Monday, December 12, 2005

Italy, Czech Republic, Ghana. Oof. Still, it is progress that the Italian press is mad that they've been stuck in the same group as us.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Something tells me Dontrelle Willis is feeling just a little bit lonely right about now.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Josh (à) Beckett

That might work. I like this deal, although Mike Lowell is going to be terrible for two years, and he's very expensive. He's another one whose career stats took a real nose-dive when the threat of steroid testing came up........

Monday, November 21, 2005

...and shame, Jean Schmidt, shame.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bravo, John Murtha. Bravo.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My dad correctly points out that all baseball fans really should thank Rafael Palmeiro. Because of him baseball finally has an actual drug policy. I'm not sure it would have come about without him. Thanks, Raffy!

Friday, November 11, 2005


ESPN shows conclusively that baseball knew about steroids in 1991, Bud Selig's recent claims of ignorance notwithstanding. And wow, everyone really was using them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'd like to hereby declare my availability to John Henry and the Red Sox. Not my availability for General Manager. Instead my availability for Club President. Larry Lucchino has failed and I would like to be considered for his role. As my first action, I would re-hire Theo Epstein to be GM. The Sox appear to be in complete disarray, and I'm very discouraged with the prospect of exchanging a smart statistically based GM for some old 'baseball sort'.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Now this is interesting, on a couple of levels. First, of course, the truth about the Gulf of Tonkin, which is that it never happened. (Sidenote, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress, gave LBJ the authority to vastly increase US troops in Vietnam.) So Congress was given false information by the administration and based on that false information it approved the administration's decision to go to war. (In Vietnam)

Obviously, the previous sentence could have been written about the present war in Iraq. Which brings up the second level that this new information is interesting. The present administration seems like it's trying to bury the discovery of the 40 year old mistake because the parallels are so obvious that even the President's defenders cannot deny them.

2000 Americans have now died in Iraq. There will be more, unfortunately, many more, sacrificed in a bloody, unwinnable war on the other side of the world. I don't know how many, and I don't know how long it will take, but sooner or later we will pull out of Iraq and then we will wonder what exactly we were doing there in the first place. I have no doubt that in 40 years, the present war in Iraq will be viewed as a serious mistake, just as today the Vietnam War is rightly seen as a mistake. And our children will wonder how it was that America could have so completely failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I've sure been a lot nicer to Harriet Miers than a lot of (nominally) conservatives.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I'm not saying Harriet Miers is a bad person--it may be that she'd be a terrific Justice. It's just that she's so vastly unqualified. If Bush wants to appoint her to a court, why not appoint her to the Fifth Circuit? I don't think anyone would argue with appointing her to Fifth Circuit, and that's plenty prestigious. But something tells me that ain't gonna happen.....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

As a sidenote, here's a map showing where I've been:

create your own map

My conclusion: there's a lot of this world that I need to see!

It says I've been to 10% of the world--they may be counting by country. I don't feel like I've seen that much.
It seems that Harriet Miers has tried eights cases to verdict. In her career.

There were three cases where either her client or the opposing party sought Supreme Court review. Never granted.

None of her cases dealt with Constitutional issues of any kind. Her work at the White House doesn't seem to involve the Constitution.

In my opinion, she's wildly unqualified. She may well be smart and personally honest, but the more one learns about it, the thinner her legal resume looks. There are thousands of commercial litigators out there who have roughly the same qualifications, and surely there are hundreds who have better qualifications. Personally, I think it makes a lot of sense to have someone on the Supreme Court with a commercial litigation background--they have plenty of career judges on there already. But I don't think she's the one to put on there.

Does Bush not understand that this is an important job? Does he just think he can appoint his cronies to any position?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING had gone right for the Cardinals since the beat Houston in Game 1. When Berkman hit that home run tonight, I admit I gave up and went to the gym. Fortunately the gym had a TV.


If nothing else, it's a chance for one last game at Busch Stadium. I saw a game there with my dad a few years back (summer of 1997, I think). I don't remember who won, but Mark McGwire stole a base. Looking at his stats, that was a rare sight......

In any case, I hope their luck turns. Game 6 is Wednesday.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I'll take it. Whew.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Whew. When Roy Oswalt is on, there's no much anyone can do. Now the Cardinals have to go beat Clemens in Houston. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. Part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion." Bush. October 12, 2005.

Uhhhhh, right. Any other reasons? Her strong background in constitutional litigation? Her academic writings? Her philosophical positions?

Oh, wait, there aren't any of those things. Harriet Miers sounds like a very nice person (at least for a lawyer). We know virtually nothing about what she thinks. And the Senate is supposed to vote for her because she's a Christian? I don't expect to agree with much of what John Roberts does from the bench, but he was indisputably qualified for the Supreme Court. Is Miers?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Normally, I don't sit around and read the Federalist Papers (written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to encourage states to ratify the Constitution in 1787). However, in number 76, Hamilton specifically talked about the benefits of Senate approval of Presidential nominees:

[The President] would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.

