Thursday, April 28, 2005

Professional News Slacking

I listen to NJ 101.5-FM in the morning. I haven't a particular fondness for the talk-radio format, and even so, the morning show has so many other balls in the air that, on average, the host takes about seven calls an hour. Unfortunately, music stations fail to wake me in the morning. The jibber-jabber gets it done, and once I'm up, it's nice to hear the traffic and weather.

Their news department is usually reliable as well. Lately, though, they have a peculiar bee in their bonnet over the new proposed stadium for the New York Giants. They don't like the idea of the state assuming the debt on the current field; fair enough, but it's simply an old obligation whose bill has come due, and not a new tax on the citizen (unless Crappy New Jersey™ pulls another in a lengthy series of fast ones). My real issue with the coverage is that it implies that the Giants are screwing over the Sports and Exposition Authority.

It took me ten seconds to Google "publicly-funded sports stadiums" and another five minutes to scroll through my 800 results to find this. If you haven't the time for it all just take quick glance at page 19, the table listing the 26 new stadia built between 1998 and 2003, translated to 2003 dollars. Only TWO of those stadia were paid for wholly by the teams. The taxpayer put up part of the scratch for 18. They paid the entire cost six times, either through floated bond issues, new fees, or an actual tax hike. Just in the NFL, check the invaluable and details will pour out at you.

The Giants, on the other hand, will build their entire stadium themselves and pay $6.3 million a year in rent. It's a good deal for the team, of course, when you factor in the state's assumed costs to build the necessary roads, but in the sports world, this is the best you're going to get.

This post, by the way, took me 26 minutes from log-on to post, and I draw neither a salary nor advertisers.

UPDATE - while typing, I just heard the anchor say that 14% came out to "1-in-6." Not a good day for 101.5-FM, apparently. 14% is less than 1-in-7.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Radio Silence

Sorry about the sudden hiatus. Without going into Bleat-like detail, it involved a series of problems I could not palm off on others: a meeting-room snafu, several loads of laundry, and the Mother of Unfinishable Stories. You really don't want to hear about dirty socks and fabric softener, so we'll focus elsewhere.

I write stories. They vary in length and can be split into two rough groups: Laser Beams and No Laser Beams. Some friends and family pooh-pooh the Laser Beam genre, but I find it to be satisfying on several levels. First, there's the boyish love of adventure; second, there's the inner nerd who half-expects an alien invasion of Crappy New Jersey, to be repelled by a ragtag alliance of night elves and Marines; third, there's a writer's love of challenge. In any given plot the lasers usually cause more problems than they solve. Why did this work, but now it can't? Why didn't the hero zap the villian? Even Superman eventually had to have Kryptonite to give the poor plot a fighting chance.

The current M.O.U.S. has Laser Beams, but instead of cooking up some Kryptonite for the leads, I've decided to use what's already lying around. The basic idea is that even with exotic tools at their disposal, there are still bills to be paid, obligations to meet, and people to help, and large smoking craters are not a universal solution. And lest you think this is simply "Death of a Ferengi" (209th Rule of Acquisition: Attention must be paid, but not in cash), there are many buckles to swash. Our hero shoots, dukes, snoops, and gads about an entire solar system, and still gets in some poker. (Even in space, cops can't solve crimes without at least one visit to a casino or a strip joint.) The secret is knowing when to shoot and when to bluff - and in this case, how much of the responsibility you get to fob off on the very people trying to catch you first.

If I pull it off, I'll be quite pleased. But this has led to some scant output here - most of my recent online time has been over at Dawn Eden's comment sections. You are invited to join the fun. (She has possibly the best post title ever to appear on Internet. Do go.) I'll be making it up to you all over the weekend as best as I can, and thanks for bearing with me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Habemus Nutrition

...or, "Let's Play the Pyramid!"

No white smoke plumed from the chimney of the USDA building, but one can only imagine what was going up from the pipes of the people who designed this misbegotten Dark Side of the Moon homage. We started with Four Food Groups in my youth; I had just gotten used to the weird multi-tiered pyramid they had. Now we've gone to a peverse rainbow of advice - none of which includes how much of each color one actually ought to eat, nor even what each color stands for. Instead, you enter three scraps of personal information into a web-based quizmo and then they tell you what you should have. (Relativism now includes dinner.)

