Sadness Remote and Immediate

I'm not sure why this story has such particular resonance for me - I wasn't even a fan of any team he ever played for - but the news of Steve Howe's death strikes me as no small thing (of course, no death is small), and quite sad:
NEW YORK -- Steve Howe, the relief pitcher whose promising career was derailed by cocaine and alcohol abuse, died Friday when his pickup truck rolled over in Coachella, Calif. He was 48.

Howe was killed at 5:55 a.m. PT, said Dalyn Backes of the Riverside County coroner's office. The pickup truck Howe was driving left the roadway, entered the median and rolled several times, ejecting Howe from the vehicle, according to the coroner's office. The accident occurred about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

Howe had been in Arizona on business and was driving back to the family home in Valencia, Calif., business partner Judy Welp said.

Toxicology tests had not yet been performed.

The hard-throwing lefty was the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and helped them win the World Series the next year.

But for all of Howe's success on the field, the hard-throwing lefty was constantly troubled by addictions -- he was suspended seven times and became a symbol of the rampant cocaine problem that plagued baseball in the 1980s.

During the 1992 season, he became the first baseball player to be banned for life because of drugs. An arbitrator reinstated him after the season.
Howe was 47-41 with 91 saves and a 3.03 ERA with the Dodgers, Twins, Rangers and Yankees. His final season in the majors was 1996, and the Yankees released him in June.

A moment of silence was observed at Yankee Stadium before New York played Toronto on Friday night. Howe played for the Yankees from 1991-96.

Two days after the Yankees let him go in 1996, Howe was arrested at a Delta Airlines terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when a loaded .357 Magnum was detected inside his suitcase. He later pleaded guilty to gun possession and was placed on three years' probation and given 150 hours of community service.

Chicago White Sox coach Tim Raines played with Howe in that final year.

"You always get second chances -- third and fourth sometimes. And people really believed in him and that he'd eventually kick the problem. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for him," he said.

Howe tried a comeback in 1997 with Sioux Falls of the independent Northern League and retired after injuring his forearm. That August, he was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in Montana and charged with drunken driving; those charges were later dropped when prosecutors decided his blood test was improperly obtained.
Howe was suspended for the 1984 season by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for cocaine use. Howe was out of the majors in 1986 after a relapse the previous August with Minnesota.

Texas released him before the 1988 season because of an alcohol problem, and he did not pitch again in the big leagues until 1991.

"Howsie had some issues everybody knew about," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said in San Francisco. "Everybody who hasn't played with him didn't know what kind of teammate he was. What you hear about Steve is the drug stuff. ... He was kind of the captain of the bullpen out there."


Iron Triangle

Good news from my soon-to-be new home: it pisses Michelle Malkin (OC '91) off.

Specifically, the above picture.



The Future Arrives, Unassumingly, on a Wednesday in My Tertiary E-mail

This is just extraordinarily exciting:
PayPal Mobile:
Send money to friends and family

Send money securely, anytime, from wherever you are. You don’t need cash or a check – just your phone.

After you activate your phone, you can send money one of two ways:
  • Text to 729725 (PAYPAL) with the amount and recipient’s phone number.

    Example: send 5 to 4150001234

  • Call 1-800-4PAYPAL (1-800-472-9725) and follow the instructions.
Buy stuff with your phone

Buy it when you see it. Where you see Text to Buy – on a poster, in a magazine, at an event – just order the item securely by text message
Really. No, really. The world just changed. The long-rumored [near-] obsolescence of paper money is really, actually, truly possibly, now. It's not so much that this is a great thing - though I think on balance it's pretty great - as that it's a huge change. HUGE. And about to happen, right about...now. Very exciting.


But...but...I don't wanna live in a police state...

Too bad!
I've always thought that one of the perverse consequences of a libertarian utopian government that does nothing but national defense, policing and dispute resolution would be that this government would naturally seek to expand its powers in those areas. If a state's only function is policing, it functions as a ... police state.

We've watched the fake small government conservatives spend huge sums of money on war profiteering, oily pork and tax breaks for their rich contributors. But where they have really made their mark is with these ridiculously expanded executive and police powers. And they continue to suck up more of them every day:

Amid intense debate over how far the government can go to keep its secrets secret, Congress is taking up an expansive intelligence measure that proposes tougher steps in cracking down on leaks of classified information and authorizes broad arrest powers for security officers at intelligence agencies.

Provisions tucked into the legislation, which the House is expected to vote on as early as tomorrow, represent a major departure from traditional intelligence agency roles in plugging leaks and conducting domestic law enforcement, according to government watchdog groups and intelligence professionals.

