Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bravo Fred Thompson

I can see why former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is the biggest threat to Rudolph Giuliani's status as the Republican front-runner to contest the Presidency. He talks like this:

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What do you think America would do if Canadian soldiers were firing dozens of missiles every day into Buffalo, N.Y.? What do you think our response would be if Mexican troops for two years had launched daily rocket attacks on San Diego — and bragged about it? [emphasis mine]

I can tell you, our response would look nothing like Israel’s restrained and pinpoint reactions to daily missile attacks from Gaza. We would use whatever means necessary to win the war. There would likely be numerous casualties on our enemy’s side, but we would rightfully hold those who attacked us responsible.

More than 1,300 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Palestinians were given control two years ago. Israelis, however, have gone to incredible lengths to stop the war against them without harming Palestinian non-combatants. But make no mistake, Israel is at war. The elected Hamas government regularly repeats its official promise to destroy Israel entirely and replace it with an Islamic state. Hamas openly took credit for killing one woman and wounding dozens more last week alone.

The Palestinian strategy is to purposely target and kill Israeli civilians. Then, when Israel goes after those launching the attacks, Palestinians claim to be the victims. If Palestinian civilians aren’t hurt in the Israeli attacks, they stage injuries and deaths.

Too often, they garner sympathy and support from a gullible or anti-Semitic media in the international community.

Blimey. How can you not support this man?

To take nothing away from Rudy who likely thinks exactly the same but can he put it as perfectly as Fred Thompson has? At the moment I would wholeheartedly support either Giuliani or Thompson as I am uncertain of where Romney really stands.

GREAT PLAY Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez made a heads-up play in the top of ninth yesterday which the Yankees used to score an extra three runs to secure a much-needed win against Toronto and avoid a second consecutive sweep.

With two out and the Yankees leading 7-5 Rodriguez probably shouted "MINE" as he advanced from second to third on a high infield fly. The Blue Jays third baseman fell for it. Posada was safe and Giambi hit a three run bomb to make it 10-5.

With the way the Yankees are playing and the bullpen, including Rivera, is pitching you take whatever advantage you can.

This isn't Little League. This is THE SHOW.

I did NOT appreciate that Jeter, according to the Post, let Rodriguez twist a bit. Whatever happened to defending your teammates a la Graeme Lloyd?

Just one thing Alex - if you did say "MINE" there's no shame in admitting it. Because there's nothing wrong with it.

Using some imagination

The government bureaucracy has no imagination. The mere fact of the 9-11 attacks proved that: after all, Tom Clancy had envisioned a terrorist using a jet plane as a flying missile in 1994 in his novel Debt of Honor but the government did not conceive of such a thing.

So to alleviate this shortcoming, the Department of Homeland Security has specifically sought out people who have imagination in abundance to help it -- science fiction writers; specifically those in a self-created group they titled "Sigma" designed to advise government. I'm unfamiliar with two of the authors in the group (Sage Walker and Arlan Andrews) but the other three are known for their imaginative tales: Greg Bear (Eon, Darwin's Radio), Jerry Pournelle (Lucifer's Hammer), and Hugo winner Larry Niven (Ringworld series). It makes sense:

Although some sci-fi writers' futuristic ideas might sound crazy now, scientists know that they often have what seems to be an uncanny ability to see into the future.

"Fifty years ago, science-fiction writers told us about flying cars and a wireless handheld communicator," says Christopher Kelly, spokesman for Homeland Security's Science and Technology division. "Although flying cars haven't evolved, cellphones today are a way of life. We need to look everywhere for ideas, and science-fiction writers clearly inform the debate."

Bear says the writers offer powerful imaginations that can conjure up not only possible methods of attack, but also ideas about how governments and individuals will respond and what kinds of high-tech tools could prevent attacks.

The group's motto is "Science Fiction in the National Interest." To join the group, Andrews says, you have to have at least one technical doctorate degree.

"We're well-qualified nuts," says Jerry Pournelle, co-author of the best sellers Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer and dozens of other books.

Pournelle and others say that science-fiction writers have spent their lives studying the kinds of technologies and scenarios Homeland Security officials have been tackling since the department began operating in 2003.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Bumblebee

Herbert London has a poignant, inspirational piece about Israel. Pages 41-43.

Short and beautiful and about the best answer to the fools who can't understand why Israel deserves our support.


I would very much like to think that the 2007 Yankees have hit their nadir.

Tuesday night the Yanks dropped a painful 3-2 decision to Toronto helped by a steal of home! putting them 14.5 games behind Boston. Wednesday morning Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez appears to have been caught in flagrante delicto by the New York Post with a woman who is not his wife.

This probably doesn't come much as a surprise as money, star power, athletes and marital fidelity can often be strangers. That said I do feel bad for Rodriguez who has been a very good citizen and worse for wife Cynthia for whom this must be humiliating.

Let's just hope this is the rock bottom.

The giant sucking sound from the Bronx

I had to ring in on this sooner or later, but the Yanks are putrescent. Watching them last night and Monday reminds me of the last four games of the '04 ALCS and the two games in Detroit in last year's ALDS. Basically, Joel Sherman is right, whatever else the Yanks do, they need to ensure their future and not toss away talent on a futile press to make the 2007 playoffs.

No, it's not too early to panic, and it hasn't been for a fortnight. Panic time came on the Yanks' nine-game roadie after learning that they had signed Clemens. The team stank: 3-6 against Seattle, the struggling ChiSawx and the Mess. Now they're 50 games into the season and six games WORSE than the 2005 team that started 11-19. Indeed, the Yanks need to win tonight and sweep the Redsawx in Fenway this weekend just to get to a 75-win pace through the first 1/3 of the season!

The problems are everywhere: A-Rod carried the team for the first three weeks of the year, but has stopped hitting; Damon has not hit; Abreu has been awful; Cano has an OPS 230 points lower than last year; Proctor has honked key games (Angels last Sunday, Sunday night Fenway game against Blosax); Vizcaino has been a dud (20 BB in 26 IP); Rivera has been poor. And the Yanks are simply horrid in close games: 4-17 in games decided by one or two runs. Look at the scores in Pettitte's last three losses: 2-1, 3-2, 3-2. He's 3-4 with a 2.51 ERA -- it's like he's in Houston all over again.

In their current five-game losing streak, the Yanks have squandered these starts: Wang 8 IP/3 ER; Moooooooose 6.1 IP/2 ER; Pettitte 7.1 IP/1 ER. For the year, the Yanks have about eight losses in games where they received quality starts (6 or more IP, 3 or fewer ER). That's a problem with the bullpen and the hitting. That bullpen looks like last year's Indians' disaster. And don't blame the starters' early struggles, in the past month the Yanks have received good starts from Wang (3.53 ERA for May even with his 6.1 IP/7 ER loss to the Rangers), Clippard, DeSalvo, Hughes, Rasner and the stalwart Pettitte (four-straight quality starts, 1-3 record).

Ultimately, this season unraveled when Torre removed Pettitte early in the first game in Boston in April with a 6-2 lead and the Yanks bonked. Joe overmanaged, outplayed his hand, burned out his bullpen early and the team failed to execute (ask Mike Myers and Rivera about that). The Yanks have not hit good pitchers or even mediocre ones -- in the past 2+ weeks, they've turned Horacio Ramirez, John Danks, Dustin McGowan, Sean Marcum, Brandon McCarthy and Julian Tavarez into candidates for the 1966 Orioles rotation. And other than the two worst ones in the AL (Borowski and Ray), the Yanks have not hit anyone's closer (JJ Putz [Seattle] - 4/4 saves; Papelbon - 3/3 saves; Al Reyes - 2/2 saves, etc.).

