Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Jersey Voices 

Joe Territo is back to blogging. He sounds better than ever.

The Same Old Song 

One of the more amusing tropes that Democrats are fond of is that the reason they keep losing is that they aren't mean enough. Republicans are vicious, lying, psychopathic, rabid, partisan, lying, soul-less, hateful lying liars. They will say and do anything to further their dreams of a fascist theocracy. Even tell lies.

Democrats are huggy sorts, who worry and fret that every pearl that drops from their lips is not only true(tm), but kind, inclusive, sensitive, warm and caring. Darn it, if only they could be a little meaner. But they can't. They're Democrats.

Those of us on Earth can testify that this is . . . good grief, I almost said 'a lie'. It's just the meanness coming out. Let's just say that if you've put on your radiation suit and clicked on Democratic Underground you probably have a different perspective on the cuddle quotient of the ascendant wing of the Democratic Party.

I'll tell you one thing that Democrats are good at though and that is staying on message. This is probably a legacy of Bill Clinton who got out of bed on message every day of his life. Once they latch onto an issue they speak as one and they speak all day long.

There are five letters to the Times today on Social Security reform. I'm not going to unpack any one of them, just say a word or two about the remarkable harmony Democrats are capable of .

Just as a chorus needs your alto and bass as well as your tenor and soprano, the letters stress different points, but every one of them you've heard leaking from a politician's mouth recently. Did you know there is No Crisis? True. Not now, since apparently everybody's happy getting $1.01 for their buck. Not in 2018 when all we have to do is start cashing our magic Geezer Bonds which are worth exactly nothing. Not even in 2042 when the magic bonds run out because all we need to do then is make some 'adjustments'. Well, I'm from Jersey, don't tell me about 'adjustments'. If my property taxes get 'adjusted' once more it's Friskies for me.

The Crisis song reminds me of a golden oldie called "Imminence'. If the nation is not on the verge of becoming one big Donner Party then you can't really say there's a crisis, can you? Just like if you don't actually glow in the dark you can't really say that a WMD threat is imminent.

The other major theme of today's letters is that it is George Bush's intention to destroy the safety net for seniors.

If only. If you've been conscious for the past five or six years and don't get that the president is (domestically) a fairly conventional politician with a slightly redder than average set of cherries then I'm afraid nothing will convince you otherwise. My momma always said you can't reason someone out of a position they haven't reasoned their way into.

Let me add a little contrapuntal element to the melody. He's trying to make it better. He's trying to find a way that will fix it for good. He's going about it incrementally, trying to find elements Democrats can agree to. He's trying to save the fundamental building block of Democratic policy making. He'll take what he can get but if the other side insists on running around with a bucket on its head flinging ordure at every contrary voice it hears we'll wind up with nothing.

If that happens my advice is to take every penny FICA doesn't suck up and buy stock in Friskies.

UPDATE: I want to clarify this post somewhat in light of a comment by Shaking Spears. It was not my intention to argue the notions of 'crisis' in relation to Social Security reform or 'imminence' in relation to the invasion of Iraq. The point I bungled is that they are equally irrelevant to the issues at hand. I'm simply observing that the Democrats try to suck the air out of an issue by tying it to an irrelevancy and pounding it into the ground. That may not be any clearer, but tomorrow's another day.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I Only Wish This Was Texas 

Arrests were made today in the Armanious case.

Edward McDonald, 25, who rented a second-floor
apartment above Hossam Armanious and his family,
pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder, as did
Hamilton Sanchez, 30. Both men were ordered held
on $10 million bail.
AP, via Newsday

This is perhaps the best outcome to be had in this terrible tragedy. If it turns out these are the perpetrators, then it was not an Islamist cell and these common skells were caught before they could do it again.

I apologize to Edward DeFazio, Hudson County Prosecutor, for my frankly skeptical tone when discussing the investigation. I hope to God these are the guys, that they get nailed and fried and that the Armanious family can rest in peace.

Moral Equivalence Watch 

Hugh Hewitt is beating up on the Los Angeles Times for a series they're doing on North Korea in the Walter Duranty style.

He quotes from yesterday's installment thusly:
Kim was said to be particularly miffed by Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice's recent characterization of
North Korea as an "outpost of tyranny" and was
demanding an explanation and apology.

No doubt Secretary Rice would be glad to provide an explanation and we can all join together in hoping Kim holds his breath for the apology.

