Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


No Man's Land in the political war

I'm not sure when taking the middle ground became such a horrible thing. Actually, that's not true. Taking the middle ground has always been a horrible thing for the loud-mouth extremists on either end of the political spectrum. I wonder when the loud-mouth extremists became so loud that they drowned out any reasonable discussion of a topic. Sometime recently, I suspect, since the rise of 24-hour "news" networks and talk radio and the Internet. And that's the way the world is, now. And it's a damned shame.

The latest kerfuffle here in Phoenix in which the loud-mouth extremists are setting the agenda has to do with Julie Erfle. You may not know who Julie Erfle is, but that's okay. Julie Erfle's husband, Nick, was a police officer killed in the line of duty almost a year ago. He was killed by ... an illegal immigrant.

Oh dear. Nothing brings out the extremists in Arizona like illegal immigration. And that story really made them nuts. Well, until Julie Erfle went to Washington with Phoenix's mayor, Phil Gordon, to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. Oh dear, again.

Erfle's trip put a bug in the butt of Bruce Jacobs, a morning talk show host on a local radio station in Phoenix. KFYI claims that Jacobs is their "resident right wing ranter," but this station carries both Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, so it's not like they have a lot of NON-right wing ranters, but whatever. Jacobs tore into Erfle, claiming that "comprehensive immigration reform" is really amnesty (and it's always funny how conservatives, while they acknowledge Reagan's famous amnesty of 1986, never seem to take that into account when they lionize the Gipper) and that Erfle should be ashamed of herself. More to the point, he claimed her dead husband would be ashamed of her for taking this stance and that he would put part of the blame on her the next time a police officer is gunned down by an illegal immigrant.

Wrap your head around that for a moment. Bruce Jacobs has no idea what Nick Erfle's political stance was about illegal immigration, yet he knows that he would be ashamed of the woman whom he married and had two kids with. Now, as he's in law enforcement, maybe Nick Erfle was completely on board with the "deport them all and build a mile-high brick wall along the Rio Grande" attitude that many conservatives have. But Bruce Jacobs doesn't know that. Plus, now he's going to blame a grieving widow raising two small kids for any other killings of police officers? Classy, Bruce. Well done.

As many reasonable people have pointed out, there's a difference between criticizing Julie Erfle for going to Washington and advocating for a position you don't agree with and ripping into her personally and claiming she'll be to blame for more deaths. Jacobs is an idiot for saying that, but that's his right (there are calls for him to be fired, but how about people stop listening to him, for crying out loud!). Julie Erfle became a public figure when she went to Washington, so go ahead and disagree with her position. I'm not sure why opponents of someone feel the need to insult people personally when they don't agree with them. It's sad. Of course, people who show up to comment in posts like this one and this one show that a lot of people think it's okay to insult people for their beliefs, because everyone thinks they're right and will never admit that they might be wrong. I guess that's what passes for political discourse in the country these days.

I was listening to Laura Ingraham this morning, and she was making fun of the attendees of the Democratic convention. She said they were given flags and it appeared they needed to be told how to wave them so they could act patriotic. She was having a good laugh at her lame joke. Why did she feel the need to do that? If she doesn't agree with Democrats (and she doesn't), can't she just point out where she disagrees with them and leave it at that? I think the attendees of both conventions look like idiots, but we'll see if Ingraham makes this point when the RNC fires up. Probably not - they'll all be heroes dancing around and weeping because they love their candidate and their country so much. It's beneath people to insult others just because you don't like their beliefs, yet extremists from both sides act like they're in grade school all the time, and nobody calls them on it.

Illegal immigration is a serious problem in this country, but no matter what the conservatives say, it doesn't have a simple solution. You can call it amnesty all you want, but there's no way we're deporting 12 million people (the estimate of the number of illegals in the country). We definitely need to secure the border, but we're not deporting those who are already here, and Bruce Jacobs and his ilk need to recognize that. Even if they don't, insulting a woman who knows the cost of illegal immigration far more than Bruce Jacobs does is idiotic. How will we ever get anything done if we're reduced to insults? I guess that's why we're not getting anything done.