The closet lawyer deep in me says, what if you don't have internet access? Coffeehouses are full of wifi access - will they unduly influence you to have too much caffeine before you get your results? Will the coffeehouses be able to sue since people will take a look and then dash out, abandoning their chai and lattes?

I'd sure like to tell you... but the site was so slow in returning my results, I don't know. I guess I'll hit White Castle like usual.

RELATED: This post from the Coalition's Tree-Hugging Sister mentions the bad rap that carbs are getting. "Those Atkins numbnuts..." she mutters.

True story: a friend stopped over a few days ago to offer me a taste of an Atkins Advantage bar. "Wild Berry Granola," the wrapper said. Upon opening said wrapper, I was assailed by a pungent chemical odor. The bar, in short, resembled a hunk of plywood soaked in fuel additive. "Twelve to a dollar at Costco!" the friend beamed. He overpaid. Ms. Sister, give me the word and I'll score some of Mama Nightfly's famed homemade cream puffs, and we can buttercream together.

A stumbling block to the right people

I can't link you - they require registration and all - but you need not see with your own eyes to know that the New York Times has certain issues with Pope Benedict. Maureen Dowd gives us this fun-times money quote in the op-eds today:

The white smoke yesterday signaled that the Vatican thinks what it needs to bring it into modernity is the oldest pope since the 18th century: Joseph Ratzinger, a 78-year-old hidebound archconservative who ran the office that used to be called the Inquisition and who once belonged to Hitler Youth. For American Catholics - especially women and Democratic pro-choice Catholic pols - the cafeteria is officially closed. After all, Cardinal Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" and "the Enforcer," helped deny Communion rights to John Kerry and other Catholic politicians in the 2004 election.

Well, uh, NO. For one thing, B-16 is only a few months older John XXIII when he started the Second Vatican Council, at which Joseph Ratzinger was so instrumental. For another, the Inquisition began in the days when heresy was considered treasonous. Kings unable to rid themselves of troublesome enemies found it quite easy to accuse their enemies of heresy and kill them "legitimately." The Inquisition steped in and stopped this. In effect, it served as an early dry run of the separation of church and state. I don't expect that to impress Maureen Dowd - only Dowd herself is capable of such a mighty deed - but at the very least, she could notice that the Inquisition (vernacular sense) ended before the United States even began, and it was other denominations burning witches domestically. Time to move on?

That's not all she can't notice. She saw the Hitler Youth thing, but not the rest of the story - Joseph Ratzinger was a conscript, not a volunteer, and risked his life to desert the Wermacht. He became a prisoner of war instead. And John Paul II, who spent his entire life fighting the National Socialists and the Communists, trusted him as his right-hand man. Hell, I taught a class at a YMCA, does that make me one of the Village People?

The obsession over American Catholics is also quite fun. Jonah Goldberg, the NRO mensch,
gets this better than many of my fellow Papists - certainly better than many of his fellow pundits. Andrew Sullivan, for example, is palpably spluttering. Scroll up from the link (and keep going!). The poor man can't stop himself.

We tend to mistake representative democracy as a model for all things, and not just for politics. It's analogous to mistaking all things for political, and thus thinking of political motivations for everything: "front-runners," "impact among demographics," and such else. The College of Cardinals didn't talk about how this selection would play in the Times; they prayed and decided that Ratzinger was the right man to be Pope. When he speaks (here is the English text of his first public address) he isn't thinking about ebbing support in Midwestern dioceses; he prays and speaks the truth as he sees it. The Church doesn't want to accomodate pro-choice Democratic Catholics - it wants to correct them.

So when MoDo hits her mighty conclusion, she winds up facing 180° from reality. There is no such thing as Communion rights - not in the US Constitution, not in the Catechism, nowhere except in her own fever-swamp emissions. If you are in grave sin and unrepentant, the Bible is quite clear on the consequences. Ratzinger spoke on this, not to engineer a particular political outcome, but to admonish Catholic prelates about what their own faith meant. That's his job as a Cardinal. John Kerry falls under this admonition by his own choice. He wasn't publicly excommunicated; nobody wrote a papal bull entitled "Contra Johannes Kerrius."

