Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on the 52nd Grammys

I'm not much interested in today's music. But I did watch the Grammys tonight and enjoyed the pairings of old school and new school artists - Elton John and Lady Gaga, Leon Russell and The Zac Brown Band, Stevie Nicks and Taylor Swift as well as Roberta Flack and Maxwell singing "Where Is This Love?" Maxwell did justice to Donny Hathaway.

Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson sang Michael Jackson's "Earth Song." Jeff Beck's tribute to Les Paul was also a nice touch.

But perhaps the most interesting highlight of the evening was by Pink when she performed her song "Glitter in the Air." She came out in a white robe and hood, walked along a promenade and disrobed wearing only a series of ribbons. Pink then approached the other side of the stage where dancers were gathered in a Cirque de Soleil like formation. She was then lifted into the air, brought back down, dipped into water, lifted back up and spun round and round spraying the water around while continuing to sing. It was quite a spectacle.

Of course, it was Pink who wrote the anti-Bush song "Dear Mr. President" a few years back. It included lyrics like, "What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?/And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?" Of course, President Obama doesn't support gay marriage, either. But I don't see Pink penning any songs addressed to him.

I saw VH-1's Behind The Music profile on her a few months ago and she comes off as a very sullen, abrasive woman. But she's also an undeniably talented woman who knows who to put on a show.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Roeder Convicted of Dr. Tiller's Murder

A jury in Wichita took less than 45 minutes to convict Scott Roeder for the murder of abortion provider Dr. Goerge Tiller last May. To be exact, Roeder was convicted of first degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He is due to be sentenced on March 9th.

After Roeder was charged with Tiller's murder I wrote that he should be executed for his crime as Paul Hill was in Florida in 2003 for the 1994 murders of Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. The death penalty, however, has been taken off the table. But the Sedgwick County DA is hoping Roeder is sentenced to life in prison without being eligible for parole for 50 years.

By his actions, Scott Roeder is not and will never be a person who can be described as pro-life.

Kurt Warner Retires

Quarterback Kurt Warner has retired after a dozen seasons in the NFL. Warner played for the St. Louis Rams, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals.

He guided the Rams to a championship in Superbowl XXXIV and nearly replicated the feat with the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Warner played his last NFL game when the Cardinals were eliminated by the New Orleans Saints nearly two weeks ago.

Here is an article I wrote about Warner almost exactly a year ago.

Taking Questions From GOP Benefits Obama

I think President Obama benefitted from publicly answering questions from House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore today.

This isn't to say I agree with the substance of Obama's remarks. Methinks he protests too much when he claims, "I am not an ideologue." I also think Obama spoke in his usual condescending, dismissive, snarky manner. Yet regardless of the substance of what he actually said the reason he benefits from this exchange is because he entered the lion's den and answered tough questions. When you walk into a room with the knowledge you will be on the receiving end of slings and arrows, take your lumps and walk out tall you will gain grudging respect from your adversaries. There is also a chance to regain support amongst those who might be wavering.

As a Canadian, I am used to the head of government answering questions from the opposition. But for many Americans today was a novel exposition. Will this be a one time experiment? Or will this become a regular event whether on an annual or quarterly basis? If it's the former it will likely be forgotten (unless a portion of it becomes a part of a campaign ad.) If it's the latter it could work to President Obama's advantage. Especially if he continues to tell the nation, "I'm having fun."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Obama Girl" Loses That Lovin' Feeling

The "Obama Girl" has had her illusions shattered.

Amber Lee Ettinger, the stunning brunette who lip synced her affection for Barack Obama while he was running for the White House, says he's doing an "O.K. job"and gives him a grade of B minus. But she wishes he paid more attention to the economy in his first year in office.

Ettinger told The New York Post, "In my opinion, I feel like he should be focusing a lot more on jobs and the economy." She went on to say, "He did create some jobs, but most of them were government jobs and that doesn't really help the middle class. But it helps a bit."

Well, if she needs to be comforted I am more than willing to console her. It's my civic duty.

J.D. Salinger, 1919-2010. R.I.P.

Author J.D. Salinger died yesterday in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire of natural causes. He was 91.

Salinger's best known literary work was the 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye. Yet Salinger would become better known for his reclusiveness. His last published work was in 1965 when The New Yorker published a short story titled Hapworth 16, 1924. Salinger evidently continued to write but simply opted not to have anything published according to his daughter Margaret who in 1999 published Dream Catcher, an account of her life growing up with her famous father. It will be interesting to see if Salinger's widow authorizes the publication of any of these manuscripts or if she will preserve the Salinger mystique.

But when I think of Salinger I think of Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon almost 30 years ago. I know it's not fair to Salinger. He wasn't responsible for Chapman's actions. Nonetheless, Chapman was obsessed with Catcher in the Rye and acted out many of Holden Caulfield's encounters as a prelude to killing Lennon. After he had killed Lennon, instead of fleeing the scene, Chapman read Catcher in the Rye while waiting for police to arrive. How macabre. But books don't kill people - people kill people.

Postscript #1: Salinger is my roommate Christopher's favorite writer.

Postscript #2: Remember the movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones? If you do you will recall that Jones played a reclusive writer named Terence Mann who is kidnapped by Ray (played by Costner.) The movie was adapted from the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe. In the book, it is Salinger who is kidnapped by Ray and taken to a Red Sox game. Salinger did not want to be depicted in the film. So Phil Alden Robinson, who adapted the screenplay, created Terence Mann. But I don't care if you are J.D. Salinger or James Earl Jones. Why would you have force anyone to go to a Red Sox game? Believe me when I tell you there are a lot of people who would love to be kidnapped and held hostage at Fenway Park.

Thoughts on the SOTU & Response

President Obama's State of the Union Address lasted almost as long as his first year in office.

While President Obama said he "takes my share of the blame" for the Obamacare debacle and that his administation's electoral setbacks were "deserved" he certainly did not speak with humility.

There will be a second stimulus bill, a new climate change bill and Obamacare is proceeding full speed ahead. The President says he's open to a "better approach" but there's no reason to believe that he will be any more receptive to GOP alternatives than he has in the past. He reminded Democrats "we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills." Translation: Pass Obamacare now because Democrats won't have that large majority after November.

Obama spoke a great deal about small business. But how exactly is levying a tax on the "big banks" going to encourage lending to small business? The President paid lip service to things like building nuclear power plants and doubling exports in five years. He also claimed Iran had become "more isolated" and that they would face "growing consequences." From whom? China? Russia?

I found it amusing when Obama said, "America must always stand on the side of human freedom and dignity. Always." I wonder what the Iranians who chanted, "Obama, are you with us or against us?" thought of that pronouncement.

Publicly chastising the Supreme Court over its decision regarding election financing was also unbecoming. Especially when you consider that he opted out of public financing for the 2008 election.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's response was as brief as President Obama's was protracted. It was a good move for his reply to take place in the Virginia House of Delegates in front of a diverse group of Virginians. McDonnell delivered a solid, unspectacular speech which would have been forgotten ten minutes after delivery had he been alone in the Governor's mansion.

While McDonnell praised President Obama with regard to his proposed spending freeze, charter schools and increasing troops in Afghanistan he said the federal government was "trying to do too much." He took Obama to task for turning over our health care system to the federal government against our wishes, undermining free markets and giving Miranda warnings to the Christmas Day bomber. He quoted Scott Brown in saying that our tax dollars must be spent to "defeat terrorists, not to protect them."

In short, McDonnell was no Bobby Jindal.

But President Obama is playing for keeps and Scott Brown can't be seated a moment too soon.

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010. R.I.P.

Howard Zinn, the Marxist historian best known for the book A People's History of the United States died of a heart attack today while traveling in California. He was 87.

Most people remember Matt Damon (a family friend of Zinn's) make reference to the book in the movie Good Will Hunting. Last month, the book was adapted into a History Channel special called The People Speak.

As a resident of Boston, I can tell you that Zinn rivaled Noam Chomsky as the biggest local left-wing icon.

Naturally, I disagreed with nearly everything that Zinn said or wrote. But I do not wish to speak ill of the deceased.

Here is what Zinn wrote about President Obama but a fortnight ago concerning his first anniversary in office in a symposium conducted by The Nation:

I think people are dazzle by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president - which means, in our time, a dangerous president - unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.

