Sunday, September 30, 2007

FDH Lounge Show #17: September 30, 2007

By Rick Morris

This Sunday's 17th installment of THE FDH LOUNGE on (8-11 PM EDT) will be a special all-sports episode. While the Lounge is the program where "nothing is off-topic," once in a great while circumstances dictate that every few months we put together a show completely devoted to a single theme -- and with the "convergence of the seasons," we need to talk about developments in a number of sports. Baseball's regular season is winding down, the hockey regular season is barely underway and the slew of upsets in college football this weekend turned the bowl and conference title picture on its head.

After the Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge complete their Opening Statements, we will examine The Businessweek Power 100 ranking of the most powerful people in sports. Then, just before the end of Hour One, we will bring in our good friend, Flushing University Mets blogger Shari Forst to talk about the crazy National League situation of late and in particular the Mets meltdown.

In Hour Two, after we finish speaking with Shari, we will bring in our buddy View From the Bleachers Cubs blogger Joe Aiello to review the regular season and preview the playoffs.

In Hour Three we bring in Sportsology's own Russ Cohen to discuss two of the beats he covers: hockey (with the regular season having begun this weekend) and pro wrestling (with the WWE's drug suspensions and Congressional hearings looming). Then, The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report kicks into high gear with our breakdown of a season's worth of college football upsets this weekend and NFL Week 4 developments.

Join us live at 8 PM EDT Sunday night on STN as we bring you "The Great American Radio Show on Internet Television."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ohio GOP a stupid microcosm of national party

By Rick Morris

Ohio, considered the quintessential bellweather state in recent presidential elections, is often referred to as a microcosm of the nation. With its blend of urban and rural and representation from most of the country's major ethnic groups, the designation seems to fit.

Unfortunately for any folks with a rightist orientation such as myself, the complete incompetence and utter small-minded failure of imagination of Republican leaders in Ohio is mirrored by the national picture. Political observers everywhere are familiar with the lengthy bill of indictment against the national Republican party during the Bush years, from the arrogant pork-barrel spending in the "heady" days of one-party rule to the inability to carry out working governance in post-Katrina Louisiana or effective policies (prior to 2007) in Iraq to the overall tin-eared, ham-handed political machinations that have done nothing but empower Democrats and lead to a Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid.

But in Ohio, a sad similar inability to stop shooting itself in the foot afflicts the GOP.

Today's Cleveland Plain Dealer informs us of a plan, openly admitted to by the Einsteins at the Ohio Republican Party, to attempt to call the bluff of newly elected Democratic state officeholders with a mountain of public records requests and threaten lawsuits if the issues are not settled expeditiously. Also, in an editorial, the PD writes about the pathetic attempts by the barely-alive Cuyahoga County Republican Party to target Dennis Kucinich not in his next election -- but in a freaking recall!

As for the public records plot: if the too-clever-by-half dime-store Machiavellis who have been running this operation into the ground for over a decade can't figure out that they're only making martyrs of the Democrat officeholders with this stunt, then they're too stupid to live. And spare me the whining about how the "lib-rul media" is just trying to make the Republicans look bad on this. Yes, they most certainly are, but idiot Republicans don't have to keep handing them the ammunition to do so.

The party needs to realize that after years of governance by stiffs like Bob Taft, Betty Montgomery and George Voinovich, who all cared about nothing but polls and the politics of expediency, the public has no tolerance for the shenanigans of the GOP. Whether it be on a national or local level, the Republicans will NEVER NEVER NEVER beat the Democrats at their own game of shameless opportunism. The Columbus insiders who have aided and abetted the assassination of the Republican brand over the last decade need to realize that further alienating voters with political gamesmanship will not elevate the party back to power in the statewide offices and prevent what appears to be an inevitable loss of the House of Representatives next year. Winning with the superiority of public policy ideas will do that.

While I'm not a big fan of Newt Gingrich due to the fact that he talked a big game about government reform but accomplished little as Speaker back in the day, he is right that Nicolas Sarkozy had to overcome the enormous hurdle caused by Vichy French President Jacques Chirac's tarnishing of the UMP party label in his successful candidacy for President of France. Finally freed from the reign of the spineless and pathetic Governor Bob Taft, the Ohio Republican Party in 2007 needed to chart a new course, one built on demonstrating how conservative ideals of limited governance were the best means to carry the state forward. At every opportunity, however, the fools in charge never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. By not having the patience to wait out the honeymoon periods of Ohio's statewide officeholders, the party has played into their hands by making them sympathetic figures and has cast itself as a propagator of government waste as statewide employees scurry to carry out their tasks at the expense of actual duties. Well played!

And as for the recall of Kucinich, the Plain Dealer makes a good point (I can't believe I'm saying that, as Cleveland's Morning Mediocrity is not known for brilliant and pungent analysis) about how targeting the worst congressman in America with AN ACTUAL CANDIDATE AT THE BALLOT BOX is the way to demonstrate displeasure with his asinine antics. But why do that when you can grandstand with a recall campaign in the interim, then shirk into the default mode of dredging up an anonymous victim willing to play cannon fodder and collect 20% of the vote and no campaign contributions whatsoever against Kucinich next November?

For people like myself who don't like being governed by liberal ideas, these are the people who stand between us and that reality. God help us.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shapiro/Dolan redemption premature at best

By Rick Morris

While I respect the hard work and commitment to his job evident in his work, frankly, the gushy-gooey tone towards the Cleveland Indians' front office from Lorain Morning-Journal beat writer Jim Ingraham is sometimes a tad overbearing. As such, he seized upon the opportunity of the Tribe's 2007 division title to proclaim that Mark Shapiro and the Dolan family were vindicated.

At the risk of being labeled a nattering nabob of negativism by the team's homer chorus in Cleveland, pardon me whilst I emit a belly laugh.

THIS is vindication? One division title five years after the "braintrust" burned this team to the ground in the pursuit of financial savings? Whatever happened to the era of championships promised by Mark Shapiro? Evidently, he meant "American League Central Division" championships -- classic bait and switch and lowered expectations.

And those aforementioned financial savings? Although they've been demonstrated to be factual by Forbes magazine, don't look for the amen chorus of ass-kissers in this town to ever acknowledge this -- because they're either feeding at the trough or they desperately wish to someday. The crumb-bums in C-Town who aided and abetted the Dolans in holding back this team for years have much to answer for -- dating back to the vile, behind-the-scenes smear campaign against Jim Thome's health that convinced the big slugger to sign with Philly and led far too many sheep-like fans to perpetuate an embarrassing and unworthy vendetta against him.

Subtly running Thome out of town on a rail was part and parcel of the decimation of this team's talent base at the major league level so as to hold payroll down, maximize profits and pocket that tasty revenue-sharing money that suckers like the Yankees who actually cared about trying to win provided them. All the while, vague promises were made that the team would spend the money to go out and get the extra parts when the standings warranted. Five years later and there's no trace of a 1990s Eddie Murray or Dennis Martinez on this roster. Plus, as was pointed out to me by a person in ill health back in 2002, the Indians really did flip the middle finger to that significant part of their fanbase that had good reason to question whether they would still be alive when and if the Dolans decided to spend money on the team. To try to hoodwink the fans, showbiz-style decisions were routinely made, like rushing Brandon Phillips in 2003 and further contributing to his horrible attitude and air of entitlement -- all because he was the prospect in the Bartolo Colon trade closest to the major leagues and the front office didn't have enough faith in its move to wait for history to judge it in a few years (when the irony is that the judgment of history is that it was a fantastic deal).

This team has been held back by an ownership posture unworthy of even C. Montgomery Burns for a full half-decade, exemplified best by the 2005 collapse. On our show Reality Check, host Ron Glasenapp asked me during our 2005 Indians roundtable preview who the key player for the season would be and I identified Juan Gonzalez. He exclaimed that the team was in trouble if what I said was right and I agreed, pointing out that the team conveniently chose to fill their need for an additional power bat on the cheap and that their insane gamble would have to pay off for the team to succeed. Juan Gone managed all of one at-bat in 2005 and the team fell apart down the stretch and missed the playoffs by a single game in a manner the "experts" deemed inexplicable, even as the Blake-Broussard-Boone heap of fetid guano that was the 2005 bottom-of-the-lineup emitted more odor by the day. Oh, wait, those players all did play better "after June 1," which was the blind homer talking point of the year -- as though the stinko performances of the first two months were given a mulligan by the American League.

