Thursday, March 31, 2005

A.L. Preview III = AL West

Such wisdom I provide and at no charge to you is about to increase: here's the AL West Preview. Click here for the AL Central and here for the AL East.

The sick thing is that I see this division going a lot like it did last year, with maybe an A's/Rangers switch for second and third.

Nonetheless, the newly re-badged Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim; heck, the Giants and Jets are a lot closer to New York and the Cowboys closer to Dallas than the Angels are to LA) are the team to beat. Think about how they finished the regular season last year and try transcribing that performance over a whole year: Escobar was among the top pitchers in the league in the second half, Colon was finally able to extend his arm past his stomach, and now they've added Paul Byrd to a solid Escobar-Colon-Washburn-Lackey mix. The Halos lost Troy Percival, but he was about to be eclipsed by Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez anyway. With Brendan Donnelly and Kevin Gregg setting K-Rod up, the Angels still have a nice bullpen. And they retained enough offense while picking up the ageless Steve Finley to not be hurt by the loss of Troy Glaus -- after all, Vlady Guerrero and eight stiffs makes an acceptable lineup. Now add Garret Anderson, Finley, Salmon, Figgins, Erstad and the rumored potential of Casey Kotchman, and that's a formidable team.

Meanwhile, the Rangers are an enigma or a miracle or a freak show. They have tremendous batting talent: Blalock, Texeira, Soriano, Young, Mench and possibly Nix; they have some solid veterans like Hidalgo, Sandy Alomar and Dellucci; they have a fine bullpen, held together by Kiki Cordero who developed into the closer they expected when they landed him in the Juan Gonzalez trade with the Tigers; and they have a pitching rotation that is mediocre at best that they didn't upgrade in the offseason. But they might not have needed the upgrade: Chris Young, who pitched well down the stretch, will be a full-time starter; Ryan Drese is in year two of "now I know how to pitch" mode; Kenny Rogers is still somehow effective and if either Chan Ho Park or R.A. Dickey can suck less, this team can win 90+ and contend for the wild card.

If Joe Blanton is as good as his hype, if Danny Haren can become a solid full-time starter, if Barry Zito can regain 2002 form, if Octavio Dotel can get his stuff together and stop blowing saves, if Kiko Calero can shore up an otherwise underwhelming set-up staff, if Eric Chavez returns to 2003 form, if Jason Kendall is healthy and productive . . . then the A's could win 90-94. But if all those are not a lot of ifs, what would be? In reality, the A's start 2005 with great prospects for 2006.

In 2001, the Mariners won an AL-record 116 games with a team that included Paul Abbott as the fourth starter, Aaron Sele as the #3 starter, Arthur Rhodes as the set-up specialist and a plethora of guys having career years. In 2002, they won 93 games but faded down the stretch to fast-charging Anaheim. In 2003, they won another 93 games, but lost the wild card to Boston. In 2004, they stank: 63-99. They were old, tired, couldn't hit, couldn't pitch and the fielding was lacking. Do Adrian Beltre, Pokey Reese and a healthy Eddie Guardado make enough of a difference for this team to compete? No. Not when Gil Meche gives up a HR every 6 innings or Ryan Franklin and Jamie Moyer allow more than 30 dingers despite pitching in the best pitcher's park in the AL and those three are 60% of the rotation (and the # 2-3-4 if Pineiro is healthy). Not when the team will rely on Randy Winn and Dan Wilson to play large roles. And not until the mystery that is Richie Sexson becomes a full-time player.

The New Middle East = a rational man's view?

Nice column today that starts out:

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about AIDS?

No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East . . .

That seems to capture the spirit and thought processes of the Left, the Europeans and the UN. Who wrote it? Some conservative like George Will, Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer or Caroline Glick?


Martin Peretz, publisher of THE liberal thinking-person's magazine, The New Republic.

Click the link in the title for more.

AL Preview II = AL Central

I previewed the AL East yesterday, (just scroll down, stop being lazy -- do I have to link EVERYthing?), so it's time for the AL Central. This one should also be no surprise at the top, despite the progress that pundits claim the Indians and Tigers have made. Here we go again:

The Twins are still the class of this division and the notion that it's even close is wistful thinking on the part of the media. They have the best pitcher (Johan Santana, the lefty Pedro-of-1999), the best closer (Joe Nathan), the best overall player (Toriiiiiiiiiiii Hunter), the best young player (Joe Mauer), the best outfield, a full year from baby-bopper Justin Morneau to enliven the offense, a top-notch set-up crew (Romero, Rincon) a good defense and a solid rotation that may get better depending upon the health of Joe Mays. Hopefully for them, they'll beat out the AL West winner for second-best record in the AL so they'll play the Red Sawx in the playoffs instead of tackling the Yankees again.

The Indians are the No. 2 team here. Why? Go with the negatives: Kevin Millwood is not only removed from Atlanta where Leo Mazzone worked wonders with his Rick Helling-quality pitching talent, he is also in the American League (where every team other than the Royals and Drays has at least 8 guys who can hit) and completely outside the NL East (where every stadium except Philly's is a pitcher's dream park and none of the teams other than Philly can hit). Nineteen games against Detroit and the ChiSox are tougher on pitchers than 19 against the Mess, DC/Montreal/San Juan and the Marlins. The rest of the team? They lack a bullpen that can rival Detroit or Minnesota, the hitting is good, the defense is not on-par with Minnesota and Jody Gerut needs to regain his 2003 form to help his boys overcome the Twins. The rotation is a semi-strength: I've never been high on Millwood and Cliff Lee was the worst 14-game winner in the AL last year but Westbrook seems to have a clue and Sabathia is potentially dominant. An 85-88 win season is entirely possible; 92 and a division crown seems like a bit of a leap.

The Tigers not only made one of the great improvements in sports history (43 wins in '03, 72 in '04), they actually underperformed! How's that? Check out the "Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball" -- an explanation is here. That theory posits that the Tigers should have won 79 games. Yipes! Now, they're still young and there are better teams in the division but Jeremy Bonderman can pitch, the relief group is good (Urbina, Percival) and there's a wealth of young talent enhanced by some sharp vets like Ivan Rodriguez. Still a work in progress, but certainly not the sorryness that took the field two years ago. Give credit to Alan Trammell.

Do you know any White Saax fans? I don't. Talk about a team without cache: they have no real identity. The White Saax have a futility streak even longer than the one the RedSawx broke last year, they lack the lovable loser characteristic of the Cubbies, their ballpark is the dullest of the new stadiums in the post-Camden Yards era, their owner is the single largest reason that salaries have skyrocketed (he wanted to break the union in '94; helped kill the season over salary structure then turned right around and offered Albert Belle a HUGE bank-breaker deal in the off-season after 1996 that sent contract prices soaring), and the Hawk-and-Wimpy show is nowhere near the national phenomenon that was Harry Caray. On top of all that, this year's team is a compilation of retreads and can't-misses who missed (Ben Davis, Joe Crede, Jon Garland). Still, the team has three inning-eating starters (Buerhle, who's good, and Garcia/Garland, who are average -- check out Garcia's numbers pre- and post-trade from Seattle) and a solid if perplexing closer, lots of power (Everett, Dye, Crede, Konerko, Frank Thomas) and . . . what? A lack of intangibles (young team on the rise, exciting new manager, excellent offseason, etc.). That means a lack of a chance to win. Ultimately, their record may be indistinguishable from Cleveland or Detroit (all three could go 81-81), but vastly inferior to Minnesota.

Finally, the Royals. And I do mean finally. If they were in the AL East or West, they'd be the worst team in the league because they'd get pounded by Yanks/RedSawx/O's or Angels/Rangers/A's. But they can feed enough off the soft middle of this division to mask some of their weaknesses. Actually, other than Zack Greinke, that's about all the Royals have.

Finally an AL Central trivia piece: The AL Central's five teams combined have the fewest World Series wins in the divisional era of the three AL divisional groupings (notice, I'm accounting for the fact that from 1969-93 there were only two divisions because the measure is by current divisional grouping). Total for the AL Central's five members = 4 (Minnesota '87, '91; Detroit '84; KC '85). The A's and Yanks alone have matched (A's have 4: '72-'74, '89) or exceeded (Yanks have 6: '77, '78, '96, '98-'00) the AL Central members' total since 1969. Even worse: the NL West has 3 (Dodgers '81, '88; DBacks '01).

Robb-Silberman Report released

Last year President Bush designated a bipartisan commission to investigate the US intelligence capacity, efficacy and the ability of the intelligence community with special emphasis on what happened to cause the WMD assessment failures and what steps should be taken in the future.

Today, the commission released its report and it's a LOT better than the 9-11 Commission's politically charged and analytically flawed products. Some key excerpts from the overview with my comments:

On the brink of war, and in front of the whole world, the United States government asserted that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program, had biological weapons and mobile biological weapon production facilities, and had stockpiled and was producing chemical weapons. All of this was based on the assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. And not one bit of it could be confirmed when the war was over.

Largely accurate, but I'm still wondering what a search of Syria would prove about Iraq's stockpiles -- were they shipped west toward Damascus whilst the US diddled with the UN process?

