Monday, April 30, 2007

Chinese foodstuffs -- how about a ban?

The Monk is not a regulation happy Eurocrat or precaution principle practicing zealot. That said, China's food safety practices need extreme improvements -- a moratorium on any import of any fruit, vegetable, grain, meat, fish or processed food product from China is not the worst response to its practices.

The Yankees' yes and no

Derek Jeter blasted the notion, rampant in media reports, that Joe Torre may be fired if the Yanks don't pull their collective s--- together soon. Jeter's right.

The Monk said last year after the Yanks' enervated performance against the Tigers that Torre should have been sacked, and I stand by that. The team had honked badly in the playoffs by losing to an inferior team in humiliating fashion. In one way, the Yanks loss last year was worse than 2004 and 2005: in '04, the RedSax were the better team, with a better rotation (Schilling-Pedro-Wakefield-Lowe to Mooooose-Leiber-Brown-Vazquez) but somehow the Yanks had won more games during the course of the regular season; in '05, Torre worked a miracle to net that team 95 wins in the regular season with the rookie Wang, mid-season acquisition Chacon and clearance-rack acquisition Aaron Small combining for a 25-8 record, and if the Yanks could play decent defense, they'd have beaten the Angels in the ALDS (see the game 2 loss); in '06, the Yanks were the better team with superior personnel and completely failed.

This year, Torre has made a hash of some games (see game 1 in Baastin; game 2 in Tampa) and the only reason the Yanks are not worse than the Royals right now is A-Rod's two game-winning bombs. But he's also had little to work with -- Wang's injury, Pavano's injury, Mooooooose's injury, Rivera's horrid start (9 ER in April -- his last four full SEASONS he's allowed 13, 17, 12, and 15 ER with a sub-2.00 ERA each time), Igawa's rookie jitters, pulling starters from the minors to debut in pinstripes, etc. If the Yanks can expect to bop around teams with weak closers (Orioles, Indians), they should expect their own closer to shut down opponents.

But collective slumps and cruddiness aside, the fact remains that half the team looks lost (Damon, Abreu, Cano, Cabrera, Mientkiewicz), half the team has been ok (Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, Giambi) and the pitchers simply have not pitched well. At this point, given what Torre has done with previous Yankees teams that slumped at the start (1997, 2005), and considering that there is no Billy Martin type manager able to jump-start the team waiting in the wings, he has to stay. The Yanks have had bad starts, and bad starts against the RedSawx in recent years. In 2005, they were 11-19; in 2004, they started 1-6 against the Beanheads; last year they started 1-4 against the Redho's before winning nine of the next ten against them. Axing Torre now is just a panic move, and bad timing. The move should have been made before, or should be made later. Not now.

George Tenet's ruinous tenure

Andy McCarthy says that George Tenet's appearance on 60 Minutes last night basically proved Tenet's incompetence and the Bush Administration's mistake in keeping him in the post as a holdover from Clinton. This one point (of the five that McCarthy raises) shows why:

Immediately after 9/11, Tenet’s first response was that (a) he knew for certain al Qaeda was responsible (“when you’ve been following this as long as I’ve been following this, when you’ve been thinking about multiple spectacular attacks. There was no doubt what had happened in my mind immediately”), and (b) bin Laden better watch out because “I’m gonna run you and all your bastards down. And here we come. Because the rules are about to change. Here we come; our turn now. Unleashed, authorities, money, direction, leadership; here we come, pal.”

Question: Why did it take 9/11 for that?

We knew Bin Laden had bombed the embassies in 1998. In October 2000, al Qaeda bombed the destroyer, the U.S.S. Cole, in Yemen. The Clinton people say they did not respond to the Cole attack because the intelligence community would not assure them that al Qaeda was responsible. Regardless of what Tenet and others may have been telling them, I find it impossible to believe that the Clinton people did not fully appreciate that al Qaeda was the culprit. But let’s assume, for argument’s sake, there really was some doubt. Was Tenet certain then, as he says he was the minute 9/11 happened, that al Qaeda did the Cole? And since the Cole bombing killed 17 U.S. naval personnel, why didn’t the rules change then? Why was our response to do … nothing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Merkel's honesty not the best policy

How the EU wants to enact the proposed EU constitution that failed three years ago, only this time through lies, deception, and certainly not a vote . . .

read more | digg story

The oil field plot

The Saudis claim they have thwarted a plot to kill prominent politicians and destroy major portions of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. They arrested 172 terrorists who the Saudis claim were in the advanced stages of planning a major operation. The US apparently agreed with the assessment.

This is more than passing strange, but may show both stupidity and spitefulness of the terrorists -- after all, Saudi Wahhabism is the driving force behind Islamic extremism and Saudi oil money funds expansion of Wahhabism.

A liar retires

MIT's dean of admissions since 1997, Marilee Jones, handed in her forced resignation yesterday -- she lied on her resume and built that into a 28-year career from entry-level worker in the admissions office to the dean at one of the two top tech universities in the US. Here are the key facts:

Ms. Jones, 55, originally from Albany, had on various occasions represented herself as having degrees from three upstate New York institutions: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees from any of those places, or anywhere else, M.I.T. officials said.

A spokesman for Rensselaer said Ms. Jones had not graduated there, though she did attend as a part-time nonmatriculated student during the 1974-75 school year. The other colleges said they had no record of her.

What a disgrace. Her mea culpa is full of the post-modern crud that passes for mental acumen in these intellectually degraded times:

"I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,” Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the institute’s Web site. “I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.”

What a steaming pile of manure!

Lack of courage?


She lacked honesty and integrity when she initially applied to work at MIT (for a job that likely did not require a college degree back in 1979, according to the school's current chancellor). Given her lower position then, she could have rectified her credentials by coming clean after her supervisors had gotten to know and like her, worked her way through night school or some other program if she wanted a new post that would require collegiate credentials, and likely have been welcomed back with open arms more than 20 years ago. After all, she had only lied to gain a low-level job and likely had not had the opportunities to obtain a college education -- that would all have been understood to some degree by the school.

Instead, she laid low, worked within the system, played the academic political game and applied for a job in 1997 that SHE KNEW she could not obtain with a true resume. Thus, she submitted a false one. She lied. She did so knowingly, intentionally, and for the purpose of furthering her career. That's not a lack of courage to correct a resume, it's a fraud.

The chancellor made the right call by obtaining her resignation:

“There are some mistakes people can make for which ‘I’m sorry’ can be accepted, but this is one of those matters where the lack of integrity is sufficient all by itself,” Professor Clay said. “This is a very sad situation for her and for the institution. We have obviously placed a lot of trust in her.”

The worst thing about all this is that Ms. Jones seemed to have been a positive for the school while she was there: she helped recruit female applicants, and MIT now has nearly a 50/50 ratio (in 1988 when my classmates went there, it was 75/25 to 70/30 or so male/female). She has also worked to minimize the cutthroat aspects of competition to get into elite institutions like MIT.

To that end, she co-wrote the book Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond, which "had added to her reputation as a kind of guru of the movement to tame the college admissions frenzy." Which leads us back to the final irony:

“Less Stress, More Success” addresses not only the pressure to be perfect but also a need to live with integrity.

“Holding integrity is sometimes very hard to do because the temptation may be to cheat or cut corners,” it says. “But just remember that ‘what goes around comes around,’ meaning that life has a funny way of giving back what you put out.”


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Finally, a rational free speech decision

A follow-up to an item we noted about 19 months ago. The Washington Supreme Court today announced unanimously that two radio talkshow hosts did not have to disclose their on-air commentary against a proposed Washington gas tax hike as an "in-kind contribution" to the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign.

Prosecutors in local governments in Washington initiated proceedings against the radio station claiming that the discussion of the gas tax issue and the radio hosts' on-air support for the group NNGT that led the fight against the increase amounting to campaign contributions due to the value of the air time devoted to the subject. This rationale would apply to every talk show host in America who had an opinion on a political issue in an election season. Considering that most radio political talk shows are conservative, the prosecutors simply sought to impose a new version of the Fairness Doctrine, as this blogger noted.

Thankfully the Washington Supreme Court got it right.

Disbarred for helping the terrorists

Left-wing lawyer Lynne Stewart's application to voluntarily resign from the practice of law was rejected by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division yesterday. She had been subject to automatic disbarment upon her convictions for conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity and providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

$190M failures?

The Yankees are dead last in the AL East after honking last night against the D'Rays.

