Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Senator Specter to Launch Colossal Waste of Time Commission for Terrell Owens? Vic Power, Seven Time Gold Glove Winner, Dead at 78.

Senator Specter to Launch Colossal Waste of Time Commission?

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter (R - Tool) joined fellow solons John McCain (R - Straight Out Of His Ass Talk) and Jim Bunning (R - The Game Was Better In My Day) in the We Have No Other Pressing Issues That Need Attention club today by butting into the Terrell Owens v. Philadelphia Eagles "controversy". Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

PHILADELPHIA - Sen. Arlen Specter accused the National Football League and the Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly and said he might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

Specter said at a news conference Monday in Harrisburg it was "vindictive and inappropriate" for the league and the Eagles to forbid the all-pro wide receiver from playing and prevent other teams from talking to him.

"It's a restraint of trade for them to do that, and the thought crosses my mind, it might be a violation of antitrust laws," Specter said, though some other legal experts disagreed.

The Eagles suspended Owens on Nov. 5 for four games without pay for "conduct detrimental to the team, and deactivated him with pay on Sunday after the suspension ended.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch said last week the team's actions were supported by the labor agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.

"The arbitrator's decision is consistent with our collective bargaining agreement, and it simply enforced the terms of the player's contract," Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, said Monday.

"To have an antitrust violation, you have to have a contract or conspiracy in restraint of trade," said Robert McCormick, a law professor at Michigan State University.

Matthew J. Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University, said, "We're in the labor arena, not antitrust."

Full Story

Why the hell is Specter sticking his useless nose into this business? Does he, like the aforementioned senators McCain and Bunning, have nothing better to do with his time than insinuate himself into matters that not only do not need his interference, but that will sort themselves out in due course? Like McCain and Bunning, who implied that they had the right to make Major League Baseball toughen it's steroid testing policy, Specter is grandstanding.

Hey Arlen, news flash: There are probably hundreds of other matters on which you should focus your attention.

Short list:

  • The failure of the Iraq war and the probable fixing of the intelligence that led us into it.
  • The federal government's woefully inadequate response to hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
  • The countless no-bid contracts given to Vice President Snarl's Halliburton and it's limitless subcontractors.
  • The administration's outing of a covert operative to get back at her spouse for having the audacity to tell Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy that his Iraq nukes intelligence was bogus.
  • Rampant corruption by members of your party in Congress (Cunningham, DeLay, Ney).
Get the point? Or maybe he's going to launch another Warren Commission in which he'll determine that Terrell Owens's bad behavior was the result of having been struck in the noggin by another magic bullet.

Vic Power, Seven Time Gold Glove Winner, Dead at 78

Baseball lost one of it's most colorful characters today when Vic Power, seven-time Gold Glove winning first baseman, died today of cancer at the age of 78. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - Vic Power, a flashy fielding All-Star and the last major leaguer to steal home twice in a game, died Tuesday. He was 78.

Power died of cancer in a hospital in this suburb of San Juan, said his sister, Carmen Pellot Power.

A four-time All-Star who won seven Gold Gloves at first base from 1958-64, Power was known for his showy, one-handed snags. He hit .284 with 126 home runs and 658 RBIs in a 12-year career, mostly with the Athletics, Cleveland and Minnesota.

"I think Vic was one of the best-fielding first basemen of all-time," former Indians roommate Mudcat Grant said Tuesday. "He'd catch balls on one hop, two hops, all sorts of ways. "I remember once when he missed a popup over his head, down the right-field line. After the game, he took his glove into the clubhouse and cut it into little bitty pieces," Grant said. "He said he didn't need that glove anymore."

Power achieved a rare feat in 1958, becoming among only a handful of players to steal home twice in the same game. His swipe in the 10th inning led Cleveland over Detroit 10-9 — curiously, Power had only three steals the whole season.

Power was flamboyant on the field and off. He drove a Cadillac, listened to all kinds of music and liked to visit museums. "He liked life," Grant said. "He'd blow kisses to fans in the stands. And when I roomed with him, you never knew about Vic. He might come in right after the game, and he might come in four hours later."

Born in Arecibo, Power was among the first Hispanic players in the majors. Traded from the New York Yankees farm system in December 1953, he made his big league debut in 1954 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Power went with the A's when they moved to Kansas City in 1955, and was traded to Cleveland for Roger Maris in the middle of the 1958 season. That year, Power became the Indians' first Gold Glove winner.

He also played for Minnesota, the Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies, and finished his career with California in 1965. Later, he played first and third base and worked as a manager in the Puerto Rican league.

After his retirement, Power set up a baseball academy for young players and managed an amateur team that participated in various international competitions.

Full Story

Power is ranked as the 81st best first baseman of all time in the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Here are Power's Career Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com (see link on my blog roll).

In James's capsule analysis he refers to Power as being "a spectacular defensive first baseman, an acrobat who would dive for ground balls half way to second base". Doug Meintkewicz, former Twins/Red Sox/Mets first baseman is the only active first baseman to play the position the way Power played it, just to give you an idea about how good Power was with the glove.

James also revealed that Power was stalled in the Yankee system after two outstanding years at their farm club in Kansas City. In 1952 he led the American Association in doubles with 40 and triples with 17 to go along with his .331 batting average, 16 homers and 109 RBI. He followed that season with a league-leading .349 batting average on 217 hits. These performances did not earn him a promotion to Yankee Stadium, at least not as a Yankee.

James points out that part of the delay in Power getting to the big leagues was the fact that he was a dark-skinned Puerto Rican who came along before the Yankees were ready to break the color barrier, which they finally did with Elston Howard in 1955.

Traded to the Philadelphia Athletics before the 1954 season, Power broke in as an outfielder, and would also play a little second base and third base from time to time, even once he had established himself as a top-notch first baseman. He was second in the American League batting race with a .319 batting average in 1955 (Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers won it with a .340 mark), and led the AL in triples with 10 in 1958. He was second in the AL in doubles with 34 in 1955 and again in 1958 with 37.

James ends his piece on Power with the following anecdote: "Vic Power in a restaurant in Syracuse, 1951. An embarrassed waiter shuffles up to him and explains, "I'm sorry, sir, we don't serve colored people." "That's OK," says Power. "I don't eat colored people."

Monday, November 28, 2005

California Congressman Pleads Guilty to Having Accepted Bribes.

Prominent San Diego Representative to Congress, Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty earlier today to having accepted bribes from defense contractors. This story has been getting wide play over on Atrios' Eschaton site. The following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt lays it all out:

SAN DIEGO - Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, an eight-term congressman and hotshot Vietnam War fighter jock, pleaded guilty to graft and tearfully resigned Monday, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes mostly from defense contractors in exchange for government business and other favors.

"The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office," the 63-year-old Republican said at a news conference. "I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

He could get up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Feb. 27 on federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, and tax evasion.

Investigators said Cunningham, a member of a House Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense dollars, secured contracts worth tens of millions of dollars for those who paid him off. Prosecutors did not identify the defense contractors.

Cunningham was charged in a case that grew out of an investigation into the sale of his home to a defense contractor at an inflated price (reported to be $700,000 more than it was worth).

In court documents, prosecutors said Cunningham admitted receiving at least $2.4 million in bribes paid in a variety of forms, including checks totaling over $1 million, cash, antiques, rugs, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.

Among other things, prosecutors said, Cunningham was given $1.025 million to pay down the mortgage on his Rancho Santa Fe mansion, $13,500 to buy a Rolls-Royce and $2,081 for his daughter's graduation party at a Washington hotel.

"He did the worst thing an elected official can do — he enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said.

Cunningham was allowed to remain free while he awaits sentencing. He also agreed to forfeit his mansion, more than $1.8 million in cash, and antiques and rugs.

The case began when authorities started investigating Cunningham's sale of his Del Mar house to defense contractor Mitchell Wade for $1,675,000. Wade sold the house nearly a year later for $975,000 — a loss of $700,000 in a hot real estate market.

