Thursday, November 29, 2007

The stupidest agency

The CIA is incompetent, stupid or simply a fifth column organization within the government.

How can the Agency completely fark this up?

In a letter made public Nov. 13, prosecutors in the [Zacharias] Moussaoui case admitted to [Judge Leonie] Brinkema that the CIA had wrongly assured her that no videotapes or audiotapes existed of interrogations of certain high-profile terrorism detainees. In fact, two such videotapes and one audio tape existed.

Brinkema is very liberal and anti-prosecutor. She made numerous favorable rulings for the Moussaoui defense that the Fourth Circuit overturned. In a recent case involving post-trial hearings for "Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric from Virginia sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for soliciting treason," Brinkema ripped the government's evidence handling and said she does not trust assurances from the CIA. This may result in al-Timimi obtaining a new trial.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pick an ace?

The Yanks essentially announced yesterday that they're seeking Johan Santana. The Twins made the astute move in 2000 to take the unprotected raw A-ball pitcher off the Astros in the Rule V draft, stuck him on the Twinkies' roster for a year, then began grooming him. In 2002, he whiffed 212 in 157 innings between AAA (13.87 K/9 ratio) and the Twins (11.38 K/9). The next year, he started their playoff series against the Yanks. In 2004, he won the Cy Young Award by putting out a Pedrovian performance (20-6, 6.16 H/9, 10.46 K/9 and nearly 5:1 K:BB ratio) and his 2005 and 2006 (CYA #2) seasons were both top-end. He's started five playoff games and allowed two runs or fewer four times.

He is an ace. But there are cracks in his armor -- his H/9 ratio this season was 7.5 -- nearly 25% more hits per nine innings than in his first CYA year. He gave up 33(!) homers. And his ERA was up 20% over last year.

Unless the Yanks get him in the next offseason, he shouldn't be a Yankee.


I agree with this guy, the price is too high. With a premium on young pitching, and the Yanks lacking position players in their farm system, coughing up Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and Jose Tabata is just stupid. As Buster Olney has noted, the Yanks would then have to pay for Santana's high-priced extension and another $10-12M for a free agent centerfielder (like Aaron Rowland) in the next two years before Austin Jackson is ready. And every dollar the Yanks pay a free agent is really $1.40 due to luxury tax -- that $10M per year for Rowland becomes a $14M hit to the Yanks; a $20M contract to Santana is a $28M hit. That's ludicrous.

Hughes is a potential franchise starter. He is only 21, and his numbers at that age are FAR better than Santana's even though Hughes pitched with an iffy leg for all but his first two starts in his rookie season. He's been on every Yankee fan's radar since the Yanks drafted him and dominated consistently (see Trenton 2006: 10-3, 2.09 ERA, 5.59 H/9, 10.7 K/9) in the farm system. In other words: the doubters need to smarten up. Talk all you want about Clay Buchholz and his 3-4 MLB quality pitches, and how Hughes' curve was inconsistent (partly because of the tweaked hamstring), Hughes can be a top of the rotation starter on a perennial contender. And the Yanks would give that away?

I hope not.

The other rumor also makes no sense: Cabrera, Tabata, Alan Horne and Chien-Ming Wang. Why would the Yanks trade a career 46-18 starter who is under contract for another three years for a starter who has fewer wins over the past two seasons (Wang 38, Santana 34)? If Wang isn't a #1 playoff starter, who cares? He can get better (see Pettitte, 1996 World Series). After all, in the playoffs from 1999-2001, Andy Pettitte was 6-3 and the '01 ALCS MVP (with two very solid starts in the '00 Series but two no-decisions); Roger Clemens was 6-4 (and 0-2 in the '00 ALDS against the A's); and El Duque went 7-2 and the '99 ALCS MVP. Only one of those three is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and a dominant ace, and he's the one with the worst record of that bunch. The Yanks are 5-1 in the ALDS when losing game 1, and that loss comes with the Lake Erie midge factor.

So keep Wang, keep Hughes, even keep Kennedy. If the Yanks want to cough up a young arm, trade Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan, whom they got from the Tigers in the Sheffield trade. Don't give up the stars in waiting (Wang, Joba, Phil, Kennedy) who could turn into the Bronx's own version of Glavine-Smoltz-Avery (see 1991-93 Braves), with hopefully better overall results.

And if the Yanks feel they need an ace-like alternative -- make a deal for Danny Haren of the A's. Oakland is about to tear it up and start over because the A's need better hitters and want to get cheap pitchers. Sanchez, Horne, Tabata and a minor league infielder could do the trick without touching the Joba-Phil-Ian triumvirate. Haren was 15-9, 3.07, 222.7 IP, 55/192 K/BB last year, he's under contract for less than $20M through 2010 and successfully transitioned from the NL to the AL. The Yanks need good pitching -- lefties are irrelevant (see 2004 RedSawx). A rotation built around Joba-Phil-Ian-Wang-Haren -- that has staying power.

Religion of Peace

And the West is worried about offending THEIR sensibilities.

KHARTOUM, Nov 28 (Reuters) - A British teacher detained in Sudan after her class called a teddy bear Mohammad was on Wednesday charged with insulting religion, state media said.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, was also charged with inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs.

"Khartoum north prosecution unit has completed its investigation and has charged the Briton Gillian (Gibbons) under Article 125 of the criminal code," the Sudanese news agency SUNA said, quoting a senior Justice Ministry official.