I think a lot of conservatives would agree with Zinn's conclusion. But conservatives would also point out there is such a national movement to push Obama in a better direction - The Tea Party.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gideon Levy: Self-Hating Jew

If you're unfamiliar with the term "self-hating Jew" then read this article by Gideon Levy in Haaretz about Holocaust Remembrance Day. Then you will understand. Here is but a sample:

In his speech yesterday, Netanyahu's equating Nazi Germany with fundamentalist Iran was no more than cheap propaganda. Talk about "degrading the Holocaust." Iran isn't Germany. Ahmadinejad isn't Hitler and equating them is no less spurious than equating Israeli soldiers with Nazis.

The Holocaust must not be forgotten, and there is no need to compare it with anything. Israel must take part in the efforts to keep its memory alive, but in doing so it must show up with clean hands, clean of evil of their own doing. And it must not arouse suspicion that it is cynically using the memory of the Holocaust to obliterate and blur other things. Regrettably, this is not the case.

So reminding people that Ahmadinejad considers the Holocaust "a myth" is cheap propaganda but Ahmadinejad's words aren't? No Ahmadinejad isn't Hitler. But he wants to be. Ahmadinejad seeks a world without Israel. Given that most Israelis don't think like Gideon Levy it is not likely that Israel will just voluntarily cease to be a Jewish state. The only way for Ahmadinejad to achieve his goal is by force. Hence the development of a nuclear weapon.

But in Levy's book, it is a spurious to compare Ahmadinejad to Hitler as it is to compare the IDF to the S.S. Yet Levy lambastes Israel for "evil of its own doing." What evil? Apparently putting up a fence to keep out both illegal immigrants and terrorists constitutes an act of evil in Levy's mind. Nothing Israel has done comes close to approaching evil. The things Israel has done for Ethiopians, Bosnian Muslims and now Haitans merits no mention. By pretending Israel isn't a force for good Levy is engaging in defamation. Thus it is Levy, not Netanyahu, who is "using the memory of the Holocaust to obliterate and blur other things."

Yankees "Winn", Damon Loses

Randy Winn is in. Johnny Damon is out.

The New York Yankees have signed free agent outfielder Randy Winn to a one-year contract worth $2 million. He will be the Yankees starting left fielder in 2010. This closes any possibility Damon will wear pinstripes this coming season.

So the Yankees outfield in 2010 is Winn in left, Curtis Granderson in center and Nick Swisher in right.

Winn has played for the San Francisco Giants since the middle of the 2005 season. In 2009, Winn hit only 2 home runs in nearly 600 plate appearances. Normally, Winn hits between 10 to 15 home runs a season. But the Yankees obtained Winn primarily for his glove. He did not commit an error in 2009. I'm astonished Winn has never won a Gold Glove. He also has decent speed on the bases and could help them at the bottom of their batting order.

As for where Damon ends up your guess is as good as mine. But my guess is that he stays in the AL and becomes a full time DH. With regard to his defensive skills, specifically his throwing arm, Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated writes:

Now Damon is 36 years old, and even though the Yankees two years ago shifted him to left field from center, his arm has become a genuine liability. Opposing third base coaches now risk shredding their rotator cuffs, so enthusiastically do they windmill home runners from second on even sharply-hit singles to Damon. In an SI poll of 380 big leaguers published last July, 54 percent of respondents independently named Damon as possessing the "worst arm" of any outfielder -- a remarkable consensus, when you think about it.


Damon also needs to let go of the notion that a club would be willing to pay him $10 million a season. If he does sign somewhere he will be lucky to get half that amount. Those two stolen bases off Brad Lidge in the World Series haven't made quite the impression he had hoped.

ABC Cancels "Ugly Betty"

I have just read that ABC has cancelled Ugly Betty and that the series finale will air in April.

With this in mind here's an article I wrote about the show's lead actress America Ferrera in March 2007.

She had made some remarks at an awards show that America would be the land of the free again once George W. Bush left office. I saw fit to offer a friendly critique:

America Ferrera is, of course, entitled to her point of view about America. She is entitled to believe that President Bush has made America less free. She is entitled to believe that America will become freer once he has left office. She is entitled to vote for anyone she chooses. Or she can choose not to vote at all. But if Ferrera had made such remarks about Chavez in Venezuela or Mugabe in Zimbabwe there is a good chance that she would be sitting in a jail cell or staring at the end of a loaded gun instead of shooting a new episode of Ugly Betty or attending USC. America Ferrera just doesn’t know how good she has it in America.

Curiously, I pretty much stopped watching the show after that.

Dawson Prefers The Cubs Over The Expos

Earlier this month, Andre Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

At the time he was inducted it was not known if he would be inducted as a Montreal Expo or a Chicago Cub.

Here is what I wrote about that question:

The only thing that isn't clear is whether Dawson will go into the Hall as an Expo or as a Cub. Gary Carter is currently the only Hall of Famer who was enshrined as an Expo. Despite winning a NL MVP with the Cubs, Dawson played most of his career in Montreal so I think he will be inducted as an Expo and that's the way it should be.

Well, Cooperstown agrees with me. Today, they announced Dawson will be inducted as an Expo.

However, Dawson is "disappointed" by the decision. He wanted to be inducted as a Cub. Now I can understand Dawson's position. His relationship with the Expos did not end on the best of terms. They gave up on him. Dawson signed a blank contract with the Cubs and he rewarded them with an MVP season. The Cubs gave him a new lease on life and he gave Cubs fans much to cheer about.

Yet I think this is precisely the reason that decision should be left to the Hall of Fame. The Hall is for the fans and it would be a disservice to them to pretend that from a team standpoint Dawson's history with the Expos is less significant than with the Cubs. Don't get me wrong. Dawson had a good run with the Cubs. But when I think of the Cubs I think of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo (who should be in the Hall) and Ryne Sandberg. I don't think of Dawson. But when I think of the Expos it is then when Dawson's name immediately leaps to mind.

Auschwitz @ 65: Polish Bishop Writes Anti-Semitic Screed

It was 65 years ago today that Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Red Army.

When I attended synagogue as a child there were several members of the congregation who had survived Auschwitz. One of those people acted as our congregation's cantor during services. You could hear the pain in his voice as he sung a prayer.

Yet there are some people who will simply never understand the lessons of the Holocaust much less Auschwitz. This is the case with one Tadeuz Pieronek, a prominent Polish bishop who once headed that country's bishops conference. On Monday, Pieronek accused Jews of having "expropriated" the Holocaust. He expressed these opinions on a Catholic website based in Italy.

Pieronek also said, "But they, the Jews, enjoy good press because they have powerful financial means behind them, enormous power and the unconditional backing of the United States and this favors a certain arrogance that I find unbearable."

OK, fine. Let out your hatred.

Pieronek argues there should be memorials for "victims of communism, for Catholics, for persecuted Christians and so on."

Well, who's stopping him? I don't think any Jew would argue against such memorials. For the bishop's edification there is the Global Museum on Communism in Washington, D.C.

Yet this isn't the first time I've heard such a line of reasoning from an anti-Semite and it won't be the last. An anti-Semite makes such an argument in order to minimize the horrors Jews suffered during the Second World War.

Let it never be forgotten that it wasn't Hitler's goal to kill six million Jews. His goal was to kill every Jew in the world. Hence the final solution. He sought to render Jews as extinct as dinosaurs. As cruel as Hitler was to non-Jews he never aimed to exterminate Catholics or Muslims. Jews were beyond redemption. The hatred and contempt towards Jews expressed by Bishop Pieronek demonstrates precisely why the Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Thoughts on James O'Keefe et al

As you probably know by now James O'Keefe and three other individuals were arrested Monday in New Orleans for attempting to interfere with Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's phones in her constituency office.

To be precise, O'Keefe and his crew have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses and intending to commit a felony. If convicted they could face up to 10 years in federal prison plus a fine of $250,000.

O'Keefe came to fame last summer when he and Hannah Giles exposed corruption in ACORN through undercover videos. The two posing as a pimp and a prostitute caught ACORN employees advising them on how to evade taxes and traffic underage prostitutes. The videos resulted in ACORN losing its funding from Congress.

