Monday, May 31, 2010

MLB Notes for May

Here are some observations from the world of Major League Baseball during the month of May.

1. Toronto's Towers of Power

Who would have thought the Toronto Blue Jays would be leading the world in home runs?

But the Jays hit 54 home runs this month and overall have 89 for the 2010 season.

Jose Bautista is leading the league with 16 and a resurgent Vernon Wells has 13. Alex Gonzalez has 11 while John Buck, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill each have 8. For good measure, Lyle Overbay and Edwin Encarnacion both have 7.

2. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

After being shot down in April, Big Papi was riding high in May.

In April, Ortiz hit a paltry .143 with one homerun and 4 RBI. There was talk of giving Ortiz his unconditional release.

In May, Ortiz hit a scalding .363 with 10 homeruns and 27 RBI. With his best numbers in a single month since June 2004, Big Papi is staying put.

He should be named AL Player of the Month.

3. Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers

During his final season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009, Vladimir Guerrero was limited to 100 games due to injury and only collected 50 RBI.

In 49 games with the Texas Rangers in 2010, Guerrero already has 44 RBI.

Vlad The Impaler's teeth are sharp again.

4. Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners

However, another former Angel isn't having such a good time in his new surroundings.

Figgins, a career .291 hitter entering the 2010 season, is currently batting .211.

5. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies

Unless Jimenez gets hurt or implodes on the mound, he is the frontrunner to win the NL Cy Young Award. At the very minimum, he will be the NL's starting pitcher at the All Star Game in Anaheim.

Jimenez is 10-1 with a 0.78 ERA in 2010. Today, he bested two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum with a complete game four-hit shutout against the Giants. Did I mention he's thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings?

6. Carlos Silva, Chicago Cubs

If it weren't for Jimenez, Carlos Silva would be the pitching story of 2010.

Silva was an absolute bust for the Seattle Mariners going a combined 5-18 during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

He was traded to the Cubs in the off season for outfielder Milton Bradley. At the time of the trade I wrote that Silva was "essentially a reclamation project" and that he would be competing with Tom Gorzelanny for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

Through the first two months of the 2010 season, Silva is 7-0 with a 3.12 ERA. In his last start against the St. Louis Cardinals this past Saturday he struck out a career high 11 batters.

Suffice it to say Silva has earned his spot in the Cubs rotation.

7. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates

Right now, Charlie Morton is possibly worse off than Silva was in 2008 and 2009.

In ten starts this season, Morton is 1-9 with a 9.35 ERA. He has surrendered 45 runs and 43 and one third innings pitched.

On Friday, Morton was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to shoulder fatigue. More like a stiff neck from watching all those hits sail over his head.

8. Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals

The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner has not repeated his success of last season.

Greinke, who won 16 games in 2009, is 1-6. However, he does have a respectable 3.39 ERA. The Royals aren't scoring runs for him and were shutout in his most recent start against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

9. Atlanta Braves From Worst to First

What a difference the space of 30 days makes.

At the end of April, the Braves had just snapped a nine game losing streak and were in last place in the NL East.

At the end of May, the Braves have taken over first place in the NL East. The Braves went 20-8 in May and are currently riding a six game winning streak.

So Bobby Cox might end his managerial career on a high note after all.

Thoughts on Israel's Act of Self-Defense

Six ships headed to Gaza attempted to penetrate Israel's naval blockade.

Israeli soldiers borded those ships to inspect for weapons.

Five of the ships co-operated.

The sixth did not. Israeli soldiers were stabbed and beaten with clubs and sticks. One Israeli soldier was thrown overboard.

Israel was left with no choice but to defend themselves and as a result at least nine members of the flotilla are dead.

Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama tomorrow has been postponed indefinitely. Netanyahu went back to Jerusalem after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa today.

Naturally, the world is outraged at Israel for "disproportionate force." The fact that the group that organized the flotilla is a terrorist organization based in Turkey doesn't get in the way of their arguments.

Not surprisingly, the UN Security Council is holding an emergency session which it only seems to do where it concerns Israel.

The question is will the United States vote to condemn Israel.

If it does then I'm afraid relations between Israel and the United States will be beyond repair as long as Obama remains in the White House.

But even if it doesn't go along with the condemnation the UN General Assembly will surely establish yet another "fact-finding mission" a la The Goldstone Report which negated Israel's right of self-defense.

At least, Israel has Netanyahu rather than Olmert in charge. Because if Israel doesn't stand up for itself then no one will.

Look Out For Kyle Drabek

Exactly two months ago, I predicted that Kyle Drabek would be named the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year.

(If the name is familiar it's because his father Doug was a pretty darn good pitcher. The elder Drabek pitched for 13 seasons in the bigs and won the NL Cy Young Award in 1990 with the Pittsburgh Pirates going 22-6 with a 2.74 ERA).

Well, that appears about as likely to come to fruition as the Seattle Mariners winning the World Series.

But on this one I don't mind being wrong.

I spent Memorial Day up in Manchester to see the New Hampshire Fishercats (Double A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays) host the Trenton Thunder (Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees). The last time I went to see a Fishercats game I ended up smack dab in the middle of a Barack Obama rally.

Drabek was pitching for the Fishercats and he was in complete control.

Drabek pitched eight innings of shutout baseball giving up only four hits and one walk en route to a 3-0 victory. While he only struck out four batters he worked fast. In fact, the game was finished in two hours. In thirty years of watching baseball, that's the quickest game I've ever seen whether in person, watching on TV or listening on the radio.

He also caught a wicked line drive and turned it into a double play.

The Blue Jays obtained Drabek in the off season from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal. I'm sure the Phillies hated giving up Drabek but I think a perfect game would tend to soften that blow.

I would very surprised if Drabek isn't starting games for the Jays before the end of this season. But if not I think he'll be big factor next season. In which case, he could become the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama Throws Israel Under The Bus....Again!!!

On Friday, President Obama endorsed a UN backed resolution demanding Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, open its facilities for inspection. A regional conference is also to be held in 2012 on a nuclear free Middle East.

"A nuclear free Middle East" means an Israel without nuclear weapons. This resolution, of course, made no mention of Iran or its nuclear ambitions.

Yesterday, Obama backpedaled and said, "We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security."

Well, if President Obama opposed efforts to to single out Israel and opposed actions jeopardizing Israel's national security then he would have nothing to do with this farce of an agreement.

In an interview with Peter Mansbridge of CBC News, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the resolution "distorted and flawed." Earlier, Netanyahu had described it as "deeply flawed and hypocritical."

Netanyahu was in Toronto today and will visit with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (a true friend of Israel) tomorrow before traveling to Washington on Tuesday to visit with President Obama.

I think Netanyahu ought to cancel his meeting with Obama in protest but I doubt he will. Yet how much more can Israel take from this excuse of a President?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Obama Will Meet With Soccer Team But Not AZ Gov.

President Obama has turned down Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's request to meet when she is in Washington, D.C. next Friday.

A White House spokesman states Obama's schedule "doesn't allow for a meeting."

And what pressing business does Obama have next Friday?

He will be meeting with Real Salt Lake, the 2009 Major League Soccer champions.

So while Obama kicks it around with Real Salt Lake he kicks Governor Brewer to the curb.

Kendry Morales Gets a Bad Break

This afternoon, Kendry Morales of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hit a walk off grand slam homerun in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Angels a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

You would think Kendry Morales would be on top of the world.

Instead, Kendry Morales wound up on the bottom of a pile with a broken ankle.

When a player hits a walk off homerun it is fairly common for that player to be greeted by his teammates at home plate. Sometimes the player will jump into the pile.

Well, this is what Morales did and it looked like he slipped or didn't land right.

Instead of leading his team, the Angels' first baseman is headed for surgery tomorrow and could be out for at least two months.

My guess is players won't be doing that for awhile.

Either that or the Rally Monkey left a banana peel on home plate.