In addition to buying Cunningham's home at an inflated price, Wade let him live rent-free on the congressman's yacht, the Duke Stir, at a yacht club. Wade's company, MZM Inc., also donated generously to Cunningham's campaigns.

Around the same time, MZM was winning defense contracts. MZM does classified intelligence work for the military. It had $65.5 million of contracts for intelligence-related defense work in fiscal 2004, ranking No. 38 on the

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I just watched a news segment on ABC that reported that Cunningham is expected to "cooperate" with investigators and possibly name other Congresspersons who may have committed similar crimes.

This case has been under investigation for a long time, and I've been following it peripherally through the web, primarily via Atrios and the perceptively snarky TBogg. From what I've read, it appears that Mr. Cunningham's Waterloo has been building for quite a while, and it was just a matter of time before he got careless.

In a discussion with Ken Kaniff, Connecticut's Most Wanted Gangsta, Ken opined, to the best of my memory, that this would hurt San Diego as far as any future base deployment activity would be concerned because that region would now be losing a strong voice in D.C. I mildly disagreed and said that any projected cutbacks in San Diego were probably already in the planning stages, and that the Bush administration would have likely reduced funds for San Diego and reallocate them to east coast harbors. Ken seemed to get my point, and we left it at that. What I left unsaid was my sense of wonder that Mr. Cunningham was never picked to be part of the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton team. It appears he would have been right at home.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

China to Land Men on Moon by 2020?

The following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt details a tentative plan by the Chinese to land men on the Moon by 2020:

HONG KONG - Fresh from its second manned space mission, China's space program wants to be able to put a man on the moon and build a space station in 15 years, an official said Sunday.

"I think in about 10 to 15 years, we will have the ability to build our own space station and to carry out a manned moon landing," said Hu Shixiang, deputy commander of China's manned space flight program.

But the goal is subject to getting enough funds from the government, Hu said, explaining that the space program must fit in the larger scheme of the country's overall development. Hu was in Hong Kong with the two astronauts who conducted China's second successful manned space mission in October. He spoke during a televised question-and-answer session with executives from various television stations and newspapers.

Nie Haisheng and Fei Junlong circled Earth for five days aboard the Shenzhou 6 capsule, traveling 2 million miles in 115 hours, 32 minutes. China's first manned mission was in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited for 21 1/2 hours.

China wants to master the technology for a space walk and docking in space by 2012, Hu said. He said China was developing its space program at its own pace, not in competition with the United States.

Full Story

What are the Chinese are thinking with this announcement? I'd guess that they are serious about this venture. It's just too bad that we were content to land men on the Moon six times from 1969 through 1972 and then abandon it in the face of huge budget cuts that all but made what passes for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs all but useless.

Do the Chinese have what it takes to make this vision a reality? I don't know enough about their research programs to make the call, but, if the Chinese do manage to succeed where we decided to aggressively fail, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves when the Moon and low-Earth orbit are no longer mostly controlled by the United States. But then again, with Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's hand still shakily holding the joystick on his X-Box, it may be a blessing in disguise for the rest of the planet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pinochet Arrested for Tax Fraud.

Augusto Pinochet, deadly former Chilean dictator, was arrested today, but not for orchestrating the murders of thousands of his people, but for tax fraud and passport forgery. Yahoo News Reuters excerpt:

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was put under house arrest on Wednesday after being charged with tax fraud and passport forgery related to $27 million stashed in secret bank accounts under false names.

Judge Carlos Cerda, who is also the prosecutor on the case, issued the indictment, confined Pinochet to his home and set bail at $23,000. Additional charges include using false documents and incomplete statement of assets.

Pinochet, who will turn 90 on Friday, has been indicted in two human rights cases in the last five years, but the cases were thrown out by courts that ruled his mild dementia, caused by frequent mini-strokes, made him unfit to face trial.

Human rights lawyers have pushed for years to convict Pinochet in thousands of cases of torture and killings by secret police under his 1973-90 rule, but the recent bank accounts case is the one case that has gathered momentum.

Full Story

The fact that this piece of shit, who should be rotting away in a smelly jail cell far away from real humans, is still living the high life is a cruel and twisted joke on the rest of us. The fact that he has been allowed to live free, and to see the age of 90 is proof that there is no true justice. The fact that this monster was a created in part by the Nixon White House only serves to emphasize this fact.

That $23,000 bail? Does anyone really think this terrible man can't have his people come up with that in less than ten minutes? And is anyone else struck by the irony that Pinochet is getting the Al Capone treatment here? Christ, the similarities are uncanny. Both men committed terrible crimes, in full sight of everyone, yet it took technicalities in tax codes to bring Capone to justice. Will the same thing finally put Pinochet away for good?

Bob Ney in Spotlight of Abramoff Bribery Probe.

Another Republican representative has been thrust into the spotlight of the Jack Abramoff bribery probe. Ohio Rep. Bob Ney is being put on display as being a central figure in this scenario as is detailed in the following Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Identified in new court documents as "Representative No. 1," Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio has become the poster boy in the Jack Abramoff bribery probe, a beneficiary of trips, tickets and campaign donations, allegedly in exchange for official acts.

Ney denies doing anything wrong, and he would hardly appear to be in the top tier of likely targets for Washington lobbyists. He is chairman of the House Administration Committee. The panel's work is often mundane, but important to everyone on the Hill — from overseeing the distribution of office furniture to protecting the Capitol after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

As low-profile as his duties might seem to be, Ney appears to face serious legal problems, has a legal defense fund and has hired a well-known Washington defense attorney, Mark Tuohey, a former deputy in Independent Counsel Ken Starr's criminal investigation of the Clintons.

Ney's relationship with Abramoff could end up hurting him on the political front back home, where Democrats hope to mount a strong challenge to the six-term congressman. He won re-election by a 2-1 margin in 2004.

The unwelcome notoriety Ney faces raises an intriguing question: Who else on Capitol Hill is in the prosecutors' gun-sights?

One man who may have some answers is Michael Scanlon, the former partner in Abramoff's lobbying firm. Scanlon, an ex-aide to Rep. Tom DeLay,
R-Texas, has become a government witness in the Abramoff investigation.

But for now, Ney is Exhibit A. Three full pages in the court papers in Scanlon's guilty plea Monday itemize things of value to Ney or his staff and official acts allegedly performed in return.

Ney has ready responses for all of them. The congressman says he was misled by Abramoff about who was paying for a 2002 golf trip to Scotland. Ney said "I was told point blank" that a conservative policy group was footing the bill. Ney said he backed a measure to help reopen an Indian-operated gambling casino in Texas after being assured by Abramoff that Sen. Christopher Dodd
, D-Conn., supported it. Dodd said neither Abramoff nor Scanlon ever contacted him about it.

When evidence emerged that Abramoff and Scanlon had collected $80 million for representing six American Indian tribes with casinos, Ney said, "You do something that is in good faith — how did I know what they were charging their clients? Why would I hurt anyone, especially an Indian tribe?"

Ney has interesting historical connections to another Ohio congressman, the late Rep. Wayne Hays, who chaired the same committee that Ney now heads. Hays put his mistress on his payroll as his secretary, and when the arrangement was publicly disclosed, Hays was forced out of his chairmanship and eventually Congress.

Full Story

So, little Mr. Innocent backed a proposal, and dealt directly with people who "collected funds" for Indian casinos, then turned around and charged the tribes for their "services". The Scotland Golf Expo? Gee, he thought someone else was footing the bill. Amazing. No accountability. But what else can we expect from today's GOP?

I'm particularly intrigued by the Abramoff - Scanlon - DeLay connection here. Something tells me things are going to get quite a bit more interesting now that Scanlon has been convicted, and is now apparently ready to roll over on as many others involved in this mess to lessen his own punishment. Is that the sound of Tom DeLay shitting a basketball-sized brick I hear?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Santana/Los Lonely Boys Save American Music Awards.

