Friday, February 25, 2005

Crappy New Jersey™, local edition

On Wednesday, the Newark Star-Ledger had a front-page article, above the fold - the FBI arrested eleven local officials in Monmouth County, including three sitting mayors, for extortion, taking bribes, and related scurrilous behavior.

I'd like to show you this article, but I can't. I've serached the archives at and the article won't appear. I tried searches (over the past seven days) for "Monmouth County", "FBI", "extortion", the date of the paper, and in a final desperate act, the name of one of the arrested mayors. Not only did I not get the article, the search for the person's name returned NO matches whatsoever. This is either horrible archiving or a trip down the memory hole. You will have to be content with this article culled from a Google search.

While the feds were running the suspects to ground, what was the state doing? Tackling tough, important issues of their own: video store late fees. Way to prioritize, gentlemen.

Just today there came a particularly Jerseyan twist to the Monmouth County proceedings. The Monmouth County prosecutor had been pursuing his own investigation, concerning zoning irregularities. The governor wants the attorney general to look into the possible conflict between the county and the feds. Not the corruption itself, mind you; just the subsequent spitting contest.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sorry about the long pause

No excuses, folks... no epic trips or exotic reasons. I just needed a break. Too many irons, not enough fire. The hockey-oriented among you will be pleased to hear that your Mother Puckers are back over .500 following a 6-1 win last night. I think we're fourth now, behind the Lunatics (5-1), Renegades (4-1-1), and Purple Tequila (4-3); but I can't be sure because, if you add it all up, somebody has an extra tie. (As of 6:00 pm Tuesday, the standings were not updated. I hope you have better luck when you click.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Warning - link to fatuous nonsense!

Like Dr. Forrester, I'm feeling particularly evil today - watching the NHL flush itself down the crapper has darkened my mood (see below). So I was in exactly the wrong humor to see this nitwittery in the comics page.

Amazing flash from the brilliant wit of Wiley. In fact, he manages to disprove his own argument - he thinks privatizing Social Security is a bad idea, because THE GOVERNMENT might misinvest the funds! One wonders what this incandescent genius' definition of "private" is. He also recycles the hoary old "Gramma will eat dog food!" lie, since his endless well of talent apparently comes up dry in the effort for original thought. (It's almost so you don't notice the subject-verb disagreement.)

I'll bet you everything down to the chair I'm sitting on that Wiley has a 401-k or some other private pension arrangement. Hell, I've got one, and I'd love to be able to add my refunded Social Security monies to it, rather than give it to Uncle Sam as an interest-free loan.

But why am I so upset, really? This is even yesterday's comic, right?

Simple. A comic reaches more people than a policy paper from a think tank. This is a cheap attempt to scare the oldsters, none of whom is at all likely to lose a cent of their benefits. It also purports to be funny - but who would laugh at this? If it's false, it's insulting, and if it's true, it's no laughing matter.

That's why I'm upset. This tosser amuses himself with (AND PROFITS OFF OF) the image of starving senior citizens, offering as indisputable fact a bunch of self-contradictory premises. In fact, his whole bailiwick is self-contradictory. The father figure in his recurring cast is a broadcaster increasingly muffled by the Cloaked Hand of Federal Censorship - an assertion, if true, that we could never have heard of from Wiley himself. In fact, he went from Sunday only to a daily run! Berke Breathed is a lefty funster, but at least he reminded himself to stay funny. He also managed to poke at both sides of the aisle.

Do yourself a favor and read something well-done.

You Maniacs!

You destroyed it! Damn you all to HELLLLLLL!

For those of us who'd rather laugh as well as mourn the passing of the NHL, I recommend to you Mr. Kurt Snibbe. And you can always come watch us play if you're in the neighborhood. (Go MPs!)

Everybody in the pool!

It used to be that Blogger liked to restrict comments to registered users, unless you cared to leave anonymous messages. This was annoying, not least of all to your humble narrator, who enjoys the give-and-take of conversation and hoped to spark a few good ones here in the Hive. (Maybe I don't put out enough snacks.)

Blogger has heard your cries. Now you can toss your reactions out there, in a nice new window. I hope to be hearing from you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

OK, make that the Sterling Seven

For those of you who haven't seen this (hat tip to Tim Blair), I direct you to the always-spot on Mark Steyn in the London Telegraph.

