Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iranian weaponry in Iraq

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

Social Security sellout

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

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

I'm with Chuck, amazingly

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

Sen. Clinton views this as simplistic.

I'm with Schumer on this one.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Stupid does 'coz stupid is

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

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

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

Little team blue

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Must read of the day

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

The Monk remembered the Croc Hunter here.

Another listing exercise

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

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

AL MVP voters: a confederacy of dunces

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

Compare these two hitters and their numbers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Channelling Henry

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

Tung Nguyen, RIP

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

Doorstopper fantasy . . . how The Monk was weaned

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

Thus, The Lord of the Rings is a classic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score one for good taste?

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


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

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ISAS and the boney

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

Or more.

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

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

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

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

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

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

A governing coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The $51 Million Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2006 Election Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real Lessons? (work in progress)

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

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

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

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

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

Journalism's Sidney Poitier, RIP

He looked thinner the past couple of years, but still distinguished. The reseved demeanor remained, as did the beard -- it seemed always to have lots of salt amidst the pepper, and there was that dang earring that seemed like an attempt to pull some years off his tally. He remained a fixture of the most watched news program in the US. And he always had the ability to connect to his subjects -- no one on 60 Minutes ever captured the soul of the person he profiled as well as Edward Rudolph Bradley, Junior.

Ed Bradley will be remembered as an icon, and he should. The Philadelphia native graduated from Cheney State College and became a teacher before working in journalism. He was a stringer for CBS News in Vietnam, and was wounded in Cambodia in 1973. His work was well-received, to say the least. CBS News offered him a permanent position, which Bradley parlayed into an historical achievement -- becoming the first black reporter to obtain the coveted and prominent White House reporting beat for a US network when CBS named him its White House correspondent in 1976.

From there, Bradley became one of the first celebrity journalists but unlike others in the category, he traded upon his ability as a journalist, not a celebrity. He was CBS's least controversial anchor in many ways because his own liberal views rarely permeated his newspieces. And no one opened up his interview subjects better than Bradley.

In 1981 he landed a coveted spot as co-anchor on 60 Minutes, where he became the newsmagazine's best profiler, winning various Emmys and other awards. He also headlined the launch of 60 Minutes II, which had a successful run before dying as a result of Dan Rather's and Mary Mapes' inability to sort fact from forgery in the Texas Air National Guard story of September 2004. He remained a fixture on 60 Minutes until his death from leukemia.

The thrice-married Bradley's personal interests all fit within the parameters of cool: jazz music, fine wines, good cigars, the newest gadgets and nice threads. His alter ego "Teddy" befriended cultural icon Hunter S. Thompson and musicians from the Marsalis brothers to Jimmy Buffett to every drummer, strummer, hornblower and sax player in New Orleans. Bradley gave New Orleans his love too -- involving himself in the community during the Katrina aftermath.

But ultimately Bradley will be remembered as a groundbreaking journalist who was always just "Ed Bradley" not "Ed Bradley, black reporter". To white Americans, Bradley transcended race. He never forgot his own roots, however, and that enabled him to connect to blacks, too. As Reginald Dogan, a journalistic progeny of Bradley said, "Watching Ed Bradley on '60 Minutes' showed me not only could I work in journalism, but also I could excel and reach the top. Just seeing him on Sunday nights inspired so many young black students to realize that they could do it too."

Thus, Bradley is the Sidney Poitier of journalism -- the distinguished, respected, capable and accomplished black leading man who obtained entry into an exclusive club, erased the color-line divide and became a positive example for future generations of black children.

On Thursday, Bradley died at age 65 leaving an enviable legacy: pioneer, trailblazer, and icon.

Ed Bradley, RIP.

The Hand of Teheran

In addition to its President's lauding the mid-term election results, Iran is doing far more to destabilize the West as a whole, as Con Coughlin reports:

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are training hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters to carry out attacks against coalition forces throughout the Middle East.

* * *
. . . Western intelligence agencies now report that the Iranians are training Al Qaeda fighters at centers that were previously used by other Islamic militant groups, such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

* * *
The training of Al Qaeda operatives is part of a wider Iranian ambition: to take control of the Al Qaeda terror network by encouraging it to promote officials known to be friendly to Tehran.