The matter would go before a court on Thursday and Gibbons was expected to appear. Lawyers say Gibbons, who is from Liverpool, could face 40 lashes, a fine, or six months in jail if convicted. In London, a spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office
said: "This has not been officially confirmed but we are urgently investigating."

Earlier on Wednesday, three British embassy officials and a teaching colleague from the Unity High School where Gibbons worked were allowed to visit her for more than 90 minutes.

"I can confirm that we have met Ms. Gibbons and she said she is being treated well," said British consul Russell Phillips. "We remain in close contact with the Sudanese authorities on this case," he said, declining to give further details.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sports geeks go nuts

A rare bonk from the great Verducci -- he tried to determine the most likely teams to go from sub-.500 in '07 to the playoffs in '08. But four of his six (Reds, A's, Twins, Royals, Rangers, Giants -- in that order) candidates are in the AL! That's a bit loopy: (1) the AL East will still be Yanks and RedSawx slugging it out to such a degree that one will win the division and the other will be favored to win the wild card slot; (2) Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago should all be good or better next year, and slugging it out in the AL Central should cripple the hopes of a wild card wannabe (in 13 years, only one wild card winner came from the AL Central); (3) the Angels are better than the 92 win '07 team, therefore the A's or Rangers would have to beat out the Yanks or RedSawx for the wild card. Verducci did a statistical analysis of the teams he thinks might enter the fray. The real most-likely-to-sneak-in who stank last year are the Reds and Cards.

A remembrance

Here are remarks on Robert Jordan by World Fantasy Award winner and top fantasy fiction writer Guy Gavriel Kay as the MC of the World Fantasy Award ceremonies this year:

. . . two months ago James Rigney Jr, better known as Robert Jordan, died well before his time. It seems apt that this gathering of writers and editors and readers devoted to fantasy, and celebrating it, pause briefly, to acknowledge that.

John Clute, no lesser figure, said of Jordan's magnum opus, "when complete, the sequence will almost certainly constitute one of the major epic narratives of modern fantasy". It was never complete. He died at 58.

There has always been a tension between writers who aspire to high art, enduring work, and those who pursue popular success, defining themselves as entertainers. The literati disdain the commercial while envying their bank accounts, and the bestsellers often regard the artistic as elitist and unreadable and the twain don't do a lot of beer-drinking together.

A few years ago Stephen King - an award nominee this afternoon - spoke at the National Book Awards where he was being acknowledged for his life's work, and he lambasted a glittering crowd for not adequately honoring popular fiction. He said, "I have no patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark�"

That same day, Shirley Hazzard, who had just won the National Book Award, disagreed, saying she had too little time left to live and read, that she would focus on Shakespeare and Conrad. She said, "I want to say in response to Stephen King, I don't think giving us a reading list of those who are most read at this moment is much of a satisfaction."

Both writers are people I respect and I will cravenly say here that I think both are right. Because, and this is the point, these are decisions that we all make for ourselves. We all assess what we value, how we want to spend our leisure time, or even if we want to call reading 'leisure time' - as opposed to necessary oxygen - and there is no formula, no rule.

This brings me back to Jim Rigney, Robert Jordan. On the Locus website I noted, in preparing these remarks, that he was never in his life nominated for a World Fantasy Award, for a Nebula, for a Hugo. Those encompass judge awards, peer awards and fan balloting.

I will not stand here and argue - nor am I in a position to assess - whether this is appropriate or not. What I can say, what I'd like you to consider, is that a mature, increasingly important genre has a need - a defining need - for literary work and for the entertaining bestsellers.

And - further - that the popular successes are central to any genre's emergence at the centre of a culture. From 1990 forward, Robert Jordan produced bestsellers. Jokes were made about forests destroyed for the print runs. He brought innumerable readers to fantasy; for better or worse he consolidated the template of the multi-multi-volume series. He became the New York Times bestseller list face of fantasy. Whatever one thinks of that, every person in this room can rattle off, as easily as I can, the writers who followed and even those who preceded Jordan, who gained a significant boost from the success of his work - and from his personal generosity in offering support to their books. George Martin has said as much in print. I can affirm that response myself: his generosity as a reader towards work very different from his own. And is there anyone here who'd want to deny that J.K. Rowling built upon his entrenching of the ongoing saga in shaping - and selling - her own?

We need to be large enough as a genre to acknowledge this without condescension. To note that editors and writers and publishers in this field flourish today because of Jordan's impact, that readers of fantasy find their favored genre centered in the culture now, and that the very recent, untimely passing of a profoundly important figure is worth remembering at the outset of a celebration.

At Jewish weddings a glass is always shattered to affirm that one remembers loss amid joy. Whether you raise a glass in your mind's eye, or break one in remembrance, I invite you to take a moment to remember Robert Jordan.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Our thanks on our most cherished holiday to the "rough men" who permit us to sleep peaceably in our beds.

This photo is from Michael Yon, a reader financed journalist in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jets fans . . . not a normal breed

Fans of the New York Jets are a strange group. The normal fandom split when I was a kid went along these lines: Yankees and Giants; Mets and Jets. The reason is simple, the Jets played at the swampy dump named after William Shea; the Giants played at Yankee Stadium until Giants Stadium was built; the Mets and Jets were the new NY teams from the early 60s; the Yanks and Giants were the venerable long-time NY teams, and were the flagship franchises of their sport from the 1920s to the mid-60s.

