Sunday, March 30, 2008

Baseball Quarterly Report: Top 14 Teams of 2008

Well... if Lost can have the Oceanic Six.. we can have the NWOW 14! Tonight is Opening Night on ESPN... and many fantasy leagues held their drafts today. Now those of you home from your drafts will be sitting there tonight watching the Braves-Nationals game starting a 6 month odyssey/obsession with your stats.

The first full week of the baseball season gets underway this week.... of course we already had those 2 Boston Oakland games from Japan that nobody watched...(except for Barry the local Boston Red Sox fan) Were the A's fans really going to stay up till 3 AM! to watch a game? - This whole Japanese games things is just so silly. I still remember the good ol' days where the first game of the season always took place in Cincinnati and the rest of the games came on later in the afternoon. Now ESPN has a Braves Nationals game on tonight, and The Reds don't kick off till after 2 on Monday... 2 American League games will already have started by then.

Monday is the culmination of 5 terrific days in sports.. 4 days of the NCAA leading to the Final 4 and then Opening Day. Usually Opening Day coincides with the NCAA Championship Game.. but this year the first full day of the baseball season is March 31..

So who are the top 14 teams of the year... As usual we start in the National League and move East to West starting with....

THE METS - Time for my boys to get back to 2006 mode.. except this year, the St. Louis Cardinals will not interfere with their Road to the World Series.... the Cardinals will be too busy trying not to lose 110 games! The Mets go into the new year with some glaring holes on offense, but their bullpen is solid and the rotation looks much improved with Johan Santana, plus a full year of Pedro, and the ever improving John Maine and the surprisingly improved Oliver Perez. The outfield is a tad shaky.... but its always fun to watch ESPN Games to hear Jon Miller announce Carlos Beltraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. Hopefully Beltraaaaaaaaaaaaan will stay healthy because LF and RF are not solid. Luckily the Mets have a pretty strong left side of the infield and they are praying that Carlos Delgado has another year left in the tank.. I think they will grow to regret trading away Lastings Milledge... but Met fans will be too focused on the Pennant Race with the Phils and Braves to get overly worried. Nonetheless, the Mets probably should have acquired another outfielder during the spring... we'll see if it comes back to bite them in the tushie.

Philly - Now Enemy #1 to Mets fans after they took advantage of the Mets 2007 choke job and snatched the division. The Phils have a decent rotation anchored by young Cole Hamels and Brent Myers who is back as a starter after a year in the pen. Old man Jamie Moyer continues to chug along, and watch out for Kyle Kendrick who went 10-4 last year. Brad Lidge comes over from Houston as the stopper. Offensively, they have what they had last year. A lot of pop with Ryan Howard and a phenomenal hitting middle infield with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. You gotta give credit to Pat Burrell also, he consistently hits close to 30 homers each year. Unlike last year they are going to be in the division race from Day One... so Mets fans wont have to worry about another late choke job with the Phillies making a huge comeback. The Phils are for real this year, and won't far too fall of the pace, and this might mean that the Wild Card is coming out of the East.

Atlanta - Tom Glavine is back in Atlanta rejoining John Smoltz, a rejuvenated Tim Hudson, and Mike Hampton who came back from years of injuries. Braves teams of yesteryear were built on pitching, and if these veterans can stay healthy, the East will be a 3 team race. However, Smoltz has some injury troubles that could drastically hurt this team, especially with Glavine's aging and Hamptons shakiness. He has been injured so much lately he could homeschool his kids. (A little dig at Hampton who didnt want to pitch for the Mets because of the local school systems.) Andruw Jones is gone, but Chipper had a great year, they get a full year of 1B Mark Texiera and Brian McCann is a terrific catcher so the team should contend for the Wild Card. Rafael Soriano comes in out of the bullpen as the stopper - he has already posted some pretty good numbers as the set up man.

Cubbies - They might cruise to the division, unless the Astros can get it together with their new look team. The Cubbies have some solid players with outfielder Alfonso Soriano and corner infielders Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. When I saw the new Japanese player was named Fukudome... I thought that was the name of a new stadium! Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly anchor the pitching staff - but who knows how long Kerry Wood can last as the stopper? He might actually thrive in that role since he won't be forced to pitch more than an inning at a time. Lou Pinella as manager should help them out in an incredibly weak division.

Houston - This is the team that could sneak up on a lot of people who are so into the Brewers this year...... Houston totally revamped their team for '08. but the major concern is the starting rotation. After Roy Oswalt, who is gonna pitch? Wandy Rodriguez as the #2 starter? Do any fantasy drafts today have any other Astros starters getting drafted? If the Astros discover a young rookie and make a trade they could quickly straighten out the rotation. Jose Valverde is a solid acquisition for the pen. Offensively, Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are joined by a full year of young Hunter Pence plus Shortstop Miguel Tejada and speedy outfielder Michael Bourn who quietly had a terrific year with the Phllies in '07. The Astros also picked up former Met Kaz Matsui from Colorado... but he is out for now due to an Anal Fissure. Anal Fissure? Is that any relation to Ira Joe Fissure.

