Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is 900 the Yanks' real magic number?

With yesterday's 16-5 whupping of the Orioles, the Yanks reached the 900-run mark for the third time during the Torre era. The Yanks have come close to 900 runs on the season in the past (1997, 2002, 2004), and have hit 900+ twice. Both times, 1998 and 1999, the Yanks won the World Series.

This year, the Yanks have run away with the league scoring title after languishing around 5th or 6th for the first half of the season. As Rob Neyer showed a couple of years ago (before ESPN became a pay site for baseball analysis), the Yanks have usually relied upon hitting as much as pitching for postseason success (1996 = 8th in AL in scoring, 5th in ERA ; 1998 = 1st in both; 1999 and 2003 = 3rd in both). But sizeable discrepancies have not bode well for the Yanks -- in 2002, they were the top-scoring team in the league, 4th in ERA; in 2004 they were #2 on offense, #6 in ERA. This year, the Yanks are 1st in scoring, 6th in ERA -- and fourth out of the four AL playoff teams.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good News from Iraq

I think this ought to qualify. And from al-Reuters too!. No link as it's a headline on my new service so I'll just cut and paste.

By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Peter Graff

BAGHDAD, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive al Qaeda out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shi'ite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against militants.

Sattar al-Buzayi, a Sunni sheikh from Anbar province who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other sheikhs had offered their cooperation to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"We agreed to cooperate," Buzayi told Reuters. "We haven't agreed to anything specific, but we agreed to cooperate."

Maliki's office issued a statement praising the chiefs for their committment to fighting the militants.

"This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts," the prime minister said.

It was the first time Maliki had met the sheikhs since they pledged to fight al Qaeda in a meeting at Buzayi's compound in Ramadi, the provincial capital, two weeks ago.

Al Qaeda's Iraq branch has seized control of towns and villages throughout the Euphrates river valley along the 250 km (180 miles) from Falluja, near Baghdad, to the Syrian border.

But their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and violent rule has alienated traditional-minded Sunni Muslims, including groups that have supported the insurgency against U.S. forces.

The United States says its 30,000 troops in Anbar -- by far the deadliest province for U.S. forces in Iraq -- cannot defeat the insurgency on their own. Senior commanders say they have been delighted by recent developments in Ramadi.

Buzayi confirmed that U.S. and Iraqi forces had killed a senior al Qaeda figure in Anbar on Tuesday. Khalid Ibrahim Mahal has been described as Qaeda's "emir" in the province although the organisation's precise leadership structure is murky.

"He was a very important figure for al Qaeda and getting rid of him was for the best," Buzayi told Reuters.

Iraqi journalists for Reuters in Ramadi say another figure named Zuhair, seen as a key Qaeda militant and known locally as "The Butcher of Anbar", was killed by tribal gunmen in a car as he walked in one of Ramadi's main commercial streets on Monday.

The overdosed TO?

The report that The Monk heard yesterday was that Terrell Owens had an adverse reaction to prescription painkillers (he had hand surgery last week) and was taken to the hospital for, in essence, a stomach pumping.

This morning, details emerged: he was with his publicist Kim Etheridge last night (reason unknown) and took a bunch of pills, she called emergency services, he went to the hospital as an overdose patient, the police asked him if he wanted to hurt himself and he'd said yes, he took 35 painkillers, etc.

There's a lot to conjecture about in this incident, and that conjecture is worth about as much as you pay to read this blog. At this point, it seems T.O. took an excessive level of painkillers in an attempt to kill himself (although Etheridge denied the high level of pill intake and claimed adverse reaction to the meds). Whether the suicidal ideation is a byproduct of adverse reaction to the painkillers, brain chemical imbalance, depression, or any other cause is pure armchair psychiatry. The fact remains, he needed the help.

More to come, supposes The Monk.

Stop acting like caricatures

That's Max Boot's advice to moderate Muslims regarding radical Muslims: to ensure that the caricatures of Islam the moderates find so offensive don't recur, stop the radicals from acting as caricatures themselves. After all, the reaction of "anyone who denounces Islam as violent should be killed" ensures that the stereotype is rooted in truth.

Bill Clinton's facts: countered by reality

Former Pres. Clinton's claim that he provided a comprehensive anti-terror strategy to Pres. Bush (a doubtful concept considering that Clinton provided as little help as humanly possible during the post-election presidential transition) is debunked by Byron York.

Read the whole column.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rice cooks Clinton

By now you've all heard about former Pres. Clinton's solipsistic blowup at Chris Wallace this weekend.

Click the link for Secretary of State Rice's reaction.

Kudos to Sen. Inhofe

For blasting the media and the global warming alarmists in a long Senate speech.


It IS the coaching: NFL week 3

The Monk is a Giants fan, but there are no Giants right now. The team The Monk has watched for the first three weeks this season doesn't even reach UP to the level of the futile stiffs of the late 1970s. Those teams stank like a fishmarket, but they did one thing decently well: played defense. This team doesn't. And for Giants fans of all generations from the old folks who remember the teams of the 1950s and 1960s (like PaMonk) to their offspring who grew up with the LT/Carson teams of the 1980s (like The Monk himself), that's simply unforgiveable.

Jeremy Shockey popped off Sunday after the Jints took a whupping from Seattle and said the team, especially head coach Tom Coughlin, was outcoached. Yesterday and today, Mike and Mike, the national ESPN radio show, and the NY papers criticized Shockey. But The Monk agrees with Peter King on this: it's the second time in four games that a prominent Giants player has complained about the offensive gameplan (see Barber, Tiki, 2005 postseason) and it's not an accident. Players are upset with themselves if they do not execute. Players are upset with coaches if they don't believe that executing would have made a difference. In other words, if the bad guys are prepared for you and you're not prepared for them (see Carolina 23, Giants 0), that's a coaching issue. Shockey said that the S'Hawks ran defenses that the Giants had never prepared for. The Giants made stupid mistakes early. Those are coaching issues.

Loyalty is also a coaching issue, and Coughlin lacks it from his players. The Giants defense has been handled easily by all three opponents, but the players have not pointed fingers at defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. There are three reasons for this, at minimum: (1) they are loyal to Lewis and believe in his defensive schemes; (2) they know they have not played up to capacity; (3) they believe that if they play up to their capabilities they will dominate.

The fact remains, however, that the Giants defensive schemes have been horrid. For the second straight week Troy Aikman noted that the Giants are using LaVar Arrington, a pass-rushing linebacker, in pass coverage and said that such use is NOT how the Redskins played Arrington when he had his Pro Bowl seasons in DC. The Giants have given up a bunch of short third-down completions that opponents have turned into first downs because the underneath coverage has been porous. The Giants have two sacks in three games from their Pro Bowl defensive ends. The team allowed all four turnovers in the first half last week to turn into Seahawk touchdowns -- that's pathetic. A reasonable ratio would be allowing the opponent to get 3.5 points per turnover caused or 1/2 of a touchdown -- much like one point per turnover (1/2 of a two-point field goal) is a decent ratio in basketball for the team that messed up. Considering that two of the S'Hawk drives started in S'Hawk territory, holding the latte brigade to field goals should not have been so much to ask. Instead, receivers ran free from coverage like playing Madden '07 on the easiest setting.

In other news: the Dolphins stink, the Patriots may or may not have found a receiver, the Eagles can still score, the Cardinals are awful again and the Broncos may be for real this year if . . .

First, the 'Phins are horrid. A 13-10 win at home against the second worst team in the league is rather putrid. Miami averages 12 points per game -- about what the Vikes were pulling when Culpepper was injured last season and the 'Phins have better weapons (Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers). In other words, teams can defense Daunte.

Second, Doug Gabriel may become a key to the Pats passing game. Brady finally clicked with a wide receiver this season (other than the decent but limited Troy Brown). If the Pats can spread the ball around and actually get someone open deep once in a while, Brady will become his old self and the team should roll to the division title.

The Eagles are currently the best team in the NFC East . . . although past results are not indicative of future performance. After all, the Iggles whipped Houston (awful), rolled the Giants for three quarters (standard fare this year) and walloped the defensively challenged Niners. Given the Iggles relatively lax schedule (Niners and Packers, instead of S'Hawks and Bears for the Giants), they can contend all year long.

As The Monk predicted, the Cardinals are still poor. The question this week becomes, will Kurt Warner once again be pulled for a top-level rookie like 2004? This team has two of the best wideouts in football and a Hall-of-Fame running back, so why has it scored all of 24 points in the past two weeks? On Sunday, the answer was Warner. Personally, I'd like to see Lienart go in and thrive because he'll make so many teams (Jets, Bills, Lions) look stupid for passing on him in the draft.

The Broncos have the defense that Giants fans dream about: one TD against in three games. The Broncs fans however must dream about someone else's offense -- the Broncs have scored all of 36 points in three games. If that team EVER gets its offense together, it will be the best in the AFC.

Finally, although the S'Hawks will break the Super Bowl loser jinx this year (from 2001-05, all runners-up in previous season's Super Bowl failed to make the playoffs), the Steelers may substitute. Last Monday, they honked against the Jags; Sunday they coughed up the ball time and again to the Bengals. Pittsburgh is two games behind both the Bengals AND the Ravens, and effectively two games behind the Jags (thanks to the head-to-head loss). That means the Steelers are already in trouble in the AFC and need to climb out of it. Then again, they turned that trick last season. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Chavez's nine circles

The link above is to a column by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a frequent commentator on Latin American politics and the petty tyrants, latter-day Castro wannabes and, as he and two co-authors deemed them, perfect Latin American Idiots.

Vargas Llosa draws a parallel between the nine circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno and the nine circles of Hell in modern day Venezuela: starvation, murder, corruption, thuggery, political persecution, press intimidation, expansionist Bolivarism, fraudulent anti-Yanqui sentiment, and silencing opposition. Not a pretty picture.

