Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Phillies Take NL East

For the third consecutive season the Philadelphia Phillies are the NL East Division winners. They clinched the division with a 10-3 victory over the Houston Astros.

It has been an interesting season for the defending World Series champions. Their starting pitching faltered. 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels struggled, Brett Myers got hurt and Jamie Moyer got old. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ became the most consistent pitchers in the starting rotation until acquired Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians and signed free agent pitcher Pedro Martinez.

The bullpen has been even worse. In 2008, Brad Lidge converted 41 saves in 41 save opportunities. He was perfect. In 2009, Lidge was far from perfect. Although Lidge has 31 saves he has also blown 11 save opportunities. Not only is it living dangerously it is living on the Lidge. Complicating matters is that set up man Ryan Madson has been no more effective on the handful of occasions he has been given the task of closing out a game. The Phillies are very vulnerable in the NLDS especially if they face the Colorado Rockies.

Yet the Phillies offense is so powerful one can never count them out until the final out. They have come from behind 42 times this season. This is due in no small part to the Phillies having four players with 30 or more homeruns - Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and off season acquisition Raul Ibanez. Throw in Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and the underrated Pedro Feliz and you have an offensive juggernaut.

The Phillies have a legitimate shot at winning back to back World Series. No National League team has won back to back World Series since the Cincinnati Reds when the Big Red Machine won in 1975 and 1976. The only regret Phillies fans will have about winning back to back World Series would be that Harry Kalas didn't live to see it.

I Respect The Yankees But I Will Never Root For Them

Lisa Fabrizio, who regularly contributes articles to IC, has a new article in today's online edition of The American Spectator about the New York Yankees.

She laments those who have an irrational hatred of the Yankees and likens them to liberals who have an irrational hatred of conservatives. She describes this condition as Bomberphobia. There is a great deal of truth in her thesis and I acknowledged that this condition is epidemic amongst members of Red Sox Nation especially where it concerns Derek Jeter:

So much of the vitriol directed towards Jeter by Red Sox fans is simply irrational. In fact, it is about as rational as the hatred directed towards former President George W. Bush and Sarah Palin by the left-wing intelligentsia.

However, Lisa goes into territory where this conservative Red Sox fan will not dare travel:

So come on my fellow conservatives, there's still time to get in the game and root for America's team.

The Yankees are not America's team let alone New York's team. Most Mets fans I talk to have about as much affection for the Yankees as Red Sox fans do. There are also generations of New Yorkers who grew up Dodgers or Giants fans (including my Dad) who were fiercely loyal to their teams and thought rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel. In this day and age it could be said that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Microsoft.

I'll say about the Yankees by paraphrasing what I wrote about Jeter to conclude my article. I respect the Yankees and all the success they have achieved and earned. But don't expect me to root for them.

Indians Dismiss Eric Wedge

The Cleveland Indians today fired manager Eric Wedge and his coaching staff although they will keep their jobs for the last six games of what has been a forgettable 2009 season.

Wedge had been at the helm of the Tribe since 2003. The Indians reached their epoch in 2007 when they won the AL Central and came within one victory of going to the World Series. The Tribe had a three games to one lead against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS but could not close the deal. Instead, the Red Sox went to the Fall Classic and won their second World Series title in four years by sweeping the Colorado Rockies. The downward dissent began there and has pretty much continued unabated.

The Indians struggled in 2008 although with a strong September they finished with a .500 record. This year things got worse as the season wore on. As of this writing, they have lost 20 of their last 25 games. After they host the Chicago White Sox for their last two home games, perhaps adding insult to injury, they travel here to face the Red Sox including former teammate Victor Martinez. As if they needed any more reminders of Boston.

There's almost nothing redeeming about the Indians. Nearly all the good players like Martinez, 2008 Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and Ryan Garko have been traded to greener pastures. Other players like Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have been disappointments. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is starting pitcher Fausto Carmona. Two years ago, Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and finished fourth in balloting for the AL Cy Young Award (which was won by his then teammate C.C. Sabathia.) In 2009, Carmona is 4-12 with a 6.62 ERA, the worst ERA in the AL. At one point, Carmona was demoted to Rookie league ball. Baseball can be a cruel game (although being sent to the minors did do wonders for Cliff Lee.) Carmona makes his final start of the season tonight.

While the New York Yankees have seven players with 20 or more homeruns, the Indians have none. Shin-Soo Choo is leading the team with 19 homeruns. He has been their most consistent offensive player who is also leading thet team with a .303 batting average and 83 RBI. The only problem is South Korea wants him to complete his compulsory military service next year. Then again the way the Indians have played fullfiling his military obligations might be easier than playing another season for the Tribe.

I remember being in Cleveland a decade ago at Jacobs Field (now known as Progressive Field) when they sold out their 350th consecutive home game en route to a fifth consecutive AL Central Division title. Now their ballpark looks nearly as empty as old Municipal Stadium did in the 1970s and 1980s.

Thoughts on Ken Burns' The National Parks

I have been enjoying Ken Burns' latest documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea which began airing on PBS Sunday night.

It's debatable as to whether our national parks is America's best idea although it is certainly up there. The scenery at Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon leaves one in awe even from a distance. His character studies of Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir as well as Stephen Mather make them larger than life. The establishment of organizations like the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club give one an understanding of what lobbying was like in Washington during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Naturally, The National Parks is permeated with Burns' liberalism but it doesn't distract from the inherent beauty of his subject.

The greatest impact of The National Parks is that it will have the effect of increasing visitorship to our national parks by Americans as well as people from all over the world. I have never been to any of America's national parks. Don't get me wrong. I love nature and go to Walden Pond (a state reservation here in Massachusetts made famous by Henry David Thoreau) every chance I get. Yet I am reminded that I have not seen nearly enough of the exceptional beauty of my adopted country.

The National Parks will air through Friday night on PBS. As they say check your local listings.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thoughts on Roman Polanski

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the arrest of director Roman Polanski in Switzerland a few days ago.

I have mixed feelings about his arrest. On one hand, the case can be made that Polanski isn't above the law and no one should be rewarded for evading justice. On the other hand, notwithstanding the severity of his crime, a civil remedy was reached between him and his victim Samantha Geimer a number of years ago after Geimer had launched a lawsuit against Polanski in civil court. If Geimer were still insistent that something be done and had no civil remedy been found then I would be more sympathetic to the arrest.

The warrant for Polanski's arrest was issued in 1978 (although an international one was added in 2005). It begs the question why now? Why was it so urgent to arrest Polanski in September but not in August?

But let's say Polanski is extradited to the United States. What happens then? Does he go into a courtroom to be sentenced to time served? Or is he sentenced to a prison sentence that doesn't fit the crime? Whatever the verdict it all seems like a dog and pony show. I don't want to diminish the seriousness of engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor. But if Polanski has compensated Geimer financially and Geimer isn't seeking any further remedy then I'm not sure how arresting and extraditing him is in the service of justice.

The limited resources of the Los Angeles County D.A. are better used elsewhere. Earlier this year, L.A. County came under criticism from Human Rights Watch for its large backlog of rape kits that had gone untested thus allowing some perpetrators to effectively get away with rape. I'm not a fan of HRW but the L.A. County's Sheriff Office announced it would make efforts to address their criticisms. But if L.A. County is expending its resources against Polanski rather than testing rape kits then something is very wrong.

Red Sox Clinch AL Wild Card (With a Little Help From Some Angels)

For the seventh time since 1998, the Boston Red Sox captured the American League Wild Card spot. Yet oddly enough they needed help from the team they will face off against in the ALDS next week.

The Sox were down 8-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays when they scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to bring it to 8-7. The Sox had a chance to win the game in the 9th but Kevin Youkilis struck out looking. The Sox have lost five in a row.

So the Sox fate was in the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels delivered with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers. While it would have been better to clinch it on their own they'll take a playoff spot however they can get it.

