Sunday, July 31, 2005

Printed in Its Entirety

Apologies to the AP and Yahoo.
This is hysterical.

Bush Comforts Thousands at Scout Jamboree

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer 54 minutes ago

BOWLING GREEN, Va. - Succeeding on his third try to visit them [the most recent cut short by armtwisting over CAFTA, which the pres. lied about, and during which 300 of my fellow scouts got heat stroke]
President Bush comforted thousands of Boy Scouts on Sunday at a national jamboree marred by the electrocutions of four leaders and stifling heat that sickened 300.

"The men you lost were models of good citizenship," Bush told the estimated 50,000 Scouts, leaders and visitors attending the event near Bowling Green, Va., where boys yelled "Boy Scouts Rock!"

"As scout leaders, they devoted themselves to helping young men develop the character and skills they need to realize their dreams. These men will always be remembered for their leadership and kindness,and you scouts honor them by living up to the ideals of the Scouting they served."

Marine One landed in a grassy field and Bush, a former Cub Scout in Texas, was ferried by van to a stage where he was met by a sea of cheering Scouts wearing fatigue green uniforms covered with colorful patches and badges. [lazy motherfucker never even tried for fuckin tenderfoot.]

As the sun set, Bush told the crowd that the first man he often sees every morning, chief of staff Andy Card, is a former Scout from Massachusetts; Vice President
Dick Cheney was a Boy Scout in Wyoming; and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was an Eagle Scout in Illinois. [And yea, a little Cub Scout shall lead them...]

Bush's speech was about patriotism and community and military service to the nation, but he also recalled how his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, was the den mother of his Scouting troop. "It's about the time her hair turned white," he joked.

Before Bush arrived on stage, an Army band performed and a man wearing an Army T-shirt led groups of Scouts in chants of "OO-rah" and "U.S.A." Tall pines provided a backdrop for blue, red and black hot air balloons emblazoned with military and Scouting emblems. [Step right up boys and.. uh, well, boys! Be the first to join the Cannon Fodder Brigade!]

It was Bush's third attempt to travel to Fort A.P. Hill, the Army base hosting the Jamboree where Scouts are trying to end their 10-day gathering with cheery memories of mountain biking, fishing, scuba diving and trading patches with newfound Scouting friends across the nation [if they can make it through without dying].

On Wednesday, scouting enthusiasts waited hours in the heat for Bush, who later canceled his appearance because of threatening storms [and CAFTA arm-twisting.]. Scouts began collapsing from high humidity and temperatures in the high 90s. More than 300 people were treated for heat-related illnesses.

Bush's second attempt to visit the Jamboree was postponed from Thursday at the Scouts' request. Officials wanted to review safety procedures for large crowds and replenish water and other supplies.

The illnesses came as the Jamboree participants were still trying to overcome the deaths on Monday of four adult Scout leaders who were electrocuted in front of several Scouts when a metal pole at the center of a large dining tent touched power lines. The tent caught fire and the men burned. An investigation into the accident is under way. [Which is when Bush blew them off for the first time, all class that man.]

The day before, a volunteer was taken to a hospital where he died of an apparent heart attack.

"I appreciate the rain check," Bush said.

The weather was considerably cooler Sunday, but Scout officials took extra precautions. Scouts hiking to the arena from the most distant subcamp about seven miles away set out at 3:45 — more than an hour later than Wednesday — to give them less waiting time in the sun.

Several running buses with signs on the windshields reading "Cooling Station" were available, there were more tents to provide shade and stretchers were spaced out over the field in case they were needed.

Cases of bottled water dotted the sloping lawn of the arena like hay bales.

Even so, the day was not without minor incident.

A military helicopter carrying several photographers made an emergency landing at the Jamboree after its engine failed Sunday afternoon, said Jamboree spokeswoman Renee Fairrer.

She said the Blackhawk helicopter was carrying adult photographers for the Boy Scouts. She was unable to say how many people were on the helicopter, which she said landed at its designated spot on base.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Steven Moore is on MarketPlace, lying

Steven Moore just did a commentary piece on the estate tax (or in his words, the death tax) on NPR's marketplace. He was identified only as a Wall Street Journal writer; is this the same Steve Moore who headed Club for Growth? If so, his association with this group was not mentioned. Is this an example of Tomlinson's balance?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Latoya Figueroa: a PSA

Richard at calls attention to Latoya Figueroa, who has been missing for days.

She is not a pretty young white teenager, nor is she a runaway bride, so you won't hear about her on CNN, FOX, or the rest.
However, she's ben missing for days now, she's 5 months pregnant, and has a seven-year-old daughter. There's a reward of $7,000 for any information that leads to Ms. Figueroa.

Please visit for more information, and if you know anythign about the missing woman's wherabout, please call the Philadelphia Citizens Crime Commission at 215-546-8477.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Damn Right I'm Arrogant

Someone called me "arrogant" a few days ago.
At first I was offended. On consideration, my response is "Damn straight, I'm arrogant. And if you don't like it, may I invite you to go fuck youself?"


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When your favorite bluegrass performer looks like this, it's impossible NOT to be arrogant.

A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good day at Work

My brother Ray did a nice bit (no pun intended) about this weekend's fishing trip with our old man.

It was a glorious weekend in Egg Harbor Township, hot without being humid. The water in the English creek and in the ocean itself was comfortably warm, but refreshing. Still, I was in a funk, melancholy thoughts surfing through my mind as we drifted in the little boat, lines cast, a few miles off the Ocean City shore. From where we sat, bobbing on the waves, the ferris wheel towered above the crowds of beachgoers on the sand just behind the shore houses and pastel pink high rise condos.

Last week, you may recall, I had a series of emails with a young conservative blogger. At the time I refused to link to her page or even to name it, but upon reflection I am so disgusted with her point of view that it is impossible for me to whitewash her site. The site in question is blondesagacity, but while I will name it, I will not link to it. As I've detailed in previous posts, I find the young woman's writing to be atrocious and her perspective, particularly on the war, to be nauseating and indefensible. Her site is a miasma of what can only be described as military porn, photos of soldiers with enormous guns, each labeled "In the Sandbox" as if the War in Iraq, responsible thus far for over 1700 US deaths (possibly more), untold US casualties, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis who were guilty of nothing, was nothing more than children at play.

The woman who runs this site, who does not disclose her true name, is 33 years old, able-bodied, and quite fit for duty in iraq. She defends her stateside position in her comments to at least one person saying "the troops actually prefer it that I am here in Philadelphia, because I send them care packages filled with Tasty Kakes, news from home, blah blah blah." There is the standard contempt for the left (which I expect from a right-wing blog) and the equally standard contempt for anyone that doesn't agree with her point of view. To my mind, it is her site that is contemptible, exemplifed by her unwillingness to serve in the war she supports. In a time of recruitment shortfalls, this is no longer a cheap shot.

The day I left for my parents' house in New Jersey, I came upon the following article in the New York Times, All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why.

From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?

There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.

There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past.

"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology.

And thus I was on the boat, enjoying leisure time our troops deserve far more than I do, looking out over the teems of swimmers and suntanners laid out on the sparkiling sand, and I was overcome by a wave of guilt and melancholia, by the all-encompassing surreality of our times. "You wouldn't even think there was a war going on," I said, shaking my head. "You wouldn't even think, to look at the people on shore going about their fun-in-the-sun, that we're spending piles of money on this war, that people are coming home in body bags, quietly, uncounted. Coming homes with missing arms, legs, and faces, psychotics. You wouldn't think that any of this is happening.

"It is as if we have abdicated any notion of responsibility, like the country was being run by teenagers."

Later on in the weekend, Ray, Dreya, and my nephew Floyd spent the day at Strathmere, a lovely ribbon of beach on Ocean City,free to the public, unpatrolled by lifeguards. Young couples wandered through the surf holding hands, the sun beaming down on kayakers and jetskiers. I jumped though the waves and plunged into the murky green brine. I love the way my back feels after a day in the ocean, salty and crisp, and I love the smell of ocean air. I felt alienated from everyone. Who ARE these people, I wondered. Do they feel like I do? Do they sit in bed next to their wives, girlfriends, children, worrying what tomorrow will bring? Or do they just keep on keepin' on, refusing to acknowledge the disaster that's unfolding under their chins?

I have felt, for months now, that those of us on the left who are against this pointless, wasteful war were shouting into the wind. Mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post sold us this war, and not only refuse to take responsibility, but give short shrift to those of us who have been proved correct.

I was heartened to see the following editorials, Uniform Sacrifice and The Best Army We Can Buy, both of which detail the stunning lack of sacrfice from ordinary Americans and our cavalier attitude toward the war itself.

From the former: His tomorrow and mine were born in an America that has now almost vanished. During our widely separated but shared wartime years, we were led by presidents of Olympian eloquence (Roosevelt during World War II) and almost brutal bluntness (Truman during the Korean War), yet, on their own terms, they spoke with clarity, conviction and honesty about our national threats, challenges, sacrifices. And the price of peace was high.

