Monday, July 31, 2006


Big news! Humungous news! Ginormous news!

Probably for the rest of the year, I will be moving the obvious insights and lame jokes normally seen at Soxblog over to Hugh Hewitt’s site. Yes, it’s true – I have become Hugh’s new guest blogger. But wait, there’s more – I’ve already made my first post.

For those who have complained I don’t post enough, your time has come. With Hugh kindly granting me access to his very large audience, I plan to begin pounding the uninitiated with the bludgeon-like Soxblog wit that readers here have come to so adore.

There is some sad news. I know many of you have gotten very attached to the white-on-black format that I adopted at the start of the year. I’ve received countless letters saying they appreciated the challenge of deciphering the text and wishing that books were published in a similar format. Alas, Hugh’s site publishes in conventional black-on-white. Let us consider this a return to legibility.

So click over to That’s where I’ll be for the next five months.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Friday, July 21, 2006


I UNDERSTAND THE URGE. I just detest it. The usual suspects like the clueless masses at the United Nations act as if it is imperative that we end the shooting. It’s fair to ask, to what purpose?

If you think about it, the goal on December 8. 1941 wasn’t to figure out a way to immediately end the gunplay. Nor was that the goal on September 12, 2001. The only reason those who are clamoring for a ceasefire do so is because a ceasefire will allow them to once more bury their heads in the sand and deny the immediate and massive danger that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria pose.

The goal should not be a ceasefire. The goal should be victory. Victory means Hezbollah is sufficiently destroyed and their Iranian sponsors sufficiently chastened that they no longer represent any danger. Accomplishing this won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be bloodless.

But I wish those urging a ceasefire would for once be asked what they think a ceasefire is supposed to accomplish. In the real world, all a ceasefire will do is give Hezbollah the breathing space it needs to recover from a grievous miscalculation.

But those urging a ceasefire are never required to explain themselves. After all, they are purportedly on the side of the angels, craving peace. The rest of us have to explain ourselves because we’re a bunch of bloodthirsty warmongers. It would be wonderful to see a widely public debate on the purportedly salubrious effects of a ceasefire.

I’ll volunteer to take the contrary position.

LAST NIGHT I READ Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” I’m not sure if that act makes me an adjunct member of the Oprah Book Club or not. Regardless, I can’t believe I let so much of my life go by without reading this masterful slim volume.

“Night” briefly chronicles Wiesel’s journey through the Holocaust. It is harrowing; it is not uplifting. There’s no happy ending, no neat little moral that makes the story easier to digest. It is a somber meditation on the evil man is capable of, and the effects that such evil have.

Roughly four decades after being liberated from his concentration camp hell, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, he offered the following simple counsel that was the product of hard - the hardest - experience – “We must take sides.”

The world didn’t take sides when Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mugabe and others were doing their thing. Tens of millions died.

Right now, the stakes are similarly consequential. And much of the debate centers on how we can find a way not to take sides, how we can achieve a ceasefire and then go back to pretending that the time of choosing has not arrived.

It’s here – it’s time.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


George F. Will wrote a column today that took some shots at my friends at the Weekly Standard. Before offering my thoughts on his piece, I should note that I don’t speak for the Standard nor am I authorized to speak for the Standard. Hell, I’m not even an employee of the Standard; I’m just a frequent contributor to their virtual addition, the Daily Standard.

But I am thrilled by my association with the Weekly Standard for a number of reasons. Foremost among these is that the intellectual leadership at the Standard has had the guts to take a hard-headed look at a disquieting world. While most of the American media and even more of America’s purported intellectual class has blushed at identifying the hard duties and long road that lie ahead for our country, the people at the Standard have not.

Will’s column today takes several gratuitous potshots at the Standard’s personnel. The ad hominem nature of the attacks are beneath Will. Will’s most scathing commentary is the following:

"The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to The Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, 'neoconservativism' -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything.

"'No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria ... ' You get the drift. So, The Weekly Standard says:

"'We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.'

"'Why wait?' Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate, in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq."

Lets’ take some of Will’s points one-by-one:

1) “The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but (not) to The Weekly Standard."

It’s true that to most people the ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque. As Alan Jackson sang in “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” there are no doubt a lot of people who “don’t know the difference in Iraq and Iran.”

