Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Almost Got Me...

I received an email today:

Hello Your package has been returned to the USPS office. Reason: "Incorrect delivery address" Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office. Thank you.
USPS Global Services.
Sounds good, I'll just download this file and...


What package? I didn't send anything. And... a .zip file? Curious. And... the email says USPS, but it's marked with a "via srs.kundenserver.de."

All this stuff tips off a savvy e-mail user. Something's not right. So I did what I usually do in these situations...

To Google!

And I find this: Ups Virus Warning

So be careful this holiday season. Good rule of thumb... never download a .zip file. Ever.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love Of Deep Dish Pizza May Have Killed CIA Agents, Informants In Iran, Lebanon

This is not a funny story: CIA Spies Caught, Fear Execution

If these agents are executed, it's a tragedy of epic proportions. If the government of Iran can somehow put a kibosh on the killings (perhaps in exchange for recent sanctions against Iran being reconsidered), it's still a major blow to American intelligence operations in the Middle East.

The craziest part is that the spies may have been compromised due to the location where they repeatedly (and seemingly without deviation) chose to meet:
In Beirut, two Hezbollah double agents pretended to go to work for the CIA. Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.

From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers...

One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets.

"We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," the former official said.
Lazy? Or just in love with deep dish... or stuffed crust? It's not something to laugh about, but something that just makes you shake your head and wonder. Isn't it common sense not to always meet in the same place?

After all, the pizza's not even that good.

This never would have happened if they just ordered in Domino's.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Joe Paterno And The General's Daughter

I have quite a few Penn State friends. Did they all initially have rational reactions to the news that their college was covering up for a serial child rapist? No. But it seems, days later, that cooler heads have prevailed, and most of them realize that Joe Paterno, as beloved as he was, had no choice but to leave.

However, school spirit dies hard, and I get the sense that many of them still don't quite understand why they should be mad at Paterno, the kindly old man who "lived in the same McKee St. house for decades. Chatted with us as he walked to practice. Ate ice cream with us at the Creamery. We have studied in the new library wing his money helped build. We have visited the sports museum and spiritual center he also helped build. We have seen him cheering on other Penn State athletes..."

I suggest these people rent "The General's Daughter."

It's not a great movie by any means, filmed at the tail end of John Travolta's cinematic comeback, right before Battlefield Earth sent him back to the C-list. But the flick, about a rape that occurs on a military base, has a plot not dissimilar from what happened at Penn State. A university, in particular a large, football-crazy institution like Penn State, resembles a military outfit in many ways, except with more keggers and pot smoking. In fact, the most popular defense of Joe Paterno's actions, invoked on this lawyer's blog, for example, invokes the phrase "After contacting his chain of command superiors, he let them do their jobs."

In The General's Daughter, John Travolta investigates after a highly respected general's daughter is found naked, legs and arms spread out and staked into the ground with tent poles, strangled to death. Yikeys.

Now, if you don't like spoilers, you might want to skip past this next paragraph and the video.

What Travolta discovers is that the general's daughter was actually recreating something that had happened to her back at West Point. During a training exercise, she was gang-raped by a group of soldiers. She reported this to a man she loved and trusted. Her father, the general. What did this man she loved and trusted do? He covered it up. Thinking it would be tough to get a rape conviction, and not wanting to sully the reputation of West Point, he makes the whole thing go away. The daughter, scarred from the incident, recreates the scene years later to give her father "something he can't cover up," but her father walks away, leaving her there. The daughter is then discovered by one of her original rapists, who kills her. Travolta, who previously admired and respected the general, lays the blame where it falls:

Travolta and his partner, meanwhile, have no problem tracking down and convicting all of the men who raped the general's daughter... if only they'd been able to do it sooner. Meanwhile, the person who could have saved the general's daughter finds his career destroyed, his life's work tarnished.

This is what a cover-up does. It allows an already tragic situation to get far worse. In both The General's Daughter, and at Penn State, a trusted, beloved figure had the power to save lives-- and they didn't.

Maybe Paterno truly did believe, at first, that the "chain of command" would remedy the situation. But as the years passed (and Jerry Sandusky raped more and more boys), he certainly could no longer believe that. Did his love of Penn State, and his friendship with his longtime co-coach trump his concern for a child's welfare?

Why should Penn Staters feel angry at Paterno? The same reason John Travolta feels so much anger towards the "villain" in The General's Daughter. This "villain" may not have committed the actual rape and murder, but he betrayed the trust, love, and respect of the person who came to him for help. In a place where "Joe Pa" is the general, he was the one the witness of this rape went to for advice on what to do. The right thing for the child would have been to call the police. All of us know this. We also know, sadly, what "Joe Pa" did instead.

So, Penn State fans, watch The General's Daughter and when the credits roll, ask yourself this: Do you forgive the "villian?" Or are you as angry as Travolta is? Then ask yourself if what Paterno did is really so different.

Actually, it is.

What Paterno did happened in real life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Happens When You Fall For The Free Starbucks/iPad/Anything Facebook Scam

Never a good sign when you log into Facebook and your newsfeed looks like this:

While it would be wonderful to believe that somehow, EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU KNOW, is in on a GREAT, UNBELIEVABLE FREE DEAL, when you see this sort of thing happening, red flags should immediately go up.

First, you should be struck at how many of your friends, including people you barely know, are touting the deal. This may include people who normally don't post things at all. People who haven't posted a status update in years. Why now?

Second, look at that deal. $50! That's like 10 coffees! Unbelievable! Yes, unbelievable.

Third, look at the web address. Something odd. While they all sound, vaguely coffee-related... they're all different. And don't have that comforting ".com" address.

This is because it's a scam. Here's what happens when you click it.

First, it insists that you share the deal with all of your friends in order to "activate" the freebee. This is why you see so many people sharing the link. This step comes before people may realize things are amiss. Sheeple! Bah bah!

Then, it leads to a site that asks you to take a survey. This site surreptitiously loads tracking software onto your computer (most browsers will not warn you about this). It does this EVEN IF YOU DON'T FILL OUT THE SURVEY. From this moment on, any move you make online will be tracked by whomever created the survey page. And guess what, it wasn't Starbucks.

The survey will ask for personal information. This information is used to figure out how old you are, where you live, what your email address is, what your passwords are, what credit cards and banks you use... etc. With this full portrait, some guy in Nigeria, or elsewhere, can easily impersonate you online. They may use your information to hack into your email and accounts, steal money from you and the people you know.

If you clicked on the link:
1. Immediately clear your cookies and internet cache.

2. Run a (reliable) anti virus program to make sure your computer hasn't been infected with malware (bad software).

3. Then change your Facebook password, email password, and any other passwords you believe may have been compromised (any site you visited after clicking the link).

4. Finally, warn others that the link is indeed a scam. Report it to Facebook.

In the end, a scam is very easy to spot. If Starbucks, or any other business, was to offer a deal, they'd offer it on their official Facebook page or website. If the deal is coming from somewhere else, it's not legit.

Second, look at what they're giving away: $50 Fifty Dollars!?!?! A free iPad???! These are incredibly generous giveaways, far beyond what one would expect from an American business (have you even been following Occupy Wall Street?) Even Groupon only takes off 50%, and that's often fraudulent.

Starbucks, Apple, and other companies would never give away so much of their product for free. Scammers rely on American greed to spread their scams far and wide. If they simply offered a 10% off coupon, their scam would seem more realistic, but it wouldn't be enough to motivate a lot of people to fill out the whole survey and go through the entire process.

If you see a deal that's too good to be true, it is. That's a rule of thumb you should always follow.