Today, in Iraq, where nearly every dawn is lacerated by mounting carnage - local and foreign - American troops are hemorrhaging among the wounded and the dead, pawns in an unspeakable farce, for the United States of America is not at war.

Only 135,000 men and women in American uniform are fighting - volunteers, members of the National Guard, reservists. There is no draft. No threat of a uniform hangs over the citizens of a nation of nearly 300 million who, in polls, support the invasion of a remote country upon whom our government would pin guilt of 9/11 ... and then attack. An invasion that was ordered by an expertly trained but combat-innocent fighter pilot and a draft-deferred character with "other priorities" during the Vietnam War.

And for daring to point this out, young men and women like blondesagacity will impugn my love of country, will call me a traitor for pointing out the obvious, will mock me for my left-wing leanings, without daring to consider my arguments on their merits, without daring to admit their own cowardice and complicity.

From the latter: Since the time of the ancient Greeks through the American Revolutionary War and well into the 20th century, the obligation to bear arms and the privileges of citizenship have been intimately linked. It was for the sake of that link between service and a full place in society that the founders were so invested in militias and so worried about standing armies, which Samuel Adams warned were "always dangerous to the liberties of the people."

When asked if they will serve, the hawks of both the left and right, from Jonah Goldberg to Peter Beinart, will look at you as if you're some kind of asshole for suggesting they leave their families and handsome salaries to fight for what they claim to believe in. It's disgusting, it's hypocritical, and it is so damn predictable that I have to spin, reel, and fall to the mat when this existential haymaker comes slamming into my jaw.

I sat on the boat, and later on my parents back porch, enjoying a cold beer that even the laziest soldier deserves more than I do, watching a sunset from the comfort and safety of my parents backyard, strumming my guitar, and saying these words, which amount to nothing more than just words.
I was embarrassed and depressed.

LTE: Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/26/05

I thought Steve Chapman's column on Roberts, published
today in the Philadelphia Inquirer, was thought

I do, however, wonder when the column was written. I
am disturbed by, and Chapman does not address, Mr.
Roberts' failure to "recollect" that he was a member
of the Federalist Society, which smacks of dishonesty
especially considering that he was on the steering
committee. The parsing of "member" is more than a
little Clintonian.

I am not one of those people who believes that
association with the Federalist Society is a
disqualifier for consideration for the Supreme Court
justice. I AM one of those people who is dismayed
when someone, especially a SCOTUS nominee, tries to
pull the wool over my eyes about his/her past
political activity.

If Roberts is willing to prevaricate about little
things, what does that say about his willingness to
prevaricate about more important topics?

Brendan Skwire

Chapman's response
Subject: RE: roberts column
Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2005 10:24:06 -0500
From: "Chapman, Steve" []
To: "Brendan Skwire"

Mr. Skwire:

Thanks for sending this. FYI, I wrote that column before the news about
the Federalist Society came out.

Steve Chapman

LTE, Philadelphia Daily News7/26

For once I find myself agreeing with a SEPTA decision:
it makes absolutely no sense to initiate random bag
checks at SEPTA locations
, as the chances of catching
a bomb-toting terrorist are minimal. The intrusion
into normal Americans' civil liberties is not

The fact is, random bag checks will not prevent a
terrorist determined to self-combust. Does anyone
think that seeing a policeman ahead checking bags is
going to make a terrorist reconsider? The terrorist
does not care if the explosion happens on the train or
at the turnstile: if the objective is to kill and
terrorize, simply pulling the pin while standing in
line is adequate.

One particular weakness of random bag checks is that
people have prejudices. Much as New Jersey's attempts
to stem the flow of drugs through state highways
morphed into indefensible and illegal racial
profiling, so would random bag checks eventually begin
to target only those of us who fit the stereotype of a
middle eastern terrorist. The only preventive measure
I can think of that would not unnecessarily affect
innocent commuters would be to encourage the use of
bomb-sniffing dogs. This would minimize wasteful
searches and help to protect the public.
Brendan Skwire

Monday, July 25, 2005

Politics for a moment

White House Said to Block Roberts Papers

Pardon me for venturing in politics for a moment here, but what's the point of this exercise?

The whole point of the exercise is to bait the media and the Democrats, and take the eye off Rove. Whether you think Rove is guilty of a crime or not (and I do belive he's guilty, guilty as dirty backstabbing thieving sin), this is blatant grandstanding.

It is an attempt to try and force a filibuster: either filibuster and lose, or we will vote in lockstep and win. It's total bullshit, and the Democrats probably know it.

The point is Rove. Rove, Rove, Rove.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Thoughts of a Wayward One

Byl Cameron is a guy I know from way back when i lived in New Haven. We were both doorknocking canvassers for Greenpeace.

Byl lives in North Carolina now, and keeps a blog called Thoughts of a Wayward One, dealing largely with matters of his family and his faith. I drop by on a fairly regular basis: his topics aren't usually my cup of tea, but every once in awhile he posts something really interesting.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

An Old Piece: Fleshtones, WTC, July 27, 2001

I wrote this review of the Fleshtones, one of the GREATEST TWO BANDS ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET when I saw them at the top of the World Trade Center.
Please visit their site: they are so worth your while.

World Trade Center - 27 July 2001
By Brendan Skwire

Before I really get to the meat of the matter, which is of course the completely over-the-top Fleshtones show this past weekend in New York City at the World Trade Center's The Greatest Bar on Earth, I think I should give a little background info. This was easily one of the best Fleshtones shows I have ever seen, from the the surreal venue to the surreal audience to the surprise appearance by Gordon Spaeth to the climactic finish.

The Fleshtones were actually the beginning of a really long weekend; the plan was to see the band, stay at a friend's house (I don't live in NYC unfortunately), and head up to Maine for a bluegrass festival the next morning. So when I left my Philadelphia apartment, I was carrying a 50-pound frame pack on my back, wearing a gigantic cowboy hat on my head (atop a noggin so small it makes a ping-pong ball look like a hydrocephalic). The GBOE has a dress code: no shorts, tee-shirts, or sneakers, so I was also carrying some formal wear with me, which I changed into as the E train was pulling into its berth at the bottom of the Towers.

In short, I looked like I'd stepped out of the California Gold Rush of 1849; all I needed was a mule.

I don't know if it's because of the bombing a few years ago, but you have to go through a series of checkpoints before WTC security allows you up to the restaurant: the guards took one look at me, and started ordering me hither and yon to check my bags. At every turn I was met by an eagle-eyed security guard asking me where I was going, what I was doing. Eventually though, my bags were checked, my admission paid, and I made my way onto the elevators. "Next stop, 76th floor," where we transferred elevators to travel the final 30 stories to the top of the world.

The Greatest Bar on Earth is way up on the tippy-top floor of the World Trade Center, affording a beautiful view of the East River, and all the bridges that span into Brooklyn. The room itself was beautiful, and eerie; very swanky rounded bars, cool lighting, lots of tables and couches. A warm golden glow permeated the place. The stage was on the northeast corner of the room; a railing separated the crowd from the dais. At stage right and left, rubenesque go-go girls in fur bikinis stood on pedestals, gyrating wildly under strobe lights, as the DJ pumped out garage rock. I bumped into Fleshtones bass player Ken Fox, who seemed a little bemused by the whole thing; the crowd mix could well have led to some tension.

You have to understand, besides the contingent that was actually there to see the Fleshtones, there was also a large percentage of the bar's regular patrons, the black-clad yuppie crowd, drinking martinis and overpriced beers, oh-so-hip-and-aloof. And then there were the tourist types, a number of who were wearing Hawaiian shirts with cameras dangling from their necks, I don't know where the hell they came from. Under the flashing strobes, every movement looked like it had been taken from one of those early stop-action cartoons from the 30s; I remember thinking "this could get pretty weird," and during the first set that impression was reinforced. The Fleshtones were giving as good as they get, opening up with Hitsburg, Solid Gold Sound, Soundcheck 2001, $10.00 More (which was amazing), all of which got the regular fans up, dancing, and singing along, but seemed to go ZIP! right over the yuppies' NASDAQ-filled heads. I mean for crying out loud, Ken and Keith are spinning around in circles, their arms linked with Ken fretting Keith's guitar while plucking bass and vice versa, while Zaremba's tossing the mic stand back-and forth like a Brooklyn James Brown clad in gold lame', scenes from old go-go videos flashing on a movie screen behind them, and these oblivious squares are just sitting in front of the dance floor like bumps on a pickle, with their backs to the whole thing. I couldn't understand it, so I started watusi-ing as hard as I could at them. It was an ugly thing, I guess, but necessary...

It wasn't as if this was some band of shoe-gazers up there; from the opening chords of "Hitsburg", Zaremba was over the rail and plowing into the audience, followed shortly by Ken and Keith; honestly, I've never seen the band work so hard to get their audience going. Endless tours of the tabletops and bars marked the first set, and slowly the frost began to melt.

I think the ice was finally broken when Keith launched into "Communication Breakdown" near the end of Set 1. The yuppies took the bait: hearing something they knew got more than a few of the 30-somethings out on the floor singing along and dancing, and by then they were snared, because the set ended with one of those endless medleys the 'tones do so well. No matter what you do, you can't back out of one of those; the feet and hips just take over, the head must surrender. For myself, I can't even begin to list what songs they did, because between the singing along and dancing, I was way too occupied to take any notes.