Roy Halladay Throws a Perfect Game

Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay threw a perfect game tonight in Miami against the Florida Marlins.

I saw the final three outs of the perfecto on the MLB Network. Halladay faced three pinch hitters. Mike Lamb hit a long fly out to Shane Victorino, Wes Helms struck out looking and Ronny Paulino hit a sharp ground ball to third baseman Juan Castro to end the game and give the Phillies a 1-0 victory.

Halladay's masterpiece comes only 20 days after Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

To put that into perspective, when Jim Bunning threw a perfect game for the Phillies in 1964 against the New York Mets it was the first regular season perfect game since 1922 when Charlie Robertson of the Chicago White Sox pulled it off against the Detroit Tigers.

In case you are wondering, it's the same Jim Bunning who is now the junior Senator from Kentucky (or at least will be until January).

Needless to say, Halladay joins Bunning as the only Phillies to throw perfect games.

Halladay actually came within one out of throwing a perfect game in his second big league start with the Toronto Blue Jays. On September 27, 1998, all that stood between Halladay and perfection was Bobby Higginson who hit a ball over the left field wall at Toronto's Skydome (as it was then known). However, Halladay would settle for a one-hitter for his first big league victory.

Tonight's perfect game gives Halladay his 155th victory of his MLB career.

When the All-Star Game was held in New York in 2008 there was a parade in honor of that year's All-Stars as well as Baseball Hall of Famers. My Dad and older brother attended the parade. When my Dad saw Halladay he said loudly, "Roy Halladay. The best pitcher in baseball." Halladay saw Dad with his camera and smiled.

Well, if people didn't know Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball they sure do now.

Dennis Hopper, 1936-2010. R.I.P.

Actor Dennis Hopper has died from complications of prostate cancer. He was 74.

Hopper is best known for starring and directing Easy Rider. But Hopper's acting career began in the 1950's when he co-starred with James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. He also was frequently seen on television in shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Big Valley.

Despite his immense talent, Hopper had a volatile disposition that was exacerbated by excessive drug use. This would impede his career for nearly a decade following Easy Rider. But Hopper would win critical acclaim for his work in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now playing a deranged photographer. It is worth noting that Hopper was an accomplished photographer. Hopper also won praise the following year for his directing and acting in Out of the Blue.

But Hopper really hit his stride in the mid to late 1980's with roles in films like River's Edge, Blue Velvet and Hoosiers. Hopper would earn an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Hoosiers. He would also direct the film Colors starring Robert Duvall and Sean Penn.

Hopper also appeared in the 1994 film Speed and in the first season of 24.

In March, Hopper was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. His weight loss was dramatic and he was also sporting a bandage near his right eye. It would prove to be his last public appearance.

Complicating matters was a bitter divorce from his fifth wife Victoria Duffy.

Although Hopper was considered a countercultural icon his politics gradually became more conservative as he found "less government, more individual freedom" increasingly appealing and began voting Republican starting with Ronald Reagan.

Hopper would even appear in David Zucker's 2005 conservative satire An American Carol. Curiously, Gary Coleman (who died yesterday) also had a part in that film.

However, Hopper would cast his final ballot in 2008 for Barack Obama. During an appearance on The View he said that Sarah Palin "finally sent me over to the other side."

Not that it matters now but I can't help but wonder if he regretted his vote.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Celtics Reach NBA Finals

For the second time in three years, the Boston Celtics have reached the NBA Finals.

Tonight, the Celtics beat the Orlando Magic 96-84 to win Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Final.

After taking a three games to none series lead, the Magic roared back and won Games 4 and 5.

Fortunately, the Celtics did not impersonate the Bruins.

The Celtics will face either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. The Lakers presently have a 3-2 lead in the NBA Western Conference Final. The Lakers have a chance to clinch tomorrow night.

If they do it will be a rematch of two years ago which saw the Celtics win their first NBA Championship in 22 years.

Although I think the Suns would be an equally interesting opponent a majority of Celtics fans say, "We Want L.A.!!!"

Gary Coleman, 1968-2010. R.I.P.

Actor Gary Coleman has died of a intracranial hemorrage as a result of a fall at his home. He was 42.

The diminutive Coleman is best remembered for playing Arnold Jackson on the TV series Diff'rent Strokes which aired on NBC from 1978 to 1985 and on ABC from 1985 to 1986.

The last quarter century had not been kind to Coleman. He took his parents to court over his earnings they misappropriated. Although he won his finances were in such a state that he filed for bankruptcy.

Acting jobs were hard to come by. At one point Coleman took a job as a security guard to make ends meet.

Coleman was one of 135 candidates who ran for Governor of California in 2003 after Gray Davis' recall. He would eventually support Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful gubernatorial bid.

Sometimes he was his own worst enemy with a volatile temper. Matrimony did little to quell his rage.

Then there were his health problems beginning with his congenital kidney disease which required two transplants and stunted his growth. He required constant dialysis. His health took a turn for the worse earlier this year after he suffered two seizures. One of which took place while he was doing a TV interview.

If only that rage could have been channeled into the sort of meaty acting role that would have led people to look at him in a new light. Unfortunately, that chance never came.

Of course, even if it had there's no guarantee it would have led to contentment.

I don't want to sound cliche but given his circumstances he might now very well be in a better place.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lt. John Finn, 1909-2010. R.I.P.

Retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant John Finn has died. His cause of death is unknown. He was 100 years old.

A career Navy man, Finn would receive the Medal of Honor in 1942 for his valor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was the first soldier to receive the Medal of Honor during WWII.

Finn used a machine gun to shoot at Japanese airplanes from an exposed position. Despite sustaining wounds from bomb and bullet fragments he managed to supervise the rearmament of American war planes.

Finn, who lived near San Diego, often downplayed his yeoman efforts. He once said, "I was just an uneducated man who got mad as hell one day.”

Thank goodness John Finn was on our side.

Tina Fey to Receive Mark Twain Humor Prize

Earlier this week, Tina Fey was named by the Kennedy Center as the 2010 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

She will receive the award on November 9th.

Past recipients of the award include Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart and Richard Pryor.

I still don't think she's funny.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FAIR President Dan Stein Cites My AmSpec Article

Dan Stein, President of The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has cited my latest article in The American Spectator on his blog.

I write about Assistant Secretary of State for Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton's criticism of the Arizona immigration law. Morton states the Arizona law is not "good government." Yet the Arizona law clearly states that if a law enforcement official has a reasonable suspicion about a person's immigration status that it is incumbent upon them to contact ICE's 24-hour hotline to answer that question. How exactly is this practice a breach of "good government"?

This article should also soon be available on IC's main site.

UPDATE: The article is now up.

Art Linkletter, 1912-2010. R.I.P.

Television pioneer Art Linkletter has died. The cause of death has not been released. He was 97.

Linkletter was already well established as a radio broadcaster when he ventured into television in 1952. Every weekday for nearly two decades, he hosted Art Linkletter's House Party on CBS. It was an unscripted variety show and its best known segment was Kids Say The Darndest Things. It is estimated that Linkletter interviewed to more than 20,000 children. Years later, Bill Cosby would his own version of Kids Say The Darndest Things which included flashbacks to the Linkletter years. Call it the earliest form of Reality TV.

Linkletter was married for 75 years and was the father of five. However, three of his children would predecease him including his daughter Diane who committed suicide in 1969 just shy of her 21st birthday. Linkletter would blame his daughter's death on LSD and became an anti-drug campaigner.

In his later years, Linkletter would be involved with the United Seniors Association (a.ka. U.S.A Next) which was established as a conservative alternative to AARP.

I knew Linkletter was born in Canada. He was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (our family passed through there twice during our move back and forth between Thunder Bay, Ontario and Victoria, B.C. We always lost stuff there. My mother lost a nightgown and my younger brother lost his R2D2 doll although it was returned to him). But I did not know he had been adopted. It could explain in part why he had such a great connection with children.

