Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'd have had to kill myself

No other response would have been appropriate.

You've seen the catalog of reasons why I hate Fantasy Baseball. You've heard me lament my misfortune: My pitchers who can't, my hitters who can't hit, my 'athletes' who can't walk.

Well, today something went right. When I first heard it, my initial reaction was, "About time!" Only after I pondered it did panic set in.

Mench isn't in my line up. I benched him the other day, I know I did...

So what did I miss? A nice day at the ballpark:

3-4, 3 HR, 5 RBI

In the throes of my despair I went back to Yahoo and checked my line-up. In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle: SURPRISE! SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

He was in the line-up! Good thing too, I'd have been forced to resign my membership in the league for terminal stupidity.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any dumber....

It does. (Hat Tip: Creep.)

It's not an excuse, but...

Michael at Christian Conservative authored a very interesting, nay even controversial post today, titled The virtue of Modesty. His premise is that modesty in society as a whole is a function of how women in that society act.

His exact words are "Women are the guardians of modesty in society." In addition, Michael makes a corollary statement that I think is right on: "Men will behave as badly as our women will let us."

I spent several years in the mid- and late-90s involved in ministry with single adults. It's an interesting group of people to know and work with, and sadly, one of the most under-served groups in a lot of churches.

The years between college and marriage, whether it's but a few or a dozen, are the most difficult of any for single Christians. The culture of Christian churches doesn't account for it. Ministries and their focus are built around young people and married couples while the 'tweeners are left to themselves.

Sexuality adds fuel to this already burning fire. The fact that men and women view it differently and react differently to it adds to the burden of single-ness for many.

Over the course of my years in this ministry, our pastor would every-so-often start a teaching series on "Christian dating." In a group of 100 single men and women you will run the entire gamut; well-adjusted young professionals who are relationally-literate but are involved in the ministry because they desire to meet like-minded people to the stereo-typical "social misfit," for whom relationship-building, much less dating, is pure torture. Like any other cross-section of society, a collection of Christians won't be too different than the society at large aside from their Christian faith.

To this group, Pastor Duncan would bring his series and try simply to offer some broad guidelines about developing meaningful Christian relationships between the sexes, be they platonic or romantic (and here's where we get to Michael's points).

Men, left to themselves, will speak and act sexually. They will stare, they will desire and they will vocalize it. At the extreme, they'll act it out if given the opportunity. It's hard-wired into the machinery.

Having said that, God offers sufficient grace to us for dealing with our desires in an appropriate manner. In the spirit of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, Gordy would also point out that women have a responsibility not to feed the beast.

1 Corinthians 8: 9-13--9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

As Christians have an obligation not to cause a brother to stumble in the case of food prepared before idols, so Christian sisters have a similar obligation not to tempt Christian brothers in their words, actions or by their dress.

Seems a bit oppressive at first blush, doesn't it? The important thing to understand though is that when single men and women honor each other--the woman by restraining herself and not feeding the man's natural tendency to sexual sin, and the man by engaging the woman in a relationship based on honor, love and affection rather than just sexuality--they are both better served and both better off.

I think Michael got it right. Women need to understand their responsibility in this matter. Having said that, a woman's behavior is not an excuse: ultimately how a man deals with his sexual nature is his responsibility.

As I said though, when a man and a woman each understand their unique responsibility in their relationship when it comes to sexuality each will be rewarded with a healthy and satisfying relationship that is God-honoring.

If you read the comments section after his post, Michael has taken a little heat about it today, but I think he got it right. Regardless of whether he did or didn't get it right, such discussions are refreshing and frankly for Christians in today's world, necessary.

I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated.

Who said it and when did they say it?

Give up?

Jay Rockefeller, as in Senator(D) from West Virginia, on the floor of the Senate on October 10, 2002. As documented by Stephen Hayes in this Weekly Standard piece, Rockefeller had much to say about Iraq prior to the war. Sadly, he's walked away from all of it since.

June 28, 2005: "It's sort of amazing that a president could stand up before hundreds of millions of Americans and say that and come back to 9/11--somehow figuring that it clicks a button, that everybody grows more patriotic and more patient. Well, maybe that's good p.r. work, which it isn't, but it's not the way that a commander in chief executes a war. And that's his responsibility in this case."

October 10, 2002: September 11 changed America. It made us realize we must deal differently with the very real threat of terrorism, whether it comes from shadowy groups operating in the mountains of Afghanistan or in 70 other countries around the world, including our own.

There has been some debate over how "imminent" a threat Iraq poses. I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated.

In case you're wondering, that's an argument you've heard before. In fact, I used to make it with the usual suspects: 9/11 changed the calculus when it came to tolerating threats. As subsequent "Downing Street" data dumps make clear, it appears that Allied leadership felt the same way: "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September."

Now re-read the October 10 Rockefeller quote and tell me he wasn't making the same argument: ...I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated.

Why and how would the question be ‘outdated’ if you haven’t changed the way you think about it?

June 28, 2005: "[Iraq]...had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, it had nothing to do with al-Qaida, it had nothing to do with September 11, which he managed to mention three or four times and infer three or four more times."

October 10, 2002: "Saddam's government has contact with many international terrorist organizations that likely have cells here in the United States." and"He could make those weapons [WMD] available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against our citizens. I fear that greatly."

If this week’s Rockefeller is to be believed, there is no linkage big or small, direct or otherwise between Iraq and Al-Queda terror. Yet as Hayes points out, in a February 5th, 2003 interview with Wolf Blitzer, the Senator said some very different things:

Odd then that Senator Rockefeller would have spoken of a "substantial connection between Saddam and al Qaeda" just one month before the Iraq War began. In some interviews Rockefeller did say that he hadn't seen evidence of close ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. But asked about an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on February 5, 2003, Rockefeller agreed with Republican Senator Pat Roberts that Abu Musab al Zarqawi's presence in Iraq before the war and his links to a poison camp in northern Iraq were troubling. Rockefeller continued: "The fact that Zarqawi certainly is related to the death of the U.S. aid officer and that he is very close to bin Laden puts at rest, in fairly dramatic terms, that there is at least a substantial connection between Saddam and al Qaeda."

So what changed? Hard to know really without the ability to read minds. The Senator went from believing one thing prior to the war to believing another afterwards. As to the how and why, political expediency has to be the leading contender but without any 'true confessions' we’re just left speculating.

I find it, personally, maddening that the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee (ask yourselves why that’s important) has gone from stating his understanding of the situation as framed by the Administration to denying every bit of that understanding with his more recent commentary.

Hayes puts it well in his close: "Unmistakable evidence. Existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities. We do know Saddam has the capability." Remember these things the next time you hear Rockefeller and his colleagues accuse the Bush Administration of exaggerating or fabricating the threat from Iraq.

Rockefeller ended his 2002 floor speech with yet another direct reference to September 11--his fifth.

"September 11 has forever changed the world. We may not like it, but that is the world in which we live. When there is a grave threat to Americans' lives, we have a responsibility to take action to prevent it."

Good point.

Ridiculously right.

No need to embellish on this:

From what I see on television and read in the press, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense and our top generals are convinced that the war in Iraq has turned decisively against the terrorists, and that they are doomed to military defeat. The numbers they provide on terrorists killed or captured are impressive, so what they say about our prospects for victory may well be true.

Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t the only ones that matter. In business, when a company has bet its future on a new product, it’s very common for the company’s sales force to be optimistic because they have the numbers to prove that this new product is steadily gaining market share. What the sales force doesn’t see – but what the CEO does – are the numbers which show that the company is hemorrhaging cash. So the question isn’t whether the new product will be a success, but whether this new product will succeed fast enough, before the company goes bust. In other words, it’s a race against time. As I’m sure you learned at Harvard Business School, in real life cash flow can dry up faster than it does in the spread-sheets and Power-Point presentations the company’s financial geniuses gin up for the securities analysts.

In war, public support is the equivalent of cash flow. So the question isn’t whether a war is going well, but whether a war is going well enough, and fast enough, to end in victory before public support gives out. And it’s obvious that public support for the war in Iraq has begun to erode, which means that from now on we are not only in a battle against our enemy overseas, but in a race against time here at home.

I don’t know how much time is left before public support for this war erodes to the point when victory will lie beyond our grasp. Your judgment will certainly be better than mine, because only you can combine the top-secret intelligence reports on your desk with your own superb “gut feel” for public opinion to estimate just when these two trend-lines will intersect. My only suggestion is that whatever projection you come up with – Three months? Nine months? Two years? – you cut it in half. History teaches that once public support for a war starts to erode – no matter what may be the actual, on-the-ground situation – it erodes at an accelerating rate. But what matters most isn’t so much the actual date you project for when the two lines will intersect. Rather, what matters most is that you recognize these two lines now are on a collision course, and that you understand what this means:

You have less time to win this war than you thought you had. So to win, you will need to fight harder.