During setbreak, a couple of us snuck out to the payphones where we enjoyed a quick joint. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mention this, but it just added to the overwhelming weirdness permeating the whole event.

"Should we use the bathroom?"

"Nahh, the porter in there will stop us." [And may I digress? I've never seen one of those porter guys in action before, but this guy practically put the soap on my hands and scrubbed for me as I washed up. I could get used to this place...]

"Hey what about the payphones?" They were hidden behind an enormous red velvet curtain, and hell, the time seemed right. I mean, how many people do you know that can say they smoked up on the top of the World Trade Center? Afterwards, I talked to Keith a little bit, and overheard him remark about the tough crowd to Jesse (I hope I got your name right) from Los Dudes, who in turn told me that 15 years ago, when he had first moved to New York, his friend took him to see the Fleshtones, only to have the show sold out; a year later, unbeknownst to him, Zaremba was the engineer on Jesse's first album. Go figure... Peter, for his part, was having a great time. "I really like this place," he said (or something to that effect; I'm paraphrasing here), "You get used to being in dark rock clubs. This is like something out of David Lynch, it's great." (Peter, pardon me if it's not an exact quote, I think I caught the spirit of it pretty well.)

It must have been the booze, because by set 2 the yuppies had joined the rest of us on the floor, and the fun really kicked into gear. Nothing like watching the writhing of a Prada-bag carrying mid-manager...

Set 2 opened with "My New Song" and "Soul City," a tune I'm not familiar with. But then, good gravy, they pulled out a back-to-the-wall "That's Your Problem," right into "My Love Machine," right into "I'm Not a Sissy Anymore," and there was no turning back. The crowd was out of control, men and women wiggling and squiggling all over the place, with no regard for spilled drinks or bourgeois propriety. I walked over to the bar to refill my pint, and stood next to a young woman who could not take her eyes off the stage, like a deer caught in the headlights. I saw a May-December couple do the swim out on the floor. Things were getting to critical mass, and quickly.

And how could the crowd NOT have eventually gone nuts for this band? As I've written before, the genius of the Fleshtones is their combination of sincerity, with a good bit of tongue in cheek, and that throbbing, stomping, irristable beat. It's like R&B taken to an almost absurd degree, and not even Jerry Falwell, moral crusader against fun, could have resisted shaking his ass if he was there. But I digress...

Ken did a great song I've never heard before, and hope to hear again, "Dreamin' Bout Work." Have I mentioned "Let's Go" yet? I don't think I've heard them do that song since early 1999 at TT's in Cambridge, and it just about exploded my head.

And then. Then! THEN! Gordon Spaeth of all people shows up on stage, and starts blowing harp on "Goddamn It" and "Whatever It Takes". The whole band was beaming from ear to ear, especially Bill, and another foray into the crowd went down, with Ken and Keith clambering over cocktail tables and shaky barstools to dance on the bar. I talked to Gordon later on, having never met him before, never mind seen him play live. Gordon admitted he'd never heard either of the songs he was tooting the Hohner on, and was wondering "Did I sound OK up there?" Yeah, he did.. it was perfect.

By this point, the night was getting on, and the boys let us go with 2 of the best performances I've seen yet of "How I Feel" and "It's Alright", which culminated in Keith and Ken marching through the crowd, returning to the foot of the stage, getting down on their hands and knees, and finally ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR DOING LEG LIFTS, while breaking the song all the way down to the lowest of volumes, just a skeleton really, and then bringing it all the way back up to just about the loudest thing I have ever heard. If you haven't seen Ken Fox break into an impromptu bass solo while prone, you have not seen ANYTHING my friends. I have to admit, I'm still hoarse.

Perhaps one of the best things about the show was the aftermath; instead of escaping to the relative quiet of "the band room," the guys just hung out, mingling at the bar, shooting the shit with whoever was hanging around. Ken and Bill were at the bar enjoying some cold ones, while Peter was still on stage with the go-go girls grinning away and shimmying unapologetically. It was then, more than ever before I think, that I realized how truly great, how important, and how vital and visceral the Fleshtones really are. Here was a band who, when faced with a pretty stiff crowd, had them in the palms of their hands within 45 minutes, and then never let them go. In an age of contrived boy-bands, teenage pop-stars, pretend punk-rockers who hide in the bus after their arena shows, and self-indulgent singer-songwriter types, the Fleshtones are the most honest thing out there, and by "thing" I mean as a band, scene, and as people. It's good to know that someone's giving their life for rock-n-roll, because rock-n-roll desperately needs it.

Set 1: Hitsburg USA; Solid Gold Sound; Soundcheck 2001; Jack In The Box; $10 More; Dreg; The Vindicators; I Want More; Love's In The Grave; Tearing Me Apart; Communication Breakdown; Super Rock Medley.

Set 2: My New Song; Soul City; That's Your Problem; My Love Machine; I'm Not A Sissy Anymore; Dreamin' Bout Work; Let's Go!; Friends Of Bazooka Joe; Goddamn It (w/ Gordon Spaeth on harp); Whatever It Takes (w/ Gordon Spaeth on harp); How I Feel; It's Alright.
© 2001 Brendan Skwire

Wendy sez...

"If Karl Rove is guilty of lying to the FBI when he was first questioned, then he should have to pay back all the money he cost the taxpayers in this needless investigation."

Barb Jones

Washington Post

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret inf
ormation, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

More at the link. Now of course, Mr. Bush has moved the goalposts: first it would be leakers who would be fired; then only convicts:

"The president has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct."

Scott McClellan
Press Briefing
September 29, 2003


"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts. And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

George W. Bush
Remarks to Reporters
July 18, 2005

Whatever you say buddy. Whatever. You. Say.

This comes on top of the fact that Karl seems to have lied to the FBI about his discussions with Cooper about Plame, which leaves the Gary Larson character open to obstruction of justice charges.
We have a fine piece by, of all papers, the Wall Street Journal Has Bush finally gotten bad for business?

Ray has more at Philly Bits. Thanks for sending that my way bro!

[You may be wondering what the hell that title has to do with anything? It's the title of a song by The Bags, the greatest rock band on the face of the planet, the lyrics to which begin "Let me tell you a big liiiiie! Forked tongue, slippery black LIIIIIIE!"]

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If Rove goes down, I will be as happy as The Bags' bass player John Hardy is in this picture.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Who Needs to Read a Book About Writing?

I really shouldn't post this, but I simply can't resist: it's just that funny.

So as I posted earlier, I've had this ongoing email exchange with a young conservative blogger here in Philadelphia, thanks to a post my brother made in her comments. For the past couple of days, she's been trying to enage me in a political discussion about "why I don't like republicans".
Here's my initial email:

Apparently my brother linked my site to yours when he
made a comment about my piece "Fighting Words" at your
site. I wish he had not done that, because he didn't
have my permission to do so. I would appreciate it if
you deleted the link he included from his comments, as
I don't want the increased traffic, especially not
from right-wing, pro-Iraq war Republicans (no

I will point out that I did YOU the respect of not
naming names and not linking to your site so no one
would have to go through further harassment, and I
expect the same in return. My readership is 3-10
people and I want to keep it that way. I have already
reamed my brother out about linking me to you. Please
delete the link from your comments; unless you say
otherwise, by the end of the day, I will delete your
comments from mine.

No disrespect, but I want nothing to do with your site
or your visitors. As you may infer, I have strong,
negative opinions about Republicans that are simply
not up for debate, and unless I know you personally,
you're not welcome here. After reading some of your
site, and seeing some of your comments to others,
you're really not someone I care to include in my
circle of friends and readers.

This site isn't part of the blog wars, and I don't
want it to get dragged into it. If your friends come
here, I will delete their comments immediately.
Thanks for visiting!

I got a response:
I would have never known that your site existed if the
link had not been put on my page. I was unwillingly
drug into this --with my link being put all over the
left wing sites with no say from me. However, I was
glad that I could point out some of the things that
you said that were dead wrong though. As you can see
by the liberals that defended me on Matt's site (where
it all started) -I am never nasty, but you can imagine
if all my friends started linking to your post and you
were inundated with would you feel?
One tends to get a bit pissed off. You may be
interested to know (since you seem to think that I was
the one in the wrong and a mean person) that
-from the LBV- emailed me and apologized for
his actions. I found that dead decent of him. I will
take off your link --it's not a problem.

P.s. RE should have said "PLEASE" remove any links to
my site... ;)

Pleasant enough, but a bit dishonest, and I couldn't help but respond:

I would have never known that your site existed if the link
had not been put on my page.

Yes, but I didn't put it there. Nor did I want it
there. It is through no action of mine that it IS

I was unwillingly drug into this --with my link
being put all over the left wing sites with no say from me.

Again, I deliberately left links to your site off of
mine, for that very reason. I have no desire to
further a sandbox fight.

