Friday, December 29, 2006

Seeing Iraq clearly

"While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001."

President Bush? Dick Cheney? Tony Blair? It certainly isn't Ned Lamont who by the grace of G*d and the sanity of enough voters in Connecticut is back somewhere peddling cable to college kids.

It's the first paragraph of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman's powerful op-ed in the Washington Post. For those of us on the right side of the spectrum we should put Joe Lieberman in the same camp with Tony Blair. Whatever their other shortcomings, in the issue of the age, THEY GET IT.

The most pressing problem we face in Iraq is not an absence of Iraqi political will or American diplomatic initiative, both of which are increasing and improving; it is a lack of basic security.

This bloodshed, moreover, is not the inevitable product of ancient hatreds. It is the predictable consequence of a failure to ensure basic security and, equally important, of a conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran, which have systematically aimed to undermine Iraq's fragile political center. By ruthlessly attacking the Shiites in particular over the past three years, al-Qaeda has sought to provoke precisely the dynamic of reciprocal violence that threatens to consume the country.

On this point, let there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism.
In nearly four years of war, there have never been sufficient troops dispatched to accomplish our vital mission. The troop surge should be militarily meaningful in size, with a clearly defined mission.

More U.S. forces might not be a guarantee of success in this fight, but they are certainly its prerequisite.
I saw firsthand evidence in Iraq of the development of a multiethnic, moderate coalition against the extremists of al-Qaeda and against the Mahdi Army, which is sponsored and armed by Iran and has inflamed the sectarian violence. We cannot abandon these brave Iraqi patriots who have stood up and fought the extremists and terrorists.
In particular we must provide the vital breathing space for moderate Shiites and Sunnis to turn back the radicals in their communities. There are Iraqi political leaders who understand their responsibility to do this.
As the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria appreciate -- at times, it seems, more keenly than we do -- failure in Iraq would be a strategic and moral catastrophe for the United States and its allies. Radical Islamist terrorist groups, both Sunni and Shiite, would reap victories simultaneously symbolic and tangible, as Iraq became a safe haven in which to train and strengthen their foot soldiers and Iran's terrorist agents. Hezbollah and Hamas would be greatly strengthened against their moderate opponents. One moderate Palestinian leader told me that a premature U.S. exit from Iraq would be a victory for Iran and the groups it is supporting in the region. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have bravely stood with us in the hope of a democratic future would face the killing fields.

In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term. The daily scenes of death and destruction are heartbreaking and infuriating. But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hang Mike Nifong

like he has tried to hang three almost certainly innocent men on rape charges so his could get re-elected?

Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson hang Nifong rhetorically in this OpinionJournal piece for his contemptible, self-serving actions in advancing the Duke lacrosse "rape" case which has become a farce.

Last spring, Durham D.A. Michael Nifong, who is white, was facing a primary in a racially divided electorate. He was badly behind and out of campaign money, excepting almost $30,000 in loans from his personal funds. Then came the accuser's allegations. Mr. Nifong responded by assuming control of the police investigation and making racially inflammatory statements pronouncing the Duke lacrosse players guilty of rape. Even as evidence of their innocence accumulated, he brought rape, sexual assault and kidnapping charges that fed the racial resentments he had stoked. The black vote put him over the top in both the May 2 primary and the Nov. 7 general election.
How can we be confident that the charges are false? Let us count the ways: The police who interviewed the accuser after she left the March 13-14 lacrosse team party where she and another woman had performed as strippers found her rape charge incredible, and for good reason. She said nothing about rape to three cops and two others during the first 90 minutes after the party. Only when being involuntarily confined in a mental health facility did she mention rape. This predictably got her released to the Duke emergency room for a rape workup, whereupon she recanted the rape charge.
In court filings last week, even Mr. Nifong conceded that, contrary to his claims since March, medical records show no physical evidence of rape--let alone injuries consistent with the accuser's April claim of being beaten, kicked, strangled and raped anally, orally and vaginally by three men in a small bathroom for 30 minutes. Above all, DNA tests by state and private labs, which Mr. Nifong's office had said would "immediately rule out any innocent persons," did just that. They found no lacrosse player's DNA anywhere on or in the accuser and none of her DNA in the bathroom.

Yet two weeks ago we learned--only because dogged defense lawyers cracked a prosecutorial conspiracy to hide evidence of innocence--that the private lab did find the DNA of "multiple males" in swabs of the accuser's pubic hair, panties, and rear after the supposed rape. None of this DNA matched any lacrosse player.

This case screams for a special prosecutor - to disbar Mike Nifong, who may not deserve the hangman's noose but certainly a bit of jail time wouldn't hurt.

Saudi Primer

Arnaud de Borchgrave has a fascinating primer on Saudi Arabian politics. Worth keeping and filing for reference. A tidbit:

Founded by Abd al-Aziz in 1932, modern Saudi Arabia is an oligarchy of 7,000 male princes. The royals number an estimated 21,000 (including up to 4 wives allowed by the Koran). King Abdullah, who succeeded the late King Fahd in August 2005, is the fifth son of the founder to mount the throne as the guardian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

First among royals are known as the "Sudairi Seven," which comprised seven brothers with the same mother, who was the founder's favorite wife, Al-Fadha bint Asi al-Shuraim. Surviving Sudairis are in their late seventies and include next in line to mount the throne Prince Sultan, the defense minister, who is the father of Prince Bandar, the national security adviser to the king and former ambassador to the U.S. He is known to see himself as a future kingmaker. His unique global Rolodex of the planet's powers that be also puts him in a stable of dark horses.
There is a growing convergence of opinion among the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt that only an aerial bombardment of 17 known nuclear sites could retard Iran's nuclear ambitions by five to 10 years. One U.S. intel topsider remarked (not for attribution), "If we can gain five years that way, it's worth considering." He speculated Iran's moderate reformers could gain power in the interim,
Last month, Bandar also met secretly with Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian national security and intelligence chiefs in Sharm El Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. His American, Israeli and Arab interlocutors share his alarm over Iran's nuclear ambitions and believe preemptive air strikes will become necessary in 2007. A new existential alliance appears to be in gestation against Iran's nuclear program.

Almost optimistic that someone thinks the mullahs are dangerous and want to do something about it.

Ford on Iraq

Bob Woodward of the Washington Post has created a bit of a furor with his just published 'revelation' that:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

Here is the article and the excerpts: (audio also available)

FORD: I don't think if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.
FORD: I think Rumsfeld, Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction.
FORD: And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.

Without the context I would disagree with Woodward's opening paragraph - Ford is saying "I would not have done it." This does NOT mean "It was not justified" as Woodward translates.

Compare this with an interview with Daily News Washington Bureau Chief Thomas DeFrank:

Ford was a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday as we chatted for about 45 minutes. He'd been visited by President Bush three weeks earlier and said he'd told Bush he supported the war in Iraq but that the 43rd President had erred by staking the invasion on weapons of mass destruction.

"Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him," he observed, "but we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Bush] get his advice?"

That's similar yet very, very different. Ford, to me, seems to be emphasizing the error of basing the war on WMD than on the war itself.

I like Bill Bennett's thoughts on this at NRO:

Since "decency" seems to be the watchword of the day and the consensus modifier for Jerry Ford (a view with which I generally concur), may I nevertheless be permitted to ask this: just how decent, how courageous, is what Jerry Ford did with Bob Woodward? He slams Bush & Cheney to Woodward in 2004, but asks Woodward not to print the interview until he's dead. If he felt so strongly about his words having a derogatory affect, how about telling Woodward not to run the interview until after Bush & Cheney are out of office? The effect of what Ford did is to protect himself, ensuring he can't be asked by others about his critiques, ensuring that there can be no dialogue. The way Ford does it with Woodward, he doesn't have to defend himself...he simply drops it into Bob Woodward's tape recorder and let's the bomb go off when fully out of range, himself.

This is not courage, this is not decent. The manly or more decent options are these: 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around, or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over. There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.

You're a former President Mr. Ford, show a little more decency to the incumbent who is in a very, very tough place and trying to do the right may recall those days and positions yourself.

Islamists abandon Mogadishu

Somali and Ethiopian troops have marched into Mogadishu after the leaders of the SICC (Somalia Islamic Courts Council) fled in the morning. The SICC, which had taken Mogadishu in June and spread sharia rule in the South, crumbled unexpectedly a mere 10 days after they were poised to march on a Somalian government stronghold. From the NY Times:

The Islamist forces hastily collapsed on Wednesday afternoon when clan elders pulled their troops and firepower out of the movement after a string of back-to-back military losses in which more than 1,000 Islamist fighters, most of them adolescent boys, were killed by Ethiopian-backed forces.

“Our children were getting annihilated,” said Abdi Hulow, an elder with the powerful Hawiye clan. “We couldn’t sustain it.”
The Islamists started out as a grass-roots movement of clan elders and religious leaders who banded together earlier this year to rid Mogadishu of its notorious warlords, earning them a lot of public support.

But much of that good will seems to have been sapped by their decision to go to war against the transitional government and the Ethiopian forces protecting it.

