Friday, March 31, 2006

Who Am I?

THOUSANDS OF TROOPS have died fighting a war he chose to fight--a war that increasingly appears to be a microcosm of something much larger than what the American people had bargained for. He seems to be stretching presidential power beyond what his predecessors ever imagined. His approval ratings hover around the freezing point. It's no coincidence that his party is beginning to stray from him, and the press is writing him off as a failure.
"It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts," he said. "It is right and wrong and leadership."




Alan Dowd at Weekly Standard has a very good piece.

Friday Goodies

1. Venezuelan firm programs Smartmatic voting machines used in US elections. The same folks who helped Chavez steal his election. Where is the outrage?? HT: LGF.

2. Stephen Harper's government has cut Hamas off the teat.

3. The execrable Cynthia McKinney, Representative from Georgia (D) has always been a piece of work. Earlier this week she slapped a Capitol Hill police officer who attempted to stop her from walking past a metal detector. Members of Congress typically wear lapel pins but McKinney generally refuses to wear hers. Looks like there will be an arrest warrant. Good.

4. Bernard Siegan, R.I.P. OpinionJournal has a profile on Reaganite Bernie Siegan who was Borked just before Bork. Siegan was an outspoken defender of property rights and argued that property rights were not inferior other rights.

5. Victor Davis Hanson has a good mind vitamin on Iraq and al-Qaeda today.

6. Praying doesn't help cardiac patients. Best comment for this result:

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday Goodies

1. The Middle East is hoping to wait Bush out. Amir Taheri thinks they might be wrong.

2. Emmanuele Ottolenghi laments that Israel with its low turnout has squandered a real opportunity in the election yesterday. Frankly, a parliamentary system in the case of Israel is just damned silly.

3. Charles Krauthammer catches Francis Fukuyama with his knickers around his ankles after a tawdry little lie. [from yesterday]

4. Peter Schweizer on Cap Weinberger. Much more eloquent than me.

The people he admired the most in politics, he told me, were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill. He liked that they were uncompromising when it came to taking on the enemies of liberty...The KGB considered him "unflinching," according to their files. Read through the Soviet and East German archives and notice how the military build-up Weinberger orchestrated threw them into an absolute panic. Cap Weinberger was a major architect in winning the Cold War.
He was a member of "The Greatest Generation," but he would speak movingly about the heroic acts of our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. When I asked him to compare today's heroism with that of his generation, he made an interesting point. "Members of 'the greatest generation' were drafted," he told me in a broken voice. "These soldiers all volunteered."

5. Abimael Guzman, the head of Peru's Maoist Shining Path genocidal maniacs, is getting a re-trial. He got life a decade ago for killing 40,000. Jay Nordlinger has an excellent review of Guzman's career. (subscriber only) This is why genocidal maniacs should get a fair trial AND the death penalty.

The difference between Guzmán and Saddam Hussein — and the Nazis and Milosevic and the Rwandan butchers and many others — is that Guzmán never gained power. But in his country, Peru, he managed to kill at least 40,000 people, depending on how you do the accounting.

Btw, Ramsey Clark and Noam Chomsky defended this bugger too.

6. Oh look. Jon Corzine is raising taxes in New Jersey after promising not to during the campaign last fall.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Caspar Weinberger, R.I.P.

It's been a tough day for the Good Guys.

Caspar Weinberger, principal Secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan, died today at 88. Weinberger was the courtly, eloquent and implacable enemy of the Soviet threat.

From NRO's Jay Nordlinger:

It was when Reagan called again — this time after being elected president-that Weinberger had his real rendezvous with destiny: serving as secretary of defense at a time when the military desperately needed rebuilding; only six years after the helicopters had lifted off from the embassy roof in Saigon; when the Soviet Union was enjoying unprecedented advantage. Weinberger may be seen as the very embodiment of Peace Through Strength, a meaningful slogan for once. He saw things with rare moral clarity, and talked that way, and acted that way. He and Reagan were intent on rollback — musty notion — not detente.

Before his long service to Reagan, Weinberger attended Harvard where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. After Harvard Law School he enlisted in the Army and eventually served on General Douglas MacArthur's intelligence staff. Weinberger served in the California Assembly, as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, head of the Office of Management & Budget (earning him the sobriquet Cap the Knife) and Secretary of Health Education and Welfare.

In Chicago in 1981 Weinberger said, (courtesy NYTimes)

"If we value our freedom, we must be able to defend ourselves in wars of any size and shape and in any region where we have vital interests."

Damn straight.

Lyn Nofziger, R.I.P.

Franklyn "Lyn" Nofziger, Ronald Reagan's press secretary and advisor, passed away yesterday.

A conservative iconoclast who drank whiskey and milk and always wore a tie with Mickey Mouse on it, Nofziger was a fierce Reagan loyalist.

"He was a great big garrulous guy who was very serious about his politics and very serious about Ronald Reagan," Michael Deaver, who was President Reagan's deputy chief of staff, said Monday. "He was sort of the keeper of the flame."

"He was fun to be around," Deaver said. "Reagan would light up when he came into the room."
In 1988, after he'd left the Reagan administration to capitalize on his ties to Washington's ruling elite, Nofziger was convicted of illegally lobbying for two defense contractors and a labor union.

But Nofziger compared the offense to "running a stop sign" and remained unrepentant. He told the judge, "I cannot show remorse because I do not believe I am guilty."

A year later a federal appeals court threw out the conviction, saying prosecutors had failed to show Nofziger had knowingly committed a crime.

In his own words:

In many of his speeches and elsewhere Reagan made that point—that our rights are God-given. That, he insisted, is one of the great differences between the United States and other nations. In most other nations, he noted, rights are granted by government and therefore are at the mercy of government. In the United States rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom to keep and bear arms and many others enunciated in the first ten amendments cannot be taken away by government or repealed legislatively or arbitrarily because they are not granted by government; they are the individual’s as a matter of God-given right.

I would venture to say that most Americans give little thought to this significant difference; they take their rights for granted. something they could not do if they lived in any other country.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the rights of atheists, America-haters and rabble rousers are all protected because the Founding Fathers turned to God for guidance as they sought to give themselves and those who would follow after them a more perfect union.

The last eighteen months of Nofziger's musings can be found here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Quote of the Day - General Sir Charles Napier

Mark Steyn, on Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert in Afghanistan who is facing the death penalty for his faith.

At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies. Abdul Rahman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to, not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet.

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" - the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

India doesn't have suttee any more.


Monday Goodies

I am borrowing Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds' posting method today and may do so a bit more in the coming weeks. I'll provide the links and a comment or two but unless time permits will be excluding the longer quotes and commentary. It's a time-related issue and Monk and I hope to be able to revert to full service soon.

1. Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute has THE PLAN to get rid of the welfare state. Instead of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all adults not incarcerated get a $10,000 grant annually, $3,000 of which must be used for health care. Fascinating.

2. Mark Steyn:
The Palestinian people are the acme of internationalism — that’s to say, they’re the only people on the face of the earth with their own U.N. agency, and, after six decades in their care, they are now the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the earth.
[subscriber only but the snippet about says it all]

3. "Marriage is for white people." Depressing.

4. Send Moussaoui to the chair. He testifies that he and Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth plane and crash it into the White House of September 11th.

5. This makes sense. Why bother with art, science or foreign language if the kids are awful in Reading and Math?

6. John Fund pounds Yale some more on the Taliban student.

7. The mob has ruled in France for 200 years. And it still does.
It's the street that rules. Today's mobs, like their predecessors, are notable for their poor grasp of economic principles and their hostility to the free market. Only wardrobe distinguishes these demonstrations from those that led to the invasion of the national convention in 1795, when first the mob protested that commodity prices were too high; when the government responded with price controls, it protested with equal vigor that goods had disappeared and black market prices had risen.

Programming note

The Monk is going to trial and will be out of the loop until sometime in Idonotknowwhen. The trial is expected to last from 6-8 weeks. Depending on arrangements I may be in the office some of the time, and most of the Fridays b/c hizzoner is only holding trial from Monday thru Thursday (and only from 9-5 -- add 90 minutes for lunch and 2 15-minute breaks daily and we have unionization!).

Wongdoer will hold down the fort and I will post occasionally. The loss to you (the four of you who actually read this) is lack of baseball and NCAA Tourney insight as the latter ends and the former begins. Then again, if my baseball insight is as good as my NCAA Tourney insight this year, I could win millions betting against myself.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blame Canada . . . and Russia and Norway and . . .

Could you hurt this little creature? Could you beat it, only 12 days to 12 months old, with a wooden club or an ice-pick shaped club until it is dead? If so, you must be a Canadian.

Sick buggers.

The Seal Hunt started yesterday in the home of our cultured, nuanced, peaceful and loving neighbors to the north -- Canada. Every year Canadian fishermen murder baby harp seals for their pelts (adults do not have usable pelts, nearly all other seal varieties grow into their seal-skin with its tight waterproof fur, within a few weeks of birth and before weaning), which are stripped and used for coats in northern countries of Europe, most notably Russia. The demand for seal products has decreased in the past decade or so, even though Canada INCREASED the total allowable kill in 1995 and again in 1997. As the US Humane Society noted:

[T]he Canadian government promotes the hunt. And although the government received scientific evidence that the quota is unsustainable, it has kept the quota at 275,000—a number that, when combined with estimates of animals mortally wounded but not recovered, has been exceeded annually with the exception of 2000.

Recent observers, invited at the invitation of the Canadian government, found that 40% of the seals are skinned while alive and at least partially conscious.

Remember this the next time you hear about the superiority of ANYTHING Canadian.