Will DOJ Challenge Arizona Immigration Law?

It appears the Department of Justice is putting together a court challenge to Arizona's recently passed immigration law.

At the moment it isn't clear what line of argument the DOJ will use other than it "impedes federal law."

Yet if one actually reads the Arizona immigration law one will find that once a law enforcement official has stopped, detained or arrested an individual and develops a reasonable suspicion the individual is not in the country legally it is incumbent upon the officer to call ICE's 24 hour hotline to verify the individual's immigration status.

To be precise the Arizona immigration law states:

The person's immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code Section 1373(c).

And if you take the time to read United States Code Section 1373(c) you will find:

(c) Obligation to respond to inquiries

The Immigration and Naturalization Service shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information.

So how exactly does a police officer from Scottsdale placing a call to a hotline established by the federal government for the purpose of verifying an individual's immigration status impede federal law?

It is a matter I address in my latest article which is not yet up on IC's main site but can be found over at The American Spectator. (UPDATE: The article is now up at IC as well).

However, I am under no illusion that you can separate politics from the law anymore than you can take water out of the ocean. If the DOJ challenges the Arizona law and if they get a liberal judge with an axe to grind then watch out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Obama Authorizes Up To 1,200 National Guard to U.S.-Mexican Border

Perhaps feeling the heat of being out of the step with the public mood on the Arizona immigration law, President Obama today authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border.

President Obama is trying to give the appearance of doing something. Of course, giving the appearance of doing something and actually doing something are entirely different things.

Naturally it begs the question as to how many National Guard will actually be deployed. "Up to 1,200 National Guard" could mean 120 troops or it could mean twelve. But assuming Obama is serious about deploying the maximum number the question is where along the border will they be deployed? Will any be deployed in Arizona? Or will he withhold their deployment unless Arizona repeals SB 1070? Will there be any other strings attached?

It should be noted that in May 2006, former President George W. Bush authorized the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border. That is the amount Senator John McCain is seeking. President Obama is authorizing only a fifth of that figure. It is better than nothing but it is still a proverbial drop in the bucket.

Kwame Kilpatrick Isn't Nelson Mandela

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been sentenced up to five years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. Kilpatrick plead guilty on obstruction of justice charges in September 2008 prompting his resignation as mayor.

Mike Paul, Kilpatrick's spokesman, said that his client's sentence was like "South Africa during the days of apartheid."

Kwame Kilpatrick is many things. Nelson Mandela isn't one of them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blackhawks & Flyers To Face Off in Stanley Cup

Canada will have to wait another year for a Stanley Cup Champion.

Tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the NHL Eastern Conference Final. No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since the Canadiens in 1993.

The Flyers will face off against the Chicago Blackhawks for Lord Stanley's Cup. The Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the NHL Western Conference Final yesterday.

It's been a long time since either team has carried the Cup. The Flyers won back to back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 but have won nothing since despite five subsequent appearances in the NHL Final. The Flyers last appeared in the Stanley Cup in 1997 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings who were coached by Scotty Bowman.

The Blackhawks, however, have not won in nearly fifty years. The last triumph for the Blackhawks took place in 1961 when they beat the Red Wings. Like the Flyers, the Blackhawks have made it to the NHL Final five times without grabbing the brass ring. Their most recent Stanley Cup appearance was in 1992 when they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins who were coached by - you guessed it - Scotty Bowman.

I'm not crazy about what the Flyers did to the Bruins so I'm rooting for the Blackhawks. They've had a longer drought and let's not forget they're part of the Original Six. If a Canadian team can't win and the Bruins are out then I'll take one of the Original Six teams.

Simon Monjack, 1970-2010. R.I.P.

Simon Monjack, a Hollywood director best known for having been married to actress Brittany Murphy, died late last night of an apparent heart attack. He was 39.

Monjack's death comes only five months after Murphy suddenly died last December. Murphy died at the age of 32 due to complications from pneumonia.

It also appears that Monjack's body was discovered by Murphy's mother Sharon. It was Sharon Murphy who also found her daughter unresponsive at the same home last December.

I can't imagine she would want to stay another night in that house.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jose Lima, 1972-2010, R.I.P.

Former major league pitcher Jose Lima has died of massive heart attack. He was 37.

Lima compiled an 89-102 record with a 5.26 ERA in 13 big league seasons.

On the surface that wouldn't appear very impressive. Indeed, for much of his career one could make the case Lima didn't have much business on the pitcher's mound.

But at other times Lima could be spectacular. And when he was spectacular it was Lima Time.

After beginning his big league career with the Detroit Tigers in 1994, Lima was traded to the Houston Astros prior to the 1997 season. Lima had his two best seasons in the bigs with the Astros in 1998 and 1999 compiling a 16-8 record with a 3.70 ERA and a 21-10 record with 3.58 ERA, respectively. Lima would finished 4th in NL Cy Young balloting in 1999 and would be named to the NL All-Star Team.

Lima's colorful personality had two sides. A carefree one but also one with a volatile temper. The latter would show itself in 2000. After the Astros moved from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park (then known as Enron Field) Lima couldn't adapt to the hitter friendly facility. He fell to 7-16 with an astronomical 6.65 ERA. He surrendered 48 home runs and gave up a league leading 145 earned runs. I recall a skirmish he had in the dugout with teammate Moises Alou when Alou failed to catch a fly ball in one game.

Lima would be traded back to the Tigers in the middle of the 2001 season but would be released at the end of the following season. At the time of his release he declared, "I must be the worst pitcher on Earth." He signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent prior to the 2003 season but success did not accompany him.

However, Lima would enjoy a renaissance season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004 going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA en route to an NL West Division title. He would pitch a complete game five-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. It was the Dodgers only win against the Cardinals in that playoff.

But when Lima returned to the Royals in 2005 his pitching woes returned with a 5-16 record and a 6.99 ERA - the highest in MLB history by a pitcher who made more than 30 starts. He also led the AL in surrendering 131 earned runs.

Lima finished his big league career the following year with the New York Mets compiling an 0-4 record with 9.87 ERA before being released. He continued to play pro ball in South Korea as well as with several independent minor league teams.

What hits me here is that Lima and I are the same age. In fact, he was born exactly two weeks after me. It gives one pause for thought.

Republican Elected in Obama's Old Stomping Grounds

Could this be a sign of things to come in November?

Honolulu City Councillor Charles Djou, a Republican, won the special election in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District defeating two Democratic candidates.

What makes Djou's victory significant is that this is the Congressional District where President Obama was born and raised. It gave Obama 70% of the vote during the 2008 election.

If Obama's old stomping grounds are having doubts about him there perhaps more change will be afoot in the fall.

13-Year-Old Boy Climbs Atop Mount Everest

Last week, it was 16-year-old Jessica Watson sailing solo around the world.

This week, it is 13-year-old Jordan Romero climbing atop Mount Everest.

Some people question the wisdom of these undertakings by those of such a young age but I cannot help but admire their adventurous spirit.

Despite his tender age Romero has climbed the highest peak on every continent save for Antarctica.

Still, I have no illusions about the risk. Indeed, it is every bit as dangerous to climb down Everest than it is to climb up.

So here's to a safe journey back home.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Like Pac-Man But Centipede is Better

I'm glad Google is commemorating the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man this weekend with an interactive doodle. Let's party like it's 1980.

But while I like Pac-Man (and for that matter Ms. Pac-Man) my favorite video game from 1980 was Centipede. I did better with a rolling a trackball than handling a joystick even if it did leave me with blisters on my fingers.

I'm not into World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto or any of the modern video games although I did enjoy playing baseball and bowling on Nintendo Wii one Sunday afternoon back in January. But I don't need state of the art graphics. Just give me something simple, direct and to the point.

Is ICE Putting Freeze on Arizona Immigration Law?

