Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The quarryman pitcher

Here's an oddity: journeyman pitcher Matt White could be the first billionaire baseball player.

But not from baseball.

He bought 50 acres from an elderly aunt a few years ago out in Western Massachusetts for $1000/acre. The land was unimproved and auntie needed money to pay for a nursing home. So White decided to help her out.

While clearing land to build a house, he discovered "stone ledges" under the land. A survey resulted in "A geologist estimat[ing] there were 24 million tons of the stone on his land. The stone [sells] for upward of $100 per ton, meaning there's well over $2 billion worth of material used for sidewalks, patios and the like." If mining and processing costs are $50 per ton, White stumbled onto the American fantasy -- a billion-dollar windfall from an elderly relative. Even if White gets a 1/8 royalty (a standard figure in the oil-and-gas industry) on mining a fraction of the tonnage (say 1/3 or 8,000,000 tons), that's $100,000,000 and possibly more.

Wow.

The Monk needs some relatives with rural land.

Bush Doctrine, RIP Part Two?

Negotiating with terrorist states is a clear break from the "no negotiations with terrorists" rule that usually defines American policy. Perhaps the President and his Secretary of State have lost their ability to think cogently, but Frank Gaffney has not. Here's the crux of his view:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s announcement Tuesday that the United States was now prepared to begin negotiating directly with Iran and its proxy, Syria, over the future of Iraq is the latest evidence of the complete unraveling of what was once a principled, coherent American approach to foreign and defense policy. Today, the Bush team’s motto seems to be: Anything goes. Among the things that are poised to go over the side is the nation’s security.

There are fundamentally three things wrong with negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran — whether over Iraq or anything else. First, such negotiations will legitimate one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet. By acceding to the pressure to accord the mullahocracy in Tehran the status of equal partners and members in good standing of the “community of nations” — especially against the backdrop of its increasing aggressiveness, we reward that bad behavior. It should come as no surprise that there will be more of it in the future.

Second, embracing Ahmadinejad and his mullahs in this way can only alienate our natural allies: the people of Iran. They have lately been demonstrating a growing willingness to challenge the Islamofascists who have oppressed them for so long . . . Now, it is inevitable that such pressure will be alleviated, as governments and businesses seize on the new diplomatic opening to rush in and prop up Ahmadinejad.

Third, the adoption of the negotiating track effectively forecloses other options for dealing with the danger posed by the Iranian regime. In particular, efforts to bring about its downfall will be precluded. Diplomats predictably will insist that nothing be done — for example, through covert operations, more far-reaching and effective economic sanctions, military preparations, or political warfare — that will jeopardize the prospects for successful negotiations.

Since installing Rice as Secretary of State, the Bush Administration's foreign policy has slid into the stability-and-realist mode of celebrating the status quo and the immoral detente spirit that marked the policy planks of Bush I, Clinton, Carter and Nixon. Since the mid-term elections of '06, this trend has worsened. Quite honestly, there is little to distinguish between Bush's policies now, and the ones espoused by John Kerry in the 2004 election campaign. If the 60,000,000+ people who voted for Bush in the '04 elections wanted a John Kerry foreign policy, they could have voted for Botox Man. They didn't. And Bush's abdication of American principles and interests is making this country weaker by the day.

Greatness in progress?

Here in Dallas, fans, sportscasters, general media and even the merely interested felt stunned after the Mavs started the season by dropping their first four games, including losing to both Texas rivals. Was it Finals Fatigue where the team just couldn't get past choking away the NBA title last year? Had there been such damage to the collective psyche that the once-promising Mavs would just be a one-year wonder? And, how could the Mavs catch the Spurs to win the division (mind you, this was after four games)?

Since that start, the Mavs are 48-5. That's a winning percentage over 90! If the Mavs had been on that pace all year long, they'd project to 74 wins -- eclipsing the '95-96 Bulls. At 48-9, the Mavs' winning percentage projects to a 69-13 season. The rival Spurs are 9 games in the Mavs' rear view. Even the Suns are four games off the pace. And the Mavs have rattled off 3 win streaks of 12 or more games, which no previous NBA team had achieved in one season.

These Mavs remind me of the '98 Yankees. They whip all rivals (4-1 combined against Phoenix and San Antonio, 32-6 against the strong Western Conference), they are consistent, and like the '98 Yanks but unlike the '01 Mariners who set the AL record for wins before honking to the Yanks in the ALCS, the Mavs do NOT have players reaching career heights that they'll never approach again. The Mavs' best player, Dirk Nowitzki, is averaging fewer points than he did last year or in '04-05, Jason Terry is nowhere near his career highs, and Josh Howard is a third-year player on an upward arc (see 1998 Derek Jeter), not a veteran having an overachieving season.

Hopefully, Dallas is seeing some history in the making. If so, cherish it. The Monk remembers the '98 Yanks quite well, and doesn't plan to let go of that any time soon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cheney assassination attempt fails

VP Cheney was the target of the suicide bomber who killed 23 at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan yesterday. Note the prescience of Cheney, and the infiltration by the Taliban and al-Qaeda of the Afghani security forces:

The day before the explosion Cheney warned President Pervez Musharraf of neighbouring Pakistan to crack down on militants regrouping in Pakistan's tribal areas to mount attacks across the border and further afield.

"This shows how much the militants have penetrated the intelligence of the Afghan security forces. It is a most shocking attack," retired Pakistani general turned analyst Talat Masood told AFP.

And The Monk would bet that the infiltrators in the "Afghan security forces" have some high-level contacts in the Pakistani ISI.

Hoop du jour

Reader(s) of this blog know that The Monk bleeds orange, as in Syracuse Orange. So it's especially gratifying to see the team whomp despised rival Georgetown to all-but-clinch an NCAA berth, which the team did last night. This is not a great SU team by any stretch, and a deep NCAA run is a hopeful fantasy, at best. But The Monk likes the pride and determination the team showed, and as a 25+ year fan of SU and college hoops, The Monk would rather have his team honk in the NCAA than win the post-season NIT.

The impressive parts of last night's game were (a) SU's ability to hold Georgetown, the second-best FG% team in the nation, to 29.8% shooting including a 9:38 basketless drought in the second half; (b) Andy Rautins continuing to improve; (c) Demetris Nichols 4-for-5 finish after a 2-for-11 start; (d) the 18-2 run that turned a nailbiter into a rout; and (e) Terence Roberts playing 30+ minutes on a left knee that has a torn meniscus -- an injury that has gotten worse over the course of the season. The senior class has never reached its hype level, but has been a solid group and played well yesterday.

Five games ago, the Orange were 16-8, 5-5 in the Big East and still reeling from both a choke job at Louisville that saw them honk a 14-point lead in the last seven minutes and a butt-whipping at home from Notre Dame (103-91 -- not that close). Now the players seem to have determined how to play together and how to pull out close games. Good on them.

As for The Monk's alma mater -- take a look at the ACC standings and you'll be stunned: the same team that took a 24-point beating from 10-17 Utah is tied for first. Virginia has had serious ups and downs this season: beating Arizona to open its new arena, drilling Gonzaga by 21, dropping Maryland twice and squeaking by Duke; losses to Appalachian State and Stanford at home, and a drubbing from Va. Tech in the Commonwealth's backwater of Roanoke. Yes, UVa has benefited from the unbalanced ACC schedule (one game only with Duke, BC and UNC), but the team does deserve credit for hunting big games outside the conference. And Coach Dave Leitao (say: lee toe) has done a fine job in assembling what will be an NCAA team (19-8) even if it loses its last three games (two regular season, ACC first round). The Cavs' decision to dump Pete Gillen and his matador defensive schemes, hire Leitao a year before the team would open its new facility, and make a push for respectability, seems to be paying dividends. Go Cavs.

Monday, February 26, 2007

All true: Bashing the Oscars

Nikki Finke and numerous others are bashing the Oscar telecast last night. With good reason: it was awful. Gimmicky, enervated, entirely too long and too strange. Between the sound effects choir, the shadow puppet troupe, the endless irrelevant montages (excepting the yearly tribute to actors and industry pros who died in the previous year), poor editing, idiotic line readings from the 10 best screenplay (original and adapted) nominees, and the rushed ending that squeezed the four biggest awards into the last 20+ minutes of the show, this was a disaster of a telecast.

After Billy Crystal drew raves for bringing in the telecast under 3.5 hours in his last hosting turn, Ellen DeGeneres had an awful lineup to work with because the endless montages and weak features stretched the telecast to nearly 3.5 hours before the Big Four awards were announced: Actress, Actor, Director and Picture.

