Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Have The Pittsburgh Pirates Been Swindled?

During the month of June the Pittsburgh Pirates made several trades.

On June 3rd, the Bucs traded All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for three minor leaguers.

This morning, the Pirates traded veteran outfielder-first baseman-third baseman Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees for two minor leaguers.

This afternoon, the Pirates traded outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitcher Joel Hanrahan.

This third move might be the straw that make Pirates fans walk the plank.

The Nationals are even worse than the Pirates this season. But I think the Nationals pulled a fast one on the Bucs.

First, let's look at the pitchers. In June, Burnett pitched ten and one third innings giving up only three runs. Hanrahan, on the other hand, has given up fourteen runs in his last nine and one thirds innings pitched. Now, it's possible their fortunes could reverse. Yet the way I see it the Pirates traded an effective relief pitcher for an ineffective one.

Second, let's look at the outfielders. Morgan is fifth in the NL in stolen bases with 18. Milledge has spent most of his season with the Nationals Triple A affiliate in Syracuse. Now it's possible that Milledge could benefit from a change in scenery and Morgan could find himself not able to get on base. Yet the way I see it the Pirates traded a viable base stealing threat for someone who has not proven he can play in the major leagues. One could make the case that Milledge is nearly five years younger than Morgan. But many would argue that Milledge is probably ten years less mature than Morgan.

Of course, if even one of the trades works out it could bring dividends for the Pirates for years to come. But Pirates fans have been waiting 17 years for a winning team. Sports is a results oriented business and the Pirates last got results before Miley Cyrus was born.

I would love to watch a game at PNC Park. I would love to sit in the plush seats behind home plate with the Allegheny as a backdrop. But as long as the Pirates keep trading away their best players and the Pirates keep losing those seats and that ballpark will remain nearly vacant. As a Red Sox fan standing next to a Pirates fan I feel very, very spoiled indeed.

Jan Rubes, 1920-2009. R.I.P.

Opera singer, actor, director and everyman Jan Rubes died yesterday after suffering a stroke in Toronto. He was 89.

Rubes, born in Czechoslovakia, came to Canada in 1948 to escape Communist rule and to make a better life for himself. He succeeded on both fronts.

He enjoyed some popularity in Canada but wasn't a household name in the United States. Although some might remember him as the stern Amish patriarch in Witness starring Harrison Ford. Others might remember him as the opera singing mortician on the TV program Due South.

I remember him best as the host of Guess What?, a program that aired on TV Ontario (the Canadian equivalent of PBS) from 1975 to 1983. While I don't remember the content of the programs I do know he either made things or showed how existing things worked. I remember the gentle but upbeat theme music which he wrote and sung. Naturally, I have not seen these shows in years and cannot find them either on TV Ontario's website (they do not have an extensive archive) nor can I find them on YouTube.

If anyone out there has access to any Guess What? programming please let me know.

I did not know that Rubes played competitive tennis into his 70s.

I think it can be truly said that Jan Rubes lived a richer life than most millionaires.

Red Sox Snatch Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory Against Orioles

In the middle of the 7th inning, the Boston Red Sox had a 10-1 lead over the Baltimore Orioles.

The final score: Orioles 11 Red Sox 10

What in the blue hell happened?

It all actually started in the bottom of the 6th inning when the Sox had a 9-1 lead. Felix Pie grounded out to short. There were two outs. Only pitcher Justin Masterson and the entire infield (Jeff Bailey, Dustin Pedroia, Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis) walked off the field thinking there were three outs. Oops!!!

I had an uneasy feeling.

They came back out and Masterson struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning. In the top of the 7th, the Sox added a run with a single by Pedroia scoring Bailey. No harm done. Or so it seemed.

In the bottom of the 7th, Masterson came back out for his third inning of work. Unlike his first two innings, Masterson was not sharp. He gave up singles to Aubrey Huff and Nolan Reimold. Luke Scott doubled to score Huff. Sox led 10-2.

The Orioles sent up Oscar Salazar to pinch hit for Melvin Mora. Salazar hit a three run home run. His first of the 2009 season. Sox led 10-5.

Orioles rookie catcher Matt Wieters then hit a sharp single up the middle. Masterson had given up five straight hits. Red Sox manager Terry Francona took out Masterson and put in Manny Delcarmen. After retiring the first two hitters, Delcarmen surrendered a single to Felix Pie scoring Robert Andino who had reached on a fielder's choice. Sox led 10-6. The Orioles scored five runs in the 7th.

The Sox very nearly scored a run in the top of the 8th but catcher George Kottaras (who had replaced Jason Varitek defensively) was thrown out at home plate on a throw by Orioles center fielder Felix Pie.

The Orioles picked up right where they left off in the bottom of the 8th. Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima gave up four straight hits to Reimold, Scott, Salazar and Wieters. It was Wieters single that scored Reimold. The Sox lead was cut down to 10-7. Francona removed Okajima in favor of Takashi Saito. Pinch hitter Ty Wigginton drove in a run with a sacrifice fly scoring Scott. Sox led 10-8. Saito then gave up a single to Brian Roberts to score Salazar. Sox now led 10-9.

Tito had seen enough of Saito and put in closer Jonathan Papelbon. Paps managed to strike out Pie. But Markakis hit a triple scoring both Jeremy Guthrie (a pitcher who was pinch running for the slow footed Wieters) and Roberts. The Orioles led 11-10. What an unbelievable reversal of fortune.

Orioles closer George Sherrill came out in the 9th to get the save. Mark Hendrickson, who gave up one run in three innings of relief, was credited with the win. The Red Sox bullpen gave up 10 runs but Saito was tagged with the loss.

The Red Sox haven't blown a 9 run lead in over 20 years. As for the Orioles it was their greatest comeback in franchise history.

Baseball can be very, very good to you. It can also be quite cruel.

Yet oddly enough there were probably more Red Sox fans than there were Orioles fans to witness this calamity at Camden Yards. There was a rain delay in the middle of the 5th inning which lasted more than an hour. With the Sox leading 9-1, many Orioles fans took it as their cue to call it an early evening not knowing what was to come. Good things come to those who wait.

Of course, it is entirely possible the comeback could have happened without Masterson and the Red Sox infield walking off the field with two outs. But with all of baseball's superstition, black magic and tough hops that moment looms large right or wrong.

But tomorrow is a new day and a new ballgame. The Sox and Orioles play the rubber game of this three game series in a little over 12 hours from now.

Thoughts on Al Franken

I think we all knew this would come to pass sooner or later.

Senator Al Franken, D - Minn.

Well, perhaps the monotonous minutiae of Senate procedure will get the better of him and the lucrative lure of Hollywood will come calling in time for him to vacate the Senate chamber by the 2014 election.

In the meantime, now that Franken gives Democrats 60 members in the Senate (thus making it fillibuster proof) President Obama has at least until the 2010 elections to do carte blanche.

Not that Obama has needed Franken's help in getting a head start.

Dave Batters, 1969-2009. R.I.P.

Dave Batters, who served as a Conservative Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons from 2004 to 2008, died yesterday by way of suicide. He would have turned 40 next month.

Batters, who represented the constituency of Palliser which covers Regina & Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, took a medical leave of absence from Parliament nearly a year ago. Last September, Batters announced he would not seek a third term in the 2008 federal election.

I have written about suicide previously. What is it that compels a person to take one's own life? Particularly if that person has achieved success in the public arena. Whatever the success a person might have it is clearly inadequate in the face of whatever demons overwhelming him or her.

It is worth noting that the incident which precipitated Batters' leave of absence took place on July 1, 2008 (which happens to be Canada Day.) Given that Batters took his life two days shy of the anniversary of the incident I cannot help but wonder if memories from that incident came back into his thoughts and perhaps he could simply not cope with those thoughts.

Whatever his reasons a life with unfulfilled promise will now never be realized.

Iran's Leaders: No More Protests Will Be Tolerated

Following the official certification of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "victory" in the June 12th "election" by the Guardian Council, Iran's leaders have said no further protests will be tolerated.

I wasn't aware the Mullahs had been tolerating the protests in the first place.

But if murdering civilians in broad daylight and filling Evin Prison with demonstrators is their idea of tolerance I shudder to think what Iran is like when there is zero tolerance.

Meanwhile nothing has changed at the White House.

It would seem President Obama wants engagement with Iran at any cost.

Yankees Acquire Eric Hinske From Pittsburgh

The New York Yankees have acquired veteran Eric Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for two minor leaguers.

Hinske, who signed with the Pirates this past off season as a free agent, was hitting .255 with one home run and 11 RBI.