John Morton, Assistant Secretary of State for Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has made it known that ICE might not enforce Arizona's recently passed immigration law.

Earlier this week, Morton told The Chicago Tribune, "I don't think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution." Morton added that he wasn't of the opinion that the Arizona law represented "good government."

For all the hoopla that has surrounded Arizona's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act the provision concerning the enforcement of immigration law can be summarized in three steps.

Step One - A law enforcement official has made a lawful stop, detention or arrest of an individual.

Step Two - A law enforcement official has developed a reasonable suspicion the individual is not in this country legally (i.e. failure to produce identification).

Step Three - On the basis of this reasonable suspicion, a law enforcement official contacts ICE to verify the individual's immigration status.

If Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano had bothered to read the statute they would have read the part which states:

The person's immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code Section 1373(c).

And what exactly does 8 U.S. Code Section 1373(c) read? Well, read it. Don't just glance:

(c) Obligation to respond to inquiries

The Immigration and Naturalization Service shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information.

Simply put if an individual is deported as a result of this law it is a decision that would ultimately be rendered by ICE in accordance with federal law not by a law enforcement official in Arizona. And the federal government knows it all too well.

For years Arizona has been at the mercy of the federal government for its largely indifferent efforts to secure the Mexican border. Even with the passage of this law, Arizona is still at the mercy of the federal government. If ICE (with the support of the Obama Administration) makes a concerted effort to either ignore requests from Arizona law enforcement officials to determine an individual's immigration status they will have effectively neutralized their efforts to enforce immigration law and we'll be right back to where we are now. By which all appearances is exactly what the Obama Administration wants.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thoughts on Rand Paul

I just saw Kentucky GOP Senatorial candidate Rand Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow.

How absolutely awful!!!

He shot himself in the foot while it was in his mouth.

When someone asks you if you support desegregating lunch counters you answer the question with a firm yes. You don't digress.

The more and more Maddow asked him if he supported desegregating lunch counters and the more and more he didn't answer the question the bigger and bigger the hole he dug for himself.

Now if Paul were to have answered her question directly but she persisted with questions concerning the 1964 Civil Rights Act here is what Paul should have said:

I know what you're trying to do. It's what liberals have been doing to conservatives for decades. You want to make me and other conservatives out to be racists and I won't let you do it. I expect better than that. Shame on you!!!

That would have put it all back on Maddow.

In fairness to Maddow, she didn't pick the Civil Rights Act out of thin air. Paul had discussed it in an interview with The Courier-Journal last month as well as in a subsequent interview on NPR's All Things Considered after winning the Kentucky GOP Primary earlier this week.

Under most circumstances when Paul says "I think a lot of things could be handled locally" that's fine but in the context of the American South circa 1964 that isn't fine. If your local solution is beating up people sitting at a lunch counter then we've got a problem. A big problem.

I understand that businesses have and should reserve the right to refuse service. But their refusal to serve has to be grounded in reason. Let's use a restaurant as an example. A restaurant is certainly within its rights to refuse service and to ask the customer to leave the premises if that customer is intoxicated, assaults another patron or employee of the restaurant or is otherwise unruly.

But if someone just wants a hamburger and a Coke and has the money to pay for it then on what grounds does the restaurant have the right to refuse service? A smart restaurant owner would see his customer not as a black man but as a hungry man or a thirsty one.

If a restaurant owner in 2010 were stupid enough to refuse service to black people all they would need to do would be go down the street to another restaurant whose owner would be more than happy to take their money. But prior to 1964 black people living in the South did not have that choice available to them. They were effectively barred from engaging in commerce. Their liberty was impinged and were restricted from pursuing happiness.

Now I am not aware of any restaurant, tavern or any other eatery in this country that presently has a policy of refusing service to black people. If there was we would know about it. The United States of America has actually made some progress since 1964 even if the Rachel Maddows of the world would be loathe to admit it.

But the fact of the matter is that Rand Paul is a product of the Tea Party and liberals have been trying to discredit it for some time now. If liberals can discredit Paul then it would go a long way in discrediting the Tea Party. That is liberal agenda item number one and Paul should know better than to play into their agenda. Talking about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gets him nowhere in a hurry.

With about 5½ months before election day, Rand Paul has time on his side. But he needs to use that time wisely.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elvis Costello Cancels Tour Dates in Israel

Elvis Costello announced on his website recently that he has canceled two shows he was to have performed in Israel on June 30th and July 1st:

I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlements and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.

So Costello cancels a concert in Israel because some of the concert goers agree with his position?

That seems really well thought out.

The only consolation is that Costello's wife Diana Krall will still be performing in Israel in August.

However, other artists such as Carlos Santana and Gil Scott-Heron and Sting have also recently canceled performances in Israel. In these two cases it appears both artists were intimidated into canceling with Scott-Heron being heckled by concert goers in London until he agreed to cancel his date in Tel Aviv.

But then again perhaps it's just as well that Costello and company don't perform in Israel. In 2006, ex-Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters performed in Israel despite protests from Palestinian groups. However, Waters met with one of these groups (the Palestinian Campaign for an Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) and agreed to move his concert and also spoke out against Israel's security fence.

Waters would also visit a section of the security fence and spray painted "no thought control" and "tear down this wall." He would compare Israel's security fence to the Berlin Wall. Never mind the Berlin Wall kept East Germans in while the security fence keeps Palestinian terrorists out. I wrote an article about it titled, "Hey, Suicide Bomber, Leave Those Kids Alone".

Now I must admit I've long been a Pink Floyd fan and still listen to their music despite Waters' ignorance. Elvis Costello's music, on the other hand, I could take or leave. From this point forward I'll take my leave.

Obama Says His Administration "Is Taking a Very Close Look" at AZ Law

Today, during a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama stated:

And I want everyone, Mexican and American, to know my administration is taking a close look at the Arizona law.

And by taking a close look at the Arizona law does the President mean that someone in his administration will actually have read it?

Because we know neither Eric Holder nor Janet Napolitano have taken a close look at it. Ditto for State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

So Mr. President, who exactly in your administration is taking a close look at Arizona's immigration law?

A Civil Exchange With Rod McKuen on Obamacare

I am a fan of Rod McKuen's music and poetry. If you are unfamiliar with McKuen he is perhaps best known for translating Jacques Brel's works into English most notably "Le Moribond". North Americans would know the song as "Seasons in the Sun" which would become a big hit for Terry Jacks in 1974. McKuen also wrote the song "Jean" which became a hit in 1967 for Oliver.

Anyhow, I occasionally check in on McKuen's website. Every couple of days or so he writes a blog or what he calls a "flight plan." The flight plan he wrote on March 25th addressed Obamacare:

And this country is still going through a very mean season regarding decent health care for each of its citizens. One political party worked its butt off to finally get a bill passed that would guarantee some relief from the medical maze that sooner or later probably all of us will face. The other party did everything possible to defeat it and in the end, because they are the self confessed party of “No,” not a single Republican voted for the bill. Did they offer an alternative? No. Not one single member of the Not So Grand Old Party (never mind the group as a whole) offered an alternate strategy or plan of his or her own.

I knew this statement to be factually incorrect. After all, Representative Paul Ryan had put forward his own health care bill and also released a policy paper on the subject. There were also at least 70 other bills dealing with health care that had been introduced by various Republican members of Congress. So I figured why not just shoot him an e-mail to make him aware of his error. But I also figured it would be better to edify him with honey rather than vinegar.

Well, something I wrote struck a chord with him because he responded a few hours later mea culpa and all. It takes a big man to admit he is wrong. Earlier this week, McKuen posted our exchange on his "flight plan." As McKuen himself acknowledged in a subsequent "flight plan" in which he commented at length about the passing of his close friend Ted Raff:

I have never been as good a friend to my friends as I wish I could be. I almost always forget birthdays and anniversaries. I don’t like the telephone and I hate writing letters. I have unanswered e-mails dating back to April 2007; many have not been downloaded or even opened.

