Saturday, March 31, 2007

Some pre-game notes

Yeah, I'm blogging this shortly after the GTown/OSU game started but I've barely seen anything yet (TiVo equivalent) so these observations may be useful.

First, in the history of the conference, Big East teams have NEVER lost an interconference game in the national semifinals. The Big East has an overall record of 10-2 in the national semifinals but both losses by Big East teams came against a conference foe (1985 - Georgetown 77, St. John's 59; 1987 Syracuse 77, Providence 63). If Georgetown whiffs today, it would be the first loss by a Big East team to a non Big East team in the national semifinals since before the conferene existed (1978 - Duke beat Notre Dame).

Second, The Monk did not mention that this game is a rematch of an NCAA matchup from last year because it is markedly less relevant than the UCLA/Florida rematch between teams similar to the ones that played last year. That's because OSU is led by Conley/Oden, neither of whom played for the team that Georgetown walloped 70-52 in the second round of the '06 Tourney.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Final Four preview

As you know, The Monk picked all four Final Four teams. But if The Monk had to pick his Final Four games all over again, he might choose an OSU-UCLA final instead of an OSU-Florida final. There are too many warning signs pointing to a Florida fall for my comfort. All that soon, first let's preview game 1.

OSU v. Georgetown will be interesting. Ultimately, this may be the test for John Thompson III's game-planning abilities. He's had all week to prepare for a zone defense -- much more time than he had when the Hoyas got thumped by Syracuse. Unlike Boston College and Vanderbilt, who are not primarily zone teams but who limited Georgetown's effectiveness with a zone defense, OSU plays a lot of 2-3. Tennessee shot OSU out of the zone, if Georgetown can do the same OSU would have to face the back screening Princeton Offense in man defense.

There has been a lot of discussion about the "dinosaur" aspect of the game -- two true back-to-the-basket post players in Oden and Hibbert. Oden is more athletic and smooth, Hibbert is larger and taller. OSU's advantage is in the backcourt because Mike Conley Jr. has played so well this year; Georgetown's equalizer is Jeff Green.

The Monk still thinks OSU will win because it will zone the Hoyas. These teams are champions of premier conferences who dominated their leagues all season, therefore the only surprise would be a blowout win by either.

Game 2 is a danger game. Where teams have played earlier in the season meet again in the NCAA Tournament, and those teams are not from the same conference (therefore they don't see each other frequently and know the opponent's patterns) often have a different winner in the rematch. Examples? Syracuse-Ohio State in 1983, Syracuse-Navy in 1986, Arizona-Kansas in 2003. No, Florida and UCLA didn't play earlier this year, but they played in last season's title game and had basically the same lineups. Does this mean advantage UCLA?

The punditocracy believes UCLA will win because its defense is so good. The Monk thinks that this is bollocks: ultimately basketball is an OFFENSIVE game and the team that executes better will win. Florida is #2 in the nation in offensive efficiency, much better than Kansas (#18); UCLA is #22. Florida is a very good defensive team (#12); UCLA is one of the best (#2). Offense wins. And Florida has offense at every position -- an attack that could render even UCLA flummoxed.


Unless the Gators, their coaching staff, their head coach or some small part of the team in some corner of its collective mind is concerned about Billy Donovan. The Gators' coach has been rumored to be the first choice of Kentucky to fill its vacant head coaching position. Kentucky is one of the legendary programs in the country (UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky). Florida is a football school first, no matter how well the basketball team does. The last fast-talking Northeastern Catholic to run that program took it to three Final Fours, two more Final Eights and a national title.

The useless UN, part 1700+

Bowing to the "international community" the UK took its case against Iran's illegal seizure of UK marines and sailors to the UN and suffered diplomatic humiliation. The UN issued only a "press statement" that expressed "serious concern" -- not "grave concern" and not claiming to "deplore" Iran's acts.

As Fox News noted,
"A press statement is the weakest action the council can take . . ."

Meanwhile, a lovely measure of Britain's lack of resolve (or at least a summary thereof) is in Matthew Norman's column in The Independent, titled "We've Lost the Authority to Lecture Iran" which naturally includes these bits of relativism and idiocy:

. . . although Leading Seaman [Faye] Turney seemed stressed, naturally enough, she also looked healthy. There were no overt signs of any physical violence, and her hands were not cuffed. She was wearing civilian clothes, and was allowed to smoke. So on hearing Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, saying that it is "totally unacceptable to parade our people in this way", the image that flashes to mind is that of other people being paraded for a global television audience, their legs and hands chained together, their bodies immersed in lurid orange boiler suits.

The British Government wasn't directly responsible for Guantanamo Bay, but it colluded in the illegal seizure of suspects taken there and mistreated to an unimaginably worse degree than appears the case with LS Turney. It assisted the Americans in their pioneering extension of the concept of outsourcing to take in torture, allowing CIA jets to refuel at British airports while transporting suspects to countries with a similarly unCyrus-like approach to human rights as modern Iran.

And it never raised a squeak about such criminal acts as the kidnap of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, an EU citizen who was walking down a Milanese street in February 2003 when CIA operatives snatched him, bundled him into the back of a white van, and flew him to Cairo for interrogation.

None of this is to suggest, of course, that one nation's collusion in the illegal seizure of foreign nationals in any way justifies the use of the same indefensible tactics by another, or diminishes the seriousness of the offence. But British complicity in these American crimes raises questions about the source of the moral authority fuelling the current outrage about LS Turney's television appearance.

As one comment board poster wondered:

Where's the nation that crushed the Ottoman Empire? Yoo-hoo! Brits - do something! We are by your side! What are you waiting for?

The faux bravery of Israel's critics

Saul Singer shreds the (il)logic behind the Honest Broker paradigm and lambasts the pro-Palestinian elements of America's elite. Excerpts:

Indeed, Jimmy Carter, Nicholas Kristof, Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer, George Soros, Zbigniew Brzezinski and others have all painted themselves as brave pioneers exploring forbidden lands at the risk of being branded anti-Semites. Yet Carter's book is a best-seller, and none of the above have had trouble disseminating their views in the most prestigious publications in the land.

Stranger still is the attempt of these supposed dissidents to claim such status when their policy goal, far from being suppressed, is virtually universal: a Palestinian state. Is there any country or mainstream politician, even in Israel, who opposes this outcome? This call is not exactly samizdat.

Even the more controversial contention that Israel is blocking such a state can hardly be considered subversive. This has been the mainstream Western intellectual and diplomatic view since 1967. If anything, what is remarkable is the persistence of this view after Yitzhak Rabin headed down the road to a state in 1993, after Ehud Barak offered one in 2000, and after Ariel Sharon started creating one unilaterally in 2005.

* * *
If country X attacks country Y, it does not make a lot of sense to try to make peace between them by being completely evenhanded, thereby precluding any distinction between aggressor and victim. When Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, would it have made sense for England to call for "restraint from both sides"?

This, however, is essentially how the West, including the US, approaches the Arab-Israel conflict. Every statement or proposal must list what Israel and the Palestinians must do, and these lists, according to the "honest broker" paradigm, must at least seem to be balanced and tough on both sides.

THE PROBLEM here is that automatically acting as if "both sides" are equally to blame for a conflict provides a huge incentive for aggression. Why not attack, when not only will you not be blamed for it, but your victim will get the flak? This is exactly what happened during the waves of suicide bombings against Israel, when escalating Arab aggression not only failed to produce more pressure on the Arab side, but resulted in increased pressure on Israel.

Score one for Israel

At least in the propaganda war. The head of Israel's Homa Missile Defense Agency said that recent modifications to the Arrow intercept missile render it capable of intercepting any ballistic missile in Iran's armament.

Message to Iran: we can stop you from destroying us and then we'll nuke the f--k out of you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hoyamania and the "white boy" offense

Sean Gregory has an interesting profile in Time about the Princeton Offense and Georgetown. As Patrick Ewing, Jr. noted, the Princeton Offense is the "quote-unquote white guy offense" -- a precise, detailed and disciplined pass-cut-screen attack designed to share the ball. For nearly 30 years, Princeton ran Pete Carill's brainchild offensive design and it netted both a harvest of Ivy League basketball titles (13 in 29 years) and some notable upsets in the NCAA (1983 over Ok. State, 1996 over defending-champ UCLA).

Both NC State and Air Force use the offense. For the Flyboys, it has led to repeated 20-win seasons despite lacking the talent of their conference foes; for NC State, it worked less well because the talent gap between NCSU and top ACC teams was so large and Herb Sendek could not recruit top players (except Julius Hodge, who picked NCSU over Syracuse; Hakim Warrick then accepted SU's scholarship offer and we know how that all turned out).

But then, there's the code:

After all, the athletic (read: black) guys need to push the ball up the court and run one-on-one plays to showcase their skills. You can't hold them back by running that 1960s hayseed Princeton junk. Plus, only the smart, 1500-SAT (read: white) kids can learn those sets. The slower (read: very white) players need to milk the clock, move without the ball and throw those tricky backdoor passes to compete. So goes the code.

Georgetown has the double plus: running a precision offense correctly and doing it with top-end athletes like Jeff Green, Jessie Sapp, Ewing the Younger, et al. And if the offense cannot generate the shot Georgetown wants, it can fall back on those skilled players to create and score.

The Hoyas are shattering the myth, and like it. As Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green noted,

"When you're coming from high school and you're the superstar of your team, you can sometimes ask, 'Why are we doing this?' But we soon realized that nobody could guard us."

