Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Red Sox Acquire Gonzalez to play Shortstop.

Rather than report on the tragic news of the Alito confirmation, or the start of the Enron trial, or even wax snarkily over the upcoming State of the Union address by Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy, I'll pick up where yesterday's post left off by reporting that the Red Sox have apparently rounded out their infield by acquiring shortstop Alex Gonzalez. ESPN.com excerpt:

The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a $3 million, one-year deal with shortstop Alex Gonzalez, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

Gonzalez, who reportedly will take a required physical exam Tuesday or Wednesday, batted .264 with five home runs and 45 RBI last season for the Florida Marlins. In Boston, he would replace Edgar Renteria, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December.

Gonzalez, who in Miami teamed with Luis Castillo to form one of baseball's best middle infields, should be an improvement at shortstop over Renteria, who struggled in his only season with the Red Sox, committing a major-league-worst 30 errors.

Gonzalez, who reportedly will take a required physical exam Tuesday or Wednesday, batted .264 with five home runs and 45 RBI last season for the Florida Marlins. In Boston, he would replace Edgar Renteria, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves in December.

Gonzalez, who in Miami teamed with Luis Castillo to form one of baseball's best middle infields, should be an improvement at shortstop over Renteria, who struggled in his only season with the Red Sox, committing a major-league-worst 30 errors.

Now the Red Sox infield is more or less set. Gonzalez has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio (almost five whiffs per walk), and they obviously hope he will regain the stroke that saw him hit 41 homers in 2003/4 rather than the measly five he cranked in 2005. But he is a solid defender who will most likely not collapse with the glove the way Renteria did last season.

That leaves Alex Cora, along with Tony Graffanino, who played so well at second base last year after having been acquired from the Royals, in reserve. They will provide excellent infield depth. Now, rumor has it that the Sox are trying to trade David Wells. Stay tuned!

Full Story

Monday, January 30, 2006

Coco Crisp Headed for Boston.

The Red Sox appear to have finally pulled the trigger on a deal that has been brewing for more than a week. Coco Crisp will replace Johnny Damon in center field, and in the leadoff spot in Boston's batting order after a multi-player deal pried the 26-year-old switch-hitting outfielder from the Cleveland Indians. ESPN.com excerpt:

CLEVELAND -- Coco Crisp quickly became a fan favorite with Indians fans, winning them over with his catchy name, bubbly personality and solid skills. The Red Sox Nation will be tougher to impress.

Crisp is bound for Boston after being traded Friday by the Cleveland Indians
to the Red Sox, finally giving them a replacement for Johnny Damon in center field and at the leadoff spot in the batting order.

Crisp's departure has been rumored for more than a week, but the deal was first held up by medical questions Cleveland had about reliever Guillermo Mota, and then was delayed by a trade between the Indians and Philadelphia Phillies.

When it all shook out, eight players -- and maybe a ninth -- were moved by three teams and the Red Sox gave the Indians at least $1 million. Commissioner Bud Selig had to approve the deal before it could be announced.

Along with Crisp, Cleveland sent reliever David Riske
and backup catcher Josh Bard to Boston for Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach,a player to be named and cash.

Before that deal was finalized, the Indians sent reliever Arthur Rhodes to Philadelphia for outfielder Jason Michaels,
the probable replacement for Crisp as Cleveland's starting left fielder. Rhodes had to pass a physical with Philadelphia before the Indians could pull the trigger and trade the 26-year-old Crisp, who batted .300 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and 15 steals last season. "He's an energy player, and he can impact the game on both sides of the ball," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said.

Crisp, acquired by the Indians in 2002 from St. Louis, posted career highs in runs (86), hits (178) and homers in 2005. The Red Sox are counting on him doing even more to fill the void left when Damon signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees.

Full Story

Analysis: So far, everyone is talking about the speed Crisp will bring to the Red Sox in the form of stolen bases. But in 2004 he stole 20 bags, and declined to 15 in 2005. Johnny Damon stole 31, 30, 19 and 18 during his four years in a Sox uniform. I'm not certain why everyone is so gaga over Crisp's ability to steal bases when A) It is nothing more than what Damon provided in 2004/5, and B) The Red Sox offense is built around getting two men on base for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to drive in. The Sox will not let Crisp run wild on the bases.

The last two players the Sox got to steal bases before Damon were Tommy Harper, who stole 107 bases in three years, including a club record 54 in 1973 when he led the American League, and Otis Nixon, who stole 42 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Others who tried: Jerry Remy stole 30 in 1978 after having swiped 110 in his first three years with the Angels, but his knees went fast, and he hobbled through a few 12-16 steal seasons before hanging the spikes up. Ellis Burks stole 73 bases in his first three years, but was too good a middle of the order hitter to bat leadoff, so his steals declined. Darren Lewis had 29 in 1998 in his best overall season, but he faded quickly with the bat and dropped to 16 the following season. Jose Offerman was coming off of a 45-steal season with the Royals in 1998, the year before the Sox signed him, and his high with the Sox was 18 in 1999, so let's not get all excited that the next Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson is coming to town.

On the defensive side of the ball, Crisp played mostly left field last season, having given way to Grady Sizemore who, at times reminds me of a combination of Fred Lynn and Brady Anderson. Crisp, who came up before Sizemore in center field, has decent range, but only a fair throwing arm that will, by definition, be an improvement over Damon's arm.

As for the other players the Sox received, Riske will fit into the bullpen as a setup man, and Bard will probably be in the mix for the number two catching spot behind Jason Varitek, with the extra added bonus of trying to be knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's personal catcher. Andy Marte, the kid the Sox got from the Braves for Edgar Renteria, and Kelly Shoppach, were, given the lengths of the contracts the players ahead of them have (Mike Lowell at third and Varitek) were expendable, and almost ideal for this type of deal. If Marte is as good as everyone thinks he is, he could push Aaron Boone out of a job as soon as July. Shoppach will find himself scrambling for time behind Cleveland's fine young catcher, Victor Martinez.

So that gives the Sox this projected lineup if the season was to start tomorrow: 1B - JT Snow / Kevin Youkilis, 2B - Mark Loretta, 3B - Mike Lowell, SS - Alex Cora, LF - Manny Ramirez, CF - Coco Crisp, RF - Trot Nixon, C - Jason Varitek. There are rumors that the Sox are trying to work out a deal with the Florida Marlins for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, one of the heroes of that team's 2003 World Series champs. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Condi to Hamas - "No Soup For You!"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cut short her latest shoe-shopping spree to issue the expected warning to the unexpected victors in last week's Palestinian elections, the group Hamas. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

LONDON - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday ruled out any American financial aid to a Hamas government in the Palestinian territories and said Washington wants Arab nations and others to cut off money as well.

Humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, many of whom are poor and unemployed, is likely on a "case-by-case basis," Rice said. She indicated that the Bush administration would follow through on aid promised to the current, U.S.-backed Palestinian government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel
, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations," under an international framework for eventual Mideast peace, Rice said.

Hamas' unexpected electoral victory raised questions about the future of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, and how the United States can influence such efforts or help impoverished Palestinians.

Full Story

This election clearly caught Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy and his crew completely by surprise. Now, this tragically inept administration must pretend that the ideals of democracy have been displayed, even though this result is definitely not the outcome they desired. Once again, Preznit FSF's deluded prediction about a free Iraq being a springboard for western-style democracy has proven as accurate as his other equally deluded predictions.

So now that the "wrong" winner has apparently emerged, it would be easy to say that our actions in Iraq helped bring about this result. But for all I know, this was what these neocon trolls wanted all along, just to have a convenient excuse to start some shit in Iran or Syria. Question for Dennis Miller: Are you still happy that you voted for the checkers-playing gargoyle over the chess-playing clear-thinker?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Another New Exoplanet Found.

This lunchtime perusal of the Sky and Telescope web site revealed this interesting story about an exoplanet that, while more massive than Earth, appears to be closer to Earth's mass than most previously discovered exoplanets.

January 25, 2006 Three international groups have teamed up to discover what is probably the lowest-mass exoplanet ever found around a normal star. The planet's mass is between 3 and 11 times that of Earth, with a most likely mass of 5.5 Earths. The previous record-holder, which orbits the red-dwarf star Gliese 876, contains about 7.5 Earth masses. The only known exoplanets with lower masses are four objects orbiting a pulsar — the collapsed core of a massive star that went supernova.

The newfound planet was the third exoplanet discovered by gravitational microlensing
— an effect predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity that occurs when two objects line up almost perfectly with Earth. In this case, a foreground red-dwarf star passed in front of a background star and acted as a gravitational lens. The red dwarf's gravity redirected some of the background star's light toward Earth, causing the background star to brighten threefold and then fade over the course of 1½ months. A planet orbiting the red dwarf acted like a secondary lens, causing a slight additional brightening and fading that lasted about 30 hours.

The OGLE (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) group, which is led by Andrzej Udalski (Warsaw University Observatory, Poland), first noticed the brightening of the background star on July 11, 2005. OGLE alerted two other groups, PLANET and MOA, and all three began monitoring the star continuously with telescopes around the world. They detected a characteristic brightening that peaked on July 31st. As the background star was fading on August 9th, the teams observed a 30-hour brightening and fading caused by the planet, which has been named OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb. The PLANET group, led by Jean-Philippe Beaulieu (Paris Astrophysical Institute), made the most sensitive and critical observations on August 9th and 10th.

Unfortunately, the microlensing method detects the host star and planet only through their gravity. About all that can be said right now is that the system is roughly 22,000 light-years away in the direction of the galactic center, the planet lies roughly 2.6 astronomical units from the star (which would put it in the asteroid belt in our solar system), and it probably takes about 10 years to complete one orbit. Since the star radiates only about 1 percent the energy of the Sun, the planet must have a surface temperature of about –220°C (–364°F), which is almost certainly way too cold for life.

Full Story

22,000 light-years is about 2/3 the distance the Sun is from the center of the Milky Way. Not that we'd be heading off to Gliese 876 soon either, even at a distance of a mere 15 light-years. Christ, NASA's New Horizons Pluto mission will take until 2015 to perform its flyby of that planet and it's moons, and Pluto is within astronomical spitting distance at about three billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers), so it's pretty much a lock that if anyone lives on these worlds, they are gonna have to come visit us is they want to make their presence felt because we ain't going anywhere right now.

Greenwald Catches Preznit FSF In Another Lie.

Atrios and Digby pointed the way to this Glenn Greenwald post that shows exactly why Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy and his crew, specifically the NSA's General Hayden are, to quote my late grandfather, full of old shoes when it comes to rationalizing their domestic spying/wiretapping "program".

It turns out that Senator Mike DeWine (R - Ohio) wrote legislation back in 2002 that, although it still would have left a stench in the air, would have at least given the appearance of having dealt with any probable cause issues. The administration decided that such legislation was not necessary because they were not having any problems securing warrants through FISA. So the big question is, why the deception? Most ethical administration ever?

I wonder how Judge Alito feels about this?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alito Moves Closer to Confirmation. Australian Anniversary.

Alito Moves Closer to Confirmation

The Alito confirmation to the Supreme Court moved one step closer to becoming an ugly reality today as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Bush boy along a party-line vote. Sad Google News CNN.com excerpt:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito received approval from a Senate panel Tuesday on a 10-8 party-line vote, setting up a potentially contentious floor fight later this week.

Despite the partisan tone, Alito is expected to become the 110th justice on the high court. All 10 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee supported Alito, praising his qualifications and long judicial career. The panel's eight Democrats opposed him, saying he would be too deferential to presidential authority and would restrict abortion rights.

The next -- and final -- step in the confirmation is a vote by the full Senate, which committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said is expected by the end of the week.

"All of the evidence points to a judge who can render justice with respect to persons," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "The reason why so many senators cannot support Judge Alito is because they cannot support a limited judiciary."

No Orrin, the reason so many senators cannot support judge Alito is because he is a knuckledragging brute who just happen to have better manners than the knuckledragging brutes who happen to be backing his nomination. Now if the Democrats can only muster enough guts to filibuster this monster, we might stand a chance of passing for a civilized nation once again...

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, supported Chief Justice John Roberts last fall. But this time, Leahy said, "I am concerned that if we confirm this nominee, it will further erode the checks and balances" between the branches of government. Democrats have all but dismissed any attempt to filibuster the nomination. But several on the panel used the vote to attack the president's policies.

Well Harry, you're one-for -two. At least you didn't bend completely over for Alito the way you did for Roberts...

"We have a president who claims he has the authority to spy on persons on American soil without the court order required by law," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, referring to the disclosure Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct secret wiretapping on U.S. citizens in connection with terror investigations. "The record demonstrates that we cannot count on Judge Alito to blow the whistle when the president is out of bounds."