If you really want to be a wishful thinker, at least do yourself the favor of Googling the deal, and visiting the corporate website first. You can check out mainstream media too-- if a deal this big really was being offered, it would certainly be covered.

Think before you link. You'll be thankful you did.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who's Searching For You On Facebook?

Ever want to know who's looking you up on Facebook but not requesting you as a friend? Just click on "People You May Know" on your Facebook's homepage.

Facebook draws these "People You May Know" from several different sources, not just your email contacts or address book.

"People You May Know helps you find people you are likely to know. We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported using friend finder and many other factors."

The most obvious of these other sources, and least controversial, is people with whom you have mutual friends. Some kid who has 45 friends in common with you is most likely someone you know.

Then of course, Facebook knows who works at the same company, or goes to the same school as you, from the info that appears in your profile.

Perhaps less obvious, they also know your IP address, so people using the same internet connection as you may pop up (now you know who's stealing your WiFi.)

However, you may notice suggested people with whom you have no mutual friends. People who aren't in your address book. People who share no school or affiliation that you've listed on your profile. People who have never used your internet connection. You may notice, though, that some of these people do, in fact, look familiar. They may be an acquaintance, a waiter at a restaurant you like, your landlord. You don't even know their last name! How the heck did Facebook know they might know you?

Does Zuckerberg have a zeppelin in the sky from which he watches and records our every human interaction?

Possibly. But that's not how they come to suggest these people. They suggest them because that person has searched for your name on Facebook. According to the internet message board chatter.

Take a moment for that to sink in. Now recall all the people you may have looked up on Facebook, including ex-girlfriends, the hot barista down at the Starbucks, that guy who lives in apartment 12 B. If you typed their name into Facebook's search box, you will pop up on their "People You May Know" list.

Just remember, when you search on Facebook, you're not searching anonymously. You're tipping off whoever you're searching for. You're letting them know you've been looking for their profile.

Rumors are circulating that Facebook is even sending emails to these people, saying that you'd like them to join Facebook. While not confirmed, this is pretty alarming.

Up until now, most of the warnings surrounding Facebook have centered around the information you choose to reveal. This however, goes much deeper-- Facebook using information you had no idea was being revealed at all... and giving you no choice to protect your privacy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Someone Is Holding Time Warner Cable Hostage For Free Cable

UPDATE (10:03 AM 10/6): And I'm in the Village Voice! Also, cable went out again last night. Is the super up to more shenanigans?

UPDATE (3:10 PM): The Cable and Internet are back! Either Time Warner broke into the building or caved and gave the super what he wanted. Now I can go back to griping about a faceless cable company instead of griping about some random guy.

I live in the East Village. My Internet and Cable have been out since yesterday. I missed last night's Yankees game. I couldn't watch Monday Night Football. My friend in London who is using a Slingbox connected to my TV to watch American television is stuck watching episodes of bizarre British game shows.

I called Time Warner Cable. I was instantly hit with a recorded message that there's a service outage in my area affecting internet, cable, phone, you name it. The message said the service reps have no additional information. I waited on hold to speak with one anyway. I wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Finally, I connected with a service rep. He sounded young. Stumbled a little bit over the script he was reading. I assume he's new. This will be important in a moment. I asked him what the heck was happening. And he told me this:

The box that controls the cable, internet, pretty much everything else for Time Warner Cable in my area of the East Village is located in the basement of a building. In order to service this box, Time Warner Cable needs to contact the super of the building and be let in.

The super of the building, according to the service rep, REFUSES TO LET TIME WARNER INSIDE.

"Why is he refusing?" I asked.

"He wants free cable," the rep responded.

Apparently, Time Warner has tried to reason with the man, but he refuses to budge. Today, he's refused to answer the door or his phone. He's cut off all communication.

"It's a very unusual situation," the rep said.

This pisses me off to no end. So some super on a power trip is the reason that myself and who knows how many others can't watch TV or go online. We all have to pay, and this super asshole thinks he's entitled to free internet because Time Warner has a box in his building. The super doesn't give a damn that he's screwing all the rest of us.

"Where's the building?" I asked.

Now, an experienced rep, I would imagine, would never tell this information. But I'm guessing the friendly script laid out in front of the reps doesn't cover a scenario where a rogue super holds his community's cable service hostage.

"It's on 2nd Ave. I'm not sure I should tell you the exact address," the rep said.

"I understand," I said. "It's just that its ridiculous that one man should stop everybody else from getting cable."

"Yes sir," the rep agreed. "How close are you to 2nd Ave.?"

"I live between 1st and 2nd, closer to 2nd. I'd love to go over there and try to speak with the super to help resolve this."

"Well," the rep said, "I can't see any reason I can't give you the address."

I can see a few reasons. And for those reasons, I won't post the address here. Yet.

Should I call the guy and try to end this standoff? Visit the address and knock on the door? Release the address? Or just the Super's name, so I can publicly shame the guy?

Or should I do nothing, hope Time Warner Cable gives the guy free cable before I get home from work?

Help me decide, America.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is It Too Late For Peace In The Middle East??

"The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were [Yitzhak] Rabin's assassination and [Ariel] Sharon's stroke." --Former President Bill Clinton

I agree with Bill 100%. He points out that Rabin and Sharon were the only leaders of Israel willing to make a hugely unpopular decision in order to secure a peace deal: give up the vast majority of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

If you've ever been to Israel, you know why this proposition is so frightening to Israelis. Israel is not a large country--at its narrowest point, only 9.3 miles--and every inch of territory they give up provides potential terrorists with a variety of new targets easily reachable by rockets and suicide bombers. East Jerusalem is literally on top of the holiest place in the Jewish religion. The Arab market and the Jewish one are only footsteps from each other. If the Palestinian Authority has control of such strategic areas, then all of Israel is threatened should Arab armies try to destroy the country (as they've already attempted to do at least twice).

These are legitimate fears, but they are fears that come with a cost. That cost is a lasting peace agreement, Israel's only realistic hope for continued survival.

As a leader, Netanyahu has used these fears to justify settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which has accelerated at a pace not seen since Israel's initial founding. The territory these settlements occupy are like long roots reaching deep into the West Bank, and they complicate the reality of a viable Palestinian state. Just look at this mess:

(VIA the New York Times)

The orange areas are the largest concentrations of settlements (red dots are all the settlements). Can you see why the Palestinians are a bit bothered by Netanyahu's stance? The settlements are a land grab, even if you want to call it a "buffer zone."

It is Netanyahu's actions--primarily his support and encouragement of the growing settlements-- that led to today's dramatic events: Palestine has asked to be formally recognized as a country by the U.N.

The request from Abbas comes amidst a U.N. that is increasingly willing to accept it. And that willingness doesn't arise from anti-semitism, it arises from Israel's failure over the past few years to show even the slightest willingness in negotiating a settlement. Netanyahu hasn't even maintained the status quo-- he's actively been promoting new settlements which make a peace deal that much harder to reach.

Such a policy may be popular among right-wing Israelis, and even moderate and liberal Israelis do not exactly trust the idea of "land for peace." But by acting as an instigator, instead of a voice of reason, Netanyahu has seriously undermined any real effort to bring Israel and Palestine to a workable compromise at the bargaining table.

What has Netanyahu's hard line stance accomplished? Besides win him votes? Israel's popularity and negotiating position within the world community has declined, the Palestinians are closer than ever to creating a nation on their terms, rather than a negotiated settlement with Israel, and the relationship between Israel and its greatest, most important ally, the United States is strained considerably.

Assuring Israel's security is one thing. Undermining Israel's security to win elections and score points with the powerful ultra-religious lobby is another. A peace agreement assures Israel that it has a leg to stand on. The current situation leaves Israel continually twisting in the wind, at the mercy of politics and the whims of world leaders.