The Red Sox continue to win despite some unusual challenges facing Terry Francona and his coaching staff. At first, it appeared they had an abundance of starting pitchers - Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brad Penny, Tim Wakefield with Clay Buchholz and John Smoltz waiting in the wings. Beckett and Lester have been a solid one two and Wakefield had a strong first half. However, Dice-K had a lost season and Penny lost his way before asking for his release and eventually hooked on with the Giants. Smoltz was ineffective before also being released and landing on his feet in St. Louis. Notwithstanding tonight's bad outing, Buchholz has emerged as a quality starting pitcher and perhaps will start Game 3 of the ALDS after Beckett and Lester. Who would have thought of that in spring training?

With one homerun during the first two months of the season few could have imagined that David Ortiz would have a chance finishing 2009 with 30 homeruns and 100 RBIs. But the Sox are strong enough to rely on other offensive catalysts like reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew. The acquistion of Victor Martinez helped in that regard and also gave the Sox an heir apparent to Jason Varitek behind the plate. I would be remiss if I didn't make note of Jacoby Ellsbury shattering the team's all time stolen bases record. It had been held by Tommy Harper who stole 54 bases for the Red Sox in 1973. As of this writing, Ellsbury has 67 stolen bases which leads the major leagues. You also have to catch the ball and reacquiring Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop went a long way to plug that hole.

For the third year in a row and for the fourth time since 2004, the Red Sox will face the Angels in the American League Division Series. The Sox have won the three previous meetings. The onus is on the Angels to prove they can beat the Red Sox in post-season play and if playing for their fallen teammate Nick Adenhart isn't motivation then perhaps nothing is.

I hope I will have the opportunity to see some post-season play at Fenway like I did during Game 5 of the ALCS when the Sox came back from a 7-0 deficit in the 7th inning to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7. But one cannot ask for miracles on either count.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Angels Capture AL West

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim clinched the AL West Division tonight with an 11-0 victory over the Texas Rangers. This is the Angels fifth AL West title in six years. It will also be the Angels sixth post-season appearance in eight years.

The death of Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart on April 9th threatened to derail the team. The New York Yankees ground to a halt in 1979 when Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash late in the season. The deaths of pitcher Steve Olin and Tim Crews during spring training ended the 1993 season for the Cleveland Indians before it began. The St. Louis Cardinals struggled in both 2002 and 2007 after the deaths of Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock, respectively.

Yet somehow the Angels found a way to turn Adenhart's death into a source of inspiration. The Angels hang his jersey in their dugout during every game, wear his number on their uniforms and look at a picture of him displayed on the centerfield fence at Angels Stadium. This was undoubtedly due in no small part to the steady hand of manager Mike Scioscia who is rapidly making his way to the class of Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.

The Angels did it despite the fact that starting pitchers John Lackey and Ervin Santana missed significant time due to injuries. Brian Fuentes is no Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez but he was one of the most effective closers in the AL. Fuentes 44 saves are all the more remarkable considering the injury to Scot Shields who was K-Rod's set up man for many years. That void was filled by 30-year-old rookie Jason Bulger and 38-year-old veteran lefty Darren Oliver.

But perhaps the most significant development was the emergence of Kendry Morales at first base. When both Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter went down with injuries in the middle of the season, Morales became the team's offensive leader. It also vindicated the Angels decision not to re-sign Mark Teixeira. Their signing of ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu in the off season might have been the best $5 million ever spent by the Angels.

For the third consecutive year and for the fourth time in six years the Angels will face the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS (as of this writing the Sox magic number to clinch the AL Wild Card is one.) The Angels have lost all three contests. The Red Sox are their albatross. If they can beat the Red Sox then the Angels can beat anyone and have a strong chance to win their second World Series title this decade. The Angels won the franchise's first World Series championship in 2002.

Thoughts on the UN General Assembly (Or Three Madmen, A Fool & A Statesman)

I know this is quite a bit late. I had planned to do a full column on it but have decided to shift my focus elsewhere. But I think the 64th UN General Assembly is worth a few words.

The opening of the UN General Assembly will be remembered for five speeches - Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The five most memorable speeches were delivered by three madmen, a fool and a statesman.

While Qaddafi's speech has been deservedly mocked his buffoonish manner threatens to overshadow his unabashed support of terrorism. Let us not forget that Qaddafi welcomed home the Lockerbie bomber, Abelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi with open arms.

The same could be said for Chavez. He can praise Obama as smelling of hope and take shots at Fox News. We should count ourselves lucky. Let us remember that this a man who is forcing TV stations in Venezuela to air more of his speeches. Chavez is also forging a strong alliance with Ahmadinejad.

Canada was smart to skip Ahmadinejad's remarks. They knew what he was going to say. There was no need for an encore. The U.S. delegation would have been wise to follow suit but President Obama is eager for an audience with Ahmadinejad.

President Obama was also eager to distance himself from both President Bush and American exceptionalism. He did so by apologizing for Gitmo and reminding the General Assembly the U.S. had paid its dues to the UN and would also sit on the UN Human Rights Council - a body devoted to condemning Israel while turning a blind eye to egregious violations committed by far more dubious governments.

Obama also promised a world without nuclear weapons but made sure not to hurt the feelings of either Iran or North Korea. The President said, "We respect their rights as members of the community of nations." The fact neither country respects the rights of their own people did not deter Obama a smidgen.

President Obama then presided over the Security Council and passed a resolution calling for the world to be rid of nuclear weapons. He might as well as have drafted a resolution calling upon Australia to rid itself of kangaroos. Less than 24 hours later he, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the world that Iran had indeed been concealing a nuclear facility from the IAEA. If that wasn't enough, Iran test fired several medium range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Obama's pie in the sky hit him right in the eye.

Obama's naivete was a contrast to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coherence and eloquence. His speech should be taught to schoolchildren the world over. The image of Netanyahu holding up Nazi documents detailing plans to kill Jews as well as the blueprints of Auschwitz was a powerful refutation of Ahmadinejad.

Netanyahu also put the UN on notice in a way that Obama would never dare:

The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime. People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do the thousands who have been protesting outside this hall. Will the United Nations stand by their side?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging.

Unsurprisingly, the Palestinian delegate walked out as did representatives of several Muslim countries. Other delegations looked at Netanyahu in bewilderment. The UN translators were of no help. He was speaking a language they could not understand.

Internet Czar Susan Crawford ties to Socialist group, Ford Foundation

Internet Czar Susan Crawford is Net Neutrality Advocate- Broadband redistribution- socialist-style

The Obama-Biden transition team on Friday named two long-time net neutrality advocates to head up its Federal Communications Commission Review team.

Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Kevin Werbach, a former FCC staffer, organizer of the annual tech conferenceSupernova, and a Wharton professor, will lead the Obama-Biden transition team’s review of the FCC.

“We’re not doing at all well for reasons that mostly have to do with the fact that we failed to have a US industrial policy pushing forward high-speed internet access penetration, and there’s been completely inadequate competition in this country for high speed internet access,” she said.

And in a final introductory statement during her talk (that’s likely to send shivers down the spines of telecom company executives) she said that she believes internet access is a “utility.”

“This is like water, electricity, sewage systems: Something that each and all Americans need to succeed in the modern era. We’re doing very badly, and we’re in a dismal state,” she said at the time.

You can listen to Crawford discuss telecom policy here, and read Werbach’s columns on tech policy at internet-infrastructure journal Circle-ID.

The idea of network neutrality is that all of our Internet packets are equal, and that the spirit of the Internet and its ability to create wonderful new applications like Google, MySpace and Facebook is predicated on open (albeit limited) access for all. Yet, despite an overabundance of bandwidth pulsing throughout the U.S., we are still stuck with rationing to our homes. Haven’t we learned that advancing technology is never served by arbitrary rules to divvy up scarce resources? Look at the dearth of good cell phone applications. Rules make incumbents lazy

Net Neutrality is simply using the typical leftist tactic, finding a poor, untrodden victim, the folks who don’t have access to the internet now, the “public services” that might not be able to get their emergency messages out (and thus people will die, people will always die if you don’t follow the left’s policies), but in fact it is nothing more than a justification to open up the door to complete government control of the internet in the name of “public good”, to actually limit the bandwidth for most of us to ostensibly bring more bandwidth to those in need, bandwidth redistribution.