However, if I am not mistaken, your comment signature
links to your blog, and this is a function one can
turn on or off (for instance, I never include my url
when I comment). Thus I would argue that you want
people to visit your blog, otherwise you wouldn't
include a link to it. Furthermore, as you say an "echo
chamber" would bore you, it is clear that you want
people with differing opinions at your blog. So I
don't see how you were "unwillingly" dragged into

I am never nasty,

I would disagree: personally speaking, in your writing
I find you to be highly unpleasant, rude, and vulgar
(present email exchange excepted). this may not be
your actual personality in person, but then again,
people tend to be a little less hardline when they
deal face-toface with people as opposed to behind the
anonymity of a keyboard.

Richard-from the LVB- emailed me and apologized for his actions.

I noted that in my piece: in fact he apologized
everyone for wading in, publicly at lbv. I also noted
that in your closing piece in this imbroglio you used
lines like "calling all moonbats," "This guy, I am
pretty sure his name is Dick (quite appropriate
actually)", and "kool-aid drinkers". Hardly stepping
above the fray, eh?

I found that dead decent of him.

It's a pity you didn't remark on this decency at your
site, or admit your own complicity in the
name-calling. It's funny how easy it is to recognize
the faults of others but none of one's own, eh?

I will take off your link --it's not a problem.

Thank you. I appreciate it. And i will do the same,
so my 3-10 visitors won't drop by iwth any snark of
their own.

P.s. RE should have said "PLEASE" remove any links to
my site... ;)

You need to read more closely. Scroll down to my
second paragraph where I explicity write "Please
delete the link from your comments; unless you say
otherwise, by the end of the day, I will delete your
comments from mine."

To her credit, she removed the link, and I wrote her a thank you note, that does not bear copying. She responded with this

No problem.
I hope that you re-visit your 'I don't like
Republicans' thinking... My life has been made better
by many from the other side of the aisle --just
because I hate their politics doesn't make them bad
people. It's hard for me to like Dems too -especially
living in Philly and seeing what 30+ years of Dem
power has done to this city --but I have many friends
of both parties and I think it has broadened my

I made the mistake of honestly explaining myself, and why I have strong negative feelings about the Republican Party, so I responded:

I hope that you re-visit your 'I don't like
Republicans' thinking.

No can do.

Once your party started in with the "with us or
against us" nonsense, and started equating democrats
(and anyone who wasn't on board with the Bush agenda)
as traitors and terrorist sympathizers, y'all lost me

Also, the decision to do away with the estate tax made
my job that much harder: I work in development in a
social services ministry, and for all the claptrap
about "faith-based" legislation, that estate tax
decision will "reduce annual charitable by about $10
billion, the equivalent of eliminating all current
grantmaking by the country's 110 largest foundations."
(Brookings). I work in an environment in which the
feds are cutting funds for anti-poverty programs,
while enacting tax policy that discourages private
givers as well.

In other words, your party hurts my clients by
reducing the money available for our programs, which
include adult education, employment training, homeless
services, and domestic violence services. I'm not
saying that to score some sort of partisan point: I'm
basing that on our budget, our prospectus, and the
funds available from private foundations. We serve
over 10,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable
Philadelphians every year, many of them families.
Although I am not particularly religious, I am
remidned daily of Jesus' lesson in Mark, 10:21. "Go,
sell whatever you have, and give to the poor..."

I could go on, but will refrain. My anger toward your
party is very deep and based on solid foundations.
Have a nice evening.

I got a response, that can be described as "red herring":

Brendan (caution –long-winded rambling reply) LOL…
Truthfully you can't blame Republicans for that! Do
you know that welfare recipients get like 26 cents on
the dollar... that is GROSS mismanagement and if a
charity did that they would be shut right down. I give
to Women for Women (I sponsor a woman in Afghanistan
and one in Bosnia) and the women get 97 cents on the
dollar --I also give to the Freedom Alliance
(scholarships for kids whose parents are
killed/injured in combat) and they get (drum roll) 98
cents on the dollar! Now why does the welfare system
need 74 cents on every dollar in administrative fees
--the answer...they don't. The waste is sickening.
This is what conservatives mean when they say OVERHAUL
--not that we don't believe there is a need for it
--but that we think they people that TRULY need it
should be getting a HELL OF A LOT more! I also think
prolonged welfare/public housing is a major enabler of
laziness, entitlement and poor self-esteem. I speak
from experience here. My husband's father was an
abuser and a heroin addict. He disappeared when my
hubby was 7 and his mom was left with three kids and a
crappy job. She made my husband drop out of school in
10th grade and took his gas station paychecks each
week. His hard luck story is a bad as anyone’s --yet
he is now a business owner that worked his ass off to
get where he is. He will work from 5am to 11 pm if
that's what it takes. He did it with NO HELP -not a
dime -from anyone. He felt ashamed and inferior as a
child and empowered now. There are no victims. And
yes, we hire hard luck stories that most people
wouldn't hire --because we believe in people doing
hard work to make it...
As for the estate tax --there are very few Paris
Hiltons out there. After causing my husband nothing
but hardship when he was alive --his father died in
TONS of debt to Fox Chase Cancer Center-- he left us
his small savings in hopes that we could bargain the
Cancer Center down and pay his bills --the estate tax
was taken regardless of the fact that all the money
and more was owed to debtors --it ended up costing us
money to be willed money (and that was 2 weeks after
our wedding) --we were newlyweds that had to start out
in debt thanks to the damn estate tax....
So, you see everyone has a personal story -and
personal reasons why they believe the things they
believe. I hate to think you write people off because
of a party affiliation. I believe they way I do
because I think it's better for people in the long run
--my family took over 23 foster children in Philly and
I saw what "good" the system did them --and I saw how
they grew and blossomed when my parents EXPECTED
things from them and forced them to take personal
responsibility. One even owns his own house in
Mayfair now....
Anyway, that's my two cents...

I was amazed by this concern about government waste from someone who supports the war in Iraq, a war that has cost FAR more than we were told it would cost; has gone on far longer than we were told it would go on; and has been marked by dishonesty, corruption, and waste. Go figure.

My response, which was tart, followed:

Please stop writing to me. I really don't have
any interest in anything you have to say, as noted in
my primary email. You're not going to change my mind,
as I don't respect you or your point of view.
I wrote you and the rest of your ilk off a long time
Enjoy your war.
Operation Yellow Elephant

She didn't like that one very much. Nope, not at all:

I could have sworn that I was getting emails from you
too --that must have been an apparition in my inbox...
No problem dude, I was surprised you kept writing back
after saying you hate Republicans --I thought you were
actually being open minded enough to have a civil back
and forth.
You should try smiling more --the tone of the writing
on your page seems flat and sad. Sorry.
Have a good life...

Excuse me? This arrogant little bitch was criticizing my writing? Scroll back up and review her emails to me and mine in response. Pay attention to sentence structure, to arguments made, to coherence and logic. Shit, just look at that punctuation! It's enough to make you want to rip out your eyes!
Let me cut and paste a sample from her blog, so you realize this isn't just her email style. It's the way she writes ALL THE TIME:

Or THIS STORY... Do you remember the three boys from Camden, NJ that died in the trunk of their grandmother's broken down car? Well, the horrible news from the autopsy that was just released is that the boys could have been alive for up to 33 hours. Truly Horrible.
But here's the kicker...there is now talk of a lawsuit against the Camden Police Department. WHAT? You practice poor parenting and leave your children unsupervised to play in abandoned cars and it's the fault of the police? They couldn't have gotten off their asses and looked in the trunk before they even called the police? True, maybe the police should have checked in the trunk, but when did it become police responsibility to watch people's children? I know that the parents are most likely grieving and they feel the need to blame someone --but they need to look in the mirror...if they had been supervising their very young boys, they would still be alive. Am I heartless?

This isn't writing. This is bloviating and hectoring. This fool is criticizing my writing? It was clearly time for another letter:

I did not plan to write back to you, but you wrote
something that struck me: "the tone of the writing on
your page seems flat and sad."

I just paid a visit to your page to do a little
reading so I wouldn't go off half-cocked. I'm glad I
did, because your site verified what I already
suspected to be true: you have no platform upon which
to criticize my writing, at all. In fact, "the tone
of the writing on your page seems flat and sad" is
poorly written, suffering from passive voice and poor
economy (I deleted the two unnecessary hyphens you
used where a semi-colon or colon should have gone).

On just about everything, from mixed metaphors to
elipsis abuse to subject-predicate agreement to simple
grammar to capitalization errors to having no sense of
narrative, your writing is preposterously bad. While I
do not pretend to be Kurt Vonnegut, in comparison to
the dreck you churn out, I might as well be. I don't
know where you went to college or what your major was,
but clearly your professors did not require strong
writing skills.

I say this with no small measure of authority, because
I have been writing for a living now for almost a
decade, in a wide array of fields: copywriter, editor,
proofreader, abstractor, and currently grantwriter (I
confess that I am a poor fiction writer, and have
never mastered the art of the denouement). I would
not have been hired for these jobs if I didn't have
the portfolio to back it up.

