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BILLS OUTLOOK

May 31st, 2002 by

by James R. Miller

I know it is customary for the opinion writer to save the exegesis of his column’s name for the farewell installment, but given the potentially painful associations of the phrase “Wide Right” for many Buffalo sports fans, I thought it best to make my intentions clear from the outset.

There are of course those who feel that the ghost of Scott Norwood is best left stowed away in the attic of our collective mind, that dredging up such bitter memories at this late date will only lead to ever greater bitterness. I could not disagree more. Such a head-in-the-sand attitude will only leave us woefully unprepared when such a moment of truth once again presents itself.

In fact, we would do well to take examine how Mr. Norwood himself handled the situation following his 1991 Super Bowl failure. Rather than replaying the situation over and over in his mind and letting it become an obstacle to his future development, the place-kicker went on with his life. He left Buffalo later that year, and today is a well-contented insurance agent in the suburban Washington area of Virginia.

Buffalo, meanwhile, muddled on rather aimlessly in the wake of Mr. Norwood’s missed field goal. Although the Bills made it back to the Super Bowl in each of the three following years, each time they were systematically demolished by representatives of the then-dominant NFC East. Salary cap woes and a roster of aging veterans led to even more woeful results in the years since.

The lesson here is obvious: the sensible player knows not to throw good effort after bad and recognizes when it is time to get out of what is quite clearly a bankrupt situation. As the wise carpenter says, better to tear down and start anew than to perform superficial cosmetic repairs on a structure whose foundation is ruined. The rat who flees a sinking ship may seem selfish and cruel, but only from the perspective of those foolish enough to stay behind and slowly perish.

Still, it is not too late for this city and its beloved football franchise. And the way out lies in the true meaning of “Wide Right.” In short, we must adhere to traditional, conservative values while subtly adapting them to meet the requirements of modern realities. Nothing can alter the fundamental truth that strong defense and veteran leadership wins championships. But now that free agency is no longer in its infancy, we must adopt a slightly different approach in our off-season transactions. The signing of high-priced marquee players must be balanced with bargain pickups of key role players.

This of course is an approach that worked wonders for the New England Patriots, a divisional rival and, until last season, a team that had good reason to feel every bit as jinxed as our own Bills. And yet that team rode all the way to the championship on the shoulders of an untested backup signal caller and an unlikely assortment of free agent pickups that no one else seemed to want. And surely it is no coincidence that Adam Vinatieri’s field goal on the Super Bowl’s final play to beat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams was from 47 yards out—just like the one Mr. Norwood missed those 11 years ago.

The Bills and their fans would be wise to view this as a positive omen as we head into the upcoming season.

Was the Bills’ Losing Season Really Bad?

I know that a lot of people were disappointed with the Bills’ 3-13 regular season mark last year, but where did the expected victories disappear to? I’m not sure exactly what happened with the Bills, but I suspect that many of those 13 losses were the result of imprudent trades on the free-agency market. This means that the victories the Bills failed to achieve were not wasted, but rather transferred to someone else.

Consider two hypothetical NFL teams that experienced disappointed losing seasons. One team wasted tens of millions constructing useless luxury boxes that no one will ever use and signing aging veterans who can no longer compete at a high level. This team reduced the value of the franchise and its supporting community by wasting resources.

Now consider a second team whose season went down the crapper because it made a free-agency market bet with another team (let’s call it the third team) that certain players’ effectiveness would rise when it really fell, and vice versa. The second team did not waste resources, because its expected victories were enjoyed by this third team.

While I’m not entirely sure which team more closely represents the Buffalo Bills, I suspect it might be the second. Likewise, the third team appears to be a reasonably good approximation of the New England Patriots. For example, Bills castoff Antowain Smith was a key element in that latter team’s unexpected triumph.

Thus, the way to that elusive championship is elementary: the Bills must turn the tables on the Patriots, who now have nowhere to go but down. The much ballyhooed signing of quarterback Drew Bledsoe must then be a key element of this strategy.

But Is Bledsoe the Solution?

This, unfortunately, is a question with no easy answer. The eternal optimist will surely be quick to point out that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure, but I’m inclined to be a bit more skeptical on the matter. Is it really reasonable to expect that New England, which was so flawless in its decision-making last year, would now be so frivolous as to give up the player with the skills to carry a division rival to victory? Probably not. But then again, stranger things have happened when a perennial underdog has suddenly found itself the king of the hill.

We may argue back and forth on the subject all we like, but ultimately the victor is decided on the field of play. As for which will be the last team standing at the end of this upcoming season, only time will tell.

Born and raised in Hamburg, James R. Miller is currently doing post-doctoral work in economics at London School of Economics. His column on the Buffalo sports scene will appear in this space each issue.

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SPORTS DESK

May 31st, 2002 by

 

Sports Crimewatch
Anyone who still wonders why it is that foreigners complain that Americans don’t understand them need only look at the elaborate security preparations undertaken before this past week’s Indy 500. According to numerous news reports, security at the race was heightened “in the wake of the events of September 11,” and the city of Indianapolis even assigned a special “terrorism preparedness coordinator” named Peter Beering…
Wide Right
I know it is customary for the opinion writer to save the exegesis of his column’s name for the farewell installment, but given the potentially painful associations of the phrase “Wide Right” for many Buffalo sports fans, I thought it best to make my intentions clear from the outset. 
Bledsoe vs. Johnson
According to FCC statistics, approximately 4,386 hours have already been spent on talk radio in Buffalo in the month since The Trade debating this city’s new Eternal Question— who’s Better, Drew or Rob? The FCC also reports that not a single new point has been made since the 411th hour of the debate. From where we stand, it seems like the hometown crowd is failing to grasp the real issues… Maybe the reason we’re all at an impasse is that we’ve got the wrong Johnson. So the BEAST decided to ask: how does the Patriot Missile stack up against the star-crossed 17th President? 
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MAYOR TO STAR IN GANGSTER DRAMA

May 31st, 2002 by

Tony Masiello Rolls Out the Red Carpet for the BEAST

by Matt Taibbi

Masia and CrewIt didn’t seem like much of an idea at first. Co-editor Kevin McElwee and I, newly arrived in Buffalo from our previous home in Moscow, Russia, were hiding inside at a friend’s house during an April snowfall, toying with prank ideas for our inaugural issue. Mayor Anthony Maseillo’s name came up…

We’d only been in town for a few weeks, but it was hard not to notice that Buffalo had clearly… well, to put it as nicely as possible, it had clearly seen better days. A once-mighty industrial city now had boarded-up storefronts right in the heart of its downtown. Vast tracts of what in any other city would be prime real estate were empty and undeveloped… And the city planning seemed to have been achieved through a sort of accidental process; highways bulled through waterfront areas, a public university had been built way too far out of town to have a serious impact on the city economy, and the chief plan for urban renewal was intimately connected with an utterly insane but apparently sincere decision to give an Enron-like company, Adelphia, public money to build a fictional skyscraper in a district already overflowing with empty office space.

We asked around. The general consensus among friends in town was that the chief reason for Buffalo’s problems was that city leadership was corrupt and incompetent. As for the Mayor, he appeared to be a human being without much of a basic life plan at all. He had achieved power through the most ideologically unspecific means possible, running as both a Democrat and a Republican… and once he got into office, his plan to revive the city had remained as vague and ineffectual as his actual persona–a persona captured perfectly by his splotchy, career-weary face and half-hearted comb-over. “He’s not doing anything,” one friend told us. “God only knows what he’s doing with his time.”

