Sign the petition to strip John Walker Lindh of his U.S. citizenship.
Virtual Sanity

NEW! My Basic Training Blog has it's own site. Click here to read a day-by-day account of the first 10 weeks of Army life.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

OK, Im off for the day. People should be arriving soon for a cookout/party to watch the replay of the final this afternoon, and I have a little more cleaning to do. I hope the German guy that is expected isnt too upset. This is my 2nd World Cup Finals party and last time, there were 3 French girls there from work. I was hoping that maybe I could bring him a little luck this time.

U.S.A. in 2006! Amerika über alles!

UPDATE: The ABC rebroadcast was never done. Im really starting to hate ABC...

Wow. What a final 10 minutes! Countless chances for Germany to catch up, but Brazil held on to win 2-0.

But what the hell is wrong with ABC? What programming could possibly be so important at 10:00 AM on a Sunday to not stay and show the awarding of the World Cup trophy and medals? I've been staying up til 4:40 AM and waking up at 6:00 watching your station so SHOW ME THE FRIGGING FINALE! At least its on the Spanish channel and I can watch, but unfortunately, Spanish isn't one of the langages I can speak.

My personal favorite trophy is the Stanley Cup. Its huge. Each player gets his name engraved on its surface (they rotate off after 75 years or so). And each player gets to take the trophy home for a day to do whatever he wishes with it. The World Cup trophy is tiny. Not very impressive until you realize its 11 POUNDS of solid gold. With Friday's closing prices, thats a value of $55,246.40, but as MasterCard would say, in reality, its priceless.

UPDATE: I guess the pundits of "This Week" are more important to ABC. I sent them a complaint.
Saturday, June 29, 2002

On Monday, the New York City fines for double parking, parking in a no parking/standing zone, and expired meters will double. NY1, the local news station, was interviewing people and asked one man who just came back to his double-parked car what he felt about the fine going from $55 to $110 if he is ticketed after Monday. Im paraphrasing, but what he said was pretty much:
It seems kind of a lot for the inconvenience.

Well, YEAH! That's the point. People double park all over the city, so its pretty obvious that the threat of a $55 fine is not enough of a deterrant for this guy, but he would think twice with having to pay a possible $110. Less tickets, yes, because less people will do it (hopefully). Less than 1/2 the tickets and a decrease in revenue from double-parking tickets, maybe, but unlikely. Even so, the increased traffic flow should make up for any dip in fine income with more commercial revenue comming into the city.

As an added note, they really dont have to increase fines as much as enforce the ones already on the books. Sit an officer at the corner outside my apartment in Queens and I can guarantee 5-10 speeding fines per day and an additional 10-20 for running the stop sign, not to mention an arrest or two per week for reckless driving or driving to endanger.
Thursday, June 27, 2002

Instapundit has a reader who had the following to say about a potentially less-than desirable side effect of the school voucher decision:
Wonder if all the cultural conservatives applauding today's Supreme Court decision on vouchers realize this means their tax dollars can now be used to support students attending Islamic madrasas? And what will be the reaction of those same conservatives when they learn about vouchers being used by parents who want to give their children an education in an "Islamic-based environment"?

I think the reader is making a parallel with using vouchers to allow students to attend Catholic schools, but the comparison is invalid. As we have seen in numerous reports since Sept 11, in madrasses in the Middle East and Central Asia, students memorize the Koran. That is all. Catholic schools in America teach Math, English, Science, US History, everything you would have in a regular school, except the teachers are nuns or other members of the Catholic clergy. Now, if a madrass in America teaches all these things, fine, there should be no problem with parents wishing to choose that environment for their children. All we need is to ensure that vouchers can only go to schools that teach the required courses, and these things are already in place. Otherwise, how would a parent know whether or not the Catholic school down the street is a better choice than their local high school if not for better test scores, higher college acceptance rate, etc. Give an SAT test to someone who just finished up his education in a Pakistani Madrassa, and they might get the 200 points awarded for spelling their name correctly.

I really hate making stupid HTML mistakes... most of this page was italicized for the past day or so.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

A judge just declared that the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional because of the phrase "one nation, under God".

