Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Success in Iraq "A Big Problem"

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D, S.C.) said that a positive report by General David Petraeus in September before Congress "would be a real problem for us."

Clyburn noted that Petraeus carries significant weight among the 47 members of the Blue Dog caucus in the House, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats. Without their support, he said, Democratic leaders would find it virtually impossible to pass legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal.

"I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us," Clyburn said. "We, by and large, would be wise to wait on the report."

Many Democrats have anticipated that, at best, Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker would present a mixed analysis of the success of the current troop surge strategy, given continued violence in Baghdad. But of late there have been signs that the commander of U.S. forces might be preparing something more generally positive. Clyburn said that would be "a real big problem for us."

[You can watch the video here. You need to get through a commercial, a 7 minute spot and then about 3 minutes into the second spot is when they get into it.]

One of the interviewers asks a hypothetical "What if General Petraeus comes in and says this is going very, very well?

Clyburn responds that "it would be a real problem for us - no question about that." He does go on to say later that "...none of us want a bad result in Iraq."

Clyburn, who comes across as measured and reasonable, may not. But here's the problem: the Democratic Party has staked their electoral fortunes in 2008 and potentially far beyond, on the failure of our effort in Iraq. It is a deeply irresponsible and indefensible position by the Party of Benedict Arnold.

Stupid Trade

ESPN reports that the Yankees have traded Scott Proctor to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit.

Unless this is part of a series of trades that nets Greg Gagne this makes no sense.

Proctor's numbers:
Season 52 54.1 53 27 8 29 37 2 5 0 0.0 1.51 .257 3.81
Career 190 226.1 217 118 35 93 183 11 10 1 76.0 1.37 .249 4.29

Betemit's numbers:
Season 84 156 22 36 8 0 10 26 0 .231 .359 .474
Career 372 825 110 217 43 4 32 102 5 .263 .338 .441

Proctor has a plus fastball(92-94), gives up about a hit an inning and batters have hit .257 against him. He walks a few too many but overall is a plus reliever whose effectiveness has probably declined due to signficant overuse. He pitched 102 innings in 89 appearances in 2006 and has seen a lot of action again this year.

What's the attractiveness in Betemit? An insurance policy for A-Rod? He has some pop but no speed (5 SB career), whiffs to walks 2+/1, has a crap average, passable OBP and SLG lifetime. He's cheap and young but probably a stiff at third. Trading a plus reliever for a backup corner guy?

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Genius, RIP

When he obtained his first NFL head coaching job before the 1979 season, Bill Walsh didn't seem brilliant, imposing or anything more than a career assistant who'd received some seasoning in the college ranks and would be little more than a caretaker for a team that simply stank. Ten years later, he retired as one of the best coaches in NFL history. He died earlier today, age 75, from the leukemia that his doctors diagnosed in late 2004.

Dubbed The Genius by his players, Walsh earned every accolade: top-notch talent evaluator, check, just ask Montana (no-arm QB with only middling college numbers), Lott (too big for cornerback, now in Canton), Rice (from the unknown Mississippi Valley State) and Haley (the speed-rushing end); trend-setter, check, just ask every coach in the NFL who scripts his first 15-25 plays in each game and uses a laminated play chart; innovator, check, three words: West Coast offense. More importantly, the mindset of the West Coast offense whereby the offense establishes the effectiveness of its running game off its short-passing attack.

The effects were, in football terms, immediate. From a 2-14 struggle in Walsh's inaugural season, the Niners went 6-10 in 1980. In 1981, Walsh gave the quarterbacking reins to third-year player, Joe Montana, who had run the team in its final five games in 1980. Montana ran the dink-and-dunk Niner offense; the team improved its defense from porous to pounding, shocked the mighty Cowpatties 45-14 during the regular season to announce they were for real (the Cowtippers had whupped the Niners 59-14 in Texas Stadium the previous year), won the NFC title game on The Catch, and the Bay Area had its first of five title teams.

Three years later, the Niners did it again: they steamrolled the league in rolling up a 15-1 record, allowed just one offensive TD in the playoffs and brought home Walsh's second trophy after walloping the record-setting Marino-led Dolphins in the Super Bowl.

Three years after that, Walsh made another indelible mark on the NFL -- he established the Minority Coaching Fellowship program to encourage hiring former minority players to become position coaches, and to thereby prepare them for future head coaching duties. The NFL adopted the program as a league-wide initiative, and it's the primary reason that men like Tony Dungy (a player for Walsh) and Lovie Smith eventually became head coaches.

In 1988, he coached the last of his three Super Bowl titlists -- a 10-6 squad that proved itself more akin to its stats (#3 offense, #3 defense) than its record by demolishing the NFC in the playoffs before the Montana-Rice connection led it to a Super Bowl win. Thereafter, he retired exhausted by the NFL coaching gamut. In 1989, the Walsh-legacy Niners were perhaps the best team ever: 14-2 (two losses by 5 total points), a QB who hit 70.2% of his passes, and a 126-26 scoring margin

As a Giants fan, I knew all too well the effects of The Genius. After all, the Jints were roadkill on the 49ers' title drives in '81 and '84. And the Giants stomped the Niners in both the '85 and '86 playoffs, handing The Genius two of his mere four playoff losses (10-4 overall). The games were old school pound-and-pass by Big Blue versus new school dink-and-dunk by the Californians (except for the formidable Niners defense -- no finesse there). Contrast in styles, coaching demeanor and attitude all the way. And watching each game, I waited for the Niners to pull off some random amazing play because that's just what they did when The Genius coached.

Bill Walsh, RIP.

More waiting and waiting and waiting

This is certainly what I expect, but seeing it in print is displeasing. The short version: book five in the increasingly unwieldy series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASIOAF) by George R.R. Martin (aka "GRRM"), is not coming out in 2007 and who knows when the bloody thing will be issued. The wait is pretty ridiculous considering that volumes 1-3 came out in successive years from 1998-2000, book four took FIVE years and was only 50% of the story Martin intended to write after book 3, with the rest of book four to be published separately as book 5 (i.e., splitting the storylines into separate volumes). From the invaluable Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, based on Pat's own discussions at Martin's publisher (Pat himself has a manuscript he's trying to sell):

Unless a miracle occurs, there is no way the next ASOIAF volume will be released this year. The folks at Bantam are hoping to get the finished manuscript at some point this fall. But if Anne [Groell, senior Bantam editor]'s facial expression is any indication, they're not holding their breath. Which means that, at the earliest, we are looking at a spring 2008 pub[lication] date. [Not bloody likely -- TKM]

Many fans have been wondering why it should take this long for the author to write this new book, what with 50% of it having been completed already. Rumors have been circulating that GRRM did scrap some portions of what he had when they decided to publish AFfC [A Feast for Crows -- book 4] in its current format. Well, unfortunately that's not hearsay. It appears that GRRM did cut some chunks out of the original manuscript and has been tinkering with a few things. Hence, he didn't truly have 50% of it done with and ready to go. Which explains the slower than expected progress for A Dance with Dragons.

The good thing is that Bantam are pretty flexible and there's no rigid timetable as to when the book should be published. According to Anne, the editorial process will begin as soon as the manuscript reaches her office. As was the case with Robert Jordan with the WoT volumes between A Crown of Swords and Crossroads of Twilight, I believe that A Dance with Dragons will be released as soon as possible after the manuscript is turned in. I figure that no one at Bantam wishes to repeat the mistake which came back to haunt them with A Feast for Crows.

The mistake was basically setting a publication date in mid-2002 and then continually pushing it back until the book FINALLY was published in late 2005. That whole situation became a fiasco because Martin started from one concept, scrapped that, rewrote the whole thing and then added so much to the narrative that the book expanded beyond control.

Consider that the series has been optioned by HBO as a 13-episode series for each book and that Martin, who has a Hollywood background, will be heavily involved in the writing. Then consider how long it has taken him to essentially write the full next book in the series (pushing 7.5 years). This series may become the SciFi/Fantasy equivalent of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.

The Petraeus factor

So how bad is Iraq? Better than Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi's portrayals. And this report comes NOT from some Bush-boostering Right Wing nutcakes (I'm sure that's how The Monk looks through a lefty's eyes), but from two recent visitors to Iraq who are members of the left-leaning Brookings Institution!

This part is especially interesting:

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Troops feel better when they ACT instead of merely react. I'd take the modern-day Ulysses Grant approach Petraeus is using to George Casey's McClellan tactics any day.

Now we just need a modern-day Sherman to go east from the Iraq-Iran border . . .

July 28, 1977

No, I can't say I remember it like it was yesterday. But I do remember it. A hot, sunny July day in a month of hot July days, only this day more than 30 years ago was different.

PaMonk took The Monk to his first major league baseball game.

A get-away day game in the Bronx against the then-first place Orioles before the Yanks flew out for a 9-game roadie on the west coast. For some freak reason, even though they were one of the Yanks' strongest AL East rivals and the teams had finished 1-2 in the division in '76, with two months left in the season this game was the last the Yanks and Orioles would play until 1978.