The Islamists attacked Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government, on Dec. 20; a few days later, they announced that Somalia was open to Muslim fighters around the world who wanted to wage a holy war against Christian-led Ethiopia.

That provoked a crushing counter-attack by the Ethiopians, who command the strongest military in East Africa. For the past week, the Islamists have lost one battle after another, their adolescent soldiers no match for a professional army.

This is a good result. Hopefully Ethiopia maintains a credible force to prevent the SICC from establishing an insurgency.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fixing Iraq

As President Bush ponders a new or updated strategy for Iraq, he should be listening to folks like Ralph Peters and Jack Keane. A troop surge to stabilize the security situation in and around Baghdad is considered highly likely. HOW we deploy though could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Peters, author and retired lieutenant colonel in military intelligence, argues that the central issue right now is security.

One thing's clear: If we can't enforce security, nothing else matters. So the wisest course of action seems obvious - except to the Washington establishment: Return to a wartime footing.

Focus exclusively on security. Concentrate on doing one thing well. Freeze all reconstruction and aid projects. Halt every program and close every office that doesn't contribute directly to pacifying Iraq.

Empty the Green Zone. Pack off the contractors. Reduce the military's overhead to those elements essential to support combat operations. Make it clear to "our" Iraqis that it's sink-or-swim time. Remove our advisers from any Iraqi unit that can operate marginally without them (and let the Iraqis do security their way without interference).
We need an exclusive focus on the defeat of the foreign terrorists, uncooperative Sunni Arabs and Muqtada al-Sadr's Shia thugs. Our enemies control Iraq with fear. We need to make them fear us more than the population fears them.
It would be obscene to deploy more troops and further strain our military unless we're serious about winning. And all half-measures will fail.

Retired Army General Jack Keane and Frederick Kagan agree. Keane and Kagan argue that the 'surge' in troop strength needs to be 30,000 and 18 months.

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

The key to the success is to change the military mission -- instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.
Of all the "surge" options out there, short ones are the most dangerous. Increasing troop levels in Baghdad for three or six months would virtually ensure defeat. It takes that long for newly arrived soldiers to begin to understand the areas where they operate. Short surges would redeploy them just as they began to be effective.

In addition, a short surge would play into the enemy's hands. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias expect the U.S. presence to fade away over the course of 2007, and they expect any surge to be brief. They will naturally go to ground in the face of a short surge and wait until we have left. They will then attack the civilian population and whatever Iraqi security forces remain, knowing them to be easier targets than U.S. soldiers and Marines. They will work hard to raise the level of sectarian violence in order to prove that our efforts have failed.
Clearing and holding the Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in the center of Baghdad, which are the keys to getting the overall levels of violence down, will require around nine American combat brigades (27 battalions, in partnership with Iraqi forces, divided among some 23 districts). Since there are about five brigades in Baghdad now, achieving this level would require a surge of at least four additional combat brigades -- some 20,000 combat troops. Moreover, it would be foolhardy to send precisely as many troops as we think we need. Sound planning requires a reserve of at least one brigade (5,000 soldiers) to respond to unexpected developments. The insurgents have bases beyond Baghdad, especially in Anbar province. Securing Baghdad requires addressing these bases -- a task that would necessitate at least two more Marine regiments (around 7,000 Marines).
It is difficult to imagine a responsible plan for getting the violence in and around Baghdad under control that could succeed with fewer than 30,000 combat troops beyond the forces already in Iraq.

It is tempting to imagine that greater use of Iraqi forces could reduce the number of U.S. troops needed for this operation. The temptation must be resisted. We should of course work with the Iraqi government to get as many trained and reliable Iraqi troops as possible into Baghdad, and we should pair our soldiers and Marines with Iraqis as much as we can. But reducing the violence in the Sunni and mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad is the most critical military task the U.S. armed forces face anywhere in the world. We cannot allow that mission to fail simply because some Iraqi units don't show up, aren't at full strength or are less reliable than we had hoped.

The United States faces a dire situation in Iraq because of a history of half-measures. We have always sent "just enough" force to succeed if everything went according to plan. So far nothing has, and there's no reason to believe that it will. Sound military planning doesn't work this way. The only "surge" option that makes sense is both long and large.

My sense is this is it. Our last shot at succeeding in Iraq. Fail now and the what's left of our resolve will drain away and a failure here will resonate as loudly and deeply if not more so as our withdrawal from Vietnam. This President has the resolve, unlike his predecessor, of doing the right thing. The 2006 election is past. Bush has two years and still a chance to salvage the view that introducing a democratic virus in the Middle East could have lasting implications.

Make the tough decision, pacify Iraq, eliminate Moqtada al Sadr as a threat, do the same to any Sunni militant that rises and be prepared for what that will cost.

Mr. President, think of 2028 and not 2008.

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006, R.I.P.

Former President Gerald Ford passed away yesterday at age 93.

Gerald Ford served in the Navy, 13 terms as Congressman and eight years as House Minority Leader, Vice President (1973-74) and President of the United States (1974-76)

The only real memory I have of Ford as president was Election night 1976 when he lost the election, narrowly, to Jimmy Carter. Ford slowly faded from the scene after losing the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan in 1980. His image to my generation and younger is one of a political lightweight thrust into the spotlight who was a bit of a bumbler and spent his retirement happily golfing.

In truth Ford was a good and decent man and during the gravest constitutional crisis in a century, held the country together. Savaged nearly universally for pardoning Richard Nixon Ford used his veto pen frequently faced with an overwhelmingly hostile Congress.

The image as a klutz was only that - a myth propagated by a hostile press looking for a cheap joke. To wit, Ford played both sides of the ball for the Michigan Wolverines, offensive center and linebacker, who gave up a career in the NFL to go to Yale Law School. His #48 is one of only five retired numbers in the storied tradition of Wolverine football.

Gleaves Whitney has an outstanding piece on Ford. Some excerpts:

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: “I think he saved the country. In fact, he saved it in such a matter of fact way that he isn’t given any credit for it.”
[J]ournalist James Cannon, observed,
“I remember him as a leader, first and foremost. He was the right man for this country, at the right time, in the most extraordinary crisis in our constitutional system since the Civil War.”
Michigan Democrat [the late] Martha Griffiths:
In all the years I sat in the House, I never knew Mr. Ford to make a dishonest statement nor a statement part-true and part-false. He never attempted to shade a statement, and I never heard him utter an unkind word.”
On September 8, 1974, barely one month in office, President Ford shocked the nation when he pardoned President Nixon; critics — and they were legion — saw it as the greatest plea bargain in history. In fact, after it appeared that Nixon would be impeached by the House of Representatives, his chief of staff, Alexander Haig, met privately with Ford and tried to suggest that he should pardon Nixon in exchange for Nixon’s resignation; Haig even handed Ford the suggested draft of the pardon. The vice president adamantly refused: there would be no “deal.”

After becoming president, Ford pondered and prayed and came to the conclusion that pardoning the disgraced president was the right thing to do, even if it jeopardized his chances of winning the 1976 presidential election. As Ford later reflected on it,

I agonized over the idea of a pardon.... But I wasn’t motivated primarily by sympathy for [Nixon’s] plight or by concern over the state of his health. It was the state of the country’s health at home and around the world that worried me.

Rooting for Ethiopia

The joint Ethiopian - Somalian offensive against the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) has drawn relatively scant attention but is an important battle in the war in Islamic fascism and one where it appears the forces of civilization are prevailing.

The SICC, Somalia's Taliban, have been engaged in a war with the secular national government which called in Ethiopian help. In fighting that began a week ago well-trained Ethiopian forces with MiGs and tanks along with Somalian government troops have routed the Islamists and driven them back into Mogadishu their base of operations. Troops have advanced to within 15 miles of Mogadishu though the question remains whether the city will be besieged or taken by force.

Cliff May has some thoughts on why Ethiopia is winning

More “boots on the ground” may be part of the explanation. The Ethiopians are not attempting to have a “light footprint.” They are not worried about whether they will be seen as “occupiers” or whether their “occupation” will be viewed as benevolent.

Secondly, the Ethiopians are not overly concerned about whether their tactics will win approval from the proverbial Arab Street – or the European Street or Turtle Bay. They are fighting a war; their intention is to defeat their enemies; everything else is secondary or tertiary.

Also the SICC hasn't made itself popular by sending primarily adolescents into the fight: [from the NY Times]

Ahmed Nur Bilal, a retired Somali National Army general, said the war had been a horrible miscalculation. What made him especially mad, he said, was the Islamists’ reliance on adolescent boys to do most of the fighting. One of the first things the Islamists did after the fighting started was to close all schools in Mogadishu to send more young people to the front. Witnesses to some of the battles said the teenage troops were no match for the better-trained, better-equipped Ethiopian-backed forces who summarily mowed them down.

Ethiopia intervened at the request of the Somali goverment but it's reasoning is clear - bordered to the north by a hostile Islamic Eritrea, an Islamist insurgency to the south has been judged to be inimical to the interests of the country strategically so a pre-emptive attack makes sense.