The two best moments were Seinfeld's intro of the documentary award and Scorsese's win. Scorsese's been vicimized by timing in the past, thus explaining his losses for directing GoodFellas and Raging Bull (although the latter is a bit of a travesty) to Dances With Wolves and Ordinary People. Other times he's directed well, but the pictures simply were not great Best Picture contenders (Last Temptation of Christ, Gangs of New York, although the latter had weak competition). So he's not been shafted like Peter Jackson (A Beautiful Mind over Fellowship of the Ring was an insult) or Cate Blanchett (losing for her tremendous performance in Elizabeth to Gwyneth Paltrow's turn in Shakespeare in Love was a joke) or even Steven Spielberg (the Academy's snub of even a nomination for directing The Color Purple ranks as one of the great injustices in Oscar history and led directly to it awarding him the Irving Thallberg [Lifetime Achievement] Award the next year as a bit of a make-good). Sometimes history proves the Academy's foolishness -- after all, Blanchett is (with Kidman) the best actress working today and, like DiCaprio and Winslet (who always does the proverbial meaty role), a threat to earn an Oscar nomination every time she appears in a movie. Paltrow's career decisions are worse than the names she's picked for her kids.

Not to forget (like I did when I initially posted this), but both Monkette and I were very pleased when Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson won their little gold men. We actually saw each Oscar winning performance in the acting categories and I'm pleased that there were no upsets or idiocies. Hudson dominated Dreamgirls, Mirren was a classic and Whitaker commanded every scene in which he appeared in Last King of Scotland -- he portrayed manic depressive megalomania perfectly. On a different note, The Monk wonders if the release of low-brow comedy Norbit lost Eddie Murphy a statuette. After all, he won a bunch of prizes before the nominations were announced; the studio released Norbit to critical derision shortly after the Oscar voting started and after Murphy had won a Golden Globe.

Finally, as an American of Italian descent, The Monk especially appreciates Scorsese's win. Scorsese is a genius at finding excellent young Italian actors and working closely with them to develop projects. He did it with DeNiro (and to a lesser degree, Pesci) and has now done so with DiCaprio (who simply has to be destined for Oscar glory -- just watch him). Indeed, folks of The Monk's heritage (Jewish, Italian) have dominated Hollywood for decades.

US Tax dollars at work

The UN issued a report last month that accuses Israel of seeking racial domination in the Palestinian territories.

This is more vile and heinous calumny from the anti-Semitic body that accuses Jews of racism merely for wanting to live in peace in their ancestral home. Israel should pull out of the UN, and the US should defund it.

The US's faux peace policy

Saul Singer decries the misguided efforts of Secretary of State Rice and the US for bumbling around the Israel-Palestine "Peace Process." As Singer notes, the US fundamentally misinterprets the Arab perspective.

The assumption is that both sides want the same thing, yet are too hampered by historical baggage to take the other side’s yes for an answer. But what if this assumption is wrong?

This reigning hypothesis is unconsciously based on a misunderstanding of the Arab side. As hard as it is for us to comprehend, we must accept that in the Arab mind, peace with Israel — far from success — still represents capitulation, humiliation and defeat.

The failure to comprehend this most basic fact causes the US, the EU and the Israeli Left to approach the Arabs as if they are rational, logical and reasonable. But the Arabs are none of those. Fueled by an irrational hatred that is encouraged and bolstered by the Palestinian educational system, political system and social constructs, they still hope to push the Jews into the sea. Singer offers some advice, which the US would be wise to consider:

The most pro-peace policy is the one that most convinces the Arabs of Israel’s permanence. Even the U.S. is far from such a policy, since it will not routinely reject the currently favored backdoor means to Israel’s destruction, the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” to Israel.

When it comes to a “political horizon,” the problem is not that the Arabs cannot see a Palestinian state, but that they can see a Jewish one. The Arab world will settle for a Palestinian state only when it is convinced of the permanence of Israel.


Not getting it alert

"Anna Nimouse" -- an actress writing under a nom de plume -- has a b*tch session on National Review about Little Miss Sunshine.

It's baffling that NRO chose to print this rant.

Little Miss Sunshine is a hilarious demolition of the beauty culture and the children's pageant set. It's a reality play in a lot of ways -- there are broken people in the world, and each of the family members except little Olive (Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin) have had their dreams shattered in some fashion. But ultimately, the dysfunctional people in the dysfunctional family come together to work as a family. That is the final and most crucial message of the film.

Demerits to NRO for posting (and paying for) Nimouse's screed.

Universal jurisdiction and the new Italian job

The Wall Street Journal (subscription only column) rips Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro and the Italian government for Spataro's indictment of 25 CIA agents for the rendition of terrorist Abu Omar in 2003. Spataro indicted the agents BY NAME, thereby revealing their covert identities and neutralizing 25 US assets in Europe. In other words, this is 25 times worse than what the Valerie Plame scandal would have been if she were actually a covert agent.

This is a tremendous danger for intelligence gathering and anti-terror cooperation. As the WSJ noted, "No one seriously claims [ ] that the CIA agents were in Italy without the explicit knowledge and participation of Italy's security services. This is the crucial point -- and explains why the indictments are a hostile act against the U.S. By long-established international legal practice, the official agents of one country operating in another with that state's permission are immune from prosecution."

Spataro's actions are part of a larger problem -- asserting universal jurisdiction over the agents of a foreign nation. During the Cold War, the US did not indict Soviet spies who were Russian nationals. Instead, it captured them and sent them to the USSR. The Bush Administration should more strenuously denounce this overreach (such as its indication that it would move NATO headquarters out of Brussels in response to Belgian indictments against Donald Rumsfeld, et al.; the Belgians changed their universal jurisdiction law shortly thereafter). And there are larger implications, as the WSJ explains:

European politicians are more at fault here than any prosecutor. Since the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., many European leaders have been playing a double game, working with the U.S. to root out terrorist plots on the sly -- and saving countless lives -- while publicly condemning "American methods" in rhetoric that has fed rising anti-Americanism. It doesn't help that many Europeans embrace the preposterous legal notion of "universal jurisdiction," the idea that an ambitious prosecutor can indict and try anyone for an alleged crime committed anywhere in the world.

This is the climate in which, for example, a German court this month issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents allegedly involved in transferring a German-Lebanese terrorist suspect, Khaled al-Masri, to Afghanistan for questioning. It made no difference that Mr. al-Masri had been arrested in Macedonia. Also in Germany, prosecutors are considering whether to bring war-crimes charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA Director George Tenet and other senior civilian and military officials. Mr. Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Dick Cheney were targeted by Belgian courts until the law there was changed. And so on.

European officials need to understand the risks they're running if they keep this up. Italy and the U.S. are NATO partners, but such an alliance is meaningless if "allies" make a habit of prosecuting each other for cooperating against a common threat. Italy's political grandstanding is endangering NATO, as well as the lives of millions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Not a joke

Just read the bio.

Some names just don't translate well into English.


HT: JPod in The Corner.

DJ 1954-2007

Dennis Johnson, "DJ", a cornerstone of the last Boston Celtics dynasty, died suddenly yesterday at age 52.

Forever remembered for the famous layup after Bird stole the ball in 1987, DJ won three championship rings, was MVP of the NBA Finals, five time NBA All-Star, and was a tenacious defender.

ESPN's Bill Simmon's paean to DJ is here.

Dishonorable Democrats

Charles Krauthammer is right. What else is new?

Some excerpts from his column on the Congressional efforts to micromanage the Iraq War.

Congress has the power to [force a withdrawal] by cutting off the funds. But Democrats will not, because it is politically dangerous. Instead, they are seeking other ways, clever ways. The House is pursuing a method, developed by Murtha and deemed “ingenious” by antiwar activist Tom Andrews of Win Without War, to impose a conditional cutoff of funds, ostensibly in the name of protecting the troops. Unless the troops are given the precise equipment, training and amount of rest Murtha stipulates — no funds.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Murtha is not disingenuous enough to have concealed the real motives for these ostensibly pro-readiness, pro-troops conditions. He has chosen conditions he knows are impossible to meet — “We have analyzed this and we have come to the conclusion that it can’t be done'' — in order to make the continued prosecution of the war very difficult, if not impossible, for the commanders in the field.

* * *
[Sen. Carl] Levin [D-Mich.] has a different idea — change the original October 2002 authorization. “We’ll be looking at modification of that authorization in order to limit the mission of American troops to a support mission instead of a combat mission,” says Levin. “That is very different from cutting off funds.”

. . . There is something exceedingly strange about authorizing the use of force — except for combat. That is an oxymoron. Changing the language of authorization means — if it means anything — that [Gen. David] Petraeus will have to surround himself with lawyers who will tell him, every time he wants to deploy a unit, whether he is ordering a legal “support” mission or an illegal “combat” mission.