Unless the opponent plays zone -- got that Coach Williams?

All true: the SU recruits at the McDonald's Game

Mike Waters, the Syracuse beat writer for the Post-Standard, was at the McDonald's All-American game last night and had the same observations about the SU recruits Johnny Flynn and Donte Greene that I had when I watched the game yesterday.

I will say that I like Flynn's intensity -- it matches that of his former HS teammate, and future SU teammate, Paul Harris. Hopefully both of them can ensure that Greene plays with more intensity during the games that count next year. Last night, Greene was rebounded over, under and around by opponents so badly he looked like Hakim Warrick (6 points, 2 rebounds; season averages 14.8 points, 8 rebounds) did during the 2003 title game.

As for other recruits: (1) I barely knew Kyle Singler was in the game, ever; does that mean he's the next Big White Stiff at Duke? Of course not. All-star games in these situations are decent for evaluating who has the desire to be THE MAN for his team. (2) Michael Beasley is the next Derrick Coleman -- he can shoot from the outside, rebound, is lanky and strong and can play well from the wing. He also dogs it with alarming frequency. Beasley is not the ball-handler Coleman was at a similar stage, but he would be a high NBA first-round pick if the league had not instituted its minimum age requirement. (3) Kevin Love may have been the HS player of the year for McDonald's, but he looked like Eric Montross yesterday. For those who remember, Montross had an enormous reputation coming out of high school, played well for North Carolina, and flopped in the NBA because he combined a lack of quickness with a lack of athleticism. Love will be a fine college player, but even his scouting tape ESPN showed during a profile of the kid made him look slow. I still remember a Montross scouting tape from 18 years ago and he looked quick. (4) Kostas Koufos, the 7-foot-1 forward who models his game after Dirk Nowitzki, is either another Toni Kukoc or another Brad Lohaus -- it will all depend upon if he can develop quickness.

The King without an heir

Jennifer Swindal filed for divorce on on Tuesday after 23 years of marriage. While this may seem random, we need to identify some other people this will affect.

First and foremost, her children.

Second, her husband, Steve.

That's Steve Swindal. Recognize the name? How about Jennifer Swindal's maiden name -- Jennifer Steinbrenner? Or her father, GEORGE Steinbrenner?

Yes, THAT George Steinbrenner. Jennifer is the daughter of The Boss, principal owner of the NY Yankees and head of the Yankees business conglomerate. In 2005, The Boss tapped Swindal as his successor. Swindal has been heavily involved in the Yankees' baseball and business operations, including the crucial contract negotiations with Brian Cashman in the past offseason that restructured Cashman's position on the Yankee organizational chart and granted him vastly more power to make personnel decisions.

The succession plan has been effectively scrapped. Steinbrenner has made no secret of his determination to continue to have the Yankees as a family business (his sons both hold executive positions within the Yankee corporate structure). The divorce means Swindal is no longer family. Business abhors a vacuum.

Stay tuned.

John McCain -- was he about to abandon the GOP?

In The Hill today, an article detailing the maneuvers in the Senate in early 2001 right before Jim Jeffords switched sides. The Democrats sought a Republican to cross the aisle and targeted Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee (R/D-R.I.). Allegedly one of McCain's advisors, John Weaver, asked a Democratic operative why the Dems were not in discussions with McCain. Democrat leader Tom Daschle then began recruiting McCain.

[Weaver] said McCain was invited to a meeting in Kennedy’s office with several other Democratic senators but “didn’t know what the meeting was for” and left soon thereafter. Weaver added that Edwards approached McCain on the Senate floor to discuss the matter.

Daschle, however, said the talks went much further, claiming that there were times that he and Democratic leaders thought McCain “might be our best opportunity.” Daschle stressed that McCain never considered becoming a Democrat, but was close to becoming an Independent.
[Tom] Downey [Democrat lobbyist] said, “I actually thought during the initial stages of this that [McCain leaving the Republican Party] was almost a certain deal.”

Weaver, who changed his party affiliation to “Democrat” several years ago, said he respects Daschle and Downey, but added, “They’re partisan Democrats and we’re in the political season.”

Told of Weaver’s version of what happened, Daschle said, “Obviously, our recollection of what transpired is somewhat different.”

McCain was thisclose to performing the Jeffords flip -- from GOP to Independent voting with the Democrats. This will not help McCain in his efforts to win the GOP nomination for 2008.

Of course the immediate cloak-and-dagger theory is that the Democrats have come forward with this story to douse McCain's campaign. But that notion is illogical -- McCain is the "maverick" who works with Democrats in the Senate and House constantly to reach his legislative goals, therefore he would be the most likely GOP president to approve certain Democrat policies while in office. And McCain's campaign is not leading the GOP nomination process at this point either, therefore harming it intentionally makes little sense from a Democrat perspective.

The British Lion: toothless again

Mark Steyn contrasts the reaction by Lady Thatcher to the Falklands invasion and the current UK response to the Iranian seizure of British sailors and marines:

. . . A leading second-rank power whose troops are kidnapped and publicly humiliated cannot wait a week and then react by tentatively talking about talking to the EU about talking to the UN about talking about a sanctions resolution.

Without this incident, Britain would have spent the last week marking the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. As John O’Sullivan recounts in his excellent book The President, The Pope And The Prime Minister, there was a real "Falklands effect" in the wake of that war: Nobody thought the toothless old British lion would fight back and re-take the islands, especially after the humiliations inflicted by Iran on America, embodied by Jimmy Carter as a smiling eunuch. Neither Iran nor the Falklands had any direct connection with the Cold War, but the former marked the depths of western self-enfeeblement and the latter the dividing line between the territorial losses of the Seventies and the rollback of the Eighties.

Realists talk a lot about "deterrence". But you can’t deter if you have no credibility. And that’s what bleeds away in London and Washington every day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Five ugly possibilities

NY Post Sports columnist Joel Sherman predicts the following five grim scenarios for the Yanks:

1. A-Rod flounders on defense and offense as he continues to try to fit in.
2. The Dodgers beat the Yanks to Miguel Cabrera after the Marlins put the young star up for a trade.
3. Clemens will return for $13M in late June. Nice work if you can get it.
4. The Yanks will make a small trade for 1B and catcher help, and give up Tyler Clippard and J. Brent Cox to do it -- those prospects are supposedly second-tier but both know how to pitch.
5. Super prospect Philip Hughes will tank in AAA.

The Monk doubts #5, and definitely hopes it won't happen. Nos. 1-3 seem all too plausible.

Meanwhile, Sherman's colleague George King, the Post's Yankee beat writer, predicts the Yanks will go 92-70, win the AL East and knock off the Phillies for the World Series. The Monk says 92 wins won't win the East, the Phillies won't win the NL and I'd not put a nickel down on the Yanks no matter how much talent they have.

More legislative disgrace

The Senate wants a timetable too.


UPDATE: Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacts. Some excerpts:

Yesterday’s vote was potentially devastating to our mission in Iraq because telling the enemy the exact date you plan to leave is the surest way to guarantee defeat. It tells them only to rest, refit, and re-plan until the date the Democrat Congress circled on a calendar for American forces to give up and leave. A war spending bill that includes such a date is no war spending bill at all — it’s a prolonged and costly notice of surrender.

* * *
The Senate vote, like a similar vote in the House of Representatives last week, was also a memo to our friends. Millions of brave Iraqis have dared to stand with us because we promised to stand with them until they were secure. The Senate reneged on that promise last night, telling these men and women we’ve changed our minds and that we now intend to leave them on their own regardless of the consequences. It is indeed ironic, as Senator Lieberman has noted, that many of those who would now turn their backs on Iraqis, exposing them to slaughter, are the very ones who rightly call on the U.S. to help oppressed peoples in Darfur and elsewhere around the world.

Most Democrats were in agreement until recently on the foolishness of setting a surrender date. Senator Clinton told the Village Voice in early 2005 that she didn’t think “you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.” And just last June, Senator Obama made clear he agreed with her at least on this point. “A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal,” he said, “offers our commanders in the field … insufficient flexibility ...”

Why have Democrats flipped on the wisdom of setting a date for withdrawal? They haven’t. The foolishness of timelines is beyond dispute. Yesterday’s vote was instead a message to the president that Democrats will defy him at every turn on a war they already think is lost. Yet the only ones directly affected in the short term by such defiance are American soldiers in Iraq and their families here at home. By forcing a presidential veto and delaying the shipment of supplies, they’re the ones who lose.

All of which would be an excellent lesson in why the Framers placed the power of conducting a war into the hands of a single commander-in-chief rather than 535 members of Congress. Yesterday’s vote sent a message, but not to President Bush. It’s a message to our enemies that the U.S. Senate has given up on this fight. It’s a message to our friends that their protection is no longer a priority. And it’s a message to our soldiers that we’ll continue to equip them for a war we’ve already decided is lost.

A fine honor, long overdue

Pres. Bush will honor the Tuskegee Airmen tomorrow in a ceremony at Capitol Hill. The honorees will receive the nation's highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal.

This should have been done long ago.

Elephants do forget

That is, members of the political party symbolized by the elephant often forget. As the NY Sun points out, Secretary Rice's memory is either faulty or she's engaging in some revisionist history. Responding to Dr. Rice's claim that Israelis and Palestinians just took the "first step" on the road to peace, the Sun notes:

It was in November of 1991, after all — more than 15 years ago — that the actual "initial discussions" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs took place, at the Madrid Conference during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. That conference proceeded on ground rules that were insisted upon by one of the finest and longest-serving prime ministers of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, who would not negotiate with Palestinian Arabs connected with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a terrorist group, or with Palestinian Arabs from Israel's capital of Jerusalem.