If the measure is approved by Congress, the nation's spy chief would be ordered to consider a plan for revoking the pensions of intelligence agency employees who make unauthorized disclosures. It also would permit security forces at the National Security Agency and the CIA to make warrantless arrests outside the gates of their top-secret campuses.


At the request of National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, the legislation would allow agency security forces at the NSA and CIA to make arrests outside the grounds of those agencies. Ware said the measure is "just clarifying the authority" of agency security officers "to arrest individuals."


Loch Johnson, a top Senate aide on the Church Committee, which investigated CIA abuses in the 1970s, called it a "worrisome" expansion of power.

"That's why we have the FBI and other law enforcement officials," he said. "I don't know that this needs to be an intelligence officer's function. I wouldn't think it should be."

I know I feel safer already, don't you?

This is the kind of stuff that's going on right now in the Congress, even as the president's approval rating sits in the low 30's and the Republicans appear to be poised to lose their majority in the fall. They are like sharks, mercilessly pursuing their agenda no matter what is going on around them. They know that it is much more difficult to reverse this kind of thing than it is to enact it. Their gargantuan, national security bureaucracy replete with gun-toting NSA "security" authorized to arrest anyone they choose will be institutionalized and anyone who tries to end it will be tarred as a Democratic sissy for the next generation. If they can sneak this one through, they will.

This letter from the Project On Government Oversight to Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Jane Harmon outlines the various issues of concern. It's hard to believe that these people would have the gall to use this leak controversy as an excuse to create two new secret police forces in the CIA and NSA, but that's what they're doing (among other heinous things.)

In all seriousness...yeah, this is just about what it looks like. Secret police that are the same people who tap your phones and read your e-mail and aren't really answerable to any court and, because of other legal decisions made by and during this administration, can detain you, indefinitely, incommunicado with no judicial recourse.

Welcome to the Terrordome, kids.


Spit-Take for the Day

Thank you, Billmon.



From Glenn Greenwald's "Unclaimed Territory, this post, The Endless War:
"Finally, someone at The Washington Post appears to be an admirer of Us Magazine, or People Teen, or something, and they are offering a new (?) feature entitled 'Off Hours' which, as they put it, 'featur(es)Washington's top decision makers in their off hours -- outside the office and inside their lives.'

Today's version contains vapid and oh-so-humanizing details about Attorney General Alberto Gonzaels' not-at-all-contrived-or-self-conscious interactions with his son and wife, but it also contains this significant revelation:

But as Gonzales pumped up a hill, he said he wasn't troubled by critics. He was troubled by terrorists. "I stay up at night," he said, rounding a corner near the water. "I read the reports. Sometimes I ask myself, when will it end?"

The river rippled away from the shore. "The answer is -- it probably never will."

That is an extremely important yet virtually never acknowledged truth revealed by the selfless Gonzales (who doesn't care at all about criticism of him, only about the dangers posed by terrorists). The "war" on terrorism -- which justifies everything from lawbreaking to expanded presidential powers across the board, and which means that we should be muted in our criticisms of the Commander-in-Chief (when we are allowed to voice them at all) -- is expected to end . . . right around never.

All of those Bush defenders who are constantly justifying radical changes to our country based on this "war" are not advocating short-term, temporary or finite changes. They seek fundamental and permanent changes to our system of government, and to transform the United States into a country that is in a state of war that literally has no end. That is not news to many people, but it is still striking to see it acknowledged so nakedly and starkly as Gonazles, likely unguarded by the family puff piece, admitted to it here.

They don't even bother pretending. It's everyone else - their supporters, the media, even us - who pretend that they don't really mean what they say and do.


Listed Uses

At Overstock.com's $25 and under electronics section, I stumbled upon the above item. It is a USB Massage Ball (only $11.95!). Below is the entire product description:

This USB-powered gadget ball gives you a massage without ever leaving your desk!
  • Great for massaging shoulder, thigh, waist, neck, back, foot, or hand
  • One-touch On/Off switch
  • 3600 RPM vibration speed
  • USB powered
  • 1.8-meter USB cable
Right - "shoulder, thigh, waist, neck, back, foot, or hand." Nothing else.

Who talks about massaging your waist, anyways?

Stadia Et Cetera

From today's WaPo, the incomparable Hank Stuever:

No amount of Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton and Mariah Carey songs could mask the pain. One by one, until the wee hours Monday morning, the reigning drag queens of Half Street SE descended the stairs at Ziegfeld's cabaret to strut their last, blowing kisses to admirers and making a few more sweepingly glamorous gestures -- all of it a farewell to the shabby but perfect place they called home for three decades.

Ziegfeld's, and four other establishments on the same forsaken industrial block at Half and O streets, closed yesterday in a cruelly predictable high school metaphor: The jocks win.