A mere hour and forty-three minutes into the crap that made up the American Music Awards to that point, Carlos Santana and Los Lonely Boys saved the evening with a stirring version of "I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love". The song featured some tasty fills by Carlos as LLB guitarist Henry Garza sang the verses, then went into some biting back-and-forth interplay with the legend during the solo spot. They ended the song with some nice harmony lines and flurries to a standing ovation.

Carlos Santana is one of the people who taught me how to play the guitar (and one I will profile in more detail when I get around to compiling my all-time top ten guitarists list). His ability to play fiery yet passionate solos, as well as slow, melodic passages never fails to give me chills. Whether it is early songs like Soul Sacrifice, Europa, Samba Pa Ti, or more recent songs like Maria Maria or Put Your Lights On, Carlos has the ability to put his personal stamp on things. His tone is immediately recognizable, as it is with all the greats, so it was nice to see the plastic, trendy music industry throw a bone to a true natural music resource.

Now I can see what kind of crap is on the Sci-Fi channel...

Red Sox to Acquire Beckett and Lowell from Marlins.

The Red Sox are on the verge of landing the 2003 World Series MVP, 25-year-old fireballer Josh Beckett in a five-player deal with the Florida Marlins. ESPN excerpt:

The winter clearance sale at Florida Marlins headquarters is about to officially begin. That Josh Beckett is about to leave the racks doesn't seem to bother him a bit.

The Red Sox
and cost-cutting Marlins have come to a tentative agreement on a trade that would send Beckett, the MVP of Florida's 2003 World Series win over the Yankees, and three-time All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for highly touted shortstop Hanley Ramirez, right-handed pitching prospects Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado.

The five-man deal is contingent on all players passing physicals. The two teams were to exchange medical information on Tuesday, reported ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, so an official announcement is still not expected for a day or two. That leaves open the possibility the deal could still fall apart, sources outside the Red Sox organization have told ESPN's Peter Gammons.

The Red Sox have agreed to take on all $18 million of the money owed to Lowell over the next two seasons, a baseball official with knowledge of the discussions told Stark. The Marlins are expected to save $13 million next season and as much as $30 million through 2007.

Full Story

I guess that answers the question of who will play third base next year. Bill Mueller is a gutsy player, but Lowell, except for his off-year last year, is a 25 homer bat. Since Mueller is a 10-12 homer bat, Lowell, who won a Gold Glove last year, will get the nod, and Mueller will likely be cast off as a free agent.

That leaves us with the question of what will the Sox do with Kevin Youkilis. Word on the street is that he'll be given first crack at the first base job next spring. I hope so, because he is a patient hitter who probably just needs a consistent spot in the lineup to become a solid run producer. Defensively, he has soft hands and a strong, accurate arm. If this scenario emerges, it means the end of the Kevin Millar era, which is too bad, because Millar seems like a good guy to have on the team with his loose demeanor. Still, he killed the Sox with his dead bat last season, so Youkilis can't help but be an upgrade offensively at first base.

I don't know much about the two pitchers the Sox are giving up, but Ramirez looks like he's going to be a good player. But you have to give up quality to get quality, a
nd adding Mr. Beckett, who shut the Yankees out 2-0 with a devastating five-hitter in Yankee Stadium during Game Six of the 2003 World Series (the Series clinching game), is a tremendous coup for the Sox. Beckett averages a strikeout an inning, something the Sox desperately need with their mediocre defense, and has a chance to become the staff ace with his blazing fastball and knee-buckling curve.

The Sox are looking to get younger in the pitching ranks, and Beckett, 25, will help the transition from veterans David Wells (42) and Curt Schilling (39) to Johnathan Papelbon (25) and relievers Manny Delcarmen (23) and Craig Hansen (21). Let's hope those pre-trade physicals go well!

Venezuela to Help Supply Low-Income Massachusetts Residents with Discounted Home Heating Oil.

The upcoming cold winter months will be tempered somewhat by a deal with Venezuela to help supply low-income Massachusetts residents with discounted home heating oil. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

QUINCY, Mass. - Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration.

A subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices. It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations, Citizens Energy Corp. and the Mass Energy Consumer Alliance.

The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez's government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt
, D-Mass., met with Chavez in August and helped broker the deal. He said his constituents' needs for heating assistance trump any political points the Chavez administration can score.

The two nonprofit organizations will screen recipients for financial need and cooperate with oil distributors that will make discounted deliveries to qualifying homes and institutions, such as homeless shelters and hospitals.

Chavez proposed offering fuel directly to poor U.S. communities during a visit to Cuba in August. He has said the aim is to bypass middlemen to reduce costs for the American poor — a group he argues has been severely neglected by Bush's government.

Chavez has become one of Latin America's most vocal critics of U.S.-style capitalism, which he calls a major cause of poverty. U.S. officials accuse Chavez of endangering Venezuelan democracy by assuming ever-greater powers.

During a short-lived 2002 coup against Chavez, the U.S. government promptly recognized the new leaders, who were soon driven out amid a popular uprising.

Full Story

Can you imagine the size of the brick Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy is going to shit at this news? If, as some tabloid stories assert, he is back on the booze, this will definitely send him on a bender. Bush HATES Chavez.

Putting that element aside, tips of the cap go to Rep. Delahunt and to Joseph Kennedy II, the founder of Citizens Energy, which has been providing discounted home heating oil to low-income Bay State residents for years.

Assassination Suspect Convicted.

A young man, who is a U.S. citizen, was convicted today of being a member of Al-Qaida, and having plotted to assassinate President Bush. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - An American Muslim student was convicted Tuesday of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush.

The federal jury rejected Ahmed Omar Abu Ali's claim that Saudi authorities whipped and tortured him to extract a false confession. Abu Ali, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Va., could get life in prison on charges that included conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to hijack aircraft and providing support to al-Qaida.

The jury deliberated for 2 1/2 days. Abu Ali swallowed hard before the verdict was read but otherwise showed little emotion. He did not testify at his trial. "Obviously the jury has spoken, but the fight is not over," defense attorney Khurrum Wahid said. "We intend to use the justice system to prove our client's innocence."

Abu Ali told authorities shortly after his arrest at a Medina, Saudi Arabia, university in June 2003 that he joined al-Qaida and discussed various terrorist plots, including a plan to personally assassinate Bush and to establish himself as a leader of an al-Qaida cell in the United States. But the defense countered that he was tortured by the Saudi security force known as the Mubahith.

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This is a tough one. Was Ali's confession coerced through torture? Is this kid really a killer? The possibility of torture is the wild card here. Can anyone be certain that a legitimate plot was foiled? Or was this a case of someone who said what he believed his captors wanted to hear to stop the pain? The element of doubt that exists in this case makes it far from clear that justice was delivered. If the depraved behavior of our own soldiers at Abu Ghraib is an indicator, what can we say about the tactics that the Mubahith may have employed against Ali?

Tom DeLay Still Can't Help Himself.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was back in the news today when he had the colossal balls to ask a judge to throw out the campaign finance corruption charge against him. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

AUSTIN, Texas - Hoping to regain his post as House majority leader when Congress reconvenes in January, Rep. Tom DeLay asked a judge Tuesday to throw out the campaign-finance case against him.

However, the judge said that the Republican congressman will have to wait until at least December for a decision, and that the conspiracy and money-laundering case would probably not go to trial before the first of the year.

DeLay and two Republican fundraisers are accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature. The direct use of corporate money for political purposes is illegal in Texas.

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin argued that the conspiracy charges were based on a law that was not even on the books when the alleged conspiracy happened. But prosecutor Rick Reed disputed that, saying that the Legislature was just clarifying the law in 2003 and that state law has long defined conspiracy as an agreement to commit any felony.

Is that really going to be their defense, that doing illegal things is okay as long as there was no specific laws against such activities at the time they were carried out? You gotta give DeLay one thing--of all the things on which he has is short, such as brains, compassion and humility, he certainly has a lot of chutzpa.

DeLay wants the charges dismissed or resolved in his favor by January. Under House rules, he was forced to give up his leadership post after he was charged with a felony. But he could regain it if he is cleared before Congress returns.