Fast-forward to the next year, when Shapiro neglected to bring any kind of bullpen presence to the equation and when he failed to adequately address the loss of Coco Crisp in a deal the team had the unmitigated nards to claim was not merely for the future (a deal which would have been somewhat justifiable in that light and if they made a move to offset it for the present) but also a good trade for the present. The team stunk. Period. As with the year before, seeing the trainwreck coming only protected me from the pain I felt as a fan somewhat.

Now, in 2007, everything has broken their way. I must say, however, that I don't hear the blind homer chorus explaining how exactly their beloved overlords in the front office were all-knowing and all-seeing when most of the key contributions have come from players the team had no intention of using in big-time roles this year (i.e. Ryan Garko, Asdrubal Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez, Fausto Carmona). So while they deserve credit for stockpiling depth, how smart were they really when they are as surprised by these contributions as you and I?

For years now on, I have argued with friends and colleagues who wittingly or unwittingly have regurgitated ownership talking points verbatim. They've accused me of not being happy with anything less than Steinbrenner-level spending, when all I have ever called for is for this team to be in the middle of the bell curve in terms of ownership commitment measured by payroll -- nothing more, nothing less.

And for now, the team's determination to try to get something for nothing has actually not stopped them. Even going into the playoffs, there's nothing to fear necessarily when looking at the other teams in October -- all have flaws at least as glaring as those still remaining for the Indians (another veteran power bat, at least one more bullpen arm for the 7th inning), if not more so. But what is frustrating to me is the fact that the relatively minor level of commitment needed to acquire those pieces would have left the Indians as THE overwhelming favorites in this magical year of theirs to win the World Series. Right now, there's much cocky crowing from the front office, ownership and their lackeys on the flagship stations and elsewhere that they did it "their way" -- "something for nothing," although they'll never admit it. The onus is on this team to finish the job and win the World Series. Otherwise, "their way" was the path to ultimate heartbreak in the end and all the flowering tributes to Mark Shapiro from Jim Ingraham won't change that one bit.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

No to a Ground Zero visit by the Iranian jackass

By Rick Morris

Tigerhawk says it better than anyone else could have.

Deep thoughts from a supermodel

By Rick Morris

Clearly, Christopher Knight married Adrianne Curry for her brain.

The nuances of Jena

By Rick Morris

The plight of the "Jena 6" exploded on the national scene this past week as the Al Sharpton-led protests converged on the town. While there is some troubling evidence of a racial double standard in Jena, this in-depth Associated Press story indicates that the saga is not the simplistic version that has been popularly portrayed. As with any story with touchy racial elements, all the facts need to come to light before we can determine the proper remedies to this situation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

59-year-old college player an inspiration

By Rick Morris

Mike Flynt is a physical marvel, but more than that, he is an example to people everywhere about the power of human will.

37 years after missing his senior season of college football, he decided to do something about it. In a completely different era of football, he has returned. As somebody who had dedicated his life to physical fitness, he was uniquely qualified to attempt this task, but it's still unbelievable that a man his age could blend in athletically with players young enough to be his grandchildren. Sports movies get made at the drop of a hat these days, so it's not saying much, but this story needs to be told on the big screen.

Morris Report on Iraq ratified!

By Rick Morris

... on a program where I am the co-host and co-executive producer. Stop the presses!

On The FDH Lounge this past Sunday night, we unanimously approved the content of the war FAQ document posted here last week. Too bad Mr. Neocon Chris Galloway was not on the panel that night to cast a dissenting vote!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

McNabb loves to play the victim

By Rick Morris

"Wah, they hate me because I'm black."

Open letter to Donovan McNabb:

Grow up, Donovan.

You specifically reference Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer not getting as much heat as you. Evidently, you don't know this, but as good as you are, they're better than you.

You didn't reference the fact that Rex Grossman plays in an equally tough QB market, but gets far more heat than you. That's because he sucks.

Are you starting to understand how this works? Quarterbacks better than you have it easier. Quarterbacks worse than you have it tougher. Pretty elementary when you think about it, right?

Now, if you want to make a point about how organizations put too much stock in the athleticism of their black quarterbacks and take it for granted that they don't have to surround them with as many weapons, you'd have an excellent point. Prior to Terrell Owens (and arguably since Donte Stallworth), you haven't have a legit #1 WR. Michael Vick never had one. Daunte Culpepper had nothing but a pile of guano to work with after Randy Moss left. It is true that organizations have, from time to time, put too much faith in the physical abilities of you and other black QBs and neglected to get you as many stud receivers. But even that isn't really a racial issue as much as teams being seduced by the "limitless potential" of mobile quarterbacks who just happen to be black most of the time.

You milked your martyrdom very effectively a few years ago when Rush Limbaugh stepped in a pile of doo-doo with his comments about black quarterbacks. A quick statement of understanding from you could have nipped that controversy in the bud, but you decided that you liked to play the prostrate victim. Enough so that you have decided to play this card again to distract from a slow start on the field.

Notwithstanding your occasional whining about how the world is out to get you, you seem to be an affable guy. You're good in the community and you legitimately seem to care about other people. So stop playing the jerk on racial issues and exacerbating existing black-white tensions in the sports world.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

FDH Lounge Show #16: September 16, 2007

By Rick Morris

The 16th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE on (8-11 PM EDT) will have a great variety of talk on a number of issues, befitting the show "where nothing is off-topic."

In Hour One, immediately following the Dignitaries' Opening Statements, we will examine this week's "Morris Report" about the Iraq War. This was an Iraq War FAQ segment posted on The FDH Lounge blog, attempting to break down the war from top to bottom in a manner that most people can understand even if they do not agree with all of it. I will read it in full and then have a roundtable discussion with my fellow Dignitaries, leading to an up-or-down vote to endorse it at the end.

This discussion will stretch into Hour Two, at which point we will move onto The FDH Lounge News Nuggets: Britney's latest struggles, Kid Rock levels Tommy Lee (with an interesting aside about the woman they fought over, Plastic Pam), the Oregon-Houston mascot fight and OJ decides to take up less violent crime.

In Hour Three, we will have The FDH Lounge Movie Spotlight and then The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report as we reflect on a mammoth weekend of college and pro football action.

Join us for another great installment of the show Sunday night! You can listen quietly at home, or call us at (216) 881-9600 or (866) 453-4782 or email us at .

Only Llllloyd left the Big House laughing

By Rick Morris

Check out this outstanding Top Ten list about the Michigan-Notre Dame game. The poster depicting two happy coaches would only be half-right, as Charlie Weis reached his lowest point thus far in his South Bend tenure.

In particular, I like the reference in that list to Jimmy Clausen as "third person Jimmy" from Seinfeld: "Jimmy doesn't like getting hit from the blind side. Don't. Touch. Jimmy!"

The list also made me laugh merely by reminding me that Ron Powlus is the QB coach at Notre Dame. Those who can't, teach, huh? That put me in mind of my mirth when I found out Rob Deer is now a minor league hitting instructor.

On a more serious note ...

notwithstanding the coaching controversies of the last decade at Notre Dame, the administration is going to have its biggest conundrum of that entire time if the Irish struggle through the upcoming games as it looks like they might and limp into the Navy game in November winless. The immense contract extension Weis received in Year One makes a buyout seem unlikely, and he still appears somewhat likely to get the ship turned around eventually, but will he get the time? Expecting to be viewed in a rational light when the team is degenerating to depths unseen may be asking a bit much. The reaction from the very powerful ND fanbase will be one of the biggest stories of the college football season.

Zeke's humiliation is wonderful

By Rick Morris

As long as credulous marks are continuing to populate this world, there will always be somebody stupid enough to give Isiah Thomas professional opportunities. So hoping for his arrogance and ignorance to truly catch up to him seems a fruitless pursuit. But at least the court system is currently providing a venue for demonstrating how vile he really is.

Anucha Browne-Sanders is currently pressing a $10 million sexual harassment suit against Zeke and the Knicks and she is airing a great many idiotic statements made over the years. Win or lose in this trial, Thomas is one step closer to being branded as one of the greatest jokes in American sports over the past quarter-century. What a shame, as he was an outstanding player and leader -- but he'll never be remembered for that now.

Alonso is the Belichick of Formula One

By Rick Morris

It's a bit under the radar in the States, but the sports world's biggest cheating scandal this week was not centering around the Greater Boston area. Fernando Alonso, the two-time defending F1 champion, was deeply involved in a shocking scandal that involved his McLaren team receiving confidential strategic information about the archrival Ferrari operation.