This failure was in large part the result of analytical shortcomings; intelligence analysts were too wedded to their assumptions about Saddam’s inten­tions. But it was also a failure on the part of those who collect intelligence— CIA’s and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) spies, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) eavesdroppers, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) imagery experts.[1] In the end, those agencies collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading. Finally, it was a failure to communicate effectively with policymakers; the Intelligence Community didn’t adequately explain just how little good intelligence it had—or how much its assessments were driven by assumptions and inferences rather than concrete evidence.

In other words, the Intel community sought to present its conclusions and cover its a-- by not revealing the low source-quality of its material.

The failures we found in Iraq are not repeated everywhere. The Intelligence Community played a key role, for example, in getting Libya to renounce weapons of mass destruction and in exposing the long-running A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. It is engaged in imaginative, successful (and highly classified) operations in many parts of the world. Tactical support to counterterrorism efforts is excellent, and there are signs of a boldness that would have been unimaginable before September 11, 2001.

The Clinton Administration was useless in combatting terrorism and the Bush Administration didn't ramp-up counterterrorist efforts in the first 7.5 months of its existence thanks in part to the cruddy quality assessments from the intel community that helped paint a copacetic picture.

But neither was Iraq a “perfect storm.” The flaws we found in the Intelligence Community’s Iraq performance are still all too common. Across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world’s most dangerous actors. In some cases, it knows less now than it did five or ten years ago. As for biological weapons, despite years of Presidential concern, the Intelligence Community has struggled to address this threat.

Bush should have sacked George Tenet long ago and reconfigured intelligence long before the Porter Goss appointment after the '04 election. But lots of us were saying this . . .

To be sure, the Intelligence Community is full of talented, dedicated people. But they seem to be working harder and harder just to maintain a status quo that is increasingly irrelevant to the new challenges presented by weapons of mass destruction. Our collection agencies are often unable to gather intelli­gence on the very things we care the most about. Too often, analysts simply accept these gaps; they do little to help collectors identify new opportunities, and they do not always tell decisionmakers just how limited their knowledge really is.

These employees are dedicated to maintaining their current jobs in comfortable situations, not innovating nor thinking inventively or creatively.

The Intelligence Community is also fragmented, loosely managed, and poorly coordinated; the 15 intelligence organizations are a “Community” in name only and rarely act with a unity of purpose. What we need is an Intel­ligence Community that is integrated: the Community’s leadership must be capable of allocating and directing the Community’s resources in a coordi­nated way. The strengths of our distinct collection agencies must be brought to bear together on the most difficult intelligence problems. At the same time we need a Community that preserves diversity of analysis, and that encourages structured debate among agencies and analysts over the inter­pretation of information.

The left hand and right hand need to work together whilst still competing to get the best analysis out, just as Reagan mandated in Executive Order 12333 (see Section 1.1(a)).

Perhaps above all, the Intelligence Community is too slow to change the way it does business. It is reluctant to use new human and technical collection methods; it is behind the curve in applying cutting-edge technologies; and it has not adapted its personnel practices and incentives structures to fit the needs of a new job market. What we need is an Intelligence Community that is flexible—able to respond nimbly to an ever-shifting threat environment and to the rapid pace of today’s technological changes.

In short, to succeed in confronting today’s and tomorrow’s threats, the Intelli­gence Community must be transformed—a goal that would be difficult to meet even in the best of all possible worlds. And we do not live in the best of worlds. The CIA and NSA may be sleek and omniscient in the movies, but in real life they and other intelligence agencies are vast government bureaucracies. They are bureaucracies filled with talented people and armed with sophisticated technological tools, but talent and tools do not suspend the iron laws of bureaucratic behavior. Like government bodies everywhere, intelli­gence agencies are prone to develop self-reinforcing, risk averse cultures that take outside advice badly. While laudable steps were taken to improve our intelligence agencies after September 11, 2001, the agencies have done less in response to the failures over Iraq, and we believe that many within those agencies do not accept the conclusion that we reached after our year of study: that the Community needs fundamental change if it is to successfully confront the threats of the 21st century.

We are not the first to say this. Indeed, commission after commission has identified some of the same fundamental failings we see in the Intelligence Community, usually to little effect. The Intelligence Community is a closed world, and many insiders admitted to us that it has an almost perfect record of resisting external recommendations.

But the present moment offers an unprecedented opportunity to overcome this resistance. About halfway through our inquiry, Congress passed the Intelli­gence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which became a sort of a deus ex machina in our deliberations. The act created a Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI’s role could have been a purely coordinating position, with a limited staff and authority to match. Or it could have been something closer to a “Secretary of Intelligence,” with full authority over the principal intelligence agencies and clear responsibility for their actions— which also might well have been consistent with a small bureaucratic super­structure. In the end, the DNI created by the intelligence reform legislation was neither of these things; the office is given broad responsibilities but only ambiguous authorities. While we might have chosen a different solution, we are not writing on a blank slate. So our focus has been in large part on how to make the new intelligence structure work, and in particular on giving the DNI tools (and support staff) to match his large responsibilities.

We are mindful, however, that there is a serious risk in creating too large a bureaucratic structure to serve the DNI: the risk that decisionmaking in the field, which sometimes requires quick action, will be improperly delayed. Balancing these two imperatives—necessary agility of operational execution and thoughtful coordination of intelligence activities—is, in our view, the DNI’s greatest challenge.

In considering organizational issues, we did not delude ourselves that organizational structure alone can solve problems. More than many parts of govern­ment, the culture of the Intelligence Community is formed in the field, where organizational changes at headquarters are felt only lightly. We understand the limits of organizational change, and many of our recommendations go beyond organizational issues and would, if enacted, directly affect the way that intelligence is collected and analyzed. But we regret that we were not able to make such detailed proposals for some of the most important technical collection agencies, such as NSA and NGA. For those agencies, and for the many other issues that we could only touch upon, we must trust that our broader institu­tional recommendations will enable necessary reform. The DNI that we envision will have the budget and management tools to dig deep into the culture of each agency and to force changes where needed.

Here are the lessons we've learned: (1) Rearranging the furniture doesn't change the solidity of the house's foundation. (2) You dopes in Congress enacted the DNI law and intel reform act too quickly. (3) Bureaucratic inertia is a fact of life, therefore do not eviscerate the ability of field operatives to make decisions. (4) And a butt-kicker is needed to enact reforms. That's why Goss was a good choice at CIA.

And ultimately, there's this conclusion about the intel mistakes on Iraq's WMD:

These are errors--serious errors. But these errors stem from poor tradecraft and poor management. The Commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. As we discuss in detail in the body of our report, analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments.

Bad analysis, bad management but not political pressure led to the intelligence foul-ups. The intelligence was not botched for political purposes, it was botched because the agencies need a better refurbishing than the Augean Stables did before Hercules arrived.

Terri Schiavo, RIP II

Here's some of Mark Steyn's column from The Spectator -- the UK's equivalent of the Weekly Standard. Read the whole thing (registration may be required; it's free) after scanning these excerpts:

Fortunately, if you want to execute someone who hasn’t committed a crime, you don’t need to worry with any of this ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ stuff. If an al-Qa’eda guy got shot up resisting capture in Afghanistan and required a feeding tube and the guards at Guantanamo yanked it out, you’d never hear the end of it from the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International and all the rest. Even given the litigious nature of American society, it still strikes me as remarkable that someone can be literally sued to death, and at the hands of a probate judge. Unlike other condemned prisoners, there’s no hope of a last-minute reprieve from the governor. That’s to say, he did reprieve her, and so did the legislature, and the US Congress and President — and the Florida courts have declared them all irrelevant. So, unlike Death Row, there’s no call from the governor, and no quick painless lethal injection or electrocution or swift clean broken neck from the hangman’s noose, and certainly no last meal. On Tuesday, getting a little impatient with the longest slow-motion public execution in American history, CBS News accidentally posted Mrs Schiavo’s obit on their website complete with vivid details that have yet to occur — the parents at her bedside in the final moments, etc. In this, they seem to be in tune with their viewers: sad business, personal tragedy, no easy answers, prayers are with her family, yada yada, is it over yet?

* * *
I’ve received [] emails along the lines of, "If Terri Schiavo didn’t want this to happen to her, all she had to do under Florida law was make a 'living will'" — one of those documents that says "in the event of a severe disability I do/do not want to be kept alive (delete as applicable)." . . . I’ve received enough that I now send back a form response politely inquiring whether the correspondent has himself made a living will. I’ve yet to receive any answers. But I can’t see why, in a free society, healthy persons in their twenties [Schiavo was 26 when her condition arose -- TKM] should be expected to file legal documents in order to pre-empt a court order mandating their death a decade or two hence.

* * *
One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one . . . Having done away with those kinds of ‘burdens’ at birth, we’re less inclined to tolerate them when they strike in adulthood, as they did in Terri Schiavo’s case.

Steyn mentions the similar case of Robert Wendland, a Californian who rolled his pick-up truck in 1993 and went into a coma, only to revive to a semi-conscious state 16 months later. His wife sought to Schiavo-fy him to death saying he would not have wanted that life; his mother fought to keep him alive. He died of natural causes (pneumonia) and the California Supreme Court later struck down a ruling in favor of the wife (no, the case was not moot due to his death -- it concerned a situation that was "capable of repetition and evading review," which is a legal exception to the "mootness doctrine"). The main difference, Wendland made no statement about what he would like to happen in case of incapacitation; Terri Schiavo ruminated years before her incapacity of not wanting to be sustained, rather thin gruel to support Judge Greer's rulings in favor of her death.

