Sunday, September 30, 2007

ACK ACK ACK -- the new Mets' chant?

Buster Olney is right, the Mets' problems are not solely the manager's responsibility -- GM Omar Minaya failed to shore up the team's relief staff this year. But ultimately, the Mess had more talent than any team in the NL and just completed the second-worst bonk in baseball history -- blowing a seven-game lead with 17 games to go, and failing to even tie for the wild card. All told, the 1964 Phillies' failure of losing the NL pennant despite holding a 6.5 game lead with 12 to play, is worse. Those Phils immediately lost 10 straight, their place in the standings and the pennant. The Mets' death was slower and more excruciating -- 12 losses in their last 17 games, six in the last seven. Worse yet, 10 of the 17 games were at the filled-in cesspool known as Shea Stadium, and the Mess lost NINE of those. Worse yet, after the Mess bonked against the Phils in Shea from September 14-16, they lost 9 of their remaining 14 games, all of which were against teams with losing records. The 1964 Phils choked horribly, but the teams they lost to were immediate rivals for the pennant (Reds, Cards, Braves). Indeed, based on available playoff spots (the Mess missed the wild card too), largest lead, remaining schedule at that point, the baseball geeks at Baseball Prospectus said last Thursday that if the Mess missed the playoffs, it would be the second-biggest choke job of all time. That scenario occurred.

Give Manny Acta and the Washington Nationals credit -- their talent level indicated that they could be the worst team in baseball history; instead, they won 73 and used five wins in six games against the Mess over the final two weeks to climb out of the NL East basement. They also bumped the Phils off yesterday, enabling the Mess to tie the race and setting up a potential one-game playoff if the Mess and Phils both won or lost today (and it would have been a complete free-for-all if the Mess had won because four teams would have had 89-73 records). About 30 minutes into the Mets' finale, that notion was over as the Marlins scored 7 runs in the first inning off future Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine (he won't retire on that note).

Talent, leadership, failure. The disconnect between the first two led to the third -- the Mess had talent, they lacked leadership, they achieved failure. Regardless of fault levels, Willie Randolph won't keep his job after this; or at least, he shouldn't.

A right and a wrong

The Monk called it: the Redsax picked the long series for their upcoming playoff battle against the Angels. Why? is the real question. The Redstanx allowed the Angels to pitch Lackey and Escobar twice each on full rest, and save Jered Weaver for game 3 in Anaheim. This really is an advantage for the Halos and deprives the Redskunx of the opportunity to force the Angels into a four-man rotation, where the Redhos would have an advantage (Beckett-Schilling-DiceK-Wakefield v. Lackey-Escobar-Weaver-someone useless).

The Yanks will have the 7-day series against the Indians, and this is potentially an advantage for the Indians. Why? Because if necessary the Indians can pitch Sabathia on three days' rest in game 4 (and as a big bugger and the IP leader, he's probably the best-equipped pitcher in the league to handle that) and Carmona on full rest in game 5. Moreover, Torre is probably so blindly loyal that he would actually pitch Moose in game 4 if the Yanks trailed 2-1.

One thing to note: the Sax and Yanks are the best teams in baseball by far -- the Redstiffs expected record based upon their run differential is a whopping 103-59, the Yanks' expected record is 99-63 (and this is the first season under Torre that the Yanks have underperformed), the Indians' expected record is 92-70 and the Angels' is just 90-72, no NL team has better than a 92-70 expected record.

Now that the season's over, I want to brag about calling out ESPN's Steve Phillips for picking the Mariners for the wild card with 45 games to go when the Ms were tied with the Yanks. Talk about a stupid pick. I will be shocked if he doesn't pick the Indians and Angels for the ALCS. I know the Indians are everyone's trend pick now, but that team doesn't really hit as well as it should (just over 800 runs), the Yanks unquestionably believe they can beat the Indians, and the Yanks' offense this year is the most potent of any Torre team -- even outscoring the 1998 edition (968-965).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Yanks, present and future

One thing that the Yanks are able to do this weekend is evaluate their young guys because the next three games are otherwise irrelevant. After all, barring a complete choke by the blosux, the Yanks are goin' wild carding. The real question is: when?

This year MLB is allowing the team with the best record in the AL to pick its poison for the ALDS: an 8-day series or a 7-day series. Next year, the NL's top winner gets that choice. Here's how the divisional series are set up:

Both NLDS will be Wednesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday of next week and the following week. The ALDS will be Thursday-Friday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday OR Wednesday-Friday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday. Unlike previous years, there will be a day off between games four and five (the Yanks and A's famously trekked cross-country from New York to Oakland in 2000 and vice versa in 2001 to play game 5 the day after game 4 of those ALDS). What the 8-day schedule allows, therefore is a real benefit -- the ability to run out a three-man rotation and have the #1 and #2 starters pitch twice, the second time on normal four days' rest. In the NL this year that would be a big advantage for the Padres (two starts each for Peavy and Young) and a disadvantage for teams like the Phils and D'Backs who really don't have a solid 1-2 arrangement. Thus the 7-day schedules that force either a three-man rotation with #1 and #2 pitching on three days' rest or a four-man rotation that limits the top two starters to three starts tends to hurt the Pads and help the teams whose 2-3-4 starters are roughly equal, but not as good as the #1 guy.

In the AL, this is less meaningful in one way -- each team has an unquestionable ability to roll out a solid 1-2 for four games of that 8-day series. The Yanks have Pettitte and Wang; the Blosax have Beckett and Schilling/Wakefield; the Angels have Lackey and Escobar; the Indians have Sabathia and Carmona. But three teams have a sizeable dropoff after the 1-2: the Yanks would pitch the injured Clemens or erratic Mooooooooooose; the Angels have youngster Jered Weaver and erratic Ervin Santana; the Indians have Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook, but neither has fared well against the Yanks, and Byrd's 15-8 record is detracted from by his 4.59 ERA.

Thus, the choice for Boston or the Indians, who are currently tied at 94-65 (Boston holds the tiebreaker after a 5-2 series win this year) seems clear: the Indians need the 8-day schedule so they can roll out Sabathia (historically bad against the Yanks, but he hasn't faced them in more than two years, so those stats are basically worthless) and Carmona (who's been decent in his two starts against the Yanks) four times in five games; the RedSawx can use the 7-day schedule to use their greater pitching depth and prevent the Angels from using Lackey/Escobar four times. Seems simple, right? If the RedSawx win the best record, expect them to pick the 8-day schedule. I'm not sure why, I just think it will happen. If the Indians get the best record and pick the 7-day schedule relying upon the Yanks' #3 and #4 starter issues, they're fools -- go first with your strength, not the opponent's weakness.

In other news, Phil Hughes pitched well again and this time had a career-long outing -- 7 IP, 1 ER against the D'rays. That's good -- the D'Rays can hit and didn't bench 2/3 of their starters like the Yanks did last night. And Joba pitched well in his first outing on back-to-back days. The Monk would not be shocked to see a late inning 7-8-9 set up with Hughes-Joba-Mo to close a game.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not a confidence-inspiring doc

Just click the link.

