" That's just the sort of blinkered, Philistine Pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage!"

John Cleese

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Phil Watch: Let's Dispel A Myth


Why not an end-of-the-year Phil?  Why Not?

In a way, Phil is a rock in these changing economic times.  A strong ship in the storm.

Nobody holds to such a stubborn ethos more than Phil in the Chicago Media since fuckstick left town.

For evidence, check out Phil's Hardball entry where he continues in his efforts to find a move that Kenny Williams might regret.  That one involves the Aaron Cunningham for Danny Richar deal.  

See, in Phil World, the White Sox would still field a competitive team with Aaron Cunningham in right if Jermaine Dye were traded.  Because in Phil World, a win counts more when a team does it with prospects.  It was like 1 1/2 wins when the Marlins won a game last year, completely destroying the rest of baseball with a 125-37 record.

That's the Phil ethos.

Speaking of the Phil ethos, another part of it is paying the top free agents gobs of money only makes you a dirty, dirty team.  And your wins only count as half a win, meaning the Yankees with the top payroll in baseball last year only went 45-117.  See.  More Phil-math.

Using this logic, Phil wrote the perfunctory 'You can't buy a World Series' article Sunday.

Let's get started.         

Trying to buy way into World Series not best method

Impatience rarely is rewarded in baseball.

Neither is badness.  Seems like the same result to me.  Both types are not playing in the playoffs with the fire and passion, but tell me more, Dr. Science.

It happens, sure. The World Series the infant franchises in Florida (1997) and Arizona (2001) won come to mind. But there have been a lot more spectacular failures than successes from teams that spend heavily to get themselves to the top.

Well...there's spending stupidly and above your means and then there's just spending.  Let's see if a distinction is made.  

Think of the White Sox in the Albert Belle-Frank Thomas years... 

I know.  Those 49 hrs, 152 rsbi, 48 doubles, .328 average, .400 OBP, 200 hits and 113 runs completely drug down the Sox lineup in 1998, one of only two years he played for them.  Fucker.  Who dare he?  Base clogger.

The Dodgers with guys like Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort... 

Brown was 58-32 with a culmulative ERA below 3 in his time with the Dodgers.  Asshole.  How dare the Dodgers not foresee his injuries as well?  They should have been able to predict that.

And wait a minute!  Driefort was the Dodgers' first round fucking pick!  They stupidly rewarded one of their own.  How is that buying anything? 

The Mets in the era of Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado...

Yeah.  Signing the best player in baseball at the time in Carlos Beltran was soooo stupid.  He didn't prove his worth enough when he hit a gazillion homeruns in the '04 playoffs.  How is that different from the Red Sox 'buying' Manny for $20 million a year?  Results?  If we could predict results, why play the games?

And Pedro has been paid an average of $12.9 million over the last four years by the Mets.  $15 million in the previous four years by the Red Sox.  For a big market team, how is $12.9 million for an aging pitcher who was very recently one of the best pitchers in baseball blowing any budget?

Delgado was traded to the Mets for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit and Grant Psomas.  Who'd that work out?

And unless I'm a moron (entirely possible), how did these three have any effect on the Mets' bullpen sucking balls the last two years?

The Tigers of the last two years, when they added Gary Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the mix that had won a pennant in 2006. 

Speaking of sucking balls, did Gary Sheffield put on a Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander mask and take the mound without me hearing about it?  All three are homegrown talent who collectively threw up on themselves every time they threw a pitch.  Oh, I forgot.  Phil-math means they were actually league-average on the Phil Homegrown Prospect Adjustment Scale. 

Even the Cubs, who are yet to get a playoff victory from the purchase of Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Kosuke Fukudome and Mark DeRosa. 

Even?  Even!  Isn't this Exhibit A?  And check out the details of those contracts.  They're a backloaded mess.  All that money and not even one win in the playoffs.  Isn't that the entire premise of the column?   

And BTW, wasn't the Johan Santana trade the bestest of bestest moves for the Mets last year in Phil's mind?  The Mets gave up four legitimate prospects AND paid him $23 million a year for the next 45 years.  If that's not buyin' somethin', I don't know what is.  How does Sabathia compare to Santana?  And how does that fit into this equation?   

The teams that have sustained success in the last two decades were built around players who blossomed into stars during the process: the Braves of the 1990s; the Yankees when they won four World Series in five years...there's little comparison to the franchise that won with guys like Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and a young Andy Pettitte.

WWWWWHHHHOOOOAAAAA!!!!

This is where we stop.  He just rambles on from here about how Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have never led their shitty teams to the promised land, making them crappy leaders.

You know, typical vague garbage entirely dismissive of the players around them.

We stop here to dispel a myth perpetuated by the likes of Phil and Phil-like dopes.

In some fantasy world I have not visited yet, the Yankees won four World Series in five years with a roster completely populated with Yankee prospects.  It's a pretty world with sprites, fairies and unicorns where every baseball player plays with the grit, fire and passion of a David Eckstein or Reed Johnson.

But getting back to the real world, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were indeed on the Yankee playoff teams that won four in five.  Those are facts.  

But...the first championship in '96 had...  

Tino Martinez?  Bought.  Signed as a free agent after being traded to the Yankees.

Wade Boggs?  Bought.  Signed as a free agent.

Paul O'Neill?  Bought.  Signed as a free agent.

Four of the five pitchers in the rotation:  Jimmy Key, David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Kenny Rogers?  Bought.  All signed as free agents.

John Wetteland?  Traded from the Expos because they couldn't afford him and Yankees could.

Darryl Strawberry, Cecil Fielder, Ruben Sierra, Tim Raines, Bob Wickman, Joe Girardi?  All guys who were established stars on the downside of their careers, contributed significantly and were signed or traded for because the Yankees did and nobody else could at that level.

Totally forgot about Fielder.

It doesn't get better.  1998 saw Chuck Knoblauch, Chad Curtis, Scott Brosius, David Wells, Hideki Irabu, Orando Hernandez and Mike Stanton added to the previously bought-or-trade-for list of guys. 

1999?  2000?  Add Roger Clemens to the previous lists. 

I don't know what world exists where Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera could have won 4 in 5 with league-average talent around them, but I want to visit that world.

Because in that world, the Angels have won eight straight World Series.


Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Years Wishes

In no particular order:

That Rush Limbaugh chokes on a cracker (irony!) and loses his ability to speak

A complete ban on Bears analysis on Chicago Sports Radio from February to July

Reality tv to go away and die (except Amazing Race)

The users of these words/terms to be put in solitary for three days per offense: proactive, uber, hoodie, hottie, Coldplayesque, elemental, Joe the Plumber, fly by night, My Space culture and mustachioed.