Full Story

I can't keep covering the same ground about this terrible prospect. Barring a Democratic filibuster, we can look forward to the day Roe v Wade is overturned, further erosion of minorities, womens and workers rights, and a continuing journey down the path to an imperial Presidency.

Australian Interlude

On a happier note, today marks the first anniversary of the date I landed in Sydney, Australia to begin a three-week training course for my company's North Ryde support center. North Ryde is a suburb of Sydney about a 30-minute drive slightly north-west of the city.

After a 5 1/2-hour flight from Boston to Los Angeles, and another 14 hours from LA to Sydney, I found myself having to exchange some currency, drive on the left side of the road (with the steering wheel on the right side of the car) to my hotel after having "lost" a day during the flight.

At this time of year, Sydney is 16 hours ahead of Boston, so I was ready for my body clock to become completely confused. Somehow, that did not happen. I spent my first day finding my hotel, unpacking and checking out the huge Macquarie Centre Plaza, located just across the street from Macquarie University, a mere five-minute stroll from my hotel, the Stamford Grand. The office is on the Technology Park on the campus, and the building was easy to find.

The crew at the hotel were friendly and efficient, and eager to help at a moments notice. Once the work began, I was treated to a varied cast of characters, about half of whom are native Australians. The other half is a mixture Chinese, English, Indian, Indonesian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian and others of south-east Asian extraction.

Among my tasks were to give a database training overview to the roughly four-dozen people who operate the support center. Another task was to interview outside candidates for that same full-time position. We came away with a winner in Julie, who, it seems, has done such a terrific job, that I am stuck here typing this from frozen New England instead of enjoying another three weeks of Southern Hemisphere Summer (sigh).

But it wasn't all work. While there, I experienced Sydney Day, a holiday that celebrates the anniversary of Lord Sydney's arrival in what would become Sydney Harbor on January 26, 1788, so let me send a shout out to my friends to have a Happy Sydney Day.

The Harbor is magnificent with the famed Sydney Opera House and the Contemporary Art Museum on opposite sides of Circular Quay. The Royal Botanical Gardens and the Natural History Museum are a short walk from the Quay. I also ventured into the Sydney Cricket Grounds for some "one-day" cricket versus Pakistan. As a baseball fanatic, I was eager to see this sport up close, and I can say that while there are similarities to baseball, the differences were intriguing enough that it might be a good thing I am, for now, staying put right here. I have a feeling I'd become a cricket fanatic in no time at all.

As an astronomer, I was prepared for, but nonetheless astonished to see the Moon and the familiar northern constellations situated "upside-down", or else, invisible. The converse was that the south circumpolar sky, invisible from where I sit typing, was revealed in all it's splendour. Carina, Centaurus, Crux (The Southern Cross), Puppis and Vela formed a stunning panorama with the extreme Southern Milky Way. Oh yes, the Sun appears to move from right to left in the sky. What better way to grasp the concept of all things being relative.

Well, I can see this piece is getting a bit long, so I'll end this post by saying G'Day to my mates: Alyson, Aya, Colin, Denis, Gordon, Grant, Julie, Judy, Malcolm, Naomi, Prabhat, Travis, Winsie and a very special shout out to Lorna!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dennis Miller: All In - A Review.

Dennis Miller's latest special aired on Saturday night. "Dennis Miller: All In" was a Las Vegas show that showcased his slide further into the realm of right-wing hack.

The show was filled with the usual obscure references, poly-syllabic words, and shameless boosting of Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy at the expense of some Democrats he chose to attack.

Among the Dems Miller attacked as crazy: Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Robert Byrd and Hillary Clinton. And what character assassination of prominent liberals would be complete without the obligatory Clenis jokes? Miller made no attempt to attack the GOP, but the opportunities that men like Randy Cunningham, Bob Ney, Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney and the Preznit hisself present should have provided plenty of fodder for a mind as quick as Miller to lampoon. Instead, there was no pretense of fairness, even in his comparison of Preznit FSF to John Kerry.

In characterizing the War on Terror, Miller likened Kerry to a chess player who examines the possibilities of every move before acting. He then equated Preznit FSF to a checkers player who simply jumps everything in front of him. Miller's final analysis was that, in this war we need a man who isn't afraid to simply lash out at the enemy, and that taking the time for calm, rational thought before acting is somehow a silly idea.

I used to dig Miller when he was doing his first HBO series, Dennis Miller Live. He was funny and thought-provoking, and even in his moments of political inconsistency, he made sense. These days, he simply acts as a water boy for the right-wing neocons that have put America on it's current precarious path.

If you somehow managed to miss the first airing of this show, don't bother to follow-up to view one of the countless times it will be re-broadcast in the coming weeks. It just confirms Dennis Miller's complete and sad transformation into a pale hack.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Guitar Stuff, Part 2.

Yesterday we examined the top ten guitar solos as presented by the Hindustan Times, my comments, and my top ten list. Today I present my top ten greatest guitar players. In reverse order:

10. Alan Holdsworth - Through his work with UK, and his solo stuff, this British guitarist creates tones that are reminiscent of a saxophone. His fluid runs and intricate rhythm make him a monster. Best work: UK, Road Games, Sand.

9. Michael Denner - His work with Mercyful Fate, King Diamond's solo band and the relatively new Force of Evil showcase his incredibly thick tone. His partner in crime through most of his career has been Hank Sherman, who, while not officially on the list, provided a sharp contrast to Denner's riffs and solos. Best work: Don't Break the Oath, In the Shadows, Abigail.

8. Alex Lifeson - Although his recent playing lacks the aggressiveness of his earlier output, Lifeson remains a formidable guitarist. Even better on stage than in the studio, Lifeson, although he relies heavily on studio effects, is nimbly able to reproduce his sound for live audiences. Best work: 2112, Moving Pictures, Grace Under Pressure.

7. Brian Robertson - The mad Scot is most noted for his work with Philip Lynott, Scott Gorham and Brian Downey of Thin Lizzy, and his partnership with Gorham on the Nightlife, Fighting, Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation and Live and Dangerous albums showcase his aggressive wah-wah driven style. He also recorded Motorhead's best album, 1983s Another Perfect Day. Two albums with his own project Wild Horses are collectors items that never got a push from his record company. These days he plays and produces Scandinavian bands like Lotus. Best work: Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Live and Dangerous.

