Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hamdan disaster

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 today in favor of Hamdan in a closely watched case on whether the Guantanamo detainees could be subject to military war crimes trials. John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority; John Roberts did not vote as he was the judge in the Appeals circuit (and sided with the Adminstration). "Internationalist" Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the liberal contingent.

Here's what the prescient Andy McCarthy, National Review's judicial guru, had to say this am before the decision came down:

Unfortunately, I'm going to be out-of-pocket for most of today, so I'll miss a lot of the post-mortem if the decision comes down. For pre-mortem, though, I've been poking around, and it seems like there's a prevailing view that if — as expected — the decision comes out in favor of Hamdan, the theory will be that al Qaeda does have Geneva Convention protections.

Make no mistake: if this happens, the Supreme Court will have dictated that we now have a treaty with al Qaeda — which no President, no Senate, and no vote of the American people would ever countenance. The Constitution consigns treaty-making to the political branches, not the courts, but a conclusion that Geneva protects Hamdan (and, by extension, his fellow savages) would ominously mean that the courts, under the conveniently malleable guise of "customary international law" can rewrite treaties to mean whatever they like them to mean.

It is likely that such a theory will not rest on a claim that terrorists qualify as honorable prisoners of war under the conventions. It is too obvious that this is not the case. Rather, it would be premised on the theory that Common Article 3 applies. Article 3 (which is "common" because it applies to all of the Geneva Conventions) prohibits "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." (Emphasis added, and explained below.)

The president, properly, has indicated that Common Article 3 does not apply to our war with al Qaeda because it applies, as relevant here, only to an "armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties." POTUS reasons that our conflict is international because al Qaeda is an international terrorist organization and the war is not limited to Afghanistan. However, some claim the war is limited to Afghanistan (notwithstanding, for example, the Twin Towers used to stand in Manhattan, not Kabul), and that a conflict with al Qaeda cannot be "international" because al Qaeda is not a nation.

Nevertheless, even granting that the president is right, internationalist activists (law professors, UN and Euro-bureaucrats, and self-styled human rights organizations) argue that Common Article 3 applies anyway, despite the literal limitations on it in the Geneva Conventions themselves, because it has somehow transmogrified into binding "customary international law." (For those interested, I wrote an article called "International Law v. the United States" for Commentary's February 2006 edition. It addresses how customary international law undermines American democratic self-determination.)

If this reasoning is used to apply Geneva, and thus strike a treaty with al Qaeda (one which obligates only the U.S. — al Qaeda can be expected to go on bombing civilians and torturing and beheading prisoners), who knows what combatant trials will look like? Notice the Article 3 language I have highlighted three paragraphs above. It will be the courts, ultimately, which decide what is "a regularly constituted court," and what "judicial guarantees" are "indispensible" according to "civilized people."

Anyone want to bet against me that this won't come to mean criminal trials with virtually all the protections required to be given to U.S. citizens under the Constitution?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rep. Murtha and ABSCAM

For the vast majority of America (of those who pay attention to politics) the vision of Representative John Murtha (D-Pa.) is a white-maned, craggy-faced, former Marine who is demanding an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq after visiting many injured veterans.

The truth, though, may be somewhat different. Bob Novak writes in last week that John Murtha was designated an unindicted co-conspirator in the famous ABSCAM case in the early 1980s where several congressman were videotaped taking bribes from a phony Arab sheik.

Murtha got into politics in 1968 as a 36-year-old highly decorated Marine and in 1974 became the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress. By 1980, Murtha was a lieutenant of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill and was moving to the top in the House when the FBI named him as one of eight members of Congress videotaped being offered bribes by a phony Arab sheik.

The other seven congressional targets took cash and were convicted in federal court. The videotape showed Murtha declining to take cash but expressing interest in further negotiations, while bragging about his political influence. Murtha testified against the popular Rep. Frank Thompson in the Abscam case, which created lifelong enemies in the Democratic cloakroom. The House Ethics Committee exonerated Murtha of misconduct charges by a largely party-line vote, after which the committee's special counsel resigned in protest.

That salvaged Murtha's political career but limited his public exposure. The current Almanac of American Politics says: "He speaks for attribution to few national or local reporters, hardly ever appears on television and rarely speaks in the House chamber." That reticence has disappeared the last seven months, as he became one of the party's most visible faces.
Murtha now wears his heroic combat record like a suit of armor. In recent House debate over the Iraq war resolution, Murtha dominated the Democratic side -- compensating for a lack of articulation with vehemence. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a freshman Republican from Texas, had the temerity to suggest that had Murtha "prevailed after the bloodbaths in Normandy and in the Pacific ... we would be here speaking Japanese or German." Murtha pounced on Gohmert, asking whether he had been in Normandy, Vietnam or Iraq as a combat solider. The Republican had not, and he meekly thanked Murtha for "all that he has done with the wounded."

Murtha disqualifies adversaries who have not tasted combat, which includes the vast majority in the Congress. He repeats the comparison between civilian officials in "air-conditioned chambers" and soldiers carrying "70 pounds every day facing IEDs." On "Meet the Press," Murtha referred to presidential adviser Karl Rove "sitting in his air conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, 'Stay the course!'"

Murtha was most likely a crook and absolutely showed awful judgment back in 1980. His judgment is still lousy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Still the prophetess of Israel

Regular readers (yeah, both of you) know The Monk holds Caroline Glick in high esteem but fears that she is the Cassandra of Israel -- the seeress whose uncannily accurate predictions are ignored to the detriment of her people (Cassandra, youngest daughter of Priam, foresaw the war with the Greeks and the fall of Troy).

Her column today lambasts the Israeli leadership for empowering terrorists, a policy that the US has all-too-often encouraged and/or leaned on Israel to follow. The fruit of this poisonous tree, entrenched terrorist threats that Israel lacks the will to eradicate. Excerpts:

. . . Six years ago, in October 2000, on the eve of Yom Kippur then prime minister Ehud Barak gave Yasser Arafat an ultimatum. He was ordered to end all the violence he had fomented within 48 hours or face the consequences. When as the deadline passed Arafat continued the violence, Barak did nothing. He did nothing because he could do nothing. His entire government was based on the idea of making peace with Arafat by empowering him. When Arafat chose war, Barak had nothing to say.

Kadima (the centrist party founded by Ariel Sharon, now headed by PM Ehud Olmert) and Labor insist that by empowering terrorists they are somehow weakening them. This is the notion that stands at the base of the government's insistence on reenacting the empowerment of Hamas and Fatah caused by last summer's retreat from Gaza by repeating it twenty-fold in Judea and Samaria.

Somehow, destroying Israeli communities, ordering the retreat of IDF forces and so enabling the terrorist takeover of those lands is - according to Olmert and his associates - supposed to bring about the enhancement of Israel's security through the weakening of terrorists that Israel is empowering.

* * *
The first fiction the government entertains is that of PA Chairman and Fatah Chief Mahmoud Abbas as anti-terrorist peace partner who must be empowered. Abbas is viewed as an irreplaceable resource and ally of Israel. If he goes, Israel will face nothing but Hamas. And since Hamas is bad, Abbas must be good. Unfortunately, Abbas is a terrorist too.

Abbas has pocketed the money, arms and legitimacy that Olmert, the Bush administration and the EU have given him and proceeded to buck up his terrorist credentials. He appointed Mahmoud Damra, a top Fatah terrorist as the commander of his personal army Force 17. Damra is wanted by Israel for his direct involvement in the murders of scores of Israelis since 2001.

Abbas took the thousands of rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition the US gave him last month and had his security chief Muhammad Dahlan issue a joint call with Hamas for the murder of all Palestinians suspected of assisting Israel in its counter-terror operations.

He has been negotiating a blueprint for war - authored by jailed Fatah mass murderer Marwan Barghouti - with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and has been touting the document as a peace plan.

And, his Fatah organization is as responsible for Sunday's strike against Israel as Hamas. The Popular Resistance Committees, a Fatah front group that also includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists claims to be holding Cpl. Shalit. Fatah has threatened to attack Israel with chemical and biological weapons and to renew shooting attacks on neighborhoods in southern Jerusalem if the IDF launches a major operation in Gaza.

But none of this can be acknowledged because acknowledging that Abbas is a terrorist would mean acknowledging that empowering him means empowering terrorists.

Read it all.

Get Well Soon: Peter Gammons

The best baseball columnist, until he gave up his gig at the Boston Globe to go full-time at ESPN and become the best baseball insider, is in the hospital. Peter Gammons suffered a brain hemorrhage this morning while driving near his Cape Cod home.

Get well soon.

Programming notes

The Monk is going to Belize yet again. I'm leaving on Thursday and will return after July 4. We're going to the jungle and then to the beach. Whilst at the beach portion of our trip, we are going to participate in an ancient ceremony with great meaning.

When I return, the Monkette2B will be the Monkette.

Wongdoer will have the reins during my absence.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Top of your reading list today

Hugh Hewitt fisks NYT managing editor Bill Keller's response to Times readers' letters regarding the Times story on the US efforts to track terrorists through their public financial dealings.

Hewitt 1, Keller 0.

Beating a hasty redeployment

Mark Steyn shreds the Democrats' defeatist attitude and their new buzzword for abject retreat: redeployment.

You gotta hand it to these guys: "Redeployment" is ingenious. I'll bet the focus-group consultants were delirious: "surrender," "lose,","scram," "scuttle ignominiously," "head for the hills" all polled poorly, but "redeploy" surveyed well with all parts of the base, except the base in Okinawa, where they preferred "sayonara" -- that's "redeploy" in any language. The Defeaticrats have a clear message for the American people. Read da ploy: No new quagmires.

This is the most artful example of Leftspeak since they came up with "undocumented immigrant." In fact, if it catches on, I'll bet millions of fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community now start referring to themselves as Redeployed Mexicans.