From up in the stands behind home plate, the young Monk watched the Yanks stomp the Orioles 14-2. As an added bonus, the young Monk's favorite player at the time, Graig Nettles, whacked a two-run bomb into the upper deck to put the game basically out of reach in the 5th inning at 7-1. The Yanks ended the day only 2 games behind the birds and one behind the Redsux. Nine days later, when they returned from the coast and a 5-4 trip, the Yanks were 5 games behind the Sawx, who had won nine straight.

The Yanks went to the 1977 All-Star break 50-42; they finished 100-62 -- 50-20 after the break. After that road trip, the Yanks hit their hot streak: four weeks after coming home, the standings had changed again: a 24-3 run by the Yanks put them in first place, and all but assured KC of a second consecutive AL West crown because the Yanks had won 13 of 15 games in that stretch against KC's closest rivals: the Whitesax, Rangers and Twins. That set up the finish: the Yanks held off Bawstin and Charm City; came back from the dead against KC, and bonked the Dodgers in the World Series for the Yanks' first title since 1962.

Not a bad year for a young kid to get into baseball. And it's all the PaMonk's fault -- he got me to be a Yankee fan and a trip to The Stadium cemented that in place.

Thanks, Dad.

Two definitions of voter fraud

John Fund notes that Democrats want investigations of voter fraud when they obtain mere anecdotal, unverified and disproven allegations of "intimidation" or "delay" (see Florida 2000, Ohio 2004) and Republicans win. But when leftist organizations send in actual fake voter registration forms, or pay vagrants to vote Democrat, or commit massive election fraud in Milwaukee, the Democrats attack Republicans for seeking to stem vote fraud.

No correlation between who benefits and the Democrats' reactions, I'm sure.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Liberal censorship 101

If you can't win support for your ideas, why not try silencing your opponents? Worked for the communists. Hopefully it won't work for the liberals who are trying to coerce FOX News advertisers not to advertise on the channel, but it's typical speech-stifling nonsense.

No I in team . . .

. . . but half of team includes "me" -- that's some of the logic for Michael Strahan, apparently. The perennial Pro Bowl defensive end didn't report to Giants training camp because he is mulling retirement.

He couldn't tell the Jints that BEFORE the April draft so they could adjust their plans?

He couldn't tell them that weeks ago so that they wouldn't have started preparing defensively to have him at left end?

Is it a negotiating ploy because Strahan's ex-wife definitely "got hers" in their divorce and his scheduled $4,000,000 paycheck for this year isn't market standard?

Whatever it is, it's not leadership from one of the men who had branded himself THE leader on the Giants' defense since early in his career.

A first step against voter fraud

The best way to stop voter fraud, other than a real photo identification requirement, is to prosecute violators of election laws. In Washington, King County prosecutors are going after former workers for ACORN -- the far-left community activist organization that engages in fraudulent registration drives that would make Hugo Chavez proud.

A good first step.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Scott Thomas' disgrace

Semi-pseudonymous contributor to The New Republic "Scott Thomas" has come out of his bunker. TNR ran three contributions from this person, who claimed he was a soldier in Iraq. After his tales of mocking a severely wounded Iraqi woman at a meal and his comrades the skulls of Iraqi children that were found in a roadside grave upon their heads and posing for pictures, the military itself called "bullsh!t" on the stories. Indeed, military investigation and independent fact-checking indicated that these depraved acts and comments were fiction.

Then, while identifying himself as the author of the pieces for the magazines, Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote this to TNR:

I am Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.

My pieces were always intended to provide my discreet view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier's view of events in Iraq.

It's been maddening, to say the least, to see the plausibility of events that I witnessed questioned by people who have never served in Iraq. I was initially reluctant to take the time out of my already insane schedule fighting an actual war in order to play some role in an ideological battle that I never wanted to join. That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question, and I believe that it is important to stand by my writing under my real name.

Hmm. There's a decent amount of weaseling in this. Some quick conclusions: (1) Beauchamp's intent to provide his "view of the war" does not mean he now verifies that what he wrote is a factual account of the events he described; (2) his character is called into question by his own actions -- if he actually ridiculed an Iraqi woman disfigured by ordnance injuries, he's a disgusting human being and unworthy of the (all-too-low) pay that America gives him; (3) I don't pity the whuppings or isolation he will suffer from his company.

Hugh Hewitt's reaction is worthy of a reprint:

. . . the real story here isn’t “Thomas” or “Beauchamp” or even the accuracy of his “reporting”, but rather The New Republic’s crass effort to besmirch the war effort with the former “Thomas Diarists”. It’s interesting that Beauchamp writes, “My pieces were always intended to provide my discreet view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military.” While it’s hard to take this claim at face value, in TNR’s hands they served exactly that purpose.

TNR isn’t the New Yorker; it doesn’t publish articles solely for their artistic merit. Rather, as we learned yesterday, TNR under Franklin Foer’s command aims to “explicate ideas.” The idea in need of explication regarding the "Thomas Diarists" was just how sociopathic and depraved our military has become. TNR made no effort to put Beauchamp’s writings into context of the 160,000 men and women who, unlike Private Beauchamp, are serving honorably and nobly in Iraq. What’s more, Franklin Foer’s subsequent comments that Beauchamp’s tales represented “mild practical jokes” implied that the diaries were really just the tip of iceberg regarding American malfeasance in Iraq.

* * *
[Y]ou can’t “support the troops” while publishing agitprop that suggests the troops are a bunch of sociopaths. The Nation went after the troops a couple of weeks ago; the “Thomas Diarists” were The New Republic’s tepid entry into the field. As regards the accuracy of Beauchamp’s charges, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from his superiors before the sun sets in Iraq. Not everyone runs an investigation at the same leisurely pace as Franklin Foer.

Kowtowing to Islam

This is pathetic: "Some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions."

Three words sum this up: Establishment Clause violation. Now I want to see the ACLU and other organizations attack these schools for promoting Islam as a favored religion. This is not a Free Exercise Clause issue -- there are no impediments to Muslim worship that the schools eradicate with these perquisites. Instead, the schools are specifically favoring one religion over others. That's unconstitutional.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Subversive baseball thought of the day

Here's The Monk's question: why isn't JJ Putz getting serious attention as a Cy Young Award frontrunner in the AL? Is it his horrendous last name? Is it because he's a Mariner and who the fark knows what's going on out in rainland? Or is it the usual: anti-closer bias?

The fact of anti-closer bias is indisputable. Bartolo Colon had a good and serviceable year in 2005 but wasn't even the best pitcher on his own team, Mariano Rivera was fantastic (1.38 ERA, 43 S, 50 H and 18 BB in 78.1 IP) and the rest of the AL starters lacked a strong case to win the award. Indeed, it takes overwhelming numbers for a closer to win (Eric Gagne, 55/55 saves, 82.1 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 137 K in 2003).

But Putz (like poots, not like the yiddish word whose definition New Yorkers should know) should be in the Haren/Sabathia/Beckett/Santana mix. Unlike Haren, his team does not stink; unlike Beckett (3.41) and Sabathia (3.70), his ERA is exceptional; unlike Santana (11-8), he's matching his excellent pitching ability to excellent results (29/29 Saves, 0.78 ERA, 19 H and 7 BB in 46 IP). Putz has made every game with the Mariners an eight-inning affair. You hope to win? Don't expect it if you're down in the 9th. That's no small accomplishment -- just ask the '96-'01 Yankees who lost mere handfuls of games that they led after 7 innings thanks to their solid 'pen.

The Edwards family: simply nutty

Elizabeth Edwards won't eat tangerines because her fear of (non-existent) global warming means she wants to buy local so as to avoid increasing the carbon associated with food transport across state lines.

I'm thinking that heating and cooling a smaller house than the 28,000 square foot monstrosity she and her husband had custom-built in a forested area specially cleared out for them would save a lot more carbon than foregoing tangerines from Florida. Perhaps The Monk is merely naive.

Vile liar falls

The sacking of Colorado U. Prof. Ward Churchill is a necessity. Universities are supposed to inquire, inform, seek and obtain the truth in order to educate and enlighten. How does a proven liar of middling intellectual capacity (at best) assist a university in its mission? He doesn't.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a non-partisan non-profit that wrote a letter to the President of the University demanding (correctly) that it respect Churchill's free speech rights, even if it detested his moronic opinions. (The Monk paraphrases). Today, FIRE
President David French notes that the Churchill situation is about far more than merely his opinions.

[T]he case [has] moved on from Ward Churchill’s protected speech to his long (and checkered) past. The radical academic left could hardly have chosen a worse standard-bearer. An under-qualified, arguably fake Native American with a long history of not just plagiarism and other forms of academic fraud, but also a disturbing tendency to threaten and intimidate his critics, it turned out that Churchill was the kind of person who could only exist within the coddling atmosphere of either a radical activist organization or a university ethnic studies department (as if those things are different). Faced with overwhelming evidence of misconduct, it took well over a year for Churchill to face his day of reckoning.