However, Judge Pat Priest said he wants to read written arguments from both sides before making his ruling. He gave attorneys one week to file their arguments, and said he would probably made his decision a week after that.

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I wouldn't hold my breath if I were Mr. DeLay. From Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo (via Atrios):

That's because today (Nov. 21) Michael Scanlon, Jack Abramoff's partner in much of the Indian gambling-congressional cash-n-carry hijinks you've been hearing about, pled guilty to bribe a congressman and other public officials. He agreed to pay back $19 million to Indian tribes he and Abramoff defrauded. He was also sentenced to 51 to 63 months in federal prison. However, that sentence was immediately suspended. And it will be reduced if Scanlon continues to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

TPM Story Link

For those keeping score at home, part of Scanlon's "cooperation" could be to roll over on his former boss, none other than, that's right, Tom DeLay, whom Scanlon used to work for as an aide. Ah, the GOP. Does that stand for Greedy Overbearing Pricks? Just asking...

Did Bush Want to Bomb Al-Jazeera?

London's Daily Mirror reports that a conversation between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush reveals that Blair talked Preznit Fake Ass Cowboy out of bombing Arab broadcasters Al-Jazeera.
AOL News AP Wire excerpt:

LONDON (Nov. 22) - A civil servant has been charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.

The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.

The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. One source, said to be in the government, was quoted as saying that the alleged threat was "humorous, not serious," but the newspaper quoted another source as saying that "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair."

Blair's office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discusses leaked documents. In Qatar, Al-Jazeera said it was aware of the report, but did not wish to comment.

The White House said it wouldn't dignify what it called "something so outlandish" with a response. The document was described as a transcript of a conversation between the two leaders.

Full Story

Just when you think nothing this terrible excuse for a leader says or does can surprise you, he pulls another stunt that makes you shake your head in wonder that he can even claim to be a human being. I suppose the question I asked at the end of my previous post should be updated. Is there no low to which Bush and his people will stoop to bring about the world they see in the twisted visions of their tiny, petty minds? Christ, with that type of attitude, Ann "Too bad they (the terrorists) didn't target the New York Times (during the 9-11 attacks)" Coulter should replace Condi Rice as Secretary of State.

Jean Schmidt Caught Lying About Marine Quote In Murtha Attack.

Jean Schmidt - Latest GOP Lying Sack of Shit

Things just keep turning to shit for the GOP. Right wing harridan Jean Schmidt has been caught engaging in the number one GOP pasttime - lying her gnarled ass off in her attack against John Murtha on the floor of the House of Representatives last week. Here's the Think Progress story by way of Atrios:

During Rep. Jean Schmidt’s (R-OH) shameful attack on Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) on the House Floor she said she was communicating a message from Marine Colonel Danny Bubp: A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body – that we will see this through.

denies he said that: Danny Bubp, a freshman state representative who is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, told The Enquirer that he never mentioned Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., by name when talking with Schmidt…”There was no discussion of him personally being a coward or about any person being a coward,” Bubp said.

Schmidt needs to come clean.

Think Progress Link

As if that would ever happen. Being a member of the GOP means never having to admit you are a lying scumbag. It's just too bad the mainstream "liberal" media won't touch this story. Christ, those assholes are still claiming Murtha wants an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. Is their nothing about which these people will not lie to advance their twisted view of the world?

High School Student Sworn In As Mayor Of Michigan Town. University of Kansas Intelligent Design Course Controversy.

Michigan Town Swears In High School Student As Mayor

Not much else to add to that headline. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

HILLSDALE, Mich. - Michael Sessions began talking about running for mayor when he was a sophomore in high school. He realized that dream before he got his diploma.

Sessions, an 18-year-old senior, became the city's youngest mayor on Monday when he took the oath of office. The crowd included city residents, photographers and dozens of video cameras, some from news agencies as far away as Russia and Japan.

"The first couple of days are going to be rough, I think, on me. I've just got to get acquainted with the job," Sessions said earlier Monday as he took reporters on a tour of the city, which has a population of 8,200 and is located about 100 miles southwest of Detroit. "My confidence is gaining a lot each day."

Sessions beat Mayor Doug Ingles, 51, by two votes in the Nov. 8 election despite Sessions' status as a write-in candidate. Sessions, who used $700 from a summer job to fund his race, already has appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" to read the Top Ten list titled "Good Things About Being an 18-year-old Mayor."

Full Story

I wonder if this Letterman appearance will be the highlight of Mr. Sessions' political career. Still, he's off to a much better start on his path than Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy was at a similar age.

University of Kansas Pokes An Eye In Intelligent Design Debate

In a move that lacks subtlety, but more than makes up for it in balls, the University of Kansas will throw Intelligent Design (Creationism) into a special new class under the umbrella of Special Topics in Religion. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Creationism and intelligent design are going to be studied at the University of Kansas, but not in the way advocated by opponents of the theory of evolution.

A course being offered next semester by the university religious studies department is titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies."

"The KU faculty has had enough," said Paul Mirecki, department chairman. "Creationism is mythology," Mirecki said. "Intelligent design is mythology. It's not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."

Earlier this month, the state Board of Education adopted new science teaching standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory, defying the view of science groups. Although local school boards still decide how science is taught in the classrooms, the vote was seen as a major victory for proponents of intelligent design, which says that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism as a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation as the handiwork of God camouflaged in scientific language as a way to get around court rulings that creationism injects religion into public schools.

John Calvert, an attorney and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network in Johnson County, said Mirecki will go down in history as a laughingstock. "To equate intelligent design to mythology is really an absurdity, and it's just another example of labeling anybody who proposes (intelligent design) to be simply a religious nut," Calvert said. "That's the reason for this little charade."

Full Story

No Mr. Calvert, the charade is pretending that Intelligent Design, Creationism, or whatever you want to call your Christian Bible-based creation ideas can pass muster as legitimate science. You've got to hand it to the U of K people though. They have seemingly found a way to piss off both sides in this debate. First, by teaching it at all, and second labelinging it as something that is obviously inferior to scientific inquiry. It will be interesting to see how this little drama plays out.

Dirty Bomb Suspect Indicted - Supreme Court Involvement Avoided.

Jose Padilla, the alleged dirty bomb suspect who has been held in custody for three years without having been formally charged with a ny crimes, was indicted today. Among the charges in the indictment were that he conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas. AOL News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON (Nov. 22) - Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for three years as an enemy combatant suspected of plotting a "dirty bomb'' attack in this country, has been indicted on charges that he conspired to "murder, kidnap and maim'' people overseas.

A federal grand jury in Miami returned the indictment against Padilla and four others. While the charges allege Padilla was part of a U.S.-based terrorism conspiracy, they do not include the government's earlier allegations that he planned to carry out attacks in America.

"The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting a violent jihad,'' Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington. Gonzales declined to comment on why none of the allegations involving attacks in America were included in the indictment.

Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert, has been held as an "enemy combatant'' in Defense Department custody for more than three years. The Bush administration had resisted calls to charge and try him in civilian courts.

With the indictment, Padilla will be transferred from military custody to the Justice Department. Gonzales said the case would go to trial in September of 2006. Padilla faces life in prison if convicted on the charges. The indictment avoids a Supreme Court showdown over how long the government could hold a U.S. citizen without charges. The high court had been asked to decide when and for how long the government can jail Americans in military prisons.

"They're avoiding what the Supreme Court would say about American citizens. That's an issue the administration did not want to face,'' said Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor who specializes in national security. "There's no way that the Supreme Court would have ducked this issue.''

Padilla's lawyers had asked justices to review his case last month, and the Bush administration was facing a deadline next Monday for filing its legal arguments. "The 'evidence' the government has offered against Padilla over the past three years consists of double and triple hearsay from secret witnesses, along with information allegedly obtained from Padilla himself during his two years of incommunicado interrogation,'' his lawyers said in their earlier appeal.

The Bush administration has said Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, sought to blow up hotels and apartment buildings in the United States and planned an attack with a "dirty bomb'' radiological device.