* * *

Slowly bleeding our forces by defunding what our commanders think they need to win (the House approach) or rewording the authorization of the use of force so that lawyers decide what operations are to be launched (the Senate approach) is no way to fight a war. It is no way to end a war. It is a way to complicate the war and make it inherently unwinnable — and to shirk the political responsibility for doing so.

The unconscionable, unbearable Trent Lott

Kimberly Strassel of the WSJ details how Trent Lott is waging a personal vendetta against the insurance industry because State Farm refused to pay for Hurricane Katrina flood damage to his beachside home (one of three houses the Senator owns), although the damage was NOT covered by Lott's policy and Lott had Federal flood insurance for the same harm.

Lott, Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor and others, with the assist of Mississippi AG Jim Hood, filed a mass lawsuit against State Farm and others for not paying out for Katrina damage, despite the fact that the damage was not covered under the policies those insurers issued. [Worse yet, Federal flood insurance is available for houses built in flood plains -- an encouragement to build and live in the soon-to-be swamp and pass potential rebuilding costs on to the taxpayers at large]. State Farm caved, but has also pulled out of doing business in coastal Mississippi. Strassel has more:

Lost among all the politicians' war-whooping over the State Farm capitulation, is the effect this extortion has had on the private insurance industry. In recent weeks companies from State Farm to AllState have stopped writing policies in parts of Mississippi, which will result in consumers having fewer insurance choices, if they can find insurance at all.

Ah, but never fear: Washington has a solution for that, too. In the face of insurers exiting his state (in no small part because of the actions of politicians), Mr. Taylor earlier this month introduced yet another piece of insurance legislation. This one would expand the national flood insurance program to cover other hurricane-related damage. In other words, the Mississippian wants to create a new federal disaster insurance program that will put taxpayers--rather than private insurers--on the hook next time a storm hits. Revenge is a scary thing.

Yuk.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Washington's Birthday

His modesty, integrity and honorable demeanor made George Washington the obvious choice for the first President of the United States. Those traits, and his foreknowledge that every act he took would be precedent for the succeeding presidents, helped make him the best President the nation has had.

Happy Birthday to the Father of our country.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why we must fail in Iraq*

*in the view of today's Democratic Party

We said in an earlier post that today's Democratic Party is no longer the party of Truman but the party of Benedict Arnold. Harsh? Yes. True? Upon further reflection? ABSOLUTELY.

What is Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, the architects of the 2006 Democratic congressional sweep, as well as newly minted Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the sanctimonious Harry Reid, not to mention Hillary Clinton, most AFRAID of in 2008?

Success in Iraq.

Even clear progress and stability is a problem. The foibles of a handful GOP representatives certainly helped but Democrats overall swept to victory on a single issue - the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Even so, the combined margin of victory in the 16 closest races in the House was less than 80,000 votes. And the Senate was lost due to a horrible campaign by George Allen.

In other words the margin of victory was not really that comfortable.

Since virtually every Democratic member of Congress of note and certainly the Presidential candidates, have tacked left or hard left on Iraq, success or progress in Iraq could easily leave Democrats once again out in the cold.

Is this just politics? Democrats surely will become saner once they are in control of the war - meaning once they occupy in the Oval Office. However, Pelosi and Murtha - he of the "slow bleed" strategy - aren't even pretending to be supportive; they are just afraid of openly de-funding the war. Mostly likely a Democrat in the Oval Office will simply cut his or her losses; after all it was Bush's War. That it will severely damage the Middle East, our standing with our allies and give great succor to the Islamists for whom the issue is our way of life, not what we do, be damned.

Democrats have clearly cast their lot. Success for America in Iraq will mean failure for them.

The party of Benedict Arnold.

Cheney: Dems validate al-Qaeda strategy

The Monk has liked VP Cheney from day one of the Bush Administration because he pulls so few punches for a politician. Thus, you get quotes like these:

"I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy," Cheney told ABC News.

"The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to convince us to throw in the towel and come home and then they win because we quit," he said.

"I think that is exactly the wrong course to go on," Cheney said. "I think that is the course of action that Speaker Pelosi and Jack Murtha support. I think it would be a mistake for the country."

A good move

Finally.

The US will work with the Czech Republic and Poland to establish a missile shield to counter Iran. Russia protests.

How a SHIELD poses a threat to the Russians remains a mystery. Perhaps because it prevents Russia from blackmailing its former satellites or forcing them to pay it for protection?

John Edwards -- still not understanding cause and effect

From a Variety story on a John Edwards fundraiser, here's what the former senator and VP candidate said recently:

The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word -- Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

Yeah, and the greatest threat to world peace in 1938 would have been not entering the Munich Agreement.

HT: NRO

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Grabbing A**

"That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."


Cheney? Wolfowitz? Rumsfeld? Nope. Al Gore.

Jonah at NRO pointed to an old Tigerhawk piece that details via Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies how Vice President Gore argued FOR rendition. Here's the full quote:

Snatches, or more properly "extraordinary renditions," were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government.... The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass." (pp. 143-144)


How does one look at this? Perhaps that Democrats are not as irresponsible as we fear if they get into office? Perhaps. But how can we trust someone who was for this in 1993 and against it today after years of attacks on the United States purely for political expediency?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Selling the US and the US military short


Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has an outstanding post "Unparalleled Perfidy" that crystallizes what leading Democrats are trying to do and supported strongly I suspect by a goodly percentage of the rank and file.

The linked posts including the primary one are all worth reading.

The poll results especially are very striking. Focus on the question "How important is a US victory in Iraq, by party":

9 out of 10 Republicans feel that it is important but only HALF of Democrats feel that way. Whether or not one agrees on the decision to go to war and how its been and being prosecuted how can only HALF of Democrats NOT think that a US victory in Iraq is important?! Perhaps its the view of "As long as Bush fails and we are proven right we don't care what happens to Iraq or America."

It's not the party of Truman, it's the party of Benedict Arnold.

El-Baradei: Completely Useless

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Western powers will probably ratchet up sanctions against Iran but that will not be enough to resolve a standoff over its nuclear ambitions, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday.


"The Iran issue is not going to be resolved through sanctions alone. You need to reach out to the country and bring them to engagement. You need to get that process going," ElBaradei told a conference in London on Monday.

"REACH OUT TO THE COUNTRY AND BRING THEM TO ENGAGEMENT"?????

El-Baradei can't help but indulge in more politically correct prattle. First, it isn't the country that runs the program. It is the mullah's and their appointed government. Second, engagement? What exactly would he call the interminable negotiations between the EU-3, the US and Tehran?

Friday, February 16, 2007

BAD idea

Jonah Goldberg over at National Review Online discusses the idea being lightly discussed (and one I believe with which he does NOT agree) that perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to have a Democrat win in 2008 and be forced to deal with Islamofascism first-hand.

This is a gobsmackingly bad idea.

I recall a very strong socially conservative friend circa 1992 who was no fan of George HW Bush that it wouldn't be so bad if the Democrats won and then we could get a true Reagan conservative in in 1996.

Look what happened.

We are at far too serious of a point in a clash of civilizations to even consider, let alone be complicit in, handing the reins of government over the representative of a party that cannot be trusted with the security of the Republic.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What a perfect Commie dump

The Miami Herald reports on meat and food shortages in Venezuela thanks to the price controls set by the government.

Solana: EU coddling of Iran useless

How utterly galling it must be for useful idiot Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, to admit that all their efforts to get the rogue Tehran regime to give up its military nuclear capabilities have failed. The FT has the full report. Key excerpt:

In the absence of guarantees of its exclusively peaceful nature, the Iranian nuclear programme- together with its missile programme- represents a security threat in the region as well as to the international non-proliferation system.
...

Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have so far not succeeded. The EU3/EU+3 ideas put to Iran in summer 2006 were remarkable in many respects- not least the US offer to begin dismantling their sanctions. Iran’s rejection makes it difficult to believe that, at least in the short run, they would be ready to establish the conditions for the resumption of negotiations. In practice, despite the suspension of sensitive nuclear activities following the Paris Agreement, the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the IAEA. At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme. [emphasis added]


Nearly as stunning is this admission:

The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone. Iran has shown great resilience to outside pressure in the past, for example during the Iran/Iraq war. The government may also exploit the sanctions to benefit nationalism or to explain economic failure. Nevertheless, Iran must understand that the pursuit of policies which the international community rejects is not cost-free.


It also admits that the EU has failed miserably trying to engage Iran on human rights issues.

Does this mean Europe is ready to TAKE ANY ACTION? Don't bet the Sudetenland on it.

Worth 1000 words

The Monk likes the Cox and Forkum take on Agreed Framework II. I also agree with this assessment by former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (courtesy CNN):

I am very disturbed by this deal. It sends exactly the wrong signal to would-be proliferators around the world: 'If we hold out long enough, wear down the State Department negotiators, eventually you get rewarded,' in this case with massive shipments of heavy fuel oil for doing only partially what needs to be done.