Arizona - Their already solid rotation got even better when they snagged Dan Haren from Oakland to join Brandon Webb and the ageless Randy Johnson. Brandon Lyon will save the games replacing Jose Valverde who went to the 'Stros. The hitting looks pretty good this year with some major speed in the outfield coming from Eric Byrnes and Chris Young. Both also have some pop in their bats. The rest of the offense leaves a bit to be desired, but the pitching staff is strong enough to carry the team through some low scoring 2-1 or 3-2 games... sort of like The Mets.

Colorado - Last years surprise pennant winners look to continue the hot streak. They also fulfilled a prediction I have made in previous baseball columns - there is so much parity in baseball (moreso in the NL than the AL where its either feast or famine) that a team can put together a big winning streak in September to catapult them right into the wild card race. Thats what the Rox did... and they bring back the same offense with Roy Halladay, Garrett Atkins, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Todd Tulowitzki. That is some hitting team!! Manny Corpas took over as stopper last season and never looked back.. They only have one solid starter in Jeff Francis... and like a number of other teams, they will be shopping for pitching during the season.

San Diego - The last NL team to make the list... Wait, No Dodgers?? Sorry... Joe Torre ain't with the Yankees anymore and the LA Dodgers are nowhere near as good as the Yankees from '96-'00 when Torre really established himself... However, the Padres get the edge here, although they will probably finish with a slightly better record... but not by much. The starting looks solid with Jake Peavy, Chris Young... (not the same as the D-back outfielder) and veteran warhorse Greg Maddux who always figures out a way to get to 14 wins. Trevor Hoffman is a seasoned pro who should be able to bounce back from last years meltdown. Like LA, the offense is just ok.. and with that ballpark, it is going to be tough to get a lot of home runs, even though they have some solid hitters in 1b Adrian Gonzales, ss Khalil Greene and 3b Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Pods just barely make it in as the #14 team.

Yankees - First of all Let's hope Stadium PA Announcer Bob Shepherd makes a full recovery. The 90 something Shepherd is still "under the weather" and will not be around for the start of the season. He did conduct an interview with Neil Best from the Watchdog blog on Newsday... so apparently his age has not caught up with him. This season's team is putting a lot of faith in their young pitching staff with Chien Ming Wang being the only sure thing. Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina might be near the end of the rope, so the young guys they did not trade for Johan Santana might have to step up to cover the slack. Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera 'nuff said, and the offense remains basically the same as '07 so as usual the Bombers are going to be tough. Last year, they couldn't pull off the division title, but still got the Wild Card. This year's big question is will the starting pitching issues get them back to the playoffs.... and will ARod be hitting on other players' wives as he allegedly did with Mrs. Canseco? For more on this topic... see today's Clip of the Week.

Boston - The World Champs and more trash talking by local Red Sox fan Barry. He's still chirping about the Celtics terrific season, but his Patriot talk has been refreshingly quiet since The Super Bowl. :) He actually pointed out to me yesterday that he saw a T- Shirt that said... "2007 New England Patriots - 18 Wins and One Giant Loss'. Good to see that the Patroits fans are recuperating! Anyway, despite the loss of Curt Schilling the Sox look good again this year. The young players in the lineup are one year older, although Mike Lowell probably won't repeat his '07 stats, but the drop in his numbers will be offset by the monster year expected of Manny Ramirez who is playing for a new contract. He already has 5 RBIs. Jonathan Papelbon continues to anchor the bullpen. The Sox made mincemeat out of the Rockies in the World Series and they will probably do likewise to the American League during the '08 season.

Toronto - Is Toronto really in Eastern Canada?? If they said they were in Western Canada and moved to the Western Division, would anyone know the difference, especially since we Americans really don't know much about Canadian geography. Its tough to be a Blue Jay fan playing 3rd fiddle to NY and Boston. This years Blue Jays look pretty good except for that bizarre trade that got them oft injured Scott Rolen for the slightly less oft injured Troy Glaus. The rest of the team is back... with some good pop in the outfield provided by Vernon Wells and Alex Rios plus DH Frank Thomas. The rotation is solid with Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Dustin McGowan and the very underrated Shawn Marcum. (I had him on my rotis team and it's harder to find him on scouting sheets than it is to find Toronto on a map!). The Jays look pretty solid and might actually briefly contend for the top of the division if either The Yankees or Red Sox get off to a slow start.