Full Story

The timing of this indictment is important because the Supreme Court would have had to make some sort of ruling on the status of American citizens arrested and confined without charge for indefinite periods. I think that this move wouldn't have made much of a difference in this particular case, despite the fact that much of the evidence is either circumstantial or involves hearsay.

Still, it is too bad that we will not get to see how the Supremes feel about such circumstances. The principle of arresting and holding suspects without formal charges, and without access to legal counsel is a sinister way to conduct whatever passes for the Bush administration's war on terror.

Monday, November 21, 2005

John Murtha - New GOP Boogeyman.

Swiftboating of John Murtha Begins

Desperate to justify their "my way or the highway" stance on the Iraq war, Republicans in the House of Representatives are calling for an investigation into a lobbying firm run by John Murtha and his brother. Raw Story excerpt:

Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother’s lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee, ROLL CALL reports Friday.

The calls come as Murtha, a former Marine and pro-military Democrat, has made headlines this week by coming out in support of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

According to a June 13 article in The Los Angeles Times, the fiscal 2005 defense appropriations bill included more than $20 million in funding for at least 10 companies for whom KSA lobbied. Carmen Scialabba, a longtime Murtha aide, works at KSA as well.

Full Story

Note the language in the first sentence of the excerpt: "May warrant investigation". Well, I can play that game too. President Bush's actions on the U.S.S Lincoln in 2003 when he pretended to land a military aircraft and emerged from it's cockpit wearing a military outfit "may warrant investigation" into allegations that the President impersonated a United States Air Force pilot.

See! Wasn't that fun! Anyway, back to the nitty. Is there any "here" here? I don't know, but $20 million in lobbying fees spread around ten companies is small potatoes compared to what Vice President Cheney's Halliburton and it's dozens of subsidiaries steal every day before lunchtime.

The bottom line here is the same as it has always been with these bastards: Don't like the message, shoot the messenger, especially when the messenger is a decorated war hero who fought in TWO WARS. That would be two more than either Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy or Snarl McF-Bomb fought in, for those keeping score at home.

Just as interesting is Ohio Representative Jean Schmidt's (R - Harridan) attack on Murtha in which she claimed to speak for a U.S. marine. It reminds me of the attacks on Paul Hackett (D - War Veteran) during her state's election in which she claimed that Hackett's Iraq war service consisted of sitting on his ass behind a desk. It just goes to show that the GOP is great at assimilating their new members into their version of the Borg Collective. These people are so far from truth and ethical behavior it isn't even close to being funny.

Judging by Murtha's TV appearances, I think these idiots have bitten off way more than they can chew, and I look forward to Murtha making them eat it raw. The stakes are too high to allow this administration to continue to treat the world like it's own private strip club.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bush Embraces War Critics? Filibuster for Alito?

President Bush Pretends to Relax Attacks on War Critics

In a surprising move, Preznit "I'm Never Wrong" pretended to display a kinder, gentler attitude towards critics of his failed war in Iraq by claiming that dissent is no longer unpatriotic. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

BEIJING - After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy.

Unless your name is Michael Moore or Al Franken...

"People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."

Where is Mandy Patinkin when you need him?

Bush & Cheney: Critics of our failed and idiotic policies are reprehensible!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means...

The president also praised Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., as "a fine man" and a strong supporter of the military despite the congressman's call for troop withdrawal as soon as possible.

I wonder how Unka Dick feels about this egregious flip-flop by his life-sized hand puppet? Even curioser am I about how he felt when Murtha (D-Fighter) struck back against his attacks by mocking him with his now famous
I like guys who got five deferments and (have) never been there and send people to war and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.

Bush brought up the growing Iraq debate when he met reporters after inconclusive talks with President Hu Jintao about friction in U.S.-China relations. Bush ran into stiff resistance from the Chinese to his call for expanding religious freedom and human rights.

It's kind of hard to call another country on it's human rights policies when we are torturing people and imprisoning people for indefinite periods with no changes. But then again, irony is quickly becoming an accidental Bush characteristic...

He also reported no breakthroughs toward reducing China's massive trade surplus, overhauling its currency system or protecting intellectual property rights.

All China has to do to assure that their trade surplus gets reduced is to take economic advice from our learning disabled Preznit. Hell, if Bush can do to the Chinese trade surplus what he did for the U.S. budget surplus, then we won't be in debt to the Chinese any longer! Unfortunately that would simply mean that Bush would have to borrow money from some other nation to fund his moronic tax cuts for the wealthy and the big corporations. Hey! Here's an idea: What about asking Saudi Arabia?!?

The president took satisfaction simply in the fact that Hu mentioned human rights when the two leaders made joint statements to the press. "Those who watch China closely would say that maybe a decade ago, a leader wouldn't have uttered those comments," Bush said. "He talked about democracy."

Yeah, he probably told you to take your hideous version of democracy and shove it where the sun never shines.

Full Story

Not much more to add to this story. It's just a shame that more than 1/3 of U.S. citizens can't see what a bumbling fool George Dubya Bush is, and what a joke he has made of the presidency.

Alito Nomination to be Filibustered?

And, as if the heat hasn't already been turned up enough for this crooked, amoral administration, the Alito Supreme Court nomination may be in danger of facing a Democratic filibuster if Senator Joe Biden (D-Phoney) can somehow become true to his word. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - The views that Samuel Alito expressed on reapportionment in a 20-year-old document could jeopardize his Supreme Court nomination and provoke a filibuster, a leading Democratic senator said Sunday.

"I think he's got a lot of explaining to do, and depending on how he does, I think will determine whether or not he has a problem or not," said Sen. Joseph Biden, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which plans confirmation hearings in early January.

In 1985, Alito was applying to become deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration. In the document, he boasted that while working as an assistant to the solicitor general, he helped "to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

Drawing the most attention from Alito's critics today is his comment on abortion. "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," wrote Alito, now a federal appeals court judge.

But Biden, D-Del., said he was most troubled by Alito's comment about reapportionment under the Supreme Court when it was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Warren Court, as it became known, ended public school segregation and established the election principle of one-man one-vote.

"The part that jeopardizes it (Alito's nomination) more is his quotes in there saying that he had strong disagreement with the Warren Court particularly on reapportionment one man, one vote," Biden told "Fox News Sunday." "The fact that he questioned abortion and the idea of quotas is one thing. The fact that he questioned the idea of the legitimacy of the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court is even something well beyond that," Biden said.

In the document, Alito wrote, "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause and reapportionment," he said.

Biden said the chances of a filibuster against Alito had increased because of Alito's assertions in the document. "If he really believes that reapportionment is a questionable decision that is, the idea of Baker v. Carr, one man, one vote then clearly, clearly, you'll find a lot of people, including me, willing to do whatever they can to keep him off the court. ... That would include a filibuster, if need be," Biden said.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision in 1962 in Baker v. Carr, ruled that arbitrarily drawn legislative districts can be challenged in federal court.

Full Story

Bottom line, Alito is poison. It seems clear that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and would also uphold cynical schemes like Tom DeLay's re-districting that robs minority voters of equal representation. It is clear that Alito, despite his claims to the contrary, is anything but a strict Consitutionalist, and is far from respectful of district or Supreme Court precedent. Biden, you'd better be true to your word because this monster must be prevented from taking Sandra Day O'Connor's seat.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

H.I.M. On Stage at Avalon!

Finnish goth-metal merchants H.I.M. took the stage Thursday night at Boston's Avalon and proved that the heavy sounds they make on their CDs are nothing compared to those they conjure in their shows.

Singer-frontman Ville Valo went from pensive poet to whirling dervish depending on the song. Guitarist Linde provided plenty of buzzsaw riffs and more of the lean and mean solos that were missing from the newly released CD Dark Light. Burton's eerie keyboards provided the gloomy atmosphere for the rhythm section of Mige on bass and Gas on drums to move the room with a pulsating beat.

