Toast likes this.

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"I don't care about the Geneva Conventions or U.S. law. I don't care about the difference between torture and "harsh treatment." I don't care about the difference between uniformed combatants and terrorists. I don't care whether it "works." I oppose torture regardless of the current state of the law; I oppose even moderate abuse of helpless detainees; I oppose abuse of criminal suspects and religious heretics as much as I oppose it during wartime; and I oppose it even if it produces useful information." -- Kevin Drum

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While it's to be expected that most of these apparently mandatory "First 100 Days" articles we're being subjected to would be on the vapid side, I'm somewhat shocked that there are journalists and editorial boards out there who think it's clever to haul out the absurd "Obama gets a grade of 'incomplete'" construct. Pray tell, oh wise ones: Upon what first-term U.S. president would you have bestowed a grade other than "incomplete" after 100 days? Morons.

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"The Yankees are like swine flu; there's cause for concern but there's no reason to panic." -- LoHud Yankees Blog reader Brian, commenting on the team's early-season difficulties.

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Holy fucking shit:

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said he would switch to the Democratic party Tuesday, potentially presenting Democrats with a possible 60th vote and the power to break Senate filibusters as they try to advance the Obama administration’s new agenda.

Congressional aides and others close to the long-time Republican party maverick said Mr. Specter, who faced a difficult re-election next year, was going to announce he would become a Democrat.

If Al Franken prevails in his ongoing court case in Minnesota and Mr. Specter begins caucusing with Democrats, Democrats would have 60 votes and the ability to deny Republicans the chance to stall legislation. Mr. Specter was one of only three Republicans to support President Obama’s economic recovery legislation.

Democrat leaders expressed their enthusiasm. President Obama was handed a note from an aide at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday during his daily economic briefing. The note, according to a senior administration official, said: "Specter is announcing he is changing parties."

Seven minutes later, Mr. Obama reached Mr. Specter by telephone. In a brief conversation, the president said: "You have my full support," according to the official who heard the phone call. The president added that we are, "thrilled to have you."

This is pretty huge. Obviously, we still need Minnesota to get their act together and seat Franken before we get to that magic number in the Senate. Also, this might sound paranoid, but I wouldn't put it past a douchebag like Ben Nelson to switch the other way in order to prevent the Democrats from getting a filibuster-proof majority. But still, wow, this is huge.

Update: Michael Crowley at The Plank has Specter's official statement.

Update II: Jon Cohn makes a good point:

Specter is one of the better-known senators in America. If you follow politics even casually, you've seen or heard him on the news before. So it's going to register with you that a major Republican senator has decided his party has become too extreme for him. And if you're a Republican, you might wonder if it's become too extreme for you, as well.

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From left to right: The redesigned Ford Mustang, redesigned Chevy Camaro, and redesigned Pontiac GTO.
Hard to imagine why Pontiac went under, isn't it?

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The Greatest Rivalry in Sports™ renews itself tonight as the Yankees invade Fenway Park for a three-game weekend set with the Red Sox. It looks like about as perfect a weekend for baseball as you're ever likely to get in New England in April. Sunny with temps in the 70's and 80's all three days. The pitching matchups and schedule, courtesy of my homeboy Pete Abraham:

Friday: RHP Joba Chamberlain (0-0, 5.06) vs. LHP Jon Lester (1-2, 5.50), 7:10 p.m., YES
Saturday: RHP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 3.20) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (2-1, 3.79), 4:10 p.m., FOX
Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.53) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.18), 8:05 p.m., ESPN

On paper, at least, that looks like three really good games. Both clubs trot out their young up-and-comers tonight and then tomorrow we get a couple of studs in the prime of their careers. Sunday takes things in a completely different direction with the wise old man of the Yanks' rotation taking on Boston's newest promising young arm.

The teams enter the weekend dead even at 9-6 a piece, tied for second in the AL East. Go beyond the records and, amazingly, they look even more evenly matched. Each team has scored exactly 84 runs so far. Hits are close (NY 145, BOS 140), as are RBI (79, 81) and batting average (.271, .275). The only place where the Yankees have an edge worth mentioning is in homers, where they've got 25 to Boston's 19. Of course, as you've probably heard, the new ballpark in the Bronx might have something to do with that.

Anyhow, I am predictably giddy with anticipation. Oh, and as game one wraps up tonight, my Blazers take the court in Houston for game three of their opening-round playoff series. Whole lotta sports viewing action going on in the Toast household tonight, I tell ya.