He has had an interesting career. After doing minor league duty with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics, Hinske got his big break in 2002 with the Toronto Blue Jays hitting 24 home runs with 84 RBI. He would win the AL Rookie of the Year. Hinske was signed to a five-year contract extension. However, injuries prevented him from replicating his rookie success. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox late in the 2006 season.

My guess is that Hinske will continue to have the kind of role he has had in recent years as a bench player. He'll play third base, first base, the corner positions in the outfield and DH.

Hinske might also be something of a good luck charm for the Yankees. He has played in the last two World Series earning a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2007 and also played in the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Hinske hit 20 home runs last season which was the most since his rookie season. He also hit a home run in Game 4 of the 2008 Fall Classic off Joe Blanton. However, he also made the final out of the World Series when he was struck out by Brad Lidge in Game 5 to give the Philadelphia Phillies their first World Series championship since 1980.

Hinske would not have got to the World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. He could with the Yankees. When Hinske puts on Yankee pinstripes he will have played with every team in the AL East except for the Baltimore Orioles. Actually, Hinske came very close to signing with Baltimore this off season. Hinske might be the only player in the majors who will be lustily booed in Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay.

On a personal note, when Hinske was still with the Blue Jays in the 2005 season my Dad, older brother and I attended a game in Toronto against the Chicago White Sox. Hinske and Orlando Hudson (now with the Los Angeles Dodgers) were playing catch near the first base line. At the conclusion of their catch, Dad shouted, "Eric, throw me the ball!!!" Hinske obliged tossing an accurate throw to Dad some 15 rows into the stands.

Dad then gave the ball to me. Yes, I still have it.

Zelaya Vows To Return To Honduras This Week

Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted as Hondura's President, in a bloodless coup over the weekend is vowing to return later this week to reclaim power.

However, the country's new President Robert Micheletti has indicated Zelaya could face arrest should he return.

Micheletti's wisest course of action would be to put Zelaya back on a plane to Costa Rica.

Zelaya is prohibited by Hondura's constitution from seeking re-election. He had sought a referendum to allow him to run for additional terms but the country's Congress and Supreme Court declared such a vote illegal. So the military intervened to restore order.

Of course, President Obama who had no desire to meddle in Iran is perfectly happy to meddle in Honduras. If not for Obama's support there is no way Zelaya attempts to return this quickly.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Terry Black, 1949-2009. R.I.P.

Terry Black, a Canadian singer from Vancouver who managed to sneak on the American charts during the height of Beatlemania at the age of 15 with the song "Unless You Care", died on Saturday of multiple sclerosis. He was 60.

Black later became one half of the husband and wife duo of Black & Ward. They met while part of the Toronto cast of the Broadway musical Hair in 1969. In recent years, Black was back in Vancouver where he hosted a oldies radio show every week night and continued to do so despite his illness. He was playing the music he loved.

Fred Travalena, 1942-2009. R.I.P.

Comedian Fred Travalena died yesterday of complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 66.

Travalena was best known for his impersonations.

Here is a routine he did on The Late Show with David Letterman circa late 2006 or early 2007.

At the end of his routine he impersonated every President from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush reciting the inaugural oath. His impersonations have as much to do with facial gestures and body language as they do with the voice.

Alas we will never see his take on President Obama.

Bernie Madoff Isn't Going Anywhere For Awhile

Today, disgraced Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He had plead guilty last March to 11 felonies including fraud, theft, money laundering, perjury, filing a false statement with the SEC. It is estimated that Madoff defrauded his investors to the tune of $65 billion. As Madoff himself said, "It's one big lie."

It would not surprise me if his lawyers were to appeal his sentence and successfully get it reduced. But even if they are successful their client will never see the light of day. He is safer inside prison than out of it.

Iran's Partial Recount Was Hardly Impartial

Well, that didn't take long.

Just hours into the partial recount of 10% of the ballots cast in Iran's "election" on June 12th - surprise, surprise - the Guardian Council declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

As a colleague told me, "Well, that might have been partial. But it sure wasn't impartial."

Truer words were perhaps never spoken.

Sotomayor Won't Be Affected By Supreme Court Reversal on Ricci v. DeStefano

As widely expected, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a decision made by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Ricci v. DeStefano with regards to white firefighters who said they had been discriminated against by the City of New Haven, Connecticut concerning promotions. The Second Circuit ruling, which Sonia Sotomayor supported, had denied the firefighters' claim of discrimination. The SC's decision can be read here. The decision made by the Second Circuit last year can be read here. You can judge for yourself.

Do I think this will negatively affect Sotomayor's chances of being confirmed by the Senate? Absolutely not. If having cases overturned by a higher court were grounds for a judge being disqualified from sitting on the Supreme Court then the President of the United States would have no one to fill any vacancies.

Sotomayor should be grilled by the Senate on her conduct during the hearing and reasoning for going along with the majority opinion in Ricci. But I don't think this decision alone is sufficient grounds to vote against her confirmation unless she says something in the hearing that is completely unbecoming of a judge.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Coup in Honduras

On Saturday, Manuel Zelaya was overthrown as President of Honduras by the military in a bloodless coup.

An ally of Hugo Chavez, Zelaya is safely in Costa Rica.

Under Hondura's constitution, its President can only serve a single term in office.

But Zelaya put forward a referendum that would have allowed him to serve additional terms a la Chavez. However, both the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court declared the referendum illegal.

It is interesting how President Obama who was so eager not to be seen as meddling in Iran's affairs after its "election" was quick to "meddle" where it concerned Honduras. Obama told Honduras "to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter." It sounds like President Obama is suggesting the pronouncements of the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court were illegitimate. Could that be because President Obama sympathizes with the socialist ideology put forward by Zelaya? Whatever the case not only was there no such admonition against Iran's leaders they still intend to talk with them as if nothing had happened.

Complicating matters is Chavez threatening military action against Honduras.

Curious that President Obama has thus far remained mum on Chavez's threats against Honduras. I guess socialists and Islamists don't need to respect democratic norms and the rule of law in Obama's world.

That said the military coup leaders should take swift measures to restore civilian rule in Honduras as soon as possible.

An Evening With The Harmonizing Stars of Boston

My roommate Christopher and I spent the evening in Stoughton, Massachusetts attending a concert that featured The Harmonizing Stars of Boston, a gospel group that was founded 40 years ago. This concert commemorated their anniversary.

I met these guys about a month ago. They were waiting for a train at Downtown Crossing on the Orange Line. I had a feeling things were going to get interesting. So I joined them in the subway car when the train arrived. They started, well, harmonizing. I heard a few bars of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and identified it. They then sang it together on the train and continued singing until they departed at Roxbury Crossing to applause.

A few minutes later, another passenger discovered a small suitcase that had been left on the train. I immediately recognized it as belonging to the Harmonizing Stars. In the euphoria and excitement of the moment they had forgotten one of their belongings.

Fortunately, they had the foresight to give me their contact information. I said I would set things right. So after I got off at my stop I contacted them by phone and one of their members, Andre Wright, came over to collect the suitcase. In gratitude, he invited me to this show which took place tonight.

I haven't listened to a lot of African-American gospel. Sure there's "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. I've also watched some of it sung on TV. But hearing it in person is something else altogether. I now see why it makes people move because I was moving. Christopher was similarly moved.

Here's a taste of the Harmonizing Stars singing earlier this month at South Station. Andre sings high tenor and is in the back on the left. The other members of the group are Jonathan Bradshaw, James Bruce, Sr and Jonathan Bruce.

You can find additional information about the Harmonizing Stars here. They are all members of the Church of God and Saints of Christ in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In April, they were awarded Best Gospel at the 4th Annual New England Urban Music Awards Ceremony.

Life is much richer when one has experiences such as these.

Mariano Rivera Earns 500th Save & 1st RBI

New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 victory over the crosstown New York Mets.

He becomes the second major league pitcher with at least 500 saves. Only Trevor Hoffman of the Milwaukee Brewers has more with 571.

But the evening might be best remembered for Rivera driving in his first run of his long major league career.

Closers don't often have an opportunity to get a plate appearance especially AL closers. In fact, prior to this season, Rivera had only one career plate appearance.

Rivera entered the game in the 8th inning and had to bat in the 9th when Derek Jeter was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rivera had the unenviable task of facing Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, his closing counterpart with the Mets. Last season, K-Rod set a single season record with 62 saves while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Yet in only his third career plate appearance, Rivera drew a bases loaded walk from K-Rod and drove in his first major league run giving the Yankees some insurance. This makes his 500th save that much more interesting.

