Monday, November 30, 2009

Huckabee Talks to O'Reilly About Clemmons

With regard to Mike Huckabee's role in granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, the man who is alleged to have murdered four police officers in Lakewood, Washington I wrote this earlier today:

Huckabee is in the unusual position of having his own television show. I think he should that pulpit to make a fuller statement regarding his reasons for granting clemency to Clemmons. Assuming his next show has already been taped then he should go on one of the other FNC shows be it Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity or Greta and face the music. If he acknowledges that he played a part in the "series of failures" then that will go a long way.

Well, tonight Huckabee went on The O'Reilly Factor to explain himself. O'Reilly seemed more concerned about two judges in Washington state who had been lenient with Clemmons than with Huckabee's clemency decision a decade ago. He might have let his FNC colleague off a bit easy. While there might be plenty of blame to go around I'm not sure that will necessarily assuage people about Huckabee and his role in this mess. I mean if The New York Times is running articles on Huckabee's leniency then he's in real trouble.

As of this writing, Clemmons is still on the run. If Clemmons kills again before he is apprehended dead or alive then Huckabee's appearance with O'Reilly won't mean a damn thing. The fact that he has alluded police capture nearly 48 hours after killing the four police officers means the authorities are dealing with both a dangerous and clever felon - a lethal combination. The longer Clemmons is on the run the worse it will be for Huckabee. Of course, it will be much worse for the four families in Lakewood.

Iran Isolated?

Susan Rice, our Ambassador to the UN, declared that Iran's plan to build ten additional nuclear facilities "inappropriate." Yeah, I'm sure the Mullahs are quivering in their boots.

She also said their announcement would have the effect of "further isolating Iran from the international community."

In other news, Iran and Russia have formed a joint investment company "in a bid to facilitate the cooperation in the field of energy."

Gee, isn't that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being greeted by Brazilian President Lula last week?

I'm sorry Ambassador Rice but what was that you were saying about Iran being isolated from the international community?

A Word to the Weis

Charlie Weis has been fired as the head coach of Notre Dame's football program.

In five seasons, the Fighting Irish went 35-27 during Weis' tenure. Although they did reach the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl during Weis' first two seasons the only Bowl game they won the Hawai'i Bowl last year.

Notre Dame hasn't won a national championship since going 12-0 under Lou Holtz in 1988. But there were big expectations of Weis. Not only was Weis a Notre Dame alumni he was also the Offensive Co-ordinator of the New England Patriots and was wearing three Super Bowl rings.

But the NFL isn't the college game and vice versa. It is very rare that a football head coach is successful in both. Notre Dame is probably better off hiring someone without an NFL background. They might be better suited to hiring someone who has coached high school players. Because whoever they hire cannot fill the shoes of a Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine or Holtz. He can only fill his own shoes. He'll have to carve out his own legacy.

But Notre Dame's new head coach will have to win at least one for the Gipper.

Swiss Aren't Neutral on Muslim Call to Prayer

Yesterday, the people of Switzerland voted to amend their constitution to ban the construction of minarets. 57.5% of the Swiss electorate voted in favor of the amendment.

Minarets are towers found on mosques from which the call to prayer is announced.

How long will it be before the Swiss flag is burned on the streets of Cairo?

I have mixed feelings about this vote.

On one hand, I am tired of the terror committed in the name of Islam. These acts of terror are often encouraged during prayer by Imams. I am tired of the Muslim community making excuses for terror. I am also concerned that Muslims want to supplant Western law with Sharia law. On these grounds, I identify with the frustrations of the Swiss.

On the other hand, I am not sure what this measure accomplishes. Will Muslims leave Switzerland? Not likely. Moreover, what would prevent other jurisdictions from issuing bans or passing ordinances against the ringing of church bells? Or for that matter the construction of synagogues?

There's every indication the European Court of Human Rights will overturn the measure

There are better ways to address the Islamization of the West. I think it is better to speak out against Muslim attitudes towards the West than it is to ban their architecture.

A Liberal Who Isn't Underestimating Palin. Or Is He?

The biggest mistake liberals can make with regard to Sarah Palin is to underestimate her.

Neal Gabler, a former film critic on PBS' Sneak Previews and a former panelist on FNC's Fox News Watch, warns his fellow liberals not to take the former Alaska Governor so lightly:

It's week three of Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" book tour, and while she has been met with rapture from her fans, she has received a wave of hostility from the mainstream media. David Letterman devoted four minutes of his monologue on publication day to mocking her. New York Times columnist David Brooks called her a joke, and Newsweek referenced "The Sound of Music," asking on its cover "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah?" Even domestic diva Martha Stewart weighed in, calling her "boring" and "dangerous." Palin is a media punching bag.

Which is exactly the way she likes it. It's not that Palin is a masochist. It's that she realizes how powerful a weapon contemptuousness toward her can be in the political war she will likely be waging in 2012. As commentators revile her, Palin realizes they are also empowering her. Indeed, she is engaged in one of the greatest feats of rope-a-dope in political history. Laugh at her, but you laugh at your peril. She can ride that laughter right into the White House.

Gabler then goes on to liken Palin's political path to that of Richard Nixon. It's an analogy I used over the weekend in Connecticut. Remember when Nixon was beat by Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial race in 1962? You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

But unlike Nixon, Palin is going to be kicked around whether or not she runs for office. Even Gabler cannot be perceived by his liberal brethren to be fully complimentary towards Palin. Gabler writes, "Palin is playing that same card on the gamble that anti-elitism will trump her own inexperience, incompetence and lack of knowledge." He also claims she aspires to be the "worst and the dumbest" instead "of the best and the brightest." In telling liberals they should not underestimate Palin, Gabler proceeds to underestimate Palin.

Liberals just can't help themselves when it comes to Palin and that will be their undoing.

Huckabee Has Some Explaining To Do

Let's be crystal clear. Mike Huckabee isn't responsible for the murder of four police officers in Washington state.

That responsibility lay with Maurice Clemmons.

However, the former Arkansas Governor has some explaining to do. Clemmons had been serving a 95-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery and other felonies when Huckabee commuted his sentence in 2000 because he had committed these crimes before he was 18.

Huckabee did issue a statement about the shootings this morning. He characterized the murder of the four police officers as "the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State." Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO observes that Huckabee's statement "is a bit passive." I agree. The statement minimizes his involvement in those "series of failures" which have led to what happened yesterday. If not for his decision, Clemmons would very likely still be in an Arkansas jail. Huckabee's intentions might have been good but we all know where good intentions can sometimes lead.

Huckabee is in the unusual position of having his own television show. I think he should that pulpit to make a fuller statement regarding his reasons for granting clemency to Clemmons. Assuming his next show has already been taped then he should go on one of the other FNC shows be it Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity or Greta and face the music. If he acknowledges that he played a part in the "series of failures" then that will go a long way. But if he doesn't not only is his political career over but FNC viewers may sour on his show as well.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lobo Elected New Honduran President

Porfirio Lobo has been elected Honduras new President. Lobo, of Honduras conservative National Party, won 52% of the vote. Lobo also contested the 2005 election which he lost to Manuel Zelaya who was ousted after a vote by the Honduran Congress last June. Zelaya attempted to extend his term even though Honduras' constitution strictly forbids it.

The vote went off as scheduled and was conducted peacefully. Yet Honduras is not out of the woods.

The Honduran Congress is scheduled to vote on Tuesday whether to permit Zelaya to complete his term. Last month, Honduran Interim President Roberto Micheletti and Zelaya had come to an agreement to allow a vote to determine whether Zelaya can serve out his term.

If the vote doesn't go Zelaya's way I cannot help but think his people will stir up violence. But if the vote does go Zelaya's way and he is permitted to return to office I also cannot help but think that he will not relinquish power when Lobo is scheduled to take office on January 27, 2010. This would also likely lead to violence.