Getting a ‘Thank You Note’ from me for a gift or gesture is no doubt a surprise on the part of the recipient . . . because it usually arrives months after the fact, if it comes at all. Instead of being there physically in a timely manner, often I reach out mentally, assuming the person I love and am thinking about gets the vibes by telepathy or whatever. Of course they seldom do.

It makes McKuen's prompt response to my e-mail that much more meaningful particularly his last paragraph:

Thanks again Aaron for taking the time to write and for your reasonable and measured comments. (I hope we do meet face to face and I'm sure we will because whatever our political leaning it's obvious that we share a commitment to righting what we feel is wrong in the so-called system. This is a conversation that I look forward to continuing.) Warmest regards, Rod.

I, too, hope to continue this conversation with Rod McKuen in person.

Until then I'll leave you with McKuen and Johnny Cash exchanging poems about the railroad and singing a duet.

Thoughts on Arlen Specter

Arlen Specter gambled and lost.

If liberals have a choice between voting for a liberal Democrat or a liberal Republican liberals are always going to vote for the liberal Democrat.

That is why Joe Sestak will be facing Pat Toomey this November and why Arlen Specter's political career is now over.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Did Richard Blumenthal Have His Tim Johnson Moment?

When I learned that Connecticut Democrat Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal had falsely claimed he had served in Vietnam on multiple occasions I immediately thought of Tim Johnson.

Johnson was the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays during the 1998 season and had led them to a respectable 88-74 record. It's worth noting the Jays haven't matched that win total since.

Johnson would motivate players by telling them about his experiences in Vietnam. Except he never served in Vietnam although he did serve in the Marine Reserve.

When the story broke shortly before spring training in 1999 it became such a distraction Johnson would be fired before the season began and would be replaced by Jim Fregosi.

Well, I'm not the only one who thought about Johnson. Ashby Jones of The Wall Street Journal wrote about the Johnson affair and how it relates to the current row over Blumenthal.

What Jones doesn't mention is that Johnson has never held another job in MLB, managerial or otherwise. Over the past decade, Johnson has managed in the Mexican League and in a couple of independent leagues. Currently, Johnson is at the helm of the Tuscon Toros of the Golden Baseball League.

If lying about one's military record can cost someone a managerial position in MLB and be relegated to the fringes of professional baseball then surely there should be similarly severe consequences for someone who is seeking election to the United States Senate.

Thoughts on Mount St. Helens @ Thirty

I can't believe thirty years have passed since Mount St. Helens erupted.

I'm sure the people in Skamania County, Washington can't believe it either.

I was in the second grade at Ogden Community School in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Ms. Littleford was my teacher.

It seemed that ash spread everywhere. I remember my maternal grandparents sent us a pill bottle full of ash which came down where they lived in Coleman, Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass.

Some of the ash even reached us in Northwestern Ontario although not in a very large quantity. But I remember one hot afternoon during recess become that became nearly unbearable with those tiny particles running through the air.

It was also then when I learned that the Harry Truman who died at the foot of Mount St. Helens was not the same man who was the 33rd President of the United States.

I'm sure if something that cataclysmic were to happen today some people would either blame it on global warming or would chalk it up to a conspiracy theory. But there are times when nature can humble man and this was surely was of those times.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Downfall of an American hero

America has experienced the painful downfall of one of its favorite heroes of the last decade — Tiger Woods. I have nothing new to add on l'affaire Tiger; rather I would like to focus on the general nature of the American hero — past and present. I will argue that the nature of the beast has indeed changed over the last half century. Then I will describe the key feature of the change, identify the main culprit responsible for the change and conclude with a speculation on what the change says about American society.

More than 40 years separate the eras in which two catchy slogans captured the American public's attention: "I Like Ike" (early 1950's) and "Be Like Mike" (mid 1990's). The difference in the slogans’ objects represents more than just a time lapse; it highlights a change in our culture in terms of our reference to heroes — who they are, why we admire them and what we expect of them. In previous generations our heroes usually were politicians and soldiers, scientists and philosophers, statesmen and authors. For example, if we hark back to the mid twentieth century, the most common heroes would certainly have included — in addition to Eisenhower — Churchill, Einstein, FDR, MacArthur, Salk, and maybe a writer like Steinbeck or Hemingway. A half century earlier, businessmen and philanthropists like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Astor would have supplemented a list that surely included T. Roosevelt, Wilson and Mellon. Today, the most admired lists tend to be dominated by athletes, entertainers, and celebrities — people like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey and of course, Elvis. Leaders have been replaced by personalities. Why is that? Perhaps we can discover the answer if, having decided who, we consider why and what.

One of my Websters defines a hero as "one who is admired for his achievements and qualities; one that shows great courage." In the past we admired those who led heroic lives or accomplished heroic deeds; those whose great achievements were wrought at substantial personal risk and entailed courageous action. Today, we look primarily to those who are absolutely brilliant at what they do — on the court, on the screen, in the public eye, but without any attendant requirement of personal risk or courage. The difference is somewhat subtle. To perform heroic deeds requires courage, selflessness, willingness to take great risk. To be the best at one thing requires dedication, perseverance, raw talent. These are all admirable qualities. But I venture that yesterday's heroes manifested the latter qualities as well as the former, whereas today's heroes, while usually exemplary in the latter, are often lacking the former.

Why this subtle change? I think there are numerous reasons, many bound up with the massive culture shift that we have experienced over the last fifty years in the country. Here I would like to focus on one specific culprit — the media. I believe the media has played an enormous role in bringing about this change in the perception of heroism — for four reasons.

1. The muckraking, iconoclastic role of the media has escalated beyond bounds. No one is perfect of course, and while years ago the media was often complicit in hiding character flaws of our heroes, today they leave no stone unturned in their attempt to expose every possible wart that a potential hero might have. This applies particularly to politicians, soldiers and statesmen, making it nearly impossible for them to earn the unmitigated admiration of the public. John Kennedy was a womanizer, but the media did not report it. Conversely, every zip of Bill Clinton's trousers made the evening news.

2. Politics is a contact sport, but today it is bloodier than ever. The media has helped to drive a wedge through the body politic. The fault lines are clearly drawn and the media inflames the debate. In many ways the citizenry is divided down the middle and the opinions are so sharp that it is inconceivable that a man of the left could be admired by the people of the right — and vice versa. Thus it is hard to be a hero to the people if you start off with 50% of them detesting you. Because of this, political and religious figures don't have a prayer of garnering widespread public admiration. Reagan was loved by those on the right, despised by the left, and exactly the reverse pertains to Obama.

3. Celebrities sell ink and electrons. The public has a seemingly insatiable appetite for news about pop culture. Celebrities sell magazines, newspapers, books, films, TV shows, DVDs and all other forms of electronic media. Fewer and fewer people pay much attention to hard news, but the popularity of celebrity magazines and web sites, "reality" TV shows and music videos shows no sign of abating. The media encourages this and profits from it. Compared to Michael Phelps or Miley Cyrus, Hillary Clinton is a crashing bore.

4. The media has played a critical role in the vulgarization of the culture. The amount of violence, degeneracy and moral squalor that the media propagates is disgusting. The reputation of a classic hero cannot survive in that swamp; but it is not toxic to a modern celebrity. Moral degeneracy is just another "thing" that a celebrity can excel at.

So, what do we expect of our heroes? In times past, we exacted a high moral standard. Heroes often failed to live up to those standards, but that does not change the fact that that is what we expected of them. They were role models par excellence, people who could inspire our dreams and elevate our spirits. Today's heroes are merely expected to be the best at what they do. Roger Federer and LeBron James are phenomenal athletes; it is a joy and a pleasure to watch them. But they do not change the course of history; they do not inspire men and women to challenge their ideas about life and society; they do not discover new products or technologies to improve our lives; they do not take great physical or personal risks to achieve their goals. The old heroes did these things, and their and our lives were richer for it. We had inspiration instead of titillation, admiration instead of perspiration.

