Thursday, April 23, 2009

What's in a Name?

Once again, Within Reason figured it was time to check in with fellow blogger Smack to get his thoughts on the NHL playoffs, MLB All-Star voting, and to make sure he celebrated his April birthday in true Massachusetts style: getting rained on at Fenway Park.
As is usually the case with our conversations, the main points are quickly abandoned in favor of more eclectic discourse. In this instance, we touched upon a topic (in Smack's case, this was a revisiting of a past topic on his site) that, while comical, brings to mind the fact that our rapidly expanding technological capabilities are not only an engine to improve the standard quality of our lives, but also a catalyst in changing our very standards.
I invite readers to join in the discussion by posting a comment below. Enjoy.
Within Reason: Baseball All-Star voting begins today - thoughts on that?

Smack: No thoughts on all star voting. Haven't been following baseball much. Or do you mean thoughts on starting it so early?

WR: Yes - the timing of the voting...

S: Too early. But I guess if the votes come in all season then it makes sense. If Youk takes a dive then people would stop voting for him.

WR: I say that All Star voting should start September 1st, and run through the offseason - and up until July 1st. It would take into account the period between games. A 2009 All Star would be someone who has played well since the 2008 All Star game. At least that would be the idea.

S: The only reason I would even care would be because the ASG now determines home field advantage in the World Series. Otherwise I don't care enough to have an opinion on it.

Sweeping the Habs: Helps the Bruins or hurts the Bruins? They won't play again until the end of next week.

WR: First point: See, that's where I think they could actually trump up this whole "now it counts" thing with the ASG. If you refocus on the period between the games, you can try to shift people's attention to who actually deserves to be on the team - as opposed to the whole thing being a popularity contest. For example, I would almost guarantee that Alex Rodriguez will be the AL's leading vote-getter at 3B, even though he hasn't played at all this year. It might make it more interesting if fans had been voting since late 2008, and were now faced with the possibility that A-Rod may not suit up. Maybe Brandon Inge could slide in, or Longoria...Another interesting position is 1B in the NL. Pujols will probably run away with the votes, but I'll bet Joey Votto's stats measure up against Pujols' pretty well since the '08 ASG. It would direct fans to pay more attention to up and comers, therefore developing more "stars" least it could...there will always be the 300,000 automatic votes for Ichiro, and the casual "popularity contest" fans.

Second point: I think it definitely helps. Rest is huge in the playoffs. The play gets much more physical, and players get more banged up. The more time to heal, the better. I think the Bruins are strong enough to handle a break. The only possible catch - and this is specifically for the B's (although you could apply to any team in a similar situation) is that the Rangers are very hot right now. I could see the Rangers (and this is assuming they take care of Washington, which looks likely) coming in and giving the Bruins a hard time. You don't want to be down 0-1 to a team that's over-achieving and hot. That said, I'm not sure which scenario they'd like to see play out - the WASH/NYR series stretch to 7, and a tired, beat up team come in (either one), or the Rangers wrap it up in 5 and come in sooner, but hotter. I still lean towards rest being beneficial.

S: Stop forcing this ASG "debate" on me.

I agree - rest is good and I don't think they'll have a problem keeping the intensity rolling.

WR: Not looking to debate. I was listening to ESPN this morning and they were talking about it. Just think it's interesting.

I also think the Bruins are the better team (vs. both WSH and NYR), so that helps, too.

Any opinion on the whole "game one (of the Red Sox /Twins doubleheader called after 7 innings, yet they played another game that night" debate?

S: Well to be fair it was raining and they had played enough of the game to legally call it off. I might feel differently if it was a closer game. Is there a debate about this too?

WR: It depends. See, I'm not going overboard like some people, but there are a few ways to look at this. First - you are right, they could legally call it off. That, and it was the last time the Twins are in town all season. However, I do see the two counter arguments that I've heard as valid: First, it saves the Twins bullpen. That's where the "it wasn't a close game" thing gets sticky. I'm sure the Yankees would have loved to have forfeited their blowout loss last week when they were down by only 7, or 15 for that matter. It sure would have spared their bullpen. The other point is the business side of it. I'm sure the Red Sox are happy that they got to get both sets of fans through the gate yesterday. If they had held off and said, "We're going to finish the first game when it clears up" - they most likely would not have not gotten the second game in. I realize that all the seats are bought and paid for before hand, but concessions, etc are a cash cow.
Here's the real rub - both teams are off today.

