Friday, February 29, 2008

WFB would have approved

Bill would have approved:

VATICAN CITY, Feb 29 (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Friday that baptisms had to be performed with the traditional formula "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" to be valid, rejecting new formulas that use inclusive non-male language.

A statement by the Vatican's doctrinal department rejected the new formulas, used by some Protestants and rarely by Catholics, which have come into use in an attempt to avoid masculine-exclusive language to refer to the Trinity.

The rejected formulas are:

"I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier" or "I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer."

The Vatican said that those baptised with the non-exclusive language would have to undergo a traditional baptism. Baptism is formal acceptance into Christianity.

Nice to see that the Roman Catholic church hasn't gone PC.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Conservative Avatar

Few men have had greater influence on the intellectual history of the latter half of the 20th Century than William F. Buckley, Jr. The founder and former editor of conservative magazine National Review, Buckley was a true American Tory -- a blueblooded upper crust conservative but with the anti-Communist and pro-capitalist outlook of America. His initial fame came from his memoir God and Man at Yale, which showed the anticapitalist and anti-religion leanings of the The small magazine he founded, with its intent to stand athwart history yelling "STOP" and its distrust of government programs best summarized by the statement "don't just do something, stand there" was the primary means by which numerous Americans from the 1950s to present have obtained exposure to libertarian conservatism and the philosophy of Russell Kirk.

More than just a magazine founder, Buckley became the urbane, witty and pleasant face of conservative punditry from the 1960s to the 1980s. Buckley was a smiling man of the Right. His coterie of merry right-wingers dumped the paleocons, Lindbergh isolationists and John Burchers from mainstream conservatism in the United States.

He hosted Firing Line on PBS for more than three decades, in which his trademark eye-twinkle and perspicacity ruled the day. He wrote the On the Right column for the NY Post (later syndicated nationally). He authored more than 50 books (at least 20 novels). He was a spy, a mayoral candidate, and a favorite guest of Johnny Carson. Counted among his friends were both Senator Barry Goldwater, and Goldwater's political progeny, Pres. Ronald Reagan. Indeed, as an intellectual actor on the historical stage, Buckley was the Right's indispensable man in the 1950s and '60s, as the WSJ points out:

National Review helped introduce a modern conservatism into American political life. Buckley and his talented stable of editors and contributors gave coherence and shape to what he called "a fusion" of traditionalism, anti-Communist internationalism and free-market economics. Equally important, the magazine worked to discredit fringe elements like the John Birchers, the Jew-haters and the Lindbergh isolationists.

This coalition served as the intellectual foundation for the rising architecture of the conservative movement. In 1964, Barry Goldwater defeated the Eastern establishment's Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican Presidential nomination. Though Goldwater badly lost, the ideas that animated his candidacy continued to gain support, and the 1980s saw the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and its fruits, a revolution in domestic economic policy and the undoing of the Soviet empire.

These achievements might not have happened without Buckley, who was uniquely suited to preside over the often-feuding factions of the early political right. He liked arguments over principle, but he also had an uncommon talent for adjudicating disputes and building coalitions. And though Buckley had bedrock beliefs, he had a conservative's distrust for systems and grand theories; his politics were pragmatic. His thinking and prose were governed by a critical-deliberative style that emphasized contingency and complexity. More than anything else, Buckley wanted to promulgate what he often referred to as "a thoughtful conservatism."

Buckley, the sixth of 10 children, married his college sweetheart in 1950 and they remained together until her death 10 months ago. They had one child, Christopher Buckley, author of ingenious Beltway satires such as Thank You For Smoking and Florence of Arabia. Their extended "family" remains at National Review and has spread throughout the nation's newspapers, magazines and news media.

William Frank Buckley, Junior, RIP.

William F. Buckley Jr. 1925-2008

TKM is saddened to report that William F. Buckley Jr. passed away this morning at home in Stamford, Connecticut.

Bill Buckley was the soul of the modern American conservative movement and the progenitor of the National Review, still today the eminent American conservative journal. This isn't a eulogy as frankly I am unqualified to write one.

My memory of Buckley dates to the late 1970s when Buckley's syndicated column "On the Right" would run in the New York Post perhaps twice a week. A neighbor used to get that paper and I would cut out Buckley's column and save it.

I often had to sit with my father's dictionary while reading that column as Buckley's vocabulary was nothing short of remarkable. His clever ripostes to the left-wing absurdities of the day were so valuable in that they were well written and that there were so few in wake of Vietnam and those dark pre-Reagan days.

I remember also his television progam The Firing Line where my impression of Buckley was the cordial, urbane host who reclined in his chair and got that sparkle in his eye when an opportunity presented itself to make a point.

Buckley was also an author of fine historical fiction. His best work, in my view, was Stained Glass. The tale of thwarted German reunification was particularly poignant during the Cold War and brought tears to my eyes when I first read it.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Would they do it for their own people?

I think its wonderful that Chinalco is moving 5,000 Peruvian families, building them new houses with clean water and sewage systems, in order to capitalize on a huge copper find.