Alonso is the youngest two-time F1 champ in history and is chasing his amazing young teammate Lewis Hamilton for a third consecutive title. McLaren was fined $100 million for their involvement in the scandal and they were disqualified from the constructors' championship, which would have been theirs for the taking. This is a huge deal in a sport with rabid fans all over the globe.

It's disappointing that this matter has received such scant coverage in the U.S., since Formula One is the league with the most amount of money invested in it worldwide. With the chauvinism of the American sports public, and the fact that ESPN drives so much of the agenda about what matters (and they give short shrift to any organization that does not have a TV deal with it), it's sadly not surprising, though.

Have some whine with that cheesesteak

By Rick Morris

The Eagles have figured out how they lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots. It wasn't the pace of their play-calling towards the end of the game, which even Mel Turpin thought was lethargic. It wasn't getting out-schemed by a superior coaching staff. No, it had to be more filming shenanigans, sez they.

Look, the Patriots' cheating (and yes it was cheating, chowds) was reprehensible and they received an appropriate punishment from Commissioner Roger Goodell. And I of all people am queasy about defending Bill Belichick in any way as I am a long-suffering Browns fan who had to tolerate his arrogant inexperience in the early '90s complete with mandating bootlegs for Bernie Kosar so he could get rid of him notwithstanding the team's winning record at the time. But, come on, Eagles!

The Patriots' disregard of league rules in some specific instances should not give license for every sore loser they have trounced in recent years to cry for a mulligan. I know that Philly's championship drought has caused the same kind of blind whining and bitching all too evident in my hometown of Cleveland, but try to muster some pride!

Don't stand so close to me, hooker lady!

By Rick Morris

Apparently looking for a bit more companionship than his reunited Police bandmates can give him, Sting was spotted leaving a brothel in Hamburg, Germany (being the classy gentleman I am, I'll leave aside the easy joke about going to Hamburg to get something done with his hot dog). He might just be the "King of Pain" when his old lady hears about this!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Iraq War: An FAQ

By Rick Morris

The Iraq War is the single most divisive issue of our time, with most elements of it still remaining confusing to the American public nearly 4 ½ years into this conflict. As previously stated, my position on domestic and international issues is that of the paleoconservative, as opposed to that of the somewhat militaristic neoconservative wing which dominates the Republican Party and the pacifist philosophy of the Democrats. I believe strongly that the paleo position is the one most in touch with the approach of the American people on this most difficult of matters. As such, I’m going to apply my paleo philosophy to the dominant questions of this war and create a “Morris Report” of sorts. On The FDH Lounge program this Sunday night, we will hold a straight up-or-down vote on the contents of my answers to ascertain what my fellow Lounge Dignitaries think. I believe that they will agree with me that it is a fairly accurate unified position of what the American people feel deep down about this war.

Was the initial invasion a mistake?

This is the question that sets the tone for how almost every person reacts to everything that has happened since – which is certainly not wise. It is also a question which most people consider to be a fairly easy one in one direction or the other – which again, is certainly not the case.

On the positive side of the ledger, we must admit that by 2003, Saddam Hussein was wiggling its way out of the post-Gulf War “box” that we had fashioned for him. Aided by the usual leftist demonstrators in this country whining about the effects of U.N. sanctions on the Iraqi people, Saddam was constructing a strong case of “punishment fatigue” in the world community. As we have subsequently learned, Saddam made a mockery of the Oil-For-Food Program by getting governmental and non-governmental stooges from England, France, Russia and a number of other countries to help him evade the world body’s limits on his weapons programs. If left in place in 2003, Saddam Hussein would surely not be nearly as boxed in by the U.S. and the U.N. as he was in the initial years after the first war.

Additionally, we must disregard the spurious surface logic of anti-war demonstrators that Saddam, as the perpetuator of a secular regime, could not possibly be in cahoots with terrorists who were religious fanatics. The Middle East as a whole is rife with countless examples of the old phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” – and among anti-American actors in that corner of the world, the United States and Israel are always the instruments of the devil no matter what. So every time you hear a leftist raise the differences between Saddam and terrorist groups as evidence they would never work together, you are listening to the perfect embodiment of smug faux intellectualism. Hussein’s Iraq did have links to numerous terrorist groups and even had training facilities in Baghdad – although this admittedly was all-too-common in the Arab world and there was in all likelihood no connection between Saddam and 9/11. While it seems like more jihadists are materializing there every day, we are killing a boatload of them in Iraq and our successes in Anbar province at the expense of Al Qaeda have reversed most of the propaganda gains they chalked up during the war.

The other obvious positive involves the fact that many stretches of the country, especially those in the Kurdish north, are better off than they were before our invasion and most people in the affected areas are greatly appreciative of our help. And it should not be minimized that, although chaos has ensued since the war began, we saved Iraq from genocide by Saddam Hussein. This actually starts the segue to the other side of the ledger, however, since mass killings take place in other regimes around the globe and our country has never thought of itself as a global policeman.

The negative side needs far less explanation, because these points have been drummed into our heads for most of the duration of the war. Let’s start with Iran, which unquestionably has a nuclear weapons program underway and has always been a graver strategic threat to us than Iraq. Iran is much stronger without the Iraqi counterbalance in the Gulf region, and has been emboldened by sectarian rivalries in Iraq and the fact that we have gotten bogged down there and are automatically less of a threat to confront them militarily. The strengthening of the mad mullahs of Iran outweighs our total gains in and of itself. And all of our enemies in the Arab world have reveled in the propaganda gains we have handed them during the course of the war, with the Abu Ghraib scandal topping the list. These enemies have also had forces coming in and out of Iraq all throughout the war as that country has served as the training ground for urban warfare that Afghanistan used to be.

But from there, we have a death toll of what will likely exceed 5,000 of our best and bravest and an injury assessment several times in excess of that. As brutal as this statement may be, death and destruction are inevitable in war, and we lost far more men than this at the Battle of the Bulge alone. But with the Axis powers posing a global threat, we knew that this blood had at least been shed for a vital and necessary purpose. Unforgivably, we cannot with certainty say the same of our fallen heroes in Iraq. To add insult to their deaths and injuries, many units were not properly equipped with body armor and other defense against the merciless enemies we have faced – and they were saddled with a failed status quo policy for almost four years until the 2007 troop surge turned the tide somewhat. The years of wasted motion while we lingered without a credible counterinsurgency strategy represent one of the greatest blunders in American history. We have an exhausted military, with much degraded and destroyed weaponry needing to be replaced at great cost. And we have soured the American people on the very concept of war when it may be necessary in our clear national interest against some other entity in the near future. The overreach of the 2000s has been every bit as damaging as the pacifism of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘90s.

We addressed the blood, now let’s examine the treasure. It’s almost inevitable that over $1 trillion will be spent in the desert of Mesopotamia by the time we cease serious combat operations. At a time of reckless pork-barrel federal spending (the bill for which will be passed on to our grandchildren), underfunded port security and a looming entitlement crisis that will bankrupt this country soon enough anyways, it’s more than an understatement to say that we could sure use that trillion dollars back.

So the answer, while not as overwhelming as the knee-jerk anti-war protestors would have you believe, is that the decision to go to war was not worth it. Even given the fact that the intelligence community for whatever reasons put forth the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, every other justification for war was flawed even when viewed through the lens of the time (and I was one who was queasy about our decision to invade). As addressed above, we had no semblance of a counterinsurgency strategy to follow the first part of the war when we would topple Hussein. We willingly put ourselves in a position to be ganged up and marginalized in the world community by opportunists in the French and German governments and countries looking to assert themselves on the world stage at our expense in Russia and China. We put all of our propaganda hopes on the swift success of democracy, when centuries of human history have shown it to be an institution that can only work well amongst a people who have taken the time to embrace and understand it. Democracy itself has been discredited in the eyes of countless Arabs, a blunder of historic impact. And by toppling a minority Sunni government and empowering the Shiite majority, we ensured that their co-religionists, our enemies in Iran, would inevitably be strengthened. Of course, the neoconservative war theorists believed that we could march right into Iran after we pacified Iraq, but we’re years away from that possibility as the Iranian nuclear program becomes more of a threat each day. Also, the Sunni-Shiite-Kurd rivalries frozen by the Saddam Hussein dictatorship were very reminiscent of the Balkan feuds kept under the surface by Communist rule – as it turned out in both instances, once the totalitarians were gone, vicious rivalries never firmly settled reemerged with a vengeance and toppled any attempts at regional stability.

On balance, the war was not worth it, certainly in retrospect and arguably at the time. Given the best we are likely to still accomplish in Iraq, it is very unlikely that history will be kind to the decision to invade.

Did Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction?