Finally, what does the change in the nature of our heroes say about American society? I believe it is yet another reflection of our mutation from a society that prized rugged individualism into the nanny state. We are increasingly risk averse. Instead of demanding a level playing field upon which all individuals can compete and rise to heights that their talents and determination might take them, we look to the government and to "experts" to salve our wounds and smooth our path to a safe, but uninspiring destination.

YouTube is the World's Biggest Jukebox

Today, YouTube celebrates its fifth birthday.

I think the word "revolutionize" is overused but YouTube truly revolutionized the Internet.

We will never watch TV or listen to music in the same way.

The reason I say listen to music is because I generally listen to YouTube rather than watch it.

I think of YouTube as the world's biggest jukebox containing songs from the familiar to the obscure.

YouTube has given me to listen to music by artists whose recordings are nearly impossible to find.

Here are a few of my favorites. However, I must apologize for I cannot embed any of the videos.

Here's a song called "Histoire Sans Paroles" by Harmonium, a 1970s progressive rock group from Quebec. In English, histoire sans paroles means a story without words. It's a stunningly beautiful instrumental. The only drawback to YouTube is that you generally can't post videos longer than 10 minutes. So the song is in two parts which can be found here and here.

Most of you are probably familiar with The Byrds who had such hit songs as "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Mr. Tambourine Man". However, you might not recognize the name Gene Clark. While he wrote or co-wrote many of their hits he was overshadowed by the likes of Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. Clark's solo career would also be eclipsed by both McGuinn and Crosby. But take a listen to "Echoes" (with the Gosdin Brothers) and "Silent Crusade." These songs were recorded a decade apart but the quality of his song craft is undeniable and deserves another hearing.

I also like YouTube because you can ask someone to post a video and more often than not someone will. Over the last few months I've become a big fan of Emitt Rhodes. While some of his songs were available on YouTube others were not. One such song was "Golden Child of God."
When I asked for this song to be posted beatlefan64 was more than happy to oblige.

Speaking of The Beatles, there are lots of Beatles fans on YouTube. Many of them cover their songs with varying degrees of success. So who does sing the best a capella version of "Because" from the Abbey Road album? Is it a trio of college boys at a bar? Or is it a quartet of high school girls sitting on a living room floor? You be the judge.

Carrie Prejean Part Deux?

To paraphrase Yogi Berra it could be déjà vu all over again.

It appears that politics has reared its ugly head in the Miss USA Pageant last night. Actor Oscar Nunez (best known for the NBC show The Office) asked Miss Oklahoma Morgan Elizabeth Woolard if she supported Arizona's immigration law. Woolward replied that she supported states rights and that Arizona was within its rights to pass the law.

Woolard would finish runner up to Miss Michigan Rima Fakih.

Of course, a year ago Perez Hilton asked Carrie Prejean if she favored the legalization of same sex marriage and all hell broke loose.

Now this story might not have the legs the Prejean matter did unless Nunez goes on YouTube and calls Woolward "a dumb b*tch" and states her answer cost her the Miss USA title.

Interestingly, the crowd booed Nunez for asking the question rather than Woolward for replying to it. The crowd knew it was a loaded question.

Now I don't have a problem with judges asking general questions such as "What do you think is the greatest problem facing the United States or the world?" But when it comes to a specific matter such as gay marriage or the Arizona immigration the judges aren't actually interested in their opinion. The judges want to know who they can weed out if a contestant gives a politically incorrect reply.

Of course, it also gives judges an opportunity to play favorites. Now I don't deny Fakih is a beautiful woman and may well be worthy of being Miss USA. But would the judges have asked the Lebanese born Fakih what she thought of Hezbollah?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cincinnati Reds in First Place in NL Central

Well, so it doesn't look the Seattle Mariners World Series triumph I predicted will come to pass.

But I did pick the Cincinnati Reds to win the NL Central. Today, the Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-2 courtesy of a complete game by Bronson Arroyo and now find themselves atop the division.

I realize there are four and a half months left in the season and so much can happen between now and October. But I don't know of anybody who picked the Reds and if they manage to win the NL Central it will be a nice feather in my cap.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Girl Who Sailed Around The World Hasn't Learned to Drive

Today, Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the world solo nonstop.

The 16-year-old Australian landed in Sydney and was greeted by well wishers including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who called her "Australia's newest hero." Her journey began last October.

Although Watson has just sailed solo she has not yet obtained her driver's license.

Watson, however, has been subject to criticism for her journey. Of course, some objected to her embarking on this at such a young age while others have made claims she didn't completely circumnavigate the earth. But even if there had been no dispute as to whether Watson had circumnavigated the globe the World Sailing Speed Record Council wasn't going to recognize her achievement anyway because of her age. A no win situation.

Well, whatever the World Sailing Speed Record Council thinks about Watson, I think it's a magnificent accomplishment. How many adults could have endured more than 200 days in rough seas all alone?

But Watson isn't the only young female who is sailing around the world. Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland (who is five months younger than Watson) is currently sailing around the world. However, she did have to stop last month in Cape Town, South Africa for repairs. But she still plans on circumnavigating the globe.

Then there's Laura Dekker. She's 14 and wants to beat out Watson. Dekker wanted to begin her journey last September. However, the Dutch authorities have been holding Dekker back. Dutch social services and the courts made Dekker a ward of the court in October. In December, Dekker ran away and somehow made her way to the Dutch island of Saint Maartens before she was recognized and returned to The Netherlands. However, this is due to end in July and it appears Dekker will set sail sometime before her 15th birthday unless the Dutch courts intervene.

I don't deny Dekker is very, very young. I also don't deny that sailing around the world solo is a risky proposition for anyone never mind a 14-year-old girl. But this 14-year-old girl was born at sea, has spent a good part of her life there and has been sailing boats since she was six. This girl isn't exactly into Justin Bieber. I think the Dutch government should leave Dekker alone and let her pursue her dream.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Law & Order Cancelled

Today, NBC announced it has cancelled Law & Order after 20 seasons on the air.

The final episode will air on May 24th.

If it had remained on the air for another season it would have surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest running series in the history of television.

But its ratings have declined steeply in recent years. Besides, you can't keep something on TV for the sake of keeping something on TV if people are losing interest. Or as former Law & Order star Michael Moriarity put it last December in an article on, "Methuselah was the longest running star of the Bible...but I hardly think his memory brings a smile or tear to anyone's eye."

Law & Order became far more stridently left-wing and thus both less appealing and interesting.

Of course, Law & Order became far less interesting once Jerry Orbach left the series and then left this mortal coil.

However, L&O fans can still watch Law & Order:SVU as well as Law & Order: Criminal Intent on the USA Network. However, L&O:CI isn't the same without either Vincent D'Onofrio or Kate Erbe even if Saffron Burrows is deliciously gorgeous.

NBC and series producer however are due to launch Law & Order: Los Angeles in the fall. A lot of scenes in L&O revolve around walking outside and L.A. doesn't exactly lend itself to travelling by foot.

Selig: 2011 All-Star Game Stays in Phoenix

Yesterday, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters he had no plans to move the 2011 All-Star Game which will be played in Phoenix. The Commish made his comments following a meeting in New York with MLB owners.

Selig has been pressured by opponents of Arizona's immigration law to move the mid-season classic.

The MLBPA has condemned the law although they have not yet announced any specific measures they will take against it.

San Diego Padres superstar Adrian Gonzalez announced earlier this month he would stay away if the game were held in Phoenix. Despite Gonzalez's stature unless other big name players join him methinks the owners (whom Selig represents) will stand their ground on this one.

Boston Bruins Choke

What a difference twenty-four hours makes.