Islamists in Somalia are likely to include elements of al-Qaeda so the West has a stake in this struggle hence the tacit US support for Ethiopia. Hopefully Ethiopia has learned the lessons of Falluja 2004 - crush this insurgency utterly rather than submit to some idiotic power-sharing agreement and leaving a festering Sadr-like abscess.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Deathly Hallows

Fans of the teen wizard rejoice: the title of the seventh and final Harry Potter book has been announced.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

A title that's even odder than Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Courtesy: Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who is Joseph Rago?

Maybe I'll read the WSJ more closely in the future, but I look at the editorial pages every day and could not tell who Joseph Rago is. And I still cannot, other than he's the self-righteous prig who views all blogs as electronic entities "[w]ritten by fools to be read by imbeciles." Does Rago deem Opinion Journal's Best of the Web feature -- the WSJ's own editorial page blog by James Taranto -- in the same light?

The sick thing about the mainstream media is that, by and large, it has inflated senses of its importance, its ethics, its accuracy and its collective intellect. I'm an attorney who went to top schools, Wongdoer is a Harvard grad. Glenn Instapundit Reynolds is a law professor, as are Hugh Hewitt and Ann Althouse.

Dan Rather graduated from the Texas State Teachers College. Most journalists were not special -- child geniuses do not gravitate toward the police beat in the small-town paper or the internship at the college station that start the career of many journos. Anyone can be a journalist if s/he seeks news, writes about it accurately, and ensures an opportunity for both sides of the story to comment. It's not that hard. I was not self-taught as a college journalist, but learned from the upperclassmen at the college paper. That's it. And I was a professional-quality journalist within a year of starting with the paper.

So the self-exultation of the media is really quite a bore. And ultimately self-defeating. The more you keep talking about your indispensibility, the more time others spend doing what you claim only you can do -- and do it just as well.

Bush's best legacy?

During the Cold War, India was a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement -- a group of countries that proclaimed that they would not ally themselves with either the USSR or the US. The reasons were multiple: India has an occasionally volatile 2500-mile border with China, which itself had various interests in conflict with either the US or the Soviets; India was an unhappy legatee of British colonialism and tended toward socialism and proto-communism but retained a parliamentary democracy that helped prevent totalitarianism; India simply had its own dang problems -- high population, poor economics. The effect, however, of being neutral in a dispute between a totalitarian and a democracy is that the totalitarian benefits from your neutrality. After all, for evil to triumph, good men must do nothing.

Today, as it transforms its economy from Third World statism to market-based, and with the death of the Soviet Union, India's most pressing international problems are with Muslim extremists in Pakistan and the imperial aspirations of China. To counter those enemies, India and the US have become allies. And this may end up as Bush's greatest legacy: bringing the US closer to India, which can be a counter to the threat of increasing Chinese military power, a vibrant free-market democracy in the second most populous nation, and a stalwart against Muslim extremism.

When the media is right

Rich Lowry chides conservatives for their unending disdain for the mainstream media. He is correct that "The mainstream media is biased, arrogant, prone to stultifying group-think and much more fallible than its exalted self-image allows it to admit. It also, however, can be right, and this is most confounding to conservatives."

But Lowry also claims that

In Iraq, the media’s biases happen to fit the circumstances. Being primed to consider any military conflict a quagmire and another Vietnam is a drawback when covering a successful U.S. military intervention, but not necessarily in Iraq. Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right — that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war.

This is both true and untrue. It is untrue because the media generated pessimism in the face of positive results (killing Uday and Qusay, toppling Saddam) and thereby exposed both its bias and a reflexive anti-Americanism that is a disservice to our servicemen and -women and the country as a whole. Lowry's claim is true because the Administration allowed the situation to deteriorate by acting slowly and indecisively. In other words, instead of controlling the future in Iraq, the Administration allowed the media's perception to become a reality.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SCOTUS thoughts: An overreaction, in part

Mark Levin has two suggestions for reforming the Supreme Court: (1) term limit justices; (2) allow Congress to veto Court decisions. His article is part of a series in Human Events magazine in which former Reagan Administration officials discuss how they believe Reagan conservatism principles should be applied now and in the future.

The Monk does not have a problem with the first suggestion. A 14 to 18 year maximum term with potential re-appointment for another, shorter term is not unreasonable at all. In New York, the judges on the state's highest court (the New York Court of Appeals) serve for 14-year terms. That said, there should be some provision to ensure that no supermajority will ever be required for appointments.

Levin's second suggestion is somewhere between redundant and contrary to the Framers, depending upon the context. Here is his idea:

Giving Congress a veto over Supreme Court decisions would also help restore the balance between the court and the legislature. If it took a two-thirds majority vote in both houses to veto a decision, such vetoes would not happen often. But it does allow the people, through their elected branches, to have the last say.

Putting aside the fact that in most cases Levin's suggestion would require a Constitutional Amendment (see below), here's what is wrong with Levin's thought process:

First, for all Supreme Court decisions that interpret Federal laws but do NOT rule that the law is unconstitutional, Congress has the ability to overrule the Court by majority vote -- exactly as it did with the Military Commissions Act in the wake of Hamdan. This is also true for Supreme Court decisions relating to bankruptcy, patent, maritime and other subjects that are squarely within the ambit of Federal law. Why require a supermajority?

Second, for decisions that interpret the Constitution, there already IS a remedy for overturning the Supreme Court's ruling: amending the Constitution. The fact that this is rare shows how the Supreme Court acts as a rational check upon the potential of a runaway majority. The amendment process requires both Congressional approval and state approval, therefore it is actually MORE representative of the will of the people than the acts of Congress alone.

Third, there is no mention of decisions that are based on the Court's interpretation of state law -- such as R.A.V. v. St. Paul. Would Levin allow Congress to have a veto on Supreme Court decisions that interpret whether state law violates the Constitution? If so, the whole concept of dividing powers between the Federal government and the 50 states gets flushed away. Levin uses the egregious Kelo decision as an example of a case that should (and would) be reversed by the Congressional veto, but that was purely a local decision based on Connecticut law, interference by the Federal government in such local affairs is anathema to Reaganite small government conservatism.

Levin brings up some interesting points, but his Congressional veto solution to the problems inherent in the Supreme Court would have more negative effects than the current situation.

Programming Note

The Monk will be in some frozen European country for New Year's, and is leaving next week, and therefore blogging will be minimal at best. Wongdoer might actually get off his sizeable hindquarters and do something, but that concept is about as dependable as the Giants' defense.

Blogging should be steady from early January-onwards.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Smartest winter season = the Yankees?

In the face of long-term, high-dollar deals, Seth Mnookin says the Yanks have had one of the best winters in baseball. Why? No overpaying for underachievers and no long-term flyers. Instead, the Yanks are actually developing their own talent.

Mnookin's analysis came before the Yanks' concluded their deal with Andy Pettitte, but that contract is maximum of two years and went to a proven veteran who is a #1-#2 starter, not a #4 type like Lilly or Meche and not a career stiff after a breakout year like Gary Matthews, Jr.

So, what's a savvy baseball executive with an overstuffed wallet and a dearth of attractive options to do? One choice is to take a flyer on an old or injury-prone player like Moises Alou or Kerry Wood. Another is to take a big gamble on a young foreign star, as Boston is doing with Daisuke Matsuzaka. But those all-in opportunities are both rare and risky. If weaker free-agent classes do become the norm, teams that want to crash the postseason party should resist the urge to spend, say, more than $25 million for three years' worth of a below-average starter like Adam Eaton. Instead, they should devote more of their resources to player development. The model of this approach is the Tigers, who resisted trading away their up-and-coming stars even during a five-year stretch in which they went 307-502. Last year, Detroit relied on Zach Miner (24), Jeremy Bonderman (23), Justin Verlander (23), and Joel Zumaya (21) to anchor a pitching staff that led the team to the pennant.

But the team that's playing today's market better than anyone is—no joke—the Yankees. After years of binging on overpaid veterans, the Bronx Bombers have developed a sudden fondness for developing and acquiring young players. Cy Young runner-up Chien-Ming Wang was a rookie in 2005. Catalysts Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are 24 and 22. And the Bombers executed one of the better trades of the offseason when they picked up a trio of hard-throwing pitching prospects in return for 38-year-old Gary Sheffield, to whom the Yankees owed $13 million for the 2007 season. The team that gave up those prospects? The Detroit Tigers.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A good newcomer

Stumbled across a good new blog called "Campaign2008" the other day.

Notable recent posts: (with excerpts)

Nancy Pelosi's Congress: A Landfill of Corruption

Bulletin: Howard Jefferson, the Louisiana Democratic congressman who gave new meaning to the phrase "cold cash" has been re-elected to the House of Representatives by the good and reflective people of his district. As you recall, Jefferson's career was mildly disrupted when he was found to have $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer. Two of the congressman's closest aides, including a member of his staff, have been sent to prison for their involvement in the scandal. Jefferson won with a mere 79% of the vote. One of those who endorsed him was the irrepressible Ray Nagin, mayor New Orleans.

Oil Companies & Pharmaceuticals - Their Turn in the Barrel

Traditionally a very profitable company, Pfizer has more than 13,000 scientists working for the company. Its yearly research expenditures are about $7.5 billion -- more than any developed COUNTRY outside the U.S. spends on drug research.