Wow. How applicable to Harriet Miers. Same state? Check. Personally allied to the President? Check. Insignificance? Maybe. Pliancy? Seems like it.

I mean, really, what has she done? Does she have any constitutional background? I'm all in favor of having someone on the Court who actually has done trial work, but is there no lawyer in America who may be more qualified? Anyone who had a First Amendment practice? For that matter, a criminal lawyer?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Terrible. Sports. Weekend.

Ok, the Cardinals won, but everyone expected that. The Sox just crumbled, looking old. Wait till next year. Michigan looked confused (albeit with a good defense). Three losses means the season is a failure. Garbage Pit Bowl, here we come!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Chris Carpenter pitched well today (saved by three double plays), but I think he's lost the Cy Young. Over the last month he was pretty mediocre. Which stands in direct contrast to the guy who should win it, Dontrelle Willis, who had just one bad start down the stretch.

Willis has one more win, one more shutout, and a better ERA. No contest. I just wonder how many voters made up their mind in August.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers.

Raise your hand if you'd ever heard of her. And now she's nominated for the Supreme Court? What distinguishes her for this job?

She was a partner at a big firm in Dallas. There are thousands of litigation partners at big firms across the country. At least John Roberts had argued many times in front of the Supreme Court and was considered among the best in the country at it. What has she done? Are there really no more distinguished candidates?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

My new favorite player is, uhhhhh, Brandon McCarthy. He starts for the White Sox tomorrow.

(As a sidenote, if the Sox beat the Yankees tomorrow, the Sox are in the playoffs. If the White Sox beat the Tribe, the So are in the playoffs. If the Tribe wins and the Sox lose, they play Monday for a final playoff spot.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Come to think of it, maybe Bill Mueller too. Look at his slugging percentage drop.

In any case, I think this Millar's last year under contract, so he's gone. Maybe Mueller too. That alone would be great for the Sox offense.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I read a column lauding the wildcard, touting the great race in the American League and bashing "pesky purists" who had opposed the wild card. I for one, don't like the wild card. I think the best way to choose the best teams in the league is to play the entire season.

The problem with this guy's argument is the specific piece of evidence he cites: the race in the American League. The race actually shows the weakness of the wild card. As he notes, the Sox, Yankees, and the Tribe are all tied with a week to go. It's going to be a close finish. Two teams will advance, one team will go home.

Now imagine if there was no wild card? Well, the American League would have an even *better* race. The Sox, Yankees, and the Tribe would be all tied in the old American League East with a week to go. It would be a fantastic finish. One team would advance, two teams would go home. Note the difference: only one team would advance. More pressure; more tension.

But hey, the guy's a sports columnist. No need for actual substantive analysis! In fact, the guy will probably write the exact same column next year.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Before the season we all thought that Michigan would have a terrific offense and a mediocre defense. That's what I thought as well. I was wrong. Our defense is pretty good, but the offense is crappy. It seems that Henne has regressed--maybe he's missing Braylon Edwards. Also, Steve Breaston hasn't done much all year. Maybe it's the loss of Mike Hart.

Against Wisconsin we generated nothing the whole second half, but for one flea-flicker trick play. I think our defense did a pretty good job, but it was on the field the whole game. They could only hold for so long.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Sox are done. I can't imagine them coming back after blowing a game like tonight's.

And holy crap is Rita ever a big hurricane.....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It is distasteful for me to note this, because Papi is my favorite player in baseball at the moment (I know, I know, just like everyone else in Red Sox Nation), but I have to admit I'd vote for ARod for MVP in the American League.

Ortiz has had a great year, but ARod has been maybe even better offensively (same slugging, higher average, better speed) and plays a great third base too.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I don't think Michigan is the #4 team in the country. There aren't many teams with better offenses, but the defense looks very average. Northern Illinois shouldn't get 400 yards against Michigan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I really like New Orleans. But now I wonder whether that sentence should be in the past tense.

What will New Orleans be in the future? At this point, according to (great website), the news is bad and getting worse. Water levels still rising. Levees still broken. I'm no expert, but I figure that having water on both sides of a levee is only going to make it weaker. The articles say 80% of the city is under water. The Superdome, where people were sheltering, has water on the floor. As the water isn't going anywhere anytime soon (water level won't drop until the pumps start working; the pumps are under water and in any case, the levees still have holes in them), I have to think that most of the houses in the city will have to be destroyed as uninhabitable when the water finally goes down in a week (two weeks? a month?). They can't be saved, and they'll rot anyway. And the guns are coming out, as the looters are busy. ("Send in the National Guard! Wait, they're in Tikrit...")