Has this generosity EVER been shown IN CHINA to Chinese citizens by the government or the private sector?

LIMA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - China's biggest aluminum company, Chinalco, plans to buy up all the houses in a Peruvian mountain town and relocate 5,000 people to make space for its giant Toromocho copper project in the Andes Mountains, officials

Chinalco, or Aluminium Corp of China Ltd <>, is promising to build a new house for each family it relocates and install water and sewage systems in the new town. The existing town of Morococha, situated near old mines, lacks clean water
and is polluted, officials said.

"We are doing basic engineering for the project. We have a few years to move the town, but when we start producing it won't be there," Walter Diaz, head of environmental projects for Chinalco's Toromocho project, told reporters late Thursday.

Chinalco bought the project from junior miner Peru Copper last year for about $800 million, and the site could become one of Peru's biggest copper mines in 2011. It expects to spend $100 million on environment remediation and water treatment
projects before the mine opens.

"We are in an area that has been intensely mined, where all the bad environment stuff was concentrated by old-fashioned mining that was not managed well," Diaz said.

Toromocho has reserves of 2 billion tonnes, with a copper grade of 0.08 percent and will require $2 billion in investments, company officials said.

Peru Copper said annual production would be 273,000 tonnes of copper from a pit mine at Toromocho, which would boost annual output in Peru by about 20 percent. Peru is the world's third-largest copper producer after Chile and the United States.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Chef, 1971-2008

In the middle of my second year at college (we weren't "sophomores" because we were at UVa), I met this skinny russet-haired translucently pale beanpole first-year who wanted to write for the sports section at The Cavalier Daily. Other than his weight, he was a typical sports reporter -- quick wits, sharp tongue, acerbic, sardonic, skeptical (sceptical in the UK), loved free food, and lived and died with his sports teams (the thrice-da*ned Redskins, droopy Caps, pathetic Phillies and laughingstock Bullets/Wizards; not the happiest fan's life for our boy). Naturally, he'd debate any and all sports topics. You can see some of his commentary on this site. We ended up mangling his first name and calling him Chef.

I was the first real editor in his newspaper career. He was one of my associate editors at The Cavalier Daily when I was the sports editor. I worked him hard, then worked him harder, then really cracked the whip, and he took it. The bad habits he retained are his own -- the good ones he developed are ones I beat into him . . . or that's what I like to tell myself. Ultimately, if he'd dedicated himself to his studies to the degree he dedicated himself to sportswriting, he would have been a Rhodes Scholar . . . well, with his intellect, he'd have cracked a 3.3 GPA.

If Chef hadn't caught the sportswriter bug by the time he accepted the CD's associate editor offer, he contracted it soon thereafter. Placed on the women's hoops beat, he covered the team like a pro and had a great ride with the team through the NCAAs as Virginia went to its first Final Four, only to be ousted by one of Jeff's first athlete crushes -- Jennifer Azzi and Stanford. Coming back from his trip to Knoxville for the Women's Final Four with his colleague and future co-editor, he proclaimed the experience one of his best trips ever. From that point on, he was the newsroom equivalent of a gym rat -- perpetually hanging around and writing stories, columns and calling around to help investigations.

He pitched in everywhere (the news department constantly begged me to use him for their emergencies even though I usually told them to f**k off -- we were the SPORTS department and we were superior). He was our designated traveler to far off or out-of-the-way places because his mom's status as a pilot gave him price breaks on flights that a perennially cash-strapped paper loved to utilize. That's how he found himself in Alaska with the Virginia men's hoops team in November and December 1990 freezing his toes off and traveling 24 hours for a 48-hour assignment that net one story, maybe two, in our last pre-exam issue (Virginia reached the title game and got whupped by UCLA 89-74).

Simply said, Jeff embodied the culture of the CD sports department that made our section the envy of every other section at the paper: dedication, commitment, loyalty, dependability, and solid writing talent. My guys (the associate editors who worked under me) were all close friends. Three became reporters, one became an assistant city attorney, and another became a high-powered DC lawyer, another married a high-powered attorney (he was the group's gigolo). When I ran for advertising manager in our newspaper elections (that's how editorships and managing board staffing was decided), my guys paraded to the podium one by one to speak for my election. Chef did it with no expectation of repayment, but they all knew I'd take care of them -- that's why I did wheeling and dealing to ensure each of my associates had an editorship if he so chose the next year. And Chef certainly earned his position as one of my successors. Those aspects of him I noted above, professionally and personally, were among the reasons we remained friends long after I moved all around the country before settling halfway across the nation.

Ultimately, I admired in Chef the determination that led him to follow his dream of sports reporting. He had the wherewithal to live for years in a basement hovel in a cubist nightmare apartment building in Danville, Va. that should have been condemned in the mid-70s, where he survived on take-out and ramen because his kitchen sink was anywhere from non-functional to filled with alligators climbing out of the sewers, and his radiator spat and puffed like a fat man with a three-pack-per-day cigarette habit, all while making $18K to cover high school sports in the hopes of moving to a better venue to cover better stories. He eventually did so, becoming part of the North Carolina sports scene despite a personal disdain for Dean Smith (I'm sure he said something about antichrist in the same sentence as Deano's name) and contracting something akin to stomach ulcers with every UNC NCAA Tournament win.