Someone finally slaps the living shit out of Larry King (on live tv preferably)

I finally getting around to making that goddamn turkey chili I've been trying to make for 2 years

The Yankees and Red Sox both sucking big time (Good luck)

For the Cubs to win one playoff game (and then lose 3 in a row)

For the Sox to steal a base

A nice quiet shithole for W

The Republican Party finally getting some stones and shedding the dead weight that is the Bat Shit Wing of the GOP

Peace and justice to all the people of the world and all that crap

That Americans don't have to hang our head in shame when we are in a foreign country because our President is a fucking moron

More people to watch "30 Rock"

Less people to watch "Two and a Half Men" (to be fair I've never watched it)

An end to malls

Happy New Year

P.S. Check out the Fuckstick of the Year post over at our sister blog...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Anniversary Of Sorts


On this date in 1996, Christo had eaten enough.

It was right after Christmas twelve years ago. After polishing off my fourth meal of the day with various snacks in between, it was time to head back to college (or the self-imposed, on-again, off-again facsimile of college that I came to know).  

Right before getting into the car to drive back to Iowa City from Camanche, I decided to take a quick bathroom break before embarking on the one and a half hour drive.  As I relieved myself, a bathroom scale to the right of the toilet kept staring at me, taunting me with its harsh truth-telling.  Not about to be intimidated by an inanimate object, I put feet to scale.  

The result...was quite impressive.  263 pounds.

Now, as I had gained weight, I told myself that certain inalienable truths existed.  I was an athlete.  My metabolism would make the pounds easily come off.  I was young.  These things happen.  When the Hamburger Helper box says 'serves four', they're just being conservative.

But other truths also existed.  A profound waddle began to rear its head.  I started to think a shower was probably advisable after taking a dump.  Spending $12 at Hardee's was a Tuesday lunch.  After wolfing down the entire box of Hamburger Helper, I was still a bit hungry.  

But the kicker probably came two weeks before the bathroom scale incident.  Under the delusion that I still had the skills of my former life as a baseball player, I challenged my former roommate, Russ, a guy who, in my mind, didn't approach the same universe as spry, to a race.  He was getting a little mouthy about my bulbous figure and it was time to put him in his place.

So we trotted over to the track a few blocks away from my apartment at 10 o'clock at night to put this 'Christo ain't no athlete anymore' crap to rest.  BRE founder Mate Famber was there to witness the display.  

It was a best two-out-of-three.  After beating Russ pretty handily in the first race, my cocky air was reborn. I was still everything I ever was, I thought.  These saddlebags filled with deep-fried goodness that I was carrying was just a brief hiatus from a lifetime of Adonis-like svelteness, I mused.  Life was still good.  

The second race brought about a different conclusion.  I blew out to an early lead reminiscent of the ass-whipping I handed Russ just a few minutes ago and began to think this challenge would ever-so-quickly be put to rest and we can go home and celebrate with some fried cheese of some sort.  Then it happened.

I hit the wall of walls.  A deflation of epic proportions consumed every inch of my being.  Even as I sit here writing this, I can recall every feeling I had in those three seconds of truth.  I can still feel the ever-so-shrinking lucidity that feasted on my gray matter.  I was going down for the count.  And there was nothing that could stop it.

The third race was purely academic.  Sure, I was still halfway under the delusion that I could suck it up, gather myself and win the tiebreaker.  Youth tends to do that.  That delusion lost all relevance 20 yards in. I collapsed in a heap, totally gassed and dropped like a jelly-filled garbage bag.  

Life...was not so good.  It was fat and hapless.  Losing to Russ laid the groundwork for the brutal truth.  The bathroom scale was just the ranch dressing to my mozzarella sticks.

So I got into the car on this day 12 years ago and drove back to Iowa City.  As most drives alone tend to do, my mind was a kaleidoscope of thoughts, bursting with images of stuffing my face, watching Howard Stern marathons on E! and thinking about my next meal while in the middle of eating.  

Things had to change.  My rommate, Mate, would be gone for a month.  The apartment was mine alone. Our satellite was out as the bill couldn't be paid until my next paycheck, which was three weeks away.  It seemed it was time.  The pregnant jokes had to stop.

Six months and 60 pounds later, I began waiting tables.  So this wasn't a complete happy ending for me, of course.

But every year at this time, I feel a sense of accomplishment at some level.  It's become something resembling a birthday as my real birthday diminishes with age. 

It's my Happy Fatday.   
  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Okay, I Admit...

Now that Christmas is over I need to get something off my chest:
I have never watched "It's A Wonderful Life" in it's entirety. Never. Not once.


There, I feel better.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Talk About A Target On Your Back...


Hate 'em yet?

I don't.  From a payroll standpoint, they were prime to make another huge move.  If you have money and winning brings you more money, you spent it.


But that's $114 million for five players in 2009.  From an offensive position, they're only slightly better than last year with Teixeira replacing Abreu.  Burnett's an injury waiting to happen and Jeter regressed a bit last year.

I just thank all that is holy that the Red Sox didn't get him.  Happy Day.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Alfred E. Neuman's Cousin?


The Big Red Egg will be back with more hilarity soon.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Isn't For Thinking (Mate's Musings Version)

Yes, I'm at work today. Why? Because I'm a fucking idiot.
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When did we start calling hooded sweatshirts, hoodies? This changing vernacular towards cuter names for shit is getting on my nerves. What was wrong with "Where's my blue hooded sweatshirt?"...I know it's a few more syllables and all but "hoodie" is just stupid and cutesy-pie. Same with flip-flops. We never called them that growing up. Then, all of a sudden--flip flops.
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The wife won 10 free passes to AMC Movie Theaters last night at her office party. What does it say about my life that I'm completely excited by that?
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Jesus, the bowl games start TOMORROW? What's it been, a whole 10 days? Too many bowl games, folks. Too many. And I love college football. But it's ridiculous.
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I went to Woodfield Mall yesterday during lunch to get a Christmas present for someone and a shovel to the back of the head was starting to sound pretty good right about the time I got to the Gap.
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Of course, I completely forgot where I parked and wandered the parking lot like a moron for about 10 minutes looking for my car.
It truly is where we gray the line between man and hamster.
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Some jag bag in a Mercedes with vanity plates that read "BUNS" (I shit you not) was driving about 20 MPH faster than everybody else this morning and darting in and out of lanes (y'know because having a Mercedes gives you this right) and proceeded to do a 360 into a snowbank right after he got past me.**
It's little shit like that makes me smile.

**(he wasn't hurt badly but I wont cry if he gets a little whiplash or bit down really hard on his tongue)**
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Grab Bag


"My Two Cents" Is Back

I have no idea why Larry King's newest offering is in ALL CAPS!

But it's a double dose of Larry, making up for the fact that he skipped last week.

Zen Larry King is dead.  I don't have the energy.  But here's a recap.  He can't hear enough Christmas music, Ryan Seacrest does everything and does it well, he can't stand digital watches and how a sundial works perplexes him.  Oh, and the one group not at fault for the bailout is the employees.