You can't make this up

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 27 (Reuters) - An arrest warrant has been issued for South Africa's National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, public broadcaster SABC reported on Thursday. The broadcaster said the warrant had been issued by the country's National Prosecuting Authority. Selebi, who has been harshly criticised for failing to reduce crime, is also the current head of the international police organisation Interpol.

I don't know the backstory at all but ouch.

13 straight

Next week the Yanks will enter the post season for the 13th straight year, the longest run in AL history and only one behind the 1991-2005 Braves. The Yanks and Braves would each have added a year to their streaks but for the 1994 strike -- the Yanks led the AL East when the players walked out; the Braves were in NL wild card position.

There's little doubt that the Braves' accomplishment of making the postseason for so many consecutive years is more impressive, even if the Yanks tie the Bravos' mark next season. This is because the Braves won their division each time and had no fallback from 1991-93 -- division title or bust (ask the 103-59 Giants from 1993 who lost the NL West to the Braves at game 162 of the season about "bust"); the Yanks will have a minimum of three wild card berths to their credit. The Braves did, however, have less competition than the Yanks for most of their run -- the 1995-05 Braves rarely had a close divisional challenge (just three division titles of the 13 were by 5 games or less; the Yanks won five of their 10 divisional crowns by less than 5 games). And the Yanks' playoff record is far superior: the Braves are 6-5 in NLDS, 5-4 in NLCS (three times they had no NLDS to play), and 1-4 in the World Series; the Yanks are 7-5 in ALDS, 6-1 in ALCS and 4-2 in the Series, including 2-0 against the Braves.

This year is probably the Yanks' most intriguing -- they have the hitting and enough pitching to win the World Series (contra 2004, 2005 pitching and 2001 hitting), they struggled horribly early in the season (21-29), they suffered managerial and organizational brain lapses (Torre's bullpen management in April and May, Cashman's Igawa and fitness coordinator decisions), they battled through massive hitting struggles by key players (Damon, Abreu, Cano) and dealt with preposterous injury levels (50 starts by rookies, only one of whom was in the rotation out of spring training). Nonetheless, this season epitomizes the success of the steady hand approach Torre uses and unquestionably supported the drafting and organizational strategy that Cashman and Damon Oppenheimer (he's the draft guru who picked Kennedy and Joba) followed.

So congrats to the Yankees: the 2007 team is their best mix of stable vets and young enthusiasts since the '96 team. Here's hoping they achieve similar success in October.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Even the doves flock against Columbia

Shimon Peres, the most dovish leader in Israel's history, blasted Columbia for hosting Iranian nutter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Peres is correct in his analysis of the farce:

"I don't accept the university's explanations, because if a university is a platform where lies are permissible, then it is not academic ... So all of yesterday's show was wretched," Peres said.

A classy tribute

Give credit to Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire. In the last home game of the season for the Twinkies, he gave pending free agent, and Minnesota CF staple, Torii Hunter a moment to remember. When the Twins took the field in the top of the 9th in a game they would win easily, Hunter went out to his normal position. Then Gardy sent in a sub so Hunter could make the long jog back to the dugout while receiving the adulation of the fans.

Hunter is embroiled in contract talks. He's had a career year, but the notoriously cheap Twins offered him a lowball contract, which he's rejected. Hunter wants to stay in Minnesota; the Twins' owner is the richest of the 30 owners in all of MLB (and he rakes in additional money from revenue-sharing for his small market team); and Hunter has become the face of the franchise the way Kirby Puckett did 15 years ago.

So kudos to Gardy for recognizing his player and giving him a deserved moment in the spotlight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dumb, dumb idea

The House is about to introduce a remarkably bad bill. Not remarkably its from obstreperous left-wing stalwart Michigan Democrat John Conyers.

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Workers' and retirees' wages and pension benefits would be protected in corporate bankruptcies under a bill to be introduced on Tuesday by Democratic U.S. lawmakers with support from labor unions.

House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement he will offer the bill to "make it more difficult for the companies to use bankruptcy as a way to gut workers' wages and benefits."

Conyers said he will be joined at a news conference on the bill on Tuesday by Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO labor coalition, and labor leaders for airline pilots, steelworkers, auto workers, flight attendants and machinists.

This is a bad idea.

Who is going to protect it? The federal government? This means higher taxes and would actually encourage bad faith by firms who will grant more generous packages because they wouldn't have to bad responsible.

If you put the onus on the firms themselves via payments into an escrow account or pushing employee rights ahead of creditors then the effect will be to drive more jobs overseas.

It will be a good day for the Republic when Conyers retires.

Snake Ahmadinejad

Watched a bit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's question and answer session at Columbia. He was, of course, on translation but some immediate reactions:

- He's very well briefed, prepared and quite crafty. He had all the right, non-threatening answers required.

- Like the old Soviets and their satrapies, very good at answering a question with a question. e.g., Not answering why Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism directly but noting that Iran was a victim of terrorism

- A good practitioner at making apparently innocent but false comparisons. Note his repeated call for 'further research' into the Holocaust by saying (more or less) "surely the Holocaust isn't as certain as physics which is still being constantly researched"

- A clever thank you at the end of speech where he invites Columbia students and faculty to visit Iran.

- One GRIEVOUS error however. Ahmadinejad said "There are no homosexuals in Iran." [Got this on close-captioning instead of translation]. No one asked the ideal follow up of "What happened to all of the homosexuals?" An elementary, surprising and telling error. In the mullahs' universe homosexuality cannot exist under Islamic rule. Surprised that the little hostage taker flubbed this one so badly.

Final thought: Bollinger was apparently pretty tough on his questions and not kind in his introduction. However, publicity and free speech aside allowing this snake an august public forum like Columbia University was a mistake. It conveys legitimacy where there should not be any. Let Hunter College or the New School invite him. All murderers should have competent legal counsel but not all counsel needs make themselves available.

Anti-Semitism writ large

Les Gelb lets fly at the invidious Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

Quick hits

First, kudos to the Toronto BluJs. They swept the Blosax at home last week and split four with the Yanks in the Stadium this weekend (and should have won three). Unlike the Twins, A's, White Sax and Orioles, all of whom have mailed it in for the last few weeks, the Js have played hard with nothing at stake. Today, the Yanks caught what should have been a huge break when AJ Burnett (who allowed 1 ER in > 15 IP v. the Yanks this year) had to miss today's start, and the Js still won. Toronto has five capable starters and that makes it a dangerous team if they can all stay healthy. The Yanks need two wins against Tampa, and then should go into cruise control before the playoffs. After all, pressing for home field has done them no good in the past (2002), but cruising through the finish line doesn't hurt those who have done so (2006 Tigers, 2000 Yanks).

Second, I REALLY regret not doing an NFL preview because I would have lambasted the Chargers for hiring Norv Turner. This man is NOT a head coach. He may be a great coordinator, but as a head coach his personal demeanor and lack of authority makes his teams weak. Turner is a bad coach -- he does not enforce discipline, he does not set a strong tone for the team, and the result is that his teams underperform (at historical levels -- ESPN had an analysis of this last month showing Turner among the 10 worst coaches with more than 50 games or so of coaching experience based on team performance). Schottenheimer led the same team to a 14-2 record last year and the Chargers bonked in their lone playoff game thanks to some funny bounces and typical Brady heroics. But last week's loss in New England (38-14) proved the Chargers had taken a step back and this week's loss in Green Bay shows that the Chargers have lost their edge.