* * *
Kerry gets all huffy if he thinks you're questioning his patriotism, so let's be charitable and assume the Defeaticrats are simply missing the point: For the rest of the world, what's at issue in the Iraq war is not the future of Iraq but the future of America. Can the world's leading nation still lead or is Kerry's Vietnam Syndrome "seared" (as he'd say) into its bones? Luxembourg can be Luxembourg. America doesn't have that option. In a nonpolar world, there's nowhere to redeploy to.


World Cup '06 -- where have all the goals gone?

Through the first six matches of the Round of 16 in this World Cup, the teams have scored all of 8 goals. The highest scoring match was Argentina 2, Mexico 1 -- and that one went to overtime.

The Italy 1990 Cup is widely recognized as the worst ever: low-scoring, dull, drab and ultimately living up (or down) to every American criticism of how soccer is simply a boring game. In that Cup, the Round of Sixteen had 18 goals (the supposedly exciting 2002 Cup had 17). Thus, to beat the pace of the sonambulent 1990 Cup, Spain-France and Brazil-Ghana need to combine for 11 goals tomorrow.

Today's entries into the American encyclopedia of why soccer sucks: Italy 1-0 over the Soccerroos and Ukraine advancing on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw with the Swiss. Not one player on any of these teams could score from anywhere other than the penalty spot.

Yuck. Somehow Eric Cantona's repeated exhortations in those Nike ads to "play beautiful" have been ignored.

Socceroos Robbed

Referee Luis Medina Cantalejo single-handedly decided the Australia - Italy World Cup match today. No matter what sport it is this is outrageous. With literally seconds left in the match before 30 minutes of overtime Cantalejo called Australia for a foul in the penalty area which led to a penalty kick.

Francesco Totti sent a missile in to the upper left corner of the goal past the Aussie keeper (who had guessed right).

The problem: An awful call as Fabio Grosso dived to draw the penalty. The Italian team is notorious for diving. It was a clean play and the referee basically gave the match to Italy.

Let 'em play.

World Cup predictions redux -- CORRECTED

The group stage of the World Cup is over and it's knockout time -- each match will actually have a winner (technically if the teams tie after 90 minutes plus overtime, it is officially a draw and the team that "advances" does so by penalty kicks). Here are the matchups and predictions, with The Monk's correct predictions of group stage survivors in italics.

Germany v. Sweden -- The Monk actually correctly predicted Germany would win group A and Sweden would come in second in Group B. On a neutral pitch, this is a toss-up; not in Germany.
Argentina v. Mexico -- The Monk got this matchup, but in reverse: I predicted Argentina would finish second in Group C and Mexico first in Group D; the opposite occurred. Like the US in 2002, Mexico is fortunate to survive the group stage; unlike the US in 2002, the Mexicans face a great team in the first knockout stage, not a second-rate power (er, that was Mexico, which the US beat).

England v. Ecuador -- England should beat the runner-up of Germany's weak group with relative ease.
Portugal v. Netherlands -- the inverse of the Argentina-Mexico match -- I got the matchup right, but predicted Netherlands #1 in Group C (finished second) and Portugal #2 in Group D (finished first). This is a definite heavyweight matchup between a perennial European powerhouse (the Dutch) and the other routine World Cup flopper from Iberia. Portugal finished second in Euro 2004 (the intra-Europe championship), but that was in Lisbon. Go with the Orange from tulipland.

Italy v. Australia -- the Soccerroos have had a great tournament and should be a solid match for the Italians. After all, nearly all of the Aussie team members play in the top European leagues and Guus Hiddink, the Soccerroos' manager, led So. Korea to a win over the Italians in 2002. Then again, Italy is closer to Germany than So. Korea, and the refereeing should not be nearly as poor as that SoKor match for the Azzurri from four years ago. Italy thumped the two best teams it has faced and should advance.
Switzerland v. Ukraine -- The Ukrainians finally showed up in their second game and became only the third team in the three 32-team World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006) to reach the knockout stage after losing its opener (Turkey 2002, Ghana 2006). The Swiss played uninspired soccer in winning a weak group. The Ukrainians should face the Italians.

Brazil v. Ghana -- The joyride for the Ghanaians ends here.
Spain v. France -- Spain was the best team in the group stage, France needed to beat lowly Togo in the third group match to advance. The French have tons of talent, but it's eight years older than when it won the Cup in 1998. One Iberian survivor into the final 8.

Germany v. Argentina -- what a final 8 matchup! Argentina is nearly as good as Brazil but this match is in Germany. The Monk still doesn't like Germans.

England v. Netherlands -- this should also be a blast. The English have scraped by time and again so far, the Dutch are very good. I picked the English to win before the tournament and think they can still do it, even without Michael Owen.

Italy v. Ukraine -- the final 8 shoudl be where upstarts go to die, but in 1998 Croatia whacked Germany at this stage. Italy is more balanced.

Brazil v. Spain -- No good comes of being in Brazil's half of the draw.

The following part is corrected after reviewing the bracket on; The Monk misread an earlier chart

Argentina v. Italy -- Italy gets a favorable path to the semis as a reward for winning Group E and can avoid the Brazilians until the finals. Argentina is nearly as good as the Brazilians, and beat Italy in Italy in 1990. Revenge would work nicely here. And if the Germans beat Argentina (certainly more than just possible), it'd be great to see the Italians swat the Germans in Germany after suffering the indignity of watching the Huns raise the Jules Rimet Trophy in Rome 16 years ago.

England v. Brazil -- By this point, Brazil should be rolling after its three warmups in the group stage and two wins in the knockout rounds. At some point Brazil has to lose, right? England outplayed Brazil in 2002 but lost because the English seemed too cognizant of the fact that they PLAYED BRAZIL. If they can get past that, and can play at more of a Rooney pace (fearless, attacking, relentless) and less Beckham (slow, calculating, useful only on free kicks), then the English can win.

Argentina v. Brazil -- the World Cup has a third-place game. The championship of South America at stake, with the usual suspects.

England v. Italy -- the English ultimately may have the least impressive looking run to the Final of any team in recent memory. They were uninspired in the group stage, but won because the group stank (outside Sweden); they can beat Ecuador using only reserves; they will be keyed up for both Brazil and Italy but each game would have to be a close win. I think they could resemble the Canadian gold medal hockey team in 2002, scraping by time and again until putting together its best game in the championship match. In 2002, the English gave Brazil all it could handle in Japan but couldn't finish its scoring chances and lost 2-1 in the Quarterfinals. European teams win on European soil unless Pele is around. If the English can escape the samba attack, they will beat the Italians who will have benefitted from a relatively weak bracket.

So The Monk reiterates his pick of England to conquer Germany again. No matter how I've sliced it (and received or perceived bad info on the bracket alignment), I'm taking the English. That said, I'm not putting a nickel on them.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Anti-American New York Times

As bad as Howell Raines' tenure at the New York Times was, Bill Keller's is worse. The New York Times can now be counted upon to disregard each and every request from the Bush Administration to withhold publishing classified material about any anti-terrorism program the United States has implemented. Such classified material is only exposed to the Times after it has been illegally leaked to the paper. This is irresponsible journalism at its worst. At some point the US will have to engage in a disinformation campaign to out the government employees who leak this information to the press.

Here is what happened and what's so bad about the Times' (and the LA Times') latest revelations, from Andy McCarthy:

For the second time in seven months, the Times has exposed classified information about a program aimed at protecting the American people against a repeat of the September 11 attacks. On this occasion, it has company in the effort: The Los Angeles Times runs a similar, sensational story. Together, the newspapers disclose the fact that the United States has covertly developed a capability to monitor the nerve center of the international financial network in order to track the movement of funds between terrorists and their facilitators.

The effort, which the government calls the “Terrorist Finance Tracking Program” (TFTP), is entirely legal. There are no conceivable constitutional violations involved. . .

* * *
. . . the most salient thing we learn from today’s compromise of the TFTP is that the program has been highly effective at keeping us safe. According to the government, it has helped identify and locate terrorists and their financial backers; it has been instrumental in charting terrorist networks; and it has been essential in starving these savage organizations of their lifeblood: funding.

In other words, the NY Times and LA Times have exposed the workings of a government program that has been highly successful, wholly non-invasive to ordinary citizens, and aids the US efforts against terrorists worldwide. Why? Because Keller and the LA Times deemed this a matter of "public interest."

So is every investigation against Islamist terrorism a matter of public interest; so was every spy hunt against KGB infiltration of the CIA, FBI, MI5 and MI6; so is each and every operation against al Qaeda. We ALL want to know what the government is doing, but we do not have the right to know how it is doing it unless it is violating Federal law or the Constitution. Neither the TFTP nor the NSA's phone-information gathering reach this threshold, nor do they come near it. The Times' actions are outrageous and weaken the security of the United States and the American people.

McCarthy says "The blunt reality here is that there is a war against the war. It is the jihad of privacy fetishists whose self-absorption knows no bounds. Pleas rooted in the well-being of our community hold no sway."

He's right, but there's more. This is also a partisan-divide issue -- there would be no mass exposure of alleged government intrusion into our daily lives if the media did not despise Pres. Bush.

The Times is now officially a disgrace. And every government employee who leaked this information, or would seek to leak similar information in the future, should be subject to the most severe criminal penalties for disseminating classified information that Federal law allows.

See here for more.

Saddam's evil intent

Daniel McKievergan notes that the US and most of the world knew full well about Saddam's intent to acquire WMD in 2003, a knowledge that has been REINFORCED by subsequent proof including Charles Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group. See here, and links within, for more.

Paean to the Aussies

Charles Krauthammer speaks for Wongdoer and I in this week's column about why he loves Australia.

USA Soccer: Change the guard

After the US failure in the World Cup, the time is right for a definite change of direction, attitude and leadership.