Note: if the WSJ provides a free link, we'll update this post.

Creeping Californianism

Ryan Sager notes the problems that the GOP will have in future elections if it continues to ignore soft Republicans in favor of its core Bible-thumping constituents. His column today is a distillation of a larger piece he wrote for The Atlantic Monthly with this premise: the Republicans have ignored (or abandoned) their advantages on small government, low tax, and fiscal responsibility issues in favor of the family issues most important to their Southern voting base.

This is unwise for three reasons: (1) libertarians who vote Republican will NOT do so if the GOP fails to offer a significantly different fiscal program from Democrats (low taxes, less regulation, less corporate welfare); (2) religious conservatives have no choice BUT to vote Republican if they want their issues to get any attention -- they have become the blacks of the GOP, a reliable core base that is so tied to the party that it will not vote for the other side; (3) the libertarians who vote Republican are the ONLY group keeping the red states of the mountain west from turning blue and they do NOT like the social interventionist politics of the religiocons.

As Sager notes:

Three demographic trends are converging to turn our red mountains purple. First, there's the growing Latino population throughout the West. True, Bush has done OK with these voters, getting about 40% nationwide in 2004. But the GOP is in the midst of an anti-immigrant conniption, and Latino voters still identify with the Democratic Party by a margin of roughly three to one.

Second, the states of the interior West are generally less religious than those of the South. Evangelicals make up 29% to 34% of the populations in the eight Mountain West states (Utah, with its large Mormon population, is an exception). That compares with 73% in Mississippi, 51% in Texas and 44% in Kansas.

Third — and related to the first two trends — the interior West is filling up with migrants from the Golden State. Picture a bucket of blue paint on the coast overflowing and spilling east.

That last is the most pernicious threat. The increasing number of ex-Californians, Gen-X and Gen-Y types who couldn't afford to live in California and moved a little bit to the East, means an influx of liberal voters into the mountain states. Combine that with a loss of libertarian voters (who will stay home on election day or vote Democrat if the Republicans abandon libertarian principles), and the mountain states are no longer Republican locks at election time. Key case in point: Montana, where the Dems are likely to knock out a sitting Republican Senator, Conrad Burns, in November.

Friday, September 22, 2006

L'Shanah Tovah 5767

Wishing our friends peace, health and prosperity.

Click here for a quick blurb on Rosh Hashanah.

LA Times to Lockyer: Get serious

The LA Times criticizes the California AG, Bill Lockyer, for suing carmakers for global warming. The lawsuit is just stupid, and should be tossed out immediately -- there is no causal link (or at minimum, no way to prove one) between car emissions and the damages California complains about. Worse yet, Lockyer wants the companies to pay for taking actions that comply with the Federal Government's regulations -- legal emissions are targeted, not violations of California's emissions regulations.

Just another cost for doing business in the US -- stupid lawsuits. If we had a "loser pays" rule whereby California would have to pay Ford/GM/etc.'s attorneys fees for this type of case, Lockyer would never have filed it. Because that cost won't ever go back on California taxpayers (thereby earning Lockyer the opprobrium he would deserve), there is only minimal risk in filing such a frivolous lawsuit.

Europe's moral abdication

Gerard Baker rips his fellow Europeans for their weakness. Excerpts:

It is apt that Pope Benedict should have received [ ] European opprobrium for his remarks [about Islam]. His election last year looked like a final attempt by the Church to revive the European spirit in the face of accelerating secularisation and cultural morbidity.

But the scale of Europe’s moral crisis is larger than ever. Opposing the war in Iraq was one thing, defensible in the light of events. But opting out of a serious fight against the Taleban, sabotaging efforts to get Iran off its path towards nuclear status, pre-emptively cringing to Muslim intolerance of free speech and criticism, all suggest something quite different.

They imply a slow but insistent collapse of the European will, the steady attrition of the self-preservation instinct. Its effects can be seen not only in the political field, but in other ways — the startling decline of birth rates across the continent that represent a sort of self-inflicted genocide; the refusal to confront the harsh realities of a global economy.

It may well be that history will judge that Europe’s decline came at the very moment of its apparent triumph. The traumas of the first half of the 20th century have combined with the economic successes of the second half to induce a collective loss of will. Great civilisations die not in the end because of external force majeure but because internally the will to thrive is sapped.

Read it all.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Columbia U. -- more idiocy from Anti-Semite U.

Columbia University, which has a professoriat renowned for its anti-Semitism and an administration unwilling to confront the fact, invited Iranian president Ahmadinejad, the Hitlerwannabe Holocaust denier who wants to eradicate Israel, to speak on campus.

Nail on head award: Claudia Rosett

The money quotes from Rosett's reaction post yesterday to the Hugo Chavez huffing-and-puffing at the UN: "With one speech, eagerly applauded, Hugo Chavez did more today to show what’s wrong with the United Nations than some of us have managed in years of gumshoe reporting."


". . . moving right along, at about 4 PM today [yesterday], heading for that same sulfur-suffused UN podium, we have . . . Robert Mugabe."

AL East Champs: The Yankees win

The Yankees realized what became a foregone conclusion in mid-August after Boston Massacre II: their ninth-straight AL East crown. Barring a mini-collapse, the Yanks will win the division by their biggest margin since 2001 -- the year Bawstin sank to a near-.500 team when Pedro went down midway through the season.

The Yanks' ninth-straight division crown is remarkable considering what they had to overcome:

-- Boston's largest All-Star Break lead, and the Yanks' largest All-Star break deficit, in this 9-year run;

-- The loss by May of 2/3 of the starting outfield to injury, who combined for 57 HR and 239 RBI last year;

-- The ineffectiveness of Randy Johnson;

-- The absence of a consistent fifth starter;

-- The loss of Robinson Cano for four weeks.

Baastin fans complain about the Yankees' money and the RedSawx' injuries, but the fact is that the Yanks stayed even with the RedSux despite the latter's better team health (Lester and Papelbon filled in admirably for the loss of Clement and Foulke) through July and despite the RedSawx upgrade in the arms' race by landing Beckett by trade during the offseason. The Sawx' collapse coincided with their injuries, the Yanks stayed afloat despite their own problems.

So here's some credit where it's definitely due.

(1) Derek Jeter -- the captain is on the way to his second 100+ RBI season, is in the batting title race and has personified the daily grit of this team. This team looks and feels more like the 1996-2001 teams in terms of work ethic, batting approach, and intensity than any of the past four squads. Jeter, and Giambi, get a lot of credit for that. Jeter should be the AL MVP.

(2) Johnny Damon -- his presence in the clubhouse has had a positive effect on the team that exceeds his substantial contributions at the plate and in the field. Combining him with Giambi again, mixed with the Jeter/Rivera/Williams professionalism has made a good blend of lighthearted leadership with unquestionable dedication to victory.

(3) Brian Cashman -- his decisions in 2005 established the foundation for this team, and the 2007 team. When the Yanks hit 11-19, Cashman called for a youth infusion: Cano, Melky Cabrera and Chien-Ming Wang. Cano had a fine rookie season (and a good playoff series) to establish himself as the secondbaseman of the present and future. Wang pitched a solid 8-5, 4.02 last year and should have won his playoff start (defense honked). This year, he's been the Yankees' ace: 17-6, 3.64, only 11 HR allowed in 205 IP. He's the righty Tommy John: few strikeouts, fewer walks, ridiculous amounts of grounders. Cabrera was a washout last year -- but that failure, and the success of his close friend Cano, drove him to prepare for this season. The Melkman has been solid: he hits well, he is patient, his defense is solid (and his arm is good) and he has the same professional attitude and work ethic that Tino, Paul O'Neill and Jeter have. Credit Cashman for obtaining Bobby Abreu -- scorned in Philly but solid in NY, Abreu's addition has rocketed the Yanks to tops in the AL in runs scored even though the Yanks will end up with their lowest HR totals since the pre-Giambi years.

(4) Torre -- Jim Leyland will win Manager of the Year because the Tigers sucked before he arrived, and now they don't. But Torre has done another good job balancing new and old, spare parts and integral components on this team.

So congratulations to the 2006 Yankees, AL East Champs. In just under two weeks, the more important season begins.

Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

By George Will. Read it all.

We've noted the disgraceful treatment Hirsi Ali received from her adopted country, the Netherlands, and her status as a lone voice of reason against Islamofascism on the Continent. She's now a resident of the US, and the country is enriched by her presence.

I just don't see it

How is there a conflict of interest between writing for The Miami Herald or its Spanish equivalent, El Nuevo Herald, and appearing on Radio Marti broadcasts (essentially, Radio Free Cuba) unless the two Heralds' corporate owner, McClatchy newspapers, is actively working against the purpose and goals of Radio Marti?

Click the link for more.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Original Schwarzenegger, RIP

Arnold Schwarzenegger is not an original. Instead, nearly 30 years before the Black Mountain (Schwarzenegger) of Austria cam to America to achieve fame and fortune, another weightlifter traveled from Hungary to the US and became Mr. Universe and one of the most famous Hollywood husbands of his era.

Miklos Hargitay fled the Red flood that swept over post-war Hungary, leaving his home country in 1947 to avoid the Soviet-imposed compulsory draft. Hargitay traveled to Cleveland and settled there as a carpenter and married his first wife. But a magazine supposedly changed his life: he saw Steve "Hercules" Reeves and aspired to be a bodybuilder. From that fateful decision sprang the story of the first real Schwarzenegger: Hargitay became "Mickey" Hargitay a successful muscleman, landed a job in Mae West's revue in New York City, won the Mr. Universe contest in 1955, and piqued the interest of his second wife. When asked by her dinner companion what she would like, Jayne Mansfield allegedly said "I'll have a steak and the man on the left."

And so she did.