Al Qaeda fighters stay at guest houses on the outskirts of Tehran used by the Revolutionary Guards for conducting training in sophisticated terror techniques. Some of the training is carried out by the guards' elite Quds (Jerusalem) force, their main paramilitary unit. Apart from standard training in firearms and combat drill, the fighters all learn how to prepare car bombs.

Many of those trained in Iran then travel to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where they use their new skills to carry out attacks on coalition troops.

Last week, British military commanders based in Basra said Iran was sustaining the insurgency against British and American forces by supplying terrorist groups with weapons and cash.

"From the evidence we have seen, Iran's links to Al Qaeda go far deeper than simply supplying them with equipment," a senior Western intelligence official said. "They are allowing them the use of training facilities so that they can ensure their attacks are as effective as possible."

The US should have been on the offensive against Iranian terrorism 27 years ago and Pres. Bush lost a tremendous set of opportunities to cut down the Iranians' ambitions by outsourcing nuclear containment to the Europeans and foregoing US strikes against Iranian forces while concurrently failing to help the nascent democratic movement in Iran. What a colossal waste of time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Celebrating Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day should be taken more seriously than it is today. Most public school students get the day off but no markets are closed. Beginning as Armistice Day, it was changed to Veteran's Day in 1954:

In Emporia, Kansas, on November 11, 1953, instead of an Armistice Day program, there was a Veterans' Day observance. Ed Rees, of Emporia, was so impressed that he introduced a bill into the House to change the name to Veterans' Day. After this passed, Mr. Rees wrote to all state governors and asked for their approval and cooperation in observing the changed holiday. The name was changed to Veterans' Day by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace. The President referred to the change of name to Veterans' Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars.

What was the spark that drove these men, some now elderly and infirm but all proud? Macaulay's words come to mind:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods,"

-Thomas Babington Macaulay; Lays of Ancient Rome

Matsuzaka to Red Sox?

ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Boston Red Sox may have the high bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka and that that bid was somewhere between $38 and $45 million.


That sum, if true, is outrageous. I can only see two logical reasons for that kind of bid:

1. Hedge fund boss and owner of the Bosox John Henry has lost his mind

2. Boston is trying to block the Yankees from getting Matsuzaka

The range it would take to sign Matsuzaka is believed to be $12-15 million per for four years. Remember, his agent is Scott Boras. So add $10 per for the posting fee and suddenly we are talking about $22-25 million which is A-Rod money. That's outrageous for a pitcher who's never really faced Major League hitters over a protracted amount of time.

If Olney is right this is a block.

This process is outrageous - some chunk of the posting fee should have been non-refundable to ensure the good faith of the participants.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sowell on Duke Disgrace

Thomas Sowell skewers the race-baiter and their PC fellow travelers in a way only he can:

It is especially painful to see the local NAACP joining the stampede to convict the Duke players, not only without evidence but in defiance of a growing body of evidence that points in the opposite direction.

How many black men have been railroaded to jail or even to the gallows by the same lynch mob mentality, whether carried out by a jury or by the Ku Klux Klan? And is all that the NAACP has learned from this tragic history is that it just depends on whose ox is gored?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The aftermatth

Why'd the Republicans get creamed last night? Read this and this. The latter link, by Ron Brownstein of the LA Times, seems about right -- the GOP has ceded the middle or allowed the Democrats to make that appear to be true (see the Sowell column I linked yesterday). As Ryan Sager has noted time and again, the GOP is too heavily reliant on evangelicals and has turned off libertarians in the recent past. That's a recipe for disaster in the probable 2008 swing states of the northern midwest, moderate southwest and Florida.

That said, there are certain caveats: (1) the president is a Republican, and that means that the foreign policy controls are still in GOP hands -- Bush should use them more than he has; (2) reliance on moderates to pass an ambitious partisan agenda is notoriously ill-advised -- Pres. Reagan worked his agenda through Congress using the moderate Southern Democrats; Pres. Bush has failed to make headway on his "ownership society" thanks to Chafee, Snowe, Collins and other soft GOP senators; Clinton's most ambitious economic and social legislation FAILED despite a Congress controlled by his party, and he instead has his best legislative wins(NAFTA, Welfare Reform) with a GOP Congress.