Cleveland - If you follow the Indians, you realize that no stopper pitches into more trouble than Joe Borowski.. a modern day version of Doug Sisk. He is back again in '08 as the Indians will battle it out again with Detroit. CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona could each win 20 but will sit white knuckled in the dugout during those 9th inning Borowski high wire acts. The offense has the usual cast who have gone from young players to superstars led by Catcher Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner and Outfielder Grady Sizemore. If Cliff Lee can bounce back to his pre-2007 form, the Indians could be on their way to the Playoffs.

Detroit - Their primary votes don't count, their mayor is in a ton of trouble... but The Tigers look terrific. They made the big trade of the offseason acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida... 2 more guys whose primary votes did not count. Everybody is high on Justin Verlander to anchor the staff with Jeremy Bonderman, Willis, Nate Robertson and 40+ Kenny Rogers. Todd Jones anchors the pen again for now. Offensively, Cabrera gets support from a strong supporting cast of Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield. They may not be able to vote, but their team is strong. Just for fun, I hear MLB won't count their All Star Ballots either.

Seattle - The Mariners saw a decent rotation get a lot stronger with the acquisition of Eric Bedard from Baltimore. He joins Felix Hernandez and a deep staff featuring #5 starter Miguel Batista who won 15 games. JJ Putz has my favorite name of any player... although I do call Pirate Outfielder Nate McLouth - McLovin' in honor of the Superbad character. Offensively, if Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez can get it together, they along with leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki can score quite a few runs. The Angels were my original choice for the 1 spot from The AL West for this Top 14 list but the injuries to John Lackey and Kelvin Escobar have catapulted The Mariners to the top of the division.

NL Surprise - Houston Astros - If Tejada can get past his steroid controversy, this could be a good year for them... but they will need another starter.

AL Surprise - Chicago White Sox - They probably would be a contender if they were not in such a tough division. They will be the Denver Nuggets of Baseball.

NL Disappointment LA Dodgers - I like Joe Torre, but he always had problems in the NL.... This Dodger team has the pitching, but aside from James Loney and Russel Martin, the offense ain't too spectacular.

AL Disappointment LA Angels - the Lackey/Escobar injuries and the loss of Orlando Cabrera will be too much to overcome.

NL Division Winners - Phillies, Cubbies, D-Backs
NL Wild Card - The Mets

AL Division Winners - Boston, Detroit, Seattle
AL Wild Card - Cleveland

ALCS - Boston vs. Detroit
ALCS - Mets vs. Phillies

World Series - Mets against Detroit. Who else will I pick?? The Mets of course! Hey I didn't pick 'em in '06 when I picked St. Louis!

CLIP OF THE WEEK - Just in case you didn't get up to see the Red Sox and A's, Gary Thorne who I think is a terrific announcer, especially when he would fly across the country from late night hockey games to daytime Met games pulls a blooper here when he gets Jose Canseco mixed up with Jason Giambi. Might have been the jet lag flying to Japan?? Thanks to Awful Announcing for originally finding and posting this clip.


Here to get you in the mood for another season... is the Terry Cashman song "Talking Baseball"

WIDGET OF THE WEEK - Here is a chance to follow the Opening Week Scores. I might move this to the sidebar if people like it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Living Daylights - A Movie Club Column

Well its that time of the year again... March Madness is in full swing... and if you can take a break from all the craziness in the news involving Spitzer, Bear Stearns, Darlene Rodriguez's husband, Obamas crazy minister, and the crumbling economy to keep track of your brackets... you are more organized than I am. And how about the Long Island supporters of John White who feel he should be free, but want the father of the boy he shot dead, arrested because in a fit of anger he hypothesized about the double standard if White's son had been killed! Ok... lets get it straight... the White supporters say he doesn't deserve to be jailed for the death of Daniel Cicciaro.. but the dad should be jailed for "threatening" White's son. Are these people nuts or what?? Talk about March Madness!

On top of that, Its also almost baseball season which means my rotisserie draft is just around the corner which means I get a little sporadic with my blogging schedule. Incidentally, I must have done something right last March because my hoops and baseball prep helped me finish 2nd in my baseball league and my 2007 brackets netted me an almost perfect 2nd NCAA weekend.... I nailed the Elite 8 and I was one UNC choke job away from picking the Final 4 until they lost to Georgetown. By the way, it was interesting listening to the Friday afternoon WFAN update when the reporter talking about Georgetown player Patrick Ewing, Jr., identified him as Patrick Ewing's son! Talk about overstating the obvious.