As he received more due process than any ordinary American ever receives in the course of their professional lives, Churchill’s dogged fight to keep his job only reinforced to many Americans the notion that faculty view themselves as a breed apart – entitled to lucrative lifetime employment no matter what they do. And that may well end up as the lasting legacy of the Churchill case: the tipping point that led an increasing number of ordinary Americans to view the academy as an out-of-control, disconnected bastion of spoiled and petulant entitlement. The academic left decries the “chilling effect” of Churchill’s termination, but the only individuals who should feel “chilled” are those professors publicly spewing deranged invective at that same time that they conceal a professional past rife with fraud and abuse. No, the real (and important) legacy of the Churchill case is that he became the most famous professor in America, and he was the worst possible ambassador for an academy that is under ever-increasing scrutiny.

A scandal only a Democrat could survive

If Eliot Spitzer, the new governor of New York, had knowledge of his subordinates' actions to defame and destroy the majority leader of the New York Senate, then he must resign. He denies it; early reports The Monk read indicated that he did know about his lackeys' attempts to set the State Police on Joseph Bruno, leaking false intimations about the State Police's findings and attributing the investigation to a press inquiry that never existed.

In New Jersey, Spitzer would barely even have any fingers pointed at him. In New York, he can probably survive. But neither outcome would be possible if Spitzer were a Republican.

Monday, July 23, 2007

HP 7: yes, I did

The Monk did brave a line at his semi-local Barnes & Noble to pick up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Friday night/Saturday midnight last week. Why? To see the spectacle. After all, I only read the first chapter that night, and Monkette read only slightly more. But the lines, the face-painted kids, the dressed-up preteens and the excited readers (B&N had a countdown to midnight -- I had to check to see if a glowing book would descend from a broom-shaped pole) made the whole thing interesting. Monkette attended a Potter pick-up in 2005 for HP 6 and braved the line at our not-so-local Borders at the time (they bonked this year by losing her pre-order, thereby forcing me to the B&N).

Why wait so long on the line? No problem for me: into B&N Friday afternoon to pick up a number, back at 11:25 to join the line-up at 11:35-11:40, out by 12:15. My only regret is that B&N didn't include a coupon for another book like our Borders had two years ago (B&N was selling HP7 only on that line) because I found the one historical book I wanted. But to get through 110-120 customers in under 15 minutes ain't bad.

As for the book itself, The Monk is about 510 pages in or about 2/3 of the way done. I had no need to finish the book Saturday or yesterday, although I likely could have plowed through it in one sitting. Why kill the suspense -- it would be like eating a pie in one sitting instead of having some pie Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and beyond.

From a quality standpoint, there's a good bit. There have been sudden deaths, narrow escapes, more revealing why Hermione is the brains of the whole operation, a moment of tremendous heroism and enough action to make up for any lulls (if you think they had serious lulls) in books 4, 5 and 6 combined. And I'm not within vicinity of the denouement.

Ultimately, the HP phenomenon is remarkable. Even as a SFF geek, who actually likes certain series more than the HP tales (it is possible, you know), The Monk has never seen book releases as anticipated as the 1999 revival of the Star Wars franchise. The Monk's biggest regret is that the Monklings won't have this type of experience because the first is still some weeks away and the second is but a twinkle in daddy's eye.

Democrats and some other reality

James Taranto rightly rips John Kerry's statement that in 1971 ""We heard that argument over and over again about the bloodbath that would engulf the entire Southeast Asia [if the US left Vietnam], and it didn't happen." After all, a mere 1/3 of Vietnamese families had a relative placed in a "reeducation camp" after the Fall of Saigon; and only 1,000,000 Vietnamese were imprisioned without charges and without recourse to a court, lawyer, judicial process, etc.

And the Khmer Rouge's eradication of nearly 2,000,000 Cambodians in the mere 4 years that it controlled Cambodia before the Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot . . . that must have been some parallel universe. Or perhaps the deaths were bloodless (starvation isn't as bloody as a beheading, after all) so in a Clintonian way, the "bloodbath" never occurred. For Kerry to take the Chomskyite view is simply disgraceful.

Then again, others in his party are just as bad. Barack Obama, a Presidential candidate, said genocide in Iraq would be preferable to continued US troop presence there. Evidently, the mass slaughter of Arabs is not worth any US assistance. Even worse is Obama's ignorance of international law -- if genocide occurs, the UN Charter allows the UN to dispatch armed forces to the area of genocide (see Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 9; UN Charter at Article 42). Guess whose troops could enforce that effectively?

Basically Kerry's a liar or fool, and Obama's an ignoramus.

Pelosi bangs head v. wall

Guess who wins when Nancy Pelosi issues the Contempt of Congress charges she's threatened against Harriet Miers? Not Pelosi.

Why? Because, as Andy McCarthy has explained, Congress cannot prosecute, only the executive branch can. And Pres. Bush will pardon Miers at the end of his presidency if the charges are brought and not withdrawn.

Thank you for playing. After the tantrum, feel free to sit in Time Out.

Beckham = Bang 0, Hype 5000000

This is a bad month for ESPN. Perhaps not financially or from a ratings perspective (although the latter will improve with Saturday night college football instead of MLS), but the sanity and credibility of the network is completely in the Diaper Genie right now.

First, July is the month of the All-Star game. The game is on FOX, the overhyped and overlong home run derby is on ESPN the night before the game. Much like the NBA Slam Dunk contest, the home run derby is drawing fewer and fewer top players each year (no A-Rod, Barry or Junior this year). But ESPN hypes it to no end, even if finding a fourth NL player for the competition was a near-Herculean task.

Second, the ESPYs -- ESPN's version of the MTV Movie Awards that are full of self-promotion, sucking up to Hollywood stars, brown-nosing the athletes (more than usual) and a full black-tie presentation show.

Third, the Who's Now featurette on the ESPN SportsCenter broadcasts. This is journalistic integrity meeting the Rose Law Firm shredder. No feature on any sports show this year could top the vapidity and uselessness of Who's Now.

Finally, the Beckham Debut. Imagine if the guy was at his 1998-99 peak and one of the top players in the world, instead of a downside-of-the-career man who's lone notable ability today is his free kick prowess. Worse yet, Beckham is not the next Pele; he never was even close to that class, thus the notion that he may be the savior for MLS is wishful thinking. As Richard Dietsch details (click title of this post), the Beckham showcase showed how a hyped event, without journalistic detachment and rational parameters, turns into a tsunami of self-parody for the network.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Greens v. Africa

From Ghanaian intellectual Kofi Benti comes a plea for the world to spare Africa from its climate change voodoo. Considering the damage the first world has done to the Third World thanks to DDT bans and genetically modified food hysteria, his complaints are well-taken. An excerpt:

Even if we accept that global warming may have a significant effect on our climate, limiting the use of fossil fuels in Africa would be counterproductive.

Respiratory infections are the leading cause of childhood deaths on my continent, mainly from inhaling the smoke produced by burning wood and dung in our quaint mud huts. Why do we burn these "renewable" but very dirty fuels? Not because we have some desire to save the Earth. No sir! It is because we don't have access to natural gas or electricity.

The second leading cause of childhood deaths is not malaria or Aids, it is diarrhoea, caused by drinking dirty water. Why is our water dirty? Mainly because we lack cheap, efficient means of pumping and cleaning it. That requires fossil fuels--either directly or to produce electricity.

An underlying cause of many health problems in Africa is malnutrition. This is a consequence both of inefficient farming and poor food distribution. To rectify this situation will mean using cheap and relatively clean fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. (Of course we also need better roads--which can only be built using machines that burn. fossil fuels.)

Our already poor and struggling countries are being sucked into a giant movement to save the Earth--with aid money as the carrot and the stick. If we are cajoled into using more expensive "renewable" forms of energy, we will remain uncompetitive and our rates of economic growth will remain low or shrinking.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

$460 million ransom

I had an Al Sharpton moment the other day when this story hit the wires. I am very happy that six innocent good Samaritans won't have to die but paying a $460 million ransom is simply outrageous. Qaddafi is getting off easy as the bin Ladens of the world have made him look comparatively mild.

Why would any organization volunteer to assist in Libya in any way?

The proper response, though clearly beyond the ability of the Bulgarians post cold war, for kidnapping and murder is this.

TRIPOLI, July 17 (Reuters) - Libya lifted death sentences on Tuesday against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of deliberately infecting children with HIV, paving the way for them to be freed after eight years in jail.

The ruling by Libya's highest judicial body, made possible by a financial settlement of $1 million each to the 460 HIV victims' families, fell short of a hoped-for pardon for the medics, who insist they are innocent. "The High Judicial Council decided to commute the death sentences against the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor to life-imprisonment terms," the judicial body said in a statement. Bulgaria's allies the United States and the European Union have demanded the nurses be freed, and the case has been a major stumbling block to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's return to the international stage after decades of diplomatic isolation.
The six were sentenced to death last year after being convicted of intentionally starting an HIV epidemic at a children's hospital in the city of Benghazi. The medics say confessions central to their case were extracted under torture and that they are innocent. Foreign HIV experts say the infections started before the six arrived at the hospital and were more likely to be the result of poor hygiene.

A bit of funny profiteering on HP 7

Will Collier is one of the many folks who purchased Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on DeepDiscount.com. The retailer shipped its orders via UPS and estimated that from the time of shipping the orders would arrive on July 21. Many arrived early. Collier's edition is one of the many that did.