No 1 anymore

For the first time since 1980, which was the second-ever NCAA Tournament with seeding so the process was not too refined, there is no #1 seed in the Final Four. The last one fell when Villanova stank up the gym with a sub-25% FG shooting performance against Florida.

So how does The Monk look now after honking all of his Final Four picks? Probably not too much worse than a lot of folks. After all, few people picked Florida after its last five years of stinkbombs; Gonzaga was the fashion pick in the West, with Memphis as the second favorite; and LSU is probably the most frequently chosen Final Four pick by bracket players of the four who made it. After all, who other than GMU loyalists and maybe the coach's wife thought GMU would be there?

Funnily enough, GMU had probably the most impressive run through the Tourney: beating two Final Four teams from last season, winning four games against higher seeded teams, and knocking off everyone's pre-season #1, which was one of the two best teams in college hoops all year.

So what can you take from this season's tournament? Yeah, I know my predictions stank, but few people did anything approximating a good job on this. This Tourney therefore goes in the group mulligan bin with the 2000 Tournament that featured two #8 seeds in the Final Four.

More observations: (1) LSU is the sixth straight team to beat Duke in the Sweet 16 and advance to the Final Four (Indiana '87; Florida '00; Indiana '02; Kansas '03; Michigan State '05), and the fourth one in the last seven tourneys to do so as a lower seed. (2) Remember that information I gave you from that noted that seven of the last eight Final Four teams had been in top 10 in offensive efficiency that season? Throw it out. This year only Florida qualifies. Three of the four teams are in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, and GMU is #15. (3) She's not, but Jeanne Tripplehorn looks like she could be Joachim Noah's momma -- just look at the eye separation on their faces.

The worst great team in the NCAA?

It's over. Of all upsets, George Mason, a #11 seed, beat UConn. And GMU did it in OVERTIME -- in other words, it had to play what should have been the best team in college hoops for FIVE EXTRA MINUTES and still won. The score -- eerily identical to the result UConn suffered in the Big East Tournament: an 86-84 loss in OT; a 74-74 tie after regulation.

UConn led by 9 at halftime. But GMU rallied, took the lead and controlled the game down the stretch. If Tony Skinn had nailed his free throws with 5 seconds left, GMU would have won in regulation. UConn had to rally with two baskets in the last 7 seconds of regulation to force George Mason, a #11 seed without future NBA players like Rashad Anderson, Rudy Gay and Marcus Williams, to overtime.

GMU is now the second #11 to reach the Final Four, the third team seeded higher than a #8 to reach the Final Four, and matched LSU's feat of becoming the lowest-seeded team to knock off a #1 seed. Unlike the Kentucky team that LSU nicked in '86, which was perhaps the third-best team of the four #1 seeds (the country's two best during the course of the season had been Duke and Kansas), UConn was one of the co-favorites to win the whole thing.

So kudos to the Colonials, the first team from a non-major conference to reach the Final Four since Indiana State -- yes, THAT Indiana State, the one with Larry Bird. They're a testimony to grit, solid skill and great motivation.

And a black mark for UConn, which had shown weak defense (opposing FG% near 50% -- a level GMU topped today), weak will and a lack of a killer instinct in barely beating two teams, Kentucky and Washington, that it should have blown off the court. Having the best player on the court for UConn (Rudy Gay) has meant very little in this Tournament. And for the embattled #1 seed to go out like this is pretty poor form.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Can anyone here play this game?

So here's what five of the eight teams, who in turn are among the best 16 in the country, failed to do last night: score 60 points in regulation. Think about that on NBA terms -- that's an inability to score 72 points. Even the Knicks are capable of that.

Consider: BC and Villanova totaled all of 102 points combined in regulation; Wichita State had to work hard for 55, Georgetown and Florida totaled 110. Villanova shot 35% and won because BC had 21 turnovers; Georgetown shot sub-40%, Florida scored all of 19 baskets.


This year has provided some of the best evidence of how the quality of play in college hoops has degraded. Shooting is bad, ball-handling is weak and ineptitude around the hoop is horrible. Most telling comment: Len Elmore on how UCLA kept getting good shot opportunities in the first half of its win against Gonzaga -- the Bruins hit 7 of 27.

Back in the day, my editor griped at me when I complained Virginia basketball was boring. "How can you say that? Every game is close, 58-55, 54-53; that's exciting!" I demurred: that type of basketball is exciting at the end, but it requires 35 minutes or more of ugly play to reach the thrilling finish. Who needs that? I'll take West Virginia's shootouts, Washington and UConn's run-and-gun and that fantastic Syracuse-Texas semifinal in 2003 over any 60-59 overtime "thriller" decided on a goaltending call.

Basketball, especially high quality college basketball, is America's beautiful game: athleticism, artistry, with highly coordinated interaction on offense and defense. Just watch Duke and UNC -- those games are tough and hard-fought but well-played and fairly high-scoring. When the game turns into dull defensive wars characterized by ineptitude (see Texas' 9-29 in the first half today) and excessive physical play, it becomes just another sport without the fun qualities that set it apart.

UPDATE: The games got even worse after I finished posting this. Consider: through the end of regulation in today's Final Eight games (LSU-Texas went to OT), the four teams vying for spots in the Final Four today scored a combined total of 199 points! That is awful. The UCLA-Memphis fiasco, 50-45, is just ineptsketball. Memphis shot under 32%, UCLA shot 35% and 20 of 39 from the line. Ugh. That's just as awful as the heinous Michigan State-Wisconsin Final Four game in 2000, which the Spartans won 53-41 and led by 19-17 at the half. Three years later, Syracuse led Kansas 53-42 in the national title game . . . at HALFTIME.

More on the uglyball that UCLA and Memphis played, courtesy ESPN: (1) the combined 95 points is the lowest total in a regional final in the shot clock era (1987-present for NCAA Tourney games); (2) the 50 points by UCLA was its lowest total in winning an NCAA Tourney game; (3) Memphis' 45 was the lowest total ever for a #1 seed (Oklahoma's inept 47 against Syracuse in '03 may be next lowest). Yeesh.

Give me the days of the Sherman Douglas Syracuse teams anytime -- high-flying offense, but you don't beat teams who wind up with more than 25 wins by 102-78 and 90-66 without playing some D.

Heck, everyone praises Duke's defense to the heavens, and their best teams had more than their fair share of shootouts (1990: 97-83 over Arkansas; 1992: 81-78 over Indiana, the 104-103 OT win over Kentucky that went to OT tied at 92). Bring back the offense to basketball!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Don't blink or you'll miss it -- the WaPo's conservative blogging

The Washington Post hired a blogger earlier this week to balance out the WaPo's own Dan Froomkin's left-of-center leanings. It hired Ben Domenech, a founder of and a former editor at Regnery Publishing (the publishing equivalent of the Death Star to liberals).

Liberal bloggers then began digging up whatever they could on Domenech. Amidst the usual puerile ramblings and accusations of racism, sexism, fascism, etc., the lefties did find something bad.

And something inexcusable: Domenech is a plagiarist.

Nor was this a one-off situation. Domenech plagiarized while writing for the college paper when he was at William & Mary (the WaPo should've hired a Virginia man) and in at least one piece he wrote on National Review Online. NRO in turn found the alleged source of Domenech's writing, compared the two and apologized to Cox News Service's writer -- in other words, he did it.

The liberals, who sought to take him down merely because Domenech is a conservative, celebrated. Meanwhile, conservative bloggers called for his head. And they got it. Less than a week after his hiring, Domenech resigned.

Good. Plagiarism is to writing what Pete Rose's gambling is to baseball -- the line that must not be crossed. It's good to see the WaPo, lefties and right-wing bloggers all getting this one right. Too bad other serial plagiarists are still enjoying exalted status as intellectuals and writers (three words: Doris Kearns Goodwin).

More Saddamite Iraq ties to al-Qaeda

Discussions ranging as far back as 1995.

What was Clinton doing?

It's a Civil War and that's good

Count on Charles Krauthammer to make a perspicacious contrarian point. Today he rips the media for whining about a "civil war" in Iraq -- instead, they should be lauding it:

This whole debate about civil war is surreal. What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?

By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it. As I noted here in November 2004: ``People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side'' -- the Sunni insurgency -- ``is fighting it.''

Indeed, until very recently that has been the case: ex-Baathist insurgents (aided by the foreign jihadists) fighting on one side, with the United States fighting back in defense of a new Iraq dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

Now all of a sudden everyone is shocked, shocked to find Iraqis going after Iraqis. But is it not our entire counterinsurgency strategy to get Iraqis who believe in the new Iraq to fight Iraqis who want to restore Baathism or impose Taliban-like rule? Does not everyone who wishes us well support the strategy of standing up the Iraqis so we can stand down? And does that not mean getting the Iraqis to fight the civil war themselves?

Real March Madness

Kudos to UCLA. The Bruins reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 1997 after the most thrilling game in the tournament so far -- coming back from as much as 17 points down (at 37-20, 39-22 and 42-25) and from nine points down with just over three minutes left to nick Gonzaga 73-71. Even more impressive, the Bruins overcame a horrid ref decision with just 90 seconds left that wiped out a UCLA basket -- usually those plays are momentum killers.

The difference between this UCLA team and the immediate pre-Howland years: defensive ability and team intensity. The Bruins do not play "West Coast Basketball" and that's a good thing.

Gonzaga does, but its failure was on offense more than on defense last night, which reverses its two underperformances in the past two NCAA tourneys. So the 'Zags did fine, and will wonder what might have been.