This is the second time in a row that the US has played miserably and failed to make a dent in the World Cup hosted in Europe. The 1998 team is and will forever be an embarrassment: manhandled by Germany, beaten in humiliating fashion by Iran, flaccid against Yugoslavia. The coach, Steve Sampson, had devised a clever 3-6-1 formation (six midfielders) but played head games with the players and fiddled ceaselessly with the roster. By the time the Cup games started, the momentum from a highly successful set of international friendlies had been squandered and the team was a shambles.

This year, Bruce Arena spent time experimenting with personnel placement (most notably putting DaMarcus Beasley on the right side where he was uncomfortable), relying on questionable veterans, and emasculating the US offense than actually doing anything useful. The team came in fatally unprepared and listless against the Czechs, placing the squad firmly behind the eight-ball for the whole tournament. The US had all of one shot on goal in the first two matches. The 4-5-1 formation Arena used left Brian McBride alone to battle four defenders (which he did valiantly) and the US's defense-first philosophy strangled the offensive drive of its best attackers: Donovan, Beasley, Dempsey.

ESPN's most honest critic of the team, Eric Wynalda (still the US all-time leading scorer in international play), tore Arena to shreds this morning on the radio. Wynalda ripped Arena's lack of class (failing to shake hands with the Ghana coach, whinging about the poor officiating), lack of strategy (how the 4-5-1 sucked the life out of the US attack), and lack of drive (sitting Eddie Johnson against Italy when McBride was spent, etc.).

Worse yet is the team's biggest omission. Every soccer "expert" knew the US would be short of finishers (goalscoring ability). But Arena still left Taylor Twellman off the team. Twellman was simply the team's best playmaker and finisher in the 2006 friendlies and was fully "on form".

To add to the misery, here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the US World Cup 2006 experience.

The Good: Keller's two excellent late saves against Italy; Beasley's pass to Dempsey that led to the goal against Ghana; McBride's grit; Onyewu's defense against Italy.

The Bad: Arena's strategy (why so much overlap down the sidelines against Ghana's weak MIDDLE defense?), Onyewu against the Czechs, Eddie Pope, the lost Landon Donovan, the midfielders in general

The Ugly: McBride's face after the red card foul by the Italians, the calls that got Mastroeni sent off against Italy and that gave Ghana a penalty, the offense (4 shots on goal in three games!), Claudio Reyna getting stripped in the open field against Ghana -- which led to the Ghanaians' first goal.

This is the last World Cup for Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna, and that's good. Both I and a buddy who knows soccer much better than The Monk are Reyna detractors. He is a 33 rpm record in a 45 rpm game -- too slow, too calculating, too restrained when an advantage is present. He slows the game for a US team that had great speed and quickness (Beasley, Donovan, Johnson). Reyna's international career has been at best mediocre: in 1998, he was a lost little boy in a man's game against the Germans, and completely useless in the tournament; in 2002, he was solid but Donovan, Sanneh and McBride did the real leading; in 2006, Reyna was uninspired. He helped lead the US to qualify for three-straight Cups for the first time ever, but his legacy will be best summed up in that strip-and-goal the Ghanaian midfielder pulled off him yesterday.

Keller is a decent 'keeper in general. But it's no coincidence that the best US performance in the Cup came in 2002 when he was beaten out by Brad Friedel for the starting job. Friedel kept the US alive against S. Korea, he blanked Mexico, and he played very well. Keller made a couple of decent saves, was completely fried by his defense about 4-5 times in this Cup (neither goal yesterday was his fault - the second was a penalty, the first was a breakaway and the attacker should score when he's got 192 square feet of goalmouth to shoot for and only the 'keeper in front of him) and was not a big reason for the US failure, unlike 1998 when he was a complete flop.

Where do we go from here? First, US needs a new coach. Guus Hiddink, the manager of PSV Eindhoven (two-time defending Dutch Eredivisie champs) and the Australian Soccerroos should top the list. Hiddink has taken a different country to the knockout stages of each of the last three Cups: Croatia, S. Korea and now the Aussies. The US has lots of internationally tested talent (like the Aussies) so the post should be attractive to him.

Second, a new 'keeper. Keller is 36, Friedel is 38 and retired. Marcus Hahnemann is 33 and helped his club team, Reading, dominate the English Championship League -- England's #2 league, which is better than MLS and most TOP national soccer leagues -- and he'll play in the English Premiership this year. Tim Howard is 27 and will get a chance to start in the EPL as well.

Third, a new captain. If Reyna is done, as he should be, the US will need a new and better leader.

Fourth, new blood. The US needs Freddy Adu to mature, Ben Olson to improve (he's an excellent passer -- dead on with his crosses), Taylor Twellman to get a spot on the team.

So there's hope. But the US needs Hiddink or another superior quality coach.

P.S. -- Congrats to the socceroos for getting past the Croats and into the next round. Good on ya!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

US World Cup Update - CORRECTION

A correction to my analysis below:

If the Czechs draw with Italy then the US can advance with a win if they can beat EITHER the Czechs or Italians in one of the tiebreakers.

If the Czechs beat Italy then the US would have to make up the goal differential with Italy which currently stands at 5 goals.

For all intents and purposes, since we can't score like Argentina (who drew 0-0 against the Netherlands today - amazing how different it is to play a team that can defend) the only realistic way for the US to advance is to beat Ghana and Italy beats the Czechs.

Good Luck Team USA.


Just a quickie for the casual fan of US soccer. After scratching out a draw against the heavily favored Italians on Saturday the US has some reasonable hope to advance in Group E.

Since Ghana stunned the Czechs 2-0, (the folks who crushed us 3-0) these are the standings:

Italy 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 4
Czech 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
Ghana 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3
US 2 0 1 1 1 4 -3 1

where GP = games played, W=win, D=draw, L=loss, GS=goals scored, GA=goals against, GD=goal differential, P=points

These are the tiebreakers:

Rankings in each group shall be determined as follows:
(a) Greater number of points in group
(b) Goal differential in group
(c) Goals scored in group

In case of a tie:
(d) Head-to-head
(e) Head-to-head goal differential
(f) Goals scored head-to-head
(g) Drawn lots

Basically the US can advance by beating Ghana on Thursday if the Italians beat the Czechs. (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss) If the US wins they will have four points and if the Czech Republic loses both they and Ghana would stay at 3. If the Czechs draw then the US would have to score 5 goals more than the Czechs score against Italy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Failure of '56 to inspiration of '06?

Pres. Bush is going to Hungary this weekend and National Review hopes he'll be inspirational in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 student uprising against the Communists. Silence in the face of the Soviets' brutal quashing of the uprising is perhaps the greatest failure of the Eisenhower Administration.

The Monk went to Budapest with the Monkette2B three years ago and liked it a lot -- a very nice city with good people. We had a great visit (Travelogue available on request). One of the sites we made sure to see was Szobobor Park, the residence of the Communist statuary that Hungarians removed from their streets and plazas after liberation from the hammer-and-sickle in 1989. Here's what The Monk wrote about that trip:
Szobobor Park is the Commie Statue Museum of Budapest -- a park area (duh) where the immediate post-Commie Hungarian governments worked to keep the statues "gifted" to Hungary by the Soviets. After the Hungarians became freed from communism, they instinctively sought to topple the various statues of communist icons that were sprinkled throughout Budapest by the USSR or its puppets. So today we took the Hammer and Sickle Walk from Absolute Walking Tours of Budapest. Our guide: Zsofi (zho-fee), an early 30s Budapest resident who lived through the Commie and immediate post-Commie periods in Hungary.

First, some background. Europe is a tribal construct and many of its worst wars are tribal, just as the paralyzing warfare in subSaharan Africa. The modern version is the former Yugoslavia -- Serbs, Croatians, Bosnians, Macedonians, Slovenians, Yugoslavians and Kosovars. Hungary is Magyar, but the closest relatives to the Magyars are Estonians and Finns, not any of the Slavic peoples that are physically close to Hungary (Czechs, Slovaks, Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Yugoslavians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, etc.). Throughout its history Hungary has suffered conquest and overthrow -- the Holy Roman Empire, the Turks, the Austrians, and the Soviets (in essence) -- and the Magyars don't love their former overlords overmuch.

In addition, Hungary was on the wrong side of both world wars -- in WWI it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (although it was the junior partner) and lost more than just Austria when the Empire was split at Versailles. Instead, large parts of what were ethnically Magyar, and nationally Hungary, became territory of other countries -- Western and some Southern areas of Hungary were included in Yugoslavia, some northwest and northern lands became part of Czechoslovakia, and Transylvania and much of eastern Hungary was seized by Romania. As a result, there are numerous ethnic Magyars living in Yugoslavia, Slovakia and Romania and most have fewer rights (today too) than the dominant ethnic groups in the countries. In World War II, Hungary sought to appease the crocodile only to be its last meal -- its dictator's compliance with Hitler did not prevent Hungary from being conquered, nor did it prevent Hungary from having the second-highest number of Jews killed in the Holocaust despite the fact that deportation of Hungarian Jews didn't even start until 1944. Ultimately, Hungary was on the wrong side of the WWII peace -- included in the Soviet "sphere of influence" under Yalta and soon after a client state of the USSR.

In 1956, Hungarian premier Imre Nagy (imm-ray nah-dee) sought to relax Communist controls and grant freedoms (including, ultimately, elections) to the Hungarians. The USSR deposed him and set up a puppet government; students led riots and the Soviets sent in the soldiers. The students led attacks against the USSR soldiers (and created the "Molotov cocktail" for Evgeny Molotov -- the Soviet official in charge of pacifying Hungary) and the rest of the world stood by and watched (Eisenhower reportedly regreted this later). The Soviets quelled the riots, squashed dissent and dissenters, set up show trials for Nagy and some followers and gave Nagy to the horrific Gheorghie-Dej regime in neighboring Romania, which later executed him. Simply stated, neither the Soviets nor Romanians are well-liked in present-day Hungary (then again, no one in Eastern Europe likes the Romanians -- the only Romance language group in the area and therefore not tribally connected to the Slavs or Magyar/Finns, home/birthplace/breeding ground of the actual Gypsies, and run by the mini-Stalins Gheorghie-Dej and Ceausescu for 44 years).