So instead of keeping the book, he decided to sell to someone who would want it more . . . at a hefty premium. Thinking that a kid wouldn't buy a book for $175, he set that reserve price on eBay. What followed shows the HP mania (The Monk and Monkette are a bit swept up ourselves, especially because Borders farked up Monkette's reservation), both among fans and publishers.

Click the link.

UPDATE: Always count on the lawyers to do something stupid. But in this case, it worked to Collier's benefit, as he notes. Rowling's literary agency sent an immediate letter to eBay threatening it over Collier's listing because the agency claimed copyright infringement. eBay pulled the listing, 17 hours after it ended and, because it pulled the listing, refunded the fees to Collier.

One problem: the book was legitimate.

First thing we do . . .

How Big Labor Hurts US interests in Latin America

A primer from Robert Novak.

Ignoring pleas from outraged South American governments, Democratic leadership of the House this week was adamant about Congress going into its August recess without taking action on free trade agreements with Peru and Panama as promised. Instead, two senior Democratic House members appear determined to travel to those two rare Latin American friends of the United States, to hector them into passing domestic legislation as a prerequisite for approving already negotiated bilateral trade pacts.

Why did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renege on her previous commitment? She dances to the tune of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who preaches outright protectionism. Hostility toward not only the Peru and Panama pacts but also a vital agreement with Colombia can be traced to influence on U.S. unions by South America's leftist labor leaders, originating in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

J.K. Rowling protests too much

Michiko Kakutani is the NY Times lead book reviewer. Her reputation as a book critic is simply enormous -- her predecessor at the Times (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who still writes reviews) and her colleague (former movie critic Janet Maslin) do not even come close to the power and influence she holds. Indeed, Kakutani is essentially the book critics' equivalent of Frank Rich in the 1980s, who could make or break a broadway show with his review, or Anna Wintour, the famous Vogue editor whose influence in fashion is legendary (four words: The Devil Wears Prada).

Among the reviews she has written, before today Kakutani has issued six reviews of Rowling's Harry Potter series. Each one glowed. Kakutani's praise is hard to earn, and more difficult to continually obtain (ask Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes whose follow-up 'Tis got panned). Rowling has achieved this rare feat -- each of the six reviews praised the Harry Potter books lavishly, at minimum. That praise, especially for books one and two, gave an inestimable boost to the Harry Potter series in the United States (remember, no movies at that point in the late '90s).

Thus, Jo Rowling's complaint that "I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children," is ill-taken. Kakutani has, in no small measure, helped Rowling's career tremendously. Children tend not to read the NYT book reviews. And given that book 7 is no less highly praised than the previous installments, this criticism is baseless. Unlike the ding-dongs who put HP7 online in one form or other, the minor plot outlines from Kakutani and other reviewers are hardly "spoilers." Better to complain about those folks than the reviewer who helped launch the HP franchise in the US.

The Yanks: Fits and starts

After beating the BloJs last night, the Yanks are 48-44, six games behind Cleveland for the wild card and seven behind the RedStiffs. By the end of the weekend (five games, including a doubleheader on Saturday), the Yanks could be back in the dumper or genuinely in the race. As bad as the season has been (snapshot: Proctor, Myers, Bruney, Villone = 1.1 IP, 4 BB last night), the Yanks are not completely in the tank.

The NY Post has been running a retrospective on the 1977 Yanks. That's the infamous Bronx Zoo team led by Reggie Jackson marked by internecine warfare, manager-owner fighting and which carried on in the middle of an horrific summer in NYC -- heat waves, the Blackout, Son of Sam, etc. The Monk went to his first baseball game that year, on July 28 when the Yanks closed out a three-game series against the Orioles by whupping the birds 14-2.

More importantly, the '77 Yanks were only TWO games better than this version through the first 92 -- that team was just 50-42; the O's were 53-39, the Red Sawx 51-38. In the second
half (game 92 was the All-Star Break), the Yanks smoked the AL by going 50-20, O's 44-25, Sax 46-26. The key stretch: a 24-3 run in August through early September that brought the Yanks from 5 games down to 4.5 up in first place.

That Yankees team had pitching depth: Gullett (14-4), Guidry (16-7), Figueroa (16-11) and Torrez (14-12), and Hunter (9-9, but 8-4 from June through August) with Tidrow and Lyle in the 'pen. This team lacks the bullpen balance that Tidrow provided to Lyle because Mo is all alone as a useful reliever (take out one worthless non-save outing of 0.1 IP/4 ER against the RedSax and his ERA is a Mo normal 2.29), but the Wang-Pettitte-Clemens-Mooooooooooose
group, with Hughes returning at the end of the month, enables the Yanks to roll out a very decent starter every game.

So there is hope, however fleeting. The '07 Yanks can still hit, can occasionally pitch, have a gamebreaker in A-Rod. But they stink on the road (19-26). If the team really expects to have a chance to reach the playoffs, it will have to do better outside the Bronx.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

McConnell 2, Reid 0

Mitch McConnlell can beat Harry Reid like a rented mule when it comes to Senate procedural tricks. And Reid took an especially large beating last night. The Captain has more.

Corrupt is as corrupt does

When Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao enacted rules forcing unions to engage in (slightly) more transparent accounting practices and allow members access to information on union financials, the two groups that screamed bloody murder were (1) union leadership across the country, especially the AFL/CIO; (2) Democrats in Congress.

Now that Democrats control Congress, they are doing the bidding of the unions:

In the past six years, the Office of Labor Management Standards, or OLMS, has helped secure the convictions of 775 corrupt union officials and court-ordered restitution to union members of over $70 million in dues. The House is set to vote Thursday on a proposal to chop 20% from the OLMS budget. Every other Labor Department enforcement agency is due for a budget increase, and overall the Congress has added $935 million to the Bush administration's budget request for Labor. The only office the Democrats want to cut back is the one engaged in union oversight.

Ahhh, good to see how that clean Democrat Congress that Pelosi promised lives on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Remember: Sunnis and Shiites don't work together

So there is no basis for this story in the NY Sun.

Unless, of course, the whole notion that Sunnis and Shia won't work together is pure rubbish.

And this gives more reason to be tough on Iran:

One of two known Al Qaeda leadership councils meets regularly in eastern Iran, where the American intelligence community believes dozens of senior Al Qaeda leaders have reconstituted a good part of the terror conglomerate's senior leadership structure.

That is a consensus judgment from a final working draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate, titled "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," on the organization that attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The estimate, which represents the opinion of America's intelligence agencies, is now finished, and unclassified conclusions will be shared today with the public.

The classified document includes four main sections, examining how Al Qaeda in recent years has increased its capacity to stage another attack on American soil; how the organization has replenished the ranks of its top leaders; nations where Al Qaeda operates, and the status of its training camps and physical infrastructure.

The fraud of Plamegate

The whole Plame affair -- from investigation to special prosecutor to Libby trial -- is a farce. We noted that here, here, here, here, here, here, and here -- at minimum.

Discussing the matter with Hugh Hewitt, Bob Novak (no friend to the Bush Administration) gave a pretty good straight answer to a straight question:

HH: Why did Fitzgerald, do you think, in your opinion, continue on with the investigation once Armitage had revealed it was he who was the leaker?

RN: Because…you know, when he entered the case, he was told that Armitage was the leaker. That information was given to him, because it had been known for three weeks before he was named as special prosecutor. And therefore, I think the Justice Department should have bitten the bullet and taken care of him itself. Why he did not reveal that is something that is in the mysteries of the whole, strange relationship of special prosecutors. It is very difficult for them to say no crime was committed, you’ve named me for nothing, and I’ve established a staff for nothing. But that’s in fact what he should have done.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Solid news judgment

From IMDB.com:

CBS News To Withhold News About Which Potter Characters Die
CBS News has decided that, despite the subject's apparent newsworthiness, who lives and who dies in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will not be revealed on the CBS evening newscast when the book hits the shelves of bookstores on Saturday. Patricia Shevlin, executive producer of the CBS Evening News Weekend Edition told the CBS blog Public Eye that the program plans to "show the lines, people buying [the book], Pottermania. But we're not going to tell the end." Undoubtedly, however, millions of kids will be grabbing the book (over the weekend, Amazon estimated preorders at two million) and immediately skipping to the final chapters to learn about the fate of their favorite characters, then posting their reactions online -- thereby scooping CBS News in the process.

There are two reactions to this: (1) it's ridiculous that who lives and dies in a book should be newsworthy, ever; (2) CBS is making the right move -- it would be absolutely stupid to reveal the ending of the book that likely will be the biggest publishing event in all of our lifetimes.

Happy Birthday Bob

Peter Robinson hails the indefatigable Robert Conquest, still bringing his intellect to bear upon the world at age 90. Conquest is the author of the seminal work exposing Stalin's megalomania and paranoia, The Great Terror, and The Harvest of Sorrow, which detailed the famine that Stalin's collectivist policies inflicted on the Ukraine and throughout the USSR in the early 1930s.

After publication of The Great Terror, Conquest was pilloried by left-wing academics who were still in love with Stalin, the USSR and the communist system. Twenty-five years after its initial publication (1968), Conquest authored The Great Terror: A Reassessment, which added support for his initial thesis from the voluminous Soviet files opened after the USSR fell. Initially, instead of calling the book "A Reassessment," Conquest's publisher wanted him to re-title the whole work. His suggestion: "How about I Told You So, You F[*]cking Fools?"