Some of the city will, of course, be rebuilt. What will it look like? Will it ever be the same? I can't imagine it will.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gotta add Dontrelle Willis to the Cy Young mix, along with Carpenter and Clemens. I still go with Carpenter. Granted Clemens has a better ERA, but Carpenter's pitched 20 more innings and had one bad start all year. In April. Clemens has only one complete game, and Dontrelle Willis has a few bad starts, although he has dropped half a run from his ERA in the last month.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Scratch that. Maybe Timlin's not such a good idea either.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Yesterday I was talking with someone, someone I know and respect, who still believes there was a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. On the one hand, it's surprising, because it's been well known for over a year that no such link existed. The point isn't even debatable anymore. I mean, more than a year ago, Colin Powell said so in the New York Times. Even Bush admitted it, almost two year ago! But plenty of people still believe it now.

But I made this point before and I'll make it again. It's like the Gulf of Tonkin. The American people were told that our ships had been attacked by the communist Vietnamese. We believed the government. But it never happened.
Same here. We were sold a bill of goods. Well, several bills of goods. One was the Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (remember them?). Another was that Iraq had connections to Al Qaeda. For that matter, another was that the war would be fast a cheap (all together now, "HA HA funny!"). Years later, after untold lives have been lost or ruined, it turns out that they lied to us about the Gulf of Tonkin, and they lied to us about Iraq too. I just hope we're not still there is another ten years.....

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I was reading about a new initiative to build laptops for $100 and distribute them to Africa so kids there can have computers.

I suppose it's a good cause, and it's obviously a sexy, headline-grabbing solution. But I was in Niger last year and the people in my sister's village need $100 laptops like a fish needs a bicycle. Miles from the nearest road, much less the nearest source of electricity, it's an isolated place.

Niger is, of course, an extreme case, but it isn't going to be pulled out of poverty by cheap computing power. The most important thing is to reduce the size of families. There are just too many people. I read that when he was vice president, Al Gore ordered someone to track the most important factors in reducing a country's growth rate. Turns out that the biggest one was educating girls. It's not as flashy as cheap laptops running Linux, but it would be great if a similar effort was made to ensure that every girl in Niger went to high school.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I'd make it a goal to make sure that local folks got to make the decision as to whether or not they said creationism has been a part of our history and whether or not people ought to be exposed to different theories as to how the world was formed.

Awful. Should kids also be exposed to different theories of gravity?

I wonder. Are kids in India and China wasting their time creationism? If anyone has any doubts about why American kids have crappy science scores, direct these questions to our president.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I dunno. Maybe it's time to give Timlin a shot....

Monday, August 15, 2005

It turns out the Iraqis are having a bit of trouble with their constitution. As with so many things (reconstruction, insurgents, democracy, oil, etc. etc. etc.), I think the administration has vastly underestimated the difficulty of this task. True to character, they neglected the difficulties. Had they been paying attention, they may have noticed another country that had its own trouble coming to grip with the issue of federalism. After seven years of failure, they tried again. That didn't really get the job done either--sixty one years later the country nearly destroyed itself in an astonishingly brutal civil war.

The population of the United States was 31 million in 1860, and about 620,000 people died. Iraq has about 26 million people (hey, surely we can trust the CIA about Iraq, right?). I don't know that anyone can really say how many civilians have did, but this site says 25,000. Will Iraq dissolve into civil war? I bet it does, unfortunately. And I bet the issue will be federalism. Just like here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On my way to the train in the morning I walk past Wholefoods, which always has a security guard out front. As I walked past him today a homeless guy happened to approach him at the same time. The following conversation ensued:

Drug-addled homeless guy: "Hey, so'oze goona win Cy Young?"
Security guard: "hmm"
Homeless guy: "Huwza Carpenter fu da Cardinals?"

Then I walked out of range.

Obviously, the security guard should have pointed out that it's only early August, and there's a ton of baseball yet to play. As a Cardinals fan, I was happy to see Chris Carpenter getting some recognition, even if I was surprised that the homeless guy is so up on National League pitching. But Carpenter's having a terrific year.

If the season ended now, would he win the Cy Young? I think it's either him or Clemens. Carpenter has more wins, but Clemens has a better ERA, and it's not Clemens' fault that he's had crappy run support. Clemens hasn't had a truly bad start all year. I'd still give it to Carpenter, though, because of the innings. Clemens has been great, but he's gone eight innings only twice. Carpenter has five complete games (six nine inning starts, but one of his starts went ten), four shutouts, and has pitched at least eight innings nine times.

It's still close, as Smoltz, Dontrelle Willis, Roy Oswalt, and Pedro Martinez are still in the hunt. Livan Hernandez has been, as always, a horse (also nine starts of at least eight innings), but I just don't think he's going to get too many more wins. I see Washington fading.

In any case, I'm happy our homeless population is following baseball.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I always figured that Rafael Palmiero would make it to the Hall of Fame as the ultimate monument to being Pretty Good for a Very Long Time. His career numbers will add up impressively, but has he ever been all that good? He played in a grand total of four All Star Games. He never won an MVP, and only three times was he in the top ten. Forget about being the best player in the league, was he ever the best player on his own team? Ever? Was he ever the best player at his own position?