With three games this weekend in Fenway, this will likely get worse before the Yanks can try to get better. In reality, the best way to get better is to improve with Clemens, make their run this year WITHOUT squandering Clippard, Hughes, DeSalvo, Chase Wright (AAA), Ian Kennedy (dominating in high-A), Joba Chamberlain (dominating in high-A), Alan Horne (AA), Deilin Betances (the Yanks' #2 pitching prospect after Hughes), Brett Smith (unhittable at AA), Jeff Marquez (AA) or George Kontos (high-A).

Otherwise, the Yanks will just revert to the Ken Phelps era.

Ye gads.

Ending the Iranian nuke issue

Commentary founder Norman Podhoretz believes that the US should bomb Iran's nuclear ambitions out of existence. The whole piece is worth reading, but this part stands out:

By 1938, Germany under Adolf Hitler had for some years been rearming in defiance of its obligations under the Versailles treaty and other international agreements. Yet even though Hitler in :"Mein Kampf" had explicitly spelled out the goals he was now preparing to pursue, scarcely anyone took him seriously. To the imminent victims of the war he was soon to start, Hitler's book and his inflammatory speeches were nothing more than braggadocio or, to use the more colorful word Hannah Arendt once applied to Adolf Eichmann, rodomontade: the kind of red meat any politician might throw to his constituents at home. Hitler might sound at times like a madman, but in reality he was a shrewd operator with whom one could--in the notorious term coined by the London Times--"do business." The business that was done under this assumption was the Munich Agreement of 1938, which the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared had brought "peace in our time."

It was thanks to Munich that "appeasement" became one of the dirtiest words in the whole of our political vocabulary. Yet appeasement had always been an important and entirely respectable tool of diplomacy, signifying the avoidance of war through the alleviation of the other side's grievances. If Hitler had been what his eventual victims imagined he was--that is, a conventional statesman pursuing limited aims and using the threat of war only as a way of strengthening his bargaining position--it would indeed have been possible to appease him and thereby to head off the outbreak of another war.

But Hitler was not a conventional statesman and, although for tactical reasons he would sometimes pretend otherwise, he did not have limited aims. He was a revolutionary seeking to overturn the going international system and to replace it with a new order dominated by Germany, which also meant the political culture of Nazism. As such, he offered only two choices: resistance or submission. Finding this reality unbearable, the world persuaded itself that there was a way out, a third alternative, in negotiations. But given Hitler's objectives, and his barely concealed lust for war, negotiating with him could not conceivably have led to peace. It could have had only one outcome, which was to buy him more time to start a war under more favorable conditions. As most historians now agree, if he had been taken at his own word about his true intentions, he could have been stopped earlier and defeated at an infinitely lower cost.

Which brings us back to Ahmadinejad. Like Hitler, he is a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism. Like Hitler, too, he is entirely open about his intentions, although--again like Hitler--he sometimes pretends that he wants nothing more than his country's just due. In the case of Hitler in 1938, this pretense took the form of claiming that no further demands would be made if sovereignty over the Sudetenland were transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany. In the case of Ahmadinejad, the pretense takes the form of claiming that Iran is building nuclear facilities only for peaceful purposes and not for the production of bombs.

But here we come upon an interesting difference between then and now. Whereas in the late 1930s almost everyone believed, or talked himself into believing, that Hitler was telling the truth when he said he had no further demands to make after Munich, no one believes that Ahmadinejad is telling the truth when he says that Iran has no wish to develop a nuclear arsenal. In addition, virtually everyone agrees that it would be best if he were stopped, only not, God forbid, with military force--not now, and not ever.

Religion of Tolerance

Recall that Malaysia is considered to be rather "tolerant" because this woman wasn't stoned.

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, May 30 (Reuters) - Malaysia's best known Christian convert, Lina Joy, lost a six-year battle on Wednesday to have the word "Islam" removed from her identity card, after the country's highest court rejected the change.

The court's ruling helps define religious freedoms in multi-racial Malaysia, whose constitution guarantees freedom of worship but deems all ethnic Malays like Joy to be Muslims, subject to Islamic laws that bar her conversion to another faith.

"You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another," Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.

About 200 Muslims, mostly youths, had gathered outside the domed courthouse for the ruling. They welcomed the news with shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is great).

The three-judge appeal bench ruled 2-1 against Joy. The dissenting judge was the only non-Muslim on the bench.

The chief justice said the country's highest civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and said it should be dealt with by the country's Islamic or sharia court system.

"The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it's under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene," Ahmad Fairuz said.

In practice, sharia courts do not allow Muslims to formally renounce Islam. They often end up in legal limbo, unable to register their new religious affiliations or legally marry non-Muslims. Many keep silent about their choice or emigrate.

Lina Joy, 43, was born Azlina Jailani and was brought up as a Muslim, but at the age of 26 decided to become a Christian. She wants to marry her Christian boyfriend, a cook, but she cannot do so while her identity card declares her to me Muslim.

In 1999, the National Registration Department allowed her to change the name in her identity card to Lina Joy but the entry for her religion remained "Islam".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Integration before Immigration

Stanley Kurtz has a very good piece on why emphasizing family-reunification ahead of a merit-based system for new immigrants can be very dangerous. How can promoting family values be bad one asks? It's an insidious argument used by presidential hopeful Barack Obama (I'd vote for Hillary first)

The socially conscious Norwegians made this mistake ten years ago and are now trying to reverse it.

The dynamic that has made itself felt recently and most clearly that unassimilated chunks of immigrants are bad were in the banlieues of Paris into which the French police barely dared to set foot. In fact these heavily Muslim ghettoes exist all over Europe but not here in the United States where we've congratulated ourselves (and rightfully) on assimilating immigrants into the American culture and values.

However the accelerated family reunification provisions in the current bill not to mention the odious proposed Obama amendment would actually invite and make legal the type of immigration from Muslim countries THAT WE DO NOT WANT.

Kurtz references two other long articles (here and here) he has written which are fascinating and completely worthwhile reading. He draws heavily on the work of a British anthropologist who looked very carefully at the experiences of Punjabi immigrants to the UK differentiating between the Hindus and Sikhs on one hand and the Muslims on the other.

Essentially the practice patrilineal cousin intermarriage among Punjabi Muslims is extremely strong and cohesive and effectively prevents assimilation into the new culture in a process described as "reverse colonization".

Here are the key quotes:

In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain. A process of “chain migration,” in which generation after generation of Mirpuri immigrants wed cousins back in Pakistan, has reinforced Muslim cultural continuity by keeping a continuous stream of unassimilated immigrants pouring into Britain. Before describing the impact of Muslim marriage practices, however, Ballard needs to deal with an obvious alternative explanation for differential rates of immigrant achievement and assimilation.
Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that “over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.” In 2002, Ballard noted that: “At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home.” [Mirpuri = Muslims of the Punjab area]
The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.

The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.

Back from vacation

The Monk has returned!

Blow the trumpets, sound the 'larums!

Where was I? The Monk went to France, home of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, none of whom were actually rude to either me or the Monkette merely because we're not French (i.e., the French drivers are rude to everyone).

Why? Because The Monk loves castles and palaces (so does Monkette) and The Monkette showed him this one.

Oh yeah, she wanted to go there too (uh, both that palace and France itself). It was our "babymoon" -- the last trip before our first Monkling. There's really no way to sufficiently laud the Monkette's stamina on this trip -- she's six months pregnant and we bopped around to 11 chateaux in four days in the Loire Valley, then she climbed to the abbey on the top of this hill, and trekked through Paris in the rain. There's more, but if you would like to know about it, email me at thekeymonk[at sign] for my travelogue. All said, a nice trip.

And the Yanks still suck.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

George Orwell's words are very appropriate aside than they perhaps impugn our soldiers as rough men.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in this country's service.

Nordlinger on World Economic Forum

Readers of this space know I am a particular fan of National Review's Jay Nordlinger - good writing, trenchant commentary and a fellow neo-con stuck in a flabbergastingly left-worshipping metropolis. Nordlinger covers the World Economic Forum(s) each year in Davos and in the Middle East. This past week he sent dispatches from Jordan. Parts I, II, III and IV are all worthwhile in their entirety and I've included a highlight or two from each.