A relatively young man never expects that, in his early thirties, he'll get blinding headaches that cause blackouts . . . ultimately caused by a tumor growing somewhere in the brain above his left ear. That happened to Chef about 5-6 years ago. The doctors removed the tumor but extensive testing (even after shipping the dang thing to Johns Hopkins) never revealed whether it was benign or malignant. In early 2007, we got the answer . . . Chef had another tumor. More surgery, then chemo, combined with anti-seizure meds and much monitoring -- I thought he was doing ok. I could barely get a straight answer out of him when I asked for updates. I wanted to visit last autumn . . . but his schedule had him working weekends and I lacked follow-through after a ridiculous workload in October and November. Evidently, the chemo didn't work out as well as we'd hoped: our friend Luskerdu said he thought Chef was setting his affairs in order in January.

On Monday, Chef went to the ER, then to ICU. The next day, he was nearly healthy enough mid-day to get discharged . . . and then collapsed into a coma. Overnight, he became brain dead. His family took him off the respirator this morning.

Tonight I'll hoist one to Chef, who followed his dream and lived a full life, regardless of its brevity.

Jeffrey Charles Carlton, RIP.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Al Gore will be the next President

John Derbyshire, the maverick conservative at National Review, is repeating a call that he made last year. Namely that Al Gore will be the Democratic nominee. The thesis is that the Clinton/Obama battle will go the convention and both will be so battered that Gore will ride in on a (hopefully rather solid) white stallion.

I hope he's right. I'll be voting for McCain but given the devil's alternative between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama I find myself in the very very odd position of rooting for Mrs. Clinton. Why? Hillary is a lot smarter and damn sight tougher than Obama who is a thoroughly orthodox liberal whose resume is primarily community activism.

Certainly also I think Mrs. Clinton is eminently more beatable than Obama. Obama has a subtle and very powerful race card to play. Moderates and independents uncertain between Obama and McCain will ask themselves whether not voting for Obama involves subconscious racism. So to prove themselves not racist they vote Obama.

A horrible reason to choose a President. But one that's going to be very, very hard to fight.

Between Gore and Clinton or Gore and Obama, Gore is clearly the saner preference. He has become environment nutter #1 but reckon he'll be busier with other things in the White House.

So for the safety of the Republic let's hope Derb is right.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents' Day? Yuck

The Monk hates the notion of Presidents' Day. There have been 42 Presidents of the United States (remember, Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President) and only about 5-6 are truly worth honoring: Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, Truman, Jefferson. Many of the rest have been good leaders, notable men or great statesmen but many of the most venerated are noted more for the force of their personality or the events surrounding them than the worth of their actual accomplishments (Jackson, FDR, TR, JFK). Others were simply mediocrities (everyone between Polk and Lincoln and from 1868-1901; Harding; Ike). Worse yet, there are entirely too many who have disgraced themselves, the country or the office (Nixon, Carter, Clinton).

So Presidents' Day is a worthless catchall holiday. It used to be Lincoln and Washington's Birthday -- a combination day off instead of two holidays celebrating the anniversaries of the births of our two best presidents on February 12 (Lincoln) and February 22 (Washington). When I was a boy, we had both days off and rightly so -- the greatest nation in the world should honor the two men most responsible for its survival. Therefore, I have no use for Presidents' Day. Honor those who deserve it and don't let the useless, worthless and heinous reap the rewards that they played no part in sowing.

Forget the nets, use the spray

Pres. Bush is in Africa and touting US efforts to ensure enough bed netting is sent to Tanzania to protect every child between ages 1 and 5 from malarial mosquitoes. If he wanted to do something REALLY useful, he'd encourage the export of DDT to Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique and other malaria-zone African countries to kill the mosquitoes. It's still the most effective, least expensive and non-invasive manner to save lives lost to malaria available.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Birthday of the Greatest

My bad for being three days late to note the birthday of Abraham Lincoln - the greatest President in the history of the United States.

As Monk has argued before combining the birthdays of the two greatest leaders of the American Republic into a vapid "Presidents' Day" is a disservice to the gentleman from Virginia and the gentleman from Illinois.

Why Lincoln over Washington? It's not an easy decision but Lincoln successfully prosecuted the most difficult and horrific war in our history where every casualty was an American. In doing so, he preserved the Union.

The importance of that articulated in the last sentence of his greatest speech:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Best line at Clemens/McNamee Hearing

Grandstanding congressman (trying to establish that B12 injections are unnecessary):

Have you ever been anemic?

Clemens: No.

Congressman: Have you ever been diagnosed with senile dementia?

Clemens: No.

Congressman: Are you a vegan?