Mr. Steyn is a longtime favorite here in the Hive, but his site had been down for a bit while he worked through a rough patch. That has apparently come to some sort of equilibrium - and I hope that it's good news, sir - and so I have the pleasure of putting Steyn Online into the Pantheon of Permanent Links.

For that matter - Tim deserves a spot as well. Welcome, gentlemen, to my humble environs. And friends, if you visit Spleenville, don't annoy Andrea.

One of my Famous Five

The Hive has very few permanent links on the wall, but one of them is Dan Flynn's Flynn Files. I'd like to point it out again, and no, not just because he asked. He's got some lively discussions on a variety of hot topics, and as a full-time writer - slash - professional wonk, he can get posts out in a timely manner.

As a result, some of the stuff I'd otherwise put up in here winds up as part of the give-and-take there. Those who enjoy my ramblings can see what I do as a guest star. Those who hate them can see others duel it out. In any case, the man himself is worth reading. (Even when I disagree.)

PS - some of my posts have been in larger text size than others. Since swapping from Georgia to Verdana, I've tried for a consistent look but it hasn't worked, for reasons that escape my pitiful store of HTML knowledge. I'll work on it and keep you up to date on my lack of progress.

Thanks, Dennis

A visitor to the Hive pointed out a Peggy Noonan column which ran a few days ago. It is well-done and I pass Dennis' recommendation of it to you all, and join with my own. (You should also visit Dennis' own website, Vita Mea, by clicking his name on the line above. Just promise to come back!)

You may remember that Christopher Hitchens scoffed when Mother Teresa died. No doubt others will take their shots at John Paul II in death, the way many have in life. It's easier to do that than to take up the challenge of either living or dying the way he has.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What's in a name?

Today my boss set me to look up a Seton Hall professor.

I looked about for Maxine Laurie and came up blank at the Seton Hall site, so I was a little stumped. Time for Google. It came down to two people, one here and one in Western Australia. Well, of course. In fact, her name was Maxine N Lurie, professor of history, editor of the Encyclopedia of New Jersey, a published author and historian.

Then, curious, I scrolled down and checked out Maxine Laurie.

You couldn't possibly make this up.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

You thought your paycheck was yours?

If you did, you'd be in the minority.

Again this year, the state of New Jersey is meeting its standard quota for budget crisis. Its solution is to
tax your 401-K contributions. Some fun quotes:

...According to one administration source, the state has considered such a change in policy since 2001. The official said that one-quarter of all retirees move away from New Jersey, and the state never receives any income tax when they withdraw from their 401(k) plans.

Boo-hoo. Maybe fewer would move if the state would lay off with the fees and taxes.

...The official said contributions to other retirement plans, such as IRAs, Keough Plans, teacher retirement accounts and deferred compensation accounts are already subject to the state taxation.
..."It's not a tax increase. It is consistency. All (retirement) plans should be treated the same," the official said.

Get that? We'll be paying more, but it's not an increase. And that
fee on new tires? Not a tax. In fact you can only charge it if the state can charge tax on the rest of the purchase; if not, no fee. Who is therefore exempt? "Agencies and instrumentalities of the United States... Agencies, instrumentalities, public corporations, or political subdivisions of the State of New Jersey..." Great shock there.

How about gasoline? Yeah,
we'd like some (more) of the action.

Imagine strolling into your office and saying, "Hey, boss, my rent and food costs are up this year, so if you don't mind, I'm raising my pay another two bucks an hour. And I'll be charging overtime while I'm getting coffee in the morning. It would be nice if you started to reimburse me for my commute, too, since it's technically a business-related travel expense." Sure, and don't get a paper cut from the pink slip.

Dare I suggest that our legislators stop giving us the same speech every year? Guys, you spent
over $25 billion last year... You think that perhaps you could scrape by with $20 or $21 billion this time? Remind me again about "tax cuts for the rich" when this state is one million times wealthier than someone who makes $25,000 per year - a person to whom a few hundred dollars makes a difference.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Lion in Winter

My buddy, the Barking Spider, calls John Paul II "Pope Rock 'n Roll." He's right.

A lot of people have been wondering why a pope doesn't just retire "when it's time." Some have wondered longer than others. Or even longer.