Third, kudos to Tom Brady for ripping the Eagles and other Pats competitors for claiming that Belichick's alleged cheating (remember: only the games against the Jets this year and Green Bay last year have any sort of proof) helped the Pats in the Super Bowl against the Iggles. Philly complained that the Pats knew just what plays to run against its defense -- traps and screens. Brady's sharp counter: of course we ran a lot of screen plays, the Eagles blitz every down. He's right, the Eagles are off base and the issue should be a dead letter. The way Philly played and Andy Reid coached that game, the Pats should have won by 20.

Fourth, kudos to Big Blue: the Giants finally exhibited some defensive acumen and stopped the Redskins for the whole second half yesterday in a 24-17 comeback win in Landover. Seems similar to the Giants' OT win in Philly last year. One question I had was why did Joe Gibbs fail to give his team its best opportunity to win -- sitting Clinton Portis with the game on the line in the final minute as the 'skins sought to bang in the tying TD from the one was simply moronic. There's a reason Portis scored 7 TD in 7 starts last year and Ladell Betts scored 4 in 9 starts -- Portis is a better short-yardage runner. Thanks for the brain hiccup Joe!

Friday, September 21, 2007

This is nice to read

A nice profile of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

Schaub is a UVa grad.

An early bow?

Joel Sherman says Cashman and Torre deserve to take a bow for the Yankees' accomplishment of resuscitating its season to within a magic number of 5 to clinch a playoff spot. He's right, they both deserve credit for the Yanks' current 67-35 rebound from their 21-29 start, refusal to deal their top prospects and use of the Yanks' kiddie corps to fuel the run.

Sherman will be right when the Yanks clinch a playoff spot. Not yet. The Monk still remembers how the Yanks finished their 2000 season (3-15), turning a race for best record in the AL into a scrap just to maintain what had been a huge lead over the Blosax.

European weakness run amok

Daniel Mandel discusses what he calls "preemptive appeasement" in Europe, but it's really cultural and historical betrayal as European countries deny the truth, whitewash history and reconfigure their societies to conform to the sensibilities of their Muslim populations.

Sleeping with the enemy

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger is a reprehensible example of academic embrace of Left-wing idiocy. The latest is Columbia's invitation to Iranian Holocaust-denying president Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, an invitation it made last year and which Bollinger rescinded.

As Bill Kristol notes (see linked article), Columbia says: Iranian Armageddonist: yes; ROTC: no.

As we've noted before, that is not unusual for Columbia.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Andy Pettitte: Hall of Fame Resume

One thing seemingly lost in the immediate aftermath of the Yanks' 2-1 win last night over the Orioles was the Andy Pettitte factor. And that's not new -- the modest, unassuming, humble, and genial Pettitte is the epitome of understated effectiveness. Last night, he won his 200th game. His winning percentage is .641 (200-112). He's considering retiring after this season. Five years after he retires, he should be preparing his induction speech for Cooperstown. So why isn't he mentioned prominently as a future Hall of Famer?

There is no good reason. Pettitte's Hall of Fame credentials are clear: 200 wins, a high winning percentage, 14 postseason victories, four World Series rings, seven pennant winners, two 20-win seasons (that's more than Don Sutton, a Hall member who pitched 23 years). Did Pettitte pitch for good teams? Of course. But he was one of the reasons they were good.

Compare Pettitte's resume to some Hall members: he has a better winning percentage than Jim Palmer (.638), Dazzy Vance (.585), Steve Carlton (.574), Waite Hoyt (.566), Sutton (.559), Don Drysdale (.557), Red Ruffing (.548), Gaylord Perry (.542), and Nolan Ryan (.526) -- and that's just a sampling. Among contemporaries, Pettitte has a better winning percentage than all of the Braves' Big Three of the 1990s who will be in the Hall (Maddux .619, Glavine .606, Smoltz .590).

Pettitte's career ERA+ (his ERA relative to the league as a whole, > 100 means he's better than the average pitcher) is 118. That's the same as Warren Spahn and better than Sutton (108), Nolan Ryan (112), Carlton (115) and Catfish Hunter (104), among others.

He has 14 postseason wins, 21 of his 34 starts have been quality starts. He won the 2001 ALCS MVP, beat Smoltz in the dramatic game 5 of the '96 WS that set the stage for the Yankees' title and ripping the team of the decade appellation from the Braves' clutches . . . and the list could continue.

It's really simple. Pettitte won the 200th game of a Hall of Fame career. All that's left is for Cooperstown to reserve him his rightful place.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Assad and the Mullahs in Bed

Antoine Ghanem, a Christian Phalangist member of Lebanon's parliament who was staunchly opposed to Syria, was murdered by a car bomb today.

With that in mind reading the following Reuters report one is sorely tempted to think "Couldn't have happened to nicer people":

LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - An explosion at a Syrian military complex in July which killed 15 soldiers was a bid to arm a chemical warhead and was not caused by a heatwave as Damascus said, according to Jane's Defence Weekly.
But Jane's Defence, quoting Syrian defence sources, said the blast occurred as Syrian weapons experts, with Iranian backing, were attempting to activate a 500-km-range (300-mile-range) "Scud C" missile with a mustard gas warhead.
"The blast dispersed chemical agents (including VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent) across the storage facility and outside. Other Iranian engineers were seriously injured with chemical burns to exposed body parts."

The sources said dozens of Iranian missile engineers were killed along with the 15 Syrians.
The article, to be published in the Sept. 29 edition, said the Syrian-Iranian cooperation at the classified military production facility in Aleppo, northern Syria, was the result of a two-year-old weapons agreement between the two nations.

Under the deal, the magazine said, Iran agreed to supply Syria with weapons and ammunition, train Syrian personnel, and help transfer technology for weapons of mass destruction, including chemical-warfare systems.

It said the agreement, signed in November 2005, had led to the establishment of five pilot facilities in Syria aimed at producing chemical weapon

Gee. And the wags said that Sunnis and Shias couldn't cooperate?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UPDATE II: The Wheel of Time

According to an entry on Jordan's own website (linked above), despite the passing of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., aka Robert Jordan, the Wheel of Time series will conclude even though Jordan barely started the final book. Evidently, he knew his remaining time was limited and prepared accordingly by discussing the plot threads. Those discussions were recorded and will form the basis for book 12.

The Monk's suggestion: see if Guy Gavriel Kay is willing and able to help. Kay worked extensively with Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R.'s grandson and literary executor) to produce The Silmarillion and later became a best-selling fantasy author on his own (Fionavar Tapestry, Tigana, etc.).

Contributions to the Mayo Clinic for Amyloidosis Research to honor Jordan's passing should be made in the name of James Rigney.

UPDATE re: Chermerinsky

In a previous post we noted the hiring of noted Prof. Erwin Chermerinsky as dean of the future UC-Irvine law school, and the school's inexplicable decision to rescind that offer.

It has now rescinded that rescission. Matt Welch rightly rips the UCI chancellor for his sloppiness and wonders if it's true that the chancellor did rescind the initial offer due to pressure from unnamed Republicans who disliked Chermerinsky's stated political views.