Boston127.632-7-35-49570Lost 27-3
Baltimore119.5501.57-44-59486Lost 27-3
Toronto1010.5002.55-55-59988Won 24-6
Tampa Bay911.4503.55-64-5108126Won 25-5
NY Yankees811.42145-33-8120100Lost 54-6

Even worse: look at the runs scored/runs against columns (RS/RA) -- the Yanks have outscored their opponents by 20 runs in 19 games but still have a losing record. The Yanks' expected winning percentage based upon their for/against scoring is 11-8. In other words, the Yanks are three games worse than expected -- an indication of managerial problems or failure in the clutch.

Right now, the bullpen is a shambles. After essentially demoting Farnsworth after some early shakiness (and he's done much better recently), Torre has wiped out Proctor and Vizcaino. And ultimately, the Yanks' relief, even allowing for rampant overuse, is failing to perform. Look at the Yanks' losing streak: in the past 5 games the Yanks have had the lead going into the bottom of the 7th three times.

On Friday, Torre mismanaged the game to oblivion. On Sunday, he eschewed Farnsworth (who had pitched Saturday and whom the Yanks try not to use on consecutive days) and pitched Proctor for the fourth time in five days -- Proctor spit the bit, a foreseeable occurrence given the overuse of a player with a history of arm problems and an inability to shut down the Sawx (22 ER in 25.1 IP in his career). Yesterday, Torre did the right thing by trying to stretch Wang into the 7th, but used the lefty-lefty crutch Mike Myers, who has stunk worse than a French cheese distributor's warehouse. Considering that the Yanks targeted Vizcaino in the Johnson trade specifically because he can get lefties out, why not stick with him with two out in the bottom of the 6th?

Even when Torre has not erred, the bullpen has failed him. Brian Bruney coughed up 3 runs on Monday that turned a 7-6 deficit to 10-6 in a game the Yanks lost 10-8. Rivera honked on Jackie Robinson Day by turning two outs, none on and a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 loss at the hands of Oakland's David Eckstein clone, Marco Scutaro. And when asked to hold a THREE run lead against Bastin as Torre sought to correct his mistakes, Rivera threw Jamie Moyer speed fastballs over the plate to turn a win to a loss last Friday.

What to do? First, a serious get your s--t together session with the bullpen, use or no use. When we need you, you have to respond. Expect this heavy use in October, so be ready to perform. Next month, or June, or July, when the Yanks are rolling at some point and beating the snot out of opponents, you'll be rested because we won't need you so much, but we need you to always be ready and especially if you've had a day off, we expect you to perform well.

Second, Cashman should dump Myers. He's a soft-tossing lefty. If he makes a mistake, the ball flies far. Cutting him also deprives Torre of an easy crutch -- call on Myers to handle one tough lefty or two. That means Torre has to stick with other pitchers and will make fewer bullpen changes, thereby burning fewer pitchers per game (it's worse to pitch a reliever 2/3 innings on consecutive nights than 2 innings on one night with a day off the next day) and preserving the relievers.

Third, decide who is the 8th inning guy and stick with it. Choose Farnsworth or Proctor (or Farnsworth as first choice, Proctor if Farnsworth pitched the previous day), then mix-and-match from there. It's Ron Guidry's job to hammer home to Farnsworth the importance of spotting that 100 mph fastball and throwing it 70% of the time or more, stop farking around with the sliders.

That's a start. And a necessary one. For the Yanks to leave Texas next Thursday over .500, they need to win six of eight against Toronto (just won two in Beantown), Boston and at Arlington (road record for the Yanks: 3-8) while running Hughes and Karstens out on the mound at least three times combined before Moooooooooooooose returns on May 3. Somewhat tall task, but a lineup that rattles off 120 runs in 19 games can do it if the team gets some bullpen help and decent starting pitching . . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Knife of Dreams review

The Monk is all but finished (just the Epilogue left) with Knife of Dreams, book 11 of the Wheel of Time. As both of you who read this site know, The Wheel of Time is the modern version of the never-ending hero tale. After the first five books, each of which rated at least a 4.5 on a 5-scale, the series sputtered in book 6, lengthened and became more convoluted in book 7, then went in the dumper -- both books 8 and 10 wasted paper.

Jordan vowed to finish his tale in book 12, even if it takes 1500 pages or more. And given the amount of work he has left, it might. Worse yet for him, he's sick: he suffers from amylodosis, a blood disorder that is usually fatal within a short time after diagnosis and for which the median survival period is four years. His recent treatments have been fairly successful, but he also has cardiomyopathy -- weakening of the heart muscle.

Book 11 finally gets the players moving on Jordan's vast chessboard. It's probably the best book since book 7. There is still rampant overwriting and incredible stupidity from some of the primary characters (Faile, Rand). But at least three plot issues get solved, two main questions get answered and we're almost ready for the finale. Here's the crux of my review (2.5 stars)

After the absolute worst book of the series, Crossroads of Twilight, this volume actually gets some of the various storylines concluding and moving closer to the finale. The overlong and uninteresting Perrin/Faile/Shaido thread has a conclusion; the succession struggle in Andor finally concludes; and Semirhage finally makes an appearance, other than in a meeting of the Forsaken. There are some revelations about major supporting characters, a stronger role for Logain, and an important event for Rand. With two major battles and another instance of Mat's remembered military genius, Jordan again shows glimpses of why books 1-5 were so good.

Nonetheless, Knife of Dreams suffers from the usual array of Jordan idiosyncracies that detract from the storytelling -- repeating the desires of various women to give their lessers corporal punishment, too much devotion to describing bit-part players who only the most devoted fans can remember, far too much detail regarding the various women's dress.

Worse yet, Jordan again pays too little attention to Rand (he's the messiah figure and he putters around entirely too much); barely discusses what happened to Egwene; ignores the Black Tower almost completely; and expends about 40 pages more than necessary on day-in-the-life issues for Mat.

Broder: Harry Reid should go

The Monk would expect Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol and National Review to rip Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D[ope]-Nev.) for his embarrassing, thoughtless, foolish, dishonest and dishonorable claim that the war in Iraq is lost. Each of them are correct: Reid's claim gives comfort and a HUGE propaganda victory to the enemy in time of war. Thankfully the Senator was not in the chamber during the Battle of the Bulge.

But when David Broder, the "dean" of the Washington DC political press and a Democrat (although not as nakedly partisan as some) has this type of reaction in an XM Radio interview, that's especially noteworthy:

Speaking on XM radio, Broder said that Reid should “learn to engage mind before mouth opens,” and suggested that Reid’s Senate allies “have a little caucus and decide how much further they want to carry Harry Reid” and his “bumbling performance.”

Asked if Harry Reid is “an embarrassment,” Broder said, “I think so,” since “every six weeks or so there’s another episode where he has to apologize for the way in which he has bungled the Democratic case.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam, RIP

The well-known historian died in a car crash earlier today.

Tomorrow's starter today

Joe Torre announced that Phil Hughes, the Yanks' 20-year old "man we hope he's really a phenom" phenom will start against the Blue Jays Thursday at the Stadium.

Here's what The Monk thinks the Yanks should do: pitch Igawa tonight (slated), Wang tomorrow (slated), RASNER on Wednesday (he started last Thursday, Pettitte is slated), Karstens Thursday (he started Saturday, Hughes now slated), then Pettitte-Igawa-Wang for the RedSawx. At that point, the Yanks would be on a semi-normal rotation into May, when Moooooooooose is suppposed to return, with Karstens/Mooooooooose-Pettitte-Igawa set for the Rangers in Arlington next week.

Then again, I would have run on Wakefield in game 5 of the ALCS while Varitek dropped everything in sight. Then again, I wouldn't have started Wright in game 4 of the ALDS last year. Then again, I wouldn't have yanked Pettitte until he finished the 7th Friday.

But I don't get a vote.


Sheryl Crow wants people to use one square of toilet paper when they go . . . two if it's really messy. This would lower everyone's carbon footprint.

Of course the concept is unsanitary and would lead to septic infections galore. Plus, as The Smoking Gun shows (click title of this post), with her entourage of 13 vehicles, including four buses and three tractor-trailers, Crow has other ways to trim her own carbon footprint.

The Russian Lincoln? RIP

Boris Yeltsin, the former mayor of Moscow who presided over the largely peaceful devolution of the Soviet Empire, died today at age 76. To Leon Aron (see link in title of this post), he was the indispensable man who held together the Russian nation while concurrently presiding over the dissolution of the Soviet and pre-Soviet Imperium. In addition, he challenged the worst of the Russian mindset by seeking increased economic freedom, judicial autonomy and political competition.