Clemens (puzzled): I don't know what that is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Biofuels and the law of unintended consequences

Some of the more perspicacious environmental reporters and columnists like Ron Bailey and Peter Huber mentioned last year, around the time Congress debated its energy bill, that biofuels actually caused more environmental damage than they forestalled. One reason is the amount of resources used to generate such fuels -- from the farmland for corn to trucking the oil to ethanol treatment facilities to distributing the ethanol to the gasoline purchasing public. Another reason is that the loss of forest land to farm use has a devastating effect on the ability of the earth to absorb CO2, which means it gets released in the atmosphere.

Now Science magazine -- a peer reviewed journal with no track record of flat-earth right-wing ties -- has published two studies that show the greater damage due to biofuels than current energy sources. The WSJ discusses the findings in the editorial linked above and concludes:

. . . special blame also belongs to the environmentalists, who are engaged in a grand bait-and-switch. They stir up a panic about global warming, and Washington responds to the political incentives. Then those policies don't work and the greens immediately begin pushing a new substitute, whose outcomes and costs are equally uncertain. But somehow, that never seems to discredit the entire enterprise and taxpayers keep footing the subsidy bill. Our guess is that these new revelations will also be ignored. They're too embarrassing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bust or McCain?

Mark Helprin rips the right-wing pundit class for its loud and counterproductive attacks on John McCain.

One can agree or disagree with his peripheral positions, but political orthodoxy is political death. If those who are in a hissy fit about Sen. McCain would rather have Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they will get Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- how delightful to go to jail for building your house on land once visited by an exotic moth -- and they will wake up to a great regret, as if in their drunkenness they had taken Shrek to bed.

But, guess what? Even if, as the country veers left, living conservatives gnash their teeth and dead ones spin in their graves, a small class of conservatives will benefit. And who might they be? They might be those whose influence and coffers swell on discontent, and who find attacking a president easier and more sensational than the dreary business of defending one. They rose during the Clinton years. Perhaps they are nostalgic. It isn't worth it, however, for the rest of us.

So, rather than playing recklessly with electoral politics by sabotaging their own party ostensibly for its impurity but equally for the sake of their self-indulgent pique, each of these compulsive talkers might be a tad less self-righteous, look to the long run, discipline himself, suck it up, and be a man. And that would apply equally as well to the gorgeous Laura Ingraham and the relentlessly crocodilian Ann Coulter

He's right.

The Monk is not a big McCain fan. The Senator's opposition to free speech and emotion-driven campaign against non-torturous torture are but two of his less endearing political positions. But in a contest between McCain and Huckabee (who is basically just a white Obama, but less pretty) there is no question who the Republican nominee must be.

Similarly, failing to vote for McCain due to a dubious failure by the Senator to hew to a conservative agenda is simply stupid. Consider the alternatives: (1) the callow, weak, naive and pacifistic Obama; (2) the socialist Hillary Clinton. Is withholding a vote for McCain worth the inevitable benefit that either of the others would realize? Simply stated, no.

Ultimately, in November, McCain will carry the banner of the Republicans and the conservatives need to vote for him no matter how much nose-holding it takes. He will be the worst choice, except for all the others.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A reinvented life

David Tyree has received a lot of attention for The Catch during last Sunday's Super Bowl. But he has had a greater achievement -- he smartened up and got scared straight after being arrested for marijuana possession in 2004. Read the whole piece from today's NYT:

From special-teams demon to Super Bowl deity. From moonlighting drug dealer to born-again Christian. From a child who drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with his family to a sober father and husband who started his own nonprofit organization.

That's right: Tyree was a drunk and dopehead even as far back as junior high school. That speaks volumes about his athletic ability to become a Division I-A football player (Syracuse) and NFL draftee. His character seemingly caught up to his athleticism about four years ago.

Good on him.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cloud Dragon, 1922-2007

In 1922, in Kowloon, Hong Kong a boy named Cloud Dragon was born. He grew up in a house on Kai Yun Road with his younger brother (b. 1927). The Cloud Dragon attended a government school and then Queen's College -- a British public school. On Christmas Eve 1941, he left the family home and walked with two friends into mainland China. He left Hong Kong and enlisted because he believed that death in resisting the Japanese would be preferable to living under their heel.

Hong Kong fell to the Japanese the next day.

In 1942 he joined the Chinese Nationalist Army under Chiang Kai-Shek and trained in Fukien as an intelligence officer. From 1942-43 he worked in military intel; in 1944, he trained for guerrilla warfare under the Sino-American Cooperation Organization, SACO. He had been deployed to southeast China for attacks against the Japanese by V-J Day 1945.

After WWII, Cloud Dragon became a detective in Tientsin and later a police chief in Ping Chuan. By 1948, he had become a detective in Hunan Province but lost his job as the Communists began to consolidate their power. He traveled south to Canton, but couldn't find work. Instead, he stayed at a Secret Service guest house through 1949 and worked for the Nationalists. In October 1949, he left again to move southwestward to Yunnan in an attempt to evade the Communists and link up with the last sizable nationalist force. That failed.