Last night, the Boston Garden witnessed triumph when the Celtics upended the Cleveland Cavaliers to advance to the NBA Eastern Conference Final.

Tonight, it bore witness to one of the most monumental collapses in sports history. The Boston Bruins fell 4-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Semi-Final.

A week ago, the Bruins had a three games to none lead and were set to clinch.

Tonight's game was emblematic of the series. The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 1st period. But the Flyers scored four unanswered goals.

The Bruins become the third team in NHL history to blow a three games to none lead. The Detroit Red Wings couldn't clinch it against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 and in 1975 the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn't put away the New York Islanders.

As for the Flyers, they will advance to the NHL Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens.

But at least Boston fans still have the Celtics to rally around.

A Question for Eric Holder

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder publicly admitted to not having read Arizona's recently passed immigration law during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Writing in The Boston Herald today, Holly Robichaud asks, So can we conclude that the Obama administration has rushed to judgment? Were they ever going to give the law a fair chance? I think we all know the answers to these questions."

This leaves me with one question.

How can the Attorney General of the United States consider a court challenge to a law he has not taken the time to read?

Chris Christie for President

The Huffington Post is in, well, all in a huff about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie taking a liberal columnist Tom Moran to task for asking him about his "confrontational tone" during a press conference yesterday.

"You know Tom, you must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America," replied Christie. "Because if you think that's a confrontational tone then you should really see me when I'm pissed."

I know that Christie has a lot of work to do in New Jersey but this guy should consider a run for the White House because our allies should respect us and our enemies should fear us. Under the Obama Administration it's the other way around. The Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's, the Kim Jong-Ils and Faisal Shahzad's of the world might think twice before pissing off Chris Christie.

The Pipes of Peace?

Yesterday, Daniel Pipes wrote a most interesting article in National Review Online about Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. This article can also be found on Pipes' website.

Pipes, through the Middle East Forum, commissioned on poll on attitudes towards Israel as a Jewish state in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. According to the poll, approximately 20% of those surveyed accept Israel as a Jewish state. Pipes sees cause for optimism:

Although 20 percent constitutes a small minority, its consistency over time and place offers encouragement. That one-fifth of Muslims, Arabs, and even Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state suggests that, despite a near-century of indoctrination and intimidation, a base for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict does exist.

Would-be peacemakers must direct their attention to increasing the size of this moderate cohort. Getting from 20 percent to, say, 60 percent would fundamentally shift the politics of the Middle East, displacing Israel from its exaggerated role and releasing the peoples of this blighted region to address their real challenges. Not Zionism but such, oh, minor problems as autocracy, brutality, cruelty, conspiracism, religious intolerance, apocalypticism, political extremism, misogyny, slavery, economic backwardness, brain drain, capital flight, corruption, and drought.

I wish I shared Pipes' optimism. I don't dispute that 20% of the Arab world has no problem living alongside or in proximity to a Jewish state. However, this 20% doesn't exactly go around the streets of Amman, Beirut, Cairo and Riyadh wearing Hug a Jew Today t-shirts. I don't see how you get from 20% to 60% support if those 20% aren't willing to speak out much less wear their support on their sleeves.

Let us also remember that Israel has had a formal peace agreement with Egypt for over three decades and a formal peace agreement with Jordan for over fifteen years. When only 26% of Egyptians and 9% of Jordanians support the idea of having a Jewish state as a neighbor it tells me an overwhelming majority of their populaces would just as soon see Israel driven into the sea.

I don't fault Pipes for trying to find a sliver an optimism in a cloud of despair. But unless individual Arabs (be they Muslim or Christian) take it upon themselves to speak out in favor of Israel I think that Arab acceptance of the Jewish State is little more than a pipe dream.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Washington Times Notes My Tribute to Lena Horne

The Washington Times has noted my tribute to Lena Horne.

The article can be found both on the IC mainpage and at The American Spectator.

Kagan in Praise of Radicals and Socialism

"The story is a sad but also a chastening one for those who, more than half a century after socialism's decline, still wish to change America. Radicals have often succumbed to the devastating bane of sectarianism; it is easier, after all, to fight one's fellows than it is to battle an entrenched and powerful foe. Yet if the history of Local New York shows anything, it is that American radicals cannot afford to become their own worst enemies. In unity lies their only hope."

Read more....

Celtics Upset Cavaliers in Six

It appears LeBron James has played his last game in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.

The Boston Celtics defeated the Cavs 94-85 in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Final.

The Cavs were heavily favored to win an elusive NBA title.

The Celtics jumped out of the gate but as the season lingered they showed their age getting blown out by likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Bobcats.

But the Celtics cooled the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs and now having triumphed over the Cavs they will face the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Final.

As for LeBron you can expect him to sport a New York Knicks jersey this fall.

Royals Fire Hillman, Hire Yost

The Kansas City Royals have fired manager Trey Hillman and have replaced him with former Milwaukee Brewers skipper Ned Yost.

They did so after the Royals defeated the Cleveland Indians 6-4 this afternoon. It marked the first win of the season for Zack Greinke who won the AL Cy Young in 2009.

Hillman had been at the helm of the Royals since 2008. However, Hillman was no more successful than his predecessors. Hillman guided the team to fourth place finishes in the AL Central in both 2008 and 2009 going 75-87 and 65-97, respectively. The Royals were 12-23 at the time of Hillman's dismissal.

Yost managed the Brewers from 2003 to the last couple of weeks of the 2008 season. He was abruptly dismissed in September 2008 and it was left to Dale Sveum to lead them to the NL Wild Card.

Will Yost be to the Royals in 2010 what Jim Tracy was to the Colorado Rockies in 2009?

Does the Times Square Terror Plot Have a Boston Connection?

FBI agents are searching a residence in Watertown, Massachusetts in connection with the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square.

Once again so much for Faisal Shahzad being an "isolated extremist."

UPDATE: A Mobil gas station in Brookline was also searched and has resulted in the arrest of two men here in Massachusetts and one in Maine. The three men are of Pakistani origin and are believed to have helped fund Shahzad's attempted attack.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Girls High School Basketball Team Denied Trip to Arizona

The Highland Park High School Varsity Girls Basketball Team is being denied an opportunity to play in a tournament taking place in Arizona.

Players at the suburban Chicago high school had been raising money for months through bake sales to finance this trip. All their efforts are now in vain. And for what?

School officials cited safety concerns. But students and parents believe it is little more than a misguided protest against Arizona's new immigration law. A local school official states the trip to Arizona "would not be aligned" with the school's "beliefs and values. I liked the observation of one parent in particular:

The school has sent children to China, they’ve sent children to South America, they’ve sent children to the Czech Republic, but somehow Arizona is more unsafe for them than those places. The beliefs and values of China are apparently aligned since they approved that trip.

This decision will not hurt Arizona in any way, shape or form. Life will go on. The only people this decision hurts is the members of the Highland Park High School Varsity Girls Basketball Team. Why punish them for the hard work they've put in both on the court and off of it?

Obama Envoy Claims Creation of Israel is The Source of Middle East Conflict

Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard draws our attention to an article in Commentary written by Jennifer Rubin.

Rubin writes about an interview given by Rashad Hussain to Asharq Alawsat, a Saudi owned, London based Arabic international newspaper.

Who is Rashad Hussain? Three months ago, Hussain was appointed by President Obama to be the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Prior to that he had been Obama's Deputy Associate Counsel. At the time, Obama appointed Hussain as Special Envoy comments he made during a 2004 panel discussion came to light. During the discussion he lambasted the prosecution of Sami al-Arian as a "politically motivated prosecution." Hussain and the White House initially said he had no recollection of making any such comment. However, irrefutable evidence of his statement came to light Hussain called his statement "ill conceived."

Well, now Hussain has made some more ill conceived statements in his Asharq Alawsat interview. Halper was struck by Hussain's claim that the Obama Administration would work "to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush."