From Listen to the Freedom Report here

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bill Clinton Claims Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Against Obama

When asked by David Gregory of NBC's Meet The Press if there was a vast right-wing conspiracy against President Obama, former President Bill Clinton replied, "You bet there is."

Clinton went on say about Republicans, "Their agenda seems to be about wanting him to fail."

First, it isn't a conspiracy. The opposition to President Obama has been done out in the open for everyone to see.

Second, Clinton is correct in stating there are Republicans (and by extension conservatives) who want Obama to fail. But does Clinton honestly think that Democrats (and by extension liberals) wanted President Bush to succeed? Not only did Democrats and liberals not want Bush to succeed they didn't consider his very Presidency to be legitimate. So there's an air of disingenuousness in Clinton's comments.

I want President Obama to succeed in upholding the Constitution and protecting this country from internal and external threats. But if President Obama's objective is to allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb then no I don't want him to succeed. Allowing Iran to build a nuclear bomb compromises his ability to uphold the Constitution and to protect this country.

Stop The Presses!!! The Detroit Lions Win a Game

The Detroit Lions did something this afternoon they haven't done in a very long time.

Win a game.

The Lions defeated the Washington Redskins 19-14 at Ford Field snapping a 19-game losing streak. The last time the Lions won a game was on December 23, 2007 in Week 16 of the 2007 season when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 25-20. That victory snapped a six game losing streak. So the Lions have won only twice in their past 27 regular season games.

The Lions did not win a single game in the 2008 season. As the Lions were preparing to face the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season, I wrote:

With the federal government now prepared to bail out America's automobile industry, it is now clear the only thing in worse shape in Detroit than GM, Chrysler and Ford is the Detroit Lions.

The Lions roar will be likely short lived. Next Sunday, they go to Chicago to face the Bears. The week after that they host the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Yankees Clinch AL East

The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-2 to win their 100th game of the 2009 season and clinch the AL East Division in the process. Although it is the Yankees 11th AL East title since 1996, it is the first they've won under manager Joe Girardi.

And yes, I'm the guy who predicted the Yankees would finish in last and that Luis Sojo would be managing the team by mid-June.

The Yankees did get off to a slow start in 2009. They were 13-15 before Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup in early May after having off season hip surgery. While Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira are favorites to win the AL MVP, the Yankees returned to their winning ways only when A-Rod was put in the cleanup spot. Teixeira was hitting under .200 and feeling the heat in the new Yankee Stadium before A-Rod returned to third base. The Yankees won nearly 70% of their games after the return of A-Rod and that as much as anything else warrants the baseball writers giving him votes for the AL MVP.

Of course, C.C. Sabathia gave the Yankees a bonafide ace and with a league leading 19 wins he could win his second AL Cy Young Award in three seasons (although Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals is considered the frontrunner.) Although I think the case can be made that Mariano Rivera should win the AL Cy Young.

At the age of 39, Rivera has saved 44 games (tying him with Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins and Brian Fuentes of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.) Rivera has never won a Cy Young. Relief pitchers traditionally don't win Cy Youngs. The last American League relief pitcher to win the Cy Young was in 1992 when Dennis Eckersley did it with the Oakland Athletics. It should be noted that Rivera finished runner up to Bartolo Colon in 2005 and finished third in the balloting in 1996, 1999 and 2004. So he'll get votes. As some believe Jeter winning the AL MVP would be sort of a lifetime achievement award the same argument could be made for Rivera regarding the AL Cy Young.

The emergence of Phil Hughes as Rivera's set up man somewhat quieted talk of why Joba Chamberlain was in the Yankees starting rotation. Robinson Cano had a much improved season with 200 hits and counting. Nick Swisher also proved to be a nice addition to the Yankees outfield and the clubhouse.

The Yankees will face the winner of the AL Central Division which will either be the Detroit Tigers or the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers currently have a two game lead over the Twins. However, the Twins and Tigers will play four games in Detroit beginning tomorrow. Honestly, I don't think it matters who wins the Central because the Yankees will smoke either team.

In which case, the Yankees would face either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. The Angels have given the Yankees fits over the years and have twice eliminated them from post-season play (2002 and 2005.) A Yankees-Red Sox ALCS would be the first since the Red Sox came back down three games to none.

I was uneasy when the Red Sox won their first eight games against the Yankees this season. Traditionally, the season series is nearly even and there would inevitably be a correction. Sure enough, the Yankees have beaten the Red Sox nine out of their last ten games. Yet at the end of the day the season series will read 9-9 and the ALCS will start out at 0-0 as it always does. But as usual I am getting ahead of myself. So I will stop here.

William Safire, 1929-2009. R.I.P.

Former Nixon speechwriter turned New York Times columnist William Safire has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 79.

Safire began his association with Nixon during the 1960 Presidential campaign and would resume the association eight years later. During his time in the White House, Safire wrote speeches for both Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew. Indeed, it was Safire who coined the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism." Agnew first uttered this phrase at the 1970 California Republican Convention in San Diego in reference to the liberal media.

Ironically, Safire would join The New York Times, the epicenter of the liberal media, as a columnist in 1973 where he would remain until his retirement in 2005. Once Safire left there was really no reason to read the pages of The Gray Lady (although one could make a case for David Brooks amongst the Sarah Palin haters.) President Bush would bestow him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom the following year.

Safire wrote many books on politics and language. I have a book of his called Lend Me Your Ears. It is a collection of speeches delivered from Ancient Greece to the present day. It includes a draft of a speech he wrote in the event the Apollo 11 mission to the moon was not successful. The memo would be later put on display at the National Archives in Washington.

I think Safire's greatest contribution was to keep the liberal establishment on its toes. Conservatives might find the idea of working at The New York Times abhorrent but conservative ideas have to be expressed in unfriendly terrain. Conservatism is strengthened when it asserts itself in the lion's den of liberalism. Unafraid to stick his head in the lion's mouth, William Safire was a contrarian in the lair of American liberalism.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cardinals Clinch NL Central

I just watched the St. Louis Cardinals clinch the NL Central Division with a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Denver. Adam Wainwright pitched eight strong innings and struck out eleven batters. Back up catcher Jason LaRue (filling in for an injured Yadier Molina) broke a 3-3 tie in the 7th with a solo homerun. Ryan Ludwick added some insurance in the 9th with a two run shot. Ryan Franklin came on and earned the save.

It is the first time the Cards have reached the post-season since 2006 when they went on to win the World Series. It is also the eighth team in fourteen seasons with Tony LaRussa at the helm the Cardinals have reached the post-season (1996, 2000-2002, 2004-2006.) It is also their seventh NL Central Division title (they won the NL Wild Card in 2001.)

The Cardinals jumped out of the gate going 19-8 in April but would play around .500 ball from May through July. It was in August when the Cardinals began to run away with the division with a 20-6 record.

If things remain as they are it would appear the Cardinals will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. I think the Cardinals starting rotation is better than the Dodgers especially with Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as arguably the two best starting pitchers in the NL. 15-game winner Joel Pineiro is no slouch either. However, Franklin has struggled in the bullpen of late and his struggles could offset the effectiveness of their starting pitching against Dodger bats.

But then again things might not remain as they are. With the Cardinals victory over Colorado tonight, the Rockies now only have a 2½ game lead in the NL Wild Card over the surging Atlanta Braves. The Braves have won five in a row and 14 of their last 17 games. If the Braves overcome the Rockies then the Cardinals would play the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. If you think the Cardinals have bullpen problems they have nothing on the Phillies.

Suffice it to say, I cannot wait for the post-season to begin.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Venezuelan TV Will Have More Chavez, Less Family Guy

The Venezuelan government will begin fining TV stations that air the animated comedy Family Guy.

It is all part of new set of sweeping media regulations.

Those who suffered through Hugo Chavez's speech to the UN General Assembly will be delighted to know that one of the new provisions will require Venezuelan TV stations to carry more of Hugo Chavez's speeches.