Lifetime Appointment

CJ in Gilbert doesn't go quite that far, though I would. The more Dean the better:

Regarding "Forces amass to duel Dean" (Letters, Monday):Stop Dean? Heaven's no! Most Republicans I have talked to are absolutely delighted that the Democrats have chosen Howard Dean to be the spokesman for the Democrat Party.

As long as Dean keeps talking, the Democrats are showing themselves to be farther to left than even most Republicans realized. His rhetoric has become so overheated that prominent congressional liberals have distanced themselves from Dean, and our own governor doesn't want anything to do with him when he visits the state.

So no, I don't want to "Stop Dean." On the contrary, I hope he has a very, very long term as head of the DNC.

Smoke gets in your Eyes

The Cave Creek Complex fire, as it is being called, is still raging to the North-Northeast of town. It began last week in the Tonto National Forest a day before we left town for California. I haven't mentioned it because, well, I'm not exactly sure how you blog a fire.

Since we got back and resumed life-as-normal there's been no escaping it. In the Northwest Valley you can't get away from the smell of wildfire. Each day this week it's intensity has grown. Smoke has been billowing up north of the city, and from our vantage point even to the west as we've caught part of the Buckeye fire as well.

This morning was different however. The view to the west from our backyard was nothing but brown haze far as you could see. From the front of the house you could see the smoke and haze from Cave Creek to the North. Due North from our house is a small peak on the North side of the 101. You could hardly see it--less than 1/2-a mile away--because of the smoke hanging in the air.

There was no breeze at all this morning which I'm sure accounts at least in part for the way that haze and smoke were just hanging in the air. There's something disconcerting about seeing the world shrouded in brown smoke and the sunlight reflected orange on the ground through it. Even when you know the fire is miles away.

"Highlights" of the Cave Creek Fire include:

Total Acres: 172,788
Start Date: June 21, 2005; 4:45 p.m.
Cause: Lightning
Location: 5 miles NE of Carefree, AZ and 12 miles SW of Pine/Strawberry
Containment: South: 40% North: 0%
Expected Full Containment: Unknown
Threatened Resources: Pine, Strawberry, Camp Verde; Pine Mountain and Cedar Bench Wilderness; critical high voltage power lines; cultural and historic resources.
Fuels: Oak & Chaparral brush & grass
Terrain: Step topography, extremely flashy fuels, & poor access.
Cost: $3,443,052
Total Personnel: 835
Crews: 15 Type 1; 8 Type 2 crews
Equipment: 26 engines; 7 dozers
Air Support: Helicopters: 4 Type 3; 4 Type 2 ; 4 Type 1
Evacuations & Closures: There are NO Evacuations in place on private lands near the fire.
The entire Cave Creek Ranger District is closed except for Bartlett Lake area and the Mazatzal Wilderness area. The Agua Fria National Monument is also closed for public safety.
Damage: 11 residences, 3 out buildings in Camp Creek


Well, the first few rounds are over and the Dodgers have really stuck it to the Padres, winning eight of the first twelve games between the two teams. I feel I owe this post to Paul. LOL

Given all of the injuries suffered by the Dogs, they've managed to keep themselves afloat, which is not a good sign for Bruce Bochy's charges. Seems to me that over the last couple of weeks the Friars had a real opportunity to put this team away. But since the Pads are suffering their own injury problems (Loretta, Nevin, Hernandez, Roberts and Eaton didn't play at all over the last two weeks), they found themselves unable to take advantage of the chances extended them.

Nonetheless, San Diego remains 5 1/2 games up on LA.

Neener neener.

A Giant Yellow Canary Meets a Canard

As I've written before, I'm not a big fan of Frank Rich. His commentary about the doings at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in yesteray's NYT managed to rankle me yet again. Recently a longtime friend of Karl Rove was hired to lead the CPB and ever since, I've heard nothing from liberals except a constant drumbeat about how this is merely an effort by Republicans to inculcate PBS and NPR with their conservative ideology. Similarly there is a movement sponsored by some Republicans in Congress to cut the CPB's funding. Democrats are in a tizzy.

Why all this acrimony and concern?

As Rich correctly points out, the threat to Big Bird is overblown. However, the real concern on the part of Democrats is that the fruits of a publicly-funded communications infrastructure which they have enjoyed almost exclusively for a generation are now under threat of being enjoyed by conservatives. Goose? Meet Gander.

Bully for them, because these publicly-financed outlets have been the sole domain of liberal viewpoints for as long as I can remember. Since I probably watch PBS more than almost any station and have spent a pretty fair chunk of time listening to NPR, I feel qualified to say that these stations typically skew leftward in their coverage. Not generally radical left, but left. New York Times left. It's not even debatable. Whether Tony Brown's Journal, All Things Considered, Frontline, Washington Week, Bill Moyers' NOW, American Experience, BBC World News, Wide Angle, Charlie Rose, BBC World Service, Fresh Air etc. most of the news-related programming tends to have a liberal orientation. For example, this week in New York, we are getting a whole slew of gay and lesbian-oriented programming on the heels of last week's Gay Pride Parade. Out! has been running two programs a night this week.

Over the years I've had surprisingly little complaint about this situation, save for the ocassional head-scratching about why a publicly-funded media outlet was so one-sided in terms of the political viewpoints it disseminated. I say surprisingly because on the whole, the programming is of an extremely high caliber and I believe that most people are intelligent enough to separate the fact from the spin. But even so, I have been strangely accepting of it. But now that it has my attention, why should taxpayers fund all of the programs I listed above with only meager outlays for William F. Buckley (who isn't even on anymore), Louis Ruckeyser, the infrequently broadcast John McLaughlin programs, and only in the last year, The Journal Editorial Report and Tucker Carlson?

So when I read Rich's column today, I was noticeably irritated.

Mr. Tomlinson's real, not-so-hidden agenda is to enforce a conservative bias or, more specifically, a Bush bias. To this end, he has not only turned CPB into a full-service employment program for apparatchiks but also helped initiate "The Journal Editorial Report," the only public broadcasting show ever devoted to a single newspaper's editorial page, that of the zealously pro-Bush Wall Street Journal. Unlike Mr. Moyers's "Now" - which routinely balanced its host's liberalism with conservative guests like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot and Cal Thomas - The Journal's program does not include liberals of comparable stature.

This, friends, is a little number I like to call "a canard."

First of all, Frank, what do you think has been going on at CPB since its inception? Complaining about this is like liberals complaining about Rush Limbaugh or Fox News when the Left already holds dominant sway over the mainstream media in this nation, not to mention Hollywood and college campuses. When you've been gaming the system for years, isn't it rather disingenuous to complain when your opponents demand equal (or just more) time as a result of a shift in the political balance of power? Second, the "zealously pro-Bush WSJ" is one thing, but a Washington Week panel populated exclusively by zealously liberal panelists from the Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times is somehow another? Could you be any more transparent in your hypocrisy? And finally, Frank, you're not only going to decry the Journal's existence on PBS but now you deign to select the appropriate guests for the program? Is this anything different than what you complain the Republicans are doing at CPB overall?

Rich does make some valid comparisons between the Armstrong Williams scandal and how Rove is working the CPB. This lends credence to the concern that the pendulum will swing too far the other way. But seriously, what are the ramifications? That we will now get a Republican version of the Democratic networks we've had for years? Could the "consequences" be any more debilitating than the one-worldview perspectives we've been getting heretofore? And couldn't this all just as easily turn itself around the next time the Democrats are in power?

Then again, perhaps this is a persuasive argument for why taxpayers shouldn't be funding media outlets in the first place. For when they do, bureaucrats have this troubling tendency of turning them into political footballs (hat tip: Bill Moyers. Heh.). It seems to me that perhaps PBS and NPR are anachronisms reflecting a bygone era when there weren't enough media outlets or dollars to fund all of the quality programming that was being produced or that viewers were seeking. However, with the fragmentation and proliferation of media accompanied by the rise of new technologies like the Internet there is a large and growing demand for content to feed "the beast." While in 1970 there were real questions as to whether Masterpiece Theater or Sesame Street could gain funding and public exposure, is there any doubt that they would find homes in an environment where the World Series of Poker, The National Spelling Bee, Senate debates and logrolling have managed to flourish? And must it be on the taxpayer's dime?

If it weren't, it certainly would free up Frank Rich and I to disagree about other things.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Dogs are Smarter (Or how doggy beauty is only hair-deep)

Lacy and Cassie were boarded for part of last weekend's trip to California. While there we arranged for Lacy's annual shots and also a long-needed Bath-and-Brush for both pups.