Happy Birthday Monkette

No longer Monkette2B!

Hope you are having a great day and that the Monk has been diligent and creative in securing gifts!

End of Pax Americana?

Robert Samuelson asks whether we are seeing the twilight of Pax Americana. He has an interesting point - that strength does not equal power (true if the strong are not willing to use it) - and that the fall of the Soviet Empire made the US stronger but less powerful.

If he's right the world will miss it when its gone.

"Hesitation in War is...Suicide"

A very good post on the Captain's Journal blog about the Rules of Engagement under which the US military operates in Iraq.

As Michael Ledeen comments, it's not only how many soldiers but how they are allowed to fight. A soldier should always consider seriously the consequences of his actions but the ROE in Iraq seems clearly to be contributing to significantly higher US casualties.

Happy Birthday Monkette -- not the Monkette2B

Unlike the past six years (2000-2005), when I'd wished my girlfriend or fiancee happiness upon the anniversary of her birth, this year I'm wishing a most happy birthday to my wife and decidedly better half.

I love you, honey.

A plea to American Christians

Does the future of Israel depend upon American Christians? Michael Freund thinks so. Moreover, the voice of America's Christians may be the force that saves the West:

Nothing less than US military action is going to deter Teheran from pursuing its nuclear goals. Threats of sanctions and finger-wagging have failed to do the job.

Europe is hopelessly weak and conciliatory, and the United Nations is completely inept. There is one man, and one man alone, whom God has put in a position to stop Iran, and that man's name is George W. Bush.

But the president is under attack, as the media and his critics do their utmost to tear him down. They hate him and everything he stands for, and will stop at nothing to spoil his remaining time in office.

The president is a good man, and a man of faith. He knows what needs to be done; but like any leader, he also needs to hear from those who put him in office.

And that, dear Christians, is where you come in to play.

With your size and your influence, and yes, with your faith, it is you who can make a difference at this critical juncture for Israel and the West.

No habeas for Hamdan

The district court judge who granted Salim Hamdan's habeas corpus petition two years ago just ruled that the Military Commissions Act, enacted earlier this year by Congress and signed by the President, divested the court of jurisdiction to hear Hamdan's case and effectively overturned the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision from earlier this year.

This is a victory for the Administration. Hamdan is the former driver for Osama bin Laden who has been held in Gitmo since 2001. The Hamdan decision was a mishmash of legal prestidigitation to achieve a specific outcome.

The real Kofi Annan

The WSJ examines the reign of Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations (we'll leave for another time the disgusting reality that the head of the UN has the same title as the head of the Soviet Communist Party held). As a coddler of dictators and enabler of repressive regimes, he has few equals. The Journal describes the worst of his legacy:

. . . the larger problem of Mr. Annan's approach is that, by insisting that only through the U.N. could the world act to protect vulnerable populations, he has made vulnerable people hostage to predatory regimes with seats at the U.N. and made it all the more difficult for the world to act. Compare the fate of the Kosovars--rescued from the Serbs by U.S. military action undertaken without U.N. consent--with that of the Darfuris, who are still at the mercy of militias supported by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, which has effectively blocked serious international intervention.

Senate in the balance

Tim Johnson (D-SD) is in critical condition following brain surgery. He has a unique congenital condition that causes enlargement of blood vessels to the brain, which results in entangling the vessels and limiting blood flow.

If he cannot serve, South Dakota's Republican governor would appoint his replacement -- in a 51-49 Senate, that would mean a 50-50 split with VP Cheney casting deciding votes in case of a tie.

Johnson won a highly disputed election (to say the least) in 2002. His opponent, John Thune, refrained from challenging the election and instead ran again -- this time against obstructionist-in-chief Tom Daschle. Thune won.

Johnson turns 60 in a few days. Politics are irrelevant to his health: get well soon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Value on the dollar? Matsuzaka signs

Sports Illustrated reports that the RedStanx have signed Matsuzaka for $52M/6 with escalator clauses that can raise his package to $60M/6. Total cost with escalators, $111M/6 including the transfer fee, or $18.5M per year.

The Monk thought this morning that there was no way the RedSux would honk once he heard that the Blosax offer was 48M/6 and Scott Boras' counteroffer was just 66M/6. After the Johnny Damon failure the Sawx had last year, and the beating the Astros are taking for allowing Pettitte to go over $2M, they would not let a premier player get away for only $3M per.

The numbers prove that the RedSax read the situation correctly: Matsuzaka wanted to come to the US and wanted to sign with whomever won the bidding rights. If Scott Boras had held to his valuation of Matsuzaka, his counteroffer would have been 14M/year or something in that range. Remember, Boras repeatedly told the Saax that Matsuzaka is a #1 starter and should be paid as such regardless of what the Beanheads bid to Seibu for the chance to talk with him. Thus, Boras had made noises about $100M contracts and the like. The fact that Boras had his client enter a preliminary agreement (details not final) for only 52M or 8.66M/year (compare that to 8M/year the Yanks agreed on with the older Jose Contreras) means that his client wanted to sign AND Boras bowed to two realities: (1) that the Stunks would not go overboard for a guy with no MLB experience; (2) that Boras would be unable to do business with Japanese players if his intransigence prevented that country's biggest baseball hero from landing in the majors in 2007.

For the Sawx, this could be an enormous deal -- salary consistency and a relatively low price for a top starter for six years in the prime of his career (think Mooooooooosina from 1998-2003). And if Matsuzaka flames out or just epitomizes mediocrity, the Sawx have a tradeable contract for reclamation masters like the Cards or Braves.

Sad but not surprising

is the utter ignorance of Congress (and the vast majority of Americans) of the enemy we face in the Middle East.

Incoming House Intelligence Committee chief Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx) displayed a ghastly lack of basic knowledge of Islam when questioned by Jeff Stein of the Congressional Quarterly.

Silvestre Reyes, the Democrat chosen to head the House of Representatives committee, was asked whether members of al-Qaeda came from the Sunni or the Shia branch of Islam.

“Al-Qaeda, they have both,” he answered, adding: “Predominantly probably Shi’ite.”

In fact, al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organisation and views Shia Muslims as heretics. The centuries-old now fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq.

Jeff Stein, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, then put a similar question about Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group.
“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah . . .” replied Mr Reyes. “Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?” Go ahead, said Stein. “Well, I, uh . . .” said the congressman.
Gulp. Can't promise that the average Congressman, much less the average American, would do much better. But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iran's insanity is not a joke

Ignoring Iran's hosting of an "historical" conference on the Holocaust that features David Duke and two of the most prominent Holocaust deniers in Europe is not an option. Instead, as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pres. Bush and Chancellor Merkel have realized, the mere acts of arranging and hosting the conference are reprehensible and a window into the evil mind of the Iranian regime.

Chile's reformist despot, RIP

As dictators go, Augusto Pinochet was the least worst option for Chile in 1973. With Salvador Allende Gossens consolidating his power despite the Chilean Parliament contesting his increasing authority, and with Allende ignoring more than 7,000 court orders and legislative enactments, the Chilean military of which Pinochet was the commander in chief, struck in September 1973 to depose the emerging Communist dictator at the behest of the Parliament that Allende had flagrantly ignored. In so doing, Pinochet saved the nation from a Castro protege who had begun to run a fairly prosperous nation into the ground as Chavez is now doing in Venezuela and as Castro had done in Cuba.

Unquestionably, the blood on Pinochet's hands is somewhat thick: 3200 dead, 27,000+ tortured. That's the downside of the non-bloodless coup. Nonetheless, about 2700 of those deaths occurred during the brief civil war that broke out in 1973, only 500 in the next 17 years of Pinochet's rule.

Pinochet exemplified the doctrine that "he may be a sonofabitch but he's OUR sonofabitch" that underlay US indulgence of certain despots during the Cold War. But Pinochet's reign led to substantial benefits to Chile: a stable market economy that became the best by far in Latin America, prosperity that far outstripped the rest of the continent, and a stable democracy. None of those outcomes would have occurred under the Castroite Allende.

Reviled by the Left, Pinochet's bad acts are ugly. Then again, for those who want to play numbers games: the Argentine junta of the same era killed no fewer than 9,000; Castro's bloody hands account for upwards of 60,000 dead; Idi Amin (lauded as a "splendid type" and good footballer by the British Foreign Office upon obtaining power) killed 300,000; Mao's Cultural Revolution of 1966-68 caused no fewer than 500,000 deaths (and more likely many times that number); and the Khmer Rouge that Noam Chomsky continually lauds massacred 2,000,000 of Cambodia's 5,000,000 people.

Unlike Castro, Chavez, Ortega and the other Latino dictators-for-life (or wannabes in Ortega's case), Pinochet voluntarily left office in 1990 after losing a democratic referendum (that he did not rig -- see Chavez, 2001) and bequeathed a democracy to Chile. The referendum was essentially popularly forced upon Pinochet by the middle class in Chile that had flourished since economic reforms in the early 1980s.

He was corrupt (as Swiss bank accounts later showed), occasionally ruthless, and a dictator. And he left power voluntarily.

