Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thoughts on Obama's Iraq Address

I watched President Obama's Oval Office address on the end of combat operations in Iraq.

Although Obama had kind words for our soldiers (and even for President Bush) if Obama had his way their efforts would have never come to pass and their sacrifices would have been all for naught. Words like "surge" and "victory" passed through Obama's lips only once.

And what was with the domestic policy speech?

Yet what can one expect of someone who referred to the War in Iraq as "a dumb war" even while Saddam Hussein was still in power?

Iranian Newspaper Calls Madame Sarkozy a "Prostitute"

A state run newspaper in Iran (is there any other kind?) has called French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a "prostitute."

This was after Madame Sarkozy spoke up in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 42-year-old woman sentenced to death for committing adultery. Initially, Ashtiani was to be stoned to death but an international outcry for the Iranians to reconsider that form of execution. Ashtiani will be hanged instead.

If Iran is prepared to execute their own women over a private matter why should we be surprised if they address the wives of foreign heads of state with public disrespect?

One can only hope this lights a fire under Nicolas Sarkozy. Imagine if the mullahs fell because they insulted a man's wife.

Krugman Blasts Bush Over Ground Zero Mosque

Paul Krugman wants former President George W. Bush to speak out on the Ground Zero mosque.

In yet one of dozens of columns where he assails Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, Krugman laments the lack of "responsible Republicans" willing to speak out against them:

To take a prime example: the hysteria over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan almost makes one long for the days when former President George W. Bush tried to soothe the religious hatred, declaring Islam a religion of peace.

But just when you think Krugman is praising Bush he reverts to Lucy removing the football from Charlie Brown's path:

But here's the thing: Mr. Bush is still around, as are many of his former officials. Where are the statements, from the former president and those in his inner circle, preaching tolerance and denouncing anti-Islam hysteria?

This from the same guy who said of Bush during an appearance on Larry King Live in October 2008, "Who believes him anymore? There's been too many lies in this White House."

So why should I believe Krugman when he demands a statement from former President Bush? He wouldn't believe him anyway.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chisox Claim Manny Ramirez Off Waivers

The Chicago White Sox have claimed Manny Ramirez off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And Manny being Manny ended his Dodgers career as only he could. Manny was ejected during a pinch hitting appearance against the Colorado Rockies in what proved to be his final at bat with the Dodgers.

The Chisox have had their eye on Manny for awhile and had tried to obtain him last month and are hoping he will be the key in overcoming the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Entering play today, the White Sox are 4½ games back of the Twins.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Manny and Chisox manager Ozzie Guillen interact with each other.

The acquisition of Manny is also significant because the White Sox will be coming to Fenway Park over the Labor Day weekend. In June, Manny made his return to Boston during interleague play. The Bosox, like the Chisox, are clinging in the pennant race. So their series could determine who stays in the pennant race and who starts thinking about winter vacation plans.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Portion of the Country Does Obama Think Beck is Stirring Up?

In an interview with Brian Williams of NBC News today, President Obama commented on Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally which took place yesterday in D.C. While Obama did not watch the rally he said "it's not surprising that someone like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country."

And just what portion of the country does President Obama think Beck is stirring up?

Would it be the portion of the country that President Obama believes "is bitter and clings to guns or religion"?

A Glimpse of Pat Benatar

Today, I went to Borders Bookstore in Copley Square for a book signing by Pat Benatar.

Benatar recently released a memoir titled Between a Heart and a Rock Place.

Now I'm not a huge fan of her music but very early in her career she worked with Harry Chapin in an off-Broadway musical he wrote called The Zinger. In December 1987, when Chapin was posthumously honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, Benatar paid tribute to him by singing a cover of his 1974 song "Shooting Star."

Unfortunately, the book signing made the Department of Motor Vehicles look like a model of efficiency. I had to wait in line only to be told I needed to get a copy of the book, a receipt and a wrist band. Fortunately, I had bought the book a couple of days ago and still had the receipt. So all that was left for me to do was to get the wrist band which I did. However, I was wearing a yellow wrist band not a blue one so I was told I couldn't line up but that we would be called to do so. We never did get that call so I lined up on my own.

After about an hour or so, I finally caught a glimpse of Pat Benatar. But with only one person in front of me in line her handler said she didn't have any more time to sign autographs and that we were to leave the vicinity of area immediately. So I didn't get my book signed.

But I did manage to read a fair amount of the book while waiting in line. Pat Benatar has lived the American dream. Her talent for singing was discovered while she attended school and she spent years being classically trained only to give up on music when she married. After several years working in a bank in South Carolina she went to a Liza Minelli concert and said, "I can do this." She quit her job at the bank and began to pursue happiness in music and within a few short years became a force in rock n' roll. Of course, Pat Benatar has more talent than most of us. But if not for her confidence in her talent and for her enormous determination she would not have fulfilled her dreams.

The message here is that if you can do something well then find a way to do it. In other words, hit it with your best shot.

Thoughts on Hurricane Katrina Five Years Later

It was five years ago today that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

While Katrina is most remembered for the devastation it wrought in New Orleans it did damage throughout Louisiana as well as in Alabama, Mississippi and parts of northwestern Florida.

Katrina resulted in the deaths of over 1,800 people, destroyed billions of dollars worth of residential and commercial property and caused one of the largest migrations in this country's history. The situation was further excaberated by Hurricane Rita less than a month later and Hurricane Wilma a month after that. Aside from the War in Iraq, no other single event did so much damage to the presidency of George W. Bush.

As someone who works in the insurance industry I can tell you that in the days following Hurricane Katrina that everyone was flying by the seat of their pants and that things were being improvised on a whim and quite frankly, there was no other way it could have been done. All the emergency planning in the world could not have prepared anyone in government, the private sector or the non-profit sector for a Katrina like event. Most of my activities at work for the next year were devoted to Hurricane Katrina. It was both the best and worst of times. It was the best of times in that I had the opportunity to show my employer that I could work well under pressure and adapt to whatever the situation demanded. It was the worst of times in that these skills would not have been tested without so many people being left without homes and living hand to mouth.

With that in mind as devastating as the BP oil spill has been in the Gulf I don't think it was ultimately as disastrous as Katrina. Yes, it took more than three months to stop the spill, the economy in the Gulf has been hit hard and there may be long term environmental impacts that are not yet observable. But Katrina caused far more loss of life and of property and the psychological damage from that will be felt for years to come. While New Orleans has experienced recovery there is still much rebuilding to be done there and throughout the Gulf. It will be interesting to what progress has been made in the Gulf in five years time.

Is Glenn Beck The Second Coming of Billy Graham?

I've done some thinking about Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally and I cannot help but wonder if we have the second coming of Billy Graham on our hands. A Mormon Evangelical if you will.

Evidently, I am not the only one who has likened Beck to Graham as is the case here, here and here.

I think the comparison is apt but for a different reason. Beck's rally, of course, took place at the Lincoln Memorial forty-seven years to the day where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. When Billy Graham preached in New York City in 1957 he invited King to join him in prayer. Graham would also bail King out of jail after his arrests in the 1960s.

So where Martin Luther King, Jr. is concerned, Beck can definitely be compared with Graham.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Response to Rachel Alexander

After John McCain trounced J.D. Hayworth in the Arizona Republican Primary I wrote my thoughts about the race.