Whats next from the ultra-liberal 9th circuit?

The judge sides with George Steinbrenner and confiscates the Series trophy from the Arizona Diamondbacks. All baseball games played since the singing of "God Bless America" replaced "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch are declared null and void.

The Declaration of Independance and Constitution are null and void. The United States itself is an illegitimate regime and the court calls upon the British Empire to re-establish itself in North America. (Judge did not comment about having to sing "God Save the Queen". After all, it has no power any more, so its opinion is moot.)

Every piece of US legal tender that contains the phrase "In God We Trust" (all of it) is declared worthless. As a sign of good faith, the judge has offered to work for free until this change is made.

September 11th never happened because it was perpetrated by people who claim to be believers in Allah (a.k.a. God). Everyone that died in the attacks are declared never to have existed in the first place.

RIDICULOUS!!! This country was founded by people who believed in God. Claiming that it wasn't is revisionist history. What sets our nation's founders apart from others is that they respected the right of the individual to make their own choices. I remember during a time in 6th grade that I would not say the words "under God" during the pledge because I didn't know what I believed at the time (I also know one other guy who did the same for years). The athiest in San Francisco who didn't want his 7-year-old to have to recite it must lead an incredibly miserable life.

That this ruling comes down while we are at war with people who would kill us because we will not live under their theocratic regime just goes to show how out of touch some people have become. Congress is currently passing a condemnation of this ruling. Once it passes, they ought to start impeachment hearings for the 2 judges that ruled in favor.

UPDATE: I don't know if this is true or not, but apparently the guy who brought the suit does indeed want "In God We Trust" removed from all money. Maybe he ought to start refusing to be paid until it is done.
Friday, June 21, 2002

Josh Gibson just asked in his "My World", (paraphrase) should the government be giving us all these terror warnings, or are they just making life miserable.

I think if they have a general threat, they should send out a warning. I agree with publicizing the Las Vega$ threat. HOWEVER, if they have knowledge of a specific plan, they should not tell us. For example, the bridges in California was a pretty specific warning: a specific range of dates, and a few known targets. Instead of telling everyone, they should keep it to themselves and set up a sting. Tipping off the terrorists does nothing but alert them to scrub their plan and live to fight another day. Catch them, and that cel is out of business.

Charlie Daniels is complaining that PBS is infringing upon his first ammendment rights by not allowing him to perform one of his songs because they object to some of the lyrics. Never mind that fact the 1st ammendment does not apply here (it says that government shall pass no law.. last I knew, corporations were not yet considered governments), but he really doesn't care about freedom of speech - he only cares because in this case, it is being applied to him. In a less than clear-headed tirade from right after September 11, he blames America. Why? Because "God has gotten tired of our wandering ways and has decided to not protect us any more from those who would hurt us". Among the things adding to the demise of our society: "Some of our music is fit for nothing but a garbage can".

Ok, Charlie, we will ban ban that music, but not yours - because you say so.


Just as sure as Murphy's Law, what goes around, comes around.

Well, the U.S. run is over, and it was fun. Hopefully, the development of our talent will continue and in 2006, we will be a legitimate contender.

Otherwise, the rest of the world should take notice of our players and fans:

Did our players revert to thuggish tactics in the waning minutes of the game, like Portugal?

Did our players immediately leave the field of play, not congratulate the Germans, and refuse to take part in the traditional post game exchange of jerseys, like Mexico?

Did any of our fans light themselves on fire for any reason, like in South Korea?

Did any MLS teams release any German players because they beat our team, like in Italy?

Will our players be welcomed home by the sweet sounds of jeering crowds, like in France?

Have there been widespread riots leading to the death of some fans, like in Russia?

Will our players be editoriaized in the press as being "The Idiots of Soccer", like in Germany?

The answer to each question is, of course, "No". Some of this is due to the fact, like a recent ESPN article states, "[if] The U.S. loses to Germany on Friday, we'll get up from the table, walk across the room and check the box scores to see if Luis Castillo kept that hit streak going for the Marlins." But alot of it has to do with the rest of the world really needing to lighten up. World-wide sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup is, indeed, a substitute for war, and that is how seriously some people take it. There are a lot of countries out there that are not as powerful as they would like to be, and the World Cup was a way to take out frustrations on America every 4 years. Now that that outlet is threatening to close, frustrations are rising. Fans do terrible things worldwide when their team does not win, but losing to the U.S. is an even greater sin.