Yes, I am a diehard Red Sox fan. Yet Mariano Rivera is a first ballot Hall of Famer and his 500th save is a magnificent milestone. Even if he did it all with the Yankees.

Billy Mays, 1958-2009. R.I.P.

TV pitchman Billy Mays, with his loud voice, loud beard and even louder blue shirts, was found dead this morning in his Tampa home. He was 50.

No cause of death is known at this time but foul play is not suspected. Mays was on a U.S. Airways flight yesterday that blew out its tires. Some passengers had bumps and bruises but no one sustained any serious injuries.

He promoted a variety of products including Oxy Clean, Mighty Putty and, of course, Orange Glo.

Mays starred in a reality show called Pitchmen which aired on the Discovery Channel. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien to promote it last Tuesday.

Obama Administration Still Wants to Talk to Iran

President Obama's Chief of Staff David Axelrod and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice insists talks with Iran are still on despite all the violence Iran is perpetuating against its people in the aftermath of its "election."

Both Axelrod and Rice have dismissed Ahmadinejad's recent condemnations of the U.S. claiming that foreign policy power does not lie with him.

Rice said, "Something extraordinary has happened of late in Iran, and the popular discontent, the incredible diversity of the coalition that has come together to demand change, from women to the elderly to youth, the very religious to the more secular, has been quite extraordinary."

Axelrod said, "Let's be clear that we didn't meddle in the election in Iran. The dispute in Iran is between the leadership in Iran and their own people, and plainly, Mr. Ahmadinejad thinks that by fingering the United States, that he can create a political diversion. So I'm not going to entertain his bloviations that are politically motivated."

What makes Rice and Axelrod think Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is any more amenable to reason than Ahmadinejad? He has been behind Ahmadinejad all the way. When Khamenei pronounced judgment on the Iranian "elections" his audience chanted "Death to America." Does Axelrod consider those "bloviations"?

Susan Rice is correct when she says something extraordinary has happened in Iran. Its leaders are willing to kill their people over it.

If Axelrod and Rice still think Khamenei is amenable to reason concerning its nuclear program it demonstrates to me the Obama Administration is going to pursue engagement with Iran at any cost.

Iran Arrests British Embassy Staff

This is not good.

Eight personnel at the British Embassy in Tehran were arrested this morning accusing them of involvement in protests following their "election."

The Iranians have singled out America, Israel and Britain for meddling in their "election."

Well, since their are no American or Israeli interests in Iran that leaves the British.

Of course, Iran does have a Jewish population. I cannot help but think there could be reprisals against them as well.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hudak Chosen New Ontario Tory Leader

Tim Hudak has been chosen the new leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party. He succeeds John Tory who resigned last March after failing to win a by-election.

Hudak, 41, has been a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario since 1995. He held several Cabinet portfolios in the Tory governments of both Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

It is worth noting that Harris (who led the Tories to back to back majority governments in Ontario in 1995 and 1999) endorsed Hudak which gives him cred amongst Ontario conservatives.

Hudak has said, "I'm somebody who doesn't believe that we need to choose between being conservatives and winning general elections."

Hudak also wants to abolish the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

This will undoubtedly be music to the ears of Mark Steyn.

The next Ontario election will take place in October 2011.

All That Twittering About Iran is Now Frittering Away

Well, perhaps one could make the case the protests in Iran were doomed from the start.

The wavering of President Obama was of little help. Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has now said he will seek official permission from the government for further demonstrations. Given that Ayatollah Khatami has called upon the government to execute the demonstrators this is not very likely to happen.

Now it also appears Iran has barred journalists from reporting on the streets ordering them to stay in their offices. This tells me the crackdown will only intensify even as the protesters themselves appear to be retreating.

And as the crackdown intensifies international attention has moved onto to other things as noted by the AP:

But along with the diminished action on the streets in Iran, other stories have arisen to siphon away attention — especially the death of pop star Michael Jackson.

Television coverage of Iran's turmoil has fallen since Jackson's death Thursday; on the Twitter micro-blogging site, Iran remained among the most discussed topics, but fell below Jackson and comments about the movie "Transformers 2."

All that Twittering about Iran is now frittering away.

As for President Obama, this isn't a question of him taking too long to condemn the Iranian regime for their actions. It is a question of his judgment. It is a question also of his engagement policy and the shaky intellectual foundations underpinning it. Given all that he knew about Iran's current political system before this "election" what made him think his words would bring about hope and change amongst Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and others who await the return of the 12th Imam?

The apocolyptic vision of Iran's leaders and President Obama's vast overestimation of his powers of persuasion make for a very dangerous mix indeed.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What More Does Obama Need To See In Iran?

During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama had this to say about the current state of affairs in Iran:

There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks and we don't yet know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what has happened inside of Iran.

There are going to be discussions that continue on the international stage around Iran's nuclear program. I think the direct dialogue between the United States and Iran and how that proceeds, I think we're going to have to see how that plays itself out in the days and weeks ahead.

What more does Obama need to see in Iran beyond the public execution of an unarmed woman in the street?

Today, one of Iran's top clerics called for the protesters to be executed. Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami said, "Anybody who fights against the Islamic system or the leader of Islamic society, fight him until complete destruction."

In case you think these are the remarks of a rogue Ayatollah please remember his speech was broadcast on Iranian television. Ayatollah Khatami's words are sponsored by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

G-d help the fool in the White House.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009. R.I.P.

Michael Jackson died this afternoon of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. He was only 50 years old.

He and his family burst on the scene in 1970 as the Jackson 5. In the late 70s and early 1980s, he was the King of Pop with albums like Off The Wall and Thriller. He personified the age of the music video.

I wasn't on the Michael Jackson bandwagon at the height of his popularity but I did enjoy his duets with Paul McCartney. He was to popular music at that time what American Idol is to popular music today.

It is easy to forget that considering all the weird things that have happened over the past quarter century especially with regard to children be it his own children or otherwise.

However, there's another day for that.

Jackson was attempting a comeback. He was due to start a series of concerts in London next month. In fact, there was an item noting that he was being trained by Lou Ferrigno of The Incredible Hulk fame in preparation for these concerts.

But some things just aren't meant to be.

Sky Saxon, 19??-2009, R.I.P.

Sky Saxon, the lead singer of the '60s garage band The Seeds, has died in an Austin, Texas hospital. The cause of death is unknown and his age is unknown. It is believed he was born sometime between 1937 and 1946. What is known is that his given name was Richard Marsh.

The Seeds biggest hit was a song released in 1966 called "Pushin' Too Hard." It could easily be the first punk rock song. At the very minimum it's proto-punk. I will play it when I feel like, well, I've been pushed too hard. I love the keyboard bass part by Daryl Hooper.

Another one of their songs, "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" enjoyed a renaissance when it was featured in an Axe deodorant commercial in 2007. Again, the keyboard bass figures prominently.

Saxon continued to be an active performer. Younger folks might remember him playing tambourine in the Smashing Pumpkins' 2008 video "Superchrist." He was last on stage in Austin this past Saturday. In August, he was scheduled to join The Electric Prunes and Love (featuring Johnny Echols) on the California '66 Revue. The show will go on without him and the tour is scheduled to make a stop at the Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 7th. I plan on going.

Meanwhile, Sky Saxon can now headline the great gig in the sky.

Suns Trade Shaq to Cavaliers

Shaquille O'Neal has been traded by the Phoenix Suns to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He will join LeBron James in the Cavaliers elusive pursuit of an NBA Title.

The Cavs were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in the NBA Eastern Conference Final this past season. Two years ago, the Cavs made the NBA Final only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Cavs are perceived as a one horse team. The addition of Shaq changes that.

Yes, Shaq is 37 but he had a good season with the Suns despite missing the NBA playoffs.

Shaq is hungry for one more NBA Championship. He won three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat. Somehow I think he'll get along a lot better with LeBron than he did with Kobe Bryant. The marketing opportunities for LeBron and Shaq must be making advertisers foam at the mouth. Perhaps Shaq can persuade LeBron to do a commercial with his new buddy Ben Stein.

The 2009-10 season will be the last year of LeBron's contract with the Cavaliers. It is widely believed that LeBron will be New York bound. And this might be Shaq's last chance at NBA gold. So next year it's the NBA Title or bust for the Cavs.

Ahmadinejad: Obama=Bush

If this doesn't give President Obama second thoughts about his engagement policy with Iran then I'm afraid nothing will.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today accused President Obama of meddling in Iran's "elections." So much for Obama assertion that the U.S. shouldn't "meddle." We'll get a meddle whether we like it or not.