IC co-editor Rachel Alexander (who, of course, served as Hayworth's Director of Social Media) took issue with my assertion that McCain won "fair and square" with the promise to elaborate further. True to her word, she has done so on the IC main site.

Rachel's main argument is that the vast majority of the money McCain spent in this campaign was from his failed 2008 presidential bid amounting to $18 million. Conversely, Hayworth spent only $2.4 million.

With all due respect I find this argument unconvincing. While it is true that McCain outspent Hayworth by a 10:1 margin it is also true that Lisa Murkowski outspent Joe Miller in Alaska by a 20:1 margin. Yet it is Murkowski who might soon be out of a job.

Rachel also assert that Jim Deakin, the other Republican to contest the Arizona primary, took away votes from Hayworth. But that doesn't hold water either. Even if all the people who voted for Deakin somehow magically transferred their vote to Hayworth, McCain would still have had a convincing double digit margin of victory.

Consider what Rachel wrote back in February when she argued that Hayworth would defeat McCain in the primary:

Hayworth will win for this simple reason: This is a Tea Party revolt year, and Arizona's Republicans and Tea Partiers have had enough of McCain's support of this administration's bailouts and big-government policies.

Rachel is partially right on this count. The conditions under which McCain could have been bumped off were optimal. Yet it didn't happen. But if you can't pin the blame on money or on the presence of a fringe candidate what other factors can one consider? Well, methinks the problem here was Hayworth himself.

Now this isn't to say Hayworth wasn't a viable candidate. He certainly came with conservative credentials. But the problem was that he was perceived as a former politician who had fed at the public trough and was coming back for seconds. Fair or not, it was the perception. Conservatives in Arizona who opposed McCain would have probably better off to have backed a political novice a la Joe Miller or Mike Lee in Utah. Would a novice have upended McCain? Perhaps not. But it might have very well been a lot closer.

I hate to beat a dead horse but when Glenn Beck, arguably the most influential conservative in the country, announces that Hayworth's candidacy is over and done it becomes a nearly impossible albatross to remove from around one's neck. This is especially true considering that Beck describes McCain as "a nightmare."

The bottom line is that John McCain isn't exactly an unknown quantity in Arizona. You pretty much know what you are going to get. Whatever misgivings Arizona Republicans might have had about McCain's support for bailouts and big government they weren't substantial enough to compel GOP voters to pull the lever for Hayworth. Arizona GOP voters knew the choices that were before them. It is in this context that I make the assertion that McCain's victory is "fair and square." Whether Rachel likes it or not, J.D. Hayworth bears some responsibility for his poor showing this past Tuesday.

If there is a silver lining in all of this is that one learns far more in defeat than in triumph. That is provided if one is prepared to learn. I hope this commentary is taken in that spirit.

Luna Vachon, 1962-2010. R.I.P.

Former professional wrestler Luna Vachon has died. Her cause of death is presently unknown. She was 48.

Born Gertrude Vachon, Luna is best known for her time in the WWE (then known as the WWF) mostly during the 1990s. With her undiva like look and sound she was generally booked as a heel.

Luna came from one of Canada's best known wrestling families. She was the adoptive daughter of Paul "Butcher" Vachon and the niece of Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon and Vivian Vachon. Sadly, her aunt was killed by a drunk driver in 1991.

Believe it or not, I actually met "Butcher" Vachon. It was in June 1995 at an NDP Federal Council Meeting in Ottawa. This was the same meeting where Dr. Herb Dickieson, the leader of the Prince Edward Island NDP, convinced me to support Alexa McDonough's bid for the NDP leadership.

In any event, Butcher was there as he had run as an NDP candidate in Quebec in both the 1988 and 1993 federal elections and would run again in 1997. Needless to say, like most NDP candidates, Vachon received little support. But he was always good for a photo-op whether it be putting NDP leaders like Ed Broadbent in a headlock or arm wrestling with Audrey McLaughlin.

As for Luna, she recently fell on hard times. Earlier this month, her home in Florida was destroyed in a fire taking with it all her wrestling memorabilia. Whether this contributed to her demise remains to be seen.

As with the recent death of former WWE wrestler Lance McNaught (who wrestled under the name Lance Cade), I am sure Vachon's death will be used as fodder against Linda McMahon in her bid for the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut.

Strasburg Out For The Season & Perhaps 2011

Stephen Strasburg will probably not take the mound for the Washington Nationals until 2012.

An MRI revealed that Strasburg has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will likely require Tommy John surgery. He will miss the rest of this season and possibly all of the 2011 season.

It has been the best of times and the worst of times for the number one pick in MLB's 2009 Draft. Strasburg has gone 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in twelve big league starts. In 68 innings pitched, Strasburg struck out 92 batters while walking only 17.

However, in the space of just over two months, Strasburg has been placed on the 15-day disabled list twice. In late July, he was placed on the DL due to inflammation in his shoulder. He returned to the DL earlier this week after coming out of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday due to a strain in his right forearm.

After this second incident, Strasburg was harshly criticized by Nationals television broadcaster Rob Dibble on his daily radio show stating that Strasburg should "suck it up." Dibble, who is best known for being one third of The Nasty Boys on the 1990 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, also said, I'm not a doctor, and I haven't read the MRI yet, but I'm pretty sure he's gonna come back fine." Mike Prada does a nice take down of Dibble here. I wonder if Dibble has broadcast his last Nationals' game.

Here's hoping Strasburg comes back stronger. But if he does there are no guarantees he'll attain the superstardom bestowed upon him before he ever threw a big league pitch. It is possible that his 14 strikeout performance in his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates last June might represent the pinnacle of his career.

Pujols & La Russa to be Honored @ Glenn Beck Rally

Speaking of Albert Pujols, he and St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will be amongst the honorees at Glenn Beck's rally in Washigton D.C. tomorrow.

The Restoring Honor rally which is being billed as apolitical is drawing criticism because it coincides with the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Let 'em howl.

Unless they back out at the last minute, Pujols and La Russa will have committed the unpardonable sin of sharing the same air as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. So I'm sure we will hear a call for a boycott of St. Louis Cardinals games as illegal immigration activists have done for the Arizona Diamondbacks in response to Arizona's illegal immigration law. Either that or they'll run out on the field. It is worth noting that La Russa has publicly supported the Arizona immigration law. On the other hand Pujols opposes the Arizona law. But that didn't stop Beck from inviting the Cardinals slugger to the rally.

Pujols Hits 400th Home Run

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols hit his 400th career home run last night in an extra inning loss to the Washington Nationals.

I think baseball fans are a lot more excited about Pujols' hitting his 400th than they are about Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hitting his 600th earlier this month. First, Pujols is a devoted family man. Second, Pujols will live and die a Cardinal. Third, Pujols has never been linked to steroids. Fourth, Pujols doesn't behave like a first class jerk.

