January 31, 2007

Well it appears our traditional ‘Arizona winter’ weather of the past few days is taking a two-day break, as it’s back to the weather we were having up to a week ago. Today it’s bon-a-fide chilly for these parts, with temps in the low 50s and cloudy and damp conditions. Tonight it’s supposed to drop back into the ’30s with more of the same tomorrow. Looking out my home office window at the wind blowing the leaves off our lime tree, it reminds me of a classic New England October day.

Glad I’m not one of the so-called ‘fortunates’ who paid mucho dinero to play golf and hob-nob with the pros in the pro-am practice rounds prior to the start of the PGA’s FBR Open, just up the road apiece in Scottsdale. They probably didn’t mind it, but they were out there freezing their a$$e$ off today, and will likely do so again tomorrow.

From the sounds of it, however, the weather isn’t stopping the tour pros from enjoying themselves around the area. Leaving a Mill Avenue establishment tonight, I was stopped by some guy who, barely catching his breath, requested urgent info about where he could get a Diet Coke for John Daly, who was apparently holed up in the Hooters restaurant a couple of doors down.

I sent him to the Quiznos across the street.

But then I got to thinking: surely John Daly could order himself a Diet Coke at Hooters, dontcha think? It is a restaurant, after all. Methinks his request sounded like the equivalent of someone wanting to be left alone and sending some pest out to find him some “elbow grease” (if you know what I mean).

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:44 | Comments Off on The Big Chill
January 30, 2007

These golden nuggets from the wild, sometimes wonderful, and always wacky world of sports:

* R.I.P. Barbaro – you were a champion in every sense of the word. Condolences go out to the Jackson family, who went the whole nine yards trying to save you. Here’s hoping you spend the rest of eternity grazing in beautiful meadows with lots of fillies to pal around with.

* Congrats to Tiger Woods on his 7th consecutive PGA event victory. You could just tell when he made that eagle at the turn that he was going to blow past the field. Tiger has that marvelous ability to know what he has to do to get the job done, and then just does it. Methinks we’ve embarked on what is to be a truly memorable and historic golf year.

* And speaking of historic, while I’m no NBA fan, one has to admire the way the Phoenix Suns just keep piling up victories with one impressive streak after another. Assuming both teams stay healthy, the ultimate NBA champ this year will come down to the winner of the Suns/Dallas Mavericks Western Conference final.

* The Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies are discussing a trde for 1B Todd Helton. Lemme see, if the Rockies offer to eat 50% of Helton’s contract and send him to Boston in exchange for 3B Mike Lowell, P Julian Tavarez, and one young arm (Manny Delcarmen or Craig Hansen), I pull the trigger. Otherwise, I stand firm.

UPDATE 8:15 AM: Looks like the deal is off, as Colorado apparently wasn’t willing to eat enough of Helton’s contract, and the Sox were unwilling to take on the extra dough and part with one of their pitching prospects. Too bad, it would have made for an interesting deal.

* And here’s hoping the Sox and Curt Schilling can work out a deal now that’s he’s decided not to retire after the 2007 season. With young hurlers like Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jon Lester around, and younger guns like Daniel Bard and Clay Bucholz not far behind, having Schill around for a couple more years would be like having an additional pitching coach. C’mon Theo, let’s get this done.

* Word is MLB commissioner Bud Selig is carefully weighing a final decision on MLB’s proposal to make their MLB Extra Innings package available only to DirecTV subscribers in the wake of an unexpected (at least for him and his money-grubbing owners) fan backlash. Let’s hope the Budster sees the light.

* The line on the Super Bowl is holding at the Colts by 7. If I were a betting man, I’d wager my first male-born on the Indies.

And remember, as the long-departed but beloved Vin “Biff Bulkie” Maloney used to say on Eddie Andelman’s old “Sports Huddle” show back in Beantown, “If you can’t be a good sport, at least wear a good sportscoat.”


BTW, has the NHL season begun yet?

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:31 | Comments Off on Sport Shorts
January 29, 2007

Over at Hugh Hewitt and elsewhere, there’s a grass-roots effort brewing by conservatives in response to a planned “conscience of the Senate” non-binding resolution planned for early February condemning President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. Increasingly, the resolution is being seen by conservatives as a choice between wanting victory in Iraq, or giving the insurgency there encouragement and moral support.