The man on the left and Hollywood's other blonde bombshell became a huge "it" couple. Together they had three children, Miklos, Jr., Zoltan and Mariska Hargitay, made a movie (Adventures of Hercules) and starred in a Las Vegas show together. Hargitay reconstructed their mansion in Los Angeles, The Pink Palace, including installing the famous heart-shaped pool. Hargitay and Mansfield divorced in 1964. Three years later, as Mansfield, her paramour, their driver and the three Hargitay children drove on a Louisiana highway, their car crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer. Mansfield and the adults died instantly, the Hargitay children survived.

Mickey took care of the kids (including suing the Mansfield estate for child support) and remained active in business, although not in the spotlight. In 1999, he won the Joe Weider Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the founder of the Mr. Olympia contests. But his daughter is now a star -- most famous as Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU, and she dedicated her Emmy win to him.

His legacy has been overshadowed by the more famous bodybuilder who walked in Hargitay's footsteps, became Mr. Universe, a movie superstar, and played Hargitay in The Jayne Mansfield Story. Hargitay may not have minded: after all, his third wife, Ellen Siano, was not a Hollywood star, and he began a landscaping business in 1980. He said that "I enjoyed my career. I never wanted to be any more than what I was, and I had fun doing it." A nice reaction to have when reflecting on life.

Mickey Hargitay, the first Schwarzenegger, 1926-2006. RIP.

McCain's muddled thought process

Rich Lowry weighs in on the McCain Gang's rewrite of the President's proposed legislation to define acceptable tough guidelines for interrogation of suspected terrorists. McCain's own justification for his crusade is that US troops would be tortured upon capture if full Geneva Convention rights, and then some, are not afforded to the terrorists. That's ludicrous on its face as McCain should know based on what he suffered nearly 40 years ago at the hands of the Vietnamese. The North Koreans were no better.

Worse yet, McCain is dodging the issue of when and whether it is proper to resort to harsh interrogation techniques AND concurrently putting Americans who are on the front line in this battle at legal risk by fighting against immunity for the interrogators. As Lowry notes:

The irony is that, for all his preening, McCain supports what he would call “torture” if the conditions are right. He has said of a ticking-time-bomb scenario — a terrorist has information of an imminent attack — “you do what you have to do. But you take responsibility for it” (i.e. get sued or prosecuted). In other words, McCain wants to make it legally problematic for interrogators to undertake the very interrogations that he supports.

What an incredible and preposterous mixed message. And a terrible approach-avoidance conflict: if the interrogator THINKS the prisoner has crucial information, takes the steps he deems necessary to save 100 or more lives and then learns the prisoner has no helpful information, then the interrogator will have risked his own freedom for nothing! That's morally wrong and will only end up in disaster when the interrogator refrains from acting against the prisoner who actually DOES hold crucial information, with the result that US troops or US citizens are killed in large numbers because that information was not discovered.

More Lowry:

In real life, the closest we get to a ticking-time-bomb scenario is the one that prompted the CIA interrogation program — the capture of high-level al Qaeda operatives with knowledge of ongoing plots. McCain can’t bring himself to say that he opposes the program outright, so he professes to support it, but refuses to give the program the legal cover necessary for it to continue. And this is the moral high ground?

No, it's just posturing.

No more apologes

Kudos to Anne Applebaum, the Washington Post columnist, for standing up for Pope Benedict XVI's honesty and forthrightness, even when a few Muslim feathers get ruffled. Excerpt:

. . . nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it's time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to "hate" Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn't the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain's chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them -- simultaneously?

Maybe it's a pipe dream . . . But if stray comments by Western leaders -- not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values -- are going to inspire regular violence, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.


McCain's immoral morality

The Monk would take Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, over John McCain any day. The McCainanite objections to the nonexistent "torture" of terrorists detained by the US armed services are already causing the US to lose the ability to obtain information from these prisoners. (See here for more). McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner are more concerned with nonexistent torture, world perception and the possibility of US bad conduct than they are with saving American lives. If the choice is waterboarding an al-Qaedan or 100 American dead because the info he would have coughed up to stop the attack was not obtained, I'll take the waterboarded terrorist each time.

This is not a treatment of US soldiers issue either -- no jihadi has or will ever give Geneva Convention rights to US soldiers. The Vietnamese were bound by the Geneva Convention -- and McCain has first-hand knowledge how little that treaty meant to them. Instead, the McCain concerns are a puerile attempt to court favor with Europeans, the media, liberals and to burnish his credentials as a Presidential candidate regardless of the deleterious effect on the US anti-terrorism efforts.

Here's what McCainism would lead to if taken to its natural conclusion, from Brendan Miniter's column in the WSJ:
In setting up terrorist tribunals the administration has two options. It can adopt the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same body of law used to court-martial soldiers, in its entirety or with certain exceptions. This is the path Sens. Graham and McCain want the administration to take. Or it can write a new set of laws specifically designed to handle unlawful combatants.

Before making up his mind on which direction the administration should take, Mr. Hunter asked military officials testifying before his committee a very simple question: If terrorists apprehended on the battlefield are to be tried under the UCMJ, when will the right to an attorney kick in? The answer, Mr. Hunter learned, is about when soldiers have a suspected al Qaeda operative "spread eagled over the hood" of a HMVEE. It was clear to him then that the legal code for military tribunals "has to be something custom made for the war on terror."

In other words, the logical conclusion of the McCain position would yield preposterous results.

John Hawkins is even more blunt, but no less accurate:

Exactly what protections are our troops being provided by the Geneva Convention? No enemy we've ever fought or are fighting has abided by it. So, in real world terms, the Geneva Convention provides no protection for our troops whatsoever. If we completely withdrew from the Geneva Convention tomorrow, it would have no impact at all on how our troops are treated.

* * *
If the Geneva Convention were actually being properly applied, it wouldn't apply to terrorists. If people, including irresponsible Supreme Court Justices, want to pretend that it actually does apply to terrorists, then the Geneva Convention has outlived its usefulness and should be abandoned.


Monday, September 18, 2006

NFL Week 2: some unconventional wisdom, please

There is no more conventional wisdom on the NFL than what Peter King writes in his Monday Morning QB column each week. And his missives epitomize the notion that conventional wisdom is a phrase known for its 1/2 accuracy rate. King is the best at relating the thought processes of players, coaches, GMs. His analyses are ok at best. His predictions are horrible (four words: Detroit NFC North Champs). And his Fine Fifteen is often ridiculous. King is a weathervane of conventional wisdom (just look at his continual conjecture about the Chargers in the Super Bowl -- rookie QBs don't get there, period).

So what really happened yesterday in some key games? The Monk doesn't have all the answers, but he has some:

(1) There are at least five horrible offenses in the NFL right now: Tampa, Oakland, Tennessee, Carolina, Denver. The Chargers have played two of those, so have the Ravens, so have the Falcons. Don't jump the bandwagon of any of those three quite yet for the Super Bowl. That said, the Falcons are looking like a division winner right now and will be in great shape if they beat the Aints next week to fire off to a 3-0, all-intradivision start. The most impressive of the three 2-0 teams mentioned above is the Falcons -- both Tampa and Carolina were preseason playoff caliber teams and each won 10+ last year. The Raiders and Titans were expected to stink (although the Titans' offense should suck less than it has). The real surprise is Denver -- 0 TD allowed, but the Broncs are barely 1-1 after scratching out a home win against undermanned KC.

(2) Contrary to King, Don Banks and all of ESPN, the Giants' schedule of doom is not bad because of the defenses the Giants will play in the first seven weeks (Indy, Philly, Seattle, 'Skins, Falcons, Cowpatties, Bucs), but because the Giants defense itself is pretty hideous. The Jints have rolled up more than 400 yards in consecutive weeks thus far against good defensive teams; last year, they scored less than 20 just twice in the regular season. But that defense, especially the pass defense, has been putrid: two sacks (none for Strahan), one interception, > 600 yards allowed. The key for the Giants will be to move around their linemen (they've basically been rushing just a straight four, minimal twists and stunts), and stop dropping Arrington into coverage. He's simply not a cover linebacker. The Monk lost all faith in Tim Lewis last year during the playoffs. If the team keeps going like this on D, Lewis needs to clean out his office.

(3) The Pats desperately need a deep threat. Their offense is still sputtering after losing Branch and Givens. Although the moves may have made team and monetary sense, the Pats should have picked up Donte' Stallworth or Koren Robinson -- two troubled nutcases that Belichick could have used to help the passing attack whilst curing them of their stupidities. Good for the Pats that the scouts nailed their evaluation of Laurence Maroney.

(4) The Colts are lacking defensive capability. The Giants rolled up 430+ yards but shot themselves in the rear with penalties. Yes, the horseshoes whupped the Texans, but Houston still scored 24 and David Carr hit 22 of 26 passes. In Super Bowl XXI, Phil Simms hit 22/25 -- an 88% accuracy rate that remains the record. What happens if someone better than Carr with a better team can put up those types of numbers (Brady, Palmer)?

(5) Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in football. Eli is moving swiftly toward the top 5. Little Brother's comeback performance (31-43-371, 3TD, 1INT) on the road showed the type of presence and leadership at QB that the Giants have lacked since the Simms era (he made the read against the Philly blitz in OT to send Burress long for what became the game-winning TD). He's also one of the best comeback and two-minute drill QBs -- and credit coach Coughlin for that. The Giants don't abandon the run even when they're behind (see Giants 24, Denver 23 from last year) and don't just run draw plays. They stay with their offense and let the QB use all his weapons.