Considering how friendly a hearing euthanasia gets in certain circles, one should be grateful that nobody is firing up the disintegration chamber for the Holy Father. I think this stage of his pontificate is the most challenging yet: to serve with dignity in old age and physical infirmity, and more and ever more to rely on others' service and aid while remaining grateful and graceful.

Yet, if I can speculate on John Paul II's character, I think that he's trying to clear a higher bar. I think God had chosen him, for many years, to show how we ought to live in the world - in constant prayer, with an unshakeable regard for the sanctity and dignity of human life. Should he be spared us until the next World Youth Day celebrations, we will again see the delight and the hope he has in the young.

But time grows short, and God has one last task for the Holy Father - I think that He has asked John Paul II to show us, now, how to die. We need to see it. The Pope, as is his way, has chosen to accept this challenge, and to die publicly, with undimmed joy and hope, serving to the last.

Those of us in our own youth (I'm 32), who have known no other pope (save for the brief interlude of John Paul I), don't know yet how blessed we've been.

(Perhaps later, I'll take up the silly assertion that JP I's "brief reign" was too short to impact the Church. It was certainly enough to impact JP II.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Behind the scenes in North Korea

This interesting Times of London article goes behind the scenes of the grevious fiefdom of Dear Leader. Some observations:

...1. You have to be really badly off to try to flee into China.
...2. The second page has details on some who have been behind the scenes, trying to help some of the victims of this long-oppressed people. Your money quote: Yet North Koreans confirmed that they knew that escapers to China should look for buildings displaying a Christian cross and should ask among Korean speakers for people who knew the word of Jesus. Hmmm - no blowing up factories or poisoning wells? Just Bible smuggling? Helping people cross into freedom? Those are some lousy pitiless crusaders, there.
...3. Another quote, if you please: Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004. I know that the Democratic Party, USA, doesn't like to hear that their guy was the favored candidate of tyrants and enemies - but maybe it hurts all the more because it was true. Spare yourself the trouble in '08, guys, and nominate someone credible on national defense (whose initials might be Zell Miller).
...4. On a related note, I got two odd bedfellows in the mail yesterday - my regular National Review subscription, and an envelope asking me to sign up for a credit card that would "benefit the Democratic Party." Somebody didn't get the memo...
...5. Pray for these children, who are deprived in mind and body, poisoned daily by propaganda about the glorious future to distract them from the miserable present.

Time/Brain-Waster, Part II

Today, Sports Guy and I take on Super Bowls 21-38. Charge!

21. Giants 39, Broncos 20. Phil Simms goes 22-25. I'm a huge Blue fan; if I don't get this, I should be lit on fire. (Yes, that phrase is an homage to the SG.)
22. Redskins 45, Broncos 10. Fuzzier than it ought to be - after the Mets and Giants back to back, my brain went poof. This could very well be SB 23, here.
23. 49ers win, Jerry Rice is MVP, and I'm fuzzy on the rest. (Yeah, pretty sure they went back-to-back.)
24. 49ers 20, Bengals 16. Joe Montana spots John Candy at one end of the field, and spots John Taylor at the other for the winning points. Your MVP, ladies and gentlemen.
25. Giants 20, Bills 19. Wide Right Bowl. Ottis Anderson is MVP, but it could just as easily have been Thurman Thomas, who was terrific.
26. Redskins 37, Bills 24; Mark Rypien. I covered this a few posts down. No, I didn't cheat, then or now.
27. Cowboys 52, Bills 17. Troy Aikman was MVP. Don Beebe caught a touchdown on an illegal forward pass, and caught Leon Lett napping.
28. Cowboys 30, Bills 13. Emmitt Smith was MVP (I guess). I think Buffalo actually led this at the half - the real reason that Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson.
29. 49ers 55, Chargers 26. Steve Young threw for six touchdowns. But - did you know that this was the first Super Bowl with a 2-point conversion attempt?
30. Cowboys 27, Steelers 17. The first three-time matchup of teams turned on horrible Neil O'Donnell throws. Larry Brown of Dallas was the beneficiary - 3 picks and the MVP.
31. Packers 35, Pats 21. Desmond Howard returns a kickoff for the clinching score and the MVP. Reggie White (RIP) has three sacks.
32. Broncos 35, Packers 28. John Elway is MVP. The infamous gimme winning TD and Elway's helicopter act.
33. Broncos 31, Falcons 16. Terrell Davis takes MVP honors.
34. Rams 24, Titans 17. One Yard Short. Kurt Warner is MVP.
35. Ravens 34, Giants 7. Ray Lewis was MVP. I honestly had this blacked out of my mind, it was that dark a memory - I had the last four SBs moved up a year as if this game had never happened. What finally sparked me was trying to figure out who the Broncos could have lost to in '97.
36. Pats 20, Rams 17, on Viniateri's stone-cold figgie. Tom Brady is MVP.
37. Buccaneers 48, Raiders 23. I remember this best for Bill Callahan's choice to go for 2 at the end of the 3d quarter, when a simple single would have won me $100 in one of those box pool deals. What's his face, Dexter McCutcheon, was MVP, and promptly joined Larry Brown on the back of a milk carton.
38. Pats 32, Panthers 29; Brady, again. A classic game.