And now he's been suspended for steroids. If I were a voter, it would be a tough call. Can you vote against a guy with 500 homers and 3000 hits? I dunno. But if I was ever going to vote against someone with those stats, Palmiero would be the guy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

It sounds like the Iraqi government is making noises about having us leave, as soon as next year. Great! However, if Iraq then dissolves into civil war, have we not failed?

For that matter, if the new Iraqi constitution, written by Iraqis, implements the worst aspects of sharia law, have we really succeeded?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Last December I visited Niger, where my sister and brother in law were Peace Corps Volunteers. Yes, the same Niger that is starving.

The people of Niger are unquestionably the most generous I have ever met. In my sister's village, Sabon Gida, THEY brought US more food than we could eat, every night. This is no hyperbole, we stuffed ourselves and could eat no more, and they kept bringing us food. (Maradi, where the BBC story was bylined, is about 120 miles east of Sabon Gida.) I am now faced with the immensely terrible thought that the people who brought us food are now starving themselves.

Niger is not the sort of country where the people starve while the president buys new fighter planes and has a villa in the south of France. Right before we got there they had a peaceful and fair election. The President seems to be a honest man who has improved things in the country. The only sin of the Nigeriens is to be born in a land with too many people, not enough rain, and no real exports except uranium and onions--and I bet there aren't even any onions this year.

If you've been thinking about this at all, I urge you to make a donation.

My sister and my brother in law recommend CARE ( and Catholic Relief Services ( I encountered people from both organizations and neither one is spending money on upkeep of their buildings or lavish salaries of their staff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I recently saw Wor of the Worlds. On the recommendation of someone who shall remain nameless (but is Tom Lorek's mother's son), who said it was "more craptacular than Independence Day". Now I thought Independence Day was pretty craptacular, so that's a pretty high endorsement.

Revenge of the Sith was better.

War of the Worlds is so silly. It's just dumb. Independence Day (against which it must be compared) had a plot, albeit a plot with holes one could, uh, drive a spaceship through. This didn't even have a plot. It was a dumb movie with annoying unconvincing characters. Dumb dumb dumb.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

First Martha Stewart. Now Lil' Kim.

The lesson: Don't Lie To The Feds.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Monday, July 04, 2005

229 years ago a bunch of rich white men got together and signed their own death warrants (i.e. the Declaration of Independence). Would the today's leading politicians stand up and risk life and limb for this country?

We know that Bush wouldn't. And we know that Cheney wouldn't.

Thank God we had leaders back then who were brave....

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I recently saw the new Star Wars.

In the interest of seeing the glass as 1/16 full, I present the following two positive points about it:

a) It was undeniably better than the last two movies (nos. 1 and 2 in the sequence)


b) None of us ever have to see another Star Wars movie in theaters again. It's over.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Remember when the reason we went to war in Iraq was because they were hiding weapons of mass destruction? Or remember when the reason we went to war in Iraq was because of the connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? Or remember when we were at war in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East?

NOW, it turns out, we're at war in Iraq because that's where all the terrorists are, and of course we have to fight the terrorists. Well yes, there are terrorists there. And yes, those terrorists are there to kill Americans. Is it not blindingly obvious that the terrorists are in Iraq ONLY because we are there first? I mean, can anyone seriously doubt that we are the cause of the terrorists in Iraq right now?

Thirty years ago, we cut and we ran out of Vietnam. Thank God we did. It was a war that could not be won. However, we were in Vietnam for 15 years before that. I hope we don't wait thirteen more years to get out of Iraq.....

Monday, June 27, 2005

I hate to say it, but I wonder whether Kevin Millar was on steroids last year. Consider his numbers.

His slugging percentage sure has dropped, hasn't it?

Monday, June 06, 2005

I'm sometimes a fan of Christopher Hitchens (especially his thoughts on Henry Kissinger), but here undoubtedly gets it right here.

Airport security is absolutely stupid. For all of the reasons he mentions, and many others:

-Either it is justified or it is not justified to make everyone take off their shoes in before going through the x-ray machine. But the government has yet to come up with a consistent policy.

-What's more dangerous, nail clippers or a big hardsided laptop? For that matter, what's more dangerous, a small pen knife or a big hardsided laptop? Obviously, it's the laptop. A laptop would be a pretty effective club, I bet. Of course, they can't ban laptops, because that would be too inconvenient.

We have a "security system" that ends up filtering out only those things that aren't too inconvenient, which is to say, not real security.

Hitchens doesn't mention that all of this is also useless. If a terrorist took over a plane these days, everyone would rush the cockpit, because everyone knows that they're already dead anyway. This is a classic instance of fighting the last war.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

No surprise why the Sox are mediocre this season.

Millar: .237 (hellooo, John Olerud!)
Mueller: .264
Bellhorn: .244
Payton: .226

I guess I can't insult Bellhorn after his homer in Game 7 last year, but still. .244 is .244. I don't care how many walks you have.

By the way, who's Jay Payton and how is he getting so many at bats????