The Monk is on record as being a Gonzaga disdainer. The reasons are simple: excess hype, overrating the team, the faux mystical little guy factor and a bit of inverted racism -- rooting for a team from the whitebread area of the Pacific Northwest that tends to have more white kids, and fewer black kids (with plenty of international players to substitute for the usual inner-city blacks who comprise most of the major teams), than most major college schools. Right now the 'Zags are the only team in the WCC and have a national profile. Much of that came from Dan Monson's work with a team with sub-standard talent. Mark Few has enhanced recruiting and upgraded the athlete quality to reach major college status -- a tribute to him but The Monk doubts his ability as a game coach (see 2004, 2005 NCAA Tourney losses). The 'Zags are not a small school anymore.

So the 'Zags go down again, this time by getting outscored 11-0 to finish the game. Adam Morrison's theatrical sobbing at halfcourt gets no sympathy here -- UCLA won as a team and did a fine job of alerting the nation that the premier program of 30-40 years ago is close to full resurrection.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Duke bites the dust

Kudos to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated who picked this from the day NCAA Tourney pairings were announced: LSU shocked Duke tonight, knocking the Blue Devils out of the NCAA Tourney 62-54. Here's what's REALLY shocking about the win: (1) LSU holding Duke to 54; (2) LSU holding JJ Redick to 11 on 3-18 shooting; (3) LSU committing 18 turnovers and prevailing; (4) Big Baby Davis hitting an underwhelming 3-11 from the floor.

More shock: radio play-by-play dingus Brad Sham asking the LSU point guard if Duke was the best defensive team LSU had played this year. Hey Brad! LSU just shut down the player of the year in college hoops and limited his team, which had not scored less than 70 since the first game of the year, to a paltry 54 -- stop talking up Duke and start kissing some Bayou Bengal behind!

The problem for Duke was the same as it's been all year: lack of quality depth. Shelden Williams went nuts for most of the game (23 points, 12 rebounds) but when he went quiet Duke had no answer thanks to Redick's struggles. And this Duke team had the same problem every Duke team since 2001 has had: lack of interior toughness. Duke actually had a rebounding advantage early in the second half . . . and ended up with 36 to LSU's 46.

For four of the past five years, Duke has honked in the Sweet 16. In three of those four years, Duke was the #1 seed and lost to a lower seed ('02 = 5-seed Indiana; '05= 5-seed Michigan State). LSU had a combination of Michigan State and Indiana -- athletic shot blockers (IU '02) AND powerful interior players (MSU '05).

For LSU, this augurs well. Since 2000, the last four teams to beat Duke in the Sweet 16 have gone to the Final Four ('00 Florida; '02 Indiana; '03 Kansas; '05 MSU).

Now how ridiculous does Andy Katz's argument all but equating Coach K's nine-year Sweet 16 run with Coach Wooden's seven-straight titles look? From The Monk's perspective, very.

[N.B. -- Redick scored 11, not nine as I originally wrote. The post has since been corrected].

Dealing with the devil

Bob Huggins, fired after entirely too long a run at Cincinnati where his teams were characterized by questionable recruiting and a long list of academic failings, is now going to be the new coach of Kansas State.

KSU is desperate for basketball credibility, something it has not had since Mitch Richmond took the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 1988, where KSU lost to cross-state rival Kansas during the Danny Manning-led run to KU's last title. The Wildcats lost 31 straight games to the Jayhawks before clipping them earlier this year.

This is a dangerous situation. Huggins will make the team better and more competitive. He will not make the players into NBA stars or, more prosaically, KSU grads. And despite whatever else it has failed to achieve, KSU is generally a pretty clean program. They're playing with fire in Manhattan.

Moral equivalence is suicide

The case of Abdul Rahman, an Afghani Muslim who converted to Christianity fifteen years ago and who now potentially faces the death penalty if he does not convert back, is a perfect example of why moral and cultural 'equivalence' is indefensible.

There are those who would argue that this is a prime example of why the Middle East cannot be democratized, the same, coincidentally, who would argue that each culture's practices are just as 'good' as any other, Rahman's case is not a necessarily evidence of the former but definitely an argument against the latter.

If we believe in liberty, especially individual liberty, facing the death penalty for choosing one religion over another is beyond any reasonable defense.

I don't think Rahman will be executed. I have every confidence that if all else fails that Karzai will not sign the death warrant. The hope is that somewhere in the judiciary system a sane decision will be made, perhaps with the knowledge that the world is watching, and judging.

Save the Mice!

That the far left has deeply infiltrated the environmentalist movement shouldn't be a surprise. How deeply it has esconced itself is evident in the mouse brouhaha brewing in Colorado. From OpinionJournal:

DENVER--Here in Colorado, the hottest political issue of the day may not be the war in Iraq or the out-of-control federal budget, but rather the plight of a tiny mouse. Back in 1998, a frisky eight-inch rodent known as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse gained protective status under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). What has Coloradans hot under the collar is that some 31,000 acres of local government and privately owned land in the state and stretching into Wyoming--an area larger than the District of Columbia--was essentially quarantined from all development so as not to disrupt the mouse's natural habitat. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service concedes that the cost to these land owners could reach $183 million.

What we have here is arguably the most contentious dispute over the economic impact of the ESA since the famous early-'90s clash between the timber industry and the environmentalist lobby over the "endangered" listing of the spotted owl in the Northwest. That dispute eventually forced the closure of nearly 200 mills and the loss of thousands of jobs. Last week the war over the fate of the Preble's mouse escalated when a coalition of enraged homeowners, developers and farmers petitioned the Department of the Interior to have the mouse immediately delisted as "endangered" because of reliance on faulty data.

The property-rights coalition would seem to have a fairly persuasive case based on the latest research on the mouse. It turns out that not only is the mouse not endangered, but it isn't even a unique species.

The man who is almost singlehandedly responsible for exposing the truth about the Preble's mouse is Rob Roy Ramey, a biologist and lifelong conservationist, who used to serve as a curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Mr. Ramey's research--published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Conservation--concluded that the Preble's mouse "is not a valid subspecies based on physical features and genetics." The scientist who conducted the original research classifying Preble's as unique now agrees with Mr. Ramey's assessment. Even scientists who defend extending the mouse's "endangered" status admit that it is 99.5% genetically similar to other strains of mice.

Nor is the mouse on the road to extinction. "The more people look for these mice, the more they find. Every time scientists do a new count, we find more of the Preble's mouse," Mr. Ramey says. It's now been found inhabiting twice as many distinct areas as once thought. These are mice, after all, and the one thing rodents are proficient at is breeding. The full species of the meadow jumping mouse, far from being rare, can be found over half the land area of North America.

Ramey's bona fides as a conservationist and scientist do nothing to spare him the "rage" of the environmentalists:

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ramey has been accused of being "dishonest," a "whore for industry" and a "shill for the Bush administration." Under intense political pressure from environmental activists, he was removed from his curator's job at the museum. "I've been nearly stampeded by a herd of agitated elephants in Africa and suspended from some of the highest cliffs in North America, but nothing prepared me for the viciousness of the attacks from the environmentalist lobby," he tells me.

Once again, the Left cannot react rationally when one of their sacred cows is even under perceived attack.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Suck up to Coach K of the week

This is just ridiculous: Andy Katz writing a column (and soliciting support from college coaches) that lauds Coach K's nine straight trips to the Sweet 16 as a modern day equivalent of UCLA's seven-straight NATIONAL TITLES. Some concepts are just too stupid for words.

What about UNC's 13-straight Sweet 16s from 1981-1993? Oh yeah, four of those came when UNC only had to win one game to get to the Regional Semis. Well, UNC still had nine-straight Sweet 16s where it had to win two games from 1985-93 and only twice (1991, 1993) had a #1 seed. In Duke's run of nine-straight Sweet 16s, Duke has had a #1 seed EIGHT times, and considering that no #16 has knocked off a #1 seed, Duke has basically needed to win just one real game to reach the Sweet 16 in eight of those nine seasons.

Of all teams that should make the Sweet 16, #1 seeds are the top of the list. In 21 years of the 64(+) team Tournament, only 12 #1 seeds have whiffed before the Sweet 16. In other words, Duke did not defy the odds. Much more impressive was Duke's run of five-straight Final Fours from 1988-92, especially considering that it received a #1 seed just ONCE in that span, had to knock off the #1 seed in its region three years in a row (1988-90), and nearly half of the Final Four entrants since 1985 have been #1 seeds (37 of 84). Indeed, Duke alone accounts for five of the 18 occasions that a #2 seed has reached the Final Four since 1985.

So let's not overrate the achievement. The #1 seeds should reach the Sweet 16, period. The success ratio for #1 seeds in that regard (76-12 since 1985 = 86.4% reach Sweet 16) far eclipses any other seeding, even #2s (55-29 since 1985 in second round games = 65.5%). The real success is Krzyzewski's teams' continued success during the regular season that enables them to pull down #1 seeds. Winning two games against what should be outmanned opponents doesn't come close to the Olympian heights Coach Wooden achieved.

Moral choice -- the war in Iraq

Jeff Jacoby outlines the moral case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein -- the argument that Monkette2B appreciates. Here's why:

The writer is Pamela Bone, a noted Australian journalist and self-described ''left-leaning, feminist, agnostic, environmentalist internationalist." She is writing about a group of female Iraqi emigrees whom she met in November 2000.

''They told me that in Iraq, the country they had fled, women were beheaded with swords and their heads nailed to the front doors of their houses, as a lesson to other women. The executed women had been dishonoring their country with their sexual crimes, and this behavior could not be tolerated, the then-Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had said on national television. More than 200 women had been executed in this manner in the previous three weeks. . . . Because the claims seemed so extreme, I checked Amnesty International's country report. . . . Some of the women's 'sexual crimes' were having been raped by one of Saddam's sons. One of the women executed was a doctor who had complained of corruption in the government health department."