Of course none of what Yeltsin accomplished effected an overhaul of the Russian political mindset -- it is still a xenophobic, imperialistic and authoritarian nation. But he blunted the worst traits of the authoritarianism that infused the nation's history from tsarist times through the Soviet empire. As Aron notes, although he may be overstating Yeltsin's long-term influence, the fact is that the changes Yeltsin sought to effect have had some influence:

Perhaps most important of all, Yeltsin freed Russia from what the great English poet Robert Graves (in an entirely different context) called “the never changing circuit of its fate”—the history that after four centuries appeared to have become destiny: imperialism, militarism, and rigid centralization interrupted by episodes of horrifyingly brutal anarchy. He gave Russia a “peredyshka,” a time to catch its breath. The traditional attributes of the Russian state—authoritarianism, imperialism, militarism, xenophobia—are far from extinguished. Yet more and higher hedges have been erected against their recurrence under Yeltsin’s peredyshka than at any other time in Russian history.

Happy St. George's Day

Today's the celebration day of the patron saint of England, St. George. So raise your pint of bitters, or glass of gin!

There will always be an England, but The Monk's hoping it stops descending into the solipsistic idiocy of the EU and Eastern Canada. Talk about a country that needs its own John Howard . . .

The sky is not falling on the Yanks . . . yet

The Yanks got swept in a three-game series in Bawstin for the first time in 17 years. This is shocking. Not because they honked, but because they'd not suffered a three-game beatdown in beantown since they were the worst team in the division. Think about it: the Yanks swept a FIVE-game series in Bawstun last year (remember that RedSux fans? It's not that long ago) and three-game sets in both '00 and '01, swept a three-game set in the Stadium in '04, and have been swept in three-game sets at the Stadium in both '99 and '04.

This is not, however, panic time in the Bronx [UPDATE: I'm not the only Yankee fan saying that]. There are definite signs of life and the RedSux magic number viz. the Yanks is 142. That said, the Sawx are definitely better than the 2006 iteration. Here are some notes from the weekend:

(1) The Yanks get a semi-split if Torre doesn't unilaterally blow Friday's game. That was the worst managing since game five of the '04 ALCS -- the one where Torre never gave the steal sign on Wakefield even though Varitek was catching him and the Yanks failed to score despite THREE passed balls in the inning.

(2) The RedStanks scored time and again against the Yanks newly vaunted 'pen -- not good. Torre has worn the 'pen out already, and the team needs to repair these guys over the next month or so. The Monk would like to see some rotating multiple days off for the relievers starting after this week, once the team gets Wang and Mooooooooooooose back.

(3) The Sawx lineup is better than last season -- the addition of J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo should net about 40-50 more runs this season over the occasionally anemic 2006 varietal and both Varitek and Lowell look sharper than they did last year. Lowell's first homer last night was on a decent pitcher's pitch -- he's usually a mistake hitter.

(4) The Yanks can score on the RedSawx starters. The RedSkunks ran out their top three: Schilling, Beckett and Matsuzaka and the Yanks scored 5, 5 and 6 runs off them. Redhos starters had appalling ERAs against the Yanks last year, including Schilling and Beckett. The Yanks rang up 17 runs in the series against the Sawx -- the same # of runs that the Rougesux had coughed up in their previous NINE games.

(5) The Yanks have major injuries: Matsui, Moooooooooooose, Wang, Pavano all missed the series; Posada missed most of it. The RedSux are healthy. If the Yanks had won two in Beanheadtown, the Baaaastin papers would be pooping their pants worrying about the team.

Friday, April 20, 2007

NBC's folly

NBC has been lauding itself for airing the home video of Virginia Tech murderer Cho Seung-Hui, as if it is a newsworthy item. It is not, and it has no value to anyone other than raising ratings and emotionally harming the victims' families. This is not a situation like publishing the Unabomber manifesto, where the nutter remained at large and the writing provided clues to his identity such that a reader came forward and identified the Unabomber. That reader was Ted Kaczynski's brother.

Sixteen years ago, Jeremy Wade Delle killed himself in front of his classmates in his Richardson, Texas school. That act moved Eddie Vedder, who wrote the Pearl Jam song Jeremy. But unlike the NBC action, which only serves to encourage a nobody to do horrid things with the assurance that his all-important story will be aired and he will get his fame, Pearl Jam's point was entirely different, as Vedder explained:

Some kid did this. I didn't make that up and that's a fact. It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge [and] all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That's the beginning of the video and that's the same thing in the end . . . nothing changes. The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.

Not anymore. Sixteen years after Jeremy Delle is relegated to a paragraph in a newspaper with no examination of who he was or what made him tick, Cho gets 24-hour, weeklong attention for the video that revealed his evil and pathological mind. That's wrong all around.

Absolutely awful managing

It is official, Joe Torre has lost his mind. In one of the worst regular season managing jobs The Monk has seen in a long time, Torre blew the Yankees' game against the Red Sux tonight.

Bottom 7, one out, two on and Yanks up 5-2, Pettitte still sharp after 100 pitches, Torre pulls him for Proctor. Should not have done it. Proctor gets two easy outs.

Bottom 8, Yanks now up 6-2, Torre pulls Proctor for Myers to face Ortiz. WHY? If Ortiz hits one out, it's 6-3 and Proctor still has two righties in the next three hitters to mow down. Soft-toss lefties need to hit their spots, Myers didn't, and Ortiz whacks a double. Useless. Myers out, Torre brings in Vizcaino (4 ER against the Indians yesterday, 10th appearance in 15 games!) and he walks fatboy2. Drew grounds out. Lowell gets a single, 6-3. Vizcaino out, Mariano in. Yeah, THAT Mariano -- the one who was supposed to be a one-inning pitcher only for this whole season gets the call for FIVE outs.

Rivera is simply not right. His fastball is missing about 2-3 mph. He can't hit his spots. He couldn't put Varitek down after getting ahead 1-2 (he singled, 6-4). Then Coco Crisp hits a weak triple that rolls down the RF line -- 6-6. Blown save #2. After a jam-shot hit with the infield in (sound familiar -- 2001 WS, that's how the Yanks lost), the Yanks trail 7-6.

Joe is already depleting the bullpen. The relievers come in the game when the starter runs out of gas or effectiveness. Pettitte was ABSOLUTELY FINE, throwing 92, hitting his spots, only two runs coughed up and Joe pulled him. This is flat-out stupid. Joe knows he has rookies pitching tomorrow and Sunday and will need the 'pen. He has to know Pettitte is still fine. So why burn 2+ extra relievers by not having Pettitte finish the 7th? Even LaRussa lets his pitchers go farther.

This is the reason some of us (including me) thought it was time for Joe to go after the Yanks' honk last year -- he is misusing and abusing the bullpen. He mismanaged yesterday's game but A-Rod saved him. He mismanaged tonight's game and even A-Rod's 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 runs could not forestall the flop. When the Yanks go out of Ratway Park down to 8-9, with three losses in a row and Rivera in the dumper, The Monk will again point to this game as a reason to support his belief that Torre's lost his MoJoe.

Short deconstruction of the Rachel Carson myth

Millions of people have died in the Third World due to the chain of events that started with Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring. Despite 45 years' passage since its publication, the overwhelming testimony before the EPA more than 30 years ago that debunked the foundation of Carson's work, and scientific fact, DDT is basically banned throughout the world.

In 1972, the US banned the use of DDT, a popular agricultural pesticide. The decision came after seven months of testimony and evidence presented to an administrative law judge in the EPA. The ALJ , Edmund Sweeney, found that DDT should not be banned and ruled "“DDT is not a carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic hazard to man. The uses under regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on fresh water fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife[;] there is a present need for essential uses ofDDT." EPA Administrator William Ruckleshaus overruled that decision; he did not attend a single day of the hearings.

Ruckleshaus was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund, which lobbied against the use of DDT. After his decision, Europe banned the chemical as well. Europe then pressured African countries to stop using it, which they have done.

The effects of these events have been horrendous. Malaria affects 300,000,000 - 500,000,000 people annually and kills about 1,000,000. The use of DDT in a concentrated campaign to DDT is by far the least expensive and most effective pesticide ever developed. A concentrated campaign to wipe out malaria, including using DDT, in the 1960s effectively eliminated the disease in the developed world and dramatically lowered the incident rate in the Third World. Since the US ban, malaria has rebounded in the Third World, pesticide usage has increased and the costs to both malaria zone nations and the environment has risen exponentially. The amount of DDT needed to neutralize malaria by spraying every house in Guyana is the same as farmers used on one cotton field in the 1960s.