Part I:

As usual, I am impressed with the Iraqi officials — Barham Salih, the deputy prime minister, is present. They are some of the bravest people on earth. And they are some of the most beleaguered. They face enormous, historic pressures, and they are subject to perpetual, lacerating criticism, from all quarters. In their offices and homes, they face constant death threats, and many of them have seen their loved ones killed. The burdens of other politicians are comparatively light.

Salih is a particularly distinguished, elegant, and dignified man — also an articulate one. I doubt there is a more effective spokesman for Iraqi democracy, and for Arab democracy at large. He has the air of someone who knows that a lot is at stake.

Yes, yes, Iraqi politicians have made mistakes — big ones. But, you know? They are engaged in a horribly difficult project that has huge consequences for us all. And it is only humane and logical to cut them a little slack.

Part II:

There’s a lot of talk about education at this conference, and some of it comes from Khaldoon Al Mubarak, co-chairman of the Forum, and CEO and managing director of the Mubadala Development Company in the UAE. I will give you a taste of his remarks, in paraphrase:

“The education system needs to be diversified, in part because the present system is not meeting the needs of the private sector — a sector that is growing, and will grow all the more. Businesses need young people who are equipped for new and vital tasks. In addition, our textbooks are an outrage: In math, for example, fourth-graders read, ‘If you have five Muslims facing four infidels . . .’ What is such a question doing in a fourth-grade math textbook? Textbooks, curricula, teachers — all need to be confronted. Moreover, the exclusion of girls from our schools is a great weakness of the system.
Part III:

This one features Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan. When he begins his remarks, I sense he sort of makes the room gulp. What he says is, “Foreign intervention brought us freedom from an extremist occupation, from terrorism, from brutal, obscurantist rule.”

He continues (and I paraphrase, just slightly), “It brought the return of refugees from abroad, the return of women to visible life, an infinitely improved economy. The infant-mortality rate was once one of the worst in the world. Now it’s way down. And children are back in school.”

These are “positive developments,” says Karzai. And on the negative side: “The Afghan people are still suffering attacks by terrorists.” Freedom from terrorism has not been entirely achieved. And the country will go down the tubes, he says, without “the international community” and “the cooperation of the neighbors.”

Glancing back at history, Karzai says that “the Karmalites” — the Afghan Communists — “and the Soviets imposed an alien thought on a deeply believing Muslim people, and a traditional people.” And “we used the other extreme to fight the Soviets,” thereafter getting stuck with “the regional plague” — namely, Islamism.

That is a striking and memorable phrase: “the regional plague.”

And, as Karzai tells it, Afghanistan was forgotten by the world “until New York was struck.”

The “international community” now has a choice, he says: It can continue to help Afghanistan, or it can turn its back once more. And if the Americans and their partners “leave before their time, Afghanistan will suffer,” and so, reverberatingly, will the region and world.

Later in the conference, another regional leader will say to an American, “If you leave Iraq too soon, you may find that you have to come back.”

Part IV:

The explosion of youth in the Arab world is a big, big problem. As I think I’ve already mentioned in this journal, there are now 200 million people under 24. And the total population is only 325 million. This is a baby boom, and perhaps the emphasis is on the “boom.” These people are in dire need of some meritocracy — they are blocked by nepotism, by the tyranny of the family name, by the lack of upward mobility, of flexibility. The Arab world, for the sake of us all, needs rapid liberalization.


I’m sitting next to a Lebanese journalist. We are talking about the fate of the Middle East, and the world, over the last quarter-century. She suddenly asks me a blunt question: “Why did the American government allow Khomeini to come to power?”

The source of many, many ills and sorrows, that Islamist ascension to power.

A very long summer

I refer, of course, to the hapless Yankees who have justed dropped a 7-2 decision in Toronto and in the process drop to 21-28 and made 0-2 Dustin McGowan he of the (formerly) 7.17 ERA look like a Cy Young award winner.

Over the past few weeks I'd thought hey a slow start but not as bad as 11-19. Well, now it's actually worse - they are seven games below .500 and its materially later in the season.

Boston came into tonight 34-15 and the Yanks 21-27. To reach 95 wins - probably enough for the wild card - Boston would have to go 61-52 over the rest of the season, or .540 winning percentage. The Yanks would have to go 74-40, a .650 clip. We did it last year as Boston collapsed down the stretch.

A colleague who has been to many games put it the best.

"They've got no fire."

Well they can't get any decent hitting now that the pitching is back to form. The bullpen is very questionable and probably overused. I was about to get on Torre was using soft tossing lefty Mike Myers against Ortiz because Ortiz was hitting .300 against him but to be fair actually that's the best against this bullpen!

It's also true that the Yankees have been unlucky. Using Bill James' Pythagorean theorem (based on runs for and against) they should be 26-22 instead of 21-27. Even so they need to shake this funk and preferably fast.

How? Having the Rocket back in the clubhouse should help - unless he bombs. Otherwise I am not sure there is a game changer that can be had - an Ichiro or Reyes - to revive this dead offense.

The Monk is due back and will be giving a dose of his usual insights very shortly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thank you Mr. Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner takes heat constantly for his lavish spending on players. There is no doubt though that he is passionate about winning and unlike much wealthier owners like Carl Pohlad has never been shy about putting his money where his mouth is.

The Yankees donated $1 million to a fund to help aid the Virginia Tech community after the massacre last month.

From Reuters:

NEW YORK, May 23 (Reuters) - The New York Yankees donated $1 million on Wednesday to a fund to aid the healing process at Virginia Tech following the mass killings last month.

The Yankees will also play an exhibition game next year on or near the Blacksburg campus, the proceeds from which will be given to Virginia Tech, where a gunman murdered 32 people, mostly students, before killing himself.

Virginia Tech president Charles Steger accepted the donation at Yankee Stadium and threw out the first pitch at Wednesday's game against the Boston Red Sox.

"I want to thank the Yankees for this extraordinary generosity," Steger told reporters.

"This is the largest single donation that we've received. I don't believe any other sports organization has made a contribution. Some individual athletes have done so but nothing of this magnitude."

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement: "The events that took place this spring in Virginia have deeply affected us all.

"But the Virginia Tech community has shown great spirit and resolve during this difficult time, and the New York Yankees are proud to join so many others in supporting the healing process."

The Virginia Tech "Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund" provides grief counselling, memorials and general assistance to victims and their families.

Programming Note

Just a note to our faithful readers (yes, both of them) to explain the paucity of posts of late. The Monk is traveling on a well deserved holiday and so busy before he left that he didn't have a chance to scribble this sort of note detailing me with the responsibility as is his wont. Work has been rather busy of late so posting will be a bit sporadic but do watch this space.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rev. Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

Jerry Falwell, preacher, fundamentalist and founder of the Moral Majority, died Tuesday. Whether one agreed or disagreed with him its hard to argue that the Moral Majority and its successors had a transformative and lasting effect in American politics. He brought the fundamentalists back into politics after 50 years in the wilderness after the Scopes trial.

Joseph Loconte has a good balanced discussion of Falwell here. Excerpt:

Falwell’s critics — such as Polly Toynbee of The Guardian or Susan Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary — like to compare his Christian fundamentalism to Islamic radicalism. They see the same brooding hatreds at work. “The world can no longer afford the kind of absolutist religion and politics Rev. Falwell helped to popularize,” Thistlethwaite snapped. “It will literally be fatal.”