What I find interesting from a statistical perspective is the distribution of Pujols and A-Rod's homeruns. A-Rod has led the AL in home runs five times. Thrice he has hit more than 50 home runs in a season. But in two of those seasons, A-Rod is known to have taken steroids. Pujols, on the other hand, led the NL in home runs for the first time last season. As of this writing, Pujols is leading the NL in both home runs and RBIs. Like Hank Aaron, Pujols' home run output is more consistent than spectacular. Like Aaron, Pujols has never hit 50 home runs in a season (he did hit 49 in 2006, the year the Cardinals won the World Series).

Chances are A-Rod will eclipse both Aaron and Barry Bonds. But barring injury (Pujols does have a bad throwing elbow) Pujols will surpass A-Rod out of the park.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Muslim Cab Driver Attacked in NYC & The Man Who Attacked Him

Last night, a Muslim New York City cab driver named Ahmed Sharif was attacked with a knife by a man who recently filmed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Fortunately, Sharif sustained only minor injuries. Michael Enright was arrested and charged with attempted murder as well as several weapons charges. Sharif described Enright as being "very, very intoxicated."

While Sharif believes the attack could have been motivated by the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque it is worth noting that Enright's employer, Intersections International, supports the construction of the mosque. I'm sure the attack will get a lot of play in the liberal media although I think it would have got more attention if the attacker had been a Tea Party activist or had worked for a conservative organization.

Given that Enright had just returned from Afghanistan one cannot help but wonder if something he saw over there might have been more significant in his motivations for attacking Sharif than the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque in New York and across the country. I'm sure Enright will explain his actions unless he invokes his right to silence.

But whatever his motivations, one cannot just wantonly attack someone because he or she happens to be Muslim or any other faith. Enright should and is being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Christopher Kain Reads Tonight at the Cantab

If you find yourself in the Boston area this evening, have nothing to do with your time and want to get out of the pouring rain then I suggest you head over to the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge and proceed downstairs where my best friend and roommate Christopher Kain will be the featured poet this evening.

Tonight, Christopher is finally unveiling his long awaited collection of poems titled Twentieth Century Limited: One Hundred Years, One Hundred Poems. So yes, Christopher has written poem for every year between 1901 and 2000.

Christopher was originally scheduled to feature last June but a sudden illness prevented him from doing so. I have no doubt it will be well worth the wait.

The proceedings get underway with an open mike at 8 p.m. Christopher hits the stage at around 10 p.m. Christopher will have a few special guests including a certain conservative poet.

If you attend only one poetry reading in your lifetime then this one is surely it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

McCain Beats Hayworth by a Near 2-1 Margin

Tonight, John McCain earned a decisive victory over J.D. Hayworth in the Arizona Republican Senate Primary defeating the former Congressman by a near 2-1 margin.

As of 12:40 a.m. EST with a third of the precincts reporting, McCain won 58% of the vote while Hayworth has obtained 30%.

Before I go any further I would be remiss if I did not make note of the efforts of IC co-editor Rachel Alexander on behalf of Hayworth. She worked vigorously on behalf of the candidate she believed would better represent Arizona's conservative voice and better represent the interests of Arizonans in Washington.

I know that many conservatives have an axe to grind with McCain. Frankly, I don't always find myself in agreement with him. But he won fair and square. It isn't to say that Hayworth's message didn't have some resonance. But the problem wasn't the message so much as the messenger. When Glenn Beck, who has even less affection for McCain than he does for President Obama, ripped Hayworth this past June you knew it was going to be a hard sell.

For all his faults, there are a critical mass of people who still respect and trust McCain. Think of McCain as an old pair of shoes. He's tattered and full of holes. But people are comfortable wearing those shoes even if they are tattered and full of holes.

That imagery aside there is a segment of the population who admire his military service and are willing to overlook his shortcomings. There is also a segment of the population inclined to give McCain deference given that he was the GOP's presidential nominee less than two years ago. If nothing else, McCain plucked Sarah Palin from near obscurity. If that doesn't count for something then I don't know what does.

Where Will Johnny Play Revisited

Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox claimed outfielder Johnny Damon off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.

However, Damon has a no trade clause and could nix the move. Damon, of course, played for the Sox between 2002 and 2005 and was an integral part of the 2004 World Series championship team. Prior to the 2006 season, Damon signed a four year deal with the New York Yankees becoming persona non grata in Red Sox Nation. Damon signed with the Tigers this past off season.

At the moment, Damon is being coy as to his options. He has until tomorrow afternoon to make a decision.

There are two questions at issue for Damon.

First, who is more likely to reach the postseason? The Tigers or the Sox? As of this writing, the Sox are 5½ games behind the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Sox have a three game series against the Rays in St. Petersburg beginning Friday. The Tigers, on the other hand, are ten games back of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. But then again it might be easier to make up ten games in the AL Central than it is to make up 5½ games in the AL East.

The second question for Damon is which team is more likely to include him in their long term plans. Damon is 36. I see Damon as a short term option for the Sox. He'll hit lead off and play left field. But the team has an abundance of left fielders - Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, Eric Patterson, Bill Hall and Jacoby Ellsbury (albeit unlikely to play again this season). Then there's the free agent market with the likes of Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Crawford is 29 and Werth is 31. I can't see the Sox passing up on Crawford or Werth in favor of Damon.

In Detroit, Damon is viewed as a team leader and an elder statesman who can still play everyday. Even if the Tigers are out of it in 2010 they have a relatively young team and can rebound in 2011.

So I think Damon stays in Detroit. Although if he were to return here it would sure make the AL East race that much more compelling. I can't help but think that there's still a part of Damon that wants to be part of that excitement.

Here's what I wrote about Damon back in February shortly before he signed with the Tigers.

UPDATE: Damon will stay in Detroit. It gives Red Sox Nation yet another reason to boo him.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are Ron Paul & Faisal Abdul Rauf One in the Same?

So Ron Paul backs the Ground Zero Mosque.

I cannot say that I am surprised.

I am also not surprised that he would blame it all on neoconservatives.

Nor am I surprised that Paul would claim that opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque is "all about hate and Islamophobia."

I wonder what Paul has to say now in light of revelations of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf's statement in 2005 that "the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims."

Yet somehow I don't think Ron Paul is going to back away from his statements. After all how is Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf's claim that America was an accessory to the attacks of September 11, 2001 any different from Paul's claim that the 9/11 attacks were a result of "blowback"?

Is the President a Closet Muslim?

Late at night, in the Lincoln bedroom, does the President of the United States whip out a prayer rug, drop to his knees and profess his obedience to Allah? According to recent polls, somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of the American people believe that he does. What an astounding development! Nearly seventy five million Americans think that our President is a follower of a faith that demeans Christianity and Judaism, that is the inspiration for world-wide Jihad against Western Civilization, that has contributed virtually nothing to the history, culture and politics of our nation and whose adherents around the globe consider themselves at war with our country.

How amazing! The American people have installed in the White House a man about whom it knows remarkably little – and more astonishingly, a man who little understands the nature of the people he governs. Surely the election of this enigmatic man to the Presidency must be one of, if not the most colossal blunder(s) that the American people have ever collectively made. The people entrusted the Presidency to an individual who expresses scorn for the nation's history, who purposefully weakens the fabric of society and who steers its economic course directly toward bankruptcy. This expression of trust seems almost like an act of madness and self-flagellation by the American people.