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John B. Judis has a post up this morning in which he tries to make the case that we should not seek to investigate or prosecute members of the Bush administration over their torture program. Given Judis' cautious temperament, "moderate" persona and his politics-first analytical tendencies, this does not surprise me. What did surprise me was seeing a guy who is normally pretty restrained in his rhetoric wind up a post by busting out a straw man that will keep straw-man-ologists busy for decades - perhaps centuries - to come:

Let me say one other thing: I have a nagging worry that the eagerness of some Democrats in Congress and some activist organizations to press for what would be months and even years of inquiries and investigations into Bush-era war crimes is due in part to an eagerness to divert themselves, and us, from the seemingly insoluble problems we face in the present, which require every minute of attention from the White House and Congress. The past can wait.

Let's put aside the fundamental idiocy - readily dispatched by Paul Krugman today, btw - of the argument that investigating the previous administration's odious acts would sap our precious national reserves of attention and energy. I have no polling data or even anecdotal evidence upon which to base the following tentative assertion, but I'm going out on a limb here and hazard a guess that the number of people who want to see the Bush torture regime investigated because they're looking for an excuse to blow off other more pressing problems is approximately zero. I mean, Jesus Christ on a skateboard, dude. If you have a case to make against holding the war criminals accountable, by all means make it, but please don't insult the intelligence and integrity of those who disagree with you by attributing motives to them that are both shallow and wildly implausible.

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I didn't think it was possible for the torture story to get any worse. Alas, I was wrong. Turns out that all those hysterical lectures about protecting us from the terr'rists and defusin' tickin' time bombs were a complete load of shit. Why were Bush, Cheney and the cadre of amoral scumbags they surrounded themselves with really obsessed with torturing prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere? Because they were desperate to pry loose information that would demonstrate a link between 9-11, Al Qaeda, and Iraq.

I want to see these bastards put on trial. I want to see them convicted, and I want to see them imprisoned for the rest of their sorry little lives. And then, once they're safely locked away - out of sight and out of mind - I want someone to tie a towel around Dick Cheney's neck -- you know, to prevent bruising, whiplash, or other permanent trauma -- and slam him against a goddamned wall until he breaks down and finally admits that there was no fucking link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. That still wouldn't be the full measure of justice that this situation merits, but it'd be a hell of a down payment.

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I understand the use of the indefinite article paired with a definite proper name. It makes sense to say "That team doesn't have a Kobe Bryant." It's literally incoherent because obviously only one team can have "Kobe Bryant" on them, but still. You get the point.

It's a construct that can be very easily abused, however. Case in point: NBA TV commentator right now leading into Game 2 of Blazers vs. Rockets. "Well, if the Rockets don't have a Yao Ming... if they don't get something from the Battiers and the Scolas...

Really, are you joking? You're talking about three specific players on a specific team in a specific situation. There is absolutely no conceivable way that those constructs apply. Forcing them like that is plain old fucking retarded.

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[2009.04.18 - 07:00 P.M.]

When I first started rooting for the Portland Trailblazers in '92, they were in the midst of what would become a 21-year streak of playoff appearances. I got spoiled pretty quickly. That '92 squad, which made it to the finals and lost to the Bulls in six, was never equaled in the ensuing seasons, but year after year you could bank on the black and red being in the post-season picture. Until 2004.

In 2003, Portland lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round 4 games to 3. I remember it vividly. I watched game seven in Tracy's old apartment up in Springfield. She was at work, so it was just me, Face and Juanita (her cats) taking in the loss on a crappy old 23" television. The Blazers were in the last year of a kind of death spiral at the time. Years of idiotic trades for talented but sketchy characters had morphed the exemplary teams of the Drexler Era into the Jail Blazers (or, if you prefer, the Trail Gangstas). It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't easy to endure as a fan. Unbeknownst to me at the time, however, the loss to Dallas would prove to be a prelude to a turning point.

After missing the playoffs in 2004 for the first time in an eternity, the Blazers fired coach Maurice Cheeks - a great guy who, in my opinion, was the victim of one shitty hand after another - and brought in Nate McMillan, an old-school disciplinarian who brooks no bullshit and was seen as the right guy to enforce the new Blazer Ethic. The club cleaned house, offloading every last malcontent on the roster. Gone were the underachievers, head cases, felons and assorted douchebags that had made Portland a laughingstock. Kevin Pritchard, the new GM, was intent on rebuilding the club with guys who were not only high-caliber basketball players but high-caliber people.