That split is less pronounced now. The Jets moved into Giants Stadium in the '80s. And as the Mets took the mantle of the city's top baseball team in the mid-to-late 80s (which the Yanks would reverse in the mid-90s), the Giants clearly seized the football spotlight by winning the Super Bowl in the 1986 season, ripping off a 12-4 season in '89, and winning another title in '90. Even as the Giants have fluctuated from mediocre to NFC champs to second-tier playoff contender; the Jets have had wild swings between success and failure, thus demoralizing the fan base a bit. The rivalry between Jets and Giants fans is nowhere near as vituperous as Yankee-Met disdain -- The Monk cheered on the Jets in the '82 playoffs when they lost the AFC title game on a muddy Orange Bowl field that Miami had deliberately not covered during a wet preceding week, specifically to stop the Jets' Freeman McNeil; and I did the same in '98 when the Jets dominated the first half of the AFC title game in Denver, only to be drilled in the second half of a 23-10 loss.

But Jet fans are a different breed -- more akin to the rough English football (soccer) fans of Chelsea than the somewhat more reserved Giants fans (Arsenal or Liverpool), or the pseudo-collegiate enthusiasm of Denver and KC fans. And they have at least one strange ritual during halftime of Jets games, which does not happen during Giants games (same stadium, different ticketholders). Read the NYT article linked to this post for more.

One hint: think catcalls heard often during Mardi Gras.

No, I wouldn't take my kid to a Jets game either.

Dissecting a calumny -- debunking the Reagan-was-racist fallacy

Deroy Murdock dismantles the Paul Krugman/Bob Herbert efforts to portray Ronald Reagan as a racist. The whole piece is worth reading, but here are some highlights.

Krugman and Herbert’s liberal limousine glides right past numerous inconvenient truths about Reagan’s record on race:

As the future president was growing up, “The Reagans were so poor that he played in the street with black children and thought little of it,” Nicholas Wapshott remembered in the November 14 New York Sun.

In his memoir, An American Life, Reagan wrote: “My mother and father urged my brother and me to bring home our black playmates, to consider them equals…There was no more grievous sin at our household than a racial slur or other evidence of religious or racial intolerance.”

In 1931, Reagan was on Eureka College’s football team. One night, Reagan biographer Lou Cannon recalls, an Elmhurst, Illinois hotelier refused lodging to two of Reagan’s black teammates. Reagan invited them to stay at his parents’ home, where Mr. and Mrs. Reagan welcomed them. Reagan “and one of the players, William Franklin Burghardt, remained friends and correspondents until Mr. Burghardt died in 1981,” Cannon wrote Sunday.

As an adult, Reagan had a long history of bias-free fair-mindedness. As Cannon added:

As a sports announcer in Iowa in the 1930s, Mr. Reagan opposed the segregation of Major League Baseball. As an actor in Hollywood, he quit a Los Angeles country club because it did not admit Jews. In 1978, when preparing to run for president, Mr. Reagan opposed a California ballot initiative that would have barred homosexuals from teaching in the state’s public schools.

Ronald Reagan Jr. recalls the day at a California barbecue when his father dived into a pool to save a black child from drowning.

As president, Reagan named Samuel Pierce, a black man, as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development. While Pierce was outside Reagan’s inner circle, he was in Reagan’s Cabinet. In 1982, Reagan promoted Roscoe Robinson to become the Army’s first black four-star general. Reagan also helped place Clarence Thomas on his path to the United States Supreme Court by naming him chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Simply stated, critics claim Pres. Reagan pursued racist ends because his policies ran contrary to the liberal, government-run, socialistic agenda that the Left advocates.

Ultimately, there is an agenda at work in this situation -- that of dishonest liberals like Krugman and Herbert:

“Why is this slur being floated now?” wonders Hoover Institution scholar Martin Anderson, Reagan’s long-time aide, chief White House domestic-policy adviser, and co-editor of several books documenting Reagan’s insightful, hand-written, speeches, and correspondence on public affairs. “I don’t know — maybe the 20th anniversary of Reagan’s departure from office, which is looming ahead, will show that his legacy is far more important than we knew. And that will be intolerable to a lot of people.”

Especially with the White House at stake, Leftist hacks like Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert will keep trying to smear Ronald Reagan as a racist. The obvious implication is that those of us who love America’s 40th president also are either racists or self-hating blacks.

Like Jeter, I love NY too . . . from afar

The link probably won't work because it's to a subscriber only editorial in the WSJ, but the synopsis is this:

New York State is prosecuting Derek Jeter as a tax cheat.


Like most sports figures in New York, Jeter doesn't have his primary residence in the state. And for good reason: state income taxes max out at 6.8%, city income taxes in NYC put the burden at 10.5% combined for city and state. Put that on top of the 39.1, 38.6 and 35% rates Jeter had in 2001-03 respectively from the Federal government, and nearly half of every dollar he makes over about 150K (probably about a game or two, with his salary) would go to a government . . . if he maintained his domicile in NYC.

He didn't. Because he's not a fool.

Like numerous other sports stars, Jeter makes his home in Florida; many more make their permanent homes in Texas. The reason, other than mild winters, is simple to discern -- NO STATE INCOME TAX. Oh yeah, the property and sales taxes are lower too.

Think about the burden: Wongdoer and I had a favorite teacher in high school who lived in New Jersey. He paid state and local taxes in Bergen County or wherever but also paid state and city taxes to New York. He received some credit from New Jersey for what he paid to New York, but nonetheless, each dollar he made was taxed six times -- state, city, state, city, federal, social security.

It's worse for Jeter and high income earners who work at any time in New York but don't live there, as the WSJ shows:

New York tax laws also take a notoriously wide view of "residency." Literally tens of thousands of people only work in-state Tuesday to Thursday each week to avoid spending the requisite 184 days per year that would subject their full income to the state tax regime. And Albany's taxmen try to catch them with things like travel records, credit-card usage and phone logs.

