhappy players than I had seen on any team … and no kind of an organization. I asked myself, ‘What in the hell are you doing here?’ “?

Preston Gomez in 1980. Many Cubs fans asked the same question.

59. Which Cub has the World Series record of striking out four hitters in an inning?

Orval Overall in the 1908 Series. He’s also the last Cubs pitcher to win a championship-clinching game, beating Detroit 2-0 in Game 5 of the 1908 Series.

60. What was Joe Pepitone’s bar named?

Joe Pepitone’s Thing. It didn’t last long after Pepitone opened it on Division Street, just off Rush.

61. What was Joe Pepitone’s limo driver’s nickname?

Fabulous Howard. He unfurled a red carpet whenever Pepitone exited the limo.

62. Who was Sammy Sosa’s go-fer?

Julian Martinez, who wore a Cubs shirt with BC (bullpen catcher) on the back. Players joked that BC stood for “Bring Coffee.”

63. Who was the bigger hot dog, Joe Pepitone or Sammy Sosa?

Depends on how you like your dog. Both are first-ballot picks in the Cubs Hot Dog Hall of Fame.

64. Whose photo did teammates tape to Carlos Marmol‘s locker this spring?

Barack Obama. Some players think the presidential candidate looks like Marmol, especially the ears.

65. Which Cubs player told an ESPN reporter he urinated on his hands to toughen them and help with his batting grip?

Moises Alou. No one high-fived him again.

66. How many victories do the Cubs have in their history?

The Cubs are 9,985-9,459 since 1876, and soon they will join the Giants as the only franchise with 10,000 victories, unless they go 14-148.

67. What nickname was printed next to Ryan Dempster’s nameplate in camp?

Madam Cleo, the late-night infomercial astrologer. Dempster is the team astrologist.

68. Who is Anton Migursky, and what position did he play?

Migursky is the Wrigley Field security guard who made a clothesline tackle of a fan who approached Bob Howry on the mound last June. He could play linebacker.

69. Who was the Cubs’ play-by-play man for the 1908 championship season?

Radio had not been invented when the Cubs last won a World Series.

70. What street besides Clark, Addison, Waveland and Sheffield is within spitting distance of Wrigley Field?

Kenmore Avenue. In the movie “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With,” Jeff Garlin‘s character leaves his car parked at Kenmore and Waveland because “it’s a good spot.”

71. Which manager was fired during spring training when he predicted the Cubs would finish in the “second division”?

Phil Cavarretta, by P.K. Wrigley in 1954. The Cubs went 64-90 under Stan Hack and finished in seventh place.

72. Who had the greatest fight among Cubs teammates in the 20th Century?

Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers. They fought in an exhibition game in 1905 and stopped speaking to each other for three years. The Cubs won both their titles, in ’07 and ’08, with the trio of Tinker, Evers and Frank Chance.

73. Who has had the greatest fight among Cubs teammates in the 21st Century?

Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett. They eventually hugged it out, but Barrett was traded within weeks.

74. What did the Cubs finally do in 1932 to conform with the rest of baseball?

Put numbers on the backs of their uniforms.

75. What did the Cubs finally do in 1988 to conform with the rest of baseball?

Install lights and play night games at home.

76. What have the Cubs yet to do to conform with the rest of baseball?

No video scoreboard at Wrigley. Every other ballpark has at least one Jumbotron.

77. Who was responsible for the hand-operated center-field scoreboard?

Bill Veeck, in 1937, when he also planted the ivy. In his final years, Veeck sat in the first row on the right-field side of the upper center-field bleachers, just under his majestic scoreboard.

78. When did WGN-AM broadcast its first Cubs game?

On April 14, 1925. Charlie Grimm made his major-league debut, and the Cubs beat Pittsburgh. But they finished last at 68-86.

79. When did WGN-TV televise its first Cubs game?

April 16, 1948. The White Sox beat the Cubs 4-1 in an exhibition at Wrigley Field, with Jack Brickhouse behind the mike. The Cubs went 64-90 that season and finished last.

80. What is the highest-scoring game in Cubs history?

A 26-23 victory over the Phillies in 1922. But the Phillies rebounded big-time with a 23-22 triumph in 10 innings in 1979.

81. Which pitcher beat the Cubs twice in the 1918 World Series and then began a curse two years later?

Boston Red Sox ace Babe Ruth. The Curse of the Bambino began in 1920 after he was sold to the New York Yankees and ran to 2004, when Boston ended its 86-year drought.