The foundation for the greatness that is now blossoming in the city of roses was laid when Pritchard deftly maneuvered to get all-world two-guard Brandon Roy and the incredibly athletic and versatile power forward Lamarcus Aldridge in the '06 draft. The following year the team landed the number one pick and took Ohio State center Greg Oden. The towering Oden missed the entire 2007-08 season after needing microfracture surgery on his knee, leading to ceaseless second-guessing of the Blazers' choice, but he took the floor this season - for the most part playing with the second unit - and is slowly developing into the presence the team hoped he'd be. Rookie Nicholas Batum, a small forward from France, scrappy point guard Steve Blake and the durable, perennially underrated center Joel Pryzbilla round out the current starting five. Spanish superstar Rudy Fernandez, drafted in 2007 by the Suns and traded to Portland for scrubs and money, joins the high-energy Travis Outlaw and the aforementioned Oden to form the core of the deadliest bench in the league.

Tonight, after five years in the pro basketball wilderness, the vision that the Blazers front office had half a decade ago becomes a reality. Tonight, the Portland Trailblazers return to the playoffs.

And in case you were wondering, I am fucking jacked.

The Blazers go up against the Houston Rockets for a best-of-seven first-round series starting tonight at 10:30 PM in the Rose Garden. Truth be told, I'd much rather have seen them draw the Spurs, Mavericks or Hornets. Houston took the season series against Portland 2 to 1 and the 1 wasn't exactly a convincing win. Our guys just don't seem to match up well with their guys. Still, with a home court advantage fueled by a city that is by all accounts bursting with pride and enthusiasm in their reborn franchise, I give the Blazers at least an even chance to advance to the next round. If they don't, I won't be heartbroken. This isn't meant to be their year. They're still the youngest team in the playoffs and they've got work to do. The title belongs to the Cavs or Lakers anyhow, so Portland should look at this as a chance for a little post-seasoning, if you will.

Next year, though? Championship. Bank on it.

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The Obama administration made the right call and released the latest batch of Bush Administration torture memos. Predictably on this subject, Sully is your go-to source for spot-on reaction:

Perhaps you are reading these documents alongside me. I've only read the Bybee memo, as chilling an artifact as you are ever likely to read in a democratic society, the work clearly not of a lawyer assessing torture techniques in good faith, but of an administration official tasked with finding how torture techniques already decided upon can be parsed in exquisitely disingenuous ways to fit the law, even when they clearly do not. This is what Hannah Arendt wrote of when she talked of the banality of evil. To read a bureaucrat finding ways to describe and parse away the clear infliction of torture on a terror suspect well outside any "ticking time bomb" scenario is to realize what so many of us feared and sensed from the shards of information we have been piecing together for years. It is all true. These memos form a coda to the Red Cross report, confirming its evidentiary conclusions, while finding exquisite, legalistic and preposterous ways to deny the obvious.

Obama went out of his way to make it plain that he did not intend to investigate or prosecute the CIA agents and military personnel who carried out torture in our name. That's fine as far as it goes. Repellent as it may seem to those of us with a conscience, "just following orders" has a certain logic to it. I would be highly pissed off, however, if our new president were to extend this "bygones" umbrella to cover the lawyers and Bush administration officials who ordered and justified the use of torture. These people - Cheney, Yoo, et. al. - are war criminals and they deserve to be treated as such.

One final word, tying back to my earlier post today: The Obama administration has behaved in a most exemplary fashion to date in terms of repudiating what we commonly understand as "torture". I would caution them, however, that torture takes many forms. Waterboarding is a horrific practice, as are the sorts of things we see on TV and in the movies such as fingernail pulling and ballsack whipping. But I cannot imagine a more egregious form of psychological torture than the thought of being abducted off of the street, sent to a prison overseas, held incommunicado from my loved ones, and given no hope whatsoever of recourse. That is torture too. Defending such practices is an abomination.

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I just read the following in an email from a fraternity brother of mine regarding our chapter's possible purchase of an old church building in Troy:

The presentation will be an opportunity for us to introduce our selfs to the Dioceses and give them some in site to our organization and our intended use of the facility.

Um... "our selfs"? "in site"?

Really?