* * *
But condemning Saddam's brutality, let alone doing something to end it, was not a priority for most of the left. I remember asking Ted Kennedy during the run-up to the war why he and others in the antiwar camp seemed to have so little sympathy for the countless victims of Ba'athist tyranny. Even if they thought an invasion was unwise, couldn't they at least voice some solidarity with the innocent human beings writhing in Saddam's Iraqi hell? Kennedy replied vehemently that he took a back seat to no one in his concern for those who suffer under all the world's evil regimes, and demanded to know whether supporters of war in Iraq also wanted to invade North Korea, Burma, and other human-rights violators.

It was a specious answer. The United States may not be able to stop every homicidal fascist on the planet, but that is hardly an argument for stopping none of them. . .

Wongdoer catches up

Today is Wongdoer's 36th birthday, so he's now caught up to me (3-3-70) and his wife (2-3-70).

Twenty-four years ago today, Wongdoer received a letter from the admissions department at our magnet high school informing him that he had passed the admissions test and could matriculate in the Fall of '82. Imagine: a 12-year old child who hadn't even learned English until six years before had passed the most difficult test in the City -- the admissions test for our high school, a one-time opportunity for sixth-graders to gain admission to the most exclusive magnet high school, which ONLY allowed matriculation into the seventh grade, no transfers in at any other time. It was just what his parents had worked for: toiling at various jobs in the Chinese community of NYC to ensure that their lone son would have great educational opportunities. They succeeded: he did.

More importantly, he took advantage of it: best high school in NYC, ridiculously high grades, SAT scores that qualified him for MENSA, Harvard grad, then legal money-launderer (currency trader) for various major banking institutions. And a good son: he takes care of his ma and pa, and they take care of his kids during the day -- a level of access to grandkids that makes other retirees (or general oldies) weep in jealousy.

So here's to Wongdoer, whom I've known for nearly 24 years, on his 36th birthday. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The real anti-war movement

Check out these pictures on Right Wing News from a blogger called "Zombie". The undead one wandered into the antiwar rally held in San Francisco this weekend to protest the Iraq war, which started March 18, 2003. Zombie took pictures -- ones you probably won't find in your neighborhood newspaper. Seems the antiwar left has more in common with our enemies than our country.

Thanks, David Duke

One needs to suppress the desire to rinse one's mouth out with Listerine after saying that but in this case the odious David Duke actually has done some good.

James Taranto reports via the New York Sun that the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Stephen M. Walt, and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago have co-authored a working paper entitled "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy"

The 83-page "working paper" claims a network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq...

Walt and Mearsheimer argue that "neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel," and therefore the only possible explanation is "the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby."

I haven't read the paper but according to Taranto's detailed description of its main points, it's a lot of recycled tripe like the political-ideological anti-Semitism that we wrote about here.

The Palestinians are happily distributing copies but David Duke does the good guys a favor here by bestowing his blessing.

Duke, a former Louisiana state legislator and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, called the paper "a great step forward," but he said he was "surprised" that the Kennedy School would publish the report.

Quattrone conviction overturned

A three judge panel in the Second Circuit unanimously overturned the conviction of former CSFB technology banker Frank Quattrone's conviction for obstruction of justice. Quattrone was convicted in 2004 after his first trial ended in a hung jury.

The ruling, a rare reversal of a jury verdict, is considered a big setback for the Justice Department, which had sought to portray Mr. Quattrone as a symbol of Wall Street excesses during the boom years.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan unanimously found that the judge's instructions to the jurors had failed to adequately require that they establish that Mr. Quattrone intended to thwart a government investigation.

"We cannot confidently say that if a rational jury was properly instructed," it would have found Mr. Quattrone guilty, the panel wrote.

The panel also ordered a new judge for a third trial if the government decides to bring one. It didn't fault the performance of the judge who presided over the first two trials but indicated that some comments by the judge could be considered more than simply 'impatience or annoyance'.

The case against Quattrone has always been a bit light, it centered on one one-line email message that Quattrone sent echoing the mail of a subordinate which followed CSFB internal rules at the time. The government has won a number of high profile cases not on criminal acts themselves but on 'obstruction of justice', e.g., Martha Stewart. It's a powerful tool but it has been used inappropriately.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spirit of the Orange Revolution

In Belarus, protesters have flooded October Square in the capital city of Minsk to demonstrate against the "re-election" of despot Aleksandr Lukashenko -- the last European dictator west of Moscow. The US has called for a re-vote and the EU has blasted the election as a farce.

Here's hoping the spirit of Georgia and Ukraine travels north to Belarus and the Belarussian people finally get a president they want.

Sarandon and Sheehan

Hollywood left-specialist Susan Sarandon will be playing Cindy "Mother" Sheehan in a biopic.

Can't wait.

HT: Drudge

More to KO the myth that Saddam's Iraq was not a terrorist state

All you need to do to keep up with the Iraqi connections to terrorism under Saddam is read whatever Stephen Hayes writes, period. He has done an excellent job tracing the Middle Eastern terror network's connections to Saddam Hussein, just like Claudia Rosett has done a great job tracing the UN corruption straight to Kofi Annan.

Unnatural Alliance?

The NYTimes reports that a number of highly successful hedge fund managers, not just George Soros, donates money to the Democrats. Aside from Soros who spent millions trying to unseat George Bush in 2004, big donors to the Dems include:

- James Simons (Renaissance)
- Paul Tudor Jones (Tudor Investment)
- Ken Griffin (Citadel) donated to both parties
- Israel Englander (Millenium)

These are some of the smartest moneymakers around - seems their political intelligence may not be as strong as their financial perspicacity...

NCAA Tourney: of all the words of mice and men . . .

The Monk's picks honked -- that's what you get when The Monk was so deep into work he didn't realize until late last night that he picked four Big Tenplusone teams for the Sweet 16 -- what a fool! The Monk has an anti-Big Ten bias because that conference plays basketball like the early '90s Big East -- bang, push, clang. It's rugby with a hoop. But because the Big Tenplusone landed three Final Eight teams last year, The Monk thought he may have underrated the conference as a whole.

Here's the problem: I didn't do a conference by conference check of the Sweet 16 I put forth, therefore I didn't catch the brain flatulence inherent in picking four Big Tenplusone teams to survive the weekend. There's no way, if I had done a quantitative analysis, that I'd have had four Big Tenplusone teams in the Sweet 16.

And indeed, in the written bracket I set up for my office pool I had Iowa and OSU both out by now, WVU and G'Town both in the Sweet 16, and only Indiana and Illinois surviving the weekend from the thugsketball league (even though that didn't happen, I don't regret those picks). So much for proofreading my own s--t.

Here's what else I honked: (1) Kansas -- the first Final Four pick in about 10+ years that I've made that's whiffed in the first round; (2) UNC in the Final Eight (but so did most everyone else -- you didn't pick GMU for the Sweet 16, and if you say otherwise, you're lying); (3) Syracuse and Seton Hall (what a whiff by the Pirates). Kansas', Syracuse's and Iowa's failures led me to create a new Monkrule of tournament forecasting: do NOT pick conference tourney champions of major conferences for a deep NCAA Tourney run if those teams get less than a 2-seed. See 1992 Syracuse, 1993 Georgia Tech, 2004 Maryland. Exception to the rule: 1996 Mississippi State.

Here's what I got right: (1) Tennessee failing to survive the weekend -- I just picked the wrong vanquisher; (2) Florida actually winning through to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000; (3) UWM beating Oklahoma.

Some highs and lows of the first weekend. First the lows:

Worst performance by a #2 seed = tie between Tennessee and OSU. Tennessee barely survived Winthrop before getting ousted; OSU lost by 18 in Ohio to Georgetown after an unimpressive win over Davidson.

Worst performance by a #1 seed = UConn, which had to rally to beat Albany and then couldn't put away Kentucky in a game played at UConn's pace.

Worst first-round choke = Kansas and Iowa, tie. Iowa was a touch overseeded but should not honk to a stiff like NW State; Kansas whiffed in the first round for the second-straight year.

Worst second round honk = UNC. The 'Heels ran out to a 16-2 lead by the 15-minute mark of the first half. With 15 minutes left in the GAME, UNC trailed 32-30 -- that's 14 points in 20 minutes against the #11 seed. Honorable mention to Pitt (a #5), which lost to Bradley (a #13).

Worst first-round performance, overall: Seton Hall. So much for Louis Orr's resume, that team trailed by 16 at the half and sucked for the full 40 minutes.

As for the highlights:

Best buzzer-beater: NW State to knock off Iowa.

Best performance by a #1 seed: Memphis, which dispatched Oral Roberts and Bucknell with the ease that should be expected of a #1 seed.

Best performance by a #2 seed: Texas' second-round win over NC State. UT won a trap game (NCSU beat second-seeded UConn in the second round last year) and did so by 21 after struggling with Penn. Honorable mention: UCLA's whipping of Belmont in the first round -- the largest win by a top-2 seed in the tournament. UCLA has allowed all of 103 points in two games -- that's defense, a concept formerly foreign to the West Coast but central to Ben Howland (who came from rough-and-tumble Pitt).

Easiest waltz to the Sweet 16: West Virginia. After thwacking So. Illinois, the Mountaineers only had to face NW State. It's not often that a sixth seed faces an 11 and a 14 on its trip to the regional semis.

Best job of taking care of business: BC, which won its two games easily.