When you are a 25-year old and your actions result in Congress doing something you cannot help but get a big head. O'Keefe probably thought he could do anything and get away with it. Now O'Keefe and company are entitled to the presumption of innocence. But his explanation for his actions had better be good. Because otherwise he is going to learn a very hard lesson in humility.

British Tories Back Obama's Banking Policies

This is quite disconcerting.

Earlier today, Britain's Conservative Party called upon the Labour government to implement President Obama's policies towards its banks.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and former leader of the Conservative Party, said in the House of Commons that Britain should consider "some of the proposals of the US to sort out the banks in the future."

President Obama is seeking to punish the "big banks" with a levy on every loan they make regardless of whether they received TARP funds or not. I cannot see how this will lead to economic recovery as it discourages banks from making loans. The people that will be most adversely affected by this policy are small business owners.

This is hardly a policy the Tories should emulate.

Then again this isn't Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party anymore. For that matter it isn't John Major's Conservative Party either.

The Obama SOTU Drinking Game

When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight I wonder how many times he will the use the phrase "the previous administration" or "the previous eight years."

I am sure he will use those phrase in support of his proposed three year spending freeze.

I would suggest that every time President Obama utters either phrase that you take a drink.

Any beverage will do. Teetotalers are thus welcome to join in the festivities.

Let's Not Split Hairs Over Liberals

In response to my most recent column titled "Have Liberals Lost Faith in the Anointed One" a reader critiques my use of the word liberal:

I think that one of the errors we make as conservatives is that we tend to lump democrats, liberals and progressives together. While they can be found in each other's company; they are unique in their degree of ideological allegiance. We often use these three words almost interchangeably on this site to describe our opponents; and I'm not certain if we may be making a mistake.

The reader is certainly correct to make the case that not all people of left-wing persuasion think alike. But I don't think it's a huge stretch of the imagination to describe either Paul Krugman or Chris Matthews as liberals. Krugman, after all, wrote a book titled, The Conscience of a Liberal. Meanwhile, Matthews publicly describes himself as a liberal. So in this instance I believe the reader is splitting hairs when it comes to my application of the word liberal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Notes on Thome, Nady & Garland

Several more free agent signings on which to make comment.

Jim Thome signs one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins

Thome split the 2009 season between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .249 with 23 home runs and 77 RBI. All 23 of his dingers came in a Chisox uniform. Thome is the 12th on the all time home run list with 564 - one ahead of Reggie Jackson.

It is expected that Thome, who turns 40 in August, will not be an everyday player. Rather he is simply an extra left handed bat off the bench. The question is can Thome adapt to this role after being an everyday player all these years. It was difficult for him to make that adjustment during his brief stint with the Dodgers. But he could still be helpful to the Twins.

Xavier Nady signs one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Chicago Cubs

This is a gamble for the Cubs. Nady played only 9 games with the New York Yankees in 2009 before missing the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. This is the second Tommy John procedure Nady has undergone in his career. Nady had the best year of his career in 2008 splitting his time between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates hitting .305 with 25 home runs and 97 RBI. Even if he is healthy I am not sure he replicates those numbers at Wrigley.

Jon Garland signs one-year, $5.3 million deal with the San Diego Padres

After pitching with the Chicago White Sox for eight seasons, this is Garland's fourth club in three years. Following the 2007 season, Garland was traded by the Chisox to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Garland spent one season with the Angels before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent last year. It was at the end of August the D'Backs dealt Garland to the Dodgers for a player to be named later.

Last season, Garland went 11-13 with a 4.01 ERA. He joins a rotation that will include Kevin Correia, Chris Young, Mat Latos and Clayton Richard (who was acquired in the Jake Peavy trade.) If Young is healty, Richard and Latos blossom while Correia and Garland remain steady the Padres could contend in the NL West in 2010.

Newt Gingrich: A big win at the Supreme Court for all of us - free speech and campaign finance

Dear Friends,

I am finishing up my newsletter for tomorrow, which will focus on the tremendous victory for freedom of speech at the Supreme Court last week.

You'll get the full story in my newsletter tomorrow, but I wanted to point out that one of the parties in the case was my good friend Dave Bossie of Citizens United.

As you may know, Callista & I have produced several films with Dave & Citizens United. And since the ruling concerned one of his films, we've decided to celebrate at

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A New Documentary about President Ronald Reagan by Newt and CallistaAnother film we are very proud of is Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny. Through never-before-seen interviews with former heads of state, cabinet officials and White House staff, Rendezvous with Destiny tells the story of the Reagan presidency and the three pillars that shaped his time in office: reviving the American economy, restoring America's spirit, and challenging the oppression of the Soviet Union. You can view the trailer here. Buy it today.

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Copyright (c) 2010 Gingrich Communications Contact Us

Thoughts on the Spending Freeze

It could be argued that President Obama's three year freeze on spending (which is to be outlined in tomorrow night's SOTU) is nothing more than cosmetic window dressing.

But does anyone believe President Obama would have uttered the words spending and freeze in the same sentence if Martha Coakley had been elected a week ago?

Sheets Signs with Oakland

Pitcher Ben Sheets has signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics worth at least $10 million.

Sheets pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers between 2001 and 2008. He missed the entire 2009 season after recovering from elbow surgery. In his last season with the Brewers he posted a career high 13 wins and led the NL with 3 shutouts. Unfortunately, his elbow injury forced him to miss the NLDS and likely contributed to the Brewers early exit from the post-season.

Signing with Oakland has certainly taken people by surprise. Both the New York Mets and Texas Rangers were aggressively pursuing him. Athletics GM Billy Beane is wise to sign him only to a one year deal given his history of injuries. After striking out 264 batters for the Brewers in 2004, Sheets has been on the DL five times.

The presence of Sheets will certainly stir competition for other spots in the starting rotation. The Athletics aren't about to pay Sheets $10 million without giving him a spot in the rotation. Seven pitchers will have to compete for the other four spots including Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Josh Outman and Justin Duchscherer. It is worth noting that Duchscherer also missed the entire 2009 season due to back and shoulder injuries plus being diagnosed with clinical depression. The Athletics could have two starting pitchers who did not throw a pitch last year.

Yet unless the Athletics contend in 2010 I would be surprised if Sheets remains in an Oakland uniform the entire season. Recall that Oakland signed both Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi as free agents last year. Both were gone by the first week of August. The Athletics finished in last place in the AL West 22 games behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Thoughts on the Execution of "Chemical Ali"

Yesterday, Iraq executed Ali Hassan al-Majia for his role in deploying mustard gas in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja in March 1988. This act of barbarism resulted in the deaths of over 5,000 civilians. For this heinous act he would become known as "Chemical Ali."

This man was no flunky. "Chemical Ali" was a cousin of Saddam Hussein and would be put in charge of Kuwait when Saddam's forces invaded that country in August 1990 and was one of his most trusted allies nearly throughout his reign of terror. He was also responsible for the mass executions of Shiites in 1991 and again in 1999.

Given the loss of life that has taken place in Iraq since Saddam was deposed there is a tendency to forget how cruel his regime really was. "Chemical Ali" had no remorse for gassing the Kurds. At one point during his trial in 2006 he said, "I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers. The army was responsible to carry out those orders. I am not defending myself. I am not apologizing. I did not make a mistake." He was sentenced to death in June 2007.

For all the allegations that have been leveled against U.S. troops and private security forces in Iraq nothing comes even remotely close to what "Chemical Ali" did to the Kurds. And he bragged about it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Violence Breaks Out in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez's decision to shut down Radio Caracas TV (RCTV) has led to clashes between demonstrators and police as well as Chavez's supporters.

These clashes have resulted in the death of a high school student in Merida which is over 400 miles southwest of Caracas.

It is not clear if the young man killed was a supporter or opponent of Chavez. But if he was an opponent you can be sure there will be demonstrations throughout the country over the next week or so.

If that is the case then expect Chavez to emulate his friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in violently cracking down on the opposition. The world will see Chavez for the thug he is.