New York doesn't claim that Mr. Jeter has avoided taxes on the salary he's earned in-state -- i.e., his 10-year, $189 million Yankee contract. New York's complaint is in pursuit of the additional millions a megastar like Mr. Jeter makes from endorsement deals and the like, as well as from his investments.

According to court filings, state auditors don't dispute that his primary residence was in Florida before 2001 or after 2003, or even that he spent most of the year down south over the target period. Rather, they're employing the more subjective "domicilery test." They point to Mr. Jeter's Manhattan apartment, his "numerous public statements professing his love for New York," and allege he has "immersed himself in the New York community." Gosh.

There's something depraved about the government chasing Jeter in this manner. Between this type of nonsense, and the various jock taxes that Jeter and most athletes have to pay in the various states where they play road games, the administrative hoops that athletes must jump through border on the preposterous. But it is the nature of the taxman to chase down every last dollar he can.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What a shock -- AL MVP

A-Rod won the MVP. There's a shock: 54 HR, 156 RBI, 143 runs and he's a righty banging the ball around the Stadium like it's a little league park. I am stunned.

Not really.

But he didn't win unanimously. Another shock.

Or not.

Each AL city gets two voters who pick their top 10 MVP candidates on the ballot. Only the two Detroit-area voters did not pick A-Rod #1 -- a small sop to Tigers' outfielder Magglio Ordonez.

Men Like Smart Women

According to Maureen Dowd, smart women need to dumb themselves down to not scare potential mates away at first sight. She noted a speed-dating study done at Columbia University:

“We found that men did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner’s beauty, when choosing, than women did. We also found that women got more dates when they won high marks for looks.”

He continued: “By contrast, intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women’s choices as men’s. It isn’t exactly that smarts were a complete turnoff for men: They preferred women whom they rated as smarter — but only up to a point ... It turns out that men avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition — a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date.

“When women were the ones choosing, the more intelligence and ambition the men had, the better. So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own.”

That does sound familiar. But perhaps because we've all heard it repeated - many times - interestingly one of the chief protagonists of this view is none other than Maureen Dowd herself.

Christine Whelan, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, studying Census Bureau data found something completely different. In a sharp riposte two days after Dowd she skewers the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" theory:

...As part of the Current Population Survey, the Census Bureau looked at this issue in its March interviews of 50,000 U.S. households: Among 35- to 39-year-old women, some 88 percent with advanced degrees have married, versus 81 percent of women without college degrees.

Despite these changes, the conventional wisdom remains that men are less interested in educated or successful women - and the media fuel this concern by publicizing small studies that support out-of-date gender norms.

A recent speed-dating study from Columbia University garnered national attention for its finding that men prefer beautiful, smart women, but are less interested in women that they believe to be smarter than themselves. (Cue the old saw, "Men don't make passes/ At girls who wear glasses.")

Missing from all the attention was a key caveat: This research was conducted on 400 graduate students. In other words, its significance pales in comparison to the marriage data collected on the 50,000 Americans covered in the Current Population Survey - data that tell very much the opposite story.
Equally bad: All this media focus on the odds of marriage for college-educated women detracts from some real issues facing our families: America is rapidly becoming a nation of marriage "haves" and "have-nots."

The "haves" are college graduates, who are marrying at higher rates and divorcing at lower rates than the rest of the population. The "have-nots" are those with a high-school degree or less, who are more likely to cohabitate than marry, more likely to have children outside of wedlock - and stand a higher risk of divorce if they do take their vows.

It's high time we stopped making accomplished women worry for no reason - and focused our attention on educating the next generation about the value of a college degree, the importance of marriage and the possibilities for both men and women of a healthy combination of career and family life.

More from Whelan here.

The vision of beer swigging men leering wolfishly at provocatively dressed women may have its basis in reality and easily provides Maureen Dowd and her ilk with material to argue that Men who are Pigs tend to vote Republican. The truth though seems to be inconveniently very different.

Do well educated men really want to marry a 'bimbo'? They may want to date one, been seen with one, and sleep with one but the marriage value of vapid eye candy, particularly in rearing smart children and having meaningful conversation, (gasp!) is dubious. That men value physical attractiveness more than women is not in dispute but the contention that men avoid smart women as spouses certainly is.

It doesn't hurt to be hot but it's best to be smart and hot.

Wongdoer is married to an attractive woman with a degree more advanced than his and with whom he has three really cute children. Monk calls it "punching above his weight".

144 Years Ago Today

It's not a milestone year but it doesn't hurt to read again Lincoln's remarks at Gettysburg:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Bush turning Clintonian

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute has noticed that the Bush Administration's foreign policy under Secretary of State Rice is eerily familiar . . . because it resembles the aspirationally misguided foreign policy that Clinton pursued, most notably during the Albright years.

The Monk has noted time and time and time and time again that foreign policy under Secretary Rice has become the type of feckless, immoral, realist-school approach that characterized the Bush I and Nixon Administrations, not a forceful and principled approach that could actually wind up with the US setting the agenda, not the rogue states or terrorist groups that the US is trying to pacify or civilize. But Secretary Rice is an acolyte of Brent Scowcroft, himself a devotee of James A. Baker III -- both of whom would willingly throw Israel to the dogs whilst attempting to engage regimes and groups whose interests are in destroying what America stands for, not working with America to make the world a nicer place. It's an immoral and stupid approach, and a far cry from what Pres. Bush seemed to stand for when he assumed the Presidency nearly seven years ago.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A-Rod, Rivera and The RedSawx wise approach?