Larry, you magnificent bastard...you complete me.


The Price Is Right Rigged?

The Ney household loves The Price Is Right.  Always has.  But...



Nope.  Nobody bids $23,743 and gets it exactly right.  Even Caray was dubious.  

Something not shown was that the same contestant got his initial bid to get on stage exactly right as well.


Visiting Vermont?  You May Need A Passport If This Kook Gets His Way

Thomas Naylor is a former Duke economics professor and Thomas Naylor has a screw loose.

He wants to take local self-sufficiency and energy independence one step further.  Vermont succession.  He even had the end-game details all mapped out:
One of the first goals of an independent Vermont would be to get as recognized by as many embassies as possible--ensuring that any kind of military action on the part of the United States would come at a severe cost to their international reputation. Armed conflict would spell instantaneous defeat for Vermont, but the secessionists are banking on the absurdity of the David-and-Goliath situation to stay the United States' heavy hand. A much more likely retaliation would likely be in the form of economic sanctions, cutting Vermont off from the economy that it depends on. "Thank God for Canada," is Naylor's reply.
11.5 percent of Vermonters agree with him.  "I can't get enough Christmas music" is now #2 on the list of the stupidest things I've read this week.


College Football Is An Untarnished World of Amateur Sporting (Ahem)...

Yahoo! sports NCAA football blog has an interesting, if entirely unconfirmed rumor up about the hiring of Gene Chizik.

And see if you can follow me here.  Johnny Rane is an Auburn booster and a member of the Auburn Board of Trustees.  After Auburn was blown out by Alabama a few weeks ago, he got on the phone to Houston Nutt at Ole Miss and discussed his interest in the Auburn head coaching position, a job at the time held by Tommy Tuberville.

But Tuberville had a clause in his contract that stipulated if the university conducts a head coaching search without first informing him, his out-clause and buy-out kicked in.

So Tuberville resigned, taking a good chunk of university cash with him.  And how did Tuberville find out about the Nutt-Rane phone call?  His agent, Jimmy Sexton, also the agent for Houston Nutt, called him and told him.  And who got hired by Auburn?  Gene Chizik.  Who Chizik's agent?  Jimmy Sexton.  

I wonder what that commission haul was for Mr. Sexton?

Again, totally unconfirmed but the details aren't exactly denied yet.  Ugh.  

A Member of the Bald Community


I think i can speak for Christo when I say that neither of the two BRE writers have been blessed with great hair. We both started to bald at a young age and while it's always been a little self mocking joke between us we both have got to the point where it means very little. We both managed to get on with our lives.
I started losing my hair when I was about 26/27. On top of it I have very colicky hair. I wear a stocking cap and it goes in every which way. It looks awful. And, honestly, I freaked out. My dad's side of the family has full, thick lustrous hair in all the men. Unfortunately, the baldness gene comes from the mother's side. And they were all early baldies. So, in my mid/late 20s, I was too.
It was a shot to the ego. Here I am at 27 still in that going out 5 days a week phase of my life and, lets be honest, horny and single. And I'm in competition with guys that have manes. Great. I'm fucked, I thought.
You know what? Most women don't give a shit. If you do the comb over or the pony tail with the receding hair line, they'll ignore you because you're an idiot. But bald? Don't care. Maybe women in their early 20s or so give a shit but to most women out of college, baldness means about as much to them as finger nail color matters to men.
That doesn't stop some of the ignorami from making fun of my hair. I still get the jibes and rips from some guys (it's always guys) and I usually laugh it off and take it in a spirit of good natured ribbing. I almost always retort with a remark about their waist line or gigantic nose.
But that's the issue. It's almost always the guys who have absolutely NOTHING going on in their own lives. So, they latch onto something that they can put someone who is happy and confident down. Hair. Fucking hair.
Do I wish I had a full, thick head of hair sometimes? Yeah. I guess. Maybe. But guess what? My haircuts take about 5 minutes. Cha-ching!
But it's just hair. And it's gone. And I don't give a shit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Very Red Christmas


Just in time for the Holidays the idiots at BRE have released a new Christmas album of wholly original Yuletide carols. Well, more like rants put on tape.

Anyway, here's the track listing. All songs sung by Christo and Mate while hopped up on goofballs.

1. "Santa Smells Like Yeast"
2. "Thanks, Dad (For Ruining Christmas)"
3. "Who the Fuck Puts Carrots in Jello?"
4. "That Fucking Reindeer Shit On the Goddamn Roof"
5. "Jesus Bot 5000"
6. "Puppies Drink Water, Grandpa. Not Old Crow."
7. "Who Invited That Asshole?"
8. "Nothing Says X-mas Like Fish Tacos"
9. "Can We Turn Down the Motherfucking Heat?! I'm Sweating Through My Shirt! Jesus!" 10. "How Many Glasses You Up To, Mom?"
11. "Your Christmas Sweater Smells Like Cat Piss"
12. "Uncle Ron Called Santa 'Larry'"
13. "Holy Fuck It's Fucking Goddamn Shit Piss Motherfucking Asshole Cunt Licking Cold!"
14. "Can You At Least Pretend To Be Civil?"
15. "Silent Night"
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Get yours today!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Quickie


Remember when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos 24-17 two weeks ago?

Yeah, me neither.

Well, some guy over at Wired decided to take the time to clock the actual duration the ball was in play during that NFL football game.  And the results were about what I thought.
The game began and the stopwatch ticked off time as Larry Johnson ran outside, Jay Cutler threw an interception and the Chiefs jumped to an early lead. By the end of the first quarter, at the conclusion of the first fifteen minutes of the match, the ball had been in play for a total of three minutes and ten seconds.

The rest of the game went by at a similar, jerky pace.  By the end of the game, I was bored silly, my son had gone to the other room to play with army men and the Chiefs had, once again, lost ugly.

The final tally told an interesting story.  The remaining quarters had followed the first:

The second quarter contained two minutes, 58 seconds when the ball was in play

The third quarter was the most scintillating with three minutes, 25 seconds of action

The fourth quarter, which included a lot of kneeling to run out the time in the final two minutes, had showcased two minutes and 35 seconds of play

So, during the two hours and 56 minutes the game took to complete, throughout the 60 minutes of regulation time, the ball was in only in play for 12 minutes and 8 seconds.  The rest of the time, players were standing around, plays were being reviewed and I was being bombarded by a multitude of beer commercials and truck advertisements.
There you go.  The next time someone tries to tell you baseball games are boring, tell them to 'Suck My Balls' with true-blue facts.

Print this out and stick it in your back pocket.

You know, for moments like this:




Moronic Monday


The Giant Pile Of Salt Will Not Save Us!

Chicago city side streets this morning are absolutely undriveable. 

Why?  Sure, it rained last night and then the temperature dropped about a billion degrees in twenty minutes.

