Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts on 2000-2009

If someone had told me on December 31, 1999 that in ten years time I would not only be a conservative but publicly espousing these views in a weekly column and a heretofore unknown mechanism known as a blog I would have dismissed that person out of hand.

Yet it is December 31, 2009. I am a conservative and am espousing conservative views in a weekly column and on this blog.

This decade began for me in Ottawa where I spent most of the 1990s at university and adjusting to the real world. At the time I was unemployed and wanted to find work in politics - progressive politics as it was at the time. With nothing happening in Canada on that front I took advantage of my dual American citizenship and applied for work down here.

In the middle of January 2000 I went to New York for a job interview with -- wait for it -- ACORN. So yes Barack Obama and I do have something in common. I ended up getting the job and was assigned to Boston. I moved here late in March and started the community organizing position the following month.

I'll spare you the gory details but let's just say things didn't work out as I had hoped. The death of my maternal grandfather complicated matters somewhat. But I didn't belong there and I left ACORN scarcely two weeks after I had started.

I ended up working with the state child abuse hotline. That was one hell of a job. I got to hear the worst of humanity almost on a daily basis. But drafting child abuse reports gave me an opportunity to hone my writing skills. Unfortunately, being male and not having an academic background in social work did not endear me to many of my colleagues and I reluctantly ended up leaving that job.

It was the summer of 2001. For six weeks it was bliss. I took a couple of trips to Ottawa and Toronto. After not getting along for some period with my female roommate we became great friends. In the midst of all this I found work with a vocational rehabilitation agency in Lynn, Massachusetts.

The company picnic took place my fourth day on the job. It was September 11, 2001.

The enormity of what happened that day changed me irrevocably. The NDP, my political party in Canada, was preoccupied with blaming the United States for what had happened. Then the Israel bashing soon followed. I couldn't associate myself with a political party or an ideology that not only excused Islamic terrorism but essentially denied it.

But for the previous thirteen years I had defined myself as a social democrat. When I woke up in the morning that's how I thought of myself. I breathed, ate and drank social democracy. Where did this leave me in the grand scheme of things? The year or so following September 11 was a very depressing time for me.

The only people who were making sense to me were conservatives - the very people I had spent the previous thirteen years opposing. But during my days as a social democrat I made a point of reading conservative thought. If I am going to argue against someone I want to know what they are actually thinking. But for the first time I found myself more often in agreement than disagreement with conservatives. By the end of 2002, I came to the conclusion I had become a conservative.

Of course, most of the people in this part of the country are very left-wing. Especially the poetry circuit. I was constantly hearing poetry about how awful Bush was and what a bad country we were. This annoyed me to no end. But instead of complaining I ended up writing poetry that said how good Bush was and what a great country we had the good fortune of finding ourselves. It annoyed the audience. I was starting to find my niche.

Shortly before the War in Iraq, there was a website launched called Poets Against The War. These poets had launched the site because they were mad Laura Bush invited them to the White House. Then they were mad when Laura Bush uninvited them.

A fellow from Michigan named Charley Weatherford launched a countersite called Poets For The War. I sent Charley some of my poems and before I knew it I was being interviewed on the BBC and NPR. Unfortunately, neither FNC nor Rush called. Oh well.

But in March 2003 I received an invitation to start writing a column for a website called America's Voices. Later that year, I would begin my writing my weekly column for Intellectual Conservative and six years later I'm still doing it. That has to count for something.

Despite the election of President Obama it has been a good year for me. The American Spectator has posted several of my columns this year. Including my latest column about the MLB Network. Ten years ago I might have seen myself getting published in The Nation or Mother Jones. But certainly not The American Spectator.

Someone asked me just today if I make my living by writing. I only wish. No, for the past six years I have been working for an insurance company currently in receipt of federal funding. It pays the bills.

Now I would love to earn my keep strictly through my writing but I have few illusions. When you are conservative you understand the difference between optimism and wishful thinking. But if I were never to be paid to write an article again it wouldn't deter me from writing. I'm always thinking about my next column. By constantly thinking about my next column it means there is something to which I can look forward. In the grand scheme of things there's not much else for which I can ask other than to inhale and exhale.

The best weapon there is against Islamic fundamentalism is to live freely. I will continue to do so to the best of my ability in the next decade to come. Happy New Year.

Byrd Flies North to Wrigley

Outfielder Marlon Byrd has signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth $15 million.

Byrd is coming off the best season of his eight year big league career. He hit .283 with 20 home runs and 89 RBI with the Texas Rangers in 2009. Prior to '09, Byrd had never hit more than 10 home runs or driven in 70 runs in a season.

One must legitimately wonder if Byrd's numbers in '09 are an aberration. On the other hand it is worth noting that Rudy Jaramillo is the Cubs new hitting coach. Jaramillo helped improve Byrd's offense while he was the hitting coach with the Rangers. So there should be some continuity there. But even if Byrd's numbers do slip in 2010 he will be an improvement over Kosuke Fukudome in center field. Fukudome is likely to play right field in 2010 with the departure of Milton Bradley.

Byrd began his MLB career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2002. He was traded to the Washington Nationals during the 2005 season and signed with the Rangers as a free agent prior to the 2007 season.

I think Byrd is a good addition to the Cubs. But I suspect they have only begun signing free agents. They are in dire need of a closer. My guess is that they will try to sign Jose Valverde to fill that role.

A Liberal Sticks Up For Limbaugh

Three cheers for Rochelle Riley of The Detroit Free Press.

Riley scolds left-wing bloggers in a piece titled, "Stop wishing Rush Limbaugh dead."

Riley makes it clear she does not agree with any of Rush's views. But she also makes it clear that those who wish him grievous harm are only hurting America:

Yes, he has crossed the line before. He's made us mad as hell. But as he recovers in a hospital in Honolulu, where he was vacationing when he was stricken, America gives Rush Limbaugh the right to the same freedom of speech that I have, even if his speech makes my heart hurt.

Shame on anyone who wants the match between Limbaugh and the many who oppose him to be called on a technical knock-out. I'd rather he get back in the ring and eventually suffer an intellectual one.

To have America means having the Rush Limbaughs of the world. Stop wishing death on democracy.

With that I would like to wish Rochelle Riley a Happy New Year.

A Suggested New Year's Resolution for President Obama

I don't know if President Obama has made any New Year's Resolutions for 2010.

I would like to make the humble suggestion that President Obama resolve not to blame any problems he has in the new year on things that occurred during the "previous administration" or the "previous eight years."

Then again if President Obama were to make such a resolution he would break it within a matter of days if not hours.

Get Well Soon Rush

As you all probably know by now, Rush Limbaugh was hospitalized yesterday after experiencing chest pains while on vacation in Hawaii.

But by all accounts he is going to make a full recovery.

Predictably there are those in the blogosphere who wish him grievous harm.

But that tells you a lot about those people, doesn't it?

Rush will get some much needed rest and then return to the airwaves to do what he does best - drive liberals into a tizzy.

Success is the best revenge.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why The Death Penalty Needs To Be Restored In MA

I did not know that this happened until today.

On Saturday afternoon, a man robbed a Tedeschi convenience store in Jamaica Plain on the corner of Centre & Eliot Streets. The store clerk co-operated with the robber's demand. The robber shot and killed the clerk anyway. The robber then fled by getaway car.

Surendra Dangoi, a 31-year-old Nepalese immigrant, died from a shotgun wound to the chest. Dangoi had only been on the job for a few days and had just filled that shift at the last minute. He leaves behind a wife and child in Nepal. But for the grace of G-d.

I have not been inside that store recently but it is in my neighborhood. A part of the neighborhood I'm in at least a couple of times a week. A part of the neighborhood where I feel comfortable. Of course, I'm aware that horrible things can happen anywhere at anytime. But when something this heinous occurs the person responsible should not sit in a prison cell where he can watch TV all day. If this case doesn't cry for the restoration of the death penalty in Massachusetts I don't know what does.

"Dr. Death" Steve Williams, 1960-2009. R.I.P.

Former professional wrestler "Dr. Death" Steve Williams has died. He was 49.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Williams death was not as a result of steroid use. Williams was diagnosed with throat cancer five years ago but made a recovery sufficient enough to return to the ring. He formally retired earlier this year.

Williams only had a limited association with the WWE but was one of the most successful American wrestlers in Japan. I remember him best with Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation (originally known as the Mid-South Wrestling) in the mid-1980s. Williams was one of those big men you never thought anyone could knock down. But the bell tolls for all of us sooner or later.

Can Bay Keep The Critics at Bay?

Well, Jeff Pearlman of does not like the Mets signing of Jason Bay.

Pearlman likens the signing of Bay to the Mets signing of Cincinnati Reds slugger George Foster prior to the 1982 season. The George Foster the Mets got was not the George Foster who hit 52 home runs and drove in 149 runs en route to the NL MVP in 1977.

Yet I don't think Pearlman is being fair to Bay. Although Foster did finish 3rd in the NL MVP balloting in 1981 his productivity had declined every year since his MVP season. If anything Bay hasn't yet reached his peak.