Notwithstanding the answer to the first question, and the fact that the absolute consensus seems to be that they did not, I am still a bit uncertain on this issue. Rumors have floated for years that Baathist thugs trucked the WMDs across the Syrian border to be stored by their allies in the Damascus dictatorship. It seems highly unlikely that the Bush administration would keep that information under wraps, especially given its need to defend an unpopular war – but, with the urgent imperative to keep Israel from engaging in shooting wars unhelpful to us in Iraq, anything is possible. Even if Iraq did have WMDs, however, I still believe that we should have held off on invading, at least at that time – because we did face reality and realize that invading North Korea was a bad idea and we haven’t invaded Iran (yet).

Should we own up to the fact publicly that the idea to go to war was a mistake?

No, there’s nothing to be gained by it in any sense, morally or logically. First and foremost, we would be dishonoring our troops by undermining the rationale of what we professed to be accomplishing with their blood. The wounded and dead and their families don’t deserve that, not by a longshot. Also, any goodwill we would regain with any erstwhile allies would be more than negated by the fact that our enemies would be emboldened by a public admission of failure.

Has this war damaged our deterrence factor?

No question about it. Sadly, it ruined the incredible level of deterrence we earned by accomplishing in months what the Soviets couldn’t in several years by wining in Afghanistan. Every tinpot dictator on Earth feels emboldened by the fact that Uncle Sam has his hands full with a ragtag terrorist network in Iraq – and since deterrence is more critical to keeping America safe than almost any other factor, we are likely to pay a dear price for our failures to date and will pay a bigger toll in the future if we can’t earn back more respect for our military capabilities by the time we inevitably draw down in Iraq. And a war-weary American public will be that much harder to rally when we face a legitimate threat, due to rationale for this war that was thoroughly discredited in their eyes.

What are the similarities and differences with the Vietnam War?


^ Both wars lost the support of the American people, in part because many opportunistic and unprincipled politicians have succeeded in defining it narrowly as an unpopular president’s war as opposed to a venture in which we are all invested.

^ In both instances, American forces received inadequate military direction for the first several years of the war as the enemy utilized brutal terrorist techniques.

^ Our ineptitude at “telling our story” has cost us dearly on the global stage, as our rivals for global influence scheme and try to take advantage of our distraction.

^ The massacres in Southeast Asia that followed our pullout would be mirrored on a horrific scale in Iraq – additionally, our global prestige and deterrent threat would take an immense beating by pulling out of Iraq in defeat the same as in the Vietnam aftermath.


^ Without a military draft, opposition to the Iraq War is not as visceral because nobody can be sent involuntarily.

^ The North Vietnamese and Vietcong were never going to follow us to America and continue the war here after winning. The jihadists in Iraq want to kill Americans wherever they can and prefer a 9/11 type of attack on our soil.

^ Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were, for better or for worse, guided in Vietnam by knowledge of war they obtained firsthand in the military in World War II. George Bush’s military experience, such as it was, during the Vietnam era, did not infuse him with any battlefield lessons for the Iraq War.

Was the surge a good idea – and should we stay with it?

Yes and yes. This goes back to the unfortunate initial point about how one’s conclusions about whether we should have gone to war initially color people’s perceptions about what to do now. Regardless of whether anyone wants to admit it or not, we as a country own this war and the successes and failures, not merely George Bush and Dick Cheney. The surge of American forces has been successful enough that it’s possible to state with some confidence that if it were applied four years ago that it might have brought the war to an end in a reasonable period of time. The immense danger evident if we leave in allowing Iraq to devolve into an unchecked terrorist breeding ground and de facto satellite of Iran (in Gulf-bordering part of the country) justified our decision earlier this year to “double down” and try to salvage something from the disaster of the previous few years. Even after years of our sleepy inaction that allowed Iraq to spiral downward, we have still made great success in retaking key parts of the country and lethally countering terrorist networks. True, we can’t sustain the surge forever with our manpower limitations, but we can and must build on our progress for at least another six months so that we can try to ensure the situation we leave behind is not a festering sore.

Is Iraq legitimately a part of the Global War on Terror?

It is now. While it probably wasn’t involved to a critical degree before our invasion, it certainly is at the moment given Al Qaeda’s vast efforts to rebuild their network to full strength using Iraq as the main focus. Our battles against jihadists there are the same as any we fight around the globe, covertly or otherwise. Distinctions that politicians seek to make between terrorists in Iraq and others around the globe are artificial and a deliberate attempt to confuse the stakes we face so that our defeat might seem more palatable.

Can we still win in Iraq?

If by “win,” we mean leaving behind a country that is not a completely failed state and not a threat to its neighbors or us via terrorism, then the answer is yes. If by “win,” we mean leaving behind the vision of flourishing Jeffersonian democracy previously preached by George Bush and his neoconservative missionaries, then the answer is no. Fortunately, our military and civilian leadership seems to have pulled its collective head out of its collective posterior, so we now have a realistic chance to salvage the aforementioned modest definition of success from our years of hell in the sand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Just Might Be Crazy But,

By Jason Jones

Here Is My 2008 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0.

I know most sports fans believe the time to get ready for the draft is about 60-90 days prior to the draft (approximately middle of February or early March). I can understand that line of thinking, but do not agree with it. Last year, I began preparing for the NFL draft in November, and that still was not early enough. Besides, like playing fantasy sports, this gives us all players to watch for during the college season we might otherwise not care about. Keep in mind this is only a preliminary version. A great deal can and will change. For instance, in a year most analysts believe will prove to be one of the greatest RB drafts in some time-I only have 3 in the first round. Likewise with QB's. This mock draft is very front seven heavy. There are more D-Lineman and Linebackers than there will be come April of '08. These things tend to work themselves out more naturally once players have accrued more stats, attended the combine, and conducted interviews. Like I said, a very preliminary look at 32 college div 1 football players for you to pay attention to throughout the duration of this NCAA football season.

2008 NFL Mock Draft Version 1.0
1-OAK-Darren McFadden-RB-Arkansas-6-2/215-4.4--best RB in almost a decade
2-ATL-Brian Brohm-QB-Louisville-6-4/224-4.8-------after the Vick things this seems perfect
3-NYG-Calais Campbell-DE-Miami-6-8/280-4.5-------best DE in the draft to help Strahan
4-HOU-Kenny Phillips-S-Miami-6-2/210-4.4----------Best S in the draft to help secondary
5-MIN-Early Doucet-WR-LSU-6-0/207-4.5-----------Complete WR, MIN doesnt have one
6-KC-Jake Long-OT-Michigan-6-7/313-5.05----------Best OT, keep LJ happy
7-TB-Sam Baker-OT-USC-6-5/305-5.15--------------TB missed out on Long, Baker is next
8-BUF-Limus Sweed-WR-Texas-6-5/219-4.6---------Lynch, Lee, and Sweed=SWEET
9-DAL (from CLE)-Terrell Thomas-CB-USC-6-1/195-4.4-Need a shut down CB
10-MIA-DeSean Jackson-WR-Cal-6-0/172-4.45-------Cam wants a sexy offense, this helps
11-DET-Steve Slaton-RB-WVU-5-10/190-4.4---------Martz has his Marshall Faulk
12-WAS-Dan Connor-OLB-Penn St-6-3/233-4.65-----WAS needs fundamental players
13-GB-Derrick Harvey-DE-Florida-6-2/262-4.75-----Not perfect but an improvement
14-JAX-Antione Cason-CB-Arizona-6-0/185-4.55-----JAX has needed a CB for years
15-TEN-Mario Manningham-WR-Michigan-6-0/180-4.4-Passed on Meachum, Mario will do
16-NYJ-James Laurinaitis-ILB-Ohio St-6-3/245-4.6--Animal jr next to Vilma is SOLID
17-PIT-Tom Zbikowski-S-Notre Dame-6-0/210-4.5---A hard hitting FS next to Polamalu
18-BAL-Adarius Bowman-WR-Oklahoma St-6-4/220-4.55-BAL always need protype WR's
19-ARI-Chris Long-DE-Virginia-6-4/284-4.8----------Off is set, stud DE cant hurt the Def
20-SEA-Sedrick Ellis-DT-USC-6-1/285-4.95----------Best DT for their system
21-SF-Mario Urrutia-WR-Louisville-6-6/220-4.6------6-6/220! your welcome Alex Smith
22-CAR-Chad Henne-QB-Michigan-6-2/224-5.15-----Jake, I hope you enjoyed your stay
23-STL-Glenn Dorsey-DT-LSU-6-2/300-5.05--------Dorsey/Carriker is DAMN sexy
24-DEN-Keith Rivers-OLB-USC-6-3/220-4.6---------DEN needs to improve the CLE front 7
25-NO-Terrence Taylor-DT-Michigan-6-0/310-4.85--A couple pieces and NO's front 7 is great
26-PHI-Xavier Adibi-OLB-Virginia Tech-6-2/219-4.55-LB's are old and Adibi is a playmaker
27-CIN-Lawrence Jackson-DE-USC-6-5/265-4.9------Legal trouble has thinned d-line depth
28-DAL-Frank Okam-DT-Texas-6-5/325-5.1---------A steal for DAL's new def
29-IND-Felix Jones-RB-Arkansas-6-0/200-4.5-------A steal. IND how has thunder/lightening
30-SD-Jasper Brinkley-ILB-S. Carolina-6-2/262-4.65-Need more DEF, signed New England
31-CHI-Andre Caldwell-WR-Florida-6-0/200-4.4-----Need off, Caldwell is a steal for Rex
32-NE-Quentin Groves-DE-Auburn-6-3/254-4.6------This one oozes of New England

