Friday, October 23, 2009

C'mon, Connecticut Magazine. Get real

Happy Friday.

I know it's a lot to ask for, but wouldn't it be great if the Filthy Swine, otherwise known as the New York Yankees, were to repeat the Chokes on Us, the worst choke in the history of sport, this year and lose to the L.A. Angels in the American League payoffs.

I saw the look on some of the Yankees who were on that fateful team, that "no, not again" look, as the Angels clawed back after the Yanks clawed back, and then went on to win, sending the Yanks back home to the new stadium and the virgin lawn. That's the lawn that other teams had not danced on. The Red Sox, in 2004, had danced on the old stadium lawn.

Maybe now, it's the Angels' turn. Wouldn't it be nice...

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I know it's hogwash, but the Connecticut Magazine ranking of the state's cities has gotten my goat.

The magazine, in its November issue, ranked many of the state's cities and towns on the following categories: education, economy, cost of living, crime, leisure/culture.

I think New Haven got a bum rap. Here's why.

OK, New Haven, like all cities, has crime. Some of it is fun to report, like the guy who robbed a downtown bank, got covered in red dye when the pack went off (notice, please, that I didn't say he got caught red-handed) and got caught while waiting to pay for a soda.

Most crime, however, is hurtful to the victims and the general community. But reading the statistics doesn't give you the whole picture. I think the city deserves more than a next-to-last rating for the work the chief and his officers are doing trying to contain it.

For education, the magazine used mastery tests and other scores, you know, like No Child Left Behind did. Wrong. How about the moves the city is making to bolster its education. All my kids went to New Haven schools during most of their elementary and secondary school careers. Two of them went to Russia on exchange programs, another went to Eastern Europe on a program. All went to college and two earned masters degrees. Not so bad. Don't blame the education system for the lack of parent involvement. Having Yale here doesn't hurt. Many high school kids take courses at Yale and Southern Connecticut. Not so shabby.

Cost of living, no problem. Leisure drew a first-place award, as it should. New Haven has as many cultural opportunities as any city its size -- and many a lot bigger -- in the nation.

The one that really gets my goat is Economy. The survey gave New Haven 14 out of 17, with the highest number being the worst. This is really stupid. What's the criteria? A score issued by the state that rates population, per-capita income, equalized grand list per capita, unemployment rate, mill rate and per-capita aid for children.

New Haven has a lot of nontaxable buildings, the highest in the state, between Yale, Southern Connecticut, other colleges, hospitals, and the like. It said adjusted equalized grand list that might take some of that into account. It should say so.

But, Charlie and friends at Connecticut Magazine, get out of Trumbull and take a drive to New Haven. You could have stopped by coming back from that eating junket you all took to the casinos.

The place is a forest of cranes. The new cancer center, the Gateway college project, the 360 State Street project, the buildings along Route 34 corridor including all the research buildings, the new research building that will start construction as soon as the state gets off its butt and turns over the Lee Connector to the city. Come on. Is there a place in the state as busy? I don't think so.

So, Charley, I think you know better. So, like the Dodger fan of yore, I'll wait until next year.

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Our friends at Gannett, my former employer, saw profits tumble 53 percent, but results still beat raised expectations, helped by cost cuts. The company's operating expenses fell 14 percent in the third quarter, according to a published version of the company's release.

Well, it didn't hurt that, at the Journal News, which forced all staffers to reapply for their old jobs, 22 said the hell with it and refused to reapply. In this economy, that is saying something.

So, if you think you have it bad, think of having it so bad you would walk away from your job. Or, as someone told me years ago, consider starvation as a viable alternative to working there.

That guy was wrong when he said it in 1991, but he'd sure be right now.

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It's Friday. It's supposed to be weepy, but who cares. It's the weekend. Gave a great one and, for our friends in the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The U.N. proves its uselessness

Happy Friday.

My father, may he rest in peace, used to say Americans were at a great disadvantage on the world stage because we thought as Americans. We had our own way of thinking and felt that everyone else in the world thinks as we do or, if they don't, they should. Just ask George W. Bush.

I guess this is spread to South Africa, where a well-meaning but naive judge named Richard Goldstone, hired by the United Nations Human Rights Council to look at last year's fighting in Gaza, where Israel stepped in to stop the scores and hundreds of rockets that had been hurled at Israeli cities and towns from Gaza.

The council, which American Jewish Committee chief David Harris rightfully called the U.N. Human Wrongs Council, voted to condemn Israel and the Palestinian Authority is trying to get the Security Council to condemn Israel yet again.

Or did they. Let's see..they've flip flopped so often on this that one doesn't know what their policy is today. Yesterday, it was to get Israel condemned, along with Hamas, which has beaten the PA in elections and has taken over Gaza by force after Israel unilaterally left that sad territory in 2005.