On Christmas Eve 1949, the Chinese Communists captured Cloud Dragon. But he had the foresight to remove all insignia from his uniform and pretended to be just infantry. The ChiComs imprisoned him for four months in Yunnan but released him and other low-interest prisoners because the locals (whom the ChiComs then had to placate) complained about feeding the prisoners. In Spring 1950, the ChiComs released him with instructions on where he had to report . . . he took the opposite route, decamped for Canton again, exchanged his lone sweater for opium, sold the opium to an addict for enough Hong Kong dollars to sustain his travels and slipped into Hong Kong by tricking the border guards preventing Chinese from going into the British protectorate.

Once in Hong Kong, Cloud Dragon tried to find work through old school connections. He made brooms from coconut fibers in exchange for two meals a day from an old schoolmate. He borrowed $500 from a loan shark to become a cabin mate on a freighter and left Hong Kong bound for Sydney. From day one, he determined to jump ship and start again, but the ship hands told him not to do it in Australia. The freighter then went west to Europe. Ultimately he transferred to the ship Muncaster Castle, which left Le Havre in Spring 1951 and arrived in New York in June.

He jumped ship.

He hid in Chinatown until the ship left port, then took a job washing dishes in a restaurant in Brooklyn. The INS arrested him two weeks after that. His asylum claim took five years to resolve in his favor -- Cloud Dragon became a legal resident in 1956, and a citizen in 1962. After training as a draftsman and some early jobs, which ultimately ended due to cutbacks, he couldn't find work. So he became a waiter and then a cook in a New York Chinese restaurant.

In 1970, he had a son.


The 48-year age difference did not matter much to either Wongdoer or Cloud Dragon. The devoted son almost never missed getting home immediately after school on Wednesday to spend time with his dad on the latter's off day. The father taught his son Chinese history and helped guide the path that ended up with Wongdoer going to Harvard. And Wongdoer gave the old man great joy in his latter years -- Wonglings 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Although Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday to most people, it was a different type of notable occasion for Wongdoer. That's because February 3, 2008 is the one-year anniversary of the death of the Cloud Dragon -- the literal translation of the name of Wongdoer's dad.

Cloud Dragon, RIP.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

McCain's CPAC speech

I thought Senator McCain, who became the mortal lock for the Republican presidential nomination with the suspension of Mitt Romney's campaign today, gave a strong, meaningful speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference today.

It was no stemwinder and the Senator isn't a naturally gifted speaker but it was a success because he was forthright but conciliatory, didn't flip-flop, attacked both Senator Clinton and Obama and struck the right notes in terms of how differently he or either of his opponents would lead America.

Opening with a quote from Edmund Burke that liberty was bestowed by the Creator and protected by the government rather than the opposite was a nice touch. So was describing himself as a 'foot-soldier of the Reagan Revolution' (though I am told this has been a staple)

What McCain needs to do now is assemble the coalition and get folks like James Dobson on board because he'll need every vote in November, especially if his opponent is Senator Obama. Romney would not be bad as economics czar and possible Secretary of the Treasury. And on the short list of VPs, a solidly conservative, well respected, well connected governor like Haley Barbour of Mississippi might be just the ticket. (You heard it here first.)

A though on McNamee

I am waiting for the Monk's erudtion on this but upon hearing reports that McNamee has submitted used needles that contain both steroid and Clemen's DNA seems extraordinarily suspicious.

These samples are apparently from 2000 and 2001 when as I recall neither steroids(?) or HGH were banned by baseball. Which begs the question what would possess McNamee to keep and carefully guard these samples if they were genuine?

Tremendous foresight?


Does McNamee have samples from any other player?

Smells like week old sushi.

Disgrace of the day

This should never happen, and the Bush Administration's weak dollar policy is to blame:

In the latest example that the U.S. dollar just ain't what it used to be, some shops in New York City have begun accepting euros and other foreign currency as payment for merchandise.

The dollar is so weak that American businesses now willingly accept foreign currencies! This is a complete disgrace and will have negative economic consequences for the US.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Because it's my blog, that's why

A couple more stats from the Super Bowl because once I stop posting this stuff, we're going in for the silly season in the campaigns . . .

Stat #1: The Giants' 17 points is the lowest total for a Super Bowl winner in 33 years! The last time any team scored fewer than 20 points and won the Super Bowl was the 1974 Steelers. Only five teams have won the Super Bowl and scored fewer than 20 points: Jets (SB III), Colts (SB V), Dolphins (SB VII), Steelers (SB IX), and the Giants (SB XLII). By contrast, ten teams have scored 20+ and lost the Super Bowl (all since Dallas lost 35-31 in SB XIII) and another nine have scored 17 or more and lost the Super Bowl.

Stifling the highest scoring team in the NFL during the Super Bowl, as the Giants did, is not unprecedented -- after all, the '72 Dolphins led the league in scoring but hold the record for fewest points scored by a Super Bowl winner -- 14.

Stat #2: This one surprised me -- there have now been eight Super Bowls where the two Super Bowl teams played during the regular season and the game was decided by 7 points or less. The losing team from the regular season matchup is 7-1 in the Super Bowl rematch. The only loser who lost again: 1986 Broncos, who lost 19-16 at Giants Stadium during the regular season and 39-20 to the G-Men in SB XXI.