By my count, the boys did six songs from the new CD: Vampire Heart, Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly, Under the Rose, Killing Loneliness, Behind the Crimson Door, Dark Light. They also featured tunes from previous releases Love Metal (Buried Alive By Love), Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights (Pretending), Razorblade Romance, Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666 (Diabolikal Rapture*). All in all a pretty good mix of the old with the new to provide enough contrast between the heavier stuff with the more melodic moments.

I ran into more than a few people who saw Valo and Co. last year at the Middle East (a show I missed), and they were impressed with how much they say the band has improved. These guys are getting a good head of steam behind them and it is my guess that they will soon be playing to football stadium sized crowds before very long in this country, as they have been doing throughout Europe for the past few years. Again, a much appreciated hat tip to Stew in the U.K. who saw these guys in July at England's Download Festival.

* This is not a stone thrown at former U.S. Vice President J.Danforth "Spel Chek" Quayle. This is the way the title was spelled on the CD liner notes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Albert Pujols wins National League MVP Award. Baseball's New and Improved Steroid Policy!

Albert Pujols National League MVP

Albert Pujols, the big bopper of the St.Louis Cardinals continued to dominate National League pitching in 2005, as he has done since he broke in to the big leagues in 2001, and was rewarded for his efforts by being voted the National League Most Valuable Player. ESPN excerpt:

NEW YORK -- Albert Pujols won his first National League MVP award, beating Andruw Jones in a close vote Tuesday.

The St. Louis Cardinals
first baseman ended Barry Bonds' four-year winning streak, receiving 18 first-place votes and 14 seconds for 378 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Jones, the Atlanta Braves center fielder, got 13 first-place votes, 17 seconds and two thirds for 351 points.

Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee
got the other first-place vote and was third with 263 points.

Pujols was second in the NL with a .330 average, five points behind Lee, and hit 41 homers, trailing only Jones (51) and Lee (46). Pujols tied for second in RBI with 117, 11 behind Jones.

The 25-year-old Pujols has put up remarkable statistics in his first five major league seasons, averaging 40 homers and 124 RBI to go with a .332 average. Jones led the major leagues in home runs for the Braves, and batted .263. He has won eight straight Gold Gloves.

Full Story

Pujols is off to an historic start to his career. Check out his numbers.

What impresses me most about Pujols is that he has gotten better at controlling the strike zone as he as progressed. Even in 2005, without a lot of protection behind him in the Cardinals' batting order, Pujols did not try to expand his strike zone just to try to make things happen. He took a career high 97 walks, yet still finished second to Jones in RBI despite the fact that Scott Rolen was hurt much of the season, and his replacements in the St. Louis lineup were mediocre at best.

The same could be said for Jones, who, like Pujols, spent much of the year being the only Brave hitter healthy enough to play every day, but the peripheral numbers like batting average with runners in scoring position tell us that the voters made the correct choice for MVP.

As ESPN's Jayson Stark pointed out in his pre-vote column, Pujols batted .329 in those situations while Jones hit just .207. Imagine how many more RBI Jones could have had if he'd simply managed to match his season .263 during those occasions.

Stark also gives a thoughtful post-mortem analysis of the AL MVP vote here. In it, he pointed out that a similar gap existed between A-Rod's and David Ortiz's performance in categories like men in scoring position, late-inning close game and blowout game scenarios. Excerpt time again:

Alex Rodriguez had 24 more at-bats with runners in scoring position than David Ortiz this season -- and still drove in 18 fewer runs. That ought to tell you something. But if it doesn't, we'll spell it out for you.

Ortiz hit 62 points higher than A-Rod did with runners in scoring position (.352 to .290) overall. And that's an awfully large gap in a race this close. But that's in all games, in all RBI situations. If you keep looking, you find that as the games got tighter, that gap just kept getting bigger.

In the late innings of close games, A-Rod hit .176 with men in scoring position; Ortiz batted .313. That's a humongous, 137-point difference. But why stop there? Ortiz's OPS (on-base plus slugging) in those situations was 1.224 -- to A-Rod's .813. That's a 411-point chasm.

In the 20 games each of their teams won by six or more runs, A-Rod hit .549, had an OPS of 1.793 and racked up 46 of his 130 RBI (35 percent). Ortiz, on the other hand, batted .277, had an OPS almost 800 points lower than A-Rod's (.999) and drove in only 33 runs (22 percent of his overall total).

But in close games (games that either went to extra innings or were decided by one or two runs in regulation), the numbers look a whole lot different. In those games -- and each team played exactly 65 of them -- A-Rod batted only .243, had an OPS of .805 and drove in just 38 runs (29 percent). Ortiz, meanwhile, clearly tapped some mysterious force that made him even better in moments like that -- batting .321, running up an OPS of 1.116 and knocking in nearly a run a game (62 -- or 42 percent of his overall total).

Roll that info around your brain for a second. Think about what you make of it. All we know is that, when it came time to make our MVP pick at season's end, we had a tough time ignoring figures that staggering. It sure seemed at the time as if Ortiz was stomping up there and driving in the winning run about four nights a week. But these were stats that clearly proved it wasn't a figment of some highlight editor's imagination. David Ortiz really was the best clutch hitter in the sport -- lugging his team into the playoffs like a human tow truck.

To steal a phrase from Double-Down Trent in Swingers, Ortiz was the money baby! Yet he didn't quite get enough love from the MVP voters. Here's some anecdotal evidence that Ortiz should have been the MVP. Last Wednesday, during a lull in my bowling league activity, a bowler from a different league known as Rick the Yankee Fan came up to me and told me that he hoped Ortiz won the MVP because, as near as I can remember him saying: "Friggin" A-Rod only hits homers when we're either six runs ahead or six runs down. In clutch situations he vomits all over himself." This from a YANKEE FAN!!! Well, there you have it, the MLB MVPs.

Baseball's New Tougher Steroid Policy

Major League Baseball also announced today that it is about to adopt a new, tougher steroid policy. ESPN excerpt:

WASHINGTON -- Major leaguers will face tougher penalties for steroid use and testing for amphetamines next season under an agreement between owners and players reached Tuesday after months of negotiations and pressure from Congress.

The deal, which must be ratified by both sides, includes a 50-game suspension for a first failed test, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

"I don't regard this as an interim step, I regard this as the completion of a long process," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

Baseball's current steroid penalties are a 10-day suspension for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense and 60 days for a third. The earliest a player could be banned for life is a fifth offense.

Selig rejected calls by some -- including lawmakers -- that baseball adopt the policy of Olympic sports, where a first positive test results in a two-year ban and a second in a lifetime suspension.

Several bills that would increase steroid penalties in major U.S. pro sports are pending in Congress. But Tuesday's news "stops the rush to move legislation through at this time," said Rep. Tom Davis, whose House Government Reform Committee held the March 17 hearing on steroids with Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.

At that hearing, Selig and union head Donald Fehr were scolded for what congressmen called a weak penalty system. The next month, Selig made a 50-100-lifetime proposal and suggested testing for amphetamines for the first time. In September, Fehr countered with 20 games, 75 games and, for a third offense, a penalty set by the commissioner.

The players' association appeared to pretty much capitulate to Selig's demands from April, except for gaining the right to have an arbitrator review reinstatement decisions. "This agreement reaffirms that major league players are committed to the elimination of performance-enhancing substances," Fehr said in a statement.

Full Story

Maybe it is the civil libertarian in me, but I didn't see anything in this article that discussed anything about an appeal process for players who think they tested positive for reasons other than direct steroid use. I seem to recall that a handful of major leaguers and minor leaguers appealed under the current system and were awarded back pay because their tests were found to have been flawed. That's great, but what about the time they missed? Under the current system, the suspensions begin immediately. There is nothing in this article to suggest that this part of the policy will change, and that, in a word, sucks.

Also, not to diminish the importance of ridding the baseball of steroids, but don't McCain and Bunning have anything better to do than act like bullies? Is there nothing more important in their day to day movements, like, say, holding President Ass Monkey's feet to the fire about his leak-ridden cabinet or pre-Iraq war intelligence fixing?

