Good-bye, 2008



Tough times: Even Superman had to take a second job to make ends meet.

But don't fret - word is he's next on the bailout list.
New Year's resolution #3


Stronger coffee.
Timing is everything


When I made my last post, Israel had not yet launched its retaliatory strikes against the mortars and rocket launchers in Gaza.

Now they have.

What I don't understand is why anyone is surprised. The only surprising thing is that a country under attack does not wipe its attackers off the face of the earth.

But of course Hamas will blame Israel for this.
Just in time for Christmas . . .




If you're going to pay Manny $50-$75 mil (!!!!) for three years, wouldn't you be better off getting this guy? Makes sense to me . . . except for the $50-75 mil part . . .

Then there's the tweaking-Boston's-nose part, which undoubtedly went into the equation. And no doubt Hank and Hal figured they had to do something to justify charging $100 per seat in the upper deck* . . .

*Pardon me; I believe that's now called the Terrace Level, Premium Seating area . . .
Rebel Jesus


Live (with Aimee Mann) . . .




The whole song . . .

Christmas wisdom



Three things you can't have enough of: love, money, and Christmas ornaments . . . though not in that order.
I'm tellin' you why . . .

Time for a shave?


Bank teller (trembling): Can I help you?

Me: Uh, I wanted to make a deposit.

Teller: Oh, thank God.

Me: Are you guys that short of funds?

Teller: No. I thought you were here to rob us . . .
My (desired) piece of the American car industry . . .*


The Pontiac G8. Airflow is extra....


I've decided which car I want . . . which government agency do I forward my request to?

(Yes, I still think they should get the loans . . . I'm just naming my price.)
Truth in advertising department . . .

Are there people who truly believe an on-line retailer when it announces in its spam email: 'Our gift to you: free second-day shipping'?

Why not say something truthful like, "Hey, we're hurting, so we're throwing in an enticement to maybe get you tight-fisted last-minute procrastinators to crack open your wallets . . ."
Time to find a new bar?

Overheard the other night:

"I rebuilt a @#$#$ Ford 289 and stuck in a @#$#$ RX 7 without a @#$# manual. I can figure out @#$#$ curtains."
On the car companies . . .


Kristol nails it in today's NYT:

. . .there is a kind of undeserved disdain, even casual contempt, that seems to characterize the attitude of the political and media elites toward the American auto industry.

Column here.

And I'm rethinking the Caddy - I'll take a G8 instead . . .
What I learned from the copy editor today . . .

Chain guard is two words.
Dogboy says he wasn't involved...


An item from this morning's paper:

Road rage ends with house crash, beating

WALDEN — It started out as road rage, Walden police say, and ended up with a car going through a wall into the basement of a house.
Andre D. Williams, 26, of Middletown, was pursuing another car through several parking lots in the village when someone threw a rock through Williams’ window.
He drove through one of the lots two more times and swerved into a wall of a multifamily home and into the basement,
There, about five people who were in the house began to beat Williams.
Williams was charged with driving with a suspended license, reckless driving and criminal mischief.
It gets harder and harder to stay ahead . . .


A recent news item from Lockheed Martin:

PALMDALE, Calif., December 9th, 2008 -- Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have successfully demonstrated an autonomous landing of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, marking the first time an F-16 has landed entirely under computer control.

The successful Autoland demonstration lays the foundation for consistent, repeatable and controlled automatic landings of the F-16 in various wind conditions and airfield situations. This Lockheed Martin-developed technology has broad applications for both manned and unmanned aircraft.

“The demonstration of an autonomous landing of an F-16 is evidence that Lockheed Martin is prepared to successfully implement autonomous control of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV)-type aircraft,” said Frank Cappuccio, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president and general manager of Advanced Development Programs and Strategic Planning. “Such technology, in concert with the skill and experience of today’s warfighter, presents a formidable force against existing foes and provides a basis for further developing manned and unmanned vehicles that can meet the challenges facing the warfighters of tomorrow,” he said.

Of course, we were doing this in Dreamland way back. Must be easier on paper, huh?
USS New York




The Navy's newest LPD, the USS NY, launched recently. The steel (or at least part of it) comes from the World Trade Center.

