Just What Was Tom Smith Thinking?

The stages of finding the first bad song by one of my favorite bands:

1. A grandiose breakup song. Okay.

2. Sustained falsetto. That's....different.

3. Holy shit, it's a Journey song!

4. But it's got a hook. Play it again. And again.

5. Singing along is actually possible, and fun, so long as you act sincere.

6. Oh hell, this is a cheesy Phil Collins song!

7. Some country band could cover this and make it a smash country hit. Just maybe.


Trent Reznor gets it. Always did. This is Copy of A, from Nails' first album in 5 years.

I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
Everything I say has come before
Assembled into something into something into something
I am never certain anymore

I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
Always trying to catch up with myself
I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
Listening to someone's cry for help

Look what you had to start
Why all the change of heart?
Well you need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a
Look what you've gone and done
Well that doesn't sound like fun
See I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a

I am little pieces little pieces little pieces
Pieces that were picked up on the way
Imprinted with a purpose with a purpose with a purpose
A purpose that's become quite clear today

Look what you had to start
Why all the change of heart?
Well you need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a
Look what you've gone and done
Well that doesn't sound like fun
See I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a

I am just a finger on a trigger on a finger
Doing everything I'm told to do
Always my intention my intention your attention
Just doing everything you tell me to

Look what you had to start
Why all the change of heart?
Well you need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a
Now look what you gone and done
Well that doesn't sound like fun
So I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a

Look what you had to start
Why all the change of heart?
Well you need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a
Now look what you gone and done
Well that doesn't sound like fun
See I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a

(Look what you had to start) Look what you had to start
(Why all the change of heart) Why all the change of heart
(You need to play your part) You need to play your part
A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a
(Look what you've gone and done) And look what you've gone and done
(Yeah, that doesn't sound like fun) That doesn't sound like fun
(Yeah, I'm not the only one) See I'm not the only one
A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a

A Quick Note About Reflective High Profile Buildings

Architects and their sponsors have often been guilty of allowing their ambitions to overwhelm their common sense. But these days, technology and ego have combined to produce buildings that approach lethality.

Why, one wonders, does a designer simply ignore the likely consequences of using highly polished surfaces in dense, urban environments? Why does he create a building which cannot ever be watertight, or creates wind tunnels which propell hurricane force winds down pedestrian packed streets?  Why not, if it brings fame and huge fees!

Update, September 6, 16:50: "We'll take care of it."

Will Pardew Ever Figure Out His Midfield?


And I much as I want to like this guy, I can't trust him as a manager if he can't figure what should be a good problem for a manager to have. His problem is, he has too many midfielders, but doesn't know where they should fit, and in which formation.

Where do they fit?

We have learned an awful lot since things fell apart last October after a season start that had Newcastle on pace for an 8th place finish. A year ago, Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote were the core of what could be one of the best midfields in the English Premier League.

Flash forward to last month, and it clear to many armchair analysts like myself that Canaye and Tiote should not be on the pitch at the same time. Tiote is a defensive midfielder, and enforcer. He strikes me as someone you bring in to defend a second half lead (something Newcastler were terrible at last season). Cabaye is supposed to be one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe. But for reasons most pundits don't know, his passing simply disappeared last season. Couple that with Cisse's poor year, and the offense was effectivly disabled. 

What can bring the triangular passes back? The simple passes that generate scoring chances?

If there are zero expectations for Jonas at left wing, why keep starting him? Surely Marveaux can take over?

And can Hatem Ben Arfa at right wing ever be trusted? Yes, he's a magician when he runs with the ball. But a rebuilt midfield would not include him, would it?

We fans and pundits have the correct questions. Alan Pardew does not know the answers.

We Have Waited For This Day

We can now configure the all new Jeep Cherokee online!

This answers some questions, like which models have brown seats (the Limited), and what's the price (about $34,000 with the panoramic sunroof and all the technology options).

The only model to offer brown seats is the Limited. The seats are actually a volcanic clay and navy blue called Vesuvio (because daddy Fiat said so). 

However, I know Jeep, and if it's a hit, there will be special editions and probably more colors in the years ahead.

IF it's a hit.

But the bottom line remains the vehicle's best feature: This is the world's first crossover with a 9-speed automatic transmission. That, coupled to Fiat's new Tigershark 2.4L Multiair engine, it should get close to 30 miles per gallon, even with four wheel drive. Awesome.

What Newcastle United Must Do In The Next Four Weeks

Well, the answer to the question is obvious, isn’t it? Newcastle need a few more players. Maybe only two more if they don’t lose Yohan Cabaye.