Daily Dose 

The letters in the Times are always good for a jolt in the morning. I think of them as my double frappe, three shot, fuel injected latte. Double whip.

Yesterday we looked at the 'appeal to false authority' argument. This morning the bien pensant are all het up about the Ten Commandments lurking in the public square like some dodgy salesman waiting to unload his $20 Rolexes on an unsuspecting populace. What's involved today is not a logical fallacy, merely garden variety disingenuousness.

To the Editor:

I am an agnostic. If I were to walk past a clearly
religious display like the Ten Commandments on
my way into a courthouse for trial, I would have
grave doubts about the ability of that court to treat
me with impartiality and an absence of religious bias
if my lack of belief were to become known.
Many adherents of non-Judeo-Christian religions
would probably feel the same way. For that reason
alone, such displays should be removed and barred
from courthouses.

Walter J. Maslowski
Forest Hills, Queens

Mr. Maslowski wants us to pretend along with him that because he is that most rare and embattled creature, an agnostic, his ability to get a fair trial would reasonably be endangered by the display of the Ten Commandments in or around the courthouse.

The mere fact that he was apparently able to get his envelope sealed and the stamp in the right corner shows that, in reality, he is not that stupid. Mr. Maslowski's relationship with agnosticism is that of a 15-year old's with sex. He thinks he invented it.

It happens that I am an agnostic, as well. The only circumstance I can think of where that would be a liability is if I attempted to join the priesthood and, with the problems the Church has these days, I'm not so sure about that.

What Mr. Maslowski is talking about is the feeling he has that the God-boys are waiting to take him out for that parking ticket. He wants the constitution to protect him from circumstances that might give him that feeling. Well, that's not so much a slippery slope as a verticle drop. There's nothing in the Constitution protecting you from being uncomfortable. In order to raise it to the level of harm a certain amount of play-acting is necessary.

What would it take to make Mr. Maslowski comfortable? Well, if the government was agnostic. Like him.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Roper v. Simmons 

In a letter to the Times today regarding Roper v. Simmons, Roslyn Muraskin, a professor ofcriminal justice at Long Island University says:
If capital punishment is the correct way, why is the
United States one of the only two developed countries
that routinely use it?
I dunno, Professor, maybe 'cause the rest of the world is, you know, wrong. This is an 'appeal to authority' argument for which the authority appealed to is no sort of authority at all. We needn't take any lessons in morality or civil rule from the bloody regimes of Europe simply because they've decided to pull their skirts in recently in a way that appeals to an educated elite in this country. Capital punishment stands or falls on its own merits irrespective of what some Gauloise smoking, Pomacea haustrum eating, Jerry Lewis loving nitwit thinks.

Wade Stone wades in with:

While I rejoice at the Supreme Court ruling and that
our country has finally embraced a semblence of reason
in the matter of the death penalty, I'm disgusted that
we've essentially required guidance from the rest of the
world in its entirety to show us the path away from cruelty.

Other letters waste no time in asking the Supreme Court to climb on that slippery slope and ban all capital punishment.

I think these folk need to take a lot closer look at the societies they want us to evolve into before they ask the rest of us to embrace their version of reason.

Um, Prejudice is Bad, N'Kay? 

Well, that was interesting.

Any situation where a work force is compelled to attend a meeting that is not specifically about some aspect of their work and where an outside firm is contracted to instruct the group on behavior is essentially the same meeting. The outside firm is paid to convert simple, common words into words fraught with special meanings, to make charts and graphs and put them on the wall and in your hands, and to keep you awake.

I include meetings in which information of undeniable value is provided, such as fire safety meetings. I would actually expand it to include meetings where heterogenous groups sign up to be sold a particular bill of goods (Be a Stock Market Genius, Zillions Through Real Estate, and, for the older generation, EST).

Same meeting. Slightly different dynamics, perhaps, different buttons being pushed, but you can call them all Theatre Meetings as in all of them, even if you believe they have intrinsic value, you have to admit there are elements of artifice, magic and mystery and they succeed or fail pretty much on the basis of theatrical values.

I don't know if you would call Theatre Meetings a mature industry, but they have been around awhile and, as in any service, you get what you pay for.

I'm floor fire warden and have to go to a hour long fire safety meeting every year. This meeting was on the low end. Bless his heart, the guy put you in mind of Chris Farley and government cheese. Sweating, stammering, backtracking, occasionally getting completely lost, I found my self asking questions and volunteering to be his stooge just because I felt sorry for him.