If Obama thought John McCain was mocking him, Ahmadinejad took it to a whole other level:

Do you think that this kind of behavior is going to solve any of your problems? It will only make people think you are someone like Bush. You are at the beginning of your way and you are gaining experience, and we do not wish the scandals of the Bush era to be repeated during your term of office.

Obama=Bush? If only it were true. But being compared to Bush has got to be the ultimate dagger in the heart for Obama. Especially coming from Ahmadinejad. Note how Ahmadinejad needles Obama on his inexperience. Ahmadinejad also said to Obama condescendingly, "We hope that you will avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and somehow express your regret so that the Iranian nation can become aware of your regret."

President Obama, are you finally getting the message? Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are telling you to take your engagement and put it where the moon don't shine.

Farrah Fawcett, 1947-2009. R.I.P.

Actress Farrah Fawcett died today in Los Angeles of complications from cancer. She was 62.

Fawcett, who was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, was in the advanced stages of the disease for the past couple of months. Last month, NBC aired a documentary Farrah's Story which chronicled her battle with cancer. I could not bring myself to watch it.

I would prefer to remember as the star of Charlie's Angels when she showed women how to wear their hair.

After Charlie's Angels, she gained respect as an actress for her performances in Extremities (on Broadway and film) and TV movies The Burning Bed and Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story. Robert Duvall would handpick her to play his wife in the 1997 movie The Apostle.

Once married to actor Lee Majors, she was the long time companion of actor Ryan O'Neal with whom she had a son.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Romeo LeBlanc, 1927-2009. R.I.P.

Romeo LeBlanc, who served as Canada's Governor General between 1995 and 1999, died today of Alzheimer's Disease. He was 81.

The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada. It is largely a ceremonial position although the Governor General does give what is called royal assent to legislation passed in the House of Commons and the Senate.

LeBlanc, a native of New Brunswick, was the first person from Atlantic Canada to be appointed Governor General. He was also the first Acadian to hold the position.

What is an Acadian? They were people of French origin who settled in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the 1600s and 1700s before it was taken over by the British. The Acadians would be gradually expelled from 1755 through 1763 when they refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Great Britain. Many returned to France while others went to the United States. Some of these Acadians would settle in Louisiana and became Cajuns.

When LeBlanc was appointed Governor General by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien in November 1994 there was tremendous controversy. I remember it because at the time I was working in the House of Commons as an intern for Nelson Riis, an NDP MP from British Columbia. The controversy was stirred up by Preston Manning, then the leader of Canada's Reform Party (which eventually merged with the Progressive Conservatives to become the Conservative Party.) Manning took the unprecedented step of opposing LeBlanc's appointment.

Calling the appointment "unwise and inappropriate", Manning mainly objected to LeBlanc's record as a Liberal partisan. Yes, LeBlanc was a creature of the Liberal Party. He was press secretary to both Prime Ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. He was elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal MP and served as Trudeau's Minister of Fisheries for many years. Trudeau eventually appointed LeBlanc to the Senate where he would become Speaker. He also helped shaped Chretien's Liberal Party platform in the 1993 federal election. In fact, his son Dominic holds the seat that he held for many years and was briefly a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party last year after Stephane Dion's resignation. So the Liberal banner runs deep in the LeBlanc bloodlines.

But Manning's opposition to LeBlanc was so disingenuous. Had Manning been Prime Minister he would have surely appointed a conservative to be Governor General. In complaining about partisanship Manning could not have been any more partisan. Chretien was well within his rights to be incensed with Manning. Michael Barone is right when he says that all process arguments are insincere.

However, it is worth noting LeBlanc's successors, Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean, both appointed by Liberal Prime Ministers are considered non-partisan. So to some extent it could be said that Manning's objections played a role in the appointment of both Clarkson and Jean. Governor Generals normally serve for five years (LeBlanc actually retired early due to poor health.) In which case, a new Governor General will very likely be appointed in 2010.

If Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister at this time next year it will be interesting to see if he makes a non-partisan appointment or appoints someone from the Tory ranks. Given that he is in a minority government situation he is more likely to appoint someone who is non-partisan. But Harper is fully within his rights to appoint a Conservative as Governor General as Chretien was within his rights to appoint a Liberal like LeBlanc as Governor General.

Obama Flip Flops on Fourth of July Hot Dogs for Iranian Diplomats

I guess this means more hot dogs for everyone else.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that invitations that had been extended to Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July festivities at U.S. embassies around the world have now been rescinded in light of recent events in Iran. (Hat tip to National Review Online Corner.)

Gibbs noted that no Iranian diplomats had accepted the invitations.

I wonder what would have been more embarrassing for the Obama Administration. Continue extending the invitations or having no Iranian diplomat bother to show up.

I mean what self respecting disciple of the Iranian Revolution would be caught eating a Hebrew National.

Thoughts on Mark Sanford

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has just resigned as head of the Republican Governors Association after revealing he had an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina.

Governor Sanford went missing on June 18th. His whereabouts were unknown to his wife and family for five days including Father's Day. Very disconcerting. What if something horrible had happened to him?

Of course, he did not meet foul play. He had gone hiking in the Appalachians. Or did he?

Then came the revelation he was in Argentina.

It gave me a very uneasy feeling. If Sanford was in Argentina without telling anyone it could be for only two reasons a) he was undergoing an experimental medical procedure or b) he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford had been one of President Obama's toughest critics on the Stimulus Package even refusing to federal funds and was touted as a possible GOP nominee in 2012. But Sanford backed down on refusing to accept federal funds and now this mess. Needless to say his political career is over.

Sanford's term expires in early 2011 and he had already indicated he would not be seeking a third term next year. I cannot help but think there will be calls for his resignation due to the manner in which all of this came out. I don't think his actions are as egregious as those of John Edwards but his conduct was unbecoming enough that he has rendered himself politically unviable. Last week, Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair without any stories about hiking. While a White House bid might not be feasible, Ensign's political career has a chance to recover while Sanford's does not.

Of course, this does not preclude Sanford from personal redemption.

Oscars Will Nominate Ten Films for Best Picture of 2009

This is an interesting development.

If one is familiar with the history of the Academy Awards one will know that this is how it was done during Oscar's early years. Between 1932 and 1943, the Academy nominated ten movies for the Academy's top prize.

There are several ways to read this change.

First, are there actually ten good movies out there?

Second, there will be twice as many Hollywood liberal movies to honor.

Third, the Academy Award ceremonies will be twice as long.

But their may be a silver lining. Motion Picture Academy Sid Ganis said, "Having 10 best picture nominees is going [to] allow academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize."

This tells me the Best Picture category will probably include foreign films as well as animated features.

In which case, Up could ascend to new heights.

Nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards will be announced in Los Angeles on February 2, 2010.

Iran Says Neda's Bullet Was Meant For Someone Else

The Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's government sanctioned "news" organization, states the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan was just a case of mistaken identity.

The report stated, "The marksmen had mistaken her for the sister of one of the Monafeghin (the People's Mujahedin of Iran) who had been executed in the province of Mazandaran some time ago."

Ah, those silly marksmen. They meant to assassinate some other woman in cold blood. President Obama ought to find that reassuring just as he did when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he would look into election irregularities. Perhaps Obama and Iranian diplomats can discuss it further over hot dogs at the U.S. Embassy on the Fourth of July. I'm sure Obama will relish the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Billy Red Lyons, 1932-2009. R.I.P.

William Snip, who wrestled under the name Billy Red Lyons, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.

I never saw Billy Red wrestle. But to a generation of 12-year-old Canadian boys getting into Hulk Hogan he was the voice of Maple Leaf Wrestling which was the Canadian arm of the World Wrestling Federation as it was then known.

Billy Red interviewed wrestlers and basically played the straight man. He promoted upcoming matches and implored viewers, "Don'tcha dare miss it." That sure brings me back to 1984-1985.

It is weird but I was thinking about watching Maple Leaf Wresting yesterday and remembering Billy Red's interviews and now lo and behold he's gone. This happened to me earlier this year with Andrew Martin (a.k.a. Test) who appeared in a dream of mine the night before I learned he had died.

I'm not trying to be spooky. It's coincidence. During the course of a day and when we dream at night people we remember suddenly come to mind for no apparent reason only to recede once more. It's inevitable that sooner or later one will think about someone and then the next day you learn they have died. I can see how that might be spooky but we tend to want to read more into it than what's actually there. But it is weird that this process has come to pass with two wrestlers.