Those were sound principles then and, by our lights, still are. In any event, it was the abandonment of those principles that was the central act of Oslo, an abandonment of principle that was soon being touted as the breakthrough to peace, although it turned out to be the road to war. It has been more than 13 years since the Rabin-Arafat handshake hosted by President Clinton in September of 1993 on the White House lawn. And then there were the meetings at what is called Camp David II, where a lameduck Clinton administration signed on to the notion of dividing Jerusalem only to usher in not peace but the second intifada.

First as tragedy, then as farce. . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

444 lessons

For those who are more than a quarter-century old the number 444 should mean something. The utter humiliation of the United States led by the worst President (and ex-President) in history by a band of Islamofascist mullahs. That's how many days 52 American hostages spent in captivity before they were released as President Reagan took the oath of office. Khomeini was wise, he pushed it as far as he could and no farther.

It is unlikely that the current hostage crisis will drag on even a tenth as long but this whole affair is quite distressing:

- The mullahs have put forth a test of strength and so far the Western response has been worse than flaccid.

- The decline of Great Britain is manifest. 25 years ago the British, baited similarly, retook the Falkland Islands. Now, against an incomparably more evil foe the reaction is muted and not a few British are consumed by self hate and the idea that really this is all Bush's fault.

- Where is the European outcry?

I think this will end in a few days or a week or two when the mullahs decide that they have humiliated the British enough and release the hostages for which they will pay NOTHING. Perhaps their price is the earlier then planned resignation of Tony Blair. The only silver lining in this is that a success in this adventure will embolden them more than it should...

A few good pieces:

Daft Rules of Engagement from EU Referendum - it seems that had any Royal Marine fired a weapon they would have faced a court martial.

Victor Davis Hanson laughs at the vaunted "soft power" of the EU.

Mario Loyola thinks there's more here than meets the eye.

Golden arch stars

Tomorrow night is the McDonald's All-American game of the best high school senior basketball players. And for many of the players, it's basically a scouting combine because NBA scouts will be crawling all over the place looking at the "one-and-done" players like Michael Beasley (who has publicly said that he wouldn't have gone to college if the NBA had not essentially forced him to). Since the advent of the game in the 1970s, only one team has won the NCAA title without a McDonald's game alumnus on its squad -- 2002 Maryland.

That said, there's a gap between the marginal selectees and the no-doubters. Players like Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Billy Owens, and Carmelo Anthony are so highly skilled that they can raise a program from decent or good to excellent. There's no mystery why Georgetown went to three Final Fours during the Ewing years, or why Syracuse was an NIT semifinalist in 2002 and a national champion with Carmelo in 2003. Each year there are usually 5-10 top end recruits who should really add to the teams they will join the next fall (although 2005 is an exception -- quick, name seven top-end sophs!).

Syracuse is set to welcome its third top-10 recruit since the probation year of 1993. During the 1980s, SU built its program and reputation through high-profile signees like Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens -- all of whom were top 10 recruits, and seeded the program with numerous McDonald's A-A players (Stevie Thompson, Red Autry, Conrad McRae). In the early 1990s, the NCAA and SU began investigating the program's recruiting and SU sat on NCAA probation in 1992-93 thanks to some boosters' connections with a playground hoops groupie, Richie the Fixer, in the recruitment of the late Conrad McRae.

Since that investigation, SU has signed only four top 10 recruits: John Wallace, Winfred Walton, Carmelo and Donte Greene; and only five McDonald's A-As overall (Eric Devendorf, the sophomore guard was one). Wallace led the team to a shock Final Four appearance as a senior and would have been the Final Four Most Outstanding Player if SU had won. Walton couldn't meet his SAT requirements so SU let him out of his letter-of-intent and he flopped at UNLV. Carmelo brought home the national title. Greene has wowed at least one observer at the McDonald's game practices:

As ridiculous as this may sound, Greene resembled a bit of a poor man’s Kevin Durant on Sunday. He put the ball on the floor, shot the three pointer, and used his outstanding length and athleticism on both ends of the floor. While he is about an inch shorter and not the deadly shooter that KD was at this stage, the similarities in their games are definitely evident. The Baltimore native used his deceptive athleticism to block numerous shots in the paint against stronger post players, and was able to take opposing big men out to the wing and score on the perimeter against the more traditional posts. He is certainly a name that draft fans should keep etched in their heads, as many feel that he has a great chance of being a “one and done” player once he hits Syracuse.

The Monk likes the sound of "poor man's Kevin Durant" although the "one and done" concept may be overblowing it -- freshman guard/forward/tank Paul Harris (a surprising omission from last year's McDonald's game) was reputedly a possible one-and-done for SU this year, but college basketball showed he needs a LOT of work on his offensive game, especially his shot. Nonetheless, when SU convenes its first practice next year, it will have enough McDonald's A-As to open a franchise: Devendorf, Greene and Johnny Flynn (also playing tomorrow) -- the most since the 1989 team with Coleman, Owens and Thompson that went 30-8 and advanced to the Elite Eight.

Not a bad foundation.

A Vioxx victory in a bad forum

Merck won a jury trial in one of the worst venues in the US for a corporate defendant: Madison County, Illinois (just outside St. Louis, Mo.). And it should have -- basically this case is one where if the plaintiff (the decedent's widower) had won, any person could win against Merck.

The former Vioxx user died when she was 52; she weighed between 250-300 pounds (that's between 17.12 and 21.6 stone for the Anglosphere readers, and 113.6 to 136.4 kg for metric users); she stood five-foot-two (1.58m); she did not exercise, she had diabetes and had high blood pressure. In other words, her death from a heart attack was sad, but not particularly surprising.

So the contribution of Vioxx to the decedent's death would have been minimal at most. Merck now has won 10 of the 15 Vioxx trials, with one fat verdict against it on appeal.

Bad Idea Bears

Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) obviously checked with the Bad Idea Bears before proposing that the US set a SECRET date of withdrawing troops from Iraq. From the WaPo:

...Unlike the plan's Republican opponents, Pryor wants a withdrawal deadline of some kind. He just doesn't want anyone outside the White House, Congress and the Iraqi government to know what it is.

"My strong preference would be to have a classified plan and a classified timetable that should be shared with Congress," Pryor said yesterday. A public deadline would tip off the enemy, "who might just bide their time and wait for us to leave," he said. "Then you'd have chaos and mayhem and instability."

Pryor said a classified plan would be provided by the president, shepherded by Senate committees and ultimately shared with Congress and Iraqi leaders. He is confident that the plan would remain secret, because Congress is entrusted with secrets "all the time."

What if the president's withdrawal plan didn't include a deadline? Or what if it leaked, through leaders in Iraq, to insurgents?

All worth considering, Pryor said. But in the meantime, "at least you'd have a plan."


Stupid is as stupid says

Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald lists out some notable morons and moronicness on his blog today. He claims that whoever edited this NYT article detailing how the US has been concerned about Iran supplying arms to terrorists in Iraq for at least 20 months is a moron because the editor included this bit of stupidity at the end of the article:

“The fact that Iran may be supplying lethal equipment is all the more reason to deal with them,” Lee H. Hamilton, a co-chairman of the [Iraq Study Group], said in an interview. “We do think it fortifies the case for engaging Iran.”

Crittenden notes how the article "painstakingly lays out the evidence of Iran’s murderous interference in Iraq, pointing out how quiet diplomacy has been attempted and rebuffed, and then . . . closes with a demand for more diplomacy." Sure, the editor is a bit of a fool, but The Monk disagrees with Crittenden's choice of target. Instead, the morons are the US government for putting up with this nonsense without giving Iran a severe swatting and the Iraq Study Group itself, which was filled with realpolitikers, eminence grises without international relations experience and credulous fools -- as Hamilton so aptly demonstrates.

No Gitmo closing

Every article David Rifkin and Lee Casey co-author regarding the law and the war on terror is a must read. They have one today in the WSJ.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Orange travesty gets worse

Bad enough that Arkansas (or Stanford) took Syracuse's NCAA bid, now the possible reason for the Razorback favoritism shown by the Committee has evaporated: the Arkies fired coach Stan Heath. The Monk is wondering, when the fallout ultimately ends, just how big a price Arkansas will have paid in long-term damage for the winning days of Nolan Richardson's early teams (1990, 1994, 1995).

Bad coaching 101? The Georgetown comeback

First, congratulations to Georgetown. The Hoyas are the first Big East team other than Syracuse and Connecticut to reach the Final Four since 1989! Georgetown now leads all Big East teams in Final Four appearances with four (SU has 3, UConn has 2 -- remember, Louisville [1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 2005] and Marquette [1974, 1976, 2003] were not Big East teams until 2005-06 and the Big East didn't exist until 1980, therefore SU's appearance in 1975 doesn't count). The Hoyas won because they outplayed UNC, and John Thompson III outcoached Roy Williams.

Yesterday's Georgetown-UNC game deserved all the hype, although that build-up could more easily have concentrated on these teams, not the Jordan/Ewing teams from 1982. I'm 37, so I remember that game. The players are 18-22 -- they weren't even twinkles in their mamas' eyes then. And for the first 34 minutes, the game was not much of a game: UNC dominated inside, rolled up 75 points against a slow-tempo team with good defense (including 50 in the first half) and Georgetown could barely get stops because UNC rarely committed turnovers and often scored on tap-in offensive rebounds.