It appears likely that Newcastle United are close to their first major signing of the summer transfer window. While I really like Gouffran and Sissoko, their two newest forwards signed in January, they need additional strikers to make up for the gap left when they lost Leon Best and presumably will lose when Papiss Cissé leaves the club.

The best striker, as things stand, the best available striker is Bafétimbi Gomis. Newcastle have expressed interest in him, and better still, he has reciprocated. So get the deal done, right?

Well, not so fast. Since 2011, Newcastle have not been quick to buy any new players in the summer season. No one really has an answer as to why this is so. The most pessimistic of Newcastle supporters fear that the four signings from January are the new summer signings. Considering what happened last summer (one signing), they have every right to be concerned.

Newcastle need two new strikers, with our without Cissé on board, and at least one of them needs to be world class. The clock is ticking. Get it done.


NUFC: This Is Not The Change We Requested

This is a very late post. But this blog needs to repeat it, as if the point hasn't been made enough.

While we wait for Newcastle's first significant signing of the summer (if there is going to be one at all), it just needs to be acknowledged that Newcastle United Football Club have arguably the worst front office in all of professional sports.

As an American, I know there are some really bad front offices here. Actually, there is a long list: The Chiefs, Knicks, Mets, Pirates, Bruins, (Arizona) Cardinals, Twins, and Royals, just to name a few.

So apparently there has been a power struggle between manager Alan Pardew and chief scout Graham Carr. Alan Pardew, of course, has recently finished one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Newcastle United history, with a 16th place finish in the table, and a staggering 45 league goals conceded.

Having signed an 8-year contract last October, it is understandable that the board would put Pardew on a short leash. But their next move has the press, fans, and even the competition confused and bewildered. The club hired former manager (and arguably one of the poorest managers in the top flight in recent years) Joe Kinnear as Director of Football.

The news of Kinnear’s appointment leaked on Sunday June 16, just a week after I returned from my annual visit to Vieques, and around the time I was hoping to hear that Newcastle was preparing a few bids for players once the transfer window opened on JUly 1. Newcastle fans remember how disastrous Kinnear’s tenure was with the club as manager. But it still came as a shock when Kinnear walked into a radio station on Monday June 17, before the club had confirmed his appointment, and declared himself to be the final word on new signings, as well as Alan Pardew’s boss. He also declared, before the official announcement, that Managing Director Derek Llambias was on his way out. Oh, and it was simply offensive and bizarre.

Derek Llambias did indeed resign. Friendly with fans, and seemingly on board with Pardew’s French and African recruiting plan for the club, Llambias’ departure set off alarms all over Tyneside.

But when Pardew broke his silence after his summer vacation on July 8, he showed no sign of wanting to quit, and expressed his commitment to the new power structure in the front office. He even said that he and Llambias didn’t work well together.

It would appear that Alan Pardew has the toughest task of any Premier League manager in the 2013-2014 campaign. He has to use the squad he currently has, plus or minus no more than 4 players total, and deliver a top 12 finish, while being overseen by one of the least successful and most despised men in all of English football. Joe Kinnear hadn’t been re-hired by any top flight club since being fired by Newcastle in 2009. His being re-hired by the club that should know how terrible he is makes this story all the more extraordinary.

It will be, in words of The Guardian’s Louise Taylor, a minefield.

UPDATE, July 21, 11:00 EDT, The Mag reports that Kinnear has just hired former Sunderland and Newcastle player, Mick Harford, as a coach. He had agreed to join East London club Milwall as a coach just last month. This probably puts additional restraints on Alan Pardew, and not just because Harford used to wear red and white stripes. These are interesting times, indeed.

UPDATE, July 22, Harford has rejected Kinnear's job offer. Smart move, Lad.

The New Google Maps

The new Google Maps is here. It's gorgeous, and more helpful. Plus, it anticipates what you like and what you search for (given that it normally relies on your Google account).

However, gone is the ability to create custom maps. The "my places" custom maps have been left behind in Google Maps Classic.

I will have to download my custom map data, or print them, as I'm sure Google will retire the classic map in a couple years time (or sooner).
In the meantime, wait for the updates to arrive to your mobile device, or go to maps.google.com to sign up for the new web version of Maps.
You'll see that it attaches keywords to places, based on user reviews and social media.  So for example, if you click on The Strawberry pub in Newcastle Upon Tyne, you'll see keywords like "roof terrace." Pretty cool.

What felt new in 2004 is new again.

The Most Secretive Presidency Since Nixon


Books will be written about this. I firmly expect Glenn Greenwald to be among those to write one of the best books. But I will say just this.