Red Sox Have Home Field Advantage....in D.C.

The Washington Nationals set a single game attendance record at Nationals Park with 41,517 fans passing through the turnstiles.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, most of those fans were cheering for the Boston Red Sox.

Going into tonight's game, average attendance this season at Nationals Park is 21,384.

Red Sox fans nearly doubled attendance tonight. Although by the sound of the crowd it felt like it was 90% Red Sox fans.

Then again the Nationals didn't have much to cheer about as the Red Sox won 11-3.

To be fair, the game was tied 3-3 in the 7th. The Nationals starter John Lannan pitched six and a third innings giving up three runs while scattering nine hits. He struck out three and walked two. Not Hall of Fame stuff but good enough to keep you in the game.

The Nationals bullpen, on the other hand, gave up eight runs (seven of them earned) on eight hits with five walks over two and two thirds innings. And the Nats had some veteran pitchers on hand like ex-Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez, Ron Villone and Kip Wells. If Manny Acta had kept Lannan to finish the 7th inning perhaps the game would have been closer. The Nats might have still lost but it would not have been so embarrassing.

The Nationals had the bases loaded in the 9th but Nick Johnson hit into a game ending double play. When I heard the cheers I thought the Standells' "Dirty Water" would play over the PA system as it does after every Red Sox win at Fenway. After all, the "home team" did have the advantage.

There will be similarly large crowds of Red Sox fans in Washington tomorrow night and especially Thursday when future Hall of Famer John Smoltz makes his long awaited Red Sox debut.

Thoughts on President Obama's Remarks on Iran

President Obama is holding a news conference in the White House Garden. He began by addressing the events in Iran:

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

That's all very well and good. But President Obama said nothing about the status of engagement with Iran's leaders.

Suppose the Mullahs continue to disrespect the universal right to assembly and free speech.

Suppose the Mullahs do not seek the respect of the international community.

Suppose the Mullahs continue not to heed the will of their own people and govern by coercion.

Suppose the Mullahs disregard the Iranian people's judgment by imprisoning and killing them en masse.

What will be the consequences for Iran's leaders from President Obama?

Will he put engagement on indefinite hold? Or will he continue to engage them?

If it is the former then Obama will have demonstrated he's not for engagement at any price.

But if it is the latter then President Obama's words today would be meaningless and he would instead bestow legitimacy upon evil.

No New Election in Iran

Quel surprise.

Not only has the Guardian Council upheld Ahmadinejad's "election" a special court has been set up to deal with detained election protesters. Ebrahim Raisi, a high ranking Iranian judicial official said,"Elements of riots must be dealt with to set an example. The judiciary will do that."

We can expect Evin Prison to be expanded and public executions in the streets.

Yet Obama insists on engagement with evil. This is what happens when you have a coward in the White House.

Ed McMahon, 1923-2009. R.I.P.

Ed McMahon, the right hand man to Johnny Carson for three decades best known for the phrase "H-e-e-eer'es Johnny", died this morning in Los Angeles. He was 86.

In addition to his duties on The Tonight Show, McMahon was also the original host of Star Search. McMahon also co-hosted TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes with Dick Clark as well as the Annual Labor Day MDA Marathon with Jerry Lewis. He also appeared in many commercials most notably American Family Publishers' sweepstakes.

However, this past decade had not been kind to him as he was overcome by financial difficulties and had to continue working when he should have enjoyed his final years. Earlier this year, McMahon appeared with M.C. Hammer in a cash for gold commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. He said, "H-e-e-e-ere's money." It was sad to watch.

Better that he be remembered at the height of his powers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poem for Neda

Much of the world has reacted in horror to the brutal murder of Neda Agha-Soltan by a sniper at an election protest on Saturday which was caught on cell phone cameras and has gone viral. If the world didn't know the brutality of Iran's regime they know it now. The video is not for the faint of heart but the Obama Administration seeks to legitimize those that committed this act. We should know what Obama is getting us into.

With that here is a poem I have written in Neda's memory.

Poem for Neda

She came upon the town square
Joining thousands already there
Who wanted the world to see
An Islamic Republic that is not free

Amongst the Persian pipers
Were cowardly rooftop snipers
One blasted a hole in Neda’s heart
Hoping to tear a movement apart

As life poured out of her face
She stirred silence out of its place
Now there is no room for misconstruing
The world knows what this regime is doing

Sadly, the White House does not want their removal
In fact, the Coward-in-Chief seeks their approval
In the pursuit of narrow political need
Engagement with evil must proceed

It is absolutely appalling
You won’t answer Neda’s calling
At least be prepared to tell us how
You think Iran’s time is not now

Because every time you say it isn’t for us to meddle
The burgeoning flower of freedom loses another petal

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quick MLB Tidbits II

A few things of note in MLB.

On May 29th, the Colorado Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle. The Rockies had a record of 18-28 and were 14½ games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Since Jim Tracy took over the reins of the team the Rockies have gone 18-5. In fact, they have won 16 of their last 17 games. Granted the Rockies are still 9½ games back of the Dodgers but they are now a contender for the NL Wild Card. Frankly, I didn't think the Rockies would do very much under Tracy but then again what do I know?

Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard was not in the lineup against the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon due to flu like symptoms. He had played in 343 consecutive games going back to 2007. To give you an idea of how impressive Cal Ripken, Jr's consecutive games streak of 2,632 is Howard would have to have had played another 12 years without missing a game to match it. Fortune shined on Cal Ripken, Jr. as he never came down with the flu or any sustained any other serious malady during the nearly 17 seasons the streak lasted.

Tony LaRussa collected his 2,500th win as a major league manager as the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed over the Kansas City Royals 12-5 this afternoon. LaRussa has been managing major league baseball for more than 30 years. He has been managing as long as I've been watching the game. LaRussa needs 263 more wins to match John McGraw for second place on the all time managerial wins list. He turns 65 in October and his contract with the Cardinals expires at the end of the season. If LaRussa doesn't re-sign with the Cardinals he'll be managing somewhere. Baseball would be very strange if he weren't standing a dugout somewhere.

So who has the most wins as a major league manager? Connie Mack won 3,731 games as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics over 53 seasons. LaRussa will never match that mark unless he manages until he is 85. Mack managed the Athletics until he was 87. Then again Mack also owned the team. How else could a manager get away with finishing in last place in the AL 17 times? Simultaneous ownership and on-the-field management is now prohibited by MLB. If the name sounds familiar his grandson, Connie Mack III, was a Republican Senator in Florida for more than a decade and his great-grandson, Connie Mack IV, has served in the House of Representatives since 2004.

Finally, I am pleased to note that Jon Miller has returned to the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast after a two week absence. Miller rejoined tonight's broadcast of the interleague game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. No reason was given for his absence. I suppose it doesn't matter now. It is satisfaction enough that he is back in the broadcast booth. But if he were to leave the telecast altogether then Sundays would never be the same.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thoughts on Up

Last night, my roomie Christopher asked me if I wanted to go see the Disney/Pixar movie Up. I neither accepted nor declined. Now I had read good things about the movie but I wasn't sold on seeing the movie.

On the way to do some food shopping this afternoon I received a call from Christopher. He told me he had completed his errands and was on his way to the theater to see the movie and asked me if I would like to join him. I wasn't completely enthusiastic about the offer but I could sense that he really wanted to see it. Besides I could go food shopping after the movie so I agreed.

Please see this movie!!!

If it is possible for an animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture then this is the movie. If it is possible for an actor to be nominated for Best Actor using only his voice then Ed Asner could make cinematic history.

By the time I had finished watching the opening sequence I was glad I had brought my face cloth along because I was wiping away tears. That segment of the film had almost no dialogue yet it said more in twenty minutes than most films do in two hours.

Sure you could wait for the DVD. But this is a movie that is meant to be seen on a big screen.

If you have children or grandchildren take them to see this movie.

If you have a girlfriend or wife take her to see this movie.

If you have nobody to take to this movie then take yourself.

Let me repeat myself. Please see this movie!!!

Khamenei Says Ahmadinejad Won "Absolute Victory"

Surely this cannot be a surprise to anyone.

During Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks the assembled crowd shouted, "death to the U.K."; "death to Israel" and "death to America."

I think that means Iran's leaders aren't interested in engagement with the United States much less President Obama.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kerry Blames Neoconservatives for Iran

Massachusetts Senator and 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry has weighed in on Iran.