Clinton, Rabin and Sharon all understood this. They recognized that a peace deal wouldn't just create a Palestinian state... it would forever legitimize the Israeli one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pity The Millionaires

Robbie Republican

By Robbie Republican

Hello my fellow patriots. You're looking well, for now. I say, "for now," because if Obama and the devil spawn of the Democratic party has their way, all of us will soon be reduced to dressing in rags and mining for scraps of food in the bottom of our neighbors' trash cans in order to survive.

Obama's nefarious plan to fix the economy is two fold. First, spend nearly a half a trillion government dollars to fund construction projects, invest in new technologies and train new workers. Secondly, raise taxes on people making a million dollars a year or more.

I know, I know. I feel your outrage. Obama (Hussein) is basically proposing the same thing that criminal Robin Hoodlum did back in the day. Robbing the rich, who use their wealth for so many great things, and giving their money to the greedy, immoral poor, who will only use it to spend on things like drugs and hookers. No wonder my good friend Bill O'Reilly is threatening to quit if the legislation is enacted.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) is a perfect example of who this policy will hurt. He makes only a paltry $174,000 a year for his service to the country. And he barely makes $6.3 million a year from investments, his Subway franchises, and UPS stores. 6.3!!! That's such a tiny, tiny number!!

That's not all. With his tiny, minuscule income, King John needs to support his 500 employees, all of who DEMAND at at least $7.25 an hour for spreading mustard on turkey and licking stamps. He also has to pay for rent, equipment and supplies for the stores he owns. After that, he must spend nearly half a million dollars to buy new properties, create new stores and hire more workers. Would you believe this vicious cycle leaves him with only $200,000 to spend on food for his family?

I believe, because John Fleming is a rich man, and rich men are always honest and never exaggerate. Imagine how you and I would live if we only had $200,000 a year to spend on food for our family. I don't even want to imagine it. We'd probably have to fire our chef and eat at Denny's.

If John is struggling to get by now, just imagine what happens if Obama raises taxes on millionaires. John would be forced to close all his stores and fire all his employees. He'd have no choice but to abandon his mansion (who would be able to afford to buy it?) and live on the streets with his wife and their four adult children.

Meanwhile, all that government money gives the poor more money for drugs and pornography. John, his wife and four children now have to face an apocalyptic wasteland in which gangs of cracked out rapists roam the countryside, leaving a trail of wanton destruction and misery in their wake.

I dare not speculate further. There may be children reading this. But fear not. The Republicans will never let it happen, because unlike Democrats, we care about our country.

See, Republicans like me know the truth. The only way to save the economy is to stop giving so much money to the poor. We need to get rid of medicare and medicaid, get rid of the social security shell game, close public schools, eliminate affordable housing, and stop providing welfare. With all those crutches gone, the poor will instantly drape themselves in the finest suits and dresses (which I just know they have hiding in their closets), and will finally start trying to find jobs.

Where will they find jobs? Well, use the money we save to give another government bailout for mega corporations and millionaires. John Fleming will no longer have to fear his family going hungry. If John has only 500 sandwich makers and UPS drivers now, just think of how many he can hire if we make the Bush tax cuts permanent and reward the rich with even more money? Think of all the jobs that will be created! If we play our cards right, we can have a Subway restaurant on every street corner in America and they'll even deliver subs to your door via... you guessed it, UPS! By the Lord Jesus Christ, no one will go hungry again!

Because that's the way the economy works. Make the rich richer and it all trickles down, solving poverty and world hunger in one fell swoop. Heck, we even get to all be as healthy as that Jared guy. National Healthcare, get bent.

It hasn't happened yet, of course. Not yet. But once the Republicans are in charge again, it'll definitely happen. This time. Unlike the other times we tried it. Because this time will be different than the previous times. No Enron or Lehman Brothers to screw it up this time. Trickle down, this time for sure. It'll be proven correct, mark my words.

'Till next time, as always, I'm Robbie Republican. See you around the country club... for now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Airline To Offer "Weep Warnings" To Passengers

Virgin Atlantic airlines announced today that they will flash "weep warnings" before the beginning of emotional films shown aboard their flights.

I could have used that before watching "Up" on one flight. I had to hide my tears from the hot chick next to me, and it wasn't easy.

Dammit, just cried again now watching this clip.

Thank you, Virgin Atlantic, for looking out for my tear ducts!

Of course, the weep warning system isn't quite perfected yet:
"The movies "Water For Elephants" and "Just Go With It" will be the first films to carry the warnings."
"Just Go With It?" Well, according to the reviews, I guess there's a chance you'll cry over the state of Adam Sandler's career.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Jews and Muslims, So Happy Together?

The controversy over opening a Palestinian chicken restaurant next to the sacred land of Goldblatt's Deli may never end, but in America, there's no greater friend to Muslims than the Jews.

That's according to a recent study conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center.

Whereas only 56% of Protestants believe Muslims living in the U.S. are loyal to the country, 80% of Jews do. Protestants and Catholics are far more likely to believe Muslims are sympathetic to the goals of Al-Qaeda.

Of course, Jews know all too well the results of blaming an entire religious group for all of a nation's ills.

So let us break challah and pita together, and dip them in hummus, and lay the blame for the world's craziness where it really belongs.

The British.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Point of No Return

"Just as a consumer with a lower credit score has to pay higher interest rates on their credit card, a downgrade of the Treasury's debt rating would raise the cost of borrowing. That would increase the nation's interest payments on fresh debt, driving the government even deeper into deficit." -MSNBC

Keeping the debt ceiling the way it is won't reduce debt. It will increase it. All Congress needs to do is do what they've always done for every other president since the beginning of time, including President Bush I and II and President Reagan. The Republicans refuse. Because?

Well, two theories.

One, they really are that stupid. They really do think that debt ceiling and debt are the same thing, and by refusing to raise the ceiling, they're somehow magically reducing debt.

Two, they really want this disaster. They hope for it. With the economy finally starting to recover, they see their chances of power slipping away. If the country crashes, they can play the blame game and convince people it's somehow all the democrats fault.

Anyone have a reason that actually makes the Republicans look smart and not evil? Let me know. I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Apocalypse Now

Obama walked out on Eric Cantor yesterday. Good for him.

Keeping the debt ceiling the same will not reduce the national debt. It will not create jobs or end welfare once and for all. The only thing it will do is cause the United States to lose it's position of power in the world, most likely permanently.

Why? Well, lets put it this way. Having debt is bad. Not paying your debts... that's worse.

Unless the debt ceiling is raised, the U.S. will not have enough cash to meet it's financial obligations. Which, yes, includes entitlements and checks for government workers (republicans don't really give a crap about that), but which also includes people who hold American bonds. Bonds are the things the United States sells when they need to borrow... they're like an IOU. People buy those IOUs because they know the United States is good for it. The U.S. is good for it because they can always issue more bonds to raise money to pay off those cashing in their bonds. Yes, the U.S. borrows money to pay it's debts. Maybe you've done the same thing, asking your parents for some money to pay off your credit card bill.

If the U.S. can no longer borrow money to pay its workers or impoverished people, the thinking goes, they will also not be able to pay bondholders. Those IOUs become worthless slips of paper. And that's when everybody stops buying U.S. bonds. And that's when the people who own U.S. bonds get mad that they're never getting their money back. And most of those bond holders are other countries with only friendly-because-its-financially-prudent ties to us.

Do you see where I'm going with this? We don't raise the debt ceiling, suddenly our government doesn't get paid. And while it's nice to pretend the people who help run this country would gladly work for free... that's not the case. Social services, protective services, everything we rely on to keep us safe begins to fall apart. The impoverished people of this country suddenly lose their homes. Families starve. Inevitable backlash ensues. Violence. Chaos.