The problem for Bush is twofold: the Democrats have never conceded his legitimacy as President thereby creating the most rancorous political situation in DC since the 1850s, and he has failed to show any follow-through in his legislative agenda (the complete opposite of Reagan, who worked bills through Congress one-at-a-time, whose administration actively worked with Congress to craft bills, and who would smack Congress in the nose with his veto pen).

Finally, the American people may realize something's amiss when the UN (which has a lower approval rating than Congress), the Europeans, and the Islamofascists are singing the same tune about yesterday's elections.

Post-election thoughts

GOP: House -24; Senate -6; Governors -6.
Looks like a clean sweep for the Dems; Georgia 8 and 12 are still too close to call but the Democrat is leading in each and these were the two best takeover hopes for GOP.

A few thoughts:

0. Who's happiest today? Hamas, the mullahs in Iran, North Korea, Hugo Chavez. That says a lot I think.

1. The Senate is LOST. 8,000 votes in Virginia and 2,000 in little Montana are quite material and barring some horrible arithmetic or absentee changes the Democrats will have a 51-49 advantage.

2. This means the Republicans need to find very good, reliably conservative but heretofore very low profile jurists for any Supreme or appeals court nominations. Possibly a former or sitting Senator (from a state with a Republican governor, of course)

3. Maybe the lame-duck 109th Senate can CONFIRM JOHN BOLTON???

4. Any chance to get Joe Lieberman to caucus with the Republicans in exchange for a leadership seat on one of the big committees? (though wonder if committees are split down the middle if Senate is 50/50)

5. Need strong new leadership for the minority - Dennis Hastert hasn't and doesn't cut it. Jury out on McConnell.

6. Only silver lining I can see from Virginia is that at least George Allen blew a Senate seat (and control) and not the Presidency for the GOP.

7. Any Republican or conservative who thinks this is a flash in the pan should remember that the last time the Democrats took over the House (1954) they held it for 40 years. GOP couldn't catch a break in the past 14 months: Katrina, Abramoff, trumped up DeLay charges, Ney, Cunningham, Foley and, of course, Iraq. It ain't the economy.

8. Iraq. Hope that with the election over the Bush Administration takes the gloves off and makes real, sustainable headway. Even if this means taking out Moqtada al-Sadr. If this is to be a story in 2008 it needs to be "How Bush turned Iraq Around"

I leave the more erudite analysis to the Monk.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Or so the networks, newspapers and internet would have you believe. But be real about two things: (1) if the Democrats gain control of either house of Congress, their worst ideas will die in the House-Senate conference; (2) if the Democrats gain both houses, Pres. Bush can knock the crud off his veto pen.

As for Iraq -- if the President says the troops stay, Congress will lose a showdown over funding or defunding the troops. This is not 1973, the Democrats will not have veto-proof majorities and the President is not covering up G. Gordon Liddy's felonies.

Did I mention Iraq had an active WMD program when we invaded in 2003? Yes, I did -- and my source was the NY Times. So Wongdoer and our like-minded folks should not jump out of tall buildings if the jackasses win tonight.

But there are some things to note. First, the fundamental dishonesty of the Democrats. That party is leveraging votes for moderate candidates in House and Senate elections to place into power far left-wingers who have no connection to the moderate center of American politics: Pelosi, Conyers, Rangel, Waxman, Durbin, Schumer, etc. Thomas Sowell has more details in the article linked to this post.

Second, the September 10 outlook of the Democrats is something from an EU fantasyland. Mark Steyn distills the problem perfectly:

We live in times of plenty. Possibly you disagree with that: you scoff that it’s a “jobless recovery”, or that gas is not yet below two bucks a gallon again. The rest of the world should have America’s problems. Unemployment in the US is just over 4%, which means Dee Dee’s taking a week off between quitting at Bud’s Grill and starting at the hair salon. In the Euro-zone, it’s twice that, and France and Germany get excited if it dips below double digits. As for filling up your car, gas has just plummeted to $5.63 per gallon in France, $5.86 in Germany, and $6.18 in Britain. Which is why, when Americans are shown to their rental vehicle at Charles de Gaulle Airport, they don’t understand why the parking lot’s full of what appear to be slightly oversized cup-holders. So, if you’re upset about unemployment and high gas prices, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to vote for a party whose broad disposition is that we need to be more like Europe.