Perhaps enough of us have woken up to the horrendous mistake we made so that the intention to terminate the madness will bear fruit in 2012. That will not change the fact that Barack Hussein Obama will always be listed as the 44th President of the United States. The blow to our self-confidence as a people – given the monumental blunder that we have made, the fact of which we will never be able to erase – will be felt for decades.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Piniella Manages Last Game

Lou Piniella had been expected to retire as manager of the Chicago Cubs at the end of the season.

However, due to the declining health of his mother, Piniella decided to call it quits after today. He received a lengthy standing ovation from the faithful at Wrigley after he exchanged lineup cards with Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox (who is also due to retire at season's end). The Cubs were then shellacked by the Braves 16-5.

Piniella has spent most of the past quarter century managing. He began his managerial career with the New York Yankees where he played the lion's share of his big league career. Sweet Lou managed the Yankees in 1986 and 1987 before being replaced by Billy Martin but was soon brought back after Steinbrenner fired Martin midway through the 1988 season.

But Piniella came into his own when he succeeded Pete Rose as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1990, Piniella took the Reds to their first World Series title since 1976. After two more seasons in Cincinnati, Piniella moved on to the Seattle Mariners where he would spend ten seasons. Piniella managed the Mariners to their first post-season appearance in 1995 for which he would earn AL Manager of the Year honors. The Mariners would make the post-season three more times under Piniella's tutelage in 1997, 2000 and 2001. In 2001, Piniella guided the Mariners to 116 wins tying a MLB record held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. This would earn him a second AL Manager of the Year award.

Unfortunately, Piniella could not get the M's to a World Series. Following the 2002 season, the Mariners traded Piniella to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for outfielder Randy Winn in an unusual manager for player transaction. Piniella could not manage the team to a winning record during his three seasons in Tampa Bay. After taking a year off in 2006, Piniella was hired as manager of the Chicago Cubs. He took the Cubs to two consecutive NL Central titles. Unfortunately, the Cubs would be swept in back to back NLDS playoffs. But Piniella would be named NL Manager of the Year in 2008.

Last year, the Cubs took a step back and this year the Cubs fell off the map. The thrill was gone and last month Piniella announced he would not be back in 2011. But with more than 1,800 wins as a big league manager under his belt his legacy is set. Although Bobby Cox has been ejected from far more games, Piniella turned it into an art form.

As for the Cubs, third base coach Mike Quade will manage the team for the rest of the season. I remember Quade when he managed the Ottawa Lynx during their inaugural season in 1993. In addition to managing teams in the Montreal Expos minor league system, Quade also managed minor league affiliates in the Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics and Cubs organizations. He was on the major league coaching staff of the Athletics from 2000 through 2002 and has been with the Cubs big league coaching staff since 2007. Let's just say that Quade has paid his dues and it's nice to see him get a shot even if only on an interim basi. But if the Cubs play well the rest of the way he could get a shot in 2011.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jack Horkheimer,1938-2010. R.I.P.

Jack Horkeimer, the longtime host of the PBS television show Star Gazer (originally Star Hustler) has died of respritory failure. He was 72.

Horkheimer, who was also the Executive Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, had been the host since the show's inception in 1976.

His passion for space shone as brightly as the stars in the sky. But even if you weren't really into astronomy Horkheimer's show was interesting due to his gregarious personality and even more gregarious toupees. It was also interesting because of its unmistakably, out of this world theme music - Claude DeBussy's Arabesque No. 1 as interpreted by Isao Tomita.

I believe this is the last episode Horkeimer recorded. Now who will guide us to keep looking up?

Bill O'Reilly Compares CNN to the Pittsburgh Pirates

Tonight, Bill O'Reilly was at Fenway Park with Mitt Romney to watch the Boston Red Sox get shilacked by the Toronto Blue Jays.

O'Reilly briefly joined Red Sox announcers Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo in the booth. When Rem Dawg asked him how long his show had been the number one news show on cable he indicated it was "nine years going on ten." O'Reilly added that he had been beating CNN in the ratings for so long that they were "the Pittsburgh Pirates of cable television."

That is much too cruel. While CNN might have spent a decade in the doldrums they have nothing on the Bucs. Tonight, the Pirates collected their 82nd loss of the 2010 season when they fell to the New York Mets 7-2. The Pirates have officially endured their 18th consecutive losing season.

CNN has a long way to go before they sink to the Pirates' lowliness.

U.S. Tells Israel a Nuclear Iran Isn't an Imminent Threat

With the Russian built Bushehr nuclear plant due to go online tomorrow, the Obama Administration has given Israel assurances that Iran's nuclear program is not an imminent threat.

Please forgive me if those assurances don't inspire my confidence. The Obama Administration estimates Iran is at least a year from developing a weapon. Assuming this is an accurate analysis all this tells me that it isn't a question of if Iran will develop a nuclear weapon but when. But what happens when they do develop that weapon? Of course, why should I believe the Obama Administration's assurances? Let us also not forget that it was only three years ago that the National Intelligence Estimate had declared Iran had abandoned ambitions for nuclear weapons in 2003.

Iran was bad enough when it was an Islamic theocracy. Now it is an Islamic theocracy with nuclear power and we have ourselves to blame for it. We gave them our gonads and now they can squeeze at will.

Netanyahu & Abbas to Meet in D.C. on Sept. 2nd

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to begin direct talks in Washington D.C. on September 2nd.

Hillary believes all will be resolved within a year. Well, er, lots of luck with that.

In case you think I am being unnecessarily sarcastic it is worth remembering that the Bush Administration also thought matters could be resolved within a year between Abbas and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Remember Annapolis?

In January 2008, I wrote about how the Bush Administration, beginning its final year in office, needed a Middle East peace agreement to boost its legacy given the uncertainty which prevailed in Iraq at the time (and, of course, still does) and that any agreement would likely come at Israel's expense. Of course, nothing would come to pass.

So here we are with the Obama Administration spitting in the wind with the economy, the costs of Obamacare, Afghanistan and the Ground Zero Mosque overwhelming them. What can they do? When in doubt bring Israel and the Palestinians stateside for a summit to give the appearance of doing something.

But this time around I am even less optimistic about this round of peace talks. Given that President Obama has behaved as if he were an advocate for the Palestinians and advocated things the Palestinians themselves weren't advocating (i.e. demanding a halt to construction in East Jerusalem) I don't have the confidence he can act as an honest broker. Nor do I have much confidence in Hillary and her shrill phone calls to Netanyahu.

It will be a nice photo-op and nothing more. That is, of course, assuming Obama doesn't walk out on Bibi again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Clemens

Today, a federal grand jury indicted former major league pitcher Roger Clemens on six counts of perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress. These charges stem from his testimony in front of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2008.

Personally, I think these charges sound a lot more impressive than they actually are. Let's remember that Barry Bonds was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges in November 2007. The trial is not set to begin until March of next year. That means it will have taken three and a half years for the federal government to bring Bonds to trial. This is, of course, assuming there isn't another delay in the proceedings. So much for the right to a speedy trial.

Needless to say, I don't think Clemens will see the inside of a courtroom anytime soon.

For a little background here is an article I wrote in defense of Clemens after the release of the Mitchell Report in December 2007 prior to Clemens testimony on Capitol Hill.