Then the other countries who hold our bonds, China, Saudi Arabia, no longer have any financial incentive to help us in any way. Terrorism efforts fall by the wayside. Even our soldiers don't get paid.

America falls to pieces. And the pieces are so worthless nobody wants to pick them up.

Maybe anarchy sounds pretty good to Eric Cantor. But it sounds damn scary to me. Let's reduce the national debt... not destroy our nation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reflections On Derek Jeter's 3000th Hit, Life

I was there. Three words that are oh so satisfying.

I bought the tickets off of Stubhub... well over a month before the game. Well before Derek Jeter was injured, delaying the inevitable milestone. I bought them for my dad, my mom, my sister and myself for Father's Day. I had no idea back then what a momentous occasion we'd be witnessing.

The video above doesn't quite do the job of capturing the euphoria of Jeter's big moment. All the Jeter-haters out there who cry "overrated" won't ever fully understand it, but I know what the Yankee captain's achievement meant to me, and what it probably meant to many others around my age who grew up to be Yankees fans.

You see, the Yankees of my youth were a mercenary organization (and some would argue, still are). They hired the best guns and sluggers from around the league, mostly guys who were too old or had worn out their welcome in other locales. In the late 80s and early 90s, when my baseball fandom was being developed, the Yankees resembled the cast of The Expendables, a collection of action stars past their prime. Sure, there was Donnie Baseball, but back problems signaled his career was near an end.

Then came 1995. I was 13 years old. My Bar Mitzvah theme was "A Night At The Ballpark." For me, that was also the year that cemented the Yankees as my favorite team. I'd grown up rooting for the Mets, against the rest of my family's wishes. My favorite players were David Cone and Darryl Strawberry. But the Mets had betrayed me. By 1992, they'd given away the players I loved. In 1995, The Yankees signed the Straw and Cone. That won me over.

They also briefly promoted a rookie shortstop, Derek Jeter. I identified with the rook, after all, he wasn't much older than me-- only 8 years. I watched his debut against Seattle on TV. The box score says he went 0-5, but I don't remember that. I just remember the announcers saying how much potential he had, how he was a top prospect. Instantly, I imagined myself in his shoes.

I grew up. So did Jeter. He hit his first Major League homer Opening Day, just before I graduated middle school. That summer, I watched him hit his way to becoming Rookie of the Year. I was in the common TV area of my dorm freshman year of boarding school when I saw Jeter hit a deep shot that was caught by a kid just a little younger than me in the home run stands, tying the first game of the American League Championship series. My freshman year of college, for Halloween, I dressed as a Mets fan that had been beaten by Yankees fans-- a tribute to the Subway Series. I won a camera as first prize in my dorm's costume contest, Jeter won the World Series MVP award. This year, as Derek has seemingly entered a new stage in his career, so have I-- I moved in with the girl I love and have come to terms with the fact that at age 29, adulthood is here whether I'm ready for it or not.

So in many ways, it felt like Derek and I grew up together. He was the first player I watched transform from a rookie, to an all-star, and now, in his twilight years, to a legend. In an age where we're reminded daily that sports are a business and the players we love appear on ESPN to announce their departures, it's rare for a fan of any team to be able to watch a player grow up in their backyard. So it was fitting that on the day he reached a milestone only 27 others had reached before, I was in the stands, cheering him on.

I'd seen Derek's 3000th hit before, playing the video game MVP Baseball 2005. In my virtual franchise, it had taken him until 2012, due to injuries (I screamed at my Nintendo Gamecube, "Don't you know Derek never gets injured!?"). With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded and down by three, Jeter came to bat. I followed the pitch in and mashed the A button, pushing the control stick right. The ball sailed. An opposite field, grand slam homer. In my head, the crowd roared. The video game announcer congratulated virtual Jeter on the milestone.

Back to reality. Real life doesn't go like that. If it's one thing I've learned growing up, it's that perfect endings only happen in movies. I've experienced many successes and many happy moments, but rarely has my life lived up to the wild fantasies of my imagination.

Jeter's first at bat against David Price, he hit a roller that snuck through the left side of the infield. The type of hit he's been getting recently, as the bat has slowed. The crowd went wild, not because they were impressed with the hit, but because they all were thinking the same thing. He'll be at bat at least 4 more times this game-- I have a shot at witnessing history.

Then came Jeter's next at bat. He worked the count. Fouled a pitch off. The crowd chanted, "Deh-rek Jee-ter!!" over and over again. Price wound up and delivered.

Everybody knew the ball was gone the second Derek swung. It wasn't a grand slam to the opposite field, but it seemed like that, something that happens in video games and dreams, not real life.

Jeter ended the game 5 for 5. Perfect. Won the game single-handedly. And while he may be batting .257 on the year with diminishing range and increasing critics, he looked like the kid I watched when I was just a kid myself, all those years ago.

I was there. So were the others in the stands, screaming their voices out. So were the Yankees fans watching at home. Yes, he's a mensch, and yes, he plays hard, always, but the reason we love Derek Jeter is bigger than that. He's been our benchmark, our standard, a physical embodiment of the best bell curve the course of our lives could follow, from potential, to stardom, to marrying Minka Kelly.

Jeter's 3000th hit wasn't just a milestone for him. It was a milestone for us.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Alternatives To The Big Apple Barbecue

Yes, this is the actual crowd at the Big Apple BBQ

Every year, thousands of New Yorkers and tourists turn out for the Big Apple BBQ Festival in Madison Square Park. The outdoor event is a lively scene with some great barbecue from around the country... but it also has the potential to be annoyingly crowded, incredibly overpriced (if you spring for more than one plate or the fast pass), and, depending on the weather, a sopping, uncomfortable mess.

But when that smell of BBQ sauce hits your nostrils, lets face it, you're going to be in the mood for some smoky slathered meat. Should you pay $125 for the "Fast Pass" and wonder how in the hell comfort food could be so expensive? Or wait in line for half an hour or more for a small $8 plate of food you'll have to consume while standing awkwardly against a building or sitting uncomfortably on a bale of hay? Luckily, there are some nearby alternatives to get your BBQ fix and fixin's...

1. R.U.B., Righteous Urban Barbeque (208 W. 23rd St.) is, in my opinion, the best deal and best barbecue in the Madison Square area. They slow smoke their meat for up to 17 hours, and boast that the restaurant doesn't own a microwave. The brisket is my personal favorite, and I recommend getting a meat platter, which comes with two sides (the cole slaw, onion strings, corn bread, and baked beans are standouts). Get the burnt ends, which always sell out fast. A one meat platter will run you $15.50, but you'll get more food, be in an air conditioned space free from the crowds, and have a view of several TVs to watch the ballgame.

2. Hill Country (30 W. 26th St.) is a Texas-style barbecue market with New York prices, but the lunch specials are under $12 and include a side. The "moist" brisket is a winner. Sunday night they offer a "feed yer family" special from 4PM-10PM that includes a 1/4lb lean brisket, one pork spare rib, one beef rib, a quarter chicken, two sides, plus dessert for $20.

3. Blue Smoke (116 E. 27th St.) is where the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party began, and you can find their crew dishing out Texas Salt & Pepper beef ribs at Madison Square Park. While my friends weren't too impressed, New York Magazine calls it "an ingenious Manhattan BBQ joint." Sandwiches start at $11.50, the rib sampler for two will set you back a hefty $19 dollars each. And that doesn't include sides.