Like Iran, we can also expect the Obama Administration to stand with his "amigo" Chavez and not with the demonstrators.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saints & Colts to Face Off in Super Bowl XLIV

In a fortnight, the New Orleans Saints will face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

The Colts beat the New York Jets 30-17 in the AFC Conference Final while the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in OT in the NFC championship game. It marks the first time the number one seeds in the AFC & NFC haved faced off since 1993 when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.

This also marks the Saints first appearance in the Super Bowl while the Colts won the Super Bowl three years ago against the Chicago Bears.

The most interesting aspect of the Saints-Colts matchup involves the Manning family. Colts QB and reigning NFL MVP Peyton Manning is a native of New Orleans. His father, Archie Manning, was the QB for the Saints from 1971 to 1982.

Naturally, I am rooting for the Saints. New Orleans has endured much since Hurricane Katrina nearly 4½ years ago. Mardi Gras celebrations are already under way and should the Saints win it will make things that much more festive.

Yet I think the Colts will prevail. The Colts are like the Yankees and the Lakers both of whom won titles over the past year. So yes, Peyton Manning is Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant.

Biden: U.S. Will Appeal Blackwater Decision

During a visit to Iraq, Vice-President Joe Biden announced an appeal of a ruling by a federal judge last month dismissing manslaughter charges against five men who worked for Blackwater accusing of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Shouldn't Attorney General Eric Holder have made this announcement?

The fact that Biden is making this announcement demonstrates this continued prosecution is nothing more than a political vendetta.

Chavez Shuts Down Opposition TV Station

Venezulean strongman Hugo Chavez has ordered Radio Caracas Television off the air.

It's transgression?

Not broadcasting Chavez's speeches.

This isn't the first time RCTV has run afoul of Chavez. He refused to renew its license in May 2007 accusing the network of supporting the failed coup against him in 2002. RCTV was able to broadcast on international cable and satellite systems by that summer.

Should President Obama be calling this man his "amigo"?

An Evening with Elliott Gould

Today, I went to the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge where a series of Robert Altman films were being shown.

Yes, it was Altman who said in November 2000 that he would move to France if George W. Bush was elected President. He never did.

In January 2002, it was Altman who said, "When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke."

But I like his movies anyway. Why? Because people talk like human beings in them. I am referring to the instances where several different characters are speaking at once. Yes, it is difficult to understand. But how often have you been in a situation where there are several people talking at the same time? To have that presented in a movie shatters the artifice of dialogue. His movies were also full of black humor.

First, I saw Brewster McCloud starring Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman and Mike Murphy. Kellerman and Murphy participated in a panel discussion with Altman's widow Katherine.

But the main reason I attended was to see The Long Goodbye starring Elliott Gould. He would participate in a Q&A following the movie.

I've seen The Long Goodbye on several occasions. It is the only movie which featured Jim Bouton in the cast. Bouton was the former major league pitcher famous for writing Ball Four. I first read that book in the eighth grade and it turned my life upside down. In fact, June will mark the 40th anniversary of its release and I am planning to column to it. So naturally during the Q&A, I asked Gould about Bouton. He told me that Bouton was "very attractive." Somehow I will find a way to include that quote in the column.

Gould tended to wander during his talk. I can see how directors other than Altman found him difficult on the set.

He also made a quip about Senator-elect Scott Brown. In explaining the end of The Long Goodbye when he kills Bouton's character Gould said, "It's safe to come out. Until your new Senator takes office." Laughter ensues. Of course, this is the People's Republic of Cambridge. But I've been here nearly ten years. It comes with the territory. I would have been shocked if there hadn't been some kind of snide reference to the election.

But Gould did make a point of saying that Altman's films refkected the dark side of America. Kellerman made similar comments earlier in the day. Now that does bug me a little bit because there's evil wherever human beings can be found. It isn't confined within our borders. Yet whenever I hear someone talking about America as if it were the most horrible place on earth I wonder why they remain here. Well, there's really not much to wander about. They might not like the nature of American politics but they sure don't mind American money. I'm sure that's why Altman never followed through on his threat to leave the country once Bush was elected.

But all of that said I can disagree with an artist's point of view but still find something to enjoy in their work. The fact is I've had an affinity for Elliott Gould for as long as I can remember. The thick curly hair which he still has although much greyer. The deep resonant voice. He was born Elliott Goldstein. What's not to like? Besides asking Elliott Gould a question is one more story I can pass onto my children - should I ever have any.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tejada Returns to the O's

Miguel Tejada has signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Tejada played with the Orioles from 2004 to 2007 before being traded to the Houston Astros.

He will become a third baseman after playing nearly his entire career as a shortstop. Cesar Izturis has far more range at short these days.

There's nothing wrong with the Orioles offense. Tejada and Garrett Atkins (who will play first in 2010) join a lineup that includes Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Luke Scott. Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters are also bound to put up better numbers in their sophomore campaigns. But unless their pitching dramatically improves they won't be any more competitive in the AL East in 2010 than they were during Tejada's first stint with the team.

Thoughts on Conan's Last Show

I watched the debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien back in June.

This is what I wrote at the time:

But he held the fort at 12:30 for 15 plus years. I'm sure he'll have similar success at 11:30.

So what do I know?

Tonight, I watched its finale.

I did not watch any episodes in between.

Although we'll always have Sarah Palin and William Shatner.

Tonight's finale included an "exit interview" and who better to give than Steve Carell who was in Michael Scott mode from The Office. Tom Hanks dropped by and Neil Young sang "Long May You Run."

A $45 million severance package aside, Conan is leaving NBC with a heavy heart ending an association that has lasted more than two decades. But he left things on a positive note. Will Farrell (who was his first guest on June 1st) was dressed up in full Lynyrd Skynyrd regalia and sang a rendition of "Free Bird"with Conan on lead guitar. I'm not a big Farrell fan but it did hit all the right notes.

So where does he go from here?

There's FOX but they've not shown much enthusiasm for Conan. Maybe Conan doesn't go the late night talk show route. He was a writer before he became an onstage performer. Perhaps he creates a sitcom or brings back the weekly variety show. As always we'll see.

Bobby Bragan, 1917-2010. R.I.P.

Former MLB player and manager Bobby Bragan has died. He was 92.

Bragan played parts of seven seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s as a back up catcher.He was amongst a group of Dodgers who opposed the inclusion of Jackie Robinson. But once Bragan judged Robinson by the content of his character he overcame his prejudice.

Branch Rickey, the man who signed Robinson, would take Bragan under his wing and gave him an opportunity as a minor league manager. Bragan would manage in the big leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cleveland Indians and finally as the last manager of the Milwaukee Braves and the first manager of the Atlanta Braves. Bragan would later serve as President of the Texas League before being put in charge of all of minor league baseball. In more recent years he worked in the front office of the Texas Rangers.

In 2005, at the age of 87, Bragan became the oldest man to manage a professional team when he managed the Fort Worth Cats for three innings before being ejected from the game. Bragan had come full circle as his first managerial assignment was with the Cats back in 1948.

Perhaps his greatest legacy is the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation. Established in 1991, the foundation awards scholarships to eighth graders residing in Texas. These scholarships are used towards paying tuition for their first year of college. As Ronald Reagan would have said, "Not bad. Not bad at all."

Friday, January 22, 2010

MLB Moves

Here are some MLB moves that have occurred over the past week or so.

Adam LaRoche signs 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks

2010 should be a more stable year for the lanky first baseman. In 2009, LaRoche played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Boston Red Sox (for all of a week) and the Atlanta Braves. Despite all that moving around he hit .278 with 24 home runs and 80 RBI. The D'Backs need more offense in their lineup and LaRoche should fit in nicely with Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton in the middle of the order.

Jose Valverde signs 2-year, $14 million contract with the Detroit Tigers

After leading the NL in saves in 2007 and 2008, Valverde only saved 25 games for the Houston Astros in 2009. Valverde sustained a calf injury when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Orlando Hudson in late April.

But the Tigers are getting a bonafide closer. Yes, Fernando Rodney saved 37 games for the Tigers in 2009 but he is better suited as an 8th inning set up man and will be in that role with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Valverde's contract includes a club option for the 2012 season.

San Diego Padres trade third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Oakland Athletics for outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston

Although Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals won the NL Gold Glove at third base there are those who thought Kevin Kouzmanoff was a more deserving candidate. Now the Athletics have a third baseman off the caliber of Eric Chavez.