Thoughts on the Obama/Muslim Poll

Much is being made of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicating that 18% of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim.

In 2008 and 2009, this was the sentiment of 11 to 12% of the population.

When you consider all the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero Mosque the timing of this poll is rather conspicious. By releasing this poll and emphasizing the increase in the number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim the liberal media can now infer that opposition to Ground Zero Mosque is rooted in intolerance and being driven by delusional thinking (i.e. Obama is a Muslim).

But let's put that into perspective. Half as many Americans think Obama is Muslim as do those who think the attacks of September 11, 2001 were an "inside job." A 2006 poll conducted by Scripps Howard/Ohio University concluded that 36% of Americans believed the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

For the record I don't believe Obama is a Muslim and frankly it is irrelevant to me. All I care about is what he says and what he does in his capacity as President of the United States.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cubs Trade Derrek Lee to Atlanta

The Chicago Cubs have traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for three minor league pitchers.

I think this will give Lee a new lease on life. He's been with the Cubs since 2004. The Cubs are going nowhere this year (as in most years) and Lee needed a change of scenery.

Lee will fill in for the struggling Troy Glaus who is going on the DL. He could be to the Braves in 2010 what Fred McGriff was to the Braves back in 1993.

On a personal note, my younger brother Micah and I got to see Lee play in person back in 1999 when the Edmonton Trappers hosted the Calgary Cannons. The Cannons were the Florida Marlins Triple AAA affiliate and Lee had just been demoted in favor of one Kevin Millar. An interesting feature about Telus Field. While the outfield was natural grass, the infield was artificial turf. I had never seen that before or since.

Reg Henry Is Far Too Silly

I read this piece about the Ground Zero Mosque by Reg Henry of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Henry laments that the late Graham Chapman of Monthy Python isn't around to dress up as that British colonel to tell everyone who opposes the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque that they are being far too silly. Yet after reading Henry's article I must conclude that he has no peer when it comes to silliness:

They are -- splutter, splutter, shudder -- Muslims. They are all the same, you know, just as back in the woeful day the Catholics were all the same, and the Jews were all the same, before we knew better -- before we knew how stupid and destructive such group thinking was.

So to honor the dead, we must insult the intelligence of the living by insisting that these Muslims, no matter how different they are from the extremists who are the real terrorists, must not pray to their God "in the shadow of the World Trade Center."

But if it was just plain anti-Muslim bigotry at work here then why wouldn't there be opposition to the construction of any mosque in the United States be it in New York or Pittsburgh or anywhere else? Surely there have been mosques built in this country since the events of September 11, 2001 without incident.

Henry asserts that the Muslims involved in the planning of the Ground Zero Mosque are different from those who attacked the World Trade Center. Yet this remains an open question. Why did Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf state the United States was an accessory to the September 11th attacks? Why won't Rauf call Hamas a terrorist organization? Why won't Rauf tell us who is funding the Ground Zero Mosque? If the Saudis are financing the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque isn't a Wahhabist interpretation of the Koran sure to follow? Make no mistake. It was the Wahhabist interpretation of the Koran that was the driving force behind the deaths of 3,000 people.

Now if Rauf were unequivocal in his condemnation of the September 11th attacks and Hamas and was transparent about his plans then I suspect the opposition to the the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque would be lessened considerably. But if that was the case I suspect Rauf would have never entertained the idea of building in the vicinity of Ground Zero in the first place.

Henry writes, "On my vacation, I briefly visited New York City. It is the most diverse place in America, where nobody bats an eyelid at anything." I think Henry might want to spend a little more time in The Big Apple before assuming that New Yorkers don't bat an eyelid when it comes to anything connected with September 11, 2001. It doesn't sit well with New Yorkers when the man behind the construction of a mosque but a hop, skip and a jump away from the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil publicly states the U.S. is an accessory to the murder of innocent civilians. The manner in which has the Ground Zero Mosque has been planned has thrown mud in the eyes of New Yorkers who are none too happy that Mayor Bloomberg has taken such an ardent stand in favor of the mosque.

Too bad Graham Chapman wasn't alive to walk in on Henry as he was typing out his article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bobby Thomson, 1923-2010. R.I.P.

Former major league outfielder Bobby Thomson died yesterday after a long illness. He was 86.

The Scottish born Thomson played in the big leagues for 15 seasons with the New York Giants (twice), Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. He drove in 100 or more runs four times in his career and was thrice named to the National League All-Star Team. Thomson collected more than 1,700 hits and finished with a respectable .270 career batting average.

But Thomson would have been largely forgotten except by baseball diehards if not for his Shot Heard 'Round The World off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca on October 3, 1951 to win the National League pennant. Less than two months earlier, the Giants were 13½ games back of the Dodgers. But beginning with a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies during an August 12th doubleheader the Giants won 16 games in a row en route to winning 37 of their last 44 games.

On the final day of the regular season, the Giants had tied the Dodgers for first place forcing a three game playoff. The Giants won the first game 3-1 at Ebbets Field on the strength of a Thomson homerun off - who else? - Ralph Branca. The Dodgers, however, would get even the following day at the Polo Grounds with a 10-0 walloping of the Giants on the strength of a six-hit complete game shutout by Clem Labine. In the decisive third game, the Giants were down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth when with Thomson coming to the plate Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen took out starter Don Newcombe in favor of Branca. Thomson hit Branca's second pitch over the left field wall.

While the Giants would win their first NL pennant since 1937 they would lose in six games to the crosstown New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series. Yet given the manner in which the Giants overcame the Dodgers and also given the emphatic call of Thomson's homerun by Russ Hodges it hardly seemed to matter. Forever linked by the most memorable homerun in the history of Major League Baseball, Thomson and Branca would become lifelong friends.

James J. Kirkpatrick, 1920-2010. R.I.P.

James J. Kirkpatrick, one of the American conservative movement's most prominent writers and thinkers, passed away on Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 89.

Kirkpatrick is probably best known as part of the Point-Counterpoint team featured on 60 Minutes during the 1970s (these were the days before Andy Rooney). He spent a better part of the decade exchanging barbs with Nicholas von Hoffmann and later Shana Alexander. His exchanges with Alexander were the impetus of the Point-Counterpoint segment between Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin on SNL's Weekend Update.

Jed Babbin has written a tribute to Kirkpatrick over at The American Spectator.

I wonder if 60 Minutes will mention Kirkpatrick's passing this Sunday. As of this writing I do not see anything on their webpage to note his passing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ninth Circuit to Hear Prop 8 Appeal in December

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling and will hear from the proponents of Prop 8 in December.

Judge Walker was prepared to allow same sex marriages to resume pending appeal but opted last week to give proponents of Prop 8 to appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

Perhaps this will allow for a cooling off period. Some conservative commentators went into a tizzy when Judge Walker made his ruling concerning the appeal and wondered if the Ninth Circuit would go along with Walker. Earlier today, Ed Whelan of National Review Online called the Ninth Circuit a "notoriously lawless court." But six hours later, after the Ninth Circuit Court had stayed Walker's verdict, Whelan had not a negative word. But of course, that will change should the Ninth Circuit uphold Walker's ruling.

Reid Opposes GZ Mosque

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke with President Obama and publicly stated his opposition to the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque.