But Pearlman isn't optimistic. "If Bay has an absolutely outstanding 2010, he might hit 25 homers. He might," writes Pearlman. He bases this argument on the decline of David Wright's productivity in 2009. The Mets third baseman went from hitting 33 home runs and 124 RBI in 2008 to hitting only 10 home runs and 72 RBI in 2009. Pearlman attributes Wright's subpar '09 season to the dimensions of Citi Field.

While one can make a legitimate case that Citi Field is more pitcher friendly than Shea Stadium, Pearlman misses the obvious. As I pointed out yesterday, the presence of Bay and a healthy Carlos Beltran will enable Wright to see better pitches. With the absence of Beltran and Carlos Delgado for most of the '09 season pitchers in the NL pitched around Wright. As for Citi Field's dimensions what is preventing the Mets from moving in the fences?

I do agree with Pearlman that the Mets need more than Bay. Specfically, they need starting pitching. If the Mets were able to sign the likes of Joel Pineiro and Jarrod Washburn then 2010 could be a different story. A starting rotation of Johann Santana, Pineiro, Washburn, a healthy John Maine and a more consistent Mike Pelfrey could make the Mets a viable contender in the NL East.

But if the Mets don't add starting pitchers how is that Bay's fault? If Bay hits more than 25 home runs in 2010 it will be interesting to see what Pearlman will have to scribble.

Is Closing Gitmo "A Fundamental National Security Interest"?

Get a load of this White House Press Background Briefing done yesterday afternoon in Honolulu.

To start with the person conducting the background briefing is indentified only as a "Senior Administration Official." It seems rather peculiar that the White House would not identify the person giving a press briefing.

But then maybe it's because the Obama Administration doesn't want anyone to shoot the messenger. When a reporter asked about the transfer of six Gitmo detainees back to Yemen last week the "Senior Administration Official" stated:

You know, we've been obviously working this through very aggressively. We're making decisions based on a range of intelligence that we have and we're obviously dealing with a situation that we've inherited as it relates to our ability to hold certain individuals. But we're confident that any transfers that we're making are being made not only consistent with our national security interests but also consistent with what we consider to be a fundamental national security interest in closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

I think that some of us were struck by the fact when al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula itself was formed it was the conglomeration of two separate al Qaeda affiliates -- when it was formed, one of the recruiting and motivational tools that it used in its initial announcement to generate sympathy for its cause as well as recruits was the facility at Guantanamo Bay.

So we continue to feel that this is in our national security interest to close. We feel that the way we're closing it is advancing our national security interest goals, and that will continue to be the case.

Where to begin?

The Senior Administration Official claims "we're obviously dealing with a situation we've inherited." What a cop out! Well, it's a situation they've complicated by making the decision to close Gitmo the first day on the job. Maybe they should have sat back and come to a fuller understanding of what they "inherited" before making such a rash and foolish decision.

What national security interest does closing Gitmo serve exactly? This decision opened the door for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to have a civilian trial. This decision opened the door for Umar Farouk Abdul Mutullab to invoke his right to remain silent. Or does the Obama Administration believe its bears no responsibility for its decisions?

Well, the Obama Administration argues that Guantanamo is a recruitment tool for al Qaeda. Let's say that it is a recruitment tool for al Qaeda. But then what about our enlarged presence in Afghanistan? Isn't that a recruitment tool for al Qaeda? If the Obama Administration takes its argument to its logical conclusion then immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan would be "a fundamental national security interest." The same could also be said for our support for Israel, the rights of women and religious freedom. Does the Obama Administration wish to dispense with these policies as well?

Gitmo will still be open in 2010 but by making the decision to shutter it without any thought the Obama Administration has tied their own hands behind their back and compromised our ability to address those very fundamental national security interests.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jason Bay Signs With Mets

Outfielder Jason Bay has signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets. There is an option year available for 2014.

The 31-year-old had been with the Boston Red Sox since being acquired on July 31, 2008 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the three team deal which sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2009, Bay hit .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBI. Bay led the Red Sox in HR, RBI and walks.

To remain in Boston, Bay wanted a five year deal worth $75 million. The most the Sox would offer him was $60 million over four years. When you consider that the Sox were willing to offer John Lackey, a number three starter, $82.5 million over five years one can only conclude the Sox did not make a serious effort to re-sign him.

Actually, Bay was in the Mets organization before. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2000, Bay was traded with pitcher Jimmy Serrano to the Mets for Lou Collier prior to the 2002 season. But Bay's stay with the Mets was shortlived. After stints with the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League and the Binghamton Mets in the Eastern League he was traded to the San Diego Padres on July 31, 2002.

Bay would make his MLB debut with the Padres the following season before being traded again to the Pirates. It was in Pittsburgh he would blossom becoming NL Rookie of the Year in 2004 - the first Pirate to be so honored. When you consider all the rookies who played with the Pirates - Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Al Oliver - it is quite an accomplishment.

As for the future, the presence of Bay in the Mets lineup should be of help to David Wright. With injuries to Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, Wright did not see a lot of good pitches. He hit a career low 10 home runs and did not drive in 100 runs for the first time since his rookie season in 2004. Bay, Wright and a healthy Beltran could be formidable. Bay's easy going attitude is also a nice antidote to Delgado's sometimes sour disposition.

But even with the addition of Bay the Mets still need starting pitching after Johan Santana. While there is every reason that Bay will make a positive contribution at Citi Field the jury is still very much out on the 2010 New York Mets.

DeRosa Hearts San Francisco

Super utility man Mark DeRosa has signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants worth $12 million.

DeRosa split the 2009 season between the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals hitting .250 with 23 home runs and 78 RBI. Although DeRosa made his MLB debut with the Atlanta Braves in 1998 he really didn't blossom until 2006 as a member of the Texas Rangers. DeRosa, who turns 35 in February, signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs the following year and enjoyed two productive seasons before being traded nearly a year ago to the Tribe. He was dealt to the Cardinals last July.

While DeRosa can play a variety of positions it is expected that he will play third base for the Giants in 2010. That means Pablo Sandoval will play first base. That also means the Giants won't be pursuing Adam LaRoche. While DeRosa has driven in at least 70 runs in each of the last four seasons I think the Giants need one more big bat. Matt Holliday would be nice but I have a feeling that won't happen. Jermaine Dye could be a nice fit.

Still, the Giants are standing a little taller today.

ABC Reporter to Wed White House Budget Director

This morning ABC news reporter Bianna Golodryga announced her engagement Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget on Good Morning America.

So the network's financial correspondent is marrying the man responsible for planning the federal budget.

I knew the liberal media was in bed with the Obama Administration but this is ridiculous.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the couple on their impending nuptials.

Imagine Being on Board Northwest Airlines Flight 253

This piece written by Steven Gray from Time Magazine really annoys the hell out of me.

He is writing about the passengers who were on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit two days after the same flight was nearly blown up in mid-air by al Qaeda recruit Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab.

Towards the end of the flight, a Nigerian man had to go to the bathroom, spent more than an hour in the lavatory and refused to come out. As it turns out this man wasn't a terrorist but rather had a very bad case of food poisoning.

Yet Gray has the audacity to ask if the passengers of both overreacting and engaging in racial profiling. Gray writes, "But is racial or ethnic profiling ever justified - and, if so, when, and why?"

Steven Gray should take a moment and put himself on that flight. I suspect most of the passengers had no way of knowing if this man was Nigerian. But the fact he would behave in this manner scarcely 48 hours after someone attempted to blow up the same flight would have raised alarm bells amongst passengers regardless of his race and national origin.

If someone tries to blow up a plane and then someone engages in unusual behavior on the very same plane 48 hours later is it unreasonable to consider that the individual in question might be up to no good? You are 30,000 feet in the air and have nowhere to go. What else could have done under the circumstances?

Since it was a case of food poisoning one must wonder why a) this passenger didn't simply say he was ill and b) didn't accept medical attention (assuming there was a doctor or nurse on board who could have treated him until the plane landed)? I could imagine that if there was a language barrier that would have added to the general chaos but I don't know if that was germane to this situation. I wasn't there.

Neither was Steven Gray. The last thing the passengers of Sunday's Northwest Airlines Flight 253 need is for some grandstanding reporter to wag his finger at them and raise the spectre of racial profiling.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts on President Obama's Statement on Iran

This afternoon, President Obama took a pause from his vacation to address the attempted terrorist attack aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. He also briefly spoke about the political violence in Iran. I will focus my comments on his remarks concerning Iran.

While President Obama condemned the "violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens" he made other statements that were less than confidence inspiring:

Along with all free nations the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people. We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

Calling on Iran to abide by international obligations and call upon it to release those unjustly detained are all well and good. While he's at it why not call upon the Iranians to release those American hikers who Iran is putting on trial for espionage?

But the Obama Administration needs to do more than "continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there." All that means is that we continue to bear witness to the Iranian regime killing more of its own. That's not good enough.

President Obama needs to announce that engagement with Iran is over. The time has now come for regime change. Meaningful sanctions would be a first step in that direction. We'll see what comes of that in the new year.