At the core of this effort is a pledge being pushed in which signees vow to not only abstain from supporting any Republican senator who supports such a resolution, but also make any financial support to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) conditional on the basis that no part of one’s contribution go to the campaigns of Republicans who support such a resolution. The pledge Republicans and conservatives alike are being asked to take and sign contains the following language:

“If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.”

Hugh and other conservative bloggers have been pushing other so-called “conservative” bloggers to not only sign such a pledge, but e-mail their friends and families to ask them to sign it as well, along with contacting Republican senators urging them to block or vote against any kind of like-minded resolution.

To make it short and sweet, I cannot in good conscience support such a pledge, and reject outright any effort by Republicans and conservatives to rally support behind such an idea. My reasons for this are two-fold:

1) While I have always supported “grass-roots” forms of political activism and consider them critical to any kind of well-functioning democracy, the very idea of signing pledges of any kind has always turned me off. Maybe I’m just too much of an independent or free spirit, but pledges of this or any other kind have always struck me as small-minded and childish, as if people don’t have the ability or desire to think and act for themselves, and therefore require someone else to tell them what to do or say.

2) The issue of supporting the President’s plan to commit additional troops to Iraq and putting more of our men and women in harm’s way should not be politicized and reduced to some cheap financial blackmail scheme, and I personally find the whole idea distasteful and downright offensive. A decision to support or not support increasing troop levels in Iraq should have no political threats or implications attached, and I see no problem with any senator, Republican or Democrat, voting their conscience on such a matter.

Here’s how I see it: let’s take the politics out of the situation and simply take a look at the issue involved, as if you or I were being asked to vote on such a matter. (Forget about whether or note this vote will have any real impact – the President as Commander-in-Chief has the authority to commit more troops based on the advice of his military advisors, and he will do so, I have no doubt about that.) So, in effect, the kind of resolution being bandied about in the Senate comes down to two things: a) whether you believe the war up to now has been conducted in an effective way, and b) whether the prospect of putting more troops on the ground and more of our young men and women in harm’s way is a good idea, given the situation there as it stands and the way the war has been fought up to this point.

These kinds of questions demand a moral and ethical response, not a political one. Personally, as someone who believes the war can no longer be won based on the way the President, former Secretary of State Rumsfeld, and others chose to go about it (i.e., with one hand tied behind our backs) following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the initial invasion, I would have no problem voting for any resolution expressing dissatisfaction with the way the war has been prosecuted up to this point and rejecting the idea of committing new troops as a result. Feeling this way, were I to vote otherwise and the situation in Iraq remain unchanged over the next six months or so, I would feel as if I have American blood on my hands.

And to have someone’s own moral and ethical vote on such a resolution become the subject of some effort to not support them financially simply because they voted their conscience is something I find both ill-conceived and ill-advised. After all, this is not some lame vote on farming subsidies or budgets, or the like – this is one involving American lives and American blood, pure and simple. And because there are American lives involved, if an elected official feels within their heart of hearts that it’s time to either pull out, redeploy, or maintain the status quo (however you want to put it), while I may not agree with their position, or even support them in the future based on their vote, it’s one that should be respected.

Look, I don’t know if President Bush’s plan is going to work or not. Given the way the war has been prosecuted up to this point and the absolute mess we have created in Iraq as a result, I believe the U.S. Senate and its members have every right to be suspicious of following lock-step behind the President and his military advisors simply because they think it’s the proper course of action at this time. While I respect General Patraeus’ judgment and the opinions he expressed during his confirmation hearings before Congress last week, who can say if committing more troops at this time will do any good, or is even the right course of action?

Whether or not it’s time to add troops, redeploy, or pull out, I can’t say, but I do know that to threaten political blackmail against elected officials who have every right to express their honest opinions as to the way the war has been conducted thus far, and the moral and ethical dilemma of whether or not to throw more American lives at the problem, is at it’s very core offensive, disgusting, and distasteful to me. I therefore reject the very idea of ‘taking the pledge’, and will do nothing of any kind to support such an effort, and, as both a Republican and a conservative, I encourage others to do the same.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:35 | Comments Off on Rejecting ‘The Pledge’
January 28, 2007

He sat in his chair on the patio twirling the drink in his hand ever so slightly, the ice cube tinkling cheerfully against the sides of his scotch glass. If it weren’t for the pool vacuum chattering its way in and around the swimming pool, there’d be nothing but the stillness of the day to share his time and his thoughts with. Another Arizona afternoon was slipping away to dusk, and the pineapple-themed patio lights above him were starting to do their thing, bathing him with their warm, happy glow. On another day, another time, he’d simply immerse himelf in the present and enjoy the serenity of the moment, but on this day his thoughts were very far away – in New England – and his mind was on snow.