Georgetown's late run of 30-6 spanning the end of regulation and OT is the stuff of legend. UNC dominated inside, put the Hoya frontline in foul trouble, feasted on offensive rebounds and an egregious free throw advantage (and the Big East fans in the Meadowlands noticed that) and actually shot fairly well (23 of 47) before the collapse. But when Georgetown finally collapsed in the zone, its rebounding vastly improved, and UNC began laying brick after brick. Consider: UNC had a 32-16 rebound edge midway through the second half; Georgetown then outrebounded UNC 22-11 the remainder of the game. And UNC missed 22 of 23 shots. Jim Nantz said he couldn't remember such cold shooting from such a good team but The Monk could -- 1984 Final Four, Georgetown 53, Kentucky 40 and UK shot 3 for 33 in the second half whilst getting its clock cleaned 31-11.

How did Georgetown win? First, UNC completely failed on defense throughout the game. Georgetown distributed the ball very well (26 assists on 38 baskets), ran backdoor layup cuts on UNC constantly and executed its Princeton offense extremely well (nearly 60% FG). Worse yet, UNC stupidly refused to go zone. The Princeton offense is a MAN TO MAN offense; Georgetown has been vulnerable to the zone (Syracuse, Boston College). Add that up and you get . . . UNC playing man all game and overplaying the passing lanes? Wrong move. Even Duke will go to a zone and UNC should have done so yesterday.

The diagram at the top of this post is the play that Georgetown ran time and again against UNC, the most basic Princeton Offense play: get the ball to a player on the wing (usually Wallace or Sapp, not the small forward as shown in the diagram), have him dribble at the elbow of the key and smack a one-hand bounce pass to the man at the top of the lane (Sapp or DaJuan Summers) while he's cutting to the basket. (Courtesy the invaluable Hoops 101 feature ESPN ran in 2003 -- Google it).

Georgetown's Princeton offense is impressive because it does not rely as much on forwards to serve as the hubs of attack for the back cuts that lead to layups for the guards. Instead, Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp combined for 15 assists and hit cutting forwards on one-hand bounce passes all day long. Therefore the bread-and-butter baseline back-door cut of the UCLA high-post offense that was a staple of Princeton's teams in the 1990s is used less by Georgetown than the typical Princeton offense team.

Second, Georgetown got its players to smarten up. Roy Hibbert stopped reaching down to block shots, the team played better position defense and let UNC pop from the outside. UNC's lack of consistent outside shooting doomed it. And once Georgetown shut down the UNC offensive rebounding, it sharpened up on both offense and defense. Billy Packer was right twice: Georgetown did seem the better and more confident team even when it was trailing late in the second half, and UNC should have had a larger lead with 8-10 minutes left.

One final thought: The Monk disdains the waterworks shown by Roy Williams yesterday and by Mike Krzyzewski each time Duke loses in the NCAAs. This is not the end of the world for you or your players, nor are your players the center of the universe. They lost. Most will have the chance to win again at this level; others will have the chance to win at the next level. Either way, you are overinflating both your own importance and that of these games by crying like four-year old girls. The players' tears are more acceptable because their opportunities are limited and they hopefully played as hard as they could; the coaches will be coaching for decades. In this respect, Bob Knight has it right -- his reaction after winning the national title in 1987 was to praise the kids and say how happy he was FOR THEM without exuding the glee of a toddler with a new toy.

Geneva Convention outrage . . . or not

Evidently the Geneva Convention is only supposed to constrain civilized nations in their dealings with terrorists and terror-sponsoring states, but not supposed to govern the actions of a signatory that is the premier terror-sponsoring nation in the world.

For the British sailors and marines captured in Tehran, the Convention is not worth the paper it's printed on.

Chuck Hagel's ego

Rather disgusting for a Republican Senator to threaten a sitting Republican president who's taken no illegal action with impeachment for "ignoring Congress". Once Hagel's proposed resolution gets filibustered or vetoed into the ether, what basis will there be for impeachment -- mere political disagreement? The backseat driving from Congress is preposterous. Pres. Bush needs to speak out forcefully against this more than just the one time he did so last week.

4 for Four

Boo-yah! The Monk picked the whole Final Four!

Number of SI "experts" who did the same, none.

Number of CBS Sportsline experts who did the same, none.

And of the ESPN experts listed here, only one picked all four Final Four teams.

Maybe the right picks were harder than I thought.

Last year was the no-clue bracket for The Monk. Usually there are dominant college basketball teams that are at least reasonable bets to reach the last weekend, or else there's a weak #1 seed that should not be (2001 and 2004 Stanford; 1996 Purdue). Each top team had a major flaw (Duke = no muscle, Villanova = too small, UConn = poor character, Memphis = untested). Even the four who reached the Final Four were decidedly underwhelming.

This season, there have been dominant teams in college hoops who lacked the fatal flaws of the top teams from last year. When the brackets came out (after getting past the no-Syracuse shock; yes, that's the same Syracuse that is the only team to beat East Regional champ Georgetown since the second week of January), The Monk saw only eight reasonably possible Final Four teams: Kansas, UCLA, Florida, Georgetown, UNC, OSU, A&M and Memphis. Anyone other than Florida from the Midwest would have been a major shock because that bracket stank like a Mississippi bordello. UCLA got The Monk's nod over KU because the West regional final was in California and UCLA is THE California college hoops team. OSU got the nod over A&M despite the San Antonio location of the Final Eight because The Monk still had nagging doubts about the ability of A&M to get that deep and because OSU's offensive and defensive efficiency numbers compared favorably to A&M. Georgetown got the nod over UNC because (a) The Monk incorrectly thought Texas would make the Final Eight and G'town would win, and (b) even if UNC made it past Texas, The Monk doubted that three #1 seeds would reach the Final Four. I've made fortuitous mistakes like that before (in 1991, I picked Alabama to upset Arkansas and based on that picked KU to reach the Final Four; 'Bama got whupped by 23 but KU dropped Arkansas and I ended up picking the whole Final Four).

So The Monk is not a complete dope anymore! I'm feeling a lot better now than at this time last year.

Not your core competency

This might be a sign that the global warming alarmist idiocy may be reaching its apex. The bishops of Norway is urging the Norwegian government to do more to fight global warming. This is akin, after a fashion, of every mom and pop investing in and talking about the NASDAQ at dinner.

OSLO, March 26 (Reuters) - Bishops from Norway's Lutheran state church urged the government on Monday to do more to fight global warming in a new sign that religious leaders are getting worried by climate change.

"We are causing terror in creation and we must see that the way we are living today means ruthless exploitation," Bishop Finn Wagle said in a statement.

All 11 Lutheran bishops in Norway, the world's third largest oil exporter, signed up for an appeal drafted by the charity Norwegian Church Aid saying "Norway must start reducing greenhouse gas emissions now."

It said that more than half the cuts should be made in Norway, rather than by buying rights to emit greenhouse gases on a European market or by investing in renewable energy projects in developing nations.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ah, the pools and possibilities

In the tournament pool both Wongdoer and I are in, picking the Final Four and especially the games within the Final Four are key: Elite 8 winners are worth 10 points, national semifinal winners are worth 25 and picking the champ is worth 50. So this is the fun part, or so I'm told. But again, it emphasizes why the first round games are minor and The Monk is actually smart (it's been known to happen) for concentrating on the later rounds. If I pick the final game correctly, I finish no worse than 3rd.

The Final Eight this season was the hype machine's favorite input: the possibility of having ALL FOUR #1 seeds in the Final Four for the first time ever! WOW. Indeed, 2007 is the first time all four #1 seeds would play in the Final Eight since 2003 (and yes, The Monk knew that off the top of his head) -- and that year the #1s took a beating when Marquette drilled Kentucky by 14 (UK scored the last eight points to make it less embarrassing), Syracuse creamed Oklahoma by 16 despite a ridiculous 24 turnovers and KU beat Arizona in a tight game to get revenge for 'Zona's 17-point beatdown of the Jayhawks during the regular season. Only Texas, from a chickens**t regional, won.

The strange thing today was the collapse by the losers down the stretch. Unlike Tennessee, Memphis basically imploded down the stretch; similarly Kansas deflated against UCLA. I'm unable to explain it. Watching the early part of the KU/UCLA game I thought KU was clearly the superior team, but UCLA made adjustments at halftime that stagnated KU's offense. Ben Howland is one of the best coaches in the country, and has been an excellent defensive coach throughout his career. I still doubt UCLA has the offense to win the title. I also think KU's relatively soft schedule (remember, it only played the other Big 12 teams that received NCAA bids once each during the regular season) hurt it today. Extra note: Bill Self the KU coach is now 0-4 in the regional finals (2000 loss by Tulsa to UNC, 2001 loss by Illinois to Arizona, 2004 loss by KU to Ga. Tech, and today). Then again, his teams have reached the Final Eight four times in the last eight years -- there are lots of coaches who'd like that record.

As for Ohio State: this was the showcase game for the Bucks. OSU lit Memphis, a very good defensive team, for 92 points and played a high tempo with Oden taking a leading role.