Terri Schiavo, RIP

Terri Schiavo died earlier today.

Judge George W. Greer has blood on his hands.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Too little too late.

UPDATE and BUMP: The original post text is below in italics. The AP now reports (WaPo does too) that the 11th Circuit has rejected the Schindler's appeal. The vote by the 11th Circuit was not disclosed.

Judge Stanley Burch, an appointee of the first President Bush, penned this piece of judicial arrogance in supporting the Court's refusal to reconnect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube:

In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution.

In other words: we are the courts, we have the last word on what the Constitution says and what the Constitution means; if you don't like it, go walk off a bridge.

The 11th Circuit granted the parents of Terri Schiavo, Bob and Mary Schindler, leave to file for a rehearing of their appeal (I think, AP article unclear). Terri Schiavo has been without food or water for 12 days.

A.L. Preview I = AL East

Yes . . . it's that time of year again.

Syracuse honked in the NCAAs but the Final Four is coming up. The Giants long-since ended their disappointing (football) season. And the college bowl farce du annee is a distant memory. So, boys and girls,


Ah, yes. Time for the rites of spring for the boys of summer. For overpaid and whiny men in polyester suits to wield their bats, gloves and pitching arms toward one goal: not getting caught in the urinalysis a world series victory.

Herewith, it's the official TKM 2005 Baseball Preview!

First up: the American League predictions. This is how it will be, pending actual game results.

AL East

For the eighth-straight year, the Yankees should win the AL East crown. Not because they're my team, but because they're big Stein's team and George shelled voluminous amounts of cash, prospects and other favors to obtain a revamped rotation, upgraded bullpen and hopefully some stones for the weak-minded who honked in last year's playoffs (I'm talking to you, Tom Gordon and Kevin Brown).

In with the new: Randy Johnson, the best lefthanded pitcher in baseball history not named Koufax; Carl Pavano, the former RedSax farmhand who finally hit stride in the past two years; Jaret Wright, the one-time Indians fireballer who had a career resurrection with the Braves; Felix Rodriguez, the Giants' hard-throwing set-up man. In with the old: Mike Stanton and Tino Martinez return for cameos with the team they helped to four (three for Stanton) World Series titles from 1996-2000. And out with the rubbish: Jose Contreras, Javy Vazquez (so much for my buddy Chef's prediction that his pickup would be better than the Schilling trade), Felix Heredia, El Duque, and Miguel Cairo.

This team should score more than 900 runs (unlike last year), should pitch better than last season's slapdash rotation that had two serviceable starters come playoff time (Moooooooooose and Leiber), should set up Rivera better, and should win the World Series. That's a lot of shoulds and no team ever meets all expectations: can Wright stay healthy, can Pavano pitch outside the pitchers-park/can't-hit NL East, can F-Rod dominate AL hitters, can Johnson defy aging, can Mooooose put in a full season, can Rivera regain his 1996-2003 form, can A-Rod hit with RISP? Personally, I preferred the 1996 and '98 teams that had a young core who came from the Yanks' minors with solid veterans and solid citizens (O'Neill, Tino). I hope the Yanks don't continue to fling prospects to the winds (Procter, Wang, Cano, DePaula, Duncan) and allow some of the kids to become contributors. But Big Stein wants to win now. Hopefully he will.

After the Biggest Collapse in Baseball History and an easy sweep of the Cards, the Red Sax enter this season as the defending world champions of baseball (no, I did not retch after writing that). They also reconfigured their rotation with enigmatic Matt Clement who has the uncanny capacity to collapse in the middle of a well-pitched game, and the largely enigmatic David Wells, who is good for about five really good starts against the Yankees and who knows what else. Terry Francona should be a hero in Bawstin after his aggressive managing saved the team in the ALCS. The loss of Pedro will hurt, the temporary loss of Schilling will be trouble. But the team has enough hitting (Ramirez, Ortiz and Mueller -- O My), a top-end closer in Foulke and solid starting even without Schilling to sustain itself into September and a wild card bid.

The Orioles will be FUN. Think about it: Miguel Tejada had 150 RBI last year and there's little reason he cannot duplicate that. Mora-Tejada-Sosa-Palmeiro-Lopez-Surhoff. That's a hard bunch for a pitcher to continually get by unscathed. Add some good pitching and . . . oops, the O's didn't really add any good pitching. So much for 90 wins. But the birds are good for 80-85 this year, will bug the s--t out of the RedSax again and will be able to close games better with BJ Ryan as a full-time closer. And with that lineup, they'll be worth watching.

The D-Rays will again suck less. That says little, but Dewon Brazelton and Scott Kazmir (boy, will the stupid Mets ever regret that trade if the kid stays healthy!) are top-notch arms, Aubrey Huff can flat-out hit, Carl Crawford can fly and a healthy Travis Lee helps the defense. It takes a lot to compete in this division and the Drays don't have that. But they have a product worth watching. BTW, what's with the extremely tall lefty pitchers who can't break wind? I'm talking to you Mark Hendrickson (87 K in 183 IP) -- the new Dennis Rasmussen and the AL's own Kirk Reuter.

As for the Blue Jays. What a sick bunch. Yet they have two starters that any other team in the majors would covet: Roy Halladay (2003 Cy Young winner) and Ted Lilly (a lefty who dominates the Red Sawx!). Something tells me those two are trade bait for prospects and a three-year reincarnation program.

Sickening - National Review caves to CAIR

UPDATE: Rich Lowry has just posted a reply (of sorts) to the NR/CAIR issue.

...A National Review Book Service e-mail blast for the book "The Life And Religion of Mohammed" by Rev. J.L Menezes was sent out a couple of weeks ago to the magazine's (opted-in) e-mail list. The ad copy in the e-mail, which invoked “the dark mind of Mohammed” among other things, was written by author Robert Spencer. But it went out under the name of a member of NR’s publishing staff, who should have, but didn’t review it. The book service is a joint project with a publisher who has been responsible for what books to feature in this service and how best to publicize them.

...CAIR has been agitating for us to apologize for weeks, but we obviously aren’t going to apologize for a position that isn’t our own. We are, of course, more than happy to defend our own actual positions against CAIR, or any other noxious grievance group.

What about Sword of the Prophet? I still don't like it.


My jaw dropped when I read this.

LGF is reporting that due to pressure from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on themselves and Boeing, a big advertiser, it is removing advertising for two books critical of Islam and the prophet Mohammed from their site, the National Review Book Service.

According to Robert Spencer of JihadWatch, NR Managing Editor Rich Lowry indicated that NRO was 'choosing its battles'.

The National Review is the doyen of conservative publications. Back in the early 1980s it was staunchly free market and anti-communist and was a lonely clarion voice for reason, decency and morality. Founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., probably the unofficial dean of the conservative movement, the magazine has never made money. Nevertheless I consider it to be the finest conservative on-line publication extant today with a superb blog, The Corner, and an exceptional stable of regular and occasional writers including Victor Davis Hanson, Jonah Goldberg and David Pryce-Jones.

My sense is that Boeing with its dependence on large aircraft orders from many countries globally is extremely sensitive to possibly losing a contract to the Airbus cartel for any reason pressured the National Review into this. Picking battles indeed. It's still sickening that CAIR is succeeding in trying to force the removal of research and literature critical of Islam. I predict CAIR will next try to force corporate 'divestment' from entities that profess viewpoints that differ from theirs.

The two books in question are The Sword of the Prophet and The Life and Religion of Mohammed. [The latter is out of print according to Amazon.]

Why do they fear it so much? I think I'll get a copy of each.

Attacking the courts

Interesting article in Slate about how the court system could be the big loser in the Schiavo mess. Although basically a neutral article, the author's belief that efforts to limit court jurisdiction and "intimidate" judges are the brain-child of right-wing nutters is apparent. But reporting on these efforts without a discussion of whether there is any justification for some of the "intimidation" efforts (impeachment threats, seeking electoral defeat of Judge George Greer, altering the lifetime tenure system in Federal courts) renders an incomplete picture of the situation.

When judges willfully refuse to follow the law (Judge Greer's refusal to appoint an independent ad litem for Terri Schiavo; the Florida appellate courts upholding that decision; the Florida Supreme Court's rulings in the Gore challenge in 2000) or when courts undermine the constitution by relying upon "foreign" law with no application to the US (see Roper v. Simmons), then the fears of an imperial judiciary are not the wild-eyed rantings of an out-of-the-mainstream group, but a genuine concern that should be evaluated and addressed.

Hollywood Idiots

Though that fact might be self-evident and the phrase redundant, Bridget Johnson gives us a quick refresher on Hollywood's extreme fetishization with communism in general and Che Guevara in particular.

If you have young children who might someday be taught by the professors in the preceding post, go buy the Black Book of Communism and keep it prominently displayed.

For pure visceral satisfaction buy one of these T-shirts:

American professors are overwhelmingly liberal

What a shock.

College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.
Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte find a leftward shift on campus over the past two decades. In the last major survey of college faculty, by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1984, 39 percent identified themselves as liberal.
The most liberal faculties are those devoted to the humanities (81 percent) and social sciences (75 percent), according to the study. But liberals outnumbered conservatives even among engineering faculty (51 percent to 19 percent) and business faculty (49 percent to 39 percent).

The most left-leaning departments are English literature, philosophy, political science and religious studies, where at least 80 percent of the faculty say they are liberal and no more than 5 percent call themselves conservative, the study says.