Obama Administration Approach to Israel & Iran

Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a press release concerning Israeli construction in East Jerusalem that began with the sentence, "The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem."

Simple. Direct. To the point. Incredibly misguided.

Yesterday, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer issued a press release concerning violence in in Iran that began with the sentence, "We strongly condemn the violent and unjust suppression of civilians in Iran seeking to exercise their universal rights."

Mickey Spillane would never have written such a mealy mouthed sentence. If I had written a sentence like that in high school any of my teachers would have asked, "Who are you condemning?"

With the White House placing more pressure on Israel than on Iran is it any wonder Khamenei, the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad do not take the Obama Administration seriously?

In Defense of Juan Pierre

I just read an article by Sky Andrecheck on concerning the worst contracts in MLB.

For the most part I concur with Andrecheck's list. Vernon Wells, Barry Zito and Alfonso Soriano have proven to be a monetary albatross on the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs, respectively.

But I am puzzled by the inclusion of newly acquired Chicago White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre. The veteran outfielder is owed $18.5 million over the next two years although a majority of that will be paid by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Andrecheck writes:

Everyone loves a .300-hitting speedster who is one of the biggest basestealing threats in the game. At least that's what the Dodgers were thinking when they signed Pierre. Unfortunately, that .300-hitting speedster can be a pretty bad player if he hits with absolutely no power and rarely takes a walk. Especially when he plays left field, an offensive position. According to OPS+, Pierre has been a league-average hitter or better just twice in his career (last year and in 2004). Considering that defensive metrics have him at just an average defensive left fielder, Pierre certainly isn't worth the money he's owed. Add in the fact that Pierre was unhappy being a fourth outfielder, and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti had to move him.

It is true that Pierre is no power hitter. But that's hardly breaking news. I don't think the Dodgers were expecting him to hit more than 3 home runs a season. Pierre has hit 13 home runs in 10 big league seasons. It is also true that Pierre rarely draws a walk. But it is also true that Pierre rarely strikes out. While Pierre has only walked 340 times in his big league career he has also only struck out 337 times against MLB pitching. Between 2001 and 2007, Pierre was the toughest batter to strike out in the NL in five of those seasons. Put simply Pierre puts the ball in play.

Of course, Pierre is unhappy being a fourth outfielder. Curiously, Andrecheck makes no mention of the arrival of Manny Ramirez who severely curtailed Pierre's playing time. Pierre played in all 162 games between 2003 and 2007 and would have continued to do so if not Ramirez' arrival in July 2008. Given the injuries speedy outfielders are prone to in their knees, hamstrings, quads and Achilles' tendons it's amazing that Pierre is so durable. Aside from a stint on the DL in 2008, Pierre has been remarkably reliable for the teams with which he's played.

O.K., Pierre only walks 35-40 times a year. So what? He has collected 200 or more hits four times. In 2004 and 2006, it was good enough to lead the NL. Between 2001 and 2007, Pierre either led in the NL in stolen bases or came in second. Even with his limited playing time in 2008 and 2009, Pierre still finished 5th in the NL in steals. Yes, he does get caught stealing a lot but he's no rally killer. It's the price one sometimes pays for aggressive baserunning.

As for 2010, put Pierre down for 162 games, 185 hits, 90 runs scored, 50 stolen bases and a .300 average. If he can put up those numbers look for the White Sox to make the post-season in 2010. Of course, Pierre won't be the only player responsible for that but he would set the table big enough to fit several cases of champagne.

I think Andrecheck is one of those baseball writers who places way too much emphasis on OBP, OPS and OPS +. Those stats aren't without merit but they don't tell the whole story. Far from it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Xinhua Describes Obama as "Awkward"

I came across this article about former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott defending China's actions during the Copenhagen summit.

The article makes passing reference to an article from Xinhua, China's official news agency. In that article, President Obama is described as "awkward." To be precise, the article describes Obama's interaction with Premier Wen during the final day of the Copenhagen Summit:

At 18:50, when leaders of the BASIC countries were doing the final review of their common position, they heard a clamor of voices outside. The door was opened and there stood President Obama. Although the scheduled time for the second China-US meeting had passed, Obama's presence at that moment and that place still came as a surprise to the people inside.

President Obama must, too, have felt a bit awkward. With one foot inside the door, he smiled and asked, "Premier Wen, am I early? Which do you prefer, me waiting outside or joining you?" Premier Wen stood up and welcomed him courteously. President Obama was apparently touched. He first walked around the room, shaking hands with everyone inside, and then sat down on President Lula's left and across the table facing Premier Wen.

It's a slightly different account from what was described in our media - at least the outlet that cared to report it. According to The Hill, President Obama asked, "Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?"

As I stated in my most recent article:

When President Obama has to ask Premier Wen if he is ready to see him it tells you who is running the show. What if Wen had told Obama to take a hike? For all intents and purposes, Obama bowed to China – again.

It looks even worse through the Chinese prism. It is not for our President to ask the Premier of China if it is his preference that he wait outside. That's the sort of question you ask of your boss if he or she is on the phone or otherwise occupied. Even if we are borrowing money from China we are still a sovereign nation. President Obama's approach towards China is awkward indeed.

Now one can dismiss Xinhua's account as mere Chinese propaganda. On the other hand if most of the American media look upon President Obama in awe the same cannot be said of the Chinese media which is little more than an extension of the Chinese Communist Party and in turn the Chinese government.

President Obama might have come to office to improve America's standing in the world. Instead, Obama has conveyed an unwillingness to stand up for America.

Iranian Regime Opens Fire on Crowd During Ashura

The Iranian regime opened fire today on crowds attending Ashura, a holy day of mourning in Shi'a Islam.

At least four people were killed including Seyed Ali Mousavi, the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi. It is believed that Mousavi actually won last June's "election." Today's violence was the deadliest in Iran since the aftermath of that "election." At least four deaths have been confirmed but it is believed far more people have lost their lives.

The significance of the Iranian regime attacking its own people on Ashura cannot be underestimated. Farnaz Fassihi of The Wall Street Journal writes:

The weekend's deaths could become particularly heavy with symbolism in Iran, given that Islam bans fighting and killing during this season. During its eight-year war with Iraq, Iran routinely halted its military attacks during this time. Similarly, during Iran's 1970s Islamic revolution, protesters picked Ashura as the signature day to come out en masse against the Shah, assuming correctly that he wouldn't attack on that day.

As a result, many Iranians were shocked at the reports that Iran's security forces beat protesters and opened fire into this weekend's crowds. Analysts said that if public outrage over the violence aligns the so-far dormant religious class against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the crackdown could prove to be a milestone.

It would be an even bigger milestone if President Obama lent a word of support to the people of Iran. But so far he has not commented on the violence. Perhaps he doesn't want anyone meddling with his vacation in Hawaii.

Jets Beat Colts

It's not often I'm happy for a New York sports team. But congratulations to the New York Jets who handed the Indianapolis Colts their first defeat in the 2009 NFL season. The Jets beat the Colts 29-15. Curiously, Colts QB Peyton Manning and most of the other starters were pulled during the 3rd quarter with a 15-10 lead.

If the Colts had gone undefeated and went on the win Super Bowl then Colts fans would never let New England Patriots fans hear the end of it. Two years ago, the Pats went 16-0 only to be upended by the New York Giants (led by Peyton's younger brother, Eli) in Super Bowl XLII. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to be undefeated in the regular season and then go on to win the Super Bowl.

Gilbert Arenas, Guns & Liberal Media Condescension

A few days ago, a crate of unloaded firearms were found inside the locker of Washington Wizards forward Gilbert Arenas. The firearms were inside a locked container.

The incident is now being investigated both by the Wizards and the NBA. There's also no word if Arenas will be charged with an offense by the District of Columbia.

Jarrett Carter, a liberal sports blogger, then writes an article titled, "Why Gilbert Arenas Should Never Own Guns."

Carter fears for the safety of Arenas' children citing some unspecified "world's demons." Yet it was the arrival of Arenas' new daughter that prompted him to remove the firearms from his home. Now there might very well be legitimate criticism of Arenas for bringing firearms to The Verizon Center. Yet it is worth noting that Carter makes no mention of the fact the guns weren't loaded and were inside a locked container. These are not insignificant details. It is the sign of a responsible gun owner. One wonders what else he might be leaving out.

But why include all the facts when you can make statements such as:

Again, it’s not a discussion about rights as it is who is a right fit for a gun. No one wants those who don’t value their intended purpose to have them, but for Bible-thumpers and thugs alike, the law trumps the common sense of the common man when it comes to weaponry for the citizenry.

Ah yes, those Bible-thumpers who wantonly shoot pistols and rifles for no reason. In Carter's world, those who adhere to the Bible are no better than thugs. But that's liberal tolerance for you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thoughts on The Assault of Pope Benedict XVI

Despite the fact that no harm came to Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Mass, the attack on him is nonetheless disconcerting.

It is disconcerting because the attack happened only days after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was assaulted and injured seriously enough to require hospitalization.