Not the light dustings so typical of the Novembers and Decembers of his past, the early winter by-products of so many “Alberta clippers” that would sugar-coat driveways, parking lots, and yards, enabling newly-hung Christmas lights to resonate their happy holiday cheer. No, on this day his thoughts were of the first big snow of the season; sometimes coming in late December, but more often than not waiting until after the New Year – the kind of snow that told you winter had begun in earnest, and that a dreaded annual ritual with Old Man Winter had begun anew.

He was thinking of the kind of snow that changed habits and routines, altered perceptions, and forced one to concede to whatever whims and ways Mother Nature had in mind. The kind of snowstorms that brought with them winter-storm warnings, days of endless anticipation and preparations, breathless media coverage, and the obligatory school and business closings. Afterwards, the storm’s work complete, and the once-bare (or nearly bare) ground suddenly and dramatically transformed into a sea of frozen white, there would come the long spells of frigid days and crystal clear, below-zero nights, with more snow and more cold in the days and weeks to come. From that time forward, until the late-March and early April fogs and rains, there’d be an extra 20 minutes, perhaps more, added to one’s errands and commuting time. And no more firm-footed, straight shots from his parking lot down the hill to the front door, either – there were shoveled, sanded, and iced-over again sidewalks to navigate carefully over, at least until the next brief warm spell or January thaw.

In his mind, he could see the snow falling heavily and purposefully, remembering how he’d anticipate feeding the birds of the season, the snowfall forcing them out of their safe wooded places to visit his deck and feeder. He recalled like it was yesterday how, just before retiring to bed, he’d give the deck one final shovel in his T-shirt and slippers, then load up the feeder and sprinkle the sunflower and thistle seed around. He knew the deep-eyed juncos would be first, arriving silently at the very hint of daylight, followed shortly thereafter by the “chick!” of the cardinals and the “zee! zee! zee!” of the tufted titmouse. As it got lighter, the blue jays would be after the unsalted peanuts he’d sprinkled on top of the feeder seed, followed by the sparrows, who’d come in waves, making a mess of the whole damned place but providing the mourning doves who would follow with an easy smorgasboard.

More than anything, he remembered the sheer sense of wonder he would always feel, stepping outside for the first time the morning after a heavy snowfall, at the sights and sounds that would greet him. The clouds low and gray, the snow still spitting, the sound of dead oak leaves rustling in the trees, the muffled crunching of cars fighting their way up or cautiously making their way down the treacherous hill outside their front door, the plows working the streets nearby, the snow-blowers hard at work in the apartment complex across the street. And the rituals involved! First, shoveling out an area you could begin to work with, then brushing off the yews on each side of the front door, then clearing a path on the front sidewalk to the street, then finally the long, slow trudge up the hill to the parking lot so you could start working on the cars.

He remembered how the first scrapes of shovel against bare sidewalk would summon their cat Rascal to the couch by the front window. For, while every snowfall brought with it the mundane tasks of shoveling and scraping, for the cat this sound meant play time, and the game of sitting atop the couch, waiting patiently for the first of a succession of snowballs to be tossed her way so she could bat at them against the window. It was a game she relished and never tired of. A tear came to his eyes – how long had she been gone now? Could it really have been that long ago?

…Which brought to his mind one storm in particular: the power had gone out early, and since their heat was electric, that meant getting out the oil lamps, the candles, and the sleeping bags to create a “warm room” for humans, felines, and parakeets alike. What a different world it was then! First the condo, then the parakeets, then the cats – all once a part of, but gradually replaced through a succession of years, moves, apartments, rabbits, illnesses, deaths, and the purchase of a house thousands of miles away. And it occurred to him at that moment how precious it all seemed now, and how important it was that these times, places, and lore remain safe and secure in his memory, so that he never forget where – or what – he came from.