82. Who is the best football player on the Cubs’ 40-man roster?

Former Notre Dame receiver Jeff Samardzija edges ex-Penn quarterback Mark DeRosa.

83. Which Cubs pitcher threw a no-hitter in only his fourth major-league start?

Burt Hooton, on April 16, 1972, a 4-0 victory over Philadelphia.

84. Which Cub tied the major-league strikeout record in only his fifth start?

Kerry Wood, on May 20, 1998, with 20 strikeouts in a one-hit 2-0 victory over Houston.

85. Which Cubs pitcher had the fewest fingers on one hand? The most?

Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown had the fewest, and Antonio Alfonseca, with six, had the most.

86. Which Cubs slugger hit three home runs while nursing a hangover?

Hack Wilson, on Aug. 10, 1930. In “Veeck as in Wreck,” his autobiography, Bill Veeck wrote that a Cubs trainer “had Hack in one of those big, high old tubs, sobering him up. In the tub with Hack was a 50-pound cake of ice.”

87. Which Cubs pitcher was famous for his “nothing ball”?

Dizzy Dean. After arm ailments curtailed his dazzling career in St. Louis, the Cubs acquired Dean in 1938. His fastball was gone, so Dean invented an off-speed pitch he called the nothing ball.

88. Why is it always sound advice to bet against the Cubs?

In 1935, James Ridner lost a bet that the Cubs would beat Detroit in the ’35 World Series and had to push Arson “Fireball” Stephens 500 miles, from Harlan, Ky., to Detroit, in a baby carriage. It took 30 days and ended at home plate at Tiger Stadium.

89. What is “hoopsa,” and what is its role in Cubs history?

A Russian meal of hamburger and cabbage. In 1940, Lou “Mad Russian” Novikoff said he couldn’t hit on the road without the “hoopsa” meal his wife made for him.

90. What was the name of the hotel in which a former girlfriend shot Billy Jurges in 1932?

The Hotel Carlos on Sheffield Avenue, one block north of Wrigley. It’s still there, but an awning hides the original name engraved in stone over the front door.

91. Which Cubs player attacked a heckling milkman in a game in 1928?

Hack Wilson. After Edward Young had insulted him all day during a doubleheader at Wrigley, Wilson climbed into the stands and punched him. Wilson was fined $100.

92. Which 22-year-old Cubs drought ended in 1967?

On July 2, the Cubs went into a first-place tie with St. Louis, their first appearance atop the standings that late in the season since 1945.

93. Which Cubs player batted 13 times in a doubleheader?

Billy Herman, on Aug. 21, 1935. The Cubs split with the Phillies, losing 13-12 and winning 19-5.

94. What was the Cubs’ best signing?

Ernie Banks. Purchased from the Kansas City Monarchs for $35,000 in 1953, Banks hit 512 home runs, won two Most Valuable Player Awards and became “Mr. Cub.”

95. What was the Cubs’ worst signing?

Mel Rojas. Flopped as the closer after signing a three-year, $13.75 million deal in ’97. After pitching in Montreal’s dome, Rojas told the Cubs he didn’t like to pitch in the cold.

96. Which Cubs team holds the record for most victories without finishing first?

The 1909 Cubs. Coming off their ’08 championship, the Cubs won 104 games but finished 61/2 games behind Pittsburgh.

97. What invention was patented six weeks before the Cubs’ inaugural game?

The telephone. The Cubs began as the White Stockings on April 25, 1876. Albert Spalding shut out Louisville 4-0, and the Cubs won the first NL pennant with a 52-14 record.

98. Which Cub came closest to hitting the center-field scoreboard?

Bill Nicholson. His homer off the Cardinals’ Al Brazle on April 24, 1948, went to the right of the scoreboard and hit a car on Sheffield Avenue. No one has ever hit the scoreboard.

99. What two words strike fear into every Cubs fan?

Oh, no.

100. Will the Cubs win the World Series and end the 100-year drought?

In your wildest dreams.