4. Wildwood Barbeque (225 Park Ave South) is notorious for slow service, but the Stephen Hanson restaurant serves up great Texas-smoked brisket and a lot of whiskey options. Personally, my favorite item is the sweet pickles. The Pit Sampler--Kansas City Baby Backs, Spare Ribs, Sliced Brisket, Pulled Pork, Smoked Sausage, Smoked Chicken, Cornbread, Coleslaw and 2 sides will serve 4 for $20 a head.

5. Dinosaur BBQ (700 W. 125th St.) If you're up for a subway ride, NYC's best barbecue is only 25 minutes away from Madison Square Park. Walk five minutes to 23rd. St. and 7th Ave., and take the 1 all the way to 125th street. Splitting a Traditional Sampler (1/4 Chicken(leg + thigh), 1/4 Rack of ribs & sliced Texas Beef Brisket) will only run two people $9.25 each, or for 4 bucks more, you can up the sampler to a 1/2 chicken, 1/2 rack. There's also the sweetheart deal for two, $15 each, which will get you a full rack of ribs + 4 sides. Or you could get a small, flimsy paper plate of Dino at the Big Apple BBQ. Your choice.

6. Brother Jimmy's (181 Lexington Ave.) I didn't want to put this here, because Brother Jimmy's is really more of a frat house than a BBQ joint, but the food is good and well priced, and if you arrive at the right hour, you'll actually be able to eat your meal without someone yelling "NO WAY!! HE DID NOT! NO HE DIDN'T!!! WHO WANTS TO BUY ME A BREWSKIE?" None of the sandwiches will run you more than 11 dollars, including a side and pickles. And if you do want to get blitzed with Chi Alpha Beta Zeta, there's always Swamp Water, alcohol and juice in a 64 oz. fish bowl. Ask for extra straws.

Other Big Apple BBQ Alternatives:

7. Manzo/Eataly (200 5th Avenue) At the southwest corner of Madison Square Park, you'll find Eataly, chef Mario Batali's behemoth Italian food superstore. Inside, you'll find 12 different mini restaurants, including Manzo, a carnivore's dream. The menu's not cheap, it is a Batali restaurant after all, but isn't a slow roasted beef rib with tarragon and spin rosso polenta worth $21 bucks more?

8. No. 7 Sub (1188 Broadway) is not a barbecue joint, it's a sandwich shop... but its unique offerings can sometimes hew towards the smoky side of the palate. Sandwich offerings change throughout the year-- the roast beef and the Montreal-style "smoked meat" sandwich were my favorites. (last I checked, Meat options included Roast Pork with cheddar, Melon, Chinese Mustard, and Shishito Peppers; and braised short ribs with Daikon Salad, Coconut Mayo. They also offer homemade sodas.

9. Red Farm Stand and 3Bs (839 Avenue of the Americas) are parts of a high-end, futuristic-looking food court called Foodparc inside the Hotel Eventi, and while they're not BBQ places, they offer up some tasty, spicy meat. The Pastrami Egg Roll from Red Farm is flaky and crispy, stuffed with Katz's pastrami and served with a zesty honey mustard sauce. Get it to go, eat it in Madison Square Park and chuckle as the passerby ask which stall you got it from. The Short Rib Bun, Duck Bun, BBQ Spare Ribs and BBQ duck are all on the sweet side of the tender red meat spectrum, but they're all delicious. At 3Bs, you can get a Pat La Frieda's special Hanger blend burger and a lot of bacon infused options. Everything is at fast-food level prices and can be ordered quickly thanks to a self-service touchscreen ordering system. UPDATE: Red Farm is now open in the West Village.

10. Soul Fixin's (371 W. 28th St.) (Closed Sunday), is not a barbecue restaurant as much as its a Soul Food restaurant, but those two things often go hand in hand. The tiny hole-in-the-wall is easy to pass by, and there's only a few tables, but inside you can get some terrific meatloaf glazed with barbecue sauce, candied sweet potatoes, fried chicken and sweet tea.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bad Intel

Stoners in New York were excited by a Daily Intel blog post this morning...

Unfortunately, there's a reason that link is to NBC Connecticut...

Oh Noreen!! This is why no blog posts should be made before 10 in the morning.

Sorry stoners. You'll have to go to Yale to avoid jail time. Like George W.

In the meantime, I commend the great state of Connecticut. Decriminalize, not legalize. (click the link for my reasons why) It's a happy medium.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Republicans Are Holding You, And America, Hostage

Debt is bad. We all know that, right? That's why your parents always tell you to pay down your credit cards, why Free Credit Score Dot Com commercials warn you won't get that car of your dreams. Debt leads to losing everything you own, ending only in suicide or starvation.

So it stands to reason that debt is also bad for America. If the deficit grows, the future of America should be just as bleak, ending in the break-up of the United States into tiny, feudal kingdoms, ruled by armed thugs wearing spike studded football shoulder pads driving around in flame-throwing motorcycles.

So why, good Americans, would we raise the "debt ceiling" without first cutting spending? Republicans, good stewards of our economy who have never, ever increased the national debt, ever, ever ever, are asking that question. And they're also answering that question, refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless austere measures are taken by those out-of-control Democrats.

There's just one problem.

The debt ceiling is not the same thing as the national debt.

Let that marinate for a moment. "National Debt" and "Debt Ceiling" both have the word "Debt" in it, so to an unintelligent person, they may look the same. But they're not.

"National Debt" is how much we're in the hole. "Debt Ceiling" is how much we're allowed to borrow.

While a higher debt ceiling means more borrowing, and therefore, a higher national debt, this DOES NOT MEAN THAT KEEPING THE DEBT CEILING AS IT IS REDUCES THE NATIONAL DEBT OR KEEPS IT THE SAME.

In fact, it actually causes the opposite to happen.

The U.S. is at the debt limit now. And that means it can no longer borrow money. We've established that the government now runs a deficit, and has very large debt. So if it can no longer borrow money, that means it can no longer pay its bills.

According to Slate:

The Treasury would no longer be able to issue new bonds, meaning that the United States would eventually start failing to pay its bills (like Social Security payments) and to service its outstanding debt (paying bondholders interest). The world bond market would likely panic, raising borrowing costs for all individuals and businesses. Moreover, the United States' borrowing costs would never fall as low again—investors would never fully trust the United States to pay back what it promises.

That's just the first stage. Then the stock market collapses to Great Depression levels. Millions are laid off overnight. The U.S. is no longer the world's superpower. We're Greece.

In other words, the apocalypse happens now.

With businesses failing and millions out of work, the U.S. tax base shrinks. Not only can the government not afford to pay anybody, now, it doesn't even have the money to keep the lights on in the Capitol building.

The United States breaks up into tiny, feudal kingdoms, ruled by armed thugs wearing spike studded football shoulder pads driving around in flame-throwing motorcycles.

This is reality. It's undisputed. Failing to raise the debt ceiling will be a catastrophe that will permanently end America as we know it.

And the Republicans are threatening to do it.

Hmm. Maybe these guys are on to something.

It's the equivalent to threatening a bank robber with a nuclear detonation if he doesn't put down the gun. Sure, a nuke would stop the bank from being robbed, but... you know... the bank's kind of a moot point after the mushroom cloud.

Debt is bad. We all know it is. But there are better ways to force the government to take it seriously other than threatening the extinction of the United States. There's better ways to reduce the national debt than reducing our country to ashes.

It's time to tell the Republicans to put down the nukes already.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

If You're Looking For An Apartment In NYC...