Notable Omissions of the first round:

Andre Woodson-Kentucy
Matt Ryan-Boston College
John David Booty-USC
Erik Ainge-Tennessee
Colt Brennan-Hawaii
Tashard Choice-Georgia Tech
Mike Hart-Michigan
Ray Rice-Rutgers
Jonathan Stewart-Oregon
Jamaal Charles-Texas
Marcus Monk-Arkansas
Brian Robiskie-Ohio St
Greg Carr-Florida St
no first round TE's
Gosder Cherilus-Boston College
Barry Richardson-Clemson
Ryan Clady-Boise St
Michael Oher-Ole Miss
Alex Boone-Ohio St
Jordan Grimes-Purdue
Shannan Tevaga-UCLA
Kirk Elder-Texas A&M
Roy Scheuning-Oregon St
Adam Kraus-Michigan
Alex Mack-Cal
Adam Spieker-Missouri
John Sullivan-Notre Dame
Steve Justice-Wake Forest
Doug Legursky-Marshall
Tyson Jackson-LSU
Vernon Gholston-Ohio St
Tommy Blake-TCU
Titus Brown-Mississippi St
Kenny Iwebema-Iowa
Red Bryant-Texas A&M
Dre Moore-Maryland
Fili Moala-USC
Demonte Bolden-Tennessee
DeMario Pressley-N.C. State
Brian Cushing-USC
Ezra Butler-Nevada
Philip Wheeler-Georgia Tech
Malik Jackson-Louisville
Erin Henderson-Maryland
Rex Maualuga-USC
Jerod Mayo-Tennessee
Vince Hall-Virginia Tech
Jonathan Goff-Vanderbilt
Beau Bell-UNLV
Josh Barrett-Arizona St
Jonathan Hefney-Tennessee
Michael Hamlin-Clemson
Kevin Ellison-USC
Quentin Demps-UTEP
Justin King-Penn St
Aqib Talib-Kansas
DeJuan Tribble-Boston College
Dwight Lowery-San Jose St
Chevis Jackson-LSU

I hope this helps as we all enjoy the college football season. Some of your favorites might not have been mentioned, give it time that may very well chance. I know there are no less than 3 missing from my favorite college team, but we try to stay objective. If you pay attention to these names as the season progresses, then by April, you will not feel confused and in the dark. We will post a newer version to this mock draft as soon as enough player movement dictated an update. Happy viewing.

-Jason Jones
Senior Editor

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Have people forgotten? Uh, yes.

By Rick Morris


While there are other subjects certainly worthy of comment on The FDH Lounge blog right now, it would be unseemly not to save them for another day. It is September 11, the day which so many of us vowed we would not forget in the awful autumn of 2001, but which too many of us certainly have. And while there are legitimate doubts as to whether this country has consistently acted in its own best interests since then (and I have said that I firmly believe we have not), nobody thinking with a clear head can pretend that we are not engaged in a brutal struggle worldwide with the jihadists who want to replicate 9/11 on a grander scale on our soil -- and nobody thinking with a clear head can pretend that a humiliating end in Iraq will be George Bush's failure alone and not something that all of us will be haunted for for generations. It's one matter to want to hold people accountable for our mistakes -- it's another altogether to pretend like so many pinko blogs that our successes and our failures as a people are not something that we ALL own.

So today, it 0nly seems fitting to post the lyrics from Daryl Worley's song "Have You Forgotten?" -- because the majority of us are back trying to live in a September 10 world.

I hear people saying we don't need this war
I say there's some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground?
We didn't get to keep 'em by backing down
They say we don't realize the mess we're getting in
Before you start preaching
Let me ask you this my friend

Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it's too disturbing for you and me
It'll just breed anger that's what the experts say
If it was up to me I'd show it every day
Some say this country's just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right

Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war
And you can bet they remember
Just what they're fighting for

Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?
All the loved ones that we lost
And those left to carry on
Don't you tell me not to worry about Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?
Have you forgotten?

Friday, September 7, 2007

FDH Lounge Show #15: September 9, 2007

By Rick Morris

After listing the agendas for the previous 14 shows on the main FDH blog, it's a pleasure to be able to do so for the first time on the blog based on this program itself, which of course airs from 8-11 PM EDT Sundays on We have a loaded show as always -- and due to our August vacation hiatus, we are breaking the every-other-week format for bringing you a live show and delivering Show #16 next Sunday, September 16!

But for this week, after the Dignitaries of The FDH Lounge deliver their opening statements, we will delve right into an interview with the man who could fairly be described right now as the most influential person in new media. Rick Calvert, who will be bringing Blog World Expo to Las Vegas November 8-9, will discuss it with us. It is a blog/new media convention, the world's first of his kind, and it will be an absolutely epic event.

When we get into Hour Two, we will examine Fred Thompson's long-awaited entry into the 2008 presidential race in the context of where the Republican and Democrat races are at the moment. And in a summer full of big-time musical reunion tours, which was the biggest one? We'll figure it out for you.

In Hour Three, we debut The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report as we break down the weekend's worth of college and pro football. And from there, we'll analyze the MTV Video Music Awards and tell you the parallels between the political pushes at MTV and in the WWE (i.e. "Nickelback is the John Cena of MTV because ..."). All that and much more and we welcome your input as always, either by email at or by phone at (866) 453-4782 or (216) 881-9600. Join us yet again on The FDH Lounge, the show where nothing is off-topic!

WWII genius: hiding an airplane factory

By Rick Morris

I was very impressed with this effort:

"During World War II the Army Corps of Engineers needed to hide the Lockheed Burbank Aircraft Plant to protect it from a Japanese air attack. They covered it with camouflage netting and trompe l’oeil to make it look like a rural subdivision from the air."

Pictures here.

Full list of August posts here

By Rick Morris

We have promised you that The FDH Lounge blog would be as diverse in terms of subject matter as the show itself -- and we have delivered. Blogger archives our posts by month on the right side of the page and you can see a full listing of what we have delivered in September. In this post, I will detail what you will see if you click on the month of August, our first month on the blog. These are descriptions of the subject matter of posts as you will see them from the very top to the very bottom of the page for the August archive page:

* The Brewers/Cubs race in the NL Central
* The Blog World Expo in Las Vegas in November, the world's first big blog/new media convention
* Kelly Holcomb landing with the Vikings, illustrating their desperation
* Mitt Romney immediately kicking big supporter Larry Craig when he was down
* Numerous posts liveblogging Summerslam
* The ongoing controversy surrounding the Big Ten Network and cable/satellite providers
* The Barack Obama/Tom Coburn odd couple
* UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture notches another legendary win
* Chronicling the progress in Iraq's Anbar province
* The KGB's comeback in Russia
* Gloating about Michael Vick
* The Orioles giving up 30 runs the same day they gave their manager a contract extension
* A new website dedicated to people wearing humorously outdated sports jerseys
* Names being named in the MLB steroid probe
* The annual list detailing everything this year's college freshmen have never known
* Some deep-thinking novelist who is voting Democrat BECAUSE she is pro-life!
* Senator Leahy in a Batman movie -- as a villain, no doubt
* More gloating about Michael Vick
* A link to a sweet Flava Flav video game
* Praise for the UFC -- one of the most dramatic success stories in sports today
* John Warner -- don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!
* The GOP YouTube presidential debate will indeed happen
* People who live under Las Vegas in the storm drains
* A (now outdated) piece cheering on the success of Rick Ankiel
* Believe it or not, more improvement likely for LT with the Chargers this year
* Celebrity deaths in threes
* Sharply worded thoughts on the departure of Karl Rove

Ankiel revelations heartbreaking

By Rick Morris

Last month, I wrote a tribute to Rick Ankiel, the outfielder from the St. Louis Cardinals with one of this year's most inspirational stories. A phenom pitcher who fell apart suddenly and shockingly in 2000, he reinvented himself as a slugging outfielder and burst on the major league scene this summer with a second act the likes of which few of us ever see.