From his incisive mind also came the Three Laws of Conservatism:
  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing. [The UN, EU, etc.]
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies. [The UK's Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6, during the 1950s]
So happy birthday to the communist of 70 years ago who got mugged by reality and exposed the evils of that system long before his peers even recognized them.

Hilary's pet media watchdog

What is Media Matters? Aside from being David Brock's pet liberal wingnut media project, it's also a Hillary Clinton mouthpiece.

Read the expose at the link above.

With allies like these, who needs enemies?

Always good to know that in exchange for saving their nation from an expansionist Saddam Hussein in the early 90s, Saudis are willing and able to help . . . the enemies of the United States. Here's an excerpt in chapter 43109 of how some kinds of friends are the kinds of friends we can all do without:

Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.

* * *
Others contend that Saudi Arabia is allowing fighters sympathetic to Al Qaeda to go to Iraq so they won't create havoc at home.

Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Sami Askari, an advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, accused Saudi officials of a deliberate policy to sow chaos in Baghdad. "The fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia has strong intelligence resources, and it would be hard to think that they are not aware of what is going on," he said.

Askari also alleged that imams at Saudi mosques call for jihad, or holy war, against Iraq's Shiites and that the government had funded groups causing unrest in Iraq's largely Shiite south. Sunni extremists regard Shiites as unbelievers.

* * *

With its own border with Iraq largely closed, Saudi fighters take what is now an established route by bus or plane to Syria, where they meet handlers who help them cross into Iraq's western deserts, the senior U.S. military officer said.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Today's sign of the apocalypse

A bistro in New York sells 80 varieties of water. The best seller costs $30 per bottle; the most expensive is $55 per bottle. The owner likes to suggest waters to pair with various dishes it serves.

Wow. What a bunch of idiots she has as patrons.

I'm not going to insult the owner for her ingenuity -- cashing in on the latest fads of idiots and fools is completely acceptable. And I drink bottled water all the time because the Dallas-area tap is only a couple of small steps up from that nastiness that comes out of the tap in Southern California. Heck, in one suburb, Trophy Club, the water tastes like it comes straight from a swimming pool.

But I go for the $1.29/gallon (Ozarka) or Sparkletts' fluoridated varieties, not the stuff that would need a tap on the glass from Jesus (allegedly) to be worth the price. For the record, I don't even like Evian (got real tired of it in France in May), which once was THE snob water of choice.

Moreover, in New York, you can get really good water from the TAP. It costs a fraction of a penny per glass. So the patrons are paying thousands of times more than they should. For water.


Happy Bastille Day -- now go eat yer cheese and surrender

Tomorrow is the 218th anniversary of the French conquest of a near-empty prison. The reason to remember Bastille Day is not that it's a celebration of the French Revolution; instead, it is a reminder that those who admire the French Revolution are fools or worse. After all, the list of people who drew inspiration from the French Revolution includes Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot -- a who's who of the most ruthlessly evil people to walk the earth in the 20th Century.

In honor of that fine accomplishment, here's the post I ran on July 14, 2005, with links to the best in French-bashing ever written: the 1999-2002 Bastille Day columns by Jonah Goldberg:

Happy Bastille Day, and don't let your butt bump the lily pads whilst you're hopping about with the rest of your French friends.

Anyway, today's the day that the French salute their biggest conquest of the last three centuries: a jail with no prisoners and some underequipped guards. As I said last year:
In the US, we celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- one of the most important documents setting forth a concept of the rights of man and an ideological cornerstone of our freedoms. In France, they celebrate opening an empty jail and killing its guards.

Last year I provided some cuts to the oft-imitated and never duplicated Jonah Goldberg's once-annual Bastille Day French-Bashing columns (1999-2002). This year, by popular demand (read: because I bloody well wanted to), here is once again a round-up of Goldberg's previous mastery of the reality of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

From Goldberg's 2002 column:

The Dutch . . . have a saying, "It took no more effort than casting a Frenchman into hell." The Italians: "Attila, the scourge of God; the French, his brothers." The Germans have innumerable phrases about the French . . . "The French write other than they speak, and speak other than they mean," goes one German saying. "The friendship of the French is like their wine — exquisite, but of short duration," goes another. "May the French ulcer love you and the Lord hate you," is an old Arab curse. The Russians noted long ago, "A fighting Frenchman runs away from even a she-goat," though I suspect this sounds better in the Russian.

* * *
When you think about it, there are four possible explanations for why American leftists love France so much (aside from France's historical love affair with Communism and Stalinism). First, the French are trying to outlaw hard work and, perhaps eventually, work entirely. Government agents stake out companies suspected of working their employees more than 35 hours a week. Some exiting employees are searched to make sure they don't bring any work home with them. If you believe that requiring work is a form of discrimination against those who want to live well without working, then you've got to love France.

Second, the only sexual preference France doesn't celebrate is heterosexual monogamy.

Third, France has always treated its intellectuals like celebrities, a seductive practice for American academics forced to drive around in old VW buses and live next door to men who actually work with their hands.

But, finally, the most important reason American leftists love France is that French elites say bad things about America. French intellectuals call us racist, stupid, imperialistic, simplistic, etc. — and that alone is proof of their intellectualism. So long as you call America "racist," you could add that an enema is as good as a toothbrush and some professor of "communications theory" would applaud.

From his 2001 column:

Now, as we all know, there are many good reasons to hate the cheese-eating surrender monkeys — as groundskeeper Willie and all longtime readers know them. Survey after survey reveals that raccoons bathe more than the average Frenchman. They stuck us with Vietnam and took credit for liberating Paris after they spent most of World War Two chastising the chef for not serving Herr General a Fresh brioche. They made intellectual racism popular — Paul Johnson once wrote, "the French have always been outstandingly gifted [at] taking a German idea and making it fashionable with superb timing." And of course, they are constantly complaining about us, and nobody likes a whiner (See "Europe on the Whine."). In fact, Napoleon once observed, "The French complain about everything and always." But then again he was a Corsican.

Goldberg's 2000 column trashes the French Revolution itself, and includes nasty statistics about French hygiene:

The French Revolution was a disgusting affair of tyrannical ego, greed and power-lust, made all the worse because it took a good idea [freedom, equality, brotherhood] and corrupted it, like making a BMW into a low-rider. Hey, speaking of ruining German innovations, Paul Johnson once observed that "the French have always been outstandingly gifted [at] taking a German idea and making it fashionable with superb timing." Then again, they were probably just following orders.
* * *
It wasn't just the murder and destruction that was so awful, it was their attitude toward human nature. The Revolutionaries weren't really democrats. Average folk were reluctant to change their lives to fit the boutique-intellectual theories of a few sissified scribblers. The man in the street still wanted to worship God, use the traditional calendar, or surrender to Germans — on his own terms. Alas, the radicals asserted that the people suffered from false consciousness (though that's a term coined by that German schmo Karl Marx whom, apropos of Johnson, the French still consider the intellectual equivalent of Jerry Lewis). So, they re-opened the churches, only this time they called them "Temples of Reason" where the average Joe — or in this case the average Jacques — could worship the atheist deity "Lady Reason" or one of her appointed Saints, like maybe Voltaire or perhaps an algorithm of some kind, or maybe later Ayn Rand (oh, boy; now I'm gonna get it).

Now, since that great triumph of human liberty, the French have changed Republics more times than the average Parisian changes his underwear in a week. Now you might think this is an unfair potshot. Well, here are the results of various studies culled from news accounts, including Le Figaro. I am not making these up:
• 40% of French men, and 25% of women, do not change their underwear daily.
• Fully 50% of the men, and 30% of women, do not use deodorant.
• Average British citizen uses 3 pounds of soap annually. The German uses 2.9 pounds, and the average Frenchman uses 1.3 pounds. This means the average Frenchman uses four or five bars of soap a year. Since this is an average, that means some French use more soap than that, but some use a lot less.

His first column on Bastille Day, in 1999, showed just why the French Revolution was an historical disaster:

Bastille Day is no day for celebration. Mikhail Gorbachev was fond of calling the French and Russian Revolutions the two great revolutions of the twentieth century . . . The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution flowed inexorably from one to the other the way my lifestyle leads inexorably to my belly. After decades of revisionism in the wake of World War II, French historians are only now revisiting the truth of how they initiated the world into utopian slaughter.
* * *
Paul Johnson said of the French Revolution that it was the "classic demonstration of the capacity of words to kill." Robespierre and his merry band of murderers brought on the era of total politicization. No aspect of human life was beyond the touch of politics after the French Revolution. The state was granted a right to destroy institutions and traditions which protected the family and the individual from the violence of the state. Throughout the world, the French Revolution became an inspiration for men and women to rationalize their actions in terms of their purported ends. As Johnson puts it "every would-be plunderer or ambitious bandit now called himself a 'liberator'; murderers killed for freedom, thieves stole for the people."