But with a $450 million budget deficit, the Algonquin round table that is Mayor Daley and the Cook County Board decided that in order to save money, side streets in the city will not be salted.

So now basic city services are out.  And the media is, of course, taking Daley's ham-handed answer at face value.  Will there be a time in the future when "we're trying to make the different city departments become more efficient and work together" will be an unacceptable answer?  Christo thinks not.  And thank God Stroger added 1,000 new county jobs in March.  Who would have thought that was a bad idea?

There.  That's off my chest.


Glad To See Things Haven't Changed in Iowa City

So Iowa handily beat Iowa State, 73-57, on Friday in Iowa City.

But that, of course, wasn't the real story.  The real story was the appearances of Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Olympian Shawn Johnson at the game to raise funds for flood-damaged businesses in Eastern Iowa.

And the Iowa media took it in the way only Iowans do:  As validation of their significance on this planet.  

From Ryan Suchomel's column today:
Maybe Iowa athletics director Gary Barta should extend invitations to Jack Nicholson, Spike Lee and P-Diddy to come see an Iowa basketball game.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena became the playground of the rich and famous Friday, welcoming Ashton Kutcher and his wife, Demi Moore, as well as Olympian Shawn Johnson.

It was also the playground of the Hawkeyes, who rolled over Iowa State 73-57 to move to 9-2 on the season.  
Click to read the rest of the story...
Playground?

Ugh.  Whatever.  It's too bad because my guy, Jermain Davis played a great game.  The whole team's becoming a bit fun to watch.  Christo will make a prediction.  They'll win 20 games this year, mainly because the Big Ten blows.  

They don't turn the ball over, have six guys who can shoot the three with some level of proficiency (2nd in the nation in made 3s), don't rely on one or two guys to score, move the ball around and actually play defense (in the top 10 in scoring defense nationally). 

Sure, they have oodles of issues.  But I like the direction.  It's unlike any Iowa team I've seen.  And Lickliter's the smartest basketball coach Iowa has had when it comes to the details of the game...and that includes Lute.  Tons to like here.   


Friday, December 12, 2008

Imitating South American Oligarchs From The 50s


As our sister network prepares for the year-end extravaganza that is the Sardies, the SNC has allowed for alternate venues for its members to spew vitriol into the abyss.

Today's offering comes from the New York Times Fashion & Style section, a venerable cornucopia of insanity completely detached from the Great Unwashed.

If I had bought the print edition and sat down to enjoy a reading of the day's news and this crapped in my lap, it would have ruined the whole thing.  Everything else would have been forgotten.  

Let's get started.      

Even in Recession, Spend They Must: Luxury Shoppers Anonymous

By RUTH LA FERLA

ONLY a year ago, Maggie Buckley might have indulged a craving for, say, satin opera gloves or python sandals with a quick trip to Saks or Bergdorf Goodman. But now, in these recessionary times, she tends to avoid such public sorties.  (That's big of her.  "In this economy", I've also found it socially irresponsible to shop for...python sandals (?).  But that's me.  And Maggie.)

“Shopping is almost embarrassing, and a little vulgar right now,” said Ms. Buckley, an editor at Allure magazine. Loath to be seen loading freezer-size parcels into the back of a waiting cab, she finds herself shopping at under-the-radar soirees in the homes of her friends. (Oh, so shopping itself isn't embarrassing, it's being SEEN shopping that is embarrassing.  Important distinction, Maggie.  It's rare in life that I can hate someone from one quote.  I.  Hate.  Maggie.)

Ms. Buckley is one in a coterie of shoppers turning their backs on conspicuous consumption but trawling for treasures nonetheless at invitation-only shopping events springing up in hotel suites, at private showrooms or in the well-appointed parlors of their peers. Feeling the pangs of conscience, they are shopping on the down-low, finding deals in places that are the retail equivalent of a safari on a private game reserve. (READ THAT AGAIN, PEOPLE!  And if you don't throw up a little in your mouth, I can't save you.  Pangs of conscience?  I don't think it's a coincidence that I have to take a break right now and take a dump.)

“People don’t want to be as public about shopping for luxury goods as they were in the past,” said Robert Burke, a luxury retail consultant in New York. “It’s a feel-good way to buy, and this is a time for feel-good things.” (I'm back...and what I just deposited looks oddly like I imagine Robert Burke looks like.  And Maggie.  It was a twosome of a twosie.)

Such covert shopping has long been enjoyed by the upper crust, people who could pay six figures for diamond-and-sapphire brooch or sable wrap — and the privilege of exclusivity. But in the current climate, stealth consumption has gained a more potent appeal, taking place at gatherings with an insiders’ feel. (I'd just like to thank the capitalist system for allowing the über-rich to have such an outlet to shop guilt-free.  Can you imagine a world for them without it?  I can't.  That's a world I don't want to know.)

“We’re like a little secret that people want to share, but not with just anybody,” said Eve Goldberg, an owner of William Goldberg, a diamond dealer in Manhattan. Ms. Goldberg’s company recently opened a salon that caters to clients who prefer to shop discreetly.

“People are saying: ‘It’s that time of year; I want to buy something, but I feel a little weird,’ ” Ms. Goldberg said. “Often they tell me, ‘I don’t want to be out there making an announcement with a big bag that says Harry Winston.’ ” (Remember this.  Even though Eve needs to buy a $32,000 sable wrap, a price tag that could feed a Guatemalan village for a year, she shouldn't have to do it in front of the judging eyes of the proletariat.

Private dealers, many of them dilettantes who acquire their wares from designer friends, at trade shows and from dealers and artisans in exotic locales, are the bane of recession-battered high-end merchants. (Another victim.  Where's Congress with a bailout?) Established retailers are hard pressed to compete with such luxury pop-up shops while maintaining inventories and absorbing the high costs of operating their businesses.

But under-the-radar parties offer the well heeled, and the well connected, a chance to snap up temptations without an inner censor chiding them for their spendthrift ways. 

“There is certainly a stigma to spending openly in this economy,” said Eric Spangenberg, a consumer psychologist and the dean of the business school at Washington State University. “These people don’t want to appear flippant by disregarding the woes of the economy,” he said, “but they still want to get their shop on, and they’re going to find a way.” (I bet $20 some rich fuck bitched about the inconvenience of this week's underground shopfest location.  Somewhere.  Sometime.

Those who cannot wean themselves off the shopping habit flock to events that are, in Dr. Spangenberg’s phrase, “the high-end equivalent of a Tupperware party.” (It's exactly like a Tupperware party.  No modifier needed.  They're just like you and me.) There they trade gossip and air kisses — and spring for crewelwork pashminas or pavé diamond pet collars.  

Sure, they are shopping. “But they are also enjoying the camaraderie and a social experience,” said Joan Horton, an event planner and decorator who offered a selection of shrugs she bought during buying trips abroad. Last week she displayed those items, sold under the Shrug Shop label, at a lavish three-day shopathon in the apartment of a friend. (Blow me, Joan.  And shrugs may be in the next Tournament of Awful...coming early next year.)