The Padres meanwhile get a very crowded outfield with Hairston and Cunningham joining Kyle Blanks, Will Venable and Tony Gwynn, Jr. The loss of Kouzmanoff will see Chase Headley move to third base.

This will be Hairston's second stint with the Padres. He played for the Padres from late in the 2007 season until last July when he was dealt to the Athletics for pitcher Sean Gallagher. As it turns out he won't be the only Hairston wearing a San Diego uniform in 2010.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. signs a 1-year, $2.125 million deal with the San Diego Padres

The elder Hairston split the 2009 season between the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees where he would collect his first World Series ring. These days Hairston contributes effectively as a utility player.

Although this is the first time the Hairston brothers have been teammates on a major league club they did share a uniform when they played for Team Mexico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

The Pirates seek relief

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed a pair of free agent relief pitchers.

First, they signed veteran reliever Brendan Donnelly to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. After a horrible 2008 campaign with the Cleveland Indians, Donnelly rebounded in '09 with the Florida Marlins. In 30 appearances, Donnelly went 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA and recorded two saves.

The Bucs also signed Octavio Dotel to a one year deal worth $3.25 million. Dotel is slated to be the Pirates closer in 2010. Dotel has saved as many as 36 games in a season. He accomplished that feat in 2004 splitting time with the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics. However, Dotel has been relegated to middle relief in recent years. He saved only one game in two seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Given these circumstances, Dotel has to be looked upon as a stop gap measure. The Pirates are the eighth MLB stop for the 36-year-old right-hander.

Doug Davis Returns to Milwaukee

Veteran starting pitcher Doug Davis has signed a one-year deal with the Brewers worth $5.25 million. Davis has spent the past three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, Davis called Milwaukee home between 2004 and 2006.

Davis is the second southpaw the Brewers have signed this off season. Last month, the Brewers signed ex-Dodger Randy Wolf to a three-year deal. Throw Manny Parra into the mix and the Brewers have three lefties in their starting rotation.

Joel Pineiro signs a 2-year, $16 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The New York Mets lose out on yet another free agent. Pineiro opted for the gateway to the West. He had pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals since the middle of the 2007 season. Pineiro won 15 games for the Cards in '09. It represented his highest win total since he won 16 games with the Seattle Mariners in 2003. Of course, Pineiro was the number three pitcher in the rotation behind Cy Young candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

It would be wise to keep Pineiro as the number three starter behind Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders. Although Pineiro can be effective as a starting pitcher the Angels should not expect him to become the ace of their staff.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trade outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr. to the New York Mets for relief pitcher Brian Stokes

One of the most widely panned free agent signings in recent memory was when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim agreed to pay Matthews, Jr. $50 million over five seasons prior to the 2007 season.

Little Sarge enjoyed a career year with the Texas Rangers in 2006 hitting .313 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI. Matthews has not replicated those figures with the Angels and it certainly didn't help matters when Torii Hunter joined the club prior to the 2008 season.

The Mets only have to pay Matthews, Jr. $2 million of his remaining $23.5 million on his contract over the next two seasons. With Carlos Beltran out with knee surgery until at least May, Matthews, Jr. will see playing time in center field.

Stokes, meanwhile, will add some depth in an Angels bullpen which includes Brian Fuentes, Fernando Rodney, Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen.

Rick Ankiel signs 1-year, $3.25 million contract with the Kansas City Royals

This deal includes a club option for 2011. After hitting a career high 25 home runs in 2008, Ankiel regressed somewhat in '09. Ankiel collided with a wall awkwardly in May and never seemed to get untracked. He hit only .231 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI last season.

Of course, Ankiel is no stranger to adversity. After a promising rookie season as a pitcher in 2000, Ankiel inexplicably couldn't throw a strike during the NLCS against the Cardinals. He tried to make a good of it as a pitcher with the Cards in both 2001 and 2004 without success.

In 2005, Ankiel gave up pitching altogether. After spending nearly three additional seasons in the minors Ankiel got a chance to return to the majors late in 2007. So a lateral move across Missouri seems such a short distance.

Jose Contreras signs 1-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies

Fianancial terms were not dislcosed. Look for Contreras to pitch in middle relief with the Phillies as he did with the Colorado Rockies late last season after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox. Contreras could be occasionally called upon for a spot start.

Top Minor League Prospect to Enter Priesthood

Grant Desme, a top minor league prospect in the Oakland Athletics system, abruptly announced his retirement so he can study to become a priest.

Desme, who played the outfield, was the only minor leaguer to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases this season. He would be named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2009.

Kevin Goldstein (no relation) summed it up nicely when he wrote, "Well, somebody's church softball team is gonna get WAY WAY better soon."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

McDonnell to Give Response to Obama's SOTU

The night Scott Brown was elected former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told Greta Van Susteren it would be "a no-brainer" to pick Scott Brown to give the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address next week.

However, it will be Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell who will speak for the GOP on Wednesday night. Earlier today, McDonnell was formally sworn into office.

All things considered it would probably be a more powerful statement if Brown was actually inside the Senate during the State of the Union address. But what if he isn't sworn in by then? Well, methinks one of his new Republican Senate colleagues should arrange for Brown to sit in the public gallery. The presence of Brown in the Senate gallery rather than on the Senate floor would symbolize the both the obstruction of Harry Reid and the arrogance of President Obama towards the wishes of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Another Liberal Unhappy With Obama

Paul Krugman isn't the only liberal who is unhappy with President Obama.

Consider what Jonathan Cohn wrote in The New Republic today:

Second-guessing political decisions is not something I like to do--at least not in print. Ask me whether Medicare should pay less for surgical procedures and I will give you my opinion with conviction. But ask me whether a political figure made the smart call by confronting an opponent, and I’ll probably demur. That’s because politics so often comes down to difficult judgment calls--and so often involves things happening behind the scenes.

And maybe that's what's happening here. My limited sources tell me only so much. But the frustration with the administration was palpable among Democrats today. Members of Congress and their staffs were asking the same questions I was: What does the president want? How badly does he want it? A lot of the legislators ended up running for the exits. And while lack of a clear party line from the White House surely wasn't the reason for Democratic panic on Wednesday--the political anger behind the Massachusetts election is real enough--it doesn't appear to have made that panic less likely, either.

While Cohn does end his piece by stating, "Maybe the White House is finding its footing after all," Cohn's disappointment in Obama is palpable. If President Obama doesn't deliver on health care the Left is going to view it as a betrayal. The Krugmans and Cohns might soon find a new savior in the form of Howard Dean or Russ Feingold. As much discontent there is with Obama from conservatives it is ultimately anger from liberals that would render him a one term wonder. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned. The cracks are beginning to show.

Krugman Doubts Obama

Paul Krugman is none too pleased with President Obama. Here's what he wrote about his fellow Nobel Laureate yesterday:

But I have to say, I'm pretty closed to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.

Yet consider what Krugman wrote about Obama after he was elected President:

Can Barack Obama really usher in a new era of progressive policies? Yes, he can.

If Krugman had doubts about President Obama back then he kept them to himself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown vs. Patrick 2012?

No sooner than Scott Brown is sworn in he will have to start thinking about November 6, 2012.

He will be seeking re-election that day and one thing is for certain. His opponent will not be Martha Coakley.

So who will Brown face in 1,021 days from now?

If Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is elected to a second term as Governor in November then look for him to set his sights on Brown.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Patrick will be re-elected. His approval ratings are near the bottom of the tank. But as Scott Brown proved a month in politics is an eternity. Patrick has time on his side.

While Scott Brown won the GOP Primary with 90% of the vote there will be a competitive Republican primary between Charlie Baker and Christy Mihos. Even if that battle proceeds amicably it won't prevent the anti-Patrick vote from being split. Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill, a Democrat, is running as an Independent. All of which could result in Patrick squeaking out a victory later this year.

I'm sure Brown ends up facing Patrick the pundits will expect Massachusetts to revert to form and they will place their bets on Patrick. Then again I'm also sure Brown won't mind playing the underdog again even if he is the incumbent.

Bill Buckner Is No Martha Coakley

John Tabin compares former Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner to Martha Coakley on The American Spectator blog:

When we think of people from Massachusetts choking horribly, the names of Buckner & Coakley shall forever be linked.