A slight breeze came up, and the tinking of wind chimes stirred him back to the present. He took a sip from his scotch, noticed the ice had melted, welcomed the familiar burn down the throat. He shook his head and let out a long sigh, giving the ghosts and memories time to recede back to wherever they had come from. Things were good then, as they are now. That’s the gift of time, he thought: its tendency to recollect the good times at the expense of the not-so-good. And there he sat quietly, in his chair on the patio under the pineapple lights, in the fading dusk of another Arizona afternoon, the pool vacuum still chattering away in the growing darkness beyond. But his mind was on snow.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:41 | Comments (5)
January 27, 2007

Word on the street is that Major League Baseball is close to making a decision to offer their MLB Extra Innings broadcast package exclusively on DirecTV starting this year. What does it mean for those of us Dish Network owners whose only reason for going satellite was to get access to broadcast packages like MLB Extra Innings? It means rotsa ruck, that’s what it means. As John Donovan of Sports Illustrated’s Inside Baseball explains:

Major League Baseball is in the process of negotiating exclusive rights to its Extra Innings package of out-of-market games to satellite giant DirecTV, and that means a lot of fans are about to get absolutely crushed into the dirt. The Extra Innings package, for the hundreds of thousands of fans who have shelled out the $170 or so for it already know, is a seamhead’s dream: almost unlimited baseball broadcast by home-team announcers for six months. Up to 60 regular-season games a week.

But now, if this deal between MLB and DirecTV goes through as expected, you won’t be able to get Extra Innings through your local cable TV outfit. Or through Dish Network, either. If you want the Extra Innings package, starting with the 2007 season, you’ll have to be a DirecTV subscriber. No exceptions. That, as I understand the concept, is the whole “exclusive rights” thing.

This really bums me out, and my guess is a lot of other baseball fans will feel the same way. Here’s the problem: let’s say (for the sake of argument) you’re a – oh, I don’t know – a Boston Red Sox fan living in, say, the Phoenix, AZ area. (Not that I know anyone like that!) If you don’t get the MLB Extra Innings package, the only baseball you’re going to see is Arizona Diamondbacks games (on the regional Fox Sports), the Fox national game of the week, and the games ESPN broadcasts twice a week during the regular season. If, as expected, MLB Extra Innings goes exclusively to DirecTV, the only alternatives for us Dish Network owners is either to: a) switch to DirecTV, or subscribe to MLB.tv, Major League Baseball’s Internet-based version of Extra Innings.

For me, this presents quite the dilemma. I mean, I certainly have the broadband hookup needed for MLB.tv, and, as a ‘Monster Member’ of Red Sox Nation, my membership comes with a regular-season subscription to MLB.tv, but I’m just not crazy about the idea of watching baseball games on a 20-inch monitor while seated at a desk. And the thought of changing from a Dish Network subscriber to DirecTV and all the hassles that would be involved (swapping hardware, installation charges, billing changes, etc.) just gives me the willies.

The most disheartening thing about this, however, is recalling last year’s Dish Network fiasco where I thought I had ordered a DirecTV installation, only to find out after the install was complete that I had gotten Dish Network instead. If I had gotten what I thought I was getting, I wouldn’t be composing this blog entry.

Look, I know in the grand scheme of things that this is not a big deal – after all, we’re not talking about going hungry, being homeless or jobless, or contracting some life-threatening illness here. It’s just one of those inconvenient kind of things that disrupts one’s simple pleasures of life and makes you shake your head. But that doesn’t mean I have to like or accept it, and not want to try and figure out a better way.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments (4)
January 26, 2007

Which is more important when considering who one votes for? Is it party affiliation? Ideology? Voting record? Any or all of the above? I only ask this question because of my good friend Pasquale back in Massachusetts. Now Paul is a long-time, die-hard liberal who has voted for people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry for years, although one would be hard-pressed to uncover any creative or significant piece of legislation either had come up with for the past two decades, or more. Whenever I kindly try to point that out to Paul, he’ll inevitably reply, “That’s not the point, it’s what they stand for that counts.”