6. Michael Schenker - The original lead guitarist for the Scorpions, Schenker was whisked away from that band after their debut Lonesome Crow for a stormy stint in UFO. With that British outfit, Schenker vaulted to stardom with his trademark Flying-V, but seemed to do everything possible to sabotage his own success. He left UFO to form the Michael Schenker Group. The first couple of incarnations of this setup provided lots of great stuff, but ultimately, the band became a revolving door, and he got back together with his UFO mates at least twice since the mid-nineties. Best work: Lights Out, Strangers in the Night, MSG.

5. Gary Moore - The Belfast-born guitarist is best known by some as a member of Thin Lizzy, who exhibited Schenker-like behavior in his many stints with that band. He has gone from hard rock as a member of Skid Row (the Irish trio, NOT the New Jersey hair band) and Thin Lizzy, played progressive rock with Colosseum II, helped set a new standard with his metal playing on his solo albums of the eighties, and has recently come into his own as a blues player who has shared stages with Albert and BB King, and Albert Collins. His ability to play with aggression and passion makes him a keeper. Best work: Blues Alive, Black Rose - A Rock Legend, Wardance.

4. Tony Iommi - The legendary Black Sabbath guitarist practically invented modern heavy metal. He has an uncanny ability to keep turning out interesting riffs and blistering solos. Lately he has worked with legendary bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes on the mysteriously overlooked Fused. Best work: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Tyr.

3. Ritchie Blackmore - Now he is a minstrel playing medieval style acoustic guitar, but his career with Deep Purple and Rainbow put him on the map as a damn near untouchable talent. His tone, attitude and attack were always on focus, both in the studio and on stage. Best work: Machine Head, Burn, Rainbow Rising.

2. Carlos Santana - The one word that describes Santana's tone for me is joyful. You can feel happiness through almost everything he plays. Even his sadder passages seem to imply that there is still hope. Whether it was through the excellent bands he put together in the seventies and eighties, the ventures into jazz with John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter, or the recent collaborations with today's young movers and shakers, Santana manages to keep things fresh while still being able to show the world he can still fry the fretboard. Best work: Amigos, Zebop, Supernatural.

1. Jimi Hendrix - The undisputed master of the electric guitar. He is still the standard that all guitar players chase. The tragically short career yielded masterpieces that we all know as his best work: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland.

Honorable Mention: Dave Murray, John Sykes, Al DiMeola, Scott Gorham, Frank Marino, Robin Trower, John Norum, Dave Mustaine, Vinny Burns, JJ Marsh.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Guitar Stuff, Part 1.

After having read the following list of the Hindustan Times's Top Ten Guitar Solos, courtesy of Bartcop, I offer the excerpted list, my comments, and MY Top Ten List. Have fun!

The top 10 guitar solos are:

1. Stairway to heaven - Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
2. Eruption - Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen)
3. Freebird - Allen Collins and Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
4. Comfortably numb - David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
5. All along the watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
6. November rain - Slash (Guns N' Roses)
7. One - Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
8. Hotel California - Don Felder and Joe Walsh (The Eagles)
9. Crazy Train - Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne)
10. Crossroads - Eric Clapton (Cream)

My comments:

1. Stairway is probably Page’s finest moment.
2. There is perhaps no other guitar player about whom I have the most conflicted feelings than Eddie Van Halen. On the plus side, he did re-energize rock guitar with his tapping technique. On the negative side, that technique has given birth to countless Eddie clones, 99.99997% of whom use the tapping to disguise the fact that they can’t play worth a damn.
3. You’d have a hard time convincing anyone that this isn’t the best guitar work these guys ever did, so I’m not even going to try, mostly because I also happen to think it is true.
4. The live version on Pulse is better. Gilmour is a giant. His solos on Money and Have a Cigar come close, but Numb takes the prize.
5. Hendrix solos better than Watchtower’s: Voodoo Child, Manic Depression, Red House, Purple Haze, If 6 was 9, Little Wing…
6. I never really dug this band, but I know Slash did some terrific stuff with this song. I’d put Civil War right there as well.
7. Hammett solos better than One’s: Fade to Black, Call of Cthulu, Bleeding Me, Orion, Master of Puppets...
8. I never did like the Eagles. Pass
9. I prefer Rhoads’s solos on Over the Mountain and Mr. Crowley.
10. This will come across as blasphemy to some, but I think Clapton is incredibly overrated, therefore, I will pass.

Now, here are MY Top Ten All-Time Best Guitar Solos. To be fair, I limit the selections to one solo per guitarist. In reverse order:

10. Desecration of Souls – This song, by the Danish metal band Mercyful Fate appeared on their 1984 release Don't Break the Oath. The album is a platinum mine of metal guitar excellence courtesy of guitarists Michael Denner and Hank Sherman. Denner's tone, attack and balance provides a solid contrast to the whinier, more feedback-oriented sound Sherman favors. This song knocked Iron Maiden's Hallowed Be Thy Name from the 1982 classic Number of the Beast into 11th place. Sincere apologies to Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Other great solos: Welcome Princess of Hell, The Oath, Melissa.

9. In the Dead of Night – The British band UK’s finest moment was this quirky song that was filled with weird time changes and an unbelievable solo by Allan Holdsworth. If you listen to every Rush album from Moving Pictures on, you can hear Holdsworth’s influence on Alex Lifeson.

8. Working Man – Speaking of Lifeson, this song appeared on the first Rush album, creatively titled Rush. Working Man features Lifeson at his lightning-fingered best in this rare all-out rocker. Other great solos: Red Barchetta, YYZ, Jacob's Ladder.

7. Limbo – This song, by the New York City-based band Westworld, appears on their CD Skin and features the stellar work of Riot (NOT Quiet Riot!) guitarist Mark Reale, one of the most underrated guitar players of all time. This long ballad is a slow burner, and Reale makes it one of the best hard rock ballads ever with his sense of timing and incredible feel. Other great solos: Altar of the King, Buried Alive, Cover Me.

6. On and On – German guitar wizard, Mad Michael Schenker torched the rock world with this semi-classic that appeared on the second Michael Schenker Group album. The former and future UFO Flying-V master simply scorches on this one. Other great solos: Lights Out, Desert Song, Reasons Love.

5. Mistreated – Deep Purple’s first album after Ian Gillian was replaced by David Coverdale, and Roger Glover was replaced by Glenn Hughes, showed the band was still a powerful force, and Ritchie Blackmore’s playing on this seven-minute burner goes from soft, bluesy and longing to full on attack. Other great solos: Knocking at Your Back Door, Highway Star, Man on the Silver Mountain.