While I applaud Reid for his stance I am under no illusion that he did it out of principle.

Does anyone think we would have heard from Reid about this if he didn't have Sharron Angle breathing down his neck?

Reid's comments also have the effect of neutralizing the comments he made last week when he claimed that he "didn't know how anyone of any Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." Or at the very least diverting attention away from them.

Nonetheless, Reid's willingness to jettison himself away from Obama does have the effect of politically weakening the President.

Gates to Retire in 2011

During an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has announced he will step down from his position sometime next year.

Honestly, I am surprised he has stuck around this long.

But I think he sees the ship is sinking and is grabbing the first available lifejacket.

Somehow I don't think he will be the only Obama cabinet official to step down in 2011.

Can Hillary be far behind?

Gardenhire Lifts Slowey After Seven No-Hit Innings

Yesterday, Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey had a good chance to become the sixth pitcher throw a no-hitter this season. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had other plans.

After throwing seven no-hit innings against the Oakland Athletics with a 1-0 lead, Gardenhire lifted Slowey for reliever Jon Rauch who surrendered a hit with one out in the top of the eighth. The Twins went on to win the game 4-2.

Normally, I don't like managers lifting pitchers in the midst of throwing no-hitters. The late Preston Gomez was notorious for doing just that. While managing the San Diego Padres in 1970, he lifted Clay Kirby, who had a no-hitter going into the ninth against the New York Mets, for a pitcher. Four years later, Gomez did the same thing while managing the Houston Astros. Don Wilson had pitched eight no-hit innings against the Cincinnati Reds when Gomez also lifted him for a pinch hitter.

It is worth noting that both Kirby and Wilson were losing their games despite the no-nos. So Gomez sent up pinch hitters to get some offense going. It didn't work on either occasion. Cito Gaston struck out when pinch hitting for Kirby while Tommy Helms grounded to short in his pinch hit for Wilson.

One could understand Gomez's strategy if he was in a pennant race. But the 1970 Padres and the 1974 Astros were both out of the pennant race. By the third of week of July, the Padres were thirty games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL West. Now granted, the Astros did have a winning record but they were 16 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West at the time. The Astros had no hope of playing baseball in October.

The 2010 Twins, on the other hand, are very much in a pennant race. Entering today, they have a three game lead on the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The Twins need all hands on deck. It is also worth remembering that Slowey had to miss his last scheduled start due to elbow tendonitis. So is it worth risking two more innings on a tender elbow? Besides, there also tends to be a let down effect after throwing a no-hitter. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza has not won a game in three starts since no-hitting the Detroit Tigers on July 26th. If Gardenhire did leave Slowey in the game and he managed to throw the no-hitter there's a good chance he probably wouldn't win his next few starts and those few starts could cost the Twins a pennant.

Now if I were sitting in Target Field yesterday I probably would have booed loudly. How often does a fan get to see a no-hitter in person? But would a fan rather see a no-hitter on the condition his team never wins the World Series? Twins fans should give it a second thought.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Giants Obtain Guillen From Royals

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Royals placed outfielder Jose Guillen on waivers despite leading the team with 16 home runs and 62 RBI.

Today, they dealt Guillen to the San Francisco Giants for their pennant drive. The Giants are currently in a three game series with the San Diego Padres who are as of this writing three and a half games up on the Giants in the NL West. The Giants do have a half game lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card.

The Giants could use Guillen's bat. They could also use his arm in right field. But they could probably do without his attitude. Since making his MLB debut in 1997, Guillen has played for nine times and the Giants will be his tenth. Guillen has previously played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners before signing as a free agent with the Royals prior to the 2008 season.

Guillen's best season came in 2004 with the Angels when he hit .294 with 27 homeruns and 104 RBI. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia suspended Guillen in the final week of the regular season after an outburst in the clubhouse. Scioscia also kept Guillen off the Angels' post-season roster. The Angels would be swept by the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Guillen has not disguised his contempt for Scioscia in the years that have followed.

One wonders if Guillen ran into similar problems in K.C. with Ned Yost. On the other hand, if the Giants are only planning to utilize them through the end of this season then a few weeks might very well be worth the price of a World Series ring. After all if Giants skipper Bruce Bochy could handle Barry Bonds then he can probably put up with Guillen in the short term.

Colombia Makes Nice with Venezuela & FARC

Three weeks ago, I thought Hugo Chavez was prepared to go to war with Colombia.

But Colombia's newly elected President, Juan Manuel Santos, sought out a meeting with Chavez as his first act of office and the two countries have restored diplomatic ties that were severed by Chavez.

It worries me that Santos was so eager to get an audience with Chavez. It also worries me that he is "open" to talks with FARC. It further worries me that they appear to have responded by detonating a car bomb in Bogota. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

Of course, the underlying tension between Chavez and Santos' predecessor Alvaro Uribe was that Chavez was harboring FARC in Venezuela. Santos might be well intentioned in trying to alleviate this tension but what reason have either Chavez or FARC given Santos to trust them other than their words?

Lance Cade,1981-2010. R.I.P.

Lance Cade, who worked with World Wrestling Entertainment on and off for nearly a decade, has died of apparent heart failure. He was 29.

Cade (whose real name was Lance McNaught) is the latest in a growing line of professional wrestlers who have died before their 45th birthday. Like many other wrestlers who died before him, Cade had substance abuse problems.

His star was on the rise in 2008 when the WWE released him after he had a seizure on an airplane which required his removal. The seizure was believed to be as a result of excessive use of painkillers or muscle relaxants. The WWE did give him another chance but he never appeared again on television after he apparently had some kind of relapse which resulted in him enrolling in a drug treatment program only for the WWE to release him once more.

Don't be surprised to see Dick Blumenthal's campaign use Cade's death (and that of other WWE wrestlers before him) against Linda McMahon, the GOP Senatorial nominee in Connecticut and former CEO of the WWE.

Cade was the father of two girls and a stepfather to one boy.

Obama Supports Ground Zero Mosque

Well, I can hardly say I'm surprised. So much for this being a local matter.

If the State Department is prepared to underwrite Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf''s trip to the Middle East why wouldn't Obama support him in his endeavor to build a mosque at Ground Zero?

President Obama couches his support of the Ground Zero mosque in terms of religious freedom.

So Obama is O.K. with Muslims building a mosque at the sight of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil but isn't O.K. with Jews building housing in Jerusalem.

All of this begs for these questions to be asked of President Obama.

Is the President Obama at all concerned that Rauf says one thing in English and another thing in Arabic?

Does President Obama support the religious freedom of those who would deny the religious freedom of others?

Does President Obama support the imposition of Shari'a law in the United States?

Does President Obama agree with Rauf that Hamas is not a terrorist organization?

Does President Obama agree with Rauf that the United States was an "accessory" to the attacks of September 11, 2001?

These questions must be asked of President Obama because he has taken a stand and has chosen to stand with those who are apologists for those who committed an act of jihad against this country instead of standing with those who lost loved ones as a result of this jihad.

Burmese Military Junta Sets "Elections" for Nov. 7th

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is quite right to call Burma's forthcoming "elections" nothing more than a "charade."

After all, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from running for office and remains under house arrest. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is boycotting the vote.