Tim Hardaway's reputation, RIP

For those of you who don't know, former NBA point guard Tim Hardaway popped off on Dan LeBatard's radio show in Miami yesterday with an anti-gay riff that indicates exactly why gay male athletes stay so far in the closet they might as well be in Narnia.

Hardaway's proclamation that he hates gay people, is homophobic and would distance himself as much as possible from his teammate simply underscores the issues that gay athletes face. Naturally, Hardaway apologized just as his comments received enormous airtime on ESPN.

The fact is that athletes tend to be disdainful of sex between two men or between two women. Only in tennis and golf, individual sports, is homosexuality even moderately "accepted." In team sports, the opposite is the rule. Women's basketball programs have collapsed because of alleged or actual lesbianism (see Texas' decline in the 1990s), although to be fair a few lesbian predator coaches have plagued the sport for years and that small element has had a large impact. Hockey teams have shunned players who were molested by their youth coaches (hockey had a big stir about 5 years ago when one player exposed his former youth coach as a serial paedophile), and the molested players were innocent victims of sexual deviants, not gay participants in consensual sex.

But mainstream media, and mainstream America, both reject arrant homophobia. Hardaway's comments are offensive and dumb. Then again, not many professional athletes will retire and win Nobel prizes in the hard sciences.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ahhhhh yes

The Police are touring!

For those of you who missed the fallout of Sting's announcement at The Grammys ("We are The Police, and we are back!"), the group is going on a worldwide tour starting in Vancouver on May 28 (I don't know why there either).

The Monk only clued into music at age 13, exactly when The Police became a phenomenon . . . and right before they dissolved. So The Monk was pretty sorrowful with the pseudo-announcement of the disbanding of the group in 1986 (it leaked more than it was announced), especially because he hoped to be able to see them in concert after missing the Synchronicity tour.

It is some compensation to have seen Sting in concert four times, in four locations (NYC, DC, Boston and Dallas). Not only did he write the group's best material and continue to perform it on his solo tours, he also had good musicians with him, most notably Dominic Miller on guitar. But there's really no replacement for Stewart Copeland.

A couple of things the group could do on this trip that would make many a real Police fan happy: (1) RELEASE LIVE CONCERT RECORDINGS -- Pearl Jam gained an eternal fan in me (my politics and musical taste have no connection) because I became hooked to their live shows (I own about 15-20 from various tours). This also beats the bootleggers at their own game -- better quality recordings, money goes to the band, and The Police keep their musical intellectual property rights. This tour will be highly bootlegged (?) and in high demand. Pearl Jam, like U2, was one of the most bootlegged concert shows (Eddie Vedder knew the bootleggers so well he'd occasionally grab their mics and say something on the recording during the concert) until the group decided to turn the tables and it has benefitted both them and their fans. (2) Keep it lean. The Synchronicity tour jumped the shark because it was a huge production with numerous backup singers, additional musicians, revamping the songs, etc. The Monk liked the Sting show he saw in Dallas because it was the most stripped-down of the lot. The key to The Police is their complex simplicity: bass-guitar-drums combining to make music more complex than a group like Lynyrd Skynyrd, which had 3 guitarists, bassist, two drummers (because the main one sucked) and more.

Here's hoping I can get a pair of the hottest tickets in music this year.

It's the Sun, Stupid

The Sunday Times (of London) features an article that argues against the view that the science behind global warming is "settled".

Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as this winter’s billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages. The early arrival of migrant birds in spring provides colourful evidence for a recent warming of the northern lands. But did anyone tell you that in east Antarctica the Adélie penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their spring nesting sites around nine days later than they did 50 years ago? While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.


Most importantly though author Nigel Calder proposes an alternate theory behind observed climate change: solar activity.

That levelling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago.
...
Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate. The sun’s brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmark’s idea — apart from its being politically incorrect — was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.
...
The reappraisal starts with Antarctica, where those contradictory temperature trends are directly predicted by Svensmark’s scenario, because the snow there is whiter than the cloud-tops. Meanwhile humility in face of Nature’s marvels seems more appropriate than arrogant assertions that we can forecast and even control a climate ruled by the sun and the stars.

A quiet word, a notable reaction

Mariano Rivera took the Teddy Roosevelt speak softly and carry a big stick approach to heart, and it may pay dividends for both him and the Yankees sooner rather than later. Both his agent and Rivera have been disappointed by the lack of response from the Yankees to their efforts to obtain a contract extension. Mo is 37 and under contract for this year and can become a free agent. He is the best closer in postseason history and the most consistent performer in the new Yankee dynasty and post-dynasty era (1996-present). He had a Mo season last year yet again -- 1.80 ERA, 34 saves. And if Torre doesn't wear him out again this year, Mo should hit his averages once again (sub-2.00 ERA, 40 saves, etc.).

Yanks GM Brian Cashman is actually undertaking a herculean effort to revamp the team structurally and financially -- kind of akin to reconfiguring the Ford or GM business model. Cashman wants a younger team, less costly, highly talented. He has reloaded the farm system through trades this offseason (the Yanks are one of the few teams to actually acquire top prospects from other teams, who are hoarding them like a miser's treasure), and cut away some of the fat contracts (Johnson, Sheffield). Cashman also wants to wait until season's end to re-sign potential Yankee free agents (Mussina). But there's a limit to even a newly powerful GM's control -- that's the leverage of a Hall-of-Fame all-time great who is still producing. Although the NY Post wants to scare the Yanks by bringing up the specter of Mo pitching for, and Torre managing, the RedStanks, the reality is that getting Mo re-signed for $30/2 is probably the right thing to do. And a minimal risk -- Mo is a constant, rarely injured, and still an outstanding closer.

C'mon Cash, do the right thing as soon as practicable.

Pelosi's next blunder

The Washington Times reports on the House Democrats' efforts to undermine President Bush at the expense of the troops. The Democrats are walking the fine line between their "support the troops" rhetoric and the reality of their actions. Here's the point:

. . . the Democrats are trying to cut the legs out from under Gen. Petraeus. Rep. John Murtha, the Pelosi confidant who chairs the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, wants to attach conditions to funding for the war in Iraq that would effectively make it impossible for the U.S. military to do its job. "Murtha's plan, backed by Pelosi, is to deprive Republicans of the argument that Democrats are choking off funds, while taking binding action against the war couched as protecting the troops," a "senior Democratic leadership aide" told The Washington Post yesterday.

This is politically stupid for the Democrats and shows both an incredible arrogance by Pelosi and an amazing level of dishonesty. There is no way that such funding measures would pass the House/Senate committee reconciliation process. Once the measures become stalled, the President can begin lambasting the Democrats in Congress. When it comes to the military and the troops, the public will follow the President, not the Speaker or the Senate. And the WaTimes is correct in its conclusions:

All the pious declarations from Democratic lawmakers -- veterans and nonveterans -- about their concern for the troops being paramount, are a sham. In other words, the Democrats have concluded that we cannot win in Iraq and they are using the welfare of the troops to conceal the fact that they are prepared to abandon Iraq to insurgent terrorists and militias, even as they pretend to support Gen. Petraeus and the troops.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who said last week that Republicans would be permitted to offer an alternative to the resolution opposing the president, reversed himself under pressure from Mrs. Pelosi. Democrats were apparently worried that an amendment opposing a cutoff in funds, proposed by Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, would attract too much support from conservative Democrats. So, the Democratic leadership effectively gagged Mr. Johnson, a Vietnam veteran who spent nearly seven years in a POW camp, barring him from offering his alternative proposal on the floor. House Republicans need to drive home the point that the supporters of the House resolution are determined to cut off funds for the troops but are too intellectually dishonest to say so publicly right now.

Moqtada in Iran

In what may be the first high-profile success of President Bush's surge strategy, ABC News reported last night that radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been a cancer in the Iraqi body politic, appears to have fled to Tehran.

If this is true, it would mean two things:

1) That the surge and resulting crackdown in Baghdad is having an effect - it's difficult to understand why Moqtada would leave his power base unless events have convinced him that he is no longer secure.

2) Iranian support of Shiite radicals in Iraq would be, well, undeniable.

The aggressively vapid NY Times, of course, has this to say:

If Mr. Sadr had indeed fled, his absence would create a vacuum that could allow even more radical elements of the Shiite group to take power.


Reminds one a bit of we've got to deal with Yasser Arafat because he's really the best of the lot. Moqtada for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama's idiocy

The Monk was going to rip Sen. Barack Obama (D-pretty) for his thoughtless and foolish comments aimed at John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, who has been a stalwart friend of the United States. What Obama fails to understand is a simple point: PM Howard is not a "Bush ally," instead the whole nation of Australia is a tremendous ally OF THE UNITED STATES. Obama's insult to Australia, his preposterously narrow view, and his reduction of international relations to a mere friendship between two men indicates how he is not mentally, intellectually or behaviorally capable of becoming the president of the world's most powerful and important nation.