If you haven't seen it, go out and rent The Office where Ricky Gervais takes a turn as a motivational speaker in the second season. Much of this brilliant series is almost too painful for anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle to watch. No one can watch that episode without cringing.

The people running the diversity seminar I was at today are high end. These are brisk people, peppy people, smiling, happy people, but also very slick people and intelligent. The lead facilitator was actually quite charming. He was funny when he wanted to be, warm and personable, but he controlled a meeting of close to 200 people. I couldn't.

What did I learn? It's nice to be nice. Communication is good. Don't discriminate.

Just to take the edge off the cynicism, let me say that the issues these meetings are addressing are important and it can't do any harm to get people thinking about them. If someone could come up with a way to actually move these problems from the theatrical to the actual it would undoubtedly be a good thing for us as workers and a good thing for the business. I hope it's not cynical to say they need to keep working on it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Who's Not Diverse? I Contain Multitudes! 

Tomorrow I have to go for my diversity workshop. I wish I could live-blog it, but I doubt that would fly. I'm sure I'll have something to say about it tomorrow afternoon.

Please, no role-playing. Please, please, please, please, please.

Court Blogging 

Just for the record, Sluggo is down with the Padillo decision, down on the executing juvies decision and intrigued with the 3-Oxen decision.

What Do You Think It Means? 

Normally, my dreams are no weirder than anybody else's. I was slightly mauled by dogs when I was six or seven and I've had dreams about that ever since. They've stopped being nightmares but they don't stop coming back. When I was in college I had a recurring dream about chasing myself on the beach. I think Freud's idiot nephew Ziggy could have handled that one.

Last night I dreamed of Jenkinson's beach in Point Pleasant. It was a warm, sunny, breezy day. The Sluggo-Babes were in attendance. There was beer involved.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Hossam Armanious 

Via Jihad Watch.

According to a story in yesterday's Star-Ledger, Hossam Armanious's ATM card was used for 'a shade less than a week' after he was brutally murdered with his wife and children in the Heights section of Jersey City. 'Thousands' of dollars were stolen.

'A shade less than a week.'

Wouldn't you think that the police would have made sure that those accounts were closed very soon after the murders? Especially in light of the fact that the Prosecutor's office has been trying to sell this as a simple robbery?

Perhaps it is. But the mere fact of the use of the ATM card is by no means confirmation of that. As Jihad Watch comments:
Evidence of a robbery, despite the spin in this story, does
not at all mean that there was no religious motive. DeFazio
himself, you'll notice, acknowledges that. This should be
obvious to everyone in light of the recent revelation that
the Saudi government’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs has
distributed a tract in American mosques stipulating in regard
to a Muslim sexual offender that "it would be lawful for
Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money." This
would also apply to non-Muslims who committed another capital
offense: proselytizing among Muslims.

Still more than two weeks to go until the announced release of the autopsy.

Cold Call Follies, Part 237 


Hello, Mr. Hill?


I'm calling from the American Breast Cancer Society. The reason for this recorded call is to let you know about our new fund raising drive.


Mr. Hill?

Oh, you mean you're recording this call.


I thought you meant you were a recording.

Uh, no.

I thought, wow, that is pretty cool AI.

Is your wife home?

Monday, February 28, 2005

Ready For My Closeup 

Or re-education camp. Powerline quotes a Zogby poll that says that only 13% of Republicans watched the Oscars. If you exclude Log Cabineers, then, I'm in a very small minority. Well, all I can say is, if they keep pumping out dreck like last night, it'll be a lot easier to break the habit.

I'm sure you've read that Chris Rock wasn't funny. Nothing can convey to you, though, just how not funny he was. Not even close to being funny. Mildly amusing was way, way over the horizon. He can be funny, I think. But why would you hire a guy and then tell him not to do any of the things he does? You could get a valet parker a lot cheaper and it wouldn't have made much difference. He did go off on Bush (I missed that part), but if it was as humorless and pointless as were the parts I did see, I can hardly imagine he laid a glove on W.

I look forward to the Oscars for the same reason I look forward to the office Christmas party. But if I go to the party and not one associate makes an ass of himself, not one partner throws up on his secretary's shoes, not one fight breaks out in the duplicating department, I'm disappointed.

Sean Penn was surly and soaked with self-regard but he held his tongue. Tim Robbins seemed a little confused (not 'confused' -- I think it was just the way he is), but held his tongue. Barbra Frickin' Streisand uttered not one despicable syllable. Not one obviously hammered presenter. Not one fondled extremity, not one wardrobe malfunction.