But surely George F. Will is not one of them. Nor for that matter are the people who write about such things in the Weekly Standard. The people at the Standard can tell the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni. Speaking just for myself, I’ve made something of a study of so-called Radical Islam. I’m familiar with the principles that govern the pursuit of Jihad in Fundamentalist Islam; I think the people who fear the actions of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran and are suggesting policies have likewise acquainted themselves with the facts on the ground.

The national and religious dynamics of the Middle East are anything but opaque. They are, however, new to the typical American who will have to do a lot of studying to get up to speed. Will’s comment is a ruse and a smear, a crude attempt to suggest that Standard writers have made suggestions while in a position of ignorance.

2) "The Weekly Standard (is the) voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, 'neoconservativism.'"

He called us radicals. Ouch! Sticks and stones!

3) “'Why wait to (deal with Iran)?' Perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq."

That’s Will’s opinion, and he’s entitled to it. He thinks if we could contain the Soviets, surely we can do likewise with the Iranian mullahs. As Michael Corleone might say, now who’s being naïve? And simplistic, for that matter.

I really don’t care to respond to the notion that Iran can be contained. Suffice to say that I disagree, but to respond to the argument and do it justice demands a few thousand words, something I don’t feel like writing today and you probably don’t feel like reading.

I do feel the need to make one key point, though. Will’s suggestion that we roll the dice and wager that we can contain Iran is an expensive gamble. If he’s wrong, the butcher’s bill will be in the millions. Dozens of them.

Care to belly up to the table and make a bet?

There’s one last point about this article that I want to make. Making it will require at least a semi-putdown of Will, something I’m not entirely comfortable with since I have little evidence for what I’m about to suggest and I admire him as a writer and a person.

But Will and Peggy Noonan (who I admire for her chic hairstyle) often beg the inference that they are as stuck in the past as some of the baby-boomers that we all have so much ridiculing. For these two writers, everything always seems to go back to Reagan and other Cold War heroes. Reagan deterred the Evil Empire, so certainly comparably courageous leadership could deter the forces of Fundamentalist Islam.

This is a senseless analogy. The current struggle bears as much relation to the Cold War as it does to the Mexican-American war. Such an analogy is both sloppy and dangerous.

You don’t have to be a radical to know that.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Yesterday Mrs. Soxblog and I flew out to Santa Fe in Delta’s new Steerage Class ™. It was a wonderful way to spend the better part of a day, and it made me long for the inevitable day when the last of the traditional airlines die their long overdue death and are replaced with sensible value-oriented airlines like JetBlue and Southwest who actually make their customers feel appreciated.

The preceding is a long-winded way of saying I spent most of yesterday out of pocket. It wasn’t until around 9:00 E.S.T. that I learned that war in the Middle East had broken out. Only as I type am I reconnecting with my beloved internets, pecking away at a Santa Fe Starbuck’s.

Because I’m on holiday and have not long to write, I have time to make only a couple of brief observations on the latest “crisis” in the Middle East:

1) I always watch developments like this with a gleam of hope that at last the civilized nations of the world will do what they have to do with the likes of Hamas, Heezbollah, and their state enablers/sponsors. It is Israel’s fate to be on the front lines of any such struggle. Hezbollah’s pathetic missiles will be targeted at Israeli population centers, not Kansas.

But one hopes that America will realize that this fight will have to be fought eventually, and we might as well do it before Syria, Iran and Palestine develop the abilities to destroy Western society. I haven’t watched or read much news, but if I hear any State Department calls for Israeli “restraint,” I may well mount the highest foothill surrounding Santa Fe and attempt a dive of a 3.8 difficulty.

2) On a less significant front, I couldn’t help but notice that the Daily Kos’ front page is completely silent on the Middle East crisis. You see the normal pictures of Montana Senate candidate Jon Tester smiling in his Army fatigues and the details of Joe Lieberman’s most recent perfidies, but there is literally not a single word on what may be the first developments in the story that may well dominate the news for the foreseeable future. So benumbed are the blogosphere’s leftists, they couldn’t even manage a post blaming the whole thing on Bush!

This curious silence buttresses my theory that the modern left just can’t deal with reality, circa 2006. The left likes to think of itself as the reality based community, but when confronted with disquieting real world events they choose to behave as if Joe Lieberman is our greatest threat to a happy future.