Besides, it's not as if baseball is the only culprit. Does anyone with even slightly more brain power than Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy really believe that some of the biggest NFL players got as big as they are simply by eating Wheaties? And that line about adopting the testing program the Olympics uses is just as big a joke. Christ, how many athletes are still being banned from competition as we speak?

Anyway, I'm sure we haven't heard the last on this topic. I just hope the incidence of positive tests disappears quickly so that "the game was better in my day" fossils like Bunning will stop saying stupid(er) things like erasing the stats for this era of play.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Music Review: "Dark Light" by H.I.M.

Dark Light is the latest release from Finnish wunderkinds H.I.M., and it is a killer. The hotly awaited follow-up to 2004’s Love Metal is a sonic masterpiece that contains all the trademark H.I.M. stylings – emotive, lamenting vocals, eerie keyboard sounds, heavy guitar riffs and a pumping attack from the rhythm section.

Produced by Tim Palmer (U2, Robert Plant), the band has refined it’s goth/metal sound into a collection of sometimes catchy songs without sacrificing their gusty edge.

Before I get into the songs I must send a shout out to Stew from the U.K. Stew is a highly respected field technician in my wage slavery organization with an unofficial Master's degree in hard rock analysis. I hold a similar credential in the latter category, and when we first met it was a musical cultural exchange program. Stew introduced me to H.I.M., Nightwish and Ten, while I upped the ante with acts like Riot, Westworld and Symphony X (as well as re-introducing him to his fellow countryman Glenn Hughes’s fabulous solo career). Stew, this post is dedicated to you. Thanks a million mate!

The Songs:

1. Vampire Heart – The lead track is a heavy dose of vocalist/songwriter Ville Valo’s favorite tactic of juxtaposing love and pain. Guitarist Linde powers his way thorough the song with a brutal tone as Burton’s keyboard work provides a light background for contrast. The rhythm section of Mige on bass and Gas on drums is solid as a rock.

2. Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly – The first single is a more deliberately paced track fueled by Valo’s pain. Linde plays a nice signature riff throughout while Burton takes a more understated keyboard approach on this track. Mige and Gas do another solid job of keeping the feel moving.

3. Under the Rose – The pace picks up again on this track, powered by Linde’s riffs and Burton’s moody keys. Mige and Gas keep a solid beat as Valo’s contrasting imagery drives the lyrics “I’ve been burning in water and drowning in flames/to prove you wrong and scare you away”.

4. Killing Loneliness – This catchy song is my pick for the next single if anyone important out there has stumbled on to this blog. Burton’s trademark keyboard textures and piano drive the melody as Mige holds the bottom down with a fuzzy bass line. Linde throws in some dirty riffs to keep things honest while Gas pounds away on the drum kit. Valo comes up with some terrific images in his lyrics here: “With the venomous kiss you gave me I’m killing loneliness / with the warmth of your arms you saved me I’m killing loneliness/the killing loneliness that turned my heart into a tomb”. What else can you say?

5. Dark Light – The title track is a deceptively light sounding song that almost feels happy, mostly due to Burton’s keyboard work. Valo comes as close to crooning as he possibly can. The middle section shows Burton switching back to eerie mode over Linde’s growling riffs and Gas’s heavy hitting.

6. Behind the Crimson Door – This pumping track shows how easily the band can go from quiet to nasty in a heartbeat. The song is infectious in the way the band plays off of each other. Valo pulls it all together with lyrics like this: “We hide behind the crimson door while the summer’s killed by fall”. This song would be another good choice for a single.

7. The Face of God – A tribal sounding beat courtesy of Gas and Linde starts this track before things get quiet, then rev up again into a mid-tempo lament by Valo: “I’d take my life for your kiss, and lose it all to take you across the abyss, Love’s a shadow on the wall with the face of God.” The middle section features a heavy riff from Linde while Gas and Mige hold the sinister sounding beat. The song has an ominous end with Valo growling “The face of…God…”

8. Drunk on Shadows – This song is full of starts and stops punctuated by some heavy riffs from Linde. Gas hits the kit hard as Mige’s bass pulsates throughout. Burton guides the song through the middle with a gloomy feel.

9. Play Dead – This song is the closest thing to a ballad on the CD, and features some of Valo’s most heartfelt lamenting: “I play dead to hide my heart until the world gone dark fades away / I stay dead until you heal my scars and say goodbye to fate”. Linde throws in a few power chords over Burton’s light keyboard touches.

10. In the Night Side of Eden – The CD’s “epic”, this song is a slow grinder that has several changes as the band charges through. Linde keeps things heavy with his riffs and lean lines. Gas and Mige hold the bottom as Burton chimes away on the keys. Valo wails and whines as if in a conversation with himself and the band slams away in a heavy groove until the brutal fadeout. Valo ends by growling the line: ”Forever we are, forever we’ll be crucified to a dream.”

11. Venus (In Our Blood) – The dark mood is lightened a bit on this track as Linde plays a power riff over an acoustic background while Burton harmonizes on the keyboards.

12. The Cage – The final track is powered by a collective groove that slows and re-starts. The middle section finds Burton providing an orchestral feel with his keyboard sounds over Linde’s riffs. Gas throws in some nice fills as Mige pumps away.

All in all, the band is in excellent form. Producer Tim Palmer definitely got the most out of these guys. Valo sounds so heartbroken at times that you want to find him a therapist. Linde played fewer solos on this CD than on any previous outing, but his riffs play well against Burton’s superb keyboard work. Mige and Gas don’t do anything daring, but when they are given room to move they know how to deliver the goods. This is an A-Plus CD. Nice work guys!

Special Note: The last two tracks appear on an Internets special offer that I snapped up. It cost a few extra bucks (Number 581 of a 20,000 press run), but it is well worth it. The “official” domestic release contains the first ten tracks only.

Even Specialer Note: H.I.M. will be appearing at club Avalon on Lansdowme Street in back of Fenway Park in Boston this Thursday the 16th. I hope to schlep down there, and, if I survive the night I’ll post a review of the show. I hope to see some of you there!

A-Rod Wins American League MVP.

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees was announced as the American League Most Valuable Player today. ESPN excerpt:

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez showed slick fielding counts, winning his second American League Most Valuable Player award in three seasons by defeating David Ortiz in a vote that rewarded an all-around player over a designated hitter.

Rodriguez, in his second season as the New York Yankees'
third baseman, received 16 first-place votes, 11 seconds and one third for 331 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America in balloting announced Monday.

Ortiz, the DH for the Boston Red Sox,
got 11 firsts and 17 seconds for 307 points. Los Angeles Angels
outfielder Vladimir Guerrero received the other first-place vote and was third with 196 points.

"I think defense, for the most part, being a balanced player and also saving a lot of runs on the defensive side, I think was a major factor here," Rodriguez said. "To me, defense is foremost. It's always been. The White Sox showed us this year pitching and defense wins to this day."

Voting was done before the start of the postseason, when both the Yankees and Red Sox were eliminated in the first round. Rodriguez hit .133 with no RBI in a five-game loss to the Angels while Ortiz batted .333 with a home run as the defending champion Red Sox were swept by the Chicago White Sox

"I would certainly trade his World Series championship for this MVP trophy," Rodriguez said, thinking back to Boston's 2004 title. "That's the only reason I play baseball. It's what I'm consumed to do right now."

Rodriguez hit .321 with an AL-high 48 homers, 130 RBI and 21 steals, breaking Joe DiMaggio's 68-year-old Yankees record for home runs by a right-handed hitter (46). A-Rod also won the award in 2003, his final season as the Texas Rangers'
shortstop before he was dealt to the Yankees.

He didn't think the award would end criticism that he doesn't perform in the clutch or isn't a winner. "We can win three World Series; with me, it's never going to be over. I think my benchmark is so high that no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough, and I understand that," he said. "Maybe when I retire is when all critics and all that kind of stuff will end."