When this is the bottom half of your lineup, you're not going to score a lot of runs....

Monday, May 30, 2005

It appears that Cheney was offended by the Amnesty report on Guantanamo Bay. To me, the most important quote is: "For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously."

That's just it. He, and the administration he runs, just doesn't take this seriously. I'm not sure why. I have no doubt that some of the former prisoners are liars. And some are undoubtedly terrorists. But the administration just can't seem to admit the possibility that there has been abuse, and that abuse is torture. But how many stories do we need?

I just can't believe that every single one of these former prisoners is lying. I wish I believed it, for America's sake. But there are too many stories to disbelieve them. I don't share the administration's blind faith that we would never torture. It's not impossible. Do they ever ask themselves "What if we're wrong?"? I don't know.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Is President Bush actually Woodrow Wilson? For some reason I've been reading a bunch of books about the time between 1910 and 1920, and I think the comparison is apt.

Both are utterly convinced that God is on their side, believers that America is somehow unique in the world and that it is America's role to lead the world into a new tomorrow.

Wilson's proudest creation, the League of Nations, failed. I suppose the analogy with Bush would be his war in Iraq. I'm betting it's going to fail too. It's sure not going well so far. Another helicopter shot down today.... Ugh.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It seems to me that the Senate could really end this whole filibuster debate quickly. Especially for W's judges who don't generate ideological debate. There are a couple from Michigan who've been nominated to the 6th Circuit and, from what I read, they're only opposed because NONE of Clinton's nominees from Michigan to the 6th Circuit were ever brought to a vote. (Some of them languishing for years.)

So why not nominate one of each? One of W's, and have him nominate one of Clinton's. Done.

By the way, the Republicans aren't really going to be as small minded as to eliminate filibusters, are they? Are they so daft as to think they're going to always have the President?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Been travelling a lot for work. I was at a tradeshow in Pittsburgh (it's what I do and yes, it's boring) a couple of weeks ago. In a big convention hall, one room was called, apparently without irony:

The Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

National Geographic has an article about Civil War battlefields being turned into subdivisions. I happened to notice one of the name of a Confederate general killed on the field of battle that was such a marvelous name I had to look it up to see if it was really true: States Rights Gist. There really was a man named States Rights.

The Civil War fascinates me. The bravery, the slaughter, so foreign to our present America. Six Confederate generals died the same day that Gist did in combat. Six generals! At Cold Harbor, before they attacked, Union soldiers went ahead an pinned names and addresses on their uniforms so their bodies could be identified. I cannot imagine.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

This is a fascinating. At least to me. It's generally accepted that pitchers today don't throw any harder than Bob Feller or Walter Johnson. Why? I mean, athletes in other sports have gone faster over the last 50 years, why not pitchers?

Turns out that a 100 miles per hour fastball realy is about the maximum speed the human arm can throw. The article doesn't really talk about the physics, but of course if your hand has to be moving 100 mph at the release point to throw the ball 100 mph. It's just not possible to make one's hand move faster than 100 mph. Ligaments, tendons, etc., start to snap. And unlike, for instance, tennis, there's no equipment out there to help pitchers. It's just them and the ball. Fascinating.

On the other hand, the story of the legend mentioned, Steve Dalkowski, is just really sad.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Well, I admit, I hadn't thought much about Bo Jackson these last few years. But now we know what happens when a truly innocent man is accused of using steroids.

We're still awaiting lawsuits from Messrs. Bonds, Giambi, McGwire, Sosa, etc....

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I hate to do it, but I have to go with the Yankees, at least to win the AL East. If he can be healthy, Randy Johnson will go about 24-3.

I do hope the Sox can make the wild card again. I'll go with Oakland in the West and Minnesota in the Central.

In the NL, I'll go with Atlanta (come on, 14 consecutive years, they know what they're doing) in the East, St. Louis in the Central, and the Giants in the West. I think Bonds is going to come back in June and be rested all year. The wild card is tough, maybe the Dodgers? Maybe the Marlins? I'll go with the Fish.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, so it's silly to pick winners of those series. But I'd sure be happy with a rematch of last year's World Series.

I think Pedro's going to have a fantastic year for the Mets (though he'll be mediocre by the end of his contract) and I'll pick him for the Cy Young. Johnson in the AL. I know, a cop out, but he should have won it last year, even going 16-14....

Thursday, March 24, 2005 the Boston Globe:

Sidney "The Contender" Ponson

This makes me laugh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It looks like Barry Bonds does, in fact, want to be liked. He put up a wall for as long as he could, but unknown to all of us it was affecting him. I bet he'll be back by June. The G-Men better hope he isn't out much longer--I'm starting to think the rest of the team is actually pretty good this year.

Advice for Bonds: don't be so distant. San Francisco wants to love you. The world is not out to get you, and you don't make friends in the media by pretending it is.

The US Attorney's office may be a different story. It looks to me like they're trying to get him for perjury. Why else would they bring his old mistress in? They want to go after him for the same reason they went after Martha Stewart, and Bernie Ebbers, and Frank Quattrone. They want to nail the big cheese.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I just read a thing about how the Cardinals of the 1930s-1940s were like the A's of today.