(6) I wonder if Andy Reid will actually end up costing the Iggles a game later this year by NOT running the ball while ahead after criticizing his own play calling as too conservative yesterday. After all, the pass-happy birds became almost self-parodying last year when they refused to run the ball. What could happen? The Eagles, up by two scores early in fourth quarter, keep passing. Misfire. Punts. More time for comeback. Comeback occurs. It's entirely possible. Yesterday's honk was as much a product of fortuity (Westbrook's fumble more than halfway through the fourth quarter with Philly up 24-14, Manning's pass to Carter) and stupidity (Coles' personal foul with :10 left) as it was a product of play-calling problems. Another question is: why blitz on 3rd and 11 at your own 31 and leave the Giants' receivers (who'd already combined for more than 200 yards) one-on-one when the front four of your defense had accounted for most of the 8 sacks of Eli without need of the blitz?

(7) How good are the Bills? They could (and should) be 2-0 after road games against divisional co-favorites New England and Miami. They thumped the 'Phins. They blew a win against the Pats. If only they had an offense . . .

(8) The Redskins may not be the third-best team in the NFC East. All the offensive infirmities they seemed to escape for most of last year are beating them this season. Brunell is bad, Portis is hurt, the O-line is not producing, etc. An 0-2 start is not a death blow by any stretch, but Joe Gibbs owes the Giants some thanks after Big Blue's comeback rendered the NFC East a cluster of 1-1 teams at the top, preventing the Iggles from getting any early separation.

(9) The Niners suck dramatically less than I expected, especially on offense. What a difference an off-season can make for a young QB. The exception to that rule: Chris Simms.

(10) NBC's Football Night in America show stinks. Too much talk, talk, talk after the games have been played. For the first 20 minutes last night, NBC had bloviating analysis by Sterling Sharpe, Cris Collinsworth and pabulum from Jerome Bettis. Add in uninsightful "insight" from Peter King, a bunch of on-field, reaction interviews after big games (which are among the LEAST informative interviews on any sports show) and more chirp chirp chirp. No highlights until nearly 25 minutes into the show.

That's ridiculous -- after the games of the afternoon, we want to SEE what happened, not hear random chatter about it. And the highlights we saw were too few, devoid of analysis and overrun by commentary (someone needs to turn Sharpe's microphone down, preferably all the way). There's a reason NFL Primetime was the best show of its kind -- one host, one analyst who knows the game well (Collinsworth is a pompous ass, but he'd fit this role), discussion of the game after the highlights (i.e., in context) then add in the preview of the Sunday game at the end. A recap/preview show needs to be fast-moving and intense, not laid back and relaxed like a preview-only show. Fox's baseball preview shows are more energetic.

Toensing 2, Corn 0.

The whole Plameout is ridiculous, as Victoria Toensing (former prosecutor and co-author of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act) noted in her WSJ column on Friday. Today, she straightens out (again) liberal columnist David Corn, co-author of Hubris, the book he wrote with Michael Isikoff about the Plameout investigation.

Corn STILL insists that Plame was a covert agent. Toensing notes that he is still wrong.

If Corn hasn't figured it out yet, he blew this one badly. Yet, he may still profit from his awful journalism if the book sells.

What a country.

The French economy in the US

Welcome to Michigan, the American outpost of failed European economic policies. It's the only state to lose jobs between 9/04 and 9/05 that didn't get smashed by Hurricane Katrina, its per capita growth rate makes Mississippi look prosperous and is the only state with a VAT. Only in Michigan can your business go into bankruptcy and still incur substantial tax liability. And Michigan's unionization rate is more than 150% of the national average.

Small wonder that Jennifer Granholm, a favorite of Democrats who wished just four years ago that she had been born in the US so she could be a Presidential candidate, is actually in electoral trouble in this Democratic state.

92 million avoidable deaths later . . .

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it will ACTIVELY promote the use of DDT in developing nations. This is the best public health decision in four decades.

Malaria is a debilitating disease that is almost entirely preventable by spraying small amounts of DDT inside dwellings and buildings in areas where malaria-infected mosquitoes reside. There is no other preventative that is as effective, as inexpensive and as usable as DDT. But the politics of the pesticide, from Rachel Carson's preposterously wrong Silent Spring to William Ruckelshaus' dreadful decision to overturn the findings of EPA administrative law judge Edmund Sweeney who found no basis to ban DDT after months of testimony and reams of evidence, have infected decisions on whether to use DDT for generations.

That political calculation has been deadly: more than 13 billion cases of malaria, and over 92 million deaths, have occurred since Ruckelhaus' decision. A true tragedy, considering that, as the WSJ noted, "[T]here is no evidence that DDT use in the amounts necessary to ward off malarial mosquitoes is harmful to humans, wildlife or the environment. Period."

[Note: link may not work -- subscriber only article on]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Whose fault for the divided US?

Byron York asks if it's Pres. Bush's fault that the US polity is divided heading into the 2006 midterm elections. The better question is the other one he asks:

Do you believe that Democrats today, seven weeks before Election Day, would be united behind the president?

Not I, says The Monk.

Richard Armitage: the dishonorable diplomat

Robert Novak discusses what really happened during his conversation with Richard Armitage in which the latter discussed who Valerie Plame was and her connection to Joseph C. Wilson IV's worthless mission to Niger. Novak is a conservative, but not a close friend of the Bush Administration -- he opposed the invasion of Iraq and is nearly Buchananite in his disdain for Israel. Therefore, Novak's credibility is not impugnable on partisan grounds, in contrast to Armitage's credibility which is affected by the fact that he's covering his own rear end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Egregious limitations on speech

Politically, the darkest hour for the Bush Administration came when the President signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold bill. The President himself believed the bill was unconstitutional but instead of exercising his veto to protect the Constitution, he signed the bill and hoped that the Supreme Court would strike it down. When the Supreme Court decided that the Free Speech Clause did not mean what it said, the Constitution suffered tremendous damage.

In the Washington Examiner, the capital's equivalent of the New York Sun, former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith shreds Feingold's defense of the McCain-Feingold bill, and Smith's conclusion is all too true:

Sen. Feingold can say what he wants, but he cannot deny that the explicit purpose of McCain-Feingold was to reduce the political speech of American citizens. After four years, what have we gained for surrendering this freedom? Is Congress less corrupt? Less controlled by special interests? Is public policy better? Are campaigns more focused on issues? What tangible benefit has been gained? I submit that the answer is none.

Winning by losing? Not possible

Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review thinks the Republicans can benefit long term by losing control of the House of Representatives because the Democrats will prove incapable of governing, the Republicans will have to smarten up, and conservatives would lose influence in a narrow Republican majority House because moderates would continually throw fits to water down conservative reforms.

Ponnuru has lost his mind.

The first thing Democrats will do if they win the House is seek to impeach the President. Under no scenario is this ever a positive occurrence for the nation. Considering the damage that will do to the current war against Islamofascism, the US's reputation for stability and strength as the government rips itself apart from the inside, and the relations with our allies, this fact alone requires the Republicans to control the House.

Second, Ponnuru's rosy optimism regarding the Republicans' collective ability to smarten up is misplaced. There is no track record for this -- the GOP is not called the "stupid party" without reason. Instead, only rare visionaries within the Republican party (Reagan, Gingrich, Bush 43) have led the party away from merely acting as "Democrats-lite" in the past 50 years.

Third, Ponnuru willfully forgets the media. This Administration has courted media approval in various ways, all ineffective, for six years. Nonetheless, the mainstream media is more strongly anti-Bush than it ever was anti-Reagan (and the latter was a far more conservative president). The media will happily report on the Democrats' efforts to undermine the President and force the Administration into an ever more defensive footing, thereby causing even more weakness in the presidency than would naturally exist in the last two years of a "lame duck" period leading to the 2008 elections.

The House Republicans are awful. The Democrats are worse. Installing the latter as the House majority will have no beneficial effects on the Republicans or the nation.

Must read of the week

The Monk read this last week at The New Criterion website. It's Andy McCarthy's description of how and why the judiciary has no role in national security. Some excerpts:

However patently central it is to a good society, the judicial function remains largely irrelevant to the international order. For all the blather about our "international community," it is an ersatz community, lying beyond our laws and democratic choices. Unlike dreamy modern internationalists, the Framers well understood that broad swaths of this "community"--enemies of the United States--would always pose threats, some existential, to the body politic.

Such threats are not legal problems. They do not principally involve Americans being deprived of their legal entitlements by their government--the cases and controversies judicial power was designed to resolve. They are clashes between the American national community and the outside world. They are the stuff of political power--diplomacy, force, and all the intermediate measures wielded by the political branches. The judicial power has no place because American courts are part and parcel of the American national community; they do not exist outside or above it.

In our system, rising to external threats from alien forces with no claim on the protections of American law would be the domain of the political branches. In times of crisis and war, it would be uniquely the province of an energetic executive. . .

Was that, as vigorously claimed by today's critics of the purportedly "imperial presidency" of George W. Bush, a blank check? Of course it was not. Those hands, the president's, answer to the American people. The line between liberty and security is not a fixed one. "The great ordinances of the Constitution," the legendary Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., admonished, "do not establish and divide fields of black and white." They are not amenable to static judicial formulas. Our barometer--within very wide margins--is what the American people demand for their well-being, which ebbs and flows with the state of the threat environment.

* * *
The Hamdan majority cashiered the Bush military commissions on the ground that they violate Common Article 3 (CA3) of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. On its face, this is preposterous, amounting to a drastic rewrite of the Conventions as ratified by the political branches through the Constitution's treaty process. Naturally, al Qaeda, being a terrorist network rather than a country, is not a Geneva signatory. CA3 operates to extend some prisoner-of-war protections to the militias of non-signatories, but only in very particular circumstances: to wit, conflicts "not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties," meaning civil wars. To contort al Qaeda into this category, the court had to find that a terror network which has killed Americans in New York, Virginia, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq--to say nothing of the hundreds of non-Americans it has slaughtered globally--is somehow not "of an international character" because it is not a nation. Swept aside were the inconveniences that the war on terror is patently not confined to Afghanistan (where Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's personal driver, was captured), and that American courts have traditionally recognized the president's supremacy in the interpretation of treaties (which he ratifies and can unilaterally end).