Best performance by a team outside the #1-#4 seeds: Georgetown and George Mason. The Hoyas thumped OSU in Ohio, a pseudo-road game; the Colonials beat Michigan State by 10 and shut down UNC.

As for the Sweet 16, here are the best games: (1) Villanova-BC, renewing the Big East rivalry in a battle of speed ('Nova) vs. power (BC and its big front line); (2) UCLA-Gonzaga, the battle of the West with offense ('Zags) vs. defense (UCLA, yes you read that right) -- note that UCLA coach Ben Howland ALWAYS has been good at breaking a zone with interior passing, not just outside shooting, and the 'Zags play much zone; (3) UConn-UW, a battle of the Huskies and the question of whether Washington can keep pace with UConn. Also interesting, whether LSU can batter Duke physically, and whether Florida can keep going against a difficult GTown team.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy Birthday PaMonk

On behalf of the Monk who is away from a computer today.

Seventy six years ago today, MonkGramps and MonkGran welcomed their second baby boy into the world. Unlike his older brother, this baby thrived and prospered. He served his country in the USAF defending the UK during the Korean War. He returned to the US, had three kids, got a plum job as a teacher in the second-best public high school in NYC and found the woman of his life on the second try -- MaMonk, 43 years ago this June. In 1970, he had his fourth and final progeny -- The Monk.

PaMonk is not just my Dad, but what a Dad should be: a figure of respect and to be emulated (for the most part); knowledgeable and sharp -- we don't go to bars, we go to ballgames; we never talked smack about women -- that was for me and my friends (before Monkette2B domesticated me). He's a history and politics reference today, just as he was when I was in my developmental stages. Supportive, smart, demanding, disciplined. In all cases, he was my Dad first and foremost and that's what a son needs.

So here's to the PaMonk -- 76 and still hoping to match his age on the golf course (that may take another two decades). Happy Birthday Pop, I love you.

South Korea bails out US

The South Koreans remained unbeaten in World Baseball Classic play holding off Japan 2-1 last night and gave the US a chance to advance by beating Mexico today.

Roger Clemens will be starting for the USA in possibly the final game of his storied career.

Quote of the day from teammate Chipper Jones:

"With it possibly being his last start, it's something to tell the grandkids, especially if you do something to help him get a win and get to the next round," Jones said.

Then Jones thought of other possible involvements with Clemens: "Being able to throw the ball back to him after an out, having him look at me and say 'Let's go.' When Roger tells you, 'Let's get it on,' everybody kicks it up a notch."

Asked what he thought of Clemens after being with him on this team, Jones said: "He's more like Jesus than I thought. Guys would be huddled around talking smack in the clubhouse and Roger walks in. It's like the parting of the Red Sea."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Monk's Guide to the NCAA Tournament

You've been counting down the hours since the selection show, penciling in your brackets and now . . . it's time.

Yes, it's what you have all been waiting for, The Monk's guide to this year's NCAA Tournament. You can check the archives from last March to see how my picks went last year. I ended up tying for victory with one of Wongdoer's colleagues in Wongdoer's large bracket pool. I pulled in third in '04. Each time the key to the high finish: picking three of the Final Four. In other words, don't fret much now about the 8/9 games because those are worth the least -- get the big ones right and you'll be in the hunt for the cash. And here we go, bracket by bracket:

Unfortunately Duke got a candy-a** regional for the second time in three years -- the "Atlanta" (f/k/a Southeast) Regional. The #2 seed lost to Duke by 31 during the regular season; the #3 seed is a plodding Big Ten team, the type that Duke eats for lunch; the #4 seed is a tourney underachiever from last year; the #5 seed was headed for the NIT a week ago; and the #6 seed -- a trendy Final Eight pick after its run last year -- has stunk down the stretch. Duke doesn't miss the Sweet 16 often -- just twice (1993, 1997) when ranked with a #1-#4 seeding under Krzyzewski. Duke doesn't lose in Regional Finals (10-1 under Coach K -- and Kentucky needed a huge rally in '98 to beat a young Duke team). If Duke fails, it fails in the Regional semis to an athletic team with good guards and inside beef (see '05 Michigan State, '03 Kansas) -- LSU fits that bill, but not well. Expect the dang Dookies to be playing in April.

Regional Semis picks: Duke, Syracuse (an admitted homer pick -- LSU is probably better), Iowa, Texas; Regional Final: Duke-Iowa.

Upset Special: NC State over Cal.

Location tips: (1) remember both So. Illinois and Iowa would play West Virginia in Big Ten territory in Michigan; (2) SU travels well and has sold out its allotment in Jacksonville; (3) Duke is in Greensboro, NC for the first two rounds.

Meanwhile in the Oakland (West) Regional, the Tournament Selection Committee has once again reinforced its predecessors' tradition of making the West the weakest Regional. Whereas the Atlanta region is easy for Duke, the Oakland region is easy for everyone. That means good upset potential. The Monk's pick: Kansas. Why? Because Memphis is a major conference Gonzaga, UCLA is unproven, Gonzaga is a non-major conference Gonzaga, Pitt will again find ways to honk (see: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) and so on. Here's the key: Kansas has played good basketball against a solid conference for the past two months; Memphis has played a bunch of stiffs in the defenestrated C-USA; UCLA is solid but probably a year away and Gonzaga just doesn't play defense.

Regional Semifinalists: Memphis, KU, Indiana, UCLA; Regional Final = KU-UCLA.

Upset Special: I have Indiana over Gonzaga, but an IU loss in the first round, a Kent State win over Pitt; an Arkansas win over Memphis, or even a Xavier win over Gonzaga would not surprise me.

Location tips: (1) UCLA won't have to leave California to reach the Final Four; (2) Arkansas got a break -- there are loads of Arkies here in Big D and the Hogs get their first and second round games in Dallas.

In the Washington DC (East) Region, the pick is easy -- UConn. This is the situation that disgusts me. If UConn had done what everyone expected and won the Big East Tournament, the NCAA Tourney would simply be the Huskies Invitational. But those dogs didn't hunt in NYC and they're now seeking to become the first team to lose in its conference quarterfinals and win the NCAA. Personally, I can see UConn losing to Illinois or UNC or even Michigan State if the Spartans get their collective stuff together. But picking the Tournament is also a question of playing the odds -- and UConn has more talent and ability than ANY other team.

Regional Semifinals: UConn, Illinois, UNC, Seton Hall -- Tennessee just stinks right now; Regional Final: UConn-UNC.

Upset Special: Seton Hall over Tennessee and Utah St. over Washington -- two higher seeds that play poor defense. The Hall has enough seniors to make a mini-run like it did in 2000.

Location tips: (1) Illinois plays Air Force in the nation's largest military town, San Diego; (2) Michigan State got a break because it would play UNC in neighboring Ohio; (3) small break for Tennessee playing the Hall or Wichita State in neighboring North Carolina (Greensboro is about a 5+ hour drive from Knoxville) but the Vols will be playing a road game in the first round against the #15 seed -- Winthrop (N.C.).

The question coming out of Minneapolis (Midwest) is whether Allen Ray's eye will be fully functional. If so, Villanova is the best team in this lot -- a regional with a perennial underperformer at #3 and an overachiever at #2. Never trust overachievers -- those teams "overachieve" precisely because they lack talent but have good records (two words: Temple 1988). OSU is actually undersized for a Big Tenplusone team, and its 25-5 record far surpassed expectations. Third-seeded Florida has not made it past the second round since 2000, and has lost to a lower-seeded team in EACH of the past five years! And some of those losses are simply dreadful: 75-54 as a #3 to #11 Temple in 2001 (round 2); 68-46 to #7 Michigan State as a #2 seed in 2003 (round 2); 75-60 in a 5-12 game in 2004. The ONLY reason to pick Florida to get past the first weekend is that it's playing in Jacksonville -- the closest city in Florida to Gainsville.

Regional Semifinals: Villanova-BC, Florida-Ohio State; Regional Finals: Villanova-OSU.

Upset Special: UW-Milwaukee over Oklahoma (once again offensively challenged), if the UWM-Florida game was outside the Sunshine State, I'd have picked UWM for the Sweet 16; look out for BC to fail as well -- the Eagles are grumpy about their seed (never a good sign) and are the lone eastern team in its quarter of the bracket (Nevada, Montana, Pacific), which plays in Salt Lake City.

Location issues: (1) Ohio State plays in Dayton in the first two rounds -- that's why I have the Buckeyes getting past Georgetown; (2) Villanova plays in Philly in the first two rounds -- for those of you not familiar with religiously affiliated Northeastern schools, Villanova University is in Philadelphia.

There you have it: Duke, Kansas, Villanova and UConn, with UConn over Duke in the Final.

Confidence level -- much lower than last year when I picked Duke (oops), Louisville, UNC and Illinois with UNC over Illinois in the Final. Too many weaknesses on the big teams: Duke's stamina and lack of a No.3 scorer; KU's youth; 'Nova's injury situation and lack of size; UConn's headcase issue.

And now, we'll see.

Impeach Bush?

The editors at NRO are chortling over Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold's call to censure Bush for the 'illegal' NSA wiretapping. Their view is Feingold's antics gave the President a reprieve after the ports disaster.

The Democrats had just concluded a successful two-week bout of eroding the president's national-security credentials with baseless attacks on the Dubai ports deal. Now, the party's Left apparently believes it's time to switch back to type and bolster Bush's national-security credentials by demonstrating the Democrats' own lack of seriousness in the War on Terror.

Tactically its a bad move and forces Democratic senators to quietly demur. However, the editors at OpinionJournal see something much more sinister.