Complicating matters is Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, an ally of Zelaya, who says he will not recognize the new Lobo government. Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez and Brazilian President Lula de Silva have also stated they will not recognize the newly elected government. Assuming violence breaks out under the scenarioes I have set out one must also consider if Venezuela and other Latin American goverments might be prepared to send troops into Honduras resulting in a regional war.

Of course, much will depend on how the Obama Administration handles things. So far it appears they will abide by the results even if Zelaya is not returned to power according to a letter Obama wrote to Lula last week. Assuming Obama sticks to his position then things should go better in Honduras. But if Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina decide to test Obama and challenge Lobo's legitimacy with force it remains to be seen if Obama will hold firm. If he doesn't hold firm then heaven help liberty and freedom in Latin America.

Alouettes Stun Roughriders in Grey Cup

This might be the most talked about Grey Cup in years.

This also might be the day the music died in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders were leading 17-3 at the half and had a 27-11 4th quarter lead with 10:32 left in the game.

But the Alouettes scored two touchdowns to reduce the Roughriders lead to 27-25.

The Roughriders appeared to have survived the comeback when Alouettes place kicker Damon Duval missed a 43 yard field goal attempt.

But the Roughriders too many men on the field, were penalized ten yards and Duval connected on his second attempt to give the Alouettes a 28-27 win.

I think the reaction of Roughriders cornerback James Patrick speaks for the entire Rider Nation.

Given that Saskatchewan has no NHL franchise, football is king. It is the one thing that unites the province. They are by far the most passionate fans in the CFL. Although the game was held in Calgary, the fans in attendance were overwhelmingly rooting for the Riders. It was literally a sea of green. To lose like this is too much to bear. A Roughriders victory would have given Saskatchewan its second Grey Cup in three years. But they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

As for the Alouettes while this was their fourth appearance in the Grey Cup in the past five years it was the first time they've actually won it since 2002 when they defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 25-16. In fact, the Alouettes have only won two of their seven Grey Cup appearances this decade. But two is better than none.

Alouettes running back Avon Cobourne was named the game's MVP. Cobourne rushed for 85 yards including a rushing touchdown during the Alouettes 4th quarter rally.

A Question President Obama Should Ask of Muslims

I am not a fan of Thomas Friedman. But he does pose an interesting challenge to President Obama in his column in yesterday's New York Times:

What to do? Many Arab Muslims know that what ails their societies is more than the West, and that The Narrative is just an escape from looking honestly at themselves. But none of their leaders dare or care to open that discussion. In his Cairo speech last June, President Obama effectively built a connection with the Muslim mainstream. Maybe he could spark the debate by asking that same audience this question:

“Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that. But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t. You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques. If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.”

However, I do not share Friedman's confidence that President Obama is interested in sparking debate in the Muslim world much less asking questions of it. He is more interested addressing their various "grievances" most notably Israel's settlements.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Judging Sarah Palin's Book By Its Cover

Today, my roomie and I spent the day in Hartford, Connecticut at his the home of his parents where we had a post-Thanksgiving lunch.

In addition to my roomie's parents also present was one of his cousins (who once worked for Howard Dean when he was still Governor of Vermont) and some friends of the family.

I was the only conservative seated at the table. Hey, when I'm at the Cantab it's usually 50 against one.

Now I am perfectly happy not to discuss politics. Anyone familiar with my writing will know I have interests outside of politics. However, if someone should make a statement I think is daft I'm not going to let it go unchallenged. I knew that sooner or later someone was going to bring up Sarah Palin into the conversation.

Sure enough the Palin bashing could be put off no longer. I momentarily retreated from the room only to return with a copy of Going Rogue which I had just completed on the bus en route to Hartford. I didn't need to say a word. The book itself was provocation enough. My roomie's father (who works for a TV station in Hartford) asked me if I actually bought the book while his mother insisted that Palin didn't write a word of it. Those gathered at the table began shooting out questions they didn't want answered. They asked why Palin should be considered for higher office but didn't want to hear her accomplishments in Alaska.

I challenged them to read the book but none of them would. What are they so afraid of? Hey, I read Obama's The Audacity of Hope. But so much for the liberal capacity for openmindedness. They accused Palin of racism and homophobia and I challenged them to cite me examples. Naturally, they couldn't come up with any examples of her own behavior other than to say that she appealed to white people and that her rhetoric was "divisive." Whatever that means?

The best anyone could come up with was the alleged behavior of some people at Palin's rallies. I countered that the Secret Service had debunked that anyone had threatened to kill Obama at the Palin rally in Pennsylvania last October. The fellow who formerly worked for Dean contended that people at the townhalls had compared Obama to Hitler. I reminded him that Bush had been compared to Hitler for eight years. He wisely ceded my point.

My roomie's father said I enjoyed stirring the pot. Well, yes. But it doesn't take much to do that where it concerns Palin. Again, I would have been perfectly content had nothing been said about Sarah Palin pro or con. But if one insists on making daft assertions then one ought to be prepared to be challenged. Having the book with me really threw them off. It's a shame though. But it's what happens when you judge a book by its cover and aren't open minded enough to take a look inside.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

El Baradei: Nuclear Inspection of Iran at a "Dead End"

When Mohammed ElBaradei gives up all hope on reasoning with Iran you would think that might give pause to President Obama. You would think Obama might listen to a fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

But somehow I doubt this will move Obama away from his policy of engagement with Iran.

I don't think anything will dissuade him from the foolishness of his ways.

Three Navy SEALs Face Court Martial For Capturing Terrorist Leader

This is just outrageous.

Three Navy SEALs who captured terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed in Iraq last September for allegedly abusing him. Abed claims he has the fat lip to prove it.

Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas are being court martialed. All three are being charged with dereliction of duty and making false statements. McCabe is the officer specifically being charged with assaulting Abed and Huertas is also being charged with impeding an investigation. They are scheduled to be arraigned in a military court on December 7th. How fitting considering how they've been Pearl Harbored.

Abed is believed to the mastermind behind the murder and mutilation of four American contractors in Fallujah in March 2004. Somehow I think being dragged through the streets and then being hung off a bridge overlooking the Euphrates constitutes a greater indignity than a fat lip.

We should be throwing these men a ticker tape parade on the streets of New York. But we're giving one to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed instead. What a nice way to give thanks to our soldiers serving in a war zone.

As Stephen Brown of FrontPage Mag writes, "It makes one wonder how the West is ever going to win the war against radical Islam."

Mumbai One Year Later

A year ago today 164 civilians were killed and 308 people were injured in a terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. These attacks were carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organization based in Pakistan which has common cause with al Qaeda.

There were nearly a dozen attacks carried out simultaneously. Most of the casualties occurred at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Trident Hotel and at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railroad Station.

But it also must never be forgotten that Lashkar-e-Taiba also targetted some not so public places including Nariman House, an outreach center organized by the Chabad Lubavitch movement. The terrorists murdered Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka Holtzberg were murdered along with four others. "The Prophet said: the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!"

Sandra Samuel, the Holtzberg's nanny, found two-year old Moshe Holtzberg crying over the body of his mother and fled to safety. Samuel and young Moshe now reside in Israel with his maternal grandparents. While we must never forget the evil of terrorism we must also never forget the goodness that rises in the face of evil.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Israel to Halt Settlement Construction for 10 Months

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced there will be a 10 month halt to the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

If I've said it once I'll say it a thousand times. It's not about the settlements.

The settlements are a red herring. Dismantling them in Gaza invited increased rocket attacks and the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit which resulted in a month long war scarcely a year after the settlements had been abandoned.