But The Monk does not have to say all that because the NY Post did it already. This all started when Howard voiced his disagreement with Obama's proposal to pass legislation requiring the removal of all US forces from Iraq by March 2008. When Howard stated that al-Qaeda would welcome Obama's election as president (a sentiment with which The Monk agrees -- just look at the terror masters' reaction to the Democratic takeover of Congress), Obama popped off.

. . . the notion that Howard is no more than "one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world" stunningly understates a political, economic and security relationship that extends back to the 19th century - and obtains to this day.

That Obama doesn't already know this - and respect it - gives deeper meaning to the term "not ready for prime time."

More insulting is Obama's heinous suggestion to Howard:

". . . if [Howard] is ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq," Obama said, "I would suggest that he call up another 20,000 Australians and send them to Iraq. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."

That's simply disgusting.

But Howard is both wiser and smarter than Obama. And the Aussies don't back down from idiots.

"I hold the strongest possible view that it is contrary to the security interests of this country for America to be defeated in Iraq," Howard said. "Let me make it perfectly clear, if I hear a policy being advocated that is contrary to Australia's security interests, I will criticize it."

Good on ya!

Agreed Framework II

Another disastrous deal by a feckless president negotiating with the totalitarian state of North Korea. That's James Robbins' take on the deal announced yesterday for North Korea to "dismantle" its nuclear weapons capability. Like Robbins, The Monk has no illusions about NoKor's willingness to do so -- I expect that this agreement could well have been printed on toilet tissue because that way it would actually serve some purpose.

Here's Robbins:

The terms sound suspiciously like the Clinton-era Agreed Framework. The North Koreans wanted light-water nuclear reactors and shipments of heavy oil for heat and power generation. They agreed to move towards normalization of relations and settling outstanding issues. And they agreed to allow nuclear inspectors to make sure they were keeping to the terms of the deal. Same now as 13 years ago. Proponents of the current approach observe that the 1994 agreement only sought to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program, not dismantle it. Of course, back then North Korea did not have as much to dismantle.

Simply making a deal with North Korea guarantees nothing. For example the Agreed Framework provided the cover for North Korea to secretly begin to develop its nuclear capability. By 2002 it was clear that the DPRK was not adhering to the spirit of the bargain. Pyongyang took umbrage when Washington accused the regime of illegally processing uranium — while also saying they had a right to nuclear weapons and blaming us for forcing them to pursue the program. They pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked out the verification teams.

* * *
. . . all we sought to do was “force North Korea back to the negotiating table.” This is ironic because that is exactly where they want to be. So long as they are negotiating they know they are safe. And they have long cultivated the notion among our diplomats that simply getting them to agree to talk represents a victory for our side; it must amuse them to see us high-fiving when they “give in.” Compounding our retreat is the fact that the deal was struck in bilateral negotiations, held last January in Berlin. We had previously resisted this on principle, because bilateral talks would elevate North Korea’s international status. But that principle has gone by the wayside.

It will be interesting to see if this deal lasts any longer than the 2005 agreement; or does as much damage as the 1994 framework. Regardless, we have already been bested. Our failure to follow up on the momentum we acquired in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test was a strategic blunder. We have lost sight of the fact that the only way substantive and permanent change will come to the Korean peninsula is with the end of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Any agreement we reach with Pyongyang only serves to push that date further into the future. . .

Monday, February 12, 2007

An outpouring of affection

The Monk gives two authors a lot of grief about their rather bloated fantasy series -- Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin. Jordan's series became extra convoluted in book 7 of the projected 12, and books 8-10 were subpar (although the ending of book 9 proved that "he's still got it") after knockouts in books 1-5 and a tremendous ending to book 6. Unlike Martin, who took FIVE years to write PART of book four, after finishing books 1-3, Jordan has maintained a steady book per two years pace since the first few in his Wheel of Time series. The Monk had heard Jordan's health was not good, and the pictures of Jordan that I've seen from a few years ago made it a shock to learn he's only 58 now. I didn't realize the scope of Jordan's situation.

Jordan has a rare blood disease, amyloidosis (unsure of what exact type). An untreated case will means a prognosis of about 12 months. With treatment, the patient has an average of four years on his or her clock. Jordan has chronicled the course of his disease on his blog at Dragonmount. Recently, his Lambda Light Chains marker test (which detects the severity of the amyloidosis) was down to 2.7 LLCs. The average person's test is between 1 and 3. Jordan had been at 75 and 96 -- in other words, his treatment has had some positive effects. The Mayo Clinic has been his treatment facility. The article linked to this post (click title) describes the fan reaction, including some who volunteered their bone marrow to Jordan.

Nonetheless, Jordan's strength does not even come close to what it once was -- he writes 2 or so hours daily, as opposed to a former 8+ hour workday. If he can finish book 12 of The Wheel of Time, it will be in 2008 for 2009 publishing, a four-year spread after book 11. His "About the Author" blurb on all his books state that he plans to keep writing "until they nail shut his coffin."
Unlike many of Jordan's fans, I've lost interest in The Wheel of Time because I had no use for books 7, 8 and 10. I would only hope that book 12 lives up to the promise of books 1-5. But no matter what else happens, I'm hoping that the time to nail shut Jordan's coffin is a long way away.

All the best from us at The Key Monk.

Making "Central Intelligence" an oxymoron

More foolishness from the CIA. First, some background: the "intelligence community" actually agrees -- the 10-inch long and 6-inch wide projectile IEDs laid in Iraqi roads were designed, manufactured and distributed by Iran to Iraqi terrorists. The bombs are believed to be responsible for the deaths of 170 Americans.

Now the idiocy:

. . . while the specific intelligence on the explosive formed projectiles is no longer disputed in the intelligence community, the CIA is questioning whether their export from Iran represents a strategy of the regime or the rogue actions of one of its security services, known as the Quds Force.

Considering Iran is a rogue nation, with a rogue government bent on the destruction of Israel and avowedly an enemy of the United States, the notion that there is a "rogue" element within the security services is ludicrous. I'm waiting for an ex-CIA analyst to write a history of World War II and call the Gestapo "rogue elements" within Nazi Germany.

Thankfully, the Americans in the military (and most of the other intel agencies) have avoided self-stupification.

According to reports from the briefing in Baghdad yesterday, American commanders said Iran's export of the bombs to Iraqi Shiite militias was a deliberate strategy of the regime, noting that the Quds Force reports directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Papawongdoer = 1922-2007

Wongdoer's dad passed away on February 3 after a battle with cancer and pneumonia. Papawongdoer was 84.

Wongdoer is going to send me a pile of information about his pa, who lived an interesting life to say the least. And I'll post a remembrance here.

As always, all the best to Wongdoer, his decidedly better half, his mama, and his three progeny.

Why Republicans lost Congress

The sick thing is, The Monk actually gave money to help get John Thune elected. And not only does he turn into a foreign policy and judicial appointment squish, he also drinks from the same "earmark friendly" chalice that Ted Stevens does. Steve Forbes points out a boondoggle he pulled off for a local railroad company in the 2005 budget and which Thune is pressing the government to finalize:

The demand for coal is surging, and the owners of the DM&E [Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad] want to cash in on the boom. But instead of turning to the private sector for financing, the railroad asked its onetime lobbyist and now senator, John Thune (R--S.D.), to help out. Thune obliged. He has been pushing for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to give his former client a $2.3 billion loan to build the 262-mile extension, this for an outfit with revenues under $200 million. Servicing this debt will come to almost $250 million a year.

This carrier is no stranger to government largesse. Three years ago it got itself a $233 million loan from Uncle Sam. Yet DM&E's safety record is, to put it charitably, spotty, with a main-track accident rate eight times the national average.

Senator Thune slipped this $2.3 billion earmark into the pork-heavy 2005 transportation bill. With no debate and no hearings, Thune got the FRA's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Program increased tenfold, from $3.5 billion to $35 billion. Moreover, points out the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a free-market foundation, "Thune also modified the loan criteria to benefit only one company, setting in place provisions for the loan to be granted to his former employer with no collateral and no payments for six years." The public has been barred from examining the loan application and the company's finances.

Democrats: can you see the opportunities this kind of garbage provides you?

GOP = the stupid party.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Great moments in Education -- or not

In Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the drama students at Wando High School may be prohibited from performing To Kill a Mockingbird as their spring play because it contains offensive racial epithets. In other words, the principal is worried that someone will be offended by a faithful portrayal of race relations in 1930s Alabama.