Chile is the model economy of Latin America, and now even the model democracy. Neither of those facts would have come to be without Pinochet.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP

The Democrat who was mugged by reality, who was a forceful voice against Communism, foreign anti-Americanism and American defeatism died on Friday. The Monk remembers her "blame America first" denunciation of "San Francisco Democrats" from her speech at the 1984 Republican Convention. She was also one of the three best ambassadors to the UN of the US since 1970, with Moynihan and Bolton.

Norman Podhoretz remembers her at the link above.

Some ideas are so stupid . . .

. . . only 10 brahmins retired from US government posts who have no desire to analyze reality can believe them.

Barry Rubin deconstructs five of the worst myths inherent in the ISG report. The core of Rubin's conclusion:

[The report] ignores the experience of the last dozen years, and throws in just about every mistaken cliche on the issue. One would think the conflict remained unresolved simply because the US had not tried hard enough.

The section on this issue is just silly. The great minds, the senior statesmen, the best and brightest get together, and on this question at least - I'm leaving the issue of Iraq itself out of the discussion for the moment - the result is drivel. Not because it is politically bad, but because it is a bunch of slogans with limited links to reality.

ISG = Inane Suggestions Grouped

When leading Israeli dove Shimon Peres calls the ISG's conclusions "wishful thinking" you know the jig is up -- the ISG is simply a farce.

Need more proof?

Shortly after it was released on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Buthaina Shaaban, told the BBC and Al-Jazeera that Syria appreciated how the report placed American policy in a regional context. A day later, Iran's official news service quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying an American exit from Iraq would be the best step toward stabilizing the country.

When the enemies of the US are "appreciative" and salute the report's conclusions, then you know the ISG work is rubbish. Reprint the report on toilet tissue and let the American people use it for its only real purpose.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The ISG stupidity

Much breakdown of the ISG report on NRO today. The link is to Andy McCarthy (is he the only person who ever worked under Clinton and has his/her head screwed on straight?) who views the report as pure September 10 nonsense.

The Monk thinks the report should be mass-printed on toilet paper and used for its proper purpose.

Just not getting it = liberals and interracial kids

An interesting commentary by Jason L. Riley of the WSJ today. He's black, his wife's white, and they're expecting baby #1. So here are two comments he and the Mrs. have received recently:

Upon finding out, friends can't resist informing her that "interracial children are beautiful." It's said in a tone that suggests deep gratitude and admiration, although the reasons are a little unclear.

I'm not sure what this means either -- are there certain deformities in pure Caucasoid or Negroid (that's the technical classification) people that are alleviated in their progeny by interracial genetic inputs? Is this some platitude that is meant to mollify the person with the less dominant genetic inputs (i.e., the white half of the union in this instance or in a Caucasoid-Mongoloid union [again, technical terms])? Is there some lingering concept that adding the black drops to the white base paint mix will make the paint more uniformly white (let's see who catches that reference)?

Wiley's reaction is:

The comment may be kindly meant, as a sort of reflexive compliment, but it inevitably suggests that she is being congratulated for her willingness to place the aesthetic enhancement of the populace above the imperatives of racial purity. She's heard the remark, or some variation of it, from a dozen different people if she's heard it from one. And more often than not . . . it's the first thing they blurt out, even before asking about gender and due dates.

There are worse thought processes, and in the course of the six months or so that the woman is obviously or openly pregnant (most couples do not reveal pregnancy until after the first trimester), someone lacking a thought/speech filter will blurt out something stupid. And sure enough, Wiley's wife was slapped with such a comment.

A short time later, at a wedding reception in London, your wife finds herself chatting with a Danish woman she has just met. Back at the hotel, your wife informs you that the woman asked her, "How do you feel about having a baby who will look nothing like you? I have a lot of friends who have interracial babies, and they feel totally alienated from their children."

This is pretty stupid, even for a European in a homogenous society. The Monk's closest blood relation other than his parents is probably MonkCuz1 and her mom AuntMonk1. At last check, MonkCuz1 is interracial. The Monk has never had any question in his mind that she's MonkCuz1. And MonkCuz1 and AuntMonk1 are about as close as mom and daughter can get. AuntMonk1 is white.

In other words, it's about love, not race. Jason Wiley loves his wife. She loves him. They married and decided to have little Wileys. Their children will bond with them because they love them and take care of them.

At its core, the parent-child relationship stems from pure animal instinct: mapping and bonding. The parent has the need to take care of the critter; the critter learns who will take care of it, and that care and comfort bond determines the relationship.

Why do adopted children bond with their parents? Why do weaned pets bond with their owners? Why do certain animals care for others -- i.e., a momma dog will care for lost pups of some other canine litter? There's no genetic relationship, but care and love. The conceit that "I'm alienated from my child because s/he doesn't look like me" is a product of human thought minimizing the relationship, not a natural reaction.

The Monk's happy AuntMonk1 never had that reaction, and he's pretty sure MonkCuz1 would say the same.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

65 Years Ago Today

A date which will live in infamy and should never be forgotten.

The Greatest Generation was up to the task. Hope we have their fortitude today.

The best choice withdraws . . .

Two days ago The Monk and US Soccer fans had occasion to rejoice because we'd heard the rumor that the US Soccer Federation was about to sign Jurgen Klinsmann to be the new national team manager.

Today the national team's hopes dimmed -- Klinsmann pulled out. This is a failure on a number of levels, not least of which was the negotiation by USSF head Sunil Gulati that concluded Wednesday without a deal.

Some intellectual integrity in academe

Kenneth Stein, first executive director of the Carter Center for Middle East Studies at Emory University resigned as a fellow of the Carter Center after reading former Pres. Carter's latest anti-Israel, anti-US screed.

Good on ya, Professor.

Money quote from the Prof's resignation letter:
President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analysis; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.

Translated: Carter wrote a book based on his own prejudices with no regard for accuracy, context, history or reality.

The new SecDef fiasco: Robert Gates' moral equivalence

Robert Gates has evidently sipped James A. Baker III's Kool-Aid. At his confirmation hearing he explicitly mentioned Israel as a nuclear power -- something that the US government takes pains to avoid stating. He also said this about Iran's quest for nukes:

"They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons - Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."

Thus, Gates noted:

". . . while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent."

In other words, each nuclear power is somehow a threat to Iran so it needs a deterrent. That thought-process should be a fireable offense in the US government. There is no calculation that can equate Iran's desire for nuclear weaponry with Israel's absolute need for it. There is no mental gymnastics that can be performed that result in a defensible position that Iran will, despite its stated intentions, refrain from trying to blast Israel to oblivion.

Gates is a fool. So is this President.

A less competent America?

Victor Hanson wonders if the US is less competent in dealing with its enemies now than it was in 1941. Answer: no, just less willing to win. It's pure cost-benefit analysis on the part of society and the political decisionmakers. There's something amoral about that.

Politesse be da*ned

The Monk likes how the NY Post cut to the chase: labeling Lee Hamilton and the execrable James A. Baker III as "surrender monkeys".




As the story accompanying the priceless picture noted: "The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations - but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home."

And of course Baker's appeasement heavy recommendations include extensive dialogue with Iran and Syria. Thankfully, the White House rejected the concept of talking with Iran during Tony Snow's comments to the media yesterday.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Baseball idiocy -- written and applied

First, the written: this Sports Ticker article failed a fundamental tenet of reporting -- do not f--k up verifiable facts. Noting that the Yanks are in the market for pitching help but being cautious, the writer said the Yanks needed better pitching because opponents hit .285 against them, 2nd-worst in baseball.


That was the Yanks' batting average as a team, second-BEST in baseball. The Yanks' batting average against was 9th.

Second, applied idiocy. Exhibit 1: the Dodgers shelling out $15.66M for Jason Schmidt ($47M/3) who has a history of arm troubles and is 33. Exhibit 2: the RedSux shelling out $70M/5 to JD Drew, one of the most disinterested players in the majors. With all his talent, Drew could be a superstar; with all his injuries, he could be Jeffrey Hammonds. But with his lack of fire, he's a paler version of Manny Ramirez, with better range and less pop.

Talking with the devil II

Jeff Jacoby blasts the notion of negotiating with Syria and Iran. And rightly so. He wonders how often history must repeat before we learn its lessons:

. . . with totalitarian regimes like those in Iran and Syria, the effect of such "conversations" is usually negative. It buys time and legitimacy for the totalitarians, while deepening their conviction that the West has no stomach for a fight. No one was more pleased with Chamberlain's diplomacy than Hitler, for it proved that Germany was in the saddle, riding the democracies -- that the momentum was with Berlin, while London and Paris were flailing. The Baker panel's recommendations will bring similar satisfaction to Tehran and Damascus.

This is entirely too true. FDR's kowtowing to Stalin at Yalta did nothing for the US, consigned generations of Eastern Europeans to decades of totalitarian rule and inflated the prestige of the Soviet Union.

Simply stated, we need a present day Churchill who can understand the importance of the choice between War and Shame, and the consequences of the wrong selection.

Talking with the devil

Joel Himelfarb decries what he calls the "Carter-Brzezinski-Hagel" approach to engaging Syria and Iran. It's not just Carter, Brzezinskin and Hagel's approach, but also James A. Baker III's and to a disappointingly large extent, Condoleeza Rice's.