Since this was before free agency, teams would sell their players to other teams. The Cardinals would consistently sell their most valuable players to other teams, but always stay competitive.

Their method, developed by Branch Rickey (before he went on the Brooklyn) was to have three farm systems. Three AAA clubs, three AA clubs, etc. That way, they had an enormous pipeline of young, talented, hungry, CHEAP players. This was at a time when some clubs wouldn't ever have their own farm teams--they would just buy players from independent minor league teams. Pretty clever. I wonder why no one does it now. Maybe it isn't allowed?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Since Mark McGuire has essentially admitted using steroids, I wonder what this means for his chances at the Hall of Fame. Surely he was a shoe-in before all this, but what about now? I think he'll make it eventually, but not on the first ballot.

I also think he should fire his lawyer immediately. He should admit that he used steroids while crying, say it was a big mistake, say he was young, apologize (especially for the kids, sniff sniff) and point out that it was all legal at the time. Perhaps he should mention Jesus. We forgive people who admit they were wrong. But not people who weasel around behind lawyer-talk.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I was amused by this article in the Chronicle, mentioning the popularity of American consumer goods in Iran, despite the official ban on US companies doing business there.

What's funny is that Adidas is prominantly mentioned, as evidence of the popularity of American products. Perhaps someone should inform the Chronicle that Adidas is a German company....

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Well, the players have got themselves subpoenaed. If I can predict it, it can't be too surprising.

Why did they not see this coming? They're not dumb. I think it's a combination of arrogence (to a degree that the rest of us nonprofessional athletes can't possibly understand) and being way out of touch. Way out of touch.

Note: the one player who looks good in all this is Frank Thomas, who notably said from the beginning that he'd be happy to testify. My respect for him has grown considerably.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I'm reading a fascinating book about the peace conference at the end of World War One called Paris 1919. For a few months, the victors were in Paris: US, UK, France, Italy (until they left in a snit), Japan (when they were listened to), and other little ones. They also had delegations from everyone. Serbs, Zionists, Prince Faisal. Even Ho Chi Minh, who happened to be living in Paris, tried to bring their attention to Vietnam (he was ignored). They had a lot to do, and it's amazing how many things that crossed their collective desks were decided incorrectly. Most conflicts of the last 85 years have their origins at this conference.

World War Two (Europe)--the peace terms imposed on Germany were too harsh

World War Two (Asia)--they managed to turn BOTH China and Japan away from being liberal democracies, so China moved to the left, Japan moved to the right, and their territorial differences were not solved at all

Greece-Turkey (1920s)-Yep.

Balkans (1980s, 1990s)-Yugoslavia came into being on its own in 1918 but was endorsed here; even in 1919 the Serbs were arrogent, overbearing jerks

Middle East (1920s-present)--they invented the following countries: Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel (effectively), Lebanon. One could argue they did a poor job with every single one of them. They tried to control Egypt and Saudi Arabia also, but events on the ground moved too fast for them. As bad as they screwed up Europe and Asia, this may be their most lasting mistake. After all, most of Yugoslavia is peaceful these days (and plotting to take over the NBA), and that's the only mistake left in Europe. They can't be blamed for ongoing unrest in Asia. But the entire shape of the Middle East was created at this conference (except for Iran, which wasn't their fault). And they did a poor, poor job of it. Iraq, for example, should not exist. It should be three countries. And yet it might still.

That's another interesting feature of what happened. Many of their mistakes were unmade later, but at the cost of millions of lives. Except Czechoslovakia, which was invented here but had the good sense to split peacefully.

All this aside, did they do a bad job? That's sort of another way of asking if anyone else could have done any better. They had a lot of problems. To take perhaps the most obvious example, no one had any idea what was going on in Russia because it was, inconveniently, in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution. So they were trying to do things like draw boundaries for Poland and Turkey without Russia's input and without knowing whether any government in Russia even existed.

If, like me, you believe that to understand the present one must understand the past, this book is essential reading. I've learned an amazing amount from it and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I'm rather entertained by major league baseball players 'deciding' whether to testify before Congress.

Some good quotes:

Schilling: "It depends on what it's for."
Giambi: "I have no idea what they're trying to do. I'm just trying to play baseball."
Palmeiro: "March 17 is my wife's birthday. That should tell you right there what my answer is."
Sosa: "I don't know about that. I'll have to call my agent."

Uhhhh, guys. This isn't the local sportswriter. Their entire lives they've been accustomed to talking when they want, and not talking when they don't want to. They can tell half-truths, and evade or ignore the question whenever they want to. But this game is not being played on their terms. Sportswriters don't have the power of the subpoena.