But as a political matter, the Wisconsin Senator knows exactly what he's doing. He knows that anti-Bush pathology runs so deep among many Democrats that they really do think they're living in some new dictatorship. Liberal journals solemnly debate impeachment, and political-action groups have formed to promote it. One of our leading left-wing newspapers recently compared Mr. Bush to J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, as if there were even a speck of evidence that this White House is wiretapping its political enemies.

When the fever gets this hot in supposedly mainstream forums, Mr. Feingold is right to conclude that the facts behind any censure or impeachment motion won't really matter. All that will count is the politics, which means it will come down to a question of votes in Congress. And several leading Democrats have already raised the "impeachment" card.

If the Democrats re-take the House, which is currently unlikely but possible, you can expect a serious move to impeach the President.

Gay agenda trumps child welfare

Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe has an infuriating piece on the why the Catholic Charities of Boston is shuttering its adoption services which has been active for over a century and placed 720 children over the last twenty years.

On March 10, Catholic Charities of Boston had announced that it was being forced to shut down its highly regarded adoption services, since it could not in good conscience comply with the government's demand that it place children for adoption with homosexual couples. Caught between the rock of Catholic teaching, which regards such adoptions as ''gravely immoral," and Massachusetts regulations, which bar adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, the Boston Archdiocese had hoped to obtain a waiver on religious-freedom grounds. But when legislative leaders refused to consider the request, the archdiocese was left with no option but to end a ministry it had been performing for a century.

Whereupon the Human Rights Campaign issued its news release. It was headlined ''Boston Catholic Charities Puts Ugly Political Agenda Before Child Welfare,"...

For the political agenda driving this affair is the one favored by the Human Rights Campaign and its many allies in the media and state government: the normalization of homosexual adoption. So important is that agenda to its supporters that they will allow nothing to stand in its way -- not even the well-being of children in dire need of safe and loving families. Catholic Charities excels at arranging adoptions for children in foster care, particularly those who are older or handicapped, or who bear the scars of abuse or addiction. Yet the Human Rights Campaign and its friends would rather see this invaluable work come to an end than allow Catholic Charities to decline gay adoptions.

Jacoby makes clear that the Catholic Charities were not working to discourage adoptions by gay parents, it just did not want to be part of it. I have no intrinsic objection to gay parents, the fact that they are undertaking a difficult process and would remain under ongoing scrutiny thereafter means they are for the most part going to be good parents. The problem is the proponents of the gay ideology are more than willing to sacrifice the well-being of young children to advance their agenda. Take away the Catholic Charities and fewer children get placed into good homes. A lousy trade.

"As much as one may wish to live and let live," Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote in 2004, during the same-sex marriage debate in Massachusetts, ''the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance, and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination . . . Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles."

Prince Philip's Finest

Apparently, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II has a colorful history of verbal gaffes. I was WEEPING with laughter at some of his comments which were thoughtfully collected here:

"If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." (At a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting)

I'm Cantonese. That's hilarious.

"Oh no, I might catch some ghastly disease". (When asked if he would like to stroke a koala bear).

"Do you still throw spears at each other?" (To an Aborigine leader)

whilst in Australia.

"If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?" (Amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting)

The man has a point though timing was probably a bit off.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hate the Jews - MUST READ

Bernard Lewis, emeritus professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, has just written an excellent article on anti-Semitism through history for the Winter 2006 issue of the American Scholar.

It's brilliant, clearly and cogently written and worth your time.

Some insights:

Anti-Semitism is something quite different. It is marked by two special features. One of them is that Jews are judged by a standard different from that applied to others.
The other special feature of anti-Semitism, which is much more important than differing standards of judgment, is the accusation against Jews of cosmic evil. Complaints against people of other groups rarely include it. This accusation of cosmic, satanic evil attributed to Jews, in various parts of the world and in various forms, is what has come to be known in modern times as anti-Semitism.

Lewis goes through in anti-Semitism in history and divides it into three phases, the religious, the racial and the form most prevalent today, political-ideological. Lewis argues that while the first two forms cannot be invoked in polite company the last has taken its place as an acceptable way to "hate" Jews.

The other advantage for Jews was that they were not seen as dangerous. Christianity was recognized as a rival world religion and a competitor in the cosmic struggle to bring enlightenment (and with it, inevitably, domination) to all humanity.
The main negative quality attributed to Jews in Turkish and Arab folklore was that they were cowardly and unmilitary—very contemptible qualities in a martial society.

The shocking events of 1948 re-galvanized in the Middle East the hatred of the Jews.

Azzam Pasha, who was then the secretary-general of the Arab League, is quoted as having said: “This will be like the Mongol invasions. We will utterly destroy them. We will sweep them into the sea.” The expectation was that it would be quick and easy. There would be no problem at all dealing with half a million Jews. It was then an appalling shock when five Arab armies were defeated by half a million Jews with very limited weaponry. It remains shameful, humiliating. This was mentioned at the time and has been ever since. One writer said: “It was bad enough to be conquered and occupied by the mighty empires of the West, the British Empire, the French Empire, but to suffer this fate at the hands of a few hundred thousand Jews was intolerable.”

Lewis argues, though, that this hatred was already there, 'imported' from Christian missionaries in the 15-17th centuries and later, 'stoked' by the Arab affinity to the Third Reich after the latter started to de-stabilize the Middle East in the run-up to WWII.

The Nazi propaganda impact was immense. We see it in Arabic memoirs of the period, and of course in the foundation of the Ba’ath party.

Lewis accuses the United Nations of essential complicity in 'signing off' on anti-Semitism by obviously and on a continuing basis treating Israelis and Palestinians differently:

The United Nations’s handling of the 1948 war and the resulting problems shows some curious disparities—for example, on the question of refugees...A significant number of Arabs remained in the territories under Jewish rule. It was taken then as axiomatic, and has never been challenged since, that no Jews could remain in the areas of Palestine under Arab rule...not just settlers, but old, established groups, notably the ancient Jewish community in East Jerusalem, which was totally evicted and its monuments desecrated or destroyed. The United Nations seemed to have no problem with this; nor did international public opinion. When Jews were driven out, no provision was made for them, no help offered, no protest made. This surely sent a very clear message to the Arab world, a less clear message to the Jews.

In summary, as the horrors of the Holocaust fade, anti-Semitism in its political-ideological form, becomes fashionable again:

But inevitably, the memory of those days is fading, and now Israel and its problems afford an opportunity to relinquish the unfamiliar and uncomfortable posture of guilt and contrition and to resume the more familiar and more comfortable position of stern reproof from an attitude of moral superiority. It is not surprising that this opportunity is widely welcomed and utilized.


Do the math, doubt the hype -- NCAA version

For all the chatter about "parity" and "dark horses" you'll hear this year, the NCAA Tourney will be won by . . . someone you expect. In all likelihood, that's true. Why? Because in the last 16 years only TWO teams seeded lower than a #2 have won the Tournament: 1997 Arizona (#4) and 2003 Syracuse (#3). And in SU's case, it had a better claim to a #2 seed than the second seed in its region, Wake Forest.

So predict as many upsets as you like, the fact is that the winner will likely be a top two seed. Consider: since 1990, 11 of the 16 champions were #1 seeds, three others were #2 seeds; only two of 13 lower seeded finalists (Arizona and Syracuse) beat a higher seeded team in the title game; only one finalist that had been seeded #1 in its region lost in the national title game to a non-#1 seed (Kentucky 1997), the other eight #1 seeds playing a lower seed in the national title game won; and only two teams even won Final Four games against opponents seeded at least three slots higher (Indiana [#5] in '02 over Oklahoma [#2]; Arizona in '97 over UNC [#1]). These distinctions for Zona show just how remarkable a run it had in '97.

In other words, don't bet on LSU, UNC, Florida (puh-leeze), BC, KU or any other favored dark horse to win the whole thing.

Good News from Iraq* rebuttal

Here is a rebuttal piece by Cornerite John Derbyshire to Richard Nadler's piece we linked yesterday.

I'd very much like to see NR send Derbyshire to Iraq for a few weeks to give an honest, skeptic conservative hawk's view of the current situation.

Korea tops US in WBC

The US team did a credible imitation of the 2004 Yankees as they dropped a 7-3 decision to undefeated Korea at Anaheim last night. Dontrelle Willis was hit hard again for the second start in a row and Dan Wheeler gave up a killer three run shot that got around Anaheim's version of the Pesky Pole. Meanwhile Team USA stranded eleven runners.

The top two teams in the pool (Korea, USA, Japan and Mexico) will advance to the semifinals. If multiple teams end up with the same record the aggregate runs allowed will determine who advances. So by losing to Korea and giving up 7 runs to boot the US is nearly back in the same position it was in Round 1 where their destiny could be out of their hands. And this time without South Africa to beat on.


Murray Chass at the NYT relates that the South Korean government will grant a waiver from the mandatory 26 month military service for all team members if they reach the semifinals. Good incentive I am sure but also outrageous. That's the act, frankly, of a banana republic.

Monday, March 13, 2006

More notes on the NCAA Tourney

Some quick thoughts about the seeding and the snubs -- the big-namers, not the mid-majors. Given the length to which the Tournament selection committee went to add mid-majors at the expense of seemingly deserving major conference teams, no non-major conference team has a legitimate gripe. All RPIs taken from here.

First, the snubs. It is ridiculous for Michigan or Florida State to whine about getting dropped to the NIT. Michigan (RPI 47) had a colossal choke job losing seven of its last nine, while conference rival Indiana surged from the depths of stinkdom to reach the Tournament. How anyone can complain that the Big Tenplusone received a lack of respect with six teams in the NCAA (54.5% of its membership, compared to 50% for the Big East) is puzzling at the least. Maryland's claims also founder on: 5-8 finish, honking the first round of the ACC, and an RPI of 49 -- too close to some other schools that finished stronger but were ranked just lower (Air Force, NCSU).