Excerpt time:

As Washington waits breathlessly for luminaries like Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Vernon Jordan, Sandra Day O'Connor and the rest of the Iraq Study Group to tell us what to do about Iraq, it's past time to knock down a myth that appears to be driving the panel's deliberations: the notion that the Bush administration's refusal to talk with Iran and Syria is the reason for our inability to stabilize Iraq.

The premise--pushed by Democratic politicians and others--is absolutely false. The people pushing this, among them Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, seem intent on sandbagging President Bush into negotiating from a position of weakness over some form of "grand bargain" with some of our most deadly enemies. But the fact is that plenty of engagement has already been taking place. . .

The real issue today is that the Bush administration, which has been repeatedly burned in recent years when it tried to engage these governments, prefers discretion and holding lower-level talks. These regimes insist on holding well-publicized summits that yield them P.R. windfalls without forcing them to substantively change their policies. The fact is that, since the Carter's presidency, U.S. administrations of both parties have tried unsuccessfully to persuade these governments to end their support for terrorism and their efforts to sabotage Washington's efforts to facilitate peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. . .

* * *
Based on the historical record, the advocates of U.S. engagement with these regimes are delusional. The record, from Carter to Bush II, strongly suggests that neither regime has any interest in cooperating with us in Iraq, and are more likely than not to view the Carter-Brzezinski-Hagel approach as a demonstration of American weakness.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The best, most natural, choice

Monkfriend Anon sent the link to this FOX Sports report that US Soccer has reached a deal with Jurgen Klinsmann to become the next manager of the United States national men's soccer team. There is no way to overstate the excitement that the US soccer fans should feel about this. Klinsmann was everyone's preferred choice to take over the team after the US Soccer Federation sacked Bruce Arena.

Klinsmann, a former superstar player and the leader of the 1990 German team that won the World Cup in Italy, is a US resident and is married to an American. He knows the team well. His reputation soared during the World Cup when he took a middling German side to the semifinals, only to lose to eventual champion Italy on two late extra-time goals. Unlike his grumpy and condescending predecessor, Bruce Arena, Klinsmann is an inveterate optimist and a sunny personality.

Hopefully Klinsmann will be more astute than Arena by injecting more speed and youth into the team, ensuring prominent roles for Donovan, Beasley, and Dempsey, ensuring that future star Freddy Adu develops and picking deserving players for the next Cup like Taylor "all he does is score goals" Twellman. The challenge for the US is to develop its younger ranks, especially among goalkeepers, and ensure that the boys are battle-tested by entering the Gold Cup and Copa America because CONCACAF qualifying doesn't prepare teams for World Cup play.

The dumb get dumber -- MLB version

The Texas Rangers re-signed mid-level starter Vicente Padilla for $34M today. The Monk thought that was a bit high but reflective of the market for a four-year contract.

No, The Monk is wrong again -- Padilla signed a THREE-year deal. That's $11.33M per year for 2007, 2008 and 2009, with a club option (the only smart part) at $12M in 2010 for a pitcher who is 66-61 in his career, 4.06 ERA in primarily the NL and who hasn't had an ERA under 4.50 since 2002. Padilla's former team, the Phillies, signed Adam Eaton (career 54-45, 35 starts in the past TWO years, career high wins = 11, ERAs of 4.61 and 4.27 in his last two seasons with San Diego -- the team with the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in baseball) to $24.5M/3. The Monk has said time and again that the driving force in baseball salaries is overpaying mediocre pitchers (see: Mets and Kris Benson). At least this year it does not look like the Yanks will join the worst of the feeding frenzy.

It gets worse: Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, two career-.500 pitchers, are both seeking $40M/4 deals. No wonder the Yanks overbid on Igawa, a Lilly-esque lefty (sneaky fastball, good changeup, high strikeouts without 95mph heat) who is 3 years younger and, after luxury tax effects, probably $8-12M less expensive.

This is the NBA factor -- pay ridiculous sums for stiffs. And who will that hurt the worst later on? The fans who will have to pay more and more to watch these mediocrities on the field.

Monday, December 04, 2006

When Congress overreacts -- the decline of Wall Street

John Fund discusses the damage to American prestige that Congress caused when it passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 (and blame the president all you want, in the post-Enron climate at that time, a veto override would have been a foregone conclusion). The manifestations are: fewer major financial deals transpiring in the US and the increase in listings on foreign markets.

This reality should be unacceptable to the US. Sarbox needs significant reform SOON.

Senatorial hubris

The WSJ takes Senators Snowe (RINO-Maine) and Rockefeller (D-WV) to task for threatening Exxon for its support of the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- a thinktank that, like the vast majority of climatologists and scientists, doubts that global warming has a quantifiable (and remediable) relation to human activity.

As the WSJ notes:
Every dogma has its day, and we've lived long enough to see more than one "consensus" blown apart within a few years of "everyone knowing" it was true. In recent decades environmentalists have been wrong about almost every other apocalyptic claim they've made: global famine, overpopulation, natural resource exhaustion, the evils of pesticides, global cooling, and so on. Perhaps it's useful to have a few folks outside the "consensus" asking questions before we commit several trillion dollars to any problem.

The letter from the Senators is here.

The Royal Flotilla?

Not quite yet as Tony Blair decides it's still worthwhile to field a decent navy but the once Mistress of the Seas is probably on its way to Concubine...

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair committed to keeping a British nuclear arsenal well into the 21st century on Monday, saying the government planned to order new nuclear-armed submarines to replace its existing fleet.

Blair also said the government would extend the life of its U.S.-made Trident D5 missile.

But in a concession to dozens of legislators in his Labour Party who oppose spending billions of pounds (dollars) on a new nuclear weapons system, Blair said Britain would cut its nuclear warheads by 20 percent to less than 160 and may decide to reduce its fleet of submarines to three from four.

The Final Injustice

John Bolton has just announced his resignation as US Ambassador to the UN.

This is because recently defeated Republican 'moderate' Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island decided not to support Bolton's nomination thereby preventing it from going to the full Senate for a vote.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iranian weaponry in Iraq

What a shock. Now that this ABC News report told us what we already knew, that Iranian weapons are "going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market" the question becomes, what will the US do about it? Not responding against Iran is not a viable policy.

Social Security sellout

Do all Republicans have flexible principles when it comes to welfare-state issues? The WSJ discusses a cop-out that the Bush Administration is about to perform just to have some "Social Security legacy."

Every time you hear a politician say that his plan will save Social Security, and it does not include personal accounts, you're being lied to.

I'm with Chuck, amazingly

The NY Sun contrasts the positions of Sen. Schumer and Sen. Clinton viz. Iran. Schumer says Iran is an evil regime. His proof? It's anti-Semitic, the leading sponsor of terrorism throughout the world, snuffs out the democrats within its own population, has no free speech or freedom of religion, and is developing nuclear weapons for the stated purpose of blowing Israel into the Mediterranean.

Sen. Clinton views this as simplistic.

I'm with Schumer on this one.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stupid does 'coz stupid is

Juan Pierre pulled down a $44M/5 year contract with the Dodgers. Pierre is one of the WORST leadoff hitters in baseball -- he makes more outs than any other because he doesn't walk (32 in '06, 41 in '05). That means his OBP is LOW -- .330 last year, .326 in '05 (compare to Johnny Damon = .359, .366). And Pierre has no pop (career high = 3 HR, career slugging % = .377). Scouts consider him one of the worst CFs in the game because he doesn't get good reads and has an arm that makes Bernie Williams look like Vernon Wells.

No, it's not Darren Dreifort bad, but this signing is a poor one for the Dodgers. Then again, with JD Drew about to break the bank in Boston and Carlos "I'm gonna eat my way to DH quality fielding" Lee making 100M/6 in Houston, the Pierre deal will be just one of many stupid signings in this offseason.

Remember what The Monk has said: gripe about the Yanks all you want, but everyone else's stupid deals are what drive salaries through the roof. MLB salaries are now starting to parallel NBA signings for the picayune return on investment.

Little team blue

That reek I smelled in my house last night, a wind that strangely came in from northeast of Texas and flowed counter to the jetstream, was the Giants' season. For some reason it resembled sewage.

I've lost faith in Eli. It took me longer than most because I remember his late-game heroics against Dallas on the road and Denver at home last year, and his performance at Philly this season. But for three weeks he's stunk.

And yeah, my initial thoughts about Tony Romo are worth about 100 lire (former Italian or current Turkish).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Must read of the day

From Mark Steyn, his Atlantic Monthly obit of Steve Irwin.

The Monk remembered the Croc Hunter here.

Another listing exercise

The Atlantic Monthly has compiled a list, with input from various historians, intellectuals, etc., of the 100 most influential Americans. Lincoln beat Washington for #1, as he usually does in surveys of the best president (and The Monk would STILL reverse the ranking). The worst omission after a cursory glance is F.W. Woolworth -- he was Sam Walton before Walton was born. Somehow Daniel Webster is not on the list either.