One other thing - all these people who jumped on Georgia's short lived bandwagon after their improbable SEC tournament win which featured a doubleheader victory last Saturday after a tornado ripped through Atlanta right before their scheduled quarterfinal game.... forcing them into the Saturday twinbill. Did you catch the coverage on CNN after the tornado hit?? Every night before midnight, CNN sends domestic viewers to a Larry King repeat and overseas viewers to a CNN International newscast anchored by a foreign correspondent right out of CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. It used to feature a very entertaining British guy who I watched when I went on a cruise a few years ago. That night, CNN switched everyone to CNN International for Tornado Coverage. Well this woman who was anchoring the news that fateful night is from some other country and all of a sudden found herself anchoring live coverage of a tornado hitting a city you could tell she did not want to live in and knew very little about! Some reporter was called in... and his live reports outside CNN Headquarters mentioned landmarks this woman had no clue about! It was almost as if she was holding up a sign begging her boss to transfer her out of the USA back to whatever country she is from!! And her attempts to explain the SEC Tourney game which was postponed due to tornado damage to the arena? Hysterical! First it was the basketball championships... then it was the college championships... then it was something else... she had absolutely no clue!

Anyway, I figured I need some time away from the news, ESPN, and Clark Kellogg so we could catch up with the Movie Club. Today we are going to review The Living Daylights - the James Bond movie starring Timothy Dalton.... the 4th of the 6 Bonds. Pumpstradamus and my buddy Steve who picked out the films for this series came over the other day and we popped in the DVD. By the way muchas gracias to Blockbuster in Somerset... I rented the movie during a rainstorm and their credit card machine was down and they very kindly allowed me to rent the video without paying in advance. I went back a day or two later and paid for it AND the Giants DVD.. but special thanks to Blockbuster for putting Nate on the honor system.

After seeing Connery and Moore as Bond, I knew we were in for a bit of a disappointment, but strangely enough Dalton's movie actually has a well presented storyline.. the problem is Dalton is not as Bond-a-licious as the previous Bonds. Whereas Sean and Roger played the part rather tongue in cheek with a dash of studliness, Dalton is all business here... with only the occasional wisecrack. In the last anthology we did here at NWOW, the 4th Robert Altman movie was Short Cuts (see the 9/6/07 column) which featured a key storyline involving a cellist. Coincidentally, the 4th Bond movie also features a storyline involving a cellist.

Heres the trailer...

After the opening segment introducing Bond, we hear the latest theme song, a recording by A-HA named for the movies title that basically sucks. Its definitely no Take on Me, nor anywhere as good as the other Bond movie theme songs. Once the opening credits are done, we get right to the meat of the storyline - Bonds is assigned to assist the defecting Russian general Koskov - a topical storyline for the 80s when the Russians Communists were the big meanies. Bond has to keep an eye out for snipers as the General chooses the intermission of a classical music concert to make his escape. Bond however realizes that a rooftop sniper is ready to pounce, and is amazed to discover that this KGB sniper is actually the hot cellist! Despite orders to shoot to kill, he instead opts to hit her in the arm.... which one would think would present him with the opportunity to get to know this babe a little better.

However, the Dalton Bond is more in touch with his instincts than his hormones in this movie. He insists that his refusal to kill the cellist was because he wasnt 100% sure of General Koskov's truthiness.... Koskov is a touchy feely huggy kind of guy....he gives Bond a big hug once he is safe... I could almost see Richard Simmons playing this role! Bond puts together an elaborate scheme to get Koskov outta town by driving him to a Pipeline guard station, and basically giving him a little ride in one of those tubes like they used to have in (Tr)action Park in the late 1980s... ... except this time was in a pipeline headed right to Vienna. Steve gets the geography gold star for pointing out Austria's proximity to Russia... while Pumpstradamus told us that while watching this film in the theater in 1987 , he informed his fellow viewers that a storyline sympathetic to Afghans was misguided since he predicted that these people would eventually turn out to be Al Qaeda terrorists. I wasn't there but I'll take his word for it.

Ultimately, Bond decides to find out more about this young chickie...Kara played by Maryam D'abo. After he continues to run into trouble with her, you start to wonder if maybe Bond might have been better off just shooting her in the beginning of the film. Bond helps Kara escape from Russia... but she won't go anywhere without her cello - and when its time to escape the Russians on a ski mountain, Bond realizes that a cello case makes a great snow board!! As it turns out, the cellist has amor for another fella... but Bond being Bond still tries to make his move including a trip to the Prater Amusement Park where he takes her up on a Ferris Wheel while wearing a tux. Ultimately, that is also the scene where another agent meets his demise triggering a mad manhunt which features a Russian assassin played by Andreas Wisniewski who back then bore an uncanny resemblance to Jason McElwain in 2008. Jason is that terrific Autistic kid who scored a ton of points in a high school basketball game 2 years ago.