When we arrived home on Sunday evening, two very happy and very nicely coiffed dogs waited eagerly for us. Well, it only took a couple of days to see that tossed right out the window. Or in this case actually the front door.

Last night we were enjoying our brief nightly respite before attacking the usual tasks confronting all homeowners everywhere. While we lounged on the couch the dogs lay quietly in the entry way enjoying the cool tile. It was, after all, nearly 110 outside.

Then came a knock on the door and the attendant barking and bouncing around as Lacy waits for mom or dad to attend this unwelcome interruption. Turns out that a young lady was canvassing the neighborhood (with flyers), letting us all know that her beloved Yorki was missing and asking us if we'd seen it and/or would we keep watch for it.

To her dismay, no we had not seen it though my wife had seen one of the flyers posted elsewhere in the neighborhood. As she was leaving--due to a miscommunication between my wife and I--the front door was left open for a moment too long. Lacy, being ever the opportunist, jumped--literally--at the chance to explore the outside without help of a leash and dashed through the open door, as if chasing our young visitor down the street.

After the initial wave of panic subsided, I bounded out the door behind her. She was still in front of the house, laying on the sidewalk seeking from our visitor the most coveted of all affections--a belly rub.

By the time I got down the driveway she was getting it. So much so, that she was engaged in the doggy-equivalent of purring--rolling around on her back and stretching out. Only she misjudged and rolled right into the gutter.

The gutter full of dirty water and muck, that is. So much for that Bath-and-Brush and the neat coiff.

After getting her back in the house and the appropriate tongue-lashing for her bad behavior, mom set out to clean her up and eventually did. If you don't look too close, you'd never know.

It is moments like these that make us realize just how...not-smart our dogs can be. At the same time we realize that despite it all we count ourselves lucky to be 'parent' to these specific animals. Mud and muck clean up and are but a temporary nuisance. The love and loyalty of two beautiful dogs is far more permanent and anything but a nuisance...

Talk about 'Deep'

Charles Rangel on President Bush before yesterday's speech:

As we're waiting for the President's speech, I'm telling you -- as an American with a heavy heart -- that this war is going to get much worse. Even some of the hawkish members of Congress are disheartened. The President's going to say that if you don't support the war, you're against the troops. That's nothing but politics. He doesn't believe that Americans are entitled to know how we got into the war, and refuses to reveal how he plans to get out. The President is like a person in a dark room feeling the walls for the light. We want to make certain that the President tells us what he is doing, and we won't agree to anything less.

(From the "Irony is Ironic" file: Spell check wants to change "Rangel" to "rankle")

The X Man Cometh?

Last week, I wrote of my frustration with Padres manager Bruce Bochy's infrequent use of talented young OF Xavier Nady. As a result of injuries to 1B Phil Nevin and CF Dave Roberts, Bochy has been forced to play X since then.

The result? Last night ended a streak of four consecutive games in which the X Man homered. But since my post, Nady has played some inspired ball: .316 batting average, 5 runs, a triple, 4 homers and 9 RBI. Not a bad week's work. Now, the Padres are starting to consider the possibility that maybe Nady needs to play more once everyone gets healthy. Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Bochy and GM Kevin Towers are at loggerheads over whether to stick with Sean Burroughs who has 13 RBI on the season or make a move to Nady who has 9 RBI in the last week. Granted, there is defense to be considered, but since Nady was a 3B in college is the drop-off so significant? Since Burroughs is left-handed and Nady is a righty, wouldn't a platoon make some sense?

Chicago editorial board, Padres manager. What's the difference?

Benson, again!?

Arizona Republic cartoonist Steve Benson shows up in the letters to the editor again. Reader Scott in Green Valley notes:

I understand Steve Benson's role as cartoonist provocateur, but he shot from the hip with his slam on Sunday of the GOP efforts to cut funds to PBS. Many of us have wondered for years why we're forced to subsidize yet another forum for liberal viewpoints. Perhaps we taxpayers should support the failing Air America, with wacko leftist propaganda from nuts like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.

Then again, that's what he does. Much as my dogs spend a lot of time licking their...well, you's what dogs do.

In Benson's world, all the nuts turn to the Right. He's a one-note song, and as I pointed out before, not a very nice guy either.

Proof Conservatives Can Laugh At Themselves

I have several favorite comedians who are left-leaning: Bill Maher, John Stewart, Chris Rock. They hit conservatives pretty hard and generally leave the heavy lifting on the liberals to Dennis Miller. Generally unfair, but that's life. The times they get my dander up are when they make what I perceive to be irresponsible comments based upon false premises (usually some form of conventional wisdom). This happens more than I like, but the problem is conventional wisdom and not the leveraging of it by comedians who seek laughs.

Larry David is another favorite and he manages to get my dander up several times in this piece. But like the other guys, he's able to keep me in the fold with some grounded attacks that I find humorous. Here's one example:

If they hate Hollywood so much, maybe they should just start making their own movies and TV shows. In fact, we should just split into two different countries. Then, after our stem cell research gives us the cure for all these diseases, they’ll all be trying to get across the border for our medicine, but our minutemen won’t let them. And we’ll have a lot of minutemen. I think I’ll be a minuteman. “Sorry, but our scientists worked very hard to come up with a cure for Parkinson’s and there’s only enough medicine for our people. So beat it.”

Again, there are probably some things here you could get offended about. But in my opinion, the one thing this country needs more than anything is for people to get the ENORMOUS chips off their shoulders which put them on a perpetual hair-trigger for taking offense to something. Face it...we're all ridiculous. If you can't laugh at yourself, life gets pretty damn dreary pretty damn quickly.

As is usually the case

The previous quarter's GDP numbers get revised up. The original estimate First Quarter '05 growth came in at a healthy 3.5%. The Commerce Department announced today that they've revised that number up to 3.8%:

The new reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, marked an improvement from the 3.5 percent annual rate estimated for the quarter just a month ago and matched the showing registered in the final quarter of 2004.

GDP, the broadest gauge of the economy's health, measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

Stronger spending on housing projects, more investment by business in equipment and software, and a trade deficit that was less of a drag on economic growth all played a role in the higher first quarter GDP estimate.

Chief analyst Mark Zandi of weighs in with this summary: "It illustrates the resilience of the economy and the durability of the current economic expansion."

3.8% is good. It is not gang-busters but neither is it anemic. It paints a picture of an economy that is steady. Guys like me love that whole strong and steady thing.

A Reform(ing) Socialist, Atheist in Tehran

Christopher Hitchens recently completed his series on the Axis of Evil when he submitted this piece on Iran. It's a wonderful survey of the conflicts and tensions endemic in that country. While the recently completed bogus election appears to have strengthened the intransigence of the mullahs and their nuclear aspirations, Hitchens' article does give us hope for the future in Iran:

Young Khomeini [son of the late Ayatollah] has been spending a good deal of his time in Iraq, where he has many friends among the Shia. He is a strong supporter of the United States intervention in that country, and takes a political line not dissimilar to that of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani. In practice, this means the traditional Shia belief that clerics should not occupy posts of political power. In Iranian terms, what it means is that Khomeini (his father and elder brother died some years ago, so he is the most immediate descendant) favors the removal of the regime established by his grandfather. "I stand," he tells me calmly, "for the complete separation of religion and the state." In terms that would make the heart of a neocon soar like a hawk, he goes on to praise President Bush's State of the Union speech, to warn that the mullahs cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, and to use the term "Free World" without irony: "Only the Free World, led by America, can bring democracy to Iran." Anyone visiting Iran today will quickly become used to hearing this version of street opinion, but there is something striking about hearing it from the lips of a turbaned Khomeini. Changing the emphasis slightly, he asks my opinion of the referendum movement. This is an initiative, by Iranians inside the country and outside it, to gather signatures calling for a U.N.-supervised vote on a new Iranian Constitution. One of the recent overseas signatories is Reza Pahlavi, the son of the fallen Shah. Khomeini surprises me even more by speaking warmly of this young man. "I have heard well of him. I would be happy to meet him and to cooperate with him, but on one condition. He must abandon any claim to the throne." (The opportunity of delivering a message from the grandson of Khomeini to the son of the Shah seemed irresistible, and the first thing I did upon my return to Washington was to seek out Reza Pahlavi, who lives in Maryland, and put the question to him. We actually met in a basement kitchen in the nation's capital, where he was being careful to be as unmonarchical as it is feasible to be. His line on the restoration of kingship is one of "Don't ask, don't tell." He doesn't claim the throne—though he did at one point in our chat refer bizarrely to his father as "my predecessor"—nor does he renounce it. All he will say, and he says it with admirable persistence, is that the next Iran must be both secular and democratic. So, even if they remain at arm's length, it can be said at last that a Khomeini and a Pahlavi agree.)