More alarming, though, are the ramifications of applying CA3. Treaties are international compacts. Presumptively, they do not create private rights that can be vindicated in litigation. Disputes about their application are fodder for diplomacy--negotiations and reclamations between the political representatives of concerned states, not lawsuits. Indeed, presumptions aside, the Geneva Conventions expressly provide for non-judicial dispute resolution. This "non-self-execution" doctrine was pivotal to the unanimous rejection of Hamdan's claims by the D.C. Circuit panel (one of whose members was now-U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts--who thus recused himself from the Supreme Court's consideration of the case). Yet the Supreme Court ignored it.

* * *
There was a time, not long ago, when American courts were our bulwark, guaranteeing Americans a fair shake from their own government. Now, they are fast transforming into a supra-sovereign tribunal: a forum where the rest of the world, including our mortal enemies, is invited to press its case against the United States--a testament to the farcical conceit that a law degree and a prestigious judicial appointment render one fit to determine the security needs of the citizens from which one is blissfully insulated. Welcome to Hamdan's new juristocracy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Scooter

Speaking of MVP shorstops who don't put up huge HR numbers, Kevin Kernan of the NY Post caught up with Phil Rizzuto at the rehab center where the Scooter currently is trying to overcome some muscle atrophy. Rizzuto is going to be 89 later this month. He is and has always been a huge Jeter fan.

Just a nice story

Everybody needs one now and again. This is about how a random old English couple reached out to the young daughter of a Soviet dissident in the 1970s.

You can definitely see the little girl in the 43-year old woman today (headshots provided).

Hat tip: Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

NFL feverishness . . .

As The Monk predicted last week, the first week of the season was unpredictable.

OK, I didn't actually predict the unpredictability. That said, the NFL is just nuts. Look at the list of 2006 playoff teams that just honked:


Each of those teams played a team that did not make the playoffs in 2005. Three of them took a whupping: Tampa got crushed, Denver was futile against the Rams' defense (haven't had that comment since 1999 -- the year the Rams won the Super Bowl and had the #4 defense in the league), Atlanta ran at will on Carolina, Washington honked at home to the Vikes.

Look at the list of disappointments from the weekend:

New England
Kansas City

How come two winners are on here? Because they stank. The Pats won 19-17 because the Bills screwed up -- Buffalo had 4th-and-1 at the Pats' 7 up 17-7 in the third quarter and instead of kicking a field goal to put the impotent Pats' offense down by two TDs, the Bills blew a fourth down play, the Pats obtained momentum and turned the game around.

The S'Hawks scored all of ZERO touchdowns against one of the three worst teams in the NFC, Detroit.

Meanwhile KC was in the midst of getting rolled by the Bengals even before Trent Green got headhunted and the Cowmanures were outperformed on both sides of the ball by a Jacksonville team that lacks the playmakers on offense and defense that the Cowpatties have.

Best performances:

(1) Cincinnati's defense
(2) Pittsburgh's quality win without Big Ben
(3) Baltimore rolling the Bucs in Bucville
(4) Atlanta waxing the Panthers in Charlotte.

Worst performances:

(1) Oakland's offense = Aaron Brooks completed 6 passes, suffered 7 sacks
(2) Tampa's offense
(3) Green Bay
(4) Carolina's defense = choking up more than 200 rushing yards

Potentially meaningless performances:

(1) Eagles whupping the Texans -- beating an NFL Europe quality team means little for the Green Menace.
(2) San Diego throttling Oakland -- the Raiders are awful, period.
(3) Arizona's win over San Francisco -- predictable because the Niners stink
(4) Giants loss to Indy -- a bit of hopefulness here, perhaps, but Indy was the best team in football in the regular season last year and the Giants rolled up more than 430 yards on offense on them. The argument that the Giants' schedule is tough because they play a lot of teams among last year's top-12 defenses means little because the Jints can score with anyone. The question is, can they win close games -- there will be a lot this season.

Thought for the day: Intelligence analysis

Other than Stephen Hayes, Thomas Jocelyn is probably the best writer on intelligence issues working for a general news interest publication right now. Read his most recent pieces on the Weekly Standard's website about how to cherry pick intelligence and the inexcusably ignorant and inaccurate Senate report on al-Qaeda and Saddam.


Derek Jeter has his priorities in place and reiterates that in response to David Ortiz's random slap at Jeter yesterday. Ortiz claimed the RedSawx freefall should not be held against him in MVP voting (yeah, right).

Said Fat Papi: Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be.

Said Jeter: I don't have to do it in his lineup . . . I'm not thinking about the MVP right now; we're thinking about winning a division. We've still got something to play for.

Smack! Score one for DJ.

And as for Fat Papi's comment, here's Jeter's numbers when the Yanks were 9th in the league in runs: 10 HR, 78 RBI, .314/.370/.430 (Avg., OBP, SLG), 104 runs. That was his rookie season in 1996.

Here's Jeter when the Yanks were 6th in runs in 2000: 15 HR, 73 RBI .339/.416/.481, 119 runs scored.

Here's Jeter when the Yanks were second in runs in 2004: 23 HR, 78 RBI, .292/.352/.471, 111 runs scored.

Here's Jeter on the lowest-scoring Yankees team of his career: 21 HR, 74 RBI, .311/.377/.480, 110 runs scored.

Doesn't look like he's dependent on the lineup's effectiveness to produce, does it? Compare that to Fat Papi's transformation from middling to superstar when he moved to Bahston, got placed in front of Fat Manny, the best righty slugger since DiMaggio, in the lineup and could play "wall ball" with outside pitches by swatting those offerings off the Green Mawnsta.

Now consider that to date Jeter has 13 HR, 91 RBI, .346/.419/.492 with 99 runs on a team that has lacked its two corner outfielders for almost the whole season -- players who combined for 57 HR and 239 RBI last year. And consider that the Yanks are the highest-scoring team in baseball . . . even without those two aforementioned corner outfielders and with A-Rod's production off from last season's MVP (48 HR, 129 RBI) numbers.

Jeter's production, therefore, is as much a product of the team as asbestos is a product of sugar cane farming -- it isn't. Instead, there's a simple fact that the various Jeter-bashers and big-number players want to downplay: the proper phrase is not "Derek Jeter is a great player but [insert qualifier here]." The accurate phrase is "Derek Jeter is a great player."

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years on -- September 11, 2001

The link is to an article about the observance of the fifth anniversary of the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I'm not going to devote much space to this because I cannot: New York is my city and always will be. The Monkette cannot bear to relive the moments either and she's a Southerner. We have studiously avoided the docudramas, teary reflection news shows, moronic Katie Couric interviews and the other maudlin rubbish that the news shows have foisted upon the public.

There are few observations to make that have not been made by people on my side of the political spectrum. Here are a few statements that I think are wholly accurate:

1. It is disgraceful and dishonorable for the nation, as a whole, to have forgotten, downplayed, ignored or avoided the simple fact that terrorists want to kill Americans and have greater means and ability to do so now than they ever did before.

2. It is disgusting, abhorrent, dishonest and delusional for the former President of the United States who willfully turned down at least three chances to capture or kill Bin Laden to sue a broadcast company to shut down a docudrama that shows his numerous failures. Bill Clinton is a vain fool, and becoming a worse ex-President by the day.

3. The Democrats since November 2000 have been the most disruptive and dishonorable major political party in American history. Since the middle of 2002, they have been studiously anti-American in tone, outlook, approach and conception of their role. The Bush Derangement Syndrome has far surpassed Clinton Derangement Syndrome as a governing philosophy, a party platform, a danger to the nation, and an attitude unworthy of a major political institution.

4. The CIA and the State Department should be cleaned out from top to bottom like Hercules flooding the Augean Stables. Since 9-11-01, the CIA has actively worked against this President. Since January 21, 2001, the State Department has.

5. The dishonesty, revisionism and fantasyworld thought process of many people knows no boundaries. The concept that American foreign policy, Israel's existence and/or treatment of the Palestinians, or any policy touching either one of those categories is a reason or justification for terrorism against the US or Israel is disgusting, immoral and preposterous.

Summing up is perhaps best left to Mark Steyn:

Five years on, half America has retreated to the laziest old tropes, filtering the new struggle through the most drearily cobwebbed prisms: All dramatic national events are JFK-type conspiracies, all wars are Vietnam quagmires. Meanwhile, Ramzi Yousef's successors make their ambitions as plain as he did: They want to acquire nuclear technology in order to kill even more of us. And, given that free societies tend naturally toward a Katrina mentality of doing nothing until it happens, one morning we will wake up to another day like the "day that changed everything." Sept. 11 was less "a failure of imagination" than an ability to see that America's enemies were hiding in plain sight.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Why Democrats Must Not Govern

This is a disgusting letter from Harry Reid, Debbie Stabenow, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer and Byron Dorgan -- five of the most liberal, partisan and intellectually deficient Democrat senators. They impliedly threaten ABC's status as a licensee of the Federal Communications Commission -- that is, ABC's right to broadcast -- because they disagree with the content of The Path to 9/11 that ABC will air on 9-10 and 9-11-06.

The letter is an exercise in liberal fascism, period. It is heinous, and morally putrid.

The fact is, as John Podhoretz notes, there are composite portrayals of events in the program that are completely wrong and those should unquestionably be excised from the show. Retellings of events that are "fake but accurate" are no truer than Dan Rather's story on the Bush Air National Guard letters.