In other words, smart use of DDT saves lives; non-use has killed millions and debilitated billions throughout the nations least able to sustain such economic and physiological harm. The epicenter of this set of events is Rachel Carson's book. Remember that when the environmental movement celebrates the 100th anniversary of her birth this year.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Iran is a barbarous country

Here's more proof:

The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned the murder convictions of six members of a prestigious state militia who killed five people they considered “morally corrupt.” The reversal, in an infamous five-year-old case from Kerman, in central Iran, has produced anger and controversy, with lawyers calling it corrupt and newspapers giving it prominence.

* * *
Three lower court rulings found all the men guilty of murder. Their cases had been appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the guilty verdicts. The latest decision, made public this week, reaffirms that reversal.

* * *
According to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, the killers, who are members of the Basiji Force, volunteer vigilantes favored by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered their victims morally corrupt and, according to Islamic teachings and Iran’s Islamic penal code, their blood could therefore be shed. The last victims, for example, were a young couple engaged to be married who the killers claimed were walking together in public.

Members of the Basiji Force are known for attacking reformist politicians and pro-democracy meetings. President Ahmadinejad was a member of the force, but the Supreme Court judges who issued the ruling are not considered to be specifically affiliated with it.

Iran’s Islamic penal code, which is a parallel system to its civic code, says murder charges can be dropped if the accused can prove the killing was carried out because the victim was morally corrupt. This is true even if the killer identified the victim mistakenly as corrupt. In that case, the law requires “blood money” to be paid to the family. Every year in Iran, a senior cleric determines the amount of blood money required in such cases. This year it is $40,000 if the victim is a Muslim man, and half that for a Muslim woman or a non-Muslim.

Free Speech under attack in Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island has a student senate, and one of that august body's committees voted to "derecognize" the College Republicans because it would not apologize for running a satirical ad for $100 scholarships for white heterosexual males.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (the FIRE) is all over this.

Letting Cho go

The NY Post wonders how the Commonwealth of Virginia could let VT murderer Cho Seung-Hui free back in December 2005. He had been seized by police and had a psychological evaluation that found probable cause that Cho was a threat to himself. It did not find that he was a threat to others (even though the reason for the psych eval was complaints from two VT co-eds who he had stalked both on campus and on-line). The finding that he constituted a threat to himself SHOULD have been enough to keep him hospitalized in a psychiatric institution, but he was only held one night and released as an outpatient.

That's right -- a young man who had been certified as severely mentally ill was released on his own recognizance. And there's no provision for punishing the patient if he fails to follow through on the treatment, unlike probation officers and their duties for probationers who fail to report.

The finding that Cho was a threat to himself is the second-highest level of danger. It is a basis for forced institutionalization in many states, even in famously liberal New York. And once someone reaches that status, the line between a danger to self and a danger to others becomes vague, if not nonexistent. After all, if you have no regard for your own life, your respect for others' lives will dissipate.

Worse yet, the detention order signed by the Virginia court that conducted his commitment hearing held that probable cause existed to find Cho "'is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for' himself" according to this article in the LA Times. Releasing Cho after one night's evaluation in the face of such a judicial finding is simple incompetence.

Yes, the mental health law will change in Virginia, and it should allow more institutionalization for mentally ill residents. And the state will be sued. And the doctors who let Cho go in 2005 will be fired.

And perhaps the universities will rethink their anti-gun rules. One other student or professor in Norris Hall with a firearm could have saved dozens of lives by confronting Cho.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Effect of a conservative court

In its 2000 decision Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law prohibiting "partial birth" abortions -- where the baby would be partially out of the uterus, then the doctor would cut or crush the skull to complete the abortion. It is a disgusting procedure. The Court was split 5-4 with O'Connor, Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens in the majority. Anthony Kennedy signed onto the (in)famous Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1991 that reiterated the principle underlying Roe v. Wade and sought to establish a framework for determining what, if any, restrictions on the right to abortion could be valid. In 2000, Kennedy went ballistic -- he said the Court's ruling violated the principle in Casey that states could seek to preserve pre-natal life in a manner not inconsistent with the right to abortion.

Today, Kennedy and a 5-4 majority upheld the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Act that Pres. Bush signed in 2003. It is the first Supreme Court victory for abortion opponents. Congress enacted the FPBA in response to Stenberg and explicitly found that the partial-birth procedure was NEVER necessary for the health of the mother. The 5-4 majority, applying the Casey framework and allowing challenges to the ban if the mother's health is at issue, rejected a facial attack on the act. A "facial challenge" to an enactment asserts that there is no circumstance in which the statute can be constitutional. Thus, the Court's ruling means that the act is valid unless a claimant can prove otherwise based on her personal situation (an "as applied challenge").

The difference in this case from Stenberg: Samuel Alito. He's O'Connor's replacement and joined Kennedy's majority opinion. If this decision does not get the Evangelical Right prepared to fight for the Republican nominee in 2008, that group should forego any political actions.

Climate Change Funny of the Day

LONDON, 18 April (Reuters) - China will overtake the United States as the world's biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) either this year or next, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
China is set to become the world's top carbon emitter just as serious talks start to extend the U.N.-sponsored Kyoto Protocol on global warming beyond 2012, potentially heaping pressure on Beijing to take more action on climate change.


The United States, which pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, would not join a new climate change regime unless it also applied to China and India, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union said on Wednesday.
Latest data shows China is building a coal-fired power plant every four days, British foreign ministry official John Ashton said on Monday.

Growth in the emerging Asian giant's emissions puts in perspective Western efforts to fight climate change, Birol said.

"What we do in Europe may be with good intentions, may be very ethical... but if you put it in terms of numbers its meaning is very limited."

Whacking the economy to keep Gore/Greens/Europeans happy while we are not sure climate change is significantly affected by carbon emissions is irresponsible.

Not bad at all

Chase Wright won his first major league start as the Yanks beat the Indians last night. The line won't challenge Johan Santana (5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), but give the kid credit -- he kept a good lineup in check while the Yanks battered Jake Westbrook (and it's been LONG SINCE time to stop complaining that the Yanks traded him years ago -- got that Joel Sherman? He's had one good year, the rest is a variant of medircr). What Wright did is impressive because he never started a AAA game and never started above class A before this season.

Better yet, after walking the first two Indians hitters he faced, he didn't allow the 3-4-5 hitters to get a ball out of the infield in the first inning. After he gave up a third-inning homer to Travis Hafner (no dishonor there, Hafner hit 42 in 454 AB last year -- a 10.8 AB/HR ratio; Babe Ruth's career rate was 11.8), Wright bore down and had more swinging strikes (a solid measure of a pitcher's effectiveness) in the rest of the third inning than he'd had in the first two combined.

Of course, it helps when the boys put up a snowman in the first two innings (eight runs -- 8, looks like a snowman, get it? Aw, you people are hopeless). But Wright earned his prorated salary yesterday. I'm hoping he builds on that.

My dish, their loss and mine

The Monk needs his MLB package, period. As the TV season winds down, the summer heats up and the Monkling continues his approach, The Monk expects to watch many many many Yankees games, either in whole or in part.

To that end, The Monk gave Dish Network every chance he could for the company to step up and procure the Extra Innings package. The InDemand cable service matched DirecTV's offer to MLB for rights to broadcast the package; Dish Network failed, citing the need thereafter to "increase charges to consumers" if it had coughed up the money for the broadcast rights. That's a loser's lament.

Every businessman knows that you need to invest money in the business to obtain a return. Cable and satellite programming are notoriously capital-intensive at the initial stages. Dish Network is past those stages and therefore should be obtaining a decent margin on its services. Its failure to obtain broadcast rights to the baseball package means that it loses out yet again on the most desireable financial demographic: men 25-34. Now there is a satellite company for sports and one that does not have sports.

Dish should not delude itself: despite the radio adverts and the talking points of its salespeople, it does not broadcast tons of NFL football -- subscribers can only get whatever the networks broadcast each weekend into their home markets plus the ESPN game; only DirecTV has the package that enables you to see any game. Because The Monk wants to actually get his posterior off the couch at some point during the weekend, the Sunday Ticket does not attract me (and I saw more than 1/2 the Giants' games last year). Dish does not broadcast tons of baseball (the line the rep tried to sell to me when I canceled) -- you can only receive the ESPN and FOX weekly games and whatever local team is covered in your area -- same as cable. In other words, I can't get the Yanks here in Texas unless: (1) they're on ESPN; (2) they're on FOX's Saturday game and the locals are not broadcasting the Rangers or Astros; (3) they're playing the Rangers. That's unacceptable.