S: If I hadn't left a tip for my friend at the beer stand I would have walked out with more money than I arrived with.

WR: I'm assuming there were tens of thousands of folks in attendance who did not experience your birthday luck.

S: Yeah but who cares about them? Have you heard about La-a?

WR: Spoken like a true Sox fan. Not sure if I know what La-a is. Los Angeles of Anaheim?

S: Not what, but who. (Link is to a story on writer Clay Travis' site, which highlights the following)
"My friend's wife is a kindergarten teacher in Baton Rouge. She has a student whose name is "La-a"- pronounced "Ladasha."She also has a student with two apostrophes in their first name. I give you, Mi'Ra'Ja. (prounounced 'mirage-a')
WR: I am floored by that. I honestly need a moment.

Remember that children's birthday/college drinking activity where you spin around with your forehead pivoting on an upright baseball bat, then try to run in a straight line? My description of said activity proves that it's the perfect analogy for my brain's current ability to maintain any sort of linear thought.

S: When someone told me that story I never saw that punch line coming. It goes something like, "the teacher reads off roll call on the first day of class and says `La ah' and the little girl responds, `it's Ladasha. the dash isn't silent.'" I thought it was awesome and it was at that moment that I decided to name my first born girl Lapostrophetisha.

WR: My son's name is yet to be decided, and this opens up so many possibilities. -er (Dasher), for one. :dre (Colondre) is another. Maybe La ia (Laspaceia) will catch on once it's my next cat's name. You know, I know it's different with animals, but I'll bet veterinarians see some pretty interesting names.

S: I like where this is going. Even traditional names could go this route, such as M@ (Matt) or S&y (Sandy or even Sampersandy). Then you have to decide where, if anywhere, does it end? How long before we see a Paπa (Papaya)?

P.S. I enjoyed Laspaceia a lot.

WR: I think the world is ready for this. Look at Prince got away (albeit briefly) with naming himself a symbol (right) for a while. If he had chosen a symbol that was on everyone's keyboard, and done this after the advent of the internet - and txting - it may have stuck. I guess the trick, in his case, is not getting called "Asterisk" or "Percent Sign." In our scenario, however, that's the intended result.

I don't think this needs to stop at names, either. You could visit your physician for a :oscopy. Generals could give the order to @ack. /er flicks, it goes on.

Try this one on: M&d.

S: What if the @ack order could also come from a Lieu10ant?

WR: Wow. I wonder if we could get the Star Wars fan lobby behind us. Here's the pitch: "Just promote this with us for a while. Endorse names like 4est and N8 and La ia. Then, once this is an accepted norm, you will be free to name your children C3PO and R2D2 without fear of them being ostracized.

S: How about itha?

WR: Not getting that one- Spaceitha? Blankitha?

S: Tabitha!

WR: We're approaching the fringe here. Hopefully we don't IZE.

S: Capsize or capitalize? Why not just IIIIII? (Capital I's? oh boy)

WR: The former. This is getting out of h&.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Machiavellian Slip

"President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties. But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a "secret" that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again."

- Kevin Bankston, Electronic Frontier Foundation

While the nation has been transfixed by high seas rescues and swashbuckling Navy SEALS, a far more ominous story has been flying under the nation's radar. Earlier this month, in it's first opportunity to make good on campaign promises of - as quoted above - "transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties" - the Obama administration filed a motion to dismiss a landmark lawsuit against the National Security Agency and several individuals within the administration (including Obama himself). The lawsuit in question is being brought by five U.S. citizens who claim their civil liberties were violated when the United States government, in partnership with telecommunications corporations (most notably AT&T), engaged in domestic, warrantless wiretapping.

