Have you seen those new AOL ads, the ones about “Chelsea Buns”? This smug but concerned-looking mother talks about how her daughter was looking for a recipe for “Chelsea Buns” when, it is implied, she accidentally hit a porn site. The mom goes, thank god for AOL! She mentions that she also has a son who is deeply into… “X-Men”.

AOL controls your access to the internet. AOL decides which sites are safe for you to see and which ones are not. To add insult to injury, AOL won’t tell you what it’s criteria is, because it believes that it’s criteria is a trade secret. Like the recipe for Captain Crunch, or Barbie’s measurements.

Sometimes an ad tells you a lot more than it thinks it does. And what this ad tells you is that AOL is really not an online information service at all. It is a television network. Television is about corporate control over what you think and do. Entertainment is merely a vehicle for merchandising. The viewer is a passive recipient of logos, celebrity endorsements, lifestyle ads. Yes, even if you are stupid, you can have a fulfilling life if you have a credit card.

And I’ll bet this woman, so concerned about “Chelsea Buns” lets her kids watch gazillions of ads, three hours of television a day, without the slightest concern. Well, for heaven’s sake, her son is fan of the “X-men”. Violence and mayhem are okay. Sex is not.

These ads practically shout, “I want to be told what to think! I want my information to be controlled and doled out like Pabulum by giant soul-less corporations! Please—it hurts to be free!”

Conrad Black

So it’s now Lord Black.

I personally find it completely offensive that there still exists, within the British Empire, an institution whose very foundation rests upon assumptions about class and lineage that should be utterly repellent to any democrat. The House of Lords is a bastion of exclusive White Rich Male Privilege (no matter how many token women and blacks are added) and British Upper Class Twittledom. And now, Mr. Twittledom himself, Conrad Black, who started a newspaper (and did a good job of it) just so he could show bad pictures of Jean Chretien and declare the Alliance winners before the election was held, is a Brit and a Lord and gets to wear hysterically funny costumes that remind me of the arch stereo-type of British Lords as, well, er, gay. Shall we say, fops. Precious. Delicate and righteous.

It’s Barbara Amiel who really annoys me, though. She once wrote an interesting article on Leonard Cohen, and I believe admitted that she agreed to strip for him in exchange for the interview. Correct me if my memory fails me, Barbara. She also wrote an article for Chatelaine once– my memory is clearer about this– in which she provided a vigorous defense of the art of gold-digging, which is, of course, the art of offering sex in exchange for position, power, and vast amounts of capital. Other than the prostitution angle, I suppose, not much to quibble with there, but it should suggest to us that perhaps Lord Black wasn’t himself so passionate about the cause of privilege as his wife, who now gets to be known as Lady Golddigger. Perhaps Mr. Cohen, recently descended from Mount Baldy (I kid you not) would consent to strip for the aristocracy.

The only thing that disturbs me is that she was a fan of Leonard Cohen. She should have been a fan of Frank Sinatra instead. Maybe she was. That would have been perfect. Frank was exactly the type of man who could see the value in an expensive Lordship. Perhaps she admired both. That’s possible nowadays. There was a time when any person acquainted with the work of Leonard Cohen could be counted on to be a dissident in some way, and remarkable for independence of thought, and, perhaps, a passionate spirit. Nowadays, it is obligatory to honor Mr. Cohen, which is precisely what is beginning to make Mr. Cohen boring. I say it makes Mr. Cohen boring not because his earlier work has become boring, but because Mr. Cohen has begun to believe in it himself.

Which leads me to the question of how one becomes a Lord. Well, it’s quite simple, really. If you have any doubts about my insinuations above just ask yourself a really easy question: is there any way that you or anyone you know could become a Lord? Yes, there is, of course. You simply have to have enough money.

Yankee Aura: $$$

Please spare me all the rhapsodic prose about the Yankee Mystique, and the “aura”, and “knowing how to win” and coming up big for the games that count, and so on and so and so on.

There is nothing mysterious about it. The Yankees win because they have the biggest payroll in baseball.

Now you may look at their line-up and say, well, who the heck is getting all that money? Paul O’Neil? Scott Brosius? Chuck Knoblach?

Not exactly. Big money looks like Mo Vaughn. It looks like Alex Rodriguez. It looks like Juan Gonzalez. It looks like Cal Everitt. It looks like all those “star players” that you hear about all the time, who set records for largest salaries, and biggest egos. The Yankees used to be the prime offender.

But that’s from the old days when George Steinbrenner called the shots and micromanaged the team into mediocrity, before he got smart and left baseball to the baseball men, and before Pat Gillick, the smartest manager in baseball, left the Blue Jays to try his luck in Baltimore, and then Seattle, and before Oakland decided to concentrate on young, talented pitchers.

The new big money talks more eloquently. Steinbrenner now lets his baseball people call the shots. The money is still big, but instead of being squandered on a couple of big, bloated Cadillac’s, it is wisely distributed among a dozen or so Accords. Fine cars. Reliable. Solid. Durable. Instead of Mo Vaughn or Carlos Delgado, and a cast of nobodies, the Yankees feature Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada. None of these with the exception of Rivera are the very best, or the very biggest. But no other team can afford such an all-round stellar cast.

Baseball loves to believe that he money doesn’t make a difference. In the case of teams like Boston and Baltimore, it’s true. But Baseball acts as if any team can come along and assemble a durable winner, and take on any other team for the championship. The truth is, that the Yankees, spending their huge cable dollars wisely, are almost invincible. They have won four of the last five World Series, and show every sign of winning four of the next five. It may not be with O’Neill, Clemens, and Martinez, but they have some talented rookies coming up, young players like Soriano, and the money to bring in superb free-agents like Mussina to round out the line-up.

So what we have is that the richest team is going to be favored to win almost every year. And what needs to happen is for the Yankees to recognize that their huge payroll is financed by the game of baseball– not by the Yankees playing themselves– and that some kind of revenue-sharing is necessary to preserve a competitive league.

This year, Oakland and Seattle made credible runs at the World Series. Neither team could really match up to the Yankees. It’s deceptive because you think the teams are similar, but the extra money that the Yankees spent wisely– on a Mike Mussina instead of an Alex Rodriguez– made all the difference. Oakland will probably have to give up Giambi as a free agent this year. Seattle will probably never have so many players having career years all at once again.


If you made a list of the best players by position in baseball, surprise, surprise, there aren’t many Yankees on the list. Forget the hype about Jeter’s allegedly brilliant defense in the playoffs– Rodriguez is better. Giambi is a better first baseman, and Roberto Alomar is the best 2nd baseman. Ivan Rodriguez is the best catcher, and there is no best 3rd base. Shannon Stewart is a better lead-off hitter than Knoblach.

Where the Yankees do have the best is obvious: Mariano Rivera has no peer as a closer.

The trouble is, no other team has as many second or third best players.