And it's also too bad. Much to my chagrin, with DirecTV, I need a receiver for each TV; with Dish, I needed two receivers to run four TVs because each one handled two sets. With DirecTV, I can only watch the DVR recordings on one TV, the one with the DVR; Dish enabled two TVs to set up recordings and watch playback off of one DVR. Finally, Dish had a much better non-HD picture than DirecTV with simpler options (stretch, zoom, partial zoom, graybar, normal) than the complicated options that DirecTV provides (stretch, zoom and a "pillar box" that widens for HD signals; each option for 480p, 480i, 720p, 720i and 1080i -- and you have to scroll through all the formats if you press the button once too often and go past your desired setting). At least DirecTV hooked up my better TV with an HDMI cable (those retail for $40+).

Dish's failure to step up in the baseball negotiations lost it this customer, and probably others. Viewers who buy sports packages are the type to purchase other programming upgrades: movie channels, options beyond the basic tier, etc. Worse yet, it suffered a loss of face and of reputation -- if even the "bad" cable providers are going to aggressively seek programming that a strong minority of their viewers want, it is doubly bad for Dish to fail to meet the needs of a powerful and high-paying minority.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When US publishers are slow . . .

Courtesy RaceBannon42, here's the place to seek books that are first run in the UK: The Book Depository. The business model is simple: TBD will ship most books FREE throughout North America and Western Europe through various distribution channels. The book prices are generally 20-30% off list, which may be higher than Amazon UK, but ends up much less when Amazon's shipping charges are factored in for US and non-UK residents. TBD also does not take pre-orders, therefore you cannot purchase Harry Potter 7 or any other book that will be distributed in the future. TBD's prices, considering both exchange rates and shipping charges, end up generally lower than Amazon Canada's charges ( gets the UK books that Amazon US does not because the UK publishers will distribute within the Commonwealth -- Canada, Australia, New Zealand).

The fact is that if the book you seek has a US publisher, buy it on Amazon, B&N or wherever you get the price and service you like because the price will be vastly lower thanks to the exchange rates. If not, TBD may be a good choice. Both Wongdoer and I like the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, where the US publisher Tor is about 2 books behind the UK schedule. Similarly, George RR Martin's neverending Song of Ice and Fire has usually been released first in the UK. And if you have UK authors you like who lack an audience in the US, like my interest in Christopher Brookmyre's sharp novels, you can obtain those books from TBD for less than trying to get them from Amazon Canada or Amazon UK.

Liviu Librescu, RIP

There is often a hero in situations of horrible tragedy. During the rampage of Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech gunman, a 77-year old physics professor displayed preternatural courage.

The professor was Liviu Librescu, a Romanian Jew who emigrated to Israel and became an aeronautics specialist. His family will bury him in Israel.

Prof. Librescu did research for NASA during his long career, taught solid mechanics, aerospace and oceanic engineering. Yesterday he barred the door of his physics class in Norris Hall -- the building where Seung-Hui killed 30 of his 32 victims -- against the murderer while his students dove under desks or fled out the windows. Don't blame the students, laud the professor who displayed bravery that far exceeds any normal parameters.

RIP Professor.

Weak dollar blues

The UK pound cracked through the $2 barrier today. It costs $1.35+ per Euro. When The Monk and the Monkette went to Scotland in '04, we took a beating because the exchange rate was $1.80 to the pound. When we went to Ireland in '02, we received 1.10-1.15 Euros to the dollar.

There is a huge psychological benefit to having a strong currency. The perception helps internationally, as demand for dollars increases thereby leading other nations to obtain dollars -- which means the US essentially EXPORTS them. The notion that a weak dollar makes American goods more attractive and thereby lowers trade deficits is basically untrue -- the US trade gaps through the Clinton years (strong dollar) and the Bush years (weak dollar) have not depended on exchange rates nearly as much as they have on other factors. Our trade deficits have reached their highest points under the current president and he's followed a weak dollar policy from day one.

The weak dollar policy is, in effect, protectionist. The weak dollar raises the price of imports (including OIL), lowers the costs of US-made goods, and insulates US goods from foreign competition thereby stifling innovation and quality improvement. In other words, there is no manner in which the weak dollar policy helps US consumers.

The Monk travels abroad often enough to like the strong dollar. But there are other benefits, both tangible and intangible. I'd like to have those again.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dimly lit Halos

The LA Angels of Knotts Berry Farm are probably the worst preseason playoff favorite. The Yanks have injuries throughout their lineup and rotation, the Twins are playing for time with a makeshift rotation, the Jays have injuries, the RedSawx are completely fine. No team in the AL is appreciably better than the RedSax 7-4, but the Angels are definitely worse: this weekend they went to Fenway and got clocked in each of the three games by an aggregate of 25-3 (8-1, 10-0, 7-2). Two of the losing pitchers are part of the staff that has been touted as the best in baseball, Erwin Santana and John Lackey.

The Angels don't hit well, and they flat out cannot match up with the RedSawx (see ALDS 2004). No, The Monk still has no clue why they can beat the Yanks constantly but not belong on the same field as the RougeStiffs. The Monk thinks the AL West is ripe for the taking if any other team can step up and win 92 games. If Rich Harden's arm problem is as minor as the A's are currently claiming, then they would be the team to do it . . . especially if they keep getting dramatic shots from scrubs like Marco Scutaro to pull games from thin air.

VT's horror

Today a horror occurred in Blacksburg, Virginia -- a gunman's rampage. The shooter killed more than 30, with full details still unknown. It is the worst one-day killing spree in history, far exceeding Columbine and the University of Texas Tower killings.

Our condolences to the slain and their families and our best wishes for the survivors and their loved ones.

Wolfowitz Travesty

Haven't paid that much attention to the Wolfowitz kerfuffle - accusations sounded a bit dodgy but as this Opinion Journal piece shows - the scandal is a fantasy:

Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.

The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start...

The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:

"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member."

That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.

Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."

Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.

And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.

Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.

Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.

In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, he averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."

Why is Wolfowitz being targeted?

1. He is an AMERICAN.


3. His name sounds JEWISH. (Whether or not he is Jewish, I do not know and, frankly, shouldn't be relevant)

Spinning Intel

Thomas Joscelyn is one of the best intelligence assets in the press, period. In a recent article for The Weekly Standard, he asked: who is really spinning the results of US intelligence work? Answer, the agencies, the media, the Senate, and not the Administration. His proof: former CIA director George Tenet and CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer, who headed the Agency's bin Laden task force, both claimed a bin Laden-Saddam connection in their analyses or public statements from 2002. After both left the Agency, they denied the connection. Here are some excerpts:

Although there were certainly disagreements between the CIA and [former DoD undersecretary Douglas] Feith's shop, both argued in 2002 that there was a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, stated the CIA's position quite clearly in an October 7, 2002 letter to then head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL). Tenet explained, "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade." Iraq and al Qaeda "have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression." Tenet warned, "We have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs." And, "Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al-Qaeda, suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military action."

Tenet was far from alone in these assessments. Michael Scheuer, the one-time head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, also used to be certain that Iraq and al Qaeda were working together. Scheuer's first book on al Qaeda, Through Our Enemies' Eyes, which was published in 2002, went into elaborate detail about the support the Iraqi regime was providing to al Qaeda. Among the areas of concern was Iraq's ongoing support for al Qaeda's chemical weapons development projects in the Sudan.

But there's much more, primarily from the Iraqi Intelligence Service documents the US has captured from Iraq that demonstrate at least five direct connections between Saddam and bin Laden.

Here is just a small sample of what some of the Iraqi intelligence documents and other evidence collected in postwar Iraq has revealed:

1. Saddam's Terror Training Camps & Long-Standing Relationship With Ayman al-Zawahiri. As first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, there is extensive evidence that Saddam used Iraqi soil to train terrorists from throughout the Middle East. Among the terrorists who received Saddam's support were members of al Qaeda's Algerian affiliate, formerly known as the GSPC, which is still lethally active, though under a new name: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

* * *
2. A 1992 IIS Document lists Osama bin Laden as an "asset." An Iraqi Intelligence memorandum dated March 28, 1992 and stamped "Top Secret" lists a number of assets. Osama bin Laden is listed on page 14 as having a "good relationship" with the Iraqi Intelligence Service's section in Syria.