An eminently readable and informative submission, I highly recommend the entirety of the article. The tensions he describes in Iran are certainly unique to that society, but in a broader sense, not unlike those to be found in much of the Muslim world. It is in understanding these tensions, aspirations and humanity of the Muslim world in which we find the seeds for success in the War on Terror and in the President's broader democracy agenda. It is here where we can truly have hope. Nevermind the prattling negativism of the naybobs.

Sanity weighs in

The Chicago Tribune weighs in on the Downing Street Memo. I swear, the piece could have been written by Sim, the arguments sounded so similar:

The memo, and other documents obtained by Michael Smith, a defense writer in Britain, do show us something. They show us how governments prepare to go to war.

These documents provide some of the words and thoughts of the players involved in the Iraq crisis. The documents show us the strain on policymakers, give us a look backstage as British officials report on meetings with key U.S. officials.

The documents show decisions were not made in a vacuum. They came in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Straw noted in a March 2002 memo that had those attacks not occurred, "it is doubtful that the U.S. would now be considering military action against Iraq."

The documents also laid out the options policymakers faced: whether to proceed with the policy of containing Iraq through economic sanctions or to topple Hussein's regime. In hindsight, from these memos, a careful reader can piece together how and why the U.S. and British governments came together on the decision to go to war.

"In sum, despite the considerable difficulties, the use of overriding force in a ground campaign is the only option that we can be confident will remove Saddam and bring Iraq back into the international community," was the conclusion of a 10-page options paper from March 2002--months before the Downing Street memo--prepared by the Overseas and Defense Secretariat of the Cabinet Office.

That paper weighed two possibilities for post-Saddam Iraq: rule by a Sunni military strongman or a representative democratic government. The paper acknowledged that for a democratic government to survive, "it would require the U.S. and others to commit to nation building for many years."

And that's where we are today--building a representative democratic government for Iraq.

All things I've heard him say in discussions of what the DSM is/isn't. Either he writes for the Editorial Board of the Trib or reasonable people must draw the same conclusion. You decide.

Is Russia a Kleptocracy?

Um, this might at least strengthen the case.

Of 'Chickenhawks' & the Politics of Division

One of the common refrains we hear from the anti-war crowd is that conservatives in general and Republicans in particular have used 9/11 and the war in Iraq to divide the nation into the 'patriotic' and the 'unpatriotic.' And of course, those who claim to have been charged with being 'unpatriotic' leverage their victimhood in much the same way that they did during the Clinton-era, itself a clever tool of divisiveness. I myself haven't heard too much of this sort of talk from conservatives. While I'm sure there has been the occassional unfortunate comment, I don't see any sort of concerted effort to portray those opposed to the war as anti-American. Of course, there are some on the Unhinged Left that openly root for American failure, and when they reveal themselves I am perfectly willing to call them what they are. But on the whole, I've never really bought this argument that conservatives routinely drive a wooden stake through the heart of the body politic by dividing the world into the patriotic and unpatriotic. In my humble opinion, it's always been more a psychological issue that those conflicted about the use of force and aggressive foreign policy have with themselves. Sometimes the conspiracies emanate from within.

But as news reports increasingly focus on the fire and smoke and blood in the streets of Iraq and public opinion polls have turned south, a new form of divisiveness has arisen. More and more the public is asking "Is it worth the sacrifice?" And this in turn has raised the question in the minds of many anti-war folks about just who is making the sacrifice. "After all, President Bush, you're the one who got us into this mess. I don't see Laura and Jenna over there." Fueled by Michael Moore's F911, this argument has mushroomed into a full-on attack of those of us who support the war and a question as to why WE'RE not over there. This, is of course, a specious argument. Christopher Hitchens explains why.

In the final analysis, the argument is lame because implicit within it is the assumption that the only folks allowed to have an opinion (pro-war or anti-war) are those who are actually in the military and who would have to go do the sacrificing, fighting and dying. Under this reasoning, I would ask how the anti-war crowd can conclude that the price is too high? After all, they too are sitting in their Lazy-Boys, watching CNN and drinking Heinekens. But I suppose this notion probably escapes them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Are you kidding?

Another for the You-can't-make-this-up file: Andrew Bolt in Australia's Herald Sun recounts comments from Australia's Andrew Jaspan. They must be read to be believed:

Said Jaspan: "I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood's use of the a---hole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else.

"The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive." The ingrate.

A quick check of the summary of Wood's ordeal and you fully appreciate Jaspan's idiocy. I quote: ...his apparent demand that Wood be more grateful to the men who'd snatched him, kicked him in the head, kept him blindfolded and bound for 47 days, shaved him bald, killed two of his colleagues, made him beg for his life, and -- says a fellow hostage from Sweden -- shot several other prisoners in front of him.

Idiocy is idiocy and we ought not be afraid to describe it as such.

In the name of realism

Steven Spielberg got smart. All those guys you see running around NY with M-16s are the real deal:

They've hunted down terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, opposed rebels in Bosnia and battled warlords in Somalia. Now, 10th Mountain Division troops are facing off against Martian invaders - with no less than the fate of the Earth in the balance.

The soldiers were called on by Steven Spielberg, who picked Fort Drum troops to star in his remake of the H.G. Wells classic "War of the Worlds."

Like most of us 'little-people' would be, they're pretty excited about it if these two are to be believed: Spc. Kenneth Wright, of Bakersfield, Calif., and Staff Sgt. Aaron Dewitt, of Perrysville, Ohio, agreed that it was a chance for America's soldiers to get some added recognition. But for the time being, they prefer to soak up their celebrity status.

"It's been a whirlwind to be part of it. My mom didn't believe me at first when I told her I met Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg and Dakota Fanning," said Wright. "

Now she's stoked about it. Everybody in my family is going to go see me ... I mean the movie."

Why? In a word, realism: "Spielberg wanted real soldiers to make the scenes more authentic. He was quite impressed. You don't get any more Army than the 10th Mountain Division," said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, the post's public affairs officer. "This is a reward to soldiers who have been among our best, and it's a way to showcase the American military."

That and it's a hoot...for the film crew and the soldiers both.

Obligatory Sports Post

A Bidwill concerned about the family name? Thats the sense that the Republic conveys in their piece about Cardinals executive Michael Bidwill.

Michael Bidwill is 40, went to his first Cardinals training camp in Lake Forest, Ill., when he was 4 or 5 and was a ball boy at 9. In all that time, the Cardinals have had 11 winning seasons and one playoff victory. That track record earned Bill Bidwill the notoriety of being one of the worst owners in professional sports. Growing up, Michael, the second oldest of five children, heard the comments about his dad and the team, and he admits they hurt."

But I wouldn't say I let it hurt too much," he says. "It hurts in the right ways - it motivates me, but it doesn't discourage me."

He says that in a pleasant voice over breakfast in a restaurant just a few hundred yards from where he parked his plane. That voice should not fool you, those close to him say, because it's impossible to exaggerate how important it is to Bidwill to change the way people view his family.

"It's personal with him," says Rod Graves, the team's vice president for football operations. "It's not only the football team his family owns, but it's his family's name."

It's time for the organization to put-up or shut-up at this point. Two consecutive well-run drafts have Denny Green poised on the verge of something very good. If Bidwill wants perceptions to change, then the results on the field need to change.

I give them credit because it's obvious that they are working. Ultimately though, legacies are built with acts not just intentions. Put a successful team on the field and things will turn in time.

Mastery of the Obvious

It's always encouraging to watch your government officials display their mastery of the painfully obvious. Take this from Treasury Secretary John Snow:

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow acknowledged on Tuesday that record high oil prices are beginning to take their toll on the U.S. economy, but not enough to derail the economy's strong recovery.

"Energy prices are way too high," Snow said on CNBC television. "Clearly, it's hurting."


I certainly don't know as much macro-economic theory as a sitting Secretary of the Treasury, I'm just a humble MBA-guy after all. But even us amateurs dabbling in the dark arts of economics know this much; high energy prices suck money out of the economy that would otherwise be multiplying it's way through the hands of American businesses. That's not a good thing if it continues for too long.

Likewise, as Snow and others rightly point out, the economy has a certain resilience to it and it has withstood over-$50-a-barrel oil for quite some time now. That's not really the point though.