Nonetheless, my conscience is clear -- I voted this morning and actually voted for a Democrat . . . in a local judicial election against the worst Republican judge in the county. As I've said before, I've voted for one Democrat for national office since I turned 18 and there are no Daniel Patrick Moynihans in this Democratic party.

So, get out and vote. If you're a Democrat or a liberal, wait until the lines die down and just keep waiting and waiting and . . .

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election 2006 - The Calls

Conservatives, Republicans, Libertarians, Lovers-of-Freedom-and-Liberty - GET OUT AND VOTE!

Here's my call:
- Senate 50/50 split
This will come down to Virginia. GOP losses in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island leave it to three key races. Corker seems to have Tennessee well in hand but Talent appears behind in Missouri. Can Allen hold Virginia? Betting here that he does -- by his hangnails. Would note that in Montana Conrad Burns has made up a lot of ground in a hurry and could be a heartbreaker for the Democrats.

- House Dems +22/+23
Tough to call here but looking at the CT 2, 4, and 5 as bellwethers. All three switching to Dems augurs a bad, bad night but 2 of 3 or all three retentions may mean that the Rove/Mehlman GOTV operation may have pulled a November surprise. Any hope of House retention would REQUIRE that the GOP steal two Democratic seats in Georgia.

There has been quite a bit of chatter about what appears to be a late swing for the GOP which is manifesting itself in latest polls showing Steele competitive in Maryland and Chafee in RI. Probably which leads Bob Novak to call for only two losses in the Senate and 19 in the House. But I'm discounting this as far too optimistic.

As for the professionals:

Larry Sabato's respected Crystal Ball site is calling for:
- Senate 51D, 49R - Dems +6 note: Webb beats Allen in Virginia
- House 232D, 203R - Dems +29
- Governors 29D, 21R - Dems +7

- Senate, Dems +6
- House, Dems +20 (13 Rep seats likely Dem and half of 16 Rep held toss-ups)

Tradesports parlay betting:
- Dem House/GOP Senate: 51/55%
- Dem House/Dem Senate: 31/35%

NFL at midseason

The Monk's predictions before the season started are looking . . . no worse than most "experts," quite honestly, other than Peter King -- who famously picked the Lions to top the NFC Central. With the first half of the NFL season about to conclude, here are some observations.


If the season ended today, the Colts would be right where they were last year: the #1 seed with all to play for at home in the playoffs. The remaining playoff teams would be #2 Denver (sound familiar?), #3 Baltimore (6-2, lost to Denver); #4 New England (6-2, lost to Denver and Indy); #5 San Diego and #6 KC. So three of four division winners repeating and the three best teams to miss the playoffs in '05 would take a step up in '06. Seems fair.

At this point, the AFC East is New England's in a walk. The Pats are far superior to the rest of the division and probably most of the conference, other than the Broncs and Colts. The Pats' easy second-half schedule (two .500+ teams) will put pressure on the Broncs and Ravens for that second bye position. The rest of the division is awful -- the Jets are simply poor, the Bills stink and the Dolphins are desperately wondering why they went for Culpepper over Brees in the offseason.

The AFC Central is the Ravens' to win. The Bengals are 4-4 and have road games against New Orleans, Indy and Denver and a home date with the Chargers. They have allowed more sacks this year than in all of '05. Carson Palmer is a bit skittish in the pocket. An 8-8 total would not surprise. The Steelers have been awful and their season is effectively over -- they'd have to win out to even challenge for the playoffs, and with two games against the Ravens, a roadie at Cincy and an offense that is completely out of whack, it won't happen. The Browns will continue to play tough and lose; imagine if Romeo Crennel actually had some talent.

At this point, the only races in the AFC are: bye #2, AFC West champ and a race for the wild card between San Diego/KC/Denver (whoever doesn't win the west) and Jacksonville. That's not much with half the season remaining. The West teams have similar schedules: 2-3 games against each other, plus Seattle and Cincy (Denver, SD) or Baltimore and Jacksonville (KC). The Jags have four girls' teams, plus the Giants, Pats, Colts (all at home) and KC. All things considered, The Monk would actually favor the three AFC West teams because LT2 is playing well, the Broncos can suddenly score, and KC's running back Larry Johnson is now in midseason form, on his way toward 1,800 yards.