Kerry, who has long favored engaging the Mullahs, blames Iran's current state of affairs on, who else, the neoconservatives:

What comes next in Iran is unclear. What is clear is that the tough talk that Senator McCain advocates got us nowhere for the last eight years. Our saber-rattling only empowered hard-liners and put reformers on the defensive. An Iranian president who advocated a “dialogue among civilizations” and societal reforms was replaced by one who denied the Holocaust and routinely called for the destruction of Israel.

Damn those neoconservatives! If only the Bush Administration kept its mouth shut when Iran wouldn't permit women to run in the 2005 election then we would never have Ahmadinejad. We instead would have had Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate, who said this of the Jews in October 2007:

Europe resolved a great problem – the problem of the Zionist danger. The Zionists, who constituted a strong political party in Europe, caused much disorder there. Since they had a lot of property and controlled an empire of propaganda, they made the European governments helpless. What Hitler and the German Nazis did to the Jews of Europe at that time was partly due to these circumstances with the Jews. They wanted to expel the Zionists from Europe because they always were a pain in the neck for the governments there. This is how this calamity fell upon the Muslims, especially the Palestinians, and you all know this history, more or less.[...]The first goal was to save Europe from the evil of Zionism, and in this, they have been relatively successful.

I am glad to see Kerry thinks Rafsanjani is a beacon of enlightenment.

Needless to say it is very difficult to take what Kerry says seriously. Case in point:

If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch.

But Kerry undermines his own argument. So the Iranians are going to accuse us of meddling whether Obama says anything or not. For Obama not to say anything about what is happening in Iran because he doesn't want Iran to accuse us of meddling is a cop out but inconsistent with the democratic values that Obama upholds so high and mighty when he speaks about closing Gitmo.

Not surprisingly though Kerry has little good to say about America:

We can’t escape the reality that for reformers in Tehran to have any hope for success, Iran’s election must be about Iran — not America. And if the street protests of the last days have taught us anything, it is that this is an Iranian moment, not an American one.

While there is a kernel of truth to his statement he misses the point. From where do young Iranians get their ideals about democracy? From the Mullahs? Ahmadinejad? Has it ever occurred to Kerry that American idealism in some way has inspired people to take to the streets in Iran? Are they not inspired by what has taken place in Iraq? Like it or not, that would not have been possible without our involvement.

The centerpiece of Obama's foreign policy is engagement with Iran. Assuming Iranians want to normalize relations with the United States then we have to come into what's going on in some way. Sure it might be wise to make it a secondary matter but our presence cannot be ignored altogether.

Kerry attempts to reassures us when he states, "Ultimately, no matter who wins the election, our fundamental security challenge will be the same — preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

Yet this contradicts what President Obama said in his Cairo speech earlier this month when he said, "No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.” That doesn't sound like the policy of a President looking to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. It looks like Obama and Kerry aren't on the same page here. I gather Obama prefers a global test on nuclear weapons. Or perhaps Kerry is for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon before he is against it.

Kerry concludes by stating, "Returning to harsh criticism now would only erase this progress, empower hard-liners in Iran who want to see negotiations fail and undercut those who have risen up in support of a better relationship."

Um, I think the hard liners in Iran are already empowered. After all, they have the guns, bayonets and if things go as they appear to be going they can add nuclear weapons to that list.

Just imagine if Kerry had been elected President. Then again I don't think we have to imagine anymore.

Thoughts on Runs, Hits and Errors

As you are aware many of the entries on this blog are related to baseball rather than politics. Every year, a few of my columns are devoted to baseball. These columns include my annual preseason predictions (which are invariably wrong), a profile of an individual player or team or just my love for the game.

So I like it when someone else does a baseball column. Lisa Fabrizio has written a few over the years. Her latest is called "Runs, Hits and Errors."

The impetus of the column was New York Mets second baseman Luis Castillo dropping a routine pop up last weekend against the New York Yankees which led to a Mets defeat. Lisa laments that players don't use two hands to catch the ball. While she acknowledges errors are a part of the game she argues:

The sorry fact is, half of today's players seem to lack knowledge of the fundamentals of the grand old game while the other half simply have no respect for them. And the game has suffered.

One often hears claims that such and such old-time ballplayer could never compete in today's game because its players are bigger, stronger and faster; that modern training methods are far superior to those of the past. Similarly they point to the specialization of relief pitchers, or claim that expansion has necessitated coast-to-coast travel that is much tougher than in the past.

Of course, all of this is poppycock. If the hitters are bigger and stronger, so are the pitchers; and as for modern training methods, I'd love to know the average days spent on the DL for today's players as opposed to those only 30 years ago. Relief pitching? Does anyone who's ever read the history of the game seriously think that owners like Charles Comiskey or Frank Navin would pay five pitchers to just sit around in the bullpen? And I don't know about you, but I'd rather play a ballgame after a five-hour plane ride in first-class than a 30-hour train trip with no air-conditioning.

No, the sad truth is that most players simply cannot execute what even a light-hitting, backup infielder had to do to stay in the Bigs years ago. Rare is today's hitter who can consistently hit behind a runner or get a butcher-boy knock out of a bunting stance. How about the noxious state of outfield arms? Not every player can be a Bob Meusel or a Dave Parker, but watching some of these guys hurl themselves to the ground while delivering a five-hopper to the cutoff man is one of the most painful yet common sights in the modern game.

While I would agree that some players adhere to baseball fundamentals better than others I am not prepared to state with absolute certainty that half don't know them and half don't respect them. That is a fairly sweeping statement and an unfair one at that. It suggests that Major League Baseball players as a whole don't respect their craft and I just don't believe that to be true.

I think Lisa has fallen into the trap of romanticizing the past. That isn't to say we shouldn't honor and learn from how the game was played but not if the intention is to dismiss today's game out of hand.

It is probably true that today's player spends more time on the DL than in the past. But that is because baseball teams have long term investments in their players. They would rather err on the side of caution rather create a condition where a player sustains a long term injury because sufficient time wasn't granted to let the original injury properly healed and then have to pay them to sit at home for the duration of the contract.

Back in the good old days players were afraid to say they were hurt. In the days before free agency, if you got hurt chances were you got cut. So you played hurt. There was also a macho element to it as well. As Jim Bouton documented in Ball Four if you got hurt you spit tobacco juice on it and went out to play because you didn't want to let down your teammates. Even superstars who had some protection in their contracts didn't want to be perceived as malingerers.

Yes, Charles Comiskey and Frank Navin wouldn't have dreamed of paying five pitchers to sit out in the bullpen to play spoons (Red Sox fans will know of what I speak.) Well, neither Comiskey or Navin would have paid an African-American to be on their teams either.

I'm sure the train rides were pretty uncomfortable half a century ago and beyond. Of course, prior to 1957 when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles there weren't any teams west of St. Louis. Besides the clubs were cheap back then and train travel cost less than air travel especially flying charter.

I never thought I would see Bob Meusel and Dave Parker collide in the same sentence. Yes, they both had guns but they played a half century apart. Meusel played with the New York Yankees in the 1920s and was part of Murderers' Row that won three World Series that decade including the much feared 1927 Yankees. Parker's hey day was in the 1970s and early to mid 1980s mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was an integral part of the "We Are Family" World Series Champions of 1979. He did experience something of a resurgence with the Cincinnati Reds and in 1985 finished second behind Willie McGee of the St. Louis Cardinals in NL MVP balloting.

Both were good players who were just not great enough to be enshrined in Cooperstown. But there were a lot of players in the 1920s and 1930s who didn't think much of the game in the 1970s and 1980s. You can be certain that there are players from the 70s and 80s who don't think much of players from this decade. And invariably the players of 2009 and 2010 will lament the decline of players in the 2020s and 2030s.

As for outfield arms, there's little argument that Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees throws like a girly man. But I can think of a quite few throwing arms on which I would think twice about running from first to third. These would include J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox , Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals, Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies, Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins, Jeff Francoeur of the Atlanta Braves as well as Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick of the St. Louis Cardinals. An arms buildup is taking place in major league outfields.

There will always be a tension between the past and present and which is better than the other. The game is always changing. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I lament that there likely will never be another 300 game winner. But there was a time when we had to accept there was never be going to be another Cy Young. Yet I am happy that the major leagues is comprised of people from all over the globe of all nationalities and that baseball has cemented roots outside of the United States and North America. Suppose Ty Cobb had to face the best the Negro Leagues had to offer. The tension between past and present is as much a part of the game as dropping easy infield pop ups.