Happy Birthday MonkAunt 1

Today is the XXth anniversary of the arrival of MonkAunt 1, youngest child (all daughters) of NanaMonk and PapawMonk.

Happy Birthday MonkAunt 1. I love you.

Monday, February 04, 2008

More Super Bowl notes

An observation and a question.

First: the team trailing at halftime in the Super Bowl is 8-32 (twice teams reached halftime tied); the Giants are 3-1 in Super Bowls but have trailed at the half every time.  That means other than the Giants, teams trailing at the half are 5-31.  The only Giant team that lost a Super Bowl when trailing at the half trailed 10-0 at the break -- no team has won a Super Bowl after getting shut out in the first half.

Second: the question I have is simple -- how can ANYONE ever rattle off a short list of the greatest quarterbacks ever without mentioning Joe Montana?  Throughout the past week, the question the pundit class kept asking was where did Brady rank alongside Marino, Elway, Favre, Bradshaw and . . . and . . . far too few mentions of Montana.  Giants fans remember Montana all too well because he befuddled good Giants defenses in the 1981 and 1984 playoffs, and the Giants exacted revenge in 1985 and '86.  We remember the seemingly unstoppable Montana from 1989, when the 49ers beat a good Giants team 34-24 and later romped their way through the playoffs by ridiculous scores (41-13, 30-3, 55-10).  And we relish how the Giants ultimately shocked the 49ers by ending their dynasty in 1990 by beating Montana and the two-time defending champs 15-13 in Candlestick Park.  

Montana won four Super Bowls -- a feat only Bradshaw has also accomplished.   Montana was THE key player for the 49ers in all four -- he won THREE MVP awards (Bradshaw had two) and could easily have won four (his 357 yards passing in SB XXIII was a record, but Jerry Rice won the award).  He may not have had the howitzer arm like Marino, nor the triumphant exit of Elway (retiring as a two-time defending champ), but he was the leader of the best team of the 1980s -- one that won more titles before Jerry Rice arrived (two) than the 1970s Steelers did without Harris, Stallworth or Swann (zero).

Redemption for Dr. Z

Paul Zimmerman, aka Dr. Z, is one of the better football analysts in the media -- he understands the game better than the layman and better than most multi-decade beat writers.  Almost forty years ago he came thisclose to picking the Jets to beat the Colts in Super Bowl III.  At the time, Zimmerman was the Jets beat writer for the NY Post and wondered exactly why the Colts should be able to stop the Jets even though they ran the same soft defenses that Joe Namath had riddled throughout the Jets' AFL title-winning season.  Z came up short -- he picked the Jets to cover the spread, but lose.

On Tuesday January 22, 2008, Zimmerman threw caution to the wind and picked the Giants to beat the seemingly unbeatable Patriots.  The Monk avoided reading the article until today.  In January 2001, I read every prediction and every column on the Super Bowl and saw no reason the Giants should not be able to beat the Ravens.  So much for that.  

With the Giants in the Super Bowl this year, facing what would become the best team to lose a Super Bowl, The Monk only read basic articles.  No prediction columns (who in their right mind would pick the Giants?), no uber-analysis (it all said the same thing, Pats receivers v. Giants secondary, could the Giants' D-Line get pressure on Brady by beating the Pats' indomitable O-Line, the key to the game was the Giants' ability to run against the Pats' front seven, etc.).  No, the Pats had not impressed anyone by scratching past a depleted Chargers team in Foxboro two weeks ago; and no, the Pats had not exactly routed the Jags, even with Brady's ridiculous 26-28 passing game.  But seriously, The Monk wanted the G-Men to have a chance to win at the end - I thought that was all I could hope for.

So kudos to Dr. Z, who noted correctly that the Giants were the only team to shut down Lawrence Maroney recently (4 100-yard performances in his last five games), the Giants had enough talent to bang heads with the Pats in the trenches, and the Giants' grit that carried them to 10 straight road wins could carry them past the latest applicant for the moniker "best team ever."

Not bad as redemption goes.

GIANTS 17, Patriots 14


New York Giants, Super Bowl Champions.

Woo hoo!

The Monk had to master the most difficult of balancing acts yesterday -- keep from screaming and yelling his head off whilst Monkling 1.0 slept in the next room as the Giants pulled off the greatest Super Bowl upset in The Monk's lifetime (Super Bowl III predates the Monk).

Make no mistake, the Giants WON the game much more than the Patriots lost. The teams had the same number of turnovers (1 each) and were rarely flagged (nine total by Mike Carey's notably flag-free crew -- his games are not penalty-fests). So the advantages each team obtained had to be earned.