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Raising a nation of wusses

In case you don't read about sports as much as I do, a nine-year-old boy has been told he's too good to pitch. In this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, being good is now something bad. Here's the gist:

Jericho Scott of New Haven has a fastball that tops out about 40 miles per hour, which is pretty darned fast for a nine-year-old. It's too fast, according to the Youth Baseball League, and they told the coach he couldn't pitch. Last week, when they took the field with Jericho on the mound, the other team forfeited and left. The league said they would disband Jericho's team and redistribute the players, offering refunds to anyone who wants one. His coach, Wilfred Vidro, says the team refuses to disband.

The league attorney says that Jericho just pitches too fast. There are a lot of beginners in the league, and they're too scared to face him. There appears to be some politics involved, as Jericho turned down an invitation to play for the defending champion, which happens to be sponsored by the employer of one of the League's administrators. Of course, Jericho's team was 8-0 and on the way to the playoffs when the administrators decided Jericho was too good.

One thing we haven't heard is the reactions of parents of Jericho's opponents. We haven't heard the parents whining because Jericho scares their children. So we have only the administrators' word that Jericho scares the children. Even so, this is a pretty ridiculous story. Jericho has never hit anyone with a pitch, so that's not a concern. The only thing that seems to be a problem is, indeed, that Jericho is too damned good at what he does.

I hope it comes down that the parents of the other children who face Jericho stand up and demand that he plays. If it's just a political rivalry, as the stories suggest, that's one thing, but if parents really want Jericho off the team, that's just idiotic. Many people are whining that this is just another example of people trying to level the playing field and not let anyone win. We can't damage the psyche of the children, after all! But we still haven't heard if any parents complained about Jericho. It could all just come down to a power play by a rival team. Still, it speaks volumes that the administrators of the league think this is a perfectly acceptable reason for shutting down a team. There's this idea that we need to protect children from failure. If Jericho is too good, the parents of his opponents should either help their kids get better or explain to them that sometimes, people are just better than you. Yes, it sucks, but that's the way it is. If your nine-year-old kid can't hit a 40-mph fastball, tell him that sucks, but he should deal with it. Failure is a part of life, and these kids should deal with it. I have big problems with the Little League World Series on television, but one thing I don't have a problem with is that there's a winner and a loser. If a 12-year-old loses and cries, that's something he has to deal with.

I hope that we hear more about this story, because I really do want to hear what the parents are saying. I would be disappointed if parents don't want Jericho to play because he's too good. I wonder, as always, what will happen to these kids when they actually have to deal with failure and their parents aren't there to save them. Crying when you're nine and you can't hit a fastball is okay. Crying when you're 29 and your life isn't going the way you want is a little embarrassing.

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What I've been reading

Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles - "The Steagles" - Saved Pro Football During World War II by Matthew Algeo. 270 pages, 2006, Da Capo Press.

I've mentioned before how keen I've become recently on the early (pre-1960) days of the NFL (and football in general), and this is the second book I've read recently about that time (here's the other one). This is also the second one I've read in which the author claims that his topic "saved" pro football. Fleming has a stronger case. In fact, I'm not sure if Algeo even has a case.

That doesn't mean this isn't a fascinating book. This is a rather nice social history of America during World War II, with some football thrown in to make it a "sports" book. The social aspects of the book, especially when compared to the state of our society today, is what makes the book compelling. The football parts of exciting, but somewhat anticlimactic. It's interesting how Algeo tries to make them more exciting than they are. But that's okay.