Yet President Obama has been pressuring Israel on the settlements and the Palestinian Authority has been emboldened to demand a halt of the settlements as a precondition for returning to the negotiating table. It was scarcely a week ago that President Obama characterized the settlements as "dangerous" in an interview with the Fox News Channel.

Will this get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table? Probably not. The Palestinians want nothing short of a complete freeze on settlement construction. Israel is giving an inch and the Palestinians want to take the mile. It is my fear that President Obama will walk the mile in the the Palestinians' shoes and demand Israel freeze all settlements. While it is worth noting that both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell praised Netanyahu's decision one cannot rule out the possibility of President Obama singing a different tune if the Palestinians dig in their heels.

The only thing Netanyahu gains by this that he appears reasonable and amenable to compromise. But that can only work if the Palestinians and President Obama are willing to do the same. Being reasonable and amenable to compromise are not strong suits of either the Palestinian Authority or the White House.

British Defence Secretary Blasts Obama Over Afghanistan

Bob Ainsworth, Britain's Secretary of State for Defence, criticized President Obama concerning his deliberations over sending additional troops to Afghanistan yesterday while testifying before the House of Commons Defence Committee. Ainsworth characterized President Obama's deliberations as "a period of hiatus":

We have suffered a lot of losses. We have had a period of hiatus while McChrystal's plan and his requested uplift has been looked at in the detail to which it has been looked at over a period of some months, and we have had the Afghan elections, which have been far from perfect let us say. All of those things have mitigated against our ability to show progress... put that on the other side of the scales when we are suffering the kind of losses that we are.’

American-Anglo relations are at their lowest point since The War of 1812. The days of Bush and Blair are long, long gone. Prime Minister Gordon Brown couldn't get a nannosecond of President Obama's time during the opening of the UN General Assembly or at the G-20 in Pittsburgh last September. The White House refused at least five requests from 10 Downing Street to set up a bilateral meeting.

Now, the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi by the Scots last August didn't help Brown's cause. But you knew things were going to be bad between Washington and London the moment Obama returned the bust of Churchill which Blair had lent to Bush after September 11, 2001. To add insult to injury when Brown gave Obama a penholder carved out from the HMS Gannet, an anti-slavery ship; Obama saw fit to give Brown 25 movie DVDs which didn't work because they weren't Region 2 compatible.

It could be that Obama views Brown as a lame duck. If that is the case it will be curious how Obama behaves around Conservative Party leader David Cameron should he be elected Prime Minister. Yet despite all the mistreatment Brown has received at the hands of Obama it appears 10 Downing Street is distancing itself from Ainsworth's remarks. It is worth noting that Ainsworth was only appointed to the Defence post last summer and Brown is said to be considering replacing him with Jack Straw, the current Secretary of State for Justice and former Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary during the Blair government.

If Brown does sack Ainsworth it will be an indication that favor with the Obama Administration is a higher priority than the success of the mission in Afghanistan.

Samak Sundaravej, 1935-2009. R.I.P.

Former Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has died of liver cancer. He was 74.

Samak was a mainstay in Thai politics for more than four decades and was a dedicated anti-Communist. Yet he might be the only leader of a country who was ousted from office for hosting a television cooking show. In September 2008, Thailand's Constitutional Court removed Samak from his post for holding private employment (his cooking show.) It appeared the Thai Parliament would re-appoint him as Prime Minister but pressure began to mount and Samak stepped aside. Whether one thinks Samak got a raw deal he was succeeded by Somchai Wongsawat. Less than three months later, the Constitutional Court would remove Somchai from the Premiership and has banned from public life for the next five years. Abhisit Vejjaviva is Thailand's current Prime Minister and has been in office just over 11 months - longer than Samak and Songchai combined.

Thai politics, like its food, is never dull.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pujols Wins Third NL MVP

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has unaminously been chosen as the NL MVP.

It is the second year in a row he has been so honored. In all, Pujols has won the NL MVP thrice. He first won it in 2005.

In 2009, Pujols hit .327 with 47 home runs and 135 RBI. Those 47 dingers were good enough to lead the NL. Pujols also led the NL in runs scored (124), on base percentage (.443) and slugging percentage (.658).

Albert Pujols has played nine big league seasons. His career lows in batting average, home runs and RBI are .314, 32, 103. For most players that is a career year. He enters the 2010 season with a .334 lifetime batting average (which leads all active players), 366 home runs, and 1,112 RBI, 1,717 career base hits and 1,071 runs scored. Pujols has an outside chance to eclipse Barry Bonds in home runs, Hank Aaron in RBI, Pete Rose in base hits and Rickey Henderson in runs scored. If he eclipses anyone of those records it might be argued that Pujols is the best player to have ever donned a major league uniform. Not bad for a guy who wasn't selected by the Cardinals until the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft.

The only caveat is his elbow. Pujols had surgery last month to remove bone chips in his right elbow. He should be ready for spring training. But the right elbow could be to Pujols what the right hamstring was to Ken Griffey, Jr.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Mauer Wins AL MVP

Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer won the 2009 AL MVP in a near unanimous vote. Mauer received 27 of 28 first place votes finishing well ahead of Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Cabrera received the only other first place vote.

Mauer won his third batting title in four seasons hitting .365. He is the only catcher in MLB history to win three batting titles. Mauer is also the first catcher to win the AL MVP since Ivan Rodriguez did it with the Texas Rangers in 1999. In addition to winning his third batting title, he also led the league on on base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587) becoming the first player to lead in all three categories since Hall of Famer George Brett pulled it off during his AL MVP season of 1980. Mauer had career highs in home runs (28) and in RBI (96.) His numbers would have been even better had he not missed the first month of the season with back problems.

What I think clinched the MVP for Mauer was how the Twins played in the last three weeks of the regular season. His teammate Justin Morneau (who won the AL MVP in 2006) went on the DL on September 12th with a stress fracture in his back. The Twins were 70-72 and without Morneau many thought the Twins season was finished. Instead, the Twins won 17 of their final 21 regular season games including a one game playoff against the Detroit Tigers to clinch the AL Central Division. Mauer hit .378 over this period.

Mauer has one year left on his contract with the Twins. He will be a highly sought after free agent after the 2010 season. Look for the New York Yankees to pursue him vigorously. Jorge Posada turns 40 during the 2011 season. Conversely, Mauer is a nearly a dozen years younger and not even in his prime. To utilize an overused phrase, "You do the math."

On the other hand, Mauer was born and raised in St. Paul. The Twins move into Target Field next April and it would be difficult to justify a new stadium without a franchise player like Mauer on their roster. The Twins don't have a big budget but they will move heaven and earth to re-sign Mauer. I see the Twins offering Mauer a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $200 million and will offer him a minority ownership in the franchise upon the conclusion of his playing career. Of course, if the Twins made such an offer and Mauer accepted it would hamper the Twins from making other moves. But I think it's a risk the Twins are willing to take.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is 60 Minutes Advocating Death Panels?

Tonight, 60 Minutes led off with a segment titled, "The Cost of Dying."

According to the report, Medicare paid $50 billion in 2008 to cover doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients' lives. It is estimated that 20 to 30% of these expenditures had no meaningful impact.

I think we can see where this is going.

60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft spoke with Dr. Ira Byock, the Director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire:

"Families cannot imagine there could be anything worse than their loved one dying. But in fact, there are things worse. Most generally, it's having someone you love die badly," Byock said.

Asked what he means by "die badly," Byock told Kroft, "Dying suffering. Dying connected to machines. I mean, denial of death at some point becomes a delusion, and we start acting in ways that make no sense whatsoever. And I think that's collectively what we're doing."

And wouldn't you know it but Dr. Byock has a website called Dying Well. Not surprisingly, 60 Minutes did not see fit to mention this detail.