Now, sadly, we may know how this story materialized, and it's not the feel-good story we all perceived.

The New York Daily News reported today that Ankiel received HGH from a Florida pharmacy under federal investigation. If he committed the actions revealed in the report, and it appears strongly that he did, then he traded his soul and his integrity for a quick fix on his way back to the bigs.

To give credit where it is due, I must admit that my former colleague Nick Despones told me he was convinced Ankiel was on something illicit to help in his comeback. I laughed him off, so needless to say he texted me and called me today to rub it in that he was right.

It pains me that he probably was right, and as such, I'm not going to defend Ankiel in the same manner that hateful, race-obsessed idiots went to the mat for Michael Vick. I denounced Vick, so I denounce Ankiel if indeed what appears true is indeed true. I hope that everyone else who advocated penalties for Vick does so for Ankiel so that we can put an end to the vile lie of "You wouldn't be saying this if it was a white boy that did it."

Dave Littlefield out as Pirates' GM

By Rick Morris

No doubt he will surface on the streets of Pittsburgh with a cardboard "Will mismanage major league team and dismantle minor league organization for food" sign.

Fred is in!

By Rick Morris

My FDH partner Jason Jones has been extremely aggravated for much of this year waiting for his (and my) chosen presidential candidate Fred Thompson to make it official and jump in the race. This week, he did so at long last.

Byron York of National Review Online conducted a fairly comprehensive interview with Thompson shortly before the launch. Read it for a good summation of what Thompson would bring to the White House and how he would fix the mess we've landed in the past few years.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

2007 NFL Predictions

By Rick Morris

AFC East
X-New England 12-4
New York Jets 9-7
Miami 6-10
Buffalo 5-11

AFC North
X-Baltimore 10-6
Y-Cincinnati 9-7
Pittsburgh 8-8
Cleveland 6-10

AFC South
X-Indianapolis 12-4
Jacksonville 7-9
Tennessee 7-9
Houston 6-10

AFC West
X-San Diego 11-5
Y-Denver 9-7
Kansas City 6-10
Oakland 5-11

NFC East
X-Philadelphia 11-5
Dallas 9-7
New York Giants 6-10
Washington 6-10

NFC North
X-Chicago 10-6
Green Bay 7-9
Minnesota 7-9
Detroit 6-10

NFC South
X-Carolina 10-6
Y-New Orleans 9-7
Tampa Bay 6-10
Atlanta 5-11

NFC West
X-San Francisco 10-6
Y-Seattle 9-7
St. Louis 9-7
Arizona 8-8

Playoff First Round
San Diego over Cincinnati
Denver over Baltimore
Chicago over Seattle
New Orleans over San Francisco

Playoff Second Round
New England over Denver
Indianapolis over San Diego
Philadelphia over New Orleans
Carolina over Chicago

Championship Sunday
New England over Indianapolis
Carolina over Philadelphia

Super Bowl 42
New England over Carolina

MVP: Donovan McNabb
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Calvin Johnson
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Willis
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Office Season 3 DVD: you must own it!

By Rick Morris

On Tuesday, the Season Three DVD for the American version of The Office was released. Regular listeners to The FDH Lounge have heard me single out the show as my favorite of all time, so needless to say, I obtained my copy promptly and now have all three seasons of this brilliant show on DVD. My set came from Best Buy and I recommend it highly; in addition to the four-disc set, you also receive your own “Dundee” award, a “greeting letter” from Michael Scott to the new arrivals from Stamford and a mini-bobblehead doll of Dwight Schrute based on the one shown on his desk on the program.

The DVD has the usual array of goodies one might expect, from videos, bloopers and many deleted scenes to commentaries by cast members, writers and producers. Wisely, the program caters strongly to its very hardcore fanbase, as few programs on television make more money from downloaded episodes and DVDs. It’s a program that rewards those who watch it closely, as there are so many subtle moments of great writing and sidesplitting comedy. For the sake of those of you not yet acquainted with the greatness of the program, I’m going to provide some background and then outline the third season for you.

Based on the BBC version, which many misguided souls have held up as superior to this one, The Office takes place at the Scranton, PA office of Dunder-Mifflin, a mid-sized regional paper supply company. As with the British version, the concept is that of a show-within-a-show, as it is not a standard sitcom filmed in front of a live audience or with a laugh track. It is a fake documentary, as the characters on the show are followed around the office, and some events outside the office, by a film crew gaining material for a future series. The camera shots we see on the program are the ones used by the “documentary crew,” and one of the main characters, Jim Halpert, is notorious for his mugging for the cameras.

Seasons One and Two of the program followed much the same overall concept, as Season One only consisted of six episodes and was essentially on a tryout basis by NBC. During those seasons, we were treated to the exploits at Dunder-Mifflin as the characters coped with the mundane office life being punctuated by the over-the-top antics of their wacky boss Michael Scott and his annoying kiss-up sidekick Dwight Schrute.

The heart of the show came from salesman Jim Halpert and receptionist Pam Beesley, close friends who provided a rare normal perspective to the office and who were usually the only two able to be able reach the childlike Michael when he went too far. They also enlivened and set the comedic tone in the office with constant pranking of the hapless Dwight. Pam was engaged to Roy, a stereotypical blue-collar meathead in the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse downstairs, much to the consternation of Jim. Although they never crossed any physical lines, Pam and Jim had a very deep connection, about which he was acutely aware and she stayed firmly in denial. Jim rarely pushed matters with Pam, fearful that he would lose what he had with her and confident that time was on his side as Pam seethed through an eternal engagement and Roy’s obliviousness to what she wanted. But, midway through Season Two on the “Booze Cruise,” a drunken Roy impulsively set a wedding date just as Jim was about to overcome his fears and try to win Pam away. The rest of the season was a brutal period for Jim as he tried and failed to be content dating other women and reached a boiling point with the final episode, “Casino Night.” After a company gambling fundraiser, Jim secretly agreed to accept a transfer to Stamford and made an impromptu decision to pour his heart out to Pam before he left. The final ten minutes of the show were among the most painful that I have ever seen, as a shocked Pam initially rejected Jim before he made one last surprise attempt a short while later as the cameras faded to black.

This set the stage for what will go down in the history of the show as a transformational one, as the main subplot of Jim and Pam took the long, winding path to initial completion. Season Three starts with “Gay Witch Hunt,” an episode in which a characteristically socially inept Michael inadvertently outs Oscar from accounting. After a flashback is shown, the viewers are told that Pam reluctantly stuck to her rejection of Jim, but called off her wedding shortly thereafter. Without her saying so, it’s made firmly clear that Jim was the reason she did so – but he took the job in Stamford and she was afraid to call him, sure that he hated or at least resented her. This set the tone for Season Three being the one with “the shoe on the other foot,” as Pam was now forced to pine from a distance and learn what Jim had endured for three years. A heartbroken Jim, trying to put a good face on the situation, cited his promotion as the reason he moved to Stamford with his clear motives very transparent.

The first quarter of the season took place with scenes in both the Scranton and Stamford offices, an awkward premise that the writers characteristically made work in a flawless manner. We were introduced to new characters in Stamford: Josh (the apparently flawless boss and a welcome grown-up counterpoint to Michael), Andy (annoying socially awkward frat boy wanna-be from Cornell) and Karen (very attractive and sharp-witted saleswoman seated behind Jim’s desk). During this part of the season, Jim and Karen started to become friendly, a development with consequences for the rest of the season.

In November, following the obligatory sweeps month arc, the long-awaited decision about which of the two branches would be closed was reached. Initially, Scranton was to be closed, a decision which viewers were led to believe was due in part to animosity from the boss, Jan Levinson, when Michael stopped pursuing her. But then Josh, in a classic double-cross out of nowhere, leveraged his new status as Northeast Regional Uber-Boss to obtain a choice management position at Staples and the company was forced to change course and consolidate Stamford with the Scranton office. Jan offered Jim yet another promotion as #2 in the enlarged Scranton office if he would go back, but he didn’t accept until the seeds were planted in his mind that Karen’s evident affection for him could be useful. She would serve for the rest of the season as his “Pam-shield.”