The gathering, the brainchild of a clutch of freelance stylists, designers and merchants, offered handmade Balinese lace blouses, ikat patterned tablecloths, Indian shawls, snakeskin bags and Bakelite bangles.

“We were looking for a retail outlet,” said Amy Eller, an organizer of the event. But then the Dow went into free fall, putting a crimp in their plans. “We decided we would just become a floating marketplace,” she said.

That marketplace took the form of a haute bohemian souk on Park Avenue, stocked with items priced from $25 to $700, shown off against a backdrop of crimson walls, 19th-century lithographs and faux leopard carpeting worthy of Elsie de Wolfe. Ten percent of the proceeds from the event, which drew about 300 guests and took in an estimated $60,000, went to VetDogs, which provides service dogs for disabled veterans. (RESISTING THE URGE TO KILL!!!!!  There you go.  Every droplet of guilt is officially alleviated.  They gave to charity.)

“People like the private atmosphere,” Ms. Eller said. “And they also felt they were giving back a little while they shopped.” (BLAAARRRGGGGGHHH!!!!!)

SIMILAR opportunities for altruism (!!!!!!!!!!!) may have eased the consciences of the 250 guests at the International Fashion party, a by-invitation event held last week at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco to benefit Rebekah Children’s Services, which aids children with emotional and behavioral problems. But the party, which attracted the social figures Vanessa Getty, Sloan Barnett and the wives of several Silicon Valley executives, was also a magnet for trophy hunters. (I love the 'But' here.  As if that was all secondary to the charitable generosity.  Well played, Ruth.  This is how journalists writes a scathing indictment without injecting themselves into the conversation.) Filigreed chokers and diamond-studded earrings with an ornate Asian cast were offered alongside hair and eyelash extensions and a rack of furs supplied by Saks Fifth Avenue, which saw an opportunity to reach affluent clients. Prices ranged from $100 to $10,000 — or, furs apart, about 10 percent above the wholesale cost.

“We don’t need to mark up items so much as a store might,” said Dorothy Toressi, an organizer of the benefit. “We don’t need to hold inventories or pay salaries or other costs of overhead.” (It's like Sam's Club for the fuckfaces of the world.)

After checking in at the door and filing by a phalanx of security guards, guests sipped Champagne, fingered baubles arranged on muslin-draped tables and tested the heft of new handbags, happy all the while to be mingling with their own. (Subtle.  I hate it when I innocently want to go shopping for a rare snakeskin handbag and I end up having to stand next to minorities...or (gasp)...New Money.)

“These parties can be social networking opportunities,” said Susanna Stratton-Norris, a London-based knitwear designer who offered her opulent cashmeres for sale last month in a suite at the Regency Hotel in New York. She pulled her guest list together from a roster of clients she had cultivated in an earlier career as a decorator.

“These people felt as if they belonged to a club,” (Read:  Old Money White) Ms. Stratton-Norris said, one that caters to their tastes “and where they could meet like-minded people.”(Read:  Old Money Republican White) Socially at ease, they were free to indulge an acquisitive streak, “not embarrassed to purchase in multiples or to tell me, ‘I’ll have one of these in every color.’ ”

Other covert shoppers conduct their operations on the Web.

“It seems counterintuitive, but the big ticket items are flying out,” said Ricky Serbin of Ricky’s Exceptional Treasures, a luxury resale store on eBay. Mr. Serbin said that in one week in November, he sold three Oscar de la Renta gowns, each for about $3,000. In flusher times they might have languished while shoppers indulged a yen for finery at luxury boutiques and upscale department stores. (The hell that Ricky had to endure during the Good Times.)

What’s changed? “People like the anonymity of the Web,” Mr. Serbin suggested. “No one can see you coming out of Neiman Marcus moving a ball gown.” (The people who so callously don't have to pay with food stamps at Aldi have the same problem.  Show-offs.)

Tatiana Sorokko, who recently bought a Ralph Rucci ensemble from Mr. Serbin, supported that theory. “In this economy, the people I know are making adjustments. Their transactions tend to be between themselves and the seller,” said Ms. Sorokko, a former model and the owner with her husband, Serge, of a gallery in San Francisco. (No article would be complete without a "In this economy..." but this one sits at number one on the puke-meter.  Brings a whole new context.)  

Stealth shopping provides the satisfaction of “buying something special from a person who you trust,” she said. “But you haven’t gone public. No one will talk.” (What's that about the parallels between America and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire again?  I think I dismissed that a little too soon.)


Friday Isn't For Thinking


Apparently Iowa plays Iowa State tonight in basketball. How times have changed. I once turned down a job because it would interfere with Hawkeye basketball viewing. Now I don't even realize when they play their arch rival. Iowa is officially a football school. Thanks, Steve.
A tourney appearance or two might help too.
I, of course, will watch.
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We're in that 3 to 6 month old phase of the puppy. You know the biting at your feet, eating mulch or whatever they can put in their mouth, whining, terrible on a leash, petulant phase.
She's a great little dog but this period is a bit of a challenge I have to say.
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I get 4 to 10 automated calls every day at work. You know the ones that start out with a slight pause/buzz and then a calm yet assertive voice starts with "Pay attention, you may have just won a...." I click very rapidly. But apparently these things must work because why would they continue to do them? Who falls for shit like this?
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Went to the wife's work party last night at the United Center. It was pretty cool. Sponsored by the Blackhawks. But I had 4 beers. And i was fucking LIT! Jesus.
Put a fork in me...I'm done.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BOOK! IT!


Introducing...Senate Candidate Number 5!




I Have Never


Getting to know a little bit about this enigma known as Mate:

1. I have never seen nor plan to see any of the following: Wicked, Mama Mia, Jersey Boys, Rent, or any musical based on a movie.

2. I have never ate a truffel. Ever. No idea what they taste like.

3. I have never been to Mexico.

4. I have never learned to drive a stick shift. Nor do I have any desire to do so.

5. I have never watched one episode of "CSI"

6. I have never owned a pair of jeans that cost more than 20 bucks.

7. I have never been to a NBA basketball game.

8. I have never met anyone who was born and raised in Seattle.

9. I have never flown first class.

10. I have never owned a cat.

11. I have never tried any drug harsher than marijuana.

12. I have never driven from coast to coast.

13. I have never had a "headache".

14. I have never been in a car accident while I was driving.

15. I have never sang in public.

16. I have never "blacked out".

17. I have never called any of my bosses Mr. (blank). Always first names.

18. I have never been mugged.

19. I have never "craved" chocolate.

20. I have never met Rod Blagojevich.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Is Senate Candidate Number 5?


Again, I say it's Lobot.

That's a lot of money, folks.  