Something is VERY WRONG with our country March 12, 2008

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There’s been much said in the news and the political campaigns about illegal immigration and possible “amnesty” considerations for those currently residing in the USA illegally. Though the current candidates all have similar agendas on the issue, none seem to be offering a fair solution to the problem. Even my man McCain, who despite offering stronger regulation rhetoric than the Democrats, still seems to be a bit too forgiving on the overall problem. Anyway, take a look at this video that’s from CNN/Lou Dobbs, talking about the unbelievable silliness of the proposed Amnesty Bill. As a law abiding, tax paying, lifelong citizen of these United States, just the thought that this bill has been given some serious consideration is nothing short of infuriating.

An interesting take on Obama March 12, 2008

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Though I’m a McCain supporter, I find Barak Obama a very charismatic and interesting character. Not enough to vote for him of course, but if I had to choose between him and Hillary, I’d definitely be an Obama guy! The following article was sent to me from a friend, and it originates from the Asia Times out of Hong Kong. It seems to be generally hostile towards America, and I can’t honestly say I concur with all that is written here, but it does give an interesting perspective on Obama. It’s rather long so go grab yourself something to drink before starting.

Obama’s women reveal his secret
By Spengler, Asia Times
February 26,2008

“Cherchez la femme,” advised Alexander Dumas in: “When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman.” In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama’s women reveal his secret: he hates America.

We know less about Senator Obama than about any prospective president in American history. His uplifting rhetoric is empty, as Hillary Clinton helplessly protests. His career bears no trace of his own character, not an article for the Harvard Law Review he edited, or a single piece of legislation. He appears to be an empty vessel filled with the wishful thinking of those around him. But there is a real Barack Obama. No man – least of all one abandoned in infancy by his father – can conceal the imprint of an impassioned mother, or the influence of a brilliant wife.

America is not the embodiment of hope, but the abandonment of one kind of hope in return for another. America is the spirit of creative destruction, selecting immigrants willing to turn their back on the tragedy of their own failing culture in return for a new start. Its creative success is so enormous that its global influence hastens the decline of other cultures. For those on the destruction side of the trade, America is a monster. Between half and nine-tenths of the world’s 6,700 spoken languages will become extinct in the next century, and the anguish of dying peoples rises up in a global cry of despair. Some of those who listen to this cry become anthropologists, the curators of soon-to-be extinct cultures; anthropologists who really identify with their subjects marry them. Obama’s mother, the University of Hawaii anthropologist Ann Dunham, did so twice.

Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others; that is how friends and colleagues describe his modus operandi since his days at the Harvard Law Review, through his years as a community activist in Chicago, and in national politics. Anthropologists, though, proceed from resentment against the devouring culture of America and sympathy with the endangered cultures of the primitive world. Obama inverts the anthropological model: he applies the tools of cultural manipulation out of resentment against America. The probable next president of the United States is a mother’s revenge against the America she despised.

Ann Dunham died in 1995, and her character emerges piecemeal from the historical record, to which I will return below. But Michelle Obama is a living witness. Her February 18 comment that she felt proud of her country for the first time caused a minor scandal, and was hastily qualified. But she meant it, and more. The video footage of her remarks shows eyes hooded with rage as she declares:

“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”

The desperation, frustration and disappointment visible on Michelle Obama’s face are not new to the candidate’s wife; as Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher and other commentators have noted, they were the theme of her undergraduate thesis, on the subject of “blackness” at Princeton University. No matter what the good intentions of Princeton, which founded her fortunes as a well-paid corporate lawyer, she wrote, “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong.”

Never underestimate the influence of a wife who bitch-slaps her husband in public. Early in Obama’s campaign, Michelle Obama could not restrain herself from belittling the senator. “I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He’s an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right? And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive,” she told a fundraiser in February 2007.

“For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his five-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported at the time, “She added that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she’d like to meet him sometime.” Her handlers have convinced her to be more tactful since then.

“Frustration” and “disappointment” have dogged Michelle Obama these past 20 years, despite her US$300,000 a year salary and corporate board memberships. It is hard for the descendants of slaves not to resent America. They were not voluntary immigrants but kidnap victims, subjected to a century of second-class citizenship even after the Civil War ended slavery. Blackness is not the issue; General Colin Powell, whose parents chose to immigrate to America from the West Indies, saw America just as other immigrants do, as a land of opportunity. Obama’s choice of wife is a failsafe indicator of his own sentiments. Spouses do not necessarily share their likes, but they must have their hatreds in common. Obama imbibed this hatred with his mother’s milk.