As usual we see the cool gadgets at the laboratory... including a key ring whose explosion is triggered when one whistles at a hot chickie. Hopefully that wasnt what caused that crane collapse last week... you know how horny those construction workers can get. During the traditional gadget demonstration scene, one of them was actually activated offstage by.... Prince Charles! He was visiting the set that day with Princess Diana and just for fun, he got the chance to participate in that days filming.

The plot moves smoothly along with a number of twists and turns. I especially got a kick out of the pipeline escape and the scene where the not too attractive Russian female guard used her breasts to distract the incredibly bored male guard. The actor who played him also played a Jewelry forger in Octopussy. Ultimately, the whole story revolves around Koskov being mixed up in a plot with a wacko American arms dealer/military obsessed nutjob named Whitaker whose foyer features a hallway of lifelike wax figures of famous dictators. Joe Don Baker does a great job in this role... The bad guys end up hatching a plot to let Bond believe that a Russian general is involved in a plot to kill off secret agents... many of them friends of Mr. Bond.

In a moment of weakness, Kara trips up Bond... who ends up as a prisoner on a plane to Russia en route to a jail cell at an Afghan airfield. Back then, Russia was the big bad wolf, and Afghan rebels where these poor people trying to fight off the Russian Army using horses. However keep in mind our training of the Afghans ultimately led to the creation of the Al Qaeda terrorists, so although they might have been sympathetic 20 years ago, its really hard to root for them in this movie when you watch it in 2008. The movie culminates with a preposterous mid air fight outside an airplane that looks even scarier when you watch the extras on the DVD and see how ridiculously insane the filming was for these poor stuntmen! In any other Bond movie... everything is preposterous.. but with this one being played out so seriously... a crazy finale like this looks somewhat out of place.

One major change from prior movies - there is a new MoneyPenny!! The other Moneypenny was in her late 40s and a tad too plain for Mr. Bond, but she always flirted with him. The new Moneypenny... is played by Caroline Bliss who at 26 is just too good looking to be flirting with Bond without him wanting to get some action.... especially when the laboratory features a collapsible couch that has a hidden compartment perfect for the ol' hocus mcpocus. . By the way, IMDB says Bliss appeared in a 2nd Bond movie, but hasnt acted since 1996. The computers in this movie are pretty interesting... they don't really look too "futuristic".. but the internet research abilities are quite impressive for the late 80s. I was almost waiting for them to watch the NCAA tournament on

Overall as Bond movies go, Dalton was rather bland. But if this were another movie involving a character not named James Bond... lets say one of those Matt Damon/Nicholas Cage flicks or even one featuring a character named Gaydolf Titler... this would be a pretty good movie. (And why was Titler funny... but Oprah-Uma wasn't??) The theme song by A-ha just didnt do it for me... but the musical score was ok. but when all was said and done, this particular Bond despite his serious side got involved in a pretty good story. and the scenery looks terrific.. even though the end is just a tad absurd. The movie might have been better if they didn't sidetrack into the whole Afghan rebel storyline, but that might just be my own Post 9/11 bias. On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom.... The Living Daylights gets 2 and a half bladders.

Next Movie: Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Clip of the week I

Here is the review that appeared on The Siskel and Ebert show 20 years ago. Watch as Roger tries to figure out exactly how to pronounce the name Maryam D'Abo!

Clip of the Week II

Dalton on CBS this morning with Kathleen Sullivan plugging the movie including an interesting theory why Bond doesnt get as much hoochy mcscoochy in this flick....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

His Lipas Are Sealed

Well originally, I thought the big news story of the week was the reappearance of Waris Dirie.. the 80s supermodel who recently vanished. The actress who had a brief part in "The Living Daylights" had been missing, but was found alive and well just one day before we screened her only movie for next week's Movie Club Review. But that story got out-Spitzered when the big scandalous news broke on Monday afternoon. The New York Times gets credit for breaking the Spitzer angle first... its second journalistic coup in 2 days... one day after the article on Sunday about Musical Genius Neil Fein's sister-in-law's wedding. See his blog to link to the article. In a Kevin Bacon-esque twist, you will notice that the bride is friends with All My Children's Melissa Claire Egan who appeared as a kid on Conan in a spelling bee skit with Scarlett Johanson whose first movie North was in 1994.. the same year of the miniseries Scarlett starting... The Living Daylights' Timothy Dalton!