In the past few years, the RedSawx have used their large budget more effectively than the Yanks have utilized the best revenue stream in baseball. The results make this obvious; one reason is that the RedSawx are more willing to reload from within than to continue paying their players. It's a difference between the Yankee family and RedSawx family -- the Yanks like to keep theirs intact far more, but the RedSawx are wiser about when to cut ties. Thus, the Sawx let the best pitcher in the AL during his tenure (1998-2004) leave as a free agent because they feared Pedro Martinez was about to breakdown . . . which he has. Thus, they let Johnny Damon go to the Yanks for more money because they didn't want to pay for the downside of his career, which they estimated would begin shortly whilst the Yanks banked on a longer delay.

By contrast, the Yanks gave Mussina two more years in the 2006 offseason and he's now an albatross; the Yanks gave Giambi far too many years during the 2001 offseason, and are stuck with him for one more year. The Giambi situation was a classic good move getting offset by a corresponding choice that turned out badly -- Giambi replaced Tino, who the Yanks rightly believed was heading to the end of his good years.

This year, the Yanks and RedSux have encountered questions of what to do with key free agents: the Sawx are balking at giving Mike Lowell four years guaranteed even though he's a top-class individual, built for the dump the team plays in, and one of the better fielders at his position because they don't want to pay for his lack of productivity in 2010-11. The Yanks took another route on two free agents: A-Rod is a tremendous talent and has a Jordanesque work ethic, so a 10-year bet on him is not necessarily bad; Posada is younger than a typical 36-year old catcher because he is a convert to the position, which has probably saved him 2 years behind the plate and he can be transitioned to first base or DH in 2010, so a four-year deal for him is fine (especially because he's a .380+ OBP guy and switch-hitter with pop). Remember, Jorge's production last year put him so far beyond what any catcher had achieved at age 36, it's remarkable. Consider: Berra at 36 had these stats 119 G, 22 HR, 61 RBI, .271 BA, .330 OBP; Bench = retired at 35 after four seasons of decline; Carter at 34-36 had fewer RBI in three seasons than Jorge in '07.

Rivera is different -- he's a few months older than Wongdoer and I (his birthday is 11-29-69) and would be 41 throughout the fourth season he wants the Yanks to guarantee. He's the greatest closer in baseball history, but if he's throwing 88-91, he sucks (see April 2005, April 2007). By the time he's 41, that won't be aberrant early season velocity, but will probably be his typical ability. Indeed, he's had some minor physical problems that have limited the Yanks' use of him in 2002 and 2006, so his durability may decrease too. Should the Yanks then pay $15,000,000 for a glorified Joe Borowski? The question answers itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Mark Krikorian rips Hillary Clinton's various incoherent positions on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's proposed (now withdrawn) plan to grant drivers' licenses to illegal aliens.

Personally, I like this shot from the Obama campaign:

When it takes two weeks and six different positions to answer one question on immigration, it's easier to understand why the Clinton campaign would rather plant their questions than answer them.

Want Justice? Pay for a judge's election

The Monk recently mentioned some of the problems with partisan judicial elections. Today, former Justice O'Connor has an op-ed in the WSJ discussing the perils of partisan judicial elections and specifically noting the ugly campaigns run in Pennsylvania.

Cheer cheer for an absolute rip job!

In 1991, The Monk was horrified and furious that the Sugar Bowl gave a bid to 9-2 Notre Dame over higher-ranked Penn State. After Penn State stomped the Irish 35-13 and rose to #7 in the polls, dropping Notre Dame to 18th, the Sugar Bowl committee did exactly what rumors had said it would -- gave the bid to UND over a more deserving team.

Since then, any tribulation Notre Dame faces is good: getting whacked 41-9 by Oregon State = good; getting stomped 41-14 by LSU = nice; losing nine straight bowl games, including seven by two touchdowns or more = lovely. And bombing this season to a 1-9 mark despite tremendous recruiting classes for two years running and ND's inherent recruiting advantage (read: NBC) = it's pretty . . . it's sooooooooooooo pretty (apologies to Wesley Snipes from White Men Can't Jump).

And there is a reason for Notre Dame's failure: Charlie Weis is a terrible coach. So says Stewart Mandel in a long, analytical, and sharp column ripping the coach who has done nothing with much talent this year. Click the title of this post for more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Buffett duplicity on the death tax?

Grover Norquist (who is hardly nonpartisan) has a very interesting piece nonetheless on the estate tax whose repeal billionaire Warren Buffett very publicly decries. It makes for great theater when a billionaire supports something that would apparently hit him hard financially.

To fully understand the depth of Buffett’s cynicism and self-interest, let’s take a look at how one might avoid paying the death tax. If you’re a wealthy person and want to steer clear of this tax, you have three options: Set up complicated trust arrangements, which mostly serve to enrich lawyers and merely delay and shift a tax that must eventually be paid; arrange for your estate to make tax-deductible contributions to charitable organizations; or plow your wealth into life insurance before you die. By law, when your heirs are paid the life-insurance disbursement, it’s tax-free.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how certain industries could make a tidy profit off these death-tax escape hatches. In fact, some of the most ardent opponents of permanent death-tax repeal are (surprise, surprise) estate lawyers (who set up the trusts), charities (who fear their spigots of money turning off), and the life-insurance lobby (which does all it can to preserve its tax loopholes).