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, all admired the French Revolution and found within it precedents for their own contributions to world history (though most of them found the American Revolution utterly useless). In the region of western France called the Vendée, a royalist uprising resulted in the sort of cleansing that would have made Slobodan Milosevic proud. Estimates range from the high tens of thousands to over a half million people. Many were killed by means of forced drowning. Barges full of undesirables were floated into the Loire and sunk.

* * *
The French Revolution gave us so many things we can despise today, why fight for the victims long since buried or drowned. "False consciousness," "denial," radical egalitarianism, various and sundry movement-builders, blaming inconvenient facts on bad motives, political utopianism, and of course Oliver Stone, Jane Fonda, and Hillary Clinton can all be laid in one way or the other at the feet of Robespierre.

Happy Bastille Day.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The All-Star double whammy

Why are the baseball All-Star game ratings dropping? After all, when MLB decided that the league that won the All-Star game would have home field advantage in the World Series, after the tie-game fiasco of 2002, it expected game intensity to increase and ratings to improve. No such luck. Only one All-Star game had the sought-after intensity, and only on one side -- the 2003 game in which the American League scored four runs on the top two relievers in the NL (Wagner, Gagne) to win; Mike Scioscia managed the game like it was the playoffs, Dusty Baker did not.

Even then, the All-Star game could not renew its luster. The home-field switch meant nothing in the 2003 World Series because the Yanks became only the third team since 1979 to return home for game six, whether up OR down 3-2, to lose the Series (the 11 others won). That home-field advantage has meant nothing in the past three years either as the World Series has degenerated into one-sided walkovers (two sweeps and a 4-1).

The main culprit is interleague play, which has stripped the World Series and the All-Star Game of their uniqueness as the only times the leagues clashed head to head in games that meant anything. Another is AL domination (10 wins and a tie since 1997).

Worst of all is the players' view. Attending the All-Star Game used to be a high honor. Now, if the player is unused or improperly used, it's an inconvenience (see Pujols, Albert), or a dishonor (that's the local media reaction to Michael Young's night on the bench Tuesday). Reconfiguring that thought process requires more than just interactive displays, family friendly venues and extra ESPN Zones.

The perils of socialized medicine

This is disgusting: Nearly 1 in 10 patients in Scottish hospitals, 1 in 12 in English hospitals, 6+% in Welsh hospitals (about 1/16) and more than 5% in Northern Ireland hospitals incur healthcare acquired infections.

In other words, going to the hospital in the UK often makes you SICK. Would you go to a Scottish hospital for anything that's not nearly life-threatening if there's a 10-1 chance you could acquire a serious bacterial infection?

And why are these infections so common -- BAD HYGIENE and lack of cleanliness. But the figures are for all hospitals, not just Britain's horrid National Health Service. As this blogger noted, the UK's leading private hospital company recorded ZERO cases of the blood infection MRSA -- one of the most common infections patients contract during hospital stays.

The cost to the NHS for fighting these diseases: nearly $370,000,000.

Socialized medicine -- a disease that we don't need.

Norwegian Ninnies

I'm just speechless.

10:48 12Jul07 RTRS-Norway firms nearer quota on women board members

OSLO, July 12 (Reuters) - About 60 percent of Norwegian companies comply with rules designed to get more women into top business jobs six months before firms could be penalised for not meeting the gender quota, a minister said on Thursday. Companies where women do not make up at least 40 percent of their boards as of Jan. 1, 2008 face the risk of closure, although the government has left open the option to impose fines instead. A year ago only 30 percent of companies met the requirements. Norway was the first country in the world to decide on such a regulation in 2005. "Many skilled women have now entered company boards," Norway's Children and Equality Minister Karita Bekkemellem said in a statement. "Yet, there are many that have not met the requirements, which shows there is a need for an all-out effort." About 500 Norwegian companies, including firms listed on the bourse and several hundred others, have to obey the quota.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

The Monk and Monkette went to a midnight (plus one minute) show of the fifth Harry Potter movie last night. We enjoyed what had to be the most difficult adaptation of the series to date -- the source material (that is, the eponymous book) is the longest of the series, even including the concluding version that will be released next Saturday.

The key decision by director David Yates for movie #5 in the franchise was to make the movie completely Potter-centric. This movie is HARRY POTTER and the Order of the Phoenix. Nearly all other aspects of the books, from the various Hermione-Ron flirtations to the (innocent) sexual explorations of the students to the intra-school politics have been stripped. The flavors of Hogwarts (wandering ghosts, twisting staircases, talking paintings) have been minimized. It is a dark movie.

And with good reason. The basic plot points: (1) Voldemort is back; (2) the Ministry of Magic denies this reality; (3) the Minister of Magic is in full Captain Queeg mode fearing that the whole Voldy-is-back concept is a ruse for and by Dumbledore to take over the ministry; (4) the Minister installs dragon lady Dolores Umbridge to control Hogwarts; (5) Voldy's not stopping his plotting just because the Ministry is in a tizzy.

This is the first of the series where the climax substantially differs from Rowling's novel. The battle at the ministry, the Dumbledore-Voldemort showdown and the death of a major character (if you don't know, you're in the small minority) all have identifiable changes from the book. How that will connect in the next two movies will be interesting.

Now, the good/bad/ugly of HP5:

The Good: First, the kids. Emma Watson has been Hermione from movie #1 and done a good job throughout the series. The real improvement is in the boys: Daniel Radcliffe's acting is far better than movies 1 and 2, and he's built upon his improvements from movies 3 and 4. Given the source material in which Harry was constantly angry, truculent or just a royal grump, Yates and Radcliffe show a multifaceted Harry: he's tormented by dreams of Voldemort, feels safe with his godfather Sirius Black, resents being ostracized by fellow students, relaxes with Ron and Hermione, connects with Luna with a natural affection, and transforms into a leader of his fellow students in Dumbledore's Army. Rupert Grint (Ron) is far more natural in this film than his one-note fool approach in movies 2 and 3. And newcomer Evanna Lynch IS the embodiment of space cadet Luna ("Looney") Lovegood. She steals the first scene she's in from Hermione and works well with Harry. Lynch did so well, the director likely cut yards of film from Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) -- a bit of disservice to that character.

Second, the tone. For all the critics' harping that "the magic" has left the series, Yates strikes the correct tone. This is a DARK book, a DARK time in the series, and a DARK time in Harry's life. It's not time for wonder and wide-eyed ooh/aah nonsense. The first movie served that purpose because it introduced Harry to the world of magic and its wonders; this movie builds toward the ultimate showdown in movie #7.

Third, Imelda Staunton. When I heard about her casting as Umbridge, I thought she lacked physical heft (Umbridge is a real cow in the books) and should have been a great deal uglier. But the first time I saw her on screen as Umbridge, I wanted to shoot the b#tch. Considering that she evokes that sentiment throughout the book, Staunton did well in the role.

Fourth, the effects. Once again, better than the previous movie, and that's good because HP4's effects were solid.

The Bad: (a) The editing was just as disjointed as the major critics claimed, especially in the post-Ministry battle scenes. (b) Quite honestly, Tonks had no need to appear in this film and that's too bad because she's a cool older sister type to Harry in the books. (c) The major character's death was a bit too sudden (although this criticism can apply to the book) and the immediate post-mortem when the killer has a clear shot at Harry is not handled well. (d) The movie simply did not build up to the Voldy-wants-the-prophecy motivation that set up the battle in the Ministry.

Note that I'm not going to cry about the lack of screen time for the cream of British acting like Maggie Smith, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Finnes, et al. Each one knew s/he would have a limited role in each film so it's not a waste of talent. I'm also not going to carp about Hermione and Ron being relegated to side-kicks like other critics have (one complained that all Ron's scenes had Harry in them . . . so?) -- that's ridiculous because in EVERY OTHER MOVIE that's all they were. The fact is the story is about Harry Potter, not Ron or Hermione.

The Ugly: Grawp. Hagrid's half-brother is simply heinous.

There are big questions for movie #6: (1) can Tom Felton (Draco) handle an enlarged role after basically sitting out the past three films; (2) can the movie avoid the A&E biography-of-Voldemort feel considering that so much of the book is told in flashback; (3) will there be any decent roles for Ron and Hermione considering their relatively small roles in the book; (4) how will the Ginny issue be handled -- she has a MUCH larger role in the story than the past two films hinted at; (5) can the director find screen time for Luna and Neville, each of whom basically only have cameos in the book; (6) who will play Rufus Scrimgeour (Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, or Bill Nighy?), Horace Slughorn (I'd vote for John Rhys-Davies) and the UK's prime minister (would Michael Sheen reprise the role?); (7) how can the director avoid the holding-pattern feel that is probably inherent in the plot of the movie considering all the open questions in the book?

Those are questions for the future. The answer for the present: HP 5 is a solid movie.

Mea Culpa: I originally called Professor Slughorn Hugo, not Horace. And I just re-read Book 6 last month . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bush's greatest failure

. . . will be the horrible legacy he leaves with regard to Latin America. Not since the utterance of the Monroe Doctrine has US power and influence in Central and South America been so low. Bush has been hurt by Democratic perfidy on trade agreements, and Republican distaste for his amnesty, but ultimately his failure to influence the region so as to prevent the rise of Chavez as a major actor on the world stage, Morales' victory in Bolivia, Ortega's rebirth in Nicaragua, and the re-emergence of Communism in our own hemisphere rests on him alone.