Oh goody.

Let's hope this doesn't give President Obama any bright ideas.

Ken Howard Elected President of Screen Actors Guild

Ken Howard has been elected President of the Screen Actors Guild. The Los Angeles Times describes Howard as "a moderate."

Of course, I'm not sure what passes for moderate in Hollywood these days.

Nonetheless, I offer my congratulations to Howard who is one of my favorite actors. I enjoyed watching The White Shadow when I was a kid and in more recent years I enjoyed watching him in a supporting role on Crossing Jordan. That show was never the same after he left.

It was just this past Sunday, Howard won an Emmy in the television adaptation of Grey Gardens.

In July 2008, my older brother and I saw Howard do a one man show in Watertown, Massachusetts called According to Tip which was based on the life of the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill. You can read my review of the show here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on MacKenzie Phillips

Well, if actress MacKenzie Phillips was seeking attention she sure got it when she revealed that she and her late father, John Phillips (founder of The Mamas & The Papas) had an incestuous relationship on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her book, High on Arrival, which documents the alleged affair is set to be released on September 29th.

Michelle Phillips, the last surviving member of The Mamas & The Papas who was married to Phillips from 1962 to 1970, isn't buying it.

However, Phillips is due to return to Oprah tomorrow with her half sister, Chynna Phillips (of Wilson Phillips fame.)

Obviously, I don't know if she is telling the truth or she isn't. Either way it's all very disturbing.

The one thing that bothers me about this whole matter is that John Phillips is dead and cannot defend himself.

Jim Rice vs. Andre Dawson

Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator has an interesting article about media bias where it concerns sports.

Specifically, Hillyer is critical of sportswriters for bias towards professional athletes who play in "big markets." To make his case, Hillyer points towards how New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett got into the Pro Football Hall of Fame while Rickey Jackson of the New Orleans Saints has not. He also makes a case in baseball concerning Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice (who was inducted in Cooperstown in July) and Andre Dawson who played a significant part of his career with the Montreal Expos.

While I think Hillyer makes a convincing case for Dawson's inclusion in the Hall I'm not sure his exclusion has much to do with media bias.

While Dawson did play his first ten seasons with the Expos he also played six seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Dawson won his first and only NL MVP during his first season with the Cubs in 1987.

It isn't exactly the case Dawson was overlooked by the sportswriters when he played with the Expos. He did finish runner up in NL MVP voting in 1981 and 1983 (losing to Philadelphia Phillies slugger and future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves, respectively.)

I think Dawson was hurt cause he stayed in the bigs too long. His last four seasons in the majors which he spent with the Red Sox (1993-94) and the Florida Marlins (1995-96) were less than productive. He would have better off retiring after his final season with the Cubs in 1992.

Hillyer argues that Rice should not have been inducted into the Hall before Dawson. But what Hillyer doesn't mention was that Rice was in his last year of eligibility to be inducted by the BBWAA while Dawson has eight more years of eligibility.

I also take issue with Hillyer when he writes:

Finally, by reputation at least, Dawson was a better teammate, gregarious and generous, while Rice was by reputation surly and perhaps selfish. It was passing strange that the Sox made so few playoff appearances during Rice's tenure, despite an abundance of talent; the word always was that its clubhouse was almost never a happy one. Last I checked, baseball remains a team game.

Rice was not popular with the sports media during his playing career in Boston. But then again neither was Ted Williams. In fact, his unpopularity was such that one sportswriter left off him the AL MVP ballot in 1947 despite winning the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, homeruns and RBIs.) So I'm not sure that's such a great argument.

Rice also played on two AL pennant winners in 1975 and 1986 and an AL East Division champion in 1988. His post-season stats might have been more impressive if he didn't miss the 1975 post-season with a wrist injury. Dawson, meanwhile, only made two post-season appearances in his 20 year big league career. He made those appearances with the 1981 Expos and the 1989 Cubs where he hit .186 in 59 post-season at bats.

But Hillyer is right. Andre Dawson does belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I suspect that the BBWAA will do the right thing and vote in Dawson (as well as Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin who becomes Hall of Fame eligible) in January.

Patrick Appoints Kirk Interim Senator

Today, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Kennedy confidante and former DNC Chair Paul Kirk, Jr. to take over the seat held by Ted Kennedy on an interim basis.

A few days ago, the Massachusetts legislature amended the law so that Governor Patrick could make the interim appointment.

All things considered I don't have a problem with Governor Patrick making this appointment. This is the way such things are done in most states. Where I have a problem is the double standard the Massachusetts legislature applies to Democratic and Republican Governors. This situation would never have come to pass had Ted Kennedy let sleeping dogs lie. After all, if not for Kennedy's overconfidence in John Kerry he would not have seen fit to get the Massachusetts legislature to have changed the law in the first place. Had Kerry been elected President in 2004 then Mitt Romney would have made an interim appointment and presumably would have appointed a Republican. Neither Kennedy nor the Democratic controlled Massachusetts legislature could permit such an intolerable development.

Of course, the Kerry Administration never came to pass. But when death came knocking on Kennedy's door he did a 180. Now that Deval Patrick sat in the corner office it was O.K. for him to appoint his successor. Such a thing was also now acceptable because after all President Obama needed 60 Democratic Senators to get Obamacare passed come hell or high water. And after Kennedy passed on, President Obama saw to it that Patrick and the Massachusetts legislature would say how high when he told them to jump.

I just hope if Massachusetts elects another Republican Governor that he or she will be allowed to make such appointments should they arise without interference from Washington.

Obama Invokes FDR During UN Speech

I won't comment at length about President Obama's speech before the UN General Assembly yesterday. Others such as former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and Nile Gardiner have commented on the substance of Obama's remark (or lack thereof) with their usual eloquence. However, I was struck by his invocation of FDR:

Sixty-five years ago, a weary Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the American people in his fourth and final inaugural address. After years of war, he sought to sum up the lessons that could be drawn from the terrible suffering, the enormous sacrifice that had taken place. "We have learned," he said, "to be citizens of the world, members of the human community."

Ah yes, citizens of the world unite!!!

Yet if one actually reads FDR's final inaugural one will also find this ditty:

In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war.

Total victory in war.

Somehow that part of FDR's speech never made it into President Obama's remarks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Proud To Be Canadian

I have now lived in the United States for nearly 9½ years and consider this country my home.

However, today I am proud of being Canadian in a way that I have not in a very long time.

The Canadian delegation at the UN General Assembly walked out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he was about to give his speech. Judi McLeod of Canada Free Press (where my articles also appear) has the details.

It was only this past Friday that Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust "a lie." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad's comments "only serves to isolate Iran further from the world." If that was true then the United States would have led the way with Canada's noble protest.

President Obama has behaved in a cowardly manner where it concerns Iran. President Obama insists on engaging with a madman despite his intentions to destroy Israel. President Obama also insists on engaging with a madman who has no qualms about killing and imprisoning his own people for expressing their opinions.

I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be American. I am ashamed of my President.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Helpful guide: Are you racist?

CNN and the New York Times have helpfully put this together for America.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thoughts on Obama's Appearance with Letterman

Several observations about President Obama's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

First, did anyone notice that Letterman didn't make any jokes about President Obama's daughters?

Second, Obama didn't make fun of people with developmental disabilities this time.

Third, with regard to health care, Obama actually said that Canadians "are perfectly happy with their system." Yes, I'm sure that's exactly what those Canadians who are waiting for MRI exams, surgery and cancer treatment are thinking.

Astros Fire Cecil Cooper

The Houston Astros have fired Cecil Cooper as their manager with 13 games remaining in the 2009 season. Third base coach Dave Clark has been named interim manager.

The Astros were 70-79 this season under Cooper and are 16½ games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The had lost seven straight games and eight of the last ten before today's announcement. Cooper replaced Phil Garner as Astros skipper late in the 2007 season and went 171-170 over parts of three seasons.