The Colts are, in a way, amazing. First, they have a poor run defense, but are able to get stops or turnovers as needed to win. Second, their run offense is hit-and-miss, but even the best defense they played couldn't do a thing against Manning (34-31 at Denver). Most importantly, the Colts have won two straight AT New England -- what once was a Russell/Chamberlain rivalry between Brady and Manning where the spectacular player would lose to the merely excellent player and his superior team is now too close to call.

The NFC is both more interesting, and less. It's still weaker than the AFC, although the Giants and Bears have closed that gap a bit. All of its races are still alive, except the NFC Central title (although the Giants have BIG advantages in the NFC East: two-game lead, 3-0 in division). So who is for real?

Despite their excellence through the first seven games, the jury is still out on the Bears. Why? First, the only supra-.500 team they beat was a Shaun Alexander-less Seattle. Second, they should have honked at Arizona. Third, they DID honk at home to the post-mortem Dolphins by 18 points! The Bears had an easy schedule, and it only stiffens slightly now: at Giants and at New England in the next three weeks (they should not lose to the Jets). The rest of their division is a mess.

Here's the most surprising stat of the first half: the Giants are 8th in the league in points allowed. This is after coughing up 92 in their first three games. The punditocracy wailed and moaned about how tough the Giants first seven games were -- all against teams in the top 11 in total defense in 2005, five against playoff teams -- and how the Giants would be respectable at 3-4, happy at 4-3. They ran that gamut at 5-2 -- how about them apples? The Monk never worried about the offense (only the Cowboys held the Jints under 20 in the '05 regular season), but once the defense smartened up in the bye week, the Giants turned from team-in-trouble to possible contender. A big game for them is Sunday against the Bears . . . but the remaining schedule is still tough: roadies at Washington, Jacksonville and Carolina, homers against Philly, Dallas and New Orleans. No gimmes -- if Big Blue can repeat as NFC East champs for the first time since 1989-90 or get a bye, it will certainly have earned it.

The rest of the NFC East is a mess -- the Cowboys are kicking themselves for losing yesterday, the Eagles are kicking themselves over at least two losses (Giants, Bucs), and the Redskins are an enigma. I just get the feeling that Gibbs will coax another six wins out of that team, and that might be enough to eek out a playoff spot -- the 'Skins have a manageable schedule in the second half. That said, considering that Dallas has games with Indy and Atlanta, Philly has Indy, Carolina and roadies against the whole division, and the 'Skins have three conference losses, it will be hard for any team that does not win the division to get a playoff spot.

The NFC South is the most interesting division -- you didn't predict a 6-2 Saints team at the break and neither did The Monk. Kudos to Brees and the Aints for coming together. Atlanta's bad loss to the Lions may be either: (a) the game that tips the division to New Orleans; (b) the game that ultimately knocks them out of the playoffs; (c) both. Carolina is a puzzle -- that team has too much talent to honk at home to the Cowboys after taking a two-TD lead.

Out west, the Shaun Alexander injury has turned a cakewalk into a dogfight for the Seahawks, and with the addition of Matt Hasslebeck's injury, may put the S'hawks in either a battle for the playoffs, or a non-bye playoff spot. I'm guessing the latter -- a #3-#6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Then again, they have the tiebreaker over the Giants and an easy schedule (four of their remaining nine are against San Fran, Oakland and Zona). As for the rest of that division: San Fran stinks, 'Zona is putrid. But the Rams have a decent defense and a QB who is a Pro Bowl contender. They can contend . . . but not if they remain consistently inconsistent.

Saddam's sentence

No matter how The Monk would attempt to analyze it, the death sentence for Saddam is justice. He is a mass murderer, a megalomaniac, a mini-Stalin. His closest parallel is Ceaucescu, and The Monk has little problem with the summary execution that the Romania dictator received in 1989 after a show trial.

This trial would have been Saddam's show, if the latest judge had let that happen. Fortunately, a real verdict was rendered. And the importance of that should be obvious:

The verdict reminds the world of his crimes, specifically the 1982 murder of 148 Shiites in Dujail, which in its systematic revenge recalls Hitler's slaughter at the Czech town of Lidice during World War II. That the U.S. and its allies were willing and able to depose, and his countrymen then try and punish, a national leader who ordered those crimes is a warning to other tyrants. The U.N. routinely deplores the Saddams of the world but never has the will to act against them--whether in Rwanda, Darfur, Kosovo, Bosnia, Cambodia, or Kurdistan. In Iraq, the U.S. finally acted.