It might as well have been PBS. If that doesn't cure me, nothing will.

The Islamification of Europe 

Via Bad Hair Blog.

Mark Steyn discusses the president's trip to Europe in terms of the changed and changing landscape as Islamism exerts an inexorable pressure on the EU.

Slowly, surely, the demographics will bring Europe to the point of having to make some decisions they are, apparently, unwilling to make.

It's good to remember that the major Arab states have been fighting a war with Islamism for fifty or sixty years. Even the net exporters of terrorism, such as Syria, Libya and, until recently, Iraq have brutally supressed various Islamic groups.

The other side of it is that they will aggresively pursue these groups only when they feel their satrapy is threatened. Otherwise, they are content to co-exist. As long as the terrorists refrain from commiting their depredations on home soil, money, intelligence and indulgence are theirs. Their usefulness against the West and, occasionally, other Arab states is the price they pay for the baleful eye of the U.S.

Bush's plan, of course, is to make the price prohibitive. It's obvious he's succeeded in getting the attention of Egypt, Syria and Iran, but the follow through is key. Keeping U.S. public opinion behind him is the determining factor. A quick decisive war was good, a messy, dangerous occupation almost drained the bank. An inspirational election bought him some more time and a good outcome in Lebanon, and, of course, most especially, progress between Israel and the Palestinians might give him all the time he needs.

What's interesting about the Steyn article is that it raises the question of whether, at some point in the not too distant future, the EU will have to decide whether to accept the same bargain the Islamists offered the Arab states and, if they do, will be be able to consider them allies in any sense of the word.

This seems to be a continuation of the fascinating debate between Steyn and Col. Austin Bay on whether a division between Old and New Europe is meaningful. This is something you rarely see on the left, an intelligent, orderly, respectful disagreement about fundamental principles.

He's Got a Calculator and He's Not Afraid to Use It 

Ken Adams has unholstered his spreadsheets. An angry numbers guy is a dangerous thing. He does excellent work here, here and here in detailing New Jersey's performance in terms of government growth in a time of budget crisis. The results are not pretty.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Hole In The Story 

For me, the term 'hero of journalism' can be applied to very few. Hitchens, Steyn and who else? Fallaci, maybe. There are many good writers with fine minds and courage to spare. But name some more who are always challanging, always perceptive, who can be just as funny, just as provocative, just as insightful, just as insulting as they intend to be every time they write. Who, everytime they take out their hammer, hit the nail right on the head. And who exhibit absolutely no fear. Of anyone.

The two year anniversary of the death of one is coming up in about a month. I really miss Michael Kelly's writing, partly because I was just at the point of immersing myself in his point of view when he died as an journalist embedded with the Third Infantry Division on April 4, 2003 in a Humvee accident south of Baghdad.

He was respected by everyone closer to sea level than the Democratic Underground and even people who never agreed with him wanted to know his take on events.

There are so many interesting things going on right now. I'd love to know what he thought about them.

Forgive Me, Jim 

But perhaps I'm not Usual Suspects material. It's not so bad that I'll probably be watching the Oscars tonight. No, I have to go the extra mile into 'Mo-Land. Spent most of an hour this afternoon watching the E! channel prolegomena to the Oscars. Segment after segment with the Bling Provider to the Stars, the Sunglasses Provider to the Stars, the Scent Provider, the Pretend You're a $2 Whore in a New Orleans Cat House Underwear Provider, the Shoe Provider, Pilates, Kaballah, Tounge Studs, Tattoos, Corn Rows. Everyone but the Blow Provider to the Stars. Essentially they have five hours on the back story of the product placement. Why did I do it? What's wrong with me? Somebody help me.

I Link, You Decide 

TigerHawk notes MoDo's column today as a milestone. "The Most Petulant Op-Ed Column Ever." It's up there, to be sure, but it has a lot of competition.

Calling Max Bialystock 

We had friends from down the street in for dinner last night. We've lived in this house more than four years and just started knowing them a few months ago. That's probably my fault as Lane is much more sociable than I am.

Apparently, this little street in Jersey City used to be crawling with actors. Our friends were the first and then their friends, attracted by the inexpensive prices, started moving in, first renting, then buying, then turning over and moving on to Montclair or Maplewood. And then they were the only ones again until we moved in.