Yet any calm reflection on Falwell’s record exposes that characterization as pure sophistry. Falwell was strenuously opposed to abortion, for example, but he was quick to denounce any violence committed against abortion doctors and he supported programs for unwed mothers. He sometimes used inflammatory biblical language to describe the culture wars in America. But he utterly rejected any notion of a theocratic state or Christian jihad. What many of Falwell’s critics find so offensive is the idea that religious ideals — particularly those in the Judeo-Christian tradition — should help shape our politics. That secularizing approach, so popular in so much of Europe, does not appear to be producing more humane or just societies. It cannot, in the end, sustain a democratic society.

Jerry Falwell had his faults, excesses, and ego. His style of politics has no doubt contributed to the public rancor over religion. But think about it: The most frightening outcome of his activism was not a cadre of suicide bombers, or a culture of nihilistic rage, or a network of terrorists plotting to destroy the foundations of Western civilization. The most frightening outcome of Falwell’s activism was the mobilization of middle-class citizens to join school boards and city councils, to launch lobbying campaigns and voter-registration drives, to participate in local and national elections.

We call that democracy.

I am not a particular student of Falwell or the fundamentalist movement and certainly do not necessarily agree with his stance on a number of issues but on balance I think he's clearly fought on the side of the angels.

RIP where the sounds of battle are no more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ancillary costs of legalization

The Heritage Foundation calculates that the retirement cost of giving amnesty to all current illegal immigrants would amount to nearly $2.5 trillion dollars. This is based on a conservative estimate of 9.3 million current illegals.

The calculation of this figure is as follows. In March 2006, there were 9.3 million adult illegal immigrants in the U.S. Most illegal immigrants are low-skill. On average, each elderly low-skill immigrant creates a net cost (benefits minus taxes) for the taxpayer of about $17,000 per year. (This includes federal state and local government costs.) If the government gave amnesty to 9.3 million illegal immigrants, most of them would eventually become eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits or Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid benefits.

However, not all of the 9.3 million adults given amnesty would survive till age 67. Normal mortality rates would probably reduce the population by roughly 15 percent before age 67. That would mean 7.9 million individuals would reach 67 and enter retirement.

Of those reaching 67, the average life expectancy would be around 18 years. The net governmental cost (benefits minus taxes) of these elderly individuals would be around $17,000 per year. Over eighteen years of expected life, costs would equal $360,000 per elderly amnesty recipient. A cost of $306,000 per amnesty recipient times 7.9 million amnesty recipients would be $2.4 trillion. These costs would hit the U.S. taxpayer at exactly the point that the Social Security system is expected to go into crisis.

Not exactly chump change.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

National Socialists

National Review's Jay Nordlinger pens a superior Impromptus piece that discusses "fascism":

...Student and other demonstrators shouted, “Sarko, fascist! The people will have your hide!” (A Reuters story is here.) That, I submit, is the authentic voice of Leninism. Note the reference to “the people,” the presumption of speaking for “the people” — and this was after a free and fair election, in which “the people” really and truly spoke! It was the kind of election that these demonstrators would never permit, in their ideal society.

And “The people will have your hide.” Yes, behind these shouters is Leninism, or Jacobinism, or whatever we choose to call it. We are reminded that it never dies; that civilization must be always on guard against it.

And then there is “fascist”: “Sarko, fascist!” All of us who are conservative, or classically liberal, have had to be called fascist. It goes with the territory. And yet it’s no fun. I have been called fascist since I was in college. And those who do it are either malicious or ignorant — sometimes, I guess, they are both (and what a brutal combination: malice and ignorance).

Ordinarily, it does no good to try to reason with people: Fascists are centralizers of power; we are decentralizers. Fascists are nationalizers of industry; we are free-marketeers. Fascists are collectivists; we are anti-collectivists. It is no use to say any of this: “Fascist” is an epithet used by mean or stupid people against those they dislike who are perceived to be “on the right.” One result is that, when a real fascist comes along, there is no word left for him.

I know someone — a British conservative intellectual — who refuses to say “Nazi.” Always, always, to him, it is “National Socialist.” Makes some people very uncomfortable.


Monday, May 14, 2007

If the shoe fits?

Guess pretty hard to deny that Bonds was/is on something not kosher:

Equally startling are these numbers: According to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote "Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports," Mike Murphy, equipment manager of the San Francisco Giants, testified that since Bonds became a Giant in 1993, the size of his uniform jersey has gone from 42 to 52. His cap size has expanded from 7 1/8 to 7 1/4, even though while it was expanding he shaved his head. (Bonds reportedly shaved his head because his hair was falling out as a result of steroid use.) And Fainaru-Wada and Williams also say Murphy testified that Bonds's baseball shoe size has changed from 10½ to 13.

Bulking up even that substantially is possible and one-quarter head size could be related but 2.5 shoe sizes?!?!?!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Kathleens

Just so the Kathleens aren't simply names:

Blanco, pictured with Ray Nagin,

and Sebelius with Nancy Pelosi

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sebelius and Blanco -- weak demagogue governors

Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius is not the weak, vacillating, and impotent executive that Kathleen Blanco (D-La.) is -- three characteristics that have led to Blanco's 10% approval rating and polling level at 15%, the two reasons she will not run for reelection this year. Blanco mismanaged the post-Katrina disaster relief efforts through her ineptitude and woeful lack of fortitude.

Sebelius is different: she is actively thwarting the efforts of Kansans to assist, rebuild and repair the village of Greensburg, which was essentially destroyed by a tornado last week. Here's the crux of her demagoguery and reasons for Kansans to drum her out of office in the next gubernatorial election:

The story that first went around the world was a testament to the self-reliance and resiliency of Kansans. Greensburg, it was clear, was no New Orleans. When the clouds lifted, local residents started digging out. Their neighbors were there in minutes: Local towns and villages descended on the small town and got to work because, as any Kansan will tell you, that’s how you get ’er done. People get together and get to work.

. . . using whatever was at hand, in a few hours the streets were open for emergency vehicles — which, in small-town parlance, means not only ambulances and fire trucks from other small towns, but also an armada of pick-ups, tractors, dozers, loaders, and heavy trucks owned by practically everyone within a 50-mile radius. After all, this is a part of the world where most people commute to work on a big machine that beeps when it goes backwards.

The next day, the state’s Republican U.S. Senator, Pat Roberts, along with two local congressmen, were on the scene, surveying the destruction and reporting back on what they were seeing. On Sunday evening, two full days after the disaster, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius made her appearance.

During that two-day period, two things happened that changed the story from one of small-town heroism to one about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In Greensburg, outside civilian help was kept out by emergency management teams — perhaps accounting for the “unmistakable emptiness in Greensburg, a lack of heavy machinery and an army of responders” reported this morning by the New York Times.

* * *
Melvin Neufeld, the Speaker of the Kansas house — and also a farmer from Ingalls, another small town about an hour northwest of Greensburg — explained what he thought accounted for that “unmistakable emptiness” reported by the Times: “We had people there, people who had been doing the work and other people who wanted to be included. That’s how we do things here. We don’t wait for the government. We just get the job done. But all those people were kept out.”

* * *
As the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Ric Anderson writes this morning, “Sebelius works without a carefully crafted game plan about as often as Ashton Kutcher finishes a novel. She’s calculating and cautious, which is a big part of why she’s won two terms as governor in a Republican state.” It took a couple of days, but finally Sebelius released a statement claiming that relief efforts in Greensburg were being hampered by the absence of state National Guard equipment. It had been taken to fight the war in Iraq.

This is bollocks, as Denis Boyles points out, because the National Guard had sufficient manpower and materiel on site quickly.