And our "allies"? In a typical response, the EU deplored the death sentence. Sixty years ago, when Western Europe's moral clarity was not fogged by unrealistic idealism, its leaders acted more forcefully -- hanging Nazis from the nearest yard-arm. The reaction in EU-land is just another manifestation of how those nations have lost their moral compass.

Friday, November 03, 2006


That's the point that the NY Times buries in the linked article. When we went into Iraq, partly on the basis of Iraq's imminent threat due to its WMD program, Saddam was actively seeking the Bomb and may have been ONLY ONE YEAR AWAY at the time of the 2003 invasion by the U.S.

The Times' article is about the Iraqi National Document Portal website that the US government set up to display documents retrieved from Iraq after the 2003 invasion, and the decision to take down the website temporarily. The spin by the Times is that the website contained unedited documents that gave more information about how to build a nuclear bomb than were available anywhere else on the Web. If so, that's a glaring error and heads should roll. The Monk suspects that nuclear madman states like NoKor and Iran had better information from the AQ Khan network anyway.

But the point the Times glides over is simple: IRAQ WAS CLOSE TO OBTAINING THE BOMB WHEN THE U.S. INVADED. From the horse's pen:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

So much for the CIA's no-WMD analysis.

A comeuppance?

ACORN, the radical left-wing organization may be about to get nailed for the massive vote fraud it committed in Missouri.

Thus, Hugh Hewitt's premise "If it's Not Close, They Can't Cheat" is reinforced.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Suicide bombers welcome at UPenn

Dressing up as a KKK member or Hitler is bad taste for a Halloween or costume party. But going as a suicide bomber? Well that's certainly ok at the University of Pennsylvania!

Engineering senior Saad Saadi dressed up as a suicide bomber complete with fake dynamite strapped to his chest, a Koran and faux automatic rifle. This Democracy Project post has pictures of Saadi pretending to execute a hostage, encouraging a youngster AND posing for a picture with UPenn President Amy Gutmann who throws the annual Halloween Party.

Saadi is free to indulge in bad taste and Gutmann is certainly free to pose with him for a picture. But just imagine what would have happened if someone went in a white sheet with a pointy hat? Jesse Jackson would organized a campus march and reminded everyone within earshot of how it reminded him of Selma. (Yes, most situations remind Jackson of Selma.)

The Daily Pennsylvanian certainly doesn't think anything is amiss.

HT: Powerline

2006 Election Markets

Where's the money on the election? markets - where people put their money on the line current spreads

GOP to retain control of Senate: 70.0/71.0 (50-50 would count as control due to VP)
GOP to retain control of House: 30.0/32.0

There are 32k and 87k contracts traded respectively. (pretty high)

I am a little surprised that the GOP Senate contract is this high - GOP would have to take two out of three out of Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee.

Then there are some interesting parlays on control which are new and have very little volume so far:

GOP House/GOP Senate: 26.0 / 31.0
Dem House/GOP Senate: 39.0 / 42.0
GOP House/Dem Senate: 1.0/4.0
Dem House/Dem Senate: 29.0/32.0

GOP House & Senate is probably a good sell above 30.0. GOP House and Dem Senate is a buy here because it is sooo cheap. Unlikely, yes. But look at this very good article by Jim Geraghty on the seven houses races where the Democratic incumbent could be in trouble. By my math, the Dems need a total of 218 seats for control and have 201. So that's 17 (there's an independent so if caucuses with Dems will mean 16 required). So far virtually every one has ignored vulnerable Democrats - every one they lose increases their magic number - maybe they get 18 but lose three of these seven? Anyway, a cheap bet.

The NY Times: Cheerleading Terrorists

Gateway Pundit notes yet another leak to the NY Times that superficially (but not upon actual examination) paints a bleak picture of the situation in Iraq. Seems that leakers who have an anti-US agenda are easily able to find a useful outlet for their views -- just pass the information they want, and their skewed view of it, on to the NY Times.

But journalists are neutral.


That's why they publish state secrets that damage the war effort.