The book is about the "Steagles," as the title indicates. In 1943, the National Football League was in trouble. In those early days, franchises folded with stunning regularity, and scheduling games was extremely messy. A decade earlier, the NFL had finally gotten around to having a championship game, but there was still a perception that pro football was bush league. This was emphasized when World War II broke out. President Roosevelt sent a "Green Light Letter" to Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the baseball commissioner (Algeo calls him "rigid and humorless," which is probably the nicest description anyone can use for Landis), imploring him to keep baseball open through the duration of the war. Roosevelt, who was a football fan, didn't mention pro football or send a letter to Elmer Layden, the NFL commissioner. Pro football just didn't matter. But Layden and the owners assumed that Roosevelt's stamp of approval for baseball meant that football should continue, as well. What they didn't count on was that by 1943, the second war season, they would run out of players. Yes, something that we can barely imagine was threatening to shut down the National Football League. The Eagles were in a better position than the Steelers, who had six players under contract, but neither team was in a good position. Add that to the fact that both teams were pretty awful, and there was a good chance one or neither would play football in 1943. But the owners (Bert Bell, who had owned the Eagles, was at that point the co-owner of the Steelers, a complicated situation Algeo goes over quite well) came up with a solution: merge the team. The team would play two games in Pittsburgh and four games in Philadelphia, and they would be coached by two men: Earle "Greasy" Neale and Walt Kiesling, who had coached the Eagles and Steelers, respectively, the year before.

If this situation sounds untenable, well, it almost was. Neale and Kiesling hated each other, while Lex Thompson, the Eagles' owner, would only allow the team to be called the "Eagles." The team wore Philadelphia colors, and all of this naturally led the Pittsburgh contingent to feel like they were second-class citizens. However, somehow the team came together and finished with a winning record of 5-4-1 - the first winning record in Philadelphia history and only the second in Pittsburgh. Until the very end of the season, they were in contention to play in the Championship Game. On 7 November 1943 they tied the Washington Redskins, led by Sammy Baugh, ending Washington's 13-game winning streak. They went one further on 28 November, thumping the Redskins 27-14, the team's first loss in over a year. But the Steagles couldn't beat the pathetic Brooklyn Dodgers (football teams were often named after the city's baseball team, an indication of the NFL's second-class status) a week after their tie of the Redskins, and they lost to the Packers a week after their glorious victory over Washington, which put the final nail in the coffin. Still, they had a successful season, which was pretty shocking.

The football side of the book is interesting, although because the Steagles turned out to be a mediocre team, it's not as fascinating as it could have been. Sure, the book would have been better if Phil-Pitt ended up winning their division or even the NFL Championship, but the cards were too stacked against them. Algeo doesn't really make a very good case that the merger saved pro football - the stronger teams, such as the Redskins, Giants, and Bears, weren't hurt too much by the war and the fact that the Cleveland Rams folded for the year didn't destroy the NFL - but that doesn't really matter. Where the book really shines is as social history. Algeo focuses on a few core players on the Steagles - Ted Doyle, Al Wistert, Bill Hewitt, Jack Hinkle, Roy Zimmerman - to tell the story of football players and America during the war. These men were 4-F, so they were looked down upon by able-bodied men who went off to war. Many of them were scorned as well for the injuries that made them 4-F - Hewitt had a perforated eardrum, for instance. Many who went to war wondered why people could play football but not fight in a war, but Algeo makes the point that the Army itself said that someone with a perforated eardrum could not serve, and it wasn't Hewitt's fault. The players were often deeply ashamed about not being able to serve their country, and they played harder because of it. Algeo also reminds us that these men were making very little money playing football, so they worked jobs during the week. The owners and coaches of the team got the men into "essential" jobs - one of them worked on the Manhattan Project - so that they contributed to the war effort even if they didn't fight.

Algeo also makes an interesting point about the current war, although I'm sure he didn't mean it. Reading about the "war at home" during World War II reminded me, again, why I'm so opposed to our current shenanigans. I'd probably be opposed to the Iraq war no matter what, but the fact that our president didn't try to get us all behind the war is ridiculous. In this book, we read about all the things that were going on in the country and how the government tried to make sure everyone felt like they were contributing. It didn't work completely, but it was still a lot better than what we have now. As you read this book, you can't help but wonder what the state of the country would be like if Bush had asked Americans to make more sacrifices to help the soldiers. From interviews with the players, we get the sense that life was hard, but they were constantly reminded how much harder it was for the people fighting the war. It's a fascinating portrait of a country that was united far more than it was now, not because everyone was naturally more patriotic, but because the government actively encouraged (not ordered) the citizens to become involved. We're not involved in this war unless we know someone fighting, and that's Bush's fault. And, I believe, it's a reason everyone is sick of it.