Yes, the ball went through Buckner's legs and the New York Mets won Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Yet Buckner had such bad legs even if he had got to the ball there's no guarantee he would have beat Mookie Wilson to first base.

Besides there was a Game 7 and the Red Sox did have a 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the 6th inning. How exactly was it Buckner's fault that Calvin Schiraldi gave up a home run to Ray Knight to give the Mets the lead the following inning?

Tabin also asserts, "Red Sox fans curse his name to this day."

Nonsense. On Opening Day 2008, when the Red Sox received their 2007 World Series rings, Buckner was invited to throw out the first pitch. He received a huge standing ovation and threw a perfect strike to Dwight Evans.

Given Coakley's comments about standing outside Fenway Park somehow I doubt she would ever be that warmly received by Red Sox Nation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Massachusetts Goes From Blue to Brown

I am sure you know by now that Scott Brown is the Senator-elect from Massachusetts.

He was elected tonight with 52% of the vote.

I have an article up on the IC main site detailing my observations of this historical election as a resident of the Bay State.

Of course, the $64.37 question is when will Harry Reid swear him into office. Reid, Pelosi & Obama could try to ram through Obamacare but that will simply galvanize people outside of Massachusetts towards Brown. Such a move would also practically guarantee Brown re-election in 2012. As terrible a candidate as Martha Coakley was this election was also a stinging rebuke to the Obama Administration. The political dynamic has changed overnight. The question is whether President Obama will have the wisdom to govern within the parameters of this new reality.

Tomorrow night I will be at the Cantab Lounge in The People's Republic of Cambridge where I will pay homage to Senator Scott Brown, R - MA. I might be the only Republican in the room but suddenly I don't feel so lonely anymore.

Axelrod Already Throwing Coakley Under The Bus

The polls in Massachusetts won't close for another four hours.

But that isn't stopping President Obama's Senior Policy Adviser David Axelrod from throwing Martha Coakley under the bus.

Axelrod told reporters "delve deeply into post-mortems on the day people are voting." But when asked if President Obama should have made a greater effort on Coakley's behalf Axelrod replied, "The White House did everything we were asked to do," he said. "I think if we had been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier."

Translation: Don't blame us. Martha Coakley is the author of her own misfortune.

But given what is at stake for the Obama Administration with regard to Obamacare it is hard to imagine the White House didn't have a vested interest in the outcome of the race. Surely if the Obama Administration had believed Scott Brown to be a threat to their agenda they would have moved heaven and earth to turn things around whether Coakley wanted their help or not. But President Obama, Axelrod, Emmanuel and company underestimated Brown just like every other liberal Democrat in Massachusetts.

There is no doubt that Martha Coakley could write a book about how not to win an election campaign. But given that President Obama put his arm around Coakley and appeared in a TV spot with her indicates that he didn't help her cause either.

On Voting for Brown

This morning I cast my ballot for Scott Brown.

I would have sprinted to the polls but there was a light snow falling and the ground was a bit slippery so I didn't take any chances.

It took me scarcely a minute to vote. No other voters were at the polling station. Now that could be the case because it was 10:30 a.m. But it could also be the Democrats are staying home today.

We'll see.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day & The Massachusetts Senate Race

On Martin Luther King Day in 2009 there was much euphoria because Barack Obama was to be sworn into office the following day becoming the first African-American to be President of the United States.

On Martin Luther King Day in 2010 much of that euphoria is gone. Although Obama is still well liked personally his policies are another matter especially where it concerns Obamacare. Tomorrow voters in reliably liberal Massachusetts might very well elect a Republican to the Senate despite his interventions.

Well, I would like to think that both of these developments would have made Dr. King proud. I say this because I think most Americans who voted for Obama judged him by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. Conversely, should Scott Brown be elected here in Massachusetts tomorrow it will be in part a repudiation of Obama's agenda. A repudiation based on the content of his policies not the color of his skin.

America is not yet a color blind country and never will be entirely. But we are getting closer to it everyday.

Chavez Going Through a Dry Spell

Despite being a significant exporter of oil, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been rationing electricity.

He blames a severe drought but it appears poor planning on the part of his government is to blame.

So to distract everyone Chavez is now blaming the country's wrongs on Play Station.

Drought or not, Chavez is going through a dry spell.

Chile Elects Conservative President

With everything going with the Massachusetts Senate election it is easy to overlook other electoral developments abroad.

Yesterday, Chile elected Sebastian Pinera as its new President. Pinera is the first free market conservative to be elected President since the end of the Pinochet regime. He defeated former President Eduardo Frei who ruled Chile from 1994 to 2000 with 52% of the vote. This was Pinera's second bid for Chile's presidency. He lost to Michelle Bachelet in 2006.

To be fair, Bachelet has been nowhere near as radical as those who hold power in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. But the presence of a conservative head of state in Chile could change the balance of power in Latin America. As such it is only a matter of time before Hugo Chavez publicly challenges Pinera, a Harvard educated economist, who became a billionaire through his ownership LAN Airlines as well as a television station and a soccer club. If Pinera can hold his own with Chavez then he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe could prove to be an effective counterbalance against the socialist tide in Latin America.

Pinera will take office on March 11th.

Outside the Obama Rally

Yesterday, I attempted to see President Obama speak at Northeastern University.

Well, the same was true with several thousand other people. By the time I arrived at the campus I had to walk along Huntington Avenue turn onto Gainsborough Street where I saw a necklace form on St. Botolph Street which led back onto Gainsborough where I found the end of the line with more people coming by the minute.

Since this was a rally for Coakley her signs outnumbered Brown's but they were there. In fact, when one woman came around with a Brown sign a group of women began chanting, "Martha for Massachusetts." But this lasted no more than about 15 seconds. Most people were there to see President Obama.

Not surprisingly I didn't get anywhere near Cabot Hall. You would think they would have had auxiliary seating where a video feed of the speech could have a provided to accommodate an overflow crowd.

No matter. It doesn't appear I missed much.

But, of course, the $64.37 question is will it be enough help Coakley on Tuesday? If it does, the liberal media will credit him for saving the race. If it doesn't, they'll blame Coakley for being a lousy candidate.

Philip Klein of The American Spectator advises caution citing the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic Primary in which Obama appeared to have had won by double digits. But then lo and behold Hillary Clinton had a new lease on life.

Democrats might not have a great deal of enthusiasm for Coakley. But the thought of what was Ted Kennedy's seat going Republican might be enough for Democrats to trudge in the snow and cast a ballot for her with one hand while holding their nose with the other.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An Encounter With a Coakley Volunteer

Yesterday afternoon while walking home a woman approached me and asked if I was going to vote on Tuesday.

The sun was in my eyes so I took a closer look and saw that she was wearing a Coakley cap. Upon making this observation I said, "Yes, I am going vote and I am going to vote for Brown." She replied, "Why?" I said, "Where would you like me to begin?"

For the next fifteen minutes this woman was trying to get me to change my vote. I give her kudos for trying but those fifteen minutes would have been better spent talking to someone who was undecided and I told her so.

She spent most of the time telling me why Scott Brown was supported by birthers, didn't care about poor people or black people, is part of the "extreme right-wing" and was another George W. Bush instead of telling me why I should support Coakley. Frankly, she didn't seem enthused about Coakley either and told me that she thought she was too right-wing. So much for Brown being a right-wing extremist. That's a hell of a way to convince me to support your candidate.

Clearly, the Coakley people are being told to equate Brown with Bush. That's all well in good but Bush has now been out of office for nearly a year. We are now under Obama's watch and it is under Obama's watch that the people of Massachusetts might very well be willing to give Scott Brown a chance.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coakley Calls Schilling "Another Yankees Fan"

Martha Coakley should take a vow of silence.

Last night, while being interviewed by Dan Rea on WBZ Radio, she referred to Boston Red Sox legend and future Hall of Famer Curt Schilling as "another Yankees fan."

Coakley had made reference to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a well known Yankees fan, campaigning here yesterday on behalf of Brown. When Rea countered with Schilling's endorsement she associated with him with the pinstripes.

When Rea corrected her she weakly countered Schilling wasn't with the Sox anymore. That hardly makes him a Yankees fan.