Hell, I shouldn't talk, I guess. I vividly remember a few years ago typing "know" when I meant "no" -- yes, that way; not the other way around -- and how I paused in horror wondering if I'd contracted some horrible neurological disorder. I am neither stupid nor ignorant -- nor, for that matter, is the guy who sent me this email -- and yet I've noticed that, more and more frequently, I make mistakes along these lines. Luckily for all involved, we live in a digital era where, if you take the time to proofread, you can catch crap like this. Still... WTF?

I guess my question is this: Has anyone else noticed a sharp uptick in AOHD (Adult-Onset Homophone Disorder) in recent years, either in yourself or others? If so, do you consider it a normal symptom of aging? Or is there something stranger going on related to either the information bombardment we're all subject to, the new digital media we use, or some combination of the two?

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4:00 PM: First Truly Epic Meltdown: Jose Veras and Damaso Marte.

3:55 PM: Yankees bullpen: FAIL.

3:02 PM: First Home Run! Give me a "JOR!" Give me a "GE!" What does it spell!? Jorge!

2:37 PM: You could populate a small town with the men the Yankees have stranded on base in this game.

1:22 PM: First Hit By Pitch? Mark Teixeira.

1:21 PM: First Hit? Johnny Damon.

1:18 PM: Derek Jeter, taking the first regular-season Yankee at-bat at the new house, was just handed the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at the old stadium. (No, he didn't actually hit with it.) I'm sorry, I know it's all just a lot of silly pageantry, but I think it's awesome.

1:10 PM: Yogi Berra throws out the "first pitch"... And CC Sabathia throws the first pitch!

12:40 PM: My last-minute decision to take the afternoon off so I could watch the Yankees open their new stadium is looking pretty good right now. Sun is shining, it's a balmy sixty degrees out, and I'm kicking it on the couch with a cold one - doubtless the first of many - by my side. Bernie Williams just wrapped up a pretty (if somewhat melancholy) instrumental rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame and the club is now parading a whole bunch of former Yankee stars out onto the field as the organ plays in the background. I must say, I'm feeling a little giddy here.

Great win by the Yankees yesterday, by the way. They came back to win a close game on the road against the Rays, taking the series 2-1 and bringing a winning record home from their nine-game season-opening road trip. They appear to have lost Nady for an extended period and there's a big question mark hanging over Chien-Ming Wang after two putrid outings, but I'm feeling pretty good about this team.

And here come the Yankees! Back in a while. Well, maybe. If I'm feeling chatty.

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"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." -- President Barack Obama in his inaugural address.

Those were bold, inspiring words. The kind of words that made me beam with pride listening to our new leader and, as the TV cameras showed, made former president Bush scowl at the implied rebuke. What a shame that those words have not been translated into action. So far, at least, President Obama has shown a disturbing knack for making exactly the sort of false choices he seemed to be decrying on the day he was sworn in. Choices like:

There is no room for a "wait and see" attitude here. There is no rationale the Obama administration can produce that would excuse these decisions. This is not like the economy or healthcare reform where you have complex, hard-to-untangle, largely technocratic issues that might be addressed by a wide range of possible choices. This shit is as black and white as it gets. These are easy calls. Obama is getting them wrong.

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What kind of gaping asshole writes an entire column denouncing denim??? How could a man who so pompously parades himself around as a connoisseur of Americana not know that item four on the list that starts Baseball, Mom, and Apple Pie is Jeans? Gods, what an irritating prick. (h/t: Chemist)

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[2009.04.12 - 02:00 P.M.]

We've got a leisurely Easter Sunday planned here in the Shire. Tracy's Mom is coming down for dinner in a little while (seared sea scallops on sauteed spinach with hoisin butter sauce). Got the Yankees going for the sweep in KC at 2:00 PM. Other than that, just kinda takin' it easy. So how about a little beer blogging? Sounds like a perfect plan to me.

First up is Otter Creek Brewing's Imperial Russian Stout. I picked up a bomber of this back in January and it's been sitting in the fridge patiently waiting for my beer blogging drought to end. Time to properly reward this bad boy for its forbearance.

The Pour: This beer knows how to make an entrance. OC's Russian Stout pours thickly out of the bottle, sporting that used-motor-oil texture one likes to see in this breed of beer. A mild confectionary note combines with a hint of alcohol to make up the bouquet that emanates from the rich, two-inch tall, cocoa-colored head. A steady stream of bubbles -- detectable only around the very outside of the glass given the opaque mahogany body -- allows the head to maintain itself for an extremely long time. Ten minutes post pour we've still got half an inch or so of beer cream left.