Here's earning it: (1) the Giants allowed 14 points to the Pats -- more than 22 below the Pats' season average and fewer than the Pats had scored in any game all year; (2) the Pats, who averaged 411+ yards per game, had their second-worst offensive output (274) all year; only the 265 yards in horrid conditions against the woebegone Jets was a worse day for the P-men; (3) the Giants sacked Tom Brady 5 times (more than any team did this year) and hit him on about 15+ other attempts -- the key to the game was whether the Giants could put Brady on his a**, and unlike the teams' regular season matchup and the Pats' 31-20 win over the Jags in the playoffs, Brady did not have time to find his receivers; (4) the Giants outgained the mighty Pats' offense 338-274; (5) Brady threw for 266 yards on 48 passes but the Pats gained 229 yards on 53 pass plays (counting sacks) -- 4.3 yards per pass play and 5.4 yards per pass; Brady averaged an NFL best 8.3 yards per attempt this year; (6) the Patriots did not have a play longer than 19 yards; (7) the Giants' defense covered the team's two worst mistakes (other than the Pierce pass interference) -- it forced a three-and-out possession after Eli's deflected interception and held the Pats on downs after the illegal substitution penalty early in the second half that restarted a Patriot drive; (8) Remember this fact for all times: the Giants are the second team in Super Bowl history to come from behind and score the game winning TD in the last minute (San Francisco, SB XXIIII) -- and they did that against the best team to reach the Super Bowl since at least the 1990 Bills.

No fan of the Giants could fault the team. This defensive group (#8 overall) is not the dominant league-destroying unit of the '86 or '90 teams, yet it continually excelled against the three best offenses in the league.

Consider what the Giants did with a secondary that is not within the league's top 10. The Giants' defensive strength is their front seven -- the pressure that the line can put on the opponent, and the ability of the linebackers to make tackles. To win the NFL crown, the Giants' defensive line had to match up against Tampa (no big deal) and then three of the best offensive lines in the NFL, which (not coincidentally) fronted the top three offenses in the league -- Dallas (#3), Green Bay (#2) and New England (#1). The Giants held all three under their season averages for yards (and points) and only the Cowpatties broke the 300-yard mark. Moreover, during their last three games, the Giants faced the top three QBs in yards per attempt (Romo - #2, Favre - #3, Brady - #1) and held all far below their season average. Romo averaged 5.6 yards per attempt in the playoff game, 8.1 during the season; Favre's split of 6.7 v. the Giants but 7.8 during the season is deceptive -- without that 90-yard TD, he averaged 4.3 yards per attempt.

The win over the Pats is the best of the bunch -- the Patriots have three Pro Bowl offensive linemen and have raised the subtle hold (i.e., the one that officials don't catch) to an art form. But neither Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, Pro Bowl tackle Matt Light nor Pro Bowl center Dan Koppen could control their assigned defenders. Giants DE/DT Justin Tuck ran circles around Mankins and Koppen; Giants Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyioura crashed down the blind side of Brady's protection all day; and the old man of the D, Michael Strahan, created his own brand of havoc. Against Green Bay and New England, Umenyioura had two of the most effective no-sack games a defensive end could have; against Dallas, he crushed All Pro tackle Flozell Adams down the stretch after Flo had controlled their matchup all season.

And after all the kudos to the defense, give this credit: ELI MANNING is The Man. Not just due to 9-14-152, 2 TD in the fourth quarter, but because he outplayed the three top QBs in the league not related to him in consecutive playoff games. Phil Simms perennially completed 56-58% of his passes and had a QB rating in the high 70s -- he has two Super Bowl rings. Eli may not be deadly accurate (career high 57.7% in '06) or mistake-free (55 INT since '05, rating between 73.9 and 77), but he has frequently come through in the clutch (see at Philadelphia, 2006; at Washington, Chicago, Green Bay, 2007) and, most importantly, he can lead a winner. The Monk has liked his operation of the two-minute drill for years . . . another trait Simms had. And in the two biggest drives of the postseason, the Giants rode Eli's arm to the end zone -- late first half against Dallas, end of game against the Pats.

Now he's a champion and a Super Bowl MVP. And he will be forever.

Friday, February 01, 2008

More Super Bowl fun facts

The Super Bowl and the NCAA championship game are oddities in US sports -- one-game winner-takes-all matches that follow a tournament of one-game seasons. In the NCAA, the winner now must win six games, in the NFL the champion will win three or four games, and in each instance there is no margin for error. One bad day means season-ending defeat.

With that level of intensity and pressure, the championship game is the most tense game of the year. All sports fans watch the Super Bowl, all NCAA fans (even the most casual) watch the Final. With the stakes at their highest, the teams either play tight, close contests or one will get blown out. And the highs and lows of general regular season games tend to be minimized.

Examples: (1) Since the shot clock (designed to increase scoring and minimize stall-ball) was first implemented in the 1987 tournament, no NCAA title game has witnessed both teams scoring 80 or more points; (2) In the history of the NCAA tournament, no title game has had both teams score 90+ points; (3) only one team has ever scored 100 points in the NCAA title game; but (4) in the shot clock era, only four teams have failed to score 65 points in the NCAA title game (2002 Maryland (won), 1992 Michigan, 2002 Indiana, 2006 UCLA (all lost). In other words, the over the past 21 years, the range for both the teams is about 65-84 points -- not high scoring, not preposterously poor offense either.