The Spitzer fiasco is the most exciting scandal to hit these parts since Jim McGreevey. But even though there were rumors that McGreevey is gay, nobody had a clue that Spitzer was mixing it up with some high priced call girls! Interestingly enough, The Star Ledger had a story about the arrests of the 4 ringleaders of this prostitution ring in Friday's paper... but of course who woulda thought that Governor Spitzer was a part of this? The Ledger story was pretty matter of fact.. calling attention to the fact that a 62 year old male arrested was living with a 23 year old woman who was also nailed in the scandal. 32 year old Tameka Lewis who was also in the Ledger story allegedly was the liaison to Spitzer in booking the "entertainment"... she apparently is no relation to the Tameka who is in the process of bringing down former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

It looks like the whole scandal was a witch hunt... since the FBI could care less if someone breaks the obscure 1910 Mann Laws which forbids bringing hookers across state lines. How ironic that Spitzer graduated from Horace Mann High School. Of course when you create a reputation as the poster child for morality, you are bound to fall hard when you get caught with you hand in the... well use your imagination. According to The Times, it seems that Spitzer was the source of an IRS investigation from Day One after some serious cash transfer irregularities were discovered by some banks... Why wasn't this prostitution ring set up to take Pay Pal?.

Its too bad for Spitzer.. he already drew a ton of criticism for favoring Drivers Licenses for illegal immigrants.. I guess letting them drive makes it easier for them to get down to DC's Mayflower Hotel. And these hookers were soooo expensive, charging thousands of dollars for a night of fun. But when Spitzer quits and his #2 man takes over, at least he is legally blind so you don't have to worry about supplying him really hot looking hookers. Of course he would never get involved in that type of activity!

Anyway, Waris Dirie had disappeared last week in Brussels, Belgium, and I was hoping she would turn up ok... I didn't want to put a damper on my movie night when the boys came over to see "The Living Daylights", Dirie who appeared in the movie as Waris Walsh, was a one time supermodel who in recent years has campaigned against the religious fanatics who force young girls to have female circumcisions... which basically cuts the clitoris as a way to take away sexual sensation. Last Wednesday she was supposed to appear at a women's rights conference with Condelezza Rice.. but vanished. Now she is saying that she was abducted by a taxi driver and held captive in his apartment. Whatever the case may be, she has done an outstanding job speaking out against the brutal mutilation of these young girls.

It seems that these religious leaders can go either way when it comes to being extreme. A buddy of mine from out of state lost a parent recently, and I felt terrible to find out that his synagogue had no rabbi, and this guy had a lot of unanswered questions about what was supposed to be done during the shiva mourning period. Luckily another friend who lives in the same state was able to bring the "Jewish Guide to Death and Mourning" book to his house within hours so he had some type of spritiual guidance during a very difficult time. It seems his synagogue had not rehired a new Rabbi after the last one had left, and that seems to be an all too common theme among many communities that run out of members AND money when it's time to bring on leaders for its members. As it turns out, my buddy has a family friend, who is a Rabbi who lives out of state. He drove into town and provided excellent leadership and guidance during a very difficult time.

Is there a middle ground somewhere? I was reading about a charity in Israel which raises money to pay for the weddings for people who have no parents. Great cause. Its big fundraiser was to be held Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in the form of a Jewish music concert featuring a singer named Lipa Schmeltzer. That would also give them enough time to clean up afterwards to get ready for the big Pete Sampras - Roger Federer exhibition the following evening. By the way I had never heard of Lipa, and Trophy Wifes amusement with his name brings back memories of a former non Jewish roommate who got a big kick out of the caterer Shmulka Bernstein. He even took it on as a nickname for a brief period.

The organizers were extreeeeeeeeeeeemely Orthodox. Not only do they conduct their prayers with separate seating, but they mandated that all concert attendees sit in separate mens and women's sections. I discussed this separation of the sexes in a column from last August 2nd.. (see the archives at left) noting that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein had mixed seating at the weddings of 2 of his children... but you get the idea that the March 9th concert was catering to an ultra Orthodox crowd.

Well... things did not go according to plan. A couple of extremist activists sabotaged this wonderful charity when they sneakily went to a group of Rabbis and without divulging all the details arranged for them to sign a petition prohibiting their followers from going to the concert! That prohibition was published in an ad in an Ultra Orthodox newspaper...which by the way sanitizes its news coverage to such an extent that I predict Spitzer's downfall will probably be referred to as "engaging in immoral activities" or "was seen attending a Reform synagogue"! That is similar to the concern for people attending the concert... I had never heard his music before and I checked him out on You Tube. Apparently he takes pop songs and changes the words to religious themes...but I couldn't find any such music on You Tube. He also puts on G rated wacky costumes and dances around the stage... but the activists thought would lead to separate seated "frivolity and levity"!