The tour itself went first to a Buda residential area that was built under the Communists in the 60s or 70s. The residential area was chock full of Communist project-housing -- prefabricated concrete blocks stacked and mortared together, all grey and dismal, with small windows, cheap wallpaper, linoleum flooring, tiny elevators and ONE sewer line per each 75+ unit building (i.e., if it got stopped up, everyone would be out of water). We went to a top-story flat (that's "apartment" in American) in the Communist housing project that housed the equivalent of junior executives of the Communist party during Hungary's Commie era (1946-1989). The flat had a rickety 6x3 foot terrace ("That doesn't look steady" thinketh Holly, letting me pass by to stand on it and take pictures) overlooking other apartment buildings of the same (lack of) design and the nearby industrial plants, a cramped living room (that served as the parents' sleeping area) with linoleum floors, cheap and thin wood accessory furniture, grayish white walls and sub-dorm room quality furniture, a bedroom with blocky, ugly bookshelves, low narrow twin beds and unstable writing desks, a narrow kitchen and a run-down bathroom. Total square footage, about 525 -- remember, this is a GOOD apartment. On top of the wondrous accommodations, the residents had to wait 15 years for a phone line and 6-7 years for a car. The cars available = Lada, Travant, Skoda -- three names synonymous with Yugo on the reliability scale (and all three are widely seen in Hungary today). Inside the kids' room -- posters and pamphlets from the communist youth groups all children joined (or were "encouraged" to do so) and that staple of every Communist teenager -- a Vanilla Ice poster.

After the life-sucking apartment, we went to Szobobor Park. The statues there had been placed in various places throughout Budapest during the Soviet era -- Liberty Monument, Millenium Square, Heroes Square, embassy row on Andrassy Utca, by Parliament, etc., to highlight the greatness of Communism, the USSR's friendship, the power of the workers, and so on. The new government removed them to the controversial park (most people wanted the statues destroyed) and set up the exhibition.

The front of the park has a three-arch entrance gate with a Lenin statue on the left, the admissions in the middle and Marx statue on the right. The admissions has three doors, but only the left one is open because (a) Communism is a Leftist doctrine, and (b) you could only be admitted to the inner sanctums of Communist governments through a corrupt side door, not direct achievement. Inside there is a broad straight avenue running through the middle of the park symbolising the never-ending timeline of the communist state, but the line ends at a brick wall -- the 1989 end of communism. The park is split into three 8-shaped areas (with the line running through the middle of the 8s) because Marx decreed that the 24 hour day should be 8 hours' work, leisure and sleep, and the 8 is (sideways) infinity. In one of the circles of an 8 was a patch of flowers shaped into a red star -- the same type of patch that resided outside the Parliament in the Commie era and reflected the red star that hung atop the Parliament (get it? the red star hanging atop the home of Hungarian democratic rule) during those years. In the park were various statues -- another Lenin, a Soviet soldier breaking through a wall (freeing Hungary in 1945), a Soviet soldier planting the Hammer-and-sickle flag, a hero of the 1956 uprising -- a Soviet soldier shot (from behind, natch) by the student rebels, a pair of hands cupped around a globe (worker power), a Bulgarian Commie who stood up to Hitler (who in Hungary would know the Bulgarian Commie anyway?) and more. I bought a tee-shirt that has the recycling person stick-figure tossing a Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbol into a trash can.

Mind vitamin of the day = energy dependence issue

Former Delaware governor and presidential candidate in 1988 Pete DuPont traces the various ways that America has ensured its dependency on oil since the Carter Administration. It's not a pretty picture:

In 1980 President Carter imposed a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies, which raised $40 billion rather than the $227 billion promised. Rather than easing energy shortages, the tax reduced domestic oil production by between 3% and 6% and gave imported oil from foreign countries a competitive advantage that increased imports of foreign oil by about 10%.

In 1990 the first President Bush issued a presidential directive forbidding access to about 85% of Outer Continental Shelf oil and natural gas reserves. In 1998 President Clinton extended the moratorium through 2012.

In 1995 Mr. Clinton vetoed a budget bill that would have allowed oil exploration and drilling in part of the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Prudhoe Bay fields, just to the west of ANWR, have delivered 15 billion barrels of oil through the Alaska pipeline to the U.S. market without damage to Alaskan land, caribou or other wildlife. ANWR contains 10 billion barrels of oil, so Mr. Clinton's veto today is costing America about a million barrels of oil each day. Yet Congress has repeatedly defeated efforts to open ANWR to exploration.

As the Heritage Foundation points out, the U.S. "is the only nation in the world that has placed a significant amount of its potential domestic energy supplies off-limits."

And no new oil refinery has been constructed in the US since 1976.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The longest 6:30 . . . the Mavs and what might have been

Congratulations to the Miami Heat, champions of the NBA. Dw(ay)ne Wade proved himself as the next great player, vaulting himself into the Kobe/LeBron/Duncan/T-Mac level of basketball superstar by putting together a Jordanesque stat line in the Finals: 34.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg. The Heat did what only two other teams in the NBA had ever accomplished in NBA history: winning the title after losing the first two games of the Finals. Only the 1969 Celtics (0-2 down, won 4-3) and the '77 TrailBlazers (0-2 down, swept away the Sixers 4-2) had previously won the title after dropping the first two games of the Finals.

Here now, the good, the bad and the ugly of the NBA Finals.

The Good: Wade. Man he can play.

More good: Jason Terry for the Mavs, Miami's rebounding (Dallas had not been outrebounded in the playoffs until the Heat turned the trick five times in the six games), Udonis Haslem's defense on Nowitzki, Mourning's shot-blocking and interior relief of Shaq, Antoine Walker's grit (yeah, you read that right)

The Bad: Howard and Stackhouse's consistency, Nowitzki's late-game decisionmaking, Jason Williams running the team for the Heat, Walker's shot selection,

The Ugly: Howard's game 5 free-throw honks, Devin Harris' layups, Shaq's free throw chucks.

Ultimately, this series came down to two things. First, Riley's coaching. In 1994, the Riley-coached Knicks took a Houston Rockets team to seven games in the Finals and probably should have won; but that Knicks team didn't belong on the same court as the Rockets during the regular season, Olajuwon completely outplayed Ewing, and the Knicks were otherwise outmanned up front. In this series, the Heat lacked speed, depth, shooting touch and seasoning (compare the Eastern Conference to the Western). But they had Wade.

Second, the Game 3 collapse. From down by double digits, the Mavs swung around and led 89-76 with 6:30 or so left in the fourth quarter. Fourteen Wade points later, and the Mavs had unraveled in the face of a 22-7 run that won Miami game 3 and started them on the way to a title. The goat: Jerry Stackhouse. His poor shot selection, bad shots, sloppy ballhandling, and cluelessness during that Heat run helped turn the series around.

So congrats to Riles, the Heat, and especially Alonzo Mourning (if you can, catch his inspiring discussion of what the title means to him for working back to become a solid role player after suffering massive kidney problems that cut short the apex of his career six years ago).

Monday, June 19, 2006

"Imperial" two-step

Robert Kagan notes the depth, and mental depravity, of anti-Americanism that dates back to long before this Pres. Bush called for the US to strike Iraq.

Meanwhile, Ralph Peters notes a different type of depravity -- the manner in which the French have treated their former West African colonies and the French request for American military and diplomatic assistance with France's efforts to ensure "stability" (with pro-France rulers) in those former colonies. Should make for an interesting match on Friday when France plays Togo in the World Cup with France's survival in the tournament on the line.

The Monk's Sports: two wrongs and a right

First, an error correction from my World Cup predictions, which are fatally flawed after the group stage.

The brackets for the knockout stages are like this:





This way, no two teams from the same group can meet again until the finals.

A second error, this one of opinion instead of fact = there is no question who the best player on the court is in the NBA Finals: Dw(ay)ne Wade. The Monk made the statement with full knowledge that the only reason Detroit beat Miami last year was that Wade was injured in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and didn't play game 7. The Monk earlier said Dirk Nowitzki. That statement has been belied by reality. Simply stated, The Monk whiffed.

And here's what The Monk got right: my warning after game 1 of the NBA Finals when I said:
[I] had a deja vu feeling last night when listening to a local TV talking head.

In 1997, the Dallas Stars faced Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs. The Stars were a 104-point team, #2 seed in the West and had won all four meetings against the Oilers that year. After the Stars won game 1 of their series 5-3, a local radio chatterer said he didn't know how the Stars could lose because Edmonton had played a very good game the night before, "about as well as they can play" and the Stars had won. I said to myself in the car that morning -- that's a dangerous and dumb proclamation.

Final Result = Oilers in 7 and they won the remaining three games in Dallas.

Yesterday's nimrod said "the Mavs played about as badly as they can but they still won by 10" -- so if the Mavs improve, they should wipe out the Heat, right? After all, Howard and Nowitzki combined for a mere 26 points (less than Dirk's average) and shot horribly (combined 7-28), Stackhouse was pedestrian (13 points), Harris provided nothing (1 point), etc.


Consider how the Heat ran circles around the Mavs in the first quarter and looked like they'd shoot the Mavs out of the building. Consider the struggles Dirk had scoring on Heat forward Udonis Haslem. Consider how Dw(ay)ne Wade easily cut through the Dallas defense the whole night.