For tomorrow: an Oregon win would be a shock, a Georgetown win would be a surprise. Florida has the inside-outside balance that Oregon lacks -- the Ducks are a perimeter team, period. Georgetown has never beat UNC in the NCAA Tourney. That would say more if tomorrow's meeting wasn't only the third (the Jordan game and the 1995 Sweet 16 in the middle of a UNC Final Four run). Then again, UNC has enough talent to be a one-school feeder for the NBA, Georgetown does not. That said, if Georgetown can roll up a 16-point lead in the second half against UNC like So. Cal. did, it won't choke. Note that if UNC loses, if will be the first time since 1979 and 1980 that the Final Four would have no ACC team in consecutive years.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's called a choke

Ohio State's win over Tennessee temporarily saved my brackets and showed why even if this OSU team will never be regarded as an all-time great if it win the national title (and it won't), it's still a dangerous team in this tournament.

First, OSU has comeback ability over both short and long stretches. In its game against Xavier, it came back from down 9 with 3:00 left; against Tennessee it was down 20 with 20:01 left (OSU had a three-point play to close out the first half). According to Elias, the 17-point halftime deficit was the largest ever overcome for a win in regulation in the NCAA Tournament. Va. Tech overcame an 18-point halftime hole and won in OT in 1980 (and that's quite ridiculous in the pre-shot clock era -- it's not like UNC hadn't been using the Four Corners for about 15 years by then). The Monk remembers a 17-to-19 point deficit Michigan had in its second-round game with UCLA in '93 but I'll trust Elias on this one. Oh yeah, Elias had one other note -- only three teams have ever won in the Sweet 16 by 1 point and won the NCAA title, the last two were '03 Syracuse and '05 UNC. Talk about dopey stats -- SU had wrapped the game and Auburn hit a meaningless triple at the buzzer. As for UNC . . . heck, it should have lost that one.

Second, unlike most of the Big Tenplusone teams and unlike UCLA, North Carolina and Kansas, OSU is effective at basically all tempos. It can bang and slog in low-scoring (YAWN) games such as its 66-49 Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin, and it can push the pace and compete like it did yesterday. OSU played better yesterday without Greg Oden (the world's oldest 18-year old -- he looks nearly my age) because the big bugger does not run the floor particularly well (contra Pat Ewing, Hakeem and Shaq when they were collegians).

As for Tennessee: it's called a choke. No matter how you slice it, you should NEVER lose games where you have had a 20-point lead. OSU's biggest advantage was its frontcourt, but the guards carried the Buckeyes.

All told, however, it was a great game.

The proper response to Iranian piracy

Iranian attackers kidnapped British sailors in Iraqi waters. The proper response: an Operation Entebbe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Smith Era at Kentucky, RIP

In 1997, Rick Pitino left the Kentucky program that he had resurrected after Eddie Sutton and his minions had defenestrated the place. Pitino took over a program suffering from a major scandal and two years of forthcoming probation and transformed it into one of the top programs of the '90s: four Final Four appearances (only Duke and UNC had more with 5 each), two national titles (tied with Duke) and the never-quit valiance that the nation saw when an undermanned Kentucky team came within a miracle of preventing Duke's repeat in 1992.

Tubby Smith replaced Pitino for the 1997-98 season and did the unexpected -- won a national title. Nine years later, Smith has told his players that he will become the coach at Minnesota next year.

The fact that the players on Smith's first team were Pitino's meant little -- in the two years since its 1996 title, Kentucky had lost NBA first-round draftees Walter McCarty, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer. The '98 team did not have completely "bare" cupboards -- it was led by Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed, Scott Padgett and Wayne Turner; all of them were serviceable players, but there was not an all-American in that bunch. Under Smith, they were national champions. Even Pitino would have had difficulty coming close to that mark.

"Not an all-American in the bunch" could have been the codephrase for Smith's recruiting. Smith liked to coach, not recruit, not gladhand the boosters, not kiss-up to the faithful. In Kentucky, UK hoops is a religion. After all, there's no other significant pasttime in the whole blasted state except bourbon production and horse racing. Louisville doesn't count: it's like Duke in the state of North Carolina -- a regional team, not the state's flagship program. So the semi-reclusive Smith had to be the face of the program that has the permanent attention of the whole state. Not good for him.

Worse yet, Kentucky is nothing without its fans -- rabid, devoted, loyal, and sometimes hot (two words: Judd, Ashley). Without that fan base, what Queens playground kid would go to a small town like Lexington? Smith's recent run enervated the fan base as UK failed to reach the Sweet 16 in consecutive years, UK completely whiffed on top recruit Chris Lofton and UK's recruiting sank to low Pac-10 levels recently. Indeed, but for Smith's coaching, the team would not have reached the Final Eight in 2003 or 2005. The fact that Smith's overachievers obtained a #1 seed in 2004 was an accomplishment in itself -- that team simply lacked ability. Smith's personality just did not mesh with the fans' fanaticism, despite his obvious coaching ability.

What Minnesota gets is a coach who can build mid-level players into a winning unit at a major conference, something that Dan Monson could not do (a rather ignominious fall for the coach who originally put Gonzaga on the map). So the Golden Gophers now have a coach who can win, and will run a clean program, in contrast to Clem Haskins. Unfortunately, Minnesota still will lack something: a coach who can win, run a clean program, and graduate his players.

Dugard Retard

John Dugard, special rapporteur (wtf?) on human rights in the Palestinian territories, confirms once again why the UN is useless.

South African lawyer John Dugard warned Western states they would never rally support among developing nations for effective action against perceived abuses in Sudan's Darfur, Zimbabwe and Myanmar unless they tackled the plight of Palestinians.

"This places in danger the whole international human rights enterprise," he told the Council, a Geneva-based watchdog.

Dugard, special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said restrictions on movement and separate residential areas gave a sense of "deja vu" to anyone with experience of apartheid.

"Of course there are similarities between the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory) and apartheid South Africa," he told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

So the Islamists, Mugabe and a disastrous junta get a pass because of the Palestinian issue. What has they got to do with anything?

The Jews are the root of all evil does sell though.

Portland's homophobia and the curse of women's basketball

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, Penn State was the most prominent women's basketball program that could not reach the pinnacle. Despite yearly top 10 or top 15 rankings, consistent success and good recruiting, the Lady Lions were always a step below the southern teams (Tennessee, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Texas, La. Tech) that dominated the mid-80s and fell behind the temporary powers of the early 90s (Stanford, Virginia) and the emerging powers of the east (UConn, Duke, UNC). So Portland was like the Gene Keady of women's hoops, with one exception -- she made one Final Four, Keady made none.

Portland's sacking is notable because she is one of the early NCAA women's hoops coaches, who are all but untouchable (Pat Summit, Jody Conradt). The NCAA did not include women's sports within its organization until the early 80s, and coaches who were in place at or near the assumption of power by the NCAA over women's hoops are minor royalty in the community -- standard-bearers in the fight for equality, Title IX, recognition, etc. Indeed, two notable coaches are almost completely untouchable because they oversaw the birth of the programs in the NCAA -- Virginia's Deb Ryan and NC State's Kay Yow. Neither Virginia nor NC State has been a prominent program since at least the mid-90s.

In recent years, Portland has come under fire for her hardline stance against lesbians. Her non-denial denials only indicate a strong distaste for homosexuality in her program. There are some potential justifications: Nancy Lieberman's rampant sexual deviations have caused trouble in various places she's played and tarnished her image as the first great women's basketball player in the US; the Texas program went from perennial title contender to the dumpster in the mid-90s thanks to a lesbian assistant coach who hit on students; the LSU program is now in turmoil after Pokey Chatman's resignation following revelation of her sexual affair with one of the team's former players. But all those situations had one thing in common: the authority figure (Lieberman as coach or captain, Chatman the coach, the Texas assistant) made sexual advances toward the players. Portland rejected homosexuality among the players, period.

There is undoubtedly lesbianism in women's sports, and it is more open than homosexuality in men's sports, to say the least. At U.Va., the homosexuality of many field hockey and women's soccer players was an open secret, but the female swimmers were a bunch of "d*ck-hungry sluts" in the words of their own coach. The question is, does it interfere with the team's ability to function as a group? Where there are lesbian coaches essentially recruiting players with half an eye toward a future relationship, then it does; if not, then seemingly the problem is much more conceived than real.

Portland survived a climate far less tolerant of homosexuality despite her open proclamations against lesbians in the mid-80s and early 90s. Combined with a 28-32 record in the past two years, a decline in the program generally, a black eye from a harassment lawsuit and a climate less tolerant of her brand of homophobia, she could not survive the storm. Penn State was right to fire her.

A mistake in the making

Duke's Big White Semi-Stiff Forward Josh McRoberts declared for the NBA draft today. This is simple foolishness. Even among the litany of Big White Stiffs Duke has had over the years, it has also had really good collegiate basketball players like Laettner, Ferry and to a lesser degree Parks who never did well in the NBA. And McRoberts is just another mediocrity from the 2005 recruiting class that lacks true impact players other than Tyler Hansborough and Brandon Rush. Amazingly, McRoberts was the #1 recruit that year.

McRoberts is a 13-point, 7.9 rebound player on a Duke team that lacked any inside scoring or rebounding; in other words, those numbers were far too low. His career high is 22 points. He is an NBA "tweener" -- too bulky and slow for small forward, too small for power forward -- just like Billy Owens, who was a vastly better player.

And he's a white guy from Duke -- a program whose track record for white players in the NBA is putrid (blacks are another story: Battier, Brand, Boozer, pre-injury J-Will and G-Hill). If McRoberts can reconsider, he should. Otherwise, he'll be learning a new language and riding pine in Europe alongside other stalwarts like Greg Newton and Joey Beard next year.

Serious bravery

And I think the Monkette is tough. Check out this citation for a 19-year old private, Michelle Norris, who stands only 5-feet tall. She is the first woman to win the Military Cross medal of the British Army.