The Obama administration's record on civil liberties is the worst since the sixties and seventies, when the Johnson and Nixon crowds let loose the Feds on anti-war activists.

Obama is, allegedly, a constitutional law professor. Despite that, he appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General, a man who has refused to enforce the anti-fraud laws against the Wall Street bankers who nearly destroyed our economy. At the same time, Holder, presumably under orders from the executive branch, has employed the full weight of the Justice Department against whistleblowers who seek to reveal the crimes of the high and mighty.

Obama has a lot of supporters who have either no idea how secretive his administration is, or choose to ignore that fact. In addition, millions of Americans also choose to ignore that Obama has expanded the "War On Terror," by launching a secret drone war, and has made it a permanent fixture in our nation's foreign policy. That's not a theory; top administration officials have confirmed it.

Obama deserves the AP phone records scandal, and probably many others.



Is It Posh Assholery Or Projection?

Niall Furguson is perhaps the closest thing the UK has to Ann Coulter. He's not a real economist or historian, despite his teaching privileges at Harvard. He's a right wing television commentator with a particular mean spirited, provocative style. He loves to push the buttons of his political and academic opponents.

On May 2nd, speaking to over 500 financial advisors at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, California, Mr. Furguson once again attacked the greatest, most influential economist of the 20th Century. No transcript is available, but he essentially said that the motivation behind Keynes' famous quote, "In the long run, we are all dead," stems from his being both gay and childless. The argument that Keynes' alleged homosexuality weakens or invalidates his economic theories has been a staple of anti Keynes criticism for seven decades.

This is not Ferguson's first homophobic slur against Lord Keynes. As long ago as 1995, in an article for Spectator, Furguson asserted that Keynes opposed the 1919 Treaty of Versailles (which formally ended WWI) because he was sexually attracted to the German representative at the negotiations. That was to argue that Keynes was literally gay for Germany. Then, famously in a 1999 book, he accused the greatest economist of the twentieth century of picking up young men in London.

What is it with all these personal attacks on a man who can't defend himself? Could it be projection? Isn't it always?

I noticed that the Harvard History Department was unavailable for comment on Ferguson's latest nasty remarks. Apparently his nose is broken because the American public refuses to embrace the imperial project he believes the Unites States must pursue in order to be true to its destiny. Poor Niall.

NUFC: A Summer Of Change Is Required

I have wanted to write about Newcastle since their dreadful, historic loss at home against the Mackems. But I've spent too much time being nervous about relegation.

It was too late for Newcastle to make any tactical changes late in the season. They just had to win one more match between April 14 and May 19, and they just got it done against QPR on Sunday. Now we cal all relax a bit. Bit there is so much to be done betweeen now and the end of July.

It is clear to every knowlegible supporter that Newcastle United is a squad full of talented players. But the tactics and player slections were off the entire season.

There are also clear talent gaps. The squad can't afford to have wingers who cannot cross. I'm sorry, Jonas, but you have to go. You also have to go, Tioté.

In the current campaign, this squad has consistant difficulty delivering the ball to the strikers. The combinations are off. They have scoring machines up front. But it's all for nought if the team can't contruct sustained attacks. Giving up the first goal of the match is not the way to 60 points either.

It hurts to think that if this team had gotten just three more wins, they would be sitting in eighth place in the league, right behind Liverpool. That's not a spectacular finish, but very respectable, and away from the cluster of poor teams at the bottom. But what this means is that they are a poor squad. The club needs a lot of rebuilding, and they are going to have to help themselves.

Also, assuming Alan Pardew is given another chance to make things right, he needs to stop saying silly things. Someone get the Silver Fox a public speaking coach.

There really isn't much to say until the summer transfer window is well underway. So I'm going to enjoy a week in Puerto Rico and then hope I return to mainland to news of players bought and sold. This was the case in 2011, when the team bought Marveaux, Obertan, and Cabaye around mid June.

This team needs a bigger, better squad so that it can compete in both the Premiership and in tournaments. That's where the money is. If Newcastle is to reamin a big club (the biggest football club in the world north of 53.5 north latitude, in fact!), then they need to be far better than this.

So Many Ways To Derail Bush's Legacy Rehabilitation

It was impossible to avoid coverage of the George W. Bush presidential library opening yesterday (a Thursday, always a good day to invite weekend visitors).

It was also painful having to watch three Democratic presidents (two former and one current) say generic, nice things about the man. But this is what politicians do. They are good actors. But then again they are all part of the same club. It doesn't get any higher for these guys. So members of that club can and do get along. How else could Clinton honor Nixon when he passed away, or Obama say anything positive about Bush 43?