A beautiful ship, though a sad sight. Godspeed.

(What's an LPD? Your basic Marine taxi - it can deliver five hundred Marines (or blanket huggers) to a trouble spot post-haste. In Navy parlance, LPD stands for amphibious transport dock . . . they're worse spellers than I am...)
Unarmed, mostly . . .

In answer to the question in comments a few days back -

I attend editorial meetings armed only with my wits and a cup of coffee. Sometimes only the latter.

Marketing session are a different story. And you don't want know about cover meetings . . .
Meltdown

It's been clear for the last two weeks that the votes for a bridge loan to the U.S. car companies weren't there. The fallout, unfortunately, is going to be phenomenal. And I don't mean that in a good way. Even if the Bush administration finds some loophole to make the money available - an immensely bad precedent, though an understandable action given the circumstances - the car companies' situation, and thus the general economy, has worsened measurably.

The one thing I don't understand: all of the media reports following the collapse of the so-called Republican compromise focus on the timetable for the pay reductions that the UAW refused to accept. But the plan also called for the car companies to slash their outstanding debt by 2-3rds by March . . . which frankly is preposterous. It's not up to the car companies; it's up to the people who loaned them money (which means banks, bond holders, and a host of creditors).

What would your bank(s) say if you went to them and said - cut my mortgage, credit card debt, etc., etc. by two-thirds? And the oil guy, and the electric company and the grocer, the barber, the coffee shop lady . . .

What would you expect them to say?

That provision was much more ominous - assuming it was serious.

And I still want my Cadillac.
Everybody likes the new Rogue Warrior . . .



. . . . even our good friend Kim.


This week, the world's favorite ailing dictator issued a statement saying, "Not only am I alive and well, but I owe my health to my good friend and drinking buddy, Dick Marcinko."

(At least I think that's what he said; my Korean is a little rusty.)

The book's website:

www.dictatorsransom.com


Showdowns


So Jeremy has a new book out this week on the top rivalries - don't call them feuds - in pro wrestling over the past twenty years or so. You can spend all day - many days - debating whether these are really the best twenty, but they were all pretty entertaining.

There are a ton of classics - everything involving Undertaker, Triple H at his (first) peak, Hulk Hogan (only the tail end of his WWE career fits that period, really), Batista's triumph . . . but Jeremy's favorite for under-rated wrestling pyromania is the series between the Hardys, Dudleys, and Edge & Christian. The continuing story provoked some of the wildest, craziest, death-defying ladder and table matches ever known. How these guys survived them is amazing.

Maybe they didn't.

You can get the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore . . . you know the drill . . .
We only work with legends

So a good friend calls up and starts talking about this book project he's got out at a publisher. And of course the unwritten rules is that even among friends, you don't talk too much about the project itself, because you don't want to jinx it, so he's talking about the editor...

Him: He's great. A real editor. A throwback type who really edits.
Me: Uh-huh.
Him: You know what I mean. Really helps improve the book. Understands what writing is all about.
Me: Uh-huh.
Him: A legend. Old school. An editor's editor.
Me: Wait a second. Who are we talking about?
Him: Xxxxxxx.
Me: Xxxxxxx?!? Are you kidding? . . . I've never seen him sober.
Him: I rest my case.

Then again, Xxxxxxx has never seen me sober, so maybe I'm old school, too.
The modern dilemma . . .

So should I be p'd that a complete set of Deep Black (all six books) has been pirated and is available on-line, or disappointed that it's the only one of my series that anyone cared enough about to post in its entirety?
What's really worth bailing out


While we focus on dumb things like banks and cars, the Italians put their priorities in the right place . . .


Hard Times for Parmigiano Makers
Have Italy Ponying Up the Cheddar

Government Tries a Bailout, 'Just as There Was for Banks,'
to Help Struggling Producers



The full story is in the WSJ here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122877565358989333.html

(You may need a subscription to read it. One of the highlights - it costs eight Euros a kilo to produce parm . . . )
Oiling the downturn . . .

Not that I'm really into the commodities market, but I heard over the weekend (don't ask*) that the price of a barrel of crude oil was trading under $42. This summer it was over $125.