I’ll be trying to post over the next few days. If I don’t, rest assured it’s just because of my travel schedule and my obsession with finding the man who makes Bill Richardson’s toupee. It has nothing to do with any sudden relapse in my physical condition.

(By the way, today I am officially 39 - it's my birthday! If you're a family member reading this and you've yet to call and wish me well, know that I'm keeping a list.)

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 7/11/2006

1) CRACKING THE POLITICAL MENDOZA LINE!!! – The latest Gallup Poll shows President Bush boasting a stratospheric 40% approval rating. Similarly, the eerily accurate Rasmussen robots show the President’s approval rating hovering at 43%. Both polls show Bush winning only something in the neighborhood of ¾ of the approval of self-identified Republicans. In other words, if Bush’s numbers were where they should be with his own party, he’d be above 50%.

Why the improvement? My feeling is that whenever the Democratic Party gets its moments in the spotlight, Bush’s numbers can’t help but go up. Just as Bush’s support soared as the country got to know John Kerry, Republicans will do better as the country becomes better acquainted with the Democratic Party, circa 2006.

Longtime readers here will note I never boarded the “2006 will be a GOP disaster” train, always happily convinced that Democrats would wrest resounding defeat from the jaws of seemingly likely victory. That’s been my story, and I’m sticking to it.

2) WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT? It turns out that the Bush tax cuts and the roaring economy have generated unexpectedly high tax revenues. If they want to, Democrats could stop saying that the tax cuts are horrible. But they won’t. Democrats are convinced that the American people just love being taxed, and that any politician who gets himself on the side of higher taxes has himself a winning issue. Me, I just love writing out a check for excise tax or fishing for coins to pay some sales tax – makes me feel all warm inside.

According to the New York Times’ report on the matter, Democrats are carping that federal tax revenues are just now approaching their 1999 level. Never mind the fact that the 1999 numbers were wildly inflated by a bubble-icious stock market, a fact that even the likes of Nancy Pelosi is no doubt familiar with. Let the Democrats make a disingenuous plea for the need for greater taxation. Sounds like a ballot box winner to me!

3) THE ALL KNOWING JVL – Before he left for an extended holiday, Jonathan V. Last penned an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer that identified the real problem with soccer. I always thought the sport’s biggest problem was 0-0 games (er, matches) that were more boring than watching Astroturf not grow. But JVL labeled the real problem as the “flop and sprawl,” the act where soccer players mimic great injury hoping to get the other team penalized. Literally dozens of times a game, a player will hit the turf writhing in agony as if he had been impaled, only to bounce up shockingly unaffected after it becomes apparent that the referee will not punish his putative assailant.

Having watched more soccer in the past month than I had in the rest of my life, I could not believe how common this risible practice is. It also served as a wonderful metaphor for the difference between European football and real football. In real football, players carry on stoically in spite of broken bones. In soccer, players pretend to have the pain threshold of a two year old in the hope that they can swindle the referee.

Anyway, JVL took great delight in the Frenchman Zidane’s headbutt, an act of unrepentant savagery that provided the World Cup’s only recognizable sporting moment for those of us weaned on football and hockey. Zidane did what Dave Schultz would have done, or the great John Wensink who used to pummel Schultz with some regularity.

So Zidane’s act cost his country the World Cup. JVL seems to argue that it gave France some dignity, dignity it has lacked since World War II. If so, losing that puny little World Cup trophy is a small price to pay in such a trade.

4) MOONBAT MATH – You remember John Dean, the former Nixon counsel who wound up in prison over Watergate, right? You probably know that Dean has enjoyed a resurgence of fame thanks to his willingness to be an outspoken critic of George W. Bush (who he labels “worse than Nixon” without any apparent sense of irony) and conservatives.

Dean has a new theory: "23% of the populace falls into the follower category" said Dean. "These people are impervious to fact, rationality and reality. And their numbers are growing." Wouldn’t you know it? All 23% are conservatives which means basically half of George W. Bush’s supporters “are drawn into the Leader/Follower archetype, where the Leaders are considered infallible, and the loyalty of the Followers is completely unshakable.”