Buffett has major investments in companies that sell life insurance. The death tax has helped make him rich while it has made other families poor. What’s sad and ironic is that it takes families with the resources of the Buffetts (and the Hiltons and the Kardashians) to set up the trusts and life-insurance schemes that are necessary to avoid paying the death tax.


Additionally the death tax causes significant disruption because to pay it a going concern, e.g., a family business, may have to sell itself simply to pay the tax.

Buffett railed against the "dynastic accumulation of wealth" in his Senate testimony today. If he's really that worried about it then advocate a tax that kicks in above $100 million which should exempt all but the ultra wealthy.

The most compelling argument against the death tax that no one has ever rebut to my satisfaction is:

"Why should the death of a loved one ever be a taxable event?"

Academia's indoctrination -- a neverending story

From Stuart Taylor on National Journal -- just read it.

Guantanamo worse than Auschwitz

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) recently reportedly said to a visiting Dutch delegation that:

"Europe is not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay."

The prison at Guantanamo isn't even remotely comparable to Auschwitz, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps. But Lantos, known for his pungent comments, has a point. Would it surprise if there were not inconsiderable swaths of Europe that are more outraged about Gitmo than they are or would have been about Auschwitz.

Does he need Mo money?

The Monk is one of the biggest Mariano Rivera fans, period. Wongdoer knows all too well how I've defended Mo throughout the years from his foolhardy critics (ones who actually claim to know baseball, not just Wongdoer himself). But if Mo turns down the Yanks' outlandishly high $45M/3 proposal, then he should just fly his happy arse to LA, join Torre there for less money and not say a word about the Yanks ever again. Seriously. The Yanks made that offer Sunday and it topped their already-outrageous $40M/3 offer. If Mo goes, they can easily turn over the 9th inning to Joba without worrying about babying the kid's arm like they'd have to if he were a starter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pervez-ive criticism and Pakistan's future

From the "at least he's our SOB" file, Mark Steyn seems to liken Pervez Musharraf to Auguste Pinochet. And there is some good reason -- although Benazir Bhutto is Western-educated and can play the US media like a violin, her two stints as Pakistan's leader were characterized by deep corruption and misrule, which led to her getting tossed aside each time. Steyn refers to her thus: "the charming and glamorous Benazir Bhutto, who plays note-perfect in the salons of the west but degenerates into just another third-rate ward-heeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes once she's back greasing the wheel in Pakistan itself."

Democracy for its own sake is not an admirable goal; it's value-neutral. Electing Hamas (Gaza), the Islamic Brotherhood (Algeria), the Nazis (Germany 1933), or the Communists (Czechoslovakia 1947) does not mean democracy "worked" in the proper conceptual sense that it increased freedom, security and good government; instead, in a diseased polity or with corrupt parties, democracy can seve as the means to the end of entrenching a totalitarian movement.

Thus, the corrupt Bhutto-istas may be easy targets for the growing Islamic movement in Pakistan to set up a figurehead and obtain an entry into mainstream politics that brings a virulent Islamofascist political system to Pakistan.

At this point, Musharraf is the least worst option for Pakistan -- the Pinochet of the kush. His time to step aside will come, but it probably is not now.

Waterboarding as torture? Not so much

Let's be clear, The Monk is pro-waterboarding if the technique gets a jihadi to spill his guts and reveal operational details that will (or at least may) save lives. Obviously, per Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it does. Obviously, per the KSM interrogation, it works quickly, effectively and can save lives. Indeed, according to the New Yorker (in a piece highly critical of CIA's tactics), KSM cracked in seconds.

There's no question it's nasty. The interrogators have nightmares about the methods. But if American lives depend upon it, coercive interrogation must be used. "Coercive interrogation" is not a euphemism for torture -- waterboarding inflicts tremendous fear and anxiety, but the captive is monitored to ensure no or minimal bodily injury occurs. Defining torture to include coercive interrogation forces the United States to combat enemies trained to defy our general interrogation methods with the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight.

And no, it should not be standard practice. Coercive interrogation is for those who know something (and experienced interrogators can determine who is hiding information), are resisting interrogation, and who won't otherwise break.

Complaints that the captives are kept from establishing a schedule, deprived of light and exercise, kept in isolation, etc., are foolish. The US treats Aldrich Ames in a similar manner, and he's a United States citizen who is entitled to full protection of the Constitution. As The Monk has noted, the Al-Qaedans are entitled to no Geneva Convention protections -- they can be killed as spies under international law without so much as a by-your-leave. So yes, The Monk is pro-waterboarding, and not bashful about it either.

China home to 18 million surplus men

Simply an outstanding headline. This is what happens when you mess with demographics.

BEIJING, Nov 13 (Reuters) - China has 18 million more men of marriageable age than women, the result of sex-selective abortions in a country that has traditionally placed more value on boys, state media reported on Tuesday. China has about 119 boys born for every 100 girls, but that figure rises to about 122 in rural areas, Xinhua news agency quoted Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying. Ultrasound checks to determine the sex of babies are illegal in China but many expectant parents pay for the service, a habit Zhang said the government would continue to crack down on. China has also warned that the gender imbalance -- the surplus of men is forecast to swell to 30 million by 2020 -- could raise the risks of anti-social and violent behaviour among men who cannot find wives, contributing to instability.

Instability. More, faster please.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans' Day to all vets.

And thank you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Justice O'Connor's wand

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made more than her fair share of rulings based on little more than wishful thinking and fairy dust, but the article I've linked to contains a report on some interesting ideas that Her Honor has about reforms within the justice system throughout the United States.