The list is actually fairly good -- Hamilton is #5, MLK is #8, John Marshall is #7. The worst rankings are high marks for some frauds (Rachel Carson #39, Margaret Mead on the list at #81). Other dubious marks go to Jackie Robinson at #35 while Thurgood Marshall -- the single most important person in the Civil Rights era -- is only at #84; Harriet Beecher Stowe at #40 while Lewis and Clark are at #70 (evidently this is a top 101 list, or 102 thanks to the Wright Bros. at #23). Overall, the list got the big picture basically right (see its top 25), but mucked up the latter details.

AL MVP voters: a confederacy of dunces

To the surprise of baseball observers everywhere, and to the shock of the winner himself, Justin Morneau beat Derek Jeter for the AL MVP award. Of the 28 voters, 15 picked Morneau as #1 on their MVP ballots. This is ridiculous and a complete shaft job.

Compare these two hitters and their numbers:

.321, 34 HR, 130 RBI, 97 R, .375 OBP, .559 SLG
.290, 35 HR, 121 RBI, 113 R, .392 OBP, .523 SLG

Not much difference, right? One had a higher batting average and slugging percentage, the other had many more runs scored and a better on base average (and the baseball number geeks will tell you (1) the 17-point OBP spread is statistically equal to the 36-point SLG spread for purpose of runs created and win shares and (2) OBP is more important than batting average). The first player listed is Morneau; the second player finished 13th in MVP voting and allegedly had a bad year -- that's Alex Rodriguez.

Three Twins players, Morneau, batting title winning catcher Joe Mauer and Cy Young winner Johan Santana, finished in the top 7 in the voting. Jeter is the only Yankee in the top 10.

The Yanks won 97 games despite losing two-thirds of their starting outfield (2005 output = 57 HR, 239 RBI in 1213 AB; this year 14 HR in 323 AB) for more than 200 player-games, despite their "ace" pitcher pulling a 5.00 ERA, despite a weak bullpen (more losses when leading after 7 than anyone in the AL but the Royals), despite losing Robinson Cano for 40 games.

Jeter finished second in the league in hitting, hitting with runners in scoring position, and runs scored. Morneau was not first in any of those categories. Jeter won a Gold Glove award for the third-straight season. Both won the Silver Slugger.

There should be no contest -- Jeter was the best player on the best team in the AL. There are STILL idiots who think that if Jeter was out of the lineup, the Yanks would still roll right along -- one dingdong from Chicago placed Jeter SIXTH! -- and they still have their voting cards.

The premise is wrong, especially this year. As The Monk has shown before, Jeter produces no matter how good or bad the Yankees' lineup is. Why is it that doubters of Jeter's greatness become apostles when they see him play day in, day out (see Bowa, Larry)? Probably because he really is that good.

There is a lot of stupidity in baseball voting, and some of the worst of it in MVP races (1991 Ripken over Fielder, Pendleton over Bonds; 1998 Sosa over McGwire). But usually the voters are in the right area. Not even close this year -- after all, the #3 in the balloting was Fat Papi, but his team collapsed in a heap in August and fell into third place for the first time since 1997.

There are ultimately two problems, one specific and one general. The specific is anti-Yankee animus. In 2003, Angel Berroa beat out Hideki Matsui for AL Rookie of the Year. Some voters said Matsui was not a "true" rookie because he'd played so long in Japan. Somehow that consideration was not relevant for Mariner imports Ichiro Suzuki or Kaz Sasaki two and three years earlier. Matsui's numbers, especially in the clutch, embarrassed Berroa who is now barely serviceable.

In 2005, Rivera (43 sv, 1.38 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, .177 BAA, 50 H in 78 IP) was routed for the Cy Young Award. The Monk proved before the voting that Bartolo Colon was not even the best pitcher on his team, never mind in the league. Worse yet, six voters left Mo off the ballot. That's either anti-reliever animus (for which each of the voters should have lost voting privileges) or anti-Yankee).

Yeah, so A-Rod won MVP in '05 -- he played top-notch defense and his only competition was a DH. The numbers for the two were relatively close (although Ortiz had big advantages in clutch hitting), but both players were far superior to the competition. In other words, A-Rod was not interchangeable with 5 other players like Colon or even Morneau (compare him to Hafner, Thome, Thomas, Ortiz and 13th-place vote-recipient A-Rod).

The general problem is the nature of the voters. Each city or beatwriter region of the 14 American League teams gets two voters (that's how a Tacoma writer becomes a voter -- his paper covers the Mariners). In other words, there are no NATIONAL baseball writers in the mix. Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, Jerry Crasnick, Tom Verducci, John Donovan, etc. do not get to vote. The men who actually look at the big picture of the whole league (or of all baseball) are completely shut out of the voting for the postseason awards.

This results in regionalism (Chicago writers see the Twins 18+ times, the Yankees 6-7). Worse yet, it results in localism: writers in KC, Minnesota, Oakland, Tampa and other small markets will resent Yankees; writers in LA, Oakland, Chicago, Minnesota and markets with competitive teams will resent Yankees and RedSucks thanks to the hyperbole that comes with that rivalry.

The Yanks have had one each of Cy Young/MVP/RoY winner in the last 13 seasons, when the Yanks reached the playoffs 12 times (only miss = 1994 strike season). No similar run of greatness (read: Braves, Atlanta; 1950s Yankees) has lacked individual awards to that extent. The Yanks have played as a team throughout . . . but their individuals have not received some accolades they deserved.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Channelling Henry

Jim Pinkerton channels Kissinger. If only the truth is funny, then this column is unfortunately hilarious.

Tung Nguyen, RIP

Seth Gitell of the NY Sun tells the story of one of the former Vietnamese "boat people" who emigrated to the US, became a citizen, joined the Army and became a member of the Special Forces.

A fine tribute to a man who seems to deserve it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Doorstopper fantasy . . . how The Monk was weaned

One of J.R.R. Tolkien's regrets after finishing The Lord of the Rings is that he thought the book might be too short. After nearly 1100 pages, Tolkien still believed that more could be done, and that more tale could be told. And there's little doubt he was right. But he was also entirely correct to put his focus where he did and ensure that even the smaller story he wrote would be complete, direct, well-written and manageable.

Thus, The Lord of the Rings is a classic.

And as the Tolkien literary progeny have demonstrated, it will remain so precisely because there is no competition for the crown.

The Monk has read what William Thompson of Sci-Fi calls "Doorstopper" fantasy (because the books are big enough to be doorstoppers) for years. Brooks' first Shannara series, both Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Belgariad, the Mallorean, Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth, Memory Sorrow & Thorn, and the recent Canadian contributions: The Prince of Nothing and the Malazan Book of the Fallen. And all of these tomes, aside from the Covenants, have one thing in common -- at some point, the author loses control of the narrative.

For instance, the Shannara series started as pure Tolkien derivative, became a mess in its sequels, and the repeated building upon the fragile foundation of the Shannara world (now about 12+ books and counting) is a bit much. Tad Williams' Memory Sorrow and Thorn burgeoned so much that the concluding volume of the trilogy was 50% of the story! Compare that to Return of the King, the shortest volume by far in the Lord of the Rings. And then there's Goodkind whose first 2 books could have been the whole series . . . except he wanted to say more, in greater detail, and with even more Ayn-Randian theory to put on the pages.

Sadly, the faults have been most apparent in the men who came closest to becoming true heirs of Tolkien: David Eddings, George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan. Eddings wrote one fine tale, the Belgariad, then mucked up his whole creation by attaching the weak sequel, the Mallorean. Thereafter, he relied on name recognition to write more novels in the same vein as the first lot.

Jordan was the next KING of fantasy after book one of The Wheel of Time and its follow-up rocked the genre. Five books into the series, Jordan was still going strong. Then he became enamored of hearing his own literary voice, the story stopped, the heroes began wandering in the wilderness and from book 7 through book 10 little of value happened -- 3200+ pages of text, only 200 of which had importance. Meanwhile, in the middle of the project he essentially took a year and a half to perpetuate his own myth by collaborating on a Wheel of Time encyclopedia.

Supposedly Jordan will end this mess soon, and I'm hoping for a smash-bang ending after the super start. Book 12 is due in 2008 and Jordan has said he will end the series in that volume if his publisher needs to print it at 2000 pages hardbound. Yipes. And good luck to Jordan in accomplishing his task -- with all the story threads and the man's own ill-health affecting his ability to complete the tale, he has much difficult work ahead.

As Jordan faltered, Martin soared. A Game of Thrones shook up the genre in 1998, the action-packed Clash of Kings added to the excellent work, and A Storm of Swords contained shock after shock. Those three books came out in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Then nothing.

First, Martin considered writing book four as if five years had passed since book three ended. But he couldn't because of all the chaos in the story. Then he had to rewrite, backtrack, reconfigure and . . . Five years later, Martin published PART of book four as "A Feast for Crows".

Book 4-A was due in 2006, but Martin only writes from home and did so much publicity for AFfC that he got WAY behind. Now he'll update his progress in January 2007. Meanwhile the narrative is getting broader and shallower -- more people to keep track of and fewer things happening. Whereas books 1-3 were amongst the best in the field, the series is now so far from Martin's core story that who knows what will happen.