Only fair that I lay myself out for #39, too - Pats 31, Eagles 20. Tough to call the MVP, but I'd give my top three guesses as Corey Dillon, Ted Bruschi, and (again) Brady. I'm not convinced the Eagles can control the line well enough to stop Corey from rolling up 125 yards or so.

How did I do?

#21-25: Not as well as I'd like - Rice was MVP of SB 23, but that WAS the 20-16 Cincy game. I didn't remember 24 because it was another Denver bloodbath (55-10, which means I probably screwed up the score of the Steve Young SB.) A perfect 10 for each of the Giants SBs (of course), and five on the Washington game (they only had 42, and I didn't name an MVP). Total of 7 on the swapped games - the winners (2), one MVP (2 - I was right both times, but only by accident), half-credit for the exact score (3). 32 out of 50 overall.
#26-30: a near-duplication of my run from 1-5. I only missed (as I feared) on the score of #29: SF 49, SD 26. Score is 47 of 50.
#31-35: Missed half the score of the GB/NE game, and the whole score of both Denver games. Also swapped MVPs for them, and thus get NO credit. (I had it right, then talked myself out of it. No points for being wimpy.) The Rams/Titans was 23-16 (oh, man). But I swept the slate on 35; now I can go back into denial about it until the next quiz. (Kerry #$%&! Collins.) 28 of 50.
#36-38: Perfectos on 36 and 38. Oddly, I gave Oakland too many points (it was 48-21), and the MVP was actually named Dexter Jackson. Sort of proves my point about the milk carton, though. Total of 25 out of 30.

This half's score is 132 of 180, which is a bit better than the 130 of 200 from last time (as you'd expect). SG's score this way is a lot lower because he is a lot worse on the actual scores - only 88. Going by his method we again tied on winners (a perfect 18), and I skunked him on scores (9-3, and I didn't give myself the credit for the right score of the wrong game). MVPs were 14-10 in my favor (again, no credit for Dexter Whodat), reversing that score from the first half of his quiz. All told, 262 out of 380, which is 68.9% - do we grade on the curve?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fun way to kill some time/brain cells

Can you name the teams and MVPs of Super Bowls past?

Well, I tried. Why not? After all, Eric Neel asked a similar question in a column last week - he was, in fact, grading the games but asked in passing about Super Bowl 26 (that's XXVI to the purists). He wrote: "OK, three questions: 1. Who played in this game? 2. Who won and by what score? 3. How do you spell the last name of the game MVP?"

Instantly I thought: Washington 37, Buffalo 21; Mark Rypien, QB, Washington Redskins. He threw for 292 yards and 2 touchdowns. Then I kept reading: "If you're not from either team's home city, and you can answer the first question without looking it up, your family and friends are likely planning an intervention... If you can answer the second question without looking it up, your family and friends talk about you in the past tense, sharing stories with each other about what a cute little boy you once were, how bright and full of promise... If you can answer the third question cold ... you don't have any family or friends."


For the record, I was a bit off. Buffalo had an extra FG (WSH 37, BUF 24). Rypien's stats? 18-33, 292 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT. (I had forgotten the turnover.)

Hello, my name is Nightfly, and I'm a stat freak.

"Hi, Nightfly."