The most important is reforming judicial selection processes in the various states. In Texas, judicial elections are contested and partisan -- in other words, the judiciary is voted upon by voters who select a Democrat or Republican for each post. Last year, every contested election in Dallas County went to a Democrat. That's simply stupid -- Dallas actually cleaned out a couple of poor judges, but lost a number of good ones who were replaced by far less competent people. The reason they lost -- Texas allows straight-ticket voting and Democrats won 20,000 more straight-ticket votes than Republicans in Dallas County last year. Most of the elections were won by less than that margin. Furthermore, Dallas had been such a Republican controlled county that moderates and former Democrats elected to the bench switched parties to retain their judgeships. Ironically, one judge who would have lost her seat on the bench announced her resignation earlier in 2006 (she would have been drubbed) and ended up with an appointment from Pres. Bush to a Fifth Circuit seat, for which she will probably win Senate approval.

The whole arrangement is ludicrous. Justice O'Connor successfully fought for non-partisan judicial selection in her home state of Arizona more than 30 years ago and won. Too bad so many other states, including The Monk's own, have failed to follow suit.

Hillary Clinton is a wimp

In the wake of Sen. Clinton's complaints at being attacked in last week's Democratic Presidential candidate debate (more like just being challenged on her b.s.), Peggy Noonan compares Clinton to Margaret Thatcher and other women who were the first heads of their nation's governments.

Clinton loses.

An excerpt:

Margaret Thatcher would no more have identified herself as a woman, or claimed special pleading that she was a mere frail girl, or asked you to sympathize with her because of her sex, than she would have called up the Kremlin and asked how quickly she could surrender.

She represented a movement. She was its head. She was great figure, a person in history, and she was a woman. She was in it for serious reasons, not to advance the claims of a gender but to reclaim for England its economic freedom, and return its political culture to common sense. Her rise wasn't symbolic but actual.

* * *
The point is the big ones, the real ones, the Thatchers and Indira Gandhis and Golda Meirs and Angela Merkels, never play the boo-hoo game. They are what they are, but they don't use what they are. They don't hold up their sex as a feint: Why, he's not criticizing me, he's criticizing all women! Let us rise and fight the sexist cur.

When Hillary Clinton suggested that debate criticism of her came under the heading of men bullying a defenseless lass, an interesting thing happened. First Kate Michelman, the former head of NARAL and an Edwards supporter, hit her hard. "When unchallenged, in a comfortable, controlled situation, Sen. Clinton embraces her elevation into the 'boys club.' " But when "legitimate questions" are asked, "she is quick to raise the white flag and look for a change in the rules."

For Michelman, a far left liberal who has made a career of being an activist based on her sex, to hit Clinton like that is great. It deflates Clinton's self-pitying rubbish about being picked on and illuminates just how weak she is.

And to think, this woman may actually become president. She'd make Jimmy Carter look strong.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Where is the real leverage?

As the baseball offseason dealing begins in earnest (now widely known as the Hot Stove League), the question arises, in relation to the two most sought-after corner infielders, who has the leverage?

If a Hall-of-Fame free agent heads onto the market and no one meets his price, does he break the bank?

If a low budget team asks too high a price for its top pitcher and hitter, does it get paid?

Right now, Scott Boras is flummoxed because the Yankees rightly stuck to their principles and said that if A-Rod opted out of his contract, the Yanks would not re-sign him because the Yanks would lose $21M they would have received to pay him from the Rangers. Boras wonders why the Yanks would seek to re-sign Posada and Rivera and not A-Rod.

Perhaps because they finished out their contracts before pursuing free agency? Nah, that explanation makes too much sense.

The Yanks have previously rejected players' attempts to obtain extra money despite having a contract in place. In the 1996-97 offseason, Cecil Fielder sought big money from the Yanks, and chose to demand a trade or renegotiation of his contract (which players traded in the middle of multiyear deals could do at that time -- the Yanks obtained Fielder in a midseason deal with the Tigers in '96); the Yanks demured and Big Daddy became a free agent. In May, he came walking back to the Yanks hat in hand with no fat payday from any other team and got a prorated one-year deal.

Thus, the Yanks' response to A-Rod should not be too surprising. The next question is: can A-Rod get $32M/year from the Angels if they're the only team willing to top his current average annual salary level of $25.2M/year? Considering that no player has signed for $20M/year average since the A-Rod/Manny signings in the 2000-01 offseason, the answer should be no.

As for the Marlins -- they act like big fish because they have two players that teams seem to want, Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Willis was great in 2005 (22-10, 2nd in Cy Young race) and was another Jeff Weaver last year (10-15, supra 5.00 ERA, 29 HR despite pitching in the most pitcher-friendly division in baseball thanks to a minimum of 108 games in Florida, Shea, Atlanta and Washington). Cabrera is the Manny Ramirez of thirdbasemen -- fat, not much of a fielder, but a deadly hitter. The Marlins should be highly motivated to get rid of both because they're arbitration eligible, Cabrera's likely salary will be $12M or more, Willis will get far more than he deserves, and the team is notoriously tight with money.

In other words, the Marlins should not expect to get a king's ransom in prospects for either player like they did for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in 2005-06. But both of those players were under contract for multiple years, unlike Cabrera.

Never underestimate the aggregate level of stupid among baseball executives. After all, these people paid Mike Hampton 120M/8 (Rockies); broken-down rag-armed Darren Dreifort 55M/5 (Dodgers); J.D. Drew 70M/5 (RedSawx); 88 mph max fastball man Barry Zito 128M/8 (Giants); and 25.5M/3 for Kris Benson (Mess). But to overpay for A-Rod or over trade for Cabrera/Willis considering the stakes involved . . . that would just be dumb.