Ortiz batted .300 with 47 homers, a major league-leading 148 RBI and one steal. Big Papi had 34 RBI that put his team ahead, the most in the AL, and had eight RBI from the seventh inning on that gave Boston the lead for good.
"He is the one special player right now, like Barry Bonds
, who can change the game around simply with his batting," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez gets a $1 million bonus for winning the MVP for the second time during his record $252 million, 10-year contract. With Ortiz's second-place finish, the price of Boston's 2007 club option increases by $400,000 to $8.4 million. The buyout goes up by the same amount to $1.4 million. Guerrero got $200,000 for finishing third and Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez gets $75,000 for placing fourth. Cleveland DH Travis Hafner
was fifth and earned an automatic $200,000 annual raise to $2.7 million next year and $3.95 million in 2007, with the price of Cleveland's 2008 option rising to $4.95 million.

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This result seems to me to lend quite a bit of credence to the notion that a DH shouldn't be MVP because he doesn't play defense. I think Whitey Herzog, famous Royals/Cardinals manager, once said something to the effect that this is the way it should be because someone else has to make the DH's defensive outs for him. That is absolutely not true. The DH is merely a permanent pinch-hitter for the pitcher, there is already a full complement of defensive players on the field. Having said that, it does appear that a DH will have to have an historic offensive season to win an MVP if this vote is any indication. The most games anyone ever played as a DH and still win the MVP was by Don Baylor of the Angels who played 97 games in the outfield, 65 at DH and one game at first base in his 1979 MVP season in which he led the league in RBI with 139 for the AL West champs.

Still, the DH does become problematic since it has reached into the amateur ranks of baseball. In 1980, my senior year in high school, the DH was introduced to my league, but it wasn't implemented the way it is in the American League. The coach could select a kid to be the DH and let him bat in place of his weakest batter. More often than not, the pitchers on my teams were the best players, guys who could pitch, play the outfield, shortstop and even play catcher. And they could hit, so they weren't coming out of the lineup. I remember seeing a couple of big donkeys who could hit, but carried lead gloves whenever they were permitted to play in the field. Letting those guys hit without addressing the issue of improving their defensive skills was never a consideration, and it had to have hindered their ability to compete as they tried to move up, and I fear that attitude, over the past 25 years, has led to some of the atrocious fundamental baseball we've seen in the American League.

While I lamented my beloved Red Sox inability to capture their second straight World Series Championship, it was clear that they could not keep up with the crisper, faster paced play of the eventual World Champion White Sox. But lest one think that Ozzie Guillen's crew will cause a paradigm re-shift, let's see what type of start they have in 2006.

The National League MVP will be announced tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

MLB Cy Young Award Winners.

Major League Baseball handed out more hardware this week in the form of the Cy Young Awards to honor the best pitchers in both the American and National leagues for 2005. The following ESPN excerpts give the details:

Angels Colon Wins AL Cy Young Award

NEW YORK -- Bartolo Colon always had the blazing fastball, the snappy sinker, the natural look of a No. 1 starter.

Still, something was missing: consistency. So he learned to pull back a bit, focus on throwing strikes and getting grounders. Now, he's the dominant ace everyone envisioned, and he has an American League Cy Young Award to prove it.

Colon won a surprisingly one-sided vote Tuesday, beating out reliever Mariano Rivera and becoming the first Angels pitcher in 41 years to take home the honor. "If I can get an out with one or two pitches and use my sinker or my cutter, I'm better off," Colon said through a translator. "I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock through a wall, and started thinking about being a guy that could last longer, to take some off my fastball and not to depend only on throwing hard."

Colon, who led the league with 21 wins, was listed first on 17 ballots and second on the other 11 for 118 points in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He was the only pitcher named on every ballot, easily topping Rivera, who received 68 points.

The New York Yankees' closer got eight first-place votes for the highest finish of his career, while 2004 winner Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins received three and came in third.

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Colon did have a fine season, but he also had an average of six runs of offensive support from his teammates in 2005, one of the highest figures in the American League. By contrast, Santana of the Twins had just over four runs of offensive support from his teammates, which helps to account for the fact that he won five fewer games despite having an earned run average that was six-tenths of a run lower than Colon's. Add in Santana's 238 league leading strikeouts (81 more than Colon) and I'd have likely voted for Santana.

Historical Note: The last Angels pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Dean Chance in 1964--when baseball only gave one award out--NOT one for both leagues. His 20-9 record included a league leading 1.65 ERA, 15 complete games and 11 shutouts. 11 shutouts! That is tied for the second highest total ever by an American League pitcher, and is the third highest total ever. Check this list out, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

All-Time Single Season Leaders in Shutouts

T1. George Bradley - 16, 1876 (R)
T1. Pete Alexander - 16, 1916 (R)
T2. Jack Coombs - 13, 1910 (R)
T2. Bob Gibson - 13, 1968 (R)
T3. Pud Galvin - 12, 1884 (R)
T3. Ed Morris - 12, 1886 (L)
T3. Pete Alexander - 12, 1915 (R)
T4. Tommy Bond - 11, 1879 (R)
T4. Charley Radbourn - 11, 1884 (R)
T4. Dave Foutz - 11, 1886 (R)
T4. Christy Mathewson - 11, 1908 (R)
T4. Ed Walsh - 11, 1908 (R)
T4. Walter Johnson - 11, 1913 (R)
T4. Sandy Koufax - 11, 1963 (L)
T4. Dean Chance - 11, 1964 (R)

Note the fact that only two lefties appear on the list. Dean Chance was a fairly dominant pitcher for the expansion Angels, then was traded to the Twins and won another 20 games in 1967 as the Twins finished one game behind the Red Sox in the pennant race that season. 1968 was his last healthy season as he won another 16 games for the Twins. He then bounced to the Indians, Mets and Tigers before retiring from the game at age 30 with 128 career wins and 115 losses, mostly for teams that were mediocre at best. His 2.92 career ERA was slightly more than half a run lower than the league ERA (3.46). Chance is largely a forgotten player, and while I don't agree with Colon's selection for the Cy Young Award, at least it gives us the opportunity to remember Chance and his accomplishments.

Cardinals Carpenter Wins NL Cy Young Award

NEW YORK -- Chris Carpenter was ready to call it quits.

Toiling in Double-A two years ago, trying to work his way back from shoulder surgery, he pitched a game in Tennessee just before the All-Star break and couldn't even play catch afterward because his right arm hurt so much.

Carpenter knew something was wrong again, even though the doctors didn't think so. He hadn't seen his infant son in about a month, and all he wanted to do was go home to New Hampshire with his wife, Alyson.

"I'll never forget the night we sat here until about 3 o'clock in the morning crying and talking about my career," Carpenter said. "I was ready to be done. And she didn't think I was, that I would regret it if I didn't take that one more step and try to come back again. And the next thing you know, I got my second surgery and here we are today. And I know that if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here."

All that hard work and patience was rewarded when Carpenter won the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday.

After going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals, he received 19 of 32 first-place votes and finished with 132 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

He beat out Florida lefty Dontrelle Willis, becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to claim the honor since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in 1970.

"I can't believe I won," Carpenter said. "My son did a little dance for me and my wife gave me a big hug. We were really excited about it."

Willis, who was 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA, was listed first on 11 ballots, second on 18 and third on three for 112 points. Seven-time winner Roger Clemens got the other two first-place votes and came in a distant third at age 43. The Rocket led the majors with a 1.87 ERA, but a lack of run support from his NL champion Houston Astros limited Clemens to a 13-8 record, which surely cost him votes.

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Unlike the voting in the American League, the National League choice between Carpenter and Willis was much closer because the two pitchers were neck and neck in the big categories (wins, ERA, complete games, shutouts, innings), so there isn't much about which to quibble with this choice. Carpenter's biggest edge is in strikeouts (213, second in the NL) to Willis' 170, but Willis is a much better hitter. He hit .261 with one homer, four doubles, 11 RBI and 14 runs scored. Carpenter, a former Blue Jay who spent the early part of his career not having to bat, is, like most pitchers, a lousy hitter. He hit .065 -- five hits, including two doubles in 77 at-bats with two RBI and seven runs scored.

Next week the MVP awards for both leagues should be announced.