4. Emerald – Thin Lizzy’s classic 1976 album Jailbreak featured this killer song that showed Brian Robertson at his best. After some back-and-forth interplay with Scott Gorham’s flange-fueled contributions, Robbo lets it fly with fury that defined Celtic metal. Other great solos: Warriors, Still in Love With You, Killer Without a Cause.

3. Europa – Carlos Santana’s 1976 album Amigos featured a ton of great playing by this god of the guitar, but his best moment was on this instrumental classic that just oozes emotion. Other great solos: Soul Sacrifice, Hannibal, She Can't Let Go.

2. Enola Gay – Former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth released this nearly 11-minute long piece on his solo album Fire Wind. The final passage, called Lament, is about three minutes of the saddest thing I’ve ever heard anyone play on the electric guitar. Other great solos: Sails of Charon, Catch Your Train, Polar Nights.

1. Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix at his best. The distinctive wah-wah, the driving rhythm, the in-and-out of phase effects and the sheer attitude make this the solo against which all other solos MUST be compared. Other great solos: Everything I mentioned in the comments listed above.

You may have noticed that of the list that led to the creation of this post, only Hendrix made my Top Ten. Other faves of mine, like Gary Moore, John Norum, Tony Iommi, Al DiMeola, John Sykes and Dave Murray did not make the cut, by they aren't too far off the mark. It just shows how hard it is to narrow this type of thing down to ten items. More to come in a future (I hope not TOO distant) post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

White House Response to Gore.

The Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy mis-administration struck back at Al Gore's Martin Luther King Day speech in the form of White House spokeseunuch, and empty suit extraordinaire, Scott McClellan. McClellan engaged in more baseless charges against the Clinton-Gore team as detailed in the following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Al Gore and the White House traded accusations over national security Tuesday in a dispute that also pulled in President Bush's other presidential election rival, John Kerry.

At issue was Bush's secret domestic eavesdropping program, which Gore denounced in a speech Monday as illegal and a threat to the U.S. system of government.

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan shot back at Gore in a style reminiscent of campaigns past, calling the Democrat who lost to Bush in 2000 a hypocrite and accusing him of grandstanding for media coverage.

"If Al Gore is going to be the voice of the Democrats on national security matters, we welcome it," McClellan said. He suggested Gore does not understand the threat facing America from terrorists overseas.

Gore charged that Bush broke the law by letting the National Security Agency monitor e-mails and phone calls to and from the United States without approval from a special federal court that decides whether to authorize requests to eavesdrop on Americans.

Two civil liberties groups — the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights — filed federal lawsuits Tuesday seeking to block the eavesdropping program, which they called unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens.

McClellan said the Clinton-Gore administration had engaged in warrantless physical searches, and he cited an
FBI search of the home of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames without permission from a judge. He said Clinton's deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, had testified before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants.

"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan said of Gore. But at the time of the Ames search in 1993 and when Gorelick testified a year later, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required warrants for electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes, but did not cover physical searches. The law was changed to cover physical searches in 1995 under legislation that Clinton supported and signed.

And there lies the difference between the way the two administrations behave. The Clinton-Gore team, in apprehending a known traitor, engaged in a physical search of the suspect under circumstances that WERE NOT covered by existing laws (but, as cited in the excerpt were later modified under legislation the two supported). Today, the particulars of what Prez FSF wants to do ARE covered by existing laws, he just doesn't think they should apply to him. Do you understand NOW Scotty?

Gore had a short reply to the moronic assertions:

"His charges are factually wrong," Gore said in a written statement Tuesday. "Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton-Gore administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law."

And, in an attempt to seem relevant, John Kerry (D-Quitter) threw himself into the fray with this mealy-mouthed bit of nonsense:

Kerry, D-Mass., said Tuesday that he agrees with Gore and that Bush has "definitely" broken the law. He said it's difficult to get recourse with the Republican-controlled Congress. "I hope the administration will, of its own admission and its own steps, reverse course, admit the mistake, and try to guarantee that the protections put in place are adhered to," Kerry said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Gee John, you "hope the administration will, of its own admission and its own steps, reverse course, admit the mistake, and try to guarantee that the protections put in place are adhered to"? Do you still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as well? John, it was that type of limp-wristed rhetoric that cost you the White House in 2004, so please, do us all a favor John, DON'T RUN IN 2008!!!

Full Story

Monday, January 16, 2006

Post-Patriot Playoff Blues Catchup: Gore and Hillary Tag Team Bush. Short Pats Analysis. Latest Red Sox Action.

Howdy folks. I'm back at work on the Farm. Part of my absence was dealing with the installation of a new pellet stove, but I'm back at the keys and ready to grumble. I think I'll start this post with a piece I'll call...

Gore Bitch-Slaps Bush

In a stirring speech to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Liberty Coalition today, former Vice-President Al Gore showed the fire he should have shown during Campaign 2000 as he lambasted Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy for his dictatorial stance regarding the illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens. AOL News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON (Jan. 16) - Former Vice President Al Gore asserted Monday that President Bush "repeatedly and persistently" broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant and called for a federal investigation of the practice.

Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday, the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush only after a ruling by the Supreme Court on a recount in Florida, called Bush's warrantless surveillance program "a threat to the very structure of our government." Gore charged that the program has ignored the checks and balances of the courts and Congress.

Gore said that Bush's actions - which the president has defended as indispensable in the war against terrorism - represented a "direct assault" on the special federal court that considers, and decides whether to authorize, administration requests to eavesdrop on Americans.

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, shot back: "Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America. While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger."

I wonder if Ms. Schmitt is referring to the "lack of understanding of the threats facing America" Gore displayed after the first World Trade Center bombing a mere five weeks into the term he and President Bill Clinton shared? The attack that those two successfully prosecuted without shredding the Constitution, curbing the civil liberties of American citizens, or invading a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.

Is Ms. Schmitt similarly unaware that, unlike the perpetrator of the September 11, 2001 attack, the ones responsible for the February 1993 attack are either: 1. In jail, or are: 2. Dead? Perhaps a better question to ask Ms. Schmitt is this: Do you realize how completely and utterly full of shit you are making statements like that?

And as far as that "Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day" nonsense is concerned, all one has to do to refute that bullshit notion is to recall how everything in the so-called mainstream media has been nothing but a 24 X 7 Al Gore-fest since December 2000...

Gore said that there is still much to learn about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program: "What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently," he maintained.

Full Story

It is too bad that more people don't understand what Gore said, either today, or during the 2000 campaign. The world would be a much different, and likely a much better and safer place than it is today if that was the case.