Even with the economic slowdown, do you figure that the world is using a third of the oil it was a few months ago????

Yeah, I know about how pricing and futures work, extremes at the margins and all that jazz, but here's the point - economists and other experts claimed that the huge price increases over the past year were all demand-driven. That's clearly bs - speculation then, and speculation now, are huge factors in the pricing. The current price makes that very clear - so when are they going to admit it?

The irony is that the huge increase in oil prices played a major role in pushing the car companies to the brink and deepening or maybe accelerating the recession, which had already started. But its role has been overlooked.

* Hey, it wasn't that bad. I enjoyed the eggnog.
The carnage continues . . .

But in a good way - The Rogue Warrior holiday book signing tour continues as Dick & company march through the eastern seaboard . . . next up is a signing at the Borders in Stafford, Virgina, where the man himself will be the featured attraction at their annual open house.

Rumor has it a number of Marines from Quantico are planning to give the RW a hard time - should be a fun show.
Now in paperback . . .




Well almost - Berkley Caliber has just announced a trade paperback edition will come out in early January. . . . all the words, lower price.
Mood music



Getting in the holiday swing . . . 19 days and counting.
Mumbai



The Taj hotel burning. The image is from the NY Times.


The brutal and senseless mass murder in Mumbai the last week of November have generated tons of commentary. The unspoken assumption of a great deal of it is that the terrorists are winning, and we are powerless to stop them from achieving their goals.
Bullshit on both counts.

The attack achieved one goal – murdering people. That, unfortunately, is a very easy thing to do. Psychotic madmen – and these men clearly qualify – accomplish that all the time.

But from a tactical point of view – if we suppose that the goal of the terrorists had anything to do with the struggle in Kashmir – the raid was an utter failure. India’s response will surely not be to step back its efforts against the group there, and it is laughable to think the attack will result in any sort of political concessions.

As far as achieving long-term strategic goals, the attack may benefit the ultimate sponsors, who are clearly the cadre of demented sociopaths imbedded in the Pakistan military and intelligence structure. It’s dangerous to assume that sociopaths are interested in anything beyond the sheer joy of murder. But as several commentators have pointed out – check out Benjamin’s story on Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2205795/) for one well-argued example – if the sponsors of the attack have a “real” goal here, it’s taking (or holding onto) power in Pakistan.

But this raid won’t achieve that either. Rather, it will pressure the Pakistanis to actually face the cancer that has corrupted their core.

Is Pakistan up to that task? Most Western commentators like Daniel Benjamin seem to feel it isn’t. But I don’t think that’s true. The reform movement could have completely collapsed after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; it didn’t. On the contrary, it’s stronger than before. But the struggle is just beginning. It will be long. It will be hard.

This is not an argument for restraint against terrorists and their sponsors, by India or anyone else. On the contrary, they must be dealt with as harshly as possible. You don’t let murderers continue to roam the countryside with guns and bombs, whatever they call themselves. You kill them before they kill more people. You do, however, remember your long-term interests as you proceed.

The real irony is that the terrorists are not only very weak, but that their impotence protects them in a way. If the chaos they revel in were to be carried to its logical conclusion – if the war with India and the West they seem to endorse were actually to occur, they would be completely annihilated. With all respect to my friends in Pakistan, India would obliterate the country in a real all-out war.

Millions of people in both countries would die in a nuclear war, and I’m not advocating what would be the worst worldwide disaster ever. But it’s a reality that the terrorists themselves don’t believe in.

Then again, all they really believe in is murder.
Goring the ox . . .

The so-called big three auto makers have nobody really to blame but themselves for the predicament they're in, but doesn't anyone find it ironic that their harshest criticism is coming from the Senators from Nissan and Toyota?

That would be Senators Shelby and Corker . . . who just happen to have large foreign car makers in their states.

It would be almost funny if we weren't talking about the meltdown of American manufacturing here . . . not to mention a hell of a lot of jobs, and lives . . .

The question that really is before the congress right now is simple: Do we want American-owned heavy industry in this country, or should it (and the profits) just go completely overseas?