3. A 1997 IIS document lists a number of meetings between Iraq, bin Laden and other al Qaeda associates. The memo recounts discussions of cooperating in attacks against American stationed in Saudi Arabia. The document summarizes a number of contacts between Iraqi Intelligence and Saudi oppositionist groups, including al Qaeda, during the mid 1990's. The document says that in early 1995 bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in two ways. First, bin Laden wanted Iraqi television to carry al Qaeda's anti-Saudi propaganda. Saddam agreed. Second, bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in performing "joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz." That is, bin Laden wanted Iraq's assistance in attacking U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

We do not know what, exactly, came of bin Laden's second request. But the document indicates that Saddam's operatives "were left to develop the relationship and the cooperation between the two sides to see what other doors of cooperation and agreement open up." Thus, it appears that both sides saw value in working with each other. It is also worth noting that in the months following bin Laden's request, al Qaeda was tied to a series of bombings in Saudi Arabia.

The document also recounts contacts with Mohammed al-Massari, a known al Qaeda mouthpiece living in London.

4. A 1998 IIS document reveals that a representative of bin Laden visited Baghdad in March 1998 to meet with Saddam's regime. According to the memo, the IIS arranged a visit for bin Laden's "trusted confidant," who stayed in a regime-controlled hotel for more than two weeks. Interestingly, according to other evidence discovered by the U.S. intelligence community, Ayman al-Zawahiri was also in Baghdad the month before. He collected a check for $300,000 from the Iraqi regime. The 9-11 Commission confirmed that there were a series of meetings (perhaps set up by Zawahiri, who had "ties of his own" to the Iraq regime) in the following months as well.

5. Numerous IIS documents demonstrate that Saddam had made plans for a terrorist-style insurgency and coordinated the influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq. In My Year in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer says a secret IIS document he had seen "showed that Saddam had made plans for an insurgency." Moreover, "the insurgency had forces to draw on from among several thousand hardened Baathists in two northern Republican Guard divisions that had joined forces with foreign jihadis."

Yankees, Nationals = same quality starters?

What a mess. The Yanks are 11 games into the season and have lost 3/5 of their rotation. Yesterday they put Pavano and Moooooooooooose on the DL. Pavano will be out for at least a month based on the description of his injury -- the arm issue that shelved Rivera for September last year. Given Pavano's ability to overcome injury, we may see him in June.

Moooooooooose's stint is retroactive to April 11 and he will likely be back by the end of the month. Before April 30, the Yanks face the Indians (can hit) the RedSawx twice and have two games against Toronto. By next Tuesday, the Yanks COULD have Wang back. If not, their rotation will consist of Pettitte, Igawa, Chase Wright, Jeff Karstens and Darrell Rasner. The former Columbus Shuttle, now the Scranton Shuttle (the Yanks changed their AAA team from Columbus to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year), will have a lot of passengers.

Wright is suddenly the prize of the Yanks' farm system -- he's 24, wowed the team in Spring Training where he was really the best pitcher not named Wang, Pettitte, Mussina or Rivera, has a major league change-up, and has befuddled hitters in AA. But that's AA. The Indians (tomorrow) and RedSawx (Sunday) are not AA teams. Nor are they AAAA lineups like the Pirates or Nats (even the worst AL teams have decent ability thanks to the star rookies on KC and Tampa this year). So this suddenly gets interesting. Neither Phil Hughes nor Tyler Clippard, the Yanks' best AAA options are available because they pitched over the weekend. Besides, both got knocked around, so their learning curve still needs to swing upward.

Karstens was an afterthought in the Yanks' system, until he pitched well in various emergencies last year with the big leaguers and was going to break camp as the #5 starter in all likelihood until he had a minor arm problem that landed him on the shelf. Rasner is a AAAA pitcher -- better than a career minor leaguer but not quite able to stick in the majors; he did a credible job Saturday after getting slapped around by the Orioles on Easter.

These are the reasons that Rivera's honk against light-hitting Marco Scutaro after getting him down 0-2 with two outs in the 9th is so bad. Rivera mowed down the first two A's in the 9th before giving up a typical Rivera hit -- short squib to opposite field. Then he committed the cardinal sin of walking Jason Kendall, who has all of ONE homer in 1200+ AB in the AL! Ugh.

So now, the Yanks have to battle through some tough games with a tired bullpen, a paucity of pitchers and a defense that simply stinks (Derek Jeter, 2005, 2006 Gold Glover = 6 errors in 11 games). And I switched back to DIRECTV to get the MLB package . . . oy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The debut of No. 42 in Dodger blue

On April 15, 1947 the first black player in baseball history started at first base for the Dodgers in a home game at Ebbets Field. That year, Jackie Robinson became the NL Rookie of the Year and a legend. Baseball later named the award for him.

Fifty years later, baseball retired his number for all teams in honor of his status as the pioneer who opened up the major leagues to men of more than one race. The only player who still wears No. 42 for his team is Mariano Rivera -- a worthy bearer of that uniform number.

Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of the day that baseball's color barrier shattered. It took longer for other teams to break their whites-only policy -- to their shame the Yanks were late in doing so; to their greater shame, the RedSux were the last team to integrate.

So on Sunday: all favor to the late Jackie Robinson, pioneer, icon, champion.

Decline of the Times

Andrea Peyser rips the NY Times for running a front page story trying to bolster the rape case against the Duke lacrosse players last August as the misdeeds of the Durham DA and the lack of evidence to support his allegations became apparent:

. . . this story so neatly fit the radical agenda of our "newspaper of record," The New York Times, that the paper disgustingly advanced the hoax on its front page, long after other media outlets had backed off.

In a case of "all the lies fit to print," the paper on Aug. 25 affected an air of Timesian authority in a damning article, spoon-fed by DA Nifong. It tried to put to rest some of the alarming inconsistencies in the accuser's story about the night she was "attacked."

"While there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong's case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury," quoth the Times. And, "The full files, reviewed by The New York Times, contain evidence stronger than that highlighted by the defense."

Somehow awaiting an apology from the Times is like waiting for Godot . . .

The Diplomat's calling: process not results

The North Korea paradigm. The US will release $25,000,000 in hard currency in NoKor accounts in Macau banks, frozen at the Treasury Department's request late in 2005, in exchange for . . . nothing other than North Korea's agreement to continue negotiating its nuclear program. About half the money is the result of illegal narcotics trafficking.

The WSJ notes:

The Bush Administration is selling this dirty-money deal as a requirement of diplomatic realism and a price that must be paid for the larger strategic goal of getting North Korea to cooperate. But it's also true that the U.S. is allowing Kim to get away with his ill-gotten gains. Only weeks after the Treasury laid out a detailed rap sheet, the U.S. says never mind.

The bigger issue is the message this sends about the "arms control" process now under way. Under the February deal, Kim is obliged to shut down the nuclear facility at Yongbyon and disclose all of his nuclear programs and weapons. He is also obliged to open all of those to international inspection before the U.S. and other countries give him any more aid or money. But Pyongyang's pattern has long been to admit as little as possible every step of the way, and then insist that the U.S. must make further concessions at every instance. By caving on the $25 million, the U.S. is telling Kim he can keep playing this game.

Japan has the better idea. This week it extended its sanctions for another six months--no imports of North Korean products, no port visits by North Korean ships. Last month it testified at the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs about the North's illegal trade in amphetamines. Under the February nuclear deal, it is refusing aid to the North until Pyongyang provides information on the Japanese citizens it abducted and may still be holding.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dismantle the BBC

Tech Central Station has an outstanding article about Robin Aitken who worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation for 25+ years and rose to be an on-air personality on their flagship "Today" program. Aitken has written a book entitled Can We Trust the BBC?

Unsurprisingly, we can't.

Some excerpts:

What is the BBC's worldview? "I think the BBC, by and large, lines up behind what I would term the progressive consensus on whatever issue one happens to be talking about," Aitken recently told me. "So for instance, during the era of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, the BBC was too willing to find excuses for Soviet misdeeds and excesses; was too sympathetic for the notion of unilateral nuclear disarmament; was too hostile and suspicious of the motives of the US.
A few years ago, Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post gave this sort of leftwing American hatred of President Bush its name: "Bush Derangement Syndrome," or BDS for short. But what's the BBC's excuse for BDS? Aitken believes that Bush's strong religious faith is one reason. "His overt Christianity is something that BBC by and large, finds intolerable in politicians. Certainly no British politicians would open themselves up to the accusation that they were religious. Tony Blair has felt the backlash from the BBC. The BBC hates any hint at all that politicians have some sort of religious hinterland. It despises that as a sort of superstition."