And now, months after the election, he still falls under this admonition. He still shouldn't be receiving if he hasn't changed his position on abortion. The media stopped thinking about the health of John Kerry's soul the moment Ohio closed the polls. So, who do you think cares about Kerry's welfare more, Cardinal Ratzinger or Maureen Dowd?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

I got the wrong name. In fact I got the wrong man. It's Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger after all.

The man turned 78 three days ago, which I thought would be against him. This is why I am not a Cardinal myself. For that matter, I am not a bookie either; the folks at Paddy Power had the short odds on Benedict for a reason, I suppose.

My brief notes after a half-hour of coverage on ABC (all quotes are approximated):
    1. From the initial statement by the new Holy Father: "The Cardinals have selected me, a humble worker in the field of the Lord. I am consoled that the Lord knows how to work through insufficient instruments." Nice touch of modesty.
    2. They had Cokie Roberts. (Sigh.) She looked as if a skunk had gotten into the studio. It wasn't quite as bad as the friend who asked me if this meant that the arch-conservatives were still in control of the Church. As a young prelate, Ratzinger was an instrumental voice at the Second Vatican Council, and people were all over him for being some sort of Protestant double-agent, a traitor to the true faith. Now he's supposedly Pat Robertson with a collar.
    3. Fr. McBrien impressed me. He praised the new Pope as a humble and self-effacing man, and liked the choice of name: "It signals that he will try to bring an end to the divisiveness within the Church... If he can bring rapproachment and healing with no dilution of doctrine or tradition, it will be a remarkable achievement." I expected worse.
    4. The commentator was less sanguine, citing an older document on the primacy of the Catholic Church, written by Ratzinger, that he quoted as saying that other denominations are deficient. He may well have written it. I hope rather that a Cardinal really does think that; if he's Catholic for a reason, I want to know what that reason is, and see if I agree or not. I want my Catholic prelates to teach Catholicism, much as the Barking Spider wants his pastor to be properly evangelical.
    5. Likewise, worrying about how he's going to be seen by other religions is preposterous, a red herring. He's supposed to be safeguarding our faith, not auditioning for other ones.
    6. World Youth Day happens to be in Cologne, Germany, this year. Benedict XVI is German. Can you say "command appearance"? That place will go bonkers when he shows up.

No pressure or anything

Nobody can put you on the spot quite like an old friend. And, thanks to the Barking Spider, I've been recommended to you as a papal enclave handicapper.

The white smoke went up about a half-hour ago. I'm afraid that I won't live up to the pressure; in fact I've been hanging my own hat on Kathryn Jean Lopez's Corner updates, along with the local news broadcast. As of 12:36 PM, no announcement yet to the new man's identity, however.

My initial thought is that it won't be Cardinal Ratzinger. I like one of the two young Italians (whose names escape me currently), not because of the whole Italian pope thing but because it's likely the Cardinals will choose a young, dynamic priest in ironic counterpoint to John Paul II (who started out exactly that way 26+ years ago). Cardinal Arinze from Africa is also a contender.

Ratzinger may be looked upon unfairly as a chair-warmer - a man who was instrumental during the Second Vatican council forty years ago, and who would keep John Paul's legacy going while a "real pope" was planned. The problem there is that John Paul's declining health was a long-term concern; the Cardinals would have already been doing such planning. And I seriously doubt that the Church would look at it that way; I'm trying to get inside the secular head a little here, and it's such a confined area... Besides, the broadcast heavily features Notre Dame's Fr. Richard McBrien, who can give you all the non-Catholic thought you care to have.

The name? John Paul III seems like a lead-pipe cinch. If it is Cardinal Ratzinger, he may go Leo XIV, or perhaps Gregory (I think it would be VIII). Either choice would rock.

More in a bit...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Mama gets high...

People really do strange things in pursuit of hooch. Via the Barking Spider, a story that gives new life to the old phrase "high-octane beverage."

The post I never wanted to write

A couple of entires down I mentioned the story of a man shooting his son's ex-football coach. One of the dangers of parental misbehavior is that the kid loses all joy in the sport; I never thought to mention the more obvious danger. (Hat tip to the Coalition's Mr. Bingley.)