Before you utter one more word about my writing, go to
the bookstore, buy yourself a copy of Strunk and
White's "Elements of Style", read it, and begin
applying what you learn. In its pages, you will find
a wealth of information on how to be a good writer.
In fact, you can find Strunk's original online here:
Strunk and E.B.
White's update here:
That's my good turn for the day, and I even did it for
a Republican.

I'm being 100% serious: you need to work a lot more on
your own writing before you start criticizing other
people's work.

As for my tone, which you say you object to (but which
I think is a case of wanting to have the last word
with someone who just told you to go away), I will
leave you with a citation from the book:

"Write in a way that draws the reader's attention to
the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to
the mood and temper of the author. If the writing is
solid and good, the mood and temper of the writer will
eventually be revealed and not at the expense of the
work. Therefore, the first piece of advice is this: to
achieve style, begin by affecting none — that is,
place yourself in the background. A careful and honest
writer does not need to worry about style. As you
become proficient in the use of language, your style
will emerge, because you yourself will emerge, and
when this happens you will find it increasingly easy
to break through the barriers that separate you from
other minds, other hearts — which is, of course, the
purpose of writing, as well as its principal reward.
Fortunately, the act of composition, or creation,
disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about
thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not
only drain the mind but supply it, too."

Please do not write back until you have read "Elements
of Style", as your letter writing skills leave a lot
to be desired as well.
Good luck.

She didn't like that much either:

Be flattered --I get tons of email a day and I rarely
answer anyone more than one line --the only reason
that I took the time out of my busy day was because of
how sad and bitter you seem... Me and my damn Savior

I said nothing about your writing skills -but please,
add "arrogant" to my previous list... I was speaking
of your tone...your "voice". And who needs to read a
book about writing? You say you have 3 - 10 readers a
day...and I average about 800. It will also gall you
to know that I have a weekly column in a newspaper. It
will upset you even further to know that it is a
widely read advice column...hahaha. I also write
product descriptions for a very large website. So the
money that I get (and the readers/comments) validates
me a 'bit' more than your criticism belittles me...
And that would be what schoolS that I received my
DegreeS... plurals there. ;)

Smile or your face may freeze that way!

I have written my email back, but have not sent it. This is what it says:

And who needs to read a book about writing?

Anyone who starts a sentence with "And" needs to read a book about writing.

Am I being a pendantic asshole? Am I being arrogant? Of course I am.
But I would rather be a pendantic, arrogant asshole who knows how to write properly than an equally arrogant dumbfuck who doesn't.
Yes, I know I just started a sentence with "But". Poetic license is a lovely thing.

Waylon Fucking Jennings!

I just found a spare set of speakers floating around the office and now I am listening to Waylon Jennings comp my friend Kevin Karg made for me a couple years ago back when Waylon died.

Kevin's been a fixture on the Philadelphia music scene for god knows how long. Playing bass for his Waylon Jennings tribute not only made a Waylon fan out of me, but inspired me to get the bass I have now, a Peavey T-40.

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I wasn't really excited about buying the bass. At the time I was playing Mexican-made Fender P-bass that I was going to trade in for a Mexican-made Fender Jazz (over the past 10 years Mexican-made Fenders have been superior to their American-made counterparts, sad to say), when my housemate told me about the T-40. I've owned Peaveys before and was disappointed in the sound. For my money, there's really nothing like a 1960s or 1970s Fender Jazz for performance, tone, and all-around bass godliness. But he was adamant that the T-40 was a great bass, so I did a little research.

Turns out the Peavey is the bass you hear on Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps". It's known as the best bass for recording country music. And it's all over Waylon's "Honky Tonk Heroes" album, so it was a natural for Karg's project. It was only 50 bucks more than the Mexican Jazz, so I figured if I didn't like it, I could trade it in when the gig was over. I've had that sucker ever since, and outside of the BC Rich Warlock I used for UncleFucker, it's my main bass.

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Honky Tonk Heroes has the craziest production I think I've ever heard, and when I first heard the album I immediately disliked it. Imagine a country album produced to sound like a disco album. The bass is so prominent in the mix, it almost buries the drums, which are so loud in the mix, it sounds like Waylon recorded the guitar in another country. The beats are similarly odd: imagine a country band with a disco drummer. But I had a gig to do, and dutifully learned the songs. I'm damned glad I did to, because along the way I grew to love HTH. It is an amazing album (except, IMO, for We had It All, a gawdawful ballad).

And now, thanks to the miracle of speakers, I am listening to Waylon. In another moment I'll put on some Joe Val and drive everyone nuts with banjos.

Pass the Chloral Hydrate

Today I woke up missing my girlfriend.

Sure we talk on the phone pretty much every day, but it's not the same thing when you live 10 hours apart, and you have a kid together that you never get to see.

So today I woke up missing my girlfriend, and I usually don't miss anyone particularly much because I'm a busy guy with a lot of things on my mind. It's not so much compartmentalization, I just don't often have time to sit back and reflect on my feelings about much of anything. And since we both know the separation is unavoidable (as well as temporary) there's no point in getting all that bothered about it.

But today I'm missing my girlfriend, and my kid, and it's eating at me very badly.

Would you like to know what it feels like? It is like a big hole in my abdomen, a big donut hole you could throw a basketball through, and in that empty space there is a whooshing sound that sucks everything else out of my head and makes it hard to concentrate at work. The vacancy in my spirit this morning was almost unbearable, and for the first time in a while I had one of those existential glimpses of loneliness. It's a soul-crushing thing to face, that loneliness. Ol' Hank pretty much hit it when he sang "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

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I have been carrying on an email exchange over the past few weeks with the idiot referenced in Fightin' Words. She posted a comment, since deleted so she wouldn't get any harassment (or free advertising for that matter) from my visitors, and has been trying to engage me in a discussion of her political stance. This morning I finally told her to stop emailing me, since I'm already well-aware of the conservative perspective on society and politics (which seems to me "Do and say anything to maintain power").

Her response closed with "You should try smiling more -- the tone of the writing on your page seems flat and sad". Considering that the most recent story was about my friend who killed himself and my failure to recollect his name, yeah I guess you might get a little depressed.

But I don't think the tone of my writing is flat at all. I quite like my writing, thank you very much, and considering I graduated cum fucking laude with a degree in English, I think I'll continue to write in the style I write (and toots, if you're reading this, it's a stretch to offer me writing advice when you don't know how to properly use the word "misnomer" and use "drug" as the past tense of "drag": so with all due respect, fuck you).

I cannot argue that today's tone is not sad, and I will not put on my happy face.

Pass the Hank, the George Jones, and the Louvin Brothers please. And make it a double...

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Fightin' Words

My younger brother Ray has a long history of being a scrapper. The guy is absolutely fearless when it comes to getting into a fight. Now that he's 26 or so, the impetus to break faces and smash noses has thankfully mellowed, but in his day, he was a holy terror.

This is one of my favorite stories, which happened back when Ray was probably about 19. He was at a party when a yong woman came up to him and started putting the moves on him.

"Look," Ray said. "I think you're really cute and everything, but I know that you're dating that guy Mike, and I'm not the kind of guy who goes for someone else's girlfriend."

"Oh no," the girl said. "You have it all wrong. Mike and I have been history for the past couple of weeks!" So Ray went home with the girl, took her back to his aprtment, and they went at it for the rest of the night.

The next day the phone rang. When Ray picked up, an aggrieved Mike began shouting at him. "You fucked my girlfriend. I'm going to beat the shit out of you, you asshole! I'm coming over to kill you!"

Ray tried to explain that he didn't know they were still dating, that he'd been misled, but it was no use. Mike clearly wanted to have it out. The problem was that Ray's landlord had a marijuana-growing operation in the basement, and had warned Ray and his housemates that anything that threatened his business was grounds to throw them out. "Mike, if you want a fight, I'll fight you," Ray said, "but not here."

"Oh no. I'm coming by NOW, and I am going to KICK. YOUR. ASS." Mike said, and slammed down the receiver. Within 10 minutes a car pulled up in the driveway, and Mike launched out of the driver's seat, lunging for Ray.

"Not here, man, not here," Ray tried to say as Mike came at him. The landlord came rushing from the basement and broke it up.

"Mike, if that's how it is, I'll meet you anywhere later on, and we can have it out!" Ray yelled as Mike got into the car. I can just picture his face, purple with rage. At the time, Ray had a severe mullet that owuld probably beat your ass itself. "Anywhere, any time, you name it you fucking pussy!"

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[This is not Ray. But it's a damn good stand-in for him, circa 1997.]

"I'll see you at the Pearl at 10:00 tonight," Mike yelled back. "And you better be there!"

Ray showed up at the bar waiting for Mike at about 9:30, but Mike failed to appear. By 10:30, he was tired of waiting and called Mike at home.


"Hey Mike, it's Ray. You know, the guy you told to come down to the Pearl so you could 'kick my ass'? So Mike, I'm here? Where are you? I thought you wanted to fight?"

"Hey man," Mike said, "Just fuck off, I don't want any trouble with you."

"Trouble? Dude, you're the one who was looking for trouble. I tried to explain but you wouldn't listen to me..."