Isn't that the point? Harper Lee's book is one of the greatest novels of all time precisely because it accurately portrayed racial injustice, racist attitudes and showed how the actions of a good man can improve society in the future (two words: Scout, Jem), even if the immediate effect is minimal. This is the same idiocy that led to movements to ban Huckleberry Finn from school libraries and reading lists.

Pure foolishness. Good to see from the news article that the kids seem to know better than their elders.

Vile liberal idiocy of the day

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman is the typical east coast left-wing solipsistic narcissist whose never met a left-wing talking point she did not adopt.

The trend among the "man causes global warming" Chicken Little crowd is to call those who doubt the accuracy and truth of global warming predictions like The Monk "global warming deniers".

The appellation is disgusting.

It invokes the specter of equating global warming/climate change skeptics with Holocaust deniers. Goodman, whose intellect is neither subtle nor supple, makes that explicit: "Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future."

The controversy over climate change and man's role in it is still a matter of opinion. Remember: during the middle ages the temperatures were significantly warmer than they are now, and man could not generate significant greenhouse gases.

In addition, as the WSJ noted earlier this week, the IPCC summary report that Goodman relies upon is a document written by bureaucrats and politicians, not the scientists who performed the analyses. And the available data from the forthcoming IPCC report actually indicates a SLOWER warming trend than its predecessor report.

The most capable and notable climatologists in the world have predominantly claimed that man's role in climate change falls within a range from insignificant to undetermined. Some of their opinions are linked to here in an inexhaustive list of prominent skeptics. The costs of compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, which the Senate effectively rejected in a 95-0 vote during the Clinton presidency, would cripple the economies of the US and Europe while not affecting India or China -- neither of which has any obligation to comply with Kyoto because they are "developing" nations. No American should vote for crippling the nation. The effects of "warming" are still unknown.

Ellen Goodman, a Jew, just claimed that hundreds of the world's most capable climate scientists (1,100 signed an ad that appeared in the NY Times a couple of years ago questioning the connection between man and "climate change") are the moral and intellectual equivalent of Iranian premier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ellen Goodman is reprehensible.

The ick tourism chic

There's something rather disgusting about running tours to Nairobi's Kibera slum, but that's become a tourist destination for many visits to Kenya. Essentially, the wealthy tourists go to gawk at the impoverished Kenyans wallowing amongst filth and living in shacks as if the Kibera residents were part of a zoo exhibit. Other aspects of Kibera life -- community, culture, the middle class former Kibera residents who come back to live within the area -- tend to go unnoticed.

Unintended irony of some tourists -- attendees of the anti-capitalist World Social Forum traipsing to Kibera to view the conditions. Contrary to their thought process, Kibera is NOT exhibit A against capitalism, it's a monument to the equality of misery inflicted by socialism. From Jomo Kenyatta to Daniel Arap Moi, Kenya suffered through 38 years of the typical post-colonial mess of socialist policies combined with strong-man politics, and even with a semi-reformist President now, the country still has corruption levels that would make Sicily look clean.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Avoiding stepping in it

The Cowpatties are set to hire Wade Phillips, the Chargers' defensive coordinator and son of Houston Oilers legendary coach O.A. "Bum" Phillips, as their new head coach. The Phillips family has roots here in Texas -- Bum retired to a ranch outside Goliad and is from East Texas himself. Wade is a defensive coordinator who knows the 3-4 formation that the Cowmanures have used (and drafted for) over the past 2 years because the Chargers use the same defense.

Wade Phillips has had only one losing record in five years as a head coach. He was the snake-bitten head man of the Bills when they lost to the Titans in 1999 on the Music City Miracle. And he's known for both questionable personnel decisions (starting Rob Johnson over Doug Flutie) and for taking NO risks.

If I were a Bovinerider fan, I'd prefer this choice to Norv Turner. But that team missed a chance by turning down Mike Singletary . . . who will hopefully be the new head coach of the Giants by this time next year.

US 2, Mexico 0

Mexico is going nuts -- it has the second-best soccer team in North America.

Since 2000, the US has played eight matches at home to Mexico in a variety of competitions. Many of the home matches are merely matches within the US that are essentially neutral-site or home-away-from-home matches for Mexico -- such as last night's US win in Arizona where the crowd was comprised primarily of Mexican partisans. And the fact that the US not only has dominated the competition, but that Mexico has not scored in the United States since before the millenium galls Mexico to no end. That whole country seemed about to open a vein when the US knocked Mexico out of the 2002 World Cup with a 2-0 win in the round of 16.

Mexico's getting desperate -- it played a top squad last night, but still lost to a US team that is seeking to establish its identity after last year's World Cup flop and the retirement of top players like Kasey Keller and Brian McBride. And Mexico is a poor sport about it. The team simply walked off the pitch after honking last night, no handshakes, no jersey exchange -- that's no-class behavior in the soccer world.

Hopefully the US will swat the Tricolores again in the Gold Cup this June.

Unimpressed, twice

The Monk is not only unimpressed with Duke, after watching last night's UNC-Duke game, but also ESPN.

First, the Dookies. Lack of quickness, lack of size, lack of post play, lack of playmaking skills. That team needs Gerald Henderson to shine, McRoberts to play with his back to the basket (which he seems to eschew) and less Greg Paulus. At no time did I think UNC was the lesser team, despite Duke leading for the first 35 minutes by as many as 10.

Next, ESPN. The all-sports network has a decent group of broadcasters available to it, but insists upon using the annoying, nasal, screechy and overhyping Mike Patrick. ESPN replaced Ron Franklin with Patrick for its Saturday night SEC football games -- a terrible move because Franklin's authoritative baritone with the hint of Southern inflection was perfect for those games. I even watched some of them just because I liked Franklin counting off big running plays "5, 10 and he's tackled after a 13-yard gain." Patrick is Brent Musberger but an octave higher -- overly enthusiastic about small things, over-hyping the play, failing to modulate voice tone, missing really significant developments for narrow things, deciding a game story early and reiterating it until the dead horse is turned to glue.

Patrick nearly came out of his skin early in the game -- shouting with excitement as Duke took an early 15-6 lead, nearly coming out of his skin whenever Duke pulled down an offensive rebound. As UNC established its superiority and the Duke crowd quieted, so did Patrick. He completely whiffed the call when, with UNC up 67-63, Ty Lawson drove on Paulus, hit a layup and got fouled. The resulting 3-point play sealed the game. Memo to Mike: just because the home team is losing, it does not mean that significant events are not occurring in the game.

ESPN needed Dan Schulman on this game. He's solid, has a better feel for the game than Patrick and actually works complementary with motormouth analyst DickVitale -- Schulman knows when to let Vitale fly off into schtick and can inject himself in Vitale's torrent-of-thought seamlessly, something almost no other play-by-play man can do.

And finally -- cut out the stupid WHOOSH sound-effects when presenting the in-game graphics. Is ESPN the new FOX?

Loss of respectability

Ken Allard wonders why Bill Arkin, who called our soldiers mercenaries, complained that they're receiving "obscene" war zone amenities and warned them that they should not criticize the American people who pay soldiers "decent" salaries while endowing them with a social service network denied to civilians, has not been fired from his NBC or WaPo jobs.

Good question. But Allard indicates the answer:

When the war had broad popular support, the network relied on commentary by distinguished generals such as Barry McCaffrey, Wayne Downing and Bernard Trainor: Now that it is going badly, they simply find Arkin a convenient receptacle.

Who won the Senate? America

Robert Novak criticizes Mitch McConnell's handling of the Republican filibuster on the Senate anti-surge resolution. But Novak, who has been against American intervention in Iraq from the start of debating the attacks five years ago, misses the larger point. Novak lauds the "prestigious Republican Sen. John Warner" and his anti-surge resolution -- whose anti-troop and anti-President actions are among the low points in Warner's career -- whilst condemning McConnell's public explanation of the Republican actions.

This is a failure to see the forest. The anti-surge resolutions were a disgrace -- an attempt by the Senate to divest itself of responsibility for voting to authorize the President's use of military force, kowtow to the American sentiment against the Iraq war and avoid both a veto and taking action that would have real consequence such as defunding the troops. McConnell helped salvage the dignity of the Senate by using the minority rights of the Republicans to outmaneuver Majority Leader Harry Reid. McConnell should be lauded for his actions, which prevented the Senate from further eroding America's standing internationally.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Closeted no more

Former Penn State center and NBA journeyman John Amaechi came out of the closet. He wrote a book, Man in the Middle. And ESPN.com Page 2 columnist LZ Granderson is unimpressed. Granderson is gay and he doesn't buy the "it's tougher for an athlete" line. Granderson is also black, and that's a culture only slightly more welcoming to homosexuals than the average Church of Christ gathering. Indeed, the indication is that Granderson thinks Amaechi's a wimp:

Closeted athletes are miserable.