Who has these kinds of deep pockets, is willing to so baldly offer it and thinks he won't get caught?

Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might “get some
(money) up front, maybe” from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate
seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran
for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached
by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you
know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made
him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”

Plenty of people are going down in this one.  And remember, these aren't witness testimonies.  THIS IS ALL FROM WIRETAPS!  On his home, office and at the office of Friends of Blago, a place about four blocks from the BRE satellite offices on the North Side.  

We here at BRE have dispatched our intern to the scene and should have wildly inaccurate and potentially libelous updates throughout the day.


Don't Drop the Soap, Dick Face.

Another wonderful example of Illinois politics. We're not finished as long as Daley and Stroger remain at their jobs.
But this is a nice start. Sleazeball.


(CNN) -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in federal custody on corruption charges, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Rod Blagojevich is currently serving his second term as governor of Illinois.

Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois.
Both men are expected in U.S. District Court in Chicago later Tuesday.
A news conference is expected at noon ET.
Federal prosecutors say Blagojevich, Harris and others conspired to gain financial benefits in appointing President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement, according to the statement.
"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."
According to the statement, Blagojevich is alleged to have discussed obtaining:
a substantial salary for himself at either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
a spot for his wife on paid corporate boards, where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
promises of campaign funds -- including cash up front;
a Cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
The Obama transition team is aware that Blagojevich is in federal custody, but has no comment, according to a senior Democratic source.

The statement also alleges that Blagojevich and others tried to illegally obtain campaign contributions.
Blagojevich, Harris and others are also alleged to have withheld state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field. The statement says this was done to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were critical of Blagojevich.
Blagojevich, who turns 52 on Wednesday, is in his second four-year term as Illinois governor. His term ends in January 2011.
Before being elected governor, he served as a U.S. congressman for Illinois' 5th district from 1997 until 2003, according to his online biography. He and his wife, Patti, have two daughters.
Blagojevich announced last month that he was forming a panel to review candidates to fill Obama's Senate seat.
Several Illinois Democrats -- including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, a former congressional candidate who now serves in Blagojevich's administration -- have been mentioned as possible Senate replacements for Obama.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I've Always Hated Him


Despite a shaky start to the season, Iowa gets to go to a New Year's Day bowl and play against my most hated coach in sports. I fucking loathe Steve Spurrier. Loathe. More than Charlie Weis. More than Ron Zook. More than Tommy Lasorda. Anybody.
It's that fucking visor. Oh, and the fact he's an arrogant jackass. Apparently when he took the job at S. Carolina he made fun of the amount of Outback Bowl trophies they had.
What a cock. Get it? And their QB's last name is Smelley. I shit you not. Smelley Cock.
I don't get all "my team's gonna kick your ass" in my sports fanship but I really hope the Hawks knock the crap out of this asshole. It would be quite enjoyable.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Phil Watch: He Had Me At Range Factor


Phil bought a book!

Last week, Phil called the 2009 Bill James Handbook recommended reading.

I had to change my underwear as I had crapped my pants in disbelief.

And then he used a cursory glance at the book to say Chone Figgins may be the most overrated player in baseball because he doesn't hit home runs and was only a +7 baserunner in his accompanying article.  

Just forget the fact that he fractured two fingers in the second game of the year and followed that up by pulling his hamstring and was out a month.  Oh, and then he followed that up with bruising his right elbow in September.  All that and he hit ahead of the #2 position in the order that hit a collective .258 behind him, 5th worst in baseball on a team that won the most games in 2008.  

Check out what Bill James projects Figgins to do in 2009.  Every team would take a player like that. Just look shit up!  There.  It's out of my system.

So there was no Phil Watch last week because it just would have been a bunch of curse words and name calling.  I'm trying to be a better person.

This week's offering makes for a little more cerebral experience.

Let's get started.

White Sox's Jermaine Dye might be moving on

But whether they involve him being on the team is still a question

Anybody understand what the heck that means?  Read that again and please tell me because I don't get it.  Outside of possibly NORAD, proofreaders are probably most valuable in this world at newspapers, wouldn't you think?   

Paging Jermaine Dye, paging Jermaine Dye … Mr. Dye, please cancel your spring-training reservations with the White Sox and hold for your impending reassignment.

Phil wrote the opening in that netherworld between sleep and awake, the only place where shit like that seems funny.

Oh, fuck it.  Let's just get to the goods.

...If you were going to have Carlos Quentin on one outfield corner and Dye on the other, as the White Sox did in 2008, why even consider Viciedo in the outfield?

I will speak slow.  Just because Alexei Ramirez happened to play right away doesn't mean Viciedo will.  Alexei is 26.  Viciedo is 19!  And apparently out of shape.  Just because Kenny may be open (Kenny quotes I omitted) to trying him in the outfield doesn't even touch the realm of meaning he is going to take over right field on Opening Day 2009.  And therefore meaning Dye is going to be traded.  See, there are more years after next year.  It's called long-term for a reason.

Kenny didn't broach the subject.  Somebody asked him about the possibility.  Possibility, by definition, means it's possible.  And not necessarily right now.   

Common sense thinking.  It works.  I promise.

Years ago, when Williams was the Sox's farm director, he and his coaches turned Carlos Lee from a third baseman into a left fielder in little more than a week's time. The guess here is that's the long-term plan for Viciedo, assuming Josh Fields and Wilson Betemit can hold down third.

Paging Phil Rogers...paging Phil Rogers.  Your column is about to get stupid.  Paging Phil Rogers...

Quentin should be a fielding upgrade in right field over the 34-year-old Dye, whose 2008 range factor of 1.86 ranked 27th among 30 primary right fielders. So this is the right time to trade Dye.

Phil.  Go to the glossary of your new book.  It's in the back.  Range factor is NOT a spectacular judge of an outfield's ability to field his position at or better than the rest of the league.

ZONE RATING IS!  It's a stat that evaluates how a player fields his typical defensive zone compared to the rest of the league.  It's all comparabley and stuff, therefore more importanter.

Range factor's formula is (put outs + assists/innings played).  Now look that over.  In short, if your team's pitching staff is loaded with a bunch of flyball pitchers or tends to pitch more away to right-handed batters or a flurry of other factors, your range factor will be skewed by the number of fly balls you caught.  It's not adjusted for anything.  It just asks if the player caught the balls hit to him.

And Phil has heard of zone rating.  We know this here at Phil Watch.  He used it to say Miguel Cabrera was a bad third basemen by third basemen-y standards.  What the hoo-hoo? 

And if he's in that section of the book and wants to use range factor, turn a couple of pages to the leftfielders!  Quentin had a 1.83 range factor, .04 points below Dye.  And while he's on the left field page, check out Carlos Lee's zone rating.  It's .755, dead last in baseball.  Lee's play in left field doesn't buttress anything here.