Any who.

We told a lot of theatre stories as we (even ex-actors like me) tend to do and I told one that I had completely forgotten about (for reasons that will be obvious). I know I just told one the other day, but stick with me.

One of my best friends got me a summer job in Lennox, in the Berkshires. A Connecticut producer of local commercials had a deal with a hotel on the main drag there for a summer theatre package. There were two shows we'd be doing. One was a review of American standards that was intended for the bus trade in the afternoon. The evening show was written by the producer and he saw it, I guess, as a hard hitting, transgressive, wild satirical comment on blah, blah, blah. Whatever he thought it was, it wasn't very good. On weekends we were supposed to do an extra late-night show he was sure would bring in the Tanglewood crowd on their way back to their hotels.

The afternoon show did okay. We had some nice voices. The hotel served a decent lunch. We got about all that could be got out of the evening show, but the people never came. Regarding the late night show, nobody came. We dropped that quickly.

It's a beautiful place and the waitresses were friendly. We had Monday and Tuesday off and the producer provided a van for us to come back to the city on those days. We kept hitting deer and there wasn't much left of the van by the end of the summer. All in all, except for the shows, it was a great summer.

And the shows, never what you would call good, deteriorated. I'm not proud of it, I'm not excusing it, but day after day going out there for tiny audiences (sometimes five or six people) who, for the most part, if they respond at all, were just being polite, does wear you down. It got to the point where even the geezers on the afternoon busses turned on us.

One afternoon there were, say twenty or thirty people in the audience and they weren't having a good time. Some cast members had more or less given up by this time and the show was imploding. I do not exaggerate when I say I could feel the hate coming in waves up on the stage. You could see their faces and half of them had a look of slack-jawed astonishment and the other half looked like a VFW audience at a Ward Churchill speech. They decided very quickly that we were something that shouldn't be encouraged. If you've never done a big finish with your arms out wide in that classic 'give me your love' theatrical gesture and been met with perfect silence, well, then you don't know as much as you think about humiliation.

We came backstage for intermission and huddled together like the Donner Party. No one said anything for five minutes until the stage manager came back. I turned to her and said "I really, really, really don't want to go back out there." She looked uncomfortable for a moment and then said "Don't worry. You don't have to. They're all gone."

We went out on stage and there, in the house we saw half-eaten food, full drinks and cigarettes smoking in the ashtrays. We could hear the outer door banging shut. After a moment we heard the bus zooming out of the parking lot. And we saw bus boys and waitresses start to clean up, avoiding our eyes. I wish I had taken a picture.

I wonder if it was at that moment I began to realize I was going to have a life after theater. I'd like to think my response was that rational. But I doubt it.

Second Thoughts, Gary's Had Them 

I often worry that I've put too much personal information out there on this site. Many bloggers maintain anonymity or at least much better control over what gets released into this sometimes dangerous global neighborhood. They sacrifice a certain amount of touch with their readers, a lot of blogging material and some amount of flexibility and depth in their approach to subjects, but they don't have to worry about the world coming crashing down on them, either.

For me, the whole point of this is twofold. First to relearn how to write by constant practice, and, second, to tell my story. When you're young you need to tell your story because you don't really have one yet and most people come to have one by telling it. You don't even realize there are themes to your life until you start to narrate them. There comes a point in your life when you have to tell your story because you're forgetting it. That's where I am. And that is what has been so interesting and satisfying about Sluggo Needs a Nap. If ever I become uncomfortable with any attention I've attracted I'll shut this down and open up down the street as Have a Cuppa With Aunt Mildred. But, of course, by that time it may be too late.

Having said that I think I can safely say I'm in no danger of the kind of scandale de blog experienced by Gary Brolsma, another Jersey guy who had an indiscreet web-based moment. If you haven't seen or heard about his Numa-Numa dance, there was actually a story about it in the New York Times the other day. He web-cammed himself lip-synching to a Rumanian pop song, someone linked it and now he's the latest world wide dufuss. At first he enjoyed doing interviews on CNN and VH1, but it looks like he became a little more aware of the 'laughing with me or laughing at me' problem and went to his room and stayed there. I've seen versions of this tape tricked up with images and photoshops and loops that leave little doubt on the 'with/at' question.

Here's the tape. See if you agree with me; I'm definitely 'laughing with'. I think there's something very appealing about what he does. At a certain point the audio and video gets out of synch, but that's the way it went out there.
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