June is a popular move-in time in New York City. It's tough to find a place that will perfectly suit your needs and isn't being fought over by hundreds of people. But if you've always dreamed of living in the heart of Soho, in your very own "artist's one bedroom," with eat-in kitchen, exposed brick, amazing city views, and "A shower big enough for a few of your friends", I've found the place for you-- 7 Spring Street:

Fabulous Funky Artist 1 Bed- SO MUCH Charm and Character

Be the only one to live in in a 1 bed in proper Nolita for $1600 a month

Located: on Spring between Bowery & Elizabeth

– Shared patio and yard
– Amazing city views with parks gardens and patios
– Bedroom fits a king bed
– Antique original moldings and doors
– Exposed brick throughout
– 5th floor walk up with means drenched with direct light
– Eat in Kitchen
– Built in book selves
– A shower big enough for a few of your friends – it’s actually bigger then the eat in kitchen… this is a classic RARE TO NONE. No one has a shower quite like this shower.. BE THE FIRST. You could set up a small dining area in the shower… Must see to believe.

I'm seeing it. I don't believe it.

Sort of reminds me of another place...

It's hard being a Realtor.

UPDATE: The price just dropped $50. And the new listing does not highlight the group shower.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Just A Quick Thing To Think About Before We Start Blaming Pakistan

It's pretty hard to believe the Pakistani government knew nothing about Bin Laden's whereabouts, given he was living next to their equivalent of West Point. But before we start questioning U.S. aid to Pakistan, lets draw on a little bit of history here.

U.S. aid was responsible for pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Ironically, some of this money went to Osama Bin Laden, then a young, anti-Soviet jihadist.

Then, the U.S. pulled its aid to Afghanistan. Since the Soviets were defeated, the U.S. mission was deemed complete.

What was left behind was a war-torn, battered country with fractured leadership. Into the void stepped the Taliban. We know what that led to.

There are, no doubt, corrupt elements inside Pakistan. It's the chief reason why Obama approved the special ops mission inside Pakistan's borders without letting the Pakistani government know about it first. It's been well-established that the Pakistani intelligence agency and the government are as leaky as the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

But the reality is, the leakiness of the Pakistani Intelligence community exists because of its reliance on double agents and actual terrorists for information. They operate by letting the little fish go in hopes of catching the big fish. They operate effectively by gaining the trust of real terrorists-- which can sometimes mean leaking information that helps the bad guys.

And then, there's the most obvious challenge the Pakistanti government and their intelligence forces face. A good percentage of the people living in their country don't care much for America, and don't care much for a secular Pakistani government. Imagine if America let Iranian troops carry out operations in Boston, Massachusetts because some guy responsible for terrorism in Tehran was allegedly hiding somewhere near Fenway. You think Americans would be like, "Yeah, sure!"?

The Pakistani government has a tenuous hold on power. And maintaining that hold means presenting a certain face towards its populace. It must not look like a weak, subservient sidekick to American ambitions.

Ironically, the only way they can maintain that powerful facade is to fund themselves with U.S. aid. Their people cannot afford higher taxes without rioting and bringing down the government. As such, if the police, soldiers, and intelligence community are to be paid money to fight terrorism, they must be paid with funds acquired elsewhere. Like from the American government.

Without these funds, the security structure of Pakistan is left to fall apart. And instead of merely hiding out in Pakistan, terrorists begin operating there-- on a level they've never been able to before. The Pakistani government is overthrown-- and in its place, a group much like the Taliban institutes Sharia law. Bin Laden's dream--of an orthodox Islamic terrorist state-- becomes a reality.

Did the Pakistani intelligence services know where Bin Laden was? Well, here's West Point. Do you know who lives in every single one of those structures? Every one? Anyone live in the neighborhood want to take a shot? And keep in mind, this is America, where we're very nosy about our neighbors. I can think of about 20 buildings in my neighborhood in New Jersey which seem mighty odd.

Much has been said about Osama's mansion sticking out... but the area is actually very populated with mansions. Many have security. Osama's house may have seemed odd... but it had been there before most of the mansions in the area were built there. For all many neighbors knew, it could have been a intelligence services installation. It's not like they would have seen people walking around wearing "I'm With Osama" t-shirts while installing vinyl siding.

Yes, it was close to the Pakistani "West Point," but that may have been the precise reason Bin Laden chose it. Where was a place in Pakistan that would provide the U.S. with a more difficult target: on the western border, rife with terrorist activity, or a place where Pakistan's military leadership is trained? Which one would be the place the Americans would be less likely to look-- and more hesitant to bomb without Pakistani permission? The proximity does not suggest that the entire Pakistani government was involved in some elaborate Bin Laden protection scheme. Rather, it suggests that Bin Laden was worried about isolating himself in a place that would be exposed to an American air strike.

So lets cool our jets a bit. Bin Laden is dead. Let's celebrate. And hope that our government doesn't make any rash decisions that may lead to the birth of Bin Laden's successor.
We Got Him

It took nearly ten years, but Osama Bin Laden is dead.

His survival was the greatest failure of our war on terrorism. Now that he's been bodybagged, hopefully, those personally hit by his evil can have a measure of peace. Now, we can heal.

I know I will.

I'll sleep well tonight.

UPDATE: Allegedly, here's where Bin Laden holed up. (thanks nymag)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yankees Season Ticket Department Screws Up Again, This Time, Worse

Who the heck is running the show inside the Yankees Season Ticket Office?

For the second time in two years, an email was sent to hundreds of Yankees season ticket holders, revealing personal information to strangers. The first time the Yankees revealed personal information, it was only email addresses... someone used CC (not Sabathia) instead of BCC, a major mass-email no-no that exposed the personal email addresses of hundreds of people (and potential spammers). This time, the Yankees employee went even further, attaching a handy dandy spreadsheet of names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses-- and the seats they have in Yankee Stadium.

Deadspin first reported the details on the Yankees season ticket holders privacy breach yesterday afternoon. More than 20,000 people were affected, all in non-premium seating-- which means that once again, the Yankees management has screwed the true, blue collar fans and pampered the wealthy people who never show up to games and keep the seats around the infield empty for the majority of the year.

A call to Ken Cleary, Account Executive of Season Ticket Sales & Services, went unanswered Thursday morning. But his email to those affected (including me) indicated that "immediately upon learning of the accidental attachment of the internal spreadsheet, remedial measures were undertaken so as to assure that a similar incident could not happen again."

I assume that would mean the idiot who did this was fired? Maybe not. The original email came from Ken, the same person who later blamed "an employee."

Of course, the personal information was revealed on Monday. It took until Wednesday for the Yankees to send an apology and acknowledgment of the mistake. This is actually better response time than the last time... where they never apologized at all.

Also disturbing, the "recall message" we received shows that whoever sent the email has a huge gap of understanding when it comes to using email. Once an email is sent, you ain't getting it back, buddy. Perhaps the Yankees should use Google's "Mail Goggles."

The things one could do with this list is troubling. It goes beyond spam. Let's say you were wondering who the hot blonde was in Seat 24, Row 11, Section 235. The list could tell you that. Already, my cousin and I are joking about greeting all the people in our row by name next time we go to the stadium.

It's not inconceivable that an enterprising person who wanted to upgrade their seats for the following season could call up the people who held their desired seats, and find out whether they're re-upping for next season. If they're not, they could circumvent the Yankees and arrange to transfer the tickets.

And that's not even getting into other potential abuses. Con artists looking to scam people out of their credit cards could pretend to be Yankees reps, calling people on the list. After all, they know their seat numbers, account codes... it would sound legit to an unwary ticket holder.

Thanks a lot Yankees. It was bad enough you stuck us with a package involving multiple Royals and Orioles games, including two weekday 1:00 games. Now this.