When confronted with the results,

"...Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, "The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion." Knight said he isn't aware of "any good evidence" that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.

Defending the indefensible. Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.

Bloggers Beware

The other day I ran across a short article/comment on how the Mainstream Media (MSM) could be contemplating an aggressive counterattack on the blogosphere. Frustratingly, I can't remember where I saw it and efforts to locate it so far have been in vain. It made some very good points though which I think are worth sharing.

The gist of the short piece was that the MSM could try to hamstring bloggers by backing a number of relativey minor legal, tax or regulatory changes. It noted that the vast, vast majority of blogs are money-losers and often exist only due to the passion of the blogger. Even some of the largest ones only barely break even. The MSM, who have seen their influence wane remarkably in the past two years, could strike back by encouraging and importuning Congress to impose new fees, taxes and regulation on the blogosphere. Perhaps the most damaging would be regulations that define "libel" in a very broad way. The threat of lawsuits could silence a lot of bloggers even if paying to blog did not.

It added that prominent Democrats, e.g., John Kerry, would be more than happy to see the blogosphere slapped down and have the much more liberal-friendly MSM regain its lost influence. And the majority of trial lawyers would likely only be more than happy to help.

Click the title of the post for ReasonOnline's caveat about how McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation could be used to hamstring bloggers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kyrgyzstan Shockwaves

The democracy movement in Kyrgyzstan heralds a second break-up of the Soviet Union, according to one expert quoted in the Christian Science Monitor article linked in the title to this post. Why? Because now the former Soviet republics that have been saddled with Kremlin-backed rulers for the past 14 years are following the trend started in Georgia and Ukraine.

Two Russian ethnic republics, Ingushetia and Bashkortostan, have seen mass street demonstrations this week directed against Kremlin-installed leaders. Even in remote Mongolia, the former USSR's Asian satellite, hundreds of protesters gathered last week to "congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers" and demand a rerun of last June's disputed parliamentary polls.

Some experts see a common thread among these upheavals that began 17 months ago when Georgians overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze in a peaceful revolt and continued with Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" late last year.

"Every situation is different, but a single process is unfolding," says Valentin Bogatyrov, a former Akayev adviser and director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Bishkek. "Kyrgyzstan is a kind of trigger that will spread this unrest to our neighbors, and beyond. We are witnessing the second breakup of the Soviet Union."

Better yet, more revolutions may be in store:

Allegedly fraudulent elections sparked the uprisings in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. Among the post-Soviet states that face elections in the next two years are Azerbaijan later this year, plus Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan in 2006. Common features of the regimes potentially under siege include systemic corruption, nepotism, and political appointments based on personal fealty rather than professionalism.

HT: Instapundit.

Apologies to all Kyrgyz for mis-spelling Kyrgyzstan (without "z") previously.

International Law: the Lilliputian ties that bind

I tried posting this before, but Blogger honked, as usual (one of the main reasons we've been so light today).

Anyway, the always-sharp Mark Steyn turned his eye toward the after effects of the Iraq liberation on Tony Blair: to wit, questions by the Labourites and even the schizophrenic British Right, about whether deposing Saddam violated international law. Ask the Iraqis if they want that decision rescinded.

Some excerpts:

If I were to make a general observation about the differences between the American and British executives, it would be this: a British Prime Minister with a majority in the House of Commons can do what he wants at home - abolish the Upper House of the national legislature and ancient offices of state that predate his; install toytown parliaments of arbitrarily varying powers in his Celtic realms and divide England into meaningless invented "regions" - but overseas he's far more circumscribed; conversely, a US President can't abolish the Senate or merge New Hampshire and Vermont into the Metropolitan County of Clwyd, but if he decides to stick it to some genocidal nutter halfway around the world he doesn't have to worry he'll be tied up in the UN dictators' small-claims court for the next decade. On the whole, I prefer a system which gives the head of government limited powers over Mrs Scroggins at 37 Acacia Gardens but a wide degree of latitude when it comes to President Sy Kottik of Hoogivsadam.

* * *
Two years ago - March 15, 2003 - I wrote in this space that Bush had been prevailed upon to "go the UN route" to give his closest ally some (pseudo-legal) cover and "the end result is that we'll be going to war with exactly the same participants as we would have done last August, and the one person weakened by going the UN route is the very one it was designed to protect: Mr Blair. The best way to help Blair would have been to get the war over six months ago."

* * *
. . . in the coalition of the winning's inner counsels - America, Britain, Australia - Mr Blair is the odd one out. Bush and John Howard are soul mates not just on Iraq but in their general contempt for old-school poseur multilateralism. Indeed, the Aussies are far more open about their views on the UN and "international law" than even the Bushies. By contrast, Blair thought he could somehow square the activist liberationist Bush doctrine with the whole tired Security Council/ICC/Hague/EU circus. You can't. They're mutually incompatible. The problem with the entire concept of "international law" is that it can ensnare a Tony Blair while never laying a finger on a Saddam Hussein. A "legalistic" regime of global relations confers an inviolable sovereignty not on countries or peoples but on every tinpot thug holding down the presidential palace.

Read it all.

The Fix comes in

As The Australian report I noted yesterday predicted, Kofi Annan is assessed no direct responsibility for the connection between his son's employer obtaining Oil-for-Food contracts and Annan's status as Secretary-General of the UN.

As the AP story noted above states: "Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna [S.A.] in West Africa from 1995 to December 1997 and then as a consultant until the end of 1998 — just when it won the oil-for-food contract. He remained on the Cotecna payroll until 2004 on a contract to prevent him from working for a competitor in Nigeria or Ghana, but that was only disclosed in November."

Considering that Oil-for-Food was run directly out of the Secretary General's office through program administrator Benon Sevan, there is no reasonable explanation for this conclusion by the Volcker investigation: "[i]nvestigators also said 'the evidence is not reasonably sufficient' that Annan knew about Cotecna's bid in 1998." This is garbage.

The quote above seems to mean the investigators required ACTUAL knowledge to show Annan's misconduct, not "constructive" knowledge. Constructive knowledge is what a reasonable person should have known in the same circumstances based on the information available to him. For example, if you buy a home without investigating the deed history and that history indicates the seller does not rightfully own the home you are buying, you have knowledge of the problem constructively even though you screwed up and didn't investigate the deed history. Kofi Annan has constructive knowledge of everything that runs through his office, including Oil-for-Food.

Draw your own conclusion.

Duke funkiness in the NCAAs

Here's your bracketology lesson for NEXT year: if you pick against
Duke, pick the Blue Devils' vanquisher to go to the Final Four if Duke
loses in the Sweet 16.

Since the Krzyzewski era started, Duke has been to 21 NCAA Tournaments.
That run includes 10 Final Fours and three championships. Duke has 18
NCAA Tournament losses under Coach K and they break down like this:
four national title games ('86, '90, '94, '99), three national
semifinals ('88, '89, '04), one regional final ('98), one first round
game ('96), four second-round games ('84, '85, '93, '97) and, most
importantly, five Sweet 16 games. Those Sweet 16 losses were to
Indiana ('87, '02), Florida ('00), Kansas ('03) and Michigan State
('05). Each of those teams avoided a letdown (except '87 Indiana, a
prohibitive favorite) and won its regional final two days later! Duke
has made it to the last eight Sweet 16s (1998-2005, inclusive). So if
you're picking against Duke in next year's tourney, and you have it
going to the Sweet 16, pick its conqueror to continue to the Final

Monday, March 28, 2005

Schiavo Perspectives

Every time I refresh the NY Times home page the past few days - I cringe a little bit expecting to see that Terri Schiavo has starved to death.

A few [more] perspectives:

Cal Lanier at the Football Fans for Truth (I can't remember the link that led me here) wrote an FAQ for the Uncommitted with some interesting facts on the case that haven't been publicized. Worth a read. I dunno a thing about FFT but looking at his blogroll he seems to be on the side of reason (and the angels)

John Fund comments on how the Democrats (by and large) felt very differently about the 'usurpation of power' when Janet Reno contravened the courts and sent Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba.

Jay Nordlinger at NRO can't understand why some folks just seem to want Terri to die.
But before I quit altogether, I ask a question (not an original one): What would it hurt? Who would be hurt by Mrs. Schiavo's continuing to be fed — by her not being starved to death? I mean, it's no skin off the New York Times's nose, right? No skin off Loretta Sanchez's. Her parents and siblings want her. Michael Schiavo can "move on" — can obtain a divorce, marry his girlfriend, wash his hands of the old wife. But no, he has to have "closure," in the form of Terri Schiavo's death (by starvation — did I mention that?). And his supporters, for sick reasons of their own, also have to have her dead. She has to be gotten out of the way. Her life is a rebuke to them, somehow.

In a discussion with a friend, I mentioned something about Dr. Mengele's laboratory. He said, "No, this is worse. Mengele had the pretense — indeed, the argument — that he was benefiting humanity [with his inhuman experiments]. Where's the argument here? They're just starving her to death."

By the way read the rest of Nordlinger's Impromptus today - superb.

Last and most touching, Susan Konig compares what Mrs. Schindler is doing to what Mary did for Christ in Mel Gibson's Passion.

"I'm here."

I'm an agnostic and I'm praying that God receives Terri's soul.