Paul’s comment came back to me last week when I received via snail-mail my Republican Party membership card for 2007, plus (as one might expect whenever receiving these kinds of things, no matter what party you’re affiliated with) a request for dough-re-mi. That, in turn was followed up by an e-mail from Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Ken Mehlman, who also was asking for dinero as well. Normally, I would just toss these kinds of things in the trash (both physically and electronically), but as I thought back to Paul’s comment on these kinds of things, I decided that this time, I was going to take it upon myself to make my feelings known. As much as I hated to do so, I politely declined Mr. Mehlman’s offer, and forwarded him this reply:

Dear Ken;
I’m sorry, I cannot renew my financial support for the RNC in good conscience, as I’m extremely disappointed in the way the Republicans in Washington, from the President on down, have handled themselves this past year. Let’s start at the top: the White House seems adrift, confused, and worn out on Iraq, showing absolutely no leadership (an Iraq Study Group?) when the country is demanding accountability, truth, and a strategy that will bring either victory or disengagement. Whichever way it’s gonna be, so be it, but we demand leadership from our leaders during this troubled time, because keeping the status quo just won’t do.

As for Congress, your party and my party have been absolutely woeful and derelict in its duty to the American people. Being in power as long as they have made them lazy and arrogant, reckless in their spending habits, and corrupt to the point where a good housecleaning and butt-kicking was not only necessary, but actually welcomed in these quarters.

And it seems you guys still haven’t heard the message. Even after the whipping they took in the 2006 elections, the Republicans had a chance to install new and dynamic leadership committed to the principles that first brought them to power back in 1994, but they couldn’t even do that right. Mel Martinez and John Boehner are NOT the kind of dynamic visionaries our party needs. You know it, and I know it.

I’m sorry Ken, but the kind of Republican performance I’ve witnessed during the past Congress simply doesn’t deserve to be rewarded either financially and politically. To vote and support GOP candidates simply because they’re not Democrats is not a good enough reason for my vote and support, and I know there are thousands of others like me who feel the same way. Keep me on your mailing list if you’d like, but until I see my party recommit itself to:

* Reducing spending and the size of government;
* Spending the people’s money more creatively and wisely;
* Protecting our borders and making it harder for companies to ship American jobs overseas;
* Giving parents the option of school vouchers so their children are not forced to attend public schools for their education;

I’ll not be supporting you financially, and perhaps politically, in the future.

Doug Richard

You see, I care about what Republicans and conservatives do in Washington, and unlike those who think like my friend Paul, if my party’s elected officials only talk the talk, not walk the walk, well, they don’t deserve my vote. And I know I’m not alone on this, ’cause a lot of us Republicans and Independents either stayed home or voted Democrat last November, which is why “San Fran” Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wield the power in the House and Senate today. And unless the Republicans in Washington start getting their act together, I see no reason to change my opinion or break out my wallet anytime soon. And if Mr. Mehlman and others like him think I’m alone, all they have to do is look here and here.)

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments Off on Not This Year, Ken
January 25, 2007

shaheen I had never heard of Alfred Shaheen until a few days before Christmas when I became privy to a thread of frantic e-mails going back and forth between my wife Tracey and a woman named Camille Shaheen about a set of etched Hawaiian tiki god cocktail glasses she had ordered as a Christmas present.

(First a disclaimer: No, I’m not the kind of guy that snoops around for Christmas presents, it’s just that we both share a home PC and Microsoft Outlook mail accounts, and when you’re checking your e-mail each morning and find e-mails with frantic subject matters like, “Please Read This E-mail!” and, “Need a response quickly!” – well, that kind of stuff catches your eye – especially when it’s the week before Christmas. So there.)

OK, where was I? Oh yes. So, you might well ask, who is Alfred Shaheen? Turns out Mr. Shaheen was the absolute king of Waikiki “cool” when it came to textile printing and clothing design back in the ’50s and ’60s. Most people who have visited Hawaii might think of Hilo Hattie (a popular tourist chain located throughout the Islands) when it comes to Hawaiian clothing, but Alfred Shaheen’s designs remain the real deal, drawing inspiration from traditional Hawaiian themes to create chic, sexy, and classic designs that were anything but run of the mill. So much so, that he became a true cultural icon, right up there with legends like Duke Kahanamoku, Don Ho and Don the Beachcomber. This, from his daughter Camille’s website:

Alfred Shaheen was one of the most creative and prolific of all of the Hawaiian manufacturers in the heyday of ’50s and ’60s fashion. His textile designs and fabrics are legendary and were inspired by Hawaii, the South Pacific and Asia. Born into the industry, Shaheen built the most comprehensive textile printing, garment manufacturing and retail company Hawaii would ever see. In recognition of his contributions to the State of Hawaii, in July of 2001, Shaheen was presented with Hawaii’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In July of 2006, Hawaii’s premier newspaper, The Honolulu Advertiser, included Shaheen among the 150 most influential people, events, and institutions to impact social, economic, political, and cultural changes in Hawaii from 1856 to the present.