I am proud that our players and fans have shown the dignity and grace that they have in losing. The rest of the world really should take notice.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002

This is one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Very exciting. "a team of researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) has carried out a successful teleportation experiment in a gravitational wave lab".

Thanks to Rich Haley for the story.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Yowza! I thought it was bad I had a hit from a google search for nude pictures of Benjamin Netanyahu... I got one yesterday for nude pictures of Marjorie Knoller. *cringe*

Doesn't Congress have enough to do already rather than have hearings about substances (steroids) which are already illegal?

World Cup coverage is all over the place in America. Television, Web sites, newspapers, radio. Yet in almost every story, you are bound to hear or read that "Americans do not like soccer" because of a variety of reasons such as "not enough goals are scored". Sometimes, when having conversations with friends, or even some of the more edgy commentators, you get "Wake up at 7:00 to watch soccer? Hell no. Soccer sucks" with very little else to back it up.

I can see where this comes from. People do not hate soccer because it sucks. They hate soccer because the US has always been, at best, a second rate team, and other countries would basically kick our butts, then rub our faces in it. Take, for example, the reaction of a Mexican fan after the US team beat them 2-0 yesterday:
''It hurts us here,'' Jose Luis Luviano, a fan in Mexico City, said as he punched his chest. Tears melted the Mexican flags painted on his cheeks. ''There has to be an end to this disgrace where (Americans) treat us like rats and idiots.''

Yes, you read that right, its the Americans who treat the Mexicans like rats and idiots, and a victory in soccer would solve all that. Despite the fact that Mexico had a period of over 40 years when they did not lose to the US, a victory this time would have changed everything. Despite the US beating Mexico 4 of their last 5 meetings away from Mexico City, all the "experts" predicted a cakewalk. At this level, its pretty obvious who is treating the other team with disrespect when they consider beating them a fait accompli.

For the soccer-haters in America, thats it in a nutshell. This is the one sport that the rest of the world was very good at and we were not. No matter how bad we were, beating us was beating America and when they did, it was always made into a massive political statement. We knew there wasn't much we could do about it, but we certainly didn't have to listen to the crowing, so we told the world to go to hell, keep your little sissy game. Not everyone, of course, but certainly the most vocal.

Now, that is why soccer was hated. Now to address the question as to why soccer is currently becomming more popular here (and it is) we have to go back in history a little bit. In 1975, a Brazilian man named Pele came out retirement to play soccer in the United States, hoping to increase its popularity here. It worked. At the World Cup we hosted in 1994, we saw the grown-up kids play who were inspired by Pele when they were 5 or 6 years old. They were pretty good - the first generation of Americans who had played soccer their entire life. Before Pele, there was no youth soccer, it was mostly a college, or not as frequently, high school, game. When you start that late in life, you have no hope of picking up the subtle skills necessary to excel at the highest levels. To witness this, take a look at any baseball team in Europe. Most programs there started only after it was announced that baseball would become an olympic sport - I, myself, played the year I lived in France. Where I would have had no hope to make the JV squad at my highschool, I hit .650 in this league. The only player better was a guy I went to school with from Baltimore who hit .850.

So, the 1994 squad was pretty good. Now, however, we have players who grew up playing soccer all their lives, with coaches who knew what they were doing at every level. Although the kids inspired by Pele may have wanted to learn, their youth coaches certainly didnt grow up with the game, so they could not teach everything they would need to know. Now, that is not the case. These guys can play, and there is one, John O'Brien, who is the only American to ever go through the Ajax system in Amsterdam. He, as well as numerous others, play in the elite leagues in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and Holland.

Now, factor in the fans, any of whom under the age of 35 or so have also grown up knowing the game. Again, look at baseball. Bring a European to a Yankee game and they will be asking all sorts of questions: "Why does the pitcher keep throwing to first", "Why did they change batters", etc. If you do not understand the subtleties of the game, you are going to miss alot. Of course, if all you understand is seeing the ball go into the net, you are going to get bored at 1-0 or, god forbid, 0-0 games.