Interesting question, we thought. Then it occurred to us to wonder: what if we could find out just exactly what the Mayor is doing with his time? We played around with a few ideas, then zoomed over to our office in the luxurious Statler towers to make some phony stationary. We had decided to offer the mayor a part-time job.

I should digress here to explain something. We here at the BEAST are expert and experienced pranksters. For five years, we were senior editors at one of the world’s most notorious newspapers–the Moscow-based eXile. Four years ago, we conned Mikhail Gorbachev himself into accepting an offer to be an assistant coach of the New York Jets under Bill Parcells. A few years after that, we had the caretakers of Lenin’s body offering us their services when we called as Kennedy family representatives seeking help in mummifying the disembodied foot of John F. Kennedy, Jr. And just last year, we laid siege to the Moscow office of The New York Times and threw a cream pie made of horse sperm in the face of Times bureau chief Michael Wines, one of the biggest assholes in all of vast Russia.

We have a military sensibility about our pranks. It’s not even so much that we enjoy it; it’s just what we do. So when it came time to start up a newspaper here in our new home in Buffalo, there was no question of not locating a practical joke target immediately for our first issue. Our first joke on American soil had to be grand in scale, and it had to meet our high professional standards.

Our plan for the Mayor almost seemed too primitive at first to be all that interesting. We decided to pose as executives for the HBO show The Sopranos and offer the Mayor some ridiculous and vaguely humiliating cameo role. The plan was to push it as far as possible until his office, or the Mayor himself, blinked. We had no plan for what to do, however, if he didn’t blink, not believing this to be possible. We have a lot to learn about Buffalo, it turns out.

The First Step

The first step was an exploratory phone call by “location scout Jeffrey Baines” to the Mayor’s press secretary, Matt Brown. Brown at first seemed dismissive and curt on the phone, which was about what we expected. After all, one would think that the leader of a major industrial city would have more pressing concerns than the possibility of scoring a bit part in a cable series, in particular one celebrating gangsters. His aides would be busy, impatient to get to the point… Nonetheless, Brown told us to follow up with our proposal in writing:

Listen to the call.  (2:01)

Brown:   Matt Brown. May I help you?

BEAST:   Hi, Mr. Brown. My name is Jeffrey Baines. I’m a location scout for the HBO television series, The Sopranos. And I had a question for you. I’m up here in Buffalo. We’re going to be shooting part of an episode that’s going to run next fall in the Niagara Falls area. And our senior producer, Sam Weiss, has been in consultation with the writers, and they’re interested in getting Mayor Masiello to appear in a cameo… and we wanted to know if there’s a possibility of speaking to Mr. Masiello, or at least sending him a letter.

Brown:   (unimpressed) Uh, you can send a letter.

BEAST:   Okay.

Brown:   You can send a letter to, obviously, the Mayor, Anthony Masiello, care of Matthew Brown. It’s 65 Niagara Sq., room 201, Buffalo, NY 14202. Let me give you my fax number.

BEAST:   Yeah. I was going to say–it might be better if we do this by fax.

Brown:   Yeah.

LetterWithin minutes after this call, we had our designers putting the finishing touches on our mock HBO stationary. It wasn’t very convincing–any 17-year-old Miramax intern worth his eyebrow stud would have been able to spot it as a phony from 200 yards away–but we figured it might be good enough to get past a professional political operative or two at City Hall. Once that was done, we typed up a letter to the Mayor from “Senior Producer Sam Weiss,” which included the following summation of the proposed plot:

“The storyline is very simple. Our lead character, a mob boss named Tony Soprano, has discovered that Jackie Aprile, Jr., the young man who has recently proposed marriage to his daughter, has a ‘goomah,’ or mistress, in Niagara Falls. In a rage, Tony books a ticket on Jet Blue to fly up to the area to confront Jackie. It then occurred to us to introduce a scene in which, by coincidence, Tony finds himself sitting next to you, Mayor Masiello, on the plane.

“Over the course of the flight, Tony–who himself has a mistress–unburdens himself to the friendly mayor about his own marital problems. Always ready to offer advice to a stranger, you urge Tony to reconcile with his wife, and offer suggestions on how to rekindle the romance. What suggestions you offer would obviously be something we’d like to consult with you about, but one direction we were thinking of going in would be urging Tony to discover a love of the arts with his wife–painting, poetry, music. “The episode could then conclude later on with a visit to the Albright Knox Art Museum, during which you explain to a bewildered Tony–who is still unaware that you are the Mayor–the beauty of the post-impressionist school of painting.”

Now, in the real world, this letter should have been sufficiently ridiculous to scare off any even mildly cogent public employee from taking it seriously. But when we had a female BEAST staffer call back as “Danielle,” Sam Weiss’s bubbly personal assistant, we found otherwise:

Listen to the call.  (5:49)

BEAST:   Hello, may I speak with the press department?

Mayor’s Office:   (female receptionist’s voice) I’m sorry. Mr. Brown, the Mayor’s director of communications, is off until Monday.

BEAST:   Oh, I see, maybe you can help me then. This is Danielle, from HBO films.

Mayor’s Office:   Mmm-hm!

BEAST:   We sent Mr. Brown–er, the Mayor, care of Mr. Brown–a proposal for a cameo in The Sopranos show?

Mayor’s Office:   Yes.

BEAST:   And I wanted to make sure that the fax was received.

Mayor’s Office:   Hold on, I’ll connect you to Bernadette.

The receptionist disappeared for a moment, giving us an opportunity to adjust the levels on our tape recorder. In a flash, she was back:

Mayor’s Office:   Hello?

BEAST:   Is this Bernadette?

Mayor’s Office:   Um, no, this is still the receptionist.

BEAST:   Okay.

Mayor’s Office:   Yes, he did receive the information, and he’s very happy about it.

BEAST:   He’s very happy about it?

Mayor’s Office:   Yes.

BEAST:   Excellent. Would it be possible for Mr. Weiss to speak with Mr. Brown on Monday, then?

Mayor’s Office:   Yes.

Before we let the receptionist off the phone, we decided to try to up the ante. Every good practical joke should contain one element of utter absurdity, so that after the fact, the victim has no excuse for falling for the trap. In this case we decided to offer, on behalf of our fictional cigar-chomping Jewish producer, a peculiar gift. Once we broached the subject, the receptionist connected us to someone a little higher up on the Masiello chain of command–the Mayor’s personal bodyguard, Juan Phillips:

Phillips:   Good afternoon. Officer Phillips.

BEAST:   Uh, Good afternoon. I’m sorry. This is Danielle Kuczkowski from HBO films.

Phillips:   Yes.

BEAST:   Um, I have a somewhat strange question.

Phillips:   Okay.

BEAST:   Mr. Sam Weiss was hoping to send the Mayor a small gift. And I’m just curious to know whether the Mayor would like… a porcelain unicorn. It’s autographed by James Spader, the actor. He makes them in his workshop in Westchester.

Phillips:   Okay.

BEAST:   It’s a bit of an unorthodox gift, so…

Phillips:   Wait a minute–what was the type of gift it was?

BEAST:Spader's Unicorn It’s a porcelain unicorn.

Phillips:   A unicorn?

BEAST:   A unicorn.

Phillips:   You’re talking about, like–the horse, with the…

BEAST:   The horse with the one horn?

Phillips:   Right!

BEAST:   Basically, I don’t know if you know this… James Spader, the actor…

Phillips:   You know, I’m not familiar with him. You know, that’s strange, because I am myself a movie buff, a play buff… James Bader?

BEAST:   James Spader. Maybe you remember… Sex, Lies and Videotape? Also, I think, White Castle…[eds. note: our bad. James Spader was never in a movie called White Castle].