UPDATE (May 2): Got a call back from Mario Oliveri, Yankees Season Ticket account executive. He assured me that the Yankees take this seriously, but repeated the company line that "no information was released that can't be found on Google." Except, you know, unlisted telephone numbers, those seat numbers, and the Yankees account number. He said that they've updated their security procedures, securing spreadsheet files, and making sure they ask additional information from those calling in, like "what credit card did you use to make your purchase?" When I pointed out that a scammer could ask the same thing, Mario said that everybody is aware of the situation, so they're less likely to fall for a scam.

I was hoping they'd offer something, anything, to make up for their sloppy security and revealing information that people would rather not have distributed to thousands of others. A Yankees seat cushion? A free pen? But it seems the Yanks are content to ride this one out, and if they lose a customer or two, they're not too worried about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Forget The Motorcades... Hit The Used Car Lot

This is the stuff disaster movies are made of. Widespread gridlock clogging every one of New York's arterial streets. Crowds of restless citizens, held back by barricades and anxious cops. Sirens and car horns drowning out the constant city hum, and red and blue strobes lined up like signal fires across the width of Manhattan.

But it wasn't aliens or genetically engineered monsters or even supercyclones powered by global warming that ground the city to a halt tonight.

It was President Obama's motorcade.

My girlfriend and I were walking back to my apartment from dinner, noting how strangely empty third avenue was for the time of night-- and how strangely busy the side streets seemed to be. When we reached 42nd street, we came upon a crowd of people gathered at the street corner, waiting to cross, delayed by heavy police presence.

"What's going on?" we asked.

"Obama's in town for a fundraiser," we were told. His motorcade would be coming by is about 15 minutes. Until it passed and the all clear was given, no one was allowed to cross 42nd street, by car, by bicycle, or on foot.

"How much of 42nd street is closed?"

"All of it. Across the whole island."

Obama eventually came through, in one of two limos, in a parade of town cars, police cruisers, heavy duty trucks, unmarked white vans, ambulances, and a partridge in a pear tree. After the nearly 30 vehicles finally passed, we waited about five more minutes and were finally set free. The Manhattan traffic and assorted food delivery men on bikes were released shortly afterward, but the build up of stopped vehicles for the past hour resulted in a near citywide traffic jam. On the walk home, we witnessed at least two near-accidents.

The hubbub this week has surrounded Obama's birth certificate-- but that's not really an issue that affects anyone. What does affect us is the government budget... A portion of which is devoted to security for government personnel.

Given the events of tonight, which are typical of presidential excursions since the Kennedy assassination, I got to thinking... Isn't this one of the worst, most expensive, most disruptive ways to keep our President safe?

My girlfriend and I had no idea, before running into the madness on 42nd street, that Obama was in town. I'm guessing that your typical terrorist wouldn't either. But by closing off 42nd street to vehicular traffic and lining it with parade barricades-- even informing pedestrians when they could expect the motorcade to come by-- the NYPD and Secret Service basically laid out a well-defined route where the President would be. They basically surrounded the President with flashing lights and flags and held up a sign: "Here He Is!!!"

If I were president, I'd cancel the security theater (Presidents haven't had good luck in theaters.. Or motorcades.)

The best way to keep a President safe is to put him in a '95 Honda Accord.

I know, I know. Buy American. But that's exactly what the terrorists would suspect!

In all seriousness, put the President in an old, nondescript, uninteresting car that no one would look twice at. You still want security, so put the guards in a Mercury Sable station wagon and support personnel in a  Plymouth Caravan. Without all the lights and fanfare attracting attention, you wouldn't need nearly as many vehicles or police presence. No one would know that the President was the guy in the Accord. Especially if he's driving and wearing a Mets cap.

Frankly, it would cost less money, cause less disruption, and make it less likely a crazy assassin could figure out where the President is. Is he in the Accord? Or the '99 Chrysler Sebring?

That's a good deal!

(not the convertible version. Presidents don't have the best of luck in convertibles.)

Consider it, Obama. With this budget thing, every cent counts. And as cool as a motorcade makes you look, it just causes headaches for everyone else.
The Legend of Sam Fuld Continues...

This note, on Yahoo! today:

Apr 26 OF Sam Fuld, already one of the biggest surprises in the majors, got a surprise of his own Tuesday, as he was included on the All-Star ballot. The Rays were able to add Fuld and shift Johnny Damon to the DH position after the April 8 retirement of Manny Ramirez.

Let's get voting, people! Sam Fuld! Sam Fuld! Sam Fuld! You can vote up to 25 times.

(You can All-Star vote for superjews Ike Davis, Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, and Ryan Braun too.)

Going into Week 4 of the season, the Major League Jews are in 5th place at 11-9, 2 games back from the leader. Recent additions to the squad include Padres ace Mat Latos, Cubs K-artist Matt Garza, and Marlins lead-off man Chris Coghlan. Not a bar mitzvah in the bunch, but a guy's gotta fill a roster somehow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Legend of Sam Fuld

Now That's A Hustlin' Hebrew!

The New York Times has a feature on superjew Sam Fuld, the Tampa Bay Rays' star outfielder, and the newest Joltin' Jew on my Major League Jews fantasy baseball team:

"...Baseball has directed Fuld’s path. He made the varsity as an eighth grader, and hit so well that he transferred to Exeter Academy for the athletics. He dominated there, too — usually hitting above .500, all while managing Type 1 diabetes..."

He can also leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Even the twitter masses have spoken. Sam Fuld is Moses.

The Major League Jews are currently 3-7, 11th place in the 12 team Yahoo Public 211693 league. Some members of the team may have been waiting for a Passover diet to provide power (Mighty Matzah!), but these Jews, (and other Putzes) have started off strong:

Those percentages are how many people own these players in Yahoo! leagues. Clearly, I'm ahead of the curve here. Unfortunately, Jesse Litsch, JINO, as far as I can tell, has been recently sent to the minors, but he gave the team a good run of pitching.

Can the Major League Jews be inspired by the Passover seder and lead this team to the promised land? With Sam Fuld on our side, I'm optimistic.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Jewish Fantasy Baseball: 2011 Season

It's that time of year again, when good Jewish boys throw on baseball caps and batting helmets over their keepahs and take the field, proving to the goyim that a shnozz and penchant for kvetching doesn't mean the chosen people can't dominate America's pastime.

And that means it's time for another season of Jewish Fantasy Baseball.

I've had my successes over the years, drafting solely Jewish, or Jewish-sounding players. But last year, the Homering Hebrews didn't fare so well. Ian Kinsler was injured for much of the year. So was Kevin Youkilis. Ryan Braun had a solid, but unspectacular season. The emergence of young, only recently Bar Mitzvahed rookies, Ike Davis and Danny Valencia, helped the chosen team, but it wasn't pretty.

This year, I ran into a bit of a problem setting up my Slugging Semites squad. I've always used MLB.com, because it only required choosing a pitching staff, not individual pitchers, and because I could work the autodraft to maximize the possibility of getting all the Jewish players I required.

I'm not sure why, but MLB.com has redone their fantasy baseball site, and its ridiculously difficult to use. I found it impossible to prerank players. After several attempts, I gave up.

So I've drafted a team on Yahoo!. Doing so presented new difficulties. I'd have to fill out a whole pitching staff, using limited Jewish starters. I'd have to fill two utility player spots. Yahoo uses daily lineup changes, not weekly ones. And the way Yahoo!'s head-to-head system works, it would be difficult/impossible to pull out a win. If I stuck to my old methodology, I'd have empty roster spots and wouldn't be able to compete.

So this year, I've taken a different approach.

1. I've drafted only Jewish players (and Jewish-sounding players). I had to make a trade to nab Kevin Youkilis.

2. I will not drop any active Jewish players during the course of the season, unless it's to add a better performing Jewish player.