Alfred Shaheen designed and manufactured fabrics and clothing for over 40 years. His earliest labels include Alfred Shaheen, Shaheen’s of Honolulu, Surf ‘n Sand, Kiilani and Burma Gold Handprints. Although these wonderful handprints have been out of production for many years, they’re not lost to the world. Shaheen’s fabulous handprints are here again, and these timeless classics are being brought to you in a multitude of ways: aloha shirts, etched crystal and glass, and hand-screened contemporary clothing.

Looking at the vintage clothing and designs found on both Shaheen’s website and it’s companion site, Surf ‘n Sand, it’s easy to find one’s imagination transported to faraway places both magical and tropical, where tradewinds rustle palm trees along sandy beaches, the scent of tropical flowers fills the air, and the sun glistens off shaved ice floating atop a perfect Cosmopolitan. Ms. Shaheen is rightly proud of her father’s marvelous work and legacy, and you can bet a double bogie The Great White Shank looks forward to purchasing a couple of his classic-design Hawaiian shirts for this summer’s Goodboys Invitational. If you’re looking for classic and chic Hawaiian designs in a contemporary setting, you can’t do better than the clothing, beachwear, and etched glassware found at the Alfred Shaheen websites; I do hope you’ll stop by for a browse. And, just soze you knows, Ms. Camille packs a mean gift package!

BTW, those etched tiki god glasses I got for Christmas look and drink awfully stylish. So stylish, in fact, that I’m proud to add Camille’s website to the Goodboys Nation blogroll. If you drop by, be sure to tell her The Great White Shank sends his fondest regards. She’s a lovely lady – someone her father can be mighty proud of, and even though we’ve only conversed by e-mail, I’m glad to have come to know her as a friend.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:26 | Comments Off on Alfred Shaheen – King of Waikiki Cool
January 24, 2007

Unlike past years, I didn’t watch President Bush’s State of the Union address tonight. I kinda feel bad about that, to tell you the truth, because I do think they serve as an important benchmark in every president’s term, and this one is no different. Word is, his intent was to try and gin up popular support for the so-called “surge” in Iraq while offering bold domestic initiatives in the way of health care and energy. But I just didn’t have the desire to watch. You know why? ‘Cause none of these things stands a ghost of a chance of being successful. And I’m not alone in feeling that way.

Specifically, there are several reasons why I chose not to watch:

1) They’ve become a sort of theater for political juvenile behavior. It seems as if, more than ever before, the SOTU address has become all about theater and little of substance – and his intended audience knows it. Ya know, if the President says something the Republicans like, they all stand up and hooray, while the camera pans the Democrats remaining seated on the other side seeking dumb or disgusted looks, or rolled eyes, etc. If he says something that Republicans don’t like, the TV cameras pan their side, looking for the same thing. I mean (and I say this to members of both parties – grow up and show some dignity, will ya? You are elected officials, after all…

2) Like everything else, they’ve become too political. To me, the SOTU should be the President’s opportunity to provide a laundry list of what has transpired since the previous one and what he hopes to accomplish before the next one. Nothing more, nothing less. But instead, you get this ridiculous pre-address build-up, then afterwards, the post-address reviews (all along party lines, of course). Finally, you have the opposition party’s rebuttal. All to what purpose? Once a special occasion, the SOTU is now no different from any other address the President gives, so what’s the point?