Just a tragedy? A freak accident? A "terrible mistake"? Or perhaps the inevitable result of misbehaving adults and the in-your-face professional sports gangsta image? There are a lot of people who need to be looking hard in the mirror before we have a run on youth-sized coffins.

Rest in peace, Jeremy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fans of the Cup, Unite

Some intrepid Canadians are taking matters into their own hands, suing for the right to compete for the Stanley Cup since the NHL won't have a champion this year. This renews the fight begun by three Albertans; on their website today is news of the University of Alberta winning the Canadian College championship and the Horse Lake Thunder winning the Albertan Provincial League. As a countrywide champion the University has the right to challenge for the Stanley Cup; Horse Lake's defeated opponent, the Innisfail Eagles, have already done so. When the Allan Cup is decided (April 24th at the latest) that will be one more possible challenger. I'd like to see the Frozen Four champion and their magnificent freshman goalie take their shot, along with the AHL champs once they are crowned (though as NHL affiliates, they may be forbidden).

Friday, April 08, 2005

Gun love

Hey, dads! Is Junior's career flagging? He doesn't get enough playing time? Is the coach an idiot? Just shoot him. And it's not exactly the first time, nor the second. An ESPN search on "violence in youth leagues" returned 17,952 articles. A Google search returned 230,000.

I've coached and refereed in youth roller hockey leagues, so I've been witness to some fairly ridiculous things myself. An opposing player's parent once heckled my goaltender - a boy of nine years old, who had volunteered to try it just that once to let our regular goalie play forward. Once, while volunteering as an assistant, I was threatened by my own head coach. But this beats all.

Sometimes I wish kids would just play in sandlots, yards, and cul-de-sacs the way I remember doing. We learned how to resolve our own problems and enjoyed ourselves without uniforms or scoreboards. Not that I wouldn't have been grateful for Little League, but I think I got the point without the headaches, so I was lucky that way.

You moms and dads may find this incredible, but your children don't enjoy your bon mots or the volume you use to speak them. They're embarassed when you belittle them, their teammates, and their opponents. They begin to hate the game itself when you ref or coach from the stands. (Notice that we have yet to address actual violence.) Nor do you make it better when you add a whistle or clipboard to your caustic tongue. Paying the league fee or volunteering your time is not a punched ticket to indulge your taste for abuse and mayhem.

Sooner or later you know what happens? You lose the kids. I don't mean that they stop playing; they may play harder than ever, so you won't notice they've gone, but it happens. They check out. In high school or younger they play as if for the paycheck (which never comes for most of them). You think they're just imitating their "heroes" on TV, but their heroes are closer to home. They're emulating you. Congratulations.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Thank you, John Paul

Like Bartleby, he now sleeps with kings and counsellors.

I wrote this eight weeks ago about His Holiness; there seems nothing fitting to add except that we're most grateful for what you did and what you meant for all of us. Put in a good word for us with the Boss, please.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pulling it together

UPDATE - The Barking Spider puts hammer to nail:
Can anyone name a Dem politico who would campaign on Terri's "right to die" on '06? My Senator, Bill Nelson, coughed loudly during the voice vote and then jumped into the biggest hole he could find. My congressman and Dem gov candidate in FL, Jim Davis, bleated a little about the sanctity of marriage, voted against the measure and then jumped into the second biggest hole available. With the exception of a few godless Losertarians, most of the LOCAL Tampa Bay media was mildly in favor of not starving the woman to death. It also helps that they think Felos is a fruitcake. Today Felos denied that Terri starved to death. (What, she get hit by a bus?)

Death with dignity? Watch the oldtimer in the Vatican show us all how it's done.
On with the truth, up with the volume.

Let my markets go!

I half-expect Kofi Annan to pop up from the shrubbery with a Ronald Reagan mask, crying "April Fool!" in the wake of this news from the UN. Not that the entire article is happy fun times, as there are deforestation and environmental degradation in the poorer parts of the world, but one of the suggested mechanisms for fighting it is... no, really... private ownership. The theory is that if a person has assets, that person will guard them and seek to maximize their potential, rather than simply let it be wasted.

It seems that free markets might not be the tool of Lucifer, after all.