The Monk wonders why those unnamed Republicans have decided to implement a page from the Left's playbook.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday thoughts

Trying to steal a stylistic page from Glenn Reynolds:

A European court rules against Microsoft. Frankly this is a Brussels ruling against an AMERICAN company. A DOMINANT AMERICAN COMPANY. Disappoint but not really a surprise.

Sergei Kovalyov says Russia run by secret police
MOSCOW, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Veteran Russian rights activist Sergei Kovalyov said the secret police in Russia today have even more influence than when he was jailed for 7 years for spreading anti-Soviet propaganda.

Kovalyov, who was part of the same dissident circle as Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, told Reuters in an interview that the heirs to the Soviet KGB had adapted their methods but were still repressing civil liberties.
"In certain senses the situation is even worse (than in the Soviet Union)," Kovalyov told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.

"The current Kremlin team ... are all from the KGB, all of them, everyone who takes decisions is from there or shares the same ideology, the same concept of what a state should be. And that team acts single-mindedly and very effectively."

A Gordon Brown commissioned report called "Economic aspects of peace in the Middle East" links a stronger Palestinian economy to better security for Israel. Skimming it very briefly it seems to make the fatuous argument that "its deprivation that has done this to these poor people" and deprivation is due to the beastly Israelis. Raising per capita income won't reduce suicide bombings.

Nick Saban revives dreams of glory at Alabama for this long-suffering 'Bama fan.

This long suffering Jet fan also likes what he sees in Kellen Clemens, the backup Jet QB who played yesterday. One reason why McCareins dropped two passes? Clemens has way more zip on the ball than Pennington, and as a matter of fact, any Jet QB I can remember back to Ken O'Brien.

The Derek Jeter gene is nice and healthy - you know the one that says "I MUST get a hit and I MUST catch this bloop."

Pyongyang - Damascus Pact?

As we mentioned the other day we thought there was a chance that something significant might be brewing in the Middle East given an Israeli strike in Syria week before last.

Here is an update. Excerpt:

Based on reporting from the Middle East and Washington, the Times story confirmed that Israeli warplanes targeted nuclear materials that were apparently shipped to Syria by North Korea. The article also verified claims that the recent strike was an air/ground operation, with Israeli commandos providing laser designation for F-15Is, which dropped precision weapons on their targets.

Sources also tell the Times that the raid destroyed storage bunkers at a supposed "agricultural" complex along the Euphrates River, near the Iraqi border. The facility apparently gained the attention of Israel's intelligence services, which ordered additional overhead coverage of the target in recent months. According to the Times (and the Washington Post), the raid appeared to coincide with the arrival of a North Korean ship at a Syrian port. The North Korea vessel docked only three days before the airstsrike, carrying a cargo listed was as cement, but was suspected of concealing nuclear equipment.
Truth be told, we may never know what was at that "agricultural center" along the Euphrates. But it is revealing that the Israelis, who had been watching the facility for months, suddenly elected to strike the complex, after that "cargo" arrived from North Korea. Something about the shipment spurred Israel to action, suggesting that it was more than equipment, or material that could be eventually used in nuclear weapons.

Worth reading in its entirety.

James Oliver Rigney, Jr., 1948-2007

There are many authors who have borrowed characters created by someone else. Kevin Anderson has made a living off writing books set in the Star Wars universe that George Lucas created; numerous authors, including Hugo winner Vonda McIntyre, have penned Star Trek novels. John Gardner became known for his novels featuring Ian Fleming's superspy James Bond. Few of the authors who use another's existing characters are themselves good writers or notable.

One of the most popular characters who has been borrowed by other authors is Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard's most enduring creation. In 1990, one of Howard's borrowers branched out and embarked upon the most ambitious fantasy story arc in the history of the genre. Alas, he won't finish it.

Fantasy fiction, created largely by George MacDonald and E.R. Eddison and established as a viable literary genre by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, was a niche market in the 1980s. There were some fairly popular series and stories, but widespread acclaim and success was rare.

Then Tor published The Eye of The World in 1989. Written by Robert Jordan, the first volume of The Wheel of Time cycle became a huge success -- a NY Times bestseller with a genre-changing scope, strong female characters, coldly evil villains, and the subversive premise of chronicling the life of the messiah from the time he was marked as a savior to the Final Battle. Filled with various cultures and a cast of characters that would make War and Peace look tightly written, The Wheel of Time now spans 11 volumes, all 800+ pages in paperback in what is now the most popular fantasy series written by an American. And despite the criticisms of the various Tolkien clones who have put pen to paper in an effort to get their fantasy stories published, it was the Wheel of Time that established the viability of fantasy fiction as best-seller material.

Jordan's life before WoT is less known. A highly decorated war hero who served two tours in Vietnam, he graduated from The Citadel (South Carolina's military academy) and worked as a nuclear engineer at the Charleston Naval Shipyard. Thirty years ago he quit his day job to write full time, first as Reagan O'Neal, an author of historical fiction and later as Robert Jordan, author of fantasy fiction. Both pseudonyms have a common element -- the names have initials from the author's real name, James Oliver Rigney, Jr.

A Southerner all his life, Jordan died yesterday after a protracted battle with amyloidosis -- a rare blood disease. He never completed the 12th and final volume of The Wheel of Time series, nor the two prequels Jordan wanted to author.

James Oliver Rigney, Jr., RIP.

In their rivals' heads?

Buster Olney parroted the conventional wisdom Saturday when he wrote in his ESPN column (insider subscription only) that the Yankees were in the RedSux' heads and Exhibit 1 was the Yanks' startling comeback against the best of the Redstiff bullpen -- Okajima and Papelbon. Then the denizens of Ratway went out and whupped the Yanks. But yesterday, the Yanks did it again as Jeter banged a three-run homer off Schilling and Mo squeaked out a save despite a dead arm that he incurred while warming up in the bullpen because an errant toss from the neighboring RedSax 'pen plunked Rivera in the right elbow. Are the Yanks in the Redhos' heads? The Monk says no -- not after Beckett put on his best show of the year against the Yanks on Saturday, not after DiceK tightroped his way through nearly 6 innings on Friday, and not after the close games in the Stadium in late August where the Redgarters' starters pitched better than they had against the Yanks in April-June.

Here are some key facts and figures from the Yanks-Sawx series this year, which the Yanks won 10-8.

1. Quantity: The Yanks are the highest-scoring team in baseball, but the Redarses reached the 10-run plateau three times against the Yanks, the Yanks maxed out at 9. Scoring margin favored the Beanheads, not the Yanks.

1a. Quantity: In the first seven games between the teams at the rat-infested puke-green pit of baseball idiocy, neither scored less than five runs in any game. Indeed, the Yanks held the Sawx under five at the ratden once -- yesterday. The Sax turned that trick twice -- Saturday and yesterday. Note that the Stiffs have the best ERA in the AL, and the second-best in all of baseball; the Yanks are a pedestrian 8th in the AL -- that's what happens with too many Moosepatties (18-9, 16-0 losses). The Yanks are the second-highest scoring AL road team (Tigers), the Beacon Hill fatboys are second in home scoring in the AL but only 7th in home ERA.