But this shouldn't be a screed about our current situation. Algeo's book is a very interesting look at sports and its relationship to the American public, as well as telling the story of one of the odder episodes in professional football history. If it doesn't quite live up to the title, it's still a very interesting read. Unless you don't like American culture. Is that you? Huh? I bet you like rugby, don't you, you Commie!

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Picture day goes to Seattle yet again!

Who doesn't love Seattle? If you've ever been to Seattle, you know how excellent it is. So in July 2001, when Krys's sister and her boyfriend visited us, we went north for a weekend. At this point, we knew were moving to Arizona, so we wanted to get as much Northwesting in as possible!

This is downtown Seattle. The picture is a bit small, but if you click it, you will make it huge! This is from the Space Needle. You are mandated by the local government to go up into the Space Needle every time you visit the Emerald City. I bet you didn't know that!

This is Lake Washington, which I've mentioned before. It's where the house from Sleepless in Seattle floats. Lakes are fun.

Here's another shot of downtown:

We went to a baseball game at the brand-spanking-new Safeco Field. It's a gorgeous ballpark with stunning views of downtown (you can see it in the background of the downtown photos), and we had a great time. I've always been a Mariners fan (I'm not sure why, just that I've always been fascinated with Seattle; I still own a Mariners cap from about 1982), so it was cool to see them in the ballpark during their astonishing 116-win season (not that it helped in the postseason, but still). The game went extra innings, but we left before that because it was getting late. We listened to it on the radio, so we heard the Mariners win. We also got to see Barry Bonds hit a home run, which was nice. I mean, I don't like Bonds at all, but it was kind of cool to see him hit one out.

Here's some of the ballpark.

Here's Ichiro at the plate. This was during his MVP and Rookie of the Year season. He only got one hit in this game, however.

This is Pike Place Market, which I've shown before. That doesn't make it any less cool.

This was our last trip to Seattle, and like most of the other things we used to do in Oregon, we miss it a lot. It's a very cool city. Too bad the Mariners suck these days.

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Interesting news from the United States Census Bureau

According to the Census Bureau, by 2042 non-Hispanic white people will no longer be a majority in the United States. They'll still be a plurality, but the number is expected to be 203 million out of a population of 439 million. Hispanics, meanwhile, are expected to triple to 133 million, while the black population is projected to increase barely at all, from 14 percent of the population to 15 percent (66 million). By 2023, less than half of the children will be white.

This is a pretty interesting report. Of course, a cursory look on Google shows some people freaking out about it, but I haven't been to any really hard core conservative blogs, where I'm sure the paranoia is up to 11. The Census Bureau says it's the high birth rate of Hispanics, not necessarily illegal immigration, which will account for this growth. Of course, say the naysayers (can I write that?), the illegal immigrants will pump out ten kids each, so even if we don't have a huge influx of immigrants, we'll have to care for their huge families that, technically, are citizens. That stupid Constitution!

I don't really care about the news of whites no longer being the majority. Whatever. My ultimate dream is that everyone starts interbreeding anyway so we'll all be kind of mocha, but that's probably not going to happen. I read a brief report about this that points out the real problems: the United States needs to start figuring out how it's going to handle this increasing population, which is quite impressive for an industrialized country (those damned Hispanic Catholics with their lack of birth control again). In case you haven't noticed, our infrastructure is old and in horrible shape, and nobody seems to care about that. Our schools fall behind more and more every year, and handling more students doesn't seem to be their forte, but that's what's happening. I don't care about Hispanics coming here, because I have seen Hispanic teenagers in bulk, and they're just like teenagers everywhere - and after a generation, they'll be "Americanized," whatever that means. What I am concerned about is that white folk will Balkanize the country willingly simply in order to hold onto a majority where they can, and the rest of the country can go to hell. Hispanics and black people want to be middle class as much as white people do, but they're not going to be able to if we don't start making the schools better right now.