Their are some truths here. The first one is that out of the nearly 200 countries in the U.N., including East Hatrack, West Oblivion, South Nowhere and others with populations the size of Utah and economies the size of a teen's weekly allowance, only one nation is ineligible for membership in the Security Council's governing body. Guess which one.

The second truth is that Israel's Gaza plan worked. Only a few, very few, rockets have been thrown at Israel since the fighting ended. It's like the separation barrier: Say what you want, but it worked.

Goldstone and the bleeding hearts led by Jimmy Carter and others in the Arabs' pockets have condemned the casualty rate and how not enough Israelis were killed. It wasn't fair. The Israelis were much better armed, better led and, it must be said, didn't present themselves as targets as much as they did in fighting , so fewer Jews died.


If you go after the big dog, expect to get your ass bitten off. If you keep attacking Israel, which is still the best led, best equipped, best armed force in the region, then you have to take your lumps. The Arabs know this. They understand force. Sorry if this seems to be racist, or militarist or any other kind of ist you can think of. It's not politically correct, but it's true and the Israelis know it. Bibi Netanyahu knows it; Arik Sharon knew it.

It's not political but true. And the Israelis got sick and tired of picking rockets out of schools and hospitals so they went in with the message the Arabs understood loud and clear.

My father knew, and now you know.

End of the week.

I have to go...need to pick up something for friend wife and Shabbos is coming fast. Have a great weekend. Mazel Tov to Rhoda Zahler and her fiance, who will be called to the Torah Shabbos at BEKI. New York Yankees should lose if they get to play at all because of the weather, and for those in the Tribe, have a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

This time, they danced on our lawn

I'd like to say happy Monday, but I can't.

There's no joy in Beantown. The mighty Red Sox have struck out.

OK, so that's not entirely correct, but they did lose three games to the Angels of Los Angeles, and they lost the last one at home, at the Fens. They danced on our lawn.

That comes from the wonderful 2005 film, "Reverse the Curse of the Bambino," in which long-suffering Sox fans celebrated the first World Series win in 86 years. "We danced on their lawn," participants said of the Sox dancing at Yankee Stadium after beating the Yanks after the New York Filthy Swine committed the worst choke in the history of professional sport.

Now, it's the turn of the Halos to dance on the Fenway Park lawn. They deserved it. They shut down one of the most potent offenses in baseball and beat a top pitching staff. Jonathan Papelbon, long celebrated as the best closer in baseball, faltered not once, not twice, but three times to let the Halos beat the Sox after being behind by a few runs.

It was no The Chokes on Us, but it was bad enough.

Enough said. As Sox fans have said many a time, just wait until next year.

Thanks, Rev

I heard from the Rev a few days ago. As those who follow this posting know, the Rev. is the exquisite editor and fine human being Jeff Canning, late of the Journal-News desk. He was smart enough to get out of that sad place while the getting was good.he

The Rev also is a careful, talented historian and one of the real experts about the history of the Lower Hudson Valley, most notably The Tarrytowns, now Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.

He also took a guest shot at teaching journalism at this alma mater, Manhattan College, and for reasons beyond understanding, he recommended this blog as one to read. Thanks, Rev., although I'm not sure this one is updated often enough to capture attention.

And, though nobody asked me, if one of you admin types at Manhattan College is reading this, you could do a whole lot worse than have the Rev on your faculty teaching journalism.

It's over

I don't know whether to be happy, sad or just relieved, but the Jewish High Holy Season has finally come to an end. We just took down the sukkah today and put it away for another year.

Choke on it, Bloomberg

I paid my traffic ticket to New York City today. I hope they choke on it. I was going to appeal my conviction, all done via email, but lawyers whom I trust say I won't win. Although I have a moral case, I don't have a legal one.

In July, a few days after my grandson was born and during the time he was hospitalized for surgery, I double-parked in front of my daughter and son-in-law's apartment house for no more than five minutes. Now, in New York City, or at least in the Washington Heights neighborhood, they clean the streets twice a week. So, everyone goes out and moves the cars twice a week. How do they do it? They double park for an hour and a half.

Twice a week, every week except during those times when there is no street cleaning, they double park for 90 minutes. I double parked for five minutes. They don't get tickets. I got one.

How was I different? I have Connecticut plates on my car. So, I got hit. And after writing an appeal to fairness and, of course, losing, I paid up.

As I said, from Mayor Bloomberg down to the guy who gave me the ticket, I hope you choke on it. And, of course, I hope the Yankees lose. Badly. I don't even care if it's the Dodgers who beat them. I can forgive the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn faster than I can forgive the Yankees for being in the same town that would give a guy a ticket for double-parking to bring some food and other needed supplies to a family that just had a sick baby.

Yes, I told them all that. The answer from an automaton of a judge: It's not a legal defense. So, Mike Bloomberg, choke on it.

Until next time...

Monday, October 5, 2009

If you don't have a good idea, steal someone's bad one

Happy Monday.

The headline has to do with the next item, not this one.