Michelle Obama speaks with greater warmth of her mother-in-law than of her husband. “She was kind of a dreamer, his mother,” Michelle Obama was quoted in the January 25 Boston Globe. “She wanted the world to be open to her and her children. And as a result of her naivete, sometimes they lived on food stamps, because sometimes dreams don’t pay the rent. But as a result of her naivete, Barack got to see the world like most of us don’t in this country.” How strong the ideological motivation must be of a mother to raise her children on the thin fair in pursuit of a political agenda.

“Naivete” is a euphemism for Ann Dunham’s motivation. Friends describe her as a “fellow traveler”, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero’s student visa was revoked in 1967 – the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.

Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia’s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.

Dunham’s experience in Indonesia provided the material for a doctoral dissertation celebrating the hardiness of local cultures against the encroaching metropolis. It was entitled, “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds”. In this respect Dunham remained within the mainstream of her discipline. Anthropology broke into popular awareness with Margaret Mead’s long-discredited Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which offered a falsified ideal of sexual liberation in the South Pacific as an alternative to the supposedly repressive West. Mead’s work was one of the founding documents of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and anthropology faculties stood at the left-wing fringe of American universities.

In the Global South, anthropologists went into the field and took matters a step further. Peru’s brutal Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla movement was the brainchild of the anthropologist Efrain Morote Best, who headed the University of San Cristobal of Huamanga in Ayacucho, Peru, between 1962 and 1968. Dunham’s radicalism was more vicarious; she ended her career as an employee of international organizations.

Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother’s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama’s methods. “A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,” wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world’s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis’ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power’s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.

Since the Ronald Reagan boom began in 1984, the year the American stock market doubled, Americans have enjoyed a quarter-century of rising wealth. Even the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000 did not interrupt the upward trajectory of household assets, as the housing price boom eclipsed the effect of equity market weakness. America’s success made it a magnet for the world’s savings, and Americans came to believe that they were riding a boom that would last forever, as I wrote recently [1].

Americans regard upward mobility as a God-given right. America had a double founding, as David Hackett Fischer showed in his 1989 study, Albion’s Seed . Two kinds of immigrants founded America: religious dissidents seeking a new Promised Land, and economic opportunists looking to get rich quick. Both elements still are present, but the course of the past quarter-century has made wealth-creation the sine qua non of American life. Now for the first time in a generation Americans have become poorer, and many of them have become much poorer due to the collapse of home prices. Unlike the Reagan years, when cutting the top tax rate from a punitive 70% to a more tolerable 40% was sufficient to start an economic boom, no lever of economic policy is available to fix the problem. Americans have no choice but to work harder, retire later, save more and retrench.

This reversal has provoked a national mood of existential crisis. In Europe, economic downturns do not inspire this kind of soul-searching, for richer are poorer, remain what they always have been. But Americans are what they make of themselves, and the slim makings of 2008 shake their sense of identity. Americans have no institutionalized culture to fall back on. Their national religion has consisted of waves of enthusiasm – “Great Awakenings” – every second generation or so, followed by an interim of apathy. In times of stress they have a baleful susceptibility to hucksters and conmen.

Be afraid – be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself. When Barack utters the word “hope”, they instead hear, “handout”. A cynic might translate the national motto, E pluribus unum, as “something for nothing”. Now that the stock market and the housing market have failed to give Americans something for nothing, they want something for nothing from the government. The trouble is that he who gets something for nothing will earn every penny of it, twice over.

The George W Bush administration has squandered a great strategic advantage in a sorry lampoon of nation-building in the Muslim world, and has made enemies out of countries that might have been friendly rivals, notably Russia. Americans question the premise of America’s standing as a global superpower, and of the promise of upward mobility and wealth-creation. If elected, Barack Obama will do his utmost to destroy the dual premises of America’s standing. It might take the country another generation to recover.

“Evil will oft evil mars”, J R R Tolkien wrote. It is conceivable that Barack Obama, if elected, will destroy himself before he destroys the country. Hatred is a toxic diet even for someone with as strong a stomach as Obama. As he recalled in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama idealized the Kenyan economist who had married and dumped his mother, and was saddened to learn that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr, was a sullen, drunken polygamist. The elder Obama became a senior official of the government of Kenya after earning a PhD at Harvard. He was an abusive drunk and philanderer whose temper soured his career.

The senior Obama died in a 1982 car crash. Kenyan government officials in those days normally spent their nights drinking themselves stupid at the Pan-Afrique Hotel. Two or three of them would be found with their Mercedes wrapped around a palm tree every morning. During the 1970s I came to know a number of them, mostly British-educated hollow men dying inside of their own hypocrisy and corruption.