I don't know what the big deal is about separate races. We always talk about integrating immigrants into the American Way of Life, but we resist doing anything positive to help that process. We simply demand that people conform, without showing anyone the benefits of buying into the American Dream (and there are benefits, despite my issues with this country). People come here so they can partake of our bounty, and we ostracize them for it. I have no idea what to do about the illegal immigrant problem, but trying our hardest to get rid of them is not the way. There's plenty of room in this country, even if the population balloons to 500 million in the next 50 years. I hope that we get people who want to make the country a better place for everyone. Yeah, it's a pipe dream, probably, but wouldn't that be nice?

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Julia Child: OSS operative?

Oh, yes.

The movie should be out for Christmas 2009.

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A few links to start the week

Every once in a while, I mourn the loss of my massive link-blogging posts. Boy, those were fun. I just don't have the time for it anymore. But I like reading weird stuff on the Internet, so I bring you shorter posts with links every so often. Enjoy!

When I want Olympic news, I go to With Leather. Among other stuff, they linked to this completely insane Craig Sager interview and this story about George Bush visiting with Olympic volleyball goddesses Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. In the first story, we get several classic answers by Sager, best known for wearing horrible sport jackets on the sidelines of NBA games. Here are some of the completely out-of-context answers:
"Well, have you seen the Red Foxes? Wait to see them. It's the Lithuanian dance team. The blondes?"
"I have a blonde fetish, and you don't find many blondes out here."
"I'm the one you should talk to when it comes to evaluating dance teams."
"And back when I did it, the mini-tramp was allowed in college ..."
"I haven't been off the mini-tramp."
"The only thing I can do is have this [belt] and have a matching thong. That's about the only thing I can do."
"I've been to probably 250 Hooters across the country and world. It's the only Hooters I've ever been to that didn't have any Bud Light or blondes. I was very disappointed."

Accompanying the second story is this photograph:

Yes, that's the leader of the free world slapping Misty May ... on the ass. Okay, so he's slapping her back tattoo. Still. That has to be the best picture of the year. I surely hope Tom has seen it.

In the odd but sad category, we have this site, which is interesting. The artist covered Footloose, of all soundtracks, in a bizarre way. Read about it at the site.

After that, if you want a quick laugh, check out the Muppets singing the Habanera from Carmen. Seriously. It's comedy gold!

So there you have it. A few links, just to let you know that I will never stop roaming the vast expanses of cyberspace to bring you the wonderful stuff that's out there! It's my mission!

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Some cultural differences should remain that way

You know, I'm all for experiencing other cultures and trying to understand them. Viva la Difference! and all that. And I can't say for certain I wouldn't do what two sportwriters covering the Olympics do in this video. But I'd probably have to have a few beers before I did. Fret not, it's not gross. It is, however, interesting. To say the least.

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Just when you thought it was safe to ignore Olympic synchronized swimming ...

You know, I rarely write about pure cheesecake here, because you can find it so many other places, but 20-year-old Brazilian twins on the national team? Why not?


If you Google them (their last name is "Feres"), you can also find a video on YouTube which is actually kind of creepy. Remember, they are sisters.

But still - you'll be wanting to stay up until 3 a.m. in order to watch synchronized swimming!

[Update: Okay, so they're not on the Olympic team. Oh well. Go back to ignoring the Olympics.]

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There really should be more naked protesting

This photo showed up in today's Arizona Republic. It shows two PETA volunteers (named Cassandra and Chelsea) showering in downtown Phoenix. Two things are strange about this photo (okay, more than two things, but I'm going to stick with two): this is supposed to represent that one pound of meat uses six months of shower water, but I'm not sure what the point of that is. Should we stop eating meat now because cows drink water? I'm not sure. It seems a kind of weak reason to go vegetarian. The second thing is: these ladies are from Florida. What the heck are they doing in Phoenix? Are they just traveling around the country showering in downtowns? Beats me.

They look young, too. Remember when you had nothing better to do with your time than shower out in the open in the middle of a city? Good times.

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