Aitken believes that the Bush=Hitler poster and the mindset that finds it acceptable to hang in newsroom that prides itself on objectivity is the mark of "a powerfully corrosive internal culture in the BBC, which acts upon individuals." Aitken adds that "I know my colleagues, or my ex-colleagues, I should say, well enough that they are honest people, and I would never say differently. I don't think that they are lying or conniving at telling untruths. I just think that there isn't enough heterodoxy in their political viewpoint to make for a healthy political balance in the output."
"My view is that the Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership is the architect of its own misfortune in many ways. Whereas, what comes across from the BBC's presentation of events in Palestine and the Middle East generally, is that in some ways, the Palestinians are a put-upon victim minority, and it's the beastly Israelis who are doing the dirty to them.

"And you know, that is not a fair presentation of the position. Because the Israelis are militarily strong and successful, and the Palestinians aren't, I think the BBC allows that too much to play at its judgment, so that what comes across is too much sympathy, if you will, for the Palestinians, too little appreciation of the rights of Israel, and also too little recognition of the fact that Israel is a functioning democracy in a way that Palestine isn't, and nor is any Arab-dominated Middle Eastern state, and not enough credit is given for that in my view."

The BBC, an independent corporation, is publicly funded. And the valid point made is that it has undue influence over a large portion of not only the British population but the Anglosphere as well. To wit:

How powerful is the BBC's influence? When the Tory-oriented Internet TV channel 18 Doughty Street interviewed Aitken in February, host Tim Montgomerie began the show by asking "Which is the most powerful and important institution in Britain? Is it the Royal Family? Is it Parliament? Is it the National Health Service? Well, you could make a good case for the BBC being certainly one of the most important institutions in our country."
But in terms of broadcast media, BBC's radio and (particularly) television programs virtually draft the single tone for the news that the vast majority of English viewers receive. Aitken describes it, "a vast 24/7 propaganda machine, churning out a set of views on moral and social issues, and that has its effect over time. The fact that Britain is, in many ways, a very liberal society, I think a lot of that is due to the influence of the BBC, which has undoubtedly molded public opinion on a lot of these issues."

And all the lefties complain about Fox News.

Turn of Phrase

Some folks are just wordsmiths and some are not. John Podhoretz in a blog post in the Corner on Imus kerfuffle:

But as my item poking fun at Ana Marie Cox yesterday indicated, it's hard to know what to make of certain people who traffic in shamelessness joining in a self-righteous effort to silence someone for saying something appalling. For Al Sharpton, a rampantly infectious venereal disease that masquerades as a man, to lead the charge against anyone for poor behavior ought to be enough to give everyone at least a moment's pause.

By the way JPod also makes an interesting comparision between Howard Stern and Don Imus.

He has a point

Imus wants to know when Al Sharpton will apologize to the Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape.

Probably at the same time Sharpton apologizes to Steven Pagones for defaming him or to the family of Yankel Rosenbaum or to the owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dyson on Climate

Tech Central Station has a fascinating interview with famed prize-winning physicist Freeman Dyson. Worth reading in its entirety but here at excerpts on climate change and the English class system:

Benny Peiser: In a Winter Commencement Address at the University of Michigan two years ago you called yourself a heretic on global warming, the most notorious dogma of modern science. You have described global warming anxiety as grossly exaggerated and have openly voiced your doubts about the reliability of climate models. These models, you argue, "do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in." There seems to be an almost complete endorsement of the world's scientific organisations and elites of these models together with claims that they reliably epitomize reality and can consistently predict future climate change. How do you feel belonging to a tiny minority of scientists who dare to voice their doubts openly?

Freeman Dyson: I am always happy to be in the minority. Concerning the climate models, I know enough of the details to be sure that they are unreliable. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.


Benny Peiser: Britain's leading cosmologists seem to be particularly gloomy about the future of civilisation and humankind. The so-called Doomsday Argument seems to have had a significant influence on many Cambridge-based scientists. It has induced among them a conviction that global catastrophe is almost imminent. Martin Rees, for instance, estimates that there is a 50% chance of human extinction during the next 100 years. How do you explain this apocalyptic mood among leading cosmologists in Britain and the almost desperate tone of their pronouncements?

Freeman Dyson: My view of the prevalence of doom-and-gloom in Cambridge is that it is a result of the English class system. In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status. As a child of the academic middle class, I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher and have been gloomy ever since.

All Charges Dismissed against Duke Lacrosse Players

North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper has dropped all charges against the three playersa accused of assaulting an exotic dancer.

The key bit, courtesy of Instapundit:

"We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.”

Now, as we've said before, it's time to hang Mike Nifong. Note, it's HANG which implies due process as opposed to LYNCH which is what Mike Nifong did which implies nothing.

Imus and the Knights

For the past week The Drudge Report and the sports media have been discussing Don Imus' complete stupidity commenting on the Rutgers women's basketball team (the NCAA runner-up) and referring to the young women as "nappy-headed ho's."

The statement is insulting, demeaning, heinous and cruel. It is degrading to women. It is racist against blacks. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer (who is black) rightly excoriated Imus. So did Jesse Jackson. And of course, anti-Semitic race-baiter Al Sharpton joined the chorus.

Here's the deal: Imus is an ass, period. The Imus Ranch he touts is a tremendous financial boondoggle for him (he can use it 50 weeks of the year, the program for underprivileged kids is two weeks), not a commitment to the kiddies. He has a history of racist or similarly stupid utterances. He is simply a dumb disc jockey who survived record-spinning chats to become a radio icon in NYC.

That said, the spectacle of public abasement is equally ugly. NBC et al. should have fired him and been done with it; instead, it suspended him and has to watch as Imus and the broadcasters with whom he has been affiliated get dragged through the manure that he created. And in the end, Imus will be done as a broadcaster anyway.

Can we climb off the ledge -- the Yanks' rotation

It's official: after last night's 10-1 win over the Twins, Carl Pavano is no longer the Yankees' ace starter. Although Pavano arguably pitched better than Pettitte (Pavano needed just 79 pitches to go 7 IP and allowing two runs; Pettitte lasted only 6 after 96 tosses despite giving up no runs and Pavano had more pressure on his start because the rotation had simply stank for five games), the fact remains that yesterday's performance is right in the range of predicted and expected outcomes for Pettitte.

Last reports are that Wang's rehab is going well. This presents two benefits: one, Wang pitches fewer major league innings after having a career-high workload last year (Tom Verducci has long studied the arm problems of young pitchers one year after working a major league 190+ inning season that was at least a 40-inning increase over a previous career-high load); two, Wang will be in the "September" of his season when (and it had better be "when") the Yanks reach the playoffs. If Pavano can give the Yanks 30 starts with 170+ innings and an ERA under 5, the Yanks should be just fine.

Just desserts

After the Univ. of Florida Faculty Senate took the classless and unwarranted step of denying Jeb Bush an honorary degree, the Florida House of Representatives is poised to give the faculty a little smack to remind them who is in charge of Florida's public universities -- the public who voted for Bush.

The House Schools and Learning Council voted Tuesday to name UF's College of Education the "Jeb Bush College of Education.''

The amendment came from Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who admitted he was irked by the faculty's decision last month to deny Bush the honorary degree.

"This amendment may demonstrate to some folks around the state and around the country that the office of the governor of Florida is a very prestigious and honorable office and is certainly deserving of an honorary degree,'' Rivera said.

"Some may take it as a message,'' he added. "But more importantly it's an appropriate recognition of a distinguished governor's accomplishments in the field of education.''

Conoco: the first green socialist US oil company

ConocoPhillips wants hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions. This is ridiculous -- a corporate giant going "green" to get the enviros off its back (won't work) and to try to create a closed market with such small supply (the result of caps) that prices will go up and increase profit margins.

Go Exxon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

No problem with this: NFL suspensions

The Monk never can fathom why sports reporters and various professional athletes protest so strenuously when Gene Upshaw agrees with the NFL Commissioner on penalties and discipline. The common refrain is that Upshaw merely a tool of the NFL Owners -- Bryant Gumbel famously stated that Paul Tagliabue needed to show his successor, current commissioner Roger Goodell, where he kept Upshaw's leash. But large unionized businesses work better when owners and employees actually work well together. The NFL is the top sports league in the US for a reason; baseball has reversed its downslide and regained its place ahead of the NBA in large part because Bud Selig has kept labor peace for 12 years. Southwest Airlines is the only consistently profitable major airline in the US because it has never had a major work stoppage. The NHL is in the tank because players and owners despised each other.

Today, it's actually gratifying to hear basically no protest from the NFLPA regarding the suspensions of Adam "Pacman" Jones and Chris Henry. Jones is out for the 2007 season following yet another arrest -- he's had about 10 since being drafted in 2005; Henry will miss 8 games after his most recent arrest, which is just another in a litany of run-ins that Henry has had. Indeed, Upshaw agreed with Goodell that the NFL needed a stronger and better-defined disciplinary policy for the ultramorons in the league.