2. Quality: The porous Yankee pitching staff had SEVEN quality starts in the 18 games against the Stucks, all by Pettitte/Wang/Clemens; Bawstin put together just TWO quality starts against the Yanks. Yes, you read that correctly. Baastin has 79 QS in 150 games, its 77/132 rate against all others would put it second in the AL, the 2/18 against the Yanks helped drop the Redbutt QS rate to sixth, below the putrid White Sax. The Yanks are worse = #8. Against the Yanks, the Rawsaxs had a 5.25 ERA and a .273 BAA compared to the overall 3.85/.248; the Yanks had a 5.39/.286 compared to 4.48/.269 -- a much larger deviation for the fatboys.

3. Missing in action: the Yanks won four of five over the last two series with Bastun whilst fatboy 1 sat out with an oblique strain. The Crimsoncracks won five of six from the Yanks early in the season while the Yanks paraded Proctor and Farnsworth to the mound in crucial innings, started such future Koufaxes as Chase Wright and Jeff Karstens, and didn't have a fully healthy Wang.

4. Drama: The Sawx pulled off four late-inning comeback wins, all at the Rathole -- the first three games of the teams' meetings and the Saturday game in Beanville in early June. They cracked Rivera once. Unlike last year when they could barely touch him, the Yanks have popped Papelbon twice -- two losses and one blown save; he has three of each this year. A-Rod won his battle with Papelbon twice with the game on the line -- Friday and June 3.

5. Trends: The Yanks have won four straight series against the Sux -- two in Bastun, two at the Stadium, and nine of 12 in those sets after starting out 1-5. I've noted previously that the Yanks slow start viz. the Beanheads is a trend, not an aberration -- it's happened in three of the past four years. Unlike the 2004 team, these Yanks actually won two series in the Beanpot; that team won zero.

A fine statement

Here's a prime example of a beat writer who is simply disgusted that he will spend the rest of his sport's season watching a team that absolutely stinks. From the NY Post's Paul Schwartz:

For the second consecutive game, the Giants performed on defense as if tackling were an option, mounting a pass rush were against their religious beliefs and covering opposing receivers had secretly been banned.

The Monk watched the Cowboys roll the Jints 45-35 last week and marveled at the surfeit of Madden '08 plays that the Cowpatties made -- the easy pass completions that turned into huge gains including the clinching 51-yard TD on a quick sideline pattern. I remember when the Giants had a defense that scared the opponents. This year, it's a defense that makes fantasy football league participants salivate when their guys matchup with the big blue busts.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bottom story of the day: Socialist reject missile shield

Evidently Yahoo! thought this is important: the Socialist party leaders from Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia rejected the missile shield the US proposes to build in and for those countries.

Here's a secret that doesn't appear in the article: most of the socialists in Czech Repub., Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland are holdovers from the Commie apparatus that ruled those countries (when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia) from the late 1940s through 1989-90. In other words, KGB operative Vladimir Putin hates the notion of a US DEFENSIVE missile shield in Eastern Europe, so now the ex-Commies from USSR satellites fall in line with him.

Oh yeah, the Austrian and German socialists were pro-USSR too.

NOW, you can take that article for what it's worth.

Lack of Killer Instinct?

I am sure Monk will have something more erudite to contribute but I seem to sense a the lack of a killer instinct in Torre last night.

In a nutshell, Francona uses Papelbon down 4-3 at home in the 9th. Papi hits a two run bomb in the bottom of the 9th to steal a win for Boston.

TIED 1-1 away Torre uses Chris Britton. Britton gave up two singles with a stolen base in between that cost the game.

Sure Vizcaino had already been used, Joba had pitched the night before and so had Mo. Putting myself in Torre's shoes he's thinking "I've won seven in a row. I can't use Joba and want to save Mo for Boston."

That's bad thinking because a win is a win and even though a 5 game lead (at the time) in the loss column over Detroit is good with 19 or so left to play I would have tried Mo for at least an inning, counting his pitches. At the end of the day Boston hits Mo better than most and a win in Toronto is probably easier than a win in Boston under similar circumstances.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The "MoveOn" Times

It should come as little surprise that Arthur Sulzberger's New York Times is sympathetic to the ideas espoused by the snakes at Remember, Sulzberger is infamous for a comment, during the Vietnam War, that he would prefer an American casualty to a North Vietnamese one.

The New York Post has found that the Times is perhaps a bit more than just sympathetic. The Times it turns out gave the MoveOn crew a 65% discount - from $181,000 to $65,000 - for the risible "General Betray Us" ad that the group took out in the Times on Monday which coincided with General Petraeus' testimony to Congress on the progress of the war.

According to Abbe Serphos, director of public relations for the Times, "the open rate for an ad of that size and type is $181,692."

A spokesman for confirmed to The Post that the liberal activist group had paid only $65,000 for the ad - a reduction of more than $116,000 from the stated rate.

A Post reporter who called the Times advertising department yesterday without identifying himself was quoted a price of $167,000 for a full-page black-and-white ad on a Monday.

Serphos declined to confirm the price and refused to offer any inkling for why the paper would give such a discounted price.

"I'm surprised they had to pay anything at all for the ad," [a] GOP staffer said. "They could have just asked the editorial page to run it and it wouldn't have cost them a cent."

The Times as a private organization is free to charge whatever it wants to run advertisements. It does though tell you exactly where the Times stands - you could certainly argue that the Times paid for two-thirds of the ad and are as responsible for it as

Well done.

L'Shanah Tovah 5768

Wishing our friends peace, health, prosperity and inscription in the book of Life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wanted: dean for new law school

I don't get this. Last week, Erwin Chermerinsky was hired to be the inaugural dean of UC-Irvine's law school, which will open in 2009. A week later, he got sacked.

Who in the academic world does not know that Erwin Chermerinsky is a left-wing law professor? And how can opposition to Chermerinsky from conservatives on the university's board of regents lead to his firing? The notion does not make sense -- rightists on the board should know fully how academic freedom in this country is endangered by radical left-wing domination of the academy, respect the principle of academic freedom, know enough about Chermerinsky to understand he's a leftist but not someone who would squelch opposing views, and certainly have no fear of installing a dean with left-wing views when that dean has Chermerinsky's high standing in the profession. Unless Chermerinsky had detailed to the board his plan for strict speech and anti-harrassment codes, his desire to hire disciples of Stephen Reinhardt, Catherine MacKinnon, and H. Lee Sarokin and delineated his intent to discriminate against certain classes of student, there seems no reason to revoke the job for political reasons.

What a bad call.

Then again, it's a board of regents -- they often do not make sense.


Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made a subtle but important distinction in a short piece he wrote yesterday on the sixth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

The fact is that all freedom-loving people throughout the world are engaged in a struggle against the barbarism of Islamist extremism. This is not a battle between civilizations, but rather a battle for civilization.
Our cause is the cause of defending liberty and freedom against a totalitarian movement that is the evil heir to the twin totalitarian threats of the 20th century. Islamist extremism, like fascism and communism, seeks to eliminate all of the ideals that free peoples cherish.

The Blowback myth

Did the US create bin Laden?