Both Obama and the American public should be very careful of what they wish for. As the horrible example of Obama’s father shows, there is nothing worse for an embittered outsider manipulating the system from within than to achieve his goals – and nothing can be more terrible for the system. Even those who despise America for its blunders of the past few years should ask themselves whether the world will be a safer place if America retreats into a self-pitying shell.

This sums up religion PERFECTLY! February 10, 2008

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I try not to discuss religion much as it’s a hotspot with many people, plus my viewpoints have always differed greatly from my catholic upbringing. My usual comment is “if it makes you feel good, then it’s OK for you” and I will leave it at that. Recently I remembered one of George Carlin’s rants on religion and how it seemed to sum up my feelings exactly – it didn’t take me long to find it on the internet, so I’d like to share it with you right here. You can also find the video excerpt from his concert on YouTube. Sure he’s just a comedian, but it’s truly a classic that speaks volumes about the hypocrisy and silliness of this topic.


In the Bullshit Department, a businessman can’t hold a candle to a clergyman. ‘Cause I gotta tell you the truth, folks. When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say “this guy”, because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man.

No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.

So rather than be just another mindless religious robot, mindlessly and aimlessly and blindly believing that all of this is in the hands of some spooky incompetent father figure who doesn’t give a shit, I decided to look around for something else to worship. Something I could really count on.

And immediately, I thought of the sun. Happened like that. Overnight I became a sun-worshipper. Well, not overnight, you can’t see the sun at night. But first thing the next morning, I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I’m big on that. If I can see something, I don’t know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At least there are no crucifixions, and we’re not setting people on fire simply because they don’t agree with us.

Sun worship is fairly simple. There’s no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don’t have a special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun, it never tells me I’m unworthy. Doesn’t tell me I’m a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn’t said an unkind word. Treats me fine. So, I worship the sun. But, I don’t pray to the sun. Know why? I wouldn’t presume on our friendship. It’s not polite.

I’ve often thought people treat God rather rudely, don’t you? Asking trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. Do this, gimme that, I need a new car, I want a better job. And most of this praying takes place on Sunday His day off. It’s not nice. And it’s no way to treat a friend. But people do pray, and they pray for a lot of different things, you know, your sister needs an operation on her crotch, your brother was arrested for defecating in a mall. But most of all, you’d really like to fuck that hot little redhead down at the convenience store. You know, the one with the eyepatch and the clubfoot? Can you pray for that? I think you’d have to. And I say, fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about the Divine Plan?

Remember that? The Divine Plan. Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought, decided it was a good plan, put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, the Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just for you? Doesn’t it seem a little arrogant? It’s a Divine Plan. What’s the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and fuck up Your Plan?

And here’s something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren’t answered. What do you say? “Well, it’s God’s will.” “Thy Will Be Done.” Fine, but if it’s God’s will, and He’s going to do what He wants to anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn’t you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It’s all very confusing.

So to get around a lot of this, I decided to worship the sun. But, as I said, I don’t pray to the sun. You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he’s a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn’t fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.

For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that cocksucker out with one visit. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat.

So I’ve been praying to Joe for about a year now. And I noticed something. I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same 50% rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don’t. Same as God, 50-50. Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe, the wishing well and the rabbit’s foot, same as the Mojo Man, same as the Voodoo Lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat’s testicles, it’s all the same: 50-50. So just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself.

And for those of you who look to The Bible for moral lessons and literary qualities, I might suggest a couple of other stories for you. You might want to look at the Three Little Pigs, that’s a good one. Has a nice happy ending, I’m sure you’ll like that. Then there’s Little Red Riding Hood, although it does have that X-rated part where the Big Bad Wolf actually eats the grandmother. Which I didn’t care for, by the way.

And finally, I’ve always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty Dumpty. The part I like the best? “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” That’s because there is no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God. None, not one, no God, never was. In fact, I’m gonna put it this way. If there is a God, may he strike this audience dead! See? Nothing happened. Nothing happened? Everybody’s okay? All right, tell you what, I’ll raise the stakes a little bit. If there is a God, may he strike me dead. See? Nothing happened, oh, wait, I’ve got a little cramp in my leg. And my balls hurt. Plus, I’m blind. I’m blind, oh, now I’m okay again, must have been Joe Pesci, huh? God Bless Joe Pesci. Thank you all very much. Joe Bless You!