Throw Kojo under the bus

That's Kofi Annan's reaction to new revelations that he met with representatives of Cotecna Inspection, SA, a company that aided and abetted the Oil-for-Fraud scam that enriched Saddam and the UN. Cotecna employed Annan's son, Kojo, and paid Kojo even after he left the company when it won the UN contract for supplying the Saddamite regime. The blame-Kojo strategy is designed to deflect criticism from Kofi Annan, as The Australian describes:
UN officials are hoping to deflect criticism of the UN chief by insisting that his son, Kojo, 29, misled him about payments that Kojo Annan received from a UN contractor.

Beautiful: a defense calculated to appeal to the pro-UN left (it's the son's fault!) while completely failing to sway anyone who already views the UN as a corrupt cesspool.

Who you calling belligerent?

China's term for Taiwan: belligerent.

Proper term for China: totalitarian neoimperialist.

China calling Taiwan belligerent is sort of like me griping at my cat when he takes a small swipe at me -- although China's a lot larger viz. Taiwan than me toward my cat (who is about 1/18 my size).

Just another way in which Commie accusations defy credulity.

Final Eight review

After two weeks of NCAA Tournament play, The Monk is in a three-way third-place tie in his pool and will end up in a three-way tie for the title if UNC beats Illinois. Wongdoer, piggybacking on my advice, will win if UNC beats Louisville. No one in the pool (60+ people) picked the whole Final Four. About 8 or so (including The Monk) picked three of the Final Four, and all picked the same three: Louisville, Illinois and UNC. They must've been reading The Key Monk . . .

Here is what should have been learned in the past two weeks (other than the fact that David Spade is so da*n annoying I will not get a Capital One credit card and that Seth Davis is a cliche-ridden wannabe stooge):

(1) Teams can't defend the three. This goes for winners (Louisville, UNC, Mich. State) and losers (Kentucky, Arizona). Indeed, the dead-eye three-point shooting by West Virginia, Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin defied logic and description. Nonetheless, defending the three-pointer seems to be a lost art in this Tourney: Kentucky is a bottomoftheSEC outside shooting team, it went 9-19 against MSU; WVU couldn't hit water from a boat against Syracuse in the Big East Tourney, it couldn't miss against Louisville (18-of-27 is equivalent to hitting all 27 shots from two-point range). Illinois rode its 16 3-pointers to its comeback win over Arizona. Maybe Kansas' 4-20 against Syracuse in the 2003 title game is an anomaly. I tend to believe that teams that do not play zone regularly tend to lose track of shooters (Louisville, UNC) when they go 2-3 or 1-3-1. Arizona (regularly plays a 1-3-1) and Mich. State (2-3 zone competent) have no such excuse.

(2) A diversified attack is a necessity. Syracuse lost in the first round because it had two reliable scorers, one of whom went in the tank; same thing happened to Vermont against Michigan State. Diverse scoring = why Arizona was in position to win against Illinois despite Stoudamire's worst game all year.

(3) Don't underestimate the importance of a quality center even in the college game. Sure, Syracuse won two years ago without one (and so did Mich. State in 2000) but the Orange had the best player in college hoops. The presence of a top center can still change the game: just ask Michigan State how important Paul Davis has been. UNC would be back studying for class and answering "what happened?" questions from the Carolina media without Sean May. Last year in the Final Four, UConn destroyed Duke when Okafor was on the floor but couldn't handle the Dookies without him and Ok. State lost to Ga. Tech because Schenscher dominated the small OSU front line.

Some important matchups for the next weekend: (a) Louisville against Illinois' guards. The Cardinals have height against the Illini's mighty mites, but will Louisville be able to deal with the Illini pressure as well as it did against Washington? Remember, the Cards do not have a true point guard; they play with a shooting guard (Dean) as the primary ball-handler and a point forward (Garcia) as a primary passer.

(b) Paul Davis against Sean May. Davis looks like a slightly squatter Shawn Bradley but he has the guts Bradley never had. Davis went toe-to-toe with the stronger Shelden Williams (of Duke) twice this year and more than held his own (Davis = 17 points, 10 reb in first game, 20-12 in NCAA; Williams = 10-12, 19-10). May single-handedly kept Williams from first-team all-ACC and first-team all-American honors (both of which Williams had been hyped for until the first Duke-UNC game) by dominating him twice. May's line against Duke: 23 pts, 18 reb at Duke; 26 pts, 24 reb at UNC; Williams' line = 11-9 and 22-4. No contest either time and a major reason May leapfrogged past Williams in all-conference and all-American voting (their overall numbers are similar: 16.8/10.8/55.4 FG% for May; 15.5/11.2/58.2% for Williams). How Davis holds up against May will help decide who plays Monday night.

Best thing about the Final Four this year? Even though we have the following seeds: 1, 1, 4, 5, just like 1996, (see also the 1, 1, 2, 5 set-up in 2002) the two #1 seeds are on opposite sides of the bracket so they cannot meet until the title game. This prevents Billy Packer from b*tching for six days (and 5+ hours on game day) about how the NCAA should re-seed the Final Four (and MAN did I get tired of that crap in '96 when #4 SU played #5 Mississippi State and #1 Kentucky avenged itself against #1 UMass -- blame the Committee for putting the top two teams on the same side of the bracket).

Early roundup

Some articles to peruse at your lunch break.

First, Jackson Diehl discusses the slander laws that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has enacted and the Chavez regime's increasing totalitarianism. Otto Reich calls Castro and Chavez a new axis of evil in the April 11, 2004 National Review -- if you have a subscription, check out the article online here; if not, buy the issue when it hits newsstands.

Second, Orson Scott Card is a moderate Democrat, incisive thinker, and one of the better ethicists writing today (read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, his two Hugo and Nebula award winners). He discusses the Schiavo situation in an article reprinted here.

Third, Arnold Schwarzenegger is poised to become one of the most consequential governors in California history. Dan Balz reports on recent developments here.

Fourth, Douglas Rogers grew up in Zimbabwe and left. His parents stayed. He recently visited and wrote about what he saw in that nightmare of mismanagement and corruption.

That should get you started.

NCAA analysis to come soon.

Worthless Lives?

One of the issues raised by the Terri Schiavo case is whether certain lives are not worth living. Prof. Peter Singer, eugenicist from Princeton, would mercy-kill hundreds of thousands for various and sundry reasons related to low quality of life and cost to society of keeping certain people alive. This type of collectivist thought process denigrates the individual value of life -- an interpretation little different from totalitarian regimes that were more than happy to eradicate one in favor of the whole.

Harriet McBryde Johnson, a woman who was supposed to be dead more than two decades ago thanks to her muscular dystrophy but who has instead become a lawyer and national advocate for disabled rights, obviously disagrees. Her encounter with Singer at Princeton, as initially published in the NYT Magazine, is described in the link in the title to this post.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The slow death of Terri Schiavo

As Terri Schiavo slowly starves to death this Easter, consider this point from the inestimable Mark Steyn:

This is not a criminal, not a murderer, not a person whose life should be in the gift of the state. So I find it repulsive, and indeed decadent, to have her continued existence framed in terms of ''plaintiffs'' and ''petitions'' and ''en banc review'' and ''de novo'' and all the other legalese. Mrs. Schiavo has been in her present condition for 15 years. Whoever she once was, this is who she is now -- and, after a decade and a half, there is no compelling reason to kill her. Any legal system with a decent respect for the status quo -- something too many American judges are increasingly disdainful of -- would recognize that her present life, in all its limitations, is now a well-established fact, and it is the most grotesque judicial overreaching for any court at this late stage to decide enough is enough. It would be one thing had a doctor decided to reach for the morphine and ''put her out of her misery'' after a week in her diminished state; after 15 years, for the courts to treat her like a Death Row killer who's exhausted her appeals is simply vile.

Read the whole piece.

Happy Easter

Wishing a Happy Easter to our Christian friends and readers on the most important day on the Christian calendar. We don't celebrate Easter as avidly as Christmas but Christ's resurrection on this day some two thousand years ago is the foundation of the religion.

Here's a thought-provoking piece from the National Review where author-journalist David Klinghoffer argues that the Jews rejecting Christ was the turning point in Western history:

Because the earliest Christian church was initially hobbled by insisting that new converts adhere to Jewish law — keep kosher, be circumcised, etc...The decision was made, however — at a church council in Jerusalem in 49 — to jettison Jewish law as a requirement for new Christians. This was done at the apostle Paul’s insistence, and he explains in Acts that since the Jews were rejecting his presentation of Jesus as savior and messiah, the Christian message would now be taken to the gentiles. Dispensing with Jewish practices like circumcision made this possible. Had the Jews not rejected Paul’s preaching about Jesus, the church likely would have held on to those laws. Had it done so, the church would have remained hobbled, and could hardly have become the world-bestriding institution it is today. Jewish Christianity would have remained a sect in Judaism, and probably would have died out along with other such sects in 70 when the Temple was destroyed by Rome and the Jews scattered. In that case, there would be no Christian civilization, and, among other things, no America as we know it — a country whose founding was deeply influenced by Christian faith.

This is not meant at all to kindle a debate on Judaism and Christianity on which I am certainly no authority. But the concept of 'turning point in history' has always held a special fascination.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Kyrgystan Election News

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that there will be new elections in Kyrgystan on June 26 in response to the popular uprising after the recent (corrupt) elections.

HT: Publius Pundit.