Phillips:   Yes!

BEAST:   Crash, also, I believe…

Phillips:   (lying) Sure! Okay!

BEAST:   He makes these wonderful porcelain unicorns at his workshop in Westchester…

Here, Phillips entered into an impassioned soliloquy about the Mayor’s sensitive side:

Phillips:   Let me tell you something about our Mayor.

BEAST:   Mm-hmm.

Phillips:   Our mayor is a man of art.

BEAST:   (incredulous) Is a man of… art?

Phillips:   He loves all types of art.

BEAST:   Really?

Phillips:   From paintings, to sculptures…oriental rugs. He spends a good portion of his time at antique shops [!].

BEAST:   Oh, that’s just terrific!

Phillips:   He loves promoting our city. I’m the officer assigned to him. I just drove him around looking at the neighborhoods. He loves seeing trees and flowers in bloom. He has a thing about clean and green, he believes in that. He spends a lot of time at the art gallery himself… He loves it, he loves everything that deals with art. So if it’s something that’s being made by another actor [eds. note: another actor?], where he himself is making it, the Mayor will love it.

BEAST:   Oh, that’s wonderful.

Phillips:   You’ve got a great following here, there’s a great following of The Sopranos series here. In this office alone, we watch it… I don’t want to use the word religiously, but we watch it every week.

BEAST:   Wonderful! Do you watch it yourself?

Phillips:   Oh, yes. When The Sopranos came out on CD…

BEAST:   Yes?

Phillips:   I bought the whole set.

BEAST:   Well, it’s a great, great success. We’re very proud of the program.

At this point, Phillips digressed, filling us in on the Mayor’s recent appearance in a locally-produced movie that starred legendary camp TV actor Frank Gorsham (or, as Phillips put it, “Frank… I don’t know what his last name is, but he played the Riddler”). After hearing about the Mayor’s film history, we briefly worried that we might have to pay him Screen Actors’ Guild rates, then asked once again about the Mayor’s interest in our show:

BEAST:   So you think he’d be amenable to appearing in a cameo?

Phillips:   Oh, yes! He already stated that he was very excited. He showed me the letter the other day. He was very excited about it.

It took us a while, after the end of this phone call, to fully take in and appreciate the image of Mayor Masiello proudly showing off our cheesy home-drawn knock-off letter to his staff… But we couldn’t sit still for long:

The Ball was in Play

The next day, still in disbelief, we did the only logical thing: we went ahead and actually sent the Mayor a unicorn. We had a BEAST contributor in New York buy a pair of piece-of-shit, made-in-Taiwan, not-quite porcelain unicorns (one for us as a souvenir, and one for the Mayor), crudely inscribe the letters “J. Spader” on the side, and send one of them to City Hall from a Manhattan Post office.

Two days later, a phone rang in the apartment of our Manhattan intern, whose number we’d used on our letterhead. Our intern was not home, but her roommate, who’d been briefed for this eventuality, quickly asked to take a message when she heard the voice of Matt Brown, calling to thank us for the gift.

It was now time to bring Sam Weiss onto the stage. The next day we had Danielle call Matt Brown back and patch through the heavyweight senior TV producer–actually our thirty year-old slacker co-editor Kevin McElwee, sitting at home smoking a Kools in a Bills t-shirt–for a serious talk:

Listen to the call.  (4:15)

BEAST:   Mr. Brown!

Brown:   Hi, how are you?

BEAST:   Yeah, Sam Weiss here. Good talking to you.

Brown:   Good talking to you. I called your office yesterday to thank you for the, uh… unicorn.

BEAST:   Oh, you got that!

Brown:   Yes, that was really nice.

BEAST:   Yes, James Spader is a great man. He does some good stuff for us. We’re very happy with him…

Brown:   That’s very thoughtful, very thoughtful. The Mayor’s in Albany today. He won’t be back until tomorrow morning. Um, he, we received your letter. He’s very interested in participating. And would like to, uh, you know, we’re just following your lead, for you to tell us how to proceed.

BEAST:   Uh, well, how did the Mayor feel about the general storyline?

Brown:   The storyline, he was very comfortable with it. The people in our internal staff kind of looked at it. You know everybody’s psyched about it. They think it’s great, great for Buffalo. [Eds. note: Great for Buffalo? How?]

BEAST:   Okay. Well, obviously, it’s just in the planning stages, in terms of a script. If there’s anything he’d feel uncomfortable about, we’d take that into consideration.

Brown:   Sure.

BEAST:   Well, that’s great. Great to hear. Do you think that it would be possible to speak to the Mayor at some point? Personally?

Brown:   Certainly.

BEAST:   Yes?

Brown:   Certainly!

BEAST:   You say he’ll be back tomorrow?

Brown:   Yeah. If there’s a number where I can have him contact you. That number [that I called the other day], is that a good number to reach you at?

BEAST:   (nervously, unconvincingly) Not generally. Right now I’m travelling. Yesterday, I was held up on the island. And I’m heading down to the D.C. area today. Could you tell me a good time to call? I’ll have my assistant conference me in.

Brown:   Um…Let’s see, he’s not back in Buffalo until ten… Why don’t we say three o’clock?

BEAST:   Three o’clock.

Brown:   Right.

BEAST:   Okay.

Not expecting to get hold of the mayor so quickly, we hesitated after this call, no longer sure of what to do. To give us more time to think, we invented a little accident for Mr. Weiss, hinting vaguely in our return call the next day that the senior producer had been involved in a ghastly car wreck and was now in traction (we would have added that he was also facing charges for running over two small black children, but the Mayor’s receptionist didn’t press the issue). In the meantime, we asked if we could come by and pick up a head shot of the Mayor.

Mr. Brown, in a voice that suggested that such requests were common at City Hall, said by all means; we made a date for a “location scout” to pick up a photo at City Hall.

Having been largely shut out of the acting up to this point, I dressed up as “location scout Geoff Winestock” and went over to City Hall two days later. While waiting in the Mayor’s reception room for the photo to be delivered, I took out my cell phone and loudly conducted a pre-arranged conversation with “Mr. Weiss” on the other end of the line. The gist of the conversation was that our “star,” James Gandolfini, a.k.a. Tony Sopranos, had rejected the Bradford bar on Chippewa as a location because “it was too light” and might make him look too fat on camera.

“Too fat?” I shouted into the phone. “Who does he think he is, Joan Crawford? We can’t do this scene in a basement!”

After a few minutes of this, a door opened at the side of the room, and Mayor Masiello poked his head out. I was momentarily caught off-guard by the Mayor’s height. A tall person and an ex-basketball player myself, I was dwarfed by the lanky exec, who drifted over to the receptionist’s desk while I conducted my call and appeared to silently eavesdrop while pretending to rearrange some papers on her desk. Once the call was over, he ducked back into his office.

They gave me the head shot and I went home.

Sometimes the reason for pulling this or that practical joke is obvious. If you send George Bush a $1000 campaign contribution on Nazi party stationery and he cashes it, it’s pretty clear what you’ve got, and why you did it. But sometimes it requires pulling back and getting some perspective on things before the point of a joke really becomes clear.

Think of it this way. If you’re broke and you don’t have a job and you’ve maybe got a child or a relative who’s dying–because the city is too busy negotiating casino deals with creeps from Southeast Asia, and helping huge companies pay for their private palaces, to give you health care–well, you can try forever and a day to get a public official with any responsibility at all on the telephone, and you never will.

But if you call up and pretend to be a Hollywood big shot, and dangle a silly little part in a trendy gangster show… Well, you can fly into town from halfway around the world without any friends or references at all, and you can have the Mayor of the city himself eating out of your hand in no time.