It is also disconcerting because the woman who attacked the Pope was known to authorities and apparently tried to pull off an attack last year. If a young woman with a history of mental illness can breach Vatican security then imagine what an Islamic fundamentalist who knows how to set off an explosive could do.

The Pontiff has angered Muslims in the past and it wouldn't take very much for him to anger them again. If Islamic fundamentalists are prepared to launch an attack on the Pope at the Vatican (or abroad) I cannot say with any confidence if their level of readiness would be sufficient to prevent an act of terrorism.

Mets Land Kelvim Escobar

New York Mets fans might wonder if they got a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings but just haven't bothered to check yet.

Free agent pitcher Kelvim Escobar has signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Mets pending a physical. Usually a physical is a formality but Escobar has pitched a grand total of one game over the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Escobar's last full season in the majors was in 2007 when he won a career high 18 games with the Angels.

The Mets plan to use Escobar in the bullpen possibly as the set up man for Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez. Now it's entirely possible that Escobar could be healthy and might be a good addition to the Mets bullpen. The problem is that in this off season the Mets have at various times pursued Roy Halladay, John Lackey, Kevin Millwood and Jason Bay. These efforts have borne no fruit. It's possible the Mets could still sign Bay but it appears the door is opening up for him to re-sign with the Red Sox. It might be that Bay realizes the Mets aren't going anywhere and why not stay with a team that has made the postseason five out of the last six years.

The Mets need an additional starting pitcher and power hitting outfielder and have nothing to show for their efforts. If your only free agent signing hasn't pitched in nearly two years it isn't exactly cause for celebration amongst Mets fans.

On the other hand it might be that the Mets are hoping Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado will be healthy and David Wright will see better pitches to hit. While the Mets floundered without them in 2009 they couldn't get to the post season with them in 2007 or 2008.

I'm not knocking the Mets for taking a chance on Escobar. But if that is their only move then it doesn't inspire confidence. The New York Mets are very much at a crossroads in 2010.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Will Obama Stay Silent About Liu Xiaobo?

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion.

While many world leaders have condemned Xiaobo's sentence as of this writing President Obama has said nothing.

Given his acquiescence towards China during his state visit last month and again last week in Copenhagen I cannot help but wonder if he will once again say that it is not for us to meddle.

If he does the sentiments expressed in his Nobel acceptance speech will amount to nothing more than a series of platitudes.

Thoughts on Northwest Airlines Flight 253

If you don't know by now, a Nigerian national affiliated with al Qaeda tried to blowup Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Fortunately, he was subdued by several other passengers and no one was killed.

Although the White House regards this as an attempted terrorist attack it worries me that people won't take this incident as seriously as they should. This will be chalked up as another Richard Reid like incident. Richard Reid is thought of as a buffoon rather than someone intent on mass murder.

On the other hand, you would think that al Qaeda operatives would know by now that if they hijack commercial aircraft then passengers will fight back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Angels & Nationals Get Some Relief

Both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Washington Nationals have obtained relief. Not from the federal government but in the form of pitchers.

Yesterday, the Angels signed Fernando Rodney to a two-year contract worth $11 million. Rodney was the closer for the Detroit Tigers in 2009 and saved 37 games. It is interesting that the Angels went out and signed Rodney despite the fact that Brian Fuentes led the AL in saves with 48. Clearly, the Angels are not all that confident in Fuentes especially after he struggled during the post-season.

I suspect that Fuentes will begin 2010 as the Angels closer with Rodney being his set up man. Rodney has been a set up man most of his MLB career. But if Fuentes struggles early then Angels skipper Mike Scioscia will have Rodney close out games. Fuentes has been a set up man in the past.

Before the Colorado Rockies went on their great run in 2007, Fuentes had struggled as their closer. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle named Manny Corpas as the closer while Fuentes became the 8th inning man. It was not long after that decision came to pass that the Rockies turned their fortunes around. Now whether Fuentes would respond in the same manner in an Angels uniform remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Matt Capps has signed with the Washington Nationals. The terms of the deal are presently unknown. Capps saved a career high 27 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009. However, the burly right hander also went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA and the Pirates made Capps walk the plank. At 25, Capps does have youth on his side.

But the Nationals have a Plan B. They have also signed veteran left hander Eddie Guardado. "Everyday Eddie" pitched for the Texas Rangers in 2009. Guardado was a closer with the Twins and Mariners earlier this decade. While the 39-year-old did not save a game in '09, Guardado is an option to close should Capps not fill the bill.

Obama on Health Care Bill: "Most Important Piece of Social Legislation Since 1930s."

So I guess that Civil Rights Act wasn't that big of a deal.

Suffice it to say modesty isn't one of President Obama's strong suits.

Christmas Eve in NYC

I'm here in New York City with my father and older brother.

After dinner we spent the evening walking around Midtown. We stopped first at Rockefeller Center to look at the Christmas tree and those skating around the pond. We did much the same at Bryant Park before proceeding to Times Square. In a week's time that same place will be full of people as far as the eye can see.

I've been to NYC many times including on New Year's Eve. But tonight was as enjoyable a night as I've ever had in this city. There was an unmistakable warmth in the air of a cool night. You wish for such a night on all nights. But if we had this on all nights it wouldn't be so special.

So Merry Christmas to all wherever you might be.

George Michael, 1939-2009. R.I.P.

George Michael has passed away (the sportscaster not the singer). Michael had been battling cancer for two years. He was 70.

Michael was best known as the host of nationally syndicated show The George Michael Sports Machine which aired between 1984 and 2007. It would typically air on Sunday night and show highlights from both professional and amateur sports that had occurred during the week that had passed. Some highlights were great. Some were embarrassing. Others were just plain weird.

I liked Michael's affable enthusiasm. He clearly enjoyed what he was doing. I watched the show fairly regularly when it first hit the airwaves. But as ESPN and other 24 hour sports networks expanded their reach and local networks began airing their own late night sports programming it became harder to find The George Michael Sports Machine. Either it would air in the wee hours of Monday morning or one couldn't find it at all. But on the occasions I did happen to come across I would watch it.

Here's a highlight package from one of Michael's last shows in 2007. I think you'll see why his show found a way to star on the air for nearly a quarter century.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Will The Braves Glaus Over First Base?

A day after acquiring Melky Cabrera from the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves are on the verge of adding power hitting veteran Troy Glaus to their lineup pending a physical. If he passes the physical, the Braves will pay Glaus $2 million in 2010.

The Braves are taking a gamble on two fronts. First, Glaus missed nearly the entire 2009 season with a shoulder injury. He played in only 14 games with the St. Louis Cardinals and struggled at the plate. In 29 at bats, he collected only five hits for a .172 batting average. Second, the Braves are looking to him to play first base where he has limited experience. Glaus is a third baseman but the presence of Chipper Jones makes that move out of the question unless Jones gets hurt (which at this stage of his career is quite likely.)

I do understand why the Braves signed Glaus. Their lineup is stacked with lefthanded hitters. Jones and the newly acquired Cabrera are switch hitters but generally generate most of their power on the left hand side of the plate. Glaus is a bonafide right handed power hitter who has 30 or more home runs in a season five times in his MLB career. It has a career that has featured with the Anaheim Angels (where he was the 2002 World Series MVP), Arizona Diamondbacks and the Toronto Blue Jays before coming to the Cardinals in a trade for Scott Rolen prior to the 2008 season.

The Braves need a big bopper. Catcher Brian McCann was the only Brave who hit more than 20 home runs in 2009. However, this is a little deceptive. Glaus is replacing Adam LaRoche who spent 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a week with the Boston Red Sox before rejoining the Braves on July 31st. If you compile LaRoche's numbers from 2009 he hit .277 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI. LaRoche has hit 20 or more home runs each of the last five seasons. His career high of 32 came in 2006 during his first stint with the Braves. It is reasonable to assume that if LaRoche were to play a full season with the Braves he would put up those kind of numbers again. Unlike Glaus, LaRoche is a known quantity at first base.

But the Braves didn't want to meet LaRoche's contractual demands so he is a free agent. The San Francisco Giants have not made any significant offseason moves. Given their weak offense they sorely need to if they expect to make a bid for the NL West or Wildcard in 2010. Adding LaRoche would be a big first step in providing protection for Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the lineup.

Of course, if the Giants were to sign LaRoche that would mean keep Sandoval at third base. If the Giants are keen to move Sandoval to first then Adrian Beltre would be an ideal fit for the Giants. If the San Diego Padres end up moving Adrian Gonzalez then LaRoche could be an option for them. However, he would have some very big shoes to fill both on and off the field.

Getting back to the Braves they are a team I am following with great curiosity in 2010. This coming season will be Bobby Cox's last as manager. I'm sure the Braves (especially Chipper Jones who has played his entire career with Cox as his only manager) want him to go out on a high note. Their strong starting rotation (even without Javier Vazquez) does make them a viable NL Wild Card contender and could give the Philadelphia Phillies a run for their money in the NL East. I like the additions of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to the bullpen but I think the jury is out on both Cabrera and Glaus for the time being.