The Bear awakens

Michael Weiss reports on a debate regarding whether Russia is becoming an enemy of the United States once again.

The Monk says yes.

From the report, there's some evidence that "again" is not the right word -- the lingering Soviet apparatus and mindset was never eradicated in the Russian governing class or polity. Here's Weiss' description of the arguments by J. Michael Waller:

His brief rested on the strong evidence that Soviet tendencies, rather than simply reviving, never really died off. If Russia had erased or buried its Communist past the better to emerge more confident as a market democracy, then how to explain that the Foreign Intelligence Services offices, the FSB State Security Services offices, and the state prosecutor's offices all bear the sword and shield insignia of Felix Dzerzhinsky's Bolshevik Cheka? Waller spoke of the arrant "KGB-ization" of the state, and indeed, the most prominent form of "dissent" within the country occurs among the various factions of the siloviki--the new military and espionage class of which Putin is primus inter pares. Waller made the often-overlooked point that Russia never had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the corpse-strewn nightmare of Stalinism. To the contrary, the Kremlin has released new "ideological guidelines" for teaching social studies and history to schoolchildren.

Textbooks being studied by future Russian generations thus inform that Stalin was the "most successful leader of the U.S.S.R.," resurrect his personality cult on behalf of Putin, and resort to a level of hostile rhetoric against the United States not heard since the grumbling days of Brezhnev.

The other side of the debate stressed that viewing Russia-US relations through the prism of a friend-foe dichotomy would lead to antipathy between the countries. In other words, act friendly and the Russians will do the same. Those are famous last words for the unrealistic set.

The character of San Francisco

I think this tells you all you need to know about San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 7 (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a rising star among Democrats who made headlines during his first term by briefly allowing gay marriage, appears to have easily won re-election in Tuesday's vote.

In the famously gay-friendly Californian city, Newsom, 40, shot up in popularity soon after first taking office in 2004 when he defied a statewide law that defined marriage as a union between and a man and a woman.

The handsome mayor with slicked back hair cut a dashing figure but suffered a series of personal setbacks during his first term. He and his glamorous wife divorced not long after they posed together in Harper's Bazaar, which called the pair "the New Kennedys".

Early this year Newsom admitted having an affair with his appointments secretary who was the wife of his campaign manager. He also said he would seek counseling for alcohol abuse.

Liberal San Francisco took the turmoil in stride and Newsom remained so popular that no major opponent ran against him. The reelection campaign generated little local interest even with longshots such as a sex club owner and a nudist seeking the

Then again Bill Clinton was perhaps the most popular President in a generation. What does that say about us?

Monday, November 05, 2007

When a Court gets one right

Kudos to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court, for upholding the six murder convictions of John Allen Muhammed -- one of the two Beltway Snipers. The full opinion (all 150+ pages) is available at the link in the title of this post. But the beginning and conclusion of the opinion says all that is necessary:

For 22 days in October of 2002, Montgomery County, Maryland, was gripped by a paroxysm of fear, a fear as paralyzing as that which froze the London district of Whitechapel in 1888. In Whitechapel, however, the terror came only at night. In Montgomery County, it struck at any hour of the night or day. In Whitechapel, all of the victims were prostitutes. In Montgomery County, every man, woman, and child was a likely target. The body count in Whitechapel was five; in Montgomery County the death toll reached six. The name of the Whitechapel terrorist has never been discovered. In Montgomery County, their names are John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

All six of the appellant's convictions for first-degree murder are hereby affirmed. Jack the Ripper has never yet been brought to justice . The Beltway snipers have been.

Programming note

The Monk had an extremely busy October, therefore blogging was light. We'll see how November shapes up; early indications are not nearly as bad as October, but not a light workload at the job that actually pays for Monkette and Monkling's house and possessions (I occasionally live there too, depending upon my work volume).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paul W. Tibbets Jr. 1915-2007

Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets Jr, the commander and pilot of the B-29 bomber named Enola Gay which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, died yesterday at the age of 92.

Tibbets was no simple airplane jockey, he was an experienced heavy bomber pilot and ran the program that trained crews to support and fly planes for the express purpose of delivering atomic bombs: [from the NY Times obituary]

On Aug. 17, 1942, he led a dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid by an American squadron on German-occupied Europe, bombing railroad marshaling yards in the French city of Rouen. He flew Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibraltar in November 1942 en route to the launching of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and participated in the first bombing missions of that campaign.

After returning to the United States to test the newly developed B-29, the first intercontinental bomber, he was told in September 1944 of the most closely held secret of the war: scientists were working to harness the power of atomic energy to create a bomb of such destruction that it could end the war.

He was ordered to find the best pilots, navigators, bombardiers and supporting crewmen and mold them into a unit that would deliver that bomb from a B-29.

Tibbets' distinguished himself in the decades since Hiroshima and Nagasaki by never second-guessing or apologizing for what United States did and he executed in ending the Second World War. It was appropriate as the decision to use the bomb was a sound one despite the revisionist historians who declaim otherwise.

“I was anxious to do it,” he told an interviewer for the documentary “The Men Who Brought the Dawn,” marking the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. “I wanted to do everything that I could to subdue Japan...“I have been convinced that we saved more lives than we took,” he said, referring to both American and Japanese casualties from an invasion of Japan. “It would have been morally wrong if we’d have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die.”

Rest in peace, General.