That said, the vast majority of the protest by the Democrats and the Left goes against an unquestionable fact: Clinton's failures to act against al-Qaeda. The Left wants to paint 9-11 as Pres. Bush's fault, even though WTC Attack I, the Plot to Assassinate ex-Pres. George H. W. Bush, Khobar Towers, East Africa Embassy Bombings, and the USS Cole Bombing, all occurred on Clinton's watch and the Clinton Administration had at least two opportunities to capture bin Laden with aid from the Sudanese that the administration failed to effectuate.

Ultimately, Mark Steyn summed this up well yesterday on Hugh Hewitt's show:

I think the reality of the situation is, there's plenty of blame to go around, and we shouldn't really be having this discussion, because nations fight wars, political parties and administrations don't fight wars. Nations fight wars. And if it hadn't been for the sour Democratic Party oppositionism, and the rubbish they spread about the Bush administration in those seven months before September 11th, [ ] no one would even be wasting their time with this going back and going over what happened long ago. We'd all be looking ahead to the future in everything. But the fact of the matter is, that the Clinton administration basically took a kind of holiday for the 1990's, and they kicked every big foreign policy challenge down the line. And that is something that they ought to be called on.

The Great Carson

Those (both?) of you who read TKM know that The Monk is a big Harry Carson fan and was elated when the Giants great finally received his personal due: election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He also has a website. Click the link.

More must-view TV: The Wire and MI-5

The Wire is back! HBO's best series returns Sunday for a 13-part season 4. Good thing: the HBO lineup has suffered recently and The Wire is easily its best show, even better than The Sopranos. Sonny Bunch previews the season.

In other news, Brit drama MI-5 finally returns to A&E nearly a year after its fourth season aired in the UK. Known as "Spooks" in Britain (a slang phrase for spies that could not be used as a title in the US due to racial connotations), MI-5 is one of the best shows on all of television, even after A&E chops off 15 minutes per episode from the BBC airing to fit the show into a one-hour commercial-laden timeframe (BBC does not have commercials). As I noted before, A&E's butchery of MI-5 makes AMC's decision to air Hustle in a 75-minute slot to account for US commercials and the 60-minute runtime of the show even more laudable.

Tough interrogation works

The WSJ delineates how "tough" interrogation of al-Qaeda prisoners yielded a tremendous volume of information regarding terrorist operations, planned attacks, leadership identities and further led to capture of many al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist leaders.

Those like Andrew Sullivan, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross that attack any interrogation technique other than direct questioning as torture or "tantamount to torture" are simply immoral. The number of lives saved by the CIA "secret" prisons and interrogations of these evil prisoners shows why they are necessary and proper. The President used these tactics to defend the nation, his first and most important duty as commander-in-chief. He deserves praise for that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Disgraceful educators

The Monk is a product of public schools from elementary through college, but knows that public education in American cities is generally disgraceful. Indeed, if not for The Monk's parents gaming the system 30 years ago (the two closest schools to The Monk's house were respectively dreadful and poor -- the third-closest was quite decent), and The Monk's own ability to pass admissions tests for magnet schools, The Monk's own education may well have been lacking.

In The Monk's current home area, people avoid the Dallas Independent School District like plague -- the effect is such that a house in Dallas city limits zoned for Richardson or Plano (two suburbs) schools will command a large premium over its neighbors zoned for Dallas schools. Moreover houses in University Park or Highland Park, two sub-cities within Dallas with their own school districts, command ridiculous prices because the "Park Cities" have good public schools.

In Los Angeles, the No Child Left Behind Act has left behind about 300,000 kids -- primarily because the LA school system pointedly refuses to comply. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is not doing enough to force compliance either. Clint Bolick's column in the WSJ has details.


President Bush made two outstanding speeches over the last two days. The first discussed the global war on terror and was plain spoken and powerful -vintage Bush- and served a severe warning to Iran.

The terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, are men without conscience -- but they're not madmen. They kill in the name of a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs that are evil, but not insane.
Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We're taking the words of the enemy seriously. We're on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.
As we continue to fight al Qaeda and these Sunni extremists inspired by their radical ideology, we also face the threat posed by Shia extremists, who are learning from al Qaeda, increasing their assertiveness, and stepping up their threats.
This Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is just as dangerous, and just as hostile to America, and just as determined to establish its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East. And the Shia extremists have achieved something that al Qaeda has so far failed to do: In 1979, they took control of a major power, the nation of Iran...
It's time for Iran's leader to make a different choice. And we've made our choice. We'll continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution. The world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

And here is, I hope, the money quote:

And armed with nuclear weapons, they would blackmail the free world, and spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to the American people. If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act.

I'm not going to allow this to happen -- and no future American President can allow it either.

John Podhoretz reads this as a very strong indicator that we will strike Iran.

So there it is. A week after Iran declared its intention to continue uranium enrichment, the president of the United States has said in no uncertain terms that it will be stopped - that the failure to stop it would lead history to judge him, us and the world in the harshest possible terms.

Like most people, I've presumed for the past few years that our commitment in Iraq and the extreme difficulty of targeting the proper sites had basically foreclosed a serious military option in Iran. Certainly the hesitant and cautious behavior of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the past few months suggested as much.

Now it seems to me that, barring a miraculous change of heart on the part of the Iranian regime, a military strike is all but inevitable.

The second is a powerful end-run against the self-defeating idiocy epitomized by the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision to essentially offer Geneva Convention rights to terrorists.

I hope Mario Loyola is right:

The President just pulled one of the best maneuvers of his entire presidency. By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court's ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.

And if that were not enough, the President also frontally attacked the Hamdan ruling's potentially chilling effect on CIA extraordinary interrogation techniques, by arguing that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is too vague, and asking Congress to define clearly the criminal law limiting the scope of permissible interrogation.

Taken as a whole, the President's maneuver today turned the political tables completely around. He stole the terms of debate from the Democrats, and rewrote them, all in a single speech...

The White House makes it clear that detainees are NOT getting POW status.

Both worth reading in their entirety.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

NFL Preview -- NFC

The Monk started this yesterday, picked the Pats, Bengals, Colts, and Broncos for division winners (way to go out on a limb -- pick all four of last year's division champs -- Ed. Uh, fact is, I DID go out on a limb because that hasn't happened in the 8-division era of 2002-present) and today the preview is for the NFC.

Unlike last year, when the NFC was substantially inferior to the AFC, the NFC is decent. The younger teams that were on the rise last year (Giants, 'Skins, Bucs, Bears) now have a season with real pressure and playoff intensity under their collective belts. The conference also has few weak teams with virtually no playoff chance (Niners, Lions, Pack, Saints), unlike the AFC (Raiders, Titans, Browns, Jets, Bills, Texans). Most "experts" think that any team in the NFC East can win the division and/or a wild card berth. Paul Zimmerman, SI's lead expert, smoked his pipe so deeply he predicted all four would end up 9-7! On we go.

NFC East
If defense wins championships, the Cowboys should be the conference favorite. They have the best defense in the division, the conference and potentially the league. Before the Giants' meltdown against the Panthers, the 'Boys were the only team to hold Big Blue under 20 all year, and turned the trick twice. But they also make stupid mistakes, have 5 question marks on the offensive line, have potential T.O. issues and a miniature self-created and idiotic quarterback controversy (why give all the snaps in preseason game 1 to Tony Romo?). Thus, you get experts like Peter King predicting Super Bowl wins, and TMQ predicting 6-10. Yipes. The Monk thinks that if the Cowboys are between serviceable and solid on offense and keep the T.O. idiocies to a minimum, they can win 12.

The Giants, Redskins and Eagles seem to be a mush. The latter two have easier schedules (no Chicago or Seattle); the Giants have more raw talent. Last year the Giants went 3-1 against the best division in the AFC, should have dropped Seattle in Seattle and won the NFC East. This year, they should be good enough for the wild card or better if the defense stiffens against the run, Manning stops throwing off his back foot, and they do unto the NFC South this year as they did to the AFC West last year.

Washington and Philly have questions and holes, but both are capable of winning the division or a wild card spot. The 'Skins lost more in free agency than they replaced, but still have Portis and a decent defense. The Eagles have questions at every offensive skill position (QB health, RB health, WR effectiveness) but should still be dangerous and can rattle off 10 wins against a fourth-place schedule.

NFC North
Here's the situation: Rod Marinelli could make the Lions suck less, but that would get them to 8 wins tops. So how does Peter King put them 10-6? This division is the Bears' to lose.

That said, they might. Chicago has fiddled around with Cedric Benson too long already -- a kid who lacks desire and intensity and never had the skill to be drafted as highly as he was. That situation has divided the team (the players prefer Thomas Jones) from the coaches. Who knows if Rex Grossman will suck or not? But defense wins championships . . . and the Bears' is the best in this division by far.

The Vikings should also fare better. They have enough talent and skill to threaten for a wild card berth. The Lions and Pack should be cannon fodder.

NFC South
Lost in the Panthers' fine run to the NFC title game last year was the fact that the Bucs, with Chris Simms at QB, won the division. The Bucs have an excellent defense and are on the rise, the Panthers have historically struggled to put good seasons together so . . . The Monk takes the Panthers this season. It's a hunch, period, based on John Fox's coaching and the addition of a viable option at receiver (Keyshawn) opposite Steve Smith. I think the Bucs could go to the NFC title game this year -- the second for Simms as a starter and for Cadillac Williams as a player.

The Falcons will again have a middling offense and people will wonder what's wrong with Michael Vick. The answer is: nothing, he's just not that good.

The 'aints have no defense. But Bush and Brees will make them fun to watch.

NFC West
This is the year that the Super Bowl Loser Jinx gets broken. For the past five years, the Super Bowl runner-up failed to make the playoffs the next year. If Seattle does not win this sorry division, it will make the Jets win in Super Bowl III look routine. Every other team in this division stinks, including Arizona. The S'hawks, if no catastrophic injury occurs, should waltz to 11 wins. And the fact that the division plays the NFC North round-robin this year means some nice cupcakes for the S'hawks on the schedule: they replace Washington, Dallas and the Giants with Detroit, Minnesota and the Pack.