Why Jews Should Not Forgive Jimmy Carter

Lo and behold, former President Jimmy Carter has had an epiphany and has sought forgiveness from Jews for his public positions on the State of Israel. Carter writes:

We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.

Yet it just so happens that his grandson is seeking elected office in Georgia. Jason Carter recently announced that he would seek a seat in the Georgia State Senate. The district in which he is running has a large Jewish population. Of course, Carter says the whole thing is just a coincidence. Yeah surre.

Carter writes, "I never intended or wanted to stigmatize the nation of Israel." An example of this was the title of his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Yet when Carter visited Brandeis University in January 2007 he sang a very different tune. "I can see it would precipitate some harsh feelings," said the 39th President, "I chose that title knowing that it would be provocative."

The term apartheid it is associated with the old racist regime in South Africa. The world rightly ostracized and stigmatized South Africa for its behavior. Why then use the term "apartheid" unless it one intends to galvanize world opinion into ostracizing and stigmatizing Israel in a similar manner?

The book would be followed by a film Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains directed by Academy Award winning director Jonathan Demme. It documented his U.S. book tour promoting Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The film arrived in theaters a year after the release of the book.

At one point during the film he is being interviewed on The Tavis Smiley Show. While Smiley generally praises Carter and the book he does take him to task for the use of the word apartheid. Carter responded by claiming Palestinians are treated worse by Israel than blacks were in apartheid era South Africa.

He would go further than that. During an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball on November 28, 2006, Carter said:

What is being done to the Palestinians now is horrendous in their own territory by occupying powers which is Israel. They've taken away all of the basic human rights of the Palestinians as was done in South Africa against the blacks.

Carter knew exactly what he was doing when gave the book that title and the furor that would follow. He did everything in his power to fan the flames of anti-Israel sentiment. If Carter wasn't trying to stigmatize the State of Israel then it's impossible to fathom what the hell he was doing.

For Carter's plea for forgiveness to ring true then he must come out and say that he willfully and wantonly lied about the State of Israel. Until then Jews should view his plea as nothing more than crass political opportunism and dismiss it out of hand. Jimmy Carter has not shown himself to be worthy of forgiveness.

Thoughts on Rudy Giuliani

Today, Rudy Giuliani announced he will not seek elected office in 2010. There had been talk he would make a run for the U.S. Senate or the Governor's Mansion.

With regard to the latter he threw his support behind Rick Lazio. Of course, when Giuliani withdrew from the 2000 U.S. Senate race against Hillary Clinton due to prostate cancer it was Lazio who became the GOP standard bearer.

Giuliani said, “My life is interesting. It’s not as if I’m looking for something interesting to do.”

It sounds to me like Giuliani is content to watch the Yankees. He is no more interested in trekking to Albany or becoming the lowest ranking member of the U.S Senate than he was in traversing Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008. If you want to attain higher office there are certain things you must do and at this stage of his life Giuliani isn't prepared to do them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Marquis Moves in MLB

Here's my take on a few free agent signings and trades that have gone down over the past 48 hours or so.

Jason Marquis signs 2-year, $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals

The veteran righthander went 15-13 with a 4.05 ERA in his only season with the Colorado Rockies who went on to win the NL Wild Card. Marquis had a very strong first half winning 11 of those games before the All-Star Break en route to making his first NL All Star team.

Don't count on Marquis to win 15 games for the Nationals in 2010. But if he wins 10 games in '10 he will have accomplished something. John Lannan led the Nationals in wins in '09 with 9. In a rotation full of twenty somethings, the 31-year-old Marquis will serve as an anchor and mentor to Nationals young pitching staff. Marquis has pitched in the NL his entire big league career that has included stops with the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs before pitching in Denver this past season.

Darren Oliver becomes a Ranger for the third time

Veteran southpaw Darren Oliver has signed a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. The 39-year-old pitched with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the past three seasons and was a crucial part of their bullpen. Oliver has the versatility to pitch both short relief and long relief and can start a game if the occasion calls for it.

Oliver made his major league debut with the Rangers back in 1993. He pitched with the Rangers until the middle of the 1998 season when he along with Fernando Tatis were traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton. Now that's going down amnesia lane.

Oliver returned to the Rangers in 2000 where he would pitch the next two seasons before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for the controversial Carl Everett. He went on to pitch with the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Florida Marlins, New York Mets before joining the Angels in 2007. Oliver pitched in the post-season in each of the last four seasons (once with the Mets and thrice with the Halos.) Although I don't think that's where the Rangers will be headed in 2010.

OF Coco Crisp signs a 1-year, $4.5 million contract with the Oakland Athletics

Of course, I got see Crisp play up and close during his three seasons with the Boston Red Sox before he was traded at the end of 2008 to the Kansas City Royals for relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez.

Crisp did not have a good '09 campaign in Kansas City. He hit only .228 in 49 games before undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. Originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Crisp made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in 2002. Despite winning a World Series ring with the Red Sox in '07, Crisp's best seasons were with the Tribe.

But if the 30-year-old outfielder is healthy he still possesses very good speed and can play some spectacular defense. Although he does have a tendency to dive for balls he has no chance of catching. Nonetheless, Crisp should be the Athletics starting centerfielder in 2010.

Atlanta Braves trade pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the New York Yankees for outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitcher Mike Dunn

The big names in this deal are Vazquez and Cabrera. Logan and Dunn are two lefty relievers with comparable ability.

Vazquez went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in his lone season in Atlanta. His 238 strikeouts were second in the NL. Only NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum had more with 261. Originally with the Montreal Expos, Vazquez pitched with the Yankees in 2004 going 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. However, he had a weak second half and was demolished in the ALCS by the Boston Red Sox. In fact, he gave up two home runs to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. But perhaps a World Series in '09 with Damon as a major contributor has erased those old wounds.

Entering the 2010 season, Vazquez is 6th amongst active pitchers with 2,253 strikeouts. At 32, it is not out of the question for him to reach 3,000 strikeouts. However, his career won loss record is barely above .500 at 142-139. After one season in pinstripes, Vazquez was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. Prior to the 2006 season, Vazquez was traded to the Chicago White Sox where he spent three seasons before being dealt a year ago to Atlanta. Strangely, Boone Logan was also involved in that deal.

Look for Vazquez to be the number four starter in the Yankees rotation behind C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. With a starting rotation of Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Kenshin Kawakami, the Braves wanted get more offense and shed some payroll. Vazquez becomes a free agent at the end of 2010.

Cabrera has been a Yankee his entire professional career. He made the big club in 2005. Cabrera reminds me of slightly less powerful Manny Ramirez. He can be absolutely spectacular or look absolutely awful especially with the glove. Cabrera might benefit from a change of scenery and at 25 perhaps the best is still yet to come. My guess is that he will play left field with the Braves with the Gold Glove caliber Nate McLouth patrolling centerfield and Matt Diaz in right. I'm sure Jordan Schafer will figure in there somehow especially if Cabrera stumbles.

Despite Vazquez's good '09 campaign there's no guarantee AL hitters will be anymore accommodating to him than they were during his previous stint in the Bronx. Melky Cabrera could hit 40 home runs next year or hit 4 home runs next year. This trade is a gamble for both clubs but especially the Braves.

Two Brandons

I believe this is the first time in MLB history that two players named Brandon have been traded for each other. The Seattle Mariners sent pitcher Brandon Morrow to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Brandon League and a minor leaguer.

It is interesting to see how Morrow has fallen out of favor in Seattle. Morrow was the Mariners number one draft pick in 2006 and made the Opening Day roster in 2007. A year ago he was considered untouchable. In 2008, Morrow became the Mariners closer when J.J. Putz got hurt. But later in the season he was sent down to the minor leagues to be converted into a starter. A month later, in his first major league start, Morrow threw 7 and two thirds innings of no-hit ball against the New York Yankees.

But by the beginning of 2009, Morrow was the closer again before he went on the DL with tendonitis in his biceps in early May. David Aardsma took over the M's closer and never looked back. When Morrow came off the DL he was made a starter but struggled with his control and was sent back down to Triple A Tacoma.

The Mariners simply couldn't make up their minds as to whether they wanted Morrow as a starter or reliever and hopefully the Blue Jays won't make that mistake. Yet, at the moment, it is not clear whether the Jays are going to do with Morrow. For me, it makes more sense to have Morrow close. Morrow is a diabetic and has expressed a preference for relief work. Jason Frasor led the Jays in saves with 11 in 2009. The Jays and the Cleveland Indians were tied for the fewest saves in the AL in '09 with 25. Unless the Jays are going to sign Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney or Matt Capps then Morrow should be their closer in 2010.

Brandon League is similar to his fellow Brandon in that he throws very hard but often lacks control. But when he is on he is nearly unhittable. I've seen him pitch both in the majors and the minors. While League has pitched for the Jays each of the last six seasons, he spent most of 2007 in the minors after developing shoulder trouble. Late that season, I saw him pitch with the Double A New Hampshire Fishercats.