Florida State's exclusion is a message to big conference schools: SCHEDULE COMPETITIVE GAMES -- that means a preseason schedule against Big Ten basketcase Purdue, Big 12 bottomfeeder Nebraska, Stetson, Jacksonville, Louisiana-Monroe, et al. does not count. Only its pre-ACC matchup with Florida involved FSU in a game against a top 50 RPI team; the 'Noles lost. Worse yet, FSU (RPI 63) went 9-7 in the ACC but did NOT have to play NCSU, UNC or BC twice. That also hurts the schedule strength. Losing in the ACC tourney quarters to Wake Forest, which ended its abysmal ACC campaign 3-13, is another knock on the 'Noles.

Cincinnati had the best case: road wins over Marquette and Syracuse, home wins over LSU and West Virginia and the team had overcome no small amount of adversity to ring up an 8-8 Big East record. Cincy's RPI (40) is higher than eight of the at-large entrants in the NCAA field. The resume is not bad and those road wins should have had the Committee take more notice.

As for the seeds: Pitt (24-7) got shafted. With 24 wins, including W. Va. and Villanove in the Big East Tourney, Pitt deserved better (just as it did in 2004) -- this is a #3 seed ranked #11 in the RPI, not a five. I think BC deserved a 3-seed, but its RPI is in the 20s.

Tennessee is the most obviously overranked. Sorry, but no team deserves a #2 seed with a 21-7 record and four losses in its last six games. The Vols are #6 in the RPI, which is curious in and of itself because Tennessee's non-conference schedule consisted of Memphis (loss), Texas (big win) and a bunch of stiffs that FSU would normally play. Considering how the committee deviated at least two seedings from the RPI in other situations (#6 for RPI-38 WVU; #6 for RPI-34 Indiana; #7 for RPI-36 Georgetown; #6 for RPI-16 Oklahoma), the refusal to drop Tennessee is indefensible. There should be penalties for losing to non-Tourney teams in the quarters of your conference tournament.

And, as usual, a Syracuse-centric note: SU's RPI is 17 now, thanks to four wins over RPI top 50 teams on a neutral floor. The way the RPI is determined is that road wins are given a 40% bonus within the formula (the rating for the win is multiplied by 1.4); home wins are given a 40% deduction (the rating is multiplied by 0.6); and neutral court wins are tallied without adjustment. Thus, SU's four wins in NYC counted far more than a similar run at the Carrier Dome would have. The home/road/neutral factoring is another reason why FSU's win over Duke did NOT clinch the 'Noles an NCAA berth.


I always though "Retard!" was a particularly nasty schoolyard taunt, even more so than the 'f'-related ones.

Well it appears that Alexis Suvorov, the assistant director of giving at Yale Law School, sent an anonymous email to two Yalies who strongly criticized the institution and asked alumni to withold contributions pending at least an explanation why Yale admitted Sayeed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former official of the Taliban regime. Suvorov's email:

"What is wrong with you? Are you retarded? This is the most disgraceful alumni article that I have ever read in my life. You failed to mention that you've never contributed to the Yale Alumni Fund in your life. But to suggest that others follow your negative example is disgusting."

Wow. Not only is the accusation gratuitously nasty, Suvorov looked through the giving records of two alumni and then sent a venomous, anonymous email.

For Yale's sake, Suvorov should become an ex-employee, fast.

Good News From Iraq*

*Yup, this is a hat-tip to Aussie Arthur Chrenkoff whose regular column the "Good News from Iraq" ran in the WSJ. Richard Nadler at NRO recounts the testimony and experiences of several recent returnees [Lt. Lawrence Indyk, Marine Corporal Richard Gibson, and Marine Sergeant J. D. Johannes] from Iraq. And it is good news indeed.

Lt. Indyk...contrasted the dinar's stabilization under the Coalition with the savings-wrecking inflations under the Baathist regime [and] the increase in electrical supply, and the doubling of oil revenues in the post-Saddam era.
Indyk discussed advances in services as well: the 60 percent decline of infant mortality in post-Saddam Iraq, and the improved access to schooling and medical care...
Indyk then proceeded to describe the findings of the most extensive and scientific polls of Iraq opinion, performed by Arabic speakers for Oxford Research International near the beginning of 2004, then at the end of 2005. These polls covered all of Iraq's major regions and demographic groups.

Asked to compare their current lives with their lives under Saddam, Iraqis reported an improvement in availability of necessities, and an improvement in overall economic wellbeing. They reported superior access to clean water, health care, and education. Iraqi respondents believed that their local governments had improved. Asked what form of government they hoped to live under going forward, democracy won handily: four-to-one over the rule of one-man, and ten-to-one over totalitarianism.

Iraqis list security as their most pressing problem. But a plurality of Iraqis feel safer now than under Saddam, and a majority feel safer from ordinary crime. Moreover, better than 60 percent feel personally safe in their neighborhoods.
Coalition casualties declined by 27 percent in 2005. They have declined by 62 percent in 2006, measured against the comparable period of 2005.

The insurgent strategy of targeting Iraqi police and army units peaked in July of 2005. Since then, casualties among those units have declined by 33 percent.

Attacks on other soft targets are also down. For instance, there were 146 strikes against the oil infrastructure in 2004, compared to 101 in 2005.

The tipping point, Gibson contends, occurred last March, when the number Iraqi boots on the ground — police and army units — surpassed those of Coalition forces. From that point on, the new Iraqi government has proved increasingly able to hold and garrison areas that have been cleared on insurgents.
From March of 2005 to September of 2005, the number of civilian tips informing on insurgents increased from 483 to 4,700, as numerous Sunni tribes declared outright war on al Qaeda. "The insurgency in Iraq," said Gibson, "is being dismantled by the equivalent of a Tips hotline."

Gibson cited polling of Iraqi opinion to support his thesis. Fifty-eight percent of Iraqis feel threatened by terrorists, compared with 10 percent who feel threatened by Coalition troops. And by 71 percent to 9 percent, Iraqis believe that their own security forces — Iraqi security forces — are winning the fight against terror.
Former Marine Sergeant J. D. Johannes was a soldier during the first Iraq war. He returned to his old unit as combat reporter in the second. He offers this assessment:

Everyone knows that the history of war is written by the victors. But the war in Iraq has shattered that truism. In Iraq, history is being written by the losers. Baathist kidnappers and jihadist bombers are planning their operations not to win the war in Iraq, but to win it in America. To that end, they are assessing what American news organizations are willing to cover, and what American reporters are willing to risk. As an immediate result, many of the feeds on the nightly news are coming from Arabic sources that are either non-professional in their journalistic standards or hostile to American policy aims. As a long-term result, the American public is broadly misinformed on a war that Coalition arms and Iraqi democrats are, in fact, winning.

Sad to say, the bad news campaign is working where not a few conservatives, Bill Buckley and Francis Fukuyama among them, have either abandoned or started to openly question the undertaking.

NCAA Tourney advantage

If you want an advantage that your colleagues won't have in their NCAA pools, try Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency ratings in the site linked above. Pomeroy has run these offensive efficiency tables for the past two seasons, and of the last eight Final Four teams, seven (all four last year, all but Georgia Tech in '04) were in the top ten in all of Division I in offensive efficiency in the respective seasons. A minute sample, admittedly, but an interesting one.

Basketball, at its core, is an offensive game. No matter what you try as a defense, you won't pitch a shutout and you will always be subject to a great play on offense that will create points, or a great player who can create something from nothing (two words and a number: Carmelo Anthony 2003). Coaches know this, that's why Rick Pitino preaches deflections to stall offensive flow, why Pat Riley preaches getting in the face of the shooters, why Dean Smith charted points per possession, why Boeheim charts "open" jumpers that opponents have, etc.

Pomeroy's offensive efficiency ratings are more accurate than points per game because they quantify the number of points a team scores per possession (rendered as points per 100 possessions), thereby taking tempo out of the equation such that slow tempo teams (Princeton, NC State, Air Force) are not comparatively shortchanged by their pace and fast tempo teams (Duke, UConn) are not overrated by the swiftness of their play. His top ten offensive efficiency teams heading into the 2006 Tourney, adjusted for strength of schedule, are: Duke, Texas, Villanova, Notre Dame, BC, UConn, UNC, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Washington.

Don't discount defense too much, however. Of the last eight teams to make the Final Four, none had an adjusted defensive efficiency rank worse than #25 (Michigan State, 2005). That factor points against BC (#100), Gonzaga (#162), Tennessee (#85) and Washington (#37), but favors Duke (#19), Texas (#8), Villanova (#18), UNC (#14) and UConn (#5). It also favors The Monk's sleeper pick for the Final Four -- Kansas (#1).

The Gulf Bubble

A fascinating piece in OpinionJournal today covering what the trillion petrodollars earned by the Gulf economies since 1998 hath wrought. A bubble to make the NASDAQ run look like a schoolboy's pimple. The $64,000 question is what happens when that bubble bursts?

The oil exporters of the Persian Gulf are flush with cash...In fact, unlike during the last oil boom of the late 1970s, relatively little of the current Arab oil surplus has been directly invested in U.S. assets or even deposited in the international banking system. This time much of the oil money has remained at home, where a classic speculative mania is now being played out.
...OPEC members have earned around $1.3 trillion in petrodollars since 1998, according to the Bank for International Settlements. The extra liquidity injected into the gulf economies by the oil price hike since 2002 is estimated at around $300 billion by HSBC...a great deal [of which] has stayed in the gulf region.
...The gulf economies are growing rapidly, along with corporate profits. Returns on equity in the region are approaching 20%, calculates Credit Suisse...A new era of permanently high oil prices and perpetual prosperity has been hailed.