Arizona needs an OL to protect Warner and a better defense. They get help from the fact of playing the Niners and Rams four times, but need wins elsewhere and the Denver/San Diego/KC games hurt that possibility.

The Rams will again have a good offense and make fewer mistakes without Martz and his laissez-faire attitude toward turnovers, but they will struggle to compete in the conference. The Niners stink, and their franchise QB leaves a lot to be desired.

Conference champ: Dallas

Super Bowl champ: The Pats, again, to tie the Steelers' mark of four wins in six years.

If I'm wrong, what do I know -- I'm just a dingdong at a computer.

If I'm right, you read it here first.

Andre Agassi's Tennis Career, RIP

As the multitudes of you who come to this site may have observed, The Monk has taken an interest in writing obituaries. The Monk personally enjoys the Ave Atque Vale column that Mark Steyn writes for The Atlantic, and there is a dearth of readable obits in the style of the British newspapers. Thus, The Monk's efforts to contribute. Some have been good, some rubbish, but all seek to give some context to the deceased's life.

Andre Agassi is not dead. Indeed, he likley has a long healthy life ahead of him with his beautiful wife, two cute critters and more good work to accomplish with his charitable causes. But Agassi's career came to an end on Sunday at the US Open in a four-set loss to qualifier Benjamin Becker, a 25-year old admirer of his vanquished foe.

Over the course of 20 years, Agassi has been the next-great-American-hope, twice a flop, once a great and now a legend. He won eight Grand Slams, including all four at least once (an accomplishment Sampras never achieved, McEnroe never came close to, and Borg rarely threatened) and became the world's #1 at the relatively ancient age of 29, seven years ago. He walks out near the top of THE game, if not near the top of his game. I cannot do him more justice than Jay Winik did in the WSJ today, thus I commend his retrospective on Agassi linked above to you.

The press and selective self-flagellation

Jonah Goldberg analyzes the media reactions to the Jonathan Karr and Joseph C. Wilson IV allegations -- two instances of self-promoting liars instigating press feeding frenzies that ultimately made the media look foolish. But the most notable media analysts (Neil Gabler, Howard Kurtz) castigate the press for the Karr coverage, not Wilson.

What Goldberg comments around, but never directly confronts, is the media's own sense of superiority to the public at large and that unwarranted superiority complex informed the media's introspection (or lack thereof in the Wilson case) once the two spotlight-seekers had been exposed as frauds. Here's Goldberg:

. . . the press doesn't seem to mind beating itself up when it overindulges the public's passions. But when its own self-indulgence is the issue, there's never any need to feel embarrassed. Indeed, there's no need to say anything at all.

Why not? Because the press is, in its own mind, the arbiter of what is news and it can make that decision better than the public. Therefore, if the press gets caught up in public passions and excessively covers a fraud, then the press allowed the proles to overwhelm its reasoning and intellect and should be ashamed. But if the press decides that something is news, it is . . . even if the press turns out to be wrong. That's the media's inherent haughtiness at work -- even if it's wrong in its decision it will plow forward without introspection or a public examination of its mistakes. This thought-process is why the NY Times has never disavowed Walter Duranty's proven lies about the Ukraine famine of the 1930s that won Duranty and the Times the most tainted Pulitzer Prize ever. And it is why corrections are buried at the bottom of page two in the major newspapers even if the correction refers to a major fact in a front-page article.

The oldest hatred

Mark Steyn made The Monk jealous in his National Review column a couple of weeks ago because he revealed he is friends with The Cassandra of Israeltm, Caroline Glick. More importantly, he made his fair share of salient points in the column, whose subject was Jew-hatred. Remember: as with all Steyn columns from his website that I link to, click soon or it won't be available any more. Thus, some extensive excerpts:

. . . as I publicly “defend” Israel (which is, in itself, a curious formulation that implicitly accepts its enemies’ framing of the debate - that the issue is the legitimacy of the Zionist Entity) and as I have a suspiciously Jewish sounding name, I’ve been routinely assumed, at least since 9/11, to be a Jew. I’m honored to be so mistaken. And, in truth, even if I weren’t, there’s not much I can do about it. Someone asked me on the radio in Australia, two-thirds into a long, long discussion, about how Jewish I was, and I answered that the last Jewish female in my line was one of my paternal great-grandmothers, both my grandmothers were Catholic, and I filled in a bit of remaining family background for the two or three Aussies who hadn’t yet expired from total boredom.

And, of course, I’d only been off the air for ten minutes before I was deluged with e-mails triumphantly announcing, “Ah-ha, something to hide, have we, Steyn? Or should I say Stein? Or is it Goldstein? Why so defensive about being Jewish, eh? How come you don’t have the guts to declare your Jewishness every time you write about Israel? Or do your Jewish media masters encourage you to lie to your readers?”

I didn’t know I was hiding it. There’s a couple of FAQs about it on the biographical page of my website . . . and, given the number of columns I’ve published about Israel since 2001, it would be a bit clunky to have to explain it every time. I did think of writing back to my correspondents wondering if they could suggest a convenient shorthand – a yellow star next to the byline, maybe.

But I realized, in fact, that this cheap crack would be doing the Third Reich an injustice. Even the Nuremberg Laws would have cut me more slack than my Internet chastisers: “Article Five Section One: A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews.” Under the 1935 German laws on race, I would have qualified as a bona fide citizen of the Reich. But the cyber-enforcers among my readers run a tighter ship than the Fuhrer.

The left-wing cybernazis that comprise the new generation of anti-Semites is a rather heinous lot. But Steyn rightly takes issue with the whole notion of questioning Israel's existence, a question that is only asked about one nation on earth.

So, yes, I am a Jew, because, after all, only a Jew could “defend” Israel, right? I don’t really “defend” it on anything but utilitarian grounds: Every country in the region – Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia – dates as a sovereign state from 60-70 years ago. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. So should we have more states like Israel in the region or more like Syria? I don’t find that a hard question to answer. And the minute people start arguing about going back to the “1967 borders” or the “1948 armistice”, I figure why stop there? Why not go back to the 1922 settlement when the British Mandate of Palestine was created and rethink London’s decision to give 78% of the land to what’s now Jordan? If you propose that, folks think you’re nuts. But why should 40 or 60 year old lines on a map be up for perpetual renegotiation but 80 year old lines be considered inviolable?

Well, because one involves Jews and the other doesn’t. The oldest hatred didn’t get that way without an ability to adapt. Jews are hated for what they are – so, at any moment in history, whatever they are is what they’re hated for. For centuries in Europe, they were hated for being rootless cosmopolitan types. Now there are no rootless European Jews to hate, so they’re hated for being an illegitimate Middle Eastern nation-state. If the Zionist Entity were destroyed and the survivors forced to become perpetual cruise-line stewards plying the Caribbean, they’d be hated for that, too. The only difference now is that Jew-hatred is resurgent despite the full knowledge of where it ended up 60 years ago. Today, Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad openly urge the destruction of the Jews, and moderate Muslim leaders sit silently alongside them, and European media commentators take the side of the genocide-inciters, and UN bigwigs insist we negotiate with them. In the 1930s, the willingness of Europe not to see the implied end-point in those German citizenship laws left a moral stain on that continent. Seventy years on, it’s not implied, and the moral stain on us will be worse.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The biotech progenitor

The Monk is somewhat dismayed that, like most people, he knows the names of doom-mongering Malthusian icon Paul S. Ehrlich, author of the laughably wrong tract The Population Bomb, and Rachel Carson, author of the preposterously false Silent Spring, but The Monk could not answer this question: Who is Norman Borlaug? If the name C.S. Prakash means anything to you, I just gave you a hint.

Read Ron Bailey's column (click the link) and you might share that dismay.

RIP: the real Crocodile Dundee

Ultimately, his prediction went completely awry -- Steve Irwin did not die of a croc that finally got the famed Croc Hunter, and he didn't die of a bite from one of the deadly snakes he always found and caught on camera. Instead, the most famous Australian export of the past 15 years died in a freakish manner that was the negative equivalent of a 1,000,000-1 shot winning the Kentucky Derby -- hit while swimming near a bull stingray with the beast's stinger such that the stinger struck his chest at such a direct angle, and in such an unfortunate entry point, that the stinger slipped past his ribs, stuck straight in his heart, and ultimately killed the Croc Hunter.

Born Stephen Robert Irwin in 1962, the man known as Croc Hunter was born into his life's work as a conservationist and naturalist. His father Bob and mother Lyn started and ran the Beerwah Reptile Park in southern Queensland, just north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast -- Australia's "Dreamworld" area that was overrun by hotel and entertainment development in the 1980s. Irwin himself first trapped a crocodile with his own hands when he was merely 9 years old. By the time Irwin took over as the head of the park in 1991, and renamed it the Australia Zoo, all the 100+ crocs it housed had either been caught by him and his father, or bred at the Zoo.

In 1996, Irwin first gained international fame as a naturalist when Animal Planet began airing his "Crocodile Hunter" shows. The first shows included documentary footage of him catching crocodiles on his honeymoon in 1992. He traveled the world showing the public rare snakes, jungle creatures, conservation efforts and even upgrades at the Australia Zoo for the croc habitats. Irwin would rave about how GORRRRRRRRRRRGEOUS a warty lizard was, sooth a poisonous snake he'd just caught by telling it "you're awright, mate" and outfight five-meter long crocs with his prodigious strength.