...the packed-sardine crowd -- gay men, mostly, and not all of them the kind you see on HGTV. Far from the happy, let's-walk-the-Labrador-to-Whole-Foods realm of Logan and Dupont circles, the O Street scene was the real deal: grubby, hidden even within sight of the Capitol, and just plain ugly-gorgeous.

Xavier, a wicked-eyed diva who has performed at the club for a fraction of the time Ella has, trash-talked the crowd into a mild frenzy: "Now they're going to build a baseball stadium here. And what are we going to do when it's done? Burn it down! That's right! We are gonna burn! It! Down! . . . [Bleep] baseball! Who gives a [bleep] about baseball?"

So now you've done it, Washington. You've spurned the queens, and they are both heartbroken and livid. Besides Ziegfeld's and its full-frontal go-go annex, Secrets, the block was also the home to the Glorious Health Club, Follies (a "movie theater," in the language of old newspaper clippings, back when police were raiding the place, charging the, um, moviegoers with acts of sodomy), and another club called Heat. Nation, a nightclub a few blocks north, has announced that it's closing July 16 to make way for an office building.
Ziegfeld's and Secrets are owned by Allen Carroll and Chris Jansen, who have promised their clientele (in ads in the gay press, and in person at the farewell bash) that they are going to reopen -- someday, somewhere.

But no neighborhood wants them, and saving the clubs has so far not been placed very high on the gay agenda. Early in the baseball debate, after a proposal to relocate some clubs in Ward 5 was met with complaints, the city attempted to find Ziegfeld's another option:

"In P.G. County," scoffed Carroll, who told a city representative, "I am born and raised in D.C., and I have been down here 31 years. And they want us to move to Prince George's County?"
Driven by an unfriendly police chief in the '70s down to the blight of the Navy Yard, the seamier clubs thrived here. It became the opposite of more mainstream, ho-hum homo club life. Going down to Navy Yard made you feel a little dirty (or a lot dirty), in an adventurous or perhaps even anonymous way. It never felt completely safe. Parking was plentiful but dicey. Razor wire and cinder blocks -- it was a look, and it is perhaps irreplaceable. It may be hard to understand Half and O as a lost gay authenticity; harder still to assign it any civic value.

So come back inside Ziegfeld's. Understand it, at the very least, as home.

This, of course, was entirely predictable. I went to Nation, once, a few years back for a Social Distortion concert (a great concert - a strange venue); over the years, I am sure I will go to see the Nationals dozens of times in their new park. And that's me - most of the future attendees of Nats games are people who would never have allowed themselves within 20 blocks of Navy Yard SE.

Newly constructed baseball stadia - often on the public dime, welfare for billionaires, but that's another discussion - have gone hand in hand with the urban renewal projects in many cities over the past decade or so: Baltimore was first, followed by Cleveland, Detroit, maybe a dozen others. You can argue just how economically beneficial each have been for their respective cities, but the simple fact of the matter is that they - and the surrounding sports bars, family restaurants, etc. - are in pretty much every case a marked improvement over the dingy, often dangerous neighborhoods they replace. Boring and white-bread, yes; but almost always improvements, nonetheless.

There's another dynamic here, too, that Stuever points out - "Far from the happy, let's-walk-the-Labrador-to-Whole-Foods realm of Logan and Dupont circles, the O Street scene was the real deal: grubby, hidden even within sight of the Capitol, and just plain ugly-gorgeous...But no neighborhood wants them..." This is the toll of progress - once upon a time, Logan and Dupont circles were also pretty grungy, sketchy neighborhoods. Over the past 30 years, the neighborhoods and their residents have become prosperous and "respectable," to the extent that the High Heel Race is now a requisite stop for mainstream D.C. politicians. Not being gay, I won't really extrapolate too much further on these contrasting pictures of D.C. gay identity, but the unstated feeling here seems an element of embarassment at the now-departed O St. scene - which is too bad. The marvelous thing about cities is how weird and crazy and mysterious they are - the hidden gems, the hole-in-the-wall take-away place and the wonderful club in the sketchy-ass neighborhood. The fact that all sorts of different people and competing interests and agendas have to figure out a way to coexist in an extremely limited space.

A friend from high school was in town recently, and recounted going downtown with his family only to discover that the former site of the 9:30 Club - and the alley where where he'd drunk 40s before shows - was now the Spy Museum and attendant overpriced cafe. I knew this already and wasn't shocked by it and, all in all, it's also a good thing that one can walk safely downtown after dark. Gentrification and redevelopment has made D.C. a better, safer place to live, with more and better jobs. There is no doubt about that.

But. But. I'm not sure but what - but it's something.

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