That'll hurt

Arizona stood less than 3.5 minutes from the Final Four with a 15-point lead over Illinois and had been pounding the Illini from midway through the second half . . . then came the equal and opposite reaction. A tremendous comeback by Illinois, great shooting by Deron Williams and Dee Brown, excellent hustle and a 20-5 run to tie the game at 80-all. Ultimately, Arizona will look back on this and wonder how it lost.

As for West Virginia: the Mountaineers took a page from Syracuse 2003's championship game win over Kansas -- incredible first-half shooting, running out to a huge lead . . . and didn't finish. Good timing for Larry O'Bannon to show up in the second half for Louisville, and Taquan Dean has had a very nice tournament. West Virginia was overmatched but did not play that way and John Beilein deserves the compliments he'll get for guiding this team to its Final Eight run.

Two other broadcast notes: (1) both Gus Johnson and Dick Enberg struck the right notes in excitement while calling the games today; (2) I'm sick and tired of hearing how a kid has "come to play today" -- this means stop saying that, Seth Davis. If the players haven't come to play, why did they suit up?

Revolutionary Stirrings and UN depravity

First, the horrors of the UN. In this article The Australian reveals the depravity of Jordanian troops assigned to East Timor in 2001 as part of a UN peacekeeping mission and the UN's cover-up of the Jordanian paedophilia and bestiality. HT: Little Green Footballs.

Next, the stirrings of democracy: (1) hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Taiwan to protest China's recent anti-secession law that sanctions the use of force to "reunite" Taiwan with the mainland. (2) In Kyrgystan, protestors against a fixed election led to the overthrow of the Kyrgys' lone post-Soviet ruler. The US is trying to coordinate efforts to stabilize that nation and ensure a true democratic transition. (3) In Ukraine's neighbor Belarus, opposition politicians and businessmen (to the extent Belarus's dictator Lukashenko allows them to exist) tried to coordinate pro-opposition rallies against the current government, but those seem to have been supressed. The fact that such rallies occurred is good news.

Win some, lose some

This is why The Monk is not a betting man: I honked three of the four games yesterday. I probably should have revised my picks once I heard Seth Davis parrot the same four teams I predicted would win on Thursday. Rule #1a in picking NCAA Tournament games = if you're picks are identical with Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated), Seth Davis (SI) or Andy Katz (ESPN), you're screwed. Remember, Katz lost half his Final Four (Wake, Syracuse, Illinois, UNC) by last Saturday.

But kudos to Clark Kellogg for picking the Michigan State win over Duke. From the in-my-own-defense category, I noted that most of the games were toss-ups and that the only reason I picked Duke was that it SHOULD win as the allegedly better team that had already beaten MSU earlier in the season. That's a sweet win for Tom Izzo: his first against Duke and it lessens that pain from last year's 72-50 beatdown Duke put on MSU in MSU's backyard.

As for honking the NCSU and Utah picks, the key to the game is actually hitting some shots. Utah couldn't hit layups (the former Sean May Syndrome, it needs to be renamed b/c May learned how to hit his two-footers over last summer), NCSU couldn't hit Lake Erie from Niagara Falls.

I'm not sold on Kentucky or Wisconsin. I think both should lose tomorrow because Izzo has his Spartans playing well and because Wisco is playing UNC.

As for UNC: that's the mulligan. You get one s--t game per tournament if you're trying to win the NCAAs and that was it for the 'Heels. Villanova was undermanned, outgunned and outsized but if Allen Ray could hit ANYTHING, the Wildcats would be playing Wisco tomorrow. Great job by Jay Wright to get that team to play as well and as hard as it did. Kyle Lowry deserved all the kudos he received from the broadcast team, he and Randy Foye put on a great show. For the future, the Wildcats need to have Allen Ray get past his Shammond Williams Syndrome (the inability to hit a shot if your life depended upon it in a big game, see UNC's Final Four losses in '97 to Arizona and in '98 to Utah).

Three notes on the CBS broadcasting teams: (1) Len Elmore has been sharp in this Tournament, especially in the first and second-round games with Syracuse and Michigan State; he had another solid night with the Louisville-Washington game too; (2) Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist completely honked the significance of Raymond Felton's fifth foul with 2.5 minutes left yesterday -- the Tar Heels' ensuing ball-handling and offensive troubles allowed Villanova to claw back from 64-56 down to within one point of the upset; (3) Dick Enberg needs to estimate distances less and just say "jumper": when a player takes a regular field goal attempt from the foul line, it's a 15-foot jumper because the foul line is 15 feet from the hoop; therefore, a foul-line jumper is not a "ten-footer" and a jumper in the lane 3-4 feet inside the foul line is not a "six-footer".

Friday, March 25, 2005

Saturday Final Eight Preview

From the youhearditherefirst category comes The Monk's semi-useful preview of tomorrow's Final Eight games, Louisville-West Virginia and Arizona-Illinois.

First, Louisville/WVU: The Cards have been one of the most impressive teams in the Tourney after slipping past Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round. WVU has been pure grit-and-guts in claiming a last-second win over Creighton, a double-OT comeback win against Wake and outscrapping Texas Tech. This game is where WVU's miracle run ends, just as previous Cinderellas have fallen -- Rhode Island 1998, Gonzaga 1999, Temple 2001, Kent State and Missouri 2002, Alabama 2004. Remember, when Wisconsin and UNC wandered into the 2000 Final Four as #8 seeds, they both had Final Eight games against similar mid-seeded teams, Purdue and Tulsa (Bill Self's first of three Final Eight losses). Louisville isn't a mid-seed, it's an underrated high seed (as its whippings of Ga. Tech and Washington showed). Expect Pitino to make history by becoming the first coach to lead three programs into the Final Four (Providence '87, Kentucky '93, '96, '97).

Now the big one on Saturday, Arizona/Illinois. This is one of Lute Olson's on years. He's had off-years where Zona has been an early upset victim ('92, '93, '95, '99 = first-round stinker quadruple -- check out those tourneys, Arizona is the only school to lose to each of a #12, #13, #14, and #15; second-round flops in '90, '00) and he's had on-years when Zona has exceeded expectations ('98 and '01 most notably) and a couple of years when Zona has met its lofty notions ('88 and '94 Final Four teams). This team has talent and, unlike last year's squad, intestinal fortitude. Illinois has been remarkably unimpressive throughout the tournament. The Illini are one of the few teams that can match Arizona's perimeter ability. The question is whether the Zonans can pound the relatively soft Illini frontcourt. Quite honestly, the main reason to like Illinois is that the game is in Chicago -- there is no #1 seed I remember that has won three games against outmatched opponents as unconvincingly as the Illini, by 12, 12 and 14 against the #16, #9 and #12 seeds = yuck. Take this game out of Shytown, and I'd take the points and Zona quite happily. Even in Chicago, I think Arizona is a good bet to do unto the Illini what Ok. State did to St. Joe's last year in New Jersey: take out an underwhelming one-loss team near its own backyard.

Breaking our radio silence

Wongdoer seems out of pocket today, and I've been sleeping off the after-effects of yesterday's surgery. Here are some items of interest.

First, on the Terri Schiavo mess, Andy McCarthy describes most of my distaste by noting how Ms. Schiavo has not received anything approaching due process in this matter. I'm disgusted by the fact that Congress became involved, but I understand the impulse; read McCarthy's piece to see how the deck has been stacked against her from the start. In addition, read Denis Boyles' report on European press reactions.

Next, Peter Brown discusses why Republicans quietly WANT Hillary Clinton to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008 and why the media are fools for pumping up her candidacy.

Also, in case you haven't noticed, another former Soviet Socialist Republic has been rocked by a voting scandal that resulted in a popular uprising against a benign dictator. The ex-SSR in question, Kyrgystan. This situation bears watching as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes.

Speaking of revolutionary situations, this time of the Cedar variety, a preliminary UN report on the Rafik Hariri assassination came out and actually calls for deeper inquiry into the actions of a totalitarian Arab state:
Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri with "physical harm" last summer if Hariri challenged Assad's dominance over Lebanese political life, contributing to a climate of violence that led to the Feb. 14 slayings of Hariri and 19 others, according to testimony in a report released Thursday by a U.N. fact-finding team.

The report, which calls for an international investigation into Hariri's death, describes an August meeting in Damascus at which Assad ordered the Lebanese billionaire to support amending Lebanon's constitution, according to testimony from "various" sources who discussed the meeting with Hariri. The amendment, approved Sept. 3, allowed Emile Lahoud, the Syrian-backed Lebanese president, to remain in office for three more years.


HT for the UN report article = The Capt.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Three of four = not bad

So the only game I honked was Arizona-Ok. State, and it took a phenominal shooting display (63%) by the Wildcats to make me wrong. Give credit to Joey Graham for showing up BIG with 26 points, but John Lucas came up small in a game where his team needed a major contribution. My question: why was OSU, with a coach known for his defensive strategy, completely unable to stop the 'Zona pick-and-roll? 'Zona's hot shooting never cooled off because the Wildcats were able to pick apart the OSU traps, find open shooters and execute.

I'm impressed that once again WVU outscrapped its opponent. John Beilein's coaching stock is rising quickly, especially considering that after tomorrow WVU will likely be the Big East's last remaining team in the Tourney.