More Newsworthy “Quick Hits” (1/23/08) January 24, 2008

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Again I figured to take a bit of time to provide some brief comment on recent news items…this is actually recent vs. my last posting which was written two weeks prior:

Rick Majerus and the Catholics
If you haven’t heard already, St. Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus said in a TV interview that he supported a women’s right to choose in cases of abortion. It wasn’t the primary topic as it has just come up in political conversations, but he’s pro-choice. No big deal, right? Well, Archbishop Raymond Burke jumped into the fray, stating that the university needs to discipline him. You see, this is a Catholic university…and even though college is where everyone is encouraged to grow, learn and express themselves, apparently you are not allowed to express any views that contradict the religion. Also, Majerus is a Catholic himself. OH, THE HORRORS!!! Apparently the university had issued a statement that this was simply an individual opinion, but that probably won’t stop those nutty religious zealots from trying to persecute him for, you know, having personal and reasonable thoughts. Hey, I grew up Catholic and am a product of Jesuit-run higher education – and it’s stupid things like this which has helped me see the fallacies that are tied up in all religions. The fact that this actually made national news is nothing short of a odd joke. Ironically, the more we let religion dictate our lives, the less people seem to be able to live together peacefully. If we truly live in a free society, this whole incident should blow over without any problems…and college basketball coaches can get back to coaching without fear of religious persecution. It truly boggles the mind…

Heath Ledger
As of this writing all drug tests are inconclusive though it appears it was an accidental overdose of sleeping pills or some derivative of it. Rumor has it that he was having tremendous trouble sleeping and they found all sorts of prescription medication in his room. Sleeping problems at 28? When I was that age, I found that about a dozen beers tended to do the trick for me. I know the guy has been in many movies and seemed like a pretty good actor and person, so it’s sad to see this sort of thing happen. What’s odd is that as of today I’ve heard that some religious figureheads have come out to condemn Heath, stating that he’s now getting just punishment for his sins. They would of course be referring to his starring role in the gay cowboy film “Brokeback Mountain”, a movie that admittedly I really have no interest in seeing though heard it was quite good. But wait – there are people who are actually glad to see him dead for this? He was ACTING, and it was a fucking movie you psychos! I guess if he was a basketball coach at a Catholic university, they would have changed his name to Damien! Anyway, whatever they end up finding out about this death, it doesn’t bring him back. He leaves a small child behind, which in the big picture is the real tragedy.

Super Bowl XLII
(primarily the Packers not making it there)
The foregone conclusion was the Patriots getting there, and they’re now one step away from shutting up the old curmudgeons from the ’72 Dolphins team for good. It was tough for me to pick an NFC favorite in the title game as I dislike both teams, but inevitably I was glad to see the Packers fall short of that goal. I watched the game out at my favorite sports bar, and seeing several Packers fans actually shed tears after that loss really warmed my heart! Sure, Favre in the big game for what perhaps would have been his last game had nationwide appeal, but as a long time die-hard Bears fan I simply cannot support the team Green Bay. Bears fans rooting for the Packers is about the equivalent Yankees fans cheering for the Red Sox. It doesn’t matter that they’re in the same division or the same conference, there is no fan-by-attrition, it just doesn’t happen. As for many of the so-called Bears fans who actually chose to cheer for the Packers, you better start questioning your loyalties. Shame, shame, shame on you – unless of course you respect Favre, wanted to see him make it to one more championship game but get trounced…that would probably have been OK!

The Stock Market
Housing loan problems, worries about the economy, trade deficits, weakening dollar, interest rate cuts, etc. etc. etc….it’s adding up to chaos in the stock market. My suggestion is that anyone who has good amounts of investments just don’t look at the results for now…otherwise you’ll end up so worried you can’t sleep, turn to sleep aids and end up like Heath Ledger. Sorry, bad joke but probably not far from the truth for some people. The nice thing about the market is that it bounces back, and calmer heads almost always prevail. Take a step back, a deep breath, and be sure you’ve hedged your investments in other areas! I hear you can get some really good deals in real estate nowadays…