The fall of the Tories

Anne Applebaum chimes in with a column today on how the British Conservative Party is neither very British nor very conservative these days. The party is brain-dead, and the UK polity knows it.

Another entry in the annals of bad intelligence

If there is a "clear link between stolen passports and al-Qaeda-linked terrorist activity," and your country failed to use an international police force database that lists stolen passports, and checking the database took only 2-3 seconds, and the information could get about 100 or more hits per month for a small country, would you feel good about your country's anti-terrorist efforts?

Neither would I.

And yet, neither the UK nor the US uses the InterPol stolen passport database, according to the InterPol head Ronald Noble. Switzerland checks it about 300,000 times each month and gets about 100 hits. It is not far-fetched that terrorist infiltrators would use stolen (or forged, although those are vastly more difficult to use) passports to enter a target country.

Really, if the writers for the CBS show Numb3rs can come up with that notion, it's not that far for the terrorist mind to stretch.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Better too late than never alert

The Monk is just not understanding why the Harry Potter uberfans are begging Jo Rowling not to kill him off now, in the first 10 days of July 2007.

The book reached the publisher at the end of last year.

She wrote it between 2005 and 2006.

In other words, she made the final choice to kill off the boy wizard, or not, nearly a year ago.

Decision's made.

You're late.

Can't change a thing.

All over except the crying.

You'll find out in 11 days or so.


Bombers of the future?

NYT Yankees beatwriter Tyler Kepner went to Trenton to find out about what the future may hold for the Yanks. Right now, the Yanks' AA affiliate has a TEAM ERA of 2.57 and is rolling along with a 57-31 record. The reason: good pitching wins. Read it all, especially about Chamberlain.

Thanks Grandma, Great Grandma, and Great Grandpa

. . . for leaving the old country so your children and their children and their children, etc., could have a better life.

Seriously, this is some low-end Third World sh!t that's going on in the Old Country, and the people of The Boot should be embarrassed:

Since May, streets in Naples and nearby towns have been piled with household waste that has nowhere else to go -- the fault of political mismanagement, conflicting interests and organized crime.

* * *

Last month the European Commission took legal action against Italy over the thousands of tonnes of uncollected waste, saying it posed serious health and environmental risks through the spread of disease and through pollution of air, water and land.

The Yankees disaster of 2007

The Yankees enter the All-Star break at 42-43 and 8.5 out in the Wild Card race (seven in the loss column), the first time they've been sub-.500 at the break since 1995. That year, the Yanks took off after acquiring David Cone in mid-season, ripped off a 21-6 finish as the Angels tanked and squeaked into the Wild Card spot ahead of the Angels/Mariners (those two finished tied for the AL West crown, one game worse than the Yanks; Seattle won the one-game playoff). This year, that won't happen.

The Monk's preseason picks should be reprinted on toilet tissue so they can actually have some use. I picked the Yanks and the White Sux, the two biggest flops in the AL, to win their respective divisions. The Pale hos are simply horrendous on offense, and the solid rotation has been inconsistent at best (Contreras is reliving his 2004 in pinstripes, Garland just gave up 11 runs to the light-hitting Twins). The Yanks are a different story.

First, the general management failures. These are relatively easy to identify: (1) Cashman's new training guru who failed to prepare the team for the physical rigors of the sport, resulting in numerous leg injuries for the pitchers early in the year; (2) the decision to rely on Carl Pavano; (3) the decision not to pay for RedSawx killer Ted Lilly (8-4, 3.67 ERA for the Cubs) as the #4 starter and instead take a flyer on Kei Igawa -- a guy who will make Hideki Irabu seem like the paragon of intestinal fortitude; (4) failing to re-sign Bernie Williams -- couldn't he have helped when Damon went down and Abreu sucked?

Second, the field management failures. Also fairly easy -- Torre overused his bullpen in April and wiped it out. He failed to let his professional starters continue when they were going strong (see Pettitte v. Red Sox at Fenway, Mooooooooooose v. Angels in May, Wang v. Giants) and instead brought in the bullpen, which completely honked. Torre has been awful this year, period. The Yanks' expected W-L record based on runs scored versus runs allowed is 49-36. No other Torre team has ever failed to meet (within a game or two) or exceed its expected record (see 2004: expected, 89-73; actual 101-61). The Yanks are 6-14 in one-run games -- even an average record means that instead of 8.5 games back in the Wild Card race, they'd be just 4.5 out.

Finally, the on-field failures. Despite A-Rod's amazing first half (three game winning homers in the 9th, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 77 runs), and the solid play of Jeter and Posada, the team as a whole stinks. Abreu has been horrid except for one hot stretch (when the Yanks went 11-1), Damon is worse, Cano has been clueless until this week and Matsui stank before this homestand. The pitching is a mess -- the relievers lead the league in walks but are 11th in whiffs; the team is worst in the AL in strikeouts. That's not a problem when Clemens can go 8, whiff 3 and allow just a few hits, or when Wang does his sinkerball magic. But Mooooooose and Pettitte have less dominant stuff, which means if they don't get strikeouts, the balls in play get hit harder.

They've struggled against good teams (26-27). Worse yet, although the Yanks have swept Arizona and Cleveland and won 5/7 from Minnesota, they're just 16-16 against teams that are sub-.500. Compare that to 2006 (52-26), 2005 (59-34), 2004 (66-31) and 2003 (54-24). This is how a team rips off an 11-1 stretch, then nosedives to a 1-7 road trip to Colorado (scoring all of 5 runs in three games in the best hitters' park in baseball), San Francisco and Baltimore.

Yeah, they had injuries (Pavano, Hughes). No, the kids couldn't quite fill the holes in the rotation (DeSalvo, Clippard, Wright). And worse, some of the minor league prospects are in rehab after arm surgery or other injury (Cox, Sanchez, Ohlendorf). But that's no excuse. The Yanks have made bad bets, played poorly and need to suck less.

The opportunity begins Thursday -- four weeks against teams that are currently sub-.500, including 15 games against Tampa and the Royals, before a stretch of 20 games with 17 against Cleveland, Detroit, the Angels and Bawstin. Not much room for error, especially because another 1-7 stretch against stiffs would put the final nail in the season's coffin.

The NYT hit and miss piece of the day

Andy McCarthy analyzes the NYT's hit piece on Donald Rumsfeld and Pres. Bush's response to terrorism, which tries to portray the Bush Administration as feckless and unresponsive to terrorism -- just like the Clinton Administration. But McCarthy does not skimp on the one reality that Clinton defenders and Bush-haters cannot escape: on any given day of the Bush presidency the US has done more to attack and fight international terrorism than Clinton did in 8 years.

Green is the new yellow

Yellow journalism is agenda-driven propagandizing devoid of factual integrity that masquerades as straight news. The prime example for every journalist is William Randolph Hearst's drive to push the US into war with Spain over Cuba -- a successful mission from the editor's standpoint.

Jack Shafer, the Slate media critic, rips both the general journalism on environmental issues and his own employer for engaging in yellow journalism on environmental issues.

Read it all.

I want a piece of this action

Wharton School of Business Prof. Scott Armstrong offered to bet AlGore $20K that the IPCC's temperature forecasts are wrong. I want Gore to take the bet because he'll lose so badly.

Armstrong and [Monash University's Dr. Kesten] Green rated the methodology used by the panel against 89 principles of good forecasting derived from years of research. They found that the panel report breached 72 of those principles. They concluded that the forecasts the weather was likely to change in many negative ways were worthless.

And The Monk wants a piece of the action.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Althea Gibson and Wimbledon's missed opportunity

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of Larry Doby's first appearance in a major league baseball game. The next year, he became the first black athlete to win a World Series ring.

But one large personal triumphs for a black athlete, one that pales only in comparison to Jesse Owens' gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, occurred 50 years ago. And Jemele Hill of ESPN is right -- the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club should have noted it this week at the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon.

In 1957 Althea Gibson won Wimbledon. There's a degree to which this is not quite as notable as other triumphs -- Gibson integrated the sport by participating in the U.S. Championships in 1950 (she won in '57 and '58), won the French Open in 1956 and won both the Australian Open and Wimbledon doubles titles in 1956. But her victory in 1957 established her as the top player in the game, who had won the biggest tournament.

Gibson's record is entirely too unfamiliar to most. She was the best tennis player in the world from 1956-58. She won 5 singles Grand Slam titles, and six doubles Grand Slams (5 women's, one mixed) at a time that doubles competition was no less prestigious than singles matches.

Then she quit.

Tennis operated on an Olympic model before 1968 -- only amateurs could play the Grand Slams. To make money, players needed to play on a professional tour.

Speaking of integrating a sport -- Althea Gibson did Jackie Robinson one better: she not only integrated tennis, she integrated women's golf. In 1964, she joined the LPGA tour -- although she never won a tournament, she was the first black athlete on that tour. Thus, America's two country club sports were integrated by one woman.