And now the $64 question: can Illinois beat a major conference team in this Tournament? Do the Illini have an impressive game in them? Scratching and clawing with the #12 seed for 32 minutes, when UWM had only one player who belonged on the court with the Illini, is not liable to shatter the heavens.

Score one for The Monk

Just watched Louisville spank Washington. Nice job by the Cards and the way they effortlessly broke the Washington press at the end of the game demonstrated how well-coached Louisville is and how versatile that team is because the main distributor at midcourt (who would advance the ball to the key and look to drive or distribute to a finisher against the back of the press) was Louisville's thick-and-powerful 6-7, 245 center Ellis Myles (8 pts, 13 rebs and team-high 6 assists).

Add the accurate bombing from Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean, the athleticism of Larry O'Bannon (with a great turnaround-hang-get-bumped-hit-the-shot jumper) and a 2-3 zone defense that gave Ga. Tech and Washington fits, and Louisville resembles its gaudy 31-4 record more than its undeservedly low #4 seed.

Europe's mercantilism and immorality

Excellent piece by moderate left-wing columnist Timothy Garton Ash in today's Guardian on the EU's desire to lift the arms embargo to China and the US pressure that halted the Europeans in their tracks.

Here is an excerpt showing how Jacques Chirac became China's useful idiot:

What happened was this. The Chinese communist regime has long been irked by the embargo, both for symbolic, political reasons, since it places China in a small, ignominious club, together with Zimbabwe and Burma, and because it prevents the regime from importing weapons and weapons-related technologies that it wants. In autumn 2003, the Chinese foreign ministry published a paper on relations with the EU. Under the heading "the military aspect", the paper said that "the EU should lift its ban on arms sales to China at an early date so as to remove barriers to greater bilateral cooperation on defence industry and technologies".

Jacques Chirac picked this up, and urged the EU to oblige. Meanwhile, he declared 2004 the "year of China", painted (or rather, illuminated) the Eiffel Tower red, backed the Chinese official position on Taiwan and failed to criticise its record on human rights. His servility was rewarded with a few trade contracts and qualified Chinese endorsement of his vision of a "multipolar" world, to counterbalance American power.

And Chirac's mercantilist desire to obtain a fat export market for the moribund French economy at the expense of China's citizens and neighbors is simply wrong. Another excerpt:

On this issue, however, America is more right than wrong. The real danger of war between China and Taiwan, and China's still abyssmal human rights record, should be concerns to us all. Europe should not have paused because Washington bullied us; Europe should have paused because we ourselves saw the larger picture.

And believe me, this is one of the largest pictures there is [because] in 20 years' time the great triangular diplomatic game between China, Europe and the United States will be the biggest game in town. Thirty years ago, Henry Kissinger played the China card against the Soviet Union. Today, China is playing the Europe card against the United States.

Save the Turtles but not Terri Schiavo

Hugh Hewitt has stinging commentary today at the Weekly Standard:

But people do need to focus on an unintended consequence of the weekend legislation: the illumination--again--of the contempt of the federal courts for their coordinate branches, and the contempt of the left for people of faith.
So Congress passed a statute that was intended to force a new trial on the merits of Terri's parents' concern that their daughter's wishes were not being honored. The president signed it. DeLay summarized the intent of Congress in his Sunday press conference: "We are confident this compromise will restore nutrition and hydration to Mrs. Schiavo as long as that appeal endures. . . . Obviously, the judge will have to put the feeding tube back in or she could die before the case is heard."

So much for "obviously." The District Court ruled that because there was no substantial likelihood that Terri's parents would prevail in the hearing not yet held, he would not order hydration and nutrition resumed. Two of three judges on appeal agreed, and so, at this writing Terri Schiavo remains without food and water--despite Congressional direction to the contrary.

The Supreme Court has long recognized that "Congress may intervene and guide or control the exercise of the courts' [equitable] discretion," even though such direction is rare and even though the Court will "not lightly assume that Congress had intended to depart from established principles." [Weinberger v. Romero 305, 313 (1982)]

One area where Congress mandated a hair trigger on injunctive relief is when the threat is to an endangered species. A few years ago a District Court in the 11th Circuit correctly ruled that the "pronouncements of the Supreme Court teach that, in considering the entry of an injunction under the ESA [Endangered Species Act]: (1) the Court does not have 'traditional equitable discretion' to balance the parties' interest, (2) any threatened harm is per se irreparable harm, and (3) the public interest always favors the imposition of an injunction under the Act." [Loggerhead Turtle v. Volusia County, Florida 92 F. Supp. 1296, 1301 (2000).] /p>

In the case of the Endangered Species Act, the courts have built the standard of review from the statute's breadth and Congressional intent. I cannot think of a more clear-cut expression of Congressional intent and urgency than the extraordinary intervention of last weekend and the clear pronouncements of many legislators on the matter of Terri Schiavo. They assumed the federal district court would stay Terri's starvation pending the outcome of the de novo proceeding they had mandated, even as convicted murderers have their executions stayed as federal courts process their appeals from state proceedings.

Thus the courts, in the case of species conflicts, have built a standard governing the issuance of stays that was not on the face of the statute, but have refused to enforce the standard that was clearly intended in the case of Terri Schiavo.

So animals are more important than humans. PETA must be pleased.

"Talking Points" Memo

Monk and I haven't been able to cover this business with the purported Republican "Talking Points" memo that mysteriously appeared in the Senate during the debate on the Schiavo case. ABC and the Washington Post 'broke' the story alleging that Republicans were using the Schiavo legislation for political gain.

The blogosphere, once again, has investigated these memos and forced the MSM to backtrack on the story.

From Powerline, here is a post with a good history and background and why the authenticity of this 'memo' is in doubt.

ABC is backtracking here.

Last Chance - UPDATED

2:14 PM State Judge Rules Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida's Social Services Agency Cannot Take Custody of Terri Schiavo.

Terri Schiavo's only chance now lies with Governor Bush.

Terri Schiavo's chances took what may be a final blow today.

The Supreme Court today turned down a request by Terri Schiavo's parents for an emergency order to restore the Florida woman's feeding tube.

In a one-sentence notice, the court said the matter had been presented to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and referred by him to the full court. But it offered no explanation as to why it was denied. The justices seldom elaborate when they turn down cases decided by lower courts.

There is one last legal skirmish where Judge George Greer of the Circuit Court in Piniellas-Pasco County, Florida (who originally ordered the feeding tube removed) is set to rule imminently on a move by Governor Jeb Bush to take custody of Terri Schiavo pending a review of the circumstances of the case based on the affidavit of a neurologist who believes Schiavo's impairment may be less than originally thought.

If that is denied Schiavo's last chance would be a direct intervention by Governor Bush in contravention of the judicial rulings as Bill Bennett and Brian Kennedy argue at the NRO today:

The "auxiliary precautions" of Florida government — in this case the Florida supreme court — have failed Terri Schiavo. It is time, therefore, for Governor Bush to execute the law and protect her rights, and, in turn, he should take responsibility for his actions. Using the state police powers, Governor Bush can order the feeding tube reinserted. His defense will be that he and a majority of the Florida legislature believe the Florida Constitution requires nothing less. Some will argue that Governor Bush will be violating the law. We think he will not be violating the law, but if he is judged to have done so, it will be in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., who answered to a higher law than a judge's opinion. In so doing, King showed respect for the man-made law by willingly going to jail (on a Good Friday); Governor Bush may have to face impeachment because of his decision.

In taking these extraordinary steps to save an innocent life, Governor Bush should be judged not by the opinion of the Florida supreme court, a co-equal branch of the Florida government, but by the opinions of his political superiors, the people of Florida. If they disagree with their governor, they are indeed free to act through their elected representatives and impeach him. Or they can vindicate him if they think he is right. But he should not be cowed into inaction — he should not allow an innocent woman to be starved to death — because of an opinion of a court he believes to be wrong and unconstitutional.

Governor Jeb Bush may find it difficult to protect Terri's rights without risking impeachment. But in the great American experiment in republican government, much is demanded of those who are charged with protecting the rights of the people. Governor Bush pledged to uphold the Florida constitution as he understands it, not as it is understood by some Florida judges. He is the rightful representative of the people of Florida and he is the chief executive, in whom the power is vested to execute the law and protect the rights of citizens. He should use that power to protect Terri's natural right to live, and he should do so now.

We may indeed see today the character of Governor Bush. I am not sure he would take the step that Bennett and Kennedy propose but if he is anything like his brother I wouldn't bet against it.

Tips for aspiring academics

Victor Davis Hanson has a public service announcement today.

How to become a Professor

Rule 1: Profess to be as far left as possible, understanding that extremism in the service of utopian virtue is no vice.

Rule 2: Among the nerds and dorks, act a little like a Brando, Che, or James Dean, a wild spirit that gives off a spark of danger, who can at a distance titillate Walter Mitty-like admirers and closer up scare off the more sober censors.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, reinvent yourself as anything but a white, straight American male.

Rule 4. Don’t worry about the anti-capitalist’s embarrassing six-figure salary, plush job, lifelong guaranteed employment, and fondness for jet travel and hotels. Just keep acting like an ageless denizen of the Woodstock nation, professing to be a timeless dagger pointed at the heart of money-grubbing square America.

I think that about covers it.

Click title to read the whole article on how Ward Churchill is an indictment of American universities, their biases and hiring practices.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sweet 16 Preview

I'm getting this done a day early because, as I said below, I'm having a tooth extraction tomorrow so once I get the pain meds and antibiotics in me, I'll be loopier than the OJ Simpson criminal trial jury.