Finally, the mareting is comming around. The major sponsors of this World Cup? Nike, Reebok, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, etc. Soccer is getting exposure, and anyone who has watched Empty-V knows, if the most awful drivel can be made a hit with the right marketing campaign, then a truly exciting sport is an easy blockbuster. More money in soccer will continue to attract better and better players. Up until the advent of the MLS, the top athletes in the US would go into one of the other major sports - athetic careers are fragile things, and economics is a factor when 2 or 3 years can set you up comfortably for the rest of your life. The 16-year-old American soccer phenom, may have once had to choose baseball; now, he can have a future in his best sport.

The reason why our team is comming of age: The players and their coaches grew up with the game.

The reason why our fans are comming of age: They understand the nuances of the game.

The reason why both will continue to grow and improve: More money will attract the better athletes, better play will attract the fans.


UPDATE: Let's all hope that our fans don't get to the point of self-immolation in hopes of becomming a ghost and 12 player to help our team, but I do think that our fans have a lot to teach the world in the way of losing with dignity and grace. These world-wide sporting events are supposed to take the place of war, but with everything that happens after some losses, war sometimes isn't that much less desirable an option.

We all know by now about Jean-Marie Le Pen and his upset in the French elections, and the dismal showing of the far-left parties. I ran across an interesting story which perhaps sheds a little more light on the individuals within these parties.

My friend who got married works for the water utility. His job is basically to drive around all day, read meters, and connect and disconnect service. Some months ago, he was sent out to hook up water at a nice place in the south of Brittany that was recently purchased by none other than Jean-Marie Le Pen himself. While my friend was working, Le Pen came out and they had a nice chat (outside Paris, the French are very polite; if eye contact is made, "bonjours" are exchanged). He found Le Pen to be a very nice man, although he may disagree with his political views.

In contrast, also in my friend's territory is a town called Aubay. The mayor of Aubay is a communist. Ironically, the communist party is supposed to be the party of the people/workers; yet, this man walks around town with his nose subtly in the air, ignoring everybody as if he is too good to be bothered by the common people.

I will let you draw your own conclusions, but I suspect that there is a lot more to the claims that the current left in Europe has lost touch with the people. They truly believe the people are there to be seen and not heard, and the voters are becomming more and more aware of this. Just like in America, a lot of people vote for the person, not the party.

I love the rail system in Europe. It is efficient and fast. In France, they have the TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse - Very Fast Train) which is now the default train in inter-city rail transportation. When I was there, they opened the TGV Atlantique which services the west of the country. Now, 12 years later, the trains are filthy. The cars I rode in look like they hadn't been mopped in weeks. With such a high rate of unemployment, there are significant jobs to be had. I do not know where I read it, but it was in a blog, but the writer posited that there is an attitude that people do not want to do jobs that are "beneath them", and that subjecting others to do such jobs is "humiliating" and "demeaning" to those doing the job, so they just dont hire anyone to do it.

Im sorry for the lack of posting. I hit a funk. I know I said I would have a big write-up on my trip to France, but to tell the truth, not much happened. There are a couple things I will mention in the next posts, but for the most part, I have to agree with Stephen Den Beste - my problem is not with the French people, but with their government.

Since it had been 12 years since I spent my year abroad in France, I promised myself before leaving that I would avoid any political discussions. Well, the first night of the wedding celebration (a 3 day affair), that went out the window with a combination of sleep deprivation, jet lag, and a healthy dose of red wine :) I remember very little of the discussion except that at one point, there were 3 against me, and I was stating quite emphatically that Arafat is a terrorist. However, not once during the discussion, and also not over the next few days, did I have the impression of being lectured, talked down to, or dismissed as "simplistic", as their leaders like to do.
Saturday, June 01, 2002

Will have some comments about my trip - was a good time overall, but did come back to some strange google search hits:

2 searches for "Tobey Maguire Nude" but this isnt the worst. The most disturbing of all was a search for:

"benjamin netanyahu nude pictures"

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