Later in the segment, Dr. Byock was speaking with a patient named Charlie Haggart who wanted a double kidney/liver transplant. Byock didn't think Haggart was a candidate and besides it would cost $450,000:

At a meeting with Haggart's family and his doctors, Dr. Byock raised the awkward question of what should be done if he got worse and his heart or lungs were to give out.

He said that all of the available data showed that CPR very rarely works on someone in Haggart's condition, and that it could lead to a drawn out death in the ICU.

"Either way you decide, we will honor your choice, and that's the truth," Byock reassured Haggart. "Should we do CPR if your heart were to suddenly stop?"

"Yes," he replied.

"You'd be okay with being in the ICU again?" Byock asked.

"Yes," Haggart said.

"I know it's an awkward conversation," Byock said.

"It beats second place," Haggart joked, laughing.

"You don't think it makes any sense?" Kroft asked the doctor.

"It wouldn't be my choice. It's not what I advise people. At the present time, it's their right to request it. And Medicare pays for it," Byock said.

When it comes to expensive, hi-tech treatments with some potential to extend life, there are few limitations.

By law, Medicare cannot reject any treatment based upon cost. It will pay $55,000 for patients with advanced breast cancer to receive the chemotherapy drug Avastin, even though it extends life only an average of a month and a half; it will pay $40,000 for a 93-year-old man with terminal cancer to get a surgically implanted defibrillator if he happens to have heart problems too.

"I think you cannot make these decisions on a case-by-case basis," Byock said. "It would be much easier for us to say 'We simply do not put defibrillators into people in this condition.' Meaning your age, your functional status, the ability to make full benefit of the defibrillator. Now that's going to outrage a lot of people."

"But you think that should happen?" Kroft asked.

"I think at some point it has to happen," Byock said.

"Well, this is a version then of pulling Grandma off the machine?" Kroft asked.

"You know, I have to say, I think that's offensive. I spend my life in the service of affirming life. I really do. To say we're gonna pull Grandma off the machine by not offering her liver transplant or her fourth cardiac bypass surgery or something is really just scurrilous. And it's certainly scurrilous when we have 46 million Americans who are uninsured," Byock said.

Perhaps extending Haggart's life wouldn't be his choice. But it's not his choice to make. At the present time, it's their right to request it. But if Dr. Byock has his way it won't be your right. Why? Because the good doctor and the government think they know what is best for you.

Dr. Byock might find the phrase "pulling Grandma off the machine" offensive but I find his arrogance offensive. It's the sort of arrogance that does not inspire confidence and trust in the medical profession. I fear that our most vulnerable will bear the brunt of this arrogance.

Dr. Byock might also find "pulling Grandma off the machine" scurrilous but so is his claim that 46 million Americans are uninsured. His claims are scurrilous because the number of uninsured is actually closer to 30 million when you take illegal immigrants out of the equation. They are also scurrilous because he assume that none of those 30 million find themselves in Mr. Haggart's condition. It suggests that if not for the Mr. Haggarts of the world then the uninsured would be insured.

Well, Mr. Haggart died this week when his condition deteriorated significantly his family saw fit not to resuscitate him. It's one thing for his family to make that determination. It's quite another that it be mandated by doctors through government decree.

It looks like Sarah Palin's fears are well founded and that we are well on our way to death panels. Steve Kroft and Dr. Byock might not call it a death panel. But if it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck and swims like a duck then it's a duck. If Dr. Byock wants to accuse me of being scurrilous then let him quack.

Please Read David Beamer's WSJ Op-Ed

One of the sharpest critiques of the Obama Administration's move to grant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others a civilian comes from David Beamer. He wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Friday lambasting this ill-conceived decision.

If the name sounds familiar it is because he is the father of Todd Beamer who was killed aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 along with 40 passengers and crew (excluding the terrorists.) It was Beamer who cried out, "Let's roll," as he and the other passengers tried to take back the plane from the hijackers.

The elder Beamer's concluding paragraph is particularly heartbreaking:

A final observation: During the proceedings a young lady, dutifully attentive, sat with a stack of paper about 15 inches high on her lap. The papers contained names, single spaced, of some 100,000 people who signed a letter in opposition to this decision. This young woman, Jill Regan, lost her dad, Donald J. Regan, FDNY of the Bronx, who died trying to save others on 9/11. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Al.) asked that those names be entered into the record at the end of the session. It was agreed, but by that time the chairmen and most of the Democrats were already gone. I grieved for her—and for all of us—anew.

Heaven help us all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thoughts on Pirate Radio

On Friday night, my roomie Christopher and I saw Pirate Radio starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kenneth Branagh in Harvard Square.

It is loosely based on the efforts of Britain's Labour Government under Harold Wilson to quell offshore pirate radio in the mid-1960s. The BBC had a monopoly on the public airwaves and played very little rock n' roll despite the fact rock n' roll was one of Britain's greatest exports.

Suffice it to say the music alone was worth the price of admission. Many of the songs featured in the movie I have in my music collection such as "Friday On My Mind" by The Easybeats, "This Guy's In Love With You" by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass and "Nights In White Satin" by the Moody Blues to name but several.

With rock n' roll comes sex and drugs. Yet I loved the film's libertarian spirit. Particularly in this exchange when Hoffman's character, The Count, attempts to use the f-word on the air. The station owner Quentin (played with great wit and charm by Bill Nighy) tells him to do otherwise. As Quentin puts it succinctly, "Governments loathe people being free."

Branagh plays the government minister given the task of shutting down pirate radio and the ruthless efficiency of his performance evokes John Cleese at his sardonic best. With smug arrogance that makes Obama look modest by comparison, the Minister proclaims, "That's the whole point of being the government. If you don't like something, you simply make it illegal."

The movie was originally released in the United Kingdom last April as The Boat That Rocked. I was shocked to learn it received negative reviews and did poorly at the box office. However, director Richard Curtis (who wrote the screenplay for Four Weddings and a Funeral) cut 20 minutes from the film before its release on this side of the Atlantic. Whatever Curtis did it worked because the audience, myself and Christopher included, loved the film from beginning to end.

I can see Pirate Radio enduring in a manner similar to The Blues Brothers. Both movies introduced a new generation of fans to music from previous generations. The characters in both movies were on a mission from G-d and were trying to elude the heavy hand of government. Of course, both movies are very, very funny. What's not to like?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Will Jason Bay Sign With The Yankees?

Outfielder Jason Bay has declined the Boston Red Sox offer of a new contract and is now testing the free agent market. Bay wants a five year deal worth $75 million although he is open to a four year deal worth $60 million. The Red Sox apparently weren't willing to offer Bay any contract beyond three years.

Naturally Bay will have a lot of suitors. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets are all said to be interested in obtaining Bay's services.

I, for one, wouldn't count the New York Yankees out of the mix.

Both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are free agents. Despite winning the World Series MVP, it is unlikely Matsui will be back in 2010. He is strictly a DH and if the Yankees have a choice between the two they'll keep Damon who can still play the outfield. But even if the Yankees keep Damon one must keep in mind that he just turned 36 earlier this month. Bay is five years younger and is at the peak of his career.

Now the same could be said of fellow free agent outfielder Matt Holliday who turns 30 in January. But the Yankees just to love to stick it to the Red Sox. Wouldn't signing Bay away from the Red Sox (as they did with Damon) be the act of an evil empire? Besides I'm sure the Yankees would rather deal Bay's agent Joe Urbon than have to deal with Scott Boras even if they did sign Mark Teixeira a year ago.

This isn't to say that Bay has played his last game in a Red Sox uniform. Urbon is keeping the lines of communication open with the Red Sox. If Bay does agree to patrol the Green Monster he'll probably sign for four years, $60 million with a club/player option for the 2014 season.