"Shut up, I don't care, just fuck off," said Mike.

"No. No, I'm not going to fuck off. You told me you were going to kick my ass at ten-fucking-pm at the fucking Pearl, and now I've been here waiting for you at least 45 minutes. I even got here early! Where the fuck are you?" he said. "Oh never mind. I KNOW where you are. AT HOME. And I'm coming over. SO YOU CAN KICK MY FUCKING ASS LIKE YOU PROMISED."

And that's just what Ray did. He drove to Mike's house and began banging on his door, demanding he come out and prove himself. "You said you wanted to fight! Now's your chance, let's do this, let's get it over with!" Mike wouldn't come out, and the subject was never spoken of again.

Lesson: Don't start fights you can't finish.

Why am I writing about this? Well, let me tell you a story.

[Note: I'm not going to use real names from here on, or link to anyone's websites. Enough sand has already been thrown, and I'm not writing this to further anyone's vendettas. None of the people involved need any more harassment, and neither do I in conveying this story.]

Once upon a time, there was a young woman of 33, able-bodied and of sound mind, who identified as a conservative republican, and wrote a blog. Her blog was decorated with links to other right-wing blogs. She had "support the troops" icons all over her blog. She wrote all sorts of things that were provactive, especially if you're a left-winger. She considered herself to be very smart and snarky. I think you know the drill.

All of this, by the way, is her right. I wouldn't expect a right-winger to have links to liberal blogs on his or her site anymore than you would expect to find any right-wing links here (although I should link to John Cole's always insightful, sometimes infuriating Balloon Juice).

But when you keep a public blog, eventually someone who disagrees with you will take notice and say something. As it so happened, the young woman wrote a piece in which made some completely unfounded and factually incorrect statements about the current investigation swirling around Karl Rove's/the White House's exposure of a covert CIA agent. A left-wing blogger (not me) took notice and posted an article debunking her claims. Since I'm not naming names, let's call his blog Lefty's Blog.

Most blogs have comment boards (mine does, although no one uses them since I get all of three visitors a year, which I am thankful for in any sense you may wish to take that), and a debate broke out. The young woman who wrote the offending piece was in the thick of it, giving as good as she got. One of the people on Lefty's comment board happens to run a blog of his own: we'll call his blog Liberal Veteran's Blog, since he's a liberal and a VietNam vet. We'll call his blog LBV for short, since most of the action goes on there. My friend had some back and forth with the woman at Lefty's comments, and set up a link to the showdown at LBV. The first comment left at his link was from a female commenter, a regular at LBV, who wrote "EWWW! Don't make me look at that!"

Soon enough the young woman in question came to visit LBV, obviously spoiling for a fight. She left some obnoxious comments about the people posting there, deliberately calling people names and making some gratuitous catty remarks about woman who had said "ewwwww".

What are you going to say to me? That you're jealous that I'm prettier than you?

One of the commenters at LBV is a friend of mine named Frank who has no tolerance for right-wingers, and even less tolerance for people who think they're oh-so-smart. Frank freely admits to being what the bloggers call a "troll". For those of you who don't follow blogs obsessively, trolls are jerks who take over comment boards starting sandbox fights with people they don't agree with. Most trolls I have met are right-wing trolls: Frank is a left wing troll, and he is a ROYAL ASSHOLE. He makes no apologies about this. This is what he emailed me when I asked him about trollery:

"Those right-wing fucks show up at our blogs and start bullshit fights, and then they cry like a bunch of little babies when you shut 'em down. Fuck 'em, I like to give it right back to them. See how THEY like getting a turd in the punchbowl that won't go away."

And so, in keeping with his typical assholery, he paid paid a visit to the young woman's blog. Among the links to right wing sites and boasts about supporting the troops bysending care packages full of Tasty-Kakes to our troops in Iraq, Frank found that she had a rather racy photograph of herself on her home page, and considering how uptight conservatives are about sexuality, made a snarky comment.

Nice rack. My friend by the way didn't say "ewww" about your looks. She said "ewww" because she was disgusted by reading comments from someone who claims to support the war, but hasn't enlisted. It's the stink of hypocrisy she can't stand, which in your case not even a full stick of Arrid Extra Dry could mask.

"I began visiting her page obsessively," Frank told me over a few beers last night, "and began exploring her links. The best one went to a page she shared with her husband, which had hardcore porn prominently presented for all to see. Gold, Jerry, comedy GOLD!"

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[This is the guy that played Kenny Banya the bad comic on Seinfeld]

"And B, it wasn't just airbrushed Playboy models, it was full-on penetration shots, lezzie pictures, the works. All under the heading "My Girls". Hysterical!

"You know," he added after a glug of Yards, "There was no net-nanny software or anything blocking this stuff. Any little kid could get an eyeful of the fuckin-and-suckin."

So he posted another comment:

I was wondering what a conservative, right wing republican like yourself is doing linking to a website that prominently features hardcore porno? Hey is this one you? Again, nice rack!
Santorum isn't going to like that too much.
Now go enlist, you able-bodied little wingnut.

All of a sudden the young right-winger disappeared. But one of her friends started posting in her defense, going after Frank.

You talk a lot to yourself buddy. Whats the matter, you have a problem with porn? You guys are dorks. The election's OVER.

Frank wrote back,
I don't have a problem with porn. But I DO have a problem with hypocrisy. And when someone claims to be a right-wing, conservative republican, writing all sorts of stuff about the superiority of conservatives to liberals and of republicans to democrats, well then I'm going to point out the hypocrisy of linking to hardcore porn.

Or does your friend stand for all things Republican EXCEPT the "family values" platform?

And with regard to "the election being over", that didn't stop the GOP from complaining about Clinton and trying to impeach him, even after he won his second term. Or was that OK because it was Republicans?

The guy wrote back, conveniently ignoring the Clinton remarks.

Look, I don't think someone should have to agree with every single thing on their party's platform. I support the war, so I voted Republican. That's as far as it goes. I'm a major porn nut, a husband, a father, a small business owner, and a hard worker.

Frank wrote back again.
Buddy, with regard to the whole "husband-father-punk rocker-hard worker" thing, i am with you all the way. I have roots in hardcore going back to 1982. Minus the "small business owner" you could be me.
But when you say I support the war, so I voted Republican, I can't let that go.

If you support the war so much, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL DOING STATESIDE? The president said they need people to enlist at the end of his speech at Fort Bragg two weeks ago! Didn't you watch?

Our host here is a Viet Nam vet and I don't think he'll take too kindly to excuses about work and family.

Frankly, you don't support the war at all. You support the IDEA of the war. Just what have you sacrificed for the war? Same as everyone else stateside: JACK SHIT.

If your friend wants to send CARE packages over to our troops, that's all well and good, but you know what they really need? BODIES. FRESH SOLDIERS. Recruitment is down in all branches of the service, our soldiers have been through tour after tour, stoploss measures etc. You can't expect a box of freakin' Tasty-Kakes to patrol Baghdad.

And with regard to not having "to agree with every single thing on their party's platform" it was YOUR party who came up with "you're with us or with the terrorists" and then used that line against Democrats, your own countrymen. So pardon me if I'm a little less than tolerant when one of your own strays from a party orthodoxy that they demand from everyone else.

The only responses to this were (from the man), "You have no right to compare yourself to a punk rocker" and (from the woman), "He would have enlisted but one of your precious union Teamsters accordioned his truck." The former had nothing to do with anything, the latter was a valid excuse for his absence from the front, but not hers.

That's when LVB's host shut down the thread and deleted all comments, apologizing to his readers for unwisely wading into a flame war. In contrast at the young lady's site, she complained that people were hurling insults at her for no reason, and that the topic shutdown was proof that LVB was "afraid of the right." Quite a victory, eh?

I believe it was Twain who wrote, "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." He was wrong. The last refuge of a scoundrel is "Waaaaaah! Why are you being so MEAN to me?!?"

The lesson is the same: Don't start fights you can't finish.
In the end you look like an asshole.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

What is the hierarchy of the sidebar?

Sure, I put the news links first; I think they're the most important?

But does "Gummint" really deserve to be held higher than "Drinking"?

Well, actually, no. On the other hand, while you never want to be drunk when you deal with the Gummint, you usually want a drink afterwards.

Did I say "usually"? I meant "always."

Jangling Sparrows

Casual posts this weekend I think, just enough to keep me in front of the PC.
Here's the band I play in, Paul Edelman and the Jangling Sparrows

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Man, my posture sucks.

Here Come the Dominionists

I always thought the concept of the Dominionists was a wacky conspiracy theory (particular to the left), kind of like the trilateral commission, the masons, etc.
Well, I think I was wrong, and this is just plain old scary:

A bill making alarming progress in committee would effectively strip federal courts of most review power and shift it to the attorney general. That's right: the chief prosecutor of the United States would become the judge of whether state courts behave fairly enough toward defendants appealing capital convictions. If a state system was certified as up to snuff, then the federal courts would lose their jurisdiction and condemned defendants their last hope.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Thanks to Jeremy at UpYerNoz for this one:
A New Theory toward Intelligent Design
Your July 14 cover story, Trash Daze, was particularly timely and compelling. I truly feel for the woman who has to use a shovel to scoop the trash off her street, and wish I had hope that situation would change. Unfortunately, this IS Philadelphia, the dirtiest city in Pennsylvania, the nation's dirtiest state.