What I find hilarious about this “study” isn’t the ridiculous theory but rather the transparently ludicrous attempt at specificity. 23% of the population has blind fealty to a conservative leader, not 22% or 24%. How do we know this? The honest and reliable John Dean has done the math.

5) OLD NEWS – But I feel the need to touch on it anyway. In the past I’ve praised the Dixie Chicks. I like their new album, even though, judging by their lyrics, their disregard for free market principles evidences a shockingly childish naivete even by the entertainment community’s standards. These ladies really seem to think that they have the right to say things that will offend members of their audience, and yet their audience must remain obliged to support them in all their endeavors.

Alas, it doesn’t work that way; if my barber hosted an “Impeach Bush” sign in his window, I would get my hair coifed elsewhere. Most businesspeople know this, which is why unless they’re running a hemp shop, they don’t festoon their place of business with political manifestoes.

Anyway, the Chicks’ tour has been a huge bust in terms of ticket sales. They’ve had to move to smaller venues across this great land of ours. Not in Canada, though – their Bush-bashing has done nothing to harm their careers in the north country. One wonders if they’ll be able to connect the dots of how their foray into domestic politics has affected them in the domestic market. And one wonders whether they have any opinions on Canada’s affairs they would like to share with their Canadian fans.

6) AND CLEARING ONE THING UP – I’ve received a lot of mail over my “Salt Water and Other Miracles” essay. Some of it has come from the Cystic Fibrosis community, which has been extremely gratifying. I do feel the need to set something straight so everyone has their expectations in the right place – the inhaled saline treatment is not a cure. It’s likely not a control, either.

What it is, or may well be, is an effective treatment, something we haven’t had a whole lot of. Based on my experience (a study of one, which any good researcher will tell you to nothing to wager the farm on), it may well extend lives. This is great, but it’s very, very different from a cure.

Anyone in the CF community who wants to talk about this, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Monday, July 10, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 7/10/2006

1) WORLD CUP RECAP – In brief, some bald French guy delivered a savage head butt to the chest of one of Italy’s players. The bald guy was some sort of well-known football player, engaged in his final match, and was ejected from the pitch for, as near as I could tell, the wanton stupidity of his actions more than anything else. Hockey fans everywhere asked themselves, “Why in the name of Dale Hunter did he head butt that Italian defender?”

A couple of serious notes about the World Cup: 1) I watched some of it and found it surprisingly entertaining. I think I may have even picked up some of the terminology; and 2) Was it not wonderful to see French perfidy directly lead to France’s defeat? If only the real world worked like that.

My favorite single moment of the Cup was in the aftermath of the head-butting Zidane’s ejection, when both he and his coach had the audacity to protest even though the replays clearly showed Zidane’s guilt. Some fine French whine it was.

In case you didn’t guess, I’m happy Italy won.

2) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST – Chechen psychopath Shamil Basayev received justice today, being on the wrong end of some angry Russian Special Forces. The lead item on Basayev’s resume was the Beslan school massacre, perhaps second only to 9/11 in terms of barbarism and cruelty in the annals of Jihadist terrorism. The explosive laden truck that Basayev was riding in blew up; Basayev was identified by his prosthetic leg and his head, which apparently boasted a distinctive beard which is now sure to wow all the virgins in paradise anxious to service the new shahid.

Vladimir Putin was unrepentant regarding Basayev’s demise, declaring simply that it was “deserved retribution.” (I personally prefer Putin’s earlier rhetoric where he vowed to “wipe out in the outhouse” the likes of Basayev. I know it doesn’t make some sense, but it still rings of a certain poetry.)

3) A NEW LOW FOR THE GLOBE? - Maybe. In today’s edition, the Globe publishes an op-ed piece by one Mona El Farra titled “My Life in Gaza.” Get your violin ready because El Farra has a scoop for us – life in Gaza at the moment is pretty grim:

“Ostensibly, this bombing campaign started because of the soldier's capture. To the outside world it might seem like an easy decision for Palestinians: Let the soldier go, and the siege will end. Yet for Gazans, even in the face of this brutal violence, another decision comes, not with ease, but with resolve. He is one soldier who was captured in a military operation.”

There follows a lot of rubbish about how Israel was planning the attacks anyway and that Israel attacked “within hours of a national consensus accord signed by Fatah and Hamas, which could have led to negotiations between Palestinians and Israeli.” Darn the luck!