Read My Letter to the Editor to The Boston Phoenix on "Right-Wing Terror"

Two weeks ago, in response to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, The Boston Phoenix wrote an editorial titled Right-Wing Terror. The caption featured Klansmen with the photoshopped faces of Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

I thought both the editorial and the caption to be rather incendiary. So I wrote a letter to the editor and, to their credit, they published it today.

Dusty Rhodes, 1927-2009. R.I.P.

Former major leaguer James Lamar "Dusty" Rhodes died yesterday of complications from diabetes and emphysema. He was 82.

Rhodes played only seven seasons in the major leagues but his status is legendary amongst New York Giants fans (of which my Dad was one.) His best season was in 1954. In less than 200 at bats, Rhodes hit .341 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI for the New York Giants. But he is best remembered for what he did in the '54 World Series. The Giants were heavy underdogs against the Cleveland Indians who had a won a then major league record 111 games in the regular season.

But that meant nothing to Rhodes. In three games, Rhodes went 4 for 6 hitting 2 home runs with 7 RBI. One of those home runs was off future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon in the 10th inning to win Game 1 of the Series. Of course, that was the same game where Willie Mays made his famous over the shoulder catch in straight away center field off Vic Wertz. That is the enduring image of that World Series. However, it was Rhodes who was named World Series MVP as the Giants swept the Indians in four.

Four years later the Giants moved to San Francisco. Dad put a curse on them and they have not won a World Series since. Not that it stopped me from picking them to win it this year.

People Like Obama But Not His Policies

While President Obama remains personally popular the same cannot be said of his policies.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates an approval rating of 56% for Obama which is down 5% from April. Obama has lost most that support amongst independents. The biggest misgivings concerned unprecedented government intervention in the economy especially the takeover of GM. Most voters think Obama should address the deficit rather than increase spending. There are fewer concerns amongst voters with regard to foreign policy although there is strong disapproval of the closing of Guantanamo Bay. That is more likely to hit home because nobody wants Gitmo detainees living in Peoria. I suspect that if Obama pursues negotiations with Iran foreign policy concerns will increase and those numbers will drop further.

The New York Times/CBS News poll has Obama's approval rating at 63%. Apparently that's not good enough for Obama who said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:

If you have an argument made frequently enough -- whether it's true or not -- it has some impact. If you want to attack a Democratic president, how are you going to attack him? Well, you're going to talk about how he wants more government and he wants to socialize medicine and he's going to be oppressive towards business. I mean, that's pretty standard fare.

Maybe that's because Obama wants more government, wants to socialize medicine and is being oppressive towards business. If his skin is that thin with a 63% approval rating imagine what he will be like if that approval rating falls below 40%.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pudge Rodriguez Budges Pudge Fisk

Tonight, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez of the Houston Astros set a new major league record by catching his 2,227th career game surpassing Carlton "Pudge" Fisk who set the record in 1993. Fittingly, he achieved the mark against the Texas Rangers which is where he spent the first 12 years of his big league career. In fact, his achievement comes three days shy of the 18th anniversary of big league debut when he came to the Rangers as a 19-year-old. He has certainly come a long way. Rodriguez has also played with the Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees before joining the Astros prior to the 2009 season.

Ivan Rodriguez has been named an All Star 14 times, won 13 Gold Gloves behind the plate, selected as American League MVP in 1999, earned a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003 and was part of the AL champion Tigers in 2006. He is undoubtedly the greatest catcher of his era and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Obama & Hillary Legitimize Ahmadinejad

The engagement is still on. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intend to pursue talks with Iran regardless of who is in power.

Even though it is clear this "election" is a total sham the Obama Administration intends to reward the behavior of the Iranian government. By rewarding that behavior, Ahmadinejad and company have no reason to change their ways. If they will get an audience with Obama and Hillary by killing peaceful demonstrators why change now?

Hillary justified engagement with Iran by saying it was what we did with the former Soviet Union:

We never stopped negotiating with the former Soviet Union. They invaded countries. They promoted unrest. But we knew we had an opportunity to learn more, to discuss fully and perhaps to reach better understanding than we might have in the absence of such engagement. So we pursued it.

Hmmm, I don't recall Reagan negotiating with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko. Only when Gorbachev began his reforms did Reagan undertake any negotiations with the Soviets. Let it never be forgotten that Reagan negotiated from a position of strength unlike Obama and Hillary want to negotiate for the sake of negotiating.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts on Sammy Sosa

The New York Times is reporting that former major leaguer Sammy Sosa tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003.

However, the sources for this story do not know for which PED Sosa had a positive test. It does make me just a wee bit suspicious.

And a little angry. This was supposed to be confidential. There are 104 players who tested positive for these substances. Yet now some people have taken it upon themselves to break the law and reveal their names of the players or at least the elite ones. This was the case back in February when it was reported that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids.

But positive test or not, Sosa's chances for Cooperstown were slim in the first place. Now, fairly or not, those chances have been reduced to none.

Palin Forgives Letterman

I would not have expected any less.

Tommy De Seno has a nice take on Palin's acceptance of Letterman's apology.

Carter Visits Hamas; Claims Israel Treats Palestinians Like Animals

Former President Jimmy Carter was in Gaza today and met with Ismail Haniyeh, the Prime Minister in the Hamas controlled territory.

Carter remarked, "My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people. Tragically, the international community too often ignores the cries for help and the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings."

So in Carter's eyes Israel just bombs Gaza for the fun of it. While he acknowledged there were rocket attacks against Israel he did not hold Hamas for allowing that transgression under its watches much less name those perpetrated those attacks. I guess the rockets just launched themselves.

As for the notion that Israel treats Palestinians like animals it is the Palestinians in Gaza who chose to be governed by Hamas. Their biggest accomplishment in office is having legalized crucifixion.

I am sure the liberal media will focus its attention on Haniyeh telling Carter he accepts a Palestinian state based on the borders of June 4, 1967. Well, I'm sure Haniyeh was telling Carter what he wanted to hear. After all, this is the same Ismail Haniyeh who told students in Iran in December 2006 that Hamas would never recognize the State of Israel and would fight for "liberation of Jerusalem."

At least when Carter met with Hamas last year when President Bush was still in office there was no chance this would become official U.S. policy.

Now all bets are off. G-d help us.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Letterman Apologizes to the Palins

I saw David Letterman's apology to Sarah Palin, her daughters Willow and Bristol and the rest of her family.

Well, better late than never. It is about as contrite as we'll ever see Letterman. With that I think Palin should accept his apology and move on.

I do think Letterman's intended target was Bristol and not Willow. But that never made it any better. He would never have joked about that way about Chelsea Clinton or President Obama's daughters.

About 20 years ago, I remember being told a story in high school by one of my teachers. She recalled how Dan Rowan and Dick Martin of Laugh In would tell jokes about LBJ but considered his two daughters off limits for they did not choose public life. Letterman would be wise to take notes from those comedic legends.

Obama Breaks His Silence on Iranian "Election"

Well, it took him bloody well long enough.

President Obama finally commented on this weekend's Iranian election during a joint press conference with Italian President Silvio Berlusconi.

It was pathetic.

Obama spoke about respecting Iranian sovereignty. Yet he is more than happy to meddle in Israel's affairs where it concerns its settlements.

To be sure, Obama is "deeply troubled by the violence I've seen on television." Yet he cannot bring himself to condemn those who have brought about this violence namely the Iranian government.

Instead of calling out the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad he meekly said, "My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place." He might as well have said the fox is going to conduct an investigation of all the birds being eaten in the henhouse.

Although Obama paid some lip service about the violence he pretty much shrugged his shoulders and said, "We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we'll see where it takes us." We'll see where it takes us? This is not language of a leader who inspires confidence.

He might as well have kept his mouth shut.

Ignatieff Threatens to Bring Down Canada's Conservative Government on Friday

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of Canada's Liberal Party, has threatened to bring down the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper unless the government meets these demands:

a) Amends eligibility requirements for Employment Insurance;
b) Reports on the progress of stimulus spending on infrastructure projects;
c) Provides deficit projections for the next five years through fiscal year 2013-14;
d) Explain how it will maintain a stable supply of medical isotopes in light of the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear plant.

Given the breadth of these demands it looks like Ignatieff intends to force an election although it will be interesting to see what Harper does between now and Friday.

Of course, last November the Tories were brought down after a universally negative reaction to the economic statement put forward by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The Liberals and NDP intended to form a coalition partnership but this collapsed when a) Harper suspended parliament for 60 days and b) the Liberals forced out Stephane Dion and replaced him with Ignatieff.