By Monday morning, the Greensburg story had a new hook, one that played much more comfortably in the national media. It wasn’t about those resilient Kansans, after all. It was about Bush and Iraq. When the A.M. talk shows went on the air, Sebelius was ready. “[Having Guard equipment in Iraq] is a huge issue,” she told Fox’s Steve Doocy. “We’re missing Humvees, frontloaders, and dumptrucks.” And, she added, she couldn’t ask for help from neighboring states, because their stuff was in Iraq, too. Her closer: “We need those assets back in the United States.” Suddenly, Kansas was on the
Huffington Post, and by what Kansans call “dinner time” — lunch to us — this was how Reuters was covering Greensburg:

* * *

The press has run with this story, of course. The Katrina effect — exploiting a natural disaster for political gain — is irresistible, and for Harry Reid and anyone else who needs a good attack bite, Greensburg will do. By Tuesday, according to the AP, Barack Obama was blaming Bush and Iraq for the death of 10,000 people in Greensburg. [Actual death toll = 12] Today, it’s on the front page of the New York Times, right where Sebelius apparently wanted it to be: “The emergency response was too slow,” the Times reports her saying, “and there was only one reason.”

Yes, she didn't ask for help. Just like Blanco failed. But Sebelius' failure is part of a more nefarious ambition. More Boyles:

. . . First, if the governor thought there was going to be a delay, or if she felt she needed more equipment, why didn’t she ask for it Saturday?

“All she had to do was ask,” the Defense Department’s Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke told me. “We can’t make that decision on our own and start imposing people and equipment on our own. The state has to ask.”

In addition to thousands of available Guard personnel, Krenke said, there’s enough heavy equipment available to Sebelius to turn tiny Greensburg into a heavy-equipment parking lot — including more than 350 Humvees, hundreds of trucks, tractors, trailers, and other pieces of heavy machinery — along with thousands more sitting parked in neighboring states.

“It’s all there,” Krenke said. “The equipment and people are available and a process is in place for getting it. But they haven’t chosen to use it.” The adjutant-general of the Kansas National Guard is working with Washington, Krenke said. “He should be advising her of all this.” The adjutant-general’s press officer didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

* * *
In Greensburg itself, a “slow” relief effort certainly isn’t quite what people are seeing. “I’m very impressed,” Deborah Factor, one of the few homeowners in Greensburg to still have a home, told me by phone yesterday. “There are Guardsmen everywhere — picking up, cleaning up, shoveling stuff. And there’s food everywhere. I have not found one single person from Greensburg with a complaint. We’re grieving our losses, but most of us are grateful for friends and family and glad to be alive.”

A disgraceful performance by Gov. Sebelius.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Iran Raid

Two RAND analysts have researched and written a fairly thorough and comprehensible report published in the International Security periodical on the feasibility of an Israeli strike against the nuclear infrastructure of Iran. It overtly avoids the issue of justification limiting itself to establishing whether it could be done.

Their answer is YES and at no greater mission risk than the fabled 1981 raid on Saddam's Osirak reactor. It's 27 pages but fairly straightforward and pleasantly unencumbered by jargon.

The key takeaways:

1. The key Iranian targets are, in order of importance:
- the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz
- the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan
- the heavy water and plutonium reactors under construction at Arak

2. The much more distributed and hardened targets in Iran vs. Osirak seems to be roughly counterbalanced by new bunker busting ordnance.

3. It is a much further distance to the key nuclear sites in Iran than it was to Iraq and each of three conceivable routes would involve in-flight refueling of the Israeli fighter-bombers.

Their conclusion:

"It does seem to indicate, however, that the IAF (Israeli Air Force), after years of modernization, now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence...The operation would appear to be no more risky than Israel's 1981 attack of Iraq's Osirak reactor, and it would provide at least as much benefit in terms of delaying Iranian development of nuclear weapons."

The political price of a strike is likely to be grievious though the United States would likely at least abstain from a Security Council condemnation. However the price of inaction may well be Tel Aviv. Or Washington. They are those who will make the argument that Israel cannot hope to hold back technology forever. Perhaps not, (though it worked quite well with Saddam) but the relevant question is whether preventing this militantly Islamist regime from possessing one for a significant period is worthwhile. The answer to that is a resounding yes.

Column No. 5

Six Muslims who are ethnic Albanians were arrested with conspiring to murder US soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Ethnic Albanian, Croat, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims should be favorable to the US considering that it won the Cold War (no more Commie totalitarianism) and then bombed the rapacious Serbians into submission.

No such luck.

The Yanks and missing the easy ones

The Yanks had everything set up yesterday: despite stinking at the plate (Bobby Abreu slugging % = less than .320; Robby Cano BA = less than .270) against a struggling pitcher, they held a 2-1 lead through 7 thanks to a shockingly good performance from rookie Matt DeSalvo who made his major league debut. Then the bullpen took over, and the umps did too.

First, a blown call that, if it had happened in the playoffs, would be legendary. With two outs, pinchrunner Willie Bloomquist tried to steal second off Kyle Farnsworth and Jorge Posada. He was dead meat -- Robinson Cano tagged Bloomquist on the arse with the runner's hands more than THREE FEET FROM SECOND BASE. Ump called him safe. This call was horrid -- as a call outside of a playoff context it was worse than the Dom Denkinger call that honked game 6 of the '85 Series for the Cards, worse than the Rich Garcia call that changed game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, worse than the ball three call to Tino Martinez with the bases loaded in game 1 of the '98 Series (which was close and Tino never flinched -- he bought a lot of calls that way), and only on par with Tim Tschida's woeful honk on the Chuck Knoblauch phantom tag in game 2 of the '99 ALCS (remember that RedSawx fans?).

Next batter blooped a single to right and Farnsworth gets tagged with a blown save off the blown call.

Second, the big honk. The Monk has discussed his disgust with some of Jorge Posada's pitch-calling and yesterday is about as bad as it gets: righty who keeps bailing out and flailing at outside pitches in deep slump, Posada calls for an inside fastball from Rivera. Result = homer. That's two bombs Rivera's coughed up of his usual season-long alottement of three. Worse yet (and to prove that Rivera's just not right), the Adrian Beltre dinger went to left center, more than 400 feet away. Rivera rarely gives up a bomb, even more rare is the 400+ foot blow -- most homers off Rivera are to the short porch in right at the Stadium or down a foul line in other stadiums.

Just not good.

ISAS claims another star

Wow, what a set of heinous pictures. The newest victim of Incredible Shrinking Actress Syndrome is Aussie Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (who should be a double-winner but her Elizabeth lost to Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love -- and you thought the Marisa Tomei win was a joke), formerly known for looking elegant and fitting comfortably within the normal parameters of slim. Of all actresses who could succumb to ISAS, Blanchett would be the second least likely to come to the mind of The Monk (after Kate Winslet). Quite disappointing that the seemingly level-headed Blanchett is now a skeletal goth figure.

Click the link. When I first saw the picture shown on The Drudge Report, I thought it might be a fake or mistake, but the Daily Mail article has three photos. of which the third shows that the awful stick figure is actually Blanchett. Yuk.

Monday, May 07, 2007

On Sarkozy

Sunday's French presidential election gave the side of the angels some good news for the first time in a while. With massive turnout (84%) centre right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy beat statist Socialist Segolene Royal 53-47 which election observers are calling a significant mandate.

It's interesting that Sarkozy, the 'conservative' in this election has a pretty radical platform based more on free markets and law and order the value of which has eluded most French politicians though the citizenry appear to have seen the light. What's most important though is that Sarkozy is an ATLANTICIST and his ascension to the Presidency will mean better relations between Washington and Paris and will be the wind that dissipates the rancid anti-American sentiment promulgated by Chirac.

Looking at excerpts of his acceptance speech one must take a liking to the following:

"I want to launch an appeal to our American friends to tell them that they can count on our friendship in the tragedies of history, which we have faced together. I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they will need her."

I'd like to think that Sarkozy sees the mortal threat to the West from Islamofascism. For the President of France this is (as our English friends would say) a result. That he followed this comment with a bit of a platitude on global warming I'll happily overlook for now.

A few other excerpts worth noting:

"To all those who are persecuted by tyranny and dictatorship, to all children around the world, to all women ill-treated in the world, I want to say that the pride and the duty of France will be to be on their side."

"France will be on the side of those Libyan nurses, locked up for eight years."