You can't just "decide" whether to testify if Congress wants you. If they're stupid enough not to attend, I fully expect them to receive subpoenas, and then they won't have any choice. Steroids are a great issue for members of Congress. It's high visibility, so they'll get their names in the press. There is no lobby out there fighting for steroids, so they're not going to antagonize anybody. It's bipartisan. It plays great in the heartland. Everybody understands it. There are plenty of opportunities for practiced one-liners that might get picked up in USA Today. And the baseball players aren't going to do themselves any favors by hemming and hawing. Personally, this is the rare time that I think Congress is on the right track. Make those guys raise their right hands and get the truth out there!

What they should do, of course, it just come clean. Apologize, maybe tear up a little, and swear a solemn oath to the American People that they'll never do it again. Perhaps mention The Lord, and how much He means to them (connection to steroids: uncertain, but the American people love mentions of The Lord). This story would be old news quickly. But if they fight it, it's just going to drag on and on. There will be editorials in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Talking heads will cover the whole thing on Court TV. There will be Commissions, and much discussion about Baseball History and the Sacred nature of the game. And there will be discussion of The Children.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Interesting case in the Supreme Court today about whether the government can display the Ten Commandments without violating the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...")

Proponents of putting the Ten Commandments up must argue that they're not religious, because if they were, the government would be endorsing religion. Of course, it's blindingly obvious that they're religious (see, e.g. "I am the Lord thy God..." and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.") If they weren't religious, no one would be fighting so hard to keep them up.

It's impossible to deny with a straight face that organizations have put them up because they come from the Bible. If they want to put up some secular monument honoring the development of law or something, switch the Ten Commandments with the Bill of Rights! Easy solution! It's even ten and ten!

But no one is putting up 2.6 ton stone monuments carved with the Bill of Rights.

To me, this is an easy case. The government can't put up the Ten Commandments. Yes, they are partially (but not entirely) carved on the Supreme Court's building, but that carving also includes Confucius, Solon, Hammurabi, Napoleon, and various other law givers. But if it's only the Ten Commandments, it's unconstitutional.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Interesting, I think, the parallels between the uprisings in Lebanon and Ukraine. Ukraine went down this road a few months ago, and it would be good if Lebanon would follow.

Both cases feature a smaller, weaker country dominated by Big Brother (Russia, Syria). In both cases, Big Brother feels entitled to interfere in the internal politics of the Little Brother. In both cases, Big Brother tried something stupid, but didn't get away with it (poisening their unfavored presidential candidate, assassinating their unfavored ex-Prime Minister). In both countries, there have been big popular uprisings that were nominally illegal. Just today I read that the Lebanese security forces aren't doing much to stop the demonstraters, just like what happened in the Ukraine.

One can only hope that the resolution in Lebanon is as peaceful as it was in Kiev.....

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Will all the steroid talk bother Barry Bonds?

Not a bit. Bonds lives in his own isolated universe, where he's convinced himself that everyone's out to get him and it's him against the world. He keeps everybody away from him and doesn't give a damn. (In the Giants lockerroom, he has his own row of lockers, his own leather recliner, his own rules.) He'll feed off the controversy. It makes him stronger. Since he's been wronged (in his mind), all the questions will just be more evidence that the world is after him.

He's a strange man. A great hitter. Obviously a steroid user. And everyone agreed that Jeff Kent was a worse teammate by far. Hmmmm.

Monday, February 21, 2005

I don't like all this trash talking about A-Rod. He's too good a player. The last thing the Sox need to do is get him fired up.

I figure the most important thing is the staff. I'm as confident about Schilling as I am about any 38 year old pitcher. Which is to say, pretty confident, but not for sure. I really like the pickup of David Wells. But then again, I thought signing Ramiro Mendoza was a brilliant move a couple of years ago and that turned out to be a disaster. And Wells is even older. Matt Clement should be solid, coming in as a #3 starter. I think Charles Bronson Arroyo has progressed really well. How can you not love a guy with cornrows? Wakefield at #5. I dunno. It's a little old, but then again it doesn't seem any worse, on paper, than last year's staff. But to me, that's the biggest mystery. I like the Wade Miller signing. He was cheap, and if he's healthy, he's a #2 starter.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I wonder how good Giambi is going to be. Clearly, he was a pretty good hitter before he started taking steroids, but what will he do this season?

Looking at his career numbers, look at the increase in his slugging percentage between 1999 and 2000. He went from good to ridiculous. So assuming he gets off to a decent start, I'd expect him to hit about 30 homers, drive in maybe 100 runs. A pretty good offensive first baseman, but nothing spectacular. He should still have a good eye and get on base a lot. Of course, if he has a slow start, or if the withdrawal from steroids has more serious effects, all bets are off ("Hello, Tino Martinez!").

There's also Barry Bonds' ex-mistress/girlfriend, who's claiming he started taking steroids around 1999-2000. That makes sense too. Look at his career numbers. Big jump in slugging percentage between 1999 and 2000, and an enormous one between 2000 and 2001. Homers went from 34 in 1999 (note, this was an injury shortened season) to 49 to 73. Looks like steroids to me.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Here is where you contact the FCC to complain about the boring Super Bowl halftime show. Paul McCartney? Puh-lease. LAME!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

So, uhhh, when does it start mattering how big the federal deficit is? This year it's $427 billion. The largest ever. Again.