Ultimately, the newspaper proudly recounts what happened next. Some powerful Rabbis within that community called Lipa in... and apparently those extremist activists must have approached those clergymen on the day of their daughter's wedding because you can never turn someone away on the day of your daughter's wedding... As a result these Rabbis made Lipa an offer he could not refuse. He was called to the Brooklyn home of one of the Rabbis and asked to sign a document that he would not appear at this concert. Basically it was either his signature or his payis! Ultimately it was try the cholent but save the spongecake... (Is there a Jewish food that resembles canolis?) And the producer who lost a ton of money was figuratively dragged out to the middle of the lake for a Fredo-esque farewell.... because if the show was not cancelled, he would be swimming with the gefilte fish... or wake up in the morning and find himself in bed with the head of a horse radish.

Ultimately the whole event was called off.

The audience for that concert, and those that support this Rabbinical edict probably won't "get" that last paragraph. But the way Lipa was treated, was just wrong. Schmeltzer lost approximately 100,000 dollars and the charity missed out on a payday of substantially more money! And I get the feeling that it wasn't the concert itself that caused the issue.. but the increasing freedom that Lipa was enjoying by overstepping certain boundaries that were not within the total strict control brought on by these leaders.

Amazingly that newspaper published an editorial praising these Rabbis... and in that very same editorial never ever mentioned of the fact that this was a charity fundraiser to raise wedding money for orphans and that these Rabbis had been misinformed by these evil community activists... Of course the Rabbis couldn't turn back and admit they made a mistake by signing that petition... and notice how Matisyahu couldn't give a crap about any such edicts when it comes to his musical performances. Too bad for Lipa.. it seems like there must have been some interesting negotiations to get him to agree in writing to not honor his contract to appear at the concert.

Ultimately, we need our religious leaders - not to control our day to day lives.. but to provide guidance to us. But when they start forcing women to cut their clitorises and young brides to forego a beautiful wedding day.... it seems to me that they are stepping way over their boundaries.


Here is a perfect example of Lipa Schmeltzer's incredibly harmless music... This is a song about losing weight... it could be a demo tape for NBCs "The Biggest Loser". Did anyone see when Jillian went off on that "Days of Our Lives" chic during the weigh in Tuesday night??

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Roger Over? Part II - We Have Clearance Clarence

Last week we kicked off our new Sunday posting schedule mentioning Barack Obama's theme of "change" among a country of people who are creatures of habit. Hillary Clinton continues to cling to her dream, hoping people will think that her administration will be similar to Bill's... and Bill Clinton was the best President this country has had as far as I can remember (going back to Nixon). Hillary by the way was quite funny on SNL last night although her appearance was upstaged by the skit involving the MSNBC debate where Obama got all the easy questions, but Clinton was peppered with questions so tough that at one point the Law and Order music came on and out walked Vincent D'onofrio who started grilling her as his detective alter ego. Quite funny.

But what is Bill Clinton's legacy? He came thisclose to sealing his place in history by securing a Peace Agreement that created a terrific plan that enabled Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side and conduct business with each other. Palestinians even built a casino that became quite popular with the Israelis. But Arafat sold his people down the river when he walked out on a phenomenal deal, and had to be chased down a driveway by a high heeled Madeline Albright. Unfortunately, even if there had been an agreement, Clinton's legacy will still go down as being an impeached President - impeached for the same thing that is destroying Roger Clemens - alleged lies during a witch hunt.

Last week we wrote about Peter Trainor who wrote an absolutely absurd editorial about his visit to Israel. The self hating Jew harshly criticized all things related to Israel and spoke lovingly of the "Palestinian non violent resistant movement against the Israeli military occupation”. Trainor's comments were reprinted 2 wks ago in The Jewish State. And the most recent paper surprisingly published only 1 Letter to the Editor on this topic where the writer complained that the paper dedicated more news space to Trainor's garbage than to the terrific counterpoint written by Liran Kapoano who writes a blog at

I correctly pointed out in that column that Trainor's grandmother, a Holocaust survivor is ashamed of him. If you read the comments in last week's column, you will note that a fella named John Mitchell from Markham Ontario posted a comment saying that he knew the grandmother and she "loves and respects" her grandson. Well I am sure she does, but if Mitchell asked directly if she was ashamed of him.... I am sure we all know the answer to that question, and frankly it is rather insulting that Mitchell would think that the grandmother is not disgusted.

If you look back to post World War II, all of these Holocaust survivors such as Trainor's grandmother needed a place to live. After the camps were liberated, these people were homeless and had no place to go. Britain which was ruling Palestine at the time, opened its door to the Holocaust survivors, and arranged for a smooth transition to the new Israeli government so the new immigrants and the Palestinians would peacfully live side by side. But the opportunistic Arab neighbors got a little greedy, warned the Palestinians to get out in advance of another Holocaust and launched an attack that the new military succesfully fought off. But Trainor is an idiot to say that survivors like his grandmother were "occupying" that land - his is the same attitude Nazis had towards Jews who were occupying their homes and both the '48 Palestinians and Nazis had the same result in mind.