The Taste: In a very unusual twist for this style of beer, a crisp, bitter hop chorus dominates the flavor profile. Most Imperial Stouts that I've had come in with the malts first, a little alcohol around the edges, and then a subtle hop finish. Here, that is almost perfectly reversed. The hops blast out in front, and then as you swish the brew around a bit a variety of other flavors emerge. Dark chocolate, a patina of spicy flavors - coriander? anise? - and a suggestion of roasted chestnut all make an appearance as I'm sussing things out. There is a subtle alcohol note in the background, like a light touch of brandy. The texture, surprisingly, falls a bit short. Rich up front with a bit of stickiness around the lips, the undercarriage of this beer somehow manages to feel a bit watery. The result is an aftertaste -- bitter and a bit ashy -- that stays on the roof of your mouth rather than trailing down the gullet as one would expect. Otter Creek lists %ABV at a very healthy 10.6, and the flush I'm feeling as I get to the last of these 22 ounces bears that out.

The Verdict: With a more robust, penetrating body this beer could be Great. As it stands, it's merely Very Good. If a hoppy, high-alcohol stout sounds good to you, I'd recommend overlooking the shortcomings in this beer's foundation and enjoying the intense and flavorful facade that it presents.

Next in line is an offering from Tröegs Brothers that I picked up at Hoosick Street Beverage Center when we were up in Troy last weekend, Tröegenator Doublebock. On a brief personal note, man was it trippy to walk into Hoosick Street again. It's been a long time, but I used to know that place like the back of my hand - unsurprising given that it was fifty yards from the frat house. Gotta say, their selection has improved immeasurably.

The Pour: Tröegenator pours loudly into a wide-mouthed goblet, blowing its tiny load of carbonation all up front in an eighth-of-an-inch head that burns off in under twenty seconds. An ephemeral fruity aroma attends this beer's arrival. The body is a pretty ruby red hue that is perfectly translucent - no carbonation or cloudiness.

The Taste: Sweet malts are front and center with the first sip. Over-ripe cherries hit the tip of the tongue, followed by a somewhat sour apricot or fig note around the sides. The relative lack of carbonation gives this beer a something of a meady mouth feel. The hop presence is stronger than I'd expect given the rest of this beer's profile. Not overpoweringly bitter, but there's definitely a crisp, dry finish that adds a nice edge to things. The 8.2% ABV is almost entirely undetectable, a fact which is somewhat disappointing as an alcohol kick would really round out the flavor here. The aftertaste stays mostly on the mouth and has an odd sour note that's a bit off-putting.

The Verdict: There's something a bit desultory about this beer's presence. The body is flat and not terribly rich. The malts are a little interesting but the aftertaste doesn't carry the flavor through. Overall, while there are plenty of interesting individual notes that I can pick out, I don't get the sense that this beer came together terribly well.

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[2009.04.12 - 12:15 P.M.]

There are quite a few of these that are awesome, but this one was my hands-down favorite:

Happy Easter and/or non-denominational Spring Festival Day of your choice, my peeps.

(h/t: Chemist)

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Sat - 7:45 PM: Royals shortstop Mike Aviles has one of the weirdest batting stances I've ever seen. Torso straight up and down, knees bent a little, he wiggles the bat slowly while simultaneously doing a slow gyration with his body that looks like he's practicing Pole Dancing 101. Truly bizarre.

Fri - 8:00 PM: There's mildly surprising, very surprising, shocking, and then there's "Bill Simmons wrote a column defending A-Rod".

Fri - 4:30 PM: The Yanks get Kansas City for three games this weekend, and game one - the Royals home opener - gets underway in just a few minutes. Andy Pettitte will be pitching for the good guys today and on the mound for KC is none other than Mr. Sidney Ponson. If Fat-ass pitches anything like he did in the Bronx last year we should see some fireworks from the Yankee bats.

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"In 1773, a handful of men dumped tea into the Boston Harbor. That one act set in motion a chain of events that birthed the greatest nation on earth. But today, many Americans feel helpless as they watch an imperialistic government destroy our Constitution and 237 years of liberty." -- Human Events magazine, getting ready for next week's big tea-bagging extravaganza.