I didn't think Cooper did that bad of a job. Their offense is respectable with the likes of Michael Bourn at the top of the order, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence and a resurgent Miguel Tejada. But when you only have one starting pitcher (Wandy Rodriguez) in double digits in wins you are not likely to contend. It doesn't help that Roy Oswalt had an off year battling back pain. It is the first time in a major league career that began in 2001 in which he has failed to win at least 10 games in a season. That really isn't Coop's fault. But since when is life fair?

A New Obama Poem: Look At Me

Unable to turn on a TV without seeing President Obama on it this poem poured out of me as I sat down to eat lunch today.

Look At Me
As the cameras are rolling
With our undivided attention
You take out a mirror
And tell the world
To look at you
Standing behind you
While you gaze at yourself
In amazement
I look at you not in wonder
Nor to rob you of your thunder
That left the bottle long ago
When I look at you
I see neither black nor white
But rather a bitter green
Comprised of envy and vanity
Covering a skin too thin
And not wise enough
To know that we can see
The bottle is empty
Of the spark that ignited
The world in your image

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Note to Bob Schieffer on Interviewing Obama

Today, I returned home to Boston from New York and was thus spared the bombardment of all Obama all the time on the Sunday news shows.

However, while in a cab en route to the Port Authority, I did hear some commentary on the radio from Bob Schieffer, host of Face The Nation on CBS:

My job is to show up and ask questions. The president's job is to hold himself accountable to the people who elected him. That means answering questions.

Why would I want to stop him?

It works out better when we both stick to our basic assignments. We ask, he answers.

Do I like the round robin of interviews? Not as much as I like exclusives.

But the president - any president - is the world's number one newsmaker. When he invites me over to ask him questions, I'll be there.

Not to offer advice, but to take notes.

With all due respect to Mr. Schieffer, I think journalists are little bit more than mere note takers. I want our journalists challenging politicians when they give answers they cannot possibly back up. How can President Obama say he'll implement health care reform without adding a dime to the deficit? Today, President Obama told Schieffer he'll implement health care reform without raising taxes. Schieffer ought to have channeled John McEnroe and told him, "You cannot be serious!!!" I am not suggesting Schieffer should have thrown a water bottle at Obama but act as something other than a note taker. If journalists are nothing more than note takers then CBS should have sent some freshly minted journalism graduates to interview President Obama.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama to Host Netanyahu & Abbas @ WH on Tuesday

President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Tuesday.

This is mostly a photo op for President Obama.  It will also be an opportunity for Obama to once again stick it to Netanyahu on settlements, the security fence or whatever happens to be the flavor of the month amongst the Rashid Khalidi's of the world.

I don't expect anything good to come of this meeting.  I just hope nothing bad comes of it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Patrick Admits Talking to Obama About Appointing Kennedy Successor

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick admits he has spoken extensively to President Obama about changing the Massachusetts law regarding succession in the U.S. Senate.  Patrick first spoke with Obama regarding the issue of succession during Ted Kennedy's funeral last month. This despite the fact the Obama Administration had said previously it was a matter for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to address.

The breach of propriety by Obama aside, the irony of it all is that Obama and Patrick would never have had any such discussion if Kennedy hadn't seen to it that the Massachusetts legislature strip then Governor Mitt Romney of the power to appoint a successor.  If not for Kennedy's overconfident belief that John Kerry would win the 2004 Presidential election, Governor Patrick could have appointed anyone he saw fit to sit in the Senate after Kennedy passed away.

Ahmadinejad Calls The Holocaust a Lie

Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Friday prayers at Tehran University and spoke this pearl of wisdom:

The pretext for the creation of the Zionist regime is false.  It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim.  Confronting the Zionist regime is a national and religious duty.

Oh goody.  The Obama Administration has played nice with Ahmadinejad for eight months and this is what we get for their efforts.

To be sure, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Ahmadinejad's statement "only serves to isolate Iran further from the world."  This is the same Robert Gibbs who less than seven weeks ago called Ahmadinejad Iran's "elected leader."

How isolated can Iran be when President Obama won't criticize them for killing their own people?  How isolated can Iran be when President Obama's decision to abandon missile defense was done in part because of Iran?  How isolated can Iran be when the Obama Administration wants Iran's help in Afghanistan?

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Nothing good can come of the Obama Administration's policy of engagement with Iran.

Obama Say Race Isn't "Overriding Issue"

After Jimmy Carter had said race was a significant factor in hostility towards President Obama, the sitting President today said that race was not "an overriding issue."  He said that his opposition was driven by an "anti-government" philosophy.

I'm glad Obama said that.  But I think he could have gone much further.  He should have told liberals to refrain from calling conservatives racist.  Because I believe it is only a matter of time before another liberal is going to accuse a conservative of racism because he or she has the temerity to disagree with President Obama.

Irving Kristol, 1920-2009. R.I.P.

Many years ago while attending a workshop on Israel a woman described "neoconservatives as liberals who've been mugged."

She got the quote wrong.  The correct quote is, "Neoconservatives are liberals who were mugged by reality."  Irving Kristol, the man who coined that phrase, died today at the age of 89.

Kristol, along with Norman Podhoretz, is rightly thought as one of the founding fathers of neoconservative thought.  While Podhoretz shaped neoconservative thought on foreign policy, Kristol shaped neoconservative thought on domestic policy.  His best known work was Two Cheers for Capitalism. While Kristol praised capitalism for advancing individual liberty and for improving the human condition he could not give capitalism unequivocal praise.  Kristol argued that capitalism did not address the moral, religious or spiritual dimension. Perhaps most importantly, while Kristol recognized capitalism's merits he did not consider it a perfect theory.

I would be remiss if I didn't share a couple of Kristol's amusing quips:

The danger facing American Jews today is not that Christians want to persecute them but that Christians want to marry them.

An intellectual may be defined as a man who speaks with general authority about a subject on which he has no particular competence.

The second pearl of wisdom describes President Obama to a tee.

British Trade Unions to Boycott Goods From Israeli Settlements

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the British equivalent of the AFL-CIO, passed a resolution at its annual conference yesterday calling for a boycott of goods originating from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Originally, the TUC wanted an across the board boycott of all Israeli goods. The TUC objects not only to the settlements but the separation fence and the IDF's defensive operations in Gaza last December and January.  Narrowing their focus on the settlements, I fear, has given anti-Israeli forces a stronger hand.  

By confining their protests to the settlements anti-Israeli forces in the trade union movement and elsewhere can argue they object only to the settlements and nothing else.  That isn't true of course. But yet the settlements are unpopular amongst those who normally support Israel. President Bush had little sympathy for the settlements and neither did former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the late William F. Buckley. It would come as no surprise me if similar protests targeting the settlements are made by other trade unions around the world as well as college and university campuses where divestment movements were so popular earlier this decade.

As I have argued before the settlements are a red herring.  After all there are no settlements in Gaza and yet the rocket attacks into Israel escalated.  I have no reason to believe the Palestinians nor the Muslim world will be mollified in the least should the settlements in the West Bank be abandoned. 

Douglas Fisher, 1919-2009. R.I.P.

Former Canadian Member of Parliament turned journalist Douglas Fisher has died.  He was a day shy of his 90th birthday.

Fisher cut his political teeth in Port Arthur, Ontario (now known as Thunder Bay - my hometown).  He was a high school teacher at Port Arthur Collegiate Institute (the high school I attended many decades later) when he did the impossible.  Fisher dethroned C.D. Howe, the so-called "Minister of Everything" under the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) banner in the 1957 general election. Ousting Howe would be roughly equivalent to a Republican ousting Charlie Rangel.  

However, Fisher grew disenchanted with politics when the CCF struck up an alliance with the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) to form the NDP in 1961.  He vigorously opposed organized labour having a disproportionate influence in the party.  Fisher began writing newspaper columns a short time thereafter to supplement his modest income as an MP and by 1965 had left electoral politics and joined the Canadian Press Gallery.  He did have a rapprochement with the NDP and ran for them in 1968 in a Toronto riding but was not successful and Fisher remained in journalism thereafter.  Always considered on the right-wing of Canadian social democracy his political inclinations gradually became more conservative. Consequently, Fisher is not so fondly remembered in NDP circles.  In 1971, Fisher joined The Toronto Sun where he remained until his retirement in 2006.