"France will not abandon Ingrid Betancourt."

"France will not abandon women forced to wear the burka."

With the still rising tide of socialism and anti-Americanism in Latin America, aided and abetted by the detestable Chavez, it seems that perhaps Europe with Merkel in Berlin and now Sarkozy in Paris actually have begun to see the light.

Kudos to the WaPo

For chiding the Democrats. The WaPo takes the Democrats to task for their dishonorable treatment of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe:

In a region where populist demagogues are on the offensive, Mr. Uribe stands out as a defender of liberal democracy, not to mention a staunch ally of the United States. So it was remarkable to see the treatment that the Colombian president received in Washington. After a meeting with the Democratic congressional leadership, Mr. Uribe was publicly scolded by House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose statement made no mention of the "friendship" she recently offered Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Human Rights Watch, which has joined the Democratic campaign against Mr. Uribe, claimed that "today Colombia presents the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere" -- never mind Venezuela or Cuba or Haiti. Former vice president Al Gore, who has advocated direct U.S. negotiations with the regimes of Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently canceled a meeting with Mr. Uribe because, Mr. Gore said, he found the Colombian's record "deeply troubling."

What could explain this backlash? Democrats claim to be concerned -- far more so than Colombians, apparently -- with "revelations" that the influence of right-wing paramilitary groups extended deep into the military and Congress. In fact this has been well-known for years; what's new is that investigations by Colombia's Supreme Court and attorney general have resulted in the jailing and prosecution of politicians and security officials. Many of those implicated come from Mr. Uribe's Conservative Party, and his former intelligence chief is under investigation. But the president himself has not been charged with wrongdoing. On the contrary: His initiative to demobilize 30,000 right-wing paramilitary fighters last year paved the way for the current investigations, which he and his government have supported and funded.

* * *
Perhaps Mr. Uribe is being punished by Democrats, too, because he has remained an ally of George W. Bush even as his neighbor, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, portrays the U.S. president as "the devil." Whatever the reasons, the Democratic campaign is badly misguided. If the Democrats succeed in wounding Mr. Uribe or thwarting his attempt to consolidate a democracy that builds its economy through free trade, the United States may have to live without any Latin American allies.

Meet the New France, different from the Old France?

Pro-American, conservative, and capitalist. That's the basic resume of France's new President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who defeated Socialist Segolene Royal in yesterday's election. Sarko gets five years to implement his programs including incentives for working more than France's preposterous 35-hour work week and tougher immigration requirements. Overall, this is good for both France and the US.

The Monk and Monkette are going to France in a couple of weeks, and can do so with clearer consciences now that the anti-American, pro-Palestinian, corrupt old hack Chirac is done. Perhaps we should next schedule a trip to Spain so Zapatero and his communist-sympathizing Socialists will be drummed out of office.

The Clemens factor

The Monk watched yesterday as The Rocket announced his impending return -- Roger Clemens is coming back to the Yankees, thereby swinging the balance of power in the AL Wild Card race and giving the Yanks a chance to win the division. After all, the Red Sawx will lose more than 15 games this year. Ultimately, however, the fact of Clemens' impending return may be nearly as important to the Yanks as anything that Moooooooooooose and Wang provide in the coming weeks because (1) the Yanks know they will get a top-end starter in June and (2) they also know the owner and GM support the team. The latter should never be in doubt, but the fact remains that many teams have lost heart at the trading deadline when their front offices have failed to jump in and fill an outstanding need.

Money alone did not clinch the Clemens deal, although $4.5M/month never hurts (and the cost to the Yanks is about $6.4M/month+ because of luxury tax). Instead, two other factors were crucial: Clemens' friendship with Pettitte (after all, Rocket followed Pettitte to Houston), and the Yanks' desperation after losing Phil Hughes during the baby rocket's no-hitter in progress last Tuesday.

What can the Yanks expect from The Rocket? Critics yesterday said he's just a 5-6 inning pitcher but The Monk doesn't buy that. First, Rocket pitched in the NL for a team that had offensive problems last year, so pulling him after 6 innings when his spot in the lineup came up would almost be par for the course. Second, in both 2004 and '05, he consistently pitched 7 per start while mowing down the NL. Over the course of 22 starts this season, the Yanks should be able to expect 135-145 IP, 130-140K and an ERA around 3.75. What team would reject that?

The impact on the AL race and the Yankees' organization is huge. First, a top four of Wang-Pettitte-Mooooooose-Rocket puts the Yanks' starting as the near-equal of the RedSawx and Angels but with superior firepower. The Yanks' starters now surpass the Twins and pre-Rogers Tigers and probably the ChiSox and A's -- all probable wild card contenders. Second, the Rocket will take innings off the bullpen -- instead of using Proctor AND Vizcaino AND Farnsworth/Bruney, Torre can cut his use of those boys to one or two set-up men, instead of throwing more than one and often in early situations after Igawa honks a five-run lead or similar disaster. Third, when Hughes returns he has a Hall-of-Fame mentor with a similar selection of pitches. Fourth, the kids in Tampa, Trenton and Scranton get time to learn with The Rocket; just one meeting can change their career paths -- ask Curt Schilling about that.

So this signing is important, and the timing is better -- early in May instead of around Memorial Day, which means the Yanks get 3-4 more starts from Clemens than the Astros did last year. A nice boost, and good job by Cashman to get the deal done.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mind vitamin of the day II

Charles Krauthammer on French Presidential candidate Nicholas Sarkozy, who has a moderate lead over his rival, Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal, heading into this weekend's election, from last night's Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume:

Eighty-eight percent have said that their vote is already decided. And he's pretty much ahead and he wouldn't only have effect on domestic issues, he would have a huge effect on us. Because he is as pro-American as you will ever find, not only in France, but in any of old Europe. And that would be a huge shift in the center of gravity of Europe. After all, Eastern Europe is fairly pro-American. The Poles, for instance, are taking our missiles, have helped us in Iraq, remember who liberated them; the French have forgotten. He remembers, he's the son of Hungarian refugees. He's quite pro-American.

And if you have him and the shift that you had in Germany where the Merkel is pro-American than her predecessor, Schroeder. You have Brown who will succeed Blair in London, who's reasonably pro-American. That would help us a lot in negotiations with Iran, with the Palestinians, on Lebanon, and especially on Iraq.

I think it would have a huge affect on us if the impediment that the French had been under, Chirac, he saw his role as a Gaullist, of stopping us, checking us, in fact, humiliating us, if possibly, in all parts of the world. You take that away and you substitute a Sarkozy, I think it will have a huge affect on us. So, it's an important election from the American perspective

Mind vitamin of the day I

John Bolton's speech accepting his Bradley Prize is a nice one. Some excerpts:

The Bradley Foundation's contribution to the intellectual defense of liberty in this country and around the world is beyond measure. Its support and persistence has been manifested in many ways, in particular such as its long-time partnership with the American Enterprise Institute.

There are, of course, many other people I should mention. For example, I should note Senators Lincoln Chafee and Chris Dodd, who did so much to help make me eligible for this Prize. Prominent citizens of Pyongyang, Havana, Damascus, Tehran and elsewhere also pitched in, simply by being themselves.

* * *

To be sure, in most government agencies, conservatives generally find themselves in more or less hostile territory. After all, belief in limited government, as the Bradley Foundation holds, means there is not a government program or service that cannot either be eliminated, trimmed or made more effective. Without exception. Even more difficult is the policy arena, where some civil servants believe they should be fundamentally responsible for policy, rather than, in Jim Baker's phrase, "the guy who got elected," and his political appointees. And yet, for the most part, the permanent bureaucracy is content with policies and programs as they are. Ironically, there are many truly professional civil servants, ready to follow our policies, who are repeatedly amazed when we do not follow them ourselves.