It's a little rich to see a Winger rag using that sort of language, isn't it? Until recently we really did have an imperialist government that was working feverishly to destroy our constitution and take away our liberties and all I recall hearing from the right was "GO TEAM GO!" Luckily for the rest of us, their party was defeated in November and the new guy is doing a pretty decent job of reversing their imperialist foreign policy and repairing the damage done to our founding document. And yet now the lunatic right is in a tizzy about... well, no one's really sure. Obama got a stimulus package passed and he proposed a budget that has tax rates on high earners reverting to their Clinton-era levels. ZOMYGOD SOMEBODY CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD!!!

Really, between Karl Rove calling Joe Biden a "liar", FOX News calling Obama "divisive" and now these tea-bagger douchebags accusing the new administration of being "imperialistic" constitution shredders I've had just about e-fucking-nough of unhinged conservatives projecting the sins of their past onto our present. Vapid assclowns, the lot of them.

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[2009.04.09 - 06:00 P.M.]

President Barack Obama urges people to refinance as new housing measures are introduced. I say sure, dude, I'm all over it. Just as soon as you force banks to drop their "20% equity or borrower pays PMI" condition for homeowners with a verified income and established payment track record. Because that's the one thing right now that's fucking us out of taking advantage of those historically low interest rates.

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I just put a new bird-kabob in the cage for the 'keets. I put the last one in on Sunday when we got back from New York but, as Tracy just pointed out, they'd already finished dispatching it. Bird-kabobs are not, as the name suggests, kabobs made out of bird (which can also be quite good when the bird in question is, say, chicken) but rather stacks of chewable wooden disks that our little hookbills are driven to rip apart. They seem to love them. Here's the thing, though: As I was putting the new kabob in I was thinking to myself what a wonderful, caring birdie daddy I am, right? These things cost five bucks a pop and I'm letting them go through two a week. Good on me. Except, the thought suddenly occurred to me, what if this is work to them? What if they were looking at the last kabob thinking "Whew! Glad we got that properly taken care of! But wait, here comes one of the giant fleshy ones with... with... OH NO!!! My God, man, can we ever get a rest?!" Really: What if I am not seen as their loving benefactor but as an Evil Birdie Task Master?

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[2009.04.06 - 03:30 P.M.]

8:05 PM: Yeah, I know; it's one game. But still, there's that little voice in the back of my head whispering "Here we go again..."

6:10 PM: So far this has been about the shittiest season opener anyone could have predicted. Sabathia's been an absolute mess, nobody's hitting for the Yanks, just your basic all-around nightmare game.

4:20 PM: Moments away from first pitch and, like clockwork, Haloscan decides to completely shit the bed. Awesome.

3:30 PM: Hot dogs? Check. Beer? Check. Dippin' dots? Check. T-shirt, jersey, hat? Check, check, and check.

Rain-free skies over Baltimore? Eh... fingers crossed.

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Wouldn't it be great if baseball started the season for real today instead of giving us one measly night game and having everyone else start on a weekday?

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[2009.04.04 - 01:30 P.M.]

Huskies at Spartans* tips off a little after 6:00 PM this evening, and Tracy and I will be watching it at Brown's Brewing (formerly the Troy Pub & Brewery) in the company, we hope, of the Tzelepi. A mutual friend of ours is having a birthday party tonight at her home in Troy, and we'll all be heading over there after the game to party like it's 1989. For me, it will also be either a celebration of Connecticut's advancement to the the championship game on Monday or, alternatively, an occasion to keelhaul my sorrows.

Unlike their Elite Eight matchup with Missouri, which was a clash of styles, this game for the Huskies will be like playing a mirror image of themselves. Like UConn, Michigan State plays a bruising brand of ball centered on grinding it out in the half court. In all likelihood there will quite literally be blood on the floor at some point. My Huskies were favored by four points last I heard, and that sounds about right to me. State will match them in ferocity, strength, and toughness but at the end of the day we have Thabeet and they don't. His presence in the middle -- assuming he stays out of foul trouble and on the floor -- should be the difference maker.

As for the late game, I think every sports prognosticator in the universe has North Carolina advancing to the title game easily, and they're probably right. Still, I've been saying since the opening round of the tournament that 'Nova is playing like a team possessed. It'd be a great story if they could knock the Tar Heels off. (And it would all but guarantee me first place in the TwoGlasses pool. So, you know, there's that.)