3. Now, here's the big change: Otherwise unfilled roster spots can be filled by non-Jewish players available on the waiver wire. Much like the brave resistance fighters who helped the Jews during the Holocaust, these players will assist the Jew Crew on their quest to win a championship.

Here's the team I came away with:

Here's the rundown:

C- Russell Martin. Not Jewish. But he's played his ball in LA and NY, so he's had experience in our world. Unfortunately, with the retirement of Brad Ausmus, there are no Jewish catchers in the bigs.

1B- Adam Lind. Probably not Jewish. But the name certainly fits the bill. He had a down year last year, but is more than capable of topping 30 HRs.

2B- Ian Kinsler. When healthy, one of the most feared Jewish hitters in the major leagues. Unfortunately, he's been a bit too much like a glass under the chuppah on a Jewish wedding day.

3B- Ryan Zimmerman. Not a Jew, but a Chosen Team veteran with 30 HR power.

SS- Derek Jeter. What to do, what to do? I've offered 500 shekels for a Jewish shortstop, but until Jake Lemmerman comes along, I got nobody. Even David Eckstein, Jew-in-name-only (JINO) has retired. So I'm gonna use this unverified google find to justify the captain, number 2, as the Gefilte Grand Slams starting shortstop.

OF- Ryan Braun. Jewish, and a multiple Adam's Life Sluggin' Semite of the Year award winner, this guy is the guy that lights this team's shabbos candles. I picked him up for my very first Jewish Fantasy Baseball squad way back in 2007. He's been a winner ever since.

OF - Travis Snider. Probably not Jewish. But Snider sounds close. He's a young guy with oodles of potential. Yes, I said oodles. A 20 HR season isn't out of reach.

OF- Sam Fuld. Jewish... and, this just in: Manny Ramirez has retired. And that paves the way for Fuld to cement a job in the Tampa Bay lineup. He's started off the season strong, leading off and stealing 4 bases. Can he hold off highly touted prospect Desmond Jennings? If he keeps up what he's doing, we might see a Florida baseball team host a Jewish Heritage Day for a player who's actually Jewish.

UTIL- Kevin Youkilis. Jewish, and can play both 1B and 3B in a pinch. Oy, I haven't seen versatility like that since Lainie Kazan played Greek.

UTIL- Ike Davis. Jewish. Ike broke out for the Mets last year, surprising them with a new found power stroke. Just like Moses surprised the Egyptians with that whole parting the Red Sea thing.

BN- Danny Valencia. Jewish, manning the hot corner for Minnesota this year. Yes, Jewish even with that name.

BN- Lance Berkman. Not Jewish. But Lance has been to the hora many times before, as an original team member. He's getting older-- can he thrive playing right field?

SP-Max Scherzer. Probably not Jewish. But this team's Ks have to come from somewhere.

SP-Clay Buchholz. Also probably not Jewish. But Theo Epstein, GM of the Red Sox is!

RP-J.J. Putz. Do I really have to explain this one?

RP-Craig Breslow. Jewish. Hoping he can steal some saves.

BN-Jordan Zimmermann. Probably not Jewish. But I think the extra "N' at the end of Zimmermann stands for "never one to miss a simcha."

BN-Randy Wolf. Not Jewish. But Lazar Wolf was.

BN-Jesse Litsch. Probably not Jewish. But I know a kid named Jeremy Lisch who is. Started off the season strong.

BN-Jason Marquis. Jewish. I'm hoping the Nationals give him plenty of run support.

BN-Scott Feldman. Jewish. On the DL to start the year, and I'm hoping he can bring that ERA and WHIP down from last season.

BN-Anibal Sanchez. Jewish. No, just kidding. But I need Ks, and this guy can get them.

DL-Stephen Strasburg. Not Jewish. But if he comes back at any point this year, he could be almost as big a hero to the Jews as King David.

Will I win my league? My offense is pretty good. Pitching... well, hopefully Scott Schoeneweis will be converted to a starter and suddenly become incredibly good. It's gonna come down to one thing. A little help from the man upstairs. Not Jesus.

If anything though, putting together this team has made me proud that despite my religion's un-athletic reputation, we've got quite a few "Braun-y" boys making themselves known throughout baseball.

Let's play ball!
A Wonderful Waste Of Time

While Congress shuts down America because they want 16 year old pregnant girls to suffer, what are the rest of us supposed to do? Well, at least there's this stunningly addictive waste of time:

Click the boxes, make music.

It's sort of like creating your very own King of Limbs.

Frankly, a government shutdown is a debacle. And strangely, at least in my lifetime, it only seems to happen when the Republicans wanna stick it to the Democrats. There was no reason to shut down in 1995 and there's no reason now.

Republicans want to turn a budget fight into a battle for larger, more complicated, probably unsolvable issues--abortion, welfare, health care, you name it. They'd rather cut a million dollars from programs for poor people than save billions by repealing a ridiculous-to-begin-with tax cut for billionaires. All because they claim to want a smaller government that also has the power to dictate people's sex lives.

There's only one way to balance the budget. Increase revenue. You can cut out wheelchairs for the elderly all you want, but it won't make a appreciable dent.

I hate taxes like everyone else. And raising taxes is a suicidal proposal for any politician. But until the federal government starts selling iPhones, taxes are pretty much the only way they get money. And if you're going to raise taxes, why not raise them on the people who can afford the hike? (which is not me)

If you don't have the guts to do that, then you're faced with three less palatable options. Slash the military budget in half (good luck!), raid social security and significantly ax the program (enjoy!), eliminate medicare and medicaid and hope that Groupon begins offering medical care deals (Valentine's Day Heart Surgery, 50% off!).

Anything else is a waste of time. Less productive than clicking boxes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama's Lybia Speech

He made the right decision, but you can see Obama's clearly been struggling with this. He didn't want to be a war President. But it made me realize something. Clinton decided to launch a similar mission in Bosnia back in the 90's. After that, of course, we had Bush launch an all out ground war in two countries, like his father before him. Basically, it boils down to this:

Republicans fight wars on the ground. Democrats fight wars in the air.

That's the way it's been since I was born, anyway. No world wars, but wars nonetheless. Sad.

Then you see things like the Tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan and you wonder... With terror like that in our universe, why the hell are we so afraid of each other??

Great, now I sound like a hippie.

Thanks a lot, Mommar.

Friday, March 25, 2011

General Electric Pays Negative Taxes

This makes me supremely mad. According to the New York Times, while the rest of us schmucks give an absurd amount in taxes every year, which go towards subsidies for profitable companies like General Electric, G.E. actually gets paid from the government and avoids taxes completely. How does G.E. reward America for this generosity? By shifting the majority of the G.E. workforce overseas.

Thanks to the administration of George W. Bush (and the blind-eye congress under Obama), corporate tax law was changed to create loopholes that companies like G.E. could use to avoid taxes. Not only that, the loopholes work only if companies fire Americans and hire Europeans instead. We were just too busy being scared about terrorism to notice. Wonder why we're losing jobs to other countries? Look no further.

Ironically, it was Ronald Reagan, Republican prophet, who closed the loophole to begin with. But these days, with both the Democratic and Republican parties comfortably in corporate America's pocket, awarding companies rights beyond those of ordinary people has become the norm.

I'm sure our founding fathers would be proud.

The Republican party line says that corporations should be given free reign because their output and profits benefit the nation. But due to the loopholes, G.E.'s output and profits aren't benefiting the nation-- they're staying overseas. Instead of merely allowing a corporation to retain most of its profits, we're actually providing a financial incentive to abandon America.

We're paying G.E. billions of dollars to leave us.

Does that sound like good policy??

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