Last July, amid the normal partisan campaign attacks and counter punches, came news that then Senator Obama was reversing his decision to hold these telecommunications companies partially accountable for their role in the warrantless searches. In an effort to subdue backlash from Obama supporters critical of this move, Congressional Democrats were quick to point out that only private companies were being granted this retroactive immunity, and that taking legal action against the government, and it's officials, were any wrong-doing to be uncovered, would be perfectly legal. As West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller wrote in a Washington Post Op-ed:

"Second, lawsuits against the government can go forward. There is little doubt that the government was operating in, at best, a legal gray area. If administration officials abused their power or improperly violated the privacy of innocent people, they must be held accountable. That is exactly why we rejected the White House's year-long push for blanket immunity covering government officials."

In October, a suit was brought against the Bush administration for it's role in the scandal. Shortly thereafter, the suit was pushed to this month. The Bush administration was happy to see it go, and the plaintiffs were pleased by the prospect of bringing this case before the Obama administration. It turns out that the plaintiff's optimism was sorely misplaced. On April 3rd, attorneys for the government defendants filed a motion to dismiss this case due to, among other things, the tried and true Bush-isms of "state secrets" and "sovereign immunity." As if this were not disappointing enough, the filing goes further to undo any promise of government accountability - past and future - by citing provisions of 2001's USA Patriot Act. The provision cited expressly forbids citizens from bringing "suits against the United States for damages and equitable relief based on alleged violations of the Wiretap Act and ECPA, in both cases by permitting relief against only a 'person or entity other than the United States.' Congress enacted these express reservations of sovereign immunity in Section 223 of the Patriot Act of 2001." What this means for Americans is best summed up by Glenn Greenwald in his report for

"In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned."

This is a devastating blow to our civil liberties. In essence, this filing asserts that President Obama and his administration are not only free to continue to violate our basic rights and freedoms, but also hold themselves above any sort of accountability for these acts. This is a stance that hearkens back to the darkest times in our nation's history; not only the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, but to other infamous executives, as well.

"If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law...what I had in mind I think was perhaps much better stated by Lincoln during the War between the States. Lincoln said, and I think I can remember the quote almost exactly, he said, 'Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the Nation.'"

-Richard M. Nixon

The problem with the collective rationales of Nixon, Bush, and now Obama, is that when these measures are implemented, they essentially dissolve the core of the nation they are designed to protect. Sadly, it seems that this newest administration will once again manipulate our system of government to expand it's power, instead of recognizing the core values of our society, wherein the Constitution is not designed to grant unto the government absolute power, it is in place to protect the inherent freedoms of the people, and to shield the people from the government itself if the government should so threaten them.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

-Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grand Old Party Time

In case you are one of the millions who, like me, tends not to tune into Fox News on a regular basis, I thought it might be important to make you aware of the events planned for this coming Wednesday, April 15th. Apparently, there are untold dozens around us who have the keen insight necessary to point out to the rest of us the obvious correlation between "taxation without representation" and "paying your taxes." Of course, since these denizens of freedom from "Obamapression" are predominantly conservative Republicans, they are rolling out their message of protest in accordance with their usual impeccable morality and tact.

Now, to be - ahem - fair to Fox News, none of their actual anchors use any questionable terminology themselves. However, this does nothing to take away from the sheer absurdity of this protest, it's message, and it's extensive coverage by "The Most Powerful Name in News."

On a related topic, details surrounding Ohio conservative's "green" transportation initiative, which calls for a return to steam based locomotion, remain sketchy. With the American auto industry on the brink of collapse, some Ohioans are hopeful that steam engine powered cars will provide a greener and more economic solution than socialist bailouts. Unnamed sources within the conservative movement are hopeful that The Cleveland Steamer will return America to automotive dominance by the end of the decade. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blog Rally to Help the Boston Globe

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this paragraph to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture:
We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here's your chance. Please don't write with nasty comments and sarcasm: Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe's community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.
P.S. - To those of you who publish your own blog, please feel free to cut and paste this post for inclusion on your site.