Seems The Monk caught a touch of Blind Squirrel Syndrome ("even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again") on that statement.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Open borders advocates -- pull away the curtain

Newsday's Jim Pinkerton attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future -- a left-wing group that worked hard to elect Kerry in '04. The discussion was "The New Immigrants Movement," and that title was artfully inaccurate:

offstage, as it were, a different and harsher truth comes out. It's not a "movement," [the activists] tell each other when cameras aren't watching, it's a "movimiento" - and that Spanish-language phrasing speaks volumes about the true tilt of pro-immigration activists.

Pinkerton highlights the comments of Roberto Lovato, a primary panelist, whose intent is clear:

[Lovato said] today "a lot of the members of the movement were political revolutionaries in countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador." And that's why, he concluded, "this is not just a civil rights movement - this is the northernmost expression of a continental rights movement."

Got that? This is "the northernmost expression of a continental rights movement" led by "political revolutionaries" from Nicaragua and El Salvador. Could Lovato have gotten carried away? Could perhaps I have misquoted him? Fortunately for the sake of a verifiable record, Lovato made the same argument in an article, "Voices of a New Movimiento," in the June 19 issue of The Nation magazine. . .

Get it? Remember how the massive "Peace Movement" that reared its head in 2003 and 2004 had the Stalinist group International ANSWER pulling its puppet strings. Now the immigration rights/open borders movement is led and orchestrated by radical leftists who have adopted the Central and South American Stalinist positions. In other words, the movement is another product of global communist groups. And you wonder why those groups picked May 1, aka May Day, for the "walkout" demonstration earlier this year? Symbolism does not result from coincidence.

Clinton's Fourth Term?

As Wongdoer noted here, the Bush Administration's acquiescence in joining multiparty negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is a second N. Korea Agreed Framework disaster in the making that will only delay, at best, Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

As I noted in the comments to Wongdoer's post, this is simply a fiasco. Instead of a sitting president being sabotaged by his pacifist predecessor (Clinton by Carter), we have a sitting president perceived as a warmonger voluntarily agreeing to sit down with the devil and make a disadvantageous deal that we KNOW the Iranians will break. Worse, the notion of giving the Iranians certain security guarantees in the Middle East is simply an agreement to handcuff America's ability to respond to the next Iranian transgression.

This is a time to lead, polls and allies be damned. Truman did so. For all the noise that President Bush makes about how Truman is a role model for forceful leadership (even as a lame duck), the President is instead following the vacillating Eisenhower model instead. Wrong choice.

Today in the Weekly Standard, Michael Rubin discusses the risible thought process of the administration in its approach to Iran.

Info Jackpot?

Excellent news from Iraq -- the Iraqi national security adviser says that "a "huge treasure" of documents and computer records was seized after the raid on terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hideout."

This could be crucial to finding the terrorists and killing them.

Add this detail:
When asked how he could be sure the information was authentic, al-Rubaie said "there is nothing more authentic than finding a thumbdrive in his pocket."

Meanwhile, Thomas Joscelyn discusses proof that debunks the myth that Saddam would not work with al-Qaeda.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bad Fookin' Idea redux - Iran

The Monk wanted to title this "Clinton's Fourth Term" but I wanted something more catchy.

Jay Solomon writes at the WSJ that the latest US approach to Iran - potentially offering 'incentives' for it to abandon refining weapons grade plutonium - is very similar to President Clinton's Agreed Framework in 1994 on which North Korea cheated.

Many former and current Bush administration officials also say any talks with Iran could very well end up producing a deal mirroring the original Agreed Framework. Last week, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, presented to Tehran a list of incentives that the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council would support if Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program. Among the perks are light-water nuclear reactors and fuel guarantees as well as a list of economic incentives that includes lifting the ban on the sale of airplane parts to Tehran and assistance in Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
Still, there are many in the counterproliferation community who fear Tehran is essentially preparing to mirror North Korea's efforts to wait out the international community. They say even if Tehran fails to comply with Western demands to freeze its uranium-enrichment programs, there are indications China and Russia still wouldn't agree to coercive measures.

"The Iranians could hardly think the situation North Korea finds itself in is bad," says Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Education Policy Center in Washington. "They haven't been punished at all," and they continue to fail to comply.


I personally blame this eroding resolve on the Democratic Party and the Left, abetted by the MSM, who have slowly but disastrously whittled away at public support for the aggressive and appropriate policies towards the Axis of Evil. It will come to grief one day.

Monday, June 12, 2006


The Monk is in trial again this week and only saw part of today's game against the Czech Republic and had a similar reaction to Sports Illustrated's headline after the result came through: the US waited four years for THIS?

The US lost to the Czechs 3-0 and according to MonkfriendG the game wasn't that close. Bad news all around. I saw most of the second half and the US looked absolutely limp. Consider: in the UEFA Cup, the second-class all-Europe tournament, English team Middlesbrough TWICE came back from 3-0 aggregate goal deficits -- The Monk witnessed the second time and saw the energy, desire, determination and effort of that team. But in the WORLD CUP, the US looked flat, listless and beaten at the second half kickoff and just simply stank. Very poor effort.

Is the US even capable of scoring on Italy, famed for its flat-back four and stifling defense -- the same style and defense that makes Juventus perennial threat to win Italy's top soccer prize, the Scudetto in Serie A (with some help from the refs, apparently)? Is the US even capable of firing out on offense against the Italians and doing anything effective? Today's effort lacked any coherence on offense except when Eddie Johnson was on or near the ball. Will Bruce Arena even pull the trigger and pull some of the stiffs off the pitch and play O'Brien and Johnson as long as he can Saturday?

The US is now in a must-win position and has never won a World Cup game in Europe. If the US is even close to the capability that its #5 world ranking (HA!) implies, it needs to show that Saturday.

Here's the ugly fact: the US is now seeking to become just the second team since the World Cup went to the 32-team/8-group format in 1998 to lose its first match and advance to the knockout stages. The other team to do so was Turkey, which faced Brazil in its opener (so it had an excuse for honking), was one of the three best teams in the Japan half of that Cup bracket and ended up taking third place. This sick US team doesn't look like it has anything near that character.

P.S. -- Congrats to the Soccerroos. The Aussies fell behind Japan 1-0, were stifled by good goalkeeping for 80 minutes, then unloaded three goals in nine minutes to beat Japan 3-1. Good on ya.

Root for the Yanks!

Not the Yankees specifically this time but for the Americans in the World Cup. As Monk notes below the US got a lousy (i.e., very tough draw) with Italy, the Czech Republic and Ghana.

If the Americans won, the world would be sooooooo p*ssed/hacked off.

On one of my favorite betting sites, the Americans are quoted as having about a 2% chance of winning (bet 2 dollars to win 100). Brazil, the favorite, is quoted at about 25%. I am buying some contracts on the Americans -- a cheap bet hoping they advance to the elimination round and I can sell the contracts for a profit.

Friday, June 09, 2006

This seems about right

Toasted Zarqawi.


Predictions that won't be right = World Cup

Today is the first day of the world's most-watched sporting event (except in America) -- the World Cup. As I noted here, the US got pounded by FIFA's ridiculous seeding and slotting system and is in the toughest group of the eight. Each team plays every other team in its group once, the top two teams from each group go to the 16-team knockout stage (one-match playoff).

Some notes on the competition: (1) no European team has won a World Cup hosted outside of Europe, only one non-European team (Brazil 1958) has ever won in Europe; (2) host nations have won about 33% of the Cups. This year's host nation is Germany, which won the Cup in 1990 and lost the Final to Brazil in 2002.

Easily the best part of the competition is the hate: English fans will continually chant about WWII while tromping through German streets; the English and Argentines have a rivalry spurred by the Falklands War and Argentina's mysterious ability to beat the English (1986, 1990) in knockout games. Look for lots of parties in Warsaw
if Poland beats Germany next week. Any European country that beats the Germans will have colossal celebrations -- all the Europeans hate the Germans.

After the group stage, the playoffs go like this (fill in the bracket borders in your mind):

Group A #1 - Group B #2
B1 - A2

C1 - D2
D1 - C2

E1 - F2
F1 - E2

G1 - H2
H1 - G2

Without further Adu, here are The Monk's predictions:

GROUP A: Germany, Poland, Ecuador, Costa Rica

Not a complete cakewalk for the Germans, but a favorable draw. Costa Rica is overmatched and is Germany's warmup today. I'm hoping the Poles whack the Germans next week.

GROUP B: England, Sweden, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago

Easy pickings for the English and the Swedes, two of Europe's better teams. Justice means that the two will face each other first, not last. The English are one of the best squads here and could win the tournament -- and that would be pretty awesome for England to conquer Germany yet again. Much depends on the health of Michael Owen (good) and Wayne Rooney (unknown). Paraguay is a dark horse and could top the Swedes. T&T is overmatched.

GROUP C: Netherlands, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro

One of the two "group of death" groups: CONMEBOL runner-up and powerhouse Argentina plus two UEFA group winners in S&M (which topped a group that included Spain) and World #3 Netherlands. The Dutch are extremely good and Argentina believes it has its best team since the Cup winners in '86. After Argentina's complete honk in 2002, much is expected. Poor Ivory Coast, in its first ever Cup.

GROUP D: Mexico, Portugal, Angola, Iran

This is why Mexico getting one of the eight top seeds -- the US credentials are better and the blasted Mexicans get this candy-a** draw. Portugal may be Mexico's equal, but who cares b/c the top two go through and the other teams cannot compete. Neither is good enough to survive Netherlands or Argentina in the knockout stages.