I live in southwest and ride my bike to my job in Kensington. Every week, I end up with at least one flat tire, usually two, because too many Philadelphians simply don't seem to understand the concept of putting garbage into a garbage can. The streets are littered with broken glass, cast off food, plastic bottles, and pretty much every category of debris and detritus. I see people drop garbage out of their cars every single day.

Over the course of my 34 years, I have spent extensive time in older northeastern and mid-Atlantic cities: Boston; New York; New Haven; Washington DC, and visited several others around the country. None of them are as dirty and have as little civic pride as Philadelphia.

Recently on tour, our band made a stop in Boston. Our drummer, a Philadelphia native who had never been to the Hub before, remarked upon how clean Boston was compared to his hometown. "It's like Philly except they actually give a damn about how the place looks," were his words.

Examples of Philadelphians' nonchalance about shitting where they eat are myriad, from poor neighborhoods to wealthier areas like the Art Museum, from the El to the trolleys.
But try doing anything about it: last summer my girlfriend was referred to was a "fucking white bitch" for daring to hand a guy at a stop sign the bottle of Snapple'd he'd casually dropped out the window not a moment before. It is as if civic pride is turned upside down here. Instead of "what can I do to make my city look nice," the prevailing attitude seems to be "Who cares what you think". She's probably lucky the guy didn't shoot her: if the past year is any indication, we treat each other just as badly as we treat our neighborhoods.

And it doesn't stop with the people. Just last week, while riding my bike behind a garbage truck in West Philly, I actually saw the driver throw his McDonald's leftovers out the window onto the street. The city runs a recycling program that boasts the hilarious motto "And we do it right!" No, Curby Bucket, you don't do it right. Every other city I've lived in picks up the recycling every week, not every other week; takes plastics; and takes corrugated cardboard. And most of those cities offer 5 cents for aluminum cans, something that this state does not.

It is frustrating enough to see the people who live in Philly treat the city like like an open dump, but it is infuriating when it begins to cost you money. Which brings me back to my bike. Thanks to the jerk-offs who throw glass in the street I got a flat tire, and had to spend $20.00 on a taxi to get home. Thanks a lot, you fucking slobs.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm taking a quick break from a much longer piece I'm working on, but I just want to say, I don't know what to think about Hell's Kitchen the Fox series.

Gordon Ramsay is a fucking ham, going out of his way to be the biggest composite of every dickhead cook I have ever worked for, from Genevieve to Deedy to Joey Baggadonuts to the Pizza Pal.

On the one hand, I have total sympathy for this cast of losers, who've never been in a kitchen.
On the other hand I can see why Ramsay would get pissed off with this cast of losers: I'm a really good guy in the kitchen, reliable and fun, and I would kill these people.
I would also kill Ramsay. One thing you learn pretty quick in a kitchen is to keep your rage to yourself. Never provoke anyone who has easy access to a large, sharp knife.
I do not know who I am rooting for, if anyone. Someone needs to throw them all in the oven, like Gretel did to the witch.


I've been meaning to write about Matt Champlin for the past 6 months. I've started then stopped, got caught up with everything, anything else. And that's a rat's ass shame on my part, because Matty was a good guy, a fucked-up guy with problems, but a good guy nonetheless. This is for you pal. I've owed you this for a long time, seeing as I never got to say goodbye.

I've written previously of my experiences as a dishwasher, a time in my life that was particularly rock bottom. I was 19 or 20, my license had been suspended for refusing a breathalyzer, I was on all sorts of bad drugs, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Furthermore, Rhode Island was in the depths of Bush Senior's recession, and seaside resort economies are never friendly in the depths of winter to begin with. After months of unemployment, culminating with me moving out of my first apartment and back into my parents' basement, I found a dishwashing job in a little toilet of a restaurant in Middletown called Andy's. I rode my bike about 3 miles to this godawful place, mostly uphill.

Maybe "toilet" is too strong a word: the food at Andy's was actually pretty good in a bland and predictable way (as I remember, the chicken pie was exceptionally tasty). It was the location and the people in the kitchen that made the place so unpleasant. It was located in a ticky-tacky shopping plaza, the kind with 12 storefronts, of which three always seemed to be empty, one of which was a dentist's office, and one of which was a hair salon with the standard bad name like "Shear Madness" or "Hair Today". The one-story buildings were pre-fabbed taupe trapezoids with roofed sand-blasted wooden shingles. Then, the plaza was surrounded by farmland; if you took a right out of the parking lot and followed the lane away from the main road, you'd run smack dab into the Sakonnet River, winding its way through Portsmouth up to Providence. Today, much of that open space has been partitioned into ugly McMansion housing developments: the plaza was kind of the pioneer.

The people in that kitchen were awful. Andy himself wasn't so bad but had this habit of speaking in catchphrases and shallow generalizations. He looked kind of like Billy Joel.

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Worse, Andy would dish out uninvited advice culled from his life experience that, interestingly enough, would have fit nicely into some of Billy's more maudlin numbers [whaddya mean more maudlin? -ed.]

"Nevvah, and I mean NEVVAH, marry a woman that makes yuh laugh. Kavin," and here you have to remember we're in Rhode Island, where not only are "R"s in the medial and final positions, whether stressed or unstressed, generally reduced to ah, uh, and a sound unique to Rhodey, euh which kind of sounds like the u in pull blended with the oo in pool, they are also replaced with a soft V sound when used in the initial position. Thus if, are on the highway in Pawtucket with Andy's wife Karen and you see the state bird, you would say, "I was dviving in nawthun Vo Dilan with Kavin and I saw a Vo Dilan Ved voostah!"

"Kavin," Andy continued, "always made me laugh. Oh, she was funny one. And when we got owah divawse, she was the biggest fucking bitch, took me fah awll I had. Nevvah, NEVVAH mavvy a woman that makes you laugh..."

"Oh Andy,you are SO right," echoed the sous chef, an enormous woman named Genevieve, who looked like Grimace from the McDonalds ads if Grimace had been shit on his entire life. She was ugly on the inside and the outside, with a face that looked like it was made of sourdough, her nose a gin-blossomed blob. She must have weighed 300 pounds, crammed into grimy sweatpants and a filthy sweat-soaked tee-shirt with yellow circles under the armpits and ringing her breasts, which spilled over the sweatpants like garbage bags filled withtapioca pudding.

Genevieve glared at me my first day in the restaurant, snarled that her name was pronounced "Zhawn-vee-ev, NOT Jen-a-veev," and it was all downhill from there. The day dishwasher was a lazy sack of shit, a mustachioed guido with a greasy mullet whose name it's not worth my time to remember. I would come into work at 4:30, a half-hour early just to deal with the stack of dishes, pots, and pans he would leave for me. I would complain, but no one every disciplined him because he was Genevieve's weed connection. The only way I could get through the night was to start chugging coffee, cooling the hot grounds with lots of cream and sugar, and pounding them down like the Eclipse or Autocrat coffee milks we used to get in elementary school. I would go through four or five cups before 5:30. It was a miserable job.

1989 and 1990 were bad years. Most of my friends had left town for college, and the people I ran with were turning out to be dirtbags. I don't know when or why I started hanging out at Matty's apartment: we had been in different crowds in high school and didn't really mix. I had never gotten along with his girlfriend, who I thought was a real priss. Matt and I had no animosity: he was just another face in the hall. But at some point after high school, we had been introduced and became drinking buddies. Matt had his own apartment in a building owned by his father, and a fake ID. I in turn always knew where to get weed or cocaine (or as we called it, "shit"). At some point Matt broke up with Nicole, and started having regular parties at his place: he was a good looking, congenial guy with an infectious laugh, and he knew some really hot girls. My dirtbag friends thought he was gay, but the guy got girls like crazy. I would end up at Matt's place pretty much every night; in a sense my addiction to girls helped me get off the cocaine, since I spent far less time hanging out with the dirtbags, who only attracted skanks. [Note to self: the story of Deana and Eric must be told. But that's for another day. -- ed] It was a great place to drink off the coffee high I'd be riding after work: I'd usually give a call around 9:00 and ask Matty to pick me up a 12 pack of Budweiser or whatever was cheap. On one particularly brutal night at the restaurant, I had slipped on the wet floor and spilled boiling hot water all over my arm: I still have the scar. My employers, in classic fashion, refused to let me leave, and made me stay until the end of the night despite the fact that my arm was blistered and oozing pus from the burn. When I got home, my folks forced me to go to the hospital, but all I wanted was that beer at Matt's place: after 8 cups of coffee, I was sure to be tossing all night.