“The Merger” was one of the most hilarious culture-clash episodes in the history of television, as the employees from the professionally-operated Stamford office were forced to confront the lunacy of life under Michael Scott. At the same time, a hopeful Pam, who believed she had been delivered a second chance with Jim out of nowhere, found his return highly unsatisfactory as she came to believe he had moved on with Karen. This event also set the tone for the rest of the season as Pam believed everything was too late with Jim and Jim clung to Karen like a life preserver because he believed that Pam was only interested in him as a friend.

Pam’s desperation mounted throughout the season, especially after a false alarm when she and Jim pulled a great prank on Andy and their celebration seemed to foreshadow a conversation that would allow them to get on the same page. But a newly clingy and assertive Karen, by now aware of Jim and Pam’s past connection, was able to reel Jim back in as his fear of rejection by Pam kept him from taking another chance. Pam’s downward spiral was made complete during “Phyllis’ Wedding,” when her anger over co-worker Phyllis’ theft of all of her abandoned wedding ideas collided with her loneliness and despair over watching an apparently happy Jim and Karen and led her to leave the wedding with Roy. The look of devastation on Jim’s face when he saw Pam leave with Roy (right after a cameraman posed a “hypothetical” question to him about if Pam were interested in him and he gave a transparently thrilled response) was completely reminiscent of “Casino Night,” and was the result of some great writing. At the time, though, I found the episode so disturbing as to make the apparent story arc ridiculous, as I stated on The FDH Lounge program that the writers had probably crossed the line by making Pam completely unsympathetic by her reaction and that most guys would have probably just written her off at that point. But the writers were, as usual, one step ahead of the fanbase and presented the rest of the season in a very believable fashion.

All season long, Roy had been trying to prove that he was a changed man and somebody who would appreciate Pam if he had another chance. From the start of their short-lived reunion, however, viewers could see that he was incapable of doing much more than faking that kind of evolution. Also during this period, Pam overheard some friends characterize her as lacking in honesty and courage, which made her decision to settle for Roy that much tougher to swallow. Their final breakup came when Pam, trying to make the best of a fresh start with Roy if she couldn’t have Jim, told him about “Casino Night” and that she had kissed Jim and had feelings for him. An enraged Roy trashed the bar they were sitting in as a troubled Pam left him for good – and the final shot of the show was of Roy vowing to kill Jim Halpert. Thus ensued a mini-cliffhanger, as The Office was in reruns for six weeks after the February sweeps. The situation resolved itself when Roy walked up to the office and charged at Jim. The heavy subject matter was characteristically dealt with in The Office’s humorous fashion as unlikely hero Dwight pepper-sprayed Roy before he could get to Jim. A bitter Jim, who had pretty much avoided Pam during her reunion with Roy, blew off her heartfelt apology for Roy’s attempted attack and her vow that she would never get back together with Roy during another hugely compelling scene.

This set the stage for the final arc of the season, as Pam watched Jim settle into life with Karen. While it was apparent that Karen was calling many of the shots in the relationship, Pam had no reason to believe that Jim was that dissatisfied with matters. In the season’s penultimate episode “Beach Games,” Pam was pushed so far by Michael’s usual bad behavior and the stronger-than-ever evidence that Jim really had moved on that she took the opportunity to walk over coals (an activity that Michael had arranged for the group) to prove to herself that she did have courage – and then, hopped up on adrenaline, she proved her honesty by confronting Jim in front of everyone and telling him that he was the reason she called off her wedding. Inhibited by Karen’s presence, she did not make a completely blatant play for him, instead telling him that she missed having fun with him like she used to, but everyone in the office was able to read between the lines, even, at long last, Jim.

In the final episode of the season, “The Job,” Michael, Jim and Karen all interviewed for a position at the corporate office in New York. Jim was forced to confront the fact that he had a choice: stay with Karen and move to New York with her (a development which the more-threatened-than-ever Karen insisted upon regardless of who got the job) or go back to Scranton and take the opportunity he always wanted with Pam. A subtle long-distance nudge from Pam, which was a callback to “Office Olympics” in Season Two, helped push Jim in the right direction as he ended the episode by driving back to Scranton after dumping Karen and making a dinner date with Pam.

It’s worth noting that most of my friends who watch The Office to any degree profess to identify greatly with Jim. It’s easy, and very self-flattering to do so on the surface. He’s a great guy, generally kind to other people and very loyal to his own (after Josh backstabbed the Stamford office at the very end, a disillusioned Jim, who had looked up to Josh, said it very well: “Say what you will about Michael Scott, he would never do anything like that.”). Women generally find him attractive, notwithstanding his unmade-bed hair and a somewhat bulbous nose and he’s always the most clever and funny guy in the room with his constant pranks. He also uses his humor to subtly deflate others when warranted. But I would say that a great many of us men are like Jim in the ways we are happy about as well as those we might prefer to forget. His long period of pining after an unavailable woman, coupled with his insecurities, indecision and worries about how to balance his desire for what he wants with what has remained of his dignity all hit home to many men.

The writing of the Jim and Pam characters is so believable that The Office is the only show I’ve ever watched where I personally identified with the plight of the characters and felt that it was completely lifelike. I never bought into the Ross-and-Rachel saga of “Friends,” nor any other cartoonish Hollywood attempt to capture the minefield of interpersonal relationships. As a writer, I strongly believe that that is the single most difficult aspect of life to capture accurately in any fictional setting. But the unparalleled crew of The Office carries this off in a way that looks effortless. Perhaps the greatest example of this came on “Casino Night,” when it became apparent to Pam that Jim was going to force once and for all the issue that had been just under the surface for so long. Fearful of the ramifications of ending a relationship with her live-in fiancĂ©e that had been ongoing since high school with her wedding day looming, Pam panicked and gave Jim the answer that neither she nor Jim really wanted to come out of her mouth – but the writing here was key. She said, “I’m sorry you misinterpreted our friendship.” Most guys can tell you the effect that the words “misinterpret” and “friendship” have when a man tries to make a move on a female friend. They force you to change everything you thought you knew about what was developing – and that’s what happened to Jim in Season Three. No matter how obvious Pam’s interest in Jim was to the viewers, until he heard that he had not misinterpreted anything, he could not feel free to put himself on the line for Pam again. This almost universal sense of identification that men can feel with the position Jim found himself in this past season is a big reason for the show’s success.

For that matter, many women can relate to Pam as well. Although not at all a stylish dresser and an introverted person with some apparent self-esteem issues, Pam is an attractive woman in a low-key way with a great sense of humor. The show accurately captures what ten years of a steadily failing relationship with her only real previous love interest could do to the psyche of such a person and it explains completely why Pam couldn’t summon the courage to take on the beautiful and flashy Karen until the end of the season.

But the Jim-and-Pam subplot of the show is not even close to being the only evidence of the show’s greatness. The comedy is constant, with many references so subtle that they are only detectible after numerous viewings (which helps explain why the show is among the most downloaded on television). This type of humor comes in equal parts from the dry humor of some of the characters, especially some less-prominent ones, as well as silent comedy from a variety of reaction looks directed at the documentary cameras. Pam is a huge and valuable part of the subtle humor of the show. As the lowest-ranking person in an office where people don’t hesitate to throw their weight around, she has to suffer a spate of job-related indignities as well as inappropriate appreciative comments from Michael and occasionally Kevin about her breasts. The resulting soft-spoken passive-aggressive utterances that come from her and similar subtle put-upon glances at the camera, are comedy gold and hopefully will remain a part of the show even as this character gains in confidence and maturity. Fittingly, the other character who delivers subtle humor week in and week out is Jim, whose constantly bemused glances at the camera communicate a vital part of the narrative.

But if you love broad, insane comedy, The Office has that as well. The insane reign over the office of Michael Scott provides numerous belly laughs each week. Having been warped by a strange mother in his formative years, he never outgrew his childlook outlook on life and is obsessed with being everyone’s friend (except Toby; more about that below). He wants to be adored by all and fancies himself a top-flight entertainer and comedian when in fact he is funny in a laughing-at-you-not-with-you way. While he is too consumed with being liked and a bit too lazy to be a good boss, he is also an excellent salesman and is able to keep his job by summoning this skill at critical and unexpected moments. During the course of Season Three, he concluded a disastrous relationship with his real estate agent and found himself in a dysfunctional on-again, off-again relationship with his erstwhile boss, Jan. Having gotten herself fired at the end of the season right after she got a breast enlargement to win Michael back, Jan ended up moving in with him – the logical culmination to a season in which this apparently normal but tightly-wound character completely disintegrated under the strain of her inexplicable attraction to Michael. Jan’s replacement at the end of Season Three: the former temp and unsuccessful salesman Ryan, who leapfrogged all other contenders on the strength of his newly secured MBA. He leaves behind in Scranton his screechy and annoying girlfriend Kelly Kapoor (who he had only been using for sex) and also Michael, who’s comical but intense “man-crush” on the long-suffering Ryan has been a point of emphasis for most of the show’s history.