If this is what passes for Marketing communication in the Bush Administration, well then Houston...we have a problem. Sadly, based on prior experience, it may indeed be just that. But if a John Snow is reduced to MBA-Macro-Econ-speak in 30-second increments then somebody somewhere isn't doing their job.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting that President Bush has a magical plan that once enacted cuts oil prices back to $30-barrel. Such things don't exist in the harsh environment of real-world economics.

What I would like is somebody, anybody on Pennsylvania Avenue who can articulate the Administration's position and their short- and long-term energy goals. I know they exist, but sell me on it! Sell my neighbors on it. Sending it to Congress is only step one; if you want real-world support for something you need a buy-in. That takes work.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Business 2.0

Fun business mag. Useful and easy to read.

In the current issue, Global Insight's Nariman Behravesh is still bullish on the economy. Who?

The chief economist at forecasting firm Global Insight argued for nearly two years that the economic recovery was real while other pundits cried otherwise. You decide who was right.

As for 2005:

Does the rebound still have legs?

Yes. If 2004 was a year of corporate profit growth, 2005 will be one of job growth. U.S. companies have loads of cash and are spending it on technology. [See "How to Ride the Fifth Wave."]

Some say tech spending is going into a slump. What do you think?

Purchases of IT equipment rose by 12.3 percent last year, after adjusting for inflation. Our projection for 2005 is almost as high. Only about 40 percent of U.S. firms are using PCs and the Internet to any reasonable capacity. If the rest catch up with even the average company, we'll see huge gains.

Gangbusters GDP growth usually means bigger paychecks. Will we see that in this recovery?

Wages as a share of GDP sank last year to their lowest level ever, about 45 percent. The good news is that we've got it rising to just under 46 percent next year. Every 1 percent bump puts an extra $100 billion or so in workers' pockets.

What's one more?

I've decided I'm getting pro-active. You've been seeing me post off and on for the last three months about both of my fantasy baseball teams. You've seen me be taunted by my co-blogger and fellow owner Sim.

Well, rather than sit back and wait for the next bad-break, I've decided to get pro-active. Take this for example:

Third baseman Troy Glaus was out of the lineup Sunday after receiving a cortisone injection to help alleviate the nagging pain behind his left knee.

Manager Bob Melvin said Glaus had the shot on Saturday night and will need about 48 hours for the injection to run its course. He expects Glaus to be back in the lineup Tuesday night against the Giants after today's off day.

In weeks past, I'd have sat around and waited to read the injury report to discover that Glaus was put on the 15-day DL with an exploded knee. Not any more!

I figure I can just go ahead and de-activate Glaus pre-emptively. Saves me the frustration later on.

Why would I do this? Well, if I don't find a way to laugh, I will most definitely end up crying.

I love this game!

Irony in the desert

When we left for California on Wednesday evening, it was 114 degrees outside. On the flip side, it seems that over the weekend temps dipped back to a more normal range. In fact, as we traveled back into town around 8:30 last night, it appeared that temps in the west valley were down into the low 90's, even the high 80's!

So? Well, when you live in the middle of the desert you worry about heat. And water. Lots about water. Then you read something like this:

Her warning is timely, coming on the heels of a major medical study of endurance athletes that found drinking too much water during heavy, prolonged exercise may be an even greater threat than drinking too little.

In fact, that phenomenon has unexpectedly developed into one of the most common health threats to Grand Canyon hikers, where nearly a fifth were ending up as "water intoxication" emergencies until warnings were posted.

This year, the once-unrecognized problem made medical headlines after a study showed more than 10 percent of runners in the 2002 Boston Marathon finished the race with below-normal sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia.

"She" is an 80-year old Tucson woman recently treated for hyponatremia. What exactly is hyponatremia, you ask? It's a condition that occurs when a human being takes in so much water that they begin to flush sodium from their system at an unhealthy rate (recall your basic chemistry and physiology):

When that happens, water enters the body's cells, which then swell. If swollen brain cells start pressing against the skull, the result is brain damage, paralysis, coma and sometimes death.

So, don't drink enough water and risk dehydration or drink too much and risk brain damage, paralysis or even death. Surely there's a better option...

Singing the praises of Evil Incarnate

U2 front-man and Christian activist Bono on Meet the Press yesterday (hat tip to Powerline):

Well, I think [President Bush has] done an incredible job, his administration, on AIDS. And 250,000 Africans are on antiviral drugs. They literally owe their lives to America. In one year that's being done. … Yes, there's a lot of pressure on President Bush. If he, though, in his second term, is as bold in his commitments to Africa as he was in the first term, he indeed deserves a place in history in turning the fate of that continent around.

If only the rest of the rock-and-roll world was willing to speak honestly about the Administration, even in just one particular instance...

Something you don't see everyday...

Large metropolitan newspapers endorsing nuclear power, that is. The Republic throws in though with a reserved "Yes."

Once beyond the obligatory ode to enviro-friendly energy, they take their best shot at telling us why this would be a good idea. Only, they don't. More words are devoted to explaining what stands in the way than are spent explaining the short- and long-term benefits of increased nuclear generation.

An understanding of what obstacles block wider use of nuclear power in the US is important to the discussion, in this setting it does more to discourage than to incite or encourage favorable opinion.

Then again, a journey of 1,000-miles begins with just a step. Gotta start somewhere, and this is a far cry from the likes of this.

Salad Days In Korea

Wonder if this ever crossed Gaylord Perry's mind?

According to the Korean News Bureau, South Korean Doosan Bears' pitcher Park Myung-hwan twice lost his cap while delivering a pitch and each time frozen cabbage leaves fell off his head in a game on June 19. The frozen cabbage leaves inside the cap were used to keep his head cool. The Korea Baseball Organization has been moved to rule that wearing cabbage leaves inside a baseball cap constitutes an "alien material" that may disrupt a game, prohibited according to the organization's rules, the organization said in a statement Tuesday.

So what's with this new picture thingy?

So this is where I went for the weekend...

You all remember this no doubt. This image is still circulated, though not nearly as often as it was the year it occurred. It's the "Lompoc Flag," from 2002.

Lompoc is a little town of 50,000 that sits northwest of Santa Barbara on the California coast, a scant 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It represents the western-most edge of civilization in the continental United States (find a map of California, locate Point Concepcion and look north a can't miss it). As such, it's not surprising that the Air Force has been running missile-test operations at Vandenberg AFB for decades, but a few miles away.

That's all good and well you say, but what of the flag? Every year in June, Lompoc hosts it's annual Flower Festival. The city has been known for years as the flower seed capital of the world. That farming operation and the presence of the AFB are what the city is built around. The festival is simply the local version of every-town's annual fair.

With 9/11 still echoing in the spring of '02, one of the local fields was planted with the design you see here, and unveiled in time for that year's festival. The picture was taken by an aerial photographer and the rest is history.

From what I gather in speaking with locals (i.e., my in-laws), the picture and email that distributed it has brought more attention to this picturesque little community than any promotional campaign ever could. As for me, I have another reason for enjoying the photo.

I have gotten a kick for the last 3 years of pointing out to people that said in-laws used to live nearby. Were the picture larger, I'd tell you to follow the road there on the right down about a 1/4-mile, head west another 1/2-mile where you'd turn into the little development built along the north-face of the hills there. Their backyard had a view of the entire Lompoc Valley; talk about picturesque!

Enemy Revisionism

Victor Davis Hanson provides some interesting insights regarding the prevailing public mindset on the Global War on Terror in his latest essay.

There are a number of fascinating, albeit debatable, points made in this piece. In particular, I've been ruminating on his notion that the United States has often been far more comfortable waging war against rightwing fascism than against leftwing totalitarianism. Hanson effectively supports this statement by pointing out that even though Stalin and Mao murdered millions more than Adolph Hitler, this fact is often obscured in the syllogisms espoused in the mainstream media. For some reason, Hitler is the mass murder "gold standard."

Similarly, Hanson argues, the justifications for wars waged by American conservatives are questioned in ways that are rarely raised in wars waged by liberals. A considerable swath of public opinion in this country believes it more likely that Republicans wage war for cynical or economic reasons while Democrats only wage war as a last resort and only for the most idealistic of reasons. These two interesting and interlinked concepts raise real questions about whether they emanate exclusively from some deep recess of the American political consciousness or whether they are molded and shaped by left-sympathizing forces in the media.

However, the real truth in Hanson's piece is his analysis of how those who murdered 3000 innocents on 9/11 and have a long tradition of indiscriminate killing have been transmogrified by the Left from the soulless, ruthless monsters that they are into "Victims of The West" who have a legitimate beef.

As September 11 faded in our collective memory, Muslim extremists were insidiously but systematically reinvented in our elite presentations as near underprivileged victims, and themselves often adept critics of purported rapacious Western consumerism, oil profiteering, heavy-handed militarism, and spiritual desolation.