It's Reproductive Access, Stupid

Psychology Today has a long excerpt of a book due in September called Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. Billed as "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths" the authors assert that human nature is a collection of psychological adaptations that operate beneath conscious thinking to give the individual the upper hand in gene survival. The authors argue forcefully that much of 'human nature' is based on fulfilling the evolutionary decree of reproducing as much as possible.

It's a bit long but clearly written and well argued. An excerpt:

Humans are naturally polygamous

The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous. Polyandry (a marriage of one woman to many men) is very rare, but polygyny (the marriage of one man to many women) is widely practiced in human societies, even though Judeo-Christian traditions hold that monogamy is the only natural form of marriage.
We know that humans have been polygynous throughout most of history because men are taller than women.

Among primate and nonprimate species, the degree of polygyny highly correlates with the degree to which males of a species are larger than females. The more polygynous the species, the greater the size disparity between the sexes. Typically, human males are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females. This suggests that, throughout history, humans have been mildly polygynous.

Relative to monogamy, polygyny creates greater fitness variance (the distance between the "winners" and the "losers" in the reproductive game) among males than among females because it allows a few males to monopolize all the females in the group. The greater fitness variance among males creates greater pressure for men to compete with each other for mates. Only big and tall males can win mating opportunities. Among pair-bonding species like humans, in which males and females stay together to raise their children, females also prefer to mate with big and tall males because they can provide better physical protection against predators and other males.

In societies where rich men are much richer than poor men, women (and their children) are better off sharing the few wealthy men; one-half, one-quarter, or even one-tenth of a wealthy man is still better than an entire poor man. As George Bernard Shaw puts it, "The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one." Despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, most industrial societies are monogamous because men tend to be more or less equal in their resources compared with their ancestors in medieval times. (Inequality tends to increase as society advances in complexity from hunter-gatherer to advanced agrarian societies. Industrialization tends to decrease the level of inequality.)

This isn't a guidebook for behavior but deductions based on science. While polygamy offends most of us, the driving evolutionary force behind it is hard to deny. Some will argue that our intellect and ingrained values should be enough to counteract these primal impulses and they often are but understanding why we think and act is invaluable. Another excerpt on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair:

...The question many asked in 1998—"Why on earth would the most powerful man in the world jeopardize his job for an affair with a young woman?"—is, from a Darwinian perspective, a silly one. Betzig's answer would be: "Why not?" Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it.

Note, I do not quite grasp the logic behind #6 (Why Beautiful People have Daughters) but I think I will buy this book when it comes out in September.

HT: Jonah at NRO.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dog bites man - Chinese courts lack credibility

RTRS-Chinese courts lack credibility, trust -chief judge

BEIJING, July 6 (Reuters) - Chinese courts have made "huge strides" in improving judicial procedures but still suffer from a lack of credibility and public trust, China's top judge said in comments published on Friday.

"The majority of the nearly 8 million cases dealt with by Chinese courts annually are fair," Supreme Court Chief Justice Xiao Yang said.

"However, we still have to endure criticism of injustice, and low judiciary credibility and the absence of authority. These are acute challenges for Chinese courts," the China Daily quoted him as saying.

China has vowed to make its justice system more transparent after a string of corruption scandals involving judges last year.

Top prosecutor Jia Chunwang said last October that 91 prosecutors had been punished for violating judicial procedures and 275 had been sacked over the previous 18 months.

With public confidence in the legal system low, some people choose to avoid the courts, Nie Shouming, a Supreme Court spokesman, told the China Daily.

"Instead, they choose to seek help from the media or other state administrative departments," he said. "People will naturally turn to the courts once the procedures are complete and fair enough."

Despite piecemeal reforms to trial procedures in recent years, China's judiciary remains under the firm grip of the ruling Communist Party, and courts are often viewed as mere vehicles for passing sentences.

In November, an official judicial newspaper, the People's Court Daily, reported that only 41,038 people out of 6.2 million defendants were acquitted in criminal trial cases between 1998 and September 2006, representing 0.66 percent of the total.

This will be a fruitless enterprise until China becomes a nation of laws - and that will be impossible under the Communist Party.

China playing God with weather

This should send a shiver up the spine of anyone familiar with chaos theory:

RTRS-Olympics-China to try to engineer perfect Games weather

BEIJING, July 6 (Reuters) - The weather forecast for Beijing's August 2008 Olympics Games will be fine and sunny. And any dark, ominous-looking clouds will be immediately zapped from the heavens.

At least, that's the theory.

Next month, the city plans to fine-tune "rain prevention" techniques to ensure good weather prevails during the Games, state media reported on Friday.

"We are still in the experimental stage," the China Daily quoted Zhang Qiang, an official in charge of the capital's artificial rain-making and prevention programme, as saying.

"The lack of rain so far this summer is making it difficult to conduct more experiments and collect enough data. We need more rain," Zhang said.

China's Olympic hosts fear the normally bone-dry capital's stormy August weather could put a damper on the Games, and worry that an untimely deluge could affect the opening ceremony on Aug. 8 at the uncovered National Stadium.

Beijing, which is chronically short of water, is well-practiced at firing chemical-infused rockets into clouds to prompt a much-needed downpour, but organisers concede rain prevention remains a much tougher prospect.

Wang Yubin, a Beijing meteorologist, said the weather bureau would use "catalytic agents to force rain clouds to burst, should there be any, hours before the (opening) ceremony", to ensure good weather.

But the risk of an inaccurate weather forecast remained a concern.

"The forecast will have to be fairly accurate or we will not be able to fulfil our mission ... Cloud dispersal is more difficult than seeding, and we are working on it," the paper quoted Wang as saying.

Think Al Gore might be better off worrying about this than global warming.

Profile: The second man

Nice profile of the late Larry Doby, the second man:

. . . of African-American descent to play major league baseball;
. . . of African-American descent to manage a major league team.

Doby integrated the American League the same year (1947) that Jackie Robinson integrated the NL. Doby personified quiet dignity amidst the racist opposition to his presence in the game. And he was always underappreciated as the second man to integrate because he never received the recognition for what he endured in the way Jackie Robinson did.

After coming to the majors as a secondbaseman, Doby played center field for the Indians from 1948-55. But for the dynastic Yankees, Doby could have had more rings -- the Indians won the pennant and World Series in '48, won the AL pennant in '54 and finished second in '51, '52, '53, and '55. He finally obtained his overdue place in the Hall of Fame in 1998, five years before his death.

Read the whole profile, which is filled with nice remembrances from Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller ("Larry Doby was a better ballplayer than Jackie Robinson") and Jim "Mudcat" Grant -- who idolized Doby as a young kid, then played with Doby as an Indian in 1959 (and who is one of only "12 black aces" -- the 12 African-American pitchers to win 20 games in a season).

NHS -- the terrorist access point.

Daniel Johnson notes the irony of the Islamist infiltration of the UK's National Health Service: "The NHS is the nearest thing to a religion that the British now have." And he notes the weakness of the UK's leadership -- whatever you do, they warn you: "don't mention the war" on terror. Read it all.

read more | digg story

Britain's useful idiots

Tony Blair's exit from 10 Downing Street left the UK with a power vacuum at the Prime Minister post and a reality vacuum in dealing with current affairs. New Prime Minister Gordon Brown has directly rejected honestly describing the terrorists who sought to firebomb London's entertainment district and Glasgow's airport by refusing to identify their religion. They're Muslim. Islamists, to be more precise.

Worse yet, the Conservative Party. Instead of following the footpath of Disraeli, Churchill, Eden and Thatcher, David Cameron's pantywaists have proven themselves to be the heirs of the weak and feckless Stanley Baldwin, the Jimmy Carter of the 1930s, and the misdirected Neville Chamberlain. This explains the Tories' appointment of Sayeeda Warsi as Shadow Community Cohesion Minister (whatever that means). And this lovely description of Ms. Warsi from the Tories' own website, as detailed by Melanie Phillips:

Warsi [ ] dismissed the idea that pressure should be placed upon British Muslims to root out extremists within their midst, commenting that ‘when you say this is something that the Muslim community needs to weed out, or deal with, that is a very dangerous step to take.’… Sayeeda Warsi has been highly critical of the war in Iraq, and called upon former Prime Minister Tony Blair to apologise for the war, an extraordinary statement at a time when thousands of British soldiers are putting their lives on the line every day… In a January 2006 BBC Any Questions? debate, Warsi welcomed the election of Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hamas, a brutal movement officially proscribed as a terrorist group by the British Government. Hamas murdered 377 Israelis in 425 terrorist attacks between September 2000 and March 2004, including 52 suicide attacks. Despite Hamas’s track record, as part of the BBC panel Warsi told her audience:

‘I think what’s happened in the Middle East with the election of Hamas is actually an opportunity and I think that’s the way we’ve got to see it. When groups that practice violence are suddenly propelled into power through a democratic process they get responsibility and responsibility can be a tremendously taming factor. And I think that Hamas, when it realizes that it wants a safe and stable and prosperous Palestine for its people, will realize that the way to deal with that is through dialogue and democracy and not through violence… I actually think that Hamas has been given a mandate and I think it will now hopefully adopt a responsible position because that is the only way.’

Robert Conquest's third law of politics applies here: The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.