OK, Coakley isn't a baseball fan and that remark doesn't mean she can't sit in the Senate. But it does reinforce how aloof and out of touch she is with the real world not to mention one of this state's most popular sports legends.

She might as well have said that her favorite baseball player is Derek Jeter.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Coakley to Obama: Please Come to Boston

President Obama is coming to Boston on Sunday to campaign for Martha Coakley.

Consider for a moment what I wrote here a mere ten days ago:

Unless Coakley stumbles badly in her upcoming debates with Brown (and Libertarian candidate Joe Kennedy - no relation to the Kennedy clan) then she has little to worry about. If she does stumble badly then look for the Democrats to send in the heavy hitters (i.e. Kerry, Hillary Clinton and perhaps President Obama himself.) Coakley after all would represent the Democrats' 60th vote in the Senate. If there's any danger of Coakley losing the Democrats will pull out all the stops for her.

Well, Coakley did stumble badly in her debates with Brown. In fact, she has been stumbling everywhere she goes. And when she doesn't stumble she has people who will arrange for it to happen.

Now all the stops are being pulled out for her and the heaviest hitter of all is being sent to the plate.

Will Obama hit it over the Green Monster at Fenway? Or will he swing and miss?

Another Miracle on the Hudson

It was a year ago today that US Airways Flight 1549 made a crash landing on the Hudson River and all aboard lived to tell their story.

But this story has another chapter.

Two of the passengers, Ben Bostic & Laura Zych, have fallen in love.

I guess it just goes to show that everything does happen for a reason and sometimes the reason is good.

It also gives a whole new meaning to taking the plunge.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

DSCC Calls Brown "A Tea-Bag Republican"

My roommate, who is a Democrat, received an e-mail from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee urging him to donate to Martha Coakley.

This fundraising letter pulls out all the stops. It describes Scott Brown as "a tea-bag Republican" and that "we can't let him get anywhere near Kennedy's seat."

Well, talk about having perforations. I guess Democrats don't see it as The People's seat.

Here's the letter in all its luster. Or should I say lackluster?



What you do in the next two minutes could mean the difference between keeping Ted Kennedy's seat blue, or ceding his seat to a tea-bag Republican.

Scott Brown has vowed to be the 41st vote to kill health care legislation and the rest of President Obama's agenda. We can't let him get anywhere near Kennedy's desk.

Election Day is five days away. We need Martha Coakley in the United States Senate, and she won't get there without your help.

Click here to donate $5 or more to the DSCC. Martha needs your help now to fight back against every attack and get every Democrat to the polls. Every dollar will make a difference on Tuesday!

A massive ad campaign, grassroots organizing - Democrats are doing everything we can to make sure that Kennedy's legacy doesn't end here. Martha Coakley is a fighter for Massachusetts as Attorney General and will be a fighter in the Senate. But the right wing is energized by the perceived opportunity to win this seat. Tea partiers and radical organizations are sending in money by the bucketful. To win, we must match their intensity and raise money just as aggressively.

Click here to donate $5 or more to the DSCC. Martha needs your help now to fight back against every attack and get every Democrat to the polls. Election Day is only five days away!

Now is the time. Now is our time. Let's do this for Senator Kennedy.


J.B. Poersch

A Sign That Brown Could Win

Today, I bumped into a colleague of mine who is very gung ho about Scott Brown.

After speaking with him I now think that Brown has a better than even chance of winning on Tuesday.


He told me that he has seen Brown lawn signs in The People's Republic of Cambridge.

As someone who is known in Cambridge as a conservative I can tell you that is very, very significant.

If Coakley can't convince Cantabrigians to vote for her then who can she convince?

Coakley: Brown=Bush

Over the past couple of days I have been receiving literature from the Coakley campaign likening Scott Brown to George W. Bush.

One of the pamphlets reads, "This bush is brown. This Brown is Bush."

Too bad for Coakley that President Obama today appointed Bush to oversee fundraising efforts for earthquake relief in Haiti.

Bobby Charles, 1938-2010. R.I.P.

Songwriter Bobby Charles, born Robert Charles Guidry, died today in his native Louisiana. The cause of death is unknown. He was 71.

You probably don't know the name. But if you're of a certain age or an aficionado of 1950s music then you'll know his songs. His two most famous songs were "See You Later Alligator" and "Walking to New Orleans" which became big hits for Bill Haley & The Comets and Fats Domino, respectively.

He also was amongst the numerous musicians who appeared in The Band's The Last Waltz. Of course, you can't really see him. But it was probably just as well. He was more interested in writing music than performing it. Yet there's no denying this man had a gift.

Charles did not live to see the release of his new album Timeless which is due out next month.

Thoughts on Pat Robertson

I'm not sure what Pat Robertson thinks is gained by suggesting the earthquake in Haiti was comeuppance for making a pact with the devil drive away the French two centuries ago.

Now he's backtracking through a Christian Broadcasting Network spokesperson. Yesterday, it was a true story. Today, the Haitian slaves "allegedly" made a deal with the devil. All I can say that I'm not surprised that such a thing would come from Robertson's mouth.

Remember what Robertson said about Ariel Sharon after he had his stroke? He called it divine retribution for "dividing G-d's land." Then came the backtracking by yet another CBN spokesperson. His spokespeople must be on call 24/7.

What is it that makes Pat Robertson kick people while they are down?

Teddy Pendergrass, 1950-2010. R.I.P.

Philly soul singer Teddy Pendergrass has died of complications from colon cancer surgery. He was 59.

Pendergrass came to stardom in the early 1970s as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. Later in the decade he would embark upon a solo career. That career was nearly derailed by a car accident in 1982 which would leave him paralyzed from the waist down. Yet despite the severity of his injuries he would resume his musical career in 1984 culminating with an appearance at The Live Aid concert in his hometown in Philadelphia the following year. Pendergrass continued to record until a couple of years ago when his health began to decline.

Most people remember Pendergrass best from Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes biggest hit, "If You Don't Know Me By Now."

Obama Asks Bush For Help With Haitian Relief Effort

This is precious.

President Obama is set to announce that former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will oversee fundraising efforts to provide disaster relief to Haiti.

Of course, when Bush was in office he named Clinton and his father, George H.W. Bush, to oversee fundraising efforts to provide disaster relief to the victims of the Asian tsunami.

Given that Obama has spent the past year ridiculing Bush now all of a sudden he needs his help. A smaller man might have told Obama to shove it. But Bush is not the smaller man. He forgives those who trespass against him. Besides the people of Haiti need our help and there is no one better suited to raising large sums of cash than George W. Bush. Even Obama is smart enough to recognize that.

But don't expect Obama to be any nicer to Bush because of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Notes on Khalil Greene, Aubrey Huff & Ryan Church

Several more free agent moves have taken place in MLB over the past several days.

Infielder Khalil Greene signs a 1-year contract with the Texas Rangers for $750,000

Khalil Greene is a prime example of how the game can bite you.

Greene was the San Diego Padres top draft pick in 2002 and less than two years later he was the Padres starting shortstop. In 2004, Greene finished runner up as NL Rookie of the Year to Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jason Bay. In 2007, he hit a career high 27 home runs and 97 RBI with a decent .254 batting average.

However, Greene's offensive production declined significantly in 2008 hitting only .213 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI. He would be traded to the Cardinals last off season where he continued to struggle hitting only .200 with 6 home runs and 24 RBI. Greene was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and missed the rest of the season.

Greene is expected to be a back up infielder for the Rangers. But if Michael Young, Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler get hurt in 2010 it's possible that Greene could have a big contribution to make. But that's a very big if.

First baseman/third baseman Aubrey Huff signs 1-year contract with San Francisco Giants worth $3 million

The Giants got another bat but the question is will the Giants get the Huff of 2008 or the Huff of 2009. In '08 season, Huff hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 RBI with the Baltimore Orioles. Huff split the 2009 season between the Orioles and the Detroit Tigers hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 85 RBI.

Huff is capable of hitting 30 plus home runs but hasn't been able to it consistently. He might give some protection to Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the order but the Giants need a bonafide bopper. Look for Huff to play both third base and first base in 2010.

Outfielder Ryan Church signs 1-year contract with the Pittburgh Pirates worth $1,5 million.