But if the Sox lose Bay (to the Yankees or anyone else) and can't work out a deal with Boras to sign Holliday then ex-Marlin Jeremy Hermida will most likely be tapped to play left field next year. Hermida would then be in the awkward position of not only filling the shoes of Bay but standing in the large shadows cast by Manny Ramirez, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams. If Hermida isn't up to the task then it could be a very long year at Fenway Park in 2010.

Fewer Cervical Cancer Screenings Recommended

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recommended that women wait until they are 21 to undergo a pap test to be screened for cervical cancer. It is also recommended that women in their 20s have these tests biannually rather than annually and that women over 30 be screened every three years. The findings were published in the forthcoming issue of their trade magazine Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Now let me be clear that unlike the recent recommendations regarding mammograms this is not coming from the federal government. ACOG is a professional medical association. Obviously I have no training to comment on the medical merits of these new standards. Yet I cannot help but wonder if the Obama Administration's plan to reform health care played a role in changing these guidelines. Just as women are being asked to wait to be tested for breast cancer they are also now being asked to wait to be tested for cervical cancer. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.

The subheadline on ABC News reads, "Doctors Say Young Women Can Wait for First Pap, and Get Them Less Often." So much for preventative medicine.

Is Obama Anti-Woman?

In light of the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women not get mammograms until the age of 50 I pose this question.

Is President Obama anti-woman?

I'll withhold the suspense. Absolutely not.

He's no more anti-woman than was President Bush.

Yet if such a recommendation had been made during the Bush Administration all hell would break loose. Organizations like NOW would declare the Bush Administration as "anti-woman."

Of course, the Bush Administration (as did the Clinton Administration before it) supported the recommendation of the American Cancer Society that women get annual screenings beginning at the age of 40. Not that NOW would ever acknowledge such a thing. In fact, NOW has not criticized the Obama Administration for this recommendation. They are preoccupied with defeating the Stupak Amendment with the slogan, "Save Abortion Stop Stupak." In fact, NOW states, "It is not acceptable to achieve health care reform by pushing women into the back alleys to die." But apparently it is acceptable to achieve health care reform by pushing women to put mammograms on the back burner.

If President Obama has any sense he will distance himself from this recommendation with a forty foot pole. Yet given his actions with regard to health care reform thus far I cannot say with any certainty that he will.

Assuming President Obama does act on the recommendation of the task force it will not be a demonstration of any animosity towards the fairer sex but rather that his plans to reform of our health care system will result in rationing. Such rationing of health care will be harmful to men and women alike.

Thoughts on Oprah

Oprah Winfrey is due to announce that she will end her long running talk show on September 9, 2011 after 25 years on the air.

There's no doubt that over the past quarter century Oprah has become not only one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States she has become one of the most influential people in the world. My maternal grandmother's day is not complete until she watches Oprah.

But I have to be honest. Oprah Winfrey irritates the bejesus out of me. And that was long before she ever endorsed Barack Obama. From where I sit she comes across as a self-centered, preening and condescending. She's also something of a dilettante especially when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. Now granted I stopped watching the show with any kind of regularity once I graduated from high school but Oprah is such a prevalent public figure it's hard to avoid her altogether.

In fact, I had this discussion about Oprah with an old friend of mine when I was visiting Ottawa last August for my grandmother's 90th birthday. She praised Oprah to skies with her charitable and philanthropic works. I won't deny that Oprah has done some good in this area. But I cannot help but think that if these endeavors weren't publicized then they most likely would not come to pass. In which case she's helping people for all the wrong reasons.

I have far more respect for someone who helps out and is circumspect about it. The late Ted Williams was a good example. Despite Williams success as baseball's greatest hitter he was not popular with the sports media in Boston and this cost him at least one AL MVP. Yet Williams spent countless hours visiting with children afflicted with cancer at the Childrens Cancer Research Foundation (now known as the Dana Farber Institute.) Yet he did not want these visits publicized.

Williams became more publicly associated with The Jimmy Fund (the Red Sox official charity with Dana Farber) after his career was over. Yet during his playing career such publicity might have helped him curry favor with the press but that was not his overriding concern. His overriding concern was the comfort of those children. The time he spent with those children was theirs and theirs alone. Ted Williams helped those children for the right reasons. I cannot say the same for Oprah.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lincecum Wins 2nd Straight NL Cy Young

San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum won his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award beating out Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals in a very close vote.
Wainwright, who led the NL with 19 wins, actually received more first place ballots than Lincecum (Wainwright 12, Lincecum 11). But Wainwright finished third overall in the balloting with 90 votes four behind Carpenter while Lincecum received 100 votes.

Like AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, Lincecum's 15 wins were fewer than both Wainwright and Carpenter. But Lincecum led the NL in strikeouts with 261 and was second in the NL with a 2.48 ERA. Carpenter led in the NL in ERA with a 2.24 ERA. It should also be noted that Lincecum had three no decisions in which he allowed one or fewer runs. If the Giants had given him any offensive support he could have finished with 18 wins, his total from 2008.

One can make a legitimate case for any of those three pitchers. It would have been nice to see Carpenter get it because he only pitched 21 and one thirds innings over the past two seasons. Carpenter underwent elbow surgery in 2007. He also missed more than a month this season with a strained ribcage. Given Carpenter's history with injuries there is no guarantee he will repeat this year's sterling performance in 2010.

As for Wainwright sometimes you only have one great year and this year it wasn't enough. I remember when John Tudor, another Cardinal, won 21 games with an ERA of 1.93. Most years that's good enough to win the Cy Young. The only problem was that Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets won 24 games, had an ERA of 1.53 and had 268 strikeouts to boot. Tudor never won more than 13 games in a season after that and retired after 1990. Adam Wainwright could be the John Tudor of 2009.

Yet Lincecum is my favorite pitcher to watch in MLB. Although Lincecum is only 5,11 and 160 pounds he pitches like a big man going deep into games. His wild long hair suits his wild delivery. But is a wildness that is under control when he toes the pitching rubber.

What is more amazing about his two NL Cy Young is that he did them in his second and third seasons in the big leagues. It's very rare that a pitcher is that good that quick. I would compare him with the likes of Dwight Gooden in that regard. I would only hope that he doesn't finish his career like Doc Gooden did.

It is worth noting that Lincecum was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia at a traffic stop in Oregon last month. The marijuana possession charge was dropped but he is due to appear in court next month to the drug paraphernalia charge which is a misdemeanor. The arrest occurred after the BBWAA conducted the NL Cy Young vote. Given how close the vote was I wonder if his arrest would have had an impact on the balloting.

Of course Gooden's drug of choice was cocaine which is far more harmful in its effects than marijuana as Gooden himself can attest. Gooden just turned 45 a few days ago but appears to have turned the corner - for now. If Lincecum has no further skirmishes with the law he will be remembered for what he did on the field rather than what he did off of it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Lincecum winning NL Cy Young honors was one of my few pre-season predictions which I got right.

Are Canada's Liberals Afraid of Losing the Jewish Vote?

The Liberal Party of Canada is fuming.

They are angry about pamphlets sent by several Conservative MPs to constituencies with significant Jewish populations (three in Montreal, one in Toronto and one in Winnipeg) comparing the records of the Harper Conservative government and the Chretien/Martin Liberal governments with regard to their support for the State of Israel. The Liberals accuse the Tories of labeling them anti-Semitic although Frank Dimant of B'nai Brith Canada disagrees. Here's an article I wrote in October 2006 about Jewish Liberals turning to the Conservative Party after a number of prominent Liberals, including Ignatieff, had criticized Israel during its war with Hezbollah in Lebanon that summer.