Actually, El Farra doesn’t understand how her obtuse op-ed clearly shows the justification for Israel’s actions. The Palestinian people elected Hamas, a government that they knew would wage such “military operations” as sneaking across the Israeli border, killing two soldiers and abducting a third. In El Farra’s piece, there is not a shred of condemnation or even regret regarding this act. One can infer from her piece that she supports the “military operation.”

The only part of the calculus that El Farra and her like-minded citizens failed to accurately gauge was the Israeli response. Apparently, they were quite certain that Israel would react with “restraint” as it has in the past when the Palestinian people have been subject to the whims of pseudo-populist strongmen/terrorists. Now, there is no denying amongst Israelis the obvious fact that they are facing a Palestinian government that reflects the popular will of the Palestinian people.

It would make much more sense if the popular will of the Palestinian people was to try to reach a settlement with the Israelis rather than stake everything on the pathetic little statelet’s ability to wipe the modern power off the map. Alas, that is not the path they have chosen, and judging by Al Farra’s op-ed, they’ve got a way to go before peaceful coexistence becomes the popular option.

4) RALLY BEHIND JEFF – Jeff Goldstein runs a hilarious and insightful blog at For some reason or another, he has a unique talent for getting under the skin of unhinged leftists. While surely this talent must be fun to possess, it no doubt has its downsides, too.

As it did this past weekend. An adjunct professor at the University of Arizona named Deborah Frisch commented on Jeff’s blog that she would not be sad if Jeff’s two year old child was “Jon Benet Ramseyed.” Believe me, after spending hours over the weekend monitoring this scandal, that’s about the nicest thing she said. There were also numerous comments of a frankly depraved sexual nature. I say that not as an uptight Republican, but rather as a true-blue American who thinks linking someone’s two year old child to sexual acts, as Frisch did with Goldstein’s, is unpardonably sickening.

Since the imbroglio, Jeff’s website has been under constant Denial of Service attacks. You don’t have to be an unhinged conspiracy theorist to question the timing.

This also brings me to a meta point I’ve been meaning to make for quite some time. Many of you have probably seen Markos Moulitsas on TV. During these appearances, he’s usually pleasant, laughing and smiling easily. He seems like a nice guy. But at his keyboard, he butches up. It’s all threats and bile and anger.

Markos is typical of a lot of people who have carved out on line identities for themselves. Many people who wouldn’t have the guts to challenge someone for stealing a parking space from them transform themselves into snarling virtual Clint Eastwoods while they troll the internets.

I can’t tell you how pathetic these people are. In my dealings with them, they vanish as soon as they know you’re reading what they write. Even a confrontation over the internet overwhelms their courage.

In Deborah Frisch, the potty-mouthed sick-minded University of Arizona wacademic, these people have a new champion, someone who perfectly exemplifies their nature. And mind you, these people are almost running the Democratic Party now.

5) LET’S PRAISE ‘DEADWOOD’ – Has there ever been a more compelling series than HBO’s “Deadwood”? Take it from a writer, the writing is super-sharp. But most impressive are the characters. Al Swearingen is certainly the most memorable TV character to come down the pike since Tony Soprano. At least.

By the way, for those of my fellow “Deadwood” addictees out there, most of the main characters (including Swearingen and Seth Bullock) were real people. Doing a Google search will reveal their ultimate destiny if you can’t wait to see how the show concludes. Warning though – it will diminish the suspense.

6) READER MAIL – I can’t tell you all how grateful I am for the outpouring of warmth you’ve sent my way over the essay, “Salt Water and Other Miracles.” There are several dozen readers I correspond with regularly – I think of them as friends and they do likewise. It was great hearing from them, and it was great hearing from a lot of other readers who have been out there the last few years but who have never written in.

By the way, if I haven’t responded to yet, give me a bit of time. I’ve got a backlog of a couple of hundred now and I’m getting to them. Each one has touched me deeply.

Thanks again.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Saturday, July 08, 2006


In the Winter of 2001, spendthrift Red Sox General Manager Duquette signed Manny Ramirez to a seven year contract. Duquette wasn’t foolish for signing Ramirez; he was foolish for paying such a high price. Duquette so overpaid for Ramirez, in the 2003 off-season no team would take Manny for free, the only stipulation being that they would have to pay Manny what the Sox were paying him.