Here is the full text of Gore's speech. Please read it and see if you agree with the right-wing attack dogs that have already begun to foam at the mouth at Gore's audacity to question the motives of the Spoiled Little Tyrant. Are any of you Bush supporters re-thinking your decisions of 2000 and 2004? I know, it's just a rhetorical question at this point because the vast majority of Bush supporters I know would rather gargle with razor blades and jab corkscrews into their eyes rather than admit that this weak, petty man could ever make a mistake about anything.

Hillary Gets Her Punches In

New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton helped to pile on the FSF administration with her speech in Harlem today. LA Times excerpt, courtesy of Atrios:

NEW YORK -- Sen. Hillary Clinton on Monday blasted the Bush administration as "one of the worst" in U.S. history and compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation where dissenting voices are squelched.

Speaking during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, Clinton also offered an apology to a group of Hurricane Katrina survivors "on behalf of a government that left you behind, that turned its back on you." Her remarks were met with thunderous applause by a mostly black audience at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

The House "has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about," said Clinton, D-N.Y. "It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard." "We have a culture of corruption, we have cronyism, we have incompetence," she said. "I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."

A spokeswoman for the White House declined to comment and referred questions to the Republican National Committee. RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said: "On a day when Americans are focused on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton is focused on the legacy of Hillary Clinton."

Full Story

Wow, this Schmitt character never knows when to quit does she? Apparently she likes the look of egg on her face. Doesn't she have anything better to do than monitor the words of Democrats and then spew idiotic "I know you are, but what am I?" type remarks? Apparently the biggest qualification to be a Republican spokesperson today is to have the ability to simply act like the man in the Monty Python Argument Sketch in which John Cleese simply says "No it isn't" to whatever Michael Palin utters.

Perhaps Clinton's best line was "I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country". And you know what? Whether the bought-and-paid-for hacks that have done nothing but carry water for this bizzaro administration ever come back to reality, the truth of those words is blatantly obvious. Question to Bush supporters: How do the current problems these fools are experiencing make you feel in light of Bush's campaign 2000 promise to have "the most ethical administration ever"?

Pats Playoff Win Streak Ends

The amazing ten-game playoff win streak of the New England Patriots came to an end this weekend. I don't follow football with anywhere near the intensity that I follow baseball, but nonetheless, I was rooting for the Pats to become the first team ever to win three consecutive NFL Super Bowls. Alas, that is not to be thanks to Saturday evening's loss to the Denver Broncos. Two observations about the game: 1. You cannot turn the ball over five times and expect to have a chance to win, even against mediocre teams, which Denver is most assuredly not. 2. Assante Samuel was robbed at gunpoint by that atrocious pass interference call that immediately led to a Broncos TD. Well, at least Peyton Manning ate it raw once again yesterday at home against the Steelers, who got jobbed just as badly as Samuel on that interception/non-interception review that must have Troy Polamolu STILL shaking his head.

Latest Red Sox Stuff

And speaking of baseball, the Red Sox now have one less idiot on the team now that first-baseman/barely and outfielder Kevin Millar has signed a free-agent deal with AL East rival the Baltimore. Orioles. The Orioles must sense a glaring need to add a slow bat, slower feet, and even slower reactions in the field to have made this move.

Millar seems like a good guy who keeps everyone loose, but his power numbers, 25 HR and 96 RBI in 2003, 18 HR and 74 RBI in 2004 and 9 HR with 50 RBI in 2005, show an alarming decline in productivity for a middle of the order guy who had a ton of men on base in front of him for three years in a Sox uniform. Still, he did get the crucial walk after which Dave Roberts pinch-ran to steal a base and eventually a victory in the 2004 ALCS to aid in that incredible comeback over the Yankees to become eventual WORLD SERIES CHAMPS! Good luck Kevin, we'll always have 2004.

The Sox have also made a move to allegedly strengthen their bullpen by signing free-agent veteran righthanded reliever Julian Tavarez, cut loose from the St. Louis Cardinals. I worry a bit about this because Tavarez has always been a bit "tightly wound". Lots of other players who appeared less so wilted under the harsh glare of the Boston media, so he needs to get off to a good start in 2006.

And with the signing of J.T. Snow to share first base with Kevin Youkilis, all the Sox need now are a center fielder and a shortstop.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito Hearings - Day Two. Baseball Hall of Fame Voting: Sutter In, Rice Still Out.

Alito Hearings - Day Two (He's Still Lying)

Today was Day Two of the Samuel Alito Supreme Court Senate confirmation hearings. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito picked his way carefully Tuesday through the issues of abortion and warrantless wiretapping, satisfying Senate Republicans at his confirmation hearings but provoking Democratic expressions of displeasure.

He asserted that the Bill of Rights still applied "in times of war and in times of national crisis," but he declined to say whether President Bush acted properly in ordering wiretaps without warrants as part of the war on terror.

During nearly 10 hours in the Senate Judiciary Committee witness chair, Alito was asked repeatedly about abortion. He assured Democratic senators he would take previous rulings into account if confronted as a justice with cases involving abortion rights.

He stressed that precedent alone does not bind the high court, however. Beyond that, "I would approach the question with an open mind and I would listen to the arguments that were made," said Alito, who wrote two decades ago that he did not believe the Constitution includes the right to an abortion.

Okay, all we've heard from the Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy team is how much Judge Alito worships the idea of legal precedent, but it is obvious that he would throw precedent out the window as long as it is inconvenient with this joke of an administration's hideous ideas of justice.

The 55-year-old appeals court judge distanced himself at times during the day from some of the conservative views he expressed as a younger man, saying he had been a "line attorney" in the Reagan administration at the time.

Right. And Josef Mengele only gave Adolf Hitler aspirin tablets for his migraines...

Under pressure from Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., Alito admitted he did not know whether had ever followed through on a promise he made to the Senate at the time of his confirmation to the appeals court in 1990.

At the time, he said he would avoid cases involving Vanguard, where he had money invested. But he told Feingold he did not know whether he had ever told appeals court officials about his pledge. And discarding an earlier explanation, he said "It was not a computer glitch," that led to his participation in a 2002 case involving Vanguard.

This is ridiculous. Alito "did not know" whether he said he'd recuse himself in a case involving his mutual fund broker, which happens to hold about half of his investment assets? Are you shitting me?!? And people think Democrats are evasive on issues. But wait, that wasn't the only memory lapse the judge experienced...