I think the real reason the Liberal Party is angry is because they are afraid they will lose those seats to the Conservatives in the next federal election. In a poll conducted earlier this month, the Tories have nearly a double digit lead over the Liberals (38% to 28.5%). The same poll also gives Stephen Harper a two to one advantage over Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff as to whom Canadian think would make the best Prime Minister (34.8% to 17.7%). Those are not good numbers for Ignatieff. Of course, polls can change swiftly but so far it appears Ignatieff's leadership of the Liberal Party has been as much of a debacle as his predecessor Stephane Dion.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scioscia, Tracy Named AL & NL Managers of the Year

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia and Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy have been named AL and NL Managers of the Year.

This is the second time Scioscia has been named AL Manager of the Year. He won those honors previously in 2002 when the Angels won their only World Series. The Angels won the AL West for a third consecutive season in 2009. They did this despite the sudden death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart. Honestly, when Adenhart was killed on April 9th I thought the Angels season was over.

When a team has one of their own lose their life playing baseball is the last thing they want to do. The 1979 New York Yankees season went into the tank after Thurman Munson. The 1993 Cleveland Indians never got off the ground when pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a boating accident during spring training. Twice this decade, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost players during the season. Darryl Kile died of a heart attack in 2002 and Josh Hancock was killed in a car accident in 2007. The Cardinals did everything they could just to get through the season in those years. So if the Angels had failed to reach the postseason in 2009 it would have been perfectly understood.

Yet after struggling in April, the Angels returned to their winning ways and would win the division by ten games over the Texas Rangers. Even more remarkable was that the Angels did this while key players like John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter missed significant parts of the season due to injury. So Scioscia deserves all the credit in the world for not only keeping the ship afloat but winning the race as well.

The Colorado Rockies were 18-28 on May 29th when manager Clint Hurdle was fired and was replaced with bench coach Jim Tracy. While Tracy guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to a NL West title in 2004 he also had two very undistinguished seasons at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006 and 2007. I honestly didn't think his hiring would do very much for the Rockies:

It is worth noting that each of the last three seasons he managed his teams have lost at least 90 games. So I'm not sure if he is the answer. Then again the Rockies might be already looking to 2010.

Well, I am also the guy who said the Yankees would finish last in the AL East this season as well.

Whatever Tracy did it worked. The Rockies were 74-42 under Tracy's stewardship and won the NL Wild Card for the second time in three seasons. So the Manager of the Year honors are well deserved.

Thoughts on the Palin Newsweek Cover

I'm of two minds when it comes to the Newsweek cover of Sarah Palin.

On one hand I can see how Palin would characterize the cover as sexist. Would Newsweek put a picture of a bare chested President Obama on the cover and then feature two articles about him by Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity? Not on your life.

The picture of her in running shorts was part of a feature in Runner's World last year. Palin has been into running since her childhood. Runner's World isn't happy either because Newsweek used the photograph without its permission. Consequently, Palin is even getting some sympathy from some unlikely quarters.

But while I can understand that Palin wants to be valued for qualities other than her physical appearance there is no doubt that part of her appeal is by virtue of her physical appearance. That is a compliment, not a knock. Given that she is the 45-year-old mother of five children and a grandmother of one she looks absolutely remarkable. Women would kill for a body like that and I'm sure some of the animosity Palin gets from other women owes to her beauty.
When I look at the cover not only do I see a beautiful woman I also see someone who is active, engaged and vibrant. That is a plus not for a public figure not a minus.

Case in point: President Obama. Think about Obama's bare chest for a moment. No, Obama is not a beautiful woman. But for a man who is approaching 50 he keeps himself in very good shape by playing basketball and golf. Even if you dislike Obama's politics (as I do) one cannot deny his youthful physical appearance plays a role in his mass appeal. He has a Cary Grant like quality to him. Women are attracted to him and men want to be like him so women become attracted to them.

So while Palin might not like the Newsweek cover I am sure it will actually be more helpful than harmful to her in the long run.

Further Thoughts on The Prisoner

The concluding episodes of The Prisoner mini-series aired last night on AMC.

My review was posted on the IC main site yesterday.

So I guess six is the one after all. But it appears that Number Six is also the New Number Two.

But if Number Six is both Number One and Number Two then who is the new Number Six?

Or perhaps they'll just call him Number Six of One.

I liked the performances of several of the supporting actors particularly Ruth Wilson as Number 313. What an expressive face!!! Her long flowing red locks didn't hurt either. Lennie James as Number 147 and Jamie Campbell Bower as Number 1112 (Number 2's son) were also very impressive. Sir Ian McKellen was good as Number 2 but I think I would have liked Malcolm McDowell in the role better. Besides Bower actually has a passing resemblance to McDowell.

Yet Jim Cavaziel's portrayal of Number Six was so lacklustre that I could see why Patrick McGoohan would have wanted nothing to do with the new series. Although the remake of The Prisoner had its moments in some ways I am glad McGoohan didn't live to see it because I don't think he would have cared much for it.

Obama Blasts Israel Over Settlements

In an interview with Major Garrett of Fox News (glad to see that feud is over), President Obama blasted Israel for its plans to build 900 housing units in East Jerusalem.

Obama said, "I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous."

I seem to recall that Israel abandoned all 21 of its settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005. That didn't exactly stop the rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza. Nor did it prevent the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit which prompted a month long war in Gaza in the summer of 2006. The Palestinians are embittered with or without the settlements.

It is curious that Obama takes Israel to task over settlements but has nothing to say about the electoral chaos in the Palestinian Authority. By all appearances their presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for January 24, 2010 are most likely to be postponed indefinitely. Yet this merits not a peep from the President. I guess the President doesn't want to "meddle" in the affairs of the Palestinians. But when it comes to Israel, Obama puts the peddle to the meddle.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Royals' Greinke Crowned with AL Cy Young

As widely expected, Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award.

Although Greinke won a modest 16 games he led the AL with a 2.16 ERA and struck out 242 batters. One must also consider that Greinke pitched for a team with that along with the Cleveland Indians had the worst record in AL in 2009. Had Greinke pitched for a half decent ballclub there is every reason to believe he could have won 20 games. Regardless, Greinke won 25 out of 28 first place ballots easily besting 19-game winners Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Yankees ace and 2007 AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia and 2003 AL Cy Young winner Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays rounded out the balloting. Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, however, did not get a single vote.

Greinke has come a very long way. In 2005, in only his second big league season, Greinke went 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA. His 17 losses led the AL. Greinke missed nearly the entire 2006 season after undergoing a bout with depression and social anxiety disorder. It is a condition he has battled most of his life despite his immense physical talents. Consider what John Donovan of Sports Illustrated wrote about Greinke during spring training in 2007:

Zack Greinke is still fighting for a place in the Royals' rotation. Nobody is about to let him forget that little face-smack of reality. Kansas City's former kid wunderpitcher is currently just one of about a thousand other guys in camp -- OK, so maybe it's just five or so -- trying to fill one or two spots at the back end of a fledgling starting staff.

I'll say it again. Zack Greinke has come a very long way.

But I'll also say sooner or later there will be bumps in the road. The question is can he navigate around them?

There's no doubt the Kansas City Royals deserve an enormous amount of credit in supporting Greinke and having the patience to stand by him when times were toughest. The same could not be said for the California Angels treatment of Alex Johnson in 1971, the year after he won the AL batting title. I remember reading about Johnson in Marvin Miller's book A Whole Different Ballgame. Johnson was plagued with erratic behavior and the club could only respond by fining and eventually suspending him. Miller, who was the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, filed a grievance on Johnson's behalf. Miller argued Johnson was emotionally disabled and should have been placed on the DL instead of being suspended. An independent arbitrator overturned the suspension when it turned out Angels GM Dick Walsh had been less than forthcoming about incidents involving Johnson. In one incident, Johnson's teammate Chico Ruiz pulled a gun on him in the Angels clubhouse.