Okay, so the Duke overpaid for Manny, but my attitude about such things has always been pretty sanguine. It’s not my money, and I fully support the concept of Red Sox ownership spending its way into poverty so that I might have the pleasure of rooting for a great team.

Although he paid too much, Duquette gave Red Sox Nation an incredible gift. Besides, because Duquette was renowned as such an unlikable fellow, the only way he could bestow such a gift upon the Fenway Faithful was to pay way too much for it.

When Manny came to the Sox in 2001, there was a question as to who was the best right-handed hitter in baseball – Red Sox incumbent shortstop Nomar Garciapara or Manny. After a few weeks, even the most die-hard Nomar fans had to confess the obvious – there was no comparison between the two. As brilliant as Nomar was during that phase of his career, at the plate Manny was infinitely better.

Manny also quickly proved himself a fruit-loop. Oh, there have been times when Manny has made the Sox’ preternaturally cranky fan-base crimson with fury. There was the time he grounded to the pitcher and rather than trot to first he turned around and went back to the dugout. There was the time he was too sick to play in an important series with the Yankees but was well enough to do some late night carousing with one of the hated Yankees while the pinstripes were in town. And there were many, many more incidents of a similar nature.

It has been Manny’s great good fortune to play in Boston during an era when the Boston sports community is in a pretty good mood. Normally we give Philadelphia a run for its money as the country’s most misanthropic sports town. But since the Patriots won their first Super Bowl (in the first off-season of Manny’s tenure with the Sox), we’ve been a happy bunch in the Hub. Normally we’d be heaping opprobrium on the Bruins and Celtics for having dreadful decades. Instead, we’re just indifferent.

Manny also helped himself with some great play. I think Manny made even his gravest sins forgivable with two swings of the bat. The first came in Manny’s first plate appearance in Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox. The Sox had spent the first week of the season on the road, and Manny had struggled. Predictably, the media was abuzz about what a bust the Manny signing was.

In the bottom of the first inning of the home opener, Manny came to the plate with two men on. He hit a bomb over the Green Monster for a three run homer. “This,” Sox fans said to themselves, “is how things should be. The high priced free agent signing is performing as God intended.”

The second swing came in the 2003 post-season and is now largely forgotten, but at the time it was huge. In the deciding game of the Red Sox and A’s five game series, the game was tied 1-1 in the sixth inning. Manny came up with two men on and hit a three run homer that propelled the Sox to the Championship Series. Again, this was things as they should be – the big bat producing when it was most needed.

One of the things I remember about that homerun against the A’s is the Fox announcers’ commentary regarding Manny’s reaction to his blast. As he does after every time he hits the ball solidly, Manny posed for an extended period of time. The broadcasters were scandalized; Sox fans were not.

It was around this time that Sox fans developed a way of dealing with Manny’s eccentricities – Sox fans all but officially announced a tolerance for “Manny being Manny.” This was a subtle but far reaching compact – so long as Manny kept producing like one of the greatest players in history, Red Sox Nation would indulge the lack of hustle, the annoying eccentricities, the trade demands, and a lot of other crap that literally no other athlete in Boston ever got away with. Remember, Boston is the city that booed Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens and Kevin McHale.

Now that there are unquestionably more days behind Manny’s Red Sox career than ahead of it, this deal with the devil can be called an unqualified success. Manny is an incredible athlete. Although the baseball world is rightly abuzz over the feats of Manny’s teammate David Ortiz, Manny is having a much better year than Ortiz. Manny’s on base percentage, batting average, and slugging percentage are all much higher than Big Papi’s.

An upcoming book on the Sox reveals that stats guru (and one of my intellectual heroes), Bill James, did a study for Sox ownership that showed that of 60 documented moments of non-hustle by a Red Sox, Manny authored 30 of them. I revere Bill James, so I don’t mean this as a criticism of him, but I can’t imagine why there was a need to research whether or not Manny hustles. One might as well conduct a study to determine whether the sun is hot or whether John Kerry is pathetic.