You know what politics is? It’s not about taking care of people anymore. It’s show business for ugly people. And when real show business comes knocking, even in the form of a show that celebrates gangsters and racketeering, almost any of our leaders these days will drop his “day job” in a second for a chance at the real thing. The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to suck eggs.

We Get the Mayor on the Phone

On Tuesday, May 28, we got the Mayor on the phone. Mr. Weiss, we explained, had recovered from his accident sufficiently to conduct business, and wanted to speak to the chief.

The resultant conversation was remarkable for its extreme awkwardness and for its many different paranoid undercurrents. But on the surface, it was exactly what we expected it to be: a Mayor of a major city–a city mired in a major financial crisis, and reeling from the collapse of one of its largest companies–abjectly expressing his desire to appear on a hit cable TV series. It should be noted that the Mayor’s receptionist offered to set up a meeting with the Mayor within fifteen minutes after we first called back.

That was too fast for us; we made it an hour. When the time came, we pushed “Sam” back to the phone for the climactic call:

Listen to the call.  (6:31)

BEAST:   Hi, Mayor Masiello!

Masiello:   (bursting with enthusiasm) Sam, Tony Masiello! Mayor of the great city of Buffalo, New York!

BEAST:   Great to talk to you, sir.

Masiello:   My pleasure. And thank you very much for your interest in Buffalo and Western New York.

BEAST:   Absolutely, absolutely. [irrelevantly] So I understand that you got the unicorn that we sent?

Masiello:   (not taken aback at all) Yes I did! Thank you very much. It’s so nice of you.

BEAST:   Yes, James Spader is a great… a great fella.

Masiello:   (pained) Thank you, I appreciate it.

BEAST:   We just had a few questions…

Masiello:   Sure.

BEAST:   As far as setting up the production and the planning of the episode, really…

Masiello:   Great.

BEAST:   Just wanted to ask you a few things. Did you ever sing any Karaoke?

Masiello:   (laughs) No, I, uh… I can’t sing a lick.

BEAST:   You don’t play any instruments or anything?

Masiello:   No, I do not.

BEAST:   Huh.

Masiello:   (hopefully) I can dance.

BEAST:   You can dance?

Masiello:   Heh, heh, heh.

BEAST:   Well, we can all dance a little, I guess.

Masiello:   That’s right. Is that… needed?

BEAST:   (distracted by laughter in room, ignoring him) Um… what about squash or flyfishing, anything like that?

Masiello:   Uh…No, I played basketball in high school and college. I was in my college hall of fame for basketball… I was drafted by the Indiana Pacers.

BEAST:   Really?

Masiello:   But I do not, um…I was not good at squash–or fishing.

BEAST:   And what about golf?

Masiello:   Yeah, I play golf, but I stink.

BEAST:   Well, we can all be a little better.

Masiello:   That’s right.

BEAST:   Um, okay, I think that’s probably just about it…

At this point, a weird volley of racially charged comments passed between ourselves and the Mayor. We had decided to ask about the Mayor’s heritage in the hopes that he might somehow connect it to The Sopranos show, but he took it the wrong way–and his response appeared loaded with implications that the obviously Jewish Weiss should have caught:

BEAST:   Maseillo… are your ancestors from the Abruzze province?

Masiello:   They’re from the region of Potenza. They’re not far from Naples.

BEAST:   Right, the home of pizza.

Masiello:   (venemously) Do you have family who are Italians?

At this point, Kevin was distracted because I was signaling to him to ask the Mayor about the casino deal… We wanted to see if he would be willing to expedite the building process so that we could shoot inside the new facility. As I was reminding him of this, Kevin simply ignored the Mayor’s question about Sam’s Italian relatives. Nonetheless, he waited patiently on the phone.

Masiello:   Hello?

BEAST:   Yes, yes. Well, we’ve been following this casino thing up there. When do you think this thing is going to be built?

Masiello:   Well, there’s several issues that have to be resolved first. While it did pass the reservation vote, it has to go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs first for approval. Then there has to be negotiations with local developers and operators, along with the local municipalities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. So you’ve got two facilities in both cities that we’re looking to renovate as temporary casinos. And I think that’s 6-8 months away.

BEAST:   Oh, really. Because we’d love to shoot in there. But I don’t think it’s going to be done…

Masiello:   No, I don’t think it’s going to be in time…

BEAST:   Right.

Masiello:   What do you expect of me?

BEAST:   Well, we’d like to make it sort of as fast as possible. It would probably be one or two days in all.

Masiello:   Oh, that’s fine, I look forward to it.

BEAST:   And once we have a script… We’ve got a couple of other candidates we’re looking at, but we’re pretty excited about Buffalo, so…

Masiello:   Oh, that’s great. Have you made a decision to do it in Buffalo?

BEAST:   No, we haven’t made the final decision to do it yet. We’re looking at a couple of other candidates.

As expected, the Mayor at this point quickly let us know that he was willing to go the extra mile for the show:

Masiello:   Is there anything I can do to help in that process?

BEAST:   Um, not really. Really it’s out of my hands. I’m just a producer. It’s in the hands of the creative folks to really make the final decision about this stuff…

Masiello:   When do you anticipate this being done?

BEAST:   We want to make the decision sometime this week.

Masiello:   No, when do you think that the shooting should take place?

BEAST:   Um, the shooting we think would be later in the summer. So, probably August, something like that.

At this point, the Mayor went off on a poetic digression. In the middle of this section, he is clearly reading from the letter we had originally written to him:

Masiello:   You know, it’s interesting, in the letter you wrote me about the segment, you mentioned taking the “bewildered Tony” to Albright Knox. I live right next door to the Albright Knox gallery.

BEAST:   (totally unimpressed) Oh. Really.

Masiello:   Yeah, so….Um.

BEAST:   Yeah. I haven’t been to Buffalo for a long time, myself, but I’ve seen the pictures. It looks like a lovely place.

Masiello:   Yeah, it is a great place. But you know, Buffalo being right next to Niagara falls, there’s a lot of great older neighborhoods, a lot of great Italian neighborhoods. I think it will augment whatever you’re doing.

BEAST:   Right. Right. (an unbelievably long and painful silence follows)

Masiello:   Okay.

BEAST:   So, like I said, we’ll be making a decision later this week. Because we need to get rolling on the specifics of it. So we’ll get back to someone in your office at that time. We’ll let you know.

Masiello:   (ominously, perhaps just now catching on that the thing is a farce) I’m looking forward to working with you–and meeting you.

BEAST:   Great.

Masiello:   Thank you.

BEAST:   Thank you.

As the BEAST went to press, we were calling the Mayor’s office to inform him that he’d been passed over for the part in favor of Graham Richard, Mayor of the great city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Richard, we said, had agreed to appear shirtless for the show, and that was the deciding factor.

We were glad we weren’t there to hear how Tony M. took the news. But somehow we have a feeling we’ll find out soon enough. At least we know now how the Mayor spends his time…

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IT HAD NO SNAPPER

May 31st, 2002 by

IT HAD NO SNAPPER

Hi guys,
I am writing in response to the posting at exile.ru about help with the new publications. I live in Brooklyn, NY; and being a long time eXile.ru reader, I would like to offer my help to your publication in Buffalo. My background is in IT.

Regards,
Dmitry Zuykov

Dear Dmitry,
We were going to say that if you really wanted to help, you could send us a picture of your girlfriend’s snapper. But since you’re in IT, you probably don’t have one. So we don’t know what to ask you.