In fact, some on the left go even further, arguing that a President should not even be allowed full control over the bureaucracy. In my case, Senators argued that an opponent of arms control should not be made Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, or that a UN critic should not be made UN Ambassador. Following this logic, if, in 1861, there had been a Cabinet Department of Slavery Affairs, Lincoln should have been required to name a pro-slavery Secretary. This line of argument is fundamentally anti-democratic and constitutionally perverse.

We are reminded of Britain's "Yes, Minister" television series, where the senior career civil servant assures a new Minister that his entire job consists only of moving the pile of papers from his in basket to his out basket. No need to read, understand or modify them; just move the pile from one side of his desk to the other. The new Minister is delighted to hear this, and the career civil servant is delighted that the Minister accepts this "division of labor." Too many of our political appointees took lessons from that program. I did not. I had my battles with the bureaucracy, which probably explains why I am here tonight. So let me make a confession. On many occasions, during this and prior Administrations, knowingly and willfully, I have committed acts of conservatism. It gets worse. I enjoyed every minute of it.

And the Senate did the nation a disservice by failing to give him more minutes to enjoy.

Party in Oakland, recriminations in Dallas

What a failure by the Mavericks. Humiliations galore.

After a 67-win season, the Mavs are the first #1 seed to honk against a #8 in a best-of-seven series. From the simply ugly files: the Mavs took an 18-point beating in game 3 and a 25-point thrashing in game 6. At halftime last night, the Warriors led 50-48. After dueling three-pointers, the Warriors were up 62-57 about 1/3 of the way through the third period. Then the Warriors rattled off an 18-0 run that wiped out the Mavs' season.

But it gets worse -- check this out from the Elias Sports Bureau:

The Dallas-Golden State series was the 20th in NBA playoffs history in which one team had at least 25 more wins than the other in the regular season. Not only are the Warriors the first underdog to win such a series, but the previous 19 teams combined to win only six games, and none of those teams won more than one game in the series.


Consider this: in the history of baseball, the largest win differential between the World Series champ and its vanquished foe that had more wins during the regular season is 23 -- the 1906 ChiSox won 93 games, the Cubs won 116 and the Palehos won the series in 6. In the modern era, the difference is vastly smaller -- the 1954 Giants won 97, the Indians won 111 and the Giants swept the Series. Closer still in the divisional era -- the 1974 A's, 1990 Reds and 2006 Cards all won 12 fewer games than the teams they beat in the World Series (Dodgers, A's and Tigers, respectively).

The NBA season is 82 games, about 1/2 as long as a baseball season. Charting out the Mavs and Warriors to baseball records means Dallas would have been about 133-29, Golden State 83-79. That's a fifty win difference. That's the baseball equivalent of the upset the Oaklanders finished last night. Simply stated, this is a colossal upset and easily the biggest in NBA history.

Now the recriminations begin. In Dallas, the finger-pointing is aimed at Dirk Nowitzki, the team's top player, probable MVP and face of the franchise. He stank last night (2-13, 6 points) and underperformed in the series. But ultimately, this failure falls on coach Avery Johnson. He's the strategist who sent out a small-ball lineup in game 1 and signaled to his team that it would have to adjust to the Warriors, not the other way around (UCLA's John Wooden famously prepared his teams only for their own strategies, not the opponent's, because he wanted the team to impose its will on the game and force the other to adjust). Johnson never forced his team to drive and post up on the Warriors, a much smaller and less physically powerful team than the Mavs. Instead, the Mavs settled for jumpshots, the Warriors used their quickness to disrupt the perimeter game, and spread the court to keep the Mavs running on defense -- pure Phoenix lite. Golden State was the better team in five of the six games (only losing game 5 on a furious Dallas comeback). That's not been said before about a #8 seed playing the #1.

Fatuity of the day

This one comes courtesy of the International Herald Tribune, which ran this ad:

The Nuclear Power Production and Development Company of Iran (NPPD), an affiliate of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, invites sealed bids for contractors/companies for the Design, Supply of Equipment, Construction and Commissioning of two large-scale units (1000-16000 MWe each) with third generation nuclear power, pressurized Light Water Reactor in the Bushehr Province of Iran.

The IHT is an insert in the English language version of Israel's best-selling newspaper, Ha'aretz. After complaints from an international anti-nuclear weapon proliferation group, an IHT spokesman issued this line:

We believe that advertising should be as free and open as the dictates of honesty and decency allow. In our view, advertising is an essential ingredient in the broad concept of a free press.

Evidently, the dictates of honesty and decency now include ads for helping the weapons facilities of regimes that have a stated goal of killing Israel.

The New York Times Co. owns the IHT.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chinese Food

Avoid it.

Not chinese food from your local takeout or from many fine, tasty and economical establishments.

What you should do is avoid buying and consuming foodstuffs and consumables that are (or have major components which are) made in China. As The Monk's post below highlights, mainland Chinese manufacturers are infamous for cutting corners and condoning remarkably dangerous acts in order to cut production costs and compete better in a vicious environment.

Prior to this melamine laced pet food scandal the best known case was a baby formula manufacturer who cut his formula so drastically that many infants were believed to have died from malnutrition. The authorities, rightly, executed him. Enterpreneurs have taken advantage of the Chinese proclivity for the color red by dying egg yolks red - with a carcinogenic industrial dye.

The problem is two-fold. First, the authorities either cannot, or more likely, will not really crack down unless their is heavy pressure from the central authorities. Remarkably it may be the American pet that spurs them to action. Secondly a generation of corrupt and brutal repression by the Communist regime have completely destroyed any sense of morality or ethics in business. You reap what you sow.

Chinese content labeling? Right on. Of course it would be a simple thing for the Chinese to manufacture labels "Made in Taiwan". Cheap products from China have made the standard of living much better for American consumers. You can buy a pair of jeans today for half of what it cost 20 years ago. Clothes, toys? Fine. Just don't eat the food.

Why lawyers are despised, part 2,705,803

Roy Pearson is an administrative law judge in Washington DC. He is also venal -- for the past two years he has used torture by lawsuit to punish a family of Korean immigrants who own the dry cleaning store that allegedly lost a pair of his trousers in 2005. In the lawsuit, Pearson seeks $67,000,000 in damages for a $10 dry cleaning bill and an $800 pair of slacks. The dry cleaners have sought REPEATEDLY to settle, with offers of $3,000; $4,600; and $12,000 -- a windfall by any measure compared to the loss of the pants.

For some reason, this case was not thrown out nor were the plaintiff's damages limited by the trial judge. Here's how this thing metastasized:

[Pearson] went to the lawbooks. Citing the District of Columbia's consumer protection laws, he claims he is entitled to $1,500 per violation.

Per day.

What follows is the beginning of thousands of pages of legal documents and correspondence that, two years later, have led to a massive civil lawsuit in the amount of $67 million.

According to court papers, here's how Pearson calculates the damages and legal fees:

He believes he is entitled to $1,500 for each violation, each day during which the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign and another sign promising "Same Day Service" was up in the store -- more than 1,200 days.

And he's multiplying each violation by three because he's suing Jin and Soo Chung and their son.

He also wants $500,000 in emotional damages and $542, 500 in legal fees, even though he is representing himself in court.

He wants $15,000 for 10 years' worth of weekend car rentals as well.

Absolutely disgraceful.


That's the only way to describe the Yanks now. First, they lost Wang for most of April with leg problems; then Pavano with arm issues; then Mooooooooooose with a hamstring pull. Wang is still not back to normal, jury's out on Mooooooooose until he reaches a major league mound, but he had not been sharp before the injury.

But yesterday's injury beats all: Phil Hughes, the Yanks' 20-year old wunderkind was in the midst of proving why he's so highly touted. Just eight outs away from a no-hitter in his SECOND MAJOR LEAGUE START, on the road, against a team that can hit and he popped his left hamstring following through on a pitch. That's just cruel fate.


At least Papelbon finally farked up.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The next great colossal choke?