Manny doesn’t hustle. Manny does a wealth of other things that annoy the hell out of any serious Sox fan. But by tolerating his antics, we’ve been able to enjoy one of the best batting careers in baseball history. By focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative with the blithe dismissal, “It’s just Manny being Manny,” Sox fans have allowed themselves to have a better team and not kill that team with our often poisonous negativity.

Manny’s going into the Hall of Fame some time in the next decade. He’ll be wearing a Red Sox cap. And the Sox may win another championship or two thanks in no small part to Manny’s mighty bat.

The Manny Ramirez experience has been, to put it mildly, a good one.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Friday, July 07, 2006


Okay, people are rightly annoyed/concerned over my recent paucity of postings. Here’s what happened.

To bring newcomers quickly up to speed, I have Cystic Fibrosis and the last few years have been something of a roller coaster ride. At one point, I had even made it to the top of the waiting list for lung transplants, which is pretty serious business. Anyway, as I’ve written in the recent past, I’ve been doing much better over the last several months.

Roughly two weeks ago, I had a regularly scheduled check-up. For people with serious conditions, such appointments are moments of truth – you take some tests and get some news. You hope it will be good news.

Going into this appointment, I was confident. I know my body well, and am usually not swayed by even by my most ardent efforts at self-deception. In other words, I felt well and was not just hopeful but confident that the tests would bring good news.

As regular readers of this blog know, I spend more time being right than being wrong. So if you were expecting this introduction was a lead-up to a boy-was-I ever-wrong-and-got-a-crushing-blow moment, you should be kicking yourself. Not only did the tests turn out well, they turned out better than I could have possibly expected. It turns out that I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for five years. Not by a little, but by a lot.

WHEN YOU HAVE A CHRONIC AND PROGRESSIVE disease, you really don’t expect anything like this to happen. So, inquiring minds must be asking, how did this occur?

It’s actually a pretty good story. In the interests of space and keeping this remotely interesting, I’ll go easy on the scientific stuff.

Some time probably about 18 months ago, a CF doctor in Australia noticed that his patients who were surfers were far out-performing his patients who weren’t. Although the mechanisms that make CF such a destructive disease aren’t completely understood, it is known that the root cause of CF’s problems have something to do with the patient’s inability to process salt.

As a matter of fact, the test to see if someone had CF was, in the days before genetic screening, called a sweat test. A few electrodes were attached to the patient’s arm to generate a little swath of sweat which the guys in white coats then analyzed for its salt content. I may not have the number exactly right, but CF patients have roughly seven times the amount of salt in their sweat as normal people do.

Anyway, back to Australia. The CF doctor there had a theory that his surfer patients were thriving because of their prolonged exposure to salt water. This gave him an idea – he wanted his patients to inhale an aerosolized form of salt water a couple of times a day.

In this tiny Australian study (fewer than two dozen participants), the results were amazing. The patients who inhaled the hypertonic saline (the SAT-word way of saying “salt water”) showed markedly increased lung functions. More importantly, they showed a dramatically decreased rate in exacerbations.

Word of this study soon spread stateside. In North Carolina, a larger study was done that showed a similarly dramatic decrease in the rate of exacerbations but no statistically significant increase in lung function.

This is when the news of the hypertonic saline treatment went public. In mid-January, there was a story about the Australia and North Carolina trials in the New England Journal of Medicine. For those who don’t read the New England Journal of Medicine, the story even made it into WebMD, CNN, and a certain major New York newspaper whose name I refuse to type.

Naturally, the New England Journal of Medicine editorialized that we needed to know more about the treatment and that no one should run off half-cocked eager to suck down some salt water. (Obviously, I’m paraphrasing.) Reading about all of this in Southern Soxblog Manor, and after talking about it with my doctor, I made a few inferences.

First, I had known from previous studies where I had inhaled a placebo that even inhaling a placebo has a positive effect on a CF patient’s lungs. The name of the game in CF well-being is airway clearance. We have lungs filled with junk; if we get that junk up we feel okay. I knew by empirical first hand knowledge that any kind of inhalation treatment provokes airway clearance, which strikes the rest of you as us coughing our heads off.

Additionally, my doctor told me that sucking down this salt water was a vile treatment, one that even hard-core CF patients like myself had trouble complying with. This got me to making some conjectures as to why there were the differing results between North Carolina and Australia. In Australia, the study was smaller so patient non-compliance with the program would be easier to address. Additionally, perhaps because of their surfing experience, the Australians found the treatment more tolerable. Either that, or their flinty Down Under nature made them more likely to stick with it than their American counterparts.