"At just 19 years of age and having only recently completed basic training, Private Michelle Norris was deployed as a medical orderly with The Queen's Royal Hussars Battle Group in Al Amarah, Southern Iraq. 11 June 2006 saw the largest and most intense battle in Iraq since 2004. A search operation in Al Amarah turned into a war fighting engagement when her Company Group came under heavy, accurate and sustained attack from a well organised enemy force of over 200.

"During the heaviest of the fighting the company commander's group came under accurate sniper fire and the commander of the Warrior carrying Private Norris was shot in the face and seriously injured. Private Norris realised the severity of the situation immediately and without thought or care for her own personal safety, she dismounted and climbed onto the top of the Warrior to administer life saving first aid to the casualty. On seeing her on the top of the Warrior the sniper opened fire again, firing a further three rounds at her, one hitting the radio mounted on the side of the turret inches from her leg. Despite this she continued to administer first aid through the commander's hatch to the casualty until the gunner pulled her into the turret for her own safety.

"Despite the very real risks from sniper fire, heavy small arms fire and rocket propelled grenade she deliberately ignored the danger to her own life in order to administer live saving first aid to the commander of the vehicle. Private Norris's actions on 11 June were extremely courageous and outstandingly brave and have rightly earned her the Military Cross for actions to save the life of a comrade when under fire."

Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Senator and current Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is suffering from a recurrence of her breast cancer which has now spread to the bone. Her tumor load is low, however, which is a good sign.

The Edwards handled their announcement with class and grace. The campaign, for now, goes on.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Edwards family.

Agreeing with McCain

The moon didn't seem blue when I walked around my greenbelt last night, but today I still find myself agreeing with John McCain. And there's a good reason for that: in Miami yesterday, McCain essentially criticized Bush for failing to react as Latin America becomes the world's last and best haven for anti-American communist idiocy.

Appearing in Little Havana, McCain carefully avoided criticism of President Bush but said the Iraq war "has diverted attention from our hemisphere and we have paid a penalty for that" in the form of a growing leftism embodied by leaders Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

The Arizona senator said that "everyone should understand the connections" between Chavez, Morales and communist Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other," McCain said. "It's very disturbing."

It is disturbing. Castro has had his blood-stained hands in a lot of the world's worst conflicts over the past 48 years -- Angola, Vietnam, "Palestine". Indeed, McCain has a special connection to the Cuban-American audience he spoke to yesterday:

McCain was presented with a copy of the book "Against All Hope" by former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares, who was frequently tortured during his 22 years in a Cuban prison. McCain said that while he was in Hanoi, a Cuban agent came to show his Vietnamese captors "some new interrogation techniques" and he later discovered that the same agent had also tortured Valladares.

Wongdoer catches up again

Today is Wongdoer's 37th birthday. That means he caught up to both me and his cradle-robbing wife (who's 47 days older than him). It's also the Silver Anniversary of the day both he and I received our admission letters to our magnet high school in NYC. Here's what I wrote last year and it holds true today, nearly 25 years after I met the little bugger who would greet his classmates in 7th grade with the salutation "Vote Republican!"

Today is Wongdoer's 36th birthday, so he's now caught up to me (3-3-70) and his wife (2-3-70).
Twenty-four years ago today, Wongdoer received a letter from the admissions department at our magnet high school informing him that he had passed the admissions test and could matriculate in the Fall of '82. Imagine: a 12-year old child who hadn't even learned English until six years before had passed the most difficult test in the City -- the admissions test for our high school, a one-time opportunity for sixth-graders to gain admission to the most exclusive magnet high school, which ONLY allowed matriculation into the seventh grade, no transfers in at any other time. It was just what his parents had worked for: toiling at various jobs in the Chinese community of NYC to ensure that their lone son would have great educational opportunities. They succeeded: he did.

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

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

In the past year, there's been both a happy addition (BabyWongling 3.0) and a sad subtraction (the Wongfather) from the rich life of Wongdoer (college sweetheart wife, three Wonglings, six built-in babysitters between his mom, her parents and her sisters, numerous friends -- all he needs is henchmen and sycophants and he'll take over the world soon). And as always, there's our good friend and basically our brother, Wongdoer.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Catherine Seipp, RIP

National Review, Wired and former LA Times columnist Cathy Seipp died earlier this evening after a five-year bout with lung cancer. Seipp, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed five years ago and determined to beat either the disease or at least forestall the inevitable until her daughter went to college (the latter happened).

If you don't know who Seipp is, you've missed out on some sharp columns -- often targeting the decline and fall of the LA Times. A cyber-remembrance page is linked in the title of this post -- and it is an appropriate remembrance for one of LA's most prominent and trend-beating bloggers. A remembrance from a former comrade-in-arms is here, and the Times' own obit is here.

Sanity from Prague

Czech president Vaclav Klaus wrote to the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding global climate change and the impact of climate change regulation upon the global economy and developing nations. More reason to like the Czechs:

"[Developing nations] will not be able to absorb new technological standards required by the anti-greenhouse religion, their products will have difficulty accessing the developed markets, and as a result the gap between them and the developed world will widen.

"This ideology preaches earth and nature and under the slogans of their protection – similarly to the old Marxists – wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central, now global, planning of the whole world."

* * *

Klaus wrote that it was futile to fight against phenomena like higher solar activity or the change of ocean currents, and called for avoiding wasting taxpayers money on what he called doubtful projects.

'No government action can stop the world and nature from changing. Therefore, I disagree with plans such as the Kyoto Protocol or similar initiatives, which set arbitrary targets requiring enormous costs without realistic prospects for the success of these measures,' he said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Verducci: Yanks are going to honk again

Tom Verducci says the Yanks will fail again because they're a bunch of geezers. He notes that of the past five teams to win the World Series have had a combined total of four non-DH starters aged 32 or more. He also notes that (a) the postseason is a crapshoot and (b) talent level differentials between the top 15 teams in baseball have been compressed from the late '90s when the Yanks, BloSax, Braves, Mess and only a couple of others were at the top of the league and few could compete.

The Monk believes a bit in the young legs theory, but all it would have taken to crush Verducci's hypothesis would have been Tony Clark's ground-rule double staying in play in game 5 of the 2004 ALCS or Rivera to have pitched in game 4 of the 2003 Series. Either eventuality would have likely launched the Yanks to a title. I also think that the crapshoot theory holds up better than anything else. That's because even before the new revenue-sharing in 2000, 19 of 40 teams with worse regular season records won their postseason series from 1995-99. You want crapshoot: Yanks/A's 2001. There's all the proof you need.

Reality dose II -- another detainee confession

Walid Muhammad bin Attash, aka Tawfiq bin Attash, confessed to planning the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen and to planning the truck bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

Bin Attash is one of the high priority detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Ultimately, " bin Attash linked himself to major attacks that came at the behest of bin Laden" -- according to this WaPo report.

Another al-Qaedan worthy of the death penalty.

Beyond Redemption

Should the true nature of our enemy ever be in doubt:

By Kristin Roberts
WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - A U.S. general on Tuesday said Iraqi insurgents used children in a suicide attack this weekend, raising worries that the insurgency has adopted a new tactic to get through security checkpoints with bombs.

Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations in the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said adults in a vehicle with two children in the backseat were allowed through a Baghdad checkpoint. The adults then abandoned the vehicle and detonated it with the children still inside, he said.

"Children in the back seat, lower suspicion, we let it move through," he said. "They parked the vehicle, the adults run out and detonate it with the children in the back."

"The brutality and ruthless nature of this enemy hasn't changed," Barbero said.
The general called that incident a new tactic, but noted U.S. forces had only seen one such occurrence involving children.

I wonder if Ted Turner still thinks these cretins are brave.

Breaking down Plame/Wilson

I have little patience for the unending melodrama that the Democrats are making of the Plame/Wilson leak. It is painful to follow.

As far as I am concerned, Valerie Plame saw the request for checking to yellowcake in Niger and said "What a great opportunity for my husband to do some easy work for king and country." Easy, perfect work for a preening peacock like Wilson. Is that over the top? I would note that his coif bears a remarkable resemblance to that of the execrable Dominique de Villepin.

Wilson goes to Niger, does a rotten investigation, hence, easy - he talks to a few contacts - and at first opportunity comes out very publicly trying to refute good intelligence from the British. Joe Wilson was more responsible for outing Valerie Plame than anyone else. Now Wilson and Plame appear to be quite happy together. Now why would Wilson do that to his wife? Plame's status appears to have been covert (as confirmed by the CIA) but she certainly did not meet all the requirements for deep-cover agent - including years abroad etc. The truth is she didn't really need to be covert at all at this stage in her career and they both agreed that the exposure they would get 'whistleblowing' the Bush administration and the kudos he would gain from the Democratic Party would be well worth it. Well it certainly has been. Starting with glamour shot in Vanity Fair the Wilsons have been feted by the Left for four years and will be A-listers for years to come.

How might the 'leak' have gotten started? Logically the administration would ask, "Who the bleep recommended this popinjay?" Then Armitage leaked it but frankly as soon as Wilson came forward Plame would have been compromised beyond repair. They didn't care about that. It's quite telling.