Here are tomorrow's games (start-time order): Louval/UWash; Illinois/Wisco-Milwaukee; TexTek/WVU and Zona/Ok State.

Here are Friday's games: Mich. State/Duke; NCSU/Wisco; Utah/Kentucky; Villanova/Carolina.

Hmm. Tomorrow's slate seems more fun. My pre-Tourney Final Four are all still alive and my tourney pool is doing ok. On with the insightful analysis (and with predicted winner team colors for each entry)!

Louisville/Washington: the problem for Washington is that Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino, a man who knows press defense, how to break press defense, how to run a very good half-court offense (just ask Ga. Tech) and who is one of the better college coaches in the game. The problem for Louisville is they have no real point guard and they've really lived and died offensively with Francisco Garcia's shooting touch. Then again, the Cards' defense has been so good that if Garcia's been off, they can still win. I had this game pre-Tourney and picked Louisville. I'll stick with that.

Illinois/Wisco-Milwaukee: Nice matchup for Illinois -- a pressing team against the Illini's guard-heavy squad and no interior problem for the Illins to worry about. I'd laugh my arse off if UWM won and that'd be painful with two newly empty dental sockets. I'm not worried. And remember, Illinois is playing in Chicago so if the Illini do NOT win, it's a BIG upset.

Texas Tech/West Virginia: this is an intriguing game and one that will be worth paying attention to because it may end up as the best game of the night. WVU is all heart-and-scrap, Texas Tech is more of the same. I think WVU has more inside/outside flexibility and it proved it could run with Wake. John Beilein (say "beeline") is the new great-coach-nobody-knew-about and the Mountaineers need to be whipped to be defeated; this game will be close = edge to WVU. The winner will lose Saturday.

Arizona/Oklahoma State: Arizona is the Syracuse of the West. You never know when they'll go in the tank early, underperform, or make a big run. Three years ago I thought they'd stomp Oklahoma, but OU stomped them. Two years ago Zona got bullied by Kansas and burned by KU's Kirk Hinrich. This year, Zona is fully capable of being bullied about, but the question is whether OSU can do the bullying? OSU has played only middling-quality games in rounds one and two, especially because Joey Graham has scored fewer points in those two games than he usually scores in one. I also do not put too much stock into how impressive a team was in weekend #1 if it only played a pair of stiffs, as Zona did. Case in point: 2003 Tourney, Pitt whomps its first two opponents, Marquette struggles into the regional semis, they meet, Marquette wins; similarly in the 1997 Tourney, KU won its first two comfortably, Zona won close games and then beat KU in the regional semis. That 4-5 day layoff can help teams who struggled in rounds one and two re-focus.

I had this game and thought OSU would win pre-Tourney. I think OSU should win on paper, but I'm not going to bet my mortgage on it in Vegas.

For Friday: I think the early games will be close and the late games are potential blowouts.

Duke/Michigan State is the game of the night because these two played early in the season at Duke (Duke 81-74), Michigan State has the athletic capacity to run with the Dookies, and Duke has been VERY underwhelming in its first two games, especially that tight matchup against an underachieving Mississippi State. But Michigan State has the same negative every other Big Ten team left in the Tourney has: it has not faced a major conference opponent yet. Vermont tripped up Syracuse, but did not have the athletes to run with MSU (note that SU beat the substantially similar MSU teams in both 2003 and 2004); Wisconsin has topped Northern Iowa and Bucknell; Illinois beat the highest seed of any Big Ten opponent: #9 Nevada. The competition level between mid-majors and underdogs coming off upsets and top-caliber ACC teams is huge. Duke should win. I can't stand Duke.

Wisconsin/NC State: This is the only Sweet 16 game where I didn't get one of the contestants correct. This game will be like watching paint dry for the first 35 minutes and then watchable only because it will be close at the end -- a 57-55 type score. Wisconsin has beaten teams worthy of a preseason "invitational" tournament like the Hoosier Classic (where Indiana invites two stiffs and a semi-stiff) or the old Carrier Classic (Syracuse's old joke tourney). NC State outplayed UConn, a real team. And NC State will have the best player on the floor -- a fact that tends to tip close games in the Tourney, as I noted here. It says here that NCSU will win; it certainly should.

Utah/Kentucky: The biggest freak situation in the 1990s = from 1996-98, Kentucky beat Utah in the NCAA Tourney each year. This year, Kentucky is young, Utah is tall. I've said before that the SEC sucked and the way the NCAA Tourney has played out has not created doubt as to the accuracy of that evaluation. One interesting factor is the coaching: Utah doesn't have the genius of Rick Majerus on the bench, Kentucky has four days of prep time for Tubby Smith. Utah has the best player left in the bracket and when all is said and done, that should be the tiebreaker. If I'm right, my immediate post-bracket reaction of a Duke-Utah Final Eight matchup will look genius.

One quick note on Tubby Smith: I don't think there is a universe in which he is not underrated. In his first season, after Kentucky had lost Ron Mercer and Anthony Epps from its 1997 NCAA Finalist, he led the team to a national title. Since 1998, Kentucky has been in the Sweet 16 five times in seven years and has never had the talent level that the 1992-96 Wildcats boasted. Why? Primarily the Garnett Factor: kids who are Antoine Walker/Ron Mercer/Jamal Mashburn caliber players don't go to college for two-year long apprenticeships anymore, instead they go straight to the pros or stay for one year. So Smith seeks the second-tier of players who WILL matriculate and participate, and does wonders with them, such as those bands of mid-level stiffs who nabbed a #1 seed in the 2003 and 2004 Tournaments. Tubby gets ripped by a lot of the rabid UK fans, he shouldn't.

Villanova/North Carolina: UNC has been the most impressive of the #1 seeds so far. It whacked Oakland and thumped Iowa State. It has not had 30-40 minute challenges by undermanned opponents (I'm talking to you, Illinois, Duke) and it hasn't let its opponents really feel they even had a chance to win (Washington, that means you). Villanova creamed New Mexico for 20 minutes then almost choked; it followed that win with a victory over perennial underperformer Florida. But UNC has talent and character and should take advantage of its size (Sean May, the Williamses) and speed (McCants, Felton, Noel, Manuel) against a Villanova team that will be without its best player. UNC should win by double digits and take care of the unfortunate winner of NCSU/Wisconsin.

There you have it. Check in again Saturday as I brag or issue mea culpas or both.

Programming note

Welcome Carnival of the Vanities readers. I'm going to blog about the Sweet 16 matchups later today. My blogging will be light tomorrow (tooth extraction fun!) but Wongdoer will have the con.

The X factor

One occurrence of note that Wongdoer and I have not discussed in the wake of the Schiavo mess and the NCAA Tournament is the death of George Kennan.

Kennan is most famous for conceiving and disseminating the "containment" strategy. In 1947, Kennan wrote a famous article in Foreign Affairs magazine under the pseudonym "X" entitled "The Sources of Soviet Conduct." The article was a relatively clear-eyed view of the Soviet imperial threat and the need to confront it. Remember, in 1947 only Churchill among the major political figures of the time had a prescient view of Stalin's goals and desire to expand Soviet totalitarianism. The US still, by and large, viewed Stalin as the jolly old "Uncle Joe" portrayed in the press and supported by FDR's fawning treatment of the Soviet butcher from 1942-45. Truman was starting to awaken to the Soviet menace, and would proclaim the Truman Doctrine in 1947.

Because the X article was so keenly insightful, Kennan's 58 remaining years (he lived from 1904-2005 and was productive into his mid-90s) were lived as the wise old statesman. Essentially, the rightness of his views were presupposed by the prescience of the X article. Unfortunately, Kennan's later pronouncements indicated a distrust of American power, a disdain for democracy, a preference for rule by an oligarchical "educated" elite (see France), and a fundamental dislike for American strength that is nearly indistinguishable from Jimmy Carter and Robert McNamara.

Gabriel Schoenfeld's 1996 review of Kennan's last major book of essays (covering 1982-1995) has more information and insight. Click the link in the title to this post to access the .pdf of Schoenfeld's article.

Why Congress' involvement in Schiavo is troublesome

Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic discusses why Congressional involvement in the Schiavo matter and baseball's steroid problem is both troublesome and merely another crack in the wall of our liberties.

I think Congress should not be involved in the baseball situation at all, and that the Schiavo matter should never have come to this point. Here is part of Robb's take on the Schiavo matter, but you should read the whole thing (emphases added):

[S]ocial conservatives pushed so hard for Congress to act in this case and in this way[, which] is highly revealing in a couple of respects.

In the first place, it illustrates that social conservatives don't have the same sense of restraint about federal authority that has characterized traditional conservatism. Like liberals, social conservatives often judge political actions by their results, not their propriety. Terri Schiavo should live, therefore Congress should act.

Second, the alacrity with which Congress and President Bush acted - a special Sunday session of Congress, the president flying back from Crawford, Texas, and being awakened at 1 a.m. to sign the bill - indicates that, within the Republican Party, social conservatives are clearly in the ascendancy.

Republicans supported the special Schiavo legislation with nary a pause to consider whether their involvement was appropriate.

But by the light of day, the question lingers. The country is full of family tragedies, conflicts and difficult ethical decisions. Which of these private poignancies are Congress' business, and which are not?