Several of his children have also embarked upon careers in journalism no doubt inspired by their father's rich life of experiences.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama Sells Out Eastern Europe, Emboldens Iran

I cannot say I'm surprised that President Obama scrapped missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He's been trying to mollify the Russians since the election campaign when he played the moral equivalency card when Russian troops went into Georgia last year.  Appeasing authoritarian Russia at the expense of democratic Eastern Europe sends a very bad message indeed.

Aside from selling out Eastern Europe, Obama is lulling us into a false sense of security. One factor in the abandonment of this project was predicated on the assumption that Iran doesn't have long range missile capacity.  This is not an assumption I would be prepared to make.  It also might have the unintended consequence of forcing Israel's hand because a missile defense system in Europe was the one deterrent we had. Simply put, if Israel launches a preemptive strike against Iran it will be a direct consequence of Obama abandoning his allies in Eastern Europe. But what can one expect of an American foreign policy that rewards our enemies and punishes our friends?

Gingrich starts new Hispanic conservative online magazine, Americano

Started with the help of my friend Alberto Acereda, who is content editor, this new magazine should be a great asset for bringing Hispanics into the GOP.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Birthday at the New Yankee Stadium

In recent years, most of my birthdays have been spent at Fenway Park when the Red Sox have a home game.  In fact, I have gone to Fenway on my birthday four times (2002-2004 & 2007).

The Sox had a home game on my birthday this year as well against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  However, since my Dad is taking an extended vacation in New York City I thought I would make my first trip to the New Yankee Stadium on my 37th birthday.

The Yankees hosted the Toronto Blue Jays.  The question before the game was would there be a resumption of hostilities that occurred in last night's game which was won by the Jays 10-4. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and Blue Jays reliever Jesse Carlson came to blows last night at home plate after Posada scored a run. Carlson had thrown a pitch behind Posada in retaliation for Yankees reliever Mark Melancon plunking Jays second baseman Aaron Hill in the back. This caused the benches to clear and Carlson ended up with a big welt over his left eye.  Even Yankees manager Joe Girardi had a couple of scratches on his face.  

However, there would be no shenanigans.  Both Posada and Carlson were suspended for three games.  It was initially to be four games but MLB reduced the suspension when both men agreed not to appeal their suspensions.  

No, it was just baseball.  The Blue Jays had a 4-2 lead in the 8th when Hideki Matsui tied the game with a two-run home run.  The Yankees won it in the 9th on a single by third string catcher Francisco Cervelli.  Though I wish the outcome had been different I feel good when a guy like Cervelli gets an opportunity and makes the most of it.  It's not often third string catchers get that sort of chance and there's a good chance Cervelli will never see an another moment like this again.  Yankees won 5-4.  

Still, I probably would have been more excited to be in Fenway as the Red Sox came back from behind to beat the Angels 9-8.  The comeback was controversial though as Red Sox shortstop Nick Green appeared to be out on a check swing but the first base umpire ruled he did not swing.  Green then walked with the bases loaded to bring in the tying run.  Alex Gonzalez then hit the game winning single en route the Sox's seventh straight victory.  That would have been fun.

But no complaints here.  I had a splendid day.  I've never traveled for my birthday and the New Yankee Stadium is a must see for baseball fans.

Mary Travers, 1936-2009. R.I.P.

Mary Travers, a member of the folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary has died after battling leukemia for several years.  She was 72.

Travers lent her vocals to songs such as "Puff The Magic Dragon", "Early Morning Rain" and "Leaving On A Jet Plane."  Like many folk musicians of that era she was active in left-wing political causes.  I do remember her being heavily involved in anti-Apartheid activities in the mid-1980's.  I also remember that she had a very deep, husky speaking voice.  I'm not sure if smoking contributed to that or not but it certainly made for a rich singing voice.

Henry Gibson, 1935-2009. R.I.P.

Character actor Henry Gibson died of cancer on September 14th.  He passed away a week shy of his 74th birthday.

If you came of age in the 1960s, you remember him as a cast member on Rowan & Martin's Laugh In.  If you came of age in the 1980s, you remember playing an Illinois Nazi in The Blues Brothers.  

Of course, like most character actors he did a lot more work before and after those roles.  Most character actors garner little recognition and fanfare.  Gibson was fortunate enough to find the right roles at the right time.  In life we are all but actors on a stage but not everyone gets to say something.

Linda McMahon Bids for GOP Nomination in Connecticut Senate Race

This is very interesting indeed.  Linda McMahon has resigned her position as the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment to seek the GOP nomination for the 2010 Senate race in Connecticut where Chris Dodd is hanging on by tenterhooks.

Professional wrestling isn't everyone's cup of tea but that didn't stop the people of Minnesota from electing Jesse Ventura more than a decade ago.

And Linda McMahon has only made sporadic appearances on World Wrestling Entertainment programming and when she does she is usually as the voice of reason.  O.K., she's been on the wrong end of tombstone piledriver but haven't we all?

Now whether entrepreneurial success can translate into political success is a whole other question.  She is pro-choice and that could turn off some conservative voters.  On the other hand, let us remember that Connecticut Republicans voted en masse for Joe Lieberman two years ago despite his pro-choice views.  

Chris Dodd has become an embarrassment and if Linda McMahon emerges as the Republican most likely to pin him 1,2,3 then I'm all for her candidacy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To New York (Or What Happens When Two Jews Gather On A Bus)

I am in New York City for a few days to see my Dad.  It is also my birthday tomorrow.

I have taken my fair share of buses over the years.  But today was the first time I've ever seen anyone davening on a bus.  Yet that is what a young Hasidic Jew was doing shortly after he boarded the bus in Framingham.

Later on he approached me and asked if I was Jewish.  When I replied in the affirmative he asked me to lay tefillin with him.  I hadn't done it in years but he walked me through it.  I'm not sure what was more embarrassing - what I had forgotten or what I had never known. But there's a first time for everything and this was surely one of those times.  And on this occasion despite my ignorance I found both his davening and my participation in laying the tefillin comforting.

He later introduced himself as Mandel, a Yeshiva student, who was traveling to Crown Heights in Brooklyn to celebrate the High Holidays before going to study in Britain. Crown Heights is the home of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, commences Friday at sundown.

Is This The Best Jimmy Carter Can Do?

So why did Joe Wilson yell at President Obama last week?

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," said the 39th President.

Is this the best Jimmy Carter and liberal America can do?

Does criticism of President Obama constitute an act of racism? Doesn't criticism, fair or not, come with the territory?  Did President Obama expect not to be criticized for his policies? Must we bow before the Anointed One and bestow reverence upon him?

As for Carter does he honestly think Wilson wouldn't have made such an outburst if Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat had proposed a set of health care reforms that would have had the effect of covering illegal immigrants?  

It's about time Jimmy Carter and liberal America stop judging critics of President Obama by the color of our skin.  Because every time they do this they make a mockery of the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.

ACORN San Bernadino Child Prostitution Investigation Part I

Obama Rips Kanye West - Off The Record

President Obama ripped Kanye West for his disruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Awards referring to the hip hop artist as a "jackass" in an interview with CNBC.

However, the comment was made off the record and ABC (Terry Moran broke the story on Twitter) is falling all over itself to apologize.

Yet I wonder why President Obama didn't want his comment on the record? Did he simply not want salty language aired out in public? Or is he afraid of offending Jay-Z, Diddy (or whatever he's calling himself this week) and the hip hop constituency? I mean this could have been a Sistah Souljah moment for Obama at a time when a critical mass of the electorate are deeply skeptical about his health care policies. As such methinks it's a case of the latter rather than the former.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention West's appearance on the debut of The Jay Leno Show last night. West along with Jay-Z and Rihanna had been booked on the inaugural show to sing. However, West wanted to speak with Leno about the incident. West "apologized" in a rambling, incoherent manner. I get the impression West isn't really sorry for what he did. He feels badly that he got caught. I'm sure this won't be the last time he pulls a stunt like that. It's just in his nature.