GROUP E: Italy, USA, Czech Republic, Ghana

Some good team here will honk and The Monk is betting on the Czechs (not least of all because he's an American). This is the toughest group: Italy is top-15 in the world and its history landed it a "seed" more than recent results; nonetheless, the Azzurri always do enough to get to the playoff rounds, then put on a run. The Czechs have no World Cup pedigree, but they are #2 in the World (even though Netherlands beat the Czechs twice in UEFA qualifying and won that group). The US won CONCACAF. The Ghanaians are fresh meat but have talent (Michael Essien -- plays for English Premier League champ Chelsea). The US needs to whip Ghana and either pull off two draws (ties) or beat the Czechs. This is rough going for the US. Expect one team to go 2-1, two teams to go 1-1-1 and the last place finisher to go 1-2. There are a lot of storylines here too -- will Italy's stars be affected by the investigation of corruption in Serie A, will the Czechs be another high-level flame out (France, Portugal, Argentina 2002), will the US be able to beat a European team in Europe?

GROUP F: Brazil, Croatia, Australia, Japan

A stroll in the park for Brazil, whose second-team could win most groups. Croatia is tough but Australia is the dark horse -- all of its players have European professional experience, most in top leagues (English Premier, Serie A, Spanish Primera) and the Aussies knocked off South American contender Uruguay to get this far. Japan is not bad but won't get the friendly treatment it received when it cohosted in 2002.

GROUP G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo

If the SoKors can play as tough as they did at home in '02, this becomes interesting because France is solid, but far down from 1998 and the Swiss are good, but not great. Problems for SoKorea = (1) Guus Hiddink, the manager who took the Koreans to the semifinals, is managing the Aussies; (2) no host-country favoritism from the refs like the horrid calls that enabled the SoKors to beat Italy in 2002.

GROUP H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Spain is a perennial underachiever and if Ukraine and Tunisia make it out of this group, it would be hilarious. The Saudis cannot compete in this group. Ukraine was the first Euro team to qualify, and it'd be a surprise if it didn't advance.

Yes, my picks are Euro-heavy and safer bets but with good reason -- middling non-European teams have no chance in a Europe-based World Cup. And the top African squads (Ghana, Ivory Coast) are buried in the two toughest groups.

Here's the knockout stages:

Germany > Sweden
England > Poland
Netherlands > Portugal
Argentina > Mexico
Italy > Croatia
Brazil > USA
Ukraine > France
Swiss > Spain

England > Germany
Netherlands > Argentina
Brazil > Italy
Ukraine > Swiss

England > Netherlands
Brazil > Ukraine

England > Brazil

It can happen.

But it probably won't.

Don't speak too soon = NBA playoffs

The Monk is rooting for (that's "cheering on" for Aussies) the Mavs and makes no secret about it, but he had a deja vu feeling last night when listening to a local TV talking head.

In 1997, the Dallas Stars faced Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs. The Stars were a 104-point team, #2 seed in the West and had won all four meetings against the Oilers that year. After the Stars won game 1 of their series 5-3, a local radio chatterer said he didn't know how the Stars could lose because Edmonton had played a very good game the night before, "about as well as they can play" and the Stars had won. I said to myself in the car that morning -- that's a dangerous and dumb proclamation.

Final Result = Oilers in 7 and they won the remaining three games in Dallas.

Yesterday's nimrod said "the Mavs played about as badly as they can but they still won by 10" -- so if the Mavs improve, they should wipe out the Heat, right? After all, Howard and Nowitzki combined for a mere 26 points (less than Dirk's average) and shot horribly (combined 7-28), Stackhouse was pedestrian (13 points), Harris provided nothing (1 point), etc.


Consider how the Heat ran circles around the Mavs in the first quarter and looked like they'd shoot the Mavs out of the building. Consider the struggles Dirk had scoring on Heat forward Udonis Haslem. Consider how Dw(ay)ne Wade easily cut through the Dallas defense the whole night.

The Mavs should play better, and they should win.

Not over yet.

The only Vietnam parallel

Victor Hanson denounces the left and the media for their attempts to paint Iraq as Vietnam II. A must read today.

Here's an excerpt:

Once we leave, the killing starts in earnest, not 20 or 30 per day, but wholesale slaughter of any Iraqis who taught school, or were clean shaven and wore Western dress, or fought to save Iraq. Millions of refugees flee to the West. Those who stay are killed or “reeducated.” Islamism, like Communism, is empowered with the American defeat. We can expect, as in the past, new aggression in peripheral theaters like Afghanistan or Israel. Twenty years from now expect revisionist books reminding us that the battles for Iraq, like Tet, were American victories and the enemy was almost beaten when we quit. Envision one of the late al-Zarqawi's henchmen, like General Giap, in his dotage thanking the antiwar movement.

Americans abroad will be ripe targets, since, like the Iranian hostage taking of 1979, there will be an unspoken assurance that the United States would not dare risk another Iraq/Vietnam. Here at home, we will enter an endless cycle of mutual recrimination, lose confidence in the U.S. military, and return to a neo-isolationism—punctuated by the occasional liberal call “to do something” as we watch the usual associated horrors unfold around the world.

The Left will see defeat in Iraq, as it did in Vietnam, as welcomed confirmation of its own moral superiority. And in response perhaps we will soon get another Jimmy Carter, who each year assures us that not one American soldier [ ] died under his watch as the entire nation [was] imperiled. Forget that despite such smugness an embassy was stormed; Khomeinism was birthed; Afghanistan was invaded; a holocaust continued full-bore in Cambodia; Central America was in the midst of a Communist insurrection; and we were reduced to boycotting the Olympics.

So the odd thing is that the more the reality on the ground in Iraq does not resemble Vietnam, the more the opposition to it does. Note how almost all the facts concerning Iraq at one time or another have been twisted to resemble Vietnam. The trumped up Gulf of Tonkin resolution as a causus belli is supposedly similar to the faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction—except that the U.S. Senate this time around voted for 22 additional counts of action as well, and almost every foreign intelligence service confirmed the CIA’s assessment. George Bush is supposedly like Lyndon Johnson, destroyed by a counter-insurgency war—except he got reelected rather than forgoing a nomination for a second term.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi = DEAD

Abu Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is DEAD.

The US, with intelligence help from Jordan, found the area of his safehouse, determined where he was, and bombed him to oblivion along with seven of his top aides. Evidently the Jordanian analysts were able to recognize the area Zarqawi was hiding in by viewing the backgrounds on a video statement that Zarqawi had recently released.


President Bush's statement is here. An excerpt:

The operation against Zarqawi was conducted with courage and professionalism by the finest military in the world. Coalition and Iraqi forces persevered through years of near misses and false leads, and they never gave up. Last night their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement.

Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders.

Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al-Qaida. It's a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle. . .

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's reaction is here.

Iraq the Model notes that two of the aides killed with Zarqawi were the primary al-Qaeda intelligence operatives for its HQ in Iraq. Iraq the Model is a blog run by two brothers in Iraq who are more than happy that Saddam's been overthrown. They're justifiably happy today.

Captain Ed has extensive coverage, although why he's giving space to nutcase Michael Berg is beyond me.

The Coalition Central Command issued a press release; it is accessible here.

NBA Finals = a prediction that won't be right (completely)

Here is the thing: The Monk believes that the key to winning basketball is controlling tempo. Assuming that neither of the two teams shoots lights out or, conversely, couldn't hit water off a bridge, then the team that is more within its comfort zone has an advantage.

Conventional wisdom (a phrase that is almost always 1/2 right!) says the Heat will beat the Mavs: (1) Heat have Shaq, the 3-time NBA Finals MVP, a Hall of Fame player; (2) Heat have Pat Riley, the 4-time NBA champion coach; (3) the Heat beat the Pistons (and relatively easily); (4) the Heat annihilated the Nets, a well-balanced up-tempo team.

The Monk says, it's a matter of tempo. And Mavs in 6.

Here's why:

(1) The tempo factor: Avery Johnson has transformed a run-and-gun team into one that can play at any speed. The Mavs can speed up slow-pace teams, as they did to San Antonio; the Mavs can slow down fast-pace teams, as they did to Phoenix. The Heat are a slow-pace team that was more than a match for Detroit because the Pistons are similar in style.

(2) The driving factor: The Mavs have better feet -- from Jason Terry to Stackhouse, Nowitzki, Harris and Howard, the Mavs are quicker than the Heat at nearly every position. That is crucial in a half-court set and is a major reason the Mavs easily won both games against the Heat this year. The Mavs can make the Heat's older and slower players (Shaq, Walker) move around defensively and take away offensive energy. Detroit couldn't do that because it had no inside scoring threat. Dallas' quickness enables it to blow the doors off any team in the league -- it beat Miami by 36, Detroit by 37, Indiana and San Antonio by 22, the Nets by 33, Denver by 24, Sacramento and Memphis by 26, and the Clippers by 20 -- that's 9 playoff teams that the Mavs whupped badly.

(3) Ball movement: unlike the Pistons, the Mavs drive to the basket, cause defensive movements, kick the ball outside and run a relatively fluid offense for an NBA team. In other words, they're akin to the Bulls, who gave the Heat FITS in the first round, but with better players.

(4) Best player factor: The Monk is a strong believer in this -- the team with the best player on the floor always has an advantage. Shaq is 34 and has lost more than just A step. The best player on the floor is Dirk Nowitzki, no matter how much Dw(ay)ne Wade hype you hear in the next week.

(5) Underestimation: Avery Johnson must be the most underestimated coach of the year in the last 25 years. All that Dallas has done under his leadership is win at a championship rate. Don't fool yourself -- he adjusted to the Spurs' tactics in game 1 and Dallas controlled the rest of the series (the fact that it went the full seven is a testament to the Spurs' ability, and a knock on Terry for getting suspended for game 6); he adjusted to Phoenix both between games (1 and 2) and in games (2 and 6) and the Mavs won that series. He can lead, but he can also coach.