Needless to say, Major League Baseball has come a very long way in three plus decades when it comes dealing with mental illness. Let's hope that continues in the event Greinke should stumble after climbing to summit of success.

Will Belichik Be Put On Trial With KSM?

I knew there would be a lot of folks angry come Monday morning at the New England Patriots stunning 35-34 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. In a classic case of what have you done for me lately, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichik has become public enemy number one for having the temerity to go for it on 4th down and 2 just before the two minute warning in the 4th quarter rather than punt the ball. It's as if he had left Pedro Martinez in the game. Jarrett Bell of USA Today calls Belichik's sanity has been called into question. Perhaps he will be put on trial with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But then again, unlike KSM, Belichik hasn't been given the presumption of innocence.

To refresh your memory, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw Kevin Faulk what appeared to be a first down but the officials said otherwise. So the Colts took over deep in Pats territory and with 13 seconds left in the game Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. If Belichik can be faulted it wasn't by taking a chance on fourth down. The flaw lies in using all the Patriots timeouts. As such he was in not in a position to challenge the ruling on the field.

Who can say that if the Patriots had punted the ball that the Colts wouldn't have got their touchdown anyway? If that had happened I can guarantee that these same sportswriters would have asked why Belichik didn't take a chance on the fourth down. Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN has been a voice of sanity.

The fact that Belichik has guided the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles this decade means nothing. The last Superbowl title came almost five years ago. It might as well have taken place in the paleozoic era. All that matters is Sunday.

How large the loss to Indy will loom will, of course, depend on what the Patriots do the remainder of the season and beyond. Sure the Colts could go undefeated in the regular season but if the Pats were to eliminate them in the AFC Conference Final then all would be forgiven and the "Belichik for Governor" or "Belichik for President" signs would come out of the woodwork. As with politics, a week in football can be a lifetime.

If, on the other hand, the Colts were to eliminate the Pats or if the Pats didn't make the playoffs altogether then there will probably be calls for Belichik's head. One could make the case it might be time for a change. But as we are finding out with Obama change does not come without its risks. To quote a line from the Chicago song Hard Habit to Break, "You don't know what you got until it's gone and I found out a little too late."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bailey, Coghlan Win AL & NL Rookie of the Year

The Rookie of the Year Awards were announced in both leagues today.

Unlike 2008, when Evan Longoria was a no brainer for AL Rookie of the Year, this year's recipient wasn't so clear cut.

I was pulling for Andrew Bailey though and sure enough he won this year's award. The Oakland Athletics reliever saved 26 games and had a ERA of 1.84 in 83 and one thirds innings pitched. Bailey also struck out 91 batters. It isn't easy being a closer on a last place team and I think the BBWAA took that into consideration. Bailey beat out Texas Rangers shorstop Elvis Andrus and Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello. I was surprised however that Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold didn't garner a single vote though and I'm not the only one. He led all AL rookies with 15 home runs. But maybe the home run isn't worth what it used to be.

Bailey's selection is a testament to the Athletics strong minor league system. This is third time since 2004 an Athletics player has won AL Rookie of the Year. Bobby Crosby and Huston Street (another closer) won the award in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

A year ago Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto won 31 of 32 first place votes in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. Again, this year's recipient wasn't so clear cut. But when the balloting was all said and done Florida Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan won NL Rookie of the Year honors beating out two strong starting pitchers in J.A. Happ of the Philadelphia Phillies and Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves who won 12 and 11 games, respectively. Coghlan did not make his MLB debut until May 8th but never looked back once he did hitting .321 with 9 home runs and 47 RBI. He collected 162 hits in only 128 games played.

While Coghlan's production wasn't as good as that of either Casey McGehee of the Milwaukee Brewers (16 HR, 66 RBI) or Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates (12 HR 54 RBI plus 22 stolen bases) his .390 OBP and 84 runs scored helped put him over the top. One must also remember Coghlan is a leadoff hitter thus that brings his production down. Besides Coghlan's presence made it easier for Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez to move Hanley Ramirez to the number 3 spot in the batting order. His presence also rendered Jeremy Hermida, the Marlins one time top prospect, expendable and recently dealt him to the Boston Red Sox. And if that weren't enough one must further consider that Coghlan had to learn how to play the outfield since Dan Uggla is enconsed at second base.

I am surprised that McCutchen's teammate Garrett Jones didn't get more votes belting 21 homeruns in only 314 at bats. But again please see Nolan Reimold.

Coghlan becomes the third Marlin to win NL Rookie of the Year honors since 2003. Dontrelle Willis and Ramirez won those honors in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

60 Minutes is The Pitts

Did you see the segment on 60 Minutes last night on the special unit disabling roadside bombs in Afghanistan?

I don't know about you but I found 60 Minutes correspondent Byron Pitts incredibly condescending when he spoke with our brave soldiers. Here's an exchange between Pitts and Colonel Jeffrey Jarkowsky, the commander of Task Force Paladin. An armored vehicle had been attacked injuring three soldiers:

"You've been briefed on the mission we went on. Was it successful?" Pitts asked Col. Jarkowsky.

"Overall, yes. It was successful in that that force was able to find IEDs," he replied.

"Did they find the IEDs? Or did the IEDs find them?" Pitts asked.

"Some of both," Jarkowsky said. "Some were found and rendered safe. I think we destroyed them and at least one of them. Others we found the hard way."

"For the American people who see those scenes of the explosions, vehicles being damaged, who say, America just got its butt kicked that day, you say what?" Pitts asked.

"Not at all. A vehicle getting blown up, doing what it was designed to do to absorb that blast, is not us getting our butts kicked. It's us removing that threat," Jarkowsky said.

First of all, outside the precincts of the liberal media, I'm not sure of any American who would say "America just got its butt kicked that day." Second, Colonel Jarkowsky handled himself with class and grace with a reporter who clearly looks down on our soldiers. But I guess that's a prerequisite these days in order to work at CBS. It will also come as no surprise that Pitts worships President Obama.

War is a difficult enterprise in which one does not know if he or she will live to see their next meal. This is all the more true with a unit given the task of disabling roadside bombs. The last thing our soldiers need to hear from reporters is that America's butt is being kicked. Would Pitts have said America's butt is being kicked in the wake of Pearl Harbor? Or when our Marines were attacked in Beirut? Or for that matter when our soldiers were killed at Fort Hood?

But let's face it. 60 Minutes is the Pitts.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Colts Stun Patriots

With 14:23 remaining in the 4th quarter the New England Patriots had a 31-14 lead over the Indianapolis Colts.

It appeared the Colts would be handed their first loss of the 2009 NFL season.

Instead, the Colts had one of the greatest 4th quarter comebacks in NFL history leaving football fans all over New England fallen like the leaves.

With 12:20 left in the game, Colts QB Peyton Manning threw a 29 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon to cut the lead to 31-21.

The Patriots would add three on a field goal by Stephen Gostowski to make it 34-21 with 4:17 left to play. They had a two possession lead.

But in less than two minutes Manning led the Colts down the field and Joseph Addai ran it in for a touchdown to make it 34-28. The Addai might have been cast right then and there.

Just before the two minute warning the Pats decided to go for it on 4th and 2 instead of punting the ball. Patriots QB Tom Brady appeared to have thrown a first down to Kevin Faulk but the officials ruled it fell short and it was the Colts ball deep in Patriots territory. Patriots head coach Bill Belichik couldn't challenge the play because the Patriots had already used their timeouts. Given they had already used their timeouts if the Pats had punted the ball the Colts would have started the drive in their territory.