Whatever the reason, the differences between the Australian and American results struck me as an obvious case of a patient compliance disparity. In sum, I felt the porotocol, if followed, had an excellent chance of being extremely helpful. What’s more, being just salt water, there was no way it could be harmful.

IN MARCH I FLEW UP from Florida to Boston and became Massachusetts General Hospital’s first patient to begin the hypertonic saline regimen. The stuff came as advertised – inhaling it was awful. I compared it to inhaling an aerosolized version of lox. Also, it took forever – almost half an hour, twice a day.

Now remember, I was already starting this additional treatment from a relative position of strength. I was doing as well as I had in a while and was feeling good. But shortly after starting the treatment, I began doing better – a lot better.

I hadn’t done any medical tests to support this feeling, but I felt more energetic than I had in memory. Lifting weights, I felt almost the same in the gym as I had when I was in my 20’s. People who hadn’t seen me in a while almost uniformly commented that I looked extremely healthy. While people always say that to sick people, even if we look like death warmed over, I could tell that in these instances they meant it.

Two weeks ago I went to the doctor’s office to get the numbers. At these appointments, you blow into a device that measure how well your lungs are functioning. While they always say when the numbers stink that you shouldn’t worry too much, when you’ve been around this stuff for long enough you know the numbers don’t lie. For the past five years, each appointment like this has given me the same I feeling I had on the morning of the SAT’s.

I wish I did as well on my SAT’s as I did on these lung function tests a couple of weeks ago. As I said up top, my lungs are now in better shape than when they began to significantly deteriorate five years ago. I’ve reclaimed a lot of lost ground.

From my perspective, this seems like if not a miracle, something damn close to it. For years good people, the world’s best, have been pouring their hearts, souls and money into finding effective treatments for CF and generally coming up with very little. And all of a sudden, a super-promising new treatment comes along. And it’s salt water!

There’s also the additional minor miracle that being just salt water, the treatment didn’t have to spend the better part of a decade navigating the FDA approval maze before reaching the general CF public that so desperately needs it. If a similarly effective treatment had been a medicine hatched in the labs of Genzyme, the FDA would have kept it out of the hands of the seriously ill people (who would eagerly roll the dice on an experimental treatment) until those seriously ill people had become seriously dead.

As an additional benefit, because it’s just salt water and thus cheap to make, no one will make much money off of it which means the CF community will be spared the ghastly sight of our nation’s Ted Kennedy types demonizing the pharmaceuticals who just pioneered a life-saving treatment for being profit oriented.

In other words, everyone wins!

SO WHY THE LIGHT BLOGGING? Fair question, and a not obvious answer. I’m almost 39. For a few years, I had considered myself fairly well along in my golden years. I had made peace with that fact, and had allowed myself to truly enjoy the good times I had left. I was also dealing with my regrets and disappointments, addressing those I could, letting lie those I couldn’t.

Two weeks ago I got the shocking news that I may not be so far along in my golden years as I figured. I may get a second crack at bat. The situation would be analogous to a 70 year old in declining health going to the doctor and finding out that not only might he make it to 80, his 70’s will be a lot better health-wise than his 60’s were.

This is incredibly thrilling news. It’s also daunting, and a bit disorienting. This news has turned my life as I knew it upside down. Given that my “right-side up life” represented serious illness followed by imminent death, there are a lot worse than things having such a life turned upside down.

I may be in the process of receiving a remarkable gift. Although it probably seems like an ingrate’s reactions, I have felt considerable self-induced pressure not to blow it and to use it wisely. I’ve been very promiscuous with rhetoric the last few years that I wish I had a fraction of the health and energy I did when I was young now that I have the knowledge of an old man. Woops! Looks like I’ve sort of backed myself into a corner.

But it’s a happy corner to be in, especially when the alternative was a pine box. While I’m not over my minor existential crisis, I am back to writing. That’s what I most want to do with this amazing second chance I have. I think it’s where I have the most chance to accomplish something meaningful and lasting. It’s also something I love.

In short, Soxblog is now re-opened for business.

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