Democrats peppered him with questions about his rulings in cases involving civil rights, presidential power, criminal cases and more. Republicans often invited him to defend his actions and rulings of the past.
Leahy first mentioned Alito's membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that opposed admission of increased numbers of women and minorities.

"I really have no specific recollection of that organization," Alito said, although he did not dispute that he belonged to it.

Moments later, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, returned to the issue. "Let me just ask you directly, on the record, are you against women and minorities attending colleges?"

"Absolutely not, Senator. No," he replied.

Said Hatch, "You know, I felt that that would be your answer. I really did."

Hatch's affiliation should be changed to R-Fluffer after that sickening display. As Digby pointed out on his terrific blog, Alito damned well joined and was active in this organization. He joined because of his sense that the late 1960s and early 1970s were times of such turmoil that he felt it necessary to try to stem the tide of the potential for women and minorities to excel in life.

Well, I'm sick of typing smart-ass remarks about this asshole. Here's the
full story for those of you who still have the stomach for this topic.

Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

The Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame vote was announced today. The lone inductee was relief ace Bruce Sutter who developed the split-finger pitch into a deadly weapon on the way to racking up 300 career saves while pitching for the Cubs, Cardinals and Braves.

Sutter received 400 votes of a possible 520 for 76.9% of the ballot. 75% is required to be elected.

Red Sox slugger Jim Rice once again came up short gathering 337 votes for 64.8%. Fireballing relief ace Rich "Goose" Gossage got 336.

I can't figure out how the writers elected Sutter, but not Gossage. Both men were dominant relievers in the days before Tony LaRussa re-defined bullpen strategy. These guys would make 70 appearances a year and log 100-130 innings. Today, closers like Mariano Rivera make the same number of appearances, but are rarely asked to go longer than a single inning in any of them.

Just as puzzling is why Jim Rice is still knocking at the door to Cooperstown. He led the American League in home runs three times, runs batted in twice, total bases four times, slugging percentage twice, had 200 or more hits in a season four times including a league-leading 213 in his MVP season of 1978 (when he also led the league in triples with 15). He did fade fast. His last good season, 1986, occurred at age 34. He hung on after an injury riddled 1987 and suffered through a healthy, but ineffective 1988 before calling it quits after only 56 games in 1989. The fact that he missed a .300 career average by two precentage points, and missed 400 homers (382) probably made the milestone minders a bit squeamish about voting for him.

The big negative for Rice was the amazing number of double plays he grounded into, including a single-season record 36 in 1984. He also led the AL in this dubious distinction four years in a row. Still, from 1975-1986 he led the AL in homers and total bases. There is a perception that he was a lousy outfielder, but that is bullshit. After a few years of shuffling between LF and DH (when Yaz was shuffling between LF, 1B and DH) Rice came into his own as a defender thanks to the tireless Johnny Pesky hitting him countless fungoes (And when are the Sox going to retire Johnny's number? Christ, the man did everything for that team except mow the outfield grass!). Rice's range factor and assists were well above the league average, so claiming that he was a defensive liability is simply not true.

Other notables who did not get elected were 1987 NL MVP Andre Dawson, two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, curveball master Bert Blyleven and ace starter Jack Morris. Next year features first-time eligibles Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken. I think we'll see all three men elected by this time next year.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings Begin.

Senate confirmation hearings began today for Judge Samuel Alito, Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's latest pick to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Judge Samuel Alito absorbed hours of criticism from Senate Democrats at close quarters Monday, then pledged at his confirmation hearings to do what the law requires "in every single case" if approved for the Supreme Court.

"A judge can't have any agenda, a judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case, and a judge certainly doesn't have a client," said Alito, the 55-year-old appeals judge who is President Bush's choice to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor for the swing seat on a divided high court.

Alito spoke after several Democrats on the Judiciary Committee made clear they intended to question him with unusual aggressiveness across the next few days about abortion, presidential powers in an age of terrorism, his personal credibility and more.

"In an era when the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

"You give the impression of being a meticulous legal navigator, but, in the end, you always seem to chart a rightward course," added Chuck Schumer of New York.

Fat Ted got it right, Chuck only got it about half-right. Instead of that idiotic "rightward course" bullshit, he should have shown everyone where Alito has clearly lied about his record. The man claims to stand for upholding legal precedent, but we have already seen his "judicial activism" manifest itself in his rulings and opinions that strip searching ten-year-old girls is just fine, that revising the particulars of search warrants on the fly is a swell idea, that one-man one-vote is just a "quaint" notion, that regulation of environmental polluters is wrong, that executive power trumps that of the legislative branch of our government, and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Chuck, stop bringing knives to gunfights!

Republicans, with a majority on the committee and the Senate, offered Alito shelter. "As of right now, there's no question that he's going to have my vote," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned Democrats against setting a precedent of filibustering Alito's nomination on the basis of abortion rights. If that became the standard, there are many senators who believe so deeply that "an abortion is certain death for an unborn child that they would stand on their feet forever," he said.

Full Story

That these men will unquestioningly support Alito is no surprise, but what is a surprise is Senator Graham's statement that flies in the face of what his fellow Republicans have been trying to sell the public, namely that Alito is not a fierce anti-abortion activist judge.

Ken Kaniff, Connecticut's Most Wanted Gangsta, is a supporter of this nomination. I, as you can probably guess, oppose it. What amazes me about Ken's stance is that he and I share similar views about personal privacy. It all comes down to what type of country in which we want to live--one where the ideals of freedom aren't simply empty platitudes, or whether we mean what we say and say what we mean. If Alito is confirmed, the former scenario will prevail and we can look forward to a climate in which whatever the numbskull in the White House says is law. Since the petty little tyrant already has more power than any previous president, thanks in part to the unwillingness of the Democrats to stand up to him, it is a frightening prospect to imagine what kind of shit he will pull should he get his way with this nomination.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Philip Lynott Remembered.

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Philip Lynott, leader of the amazing rock band Thin Lizzy, and arguably Ireland's first big rock star. My good friend Miss Templeton has a nice post about how people from all over the world have been making a point of getting to Dublin to visit Philip's grave to pay their respects to this unique individual who was taken from the world stage far too soon. And special thanks go out to you for giving me the kick up the backside on this. I was going to avoid it as being too much of a downer until I read your post. Thanks for the boost. I can't wait to get out to the City by the Bay to hear your mandolin stylings!