On this point, he's dead-on. In the classic "Chickens coming home to roost" vacuity, many on the Left have been successful in creating the illusion that 9/11 was the sole result of something we had done. But those with legitimate concerns about US foreign policy or European colonialism or any other perceived or real wrongs have mechanisms for redressing those concerns. These mechanisms exist in a variety of international fora and at bargaining tables. But no matter how flawed U.S. policy regarding Israel or how difficult it is maintain Muslim and Arab culture amidst the irresistible forces of globalization, one cannot possibly justify indiscriminate mass-murder from a band of non-state actors whose worldview, is in part, driven by a desire to see a return of Spanish Andalucia to the Muslim world.

Ironically, as Paul Berman argued in his masterwork Terror and Liberalism it is this same sort of moral equivalence which has historically prevented Europeans from confronting great evils within their midst, just as it has prevented American policymakers from taking action in places like Rwanda. If you are interested in this idea and would like to learn more about the origins of the current Islamic fundamentalist death cult, I highly recommend Berman's book.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Is Anyone Out There? Anyone? Bueller?

So here we are.

Paul and I posting on a regular basis, making all this effort. But I'm becoming a bit troubled that this is nothing more than an elaborate form of e-mail (with a cool new photo functionality. Did I mention that?).

Is there an audience? Traffic numbers suggest that there is. And yet, our comments are literally bare save for the occassional exchange between Paul and I. Is the issue that you're all shy? Time constrained? Is it that what we're producing just isn't that interesting? Do you like what we're writing about? Do you hate it? Do you link it to send your friends examples of really idiotic, moronic writing? Are you sick of Paul's posts about Phoenix? My posts about the Padres?

Love it, hate it, or indifferent we would really appreciate feedback. I realize you indifferents will be hard to motivate, but think of responding as a one-day objective.

I'm not sure what our long-term objective is here (although Rumor Man suggests that this is a topic on the brink of being discussed), but I think it is safe to say that we would benefit from constructive criticism and would even love to see something of a community sprout up around our missives. So please consider the possibility of posting comments. Even if you're a biased aunt living in a Red State.

Clinton's Still Got It

The dude can still pull from the teen crowd. This photo functionality rocks :)

This Man is a Nattering Naybob

Paul Krugman allows us to introduce the new Blogger photo functionality by applying to become poster boy of the Nattering Naybobs with his most recent column. How did we know that "Krugsy" would eventually get around to shoveling some Downing Street dung? Here's just a taste. Enjoy.

In November 2002, Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, told an audience, "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war" - but she made it clear that Mr. Bush was the exception. And she was right. Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy. It would have been an unprecedented abuse of power even if the war hadn't turned into a military and moral quagmire. And we won't be able to get out of that quagmire until we face up to the reality of how we got in.

Quite a leap there. From the ironclad opinions of Helen Thomas spring accusations of the grossest of misconduct. And oh the temerity! To represent it without so much as a shred of proof! Krugman is an utterly despicable creature who abuses a serious academic reputation to suggest absolute untruths or advance red-herrings in every column he writes. Don't believe me? There's a reason why Don Lushkin publishes a Krugman Truth Squad column over at NRO.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Why I hate Real Baseball

Well, yeah, the Padres lost to LA last night. Gotta give em their props. Starting an outfield in which none of the hitters had averages above .200, the Dogs managed to steal a win from the first place Padres and halt their eight game tailspin.

But the day was a bad one for the Friars all the way around. First, it appears that the injury bug plaguing the Dodgers has now spread to the San Diego clubhouse. The Pads announced that starting catcher Ramon Hernandez and starting pitcher Adam Eaton would be going to the disabled list. Also, it is looking likely that starting first baseman Phil Nevin will miss more time (and possibly even land on the DL) due to a strained oblique muscle. Obliques are notoriously difficult injuries to manage and rehab.

Second, on a day when Padres manager Bruce Bochy finally received a two-year contract extension, he displayed some of the annoying skills which have lead me to nickname him The Tinkerer. Now don't get me wrong, I like Bochy and glad he was extended. But he does drive me crazy sometimes with curious late-inning moves.

Exhibit A: The 1998 Braves-Padres NLCS. With the Pads leading the series 3-1 and up 4-2 in the seventh inning of Game 5, it looked like San Diego was on the verge of closing out the Braves and advancing to the World Series. Then The Tinkerer decided to get clever. He brought ace Kevin Brown out of the bullpen on 2 days' rest rather than using fresh relievers like Trevor Hoffman who were accustomed to late inning insertions. What made the move all the more maddening was that Brown, who had been lights-out as a starter in postseason was slated to start Game 6. Using Brown in this situation meant that should a Game 6 be necessary, Brownie would be unavailable. He promptly came in, gave up a three-run jack to Michael Tucker, Atlanta won 7-6 and Game 6 became a necessity. I was horrified. San Diego ended up winning the series and advancing to the World Series thanks to a memorable Game 6 performance by Sterling Hitchcock. But the impetuous move by Bochy was foolish and potentially put the entire series in jeopardy.

Fast forward to last night. With the Dodgers leading 5-4 in the eighth, San Diego loaded the bases. With two outs and Dodger righthander Duaner Sanchez on the mound, The Tinkerer decided to pinch hit for reserve catcher Miguel Ojeda. Although Ojeda is a righty and has had a tough year at the plate, The Tinkerer seems to have forgotten a couple of game-winning HR's Miguel hit last year that caused Bochy to often use him as a late-inning pinch hitter. Nonetheless, Bochy decides to pinch-hit. Fine. Righthanded Xavier Nady, one of San Diego's most-prized young power hitters was sitting on the bench. Although the righty-righty matchup wasn't ideal, it seemed like the right place to use Nady (more on that in a moment). Instead, The Tinkerer called on left-handed Paul McAnulty who just earlier yesterday afternoon had arrived on a plane from AA Mobile. McAnulty lined to second. Rally over.

Are you kidding me?

Nothing against McAnulty. Nothing against playing lefty-righty percentages. But how about THESE percentages? I'm not sure what they are, but rookie hitters making their first Major League appearances probably don't have batting averages above .210. Just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure about that. I wonder what their batting averages look like in eighth inning, bases loaded, two-out, high pressure situations against division rivals? I'm willing to bet they are even lower. It seems to me rather logical that even though you traditionally play the lefty-righty matchup, that in this case it's better to go with the established major leaguer rather than the kid who is more focused on his stomach being in his throat than what Sanchez is throwing. I would have rather seen Bochy stick with Ojeda or bring Nady off the bench. The McAnulty call didn't lose the game for the Padres. The Damian Jackson error on a sure double-play and the Pads stranding 10 runners, including 7 in scoring position is what lost the game. But the eighth inning was an opportunity to overcome all of that and using McAnulty in that situation wasn't fair to the kid nor was it fair to the team.

As for Xavier Nady, he is apparently the 25th man on the Padres. Behind even newly-promoted Paul McAnulty. I don't get it. Before the season, Bochy and Padres GM Kevin Towers suggested that Nady would be used as a "super-sub" and had him shagging flies in the outfield as well as taking grounders at first, second and third base. Dave Roberts has missed time in CF. Phil Nevin has missed time at first. Sean Burroughs has not gotten it done offensively at third and Mark Loretta will be out until August at second. And yet Nady finds himself sitting while Miguel Ojeda gets starts in LF? Or Geoff Blum starts at third?

When he was drafted in 1999, the X Man was considered one of the top collegians in the country. As a Scott Boras client, he slid to the second round where the Padres selected him and inked him to a major league contract. He is what I would call a professional hitter. He has raked at every level in the minors but has been blocked by Nevin, Burroughs and Klesko for the last few years on the Padres. He's had mixed success at the major league level, but then again he doesn't get consistent playing time. Nonetheless, anytime the Pads enter trade negotiations other teams ask about Nady. But for some reason The Tinkerer won't play the kid. Maybe he's not that good. But give him a chance. Letting him atrophy on the bench has to be killing whatever confidence he has left. Although Burroughs plays a mean 3B, his inability to drive in runs is a major problem for this team. Since Nady is a natural 3B I would give him the job for awhile to see how he does. But I don't think The Tinkerer will. And if that's the case, you might as well trade Nady. /rant.

Why I hate Fantasy Baseball

Earlier this week, I gave a long-winded rundown on a couple of my fantasy league teams. Fresh+Jive, which is the team in the league with Paul has been battling injuries all year. Bonds, Berkman, Loretta, Perez, Javy Lopez, Beckett and Percival have all done DL stints. But despite all these injuries, I've managed to hang tough. As of this writing, I'm only 6 1/2 games out of first.