Climate Change Rubbish

More of the same bad science and bad policy -- that's a distillation of the Stern Report issued by the UK. As environmentalist and climate change apostate Bjorn Lomborg notes:

The report on climate change by Nicholas Stern and the U.K. government has sparked publicity and scary headlines around the world. Much attention has been devoted to Mr. Stern's core argument that the price of inaction would be extraordinary and the cost of action modest.

Unfortunately, this claim falls apart when one actually reads the 700-page tome. Despite using many good references, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is selective and its conclusion flawed. Its fear-mongering arguments have been sensationalized, which is ultimately only likely to make the world worse off.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The low quality of US military recruits


The Heritage Foundation has just released a long, detailed research piece on this, particularly relevant given Senator Kerry's insinuation that if you are dumb you become a soldier and get stuck in Iraq. It's a bit long but worth the time. Snippets:

The current findings show that the demo­graphic characteristics of volunteers have contin­ued to show signs of higher, not lower, quality. Quality is a difficult concept to apply to soldiers, or to human beings in any context, and it should be understood here in context...

Indeed, in many criteria, each year shows advancement, not decline, in measurable qualities of new enlistees. For example, it is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pen­tagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005.
Recruits have a higher percent­age of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distri­bution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population.
The estimate for mean household income of recruits increased every year from 2003 through 2005. The poorest areas continue to be underrep­resented, while middle-class areas are overrepre­sented. Although the richest income brackets are underrepresented, the difference between the recruit and population proportions for these brack­ets is less than 0.25 percent.

Kerry: Just a botched joke - UPDATED

UPDATE: Here is the YouTube link to Kerry's remarks.

Here's Warren Bell's excellent take on it.

If you say something to me, and I look hurt, and you say, "Just kidding," that does not make what you said a joke. It has to be a joke in the first place. And Kerry's line is very clearly, both in its wording and in its delivery, not a joke. It's a warning. He's talking to students. He says it with an even graver-than-usual, flatter-than-usual tone, and he's telling them what can happen to them if they don't study hard. Is he warning them that they might someday be President and make decisions leading to a quagmire in Iraq? Of course not. You can get stuck in Iraq. Personally.


Senatorial embarrassment John Kerry finally backtracks on calling American troops stupid. Sort of. He just screwed up the joke, according to a Kerry spokesman. From Reuters:

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Democratic Sen. John Kerry said on Wednesday he was sorry about a "botched joke" that drew election-year fire from President George W. Bush and other Republicans who accused him of insulting U.S. troops in Iraq.
Kerry said he was returning to Washington from a trip campaigning on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates because he did not want to be "a distraction."

A day after rejecting calls to apologize for his remarks, Kerry, appearing on the "Imus in the Morning" radio show on MSNBC, declared: "I said it was a botched joke. Of course, I'm sorry about a botched joke."

While campaigning in California on Monday, Kerry told a college crowd: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Kerry's office said the senator had misread his prepared remarks. They said he had intended to say,
"Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

Really, now. That's an awful joke - I mean just not funny. I think Kerry, thinking he was in California among the college crowd just slipped and spoke his mind. Does one really need to ask why so many veterans loathe him?

The next great Japanese import?

More polished than Nomo, better command than Irabu, and battle-hardened -- he's the next great Japanese baseball import according to the scouts and baseball geniuses: Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's led Japan in wins three times, won two ERA titles and the Cy Young Award equivalent once. He won the MVP at the World Baseball Classic.

His club, the Seibu Lions, granted his wish and will post him for the major league bidders seeking his services. The process is akin to soccer club team transfers: the highest bidder pays a nice load of cash to Seibu and gets the right to negotiate with the pitcher individually, who then signs a contract for additional money. The "posting" bid that wins will exceed $20M.

And Matsuzaka hired Scott Boras to represent him in the major league negotiations, so he'll get a large payday from whatever team gets the right to sign him (most likely Seattle, the Mess or the Yanks). World Series is over, now baseball gets interesting again.

Dishonest old people

The WSJ rings in with an editorial exposing how the AARP is lying for Democrats in tight Congressional races who supported the AARP's proposal to raise Social Security taxes.

Amazing how the self-reliant "Greatest Generation" gave way to the Baby Boomers' whining and sense of entitlement (remember: AARP membership is available at age 50, the oldest Boomers are 60).