When is the President proposing to make it shrink, for a change? (For just the numbers, look here)

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Sox home opener is April 11. Against the Yankees.

I predict that tickets will go for $1000.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

If it's accurate, this article is worrisome. It claims that extremist Islamicism is on the rise in Bangladesh. Although for now they look to be mainly focused on torturing and killing their local political rivals, this philosophy has brought forth enough poisenous fruit elsewhere that we should still be worried. The Taliban started out as just another party in Afganistan's civil wars before moving to virulent anti-Americanism.

I think that we're creating more and more enemies around the world, and I maintain that this is a bad thing. Unfortunately, our president does not seem to share this logic. He does not seem to care about creating enemies. He's convinced that we'll just attack them. I'd rather we didn't have to.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Managing a baseball team is not an easy job. The way I see it, one needs to have two completely separate, difficult to master skill sets, which may be why there aren't many great managers out there.

The first of course is game coaching. When to call hit and run, when to take pitchers out, etc. In and of itself, this is hard because it encompasses so many different skills (knowing when to bunt is entirely independent from knowing how to work a bullpen). There are a lot of variables in baseball, lots to keep track of.

The other fundamental skill is managing the personalities. This is tricky. I think the reason that so many managers are crummy in one situation and then good two years later with a different team is that they can run a certain kind of clubhouse, but not others. (All together now, repeat after me: "Buck Showalter".) As a sidenote, I'm not convinced that this is any harder today than it was 50 years ago. I'm convinced that major leaguers have always been a quirky, cocky, arrogent, talented, strong, macho bunch of jerks, generally speaking. (I'm reading an account of the 1949 American League pennant race now, and Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio were as difficult as anyone today.)

I've been thinking about the job that Terry Francona did for the Sox this year. Obviously this was a team that could have exploded. Pedro is a deeply proud, tightly wound but somewhat selfish man, Lowe is an absolute head case, Manny Ramirez is, uh, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling is your basic jerk, plus you have your Johnny Damon sideshow, etc. etc. Plus there's the Globe and the Herald howling at any miscue. Francona was fantastic at getting all the pistons to fire together in this complicated engine. This was all invisible. He did all of his best work out of the public eye, which is of course by design. The frustrating thing was that his actual game managing was, shall we say, debatable. So we all saw the odd decisions and did not see the marvelous work that happened when there was no game going on.

Another manager cut from this cloth is Dusty Baker. Year after year he would coax career years out of retreads. Every year he would get fed a bunch of old players, including someone who you always thought "THAT guy is still in the bigs?" Every year they would become great hitters. And one must be impressed with anyone who can manage a team where Barry Bonds is *not* the biggest ass (Jeff Kent, come on down!). On the downside, of course, Baker never met a young pitcher who he wouldn't overwork. If I were the Cubbies, I'd be very worried.

In terms of the best managers, I think LaRussa is very good at both parts of the job. But one sometimes gets the feeling that he's more interested in being the Smartest Manager In Baseball than he is at winning games.

I think the best two are Felipe Alou and Joe Torre. You don't read about them doing a lot of yelling and screaming. They don't need to. They run their clubhouses and there's no doubt who's in charge. They also make good in game decisions. They're not perfect, but I think they're about as good as you're going to find in the game today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

This disgusts me.

American kids need to learn science. This is not science. It is deeply damaging to the future of our nation. We don't teach gravity as a theory that can be believed or not believed as one chooses. Gravity is a phenomenon that one should seek to understand. When one sees surveys showing that American kids do worse at math and science then their contemporaries around the world, this sort of thing is the reason why.

Evolution threatens Christianity as much as gravity does.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Now this is funny:

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I wonder when the first prominent member of Congress will get up and say that it's time to bring the troops home from Iraq. In Vietnam, we were there in force maybe 14 years. The Soviet Union was about 12 in Afghanistan. Are we still going to be in Iraq in 2016?
I disagreed with decision to go to war, but once we went in we clearly couldn't leave right away. These days, however, it's obvious it's going poorly, but how long do we wait until we give up? How many lives is our pride worth? At this point, I'm prepared to pull out after their election. Which may (or may not) happen at the end of January.
We shouldn't be there, and we especially shouldn't participate in an Iraqi civil war.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Well I went to the Rose Bowl, and it was better than last year. Michigan lost on a 3rd and 2 in the 4th quarter from the Texas 20. For some reason, we called a pass play, which went incomplete (it was right in front of where we were sitting), and we then kicked a field goal.

I like the coaching and the play calling in the game, but for that one play. Mike Hart had been running the ball well and I have to think he would have got the two yards. Even if we didn't get a touchdown out of it, it would have been more time off the clock. But if you can't convert third and 2 in that situation, you don't deserve to win. And we didn't.