As most overblown Islamic warrior narratives have been derived (see, Arab perception of "victory" in the 1973 Yom Kippur War), this one is simply not true, as Jonah Goldberg notes:

[In May 1987] Bin Laden helped lead the Arab Afghans in their most successful military effort: defending their mountain lair, the so-called Lion’s Den. The battle was militarily successful in the sense that the already retreating Red Army was held at bay on its way out of Dodge.

“From the Soviet perspective the battle of the Lion’s Den was a small moment in the tactical retreat from Afghanistan,” wrote Lawrence Wright, my source for all of this, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Looming Tower.” But for Bin Laden and his followers, it was divine proof that the mujahedin crushed the mighty Soviets. There was, according to Wright, “a dizzying sense that they were living in a supernatural world, in which reality knelt before faith. For them, the encounter at the Lion’s Den became the foundation of the myth that they defeated the superpower.”

Armed with this useful myth, the Arab Afghans became the core of a new global jihadist insurgency called al Qaeda.

Bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri, were convinced that they were the protagonists in a world historical drama, when in fact they were more like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, jabbering outside of the limelight.

Thus, the myth of bin Laden as a hero, warrior and leader. Today, the Left sees blowback everywhere:

For years, some of the shriller voices on the left have argued that 9/11 was a classic example of “blowback” from our support of the mujahedeen’s struggle against Afghanistan. But the fact is we didn’t “create Bin Laden” — he largely created himself. And to the extent that any superpower can claim credit for him, it’s the Soviets. It was their withdrawal, not our support, that convinced the foreign fighters that their pinpricks felled the Soviet bear.

Today, a new “blowback” thesis is in the works. The Washington Post, Time, and the Associated Press are just a few of the news outlets that have asserted the U.S. is arming the Sunnis in Iraq. This is simply not true, Gen. David H. Petraeus insisted in congressional testimony Monday. But it’s no surprise that so many people are leaping to that conclusion because the familiar “blowback” story line is the only plausible one for millions of people who’ve made up their minds that the war is, was and forever shall be hubristic folly.

OECD: No Biofuels

PARIS, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Biofuels, championed for reducing energy reliance, boosting farm revenues and helping fight climate change, may in fact hurt the environment and push up food prices, a study suggested on Tuesday. In a report on the impact of biofuels, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said biofuels may "offer a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal". "The current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits," the OECD said. "When acidification, fertiliser use, biodiversity loss and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel," it added. The OECD therefore called on governments to cut their subsidies for the sector and instead encourage research into technologies that would avoid competing for land use with food production. "Governments should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out," it said.

Somewhere, someone is very unhappy.


There is quite a bit of prattling in Europe about the possible divorce in Belgium between the Dutch speaking Flemish North and French speaking Wallonia in the South. Though very unlikely, a 'velvet divorce' (a la Czechoslovakia becoming Czech Republic and Slovakia) in the seat of the European Union would be very amusing to say the least.

What would become of the country that brought the world the saxophone, the Smurfs (Yes!), the Body Mass Index and Leopold II?


I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories but the pieces together seem to indicate that sometime material might be brewing in the Middle East. I still judge only a 25% chance of a major incident.

The pieces:

- The biggest one: Israeli warplanes struck somewhere in Syria on September 6. Israel has been unusually reticent about the strike which the US has confirmed. Israeli authorities typically are quite upfront after military ops are executed. Speculation has cited arms headed for Hezbollah, North Korean nuclear material in transit, testing new Syrian air defences have been floated.

- Anecdotal citings that Israeli soldiers not allowed to go home for Rosh Hashanah? Uncertain what typical practice is in the IDF

- Oil has been rallying steadily and indefatigably over the past few weeks trading at all time highs

- Gold has been rallying steadily and is within sight of highs made last year

If there is a major surprise, look for crude and gold to rally, global equities and the dollar to tank as a first reaction.

Just a little easy -- the High School Musical fallout

It turns out that little miss sweetheart Vanessa Hudgins (currently 18) was 16 when she sent her little nudie pics to a crush -- an actor who was then 17 (there are both blurred and, apparently, unblurred reprints of the pics on the 'Net). She took and sent the pics two years ago. There are words for that type of girl, including slutty and easy. Bikini pics are one thing -- after all most teen girls will trot around in bikinis on the beach. But full monty?

I'm surprised and disappointed Disney has not fired her. Both she and the actor (who said he did not receive the pics) were underage.

Unfortunately for us, but not so for our parents' fears, Wongdoer and I grew up in the age of the AIDS scare. Back then, college graduates had more than a 20% virginity rate. Nonetheless, despite their parents' laissez-faire attitudes and the media idea that teens are catting around like Sinatra (see about 1/4 of the episodes of House, the CBS Without a Trace teen orgy scene that spurred the largest ever fine for a major network, etc.), teens today have less sex than the Reagan Era generation.

Perhaps there is a level of revulsion with the ever-present images and themes of sex in the media. Few media outlets are more vulgar in their sex-is-life ethos than MTV, but that channel is failing fast. Maybe Vanessa Hudgins' small star will fade like Lindsay Lohan's or Paris Hilton's. After all, few things are less surprising than people's ability to live up to the standards set for them -- whether high, middling or low -- and there thankfully remains some stigma that attaches to 16-year old girls who bare all to get noticed.

The Defeatists' denials

It's bad enough that Democratic Presidential candidates use the appearance of Gen. David Petraeus as an opportunity to bang the drum for their campaigns. What's worse is the malevolent refusal to credit the evidence of improvement in Iraq.

It's lovely when a general, whose credibility and integrity is beyond question to any rational observer, is accused of being a waterboy for the President and essentially of lying to Congress. That's how the Defeatocrats treat him. And it leads to this Pauline Kael moment from Chris Dodd:

Mr. Dodd announced that he would not support any funding bill for Iraq or Afghanistan unless it included a date certain for withdrawal. "People are getting tired of hearing things are getting better. I don't know anybody who believes that," he said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six years on

The sixth anniversary of the 9-11-01 attacks is more eerie than the previous five. First, today is a Tuesday, and 9-11-01 was a Tuesday. Second, the country as a whole has lost perspective. From complacency to insanity to outright inanity, reactions by American politicians, Europeans and the general American populace to the events of six years ago have been, at best, generally misguided -- and prominent members of the media have completely lost their minds. Mark Steyn said it best for his column that appeared on 9-12-01 in the Daily Telegraph "On Tuesday the post-Cold War era ended, and a new one began." Too few people recognized this at the time (although to his credit, Pres. Bush was one and the indefatigable Norman Podhoretz is another) and even fewer comprehend that today.

Jonah Goldberg notes the prevailing thought process, and why that conventional wisdom is flat wrong:

It quickly became a cliché that 9/11 changed everything, but when it comes to the basic divisions of the last 20 years, 9/11 didn’t change nearly enough so much as accentuate everything we knew before. And that all but guarantees we’ll have another 9/11 of which to ponder the meaning.