I too am shocked by them. But I am not surprised. When you consider how overt President Obama has been in his criticism of former President Bush it should not come as a surprise when Obama's subordinates are publicly derisive of the 43rd President.

But here's something that really should raise red flags (not the ones you would see at a socialist or communist rally). When asked about settlement construction in Jerusalem, Hussain states in part:

President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years.

So what exactly took place in the Middle East a little over 60 years ago? That would be the creation of the State of Israel. Or what the Palestinians like to call "Nakba" which literally means cataclysm.

Some reporter in the White House press corps should ask Robert Gibbs if the Obama Administration agrees with Hussain's declaration that conflict in the Middle East has lasted for 60 years. Then reporters should follow up by asking Gibbs if the Obama Administration believes the creation of the State of Israel is the source of that conflict. It could go a long way in explaining the Obama Administration's implacable hostility towards Israel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brown Out, Cameron In

Well, the idea of Gordon Brown remaining at 10 Downing Street until September didn't sit well with his fellow Labourites.

There was also little progress in talks between Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the possibility of forming a governing alliance.

So earlier today, Brown went to the Queen and formally resigned his office and recommended that Conservative Party leader David Cameron be given the opportunity to form a new government.

For the first time in 13 years Britain has a Tory government. Or should I say a Tory led government.

We know that David Cameron is Prime Minister. But what role will the Liberal Democrats play? Will Liberal Democrat MPs get ministerial portfolios? Will Vince Cable become Chancellor of the Exchequer? How will the Tories proceed with electoral reform? Will they establish a commission? Will they hold a referendum? Or will they throw out first past the post and put Nick Clegg in charge of coming up with a proportional representation form of government?

One must also wonder what it all means for the Anglo-American alliance? Things were remarkably frosty between Obama and Brown. What makes it remarkable is that both men are socialists. Is there any reason to believe Obama will be any more respectful towards Cameron than he was to Brown? Obama is said to have called Cameron "a lightweight" after his notorious European visit during the 2008 election campaign. Well, I suppose it takes one to know one.

President Obama has apparently called Cameron to presumably offer his congratulations although no details of their conversation have been released by the White House at this time. Their first opportunity to meet face to face would be during the G-20 Summit next month in Toronto. Cameron did have a chance to meet with Obama during last year's G-20 Summit in London. One can only hope that Cameron won't have to chase Obama through the mens' bathrooms of Metro Convention Centre in the same manner Brown had to chase Obama through the kitchens of UN Headquarters in New York last September.

Not that releasing the Lockerbie Bomber didn't warrant some displeasure on the part of Obama but it should have been directed towards Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Minister of Justice Kenny MacAskill who were actually responsible for releasing Abdel Baset al Megrahi. It should be noted that the supposedly terminally ill Megrahi is alive and well and living in a luxury villa. The waters of Tripoli must have remarkable healing properties.

While Brown might have lasted longer as Prime Minister than Manny Acta lasted as manager of the Washington Nationals it appears that Acta will have the last laugh. Brown not only is no longer Prime Minister he will apparently also resign as a Member of Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (a constituency in Fife, Scotland). Acta is now managing the Cleveland Indians. O.K., so the Tribe is 8½ games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
At least Acta has a job.

OECD Welcomes Israel

Bravo to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD)!!!

It has just invited Israel to join its ranks. The OECD also extended invitations to Estonia and Slovenia.

At a time when Israel is being increasingly isolated in the international community with the help of the President Obama it takes tremendous political will for an international economic institution to stand firm and buck this trend. This development is most refreshing.

What's even better is that OECD member countries unanimously approved Israel's membership despite efforts by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to block Israel's entry into the OECD.

Established in Paris in 1961, the OECD consists of countries committed to democracy and market economies to promote economic growth, employment, a high standard of living, financial stability, increased international trade and economic development in other countries.

Zimbabwean Court Acquits Roy Bennett

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Roy Bennett has been acquitted of treason by a court in Zimbabwe.

Bennett was arrested in February 2009 only days after he had been appointed as Deputy Minister of Agriculture by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been struggling to maintain a power sharing agreement with Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Although the MDC is trying to keep Mugabe honest his thugs continue to confiscate white owned commercial farms. Here's an interview Bennett did following his release from jail. While Bennett might be in the clear at the moment he and other white farmers who have joined the MDC represent a threat to Mugabe. As long as anyone represents a threat to Mugabe they can never be entirely safe.

The situation is bleak but Zimbabweans are nothing if not a resourceful people. Recently, I finished reading a book called The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers documenting his parents travails in Zimbabwe over the past decade. I highly recommend it. Another good book on contemporary Zimbabwe is Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats The Sun which I reviewed on the IC main page more than 2½ years ago.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Who Will Succeed Brown as Labour Party Leader?

Gordon Brown today announced his resignation as leader of the Labour Party effective this September.

The Labour Party will have its annual conference in Manchester from September 26- 30. If Labour can make a deal with the Liberal Democrats as well as several of the smaller parties then Brown's successor would become Prime Minister.

But if the Tories can reach a deal with the Liberal Democrats then Labour and its new leader will become Her Majesty's Official Opposition.

Now as to who will succeed Brown is the £64,000 question. Here's a list of possible contenders. The Daily Mail believes the Miliband brothers - David and Ed - will have a go at it. A battle between Brown and Tony Blair by proxy if you will.

One possible longshot is Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham who was my old boss when I interned for Tessa Jowell back in 1995.

But right now the Liberal Democrats still have the keys to 10 Downing Street regardless of who is at the helm of Labour.

So Now Obama Doesn't Like iPods Anymore

While speaking before students at Hampton University yesterday, President Obama lamented about iPods and other technology:

And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- (laughter) -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

So how can our country and our democracy overcome this pressure? How does one turn the iPod into a tool of empowerment and a means of emancipation? Why by preloading President Obama's speeches into every iPod of course. You might recall that in April 2009, President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod which contained audio of his speech before the 2004 Democratic National Convention and his 2009 Inauguration Address.

President Obama can be accused of many things. Modesty isn't one of them.

Kagan, The Supreme Court & Gay Marriage

Maggie Gallagher at NRO's The Corner argues that a vote for Elena Kagan is a vote for "marriage equality" or gay marriage.

That might very well be true. But couldn't Gallagher have said the same regardless of who President Obama appointed to the bench today?

Trouble at Brandeis

While speaking with my mother over the phone yesterday she told me about a row at Brandeis University in nearby Waltham, Massachusetts. (Isn't it amazing that I'm all of ten miles away from Brandeis and my mother in Northwestern Ontario knows more about than I do?)

Now to the row. Brandeis has invited Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States to be its commencement speaker later this month. This has prompted an effort on campus to get Oren disinvited on the grounds he is "a rogue state apologist." What does that mean? Does it apply only to members of the Israeli government? Or does it apply to all Israeli citizens? Or does it apply simply to Israeli Jews?

At this point, I don't think Brandeis is going to disinvite him. Still, I think it's very troubling when Jews hate Israel. If what happened to Oren when he spoke at UC Irvine earlier this year happens at Brandeis then heaven help us all. If an Israeli diplomat isn't welcome at a Jewish university then where is he welcome?

Obama to Pick Kagan for Supreme Court

President Obama is set to announce Elena Kagan as his appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the Senate she would replace John Paul Stevens who is set to retire next month. Currently, Kagan serves as the U.S. Solicitor General.

Under the circumstances I think Obama made the right pick. Yes, she's a liberal. But does anyone see Obama appointing Miguel Estrada to the bench? Besides how many other liberal justices are going to declare that they love the Federalist Society in public?

When Kagan was confirmed as Solicitor General in March 2009 by a 61-31 vote, six Republican Senators voted in her favor including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Barring any earth shattering development, I believe Kagan will be confirmed. Republicans have to pick and choose their fights and I don't think this is one of them. After all, if one is qualified to argue a case before the Supreme Court presumably one would also be qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.