And if we do want manufacturing, how do we restrain the greed and stupidity that have brought it to this point?

Funny, that question didn't come up Thursday.
Speaking of Plaxico . . .

He was dumb, no question about it. Stupid. Idiotic. Too into a bs fantasy, and too into himself, to actually use his brain.

But he's getting the shaft. The "mandatory" sentencing provision of NY's gun law equates gross stupidity with robbing someone, and then takes away all discretion from the judge in the case - you might just as well have a computer on the bench.

It's not just Plaxico Burress. The law makes no sense for anyone. Plea bargaining the charges - which is SOP, though they may not even let him do that - still results in a stiffer sentence than a lot of criminals get for robbery and assault.

I'm not saying you should carry a gun in NYC without a license or a very genuine need. Forget the law: in most of the city, for most people, a weapon is not only unnecessary but far more likely to get you into trouble than out of it, as this case proves.

Still, the law is emblematic of the over-bearing nanny and pr-conscious Bloomberg administration. In the Bloomberg nanny state, it's not enough that no one carries a weapon, but anyone who sees someone else with a weapon, or suspects that someone else has a weapon, is supposed to report it or else he is guilty of a crime as well.

“You see something, you got to call the cops” Bloomberg told the news media, as he carries on a campaign hounding not just Plaxico but everyone in the NFL, turning this into the crime of the century. (Oh, is the mayor running for reelection?)

He's all but accusing the Giants middle linebacker, Antonio Pierce, of being Al Capone because he . . . because he what exactly?

Because he was in the club with Plaxico when the gun went off, and rather than grabbing the weapon and rushing to the nearest precinct and swearing out a fifty-page statement nailing Plaxico for life, took his friend to the hospital and then went to Plaxico's house, where (we're left to gather from the news stories) he told his wife what was going on and gave her the weapon in question.

That's covering up a crime?

It is in Bloomer's nanny land. By the mayor's logic, the doctors who treated him were supposed to arrest him on the spot, and wait until he was in cuffs to stop the bleeding. The bouncers at the club should have had X-ray vision and used it to melt the Glock in Plaxico's waistband.

Maybe they tried, and that's why the gun slipped . . .

But meanwhile, the mayor believes he's so valuable to the people of New York that he had the term limit law revoked so he could run for a third term. Because in nanny land, the only one above the law is him.
Note to Plaxico

Never pick up a Glock by the trigger*.

Shoving it down your pants Mexican-carry style isn't a good idea either.

But I'm guess you've figured that out by now.

*Glocks don't have external safeties. If you're grabbing it there, the idea is you're using it. Excellent weapon, but not a good choice for someone who doesn't handle guns a lot...
What I learned from the copy editor today

Nobody likes the different shades of perfect and present tense any more . . . most especially the continuous . . . as in "are walking." Editors see it as weak passive voice and automatically change it to "better" active voice, which means throwing it into the past.

I stet it back because hell, if I wanted to say walked I would @#$#$ have said walked.

(Sometimes I pound the desk and then stet it back. That's one of the reasons I like the old-fashioned hard-copy edits better than edits that come on the computer - less chance of trashing valuable equipment. My desk has withstood much pounding, plate smashing, and at least one bat swinging. It's also been shot at several time, but that was not editing related.)

Editors trample over present continuous and perfect and God forbid present perfect continuous verb forms because they've been taught to stamp out passive voice. It's become a blanket rule, like always stop at the red light. . . another rule best observed in the breach. They pounce on an "is" or an "ing" like Dogboy going after a wild turkey.

Granted, active constructions often make a sentence sound better. But there are many times when the writer wants the sense, and even the nuance of the words he or she chose. That's why he's a writer.

Of course, try explaining that to most editors. You'll get kind of a big-eyed stare and some stutter about "pa-pa-passive voice." Then they'll apologize and tell you to stet it if you don't like it.

Duh.

What the world needs more chain-smoking, hard-drinking, SOB editors . . . not because they edit right - the best old-timers were slash and burn specialists. No, writers like to work with the old schoolers because they could trade blows with them and still buy them a drink at the end of the day.

Even the women.