Quick Hits on News (from 1/11/08) January 23, 2008

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This is one of the first new entries in 2008 from my personal web page. I will eventually make the section I’m using on that page transition permanently over to this blog, but in the meantime I’ll have dual postings. Besides the usual goofy tidbits of info I usually post, much of it may focus some energies on reviewing some newsworthy items – politics, sports, local events, etc. Here’s a few things on my mind right now:

Primaries in Iowa & New Hampshire
While the Democrats seem to be making all the headlines, sadly the Republicans seem to be taking taking a back seat. I’ve always liked McCain and am definitely still on his side, but best to keep an open mind and see what crops up over the next few months. Dazzle me guys! Make me WANT to like you and vote for you already! Unfortunately Bush has done enough damage during his tenure to make the Republican candidates seem like nothing more than afterthoughts…in fact my wife had to ask me if the Republicans were doing anything right now! Well, come election time it will be interesting to see how much “change” our country is really willing to take. In terms of the Dems, Obama certainly has the charisma despite his unarguable lack of experience…but you have to like his attitude. He seems to be more of a moderate which will garner wider appeal, but somehow I don’t see the red states backing him. I still can’t figure out how Hillary Clinton became such a strong candidate. Sure, she’s got the Clinton name and tends to appeal to the most populous gender in our country – women – but do we really want THAT much change? AND, doesn’t she seem to have a track record of indecisiveness and saying very scary things about society and people’s rights? Besides, those emotional tears before the New Hampshire primary, then the obvious plants of people to chant “iron my shirt” to garner further sympathy (and in turn to make her look stronger) was nothing short of pathetic. All politicians pull stunts to get an edge, but c’mon Hillary, not all of us are that stupid to fall for this crap. Sadly, too many people are…

Recent Weather, and the tornadoes in Southern Wisconsin
It’s been pretty wacky in our area since the start of the year. First we get quite a bit of New Years Eve snow – some places 8+ inches – and for a couple days afterwards it gets bitter cold, below the average. Then what happens? Temps start to climb and as of Monday 1/7 hit 65 degrees in Chicago! As of this writing it’s getting colder again, and by next week we’re looking at typical winter weather again. Gotta love this part of the country! Unfortunately this very odd weather wasn’t all pleasant – Southern Wisconsin and some areas in west McHenry county were hit by tornadoes. In January? First time since the 50’s and there was quite a bit of damage to some communities. Fortunately (and amazingly) nobody was killed. Steve Dahl sends out a “thought for the day” before he starts his radio show, and here’s what he had to offer this past Tuesday: “Before I can really start feeling bad for the people in Wisconsin who suffered tornado damage on Monday afternoon, I’m going to need to see a “before” picture.” A bit cold perhaps, but a rather witty statement that really had me LOL!

Though it was nice to see Ohio State get pummeled in the championship game for the second straight season, I am so sick of this unbelievably ridiculous method of choosing a national champion. The only – and I mean ONLY – major sport that doesn’t decide who’s the best by the play on the field but by rankings and placement in bowl games. I’ve actually heard people defend the system, but I have yet to hear one valid, reasonable statement that justifies how this system makes more sense than a playoff. We all know it’s about tradition and the money involved with the TV and bowl contracts – as the old saying goes, “everything is about money, and if you say it’s not about the money that means it’s ALL about the money!” The one good thing is that there appears to be growing support for a small playoff system – anywhere from 4 to 8 teams – but none of that will happen for a few years, if at all. Anyway, I will probably write a more in-depth article on this in the future…but for now, congrats to LSU for their two-loss championship season.

Steroids – Roger Clemens
Sorry Roger, you are an extraordinary athlete but you’re simply not believable. There’s no doubt that hard work, keeping in shape and strong focus – along with being an extraordinary athlete – is what’s made you a success and helped keep you going into your mid-40’s. However, when your stats started to slide a few years back, and the body was getting older & not performing quite the same, who could fault you for wanting to do what it takes to keep that body in top form and extend your career? Of course I’m not stating outright that I know you took steroids, because I’d be really bummed if your legal team came after me (as you promised would happen for those who made those statements). J It just seems that so much makes more sense since you were accused of it. Barry Bonds was never officially caught either, but c’mon – even an OJ Simpson juror would admit he had to have been juicing for quite a while! Perhaps some of the damage is done by now, so the question that remains is will you go down as one of the all-time greats who made a few mistakes along the way, will you have an asterisk by your name like Barry Bonds, or will you just look pathetic like Mark McGuire. Things will definitely get interesting after the grand jury testimony…