Federer Upset at U.S. Open by del Potro

On Sunday, after Roger Federer hit a shot between his legs en route to defeating Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open Mens Semi-Final, I gave short shrift to his Men's Final opponent Juan Martin del Potro. When CBS Sports mentioned del Potro's name I said, "The guy who stands no chance in hell."

Well, what do I know?

In a five hour, five set match, del Potro snapped Federer U.S. Open Title win streak at five. The six foot six Argentinian defeated Federer 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-7(4), 2-6. It was the first time Federer had lost a Grand Slam final to anyone other than his arch rival Rafael Nadal who also fell before del Potro in the tournament. Another first.

So what a U.S. Open. First, Kim Clijsters wins the tournament as an unranked and unseeded player and now del Potro beats the best two players in mens' tennis. It might rank as the best U.S. Open tournament ever. Tennis fans should rejoice.

Jane Fonda Pulls a Van Jones

You will recall that Jane Fonda was one of a number of celebrities to sign an open letter protesting the selection the spotlighting of Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

However, Fonda has had a change of heart. Well, sort of. "I signed the letter without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn't exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue," said the star of Barbarella.

I'm not buying it. Like Van Jones, who resigned as the Green Jobs Czar when it was revealed he had signed a 9/11 truther petition, I think Fonda knew exactly what she was signing.

What I don't think she expected though was the backlash against the protest. Celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Lenny Kravitz and Patricia Heaton have signed a petition in support of the spotlight on Tel Aviv. The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Saturday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze, 1952-2009. R.I.P.

Actor Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today. He was 57.

Swayze was best known for his roles in films like Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

But Swayze cut his teeth as a dancer. And when I think of Swayze I think of the time he hosted Saturday Night Live and did the Chippendales skit with Chris Farley. I remember when the skit aired live and how loudly my whole family laughed. As funny as Farley was it was genius because Swayze played it straight.

Sadly, both of these gifted men are now gone.

Assaf Ramon, 1988-2009. R.I.P.

Israeli fighter pilot Assaf Ramon died during a military traning exercise yesterday in southern Israel. He was 21.

Now nearly every young Israeli man and woman does compulsory military service. But there were two things about Ramon that were notable. First, his father Ilan Ramon was a legendary fighter pilot who participated in the 1981 raid that took out the Osarik nuclear facility in Saddam's Iraq. The world condemned Israel publicly while thanking it privately. He was later selected to be the first Israeli on the Space Shuttle. Sadly he would not return home as he was one of seven astronauts to be killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion in February 2003.

Second, Ramon was determined to follow in his father's footsteps. It was only this past June that he received his fighter pilot's certification graduating at the top of his class. Today, he was buried beside his father.

How Pete Townshend Would Have Handled Kanye West

One more thought on Kanye West. Yes, I know it's one more thought than he deserves. But it occurred to me that one music legend Kanye might not want to pull that stunt on is Pete Townshend of The Who.

When The Who performed at Woodstock, Abbie Hoffman jumped on stage in the middle of their set to rant about John Sinclair who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of two marijuana sticks. Now Townshend happened to agree with Hoffman but this was neither the time nor the place for such an intervention. Townshend was irked and told Hoffman to "get off my f*#^&n stage" and then hit him with his guitar. There is no video image of Townshend actually hitting Hoffman but I don't think Kanye would want to piss off the man who wrote "Won't Get Fooled Again."

In Praise of Kim Clijsters

Add tennis player Kim Clijsters to the list of great people and things to come out of Belgium. She joins a list that includes the late Jacques Brel, Jean "Toots" Thielemans, french fries and, of course, Belgian waffles.

Last night, Clijsters won the U.S. Open Womens' Singles Championship with a straight set victory over Caroline Wozniacki to become the first unseeded and unranked player to win a Grand Slam tournament, man or woman.

Clijsters retired from tennis in 2007 due to injuries. She subsequently gave birth to her first child last year. The former number one ranked women's tennis player announced this spring that she would return to competitive tennis this summer.

In only her third tournament, Clijsters defeated both Venus and Serena Williams. Serena's temper tantrum (which would have made John McEnroe blush) got her disqualified on match point overshadowed Clijster's brilliant performance.

Clijsters, 26, is the only the second woman to have won a major tennis tournament after giving birth. The other was Australian Evonne Googalong at Wimbledon in 1980.

Prior to last night, the only other major Clijsters had won was the U.S. Open back in 2005. In July, prior to her return at Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Clijsters said, “We’ll evaluate things after the U.S. Open and take it from there.”

Somehow I think Clijsters is going to be playing tennis for awhile. Then again perhaps all Clijsters wanted to prove that she could still play with the best of the best and now that she has done so she'll return to full-time motherhood. Again, she'll take it from here. If nothing else she has given people a reason to talk about someone in womens' tennis other than the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova. Clijster's victory has to rank as one of the greatest triumphs in tennis.

American Liberty Tour is in full swing!

And here are some updates/news bits for those of you watching.

-2,500 Patriots in Salt Lake City

As a follow up, the Deseret Newspaper wrote a pretty good story about the Tour yesterday.

-Start a Brushfire of Freedom

You can read all of the blog updates and catch the latest videos on our website at

Don't forget to use hashtag "brushfire" with your tweets and make sure you RSVP for an upcoming event near you.

For Liberty,

-Eric Odom

Beyonce & Taylor Swift Good; Kanye West Very Bad

I have very little interest in most of the music that comes out in this day and age. Thus I have no reason to watch the MTV Music Video Awards.

So it wasn't until this morning that I heard about how Kanye West upstaged Taylor Swift by taking the microphone away from her while she was accepting an award for her video. Kanye said that Beyonce's video was the best of the decade as Beyonce sat in the audience looking mortified.

Well, Beyonce did win Video of the Year and in a grand act of generosity asked Swift to come out on stage and make her acceptance speech. Again, I'm not really a fan of Beyonce's music but she has always come across to me as a decent person and this gesture certainly reinforces this perception.

As for Kanye West, he apologized. Or did he? Here's an article I wrote four years ago after his infamous remarks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." I had forgotten that West had also alleged the federal government had given the National Guard permission to shoot black people. Ironically, West had been on the cover of Time the previous month and was billed as "Hip-Hop's Class Act." I kid you not. Well, it's not the first time the liberal media got it wrong.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How Jeter Brought Out The Best in President Bush

In between innings of the Mets-Phillies game, I watched the 2004 HBO Documentary Nine Innings From Ground Zero.

The documentary analyzes how the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks helped bring back a sense of normalcy to New York City in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

You will undoubtedly remember Game 3 of the 2001 World Series where President Bush threw out the first pitch which turned out to be a perfect strike. What you might not know (and I didn't know) is that while practicing his throw he met with Derek Jeter. The Yankees shortstop, having heard that he would throw out the first pitch, asked Bush if he would be throwing from the mound or in front of the mound. President Bush said he would be throwing from the front of the mound. Jeter advised Bush against such a move stating that he would be booed. After all this was Yankee Stadium. Bush agreed to heed the advice of "the great Derek Jeter."

As Jeter is leaving he looks over his shoulder and tells President Bush, "Don't bounce it. They'll boo you." Bush confessed to being nervous but the Yankee Stadium crowd chanting "U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!" helped him overcome those jitters to throw a perfect pitch.

How so far removed we are from those days.

But Jeter did give President Bush some good advice though.

Pedro Finds Fountain of Youth in Philly

Pedro Martinez is 5-0 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pedro won 5 games in 20 starts with the Mets in 2008.