There has been at least one great book about his presidency.

Here's a very recent blog post by Jonathan Chait, reminding everyone of how the library treads lightly over so much that went so wrong. Namely, he was never good, and he was never smart.

There are countles ways to deny Bush any positive legacy. There is no positive legacy to be found anywhere in his two terms. 

Actually, he was the worst president in my lifetime, and arguably the worst EVER.

As the linked post above makes clear, he was not smart.  One only has to remember the following true story.

In 2000, candidate Bush asked former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to conduct a search for a suitable vice presidential candidate for the ticket. Cheney came back a few weeks later, presumably after an exhaustive review of the Republican Party's luminaries, and told Bush that he had discovered the perfect running mate.

And who was this paragon? Right, Dick Cheney!

And what did Bush do? Did he laugh in Cheney's face, tell him this suggestion must be a joke, point out that if he had thought Cheney was the right match he would have asked him in the first place? No, he named Cheney as the man who would be a heart beat from the presidency. Smart?  I rest my case.

And so will many, many others, for years to come.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Is Awesome

Allow me to cut to the heart of the brewing Jeep Cherokee design controversy. If this were unveiled as the 2014 Jeep Liberty, there wouldn't be as much outrage. It has an A pillar and sloping front door line reminiscent of the Kia Sportage. It has a rear windshield and taillight setup similar to the Subaru Tribeca. So what? Seriously. So what? There is no rule that the Jeep Cherokee needs to look like this:

Just as there's no rule that forbids a Range Rover from looking like this:

Jeep already has a vehicle in its lineup, the Patriot, that looks slightly retro, like the XJ Cherokee (1984-2001).

It's the year 2013. Jeep has only one body-on-frame truck in its lineup, the Wrangler. That's their most capable off road vehicle. Every other new vehicle they lunch is going to be a car-based unibody design. The Compass? I didn't see much hate towards their female-friendly, comfy crossover, based on the Dodge Caliber. The Patriot? It comes in a Trail Rated trim, but it too is based on the Dodge Caliber, and originally had a CVT transmission.

Jeep has a flagship that people love - the Grand Cherokee. It's challenge is to make a desirable intermediate SUV that won't compete with either the Wrangler or Grand Cherokee. 

And so, after Fiat acquired Chrysler, they immediately put the Fiat Viaggio platform to work in North America. The first product was the new Dodge Dart. You remember the Dart name, don't you? In the 60s and 70s, the Dart was a well powered compact car, which back then was still a car over 100 inches long. It is Stephen King's favorite Dodge of all time. Now it's back as a contemporary compact sedan, built on a front wheel drive, Fiat platform.

The 2012/2013 Jeep Liberty

And so the Jeep Liberty, while popular with both rental chains and Jeep fans since 2001, was not delivering what the majority of crossover buyers want in North America. They want more smartphone integration. They want a more ergonomic driving position. They also want a quieter ride and improved fuel economy (the Wrangler is not good in either category). Simply put, Jeep, seeing a large sales increase since the acquisition by Fiat, wants to keep the momentum going. And while the second generation Liberty is a big improvement over the first, it only has a three percent market share in the intermediate SUV segment – the most popular car segment in the USA. With this third generation vehicle, they think they can compete with the Ford Escape, both in the rental chains (which they already do) and the driveways of the suburbs. With four trim levels, two engines, and three all wheel drive systems to choose from, the Cherokee might be the vehicle to help Jeep push past the 1 Million units sold mark within a fiscal year.

Chrysler was expecting a fan backlash to this new design. But so far, they are unapologetic

The Cherokee won't compete against the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4. While the four cylinder versions of the Cherokee will have thee engine positioned horizontally with a front wheel drive bias, the Trailhawk trim can go far off road, leaving those vehicles, plus the Ford Escape, on the pavement.

In the commercial vehicle market, the current Liberty competes very well against the Ford Escape and Chevy Captiva. The Captiva is popular with the US Government, and the Escape is popular with small businesses. Liberties are seen all over cities, including New York. But I suspect this redesign will not make it a popular choice among plumbers. Jeep is aiming straight at the active small family set.

The press won't have any first drive reviews until at least May. Jalopnik was the website that first revealed the new Cherokee rolling off the assembly line. Most writers at Jalopnik who have written about it have defended the design and return of the Cherokee name in America (the Liberty was sold in other markets as the Cherokee). Matt Hardigree has already explained how the KL Cherokee is technically superior to the XJ Cherokee. Here are more reasons:

The 2.4 liter Tigershark inline 4 engine is Chrysler's replacement of the World Engine project co-developed with Hyundai and Mitsubishi. Ford and Hyundai's best engines are small displacement I4 turbos that use regular 87 octane. The Tigershark uses Fiat's “multiair” intake and variable valve timing technology to recycle a small amount of exhaust back into the intake cycle, resulting in a dramatic increase in fuel efficiency.