Those who have read my post celebrating the anniversary of his birth back on August 20th know how much Philip and his music mean to me. So rather than type a maudlin, sentimental post I'll take Miss Templeton's advice and get out my old LPs and CDs to celebrate the great music he and his mates Brian Downey, Eric Bell, Gary Moore, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson, Snowy White, John Sykes and Darren Wharton made over the years. I'll start with Vagabonds of the Western World, Nightlife, Fighting, Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation, Live and Dangerous, Black Rose (A Rock Legend), Chinatown, Renegade and Thunder and Lightning. After that, I'll start getting into some of the more obscure European and Japanese collections and bootlegs. Of course, Philip's two solo albums, Solo in Soho and The Philip Lynott Album will also be featured, especially the former with the eerily prophetic ode to Elvis Presley, King's Call (featuring Mark Knopfler on guitar).

So rather than get all depressed, my suggestion is to play as much of the music listed above as possible to celebrate the life that provided such great sounds for everyone.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year Catch-Up Time. Abramoff Pleads Guilty! Blue Jays Make Some Hay.

Happy New Year. After a whirlwind of holiday activity that included re-bonding with my three-and-a-half year old nephew (who, by the way is the odds-on favorite for American League Rookie of the Year in 2025) I'm back at the terminal and ready to examine some of the latest news.

As if Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy wasn't in enough trouble over his illegal wire-tapping program (funny that the "exposing" of this program was a "shameful act" while his office's having revealed of Valerie Plame as a covert operative to the same news outlet that reported his latest malfeasance is just swell.), Jack Abramoff, with his guilty plea to bribery and corruption charges, becomes yet another albatross around Dumbya's twisted neck.

Here's the Yahoo News AP wire excerpt detailing the potential damage Abramoff's plea could yield:

WASHINGTON - The plea deal worked out by Jack Abramoff could send seismic waves across the political landscape in this congressional election year. The Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, are likely to take the biggest hits.

The GOP has more seats to lose and has closer ties with the former lobbyist. But some Democrats with links to Abramoff and his associates are also expected to be snagged in the influence-peddling net.

While the full dimensions of the corruption probe are not yet clear, some political consultants and analysts are already comparing its damage potential to the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers.

"You don't have to be a political genius to sniff the smell of blood in the water," said GOP consultant Rich Galen. Galen said even lawmakers in seemingly safe districts, and those "who don't have a reputation for being fast and loose with the rules," could be vulnerable if voters rise up in reproach "and everybody drops five or six points" in this year's midterm contests.

Abramoff, a former $100,000-plus fundraiser for President Bush, with close ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. That cleared the way for his cooperation with federal prosecutors in bringing charges against former business and political associates.

The investigation is believed to involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides and possibly several administration officials.

The timing couldn't be worse, politically, especially for Republicans. Lawmakers who may be indicted could find themselves coming to trial this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections. Around the same time, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the CIA leak case.

DeLay, who had to step down as majority leader in September after a grand jury in Texas indicted him in a campaign finance investigation, is awaiting a trial date. And former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., gave up his seat Dec. 1 after admitting he had accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

With so many trials and prosecutions in the works, speculation is swirling over whom Abramoff might bring down and on the possible fallout for others.

Full Story

Well, how about the prominently mentioned in this piece Tom DeLay and Bill Frist for starters? Those punks deserve to get rolled for whatever the traffic will bear. I'm going to enjoy watching this drama play out as the rats attempt to desert this sinking ship of corruption and greed.

On to the National Pastime. Now that the Red Sox have apparently decided to surrender the 2006 season, it seems that the Toronto Blue Jays have stepped up by signing/trading for some borderline stars/impact players.

First, they signed Marlins starting pitcher AJ Burnett. And yes, they overpaid for a guy with a losing lifetime record, but they are, as the Red Sox did with Matt Clement when THEY overpaid HIM for last season, on Burnett's "stuff". He throws hard, and can be nasty. He just seems to lack the consistency needed to blossom into an 18-20 game winner. I don't see how coming into the AL East, with the potent Red Sox, Oriole and Yankee lineups the Jays will face 57 times will help him straighten himself out, but, you never know.

Then, the Jays plucked Orioles closer BJ Ryan (do you see a trend developing here with no first names, just initials?). And, yes, they also overpaid him, but Ryan, always nasty as a setup man was just as nasty as a closer, and he is death to any lefty batter not named David Ortiz, so this move seems like an upgrade over the inconsistent Miguel Batista.

Speaking of Batista, he is going back to Arizona, the club he helped beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series as part of a trade for third baseman Troy Glaus. Also part of the deal was second baseman Orlando Hudson, who plays the pivot position like Frank White did for the Royals in the late 70s-80s. The Jays will miss Hudson's energy, but the odds-on favorite to replace him, Aaron Hill, who hit like a demon against the Red Sox, looks like he can handle the job in the field. Glaus hit 37 homers in 2005, his first full, healthy season since his 2002 campaign with the Angels the year they won the World Series (and Glaus was named Series MVP). He will be, if he stays healthy, a significant upgrade over Corey Koskie at third base.

The Jays also robbed the Brewers of first baseman Lyle Overbay. Gone to Milwaukee are outfielder Gabe Gross and pitcher David Bush. I never liked Gross. His bat seems slow, and his reactions in the field seem slower, so maybe the Jays will leave Alexis Rios alone and let him blossom into the star he appears ready to become. Bush got belted around pretty hard in 2005, but moving to the NL should help him a little. And sure, the Brewers weren't going to hang on to Overbay with Prince Fielder knocking at the door, but still, you've got to get more bang for your buck than the Brew Crew got in this deal. Hats off to GM PJ Ricciardi (there are those pesky initials again!).

The Jays also signed free agent OF Eric Brynes. Brynes can play all three OF positions, and will likely share time in LF with Reed Johnson. This will allow Frank Catalanotto to be the full time DH.

Projected lineup: 1B - Overbay 2B - Aaron Hill 3B - Glaus SS - Russ Adams LF - Reed Johnson/Eric Byrnes CF - Vernon Wells RF - Alexis Rios C - Greg Zaun

That's not a shabby group to send up to the plate. Adams and Hill have had a year's experience and are likely to improve. Zaun, at 34, had a career year in 2005, so it's not a lock that he can repeat it, but he may not have to with the upgrades in the lineup spots that are likely to bat ahead of him. Add a healthy Roy Halladay to head a starting rotation with Ted Lilly, Josh Towers and Gustavo Chacin combined with a deep bullpen of Jason Frasor, Justin Speier and Scott Schoenweiss to get to the closer Ryan, and the Jays might just upset the balance of power in the American League East in 2006.

Only 48 days until pitchers and catchers report!