New for January

December was an exciting month for fans of baseball, local political shenanigans or both, as the D.C. city council first approved a $500-million-plus stadium bill to lure the Montreal Expos to Washington, then changed their minds a week later, only to approve it again the following week. In addition to following the bouncing ball at Field of Schemes, I also wrote up an analysis of the council's first reversal for Baseball Prospectus (subscribers only, sorry); my postmortem of the whole mess will be appearing in the winter issue of Elysian Fields Quarterly later this month.

Some lucky few of you with nothing better to do on weekday afternoons than watch sports news may also have caught me on ESPNews' Hotlist with Brian Kenny on December 1, spitting sound bites about (what else?) the D.C. stadium deal. After largely ignoring the whole Expos Across America Extortion Tour for its first two years, the media frenzy as it came down to the wire was pretty amazing - I was invited to be on Keith Olbermann's show on MSNBC as well, but had to decline due to being laid up with the flu. (Andy Zimbalist filled in nicely.)

Other earth-shattering professional milestones for me last month: That EFQ article I mentioned above will mark the first of a regular column called "In The Ballpark," in which I'll break down various stadium shenanigans and take a fan's-eye view of the baseball park experience (expect a review of the Washington Nationals' temporary digs at RFK Stadium in the near future). Baseball Prospectus has bestowed upon me the title of BP Author, which I think mostly means I might get to be in that pulldown menu on the BP contact page. And most exciting of all for a Google addict like me, started being indexed by Google News a couple of weeks ago, which means I get the excitement of being listed right next to the New York Times and the Tasmania Examiner among the world's great news outlets.

Not all my attention was focused on stadiums last month (thank god) - I also reviewed Stephen Pimpare's excellent new book "The New Victorians" for the History News Network. This is a look back at the "welfare reform" movement of the 1990s, and its startling parallels to a nearly identical movement at the tail end of the 19th century to eliminate what was then called "out relief" - a movement that ended after 20 years in failure and a realization that, yes, what poor people need to make them less poor is, in fact, money. Who'da thunk it?

Books like Pimpare's are all the more important with Congress set to consider reauthorizing and revising the 1996 welfare reform law in the coming year, possibly adding further spending cuts and new work requirements to those already in place. I know, I know, I've been saying this for years now - I wrote about the imminent assault on the poor for In These Times three summers ago - but this year it looks like things may finally be moving, with an obscure Congressional maneuver called "budget reconciliation" possibly playing a role. I'll be writing about this more in the coming months, so if you're interested in how the upcoming Bush budget cuts could make Ronald Reagan look like Eugene V. Debs, stay tuned to this space for further updates.

Oh, and I almost forgot: The Trivial Pursuit Lord of the Rings DVD Edition, which I had a hand in, hit shelves last month. I haven't actually seen it yet, but some guy in Florida named Samwise says it's the bomb.

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