THERE IS NO SPELL-CHECKER IN HEAVEN

Dear Matt,
I stumbled across your eXile article “God Can Suck My Dick” and am saddened to see such a thing. I thought I’d email to let you know that God loves you anyway … even with such blasphemous thoughts.

It’s your choice to turn from Him … He’s there with open arms anytime.

Eternity in hell is a long time, you might want to get things straight (with Him) before you die.

Your article suggests persuing an argument with witnessing Christians to basically annoy them … witnessing Christians seek you to try and help you, not annoy you.

Just because you decided to believe hell doesn’t exist, doesn’t make the reality of it go away. With all due respect, maybe you could set aside all of that smart aleck attitude and consider “absolute truth”.

It’s your choice, though … eternity is a long time.

Paddlehead
Tuskegee, Alabama

Dear Paddlehead,
Hell is nothing compared to what your wife has to go through every night. Fuck off and die. And please tell your creepy Christian friends to stop writing us. We have a whole new generation of hate-mail writers here in Buffalo to make room for.


NED GAVE US AIDS

Hello,
Saw the ad @ exile.ru. I’m in Buffalo and have been reading eXile for a year or so–&, in fact, used it as a vestige of freedom of the press in my most recent book (you can see some of my work @ amazon, loompanics.com, et al.). I also frequent strip clubs. What more can you ask? Let me know about your project.

All the best,
Ned Beaumont

Dear Ned,
Okay, so we called you after we got this letter, and made an arrangement to go meet you at the Anchor Bar. We get there at the appointed time, and–no Ned Beaumont. Fifteen minutes, a half hour, an hour pass. 20 wings later we’re sitting there staring at each other, faces covered in wing sauce, like a pair of jilted prom dates. Finally, we got up and left. We were so distraught that.. you know what we did? We drove to East Buffalo, scored three grams of smack, and shot dope all weekend. We’re addicts now. It’ll be virtually impossible for us to avoid AIDS at this point… And all because of you, Ned. We’re looking at twenty years of protease inhibitors because of you. Twenty years of waking up every morning and checking our ankles for Kaposi’s sarcoma. You think we need that shit? Fuck you, Ned. Fuck you and your books on amazon.com.


I’M A FAMOUS TROUSER PILOT

Dear Beasti,
Perhaps you remember the long boring tirade on Buffalo politics I sent you a few months ago. My interest has been piqued by your call for Exile readers from Buffalo. I’m a ‘respectable citizen’ and something of a public figure, as such association with your publishing project, either in Moscow or Buffalo could be damaging to my reputation and professional interests. If your new project is something the larger Buffalo community could appreciate I would be glad to help, even if it isn’t I might contribute. Either way I’m curious to know what you’re hatching.

Also, I recommend you contact [names prominent homosexual in the Buffalo Arts community] he’s a busy guy, but he knows his beat.

Good Luck,
Buffalo Bill

Dear Bill,
So you’re a public figure, huh? Sure. And we’re Chinese jet pilots. Write us back when you finish freshman year.


A HELPING HAND

Dear [sic],
i’d be quite interested in getting a better idea of what you’re cooking up in buffalo — even though i’m in NYC, maybe there’s something i could do for you…

bev

Dear bev,
Yeah, there’s something you can do for us. There’s this guy in Brooklyn named Dima Zuykov who hasn’t been laid in years. Give him a call, take him out for a cheeseburger, and then take him home and fuck his brains out. Then let him take a picture of your snapper, so that he can send it to us. Because right now, he can’t send us a picture of anyone’s snapper.


GO FORTH AND SUCK

Hi,
I’m on Long Island, about half an hour from NYC. Can I in any way help the new paper?

Sincerely,
Dan Palchik

Dear Dan,
Yes, you can. You can go online to www.artvoice.com, subscribe to ArtVoice, and then spread the word in Long Island about the mysteries of bus stop construction. Great tidal waves always start with a ripple. Be brave; be first. You have our support.


THAT’S NOT FUNNY

Dear Dickwads,
Heard through the grapevine that you illiterate losers were leaving Russia to come to my home city, of all places. What, is there no place to get back hair treatments in Russia? Did the local hookers there raise their prices to $20? You guys sell yourselves as these debonair sex kings, but I’ve seen your pictures, and the truth is that you’re just a bunch of sad middle-aged guys with receding hairlines. Just like every other guy in Buffalo. Good luck finding girls to be impressed by your blue passports here in the USA.

I was forced to read you guys for my Russia class in college, and I hated you then. Now that I’m out of school and back home, I still hate you. I’m looking forward to seeing you fail here. I’m sure a lot of women around the country feel the same way. Assume the position, dweebs. Get ready for a big dose of reality.

Loving this,
Pam

Dear Pam,
We can’t argue with that! Now that’s a letter, folks. Pam, call our offices today to claim a free BEAST t-shirt. U Deserve It, girl!


I AM HANDSOME AND YOUR FRIEND

Dear Beast,
handsomeSaw your ad on exile.ru calling for help in Buffalo. I live in Rochester, where I’m temping and don’t have a lot to do. Since I’m a guy, I don’t have a picture of my snapper, but I do have a picture of what I look like. I’m enclosing it here:

Do you think there might be a place for me at the BEAST? I don’t have computer skills, but I am willing to go out to clubs and “hit the town.” I’ve been a fan of eXile for a long time and think I could really help out.

Let me know,
Jason K.
Rochester

Dear Jason,
This is a joke, right? You don’t really look like that, do you? Get out of here, you nut! Send us your real picture! We’re not falling for any of that stuff! Whaddya think, we were born yesterday? Get out of town, U!

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BEAST PHYSICS TIPS

May 31st, 2002 by

BEAST PHYSICS TIPS
with Ashok Dibbawalla

Lesson #1:
Some Elementary Pressure Calculations Involving Water and County Executive Joel Giambra

Question:
What would happen if County Executive Joel Giambra were taken to the bottom of the ocean?

Answer:
Dragging County Executive Giambra to the bottom of the ocean would serve as an excellent object lesson on the difference between compressible and incompressible substances.

figure 1fig. 1

To simplify the equations, let’s start by placing County Executive Joel Giambra in a rigid vertical cylinder. If the cylinder has a diameter of ~44-1/2 inches, the ends of the cylinder will have an area of about 1 meter square. Let’s imagine that the bottom of the cylinder is fixed to the walls, and that the top can move up and down in the cylinder like piston. Like a piston, the top also has a gasket that keeps the contents of the cylinder sealed inside. (See figure 1).

Imagine what would happen if we were to pour water into the top of the cylinder. The weight of the water would move the piston down until there was an upward force on the bottom of equal magnitude. Could County Executive Joel Giambra provide this force? Let’s calculate its magnitude.

The product of the water’s density and volume gives the weight of the water. If we were to fill the top to a height of 0.25 meters (~10 inches), County Executive Joel Giambra would have to support the weight of 0.25 cubic meters of water.

figure 2fig. 2

Water has a density of 1000 kg/cubic meter. This means that to hold up the cylinder, he would have to support 250 kg, or about 550 pounds. (See figure 2).

Now, of course he can’t hold back the piston. But if this is true, one could wonder why divers aren’t crushed after diving down only a few meters? The force that holds back the piston is provided by the air trapped underneath. As the piston moves down, the air pressure under the cylinder increases. The upward force it exerts on the bottom of the piston is given by the product of the air pressure and the area of the piston. As we fill the top, the sinking piston sinks compressing the air underneath until the pressure rises high enough to stop the downward movement. (This compression also increases the temperature in the cylinder, but by adding water slowly and letting the system cool off, we can ignore this effect.)

figure 3fig. 3

At 10 meters (~33 feet), the pressure is about double the atmospheric pressure at the surface. That means that the volume of the cylinder has been cut in half! (See figure 3).