But just as it was starting to look like I was going to get healthy for the first time this season, the rest of the roster has now been laid-up. Backups to my backups are now hurt. Steve Finley went on the DL yesterday. Jim Edmonds is playing with a slightly cracked rib and the Cards are considering sending him to the DL. Paul Lo Duca bruised his toe and has 4 AB's this week. Robert Freel has yet to play this week.

I'd make a roster move, but I can't jettison these guys. They are just too valuable. Looks like I'm just going to have to endure it and hope I don't lose too many categories.

What We Are Dealing With, Part 4

Our Allies in Europe can always be counted upon for a few yuks (and generally little else). But it's all fun and games until it's not fun and games anymore. And such is the case this morning when US News & World Report tells us that some European liberals are funding Iraqi insurgents. Nice.

These are clearly fringe extremists and anti-corporate radicals. And while that's fine as far as it goes, isn't funding such a deadly resistance antithetical (and therefore hypocritical) to the values espoused by these groups? Just a thought.


With Paul living the easy life in Cali, I guess that puts the "Honus" on me. It's my sandbox for a bit and I'll try to keep the standards high. Well...relatively high.

We'll soon be reaching a cruising altitude of 25K feet. I'd like to remind all of those on board to NOT put their seats in the reclined or even semi-reclined position to protect the kneecaps and sanity of those sitting behind them. Those passengers with long legs (like your captain) will appreciate it. I'd also like to ask all onboard personnel to not bang their drink carts into those elbows which may actually be using the arm rests on the aisles. Flight attendants are also reminded to be courteous and prompt in collecting empty trays as it is quite possible that someone will need to use the restroom but be unable to get up until said trays are removed. I will soon be turning on the no crying or screaming light, so I'd ask all infants and small children to pipe the f*#& down. And finally, I would like to ask that everyone keep their shoes on. While no one believes that THEIR feet stink, they do. Trust me.

And with that bit of housekeeping done, I'd invite all of our passengers to lean back and enjoy the uncomfortable and annoying duration of our flight. We promise to wake you just as soon as you fall asleep.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

California Dreaming

Leaving for the California Coast in fairly short order. Rest assured that you are in good hands with the Simian Logician. He is a fine and able captain, more than capable of guiding you through the weekend in my absence.

But, should you experience any unexpected turbulence be sure to fasten your seat belt and return your tray to it's upright position!

The War is over, and We won

So blares the headline of this piece by Karl Zinsmeister appearing in The American Enterprise. At first glance, such seems out-of-place given what else we see and hear reported about Iraq here in the early summer of 2005.

Zinsmeister's thesis is actually pretty simple and straight-forward: Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi security forces, for example, are vastly more competent, and in some cases quite inspiring. Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside.

Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security.

In otherwords, things are better when the mundane things of life are in full bloom. After all, do people really worry about satellite TV, cell phones and the like when their lives are in direct danger?

I used to argue this with the usual suspects vis-a-vis the insurgency and the security situation in Iraq. I wonder still whether it provides a reliable metric by which you can measure the situation. Zinsmeister, however, does not:

What the establishment media covering Iraq have utterly failed to make clear today is this central reality: With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over. Egregious acts of terror will continue—in Iraq as in many other parts of the world. But there is now no chance whatever of the U.S. losing this critical guerilla war.

Contrary to the impression given by most newspaper headlines, the United States has won the day in Iraq. In 2004, our military fought fierce battles in Najaf, Fallujah, and Sadr City. Many thousands of terrorists were killed, with comparatively little collateral damage. As examples of the very hardest sorts of urban combat, these will go down in history as smashing U.S. victories.

And our successes at urban combat (which, scandalously, are mostly untold stories in the U.S.) made it crystal clear to both the terrorists and the millions of moderate Iraqis that the insurgents simply cannot win against today’s U.S. Army and Marines. That’s why everyday citizens have surged into politics instead.

Zinsmeister acknowledges the obvious about what he terms terrorist attacks, but makes a firm statement about the eventual outcome--in spite of the insurgents: The terrorist struggle has hardly ended. Even a very small number of vicious men operating in secret will find opportunities to blow up outdoor markets and public buildings, assassinate prominent political figures, and knock down office towers. But public opinion is not on the insurgents’ side, and the battle of Iraq is no longer one of war fighting—but of policing and politics.

On that, I believe, he is 100% correct. The January elections served to repudiate the insurgents and their philosophy, such as it is. With no political position put forth, the jihadi's could not claim any sort of legitimacy in the political process. That the elections occurred without major disruptions and with reasonably high turnout points to the population's desire for political solutions. Further proof is seen in recent agreements aimed at more involvement in the political process for the Sunni's.

Austin Bay recently made similar observations upon his recent return to Iraq (though with the honest caveat that recognizes the realistic ongoing threat): Last year, Haifa Street was a combat zone where US and Iraqi security forces showed up in Robo-Cop garb -- helmets, armor, Bradleys, armored Humvees. Horst told me that he and his Iraqi counterpart now have tea in a sidewalk cafe along the once notorious boulevard. Of course, Abu Musab al Zarqawi's suicide bombers haunt this fragile calm.

Is the mundane an accurate measurement of progress in Iraq? Difficult to say with any certainty, but I believe there is merit to the idea. After all, if I'm in mortal fear for my life am I going to run out and buy up the latest luxury?

Housing schizophrenia

Every week I'm treated to a new story about how out-of-control the area's housing market is, and how we should all be concerned about the frantically unrestrained housing bubble that will burst, leaving us all penniless...or something like that.

The latest buzz has included discussions about how homes are appreciating month-to-month at rates equal to last decade's annual appreciation. Woe is us!

Well, today comes this. Signs that things are leveling off:

Home sellers counting on the bidding wars and quick deals that have been driving Phoenix's housing market this year could be disappointed in the months ahead.

There are early signs the Valley's biggest home price gains have already played out during this boom, and now home sales and prices are approaching a peak.

And all this time we're supposed to have been worrying over the mad pace of home sales in the market and how it was going to ruin us?

"This housing bubble will not explode. It will just deflate," said Elliott Pollack, an Arizona economist and realty investor.

Yes, and as the article points out right before Mr. Pollack drops his wisdom-bomb: But real estate analysts don't expect home prices or values to drop, just to flatten out or increase much more slowly. Home sales remain on a record pace, and the number of houses for sale are half of what they were a year ago.

Kind of what I've been saying all come they never call to quote me?

"Dissension is not unpatriotic"

So says Carlos--a self-identified military veteran--from Phoenix:

Regarding the Monday letter "Dems' Bush-bashing is out of control": I will hold my opinions on the issues of the Democrats. But as a veteran who served in Iraq twice, I feel the need to fix some preconceptions that Republican activists seem to have. Why do you people persist in thinking that dissension is somehow demoralizing the troops? What kind of warped view of war do you have?

Do you think we read the newspapers while firing our weapons? Do you think we read blogs while driving our vehicles? War is horrible and harsh and yet the first people to glorify it are people who are too cowardly to fight it themselves. Before you pretend to "speak" for the troops and before you say that Democratic criticism is demoralizing to us, you might want to go to boot camp and serve.

Carlos raises an interesting point, in that the default assumption on the Right vis-a-vis the attacks on the Iraq effort and those undertaking it play on the minds of the troops, thus contributing to an erosion of morale. Perhaps in that regard the Left is not the only group stuck in an unchanging Vietnam-paradigm.

With all due respect however to Carlos and his service, he does his basic argument a huge disservice when he insinuates that those who support going to war with Iraq "glorify" war and do so as cowards, afraid to enlist and put their bravado where their mouth is. That's an old argument, one that is more interested in shutting down discussion than making any point in particular:

The central implication here is that only men who have professionally endured war have the moral standing and the experiential authority to advocate war. That is, in this country at least, a radical and ahistorical view. The Founders, who knew quite well the dangers of a military class supreme, were clear in their conviction that the judgment of professional warmakers must be subjugated to the command of ignorant amateurs--civilian leaders who were in turn subjugated to the command of civilian voters.

Again, with all due respect to you and your two tours of duty in Iraq, Republicans, Democrats and Independents are entitled to support a war effort whose aims they agree with, as 229 years of US history shows.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents who oppose the war effort are, likewise, entitled to their dissent. The problem as I see it comes when you try to understand the motives behind such dissent. I would put it this way, in an echo of Dennis Prager's thoughts on the subject (and as I think the letter in question tried to address it):

Do the critics oppose Bush because they oppose the war, or do they oppose the war because they oppose Bush? A question worth asking.

As Sim has said before, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Downing if we needed more....