I just mentioned fuel efficiency. Here's something that will make it even more impressive: a 9-speed automatic transmission. Jeep purists already lament the lack of a manual transmission in the KL Cherokee. But this is the market. This is the 21st century. And this is the first 9-speed transmission in any mass produced vehicle. This means that even the Trailhawk version, with its full time “Active Drive Lock” 4X4 system, should still get over 30 miles per gallon using the Tigershark engine and the rear axle disconnected (which makes it the first 4X4 Jeep to offer that ability). This should translate into a 45% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing Liberty.

The interior is welcoming, ergonomic, and beautiful. They really thought it out. It has a back seat 110-volt AC outlet for tailgaters. It has “hill” motifs on the insides of each door. There are plenty of leather and stitching options. It has an 8” entertainment and information center available. It looks like instlling interior LEDs will be easy. And it has a storage compartment on top of the dashboard – perfect for hiding that E-ZPass.

A full size 110v outlet faces the rear passenger seats in the Trailhawk and possibly other trims.

And I have one more reason to love it. Mango Tango! Yes. Mango Tango. Can't wait to see this color on the Cherokee.

Mango Tango on the Dodge Challenger

In Defense Of The "Boring" Cars At The NYIAS: Part 2, The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Another car that isn't going to excite many people, but ranks high on the value meter is the Subaru XV Crosstrek. This car was introduced at last year's show, but it took a year of reviews and comparisons to cars in its class to grow on me. Why? Well. I wanted to give the Hyundai Elantra GT (i30) a fair shake. It has nice features, a good transmission and a very good engine. But the cost cutting in the rear of the car is obvious. Hyundai didn't send the wagon version of the car to the US (as they did in 2009 with the Elantra Touring), and the rear suspension has been downgraded to torsion beam. Most drivers won't notice or care. But I prefer independent rear suspension. Car makers took away the fun of rear wheel drive from us, but at least let us car buyers choose a superior suspension setup. Fortunately there are plenty of other cars out there.

The Crosstrek XV is the better value compared to the Elantra GT. The increased ride height is not for everyone. Nor is the CVT transmission. But the utility features, the slightly larger cargo space, the better stock wheels, and sportier cockpit should win both singles and young families alike. More important, it has a longer list of standard features, especially the heated seats, a feature that I believe Subaru offers standard in al of its cars sold in the US.


Car aficionados lament how Honda got rid of its tradition of using double wishbone suspension on all four wheels. That was and still is a premium, superior suspension design. Subaru has retained double wishbone rear suspension in all of its current US lineup. That's an engineering advantage over cars with torsion beam rear suspension.

Subaru unveiled a hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek at this year's New York International Auto Show. It has a driveshaft, so the rear wheels are not electrified as they are in Subaru's Viziv concept, which they unveiled this past February. The verdict on this more conventional hybrid is that the additional fuel savings probably won't justify the higher price tag. In fact, if anything, it will highlight just what a good value the gasoline-only XV Crosstrek is. Zac Estrada over at Jalopnik points out that the XV Crosstrek hybrid only get 10% better fuel economy over the slightly more fun, and lower priced gasoline model.

Like the Outback Sport before it, the XV Crosstrek is a lot of car for the money, and is Subaru’s best value. It comes well equipped at $20,000.

Subaru's global head of sales and marketing, Tomohiko Ikeda, revealed that Subaru's next two milestones are to electrify the rear wheels in future hybrid models (using independent electric motors, one for each wheel), and then full electrification for all non “performance” models (the BRZ and WRX). But until then, we have Subarus like this. While not nearly as fun to drive as the models that used five speed tradtional transmissions, these will do until the electectric vehicles arrive. At least the Crosstrek brings back some of the quirkyness that made Subaru such a lovable brand.

Another Great History Of The Subaru WRX

Now that we've had a preview of where the Subaru WRX will go within the next 24 months, Mate Petrany over at Jalopnik put together a fine, tight history of a favorite street legal rally car. I tried to do it last year and got a little carried away.

This story of an all new WRX began back in the Spring of 2011, when Subaru told the press at the New York International Auto Show that the Impreza and WRX would go separate ways. They have kept their promise. At this year's show, they told the press that all non-perforance Subarus will one day be fully electrified. I think they will also keep that promise.