Most of the show’s other over-the-top comedy comes from the man constantly brown-nosing Michael, beet farmer and ace salesman Dwight K. Schrute. During Season Three, Dwight has his usual array of outrageous moments in his capacity as a “Legend-In-His-Own-Mind-Would-Be-Authority-Figure,” but he is also humanized at some key junctures by his real love of his job and his strange-but-endearing ultra-secret relationship with fellow office weirdo, the uptight Angela. Dwight’s acrimony with Stamford arrival Andy makes for some classic comedy as well.

Many other characters are actually given a chance to shine this season, among them grumpy middle-aged Stanley (whose fondness for soft pretzels steals the show in one key episode), quiet and sweet Phyllis (who always refers to her new husband by his first and last names), the classic weird old guy Creed, the always-yammering and celebrity-obsessed Kelly, the gay Hispanic accountant Oscar (whose minority status in two categories gives Michael twice the opportunities to make inappropriate jokes), Darryl the warehouse manager (who takes advantage, for his own entertainment, of Michael’s dependence on him for knowledge of “black culture” to trick Michael into acting even more stupid), the hilariously immature Kevin (for whom Pam and Jim once bought 69 cups of noodle soup – so that he could have his favorite lunch and his favorite number all in one) and Toby in Human Resources (a quiet, meek divorced man whom Michael considers his only enemy in the world and about whom Michael routinely makes astonishingly vicious comments). This ensemble is among the deepest in terms of talent that the medium has ever seen, due in large part to an acting team as great as the creative talent writing for it. Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and Steve Carell draw the lion’s share of attention for their awesome portrayals of Pam, Jim and Michael respectively, but the entire cast is great top-to-bottom.

Ultimately, it’s the blend of all of these elements that makes the American version of The Office the greatest in television history in my opinion. Some of my past favorites have included “Dallas,” “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons” (before the rampant plot recycling of recent seasons), but none of these shows have combined broad humor, subtle humor and such a keen grasp of the frailties that play into human relationships like this program. The Season Three DVD is a great piece of entertainment and it contains many of what will probably go down as the most transformational episodes in the show’s history. The deleted scenes, which the writers have taken great pains to emphasize publicly that they consider canon, provide countless additional laughs and help paint the broad story of the season also. The writers had wanted to present Karen as a viable rival to Pam throughout the season, so Karen was generally presented in a positive light for most of the season. However, her behavior in the final episode foreshadowed Jim’s eventual choice, and the DVD fleshes this out somewhat with deleted scenes that will perhaps keep you from feeling as bad for somebody who got caught in the middle of a very unfortunate situation. What the writers and producers of the DVD really did was to bring together every bit material that they could for their grateful fans – much as they did with the DVDs for the two previous seasons – and it’s this approach that keeps the followers coming back eagerly for more. Season Three, along with Seasons One and Two before it, comes highly recommended.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Rush in concert: a rockin' compromise

By Rick Morris

It's always an interesting experience to hear a legendary band in their hometown or an adopted hometown. As with Bruce Springsteen, Rush was able to break into the mainstream of American music at least partly due to the rabid support of the then-influential radio station WMMS in Cleveland in the '70s and the Cleveland market has supported them wildly ever since. Having seen Rush three times in concert, but not since 1994, I was determined to see them on their Snakes & Arrows tour this year and gauge how some of their most devoted fans would react to them now.

As listeners of The FDH Lounge program know, I loudly decried the content of the Rush album released in May. We the loyal fans of the group waited years for the release, only to be greeted by one admittedly great song in Far Cry, a good instrumental in Malignant Narcissism, and a fetid load of filler rounding out the disc. So when I and new drag racing correspondent Jeff Weber acquired tickets for the August 30 show at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, we were hoping against hope for mostly "the good old stuff."

We didn't get everything we wanted, but the compromise seemed agreeable to all.

Geddy and the boys did play just about the entire new album, but gave us several of the chestnuts we were hoping for along the way in this 26-song endeavor. The new songs received little in the way of reaction except for the aforementioned two -- and with the obligatory Neil Peart drum solo in that instrumental, the crowd did go bananas. As usual, Rush came with a state-of-the art light-and-video-screens presentation and we were treated to overhead shots of Peart with his massive drum set at many points along the way.

Here were the old songs, in the order in which they were played: Limelight, Mission (a personal favorite as Weber and I are two of the few to really enjoy the Hold Your Fire album),
Freewill, Circumstances (a surprise selection from Hemispheres), Dreamline, Subdivisions, Natural Science, Xanadu, Summertime Blues (an excellent cover which I am happy to own), Spirit of Radio and Tom Sawyer prior to the encore, which consisted of One Little Victory, A Passage to Bangkok and YYZ. Prior to Tom Sawyer, we were treated on the video screens to this South Park parody version of the song with Cartman in rare form. The crowd erupted with the delight you would have anticipated for this gem.

In fairness to Rush, even the new material which I found lacking (and judging by the indifference of the crowd, I wasn't the only one) sounded much better live than on the CD, so even that wasn't a complete waste. But the material from their unmatched catalog was the real draw of the evening and getting to hear such a great sampling of their past hits made sitting through the rest of the evening worthwhile. Judging by the comments I heard on the way out, that seemed an accurate representation of what most in the crowd thought as well. If you are a big Rush fan, and it seems that most people are either huge fans of the group or not into them at all, you will probably find their efforts on the current tour worthwhile and I urge you to check them out.

Tom Tancredo has big brass stones

By Rick Morris

Many people, myself most certainly included, routinely decry the poll-obsessed, stand-for-nothing wimpiness that characterizes most politicians of both parties. Republican Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo of Colorado has always been an exception to this rule, as he has been the leading opponent of illegal immigration in this country and has stated that we should bomb Mecca if Islamic terrorists detonate a nuclear weapon in our country. He's at it again, stating that the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are the recipients of overly generous federal "gravy train" spending. Agree or not, and I only do to an extent, you have to admire the big brass ones of this guy. He's somebody who will get up in front of a microphone and tell you exactly what he thinks on any issue. In this day and age, that's enough to get you labeled an extremist by the power brokers of both parties. But that's a sad commentary on them, not Tancredo, voice of the common man.

"LLLLLoyd" Carr strikes again

By Rick Morris

In the biggest choke job in college football history, #5 Michigan got rolled by Appalachian State in "The Big House" yesterday, 34-32. To my fellow Ohio State fans rejoicing in the ultimate humiliation of a hated foe, I caution you thusly: Carr is Michigan's John Cooper and this game will be the tipping point in his firing (or "retirement") at the end of the season. The devil you don't know on the Wolverine sidelines could be their version of Jim Tressel, so beware the hubris of Michigan's downfall -- because in it could lie the seeds of their revival.

Larry Craig gone: hateful people rejoice

By Rick Morris

It's always an honor when somebody you respect so immensely pens a column that echoes sentiments you have already stated. Pat Buchanan's piece about Le Affair Craig is one such example, as he voices an opinion similar to that of my previous blog entry here about the people hatefully rejoicing in Craig's downfall because he is allegedly a "hypocrite" for opposing same-sex marriage -- and he notes Mitt Romney's slimy (my word, not his) "I don't know no Larry Craig" reaction to the downfall of one of his biggest supporters. Read it, it's a great piece and it demonstrates why he is one of the foremost observers today of the American scene.

NFL logo: change for the sake of change

By Rick Morris

We at The FDH Lounge received word from our "New York Bureau" that the NFL was going to be announcing changes to their iconic logo. Frankly, the alterations seem to lack a fundamental rationale. Apparently, the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't resonate in the Manhattan headquarters of America's Game.

WWE will never be the same

By Rick Morris

The first earth-shattering development post-Benoit has occurred. 10 wrestlers have been suspended, with more shoes yet to drop. In many cases, the suspended wrestlers are woven deeply into some of the company's key storylines. How the company deals with this utterly unprecedented set of circumstances, with their date in front of Congress looming, will be critical for the future of the company and the industry as a whole.