The Jewish holidays go on and on. Now that Yom Kippur is over, there is another week of holiday season with the holidays of Succos, Sh'mini Azeres and Simchas Torah.

The little huts, or some not so little, that sprung up near Jewish homes mark the holiday of Succos, when Jews eat meals in these succahs. The idea is to show how fragile our lives are and how we can live along with that. Some people sleep in the succahs, and most eat at least some meals in them.

In the first two days, observant Jews must at least say some prayers in the huts, which are not anywhere near waterproof. So, it was see how fast you can get through the ceremonies as the rain came down in buckets. But Sunday was glorious.

On Saturday night, Jews celebrate Simchas Torah, which is rejoicing in the Torah. Most Orthodox congregations read the Torah, the five books of Moses, in one year. Some Conservative and Reform congregations take three years. Anyway, the end of the Torah is read and immediately, the first verses are read, leading to the full circle of the yearly tradition.

Maybe that's where the Lion King writers got the circle of life. It's nice to think so.

The celebration is cool, with people dancing around and, of course, a little liquid refreshment is served to lubricate the revelers.

And after that, that's it until December.

This is what the headline is all about

You will remember the Journal-Register bankruptcy. If you live in New Haven or in other cities served by Journal-Register newspapers, you will remember it.

One of the nastiest parts of the whole thing was the successful attempt to pay some executives bonuses for firing a bunch of people and closing some newspapers. The bonuses added up to about a million and a half dollars. In Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the attorneys general tried to get the firing bonuses cut out of the final deal, but to no avail.

So it was interesting to read to today that Tribune Co. executives are in line for the same type of payments, even though hundreds of employees had been fired and newspapers closed or sold. This is taking place in the Delaware courts and it looks as if the judge will go along with this idea, just as the judge had in New York with JRC.

It always has been a function of bonuses to reward past performance, as well as to get those who didn't get bonuses to work a little harder in order to qualify for the reward. I have nothing against bonuses. I certainly took those awarded to me and felt they were well-earned.

But when hundreds if not thousands in Tribune, JRC and other newspaper companies are losing their jobs more due to management errors and omissions than anything the news people have done, perhaps it's not such a good idea. It's unseemly.

But I'm confident that the judge will allow this miscarriage and others will follow suit.

It's blood money. It's wrong. But that won't stop Sam Zell's people at Tribune and others from following JRC's bad example. After all, it's a long tradition to tip the executioner.

I've got a baseball question

I've wondered about something in baseball. If Mike reads this, or if Mat does, maybe one of them or another baseball expert can enlighten me.

This is my quandary. A batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher has trouble finding the plate. He throws ball after ball. In fact, one can say he couldn't find the plate with a map or a GPS unit. It would seem to me that the thing for the batter to do is put the bat on his shoulder and leave it there. Four pitches and you are awarded a walk.

But no!! The batter watches one of two balls go wide or high or hit the dirt a foot in front of the plate.

And then he goes hacking. He swings at pitch after pitch. He can't hit the ball. The bat isn't that long. But he stands there hacking and like as not, strikes out.

Why? Why does he do that? Does he think that something will snap in the pitcher's head and suddenly all pitches are right down Main Street? Right in the batter's preferred space instead of being so far off that the man in the on-deck circle is more likely to hit the ball than the batter.

Maybe someone can tell me. And then go tell Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. Tell Tito to tell the batter to watch as the ball goes so far from the plate he may need a telescope to see it.

Mark, I think you've got it.

Congratulations to Mark Shiffrin. He and Avi Silberschatz had an op-ed letter published in the New York Times that says, in essence, that it is useless to try to get people to stop texting or talking on cell phones while behind the wheels and instead build cars that make the practice impossible.

Mark is a smart lawyer, the former state commissioner of Consumer Protection and a died-in-the-wool Republican. Still, I think he's hit on the only way to protect idiots from themselves.

Gee, why didn't Dick Roy think of that instead of trying for years to get this prohibition through the Connecticut General Assembly? Roy, a Milford Democrat and former newspaper editor, tilted against this windmill and ended up with the most disobeyed law on the books, perhaps even more broken than adultery or stealing grocery carts.

When walking, I try to count the cars that go by with the driver NOT talking on the cell phone. It's easier than the other way around because there a far fewer not talking than talking. Also, those who are wandering across busy streets far away from crosswalks also have a cell phone screwed into their ears. Are they lonely without somebody jabbering in their ears? Or are they listening to music because heaven forbid they be without entertainment for a few minutes.

What do I do? I've got this very uncomfortable Bluetooth device that screws into my ear, or at least seems to. But I use it because with the lack of skill and smarts evidenced by drivers in New Haven, it is advisable, nay necessary, to keep both eyes on the road.

Anyway, congratulations, Mark. I think you've hit it. The only way to keep people from doing stupid things is to keep them from doing stupid things.

And here come the Libertarians.

Until next time...