Mitchell who is from Canada sarcastically encouraged me to write more about football - isn't the Canadian Football League about ready to start a new season? The Argonauts look pretty good this year, don't you think?

I wonder if Trainor noticed the article in Saturday 's paper that the Palestinians powers that be were encouraging the US State Department to allow them to weasel out of a 174 million dollar judgement they owe the relatives of the victims of a terrorist attack... the same ones launched by those of his friends with the "non violent resistance movement". The Palestinians say that being forced to pay the judgement would deplete their finances and jeopardize Mideast peace talks. Keep in mind that a lot of the Palestinian money comes from US Foreign Aid!

Trainor takes great pride in volunteering for a group that escorts Palestinians past Israeli checkpoints. Despite my disgust with this moron, I wish him a long life, but I must admit I can see a scenario where he escorts someone past a checkpoint only to have his escort unleash a homicide bomb and then we can see if his last words as his brains are blown to bits are "It's all Israel's fault - the Palestinians are not violent!" Again, I hope this never happens.

Trainer is just a minor little cog in the wheel - unfortunately there are a lot of self hating Jews out there. But the big villian in all this is Yasser Arafat and his fellow politicians who stole so much money from these poor Palestinians. Things started looking up for Palestinians to live peacefully with the Israelis in the 1990s, but his abandonment of the Clinton peace talks pretty much screwed over his own people who 40+ years later were already 2 generations seperated from the '48 invasion.

Despite that, people still associate Clinton with his impeachment. However, no matter what the crazy Republicans will say, Clinton was impeached for committing perjury. He perjured himself when during questioning about Whitewater, a question was thrown in about the totally unrelated irrelevant topic of whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky. Unfortunately, as Roger Clemens can attest to, lying under oath seems to be THE biggest cardinal sin... especially when you lie to politicians whose reputations of honesty rank unfavorably to used car salesmen. Two weeks ago we wrote about those ridiculous Congressional hearings which was nothing more than a witch hunt. It was Clemens word against the Trainer,... and we aren't referring to Peter Trainor. Now, we see that Clemens might have lied to these oh so mighty politicans so they have apparentally stopped everything and continue to make a bigger deal about this non issue with possible criminal charges pending.

This week I was thinking about our wonderful lawmakers in Washington while I was putting together an episode of my Mortgage Podcast for YouTube. I keep a counter of the most downloaded podcasts, which I then put on YouTube after I edit in graphics. My most popular podcast right now is about what Congress needs to do to solve the mortgage disaster. Hillary is promising to impose a foreclosure moratorium. For Monday's video podcast, I was planning to include a graphic about how lawmakers are running in circles trying to solve this foreclosure problem, yet have enough time to chase after Clemens. We also have heroic soldiers fighting a ridiculous war in Iraq, creating new homes for a "rebuilt Iraq" yet there is no money to help Americans who are losing their homes. Oh and as I mentioned before, we are sending foreign aid to help Palestinians... tell that to the guy who lost his job and now has a Sheriff waiting at his door so he can start a foreclosure sale. Why doesn't Congress go after Peter Trainor's friend the terrorists who owe 174 Million instead of a baseball player?

And of course these moron politicians kiss up to rich Republicans by vowing no new taxes. And to help the poor in this country we cut taxes so rich people can spend more money! Hey the poor ones need every penny to pay their mortgage or for gasoline! Amazing! Yet these are all elected officials who lied to us to get our votes... and then create financial disasters like the one Jon Corzine has in New Jersey. The Governor just dropped a bombshell of a no new taxes budget but he is cutting out programs that provide services to poor sick people, along with scores of other needed programs. The state is also going to cut aid to towns, and that means those towns will have to....increase property taxes - I mean this whole thing is just crazy! And all the state jobs that will be cut... well there goes our unemployment stats... Yeah that really helps the economy. And what will the government do for those workers who lose their homes?? Send a check to the Palestinians?? Yet Republicans keep banging the drum about no new taxes, and the rightwingers are still trying to make immigration an issue, even though a lot of other issues are much more important. But we get all excited by these "No New Taxes" political lies that create huge deficits... job cuts... and happy rich people! Folks... stuff costs money - how will tax cuts pay for it??

Face it... politicians are mostly liars who tell us what we want to hear so we vote for them - Some lie more than others, but when they get up there to make their political speeches, a lot of these promises will never be fulfilled.

Yet why is it ok for politicians to lie to us... but an absolute career ruining tragedy for Roger Clemens to lie to politicians??


Just in case we do another Roger story, here is my source for future headlines...