Choosing to put off college was, in retrospect, probably the main reason Matt and I became friends (well, beside our thirsty livers). People like the Eckhardts or the Fitzys had never planned to go to college either, but they were voc-tech kids: Matt and I were both college prep material. It was only natural that we gravitated toward each other. I had decided to take a year off before college, to "get a taste of the real world", only to find it tasted like rotten fish. Matt, who was adopted as a baby by a fairly wealthy family, was putting school off as long as he could. "I have no plans for the near or distant future," he would say through a cloud of bong-hits. "I'm not worried about shit. I'm just gonna float along and be a professional failure," laughing as he reached for the dwindling bottle of tequila.

I don't think any of us realized that Matt was serious about that. Certainly not in 1991, when I came back to Newport for a birthday visit after I'd moved to New Haven. Matt and I, who shared the same birthday, drank ourselves stupid that night. My best friend Tim gave me a copy of the new Bags album Night of the Corn People, and we listened to it over and over, laughing our stoned heads off. Even Johnny Eckhardt had showed up, and for once wasn't being a total dick. I don't remember falling asleep, just endless bong hits, beers, shots of Jagermeister, and waking up to October 22 with a hangover that felt like someone dropped anchor through my skull, then weighed anchor through the back of my neck, before leaving me washed up on the shore of Rue and Regret.

(That's Tim on the left, holding what looks like a hot dog. It's actually a chourico, pronounced "sha-reese")

That may have been my last visit home for awhile. Eventually the homesickness for Newport wore off as I got used to New Haven, made new friends, and started school. My friends from RI rarely visited me, if ever. I think Pauly came out once, maybe Mark did too. My mother used to joke about "Newport gravity", and she had a point: if Newporters whine about having to drive 45 minutes to get "all the way to Providence" I was bound to be disappointed if I expected any of them to make a 3 hour trip to Connecticut.

I remember a trip back home in 1995 or 96. I would try to get home each year for Tim's birthday on July 4th, and we had all gotten together at someone's house to party. Matt was there, the first time I'd seen him since 1991. He looked pretty much exactly the same, maybe a bit ruddier around the cheeks, shadows under the eyes.

"Hey man, howya doin', long fuckin' time," he said as we hugged.

"Yeah, man. Too fucking long! Hey, let's get a drink," I said heading for the fridge. "So whatcha been up to in the past couple years?"

"Eh, same old same old," Matt said. "I finally quit the maitre d'i position at Ocean Cliff. I'm over at the Viking now, floor manager. It's a nowhere job." Flaw manajah. Nowheah jawb.

"You thinking about maybe going into hospitality or something?" I asked. "Cus you must have experience out the wazoo at this point. You'll make a shitload more money with a degree."

"Nah dude, the plan is still the same," Matt said. "Go nowhere as fast as I can, have a good time getting there. You know the drill," he added with a chuckle, gulping down a shot of tequila. "'Professional failure'!"

It was an odd comment, and later on after a midnight dip at Forty Steps I was talking with Tim about it.

"Yeah, Matt's an odd duck," he admitted. "You know he was adopted, right?"

"Oh yeah, I knew all that, I said. "But I thought he had a pretty damn good life?"

"Oh he does," Tim said, "no doubt about that. No frikkin' doubt. I mean, he fights with his old man, but who doesn't?" Tim took a sip of his beer. "But I think maybe Matt's got some deeper issues there, I dunno. I think he maybe has some issues about the whole adopting thing. He's clearly..." Tim trailed off, staring out at the moonlight reflecting off the waves.

"Well, he's smart and should be doing something with himself," I said. "I dunno. It's just kinda disappointing to come home and see everybody doing the same shit they were doing when I left. Man, I'm glad we both went to college," and then the conversation veered off toward school. By this time I had moved to Massachusetts and was finishing off my bachelor's degree. Tim was wrapping up his journalism degree at Northeastern University in Boston, and we'd get together when I trekked out to visit my girlfriend who was in grad school at Simmons.

Another trip back in '98 left me feeling the same way: Matty was still hanging out partying, but fewer and fewer of the old crowd were around. He seemed bored with Newport, but didn't seem to have any desire to change direction. Maybe he didn't know how.

That summer, Matty was still working in lower management in the hospitality industry, a floor manager, a maitre d'i, a head waiter, whatever. His father had sold the building his cheap apartment had been in, and Matt had to work harder for his income. "It kinda sucks now, living here," he said over a couple of beers. "But then I think of everything I have here, my friends, my life, and I feel better. Maybe I'm not going anywhere, but I can change that whenever I want. I mean, it's not like I'm trapped, tied to this place."

I nodded my head, thinking how much he sounded like the drunk he'd become. It's nothing. I can quit anytime I want.

"Good luck on that," I said to him, raising my can. "I'm sure that when you figure out what you want to do, you'll just go and do it. You're a smart guy Matt, and the world is still your oyster, whever the hell that means."

"Amen to that, dude. A-fucking-men," he said, and we clinked our cans and downed our beers.

Life goes on. Matt and I dropped out of touch, not that we'd ever kept in touch that much after I left Newport anyway. My girl and I broke up. I joined a good band, moved to Philadelphia, and got on with my career as a musician and writer. I stayed in touch with people like Tim and Paul, but for the most part I was too busy in my own life to take time to remember all those faces from the past, to keep in touch with friends. I think we all go through this: it's always a learning experience to look back at all the people you thought were your friends, people you thought you'd be close to for the rest of your life, only to find that they become little more than shadows and ghosts, wraiths that appear in memory, then disappear as quickly as they came. Minor Threat was right: someday we'll look back and laugh about the salad days. We dwell upon our memories but there are no facts.

It is interesting how people change. During my visit to Newport in 1998, Paul and I had ridden our bikes down to Gooseberry Beach. It was one of those glorious Newport summer days, with the sun's merciless heat swept away by cool shore breezes.
The few cloudy puffs that drifted overhead across the brilliant blue sky made me feel like we had stepped into a Monet, as we sped past oceanside mansions that the wealthy had referred to as "summer cottages" during the Gilded Age.

As we crossed the parking lot to the beach houses, I saw an old face, Tony Goddard, walking with a large, matronly woman I didn't recognize and two young children.

Except I did recognize the woman as she came closer. It was Erin Downey, who was behind me by a year or two in high school, and one of the lookers who hung out at Matt's place back in the day. God, I remember how Erin embodied Heaven and Hell: she had a dynamite body which she was always showing off, and she was about the most aggressive flirt I had ever met. Seeing her in a bikini was like cotton candy for the eyes, and the way she wiggled when she walked was just a sin. She took pleasure in leading guys on and then cutting them off without warning, a vicious and remorseless tease. It got to a point where I would't even talk to or look at the girl, because I couldn't bear to deal with my masturbatory fantasies that would inevitably lead nowhere. And here Erin was, Tony's wife, transformed into a giant meatball of a woman. The butt she'd been so proud of in high school now hung off her back and sides like a sack of potatoes, and she had at least three chins. I have to admit a part of me was happy Erin had turned out so unattractive: the memory of her breasts and bottom when she was 20 still brings stirrings in my groin, and I had envied Tony when they had started dating, knowing he was getting to see, touch, and suck on those lovelies. Memories....

I don't know when it was exactly, but sometime in 2000, near my 30th birthday, Pauly called me in Philly.

"Hey man," he said. "I don't want this to fuck you up too bad, but I have bad news. Matt's dead."

"Matt?" I said. "Matt who? I know a few Matts."

"Matt Champlin," Paul said. "Matty's gone."

"Matt Champlin? Matt Ch-- why do I know that name?" I asked.

"Uh, maybe because you used to spend every night at his house drinking with him until the two of you passed out with the fucking door open all the time? The guy you went through an eightball with in less than 2 hours? The guy you shared a birthday with? That Matt Champlin?"

It was like a slap upside the head. "Matt Champlin died? What? What the hell happened?"

"You're not gonna believe this," Paul started. I was already curdling inside, not because my friend was dead, but because I didn't even remember his name. He'd become, like so many others, one of those ghosts. Not even a ghost: just forgotten, like a stranger who got off the bus two stops back.

"He finally decided he was getting out of Newport, I guess," Paul said. "He went to Connecticut to interview for a job, stayed over at Oscar's buddy Todd's place near Waterbury, you remember Todd." I was nodding my head as Paul's voice crackled over the phone.

"You know, he never thought that much of himself, because of the adoption thing. I remember a big drunken talk we had about it a few months back, when he was talking about getting out of here, that it was no wonder his parents gave him up when he was a baby," Paul continued. "Something about it being his last shot, that he didn't want to tie himself to this town. So I guess... yeah he drove to Waterbury, what is that, 4 hours? He was going for a job interview, and I guess it didn't go so well.

"Cus when Todd came home from work that evening, he found Matt hanging in the closet, hanging from the tie he wore to the interview that morning."

Paul sighed deeply.

"Damn dude, I can't fucking believe you didn't even remember his fucking name."

[Update: Tim adds: "When Matt died, it really didn't surprise me on one level. I don't know if you remember, but he was one of several Rogers [high school] kids who tried to off themselves (Matt on some kind of pill OD) within weeks of James' [Tim's cousin] suicide [in 1984]. From that point on, we (me, Kenny, Dave and Rick albeit retrospectively) agreed that it was always going to be a card that he'd keep in his deck."]