They have thoughts of suicide, they can't perform as well as they'd like, they live in constant anxiety of being found out, and while their heterosexual teammates are out chasing skirts during road trips, they stay locked up in their hotel rooms afraid to make eye contact with anyone because the bellhop's gaydar may go off.

Get over it.

An athlete in 2007 who stays in the closet during his playing days does more to support homophobia in sports than coming out after retirement does to combat it.

But what I am suggesting is that by not living the truth you are supporting the lie. The lie that gay men are inherently weaker than straight men. We can go in circles about whether homosexuality is a sin, but that's not what this argument is about. It's about whether a gay athlete can perform on the field or on the court at the same level of excellence and intensity as a straight athlete. I've talked to a lot athletes over the years about having a gay teammate, and their top objection is they believe a gay dude won't be able to pull his own weight. The whole shower thing is a close second.

Interesting point.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Useful purpose for useless merchandise

Interesting nugget fished out by Captain Ed -- what happens to the locker room T-shirts of the losers?

At the end of the Super Bowl telecast, you saw the Colts donning hats and T-shirts proclaiming their victory as Super Bowl champs. The T-shirts usually also say they are the official locker room gear (somehow this adds to the cache of a danged T-shirt) so the replicas will indicate this is the same design the team wore after it won the game/title/etc. The apparel has to be printed up ahead of time so the apparel company reps (in this case, Reebok) can hand out the stuff immediately and spur sales by having players wear the stuff in front of the Super Bowl audience. Thus, Reebok made both Indy-champ gear and Bears champ gear, but only distributed one set.

What happens to the losing team's "champion" apparel? It goes to Africa through a charity, World Vision. That group distributes the surplus to villagers in the middle of nowhere so they gain clothing and the NFL can ensure that (1) the loser is not humiliated by the apparel, (2) profit seekers don't auction the junk on eBay.

Ronald Reagan's 96th

On February 6, 1911, President Reagan was born. Today would have been his 96th birthday. In remembrance TKM highlights some of the items we noted shortly after Pres. Reagan's death on June 4, 2004.

First, the eulogy from the great Iron Lady herself, Baroness Thatcher:

Ronald Reagan carried the American people with him in his great endeavors because there was perfect sympathy between them. He and they loved America and what it stands for--freedom and opportunity for ordinary people. . . . He never succumbed to the embarrassment some people feel about an honest expression of love of country. He was able to say "God Bless America" with equal fervor in public and in private. And so he was able to call confidently upon his fellow countrymen to make sacrifices for America--and to make sacrifices for those who looked to America for hope

and rescue.

With the lever of American patriotism, he lifted up the world. And so today the world--in Prague, in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Sofia, in Bucharest, in Kiev, and in Moscow itself--the world mourns the passing of the Great Liberator and echoes his prayer, "God Bless America."

Soviet dissident and later Israeli minister Natan Sharansky discussed what the reaction was in the gulag the Soviets held him in when he heard about one of Reagan's speeches:

Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

Lech Walesa echoed that sentiment:

When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.

Personally, I always liked Mark Steyn's ultimate benediction (not available online) that showed the contrast between Pres. Reagan and his predecessors among Western leaders:

[The '70s] was the era of “détente”, a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Under cover of “détente”, the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who subscribed to this grubby evasion – Helmut Schmidt, Pierre Trudeau, Francois Mitterand – but most of the so-called “conservatives”, too – Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, Gerald Ford.

Unlike these men, unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is fine print.

Monday, February 05, 2007

#12's #65

Today is also Roger Staubach's birthday, something that was not blaring all over the radio today in the Dallas area for some unknown reason. After all, Staubach is a legend here, for good reason. He won two Super Bowls and barely lost two others to the best team of the '70s, the Steelers. He served his obligation in the Navy after a college career that guaranteed him a top place in the NFL. And he's one of the few top QBs from the '60s-70s era whose bang-to-hype ratio is respectable even in modern terms. Consider the "great" QBs of the era -- Bob Griese never passed for 2500 yards in a season; Bradshaw had a career TD/INT ratio of 212-210 and completion percentage under 52; Snake Stabler's career TD/INT ration was 194/222; Namath's is worse -- 173/220 and only a 50.1 completion rate (compare Stabler and Namath to Kenny Anderson who had 197/160 as his ratio with lesser teams).

Staubach was only a career 57% passer, but did that in an era of sub-55% completion rates. No West Coast draw-and-screen offenses operated then -- the purpose of the pass was to gain serious yardage downfield. Receiving was more difficult because defensive backs could be all over WRs like the jump instructor in a tandem skydive (up until about 1978 when the NFL stiffened the interference rules -- and Staubach's last two seasons were '78 and '79) . Staubach's 2500+ yard passing seasons from 1974-77 in the last years of the 14-game schedule may sound paltry today, but each landed him in the top 5 in the league in passing yardage (ditto his 1978 and 1979 totals when he cracked the 3000 yard mark). And unlike his Hall of Fame contemporaries Bradshaw, Griese and Namath (Stabler's not in; Lenny Dawson whose numbers are similar to Staubach, with higher TD% and higher INT%, is), Staubach had an impressive 153/109 TD/INT ratio.

So happy birthday to a local legend . . . who's played smart even after football and become a real estate mogul in the Dallas metroplex.

Happy Birthday MonkAunt 1

It's MonkAunt1's birthday today and The Monk wanted to wish her the best. She's now X9 years old and you're not allowed to solve for X.

Happy Birthday MonkAunt1. I love you.

Must Read of the Day

The Jerusalem Post interview with Bernard Lewis.

I just finished it. Here are some excerpts:

Does the Iranian regime believe that a military attack on its nuclear sites would strengthen it? Do they think that it can be avoided - that they can manage to keep the West from attacking them?

My guess is that they do not expect to be attacked. Remember, they have no experience of the functioning of a free society. The sort of self-criticism and mutual criticism that we see as normal is beyond their understanding and totally outside their experience. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness and division and fear.

Therefore I think they have a very low estimate of the forces that oppose them, whether in the US or Israel or elsewhere. They expect to have it their way, whatever way they choose.

Does that attitude stem from something inherent in Islam?

No, it is not inherent in Islam. It is inherent in the kind of government under which they have lived for the last 200 years or so. In the earliest stages of Islam, the government was more open. Traditional Islamic governments devoted great importance to consultation, to content, to limited authority, to government under law; all these things are part of the traditional Islamic background.

That all ended a couple of hundred years ago. Nothing remains of it. It ended in two phases. Phase one, modernization, mainly in the 19th and early 20th century - modernization which strengthened the power of the state and either weakened or eliminated all those intermediary powers which had previously acted as constraints on government.

The second phase, the crucial one, is Vichy, when the French government surrendered in Syria and in Lebanon, a crucial Arab country, and half of the Middle East came under German control. They were able to extend from there into Iraq, which is where the Ba'ath Party's foundations were laid. The Ba'ath Party has no roots in the Arab or Islamic past. It is the Nazi party.

Later, when the Germans left and the Russians came, it wasn't too difficult to switch from the Nazi model to the Soviet model. It only needed minor retouching.

* * *

I have no doubt at all, and my Iranian friends and informants are unanimous on this, that Ahmadinejad means what he says, and that this is not, as some people have suggested, a trick or device. He really means it, he really believes it and that makes him all the more dangerous.

MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the Cold War. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again.

In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies. I find all that very alarming.

* * *

. . . In the earliest stages of Islam, the government was more open. Traditional Islamic governments devoted great importance to consultation, to content, to limited authority, to government under law; all these things are part of the traditional Islamic background.

That all ended a couple of hundred years ago. Nothing remains of it. It ended in two phases. Phase one, modernization, mainly in the 19th and early 20th century - modernization which strengthened the power of the state and either weakened or eliminated all those intermediary powers which had previously acted as constraints on government.

The second phase, the crucial one, is Vichy, when the French government surrendered in Syria and in Lebanon, a crucial Arab country, and half of the Middle East came under German control. They were able to extend from there into Iraq, which is where the Ba'ath Party's foundations were laid. The Ba'ath Party has no roots in the Arab or Islamic past. It is the Nazi party.

Later, when the Germans left and the Russians came, it wasn't too difficult to switch from the Nazi model to the Soviet model. It only needed minor retouching.

* * *

How do you explain the strength of the Islamic cultural psyche? There are third-generation Muslims in England who play cricket but whose loyalties to Muslim values are far stronger than anything they have picked up in England.

That is true. The loyalty is very strong, in Europe particularly. One sees a difference here between Europe and the US. One difference is that Europe has very little to offer. Europeans are losing their own loyalties and their own self-confidence. They have no respect for their own culture. It has become a culture of self-abasement. The diplomacy of what David Kelly called the "preemptive cringe." Naturally that is only going to encourage them in the worst aspects of their own.