This is sad in its way -- like the tower of Babel in modern fiction, attempting to create these grand genre edifices that come crashing down among the author. Even Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen threatens to collapse on its own weight -- although he has not only stuck to his script better than any of the others AND is the best at ensuring constant production (book 7 of 10 comes out on schedule next year and he's already writing book 8), the most recent entry, The Bonehunters, had much more slash-and-bash to fill up the pages instead of plot development or story arc. Then again, book 5 was the best of the lot, so Erikson deserves a pass at this point.

Erikson's tale really DOES encompass the history of a whole world, there is a lot of content in the series. Jordan's contains only a little more story than Tolkien, in about 6 times the length. Martin's tale is like a sponge (the animal) -- lots of layers and surface area, but the weight and depth is not commensurate with the size.

So The Monk now tends to avoid most fantasy fiction, which is too bad in a way. After all, I hear there are many good authors out there (Farland, Hobb, Irvine). But no one has learned the lesson of the master -- keep them wanting more, not keep them wishing for the next installment.

Score one for good taste?

The horrid book-and-interview concept "If I Did It" by OJ Simpson has been pulled by News Corp.


It was a cynical stunt by the murderer and his publisher. There's no "if" about it, and the outcry by the US public against the very notion of the book and the companion interviews that were scheduled to run next week shows that the American people at least can tell what crosses the line into horrific bad taste.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ISAS and the boney

A few months ago European countries decried the use of stick-thin models -- Spain went so far as to require a certain amount of heft (albeit small) for fashion models because the women were NOT-EATING themselves half to death.

Or more.

Today the issue is at the fore in Brazil after Ana Carolina Reston died Tuesday. She was 21. She was also 5-foot-8 and 88 pounds (that's 40 kg or 6.4 stone for non-Americans). The Monkette is small-framed and 5-foot-3+. Her happy weight is about 25 pounds higher. In other words, Reston didn't eat and the fashion culture did not encourage her to change that attitude.

In the US, some commentators in the entertainment industry have noted the "Incredible Shrinking Actress Syndrome." This is not just confined to average sized actresses who get ridiculed as teenagers and end up with a decade-long battle with anorexia (Tracey Gold). Instead, lead actresses on prominent shows have contracted ISAS -- Calista Flockhart went from thin to pre-teen in body size while starring in Ally McBeal; Lara Flynn Boyle used to have a sizeable bustline, but during The Practice shrank to skeletal remains; Patricia Heaton has publicly acknowledged she had work done to help her with excess baby weight (she has four sons); Courtney Cox went from thin average to stringy during Friends.

This year, this list is worse: Ellen Pompeo of Grey's Anatomy had some chunk on her in season 1, now she's narrowing into a bean pole; Jennifer Morison of House had been shrinking a bit, now she's looking bobble-headed; and the transformation of Emily Deschanel of Bones is more obvious -- look at the cleavage she shows in part of the opening credits, she's lost too much weight to put that together again. At last check, each of these women were objectively highly attactive BEFORE the weight loss. Now, they're actually less so. And if the camera truly does add 10 pounds, these ladies need some weight-gainer shakes immediately! No wonder the Monkette salutes AJ Cook from Criminal Minds who has a normal petite figure, not an emaciated one like her former co-star Lola Glaudini had been dessicating towards.

These extremes are just wrong. There are tons (literally and figuratively) of fat fks in the US -- enough that The Monk himself isn't even that large, comparatively. But the Hollywood/fashion culture that lives by the motto "you cannot be too rich or too thin" is ridiculous. Worse yet, in some cases it's deadly.

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner, Monetarist Pere and Champion of individual freedom, has died at age 94.

A governing coalition

Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House, and the architect of the Republican takeover in 1994, urges Pres. Bush to avoid his father's mistake and take a page out of the Reagan playbook. The choice for the President is to follow an "establishment bipartisanship" to enact incremental legislation that the liberal leaders of the House and Senate will accept, or to go around them and forge a "conservative bipartisanship" by reaching out to the moderates that the Democratic majority relied upon to take back the House and Senate. Gingrich doesn't mention Pres. Bush I, but he worked on an establishment bipartisanship approach. Pres. Reagan did not.

If President Bush decides to govern as President Reagan did, he will work to unify the Blue Dog Democrats with the Republicans to win a handful of very large victories while accepting a constant barrage of unhappiness from the liberal leadership. That is what conservative bipartisanship is like. If on the other hand, President Bush decides on an establishment strategy of cooperating with the liberal leadership, he will guarantee splitting his own party and will see his legacy drift further and further to the left as the Pelosi-Reid wing of their party demands more and more concessions.

This choice of which strategy to follow domestically has an enormous implication for national security. A liberal coalition will focus narrowly on Iraq and seek to avoid thinking about the scale of threat we face internationally. A conservative bipartisan coalition will look first to the larger threat to American security and will then seek to find solutions in Iraq to strengthen American security. It is hard to see how a liberal coalition will be able to look at the larger threats to our safety, even when the threat, articulated in this warning by Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, is clear: "What we are talking about today is an ideology that thrives on murder, intimidation and fear. It puts innocent people at risk, particularly those in open societies. What we are talking about are people who worship death itself."

For a Republican, following the establishment bipartisanship approach is a blueprint for a failed presidency.

Real ideas, real action -- a GOP blueprint in Alabama?

It may be among the reddest of the red states, but Alabama elections this year were definitely impacted by the Democrat tidal wave. Nonetheless, Republican Governor Bob Riley, who only beat a scandal-plagued incumbent by 3100+ votes in '02, rolled to re-election victory. Quin Hillyer describes this small-but-effective-government conservative.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The $51 Million Man

The rumors that the RedSux won the bidding war for Daisuke Matsuzaka are true; the rumors that the bid was in the $38-45M range were false. Instead, the Blosax are going to pay a $51,100,000 transfer fee to the Seibu Lions to get a 30-day window, starting yesterday, to sign the pitcher.

Both Tom Verducci (SI) and Jerry Crasnick (ESPN) noted the stakes for the Sawx: credibility. Failure to sign the pitcher means insulting Japan and the Far Eastern talent pool and shows the RedSax are not serious when they claim to be. Note to Wongdoer: THIS IS NOT JUST A TRICK TO BLOCK THE YANKEES.

Scouts claim that Matsuzaka is an ace through and through. He's been a top pitcher in Japan, and has international experience both in the Olympics and the World Baseball Crapshoot (where he won MVP honors). He's 26.

Crasnick thinks Scott Boras is gunning for a $45M/3 contract for his client. At the end of the three years, Matsuzaka would be 29 and a free agent. That'd make Matsuzaka's cost to the RedSux $32M per year for the next three years, more than double the Roy Oswalt yearly rate.

The RedStiffs will likely want more time from him, but Boras actually does have serious leverage -- the Redstanks desire for an ace, their reputation in the game, their reputation in the Far East, all of which will suffer a 5-10 year hit if negotiations fail versus Boras' ability to say the talks broke down over cash. In other words, if they want four years, Boras will make the Sawx pay -- probably 65M+ if Crasnick's thought process is correct.

And the $51.1M? Seibu can probably pay its labor costs for next year and then some. About a half-dozen teams in MLB could say the same. Heck, that's more than three seasons' worth of the Yankees' share of A-Rod's contract.

Bold move, RedSawks. For y'all's sake, it has to pay off.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2006 Election Myths

National Review's Rich Lowry has a good, short piece on the conventional wisdom that is gaining currency among the pundits which is inaccurate and dangerous--especially for conservatives who want to hold the Presidency and re-take Congress. They are:

1. Republican losses were typical for the sixth year of a Presidency.
Wrong. Much more severe - Reagan and Clinton only lost a handful of seats.

2. Discouraged conservatives didn't show up at the polls.
GOP lost the independents who broke heavily for the Democrats.

3. Republicans lost because they weren't fiscally conservative enough.
See 2.

4. GOP was too socially conservative for voters.
Gay marriage bans passed 7/8, outperforming GOP. Dems were smart not to make this an issue this cycle.

5. Election was a great victory for conservative and moderate Democrats.
Heath Shuler and Brad Ellsworth doesn't balance Conyers, Rangel, Waxman

6. Election was an ideological rejection of conservatism.
Perfect storm of Iraq, Katrina, Foley and Corruption.

7. President Bush must give up on the Iraq War.
Less than 1/3 Americans want immediate withdrawal. NYTimes calling for more troops!

The Real Lessons? (work in progress)

A. Though a hefty number of races were lost very narrowly 2008 will be A HARD SLOG FOR THE GOP. In the Senate the GOP has to defend 21 out of 33 seats. It's a strong GOP class but retirements could weigh.

B. Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer did a very good job getting viable candidates for this cycle. Rove and Mehlman need to do the same starting IMMEDIATELY.

C. While Dems can't expect another perfect storm, progress must be made in Iraq. Rumsfeld's departure helps but 'ware realists (Baker, Gates) cutting deals.

D. New congressional leadership for the GOP - Hastert and Frist frankly were not up to the job.

E. This was a significant setback for the GOP. It can be reversed but needs to be done quickly before the advantages of incumbency set really entrench the Democrats for another long period of control.