(6) Battle testing -- the Heat went 52-30 against the East and even accounting for their tepid start (10-10), their record doesn't come close to the Mavs' 60 wins in the vastly more competitive Western Conference.

(7) Depth -- the Mavs bench contributes points (Stackhouse, Harris [if he doesn't start], Van Horn), rebounds and defense. This is simply a solid team through the first 9 men.

There you have it, reasons the Mavs win. I'm hoping I'm right.

[Sent to the traffic jam]

Information gathering and success in the terror war

Richard Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He is one of the most influential jurists in the US, and one of the most influential in the history of American jurisprudence. He has taken a special interest in the question of domestic information gathering to prevent terrorist attacks, and has thoroughly studied the issue of America's programs to prevent domestic terrorism. His excellent rebuke of the 9-11 Commission's final report, which appeared in the NY Times Book Review two years ago, is a must read.

In today's Chicago Tribune, Posner has a column on the lessons of Toronto -- what Canada's apprehension of the 17 Toronto terrorists can teach the US about tracking down the terrorists in our midst. In the UK, the domestic surveillance of threats to the nation and the law enforcement investigation of crimes that have occurred are separate matters. MI-5, Her Majesty's Security Service, performs domestic intelligence and has no power of arrest, Special Branch performs investigation and has powers to arrest. In Canada, the CSIS is the equivalent of MI-5, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are Special Branch. In 1984, the CSIS was formed to perform duties in Canada equivalent to MI-5. Posner says we need the same type of organization because the FBI is a national investigation police force, not an adequate counterespionage organization.

Here's an excerpt:

In the U.S., domestic intelligence is primarily the responsibility of the FBI. Canada took the same approach until 1984. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada's counterpart to the FBI, had a division called the Security Service that dealt with national security threats. But in that year the service was removed from the Mounties and made a separate domestic intelligence agency, CSIS.

Why split domestic intelligence from criminal investigation? Because these activities differ so profoundly that trying to combine them into one agency causes underperformance of both. A crime has a definite locus in time and space, a characteristic profile (it's a bank robbery, or credit-card fraud, etc.), physical evidence, witnesses and often suspects. These circumstances enable a tightly focused investigation that usually leads in a reasonably short time to an arrest, prosecution, conviction and sentence. National security intelligence does not operate with such a clear path to success, especially when confronting a terrorist threat. For then the main objective is to discover who and where the terrorists are, what their plans and capabilities are, who finances them and what links they have with other terrorist networks. Obtaining such information is a laborious, painstaking and frustrating process, full of dead ends and wrong turnings. It is uncongenial activity for an agency, such as the FBI, that is primarily oriented toward conventional criminal investigations.

This is not just a theoretical point. Experience both before and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reveals an FBI that has stumbled repeatedly in its efforts, as yet unachieved, at "transformational" change. Almost five years after Sept. 11, the FBI has yet to create a separate career track for intelligence operations officers, to acquire up-to-date information technology, to appoint officials at the executive assistant director level who are intelligence specialists, or to command the respect of the intelligence community.

Congratulations, Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn won the Eric Breindel award for excellence in opinion journalism, which the NY Post awarded yesterday. The announcement of the two winners and their contributions to opinion journalism is linked in the title of this post.

Previous winners include Claudia Rosett, who has staged a one-woman investigation of the Oil-for-Food Program, and the late Michael Kelly. Steyn's win puts him in good company, as he acknowledges.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Appeasing Iran

Michael Ledeen decries the US capitulation to multiparty talks with Iran, and the carrot of offering peaceful nuclear (light water reactor) technology. He notes the similarities between this deal and the apologists for Carter's Agreed Framework with the NoKors in 1994. The difference: the current US offer is the product of a Republican Administration, not a pacifistic Democrat ex-president exceeding the authority given to him by a Democrat Administration. In other words, Bush is agreeing in advance to a deal that Clinton only ratified after Carter had sandbagged him!

It is utterly fanciful to think that Iran will negotiate away their nuclear-weapons program, whatever the combination of diplomatic carrots and sticks. They have no interest whatsoever in giving away their bombs, whatever the actual status of their arsenal. For them, the only point of negotiations is to gain more time to pursue their war against us, to kill more Americans and Brits in Iraq, to mobilize more jihadis all over the region, to threaten our regional friends and allies, to enlarge their terror network throughout the world, to stuff their war chest with petrodollars, and to enlarge their arsenal.

* * *
The political consequences of such foolishness are very hard to calculate, but it is certain that any Iranian contemplating risking his or her life on behalf of a free Iran will be discouraged at the spectacle. It is also certain that this demarche-to use a word much beloved by the diplomats—will reinforce the extremely dangerous conviction in Tehran that they are winning, and we will do nothing to threaten them. This is what makes the latest gambit so self-destructive. It will encourage the mullahs to intensify their attacks—real attacks, not merely verbal ones—on all fronts. They think we are headed out of Iraq, in abject humiliation, as a result of their terror war against us, and they will now redouble those efforts.

Would you not do the same in their position? Of course you would, and you would do it even if you were not a fanatic, you would do it if you were a student of Bismarck and Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.

June 7, 1981 -- destruction of Osirak

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Raid on the Sun, aka Operation Opera -- the Israeli bombing raid that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at the Osirak power plant. Condemned universally at the time (even by a surprisingly short-sighted Ronald Reagan), the Israeli raid removed the nuclear threat to Israel's existence that Saddam Hussein sought to pose, and set back the course of Iraq's nuclear weapons plans by more than a decade. That raid proved critical in the First Gulf War, as SecDef Cheney noted in 1991, because Iraq had no nuclear deterrent to the US operation to rescue Kuwait.

Click the link for a detailed description of the attack.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6, 1944

On the 62nd anniversary of Operation Overlord, this American Jew offers the following to those who fought for the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and the invasion force that began the process of throwing the Nazis out of France:


Why it's good to live in Texas

Aside from the no state income tax factor, The Monk also likes living in Texas because it both HAS the death penalty and EMPLOYS it. Cop-killer? Expect a needle. Rapist-murderer? Expect a needle. Dragged a black man behind a pickemup truck with two of your Klan-lovin' buddies until he died? Two of you can expect a needle, the first to turn state's evidence will just be a ward of the state for the rest of his life.

And in Texas, life without parole means . . . you won't be paroled.

Sure, there are some shortcomings: car robbery is just a high-end misdemeanor and probation is available for nearly all non-Class A felony crimes. But criminals do tend to get what they deserve: a former colleague of mine who was a former Assistant DA and prosecuted child abuse based sex crimes proudly kept a copy of the mug shot of every lifer he put in the klink in his desk drawer.

Wizbanger Jay Tea notes that in Massachusetts, life without parole doesn't mean what it seems. Why? Because the BoGlobe checked the records and 171 lifers have been released on parole in the last 3 years! For his sake, Gov. Mitt Romney better have little or no say in that process (the article doesn't discuss whatever role he may have), otherwise he doesn't stand a chance at winning the GOP nomination in '08, nor should he.

The Largest Ump, RIP

There are not many people truly worthy of the description "larger than life" and in reality it's hard to tell if it fit Eric Gregg. His friends and colleagues certainly believe it, and today they grieve the most well-known (outside of St. Louis) former umpire of Major League Baseball.

Gregg was huge: nearly 400 pounds at the largest of his largeness, around three bills after a drastic weight loss program. He embodied the stereotype of the 1990s ump -- overweight, overpaid and incompetent. Simply stated, Gregg was a poor ump -- his strike zone fluctuated from pitch-to-pitch, he bonked clear out/safe calls at the bases and he received among the lowest marks in a 1998 (or 1999) poll of players, managers and coaches by ESPN that rated all the major league umps for ability, accuracy, professionalism, physical fitness and consistency.

One area where he always received high marks, and in which he differed from the typical '90s ump = attitude and treatment of the players and managers. For all his shortcomings as an umpire, Gregg had no similar shortcomings as a man and this was clear on the TV screen: jovial, kindly, temperate, and respectful of the players and coaches who often disdained his calls. They'd hate the decision but never the decisionmaker.

He is best remembered for game 5 of the 1997 NLCS when, as that game's home plate umpire, he called eight batters out on strikes and had a strike zone so wide that it breached the far side of the opposite batters box. It's no coincidence that Gregg's strike zone was exhibit 1 in Sandy Alderson's case to force umpires to adhere to a more uniform strike zone and be subject to constant performance reviews.

Alderson's move to make the umps more accountable for their performance quality, combined with the upcoming expiration of the umps' union contract at the end of the 1999 season led to Richie Phillips' boneheaded move to have all the umps resign en masse as a renegotiation ploy. Gregg submitted his resignation and, unlike more than 3/4 of his fellows, MLB would not allow him to rescind it.

After losing his job, Gregg bopped around doing various odd jobs: bartending, working concessions at the ballpark, whatever he could do to gain cash. He tried to come back as an umpire, but that failed due to his lack of fitness and MLB's lack of confidence that he could do the job well. His family went from upper-income house to midsize apartment as the struggles continued. A sad downturn for the avuncular father of four and his stable family.

On Sunday, Gregg was hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Yesterday, he died. Eric Gregg, largest of the umpires, was 55. RIP.

Lost Honor

The Monk considers himself an honorable man and plans to teach his children self-respect, integrity, character and honor. The "everyone else does it" notion of acceptable behavior is in itself unacceptable. If The Monk and the Monklings are the only people who act this way in our increasingly debased society, so be it.

Josiah Bunting III, President of the H. F. Guggenheim Foundation, penned an essay on the loss of "honor" as a guiding principle in our affairs in today's Opinion Journal. It is well worth reading in full.

Some excerpts:

In short, there is no shame in actions once known as dishonorable, and the virtues that supported honor seem moribund. Chastity and modesty--so important to honor in social relations--are treated as relics from Jane Austen and "Little Women." When a high-school girl defends a sexual encounter on the grounds that an American president said that her particular act was not really sex, both she and her role model are, if not completely forgiven, understood to be, as members of the human family, subject to the same vagaries of uncontrollable temptations as you and I.