If you look at the US, it is apparently somewhat different. There is much more, I hesitate to use the word assimilation, which in Jewish context has a negative connotation, [so] let us say acculturation.

There is also the fact that it is much easier to become American than to become European. To become American is a change of political allegiance. To become a Frenchman or a German is a change of ethnic identity. That is much more difficult for those who come and those who receive them.


Kudos to the Colts

Sorry Chris, but I actually picked one right this time. New year, and all that.

Some comments on the Colts' win in a Super Bowl that seemed dull for much of the second half.

First, nice piece in The Sporting News breaking down the Colts' run defense with Brian Baldinger. The Colts said after getting a butt-whipping from J'Ville that they were not that far off from what they needed to do in run defense. Critics scoffed -- how could that be after the Jags rolled up 375 yards on the ground and looked like the 1995 Nebraska run offense? The TSN article with Baldinger's analysis demonstrated where and how the Colts bonked their defensive assignments and how just one blown assignment on a given play led to huge holes and a big run (sound familiar Bears fans? Four words: Reggie Wayne touchdown catch). The horseshoes obviously corrected the flaws.

Second, this game was the closest beatdown in a Super Bowl in years. Until the Bears' final drive, the Colts had more than doubled up the Bears' yardage. But for Devin Hester and kicking farkups that cost the Colts 4 points, this was a 33-10 game. Consider that at one point in the third quarter, the Colts had run 63 plays, the Bears 23. But for some good Bears defense in the shadow of their own goalpost that forced the Colts to seek FGs, the game would have been over early in the third quarter.

Third, credit Manning on more than just one level -- not only did he prepare well, he helped get his team to smarten up. After the whole Colts offense started between jittery and stupid on the first drive, Manning settled down, made plays against pressure and took advantage of the holes in the Bears' defense to lead the team back from a minor 8-point deficit to a halftime lead. Credit also Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes for solid running, and Addai's ability as a receiver.

Other notes: (1) it took nearly a full quarter's worth of game time for CBS to locate the definitive replay of the bomb to Wayne and to analyze how and why the Bears allowed a Pro-Bowl WR to get open in the middle of the field for a 53-yard TD. That failure alone should lower the high marks CBS seems to be receiving for its game coverage.

(2) The Monk realizes wishful thinking when he hears it and that occurred yesterday while listening to Mike Ditka on Westwood One's radio pregame. Ditka said the Bears would actually like to see Indy run 40+ times and that he didn't think the Colts would have the patience to do that in the game. Ditka needs to cut his prescriptions. The Colts ran their gameplan with a fully balanced attack during their comeback from 18 points down against New England. They ran, short-passed, ran and ran some more on a 6+ minute drive to open the second half against the Pats while trailing by 15. The Colts didn't panic. And unlike the Saints, Chiefs and Chargers, the Colts never abandoned the ground game. They just do not panic. Why Iron Mike couldn't discern this is another issue, but the simple fact is that the Colts are exceedingly well-coached and their leadership in the huddle is incomparable.

(3) Rex Grossman is not the worst QB to ever lead a team to the Super Bowl. After all, Trent Dilfer actually won one, Craig Morton reached two, and David Woodley started one (and set the record for fewest completions by a starting QB in the Super Bowl). But Grossman is near the bottom of the list, and he showed why his critics have a point with his interceptions with the game on the line in the late third quarter and early fourth.

(4) The Bears need to admit the Cedric Benson experiment is only marginally better than the Curtis Enis fiasco. Benson is a stiff. His collegiate bang-to-hype ratio was out of whack, and he still landed in Chicago as a preposterously high draft choice. Stick with Thomas Jones, the only offensive player who had a decent game for the Bears yesterday.

(5) Bernard Berrian doesn't do very well creating his own space. The Bears tried too much on downfield plays (Phil Simms noted that every double-move pattern they tried failed miserably) and Grossman couldn't get the ball out far enough.

Finally, a Hall of Fame note. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters are specifically told to evaluate players only on what they did on the field. That is why Lawrence Taylor, for all his personal (sniff, snort) issues, was a no-doubter first-ballot player. Michael Irvin is not Lawrence Taylor in stature, importance to the history of the game, or impact as a player -- and not one bit of that evaluation should be read to denigrate Irvin. Indeed, Irvin is unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Fame quality player. He could have and likely should have received the nod two years ago. He deserved the honor last year (although if righting the incomprehensible wrong the Committee had done to Harry Carson was the reason Irvin had to wait another year, I have no problem with that). And he deserved it on Saturday.

So congratulations to the Playmaker. And The Monk will still remember how Penn State shut you down in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vaccinations and big government?

Texas Governor Rick Perry's social conservative credentials are not at issue, so he's relatively safe from the evangelical Right's wrath when signing an order mandating that Texas schoolgirls get vaccinated for human papilloma virus, aka HPV -- the cause of a type of cervical cancer. Is this just a boondoggle for Merck, which makes the vaccine (Disclosure: The Monk owns all of about 45 shares of Merck)? The wire service story linked to this post certainly plays up that angle. Is it a case of government acting instead of parents?

Long ago we ceded to the government the authority to tell us when we had to be vaccinated for public health reasons, and that is a logical decision. Vaccinations all but destroyed smallpox and all but eradicated polio. I do not want individual decisions on whether to get vaccinated to endanger me or my family. And neither I nor any other American should be saddled with the costs of treating someone who contracts a preventable disease but refused to take the requisite shots ahead of time. In other words, if you never had an MMR shot but go to Ukraine, you should be paying your hospital bills for rubella out of pocket when you return to the US, without insurance coverage (Ukraine has an inordinate number of rubella cases -- and that's just from the available data in the more developed areas of the country). That's the Consequence Corollary to your refusal to be vaccinated = you deal with the consequence.

Men can carry HPV, but won't get cervical cancer for obvious physiological reasons. Women can carry HPV, and it can kill them. The ways to contract HPV are all sexual in nature -- sexual intercourse is the main cause, naturally, but also potentially just contact with someone who has a venereal disease can transmit HPV. People with genital warts often have HPV, but do not exactly broadcast their lack of cleanliness to the world. Given these facts, Perry's decision is entirely defensible.

Doctors have been searching for the cure for cancer for decades. For one cancer, they found a prophyllactic that will prevent the cancer's inception. People will engage in sexual activity no matter what a given segment of society believes should or should not occur. In other words, Texans should take the medicine.

Not bearish on the Super Bowl

Considering that The Monk has been famously wrong in his recent predictions (see 2006 NCAA Tournament, 2006 baseball playoffs), The Monk's informed analysis may read well and seem logical, but has no value with regard to any bet you choose to place. In other words, it's a prediction whose only certainty is -- it will be wrong.

That said, The Monk thinks the Colts will win on Sunday. Here's why:

(1) The trend. This is both a strong and a weak reason. Trends do not win Super Bowls, teams do. Thus, the fact that the AFC has essentially reversed the NFC's former dominance by winning 7 of the last 9 after the NFC had won 13 straight means nothing. This is especially true because three of the seven AFC wins have been upsets (Denver I, New England I and Pittsburgh V). But the fact that the AFC has won recently, combined with its dominance of the NFC in interconference play, indicates the relative strength of the conferences. Last year the AFC's #6 beat the NFC's #1. This year it's the AFC's #3 against the NFC's #1.

(2) Battle-testing. The Bears play in a division notable for its weakness. Detroit is horrid, Minnesota was one of the worst teams in the league from week 3 onward, Green Bay barely cracked "decent". That's six of the Bears' contests. Four more came against the next weakest division in the NFC, the NFC West. And four more came against the AFC East, which is not bad but not the AFC West or North, either. Now consider the Bears' record: they needed a preposterous comeback and monumental opponent choke-job to beat Arizona, they were drilled at home by the Dolphins, outclassed in Foxboro by New England, and barely beat stinkbomb squads from Tampa and Detroit in December.

Contrast the Bears with Indy -- in its run through the playoffs it drilled KC and Baltimore whilst its Hall of Fame QB had a TD/INT ratio of 1/5. It beat New England twice, Philly and lit Denver for 34 when the Broncs had given up only about 2-3 TDs in six games for the whole season.

(3) Game management. The Bears are not that good at this (see: Seattle playoff game). The Colts are the best. Ask the Patriots how important this is.

(4) Distraction. Ron Rivera is in the Cowboys' cross-hairs as a potential defensive coordinator or head coach. He's going to interview after the Super Bowl. Distracted coaches do not gameplan as well as their non-distracted counterparts (See: Pats-Packers when Parcells would quit thereafter).

The biggest advantage the Bears have is a power defense against a generally finesse offensive line. But that Colts O-Line is one of the best in the game.

Colts to beat the spread.