A one yard pass from Manning to Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds left in the game allowed the Colts to sprint to the finish. The Colts won 35-34 and are 9-0. Indianapolis and the New Orleans Saints remain the only undefeated teams in the NFL.

The Patriots and Colts are to the NFL what the Red Sox and Yankees are to MLB. There will be a lot of angry people at work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hasan's Attorney Demeans Christians

Nidal Malik Hasan had a business card bearing the letters, SoA, after his name.

This means "Soldier of Allah" or "Servant of Allah."

Hasan's attorney, Colonel John Galligan (Ret), does what defense lawyers to best. Rationalize their awful behavior and demean innocent people.

Galligan said, "I know some people are saying [it means] Soldier of Allah. Is that any more troubling than saying I'm a servant of Christ?"

It is when your client shouts "Allahu Akbar" and then executes 13 people.

Demeaning Christians isn't going to help Hasan's cause much less his own.

Obama Still Won't Call Fort Hood a Terrorist Attack

In his weekly address, President Obama revealed the White House is conducting an inquiry into the events that resulted in the deaths of 13 people at the Fort Hood military base on November 5th.

However, Obama continues to insist this incident is "unthinkable" and will not characterize it as a terrorist attack:

All of us should resist the temptation to turn this tragic event into the political theater that sometimes dominates the discussion here in Washington. The stakes are far too high.

Yes, the stakes are very high. But how is calling this a terrorist attack an act of "political theater"? But then again perhaps Obama wants to have his cake and eat it too:

But given the potential warning signs that may have been known prior [to] these shootings, we must uncover what steps – if any – could have been taken to avert this tragedy.

We must quickly and thoroughly evaluate and address any flaws in the system, so that we can prevent a similar breach from happening again. Our government must be able to act swiftly and surely when it has threatening information. And our troops must have the security that they deserve.

With red flags flapping in the wind, the U.S. Army dropped the ball on this one and the President should conduct a full scale inquiry. Yet it begs this question. Are there more Hasans in the U.S. military? If there are then the only way to avert another Fort Hood is to make clear that they have no place in our military.

But let's suppose there are more Soldiers of Allah in our midst. President Obama's first instinct was to tell America not to jump to conclusions. What is there to prevent the military from doing the same in the future? What is there to prevent the military from disciplining personnel who blow the whistle instead of disciplining those who wave the red flag? So long as the politically correct mantra of diversity takes precedence over the sometimes politically incorrect methods of security then it should come as no surprise to anyone if similar terrorist attack comes to a U.S. military base near you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Live From New York It's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

So Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other al Qaeda terrorists are going to get a civilian trial in New York City.

Why not just give them the keys to the city while we're at it?

Then again maybe their lawyers will ask for a change of venue.

What happens if they are acquitted?

Attorney General Eric Holder has probably given that about as much thought as to what we're going to do with the Gitmo detainees once it shuts down.

The Obama Administration has thrown more interceptions than Jay Cutler.

Assad Rejects Talks With Israel; Mocks Obama

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to resume peace talks with Syria without preconditions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is willing to mediate those talks.

However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not interested in talking to Israel at this time.

Assad is only interested in talking if Israel hands over The Golan Heights. But if Israel were to do that then why would Syria talk to Israel? Why talk to Israel if Syria can get what it wants without going to the negotiating table? Or put another way why buy the milk when you can get the cow for free?

A peace agreement between Israel and Syria would have been a bigger coup for Sarkozy than marrying Carla Bruni. President Obama hasn't exactly been a smashing success in getting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume peace negotiations. Nor has he shown leadership in prosecuting the War in Afghanistan. If Sarkozy brokered such a deal other countries would look to him for world leadership before looking to Obama.

But Assad is no dummy. For Syria, if there are to be any negotiations with Israel then the U.S. has to be involved. But since the Obama Administration has been on the sidelines, Assad made a point of describing it as "the weak point" concerning peace talks.

Many on the Left decried America's place in the world during the Bush Administration. But when the leader of a hostile nation openly describes the Obama Administration as "the weak point" then what does that say about America's place in the world?

Not very much I'm afraid.

Lawyer Says Hasan is Paralyzed

Colonel John Galligan (Ret.), the attorney for Nidal Malik Hasan, has stated his client is paralyzed.

Pardon me if I don't shed any tears.

Perhaps Hasan should have thought of such a possiblity before he decided to kill his fellow soldiers in the name of Islam.

Hasan has no one but himself to blame for his present medical condition.

Arab Newspaper Hails Arafat "A Freedom Fighter"

I believe there are many liberals in this country who do not truly appreciate the inherent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic nature of the media in the Middle East.

Take this article commemorating the 5th anniversary of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's death from The Gulf News, an English language daily based in Dubai. The article states, "Palestinians widely believe he was poisoned and blame Israel for his death." Well, Palestinians also widely believe in Holocaust denial.

Yet I would encourage people to read the article. Some things simply have to be seen to be believed:

Although some believe that there is no way to end Palestinian conflicts, if he were alive, he would have found solutions to varied problems because of his wisdom and power.

Would they be referring to his wisdom in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by walking away from Camp David in 2000? Or would they be referring to the wisdom he displayed in lying to President Bush about Iranian arm shipments to the Palestinian territories in 2002?

Or take the concluding paragraph:

Arafat will be remembered as a freedom fighter who stood for truth and justice. He will also be remembered as a man who spent his life trying to reach his and every Palestinian's dream of an independent state, living on their soil with dignity.

How exactly is it that praising a suicide bomber who killed 21 Israelis in Tel Aviv in 2001 as a "noble soul" epitomize someone who stood for truth and justice?

Yasser Arafat should be remembered as an unrepentant terrorist who said one thing to the Western world and another thing to the Arab/Muslim world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do Taxpayers Owe ACORN a Living?

The Center for Constitutional Rights, an advocacy group founded by the late radical lawyer William M. Kunstler, is suing the federal government on behalf of ACORN for eliminating its funding. It calls Congress' decision last September to cease all funding "unconstitutional."

Could someone show me where in the constitution it says ACORN is entitled to public funds?

Congress is free to allocate monies to ACORN. Now just because Congress can give money to ACORN doesn't mean it should have. But that is a different debate altogether. With that said if Congress is free to fund ACORN as they see fit then it is also free to stop allocating funds to ACORN as they see fit.

If my maternal grandfather were still alive he might have put it this way. The world doesn't owe you a living.

In which case, Congress doesn't owe ACORN one either.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on the Execution of the Beltway Sniper

John Allen Muhammad (a.k.a. John Allen Williams, The Beltway Sniper or The D.C. Sniper) was executed by lethal injection in Virginia last night. He was 48 years old.

Muhammad and his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, executed 10 people and wounded three others in D.C., Maryland and Viriginia over a three week period in October 2002. Malvo said during his 2006 trial that Muhammad wanted to "terrorize" the nation because "he hates this country." In fact, Muhammad's original goal was to kill six people a day for a month. Muhammad might have not attained his desired bodycount but he and Malvo surely terrorized this nation. Malvo was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. The two have also been linked to various unsolved homicides committed around the country. The U.S. Army unwittingly gave Muhammad the training necessary to wantonly snuff out human life in the name of jihad.

While Nidal Malik Hasan killed 12 people in a sudden burst of violence, Muhammad worked slowly and randomly. Hasan was born a Muslim while Muhammad converted to Islam. Their methods might have been different and how they came to Islam might have been different. But they are both Islamic terrorists just the same. One can legitimately criticize the U.S. military is for not having discharged Hasan. Yet who can say that Hasan wouldn't have attacked civilians as Muhammad did if he were to have been discharged?

If jihadists love death more than they love life then I can only hope Hasan meets with the same fate as Muhammad did last night.