[Because game 5 of the series discussed below is tonight, I'm bumping this post up.]

For those of you who can stand watching a full NBA game, the Mavs are in the midst of one of the most colossal playoff failures in history -- right up at the top of the list with the Dodgers scoring two runs in four games against the Orioles in 1966, the Orioles' loss to the Mess in 1969, the Yanks' choke job in 2004 and the Harvard upset of Stanford in the NCAA Women's tourney that remains the only #1 team to lose to a #16 seed.

You see, the Mavs won 67 games this year to rattle off the fourth-best record in league history (only one team has won 70+ -- the 72-10 Bulls in '96, the '97 Bulls and '72 Lakers were 69-13, others have hit 68-14 and 67-15) and despite an 0-4 start, they challenged the 70-win mark for much of the year. Indeed, at one point they went 55-5 to roll to a 55-9 record before cooling off to 12-6 in the last month or so. They slowed down toward the end, both because they lost a couple (most notably to Phoenix) and because they sought to rest for the playoffs.

But there was one slight anomaly -- the Mavs were 0-3 against Golden State. No team with 65+ wins had ever been swept by a conference foe during the regular season. So the first-round matchup with the Warriors, combined with playing their former coach Don Nelson as he led his new team into the playoffs, made the Mavs' first series intriguing.

Now it is nearly disastrous.

Here are the problems:

(1) Golden State is a run-and-gun, small-and-quick team -- kind of a second-class version of Phoenix. And Dallas had tremendous match-up problems with the Suns.

(2) Dallas has had coaching brainlock -- that explains Avery Johnson's foolishness in changing his starting lineup to match-up with the Warriors before game 1. YOU COACH THE BEST TEAM IN THE NBA -- THE OPPONENTS SHOULD HAVE TO MATCH UP TO YOU. And so the Mavs lost. That concession to the Warriors' speed has worked against the Mavs mentally throughout the series.

(3) Dallas has acted as the weaker team. From Johnson pointing out that the smaller lineup he started did well because the Mavs were tied at halftime in Game 1, to Johnson citing "improvement" and lauding his team's "intensity" after Game 4, the Mavs have complimented themselves on small matters as if they were the underdog, not the team that won 25 games more than its opponent during the regular season.

(4) Golden State has played extremely well -- like the Tigers against the Yanks last year, the Warriors look younger, quicker, hungrier and tougher than the staid-and-slow Mavs. Just look at the trouble the Warriors cause the Mavs by deflecting passes and poking away the dribble. And then there's Johnson's own stat from last night: the Mavs trapped GS point guard Baron Davis five times in the final minutes last night and EACH time he broke through the trap, leaving the Mavs defending a 5-on-3.

The result: even without Al Harrington (Golden State's second-class version of Amare Stoudamire) playing well, the Warriors are up 3-1. That makes Dallas the first team to win 60+ and lose 3 games in its first playoff round. One more, and both NBA Finals reps from 2006 will be on the links far earlier than they ever imagined.

[An added note: this morning one of the sportstalk dorks said no team that has ever won 65+ games in a season has failed to win the NBA title. This is incorrect. Just ask the 1973 Celtics, who won 68 and got thumped in game 7, 94-78, in The Other Garden by the last Knicks title team].

Are the Yanks farked?

Basically, yes, according to both Jayson Stark (link above) and SI's Tom Verducci. Then again, it's not a particular concern -- the Yanks should be able to make the playoffs and get their collective heads straight, but The Monk had few if any delusions that the Yanks would win the World Series. Thus, learning that only the '79 Pirates stank up April this badly and then won the title is not a particularly large concern.

On another note, why is it news that Don Zimmer has an opinion about anything? Ask the NY Post's George King, who acted as Zimmer's typist for a rather obvious "I want to blast Brian Cashman but I'm the beatwriter so I'll have someone else do it for me" piece that King authored for today's paper.

May Day 2007

Today is May Day, the first of May and a "workers' holiday" in Communist countries where the workers stand around malnourished and deprived of volition while their leaders salute themselves with military parades. This blog has relevant material -- posts regarding the realities of communism. Of course, for fuller insight into the flaws of communism as a theory, read Richard Pipes' excellent dissertation, Communism: A History. And for an in-depth examination of communism in practice, there's The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, edited by Stephane Courtois.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Commies are as Commies do.

Weak leaders in dangerous areas, not a good combination

John Podhoretz discusses the Israeli government panel's investigation into the Lebanon War of 2006 and its evisceration of Ehud Olmert's leadership. If this is not the last and best reason to topple Olmert's pathetically weak-willed government, Israel's polity is hopeless, as J-Pod shows.

The report continues Israel's remarkable tradition of open inquiry following the nation's military disappointments. The 1983 investigation into the first Israeli war in Lebanon sidelined Ariel Sharon as a major political force for almost two decades. And the country's first major effort at self-examination, released in 1974 after Israel was caught by surprise when three of its neighbors launched the Yom Kippur War, ended up forcing the beloved Golda Meir to resign as prime minister - even though the report specifically exonerated her.

There's no exoneration to be found here for Israel's current prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Far from it.

The commissioners specifically say that they chose to release some of their findings early because they were being used by Olmert as a way of avoiding necessary changes in the wake of the war. "Initially," they write, "we hoped that the appointment of the Commission [would] serve as an incentive to accelerate [change] . . . In some ways an opposite, and worrying, process emerged - a process of 'waiting' for the Commission's Report."

Therefore, they conclude, "we decided to publish . . . in the hope that the relevant bodies will act urgently to change and correct all that it implies." The "relevant bodies" here are the Israeli parliament and the voting public. The report's authors have set their laser-guided sights at Olmert's reputation and political career.

* * *

These are all matters for domestic Israeli political consideration. But one aspect of the report has sobering implications far beyond Israel's borders -its description of an Israeli military in disrepair.

The military, the report says flatly, "was not ready for this war." Because Israel now has "enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her," Israeli leaders have conveniently come to believe that its advantages "would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred."

In other words, Israel believed it could talk tough with Hezbollah and get its way. This was a terrible miscalculation - and, as the report notes, it's not Olmert's miscalculation. It began with Israel's pullout from the Hezbollah stronghold in South Lebanon seven years ago - which is also three Israeli prime ministers ago.

When Israel decided it needed to wage actual war against Hezbollah, it was woefully unprepared both militarily and psychologically for what that might mean.

This is very dangerous for Israel - and, incidentally, for the world. The Jewish state may soon face the gravest threat to its existence since its creation 59 years ago. Iran, 975 miles to its east, is rushing to develop a nuclear bomb. This radical Islamist country has as its president a man who speaks openly and without apology of "wiping Israel off the map."

Worse yet, the report indicates that Israel lacks both the political and military fortitude to repeat its Osirak strike from 1981 that neutralized Iraq's nascent nuclear bomb program. Not good for Israel, especially because its survival may require yet another raid on the sun.

Will there always be a France?

Possibly not -- especially if the government is unable to ease the transition from university to workforce for young people. The biggest problems: lack of jobs, lack of entrepreneurial opportunity under the French semi-socialist system, lack of pay, high taxes.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there has been a 40% increase in the number of those registering at French consulates abroad since 1995. People are leaving for all sorts of reasons, of course, ranging from greater opportunities to higher salaries, from romantic entanglements to the search for a foreign utopia that may not exist. Two people leave France every day for tax reasons alone, according to a recent Senate report. But for the most part, those leaving are not wealthy retirees looking for a place in the sun; they are talented and ambitious young people in their 20s and 30s who have left because they felt they couldn't advance their careers at home, or because they were simply frustrated by the French system.

Worse yet for France, many of the emigres have no intent to return.

This is interesting to The Monk because Monkette and I are headed to Germany's former Westernmost satellite in a couple of weeks for a "babymoon" -- a last trip before junior/juniorette debuts outside the womb.