Tonight, he shone bright against his old team pitching eight shutout innings, striking seven while surrendering six hits and walking two. In all he threw 130 pitches. It was the first time he threw that many pitches in a game since May 2001 and the first time he pitched 8 innings in a game since May 2006. Joe Morgan was fretting about all those pitches especially after he gave up a two out double to Daniel Murphy. But inexplicably, Murphy attempted to steal third after a ball in the dirt momentarily got away from Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. Murphy was thrown out by a mile. What was that about not making the third out of an inning at third?

I have watched Pedro pitch most of his career especially during his time with the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox. For many years he was the best pitcher in baseball.

I remember when he pitched a perfect game against the San Diego Padres in 1995 for the Expos. A perfect game for Pedro? Well, not quite. Despite retiring all 27 batters he faced the score was 0-0 at the end of 9 innings. Joey Hamilton pitched nine innings of shutout ball giving up only three hits. Hamilton was taken out in the 10th and the Expos scored three runs. Pedro finally gave up a hit to Bip Roberts in the bottom of the 10th and settled for a 3-0 one-hit shutout.

I remember when all seemed hopeless for the Red Sox in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. They were down 8-0 early in the game. But by the third inning the Sox had tied the game. Pedro had been injured in Game 1 with a bad back but their backs were against the wall so Pedro came into the game in relief. It was like the big kid from school had come into the game because the whole tenor of the game changed. He shut down the best offense in baseball - Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez. Pedro pitched six innings of no-hit ball and the Sox came back to win the game and the ALDS, 12-8.

I also remember him throwing a complete game at Fenway Park on my 31st birthday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. My roommate Christopher also remembers because he was with me at that game. Pedro was pitching a shutout into the 8th inning but a pinch hit single from Al Martin broke up the shutout and the tying run was coming to the plate. Red Sox manager Grady Little appeared to be taking him out but he opted to leave him in the game. Pedro then struck out Carl Crawford and got Rocco Baldelli (who is now with the Red Sox) to fly out to right to end the inning. Pedro gave up another run in the 9th but ended up winning the game 3-2.

Exactly one month later, Pedro found himself in a similar 8th inning jam and Grady Little decided to stick with him. Only this wasn't the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It was the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. This time the move didn't payoff. A 5-2 victory and a berth in the World Series instead became an extra inning loss via a homerun by Aaron Boone and the end of both the season and Little's tenure as Red Sox skipper.

Of course, Pedro got his World Series ring the following year. He signed with the Mets shortly thereafter and I didn't see as much of him. After winning 15 games with the Mets in 2005, injuries caught up with Pedro. He won only 17 games between 2006 and 2008 and thus found himself out of baseball. Pitching with the Dominican Republic in the WBC didn't help matters after they were unceremoniously eliminated by the Netherlands in the first round.

The Phillies took a chance and Pedro has exceeded their wildest expectations. I certainly didn't expect to see him throw eight innings of shutout ball in September. Not bad for a 37 year old. (N.B. I will turn 37 on Wednesday.) Watching him pitch tonight was a reminder of all those great games I saw him pitch on TV and at Fenway. Phillie fans hope he can continue his renaissance down the stretch and into back to back World Series titles. It could happen.

Ichiro: Another Season, Another 200 Hits

Ichiro Suzuki is in a class by himself.

Tonight, the Seattle Mariners outfielder collected his 200th hit of the season in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers. He did so in the top of the second inning on an infield hit off Rangers starter Derek Holland. It was the ninth consecutive season he has reached the 200 hit plateau. Such a feat is unprecedented in MLB. Wee Willie Keeler had eight consecutive seasons of 200 or more hits between 1894 and 1901.

A week ago, Ichiro collected his 2,000th major league hit against the Oakland Athletics.

If he stays healthy he could have 3,000 hits by 2013 or 2014.

Ichiro should write a book titled Zen & The Art of Hitting. It wouldn't matter if it were written in English or Japanese because he can hit in both languages.

Thoughts on Obama's Latest Appearance on 60 Minutes

Tonight, 60 Minutes aired what seemed like its 190,653rd interview with President Obama.

He's on so often they should make him a special correspondent.

President Obama both came across as both evasive and defensive. He did not answer Kroft when he asked him if there were enough votes in Congress to get a health care bill passed. He was also very testy when Kroft reminded him he had effectively nationalized the banking and automobile industries. I also thought he was disingenuous in saying he had tried to work with Republicans with regard to health care reform.

But perhaps the segment of the interview I found most annoying was on the matter of civility in Washington in the context of Rep. Joe Wilson's interjection during his speech before Congress a few days ago:

KROFT: Do you think that Congressman Wilson should be rebuked? There was talk about that today, and now he's claiming that he is a victim. That he's being attacked.

OBAMA: (LAUGHS) But see, this is part of what happens. I mean, it becomes a big circus instead of us focusing on health care.

KROFT: I think Bob Schieffer's point was that, I think he thought that…in some ways, this debate has brought out the worst in us.

OBAMA: Well…

KROFT: Not the best.

OBAMA: …well, I think you've got a convergence of things. Look, worst recession since the Great Depression. People feeling anxious. I think we're debating something that has always been a source of controversy, and that's not just health care, but also the structure, and the size, and the role of government. That's something that basically defines the left and the right in this country. And so, extremes on both sides get very agitated about that issue.

I will also say that in the era of 24-hour cable news cycles that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention. And so, one of the things I'm trying to figure out is, how can we make sure that civility is interesting. And, you know, hopefully, I will be a good model for the fact that, you know, you don't have to yell and holler to make your point, and to be passionate about your position.

KROFT: So, your goal to bring civility back to Washington is still a work in progress?

OBAMA: It's still a work in progress. No doubt about it.

Please be serious. There were a hundred Joe Wilsons during some of President Bush's later State of the Union addresses. I don't recall anyone in the liberal media bemoaning the loss of civility in Washington.

But more to the point President Obama is hardly in any position to lecture anyone on civility. Particularly when he accuses those who criticize his health care policies as liars, as tellers of tall tales and of bearing false witness. Let us also not forget his threat to call out those who he deems to be liars, tellers of tall tales and bearers of false witness for daring to speak out against him and his health care policies. President Obama's voice might be neither loud nor shrill but it is every bit as uncivil.

Are you a Creepy Republican Guy?

Too funny not to share

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If you are a male and active in Republican politics, answer the following questions to determine whether or not you creep women out. If you answer yes to at least 2 of the following questions, you need to examine your behavior. It may not be fair, but we are living in a politically correct era and the definitions of stalking and harassment have been expanded. There is a certain level of behavior in Republican circles that goes beyond simple friendship into creepiness, and you need to be aware of what it is or risk being the talk of Republican women around the water cooler.


Are you as good looking as George Clooney, and do almost all women you meet want to go out with you? If you answered yes, stop right there, you don't need this test, you are not a CREEPY REPUBLICAN GUY.


1) Do you find yourself calling or texting attractive women frequently and finding they don't respond half the time?

2) Do you give attractive women big, lingering hugs, and maybe even a kiss on the cheek every time you see them or say good-bye? Just because YOU traditionally like to do this, doesn't make it right, the odds are half the women can't stand it.

3) Do you give attractive women compliments frequently?

4) Do you go up to female after female at social events when drinking (making it obvious to the other women there that you are trying to score)?

5) When an attractive female turns you down when you ask her to hang out, do you jump right in and suggest an alternative, badgering her into saying yes so she'll hang out with you?

6) Are you always trying to catch attractive women's eyes, looking at them every time they look up at a meeting? That is completely obnoxious by the way.

7) Are you married? If so, that's even worse.

If you answered YES to 2 or more of these, you need to adjust your behavior. If women decline to hang out with you, and give you a fishy excuse, it is most likely because they find you a CREEPY REPUBLICAN GUY. You do not then suggest something else to do with them! That is amplifying the creepy behavior. Do not call them and text them constantly. That doesn't make them like you any more, it has the reverse effect and makes them dislike you more. Guys, it comes down to this: if a woman does not find you appealing, she doesn't like to hear your overdosage of compliments, phone calls, invites, etc. Keep it professional - or risk getting a reputation as a CREEPY REPUBLICAN GUY.