More than twenty years has passed since Suu Kyi was elected as Burmese Prime Minister. But it has also been more than twenty years since the military junta nullified the results of that election.

There is no reason to believe anything will change this state of affairs once this new "election" has come and gone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dan Rostenkowski, 1928-2010. R.I.P.

Former Democratic Congressman Dan Rostenkowski has died. The cause of death is unknown as of this writing. He was 82.

First elected to Congress in 1958, Rostenkowski became one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives. In 1981, the Chicago Democrat would be elected the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. There was a time when this position was as powerful as that of the Speaker of the House or even the President. In was in this capacity that Rostenkowski became a key figure in the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 signed into law by President Reagan.

But it was his use of that same office that would prove to be his undoing as he became the central figure in the Congressional Post Office scandal that would result in a 17-count indictment against him in 1994. A lightning rod for Newt Gingrich and the GOP during the run up to that year's mid-term elections, Rostenkowski would resign from the Ways and Means Committee and would be among 34 incumbent Democrats defeated in an election which saw Republicans regain control of the House for the first time in four decades.

Rostenkowski would lose his seat to a 32-year-old Gulf War veteran named Michael Patrick Flanagan. However, Flanagan's tenure in Congress was shortlived as the Democratic Party machine regained the seat in the 1996 elections. Flanagan was defeated by a lawyer named Rod Blagojevich. Need I say more other than Blago would be succeeded by none other than Rahm Emmanuel.

Rostenkowski would plead guilty on two counts of mail fraud in 1996 and was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. In 2000, President Clinton granted Rostenkowski a pardon.

With Rostenkowski's passing coming less than 48 hours after the untimely death of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens I am struck by how much the two men had in common. Although they were from different parties and represented vastly different constituencies they both earned reputations for being able to bring home the bacon. Both men were re-elected time and again (Rostenkowski served in Congress for 36 years, Stevens in the Senate for 40). Both men also lost their seats after being indicted on corruption related charges.

However, the two men would ultimately have two different fates their fates were determined by one man - Eric Holder. Although Stevens was convicted at trial when evidence of prosecutorial misconduct emerged it was Holder who moved to void the convictions and drop all charges against Stevens. Conversely, it was Holder who was the lead prosecutor in the Rostenkowski case.

Last month, Richard E. Cohen (not to be confused with Richard M. Cohen of The Washington Post) wrote an article about Charlie Rangel, yet another former Ways and Means Committee Chairman who went wayward. Cohen, who had written a biography of Rostenkowski, mentions him prominently in the article.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ted Stevens, 1923-2010. R.I.P.

Former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens was killed in a plane crash last night near Dillingham in southwestern Alaska. He was 86.

Four other people also lost their lives in the crash. Five people, however, survived the crash including former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. Given how the rugged terrain and bad weather impeded rescuers it is a miracle that anyone survived at all.

I was not aware that Stevens had survived a plane crash in December 1978 which would claim the life of his first wife. But even before that crash Stevens apparently had a premonition he would die in a plane crash. Quin Hillyer has a post at The Washington Times highlighting the eerie way in which people are connected to each other by the manner in which they die.

Stevens served in the Senate for four decades becoming the longest serving Republican in that body. However, Stevens would not become a nationally known figure until the very end of his political career when he became a symbol of pork barrel spending gone amok with his vigorous support of the $400 million Bridge to Nowhere which would eventually be cancelled due to public outcry.

He would be subsequently indicted on seven charges of failing to report gifts from lobbyists. In October 2008, Stevens was convicted on all seven counts. His conviction came only days before his re-election bid for his seventh full term in office. However, Stevens would lose to Democrat Mark Begich. But just over six months later, Attorney General Eric Holder would move to have the convictions voided and the indictments against Stevens dismissed on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens received his first exposure to flight when he became a cargo pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. He would receive an Air Medal and a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying behind enemy lines in the Pacific theatre.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mariners Fire Wakamatsu

My Seattle Mariners winning the World Series prediction hasn't exactly worked wonders.

Today, the Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu and several members of his coaching staff. Daren Brown, who has spent the past four seasons at the helm of Triple A Tacoma, will manage the Mariners on an interim basis until season's end.

Wakamatsu was hired prior to the 2009 season. After losing 102 games in 2008, Wakamatsu guided the Mariners to a respectable 85-77 record. They were expected to improve this year with the acquisition of Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley, Brandon League and Chone Figgins via free agency. It prompted people like yours truly to predict they would go all the way.

But things never got going for the M's this year. Ken Griffey, Jr. abruptly retired mid-season, Bradley had a mental breakdown and Lee was dealt to Texas. The low point came when Wakamatsu got into a dugout brawl with Figgins. Whatever confidence Wakamatsu might have had with the team had disintegrated. The bottom line is that the Mariners had a 42-70 record and were 22 and a half games behind the Rangers in the AL West.

I don't know much about Brown aside from the fact he has managed various minor league affiliates in the Mariner organization since 2001. So obviously he knows most of the players who have come up through their minor league system and that are currently working their way up. He was also a minor league pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Brown did win his managerial debut this evening besting the Oakland Athletics 3-1.
But it is but the first step on a very long road back to respectability.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on the Prop 8 Ruling

It's been a few days since California's Proposition 8 which enacted an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage back in November 2008 was overturned by Judge Vaughn Walker. However, I did not get a chance to finish reading Judge Walker's ruling until earlier today.

Now that I have read the decision I have to conclude that Judge Walker made the correct decision based on the information that was presented before him. I make this assertion because the proponents of Prop 8 and their attorneys simply did not put up a good argument and made a couple of key tactical errors.

Specifically, the attorneys chose not to have any of the proponents of Proposition 8 testify at trial and the two expert witnesses they put on the stand did not undertake original research concerning marriage and were destroyed on cross examination.

The main argument that was used at trial against same sex marriage and to justify Prop 8 was that same sex couples cannot procreate. Yes, it is true that same sex parents cannot procreate. But the ability to procreate has never been a prerequisite to marriage. While most opposite sex married couples have children there are other opposite sex marriage couples who choose not to have children or cannot biologically conceive children whether due to dysfunction or age. Yet heterosexual couples who are either unwilling or unable to conceive children are not prevented from entering into marriage. Prop 8 lead attorney Charles Cooper was unable to adequately address Judge Walker's questions on this very point. In the grand scheme of things it does seem grossly unfair that Adam and Steve are denied a marriage license because they cannot conceive a child when the state does not demand Jack and Jill conceive a child upon marriage.

Predictably, those who disagree with Judge Walker's decision are not criticizing him over the substance of his decision but because they believe he is homosexual. For his part, Judge Walker is mum on the issue. But it hasn't stopped Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization on Marriage from calling his sexual orientation into question. Perkins and Gallagher should be careful for what they wish. If Judge Walker can be recused for his alleged homosexuality then what is to prevent the ACLU from demanding a Catholic or Evangelical jurist be recused if a case concerning a cross or a nativity scene should come before them? Surely, Perkins and Gallagher are capable of a better argument.