And an aside here.  If range factor is important in Phil's world, where's the column discussing Ryan Theriot's dead-last rating for shortstops?  Had to get that in.  I'm small.  

Dye's slow and not very rangey, but in 272 chances in 2008, he had one error.  Quentin, by contrast, had seven errors in 240 chances.  Both had five assists.  Upgrade?

He has averaged 34 home runs and 95 RBIs in his four years with the Sox. That gives him value to many teams: the Dodgers (assuming they don't re-sign Manny Ramirez), Mets, Braves, Angels (if they lose Mark Teixeira), Rays and Reds, to name six teams that are not believed to be on his no-trade list.

Christo fading.  Columnists = Analysts.  Reporters = Reportage.  

Team-by-team:

Dodgers:  They'd have to move/would be asked for Kemp or Ethier, something they wouldn't do for a bevy of players with bigger upside than Dye.  With Lowe and Penny gone, they're not letting go of any pitching.  Oh, and they already have two players with wildly expensive and not very producey-type contracts in Pierre and Jones in the outfield.  How does Dye fit?

Mets:  Intriguing, part une.  The rumors are out there.  But the Sox wouldn't do it without getting a centerfielder in return and the Mets are backtracking on the possibility of trading Fernando Martinez.  And Jenks would be involved in that one.  See, other teams have needs, too.

Braves:  Well, they just traded Vazquez to the Braves and got what they wanted from their farm system in return.  I suppose it's possible.  Not very probable.  It would be the definition of a salary dump.

Angels:  No.  Dye can't play left and that's what they need.  

Rays:  Intriguing, part deux.  Surplus of bullpen arms and the Sox need it.

Reds:  Intriguing, part trois.  The names are already out there.  Bailey for Dye straight up?  Maybe not with Bailey's regression last year.

See.  Mets, Rays and Reds.  I could have saved Phil some time by not typing in stupid. 

Williams might not fill his biggest remaining need—a center fielder/leadoff hitter—with a Dye trade, but should get a lot of interesting offers the next two weeks. By moving Dye, who is due $11.5 million in 2009 with an option for '10, he would be gaining flexibility to sign a free agent or two who slips between the cracks, as he did with A.J. Pierzynski and Orlando Hernandez after trading Lee and letting Magglio Ordonez walk after 2004.

He already has that flexibility.  His own paper has mentioned the updated payroll numbers after the Vazquez trade about a gazillion times.

This off-season Williams is doing to his lineup what he did to his rotation two years ago—sacrificing expensive, known quantities to collect multiple options with potential staying power. I didn't like it when he traded Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy (and almost Jon Garland), but the development of Gavin Floyd and John Danks made that gamble work.

Phil owns up to his own dippiness.  Kind of.  Progress.  

But that 'almost' on Garland is a bit of a misnomer.  He didn't like it.  For evidence, he compared the potential effect of losing Jon Garland to the Cubs letting Matt Clement go.  Oh, and there was a 'Ghost of Garland' image in the nut graph.  Fun.   

The latest renovation of the roster is more appealing, even if many executives believe Williams is overrating Flowers, whom they regard as a serious liability behind the plate. Williams did well recouping the kind of talent he sent to Arizona to acquire Vazquez three years ago (center fielder Chris Young was the headliner).

Vazquez was traded for Chris Young, Luis Vizcaino and Orlando Hernandez.

Vizcaino had a perfectly fine, if unspectacular little run pitching in middle relief for three different teams in the three years since.  He's now 34 and coming off a 5.28 ERA campaign for Colorado in 2008.

Hernandez is out of baseball and didn't pitch last year because he's 97 years old.

Young...well...since the trade, he had a great rookie year.  Since that year, Arizona has decided he is a terrible lead0ff hitter because, you know, he doesn't get on base.  .306 OBP in the majors will do that.  And that little thing like striking out once in every 3.97 at bats will do it as well.  If he was the leadoff hitter for the White Sox, White Sox fans would not want him as a leadoff hitter.  He's worse than Soriano in the leadoff spot.  By a lot, actually.

Zone rating = average.  Range factor = below-average.

Young wasn't just the headliner...he was the only real player in the deal.  And even with all that Vazquez was, the Sox got the better of that one, all things considered.

Now!  onto Flowers.  Many executives don't think Flowers is overrated.  Many executives know that Flowers caught full-time for the first time last year.  He was a shortstop in high school and switched between catcher and first base in college.  They think he's a project defensively, not overrated.  

The guy walked 98 freaking times in 413 at-bats last year for a .427 OBP.  And he's not and all-or-nothing hitter.  32 doubles in 413 at-bats.  Sure, Class A.  But he should be on schedule to get to the White Sox right about the time Pierzynski and Konerko's contracts expire.  It's a ridiculously good play and the right guy for the situation.

Flowers, Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez are all high-ceiling guys. Brent Lillibridge could be next year's Quentin: a talented player acquired when his value was low after a bad year. It makes you wonder how much Williams will be offered for Dye.

And there you go.  Phil spends a bazillion columns lamenting the loss of Fautino de los Santos and barely even mentions that Santos Rodriguez, a guy comparable not only in name but in ceiling, was just acquired.  And Rodriguez has the added advantage of not just having Tommy John surgery.  

That's our Phil (cue wacky sitcom music)!


Friday Isn't For Thinking


I'm not that into Christmas. Of course I was when I was a kid but now? Meh. I'm not a Scrooge by any means, a lot of what goes with Christmas is nice: family (usually), good food, etc. My favorite thing about it is that it's a nice diversion from the dreary beginning of fucking Winter. In case I haven't made it abundantly clear I hate winter. When you consider that moving to Alabama and dealing with shitkickers and 97% humidity in the Summer wouldn't be all that bad because you can avoid days like today, that says something.
Anyway, I don't really watch the Christmas specials (I think Charlie Brown Christmas is fantastic, though) or get all worked up about carols or presents (yeah it's nice to get something but shopping is the 7th level of Hell for me and if I hear "Santa Clause is Coming To Town" one more time I may take out the speaker with a pellet gun) and the less said about Egg Nog or Christmas sweaters the better.
However, there is one piece of the holiday that absolutely puts me in a nice place every time I see it. It's tangible almost to the point where I can smell the pine and tinsel. I'm 8 years old. This is it.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
I don't know how I feel about this. Part of me wants to say, "You know, they have a point" and the other part of me just wants to tell them to stick it up their pretencious, know it all ass.
We get it. You're smarter. But can you just let people have their holiday?

Atheists take aim at Christmas
By Mallory SimonCNN

(CNN) -- It's beginning to look a lot like -- a war over Christmas.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has a placard up in the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington.