The Hawaiian League has a very colorful personality and I'm not talking about his tattoos. It will be interesting to see how League gets on with Milton Bradley. If League can harness his control on the mound he would be an ideal 8th inning set up man for Aardsma. The Mariners game could be seven innings and then over once turned over to League and Aardsma. So Chone Figgins, Cliff Lee, Bradley and now League. The Mariners are looking more and more like the team to beat in the AL West next year.

Ahmadinejad to Obama: "We Don't Care!!!"

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the White House's warnings over the December 31st deadline regarding its nuclear program.

"We don't care," said Ahmadinejad, "We are not afraid of sanctions against us and we are not intimidated." Ahmadinejad added that Iran is "ten times stronger than last year."

Now one could dismiss that last statement as bluster. But if it is not clear to President Obama that Iran isn't interested in engagement now then I am not sure if it will ever be.

Frankly, Ahmadinejad has no reason to care. What's Obama and the international community going to do? Sure there might be some sanctions but the regime will remain large and in charge.

Ahmadinejad and The Mullahs won't entertain changing their behavior unless they believe their grip on power will be wrested by force either from abroad or from within.

There will soon be a new year but it will the same old regime.

Alaina Reed-Amini, 1946-2009. R.I.P.

Actress/singer Alaina Reed-Amini died on December 17th after a two year battle with breast cancer. She was 63.

Reed was best known to millions of children as Olivia on Sesame Street where she played Gordon's younger sister. She joined the cast in 1976 and would remain until 1988. Reed was also part of the cast of the TV comedy 227 starring Marla Gibbs which aired from 1985 to 1990 on NBC.

Here she is singing a duet with George Benson on the set of Sesame Street. The sound quality isn't great but it is a nice song to remember her by.

As a child it was easy to think that those who were on Sesame Street lived inside the television including the human cast members. As a child I could not imagine they were real people with lives away from the Childrens' Television Workshop. To this day, it's funny to see those cast members in other settings. I remember seeing Emilio Delgado (Luis a.k.a. Mr. Fix It) on an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and had to do a doubletake. Or years ago when Bob McGrath (a.k.a. Bob) appeared at Carnegie Hall for a tribute to Harry Chapin.

Needless to say, the death of one of the cast members is bit more jarring. You almost feel like Big Bird did when he found out Mr. Hooper had died.

Thoughts on Laura Dekker

I am fascinated with the story of Laura Dekker.

She's the 14-year-old Dutch girl who wants to sail around the world solo. If successful she would be the youngest person in the world to accomplish the feat. Earlier this year, a 17-year-old British sailor named Michael Perham became the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Dekker's father supports his daughter's ambition. The only thing standing in her way is the Dutch government. The local authorities petitioned a Dutch family court and obtained joint custody of Dekker. This joint custody is to last until July 2010.

But Dekker became restless and ran away from home several days ago. She withdrew a large amount of money and somehow found her way to Saint Martin in the Caribbean. Dekker was returned to The Netherlands with a police escort. Authorities will now investigate how she managed the leave the country.

Under normal circumstances, the idea of a 14-year-old girl sailing around the world would be sheer lunacy. But Laura Dekker is no ordinary 14-year-old girl. She was born at sea and probably knows more about the sea than some merchant marines. Dekker has been sailing boats since she was six. While other little girls played with dolls she filled out log books.

Yes, there are risks to sailing around the world solo. But she would know that better than most. It's not a question of if she is going to do this but when. The sea is in her blood. I think the Dutch government should get out of her way and let her set sail.

One must suspect that one of the reasons the Dutch authorities are so adamantly opposed to her undertaking his venture is because she is a girl though they would be loathe to admit it. If Dekker was a boy I don't think there would be anywhere the fanfare. It was certainly not the case with either Perham or Zac Sunderland, an American who also successfully sailed around the world solo alos at age 17.

It is also worth noting that Dekker isn't the only girl who wants to sail around the world solo. Australian Jessica Watson began her trek in October and has been at sea for 53 days as of this writing. If she is successful, she will eclipse Sunderland's record. But that might be shortlived. Sunderland's younger sister Abby will soon embark on her solo voyage around the world. The authorities in Australia have not thwarted Watson nor have the authorities out in California tried to thwart Sunderland.

As for Laura Dekker, she does still have time on her side even if her patience is in short supply and her restlessness is abundant. But if Dekker succeeds in becoming the youngest person to sail around the world solo the same local government that tried to stop her will tell the world she is their favorite daughter.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy, 1977-2009. R.I.P.

Actress/singer Brittany Murphy has died of cardiac arrest. She was only 32.

Murphy is best known for her roles in movies like Clueless, Girl, Interrupted and 8 Mile. She was also the voice of Luanne Hill on the long running FOX animated series King of the Hill. Murphy also had a number one dance hit with Paul Oakenfeld on the U.S. Billboard charts in 2006 called "Faster Kill Pussycat."

Naturally, one might think this was caused by a drug overdose given her age. But it is also possible she could have had a blocked coronary artery or some other preexisting heart condition either she knew or didn't know about. Regardless of the cause, she left this world too soon.

Murphy is survived by Simon Monjack, her husband of 2½ years.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, 1922-2009. R.I.P.

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has died. He was 87.

Montazeri played a significant role in the Iranian Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini would eventually designate Montazeri as his successor. However, by 1987, Montazeri had become critical of the Revolution and called for the legalization of political parties. Later, he would criticize the execution of political prisoners and chided Khomeini for his fatwa against Salman Rushdie. In March 1989, Khomeini removed Montazeri as his designated heir. Khomeini died less than three months later and was succeeded by Ali Khamene'i and remains Iran's Supreme Leader to this day. Montazeri was placed under house arrest between 1997 and 2003 for his criticisms of Khamene'i.

Montazeri did not spare Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from criticism either. He criticized Ahmadinejad's nuclear and economic policies in 2007 and again during the aftermath of Iran's "elections" this past June. Montazeri said "no one in their right mind could believe" the outcome.

He would also call for three days of public mourning following the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan. His last public statement came last month during the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. Montazeri said that seizing the American embassy in Tehran had been a mistake.

Montazeri's funeral is scheduled to be held tomorrow in Qom. Given that thousands are expected to attend one wonders if the procession will turn into a protest against Khamene'i and Ahmadinejad. Even if it doesn't it would come as no surprise to me if the Revolutionary Guard or the Basij were to provoke the mourners and clash with them.

So why would the regime risk doing such a thing? Whatever condemnations might come of it the Iranian regime knows there is no one prepared to stop them. They are not afraid of President Obama nor anyone else.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Palin Was Right; Obama Should Have Boycotted Copenhagen

Sarah Palin was right.

President Obama should have boycotted Copenhagen.

An agreement was struck yesterday at the 11th hour to limit temperature increases to two degrees Celsius.

The Obama Administration describes the agreement as "meaningful and unprecedented."

But the agreement isn't legally binding. The only thing here is that is "meaningful and unprecedented" is that China has effectively supplanted the United States as the most powerful nation in the world under Obama's watch. When President Obama has to ask Premier Wen if he is ready to see him it tells you who is running the show.

Now there are those like Pat Buchanan who would make the case that this state of affairs has been well on its way for some time now. But at least President Bush didn't care what China thought when he would openly receive the Dalai Lama. The same cannot be said for President Obama when he snubbed The Dalai Lama, a fellow Nobel Laureate, during his visit to Washington in October. President Obama was due for his first state visit to China the following month and did not want to offend Premier Wen or President Hu. Indeed, Obama's visit did nothing to inspire the confidence of Chinese dissidents.

This isn't to say that American military strength has been surpassed. But so long as President Obama insists on denying American exceptionalism at home and belittling America abroad (Nobel speech or not) then other powers will be more than happy to fill in the breach with China topping the list with Russia close behind. President Obama has certainly done nothing to discourage the Chinese whether by bowing to President Hu or asking Premier Wen if he is ready to receive him.

If Sarah Palin were in the White House I cannot imagine her behaving in such a defensive and deferential manner.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cubs Send Milton Bradley to Seattle

The Chicago Cubs have traded outfielder Milton Bradley to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Carlos Silva and $6 million in cash.

This will be the eighth MLB uniform Bradley has worn since his debut with the Montreal Expos in 2001. Bradley has also had stops with the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers before signing a three-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs prior to the 2009 season.

His tenure with the Cubs was an utter disaster. Bradley struggled at the plate hitting .257 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 124 games in 2009 before he was suspended for the rest of the season on September 21st. The Cubs struggles last season weren't entirely Bradley's fault. Other than Derek Lee and Ryan Theriot, the Cubs offense was anemic. Carlos Zambrano's ERA ballooned to 5.63 and neither Kevin Gregg nor Carlos Marmol could cut it as the team's closer.

But Cubs fans took their frustrations out on Bradley and he gladly took his frustrations out on them. Bradley said, "You understand why they haven't won in 100 years here."

Yet when I think of Milton Bradley I think of the 2008 Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium the day before the All Star Game. The one where his Rangers teammate Josh Hamilton was hitting everything out of sight. Bradley was by his side cooling him off with a towel in between shots. He might have smiling bigger and brighter than anyone that night. Hamilton has had his own share of problems and perhaps Bradley felt at ease with him.