Indeed, the ennui and complacency of the US and especially Europe (including Israel) in the face of the continuing intent of Islamist terrorists to murder massive numbers of innocent civilians is staggering. This observation from Nancy Gibbs of Time Magazine shows how little has changed despite how much needed to do so:

The homefront remains on alert, but in a leisurely, one eye open kind of way. Police at the Pentagon scrape the air for signs of radiation or chemical attack, track the wind direction to guide escaping employees. But 9/11 Commission chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton used the anniversary to remind people that security remains a shield with holes. Most air cargo is still not screened, the high tech bomb detectors are indefinitely delayed, and Congress demands tighter standards for drivers' licenses but won't fund them. The broadcast industry has until 2009 to turn over the spectrum that rescuers need to beam signals through concrete and steel. Three years ago, Kean and Hamilton observe, their commission noted that the Department of Homeland Security reported to 88 congressional committees and subcommittees. At least that number has now been pared down - to 86.

Feel better?

Neither do I.


Attacked because our freedom is an existential threat to the enemy.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Some thoughts and comments:

- The normally very bullish Larry Kudlow is worried. He's got a reason to be. He writes:

American companies are already experiencing their first profit declines in over five years. Non-financial domestic corporations have experienced negative profit margins and falling profits over the past three quarters. Treasury Department tax collections from business income have fallen off a cliff. Wall Street analyst Dan Clifton revealed that corporate tax revenues fell 29 percent in August compared to a year ago. And these tax collections have dropped in three of the past four months. A year ago, they were rising by more than 20 percent.

A very smart analyst has always argued that TAX RECEIPTS are the truest indicator of the health of the economy because NO ONE pays taxes that they don't have to and they don't pay taxes on future profits.

- He's human. Roger Federer won his fourth straight US Open in straight sets. He now has 12 Grand Slams wins at the tender age of 27. It wasn't a walkover though as Serbian Novak Djokovic, behind an impressive power game, held seven set points in the first two sets but was unable to convert even once. Can't think of another player who has dominated his or her sport so effectively and so long.

- South Florida upsets Auburn. Makes this Alabama fan real happy though one might argue that it could cheapen a Crimson Tide win in the Iron Bowl three months from now.

- Watched (as I wasn't controlling the remote) Britney Spear's comeback on the VMA awards. Hat tip to the lady for coming back after her recent travails though she would have been better advised to have sported a skintight leotard than the shiny two piece bikini. And that comedienne who came up after her. Her routine was in such excruciatingly bad taste that you could literally hear the sound of crickets through the television.


for the Harvard Lampoon.

Deplorable for a political organization.

Egregious that it is supported by legions of the Left and leading Democrats.

The party of Benedict Arnold.

Ah, the NFL

NFL means Not For Long. Like "Not For Long" will Tom Coughlin remain coaching if the Giants' defense continues to resemble the Madden '08 Titans (#32 of 32 teams in 2006) on the lowest difficulty setting. Tony Romo threw just 24 passes, completed 15 and amassed 347 yards. Those are numbers that Matt Leinart rolled up in college against lower-end Pac-10 teams. The Cowboys gained 8.7 yards per play -- that's ludicrous. The Giants rolled up 6.5 yards per play and Eli Manning threw 4 TDs. After the game, Cowboys' coach Wade Phillips said his team had room for improvement but the required improvements would be easy to handle. One postgame radio caller said, "yeah, like tackling can be improved in one week? It's only something these guys have been taught repeatedly for like 20 years . . ."

Speaking of not for long -- in the first two weeks of the college football season, Lloyd Carr has done the worst coaching job of a talented team that I've seen. This team had defensive starters returning, has some of the best talent in the nation, and had its top three skill players on offense eschewing the NFL for a chance to play for a national title.

First, Michigan gets rolled for 28 points in the first half against a I-AA school at home. Then, Michigan gets ripped for more than 600 yards and 39 points by a non-Top 25 team at home. That's pathetic. The sick thing is that Michigan could have beaten App. State but should never have had the chance -- App. State had first and goal at the UM 5 with 30 seconds left and immediately kicked the FG. That call is as stupid as it gets -- the Mounties could have run the clock to almost nothing, positioned the ball in the middle of the field, killed Michigan's TOs and kicked the game winner as time ran out. Instead, Michigan had a chance, unloaded a 46-yard pass to set up the game-winner, and only another miracle saved App. State.

This past Saturday, Michigan was so bad it gave up an easy 85-yard TD pass early, and then coughed up one of the worst plays I've seen -- a 61-yard TD toss behind a three-deep zone. Oregon had a slot and wideout on the left, they crossed and the slot ran an out. The corner rolled to the slot man; the right safety got beat deep by the wideout (no shock) but instead of having the central safety (free safety) help out, that player was looking the wrong way the whole time from before the snap through the whole play -- to the OreU right. Throw, catch, TD, 32-7 at the half.

The saving grace for Michigan -- it plays Notre Dame (two FGs on offense, one defensive TD = 13 points scored all year, 64 against) this week. Then again, the saving grace for Notre Dame is it plays Michigan (73 points, 60 in first half, this year). Yeesh.

Brian DePalma, an Islamist's useful idiot

Naturally, Brian DePalma's agitprop movie Redacted won him a Best Director award at the Venice Film Festival. The story is about the gangrape of an Iraqi woman, and the murder of her family, by five US soldiers. The premise is that this is a normal activity by soldiers in a combat zone. The movie is paid for by the production company of another fool with too much money, Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban.

Of course DePalma ignores the facts that these men have received punishments that would be decried as excessive by just about any Western European nation and the majority of his Hollywood fellow travelers: five years for the least culpable, 110 years for the primary actors. In other words, some justice has been meted out -- the most culpable will end up dying in a military brig.

As Ralph Peters pointed out, "The military doesn't do warnings and probation. If a soldier does the crime, he or she will do the time or pay the other relevant penalty - court-martials directly reflect the number of crimes committed." For that reason, perhaps, the military's crime rate in Iraq is less than 1% of the crime rate of Santa Cruz, California -- the city that enacted the first resolution denouncing the current War in Iraq.

Worse yet, Redacted is reductive. As Bryan at Hot Air blog notes, the plot is nearly identical to Casualties of War -- a Michael Fox movie about a four-man gang rape in Vietnam, and the fifth man who turns them in. Not only is Hollywood misleading and skewing the truth, it repeats its own plotlines to do so.


Friday, September 07, 2007

August Employment Report

The August employment report showed that nonfarm payrolls CONTRACTED by 4,000 jobs against a consensus forecast of a 110,000 increase. This was the first drop in jobs in four years. Compounding the negative sentiment there were steep downward revisions to reports from June and July. That the unemployment rate, which is separately based on the household survey, was unchanged was the only spare, silver lining in the report.

Equity indices are off nearly two percent at the close with 10 year bonds up nearly half a point. All things being equal the equity indices held up reasonably possibly due to the fact that the bearishness of the data has made a 25 basis point cut in the fed funds rate on September 18th a foregone conclusion. The real speculation now is wehter the Fed will come through with 50 basis points (one-half of one percent).

The FOMC is in an unenviable position as 'only' a 25 bp cut now would probably cause a significant selloff and Capitol Hill will squarely blame the Fed for not doing enough to help the economy. Data on economic activity will be scrutinized closely over the next week.