3) To be frank, the President has lost my ear, and I’m not much interested in what he says anymore. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – I’m very disappointed in President Bush in almost every way this term. His White House seems unbalanced, off-message, and unfocused, seemingly incapable of strong and effective leadership – especially when it comes to Iraq. On domestic issues, the guy’s all over the map. When he should be focused on what got him elected in the first place – the promise of less government, less spending, and bold and innovative leadership, what do we get? Half-baked ideas that leave even once-loyal Republicans shaking their heads. I mean, I feel for the guy – Iraq and the War on Terror have both conspired to diminish significantly his ability to govern, and I wouldn’t be surprised, or even blame him, if he’s just plum worn out after six hard years.

4) Do I really want to watch “San Fran” Nancy Pelosi for a whole hour while the President speaks? Um, no.

So sorry, Mr. President. You’ll pardon me if tonight I found other things to occupy my time during what should be the most important speech you’ll give all year. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I no longer care what you have to say. The 2008 election can’t come soon enough.

P.S. It’s stuff like this that makes former supporters of the President like me shake their heads. It’s because of the lack of strong and effective leadership that this kind of stuff is even allowed to see the light of day. Oak Leaf is right – this does nothing to either help the President’s cause or make the White House seem strong and in control. What a joke.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:17 | Comments Off on State of the Union
January 23, 2007

While sitting at the pizza bar on Friday night, one of the locals was telling me that he’s lived here in the Phoenix area for twelve years, and this is the coldest winter he’s experienced thus far. He may be right – it’s definitely the coldest one since I’ve been here. Not only did we get two nights two weekends ago that, for around here, were downright frigid – 26 degrees on the 6th followed by 28 on the 7th, but yesterday the snow came awfully close to us – perhaps no more than 20 miles or so. And, go figger, they got snow in Tucson, which is both south and east of here. That weekend freeze sure did a number on our backyard cactus – they’re looking mighty sad right now, I’ll tell ya; fortunately, however, the tiki bar has managed just fine. (Got to set your priorities there.)

You can tell it’s cold here when even the snowbirds don’t want to golf. Usually, the courses seem to have pretty steady business when you drive by them during the day, but not so much this year. Oh, you can play, no problem – it’s just that people come to these parts during the winter for high 60s and 70s, not 50s to low 60s, which is pretty much the way it’s been since the New Year. Doesn’t bother me much – I’ll take the break, knowing that winter around here typically ends in a few short weeks. Heck, I remember a couple of years ago when my parents visited in March and it was already hitting 90.

So these are days to enjoy having the cool air and winter around – you can really enjoy a nice glass of scotch, take warm soaks in a bathtub, and light some candles around the house for nice effect. And for those locals walking around in their winter parkas, like those I saw at the market today – don’t worry, the heat’ll be here soon enough.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments Off on Dead of Winter
January 22, 2007

Not a good day for the good guys (that is, if you consider Rob and I good guys). First, we had Rob’s beloved Saints annihilated by a tenacious Bears defense and some sloppy play early on by the Crescent City footballers. I said yesterday that I thought the teams that turned the football over the least would win, and that was certainly the case for the Saints – 4 turnovers to the Bears’ 0. The Saints seemed to be turning it around late in the 2nd quarter and early in the 3rd, but the Bears hung tough, were able to bend without breaking, then turn it into a rout after some forced errors by the Saints.

(And put me down as unimpressed by Reggie Bush‘s ‘bush’ somersault touchdown display – after all: 1) dude, your team was losing at the time, and, regardless of what you think, the game’s NOT all about you, and 2) true champions don’t act that way when they score; aren’t you supposed to act like you’ve been there before?)

As for the game between the Patriots and the Colts, I never thought, even after the Pats were up 21-3 over the Colts early on, that the game was never anything but in danger. You could see that the Colts came in perhaps a little TOO psyched, and once they settled down, it was impressive to see Peyton Manning (as much as I can’t stand the guy) pick apart and gradually wear down the Patriots’ defense. I think Pats QB Tom Brady did the best he could do with what he had to work with, but you have to give the Colts credit – they were impressive on both sides of the ball, and should go into the Super Bowl two weeks’ hence as solid favorites.

Sigh. It would have been a great story (at least for Rob and me) to see the Saints and the Pats meet in Miami; alas, it wasn’t to be.

Somehow, it never feels more like winter than after your football team has been eliminated from play. It’s a good thing I’m going to Vegas in less than three weeks, and we’re only four weeks away from the start of Spring Training. Gotta have something to look forward to!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:18 | Comments (3)


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