...Dubai is attempting to transform itself into a leading financial center and tourist resort. Saudi Arabia intends to become a world leader in fertilizer production. A bridge costing $3 billion is proposed to span the Red Sea. A new economy is coming into being. The current oil boom, unlike former ones, won't be followed by a bust, say the believers. This time it's different.

...Since January 2002, the Egyptian, Dubai and Saudi stock markets are up respectively by over 1,100%, 630% and 600%. Only four years ago, gulf companies were priced at around twice book value. Today they trade on an average of 44 times historic earnings and at over eight times book value. gulf banks are valued at over nine times book value, according to Credit Suisse.

Sabic, a Saudi conglomerate, is currently ranked among the world's 10 largest companies by market capitalization. The Saudi stock exchange has a market cap of around $750 billion. That's roughly three times the country's GDP. By comparison, the U.S. stock market reached a peak of 183% of GDP in March 2000. In fact, the relative overvaluation of the Saudi stock market is even greater than these figures suggest. Nomura analyst Tarek Fadlallah points out that as the oil industry remains in state hands, a far smaller fraction of Saudi economic activity is captured by the stock market than in the U.S.

...Reports suggest that the majority of new Dubai properties are being acquired for speculative purposes, with only small deposits put down. They are being flipped in the contemporary Miami manner.

[Market] inefficiency: Financial information in the gulf is totally inadequate. The Saudi megacap conglomerate Sabic attracts no domestic financial analysis...Companies report their results in a rudimentary fashion. It is against the law to sell short overpriced stocks in the Saudi market. And foreigners' financial sophistication is absent since only gulf nationals can purchase Saudi stocks. Instead, speculators operate in an information vacuum in markets reportedly dominated by insider trading and practiced manipulation.

...the madness of crowds: Up to two million of the 16 million Saudi population are said to be playing the market. Interest-free loans are commonly available. Saudi...The education minister has warned teachers to stop day-trading at schools. People are quitting their jobs to trade.

This is, pardon the term, a partial-birth abortion in the making. So, why do we care?

The political consequences could be more serious. Arab rulers have deliberately encouraged the boom in the hope that rising asset prices and a strong economy would distract their youthful populations from religious fundamentalism. This strategy could backfire. History teaches that when speculative bubbles burst and the public loses large sums, there is normally a political backlash. This was true of the U.S. in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent in the early 2000s, and of Japan in the 1990s. It's not hard to imagine Islamists capitalizing on a future bust with denunciations of stock-market gambling. Some of today's young Arab day-traders could well turn into tomorrow's al Qaeda recruits.

What will happen is that the bubbles will start to deflate and the deep-pocketed Gulf rulers who desire stability above all will prop them up, probably with adding massive amounts of liquidity and taking over non-performing loans. That, in turn, will come to roost when, for one reason or another, the oil pipeline experiences a protracted interruption.

The idiocy of the double standard argument

In light of the US new nuclear deal with India, which the dopes in Congress should applaud instead of condemn, there has been a revival of the "double standard" argument about how we treat different countries with regard to their nuclear programs. Richard Cohen put paid to this argument last week:

It is true, of course, that Bush has upended 30 years of American nuclear policy -- and there will be consequences. Maybe, as some of the critics say, he has made it easier for India to increase its nuclear arsenal. But India will make all the weapons it feels it needs -- no matter what the United States does. America is a superpower, but not even a superpower is all-powerful.

The Israeli bomb threatens nobody. An Iranian bomb does. India has transferred its nuclear technology to no one. Pakistan has. No one worries about India or Israel making the technology available to terrorists. Everyone worries about Iran doing that. These are distinctions with great differences. They are, as critics charge, double standards, but to apply a single standard to both friend and enemy, while it might be fair, would be singularly stupid.

Robert Kagan rejects the double standard issue out of hand:

. . . The [ ]question likely to consume endless hours of hearings on Capitol Hill in coming weeks is what effect the deal will have on the problem of Iran. Some will argue that the Indian nuclear deal harms efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program because it erects a double standard: We are willing to let India do what we are not willing to let Iran do.

The question is interesting in theory. In the real world, it's not that interesting. The notion that the Indian deal will set back prospects for a diplomatic deal with Iran assumes that such prospects exist. All available evidence suggests otherwise. The Iranian government appears committed to building nuclear weapons and will not be deterred by threats -- except possibly the threat of removal by military means -- or won over by blandishments. It has risked international isolation and economic sanctions and even the remote threat of U.S. air and missile strikes to keep its program going. Are we supposed to believe that the main obstacle standing in the way of a happy resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis is now the Indian deal?

Pres. Bush made a deal with India to encourage it, formerly a prominent member of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, to join the fold of the Anglosphere. A fine move redolent with foresight.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

2006 Tourney preview, part II

The Monk promised more, and there's still more to come, but here's a quick follow-up to my initial post, some factoids from last year's preview column, updated based on last year's results.

Curious factoids: (i) only three NCAA Tournaments since 1985 have not had an ACC team in the Final Four, each time Syracuse won its regional (1987, 1996, 2003); (ii) Duke has not failed to reach the Sweet 16 since 1997 -- that's now nine-straight years that the Dookies have survived the first weekend, if Duke survives the first weekend, remember that it has lost six times in the Sweet 16 under Coach K but only once in the Regional Finals; (iii) three #1 seeds have reached the Final Four only three times since the seeding system started in 1979 (1993, 1997, 1999), by contrast three non-#1 seeds have reached the Final Four in three of the past six years (2000, 2003, 2004) and six times since the first 3-#1 Final Four in 1993 (1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004), by far the most common occurrence is a pair of #1 seeds making the Final Four, like last year; (iv) only four No. 15 seeds have ever beaten a #2, no #1 seed has ever lost a first round game and only Arizona and South Carolina have lost first round games as a #2 and #3 seed in consecutive years; (v) the last Ivy League team to win a first-round game was Princeton in 1998 but it was a #5 seed, the last lower-seeded Ivy to win a first-round game was Princeton in 1996 -- it then lost badly in the second round; this year's Ivy winner is 15th-seeded Penn; (vi) no team has ever lost in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament and won the NCAA -- Texas was a rarity by reaching the Final Four in 2003; the most notable choker in its conference quarters this year is everyone's favorite, UConn.

Initial NCAA Tourney thoughts

Keep it here for more Monkology on the NCAA Tournament. But some initial thoughts upon checking on the brackets, although I've not written out a bracket yet.

First, Duke got a plum seeding. Yes, that is what happens when you do what you're supposed to and win the ACC Tournament. But this is ridiculous: TEXAS as the #2 -- the same team Duke beat on a semi-neutral court by 31? And with only LSU (from the notsogreat SEC) and Syracuse (just qualified this week), there is no team that should beat Duke before the regional final. Duke is 10-1 in regional finals under Coach Krzyzewski. That's a weak 2-3-4-5 set Duke has in its region and if the Dookies do not win, something is just wrong with that team. I don't feel that comfortable that Texas will get through the first weekend. W. Va. got a bad seed. Upset special = of course I worry about SU going down again, but Iona is no easy one for LSU.

On an orange-flavored note, Syracuse got a slightly better matchup this year than it did last year! Then again, never take a 5-12 game for granted, as I'll show in a later post. Syracuse went from 2-9 against RPI top 50 teams and on the bubble to 6-9 and Big East Champs accomplishing a passel of milestones: first team to win four games in four days to win the conference tournament, lowest seed to win the tournament (SU holds the top/bottom three spots in that list -- #9 seed in '06, #6 seed in '81 and #5 seed in '92), lowest total margin of victory. I especially liked the team giving Gerry McNamara a T-shirt with "Overrated?!!!" on it after he won the Big East Tournament MVP award.

Second, the Oakland region looks like a Memphis invitational. Gonzaga and UCLA are weak 2-3 teams and I wonder if Indiana has the mental state to make a run. If so, IU is a sleeper for the Regional Final. The real talent is in the top half of the bracket -- Memphis plus underseeded KU and underseeded Pitt. Memphis may have a tougher second game against archrival Arkansas or glass slipper wearing Bucknell than it could in the regional final. That KU-Pitt game could be a war. Upset special = if there is one in this bracket, Xavier over Gonzaga.

Third, UConn has the toughest region. Tennessee isn't daunting as a #2 seed, but that doesn't matter because UNC will be a better bet to make the regional finals. With talented underperformer Michigan State at #6, dangerous teams at #5 (Washington) and #4 (Illinois) and that strong UNC team in the bottom of the draw, UConn will have some difficulty. I disagree with the commentators -- this is not a cinch for UConn. Upset special = Seton Hall over Wichita State.

Fourth, Villanova has a tough draw. BC got screwed again in the seeding with a #4 and lurks as a very difficult Sweet 16 team for 'Nova. Both are veteran teams, which means BC knows 'Nova very well because the Eagles were in the Big East last year. Then again, with 'Zona as a #8, 'Nova received no favors in round 2. On the bottom half of the bracket, the regional finalist should be a loser in the regional final -- OSU is the typical overrated Big Ten team and Florida hasn't made it past the first weekend since 2000, losing to lower seeds each of the last five years (including a 22-point loss as a #2 to a #7 in '03). Upset special = UWM to knock off Oklahoma.

First blush Final Four = Duke (argh), Kansas, UConn, BC. That's still in pencil.