Christopher Hitchens weighs-in. Not much new here, although his insight on the Brits' usage of the term "fixed" and his catch on MI6's reference to the "Sunni majority" are helpful. Really just posting to show that there's a real unanimity on DSM among those with brains. Moneyquote:

I am now forced to wonder: Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq? This was a fairly open conspiracy, and an open secret. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam "as if" (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof. The British attorney general—who has no jurisdiction in these 50 states—was worried that "regime change" alone would not be a sufficient legal basis. One appreciates his concern. But the existence of the Saddam regime was itself a defiance of all known international laws, and we had before us the consequences of previous failures to act, in Bosnia and Rwanda, where action would have been another word for "regime change."

Vacuous Idiot Alert

Yes, you guessed right! Howard Dean is talking again.

The second day of Summer

Yesterday's Summer solstice brought us an official high in the neighborhood of 112 degrees. At 10:30 when we were finally going to bed, it was still 101.

Today? It's 9:05 A.M. and it's already over 100 at the airport, from which they take the official city-high. It's supposed to top out somewhere around 115 today. If we survive it, we leave this evening for 4 days on the California coast.


Of 8, 2's and 6 1/2

Game 2 of the Padres' four game series with division rival Los Angeles resulted in a 2-1 victory for the good guys last night at Petco Park. But yesterday marked more than just a win for the Friars, it was a day which might have signalled a turning point in the NL West race represented symbolically by some key numbers.

Let's start with eight. Last night's loss was the eighth straight for a reeling Dodger club that is desperately seeking a leader to help right the ship. While I do expect LA to rebound at some point, no one on that club is getting it done right now.

Then there is the matter of the terrible twos. That I'm posting this on June 22 should give you a sense for how ominous the number two is in Dodgerland at the moment. Bad news preceded last night's game when it was learned that two of LA's players would miss the remainder of the season due to injury. The loss of Eric Gagne is a crippling blow for the Dodgers in a couple of ways. First, it will be very difficult for LA to overcome the loss of a truly dominant closer and arguably its best player. This does not bode well for 2005 divisional or playoff aspirations. Second, this will be Gagne's second Tommy John surgery. For the 29 year old reliever who makes his living throwing the hottest of heat, this is potentially career-threatening. He is not expected back on a mound until the All-Star break of 2006. While TJ surgeries have become far easier to rehab in recent years, having two of them on the same arm doesn't bode well for pitchers. In any case, here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Gagne. But back to the twos. In losing the second game of the series and two straight to the Pads by yielding two runs, LA has lost both games by a combined total of two runs. The twos were indeed terrible for the Dogs in America's Finest City yesterday.

And then there is the 6 1/2 game lead the Padres opened up on LA with last night's win. While it isn't a commanding lead (4 1/2 ahead of Arizona), without some sort of major re-tooling and righting of the ship, it may be lights-out for LA. Right now, San Diego is playing with out All-Star 2B Mark Loretta and All-Star C Ramon Hernandez. Dodger-killer Adam Eaton is missing two turns in the rotation with a finger strain. Once those guys get healthy, I think it's going to be awfully tough for LA to get back into this thing. Milton Bradley will help, but right now it doesn't look good.

Overall in the NL West, SF continues to limp along without Barry Bonds and with a Jason Schmidt who is only topping out around 92 mph on the gun. They are rumored to be sellers in the trade market with an eye toward moving Alfonzo and Durham. Arizona continues to hang around and could make some moves at the deadline which address their bullpen and starting rotation. Right now, Arizona doesn't really frighten me. But things could change if they make some moves.

Provided my guys stay healthy, I think they can win the division. But to do anything beyond that is going to require another bat. Personally, I think Sean Burroughs has had his shot and probably would benefit from a change of scenery. He plays stellar defense and is hitting around .290 but the Padres need more punch than the 10 RBI and 4 extra-base hits he has on the season. Aubrey Huff is rumored to be available, and I'd like that move because of his positional flexibility. He can play 1B, 3B and LF. And as Nevin, Klesko and Burroughs depart the scene over the next couple of seasons it would be nice to plug Huff in one of those slots. But I doubt John Moores will be eager to take on that kind of salary.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Shock & Awwww

Drafting on my own post from this morning, the bad news for the Dodgers just got worse. All-Star reliever Eric Gagne will miss the remainder of the season due to Tommy John surgery. It will be the second such surgery for the 29 year old pitcher. According to Vin Scully, reserve catcher Paul Bako will also be sidelined for the season due to an ACL injury.

I don't wish injuries on anyone, but these setbacks definitely aren't good news for the playoff aspirations of a team already mired in a seven game death spiral.

Durbin apologizes

As reported by the Blogfather in his first-hour open. Details when the write-ups start.

3:29 P.M.

Here is the AP write-up.

4:03 P.M.

Reaction starts coming in. This from a pastor; my own thoughts began drifting in the same general direction once I heard/read the entire statement:

"As you know I'm a pastor, which means I spend a lot of time talking about repentance and forgiveness. I also listen to people confess and repent. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't hear Senator Durbin admit he had actually done anything wrong, only that he was sorry 'some were offended.' Which is another form of his previous statement, that he was sorry he was misunderstood, which is not the same as an admission of guilt, but an admission of unintended consequences. Again, am I wrong, did I miss something, or is he equivocating with tears this time?"

Getting 'caught' always makes one sorry. Saying that you're sorry that someone got offended doesn't even address what you actually did.

Just do it!

From a Washington Post report: The Senate on Monday refused for a second time to confirm John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, prompting his supporters to urge President Bush to bypass Congress and give the controversial nominee a recess appointment, which would last 18 months.

I for one say, just do it. Enough is enough. The Senate Democrats have hemmed and hawed, whined and cried about this nomination for months. They've had hearings; they delayed committee votes twice and once the nomination got to the floor, they've defeated cloture twice.

Enough. When it isn't even about the nominee anymore, how long do you let this kind of behavior go on?

Democrats said the issue is no longer Mr. Bolton, but an institutional fight with the administration over access to names from foreign communications intercepts, which Democrats want to see to determine whether Mr. Bolton was trying to bully analysts. Democrats said that as long as the information and materials on a speech on Syria's weapons program are not provided, they will block Mr. Bolton.

At the risk of seeming an unconcerned hyper-partisan, I strongly urge the President to make the recess appointment. After urging the Senate to do it's job for months, he is entitled to exercise his executive prerogative. And who knows, maybe a thumb in the eye will bring the Dems back to their senses.

Actually, make that a finger. I think you know which one.


Steve Benson, in a demonstration of just how influential blogging can be, is becoming a hot topic around town.

James in Chandler, for one, says "Enough is enough!":

Cartoonist Steve Benson is out of control!

Using the medical results of the vegetative state of an individual to make one of his far-left comments in last Friday's cartoon is over the line.

Obviously, you have no minimum standards for basic human behavior. It is also obvious there is no review of his work. I love Benson, but he cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater.

I didn't bother with it because, a) I hate giving this guy publicity of any sort or size. He doesn't deserve it; he's just not that good, and b) it was a disgustingly rabid attack. I begrudge no one their views of those they disagree with politically, but I do draw a line. One that cartoon crossed over.

Robert in Phoenix disagrees. To each their own I guess.

  • Better Living: Thoughts from Mark Daniels
  • Evangelical Outpost
  • One Hand Clapping
  • Camp Katrina
  • TPMCafe
  • Dodger Thoughts
  • Boy of Summer
  • Irish Pennants
  • tabletalk
  • Fire McCain
  • My Sandmen
  • Galley Slaves
  • Michelle Malkin
  • myelectionanalysis
  • Iraq the Model
  • Mystery Pollster
  • A Bellandean! God, Country, Heritage
  • Right Truth
  • The Fourth Rail
  • Counterterrorism Blog
  • Just One Minute
  • Broken Masterpieces
  • Kudlow's Money Politic$
  • Econopundit
  • Tapscott's Copy Desk
  • The Blue State Conservatives
  • Palousitics
  • Christian Conservative
  • Outside the Beltway
  • The Belmont Club
  • Froggy Ruminations
  • The Captain's Journal
  • Argghh!!!
  • Chickenhawk Express
  • Confederate Yankee
  • Reasoned Audacity
  • Taking Notes
  • ThisDamnBlog
  • Three Knockdown Rule
  • Dogwood Pundit
  • Dumb Looks Still Free
  • Unfettered Blather
  • Cut to the Chase
  • Alabama Improper
  • Austin Bay Blog
  • Michael Yon-Online
  • The Trump Blog
  • A Lettor of Apology
  • GM Fastlane Blog

  • Powered by Blogger

    Listed on BlogShares Who Links Here