NFL example: (1) In 1 of 41 Super Bowls, both teams have scored 30+ points; (2) Only two teams have scored more than 50, three others have scored more than 40 points; (3) Since the AFL-NFL merger only six teams failed to score 10 points, and four of those occurrences happened in the first five years after the merger.

The Super Bowl has had more blowouts than the NCAA title game, but it's easier to make a two-minute streak and get back into an NCAA title game than to run up three TDs in a quarter.

More remarkable is the amount of concentration and lack of game reversal -- no team has come back from more than a 10-point halftime deficit to win the NCAA title game. Similarly the largest deficit that a Super Bowl champ ever faced was 10 points -- when Denver scored the first 10 in SB XXII and the Redskins reversed that with 35 second quarter points in a 42-10 win.

So here's what to look for Sunday: (a) any team that leads by 10+ points will win . . . unless it's the Giants because they led the Pats by 12 in the Meadowlands and lost -- so just because no one has done it before does not mean it's impossible; (b) no team has come from more than 11 points down to take the lead in the Super Bowl (Carolina from 21-10 down to 22-21 up against New England); (c) only one team has trailed by more than 14 points and even achieved a tie (Tennessee -- from 16-0 down to a 16-16 tie against the Rams); (d) NO TEAM HAS EVER BEEN SHUT OUT IN THE FIRST HALF AND WON THE SUPER BOWL; just ask the Vikings -- four Super Bowl appearances, zero first half points.

Finally, remember the 1999 Rams -- they scored 526 points (nearly 33 per) and allowed 242 for a 284 point differential that rivals the Pats' 315. The Rams won the Super Bowl thanks to a last-second tackle by Mike Jones that left the Titans one yard short of a tie game. The Monk hopes Sunday's game is as good . . . but that the underdog overachieves.

The book that I hope will be unpublishable

If the Giants pull off the upset this weekend, I think demand for this book (click the link) will be non-existent.

Why McCain over Romney?

Kimberly Strassel describes why the Republicans' seemingly Hobbesian choice of McCain or Romney really isn't that hard to make:

. . . For all his flaws, many top Republicans are concluding the Arizonan has the best shot of winning a Presidential election that many had figured was doomed. Their calculation goes like this:

In a race that will be fought on national security, Mr. McCain is one of the few public figures with the potential to convince Americans to stick with Iraq, and in turn neutralize the war. This would also boost congressional Republicans. On the broader question of security, he'd cut Hillary Clinton's "experience" down to size. He'd arguably run national security rings around the Illinois rookie, and that's before Barack Obama got a chance to make another foreign policy gaffe.

Mr. McCain has the potential to swing critical independents. This would matter against any Democrat, but in particular against Mr. Obama. New Hampshire Independents got to choose their primary last month, and the early betting was that they'd flock to the Democrats and Mr. Obama. In fact, they made up a greater share of the Republican primary vote than they did in 2000, drawn by Mr. McCain.

A related point: Mr. McCain's independent support is in part a function of his ability to manage the Bush question. As Mr. Romney has walked a tightrope, unsure whether to embrace or decry an unpopular president, Mr. McCain has simply pointed to his own record. Voters loyal to President Bush see in Mr. McCain a man who stood firm on the Iraq war. Voters who dislike Mr. Bush see a man who criticized the president on the conduct of that war. This is useful.

He also has the potential to stem the flood of Hispanics from the GOP. His new immigration strategy was on display in this week's debate: He'll talk about the importance of securing the border, and say no more. With this he hopes to mollify conservatives, and will leave it to others to remind Hispanics of his record. Florida was a useful test case, with Mr. McCain winning more than half the Hispanic vote. Another quarter went to Rudy Giuliani, who has since thrown in with Mr. McCain. Mr. Romney got 14%.

Mr. McCain has a better opportunity to make a Clinton competition about character and believability. He's no flip-flopper, and his duty-honor-loyalty persona would stand in stark contrast to both Clintons. He has a better opportunity to make an Obama race about core beliefs. Like or dislike Mr. McCain's views, Americans know what they are. Mr. Obama has been a cipher.

Most important, Mr. McCain retains the potential to make inroads with those who've had to hold their noses just to read this far. He does have a real problem with the GOP base. The key difference between Mr. McCain in 2000 and 2008 is that he knows it, and appears intent on making amends. Watch for him to be as pure as the New Hampshire snow on the two core issues of taxes and judges. His campaign has thrown its all into collecting establishment endorsements who will make his case with their state faithful. Supply-side icons such as Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm will try to soothe the feistier organizations in the GOP camp.

Yes, it's dangerous to nominate a candidate based primarily on electability (see Kerry, John; then again, who else could the Dems have credibly nominated in '04?), but the problems Romney has as a candidate (Mormon, flip-flopper, no foreign policy experience, businessman turned governor like Pres. Bush) could be deadly in the general election. From Hillary's dishonesty to Obama's callowness, McCain has great strengths that strike at the core weaknesses of the leading Democrats.