But there's hope. Here's my guesses for the first 20 SBs - like Sports Guy, I didn't cheat:

1. Packers 35, Chiefs 10; Bart Starr, GB
2. Packers 33, Raiders 14; Starr again.
3. Jets 16, Colts 7; Broadway Joe Namath, NY, and the most famous index finger before purple came into fashion.
4. Chiefs 23, Vikings 7; Len Dawson, KC. First of four SB losses for Minnesota.
5. Colts 16, Cowboys 13; Chuck Howley, Dallas - the only MVP from the losing team.
6. Cowboys 21, Dolphins 3; here it begins to get hazy. Bob Lilly? (He had that huge sack of Griese - loss of 29 yards.)
7. Dolphins 14, Redskins 7; Larry Czonka, Miami (?). This was the 17-0 year.
8. Miami beats Minnesota - score? MVP? I'll take the zero.
9. Steelers 16, Vikings 6. Again, no clue for MVP.
10. Steelers 21, Cowboys 17. Lynn Swann is MVP for those circus catches.
11. Raiders beat the Vikings. I believe that Fred Biletnikoff is MVP.
12. Cowboys beat the Broncos, as Craig Morton throws as many INTs as completions (4).
13. Steelers 31, Rams 19. Terry Bradshaw, Pitt.
14. Steelers 35, Cowboys 31. Bradshaw again? More famous for Jackie Smith's dropped pass in the end zone.
15. Raiders 20, Eagles 7.
16. 49ers 26, Bengals 21. The first Supe I can begin to remember. Joe Montana is MVP.
17. Raiders 38, Redskins 9. Marcus Allen is MVP after astonishing 76-yard TD run.
18. Redskins 27, Dolphins 16. They get back. John Riggins is MVP. A huge run of his own, on fourth down and short, 43 yards for the score.
19. 49ers beat Dolphins - Montana bests Marino (who never returns).
20. Of course - Da Bears 46, Patriots 10. Probably Jim McMahon was MVP.

So how'd I do? Assigning ten points for each year - 3 for each team's score (the hard part!), 1 for each team, 2 for the MVP - here's the scoop:

Years 1-5 - a perfect 50. I do need intervention.
Years 6-10 - the first cracks. SB 6 was Dallas 24, Miami 3, and Staubach was MVP. MVP of 7 was Jake Scott; Czonka was MVP of 8. (Drat.) 9 and 10? Only missed the MVP of 9 (Franco Harris - should have guessed.) 33 of 50.
Years 11-15 - !$%^#*$&(! I SWAPPED 13 AND 14! Everything right, just in the wrong order. Do I get half-credit, or just credit for the winning teams and MVPs? I have to vote number one. Believe me, it hurts just to get 10 instead of 20 on that. 18 of 50 overall; I did badly on the scores.
Years 16-20 - would you believe I did it AGAIN? Yup - 17, and 18. I should have remembered (A) that Miami had a gap between their Super Bowl years and (B) I remembered the 26-21 game because I was a year older. DUH. (On the bright side, Simmons also made the same mistake.) Also, I was 1 point off on the Washington-Miami score: 27-17. So, again, half-credit, which this time means only half of 17. I'm rounding up, so there. Include the perfecto for SB 16 and the near-miss for 20 (Richard Dent, not McMahon, duh) and I'm 29-50.

Grand total is 130 out of 200. Scoring the way Sports Guy did his column, it's a wash- 18 to 18 on winners. He out MVP'd me 14-10, but I got more final scores (10-7). I would have gained on him if we got all the years in the correct order: 13-7 in final scores and we each gain two MVPs. Scoring Simmons the way I scored myself, he tallies 127. (He got the same 9 I did for the 17/18 goof, and 5 bonus points for remembering the split-MVP in Super Bowl 12 - and naming both. That's coming up big in big situations.) But no, I don't want his job; he's superb - just one a lot like it, if you please.

Sorry fans, you're boned

It's just about official: the NHL is committing hara-kiri. Frickin' coconut-heads.

On the positive side, your Mother Puckers recovered for a tie this past week and are 2-1-1. (Click "Winter '05 Standings" under the Dek Hockey heading.) Be there at 8pm this week for the big showdown vs. the first-place Renegades.

My dilemma? I've been the Renegades' goalie for several seasons before my old team came back. It will be odd to look across the rink at those guys. They're also fully capable of making me look stupider than usual. Tune in later to see if I, too, am boned.