Each additional 10 meters will raise the pressure by one atmosphere. As we journey with County Executive Joel Giambra deeper and deeper into the depths, we notice a pattern. The air around him, in his lungs and in his body cavities continues to shrink, but the fluids that make up his tissues continue to occupy the same volume! We call such fluids “incompressible.”

figure 4fig. 4

After 1000 meters, the size of his fluids is the same, but the gases around him occupy less 1/100th of their former volume. Many of them have been dissolved into the liquids, like the carbon dioxide dissolved into a soft drink. By the time we reach the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at around 5,500 meters (~3.4 miles), we find County Executive Joel Giambra essentially liquefied. (See figure 4.)

All that remains is to calculate the volume of the bottom of the cylinder. It has been suggested that County Executive Joel Giambra weighs around 220 pounds, or about 100 kg. We’ll estimate that the density of his remains is about the density of water. Dividing his mass by his density gives 0.1 cubic meters. The bottom of the cylinder is 1 square meter, therefore the height of the piston is 0.1 meters, or about four inches.

Ashok Dibbawalla is Professor Emeritus at the Online University of Ft. Lauderdale. He now lives with his family in Buffalo NY.

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Say no 2 Creed

May 31st, 2002 by

Say No 2 Creed

no 2 creedSay no to Creed

1 (866) 272-7584* (pin#2080)
The 24-hour, Toll-Free NO-CREED Emergency Helpline!

Of all the abominations ever to come out of the foul state of Florida, perhaps none is as hateful and potentially dangerous as the lumbering, posturing pseudo-Christian rock band CREED. From their overwrought lyrics and downright amusical riffmanship to the constant shirtless posing and would-be-soulful moaning of frontman fansScott Stapp, this band constitutes one of the most serious threats ever unleashed by the mainstream corporate music industry on an unsuspecting public. But whether you or someone you know is afflicted by this group’s bombastic hard-rock stylings, the NO-CREED EMERGENCY HELPLINE is here to help.

  • Does your spouse play Creed records at high volumes to mask the screams when he beats you?
  • Does your son play in a Creed cover band–or, worse yet–play acoustic versions of Creed songs at open-mic nights?
  • Does your daughter scrawl the names of Creed band members onto every available space on her body using a pen, knife, or philips-head screwdriver?
  • Do you involuntarily hum Creed songs while stuck in rush hour traffic… although the radio is not even on?
  • Do you suspect a co-worker or someone else you know of being a secret Creed fan?

If you answered “Yes” to any one of these questions–or if you’re just troubled by the whole Creed phenomenon in general and would like to talk to someone about it–then call the NO-CREED EMERGENCY HELPLINE for expert, professional advice and intervention before it’s too late. From a touch-tone phone, just dial 1 (866) 272-7584, then enter then code 2080 when the recording asks for the pin number.

Call Now

* The NO-CREED Helpline is a toll-free call from anywhere within the Continental U.S. and Canada. Elsewhere, regular toll charges apply.

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Five Day Misogyny Forecast

May 31st, 2002 by

Five Day Misogyny Forecast


Five Day Misogyny Forecast cloud

Monday June 3
Partly angry in the afternoon, giving way to uneasy truce in the evening

order

Tuesday June 4
Bickering, threats, severe break-up; chance of afternoon restraining order



leer

Wednesday June 5
Sulking, leering in idling cars: shrine-building at night



noose

Thursday June 6
Incessant masturbation throughout the day, occasional phone calls from ex-girlfriends. Mute hatred, giving way to seething toward evening.



handcuffs

Friday June 7
Violence, stalking, and a 60% chance of police custody.



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PRIZE SNOOZE

May 31st, 2002 by

by Matt Taibbi

I’m new to Buffalo, but already I feel offended on the city’s behalf every time I turn on the news. No city in the country gets less love from the national media than Buffalo. And no city’s journalists get left out of the fun more. When was the last time you saw a TV reporter from Buffalo standing in a flak jacket in front of a burning tank? When was the last time you saw an overpaid Buffalo journalist (Tim Russert no longer counts) with a self-satisfied smirk on his face lobbing out softball questions from a panel at a Presidential debate? The answers in both cases are never and never– and the sad news, folks, is that that will probably never change.

Here’s an illustration of how bad things are for Buffalo. Just last week, when the remains of Chandra Levy’s body were found in a park in Washington, every major network in the country had a reporter in a jogging costume at the park within two hours. Fox TV’s Greta Van Susteren was there in 90 minutes. As I watched her doing her live shot, I thought there was something strange about the camera was set up. Van Susteren’s trademark masculine chin was just as freakishly cubical and convex as always, but the background in the shot looked fuzzy, remote. After a minute, I thought to myself: “Gosh, Greta’s pretty far off the ground. She’s gotten taller.”

But that was only the way it looked. In fact, Van Susteren was standing on top of Wolf Blitzer, Sam Donaldson, and 23 other bureau hacks from local affiliates all over the country. The journalists were standing in a pile there at Rock Creek. They were stacked so high that the networks had to shoot from crane-buckets and towers. But there was no one there from Buffalo, not even on the print side– in fact, as far as I can tell, there was no Buffalo reporter even in the city at all.

Buffalo’s best chance to get in on the feeding frenzy, the Buffalo News, mailed it in. Their front-page Chandra story the next day was a dull double-bylined offering by two out-of-house reporters, Steve Twomey and Sari Horowitz of the Washington Post.

The Levy story, frivolous as it obviously is, is a perfect illustration of how the structure of modern media fails smaller markets like Buffalo. Year after year, the Buffalo News attains some of the highest profitability margins of any newspaper in the country. Just a few years ago, Editor and Publisher magazine rated it as the most profitable newspaper in the country. It has a billionaire owner and seemingly limitless resources to pursue its own coverage of breaking news. Yet it doesn’t even have its own reporters in the nation’s capital to cover hot-button news stories. If a major city’s sole print daily can’t even cover Washington, what kind of coverage of the rest of the planet can it possibly get?

The owner of the News, hurrumphing billionaire Warren Buffet, has an answer to that question. As a director of the Washington Post and the owner of a 17 percent stake in that paper, he would naturally answer that, by allowing the Buffalo News to take advantage of the fine coverage of his other, more famous paper, he is doing the citizens of Buffalo a favor. And indeed, when Buffet bought the News, it was widely hoped that an owner with deep pockets and media connections would help raise journalistic standards in the city. At the time of the sale, Buffet issued a statement that was widely cheered and quoted: “I want to achieve business success in newspapers, but will be unhappy unless it is accompanied by journalistic success.”

But in fact what Buffet’s business acumen has meant for the city is a one-horse daily newspaper market, and a pattern of cost-cutting that has left the News itself utterly dependent on outside sources for non-local coverage. As for the efficacy of using material from the reputable and much-ballyhooed Washington Post, well… one need only look at this year’s Pulitzer Prize awards to see what that has meant for ordinary readers in places like Buffalo, who live far from the action.

The Post, as it does every year (the Post and the New York Times usually win about half of the Pulitzers overall and generally all of the important ones, while lesser papers like the Boston Globe are usually thrown a bone for things like sports coverage or editorial cartooning), won a handful of Pulitzers in 2002. One of the three awards that it won this spring was for National Reporting. This particular award is directly relevant to Buffalo, since most all of the articles submitted for the prize were also republished in the Buffalo News.