Byron York has done very good reporting on this whole sordid affair and reports in NRO about some very significant inconsistencies in Plame's testimony as to the Senate Intelligence committee report:

It started in February 2002, Mrs. Wilson testified. “A young junior officer who worked for me came to me very concerned, very upset. She had just received a telephone call on her desk from someone, I don’t know who, in the Office of the Vice President, asking about this report of this alleged sale of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq.”
As Mrs. Wilson told her story, some members and staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee watched with great interest. As part of its probe into pre-war intelligence, the committee interviewed Valerie Plame Wilson for the portions of the committee’s report dealing with the Niger uranium matter. At that time, as now, the question of how the CIA chose Joseph Wilson for the Niger trip was a subject of great interest. But Missouri Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, vice chairman of the committee, says Mrs. Wilson did not tell the committee about the young junior officer, the call from the vice president’s office, or the passing CIA official who suggested Joseph Wilson’s name.

“Friday was the first time we have ever heard that story,” Sen. Bond said in a statement to National Review Sunday evening. “Obviously if we had, we would have included it in the report. If Ms. Wilson’s memory of events has improved and she would now like to change her testimony, I’m sure the committee staff would be happy to re-interview her.”

For those who followed the Senate investigation, the young-junior-officer story was not the only surprise in Mrs. Wilson’s House testimony. In addition to saying that her office received a call from the vice president’s office, Mrs. Wilson flatly denied playing a role in choosing her husband for the trip to Niger. “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him,” she testified. The Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that she had indeed suggested her husband for the trip, was simply wrong, Mrs. Wilson testified. In particular, what she called a “quick e-mail” describing her husband’s qualifications for the trip was “taken out of context” by the committee to “make it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him.”

In response to an inquiry from National Review Online Friday, Sen. Bond disputed Mrs. Wilson’s memory. “We have…checked the memorandum written by Ms. Wilson suggesting her husband to look into the Niger reporting,” Bond said in a statement. “I…stand by the Committee’s finding that this memorandum indicates Ms. Wilson did suggest her husband for a Niger inquiry. Because the quote [the portion of the memo quoted in the Senate report] obviously does not represent the entirety of the memorandum, I suggest that the House Government Reform Committee request and examine this memorandum themselves. I am confident that they will come to the same conclusion as our bipartisan membership did.”

In addition, Mrs. Wilson testified that a CIA reports officer, who the Senate committee says told investigators that Mrs. Wilson had “offered up” her husband’s name for the trip, later told her, Mrs. Wilson, that the committee had got it all wrong. “He came to me almost with tears in his eyes,” she testified. “He said his words have been twisted and distorted.” She testified that the reports officer wrote a memo to correct the record — it is not clear to whom the memo was given — but that the CIA would not let him speak to committee investigators a second time.

Bond responded to that description of events, too. “We have checked the transcript of the comments made to the committee by the former reports officer and I stand by the committee’s description of his comments,” the senator said. “If the reports officer would like to clarify or change his remarks, I’m certain that the committee would welcome his testimony.”

Finally, Bond said flatly, “I stand by the findings of the committee’s report on the Niger-Iraq uranium information, including the information regarding Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.”

Sure looks like Plame is smoothing the spackling on her little nepotistic glory-seeking affair and the Democrats will whitewash it and conveniently blame Scooter Libby.

Some cogent analysis

Jay Bilas is more than just the first notable Big White Stiff who played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke (a group that includes forward/centers Bilas, Crawford Palmer, Erik Meek, Greg Newton, Joey Beard, Taymon Domzalski, Jay Bryan, Chris Burgess, and Shavlik Randolph -- tragically enough, most of those were McDonald's All-Americans or at least top 50 recruits). Instead, he's as cogent a college basketball analyst as any who works the game today. His resume includes working as an assistant under Coach K, working as a lawyer, and now working as an analyst.

The prevailing wisdom among basketball commentators is that if Team A is ahead by 3 in the waning moments, it should foul Team B on the floor before Team B's shooter can hoist a shot that may tie the game. Thus, Xavier failed miserably in failing to foul an Ohio Stater before the Buckeye could fling the game-tying triple that sent the game into overtime, where OSU won. Of course, if Xavier's player had hit his second free throw moments before the game-tying heave, the argument would have been moot (and The Monk's bracket would have been shot). On Monday, Bilas offered good reasons why the foul-before-the-three line of thinking is like most conventional wisdom: conventional, but unwise.

First, the refs may "let 'em play" and not call the touch fouls that the defender commits to try to get the opponent on the line UNTIL the offensive player is near or in his shooting motion -- that would net the offense THREE free throws, not two. The odds that an 80% free throw shooter (the best outside shooters tend to be good foul shooters) hits all three are about 51%; the odds that the same player nails the three-pointer is about 40% -- a solid mark for top three-point shooters.

Second, encouraging the foul can cause the player to make a mistake on his timing of the foul. Shane Battier of all players did that once.

Third, encouraging the foul causes the team to get out of its normal defensive pressure -- if the designated fouler misses the ballhandler, the shooter can escape and obtain an open shot. It's better to play the man straight-up. Indeed, one principle of Pat Riley's defense when he coached the Knicks was to always have a hand in the face of the shooter to prevent him from getting a good look at the basket and targeting the shot properly. Top shooters hit 40-45% of their three-pointers because they will get open looks in a regular half-court offense; in an end-of-game situation when they are closely guarded, the shooters have less chance for an open look and will hurry their shot or be less able to target the basket.

Coach K prefers to play out the situation and let the players rely on the primary defensive principles that they use at all times to prevent the tie game. That's the same approach he and Coach Knight use on offense -- they do not call timeout to set up a play (remember Texas Tech's road win over A&M this year -- the game winning play started with about 15 seconds left after A&M had tied the game, Tech took the ball out, went up court, set up its regular offense and got a clear shot that the player hit and Tech won).

Similarly, Coach Boeheim does not commit the two-shot foul in this situation -- in the title game against Kansas in '03, SU played its normal 2-3 zone and got a block against David Lee and then forced an off-balance shot by Kirk Hinrich in the last seconds of the game; in the '90 Maui Invitational title game, SU played a 1-3-1 zone to mark Indiana's outside shooters and prevented the tie even though back then the foul would only have resulted in a one-and-one free throw opportunity, not two shots.

All told, those game-tying three-pointers are dramatic, but they're not common.
Playing the odds means playing normal defense and let the players' training prevent the tie. Only the aberrations, like OSU pulling a tie out of its rear, make the alternative seem attractive.

Transition game

Opinion Journal has a little online poll asking if the US does a good/excellent, adequate or poor job of transitioning veterans into civilian life. Based on The Monk's own experience, the answer is: poor. More than 1/2 of the homeless are veterans, now predominantly from Gulf War I and Vietnam. The problems they have arose during and shortly after the transition from military to civilian life -- from structure and discipline imposed from above to a lack of structure and discipline imposed by society.

Thus, the necessity of places like the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Boston, and for groups like the Shelter Legal Services Foundation, a non-profit that The Monk worked for and that work is some of the best legal endeavors that The Monk has performed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Graduating up the chart

Mike Waters, the Syracuse hoops beat writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard, ripped NY Post bigmouth Phil Mushnick for an offhand comment about Jim Boeheim and "his bosses/enablers at Syracuse [who] long ago ceased to expect him to recruit players who, beyond playing nationally televised basketball, had much interest in attending any college." Waters is right.

You can see the data here regarding scholarship athletes and graduation success. Syracuse is doing a fairly good job in one regard, and a good job in another: it graduated 50% of its black basketball players who entered its program in the last four classes, and of the nine black basketball players who stayed with the program, seven graduated within the NCAA's six-year guideline. That's a "Graduation Success Rate" of 78%. Although it is lower than the average GSR for all SU athletes of 87%, it is a high rate for black male basketball players who have historically lagged very far behind all other athletes in graduation rates. Indeed, SU's 78% rate for black men's hoops players exceeds the total graduation rate at Kansas and Kentucky. At KU, one of three black players charted in the data graduated either with his class or within the six-year window; at UK, the rate was 1-for 7. Kentucky's head coach is black, which makes that 14% rate even more atrocious.

All four SU seniors (Gorman, Roberts, Watkins and Nichols) are on pace to graduate this May. Recent grads include Warrick, Pace, Duany and Forth (all members of the '03 champs; Forth was an Academic All-American). Of those eight players mentioned, six are black. Indeed, if you remove Duany, that means five black men's basketball players graduating from SU in the past three years (provided Roberts, Watkins and/or Nichols don't screw up -- all unlikely). Few NCAA schools can match that record. That's the good part for SU, and the sad part for everyone else.

Welcome to NYC

PaMonk was displeased because he couldn't go golfing on his birthday. That's b/c global climate change caused snowy conditions in mid-March in NYC.

Paging Cinderella: the NCAA Tourney's lost underdogs

So the first weekend of the NCAA Tourney is over with no shock story lines. There's no conjecture whether George Mason can beat UConn and if Bradley could survive Memphis. Only in 1995 has the Tournament not had at least one team with a lower seeding than UNLV's #7 in the Midwest survive the first weekend.

What do we know this year? First, the Committee crossed up its 4 and 5 seeds. Each bracket had a 4-5 matchup and in three of those, the #5 won -- once convincingly (USC/Texas), twice close (Butler and Tennessee over Maryland and Virginia).

Second, the ACC ultimately was a one-team league this year. North Carolina is very good, no one else is above decent.

Third, the Big East does not completely suck. Pitt and Georgetown are in the Sweet 16, and Louisville would have been if it hadn't been underseeded and faced a very solid Texas A&M. Notre Dame's whiff against Winthrop is bad. The no-shows by Villanova and Marquette once again raise the question of "Where's Syracuse?" I checked the Big East standings, SU finished ahead of both.