Rich Lowry of National Review Online doesn't make an issue out of Walker's sexual orientation. However, he does accuse Walker of "judicial imperiousness." Yet Walker is hardly the first judge who could be accused of possessing such a quality. Consider the 60 Minutes profile of Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia back in April 2008. When Scalia defends a given decision he does it with "because I said so" posture. Speaking of Scalia, I am sure Judge Walker's decision will end up in his lap and it would come as no surprise if Scalia is as dismissive of Walker's ruling as Walker was of California Proposition 8.

Thoughts on Wyclef Jean's Haitian Presidential Bid

Could Sean Penn have a point?

After musician Wyclef Jean announced his intention to run for the presidency of Haiti, Penn took Jean to task for his absence from the island nation in the months of following the earthquake which is believed to have killed nearly a quarter of a million people. Penn told Larry King earlier this week he found Jean's bid for elected office in Haiti to be "suspicious" and added Jean has been "a non-presence" on the island.

Jean's charity, Yele Haiti, came under criticism in the aftermath of the earthquake when it was revealed it did not file tax returns for the years 2005-2007 until August 2009.

If Jean can't manage his own charity then how can he be expected to run a country? Especially one so deeply mired in poverty and violence.

But let's assume for the time being that Jean is honest, is elected fairly and does not misuse his power. While the presence of Jean might shine a brighter light on Haiti that light could dim if he is overwhelmed by the enormous task that would be before him.

Since Baby Doc Duvalier was deposed nearly a quarter century ago, power has changed hand 16 times. In order to survive, Jean might feel compelled to employ the same tactics that served his predecessors so well. Even if Jean doesn't approve of state sponsored violence it won't necessarily stop his supporters from behaving violently towards his political adversaries.

In fairness to Jean, he is aware of what he is up against. He estimates that it will take between 25 to 30 years to rebuild Haiti. Even so that is likely an optimistic prognosis.

The election is scheduled to take place on November 28th.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obama Criticizes Mugabe

During a town hall meeting at the White House with young African leaders this past Tuesday, President Obama was asked a question about the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe. Obama responded by criticizing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

After stating he was "heartbroken" with what was happening in Zimbabwe he went on to say, "I do not see him serving his people well."

Well, it's good to see President Obama criticizing a foreign leader who actually deserves it for a change.

Now if only Obama were to say the Mullahs and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aren't serving the people of Iran well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Andrew Cline Hits A-Rod Out of The Park

Over at The American Spectator, Andrew Cline has written about Alex Rodriguez's 600th homerun and has captured the indifference of baseball fans and the American public alike with regard to his achievement:

Baseball fans don't put players on pedestals anymore. They put the game on a pedestal. The game is pure, even if the players aren't. A lot of the reluctance to idolize players has to do with the taint of steroids, and a lot has to do with the media. When every detail of a player's life is recorded by a reporter or photographer, the blemishes show. And A-Rod has plenty of blemishes. In addition to his steroid use, he's shown himself to be the sort of self-absorbed man-child no one wants to root for.

With players like Bonds and A-Rod juicing their way into the record books and acting off the field like all-around jerks, what's there to get happy about when they reach a historic milestone? A 600th homer looks just like a sixth homer. Why get excited about it? Fans get emotionally invested in such feats when they have an emotional investment in the players who achieve them. Who is emotionally invested in A-Rod's success, other than A-Rod?

When you consider that many of my posts on this blog concern the happenings in Major League Baseball the fact that I did note A-Rod's 600th homerun is significant. Now some of you might think I neglected to make note of his achievement because he wears Yankee pinstripes. Not so. Barring injury Derek Jeter will collect his 3,000th hit next season. Given that he already has more hits than any other player in the storied history of the Yankees it is not an achievement baseball fans nor the American public will ignore. There are many baseball fans who are emotionally invested in Jeter's success (many of them of the female persuasion.) Granted Jeter also has his share of detractors (mostly residing in the 617 area code) but he has been around long enough to have earned grudging respect. Aside from a minor tax beef, Jeter has also been free from scandal.

Simply put, Andrew Cline has hit this one out of the ballpark.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thoughts on the Ground Zero Mosque

I might be prepared to support the idea of constructing a mosque a stone's throw away from the World Trade Center if Muslim leaders in this country made a concerted effort to condemn acts of terror committed in the name of Islamic fundamentalism, condemn the organizations responsible by name as well as support the efforts of the United States to combat terrorism committed in the name of Islamic fundamentalism both here and abroad.

But I have seen none of that from Muslim leaders in this country. When Feisal Abdul Rauf publicly states the United States foreign policy was an accessory to the attacks of September 11, 2001, accuses this country of wantonly killing civilians during WWII and refuses to identify Hamas as a terrorist organization it raises red flags. And who is funding this whole enterprise? What does Rauf have to hide?

It is in this context that I view the plan to build a mosque in plain view of Ground Zero as an act of desecration. Quite frankly the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero is the moral equivalent of spray painting swastikas on Jewish graves or on the graves of those who fought the Nazis. I am appalled both at Rauf and his Cordoba Initiative for their act of desecration and to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City of New York for allowing this travesty to happen.

How is Rauf stating the United States was an accessory to the attacks of September 11, 2001 any different than when Saudi Prince Alwaweed suggested the same after giving New York City a check worth $10 million? We all know what Rudy Giuliani did. He told the Prince to take the check, fold it five times and stick where the moon don't shine. Given his approach to Rauf I can only conclude that Bloomberg would have accepted the blood money.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shaq Signs Two-Year Deal with Celtics

Shaquille O'Neal is now a member of the Boston Celtics having signed a two-year deal worth $3 million.

At 38, Shaq's best days are behind him. In fact, he is the oldest active player in the NBA. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald writes, "the Celtics middle is going to be older, slower and softer than a Three Dog Night reunion."

So is Murphy saying Shaq won't help bring "Joy to the World" to the Celtics?

If nothing else perhaps Bostonians will be treated to extra sightings of Shaq and Ben Stein.

A Clapper Caper?

I see that Senate Republicans have blocked a vote for Lieutenant General James Clapper, President Obama's appointee for Director of National Intelligence.

I have but one question. Could this be a Clapper Caper?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Thought for Bristol Palin

When Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston announced last month they were engaged I made the following observation:

Yet I have a bad feeling Bristol is going to have her heart broken again.

Well, it seems that Johnston has sired another child. This was all too much to bear for her and their engagement is off.

It is probably just as well. He seems like a cad. I just hope he doesn't use his son as a weapon.

Bristol Palin is certainly not the only 19-year old mother who has had her relationship with the father of her child go sour. But she is probably the only 19-year-old mother who has to go through this in front of the entire world. At this point, one can only hope she finds a man who is going to devote himself to her and her son and not towards gaining some sort of notoriety.

Israel Will Co-operate with UN Flotilla Inquiry

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his government will co-operate with the UN inquiry into the Gaza flotilla raid last May.

This move has been criticized by Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni. I can't say I blame her for taking Netanyahu to task. But that is her job. If Livni were standing in Netanyahu's shoes she might very well have done the same thing.

Sir Geoffery Palmer, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, has been appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to head up the inquiry. Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is also on the panel.

I'm not aware of either Palmer or Uribe having any overtly anti-Israel bias. Even so I am not certain that by agreeing to co-operate with the inquiry that Israel will be spared the usual invective to which it has been accustomed inside the UN.