Henry and Jones are lucky -- if they worked in any non-union job anywhere in the country, they would have been fired long ago. Even most unionized professions would have drummed them out by now (except NYC teachers). Perhaps they'll actually smarten up at some point.

Not the Navy of Lord Nelson

What's wrong with this picture?

It's not a wedding. Or a reunion. It's an Iranian publicity photo of the majority of Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines just after their nearly giddy meeting with Iranian president Ahmedinejad. (Hat tip to the three on the right at least look uncomfortable.)

Toby Harnden, chief Washington editor of the UK Daily Telegraph and a former officer on the now infamous HMS Cornwall has a number of scathing posts about the debacle. Some excerpts:

"Two new guys in suits arrived. They didn't shout like the others. One said he had come to make me an offer. If I confessed to being in Iranian waters and wrote letters to my family, the British people and the Iranian people, I'd be free within two weeks. If I didn't, they'd put me on trial for espionage and I'd go to prison for 'several years'. I had just an hour to think about it. If I did it, I feared everyone in Britain would hate me. But I knew it was my one chance of fulfilling a promise to Molly [her daughter] that I'd be home for her birthday on May 8th. I decided to take that chance, and write in such a way that my unit and my family would know it wasn't the real me." [comment by Leading Seaman Faye Turney]

I don't know what to say.

"I missed Topsy [LS Turney] most of all. I really love her, as a mum and a big sister. Not seeing her and not knowing if she was safe was one of the hardest parts of the whole thing."

"They led me down a corridor and into a room, where I saw Topsy in a corner. I can't describe how that felt...just every emotion rolled into one. I ran up to her, threw my arms round her and cried like a baby.

"When I'd calmed down, she asked, 'Do you need another hug, a mother hug?' and I said, 'damn right'."

"A guard was saying, 'smile, smile, smile for camera'. We felt it would help if we obliged." [comment by Operator Maintainer Arthur Bachelor]

Topsy? A 'mother hug'? What is this? A nursery school?

I've already written about humiliation of the Navy and Marines and the spinelessness of the Defence Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff and First Sea Lord. Is too much to expect any of these will resign or be sacked? Probably.

Judging by the hundreds of blog comments and emails I've received on this subject, there is a widespread sense that something was terribly wrong about the way the personnel from HMS Cornwall behaved.

And - more fundamentally - about the way the Government and armed services dealt with them in terms of training, tasking, rules of engagement, leadership and example, the lot really.

Some have concluded that Britain has become "Dianafied", terminally sentimental, a nation that needs a collective "mother hug" (Princess Diana, by the way, launched HMS Cornwall). I fear there is something in this but the reactions I've received, and heard and read elsewhere, offer hope that all is not lost.

Wobbly? Puddly is more like it. Unmistakeable sign of the decline of the West? Just deeply, deeply distressing.

Congress gets even stupider

The US Congress has turned itself into a bad joke in the past three months, and the bill co-sponsored by Chuck Hagel (R-Useless) and Dick Durbin (D-Corrupt) to make "global warming" a national security issue is preposterous for numerous reasons: (1) there is no clear scientific proof that global climate is significantly affected by human activity; (2) the bill calls for the inept CIA to assess the impact of the mythical global warming on US national security.

Groups are often only as intelligent as their stupidest members, the Congress takes that adage to an alarming extreme.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Baseball Preview I, with update

The Monk promised a baseball preview, and so I'm going to deliver. Although this comes after the start of the season, the fact is no team has played even 4% of its schedule (all six games or less). Every team has run through its rotation once. And if current pace holds, the Yankees will be one of the worst pitching teams in history. In other words, nothing major has happened yet. So on with the show.

Starting in the National League, The Monk has little disincentive to stray from the division winners from last year: Mess, Cards, Pads/Dodgers.

The East should be the Mets' to lose -- they have the best hitting, some starting pitching with Maine, Glavine and whatever patchwork Willie Randolph can put together between now and the return of Pedro (it helps that the division is both weak-hitting and all pitchers' parks other than Philadelphia), and strengthened the relief with the addition of Scott Schoenweis. If Ambriorix Burgos keeps the ball in the yard, the Mess have a good end-game. With Beltran, Wright, Delgado and Reyes, the team has plenty of talent both at the plate and in the field. Honestly, although it pains me a bit to say so, the Mess should win the NL. Remember, starting pitching deficiencies, or even deficits viz. the opponent, can be overcome in the playoffs ('06 Cards, '02 Angels, '00 Yanks, '97 Indians, '96 Yanks). Simply stated, if starting pitching were the sole determinant of what team would win the World Series, the Braves would actually have been the team of the 90s, and not just posted such a hollow and disproven boast on their '95 World Series rings.

Best of the rest: the Braves and Phils can compete for a wild card spot if . . . for the Braves, they get some decent hitting and Tim Hudson begins to look more like the A's star he was in the early '00s; for the Phils, the team needs to get past its bluster (no Jimmy Rollins, you're not the team to beat) and its mental issues; after all that team certainly has hitting talent (Utley, Burrell, Rollins and Howard counts as TWO boppers in one) and the addition of Jamie Moyer can help the younger pitchers develop. Eighteen games or so for each of these teams against the Nats helps in their quest to land a playoff spot.

No chance: the Fishies and the Nats are no-hopers. The Marlins are too young and their owner is preternaturally stupid for firing Joe Girardi. The Nats may be a reincarnation of the '03 Tigers.

[UPDATED] The Central should have been less interesting than the media makes it, but between the original posting early this afternoon and this update, The Monk learned that Chris Carpenter's elbow is pretty bad off. The Cards underachieved during the regular season last year but improvement may hinge upon Carpenter's hinge -- if they get 27+ starts from him, they'll stand a good chance of winning the division; less than that and they stand a good chance of not making the playoffs. With the Astros losing Pettitte and still relying on Lidge, the Brewers a complete cipher, the Cubs an up-and-down mess and the Reds still hampered by that ballpark (no, the Pirates don't count), there is no reason that the team with the best manager and player cannot compete. The confidence boost for the Cards' stopgap pitchers during their postseason in '06 (Wainwright, Reyes) only helps after offseason losses of Suppan and the expendible Marquis. But not since the '98-99 RedSawx has one team's fate rested as much on the arm of one starting pitcher as the Cards' fate rests upon Carpenter.

Best of the rest: this is a mess. Any of the Brewers/Astros/Reds/Cubs can either knock off the Cards if they have an exceptional season and the Cards stumble or rise up for the wild card. I think the Nats factor still strongly favors a wild card coming out of the NL East because the Nats are putrid, but the Pirates actually have some talent (Bay, Duke, LaRoche) and are closer to the skill level of the rest of the division than the Nats are to the East. The Brewers will depend upon Sheets' health and for Jeff Suppan to prove that his success is not solely due to Cards' pitching coach Dave Duncan; the Astros take a step back by effectively exchanging Pettitte for Jason Jennings, they need the Rocket to land there this summer to compete; the Cubs have one ace and two serviceable starters (Zambrano, Lilly, Marquis), which makes them competitive for a wild card spot; the Reds have the worst rotation of the group, the most offense and the most questions -- if only Homer Bailey hadn't honked in spring training . . .

No hope here . . . the Pirates. But at least the team is improving.

The West is perplexing. The Padres improve from last year because they'll have Greg Maddux for a whole season and still have the biggest ballpark advantage of any team in the NL. The Dodgers improve because they have a healthy Brad Penny and added Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf, but they lost JD Drew and the addition of Juan Pierre means less OBP, less pop and less defensive acumen in the outfield. The DBacks look about a year away unless Randy Johnson really can become his old self (and don't think being in the NL doesn't help). The Rockies should be decent, but the division should require 90 wins for the winner and the Rocks are not a 90-win team. The Giants are so old they make the Yanks look sprightly. Even though the Dodgers did the most in the offseason, I think the Pads will win -- pure hunch, but Bochy has pulled more difficult tricks out of his hat in the past (see: winning NL pennant in 1998).

Best of the Rest: Dodgers and Snakes -- those two are the best bets for potential wild cards and or other division winners. The Dodgers have health issues with their starters, the Snakes COULD be the next "Great Young Team" like the '03 Marlins or they could flop like the '06 Indians.

No hope . . . the Giants lack pitching, hitting (other than a certain large-headed leftfielder) and are geriatric.