Since then Ignatieff and the Liberals have kept the Tories in power. He would have been foolish to take office under the economic circumstances that prevailed at the time. But what makes Ignatieff think the economy will improve in the next two months never mind the next two years? If he rolls the dice it may be a bet he'll regret winning.

Dick Cheney is a Gracious Man

Responding to CIA Director Leon Panetta's interview with The New Yorker, former Vice-President Cheney said he hopes his "old friend Leon was misquoted."

Now that's called class.

Cheney went on to say, "The important thing is whether the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years."

Now that's called sticking to the matter at hand.

There exists a fundamental disagreement between Cheney and President Obama about how to best handle acts of terrorism by Islamic radicals. Nothing more and nothing less.

Is Jon Miller Leaving ESPN Sunday Night Baseball?

I'm not trying to start a rumor here. But for two weeks in a row Jon Miller has not been in the broadcast booth for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Dan Shulman, who is a very good broadcaster, filled for last week for the Philadelphia Phillies-Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium and again last night at Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians hosted the St. Louis Cardinals in an interleague game. If you watched the game, Indians pitcher Cliff Lee regained his Cy Young form by taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning en route to a complete game three hit shutout.

Miller and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan have been broadcasting games on Sunday nights since 1990. However, this season Steve Phillips was added to the crew. Phillips, the former General Manager of the New York Mets, has been with ESPN since 2005 appearing on Baseball Tonight and doing color commentary on ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball.

It has made for a crowded announcers' booth. Two color commentators and one play by play guy just doesn't work. Morgan and Phillips are constantly one upping each other talking about everything under sun except what is going on the field. Miller can barely get a word in edgewise. It makes for a very annoying broadcast. I'd rather listen to Tim McCarver for crying out loud than to hear Morgan and Phillips go back and forth. I mean Vin Scully is 81-years-old and can broadcast games all by himself. We don't need three announcers.

Joe Morgan is very cantankerous in the first place but Miller's light hearted touch smoothed out those rough edges and made for a nice balance that I have enjoyed for the past 20 seasons. Steve Phillips has upset that balance and I don't think Jon Miller is happy about it.

Again, I don't want to start a rumor but Miller has never missed two weeks in a row. It is certainly not a health issue because Miller is still doing San Francisco Giants games on radio and TV. So something is amiss.

Let Steve Phillips remain on ESPN Monday Night Baseball and leave the Sunday night game to Joe and Jon. If ESPN can do that I will be in my happy place.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Netanyahu Between Barack & A Hard Place

O.K. so I'm borrowing a line from Bill O'Reilly.

But the last thing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to do was call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, President Obama wants a Palestinian state if it's the last thing he ever does if not the only thing he ever does.

So Netanyahu is caught between Barack and a hard place. And now he must humor The Anointed One. If Netanyahu is going to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state he is going to call for the establishment of a state under terms that are completely unacceptable to the Palestinians. Netanyahu said a Palestinian state must be demilitarized and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

If nothing else he has bought Israel some time. The question is how hard will Obama lean on Netanyahu and how fast. We know that Obama won't lean on the Palestinians so he will lean on Israel. Will today's speech give Netanyahu three months? A month? A fortnight? A week? Given how much Obama has on his plate he could be very easily preoccupied with other matters. Let us also consider the "election" in Iran. With Ahmadinejad large and in charge as the Islamic Republic's public face he has Israel in his sights. If that doesn't buy Netanyahu time with Obama then nothing will I'm afraid.

Lakers Win NBA Title

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic 99-86 in Game 5 of the NBA Final tonight to claim the 2008-2009 NBA Championship.

It is their 15th NBA title in franchise history. Only the Boston Celtics have more NBA Championships with 17; the most recent of which came a year ago. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, however, surpassed Celtics legendary coach Red Auerbach with his 10th NBA Championship. It is his fourth title with the Lakers. Jackson also won six titles with the Chicago Bulls with a little help from Michael Jordan.

Kobe Bryant was named NBA Finals MVP and can finally say he won a championship without Shaquille O'Neal.

And Jack Nicholson is estatic.

Panetta Claims Cheney Almost Wishing For a Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil

In an interview with The New Yorker, CIA Director Leon Panetta expresses his displeasure with former Vice-President Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama Administration in very blunt terms.

Panetta said, "It's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."

I didn't like Panetta's appointment and it's comments like those that make me recall how Senator Dianne Feinstein said the CIA "would be best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time." An intelligence professional most certainly would not have publicly leveled such an accusation towards Cheney - almost or otherwise.

Panetta is behaving neither intelligently nor professionally.

Why is Obama Silent on Iran's "Elections"?

President Obama is strangely speechless where it concerns Iran's "elections."

The best the Obama Administration can do is send Joe Biden on Meet The Press. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Biden says he has "real doubts" about the outcome of the election. However the Vice-President also said, "I have doubts, but we're going to withhold comment until we have a thorough review of the whole process."

What is there to review? It is a totalitarian state. The fix was in. There were no international monitors. People who didn't like the outcome were dealt with by force. Websites have been shut down as has the country's text messaging system.

But of course they are going to have a thorough review of the process. They want this news to go away and hope the world will pay attention to something else. If they don't people will come to realize that engagement with Iran is like putting your head inside an alligator's mouth. You will get bit.

Engagement and negotiation with Iran is the centerpiece of Obama's foreign policy. Now it is in shambles and the Obama Administration is trying to save face on yet another ill conceived policy. This is the reason why President Obama has made no public comment on the Iranian "election."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Uighurs Prefer Gitmo to China

The Uighurs who were held at Gitmo and were welcomed in Bermuda say that life in China is far worse than at Gitmo.

Somehow I don't think President Obama will try to shut down China.

Carter In Love With The Palestinian People

Former President Jimmy Carter was honored by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah today.

He declared, "I have been in love with the Palestinian people for many years."

Well, I knew Carter had committed adultery in his heart but this is a bit much.

Carter said, "I have two great-grandsons that are rapidly learning about the people here and the anguish and suffering and deprivation of human rights that you have experienced ever since 1948."

Simply put Carter's great-grandsons are being taught that Israel is to blame for all ills in the Middle East.

Carter added that he believed that President Obama would call for the dismantlement of existing settlements.

As much as it pains me to say it I believe the former President's assessment is correct.

Of course, the settlements are nothing more than a red herring as you can see with my latest article. Yet I am afraid we will all find that out the hard way.

Ahmadinejad "Re-Elected"

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been "re-elected" with 61.6% of the vote.

However, many in Iran don't see it that way and there have been massive protests on the streets of Tehran which were swiftly put down by Ahamdinejad's thugs.

From The Daily Telegraph:

With no international observers present in Iran's elections, the supporters of Mr Mousavi know there is little chance that any alleged skulduggery will be revealed, never mind rectified. But as they chatted on the streets on Saturday, they noted all manner of suspicious things.

Why had Iran's text message system been switched off since Friday, the system they used to organise rallies? Why was the BBC Persian website blocked, along with a number of other reformist websites normally available? And most curious of all, why did Iran's official new agency announce early in the morning that Mr Ahmadinejad had already only won, when at that time, only 20 per cent of the vote had been counted.

So to borrow a phrase from Bill O'Reilly let me ask President Obama, "What say you?"

The mullahs and this regime isn't going anywhere regardless of what the Iranian people want.

If they are prepared to react with such violence against their own people I shudder to think what they are prepared to do to Israel.

Do we really want Iran to have a nuclear weapon?

Are you still prepared to talk to this regime without precondition?

If President Obama says yes to either question then he will be making the biggest mistake of his life and it will be Israel that pays for his mistake.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Penguins Win Stanley Cup in Seven Games

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup with a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7.

Just over a fortnight ago, I predicted the Penguins would win Lord Stanley's trophy in seven games.

An anonymous person responded to this prediction by stating, "Well, your pick is wrong!"

Well, for once my pick is right. I suspect this person will choose to remain anonymous.

This is a young team and I think it is quite possible they could three or four more Stanley Cups and create a dynasty unseen in the NHL for two decades.

This has been a good year for Pittsburgh sports fans. In February, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their second Super Bowl in four years. Now four months later, Pittsburgh will throw a parade for the Penguins.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, unfortunately, are at the bottom of the Steel City's sports totem poll. They haven't won a World Series in thirty years and haven't had a winning season since 1992. Although the Pirates are nowhere near as bad as the Washington Nationals they are tied for last place in the NL Central with the Houston Astros. They are on their way to a 17th straight losing season. Trading away their best player, Nate McLouth, last week didn't help matters much either.

You can't win them all.