In lieu of having its own home-grown reporters cluelessly wandering the mall at Washington in search of dubious scoops, Buffalo last year had the privilege of reading storied muckraker Bob WoodwardWoodward’s celebrated insider bulletins from the Hill. The Pulitzer committee, which singled out stories like the October 21 “CIA Told to Do ‘Whatever Necessary’ to Kill Bin Laden,” (republished in the Buffalo News under the homier headline of “Bush Backs CIA on Killing of bin Laden”) for praise, deemed this a good thing. But upon closer examination, what the committee was really praising the Post for was its willingness to restrict itself to sources higher up in the ivory tower than a small-town reporter would likely have access to.

The Post’s National Reporting award was for “comprehensive coverage of America’s war on terrorism, which regularly brought forth new information together with skilled analysis of unfolding developments.” The Pulitzer Committee’s ruling was that the Post coverage of the most important story of this or any other recent year was the best that the country had to offer. Cities like Buffalo that relied on Post coverage, in other words, had no reason to complain of being uninformed about 9/11.

But get this: of the eleven stories the Post submitted to the Pulitzer Committee for the award, a full six relied exclusively on government sources, the vast majority of them unnamed. And as sportswriters say, this game wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. Even in those stories that didn’t rely entirely on government sources, the overwhelming majority of the information still came directly from anonymous employees of the state.

I actually went through all the articles and did a count. By my reckoning, 67 of the 78 quoted sources in the eleven Post articles were government sources. And again, the vast majority of those sources were unnamed.

It is hard to call reporting that relies solely on government sources real journalism. The Soviets did it, of course, giving prizes to Pravda and Izvestia journalists for their efficient clerical work in relaying official Communist party press releases to the masses. In the States, we confidently called that kind of reporting total bullshit for over 70 years. But when one of our own journalists does exactly the same thing, we can’t give him awards fast enough.

Here’s an example from the award-winning Post submissions– the December 9 piece, “U.S. Says New Tape Points to bin Laden,” written by Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung. This is a piece that the Soviets couldn’t have done any better. In it, the Post reported that a “new tape” obtained by U.S. intelligence services offers offers “the most conclusive evidence” to date that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 bombings. Unnamed government sources quoted in the piece claimed that the tape shows bin Laden bragging about the attack to associates, and noting that the damage to the World Trade Center was “worse than [he] expected.”

The story was reported as fact despite the fact that the journalists were not even allowed to see the tape, or even see a transcript. It ran it despite the fact that none of the sources in the piece were willing to go on the record asserting the tape’s existence.

Given the fact that the Bush administration’s failure to publicly release concrete proof linking bin Laden to the attacks had already been an international issue, this was extremely dicey journalism. A truly independent newspaper would have laughed in the White House’s face had it called up to say, “We have proof that bin Laden did it. It’s on tape. But don’t quote us on that.”

The right response there would have been to say, “Uh-huh. Show us the tape and we’ll think about it.” But the Post blew off all of these considerations and just ran the piece under a big banner headline on the front page. Again, if the Soviets had done this (and they did, over and over, for instance in the numerous Pravda articles claiming that the Soviet Union had been “invited” to invade Afghanistan), we would have laughed at any suggestion that this was real journalism. But Pincus and DeYoung now have a Pulitzer Prize on their resumes.

A quick note on Pincus. Since all news articles in papers like the Washington Post seem more or less exactly alike, few people ever bother to look at the byline to wonder who wrote them. After all, you don’t ask the name of the chef that cooked your Big Mac. But in Pincus’s case, the byline is worth a look. Among journalists, his name is one of the most notorious in the business. In an article he wrote for the Post shortly after taking a job there in 1967, Pincus admitted proudly that he had worked for the CIA, representing the U.S. at international conferences in 1960 under an assumed identity. The Washington Times, one of the most conservative papers in the country, referred to Pincus in 1996 as the “CIA’s house reporter.”

It’s well-known in the business that when the intelligence community has something it really wants to put over on the people, it gives Pincus a call. A good example came in the famous San Jose Mercury-News fiasco in 1996, when the small California paper published an expose that claimed that the CIA had sold crack to fund the contras. Pincus led a counterattack by the big dailies dismissing the Mercury reporting as groundless.

He was an old hand at dismissing Contra-hijinks allegations by then. In 1989, Pincus’s take on the Iran-Contra allegations had been, “Just because a congressional commission in Costa Rica says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.” Obviously, he doesn’t bring the same muckraker skepticism to statements by American officials… but who’s counting?

If you bother looking closely, you can see that the Post itself is uneasy about its reliance on unnamed sources. This is clear when you look at the tortured wording of the attributions in the pieces. There are a finite number of different ways to say “According to one unnamed government source,” but the Post somehow manages to use all of them, sometimes within the same article. Take the aforementioned Woodward piece, “CIA Told to Do ‘Whatever Necessary’ to Kill bin Laden.” Here’s a list of the attributed sources in that piece:

  • “Officials”
  • “One senior official”
  • “A senior official”
  • “The Vice President”
  • “Another senior official”
  • “A senior Bush official”
  • “Another senior Bush official”
  • “One official”
  • “Bush officials”

It takes some doing not to repeat any of those phrases within an article. I mean, you have to really be looking out for it. And in this case, you wouldn’t be looking out for it if you weren’t painfully aware of how embarrassing the whole thing is.

This is what having Warren Buffet running your only serious newspaper does for a city like Buffalo. Here you have a city that’s in the midst of a serious fiscal crisis, brought on in no small part by a shortfall in expected income tax revenue sent back to the region by the state. That shortfall is obviously mainly due to the blow dealt to the New York State economy by 9/11. The terrorism issue, and the federal government’s decision to allocate more of its resources to a military buildup than to aid to New York State, is directly relevant to this city.

But instead of getting the perspective of a local reporter, who might be inclined to ask if a dozen new school buildings in Buffalo might be more useful in the long run than one pilotless drone that the Air Force fires into the side of a mountain somewhere in Afghanistan, we get a bunch of Georgetown hotshot hacks with monster expense accounts feeding us feel-good war news from the anonymous White House pals their paper just treated to lunch. It might be the truth, but who knows? Would you be willing to bet your school system on it? All of this sucks, but that’s the way things work in the Warren Buffet era– it just costs too much to let the natives in small cities do their own reporting. We don’t even get to gawk at Chandra Levy’s skull with our own eyes.

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THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR INTENTIONS

May 31st, 2002 by

THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR INTENTIONS

WE’VE BEEN IN TOWN less than a month, and already the rumors are flying. One the one hand, this is something that we expected. It’s natural to assume that when a group of notoriously belligerent journalists from halfway across the planet move without any warning or obvious explanation to a place like Buffalo… well, questions will arise. What are these guys doing here? Why did they come? What do they have planned?

While this is not a question that we here at the Beast can answer easily, there is one thing that we can say for certain, and that is this: that those rumors that we have come here to blow up the HSBC tower, killing everyone inside and setting the whole downtown area ablaze, are absolutely unfounded.

We repeat: we have no plans to crash a small commercial jetliner hijacked en route to Toronto into the HSBC tower with the aim of destroying the entire downtown area, human population and all. It’s ridiculous even to think that we might. After all, we didn’t labor for five years in Russia to create a successful and critically-acclaimed newspaper called the eXile just to throw it all away in one last, desperate, suicidal act halfway around the world– no matter how much we might want to.

American Airlines can rest assured: there is absolutely no way that we will be travelling under assumed names on flight 1127, leaving Laguardia for Toronto, at any time in the near future. Furthermore, it is both slanderous and irresponsible to suggest that there is anything suspicious or out of the ordinary in the fact that several members of the Beast staff have have learned to pilot, but not to land or take off, a twin-engine passenger liner. A great many people take flying lessons; not all of them complete their studies.