* * *
Can honor be resuscitated? As [James] Bowman [author of Honor: A History]notes, "honor is stark and unforgiving," and early-21st-century America does not like stark choices . . . "Character," meaning resolution, the persistence in right action whatever its costs, seems a quaint and Victorian crotchet. Citizens feverishly, fitfully, deplore the inadequacies of body armor for their Marines and soldiers; three days later, they have moved on. Did you say 32 Iraqis were blown up this morning, and a soldier killed, north of Baghdad? Shame. Let's see what that does to the president's poll numbers.

How well America understands its enemies' notions of honor--and how prepared the country is, itself, to act honorably--will be tested between now and the fall elections. A failure to understand, though not inevitable, may be writ large in a headline like this one: "Administration Announces Withdrawal of 28,000 American Troops by End of Year." As Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh must have smiled the first time they heard the word "Vietnamize," radical Islamists will rejoice at such a development, irrefutable evidence that America neither understands their own misbegotten notions of honor nor has the will, if it does understand, to act honorably in confronting them.

A bone for the base

The Monk's outlook is similar to that of most other bloggers (not pundit-bloggers like Michelle Malkin) who identify as conservative: basically libertarian on social issues. To that end, The Monk basically agrees that the Defense of Marriage Act and the proposed constitutional amendment that the President shilled for yesterday are not issues worth the public's time or energy. Instead, pushing through judicial nominees who share the President's view of what is a judicial temperament is more important.

But that is not something the President can control on the state level, and it's judicial activism in the states that has resulted in antimajoritarian approval of gay marriage. Indeed, the gay activists who seek legal approval of gay marriage have specifically targeted the state courts because they know that there is no chance for democratic approval of their desires in state legislatures. State judiciaries tend to be more liberal than the state legislatures and the state polities (Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, even New Jersey). Therefore, Captain Ed's solution (see link in title) to concentrate on combatting judicial activism is not the cure.

In addition, the issue of gay marriage is one that gets the Republican base in a lather. Considering the President's failure to control spending, reshape Social Security, rally the nation in support of the Iraq war, confront Latin American dictators, and face down the Iranians, the Republicans need a flag around which they can gather the base. Without such an effort, the worst may come to pass in the '06 midterm elections and we could have Speaker Pelosi inside the House of Representatives orchestrating the nutball left's efforts to impeach President Bush.

So as a social concept, gay marriage is not what The Monk calls "a voting issue" -- one upon which I ultimately decide whether to support or reject a candidate for public legislative or executive office. But as a bone for the base, The Monk has no problem with the GOP's efforts to raise the issue right now.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Brien Taylor -- On a dirt road in Beaufort

That's the answer to the question of "Where is He Now?" -- the most infamous draft pick in New York Yankees history. Brien Taylor the infamous -- a star pitching prospect, who Scott Boras still says is the best high school pitcher he's seen. The man with the left arm of gold . . . until the dumb SOB got involved in a brawl in a trailer park, received a whupping and shredded the labrum in his pitching shoulder -- injuries that Tommy John's surgeon Frank Jobe said were the worst he'd ever seen to that area. Now, he's a footnote in history and his $1.55M signing bonus is merely a memory.

On the eve of the draft that will be the 15th anniversary of when the Yanks drafted Taylor, Jeff Passan (link in title) examines what's happened to the NEXT GREAT PITCHER. Despite Passan's tale of Taylor's sad injury and how his momma had fought the Yankees to get him that huge signing bonus, what Passan does not say speaks loudly.

The portrait is grim: Taylor became a drifter who fathered five out-of-wedlock daughters. He squandered his money so that he now lives in his parents' house off a dirt road dubbed Brien Taylor Lane. The house is dilapidated (paint cracking, fixtures creaking) and outdated (no airconditioning in coastal North Carolina). He works with his dad, Ray Taylor, laying bricks to get some money for his daughters. And all he has left of his baseball career is the black Mustang that he bought with his bonus money.

Taylor's story is not one of how poor blacks triumphed over the rich white Yankees who tried to lowball the star prospect. It's a cautionary tale of how the poor stay poor. Taylor received the $1.55M over two years back in the early 90s. He didn't get his parents a new house in a new area, or car/truck so his dad could set up his own business instead of working for peanuts as a masonry laborer, and he didn't invest the money so it would be there for him if something happened. So what exactly did Boras' advisory services in negotiating the bonus do for them? Fifteen years later, Taylor has a Mustang and a world of regret. He's not even better off now than if he hadn't had a golden arm at all.

Crock of the day: Toronto Police Department not in the real world

In the US, there are some stereotypes of the various major cities' police departments that stem from their historical performances. Thus, LAPD are racist and brutal (less so now that it is run by Bill Bratton, the former NYPD Commissioner); New Orleans PD is corrupt and craven; Chicago PD is inept.

Add a new one: the Toronto PD is living in a fantasy world.

As you should know, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (essentially the Canadian FBI), rounded up a group of 12 men and 5 teen boys that the RCMP ran a sting operation against. The basis for the sting -- suspicion that the 17-man group in Mississauga, Ontario wanted to bomb various targets in Canada's most populous province using homegrown improvised bombs. The RCMP sting was set up by the group's purchase of ammonium nitrate based fertilizers from RCMP undercover operatives. Those fertilizers formed the explosive base for the Oklahoma City bomb in the mid-90s.

All 12 men and five boys are Muslim. All are from the same community. Many attend the same "storefront mosque" in the area where the group's ringleader preaches.

And the Toronto PD's Chief reaction:

"It appears that a number of these young men were motivated by an ideology based on politics, hatred and terrorism, and not on faith," said Chief Bill Blair after meeting with local Muslim leaders to discuss their fears of repercussions.

This is not a serious reaction to a serious situation. Nor is the response of one expert who says Canadians have "a very profound feeling" of "why would anyone want to do us harm?" That evidences only a complete lack of understanding of what the Islamofascists want, but also a ridiculously naive belief that being nice citizens of the world can redound to Canada's credit with the Islamists.

Daniel Akaka's Noxious Opus

This week the Senate is expected to vote on the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act -- the "Akaka Bill" named for its sponsor, Democrat Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka. The bill is a reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling in 2000 that Hawaii's law allowing only "Native Hawaiians" to serve as and to vote on trustees of the powerful Office of Hawaiian Affairs (which controls a $3B budget for the state) violated the Constitution.

Akaka wants to set up a separate set of laws for "Native Hawaiians" -- people with as little as 1/256 blood in common with the islanders who lived in Hawaii before it became a US territory. The Akaka Bill would privilege one race over another, pure and simple. John Fund (link in title) shows the reasons:

The Akaka bill was born out of an angry reaction to the 2000 case of Rice v. Cayetano, in which the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, declared unconstitutional a system under which non-Native Hawaiians were barred from voting for or serving as trustees of the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Fearful of losing control of the rich patronage pot that the office, with its $3 billion trust fund, has become, its supporters decided to up the ante and try to skirt the 15th Amendment's mandate for equal voting rights by requiring that the federal government recognize Native Hawaiians in the same manner it recognizes separate governments for American Indians and Alaskan Eskimos.

Akaka is a non-entity -- a 16-year Senator (he filled out the last four years of his predecessor's term) with no significant legislation to his credit, no prominence outside his home state and no purpose other than this bill. That's why he's drawn a strong primary challenge this year within his own party.

He is also, at his core, a radical racial separatist with strong anti-American leanings as Fund shows:

Supporters of the Akaka bill refuse even to disavow the idea of secession from the United States. Last July, Rowena Akana, a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, told National Public Radio that "if the majority of Hawaiian people want secession, then that's the way we'll go." That same month, NPR asked Sen. Akaka about the possibility of secession, and he said, "That is something I leave for my grandchildren to decide."

As Duncan Currie notes in a rare strongly stated column:

There are an estimated 400,000 people scattered throughout Hawaii and the broader United States who identify as either partly or wholly Native Hawaiian. (Though that number would likely swell if the Akaka bill became law.) Unlike Indian tribes, they are not geographically segregated--quite the opposite. They make up about 20 percent of the Hawaiian population, but are sprinkled across the archipelago. Widespread intermarriage has further attenuated the strength and cohesion of Native Hawaiian culture.

This raises serious constitutional questions. Everyone agrees that Congress can recognize existing Indian tribes. But can it create a new "tribe" at the behest of a particular ethnic lobby? Probably not; and if so, only in the rarest of circumstances. Surely there are Hispanic separatists in the American Southwest who would love to get their own sovereign "nation" as reparations for the Mexican War. The Akaka bill would encourage them to press their case.

It would also designate a privileged caste of Hawaiians who could feasibly be subject to a different legal regime than their next-door neighbors--all on the basis of race. The racially chosen Hawaiians might enjoy special tax and welfare benefits. They might be able to petition state and federal officials over land and natural-resource spats, which would no doubt trigger an avalanche of lawsuits. And their new government would presumably be exempt from important bits of the U.S. constitution, as Indian tribes are.

* * *
The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act remains a noxious affront to E pluribus unum, and to anyone who gives a fig about colorblind justice and equal protection. As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded last month, it deserves an emphatic rejection--if not from the Senate or the House, than from President Bush.

The Monk is disgusted that this noxious legislation that clearly violates the Constitution is co-sponsored by FIVE Republicans in the Senate and supported by Hawaii's first Republican Governor in ages, Linda Lingle. The House is also likely to approve a similar bill. And the President won't veto anything. Too bad none of those actors are listening to Hawaii itself -- two-thirds of the Aloha Staters are against the bill, and that disapproval is uniform across racial lines.