Alongside a Nativity scene at the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington, a sign put up by an atheist organization celebrates the winter solstice. But it's the rest of the sign that has some residents and Christian organizations calling atheists Scrooges for attacking the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth.
"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds," the sign says in part.
Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher who now heads up the atheist and agnostic Freedom From Religion Foundation, said it was important for atheists to see their viewpoints validated alongside everyone else's.
Barker said the display is especially important given that 25 percent of Washington state residents are unaffiliated with religion or do not believe in God. (A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 23 percent of Washingtonians said they were unaffiliated with a religion and 7 percent said they didn't believe in God.)
"It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest," Barker said. "If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don't bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views."
He said if anything, it's the Nativity scene that is the intrusion.
"Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it's the other way around," he said. "People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans."
The scene in Washington state is not unfamiliar. Barker has had signs in Madison, Wisconsin, for 13 years. The placard is often turned around so the message can't be seen, and one year, someone threw acid on it, forcing the group to encase it in Plexiglas.
In Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association began a bus ad campaign this month questioning belief in God.

"Why believe in a God?" the advertisement asks. "Just be good for goodness sake."
That ad has caused the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to field hundreds of complaints, the group said, but it has heard just as much positive feedback, said Fred Edwords, the association's spokesman.
Edwords said the ad campaign, which features a shrugging Santa Claus, was not meant to attack Christmas but rather to reach out to an untapped audience.
Edwords maintains the campaign began in December mostly because the group had extra money left over for the year. The connection to Christmas is a coincidence, he said.
"There are a lot of people out there who don't know there are organizations like ours to serve their needs," Edwords said. "The thing is, to reach a minority group, in order to be heard, everyone in the room has to hear you, even when they don't want to."
The ad campaign, Edwords said, is to make people think. He said he doesn't expect to "convert" anyone.
But the Christian Coalition of America is urging members to oppose the advertisements.
"Although a number of humanists and atheists continue to attempt to rid God and Christmas from the public square, the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts," Roberta Combs, the group's president said in a press release.
"We will ask our millions of supporters to call the city of Washington, D.C., and Congress to stop this un-Godly campaign."
As far as the criticism goes, Edwords said there are far more controversial placards in Washington.
"That's D.C. -- this is a political center," he said. "If I can see a placard with dead fetuses on it, I think someone can look at our question and just think about it."
The anger over the display in Olympia began after it was assembled Monday. The sentiment grew after some national media personalities called upon viewers to flood the phone lines of the governor's office.
The governor's office told The Seattle Times it received more than 200 calls an hour afterward.
"I happen to be a Christian, and I don't agree with the display that is up there," Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire told The Olympian newspaper. "But that doesn't mean that as governor, I have the right to deny their ability to express their free speech."
For some, the issue isn't even that the atheists are putting their thoughts on display, but rather the way in which they are doing it.
"They are shooting themselves in the foot," said iReport contributor Rich Phillips, who describes himself as an atheist. "Everyone's out there for the holidays, trying to represent their religion, their beliefs, and it's a time to be positive."
The atheist message was never intended to attack anyone, Barker said.
"When people ask us, 'Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people's holidays? -- we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message," he said. "On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don't submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways."
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Quick Update - 2010 Current Commitments


With the Vazquez trade today, this is the list of players committed to the White Sox for 2010:

Mark Buehrle - $14 M ($14 M in 2011)

Paul Konerko - $12 M

Jermaine Dye - $12 M mutual option ($1 M buyout)

A. J. Pierzynski - $6.25 M

Scott Linebrink - $5 M ($5.5 M in 2011)

Alexei Ramirez - $1.1 M ($1.1 M in 2011)

Matt Thorton - $2.25 M club option ($3 M club option in 2011)

Dayan Viciedo - 4 years/$11M (no specific breakdown)

Quentin, Danks, Floyd, Jenks, Wise, Owens, Fields, etc. are still all under control in 2010.

No.  Team.  In.  Baseball!  is in a better financial position when taking into account revenue streams, market size, long-term commitments, youth/age balance and lack of bad contracts than the White Sox right now.  Nobody.



Well...This Should Shut Phil Up


And he has to be pissed.  He just wrote the top 10 prospects report on the White Sox for Baseball America two weeks ago.

Since then, they've added three or four potential top 10ers (well, top 20ers, anyway).

So let's do the analysis.

Subtractions:

Javier Vazquez:  Scheduled to be paid $11.5 million over each of the next two seasons.  Trading him lowers the current 2009 payroll to $82 million for 11 players, meaning Kenny Williams isn't close to being done.  Expect him to get that back up to around $110-120 million.  That means there's about $30 million left for him to spend.  

He's just a guy.  Decent #3.  Garland without the pretty strikeouts. Never pitched on a level equal to the moment/need.

Boone Logan:  The Sox gave up on him late in the season last year and for good reason.  He had a 16.39 ERA (!) after the All-Star break and 7.71 ERA at home on the year. Gave up the long ball in key moments on more than one occasion.


Additions:

Tyler Flowers:  Sounds like he should have a crappy cooking show on the Food Network or play for Davenport North.  Had ridiculous Arizona Fall League numbers, hitting .387 with 12 hr and 23 rbi in 20 games.  Hit .288 with 17 hr and 88 rbi with a .427 (!) OBP at high A Myrtle Beach last year.  Baseball America says he's a bit of a project defensively to say the least but could move to first base.  A corner outfield spot would be a huge stretch.  DH a good fit.  He's the gem in the deal.  Jim Callis from Baseball America just said on the Mike Murphy show that he should be listed #3 or #4 in their revised top 10 prospects report.

Brent Lillibridge:  25 years old, fifth-rated prospect in the Braves system last year.  Projects as a utility infielder with plus speed, good arm and the tools to hit leadoff.  Baseball America says he tends to think he's more of a power hitter than actually is and goes fishing a lot.  Regressed a little last year but got 80 at bats at the big league level.  Should fill Uribe's spot this year.

Jon Gilmore:  Well...they traded Ryan Sweeney, losing a guy that Iowans went nuts over because he was from Cedar Rapids and picked up a guy from Iowa City.  Former 1st round in 2007 and the early results aren't good.  His ceiling at best is probably a Ryan Sweeney-type, and that's not a good thing, but could fill out.  A worthy project given this whole trade was a bit a salary dump and restocking of the system.

Santos Rodriguez:  Phil can now blow his wad over another low A prospect with Santos in his name.  He'll be 23 next year, pitched out of the bullpen in Rookie ball last year and struck out 45 in 29 innings, posting a 2.79 ERA with a .155 BAA.  He's 6-5, 180 pounds (!) so a still wind may blow him over but seems to be another worthy project. Gonzales at the Trib says he may be the sleeper in this deal.


Early analyses around the web sees Lillibridge as the only 2009 contributor with Flowers seeing time in 2010.  Basically, this was a setup for a bigger deal to come.  Kenny Williams heads off to the GM meetings this Sunday and this deal sets him up with oodles of room w/r/t payroll.  Dunn might be the play here.  

However it plays out, the White Sox roster should be dramatically different on December 10.