Bradley enjoyed his best season in 2008 when he hit .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI during his only year in a Rangers uniform. He led the AL in OBP (.436) and OPS (.999) in '08. So naturally there was a lot of excitement when he signed with the Cubs last January but it wasn't meant to be. The Cubs are glad that Bradley isn't toying with them anymore.

I'm sure there's some trepidation in Seattle. But they also know Bradley can play and contribute. The Mariners have added Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee this off season. Bradley could do a lot of damage in the middle of that lineup. Although one could have made such a comment when he signed with the Cubs. But the Cubs don't have Ken Griffey, Jr. Perhaps Griffey could act as something of an older brother to Bradley and be a calming presence. Should that happen Bradley could have the best year of his MLB career.

As for Carlos Silva, he is essentially a reclamation project. Prior to the 2008 season, Silva signed a four-year contract with the Mariners worth $48 million. It was not money well spent. Silva had an atrocious 2008 season. In 28 starts, he went 4-15 with an ERA of 6.46. Things improved little in 2009. He started only six games and went 1-3 with an ERA of 8.60 before he was shut down for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. Silva previous pitched with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins. His best season came in 2004 when he went 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA when the Twins won the AL Central Division.

Silva's greatest strength is that he has excellent control and walks very few batters. Over his career he has averaged less than two walks per nine innings pitched. In 2005, Silva only walked nine batters in 188 and one third innings pitched. On the flipside, he's not overpowering and gives up a lot of hits including home runs. The same year he walked only nine batters he gave up 212 hits including 25 home runs. Look for Silva to compete with Tom Gorzelanny for the fifth spot in the Cubs starting rotation.

Obama Asks Wen: "Mr. Premier, Are You Ready To See Me?"

I just caught this on CNN. During a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen in Copenhagen, most of the American media were not allowed access to the meeting although the Chinese media got in unfettered.

Even White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got caught in the commotion and couldn't get in either. Rick Sanchez praised Gibbs for standing up for the American media. Gibbs referred to the American press as "my guys."

But the symbolism is unmistakable. The Chinese get in and the Americans are kept out. China wants to be Number One. It doesn't help when President Obama asks Wen, “Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me? Are you ready?”

The President of the United States has effectively bowed to another foreign leader.

Thoughts on Juan Pierre, Mike Gonzalez, Garrett Atkins & Nick Johnson

There are several interesting free agent signings and a trade that have taken place over the past week that warrant comment.

The Los Angeles Dodgers trade outfielder Juan Pierre to the Chicago White Sox for two minor league pitchers

Pierre might be the happiest man in MLB. For five consecutive seasons, between 2003 and 2007, Pierre played in all 162 regular season games. That all changed on July 31, 2008 when the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez. He was relegated to pinch running duty and late inning defense.

Yet Pierre bore no grudge against Dodgers manager Joe Torre. When Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games early in the 2009 season, Pierre filled in the breach and was key figure in their run for their second consecutive NL West Division title.

But Pierre will now get to be the White Sox everyday centerfielder. The Chisox haven't had a reliable everyday centerfielder since Aaron Rowand left following the 2005 season - the year they won the World Series. Speaking of World Series, Pierre and Chisox manager Ozzie Guillen have World Series rings from the 2003 Florida Marlins. Guillen was the third base coach for the Marlins that year before being named White Sox manager the following season. So Pierre can handle Ozzie's often mercurial behavior. It is worth noting that Pierre is MLB's active stolen bases leader with 459. Acquiring Pierre could do for the White Sox in 2010 what acquiring Scott Podsednik did in 2005.

The only downside of this deal is that the Chisox GM Kenny Williams parted with two more minor league pitchers. Remember that Williams dealt four minor league pitchers to the San Diego Padres to get Jake Peavy last summer. While the Chisox will contend in 2010 and Pierre will play a big part in their drive for the AL Central title, trading away that many pitchers from your own organization could do harm over the longer term.

Baltimore Orioles sign free agents Mike Gonzalez and Garrett Atkins

Relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez signed a two-year deal worth $12 million and will become the Orioles closer in 2010. Gonzalez appeared in a career high 80 games with the Atlanta Braves in 2009 going 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA. He also saved 10 games. The lefty has saved as many as 24 games in a season. He did this with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006.

Jim Johnson had been the O's closer after George Sherrill was traded to the Dodgers in late July. Johnson will likely become Gonzalez's set up man. Gonzalez has a very funky delivery which should be fun for O's fans to watch - unless he's walking in a run or given up a three run home run. But this is a relatively low risk investment for the O's.

Garrett Atkins, on the other hand, is at a crossroads. While the Colorado Rockies enjoyed a sensational 2009, Atkins did not batting only .226 with 9 home runs and 48 RBI. Atkins, who turned 30 on December 12th, lost his job at third base to Ian Stewart. Atkins knocked in over 100 runs in 2006 and 2007 and was an RBI short of doing it again in 2008. It might be that Atkins had an off year or it could be that he is in the midst of a precipitous offensive decline.

Atkins succeeds Melvin Mora at third base. He could also see some action as a DH. Atkins will make $4 million for the Orioles in 2010 and the club has an option for 2011.

Nick Johnson returns to the New York Yankees

Larry Bowa's nephew returns where it all started. Nick Johnson signed a one-year deal worth $5.5 million. Johnson began his big league career with the Yankees in 2001 where he was largely a role player at first base and DH. He was dealt to the Montreal Expos along with Juan Rivera and Randy Choate for Javier Vazquez after the 2003 and would remain with the team when they moved to Washington although he missed much of the 2004 season with back problems.

Johnson enjoyed his best season in 2006 when he hit .290 with 23 home runs and 77 RBI for the Nationals. Although he played in a career high 147 games in '06 he couldn't escape injury. Late that September, Johnson broke his leg in a collision with teammate Austin Kearns which sidelined for the rest of the season and would result in him missing the entire 2007 campaign. Johnson would also miss most of the 2008 season with a wrist injury. He was also plagued with injuries during his original stint with the Yankees.

But when healthy Johnson is a productive player. In 2009, Johnson split the season with the Nationals and the Florida Marlins. At first glance, Johnson's stats look modest with a .291 average, 8 home runs and 62 RBI. But he drew 99 walks finishing 6th in the NL. Johnson's .426 OBP was second in the NL only to 2009 NL MVP Albert Pujols.

With Hideki Matsui gone, Johnson will be the Yankees' DH in 2010. Unless, of course, he hurts his back, wrist or leg. But with the signing of Johnson could this mean Johnny Damon will be soon be gone as well?

Is Al Gore Blinding Us With Poetry?

Is Al Gore to poetry what Thomas Dolby was to science?

I think I liked Gore better when he and Tipper were trying to censor rock music.

But there is a method to Gore's madness. His "poetry" is a smokescreen to disperse our attention away from the excesses of environmental activism.

For every dollar spent giving countries in Africa "climate change assistance" is a dollar less to combat more acute problems facing the continent such as AIDS and malaria. How many millions of people in Africa will die of these diseases because it is more urgent to cool the earth one thousandth of one degree over the next century? Bjorn Lomborg has the answers.

I think I have the makings of a poem of my own.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chris Henry, 1983-2009. R.I.P.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry has died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Charlotte, North Carolina yesterday. He was 26.

Apparently, Henry was involved in what local authorities describe as a domestic dispute with his fiancé. Henry jumped on the flat bed of a truck driven by his fiance and then subsequently fell out of the truck. Whether this happened accidentally or was an act of vehicular homicide is not clear at this point.

Henry had a troubled past. He has had infractions with authority during both his collegiate and NFL career. Henry had been arrested on drug, weapons and assault charges. In fact, the Bengals had released him in April 2008 due to his ongoing problems. However, the team gave him a second chance and re-signed him four months later.

Until last night, Henry had not any other further off the field problems and appeared to have turned a corner. At the time of his death, Henry had been on the injured reserve list after breaking his forearm while making a catch during a game against the Baltimore Ravens last month.

The Bengals are currently leading the AFC North and are poised to make their first playoff appearance since 2005 and only their second since 1990. However, tragedies like this have a way of making it very difficult for teams to concentrate on sport and understandably so.

Check Out My Defense of Palin in The Boston Phoenix

The Boston Phoenix today published my letter to the editor in defense of Sarah Palin.

Here is the editorial which prompted my reply.

Thoughts on Berlusconi II

Well, Joseph Lawler need not worry any further.

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi has been released from hospital.

Thoughts on Berlusconi

Joseph Lawler, the assistant managing editor of The American Spectator, has some thoughts on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who was attacked over the weekend and has been in the hospital ever since:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is going to spend a fourth night in the hospital recovering from an attack by an assailant wielding a model of Milan Cathedral that left him with a broken nose and two chipped teeth. A hockey player with those injuries would get taped up in the locker room and be back out on the ice in five minutes. Is there more to Berlusconi's injuries that we're not being told?