Fourth, the Big Tenplusone did not deserve six bids. Like that's news. Illinois honked out of the gym against a suspect Va. Tech (which in turn got throttled by So. Illinois); Michigan State could not stick with Carolina, Wisconsin had to rally mightily to drop a #15 seed before it took a loss to UNLV. Worse yet, Ohio State should be out -- a free throw here, a slight hitch in a jumper there and the Buckeyes are done against Xavier. Only Purdue and Indiana acquitted themselves well -- and the latter did so partially because UCLA is fairly woeful on offense for a top 4 seed.

Fifth, the SEC does not suck (other than Arkansas, which took a methodical flaying from USC). Kentucky played well, Vandy and Tennessee are in the Sweet 16, Florida is meeting expectations.

Some other observations: (1) Tim Floyd is a good college coach. He may not have Pete Carroll/Lou Holtz syndrome (horrible pro coach, great college coach), but his USC team plays well, plays smart and has looked sharper than most of the teams in Tourney, period. (2) Georgetown is susceptible to zone -- SU killed the Hoyas with it, BC nearly stole the game with it. That BC team had no business beating G'Town. The one problem with the Princeton offense is that it is predicated on combatting a man-to-man defense. It is much less effective against the zone. (3) Now that Hansbrough is playing without the mask, UNC is a threat to win the Tourney. But 3 points from Brandan Wright will not suffice in the forthcoming rounds. (4) I still don't trust UCLA -- they don't score enough. I picked the Bruins for the Final Four because they're playing in California but that may not be enough to topple Kansas. On the other hand, I have a slight regret not picking A&M because now that it survived getting dumped into Louisville's backyard it gets some home cookin' of its own with the Regionals in San Antonio. And OSU is lucky to be playing.

Finally, a short rant. The Monk received his The Sporting News copy on Friday where Mike DeCourcy and Kyle Veltrop discussed the Tournament. Veltrop picked Texas for the Final Four even though the team's defensive efficiency is #62 in the country and the 2005 Michigan State team's #25 ranking is the lowest of the Final Four participants since 2004. Veltrop made a bad call.

DeCourcy, usually one of the best college hoops writers in the business, completely whiffed. The vogue comparison before the Tourney was to measure Kevin Durant, the Texas superfrosh and National Player of the Year, against Carmelo Anthony's performance for Syracuse. And it compares favorably: Durant scored more, rebounded more, shot a better percentage (although 'Melo was a supra-50% shooter inside of the 3-point line). DeCourcy claimed that Durant could get his team to the Final Four because it had more talent than the 2003 Syracuse squad.

That comment indicates DeCourcy needs to readjust his meds.

First, one primary reason that Durant outscored and outrebounded 'Melo is Durant's LACK of help. Texas has three players: Durant, AJ Abrams and DJ Augustin. Everyone else is filling space. SU had 'Melo, Warrick (15 points, 8+ rebounds), McNamara (13+ points) and Duany (11 points) notching 10+ ppg as starters. On its bench, Texas has nothin'. SU had Billy Edelin and Josh Pace. Edelin was one of the top point guard recruits in the country in 2001, ran into trouble, had personal issues (the guess is severe depression based on what I'd read about him) and missed the first 12 games of the 2002-03 season. By the time the Tournament began, Edelin was a threat to hit for 12+ off the bench (like his 12 against KU in the title game), a top ballhandler and a good defender. He lit Notre Dame for 26 and keyed the SU comeback against Oklahoma State in the second round with 20. Pace helped cinch the game against Auburn in the regional semis. Even backup center Jeremy McNeil contributed -- his defensive presence helped SU press its way back from down 17 to a 12-point win over Ok. State.

Second, Texas has no defense. The Longhorns are low-rated as a defensive team, SU had Warrick and Anthony handling the back line of the zone, with either the 6-4 Edelin or 6-5 Duany pairing with G-Mac up front. SU defended well (39% overall FG for opponents, 30.4% from 3-point range, 7 blocks per game) and that defense (56 points for Ok. State, 47 for #1 seed Oklahoma) helped it reach the Final Four.

Third, SU had balance. Texas has no inside presence other than Durant, and he is a winger who plays outside first, inside second. 'Melo had Warrick and Pace operating inside (Warrick on the block, Pace on the baseline) and G-Mac to balance the team outside. 'Melo also could play inside first, outside second because he was decidedly larger (6-9, 230) than the skinnier Durant.

The comparison is ultimately unfair to Durant, to previous 'Melo wannabes (Malik Hairston of Oregon), next year's 'Melo-in-waiting Michael Beasley of K-State, and any other potential impact frosh (OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, Kyle Singer, Donte Greene). Anthony had superb talent, charisma, a solid set of teammates and tremendous desire. Sometimes, lightning can get caught in the bottle.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good gosh did I pick the wrong upsets

It's bad enough when you draw up your bracket and end up head-slapping over Winthrop/Notre Dame, but what's worse for The Monk is the complete failure of two low seeds he picked for the Sweet 16 getting run out of the gym in the first round -- George Washington, which lost by 33 to a sketchy Vandy team and put in an even worse performance than Stanford, and now LBSU, which is getting punked by Tennessee. Notre Dame's loss is the worst of a higher-seed so far -- the Irish actually started 1-14 from 3-point range and were only a couple of points down at the break. They wound up 5-22 from deep, which means that even as they shot better from outside (their bread-and-butter), Winthrop stretched its lead. At one point in the first half, UND led 26-19; by the 16:00 mark of the second half, Winthrop led 46-30 -- that's a 27-4 run by a midmajor against a top-four Big East team.

Bad loss for the Big East. Much worse than Marquette's loss without its top defender yesterday.

Kudos to the Cavs

For the first time since 1995, Virginia won an NCAA Tournament game. This afternoon, Virginia routed Albany 84-57 in a game that wasn't a game at any point. The Cavs jumped out to a 21-4 lead, rolled to a 45-25 halftime advantage and cruised to victory after stretching the advantage to 64-32 with about 10 minutes left. Congratulations to Dave Leitao and his players. Note to Pete Gillen: see what defense can do?

After giving top-seeded, top-ranked UConn fits last year in a 72-59 loss, Albany was a trend pick as a potential upset special; especially because Virginia is riotously overseeded at a #4 spot. But the Cavs treated Columbus, Ohio as if it were their home court, the JPJ (the John Paul Jones Arena, not this JPJ, nor this one, but this one), where they lost only once all year (to Stanford, by a point) and throttled Gonzaga and Maryland.

Leitao's team overachieved because it could both push the ball on offense and defend. Now the Cavs may finally have a future after the scandals of the Jones Era and the matador defense during the Gillen years.

Go Cavs.

Overblown NCAA commentary of the day

There's going to be some overblown, overstated, overreactive commentary after every full day of the NCAA Tournament. Today, Mike Freeman of CBS Sportsline gets the award, and The Monk doesn't even have to read any other columns! This one excerpt shows why:

Now, the Blue Devils dynasty is officially done after suffering its first opening-round loss in over a decade. Goodnight, Dukies. You're not much better than Rutgers.

Whoa! Freeman is either ignorant or willfully blind. After all, the Duke dynasty ended in 1995 after Pete Gaudet's fill-ins went 4-15, Duke stumbled to 13-18, the run of six Final Fours in seven years ended with no post-season whatsoever, and then the team didn't even get past the second round of the NCAAs for another two years (losses to Eastern Michigan in round 1, 1996; Providence in round 2, 1997). Oh yeah, Duke then rattled off nine-straight Sweet 16 appearances (1998-2006), three Final Fours (1999, 2001, 2004), a national title (2001) and eight #1 seeds in those nine years (the Dookies landed a #3 in '03). Considering Duke's recruiting class for next season is rated #3 by, and it still has Coach K to mold the players, claiming that the dynasty is dead and comparing the Dookies to Rutgers is . . . actually quite stupid.

Valerie Wilson

Note that on The Corner, Cliff May and John Podhoretz are blogging about her testimony. The Monk saw a short bit of her answering softballs from Democrats and was struck by two things: (1) she is VERY attractive -- on TV she looks even better than she did in photos, and that says a lot, (2) she is very smooth. These things help her effectiveness greatly. The Republicans need an Arlen Specter prosecutor type (yeah, I said that) to chew her up and spit her out like he went after Judge Bork 20 years ago.

Neil Cavuto -- defying multiple sclerosis

Nice snippet on NRO's media blog regarding Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. Based on his MRI results, Cavuto should be a mute paraplegic. Instead, he exercises daily and hosts his FNC show. Excellent.

PaMonk turns 77

Ah the subtle hands of fate: 88.5 years ago, MonkGramps was about to be deployed to France to fight the Germans when the warring nations signed the Armistice that ended World War I. Seven and a half years later, in April 1926, MonkGramps (the son of Italian immigrants) and MonkGran (an off-the-boat Italian immigrant herself) welcomed their first child, MonkAuntJ, into the world.

Within two years, MonkGramps and MonkGran had a son, but MonkleJack did not survive infancy. About two years after that, on March 16, 1930, MonkGramps and MonkGran had a second baby boy and he survived and flourished.

The best thing about PaMonk's birthdays is that each March 16 he has less that he must to improve before matching his age on the links. Oh yeah, he also gets time with MaMonk, MonkNiece and will soon get time with the impending Monkling.

Below is what I wrote last year. It applies just as much today:

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

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

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