(*Neutral court my Nutmegger ass; this is a home game for State.)

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Oh my:

The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.

Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.

The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.

Although some experts are questioning the legality of this strategy, the officials said it gives them latitude to determine whether firms should be subject to the congressional restrictions, which would require recipients to turn over ownership stakes to the government, as well as curb executive pay.

Whatever one thinks of the Obama/Geithner bank rescue package -- and bank executives can't think that much of it if they're willing to blow it off just to protect their absurd compensation packages -- this is no way to go about securing participation. The president's job is to execute faithfully the laws of the land. "National Security" was a bullshit justification when Bush used signing statements to thwart the will of Congress. "Economic Security" is likewise a piss-poor excuse for Obama to try to work around the provisions that legislators insisted on -- and the public strongly backed -- before signing off on Geithner's bailout plan. And no, it doesn't matter if the workarounds they come up with are legal in a narrow, technical sense; it's still a highly unethical thing to do.

Note to our new president: Despite reports to the contrary, your shit does, in fact, stink. Don't forget it.

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[2009.04.03 - 12:00 P.M.]

The Supreme Court of the state of Iowa -- wholesome, corn-fed Iowa - proud member in good standing of America's Heartland™ -- has given the thumbs up to same-sex marriage.

Iowa. Wow.

(cups hand to ear)

Do you hear that, homobigots? That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your demise. Enjoy your continued descent into embittered irrelevance, knuckle draggers.

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[2009.04.01 - 06:00 P.M.]

Over at RedState.org -- your source for commentary from the absolute bottom of the right-wing barrel -- Erick Erickson, responding to Washington State's decision to ban phospates from dishwashing detergents, asks:

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?

At some point soon, it will happen. It'll be over an innocuous issue. But the rage is building.

I'm going to answer that question with a question: At what point do a right-wing blogger's unhinged rantings and exhortations to violence justify his fellow citizens dragging him away from his keyboard and beating him to a bloody pulp for recklessly running his mouth like some fucking tough-guy and threatening physical harm to his fellow citizens over fucking policy differences?

It probably won't happen any time soon, because liberals are a patient and civilized lot and we know guys like Erickson are just impotent dweebs indulging in never-gonna-happen fantasies. But the irritation is building...

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This item from today's Hartford Courant is apparently not a cruel April Fool's joke:

Panel Votes To Decriminalize Less Than Half-Ounce Of Marijuana

On a groundbreaking vote, the legislature's judiciary committee decided Tuesday night to decriminalize marijuana possession for adults 18 and older who have less than half an ounce of the drug.

Under a compromise, the marijuana laws would not change for anyone under 18, and the amount that would be decriminalized was reduced from less than 1 ounce to less than half an ounce. The possession of small amounts would no longer be a crime and would instead be an infraction with a maximum fine of $250 that could be paid like a speeding ticket.

Some Democratic legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven, have been pushing hard this year for decriminalization, saying that doing so could save the state more than $11 million in law enforcement costs annually because far fewer people would be sent to state Superior Court to be overseen by prosecutors and probation officials. If marijuana users were issued a ticket that could be paid by mail, they would no longer need to go to court.

The bill passed 24-14 in the Democratic-dominated committee, and the highest-ranking Republican who voted for the measure was deputy House Republican leader William Hamzy of Plymouth.

Despite the positive vote Tuesday night, the bill still faces an uphill battle as Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell opposes the decriminalization. Rell vetoed a bill two years ago that would have allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes to relieve pain.

"Whether it's little or a lot, it is an illegal substance, and the governor does not support the bill," Rell's spokesman, Christopher Cooper, said Tuesday night after the vote.

Fight it if you want, governor, but something tells me America is finally waking up on this issue, and you're soon going to find yourself on the wrong side of history.

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Question for those of you who work in corporate/office environments: Do you keep your cell phone on you while you're at work? And if so, do you answer it during meetings? When I get into work, I turn my cell phone off, put it in my jacket pocket, and don't think about it again until the end of the day when I'm leaving the office. I believe, based on observations of my peers, that this puts me in a distinct minority. Cell phones ring out their quirky tones from cubicles all around me throughout the day. It is not at all uncommon where I work for people to get and take calls even during meetings, which is one place where I would have thought the expectation still remained that a person could not be reached except in an emergency. What do you think? Does this sort of thing give you pause, or is it just another aspect of an always-connected, always-on society?

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