Our response to all those questions about our strangely frenzied patterns of foreign travel in the last few months, including clandestine trips to and from uncharted moutnainous regions of Abkhazia, Chechnya and Georgia? We just throw up our hands in amazement. Have we as Americans become so paranoid that we can no longer accept as neighbors people who happen to have friends in heavily-armed extralegal territories within the Iranian sphere of influence? Have we lost the ability to live and let live– just because the guy next door sometimes wears a turban, a canteen, and an ammo belt, and spends his evenings unloading crates marked in Arabic from a panel truck with no license plates? Has it really come to that?

The last thing on our minds.
The last thing on our minds.

We at the Beast believe that tolerance is America’s, and Buffalo’s, salvation. While our president speaks of defeating enemies abroad, and uniting in vigilance against threats here at home, we believe that our primary responsibility as Americans is to love our neighbors. We believe that there are a great many ways in which even we here in Western New York can learn to achieve a greater sense of closeness with our fellow citizens.

We can, for instance, learn to better understand and appreciate the point of view of the practioners of other faiths– the Muslim, the Buddhist, and even (as Melville would call him) the Hindoo.

We can put ourselves in the shoes of the black and the brown, and genuinely try to imagine what the bite of our repressive white society feels like– the harrassment by police, the persecution by landlords, the cold stares of would-be employers.

And at at approximately 11:38 a.m. sometime between May 29 and June 17, we can allow ourselves to be momentarily distracted by a small and apparently inconsequential electrical fire that mysteriously breaks out in the corner of the air traffic control tower at the Buffalo airport. We can take off our headsets, leave our seats, and walk over to inspect the commotion, leaving the skies unattended for a crucial four-to-seven minute period.

These are just some of the things that we as citizens of Buffalo should do to make our world a better place in these uncertain times. One thing we must do, however, is learn to refrain from indulging in hurtful rumors and innuendo. We here at the Beast have already suffered because of our collective failure in this area. Our only purpose in coming to Buffalo was to come home and put out a newspaper that wittily blends nightlife and club reviews with incisive commentary and hard-hitting journalism. Our only thought, our only desire, is to serve U, the reader.

There is simply no truth to the rumor that our plans are any more involved than that– that they involve acts of catastrophic terrorism, outbursts of violent misogyny, or, say, the running of hideous lounge singer Tom Sartori out of town with a lead pipe and a four-foot cattle prod. Nothing of that sort has even been discussed in our offices. We’re your friends. Honestly. 

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MAY: OFFSEASON HIJINKS

May 31st, 2002 by

Sports Crimewatch

MAY: OFFSEASON HIJINKS

Anyone who still wonders why it is that foreigners complain that Americans don’t understand them need only look at the elaborate security preparations undertaken before this past week’s Indy 500. According to numerous news reports, security at the race was heightened “in the wake of the events of September 11,” and the city of Indianapolis even assigned a special “terrorism preparedness coordinator” named Peter Beering to make sure none of the 400,000 mullet-headed spectators hid boxcutters in their mayonnaise jars. After the race, which passed without arrests, Beering declared the event a security success. Fans apparently agreed with him; AP even quoted one patriotic race fan who raved about how fun it was to be searched. “Brett Eiler,” the agency wrote, “an airline pilot from Chicago, waited less than five minutes in line as security officials searched coolers and handbags… Searches at other large events should be so thorough and yet so quick, said Eiler, who was celebrating his 40th birthday with his wife and four friends in matching T-shirts and straw hats. ‘It was convenient, it wasn’t a hassle, it was great,’ he gushed.” Left out of all of the hullabaloo was the unanswered question: what self-respecting Arab terrorist would ever be seen at an Indy Car race? “Why the fuck would I bother with the Indy 500?” Osama bin Laden was quoted as saying by the Al-Jazzeri news service. “Who can stand to sit there for all that time watching those goddamn cars go in a circle? I’ve got enough problems…”

Authorities were not so successful, meanwhile, in preventing outbreaks of athlete violence in other areas. May is generally a slow month for athlete arrests: falling as it does between the traditionally arrest-heavy periods surrounding major league baseball spring training and the arrival of newly-rich NFL rookies at their training camps, it tends to be a time in which hardworking athletes in the NBA and the NHL carry out their season-ending quests for greatness in law-abiding dignity. Nonetheless, there are numerous subgroups of athletes who represent high May arrest risks. Chief among those are the veteran bench performers for NBA teams already eliminated from the playoffs. Knocked out for the season, hounded by fans and media for their failures, and generally pissed off over a season’s worth of unresolved playing time issues, the subs tend to find it hard to avoid jumping in the proverbial unregistered vehicle with the proverbial open container of beer.

One of the first hoopsters to get busted this year was Houston Rockets reserve forward Terence Morris, whose arrest for speeding and driving with a suspended license was in keeping with the steady downward pattern his career has followed over the years… Just a few years ago, Morris was on top of the world. After his sophomore year at Maryland, he was a first-team all-ACC player and a sure lottery pick. After his junior year, he was named to the second all-ACC team and looked like a low 20s draft steal. Senior year: honorable mention, near-certain undrafted status. Somehow he makes the Rockets and spends a year straining to get a look at the court over the afro of fellow benchmate Moochie Norris. Then, last week, with the Rockets out of the playoffs, Morris gets pulled over for doing 76 in a 60 zone; police run his license and find out that he’d failed to complete a remedial driving course in November. Sentence: $385 fine and further shame and disappointment. 76 in a 60 zone? Can’t a black man get a break in this country?

Portland Trail Blazers reserve forward Zach Randolph, meanwhile, caught the business end of another driving-while-black arrest. Shortly after being bounced from the payoffs by the superior Lakers, Randolph was pulled over by police in Marion, Indiana because his SUV “matched the description of a gang vehicle.” Police, apparently distressed at haven taken the trouble to pull over a black man only to not get an arrest out of it, decided to do a breathalizer on Randolph on the off-chance that he might score them a DUI. No luck; his blood alcohol level was less than half the legal limit of .08 percent. But give credit to the innovative Indiana police. They came up with something. Randolph, who came out for the draft early, was underage. Police arrested him for underage drinking, and the backup now faces a 6-month jail term if convicted. Incidentally, he averaged 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds last year.

No offseason would be complete, of course, without the wayward fist of the odd NFL veteran making into way into the face of his wife— or, as she is usually called by the sporting press, the “mother of his child.” With behaviorally-erratic wide receiver Terry Glenn back on medication and making nice for his new team in Green Bay, it fell to other players to pick up the domestic abuse slack this year. The first to answer the call was San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, who was arrested after apparently striking a woman for the perfectly understandable reason that her boyfriend had untied Newberry’s Ahman Greenboat from a raft of 15 moored vessels, causing it to float away. Newberry denied the charges, however. “She didn’t like the way I was talking to her boyfriend,” Newberry said. “Then she slapped me in the side of the head. My sister said, ‘What are doing putting your hands on my brother?’ And then (Jennifer) smacked her. I wouldn’t hit a woman anyway.” Police for some reason didn’t believe the story; the investigation is continuing.

Last but not least, Glenn’s Packer teammate, running back Ahman Green, was issued a protection order for making terrorist threats against his wife. Shalynn Green told police that her husband had beaten her up twice while she was pregnant. The sports-crime cliche quotient for this story was rounded out when it was reported that “Green’s agent and attorney, as well as the Packers, did not immediately return phone calls.” While they work their stories out, the case is pending and Shalynn has custody. Look for the veterans to take it easy on police next month while the rookies flood into their dormitories at camp…

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