As an ambassador for conservation efforts and wildlife appreciation, Irwin had no equal. His enthusiasm and energy, without preaching the environmentalist party line only contributed to his effectiveness (and Irwin's not an environmentalist per se either, his politics are right of center -- he's a conservationist and a supporter of the Liberal party, Australia's right-of-center party that is currently in power). His stereotypical Aussie-ness to American and non-Aussie audiences only helped, but the energetic friendly Aussie you saw is the person Irwin's friends say he really was.

Ultimately, Irwin had knowledge, as the Columbus Zoo's ubiquitous zoologist Jack Hannah noted in the AP. Irwin was not a veterinarian, nor a zoologist, nor a biologist. He learned from practical care and intense training. And he imparted his knowledge with a joy that most viewers who watched him could only dream of having in their own jobs. Irwin was, in Australian PM John Howard's words, "a great character." Quite true.

The Abbott to Irwin's Costello was always his wife Terri, the calm, reserved co-host in the Crocodile Hunter show, and its two spinoffs of outtakes and special information pieces -- Croc Files and Croc Hunter Diaries. She's also a conservationist and met him while traveling to Australia in 1991. Six months later, Terri Haines was Terri Irwin. In 1998, the Irwins had a baby girl, Bindi Sue, who features in a number of Croc Hunter episodes. In December 2003, their son Robert made his entry into the world. He's the more famous child: Baby Bob was the little bundle that Irwin held near a four-meter croc while doing a demonstration at the Australia Zoo -- an event caught on video that earned Irwin a black-eye worldwide for endangering the boy. Irwin claimed he had the situation under control, but his initial explanation that he was essentially teaching the boy crocodile safety from an early age did not wash.

Irwin's reputation improved. His financial success stayed huge: a $9M salary ($16M in Australia) from the Croc Hunter show alone made his bank account overflow, and the Australia Zoo visitor ticket sales increased geometrically. But the Irwins poured the money into the Zoo and conservationist causes, not multimillion dollar dream houses.

The popular host, Aussie icon, energetic conservationist, and ambassador to animalia from snakes to sea turtles to lemurs to the native beasts of the Serengeti was filming documentary footage off of Cairns in North Queensland to use for a children's show that Bindi would host when that surprisingly deadly ray struck Irwin with its serrated stinger.

Steve Irwin, The Croc Hunter, RIP.

Today's sign of the apocalypse

Just read it.

No further explanation necessary.

NFL Preview -- AFC

In Texas, this is the time of year that matters: FOOTBALL SEASON. Between whinging A&M fans who think their team actually matters in the real world of college football, to Texas fans somehow convinced that their program isn't dirty, to the innumerable Cowboys fans who all know exactly what's wrong with the team after its 10-10 tie in the final (and most meaningless) preseason game. People here are so football crazy that some high school fields seat 30,000 and when the Rangers were fighting for their first-ever playoff spot in 1996, the talk radio was all about the middling Cowboys.

This year there are, or should be, expectations galore because the Cowboys are potentially one of the two best teams in the NFC. More about that later. The Monk works east to west, alphabetically in his picks.

AFC East
What's the possibility of Miami and New England rolling up 5-1 division records by sweeping the two stiffs (Jets, Bills) and splitting their matchups? How about the potential that the Jets and Bills do the same in reverse (1-5 each)? Both are highly likely.

Ultimately, this is the Patriots' division to lose because they have the best player (Brady), the best coach (Belichick) and both an offense and defense that are solid. If Corey Dillon plays better than he did last year, the Pats are 12+ game winners even without their top two receivers from 2005. Brady is the type of QB who can make chicken salad from the chicken droppings at his disposal. How else to describe a three-time Super Bowl winner with no top flight offensive talent around him (Deion Branch? Be real -- he's a #2 at best with any other team). The Pats should be a game or two better than last year, especially considering that the AFC East has an easy schedule -- each of its teams plays each team from the NFC North and AFC South.

The Dolphins are a serious wild card contender thanks to second-year RB Ronnie Brown and the signing of Daunte Culpepper. They still have a top-level defense and Belichek Jr as a coach. If Culpepper is the QB he was in 2004, the Dolphins win the division and 13 games; if he's the pre-injury Culpepper of 2005 (which was absolutely awful), the Dolphins replace him with Sage Rosenfels or the stiff du jour and scrap out 7-8 wins. If Culpepper fits somewhere in the middle of that, the 'Phins win a wild card berth.

The Jets have a new coach, no longer have their Pro Bowl center and have QB questions with no end. They passed on Matt Leinart. They will regret that for years just as they did when they picked Ken O'Brien over Dan Marino. The Bills lost their best receiver, still have no worthwhile QB option, passed on Leinart (dopes) and . . . supposedly Willis McGahee looks like the RB who rolled up huge numbers in college. If so, the Bills could win 7-8. The Jets will struggle to get more than 6.

AFC North
This division is all about the quarterbacks -- is Palmer fully healthy mentally, how much will McNair bring to the Ravens' offense, what will the Steelers get from Roethlisberger? The Steelers have had numerous injuries and issues in the off-season, the Bengals have an explosive offense but questions on defense, the Ravens have a deadly defense that needs an offense. The whole division has a tough schedule: round-robins with AFC West and NFC South.

Prediction: Bengals, Ravens, Steelers. The latter two will be in a fine race for the wild card spots. The Ravens have an edge over the Steelers because they get the Chargers and Chiefs at home.

The Browns will field a team. They will draft high next year.

AFC South
No, The Monk doesn't understand how Indianapolis is in the AFC South any more than Arizona used to be in the NFC East. That said, this division is so weak, the Colts could win it fielding nine players per play. They lost Edgerrin James, but that only matters so much. Remember, an NFL back only needs to average 56 yards per game to run up a 1,000 yard season, and Dominic Rhodes and his understudies can easily do that. Indy will be more pass-first this season, but that just means Manning will rack up bigger numbers.

Jacksonville will again have a solid season because it should sweep the other two stiffs in the division, should crush the Jets and Bills, and winning half of its other contests would mean an 11-5 record. That's wild-card worthy. Nonetheless, the Jags could be set for a fall because they play the NFC East this year and each of those teams can beat them. Overall, the Jags will again be better on paper than on the field (see AFC wild card match at New England, 2005).

The Titans are still recovering from their salary cap disaster, which they self-imposed by keeping the nucleus of their Super Bowl runner-up team from the 1999 season together as long as they could. With Kerry Collins manning the controls while Vince Young serves his apprenticeship, and an influx of some new vets, the Titans should be competitive as they prepare for next season.

The Texans stink. They passed up on Reggie Bush to sign a pass-rusher who is of questionable efficacy. They lost their starting running back. They have no offensive line. They'll be picking high in the 2007 draft.

AFC West
The Chiefs have a new coach but still lack a solid defense; the Chargers have a new QB; the Raiders brought in Jeff George. There are the three best reasons that the Broncos will win the division again.

The Broncos have everything they need to win the division, and still lack something necessary to win the AFC title -- defensive dominance, intangibles from the QB, a dependable runner (note to Mike Shanahan, the system means only so much -- you still miss Clinton Portis). That doesn't change this year. It might when the Jay Cutler era begins in 2007.

Herm Edwards is a fine motivator and practice coach, but as a gameplanner and strategist he is one of the worst in the NFL. The Chiefs have great talent: a QB who threw for 4000+ yards with no top-notch receiver and with TE Tony Gonzalez having a down year, a solid offensive line, and the best running back in the NFL. Think not? Larry Johnson scored 20 TD and rolled up 1760 yards running and didn't even start five games! And unlike Shaun Alexander, LJ is a solid receiver. Once again, the defense is subpar. And this year, the Chiefs have Edwards as their coach, not Vermeil -- and Herm will prove to be a negative in close games (just ask Jets fans).

The Chargers will end up as one of the best teams in the league, but expect a struggle early on as Phillip Rivers learns his job. Having the second best RB in the division (and conference) helps, but the defense will still be a weak spot.

The Raiders stink. Again. At least Art Shell may restore some pride and help them run off 6 wins.

AFC Champion: Patriots. The Monk is drinking the Belichick Kool-Aid.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rumsfeld: I said it, I meant it, period.

The Monk is a fan of SecDef Rumsfeld for a simple reason: he speaks plain truths without regard for diplomatic niceties that soften the blow. Recently he spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion conventions and Democrat Senatorial leader Harry Reid took offense. As usual, Rummy is right. And Reid's moronic reaction indicates that Americans are getting dumber -- recent polls show that the Republican lead over Democrats on national security issues has nearly vanished.

In an op-ed today in the LA Times, Rumsfeld stands by what he told the conventions in recent weeks. Here are some of the key remarks by Rumsfeld.

In speaking to our veterans, I suggested several questions to guide us during this struggle against violent extremists:

• With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that vicious extremists can somehow be appeased?

• Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

• Can we truly afford to pretend that the threats today are simply "law enforcement" problems rather than fundamentally different threats requiring fundamentally different approaches?

• Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world's troubles?

* * *
The last question is particularly important, because this is the first war of the 21st century — a war that, to a great extent, will be fought in the media on a global stage. We cannot allow the terrorists' lies and myths to be repeated without question or challenge.

We also should be aware that the struggle is too important — the consequences too severe — to allow a "blame America first" mentality to overwhelm the truth that our nation, though imperfect, is a force for good in the world.

Consider that a database search of the nation's leading newspapers turns up 10 times as many mentions of one of the soldiers punished for misconduct at Abu Ghraib than of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the global war on terror.

Then there is the case of Amnesty International, a long-respected human-rights organization, which called the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay the "gulag of our times" — a reference to the vast system of Soviet prisons and labor camps where innocent citizens were starved, tortured and murdered. The facility at Guantanamo Bay, by contrast, includes a volleyball court, basketball court, soccer field and library (the book most requested is "Harry Potter"). The food, served in accordance with Islamic diets, costs more per detainee than the average U.S. military ration.

Rumsfeld was right, and still is.