Does Church have a prayer in Pittsburgh? Church split the 2009 season with the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. He hit .273 with 4 home runs and 40 RBI last season.

If nothing else Church will get a chance to play everyday. It's interesting that the Pirates have gone after veterans like himself, Bobby Crosby and Akinori Iwamura. Of course, the Bucs could end up unloading all of them by June should the team play in its usual form.

Thoughts on Haiti

As if being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere wasn't enough yesterday an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti near the capital of Port Au Prince.

It is not known how many people have perished but it is believed to be in the thousands.

It is also believed that up to 3 million people in Haiti may be directly affected by the earthquake. That is staggering when you consider Haiti's population is slightly over 9 million.

Needless to say, Haiti is going to need help and lots of it.

But naturally the biggest worry is whether foreign aid will get to the people who actually are in need of it.

The CIA World Factbook describes Haiti as a country with "pervasive corruption."

Next month it will have been 24 years since Baby Doc Duvalier was forced from office. Since February 1986, power has changed hands 15 times. Haiti's current President René Préval has been in office since May 2006. He previously served as Haiti's President between 1996 and 2001 and was that country's first elected President to serve out his entire term without a military coup. Although Préval is very close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez he has not delved into anti-American rhetoric and has maintained good relations with the United States.

While the days of the Tonton Macoute might be over there is still significant political violence in Haiti. UN peacekeepers have been present in Haiti since 2004 following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti is set to expire in October although I would be surprised if it wasn't extended under the circumstances. The blue helmets are largely Brazilian of whch at least several of whom were amongst the dead yesterday.

This morning President Obama made this statement regarding the situation in Haiti. The U.S. Agency for International Development is overseeing relief efforts on behalf of the federal government.

I am sure that Americans will also assist with this relief effort whether acting as volunteers or by contributing financially as our citizenry has in past natural disasters such as the 2004 Tsunami. If you are interested in assisting this effort but are unsure about which organization to send donations then I would suggest consulting Charity Navigator.

Good Reasons to Vote for Scott Brown Even If You Don't Live in Massachusetts

Howie Carr of The Boston Herald has an excellent article detailing the reasons why voters here in Massachusetts should vote for Scott Brown in just under a week from now.

These reasons are good even if you don't happen to live in Massachusetts. To wit:

- Unlike Martha Coakley’s campaign, you know how to spell “Massachusetts.”

- You’re wondering why last week liberals were so angry that the word “Negro” was listed on the 2010 census form, but now that Harry Reid uses it . . . nothing to see here, folks, move along.

- You’re puzzled as to who killed the three U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan on Monday, because Martha Coakley said there aren’t any terrorists there anymore.

And my personal favorite:

- You heard that the Amish are going to be exempt from the Obama-Coakley health rationing, and you’re wondering, how does one become Amish?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Conan Won't Do Five Past Midnight

Just as I suspected.

Conan O'Brien has formally declined to move The Tonight Show from 11:35 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. to accommodate NBC & Jay Leno.

Of course, this gives Leno a chance to have a full hour. If Conan had accepted the arrangement then Leno would have had a 30 minute show.

Although there has been speculation that O'Brien might jump to FOX he says he has received no formal offer from FOX or any other network.

Well, at least he can laugh in the face of it all.

He began his statement, "People of Earth:"

A Reply to Phillip Klein's Question About Babe Ruth

Commenting yesterday about Mark McGwire's admission to using steroids, Philip Klein of The American Spectator brought Roger Maris & Babe Ruth into the discussion:

And when Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961, he had 162 games to work with (and it took him 159 to get to 60). So should Babe Ruth still reign supreme as the single-season home run king, having hit 60 in 1927 in only a 154-game season?


If that was the case then every single season record should be subject to that standard not just home runs. For instance, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners set a single season record for hits when he collected 262 in 2004. It broke the record set by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns who in 1920 collected 257 hits. Ichiro played in 161 games while Sisler played in 154.

Now if one wanted to make an argument for an asterik this would be it. After all, hits come in greater frequency than home runs. Yet when Ichiro was approaching Sisler, Commissioner Bud Selig dismissed the idea out of hand:

Ichiro was given a season to set a record and if he gets it, I will honor it with all the respect it deserves. This is an amazing accomplishment that Ichiro is pursuing. There will be no asterisk, I can assure you of that.

As it stands, Roger Maris still holds the single season home run record in the American League.

The Latest Israel-Turkey Row

Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is being widely criticized for how he received Turkey's Ambassador to Israel, Ahmed Oguz Celikkol.

Ayalon refused to shake Celikkol's hand and made him sit on a couch that wasn't at eye level with Ayalon.

The Turkish Ambassador was summoned by Ayalon after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri yesterday in Ankara during which both men blasted Israel. Hariri accused Israel of "terrorism" and referred to it as "the enemy." Meanwhile, Erdogan criticized an IDF bombing raid that took place in Gaza on Sunday which preempted a rocket attack on Israel:

Is the Israeli government in favor of peace or not? … Gaza was bombed again yesterday. Why? … There were no rocket attacks.

But Erdogan's statement is misleading. He did not mention that Islamic Jihad has been stepping rocket attacks into Israel over the past week.

Erdogan also criticized the West for not applying the same standards to Israel that it is to Iran. "Israel has nuclear weapons, said Erdogan, "Those who are cautioning Iran must also caution Israel.” Caution Israel for what? Israel hasn't threatened to wipe any country off the map.

Now one can certainly argue that Ayalon's gesture was not diplomatic. But then again neither was Erdogan when he stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in January 2009 when Israeli President Shimon Peres defended the defensive incursion into Gaza. Erdogan shouted at Peres, "You kill people." Nearly a year later, Erdogan has never apologized for his actions. But then again why would he? He was greeted with a hero's welcome when he returned to Turkey.

Turkey has also cancelled joint military operations with Israel. Turkey is also airing a television program which depicts Israeli intelligence agents as baby snatchers.

Suffice it to say Turkey is no position to criticize Israel for lacking diplomacy.

Miep Gies, 1909-2010. R.I.P.

Miep Gies has died. She would have been 101 next month.

If the name isn't familiar it should be. She was one of the people who hid the family of Anne Frank, the van Pels as well as Fritz Pfeffer for over two years in an upstairs room on the premises of a company run by her husband Jan which had once been run by Anne's father, Otto Frank.

After they were seized by the Nazis in 1944, Gies found Anne Frank's diaries and turned them over to Otto who would eventually release them to the public in 1947. Originally titled The Diary of a Young Girl it is better known as The Diary of Anne Frank.

The world has Miep Gies to thank for finding Anne Frank's words.

McGwire Admits to Using Steroids

In an interview with Bob Costas on The MLB Network, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids during his MLB career.

McGwire admits he first took steroids between the 1989 and 1990 seasons but didn't start using on a regular basis until prior to the 1994 season. He would enjoy his most productive seasons between 1995 and 1999. Of course, McGwire hit a then record 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998.

Big Red revealed that the reason he didn't testify before Congress in 2005 was because he wasn't granted immunity and feared he would be prosecuted. So he declined to answer questions rather than answer dishonestly.

McGwire asserted he only used steroids to enable him to bounce back from injuries. Costas and the panel at The MLB Network were skeptical of McGwire's claims that he would have enjoyed the same level of production without ever taking steroids.

Of course, during McGwire's playing days there were no prohibitions to using steroids. But the federal government has stuck its hand into the pot and they need all the TV exposure they can get.

Before conducting the interview with Costas, McGwire phoned various members of his family, the widow of Roger Maris and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. McGwire was named the Cardinals new hitting coach last October.

Given how reticent McGwire is I'm surprised he agreed to an interview with Costas. But if he hadn't it would be all the sports media would have asked about. So McGwire was left with no other choice.

Only time will tell if McGwire will be accepted back in the fold. Not by the players so much but by his fans and the baseball writers. McGwire has never received more than 25% of of the Hall of Fame ballot. Baseball writers like Peter Gammons, Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal are no more likely to vote for him now as they did last year and the year before. McGwire will probably never reach Cooperstown. But he could make for a great hitting coach and that ultimately could be more rewarding for him if he's given a chance.