The Fed needs to act and appear to act decisively. The key to this market crisis is that it is hitting at the root of economic activity which is housing. The planning, construction, sale and furnishing of new homes are a principal engine of the economy. The nearly frozen mortgage markets are starving what had already been a fluttering engine. It will take a lot of revive the mortgage markets and it is likely that the egregious lending practices that fueled the subprime sickness will be gone for good but confidence along with the provision of liquidity is critical and the Fed needs to cut AND sound dovish.

Luciano Pavarotti 1935 - 2007

Luciano Pavarotti, considered by many to be THE tenor of the 20th century, died Wednesday. I found the following from a tribute to Pavarotti when he retired from the Met to remarkable:

Pavarotti was occasionally dismissed as a simpleton with a freak instrument. This was absurd. Pavarotti was a marvelous musician, though not a schooled one. He was a natural. Anyone can acquire the schooling; musicality is not for sale. It has always been said — whispered, snorted — that Pavarotti can’t read music. I, for one, was always skeptical of this claim. First of all, millions of schoolchildren around the world can read music — it’s no big deal. Second, how could Pavarotti function, in his career, without reading music? It’s on the order of functioning in the literary world without being able to read words.

Not long ago, I had a chance to speak to someone close to Pavarotti, a colleague (who adores him). “Would you put a myth to rest for me?” I asked. “What about this ridiculous notion that Pavarotti can’t read music?” “He can’t,” replied my source. “He really can’t” — which, of course, makes Pavarotti’s achievement all the more remarkable. He has a phenomenal memory, a phenomenal ability to absorb, repeat, intuit.

I guess that's like a great poet who can't really read.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Only in China

BEIJING, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Music, books and Hollywood films... China can now add testimonies of regret by corrupt officials to its exhaustive list of copyright violations. Zhang Shaocang, former Communist Party chief of state-owned power company Anhui Province Energy Group Co Ltd, wept as he read a four-page "letter of apology" during his corruption trial at a court in Fuyang, Anhui, according to a Procuratorial Daily report reproduced in Wednesday's Beijing News. But Zhang's sentiments were later found to be strikingly similar to those of Zhu Fuzhong, a disgraced former party chief of Tongan village in southwestern Sichuan province, whose apology letter was printed in the Procuratorial Daily less than two weeks before. "Before working, I never gave much thought to money and regarded achievement as the starting point and end result of my work," the paper quoted both of the letters as saying. "I gradually lost my bearings and the scope of my position," Zhang said at his trial, an exact copy of Zhu's own wording. Apart from using whole sentences word for word, Zhang also -- more craftily -- made "slight changes" in other areas. The Procuratorial Daily, the official paper of China's top prosecutions office, is distributed as reading material at many "supervision venues," the paper said, referring to the often secret locations where Communist Party officials are held for questioning.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Observations of the day

(1) This is just a new father's wonderment.

In chemistry class I learned that gas will fill the volume of its container, the question of the amount of the gas is answered by evaluating the density of the gas in that container. Thus a diver's air tank is "full" of air unless there is basically no air in it, but the density of the air (measured by air pressure) tells how much remains.

In babies, the density of gastronomical gases is thicker than Jupiter's atmosphere. How else can a little package unleash flatulence that sounds like either a Whoopie! cushion or some comedic gag from a raunchy movie?

And oh yeah, that claim that baby poo has no smell if he feeds straight from mother nature's tap is rubbish. Either that, or the purveyors of such tripe have no olfactory senses.

(2) Speaking of poo -- how 'bout them Yankees? Forget the three-game hiccup where they swept the RedSawx. The real Yankees are somewhere between the team that routed the Tampas and Torontos and the team that got whupped by Detroit, Baltimore (twice over) and Tampa. Here's some frightening stuff: (a) the Tigers are 13-27 since the break if you discount their 3-1 series win over the Yankees; (b) the Mariners broke a 9-game loser yesterday by whipping the Yanks; (c) the Yanks have ONE win from anyone other than Pettitte, Clemens or Wang in their last 20 games; (d) the Yanks' last four losses have been by a combined 40-4 score; (e) the Yanks, despite baseball's best offense, have scored more than 5 runs in a game just once in their past nine.

Oh yeah, Clemens is undergoing an MRI on his right elbow. All too often, that's the prelude to Tommy John surgery. If Clemens has any type of ligament damage, his career is over.

(3) Here's the question of the day -- can Phil Hughes be corrected like Ted Lilly was? When Lilly went to Toronto, the BloJs spotted something in his delivery. They corrected it by shifting the landing spot for his right leg closer to his body -- he was better able to keep the ball down and increased his velocity. Hughes has been basically a flyball-only pitcher since his return from the DL. His velocity is 90-92, not 93-95 as it had been. Is he failing the same way Lilly did? If so, can he correct it? The Monk believes Hughes will be HUGE in the near future (some Yankee homer ran the numbers for star pitchers like Maddux, Clemens, Palmer, when they were sub-23 and then 23-plus and found that age was a turning point -- Phil Franchise is 21), but guidance is necessary now.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fun in the Big House

The Monk is laughing his a** off after Michigan's home loss to Appalachian State yesterday. There is no preseason in college football, so a lot of major teams schedule cupcakes for their openers -- like USC playing Idaho, Ohio State scheduling Youngstown State, Oklahoma setting a game against North Texas, Texas setting a match with Arkansas State, and Penn State lining up a home date against Florida International. Indeed, to my chagrin, Penn State (I've been a big fan since I was 7) has three of the worst teams in Division I-A (now known as the Football Bowl Division or some such nonsense) to ensure it obtains the 6 wins necessary for a bowl bid: Fla. International, Buffalo and Temple.

Appalachian State is in Boone, N.C. No, I don't know either. Its only previous wins against Division I-A competition were cross-state match-ups against former ACC cellar-dweller Wake Forest. It does have a legacy of success because it's the two-time defending I-AA champion (that's a division that actually has playoffs instead of polls). Michigan, however, is the preseason consensus pick to win the Big T(elev)en and was ranked #5 yesterday. It returns its top running back, starting QB and a future first round WR pick for the NFL. And it has Division I-A quality players. App. State just outplayed it -- the Mountaineers ran up more than 380 yards, blocked two field goals, scored 28 points in the first half and ultimately played equally well against a top 5 program to win. Michigan's players complained about their mistakes and bad penalties after the game, but App. State actually committed more turnovers and still beat a top-tier Big T(elev)en team in front of 100,000+ in its home stadium.

It's disgraceful that major teams play against these cupcakes. Penn State set itself a schedule that rebuilding programs should not even play; it should schedule two of Pitt, West Virginia and Boston College as non-conference opponents to re-establish the traditional rivalries (Pitt-Penn State decided the Lambert Trophy winner each year from 1971-83 and used to be a Thanksgiving Friday national telecast) it used to play. Michigan should play a Pac-10 team each year like it did in the 1980s. But football is the financial lifeblood of most major athletics programs, therefore major teams need 7-8 home games each year and easily offset the $250-400K they pay the cupcakes to serve as sacrificial lambs with the extra home date. The revenue from a real playoff could change all that . . . but that's a wish for another day.

Until then -- I think App. State should play the BCS winner this year after the BCS "title" game. After all, it may well have earned it.