Yes, there could be more to this story. On the other hand, how many 73-year olds are playing in the NHL?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Cy Youngs, Four Teams & Seven Prospects

A trade involving two AL Cy Young Award winners, four teams and seven prospects has been completed. This trade could have implications for years to come.

The Toronto Blue Jays traded pitcher Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies in turn traded pitcher Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners sent pitching prospects Phillipe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez as well as outfielder Tyson Gillies to the Phillies. The Phillies sent three minor leaguers - pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and outfielder Michael Taylor to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays then dealt Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Brett Wallace.

Got that?

The Phillies finally get the pitcher they wanted last summer. When then Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi dangled Halladay, the Phillies were keen on obtaining his services. But when Ricciardi began to oscilate the Phillies instead obtained 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians. Lee and the Phillies became NL champions while Halladay once again spent October at home.

Well, Ricciardi got the axe and his assistant Alex Anthopoulos took over as GM. He got the job done. Anthopoulos not only dealt Halladay but got several blue chip prospects in return. Kyle Drabek was the Phillies top minor league prospect and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. did not want to let him go. But if the Jays are going to give up the best pitcher then the Phillies needed to give up their top pitching prospect.

If the name sounds familiar it is because his father Doug Drabek was a top flight pitcher in the 1980s and 1990s. Drabek won the NL Cy Young Award with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990. I would not be surprised if Drabek is in the Jays starting rotation by mid-season. Drabek, d'Arnaud and Wallace could become central figures with the Blue Jays in the new decade. Wallace is Rookie of the Year material while d'Arnaud is being groomed to become the Blue Jays number one catcher with ex-Royal John Buck being a transitional figure behind the plate.

In addition to obtaining Halladay, the Phillies also received prospects from the Mariners. The most impressive of them is Phillipe Aumont. The Quebec native opened eyes while pitchng for Canada in the World Baseball Classic last spring. If Brad Lidge pitches like he did in 2009 instead of 2008 and Ryan Madson can't answer the bell then it's not inconceivable that Aumont could become the Phillies closer sometime in 2010.

In Cliff Lee, the Mariners have a left hook to compliment Felix Hernandez's powerful right arm. With the Angels losing their ace John Lackey to Boston one can make the case the Mariners might be the favorite to win the AL West in 2010.

Yet as good as Lee is Halladay has been better over his career. He has won 148 games in 12 big league seasons. Halladay won the AL Cy Young Award in 2003 and has led the AL in complete games four of the last five seasons. Halladay is one of the few pitchers who strikes fear in the hearts of major league hitters and baseball fans alike. Although the Boston Red Sox have generally fared well against Halladay his presence evokes awe and respect in Red Sox Nation. Anytime Halladay was scheduled to pitch against the Sox the general consensus was, "Oh f#*k, we've lost." The same could be said for Yankees fans. Both teams and their fans are glad that Halladay is out of the AL East. It should be noted that Halladay was given a contract extension worth $60 million and will be signed with the Phillies through 2013.

This is a trade that appears to be beneficial to all parties. If it is it will be mother of all trades.

Why Won't Obama Pressure The Palestinians?

The PLO has endorsed Mahmoud Abbas' decision to extend his presidency and delay Palestinian elections indefinitely. It has also refused to return to the negotiating table with Israel until all settlement construction is frozen.

The Palestinians, of course, are making this demand of Israel because President Obama has pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu over it. Last month, Obama characterized settlement construction as "dangerous." A week later, Netanyahu announced a partial settlement freeze. But give the Palestinians an inch and they'll take a mile.

But why should Israel go to the bargaining table and negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state when the Palestinians don't have their act together. If President Obama is imposing pre-conditions on Israel he must impose pre-conditions on the Palestinians. Otherwise, Obama is rewarding the Palestinians for their inability to have regular elections.

It must be remembered that one of Obama's rationales for imposing a deadline for the surge in Afghanistan is to not give President Karzai a blank check. But by bringing no pressure to bear against the Palestinians, President Obama has effectively given the Palestinians a blank check to act in bad faith and behave as badly as they want.

Red Sox Add Lackey & Cameron

The Boston Red Sox will be holding press conferences today to introduce two free agent signings.

Pitcher John Lackey has signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Sox (identical to what A.J. Burnett got with the Yankees last year.) Veteran outfielder Mike Cameron has also signed a two-year deal worth $15.5 million.

Lackey has pitched his entire major league career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In eight seasons with the Halos, Lackey won 101 games. His best season was in 2007 when he went 19-9 with a league leading 3.01 ERA. Lackey has vast experience pitching in the post-season. He won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series and has appeared in the post-season with the Angels five more times including this past season.

Yet I have mixed feelings about this deal. It is interesting that the Red Sox were unwilling to give their best offensive player Jason Bay $75 million over five years but are willing to give $82.5 million over five years to a good pitcher but not a great pitcher. Lackey thinks he's an ace but he's not one. He will be number three in the starting rotation behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

What concerns me is that Lackey began both the 2008 and 2009 seasons on the DL due to arm trouble. To be fair, Lackey has pitched reasonably well when healthy. He went 12-5 in '08 and 11-8 in '09. But he also started fewer than 30 games and pitched less than 200 innings. That might work for the Sox in 2010 but suppose they lose Beckett to free agency after this season. Lackey will be expected to pick up the slack. It's unclear to me if Lackey can pitch 200 innings year after year.

Lackey also hasn't pitched well in Fenway Park. Granted, he did take a no-hitter into the 9th inning in 2008 but that has been the exception rather than the rule. That's not to say that Lackey can't make adjustments but it could prove to be a difficult first season for him here. But Red Sox Nation expects results. If Lackey doesn't deliver immediately that could present a problem for his long term future.

As the Red Sox learned this season you can never have enough starting pitching. But is signing John Lackey really worth losing Jason Bay? What if Bay signs with the Yankees?

The addition of Mike Cameron will soften the blow of losing Bay. Cameron isn't the offensive force that Bay is but he is an upgrade defensively. He has mostly played centerfield and has won three Gold Gloves for his outfield work. But with Jacoby Ellsbury in center, Cameron will play left field.

Cameron does turn 37 next month. But he is in excellent shape. He could be to the Sox in 2010 what Raul Ibanez was to the Phillies in 2009. Although Cameron has a modest .250 lifetime batting average and he strikes out a lot he consistently hits 20-25 home runs a season and drives in between 75-85 runs. Cameron once hit four home runs in a game while a member of the Seattle Mariners back in 2002. In 15 big league seasons, Cameron has played for the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Still, I wish the Sox had made a more vigorous effort to re-sign Bay. It could come back to haunt us if he ends up wearing Yankee pinstripes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oral Roberts, 1918-2009. R.I.P.

Televangelist Oral Roberts has died from complications of pneumonia. He was 91.

Roberts was a pioneer when it came to mixing religion with television. He was amongst the first ministers to take the pulpit to the airwaves in the mid-1950s. In the 1960's, Roberts would establish a university in his home state of Oklahoma bearing his name.

He was known for preaching the "prosperity gospel." This holds that the Lord will reward those who give money in his name. It was Roberts as much as anyone else who reinforced the stereotype of the minister asking his viewers to send in money. Indeed, it was this very "prosperity gospel" that would see his ministry lose influence in the late 1980s.

I remember back in 1987 when Roberts told the nation that the Lord would be "calling him home" if he didn't raise $8 million within 60 days. Although Roberts managed to avoid the sex scandals that plagued Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart all of these events happened over the course of 18 months. It was Roberts' desperate plea that began a strong public backlash against TV evangelists.

Two decades later his son Richard Roberts would be forced to resign as President of Oral Roberts University due allegations of use of donor funds for personal use. To be fair most of the lawsuits against the younger Roberts have been dismissed. But the damage has been done and some of it was self inflicted.

There is no doubt that Roberts leaves behind some good works. But the Evangelicals I know don't think much of Roberts' opulence and prefer to serve the Lord in other ways.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Godzilla Goes West

Hideki Matsui has signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim worth approximately $6.5 million.

Matsui had played the last seven seasons for the New York Yankees culminating with the 2009 World Series MVP. During the 2009 Fall Classic, Matsui went 8 for 13 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. Six of those RBI came during the clincher in Game 6. What a way to end his career with the Yankees.

Matsui will replace Vladimir Guerrero as the Angels' DH in 2010. He will also be reunited with former Yankees teammate Bobby Abreu who joined the club prior to this season.

Prior to signing with the Yankees before the 2003 season, Matsui was a superstar in Japan with the Yoimiuri Giants. In ten seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, he was a three time MVP of the Japanese Central League where he earned the nickname "Godzilla" for his prodigious power.

I think one of the reasons the 35-year-old Matsui signed with the Angels is because he will go head to head with the division rival Seattle Mariners led by Ichiro Suzuki Whereas the Yankees would play the Mariners half a dozen times a season, the Angels play the Mariners three times as much. Matsui and Ichiro are considered Japan's two great baseball icons and are noted for their contrasting hitting styles and personalities. The fact they will play against each other with greater frequency only will add to that rivalry especially if the AL West in 2010 is a fight between the Angels and the Mariners.