Friday, June 29, 2007

Craig Biggio Gets 3,000th Career Hit

Major league baseball milestones continue to fall. Last night, Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros got his 3,000th career hit, becoming the 27th player in major league history to achieve the milestone. excerpt:

HOUSTON (AP) -- Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th hit and Carlos Lee made sure he could celebrate it in style.

Biggio had five hits for just the second time in his career and Lee hit a grand slam in the 11th inning to give the Houston Astros an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.

"I think it was the way it was supposed to be done," Biggio said as he choked back tears. "To have it happen here -- that was a special atmosphere that was out there today."

Lee's shot to left field off Brian Fuentes (0-3) came on the first pitch. Biggio singled in the 11th, and Hunter Pence followed with a double before Lance Berkman was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Biggio became the 27th player to reach the mark with a single to center field in the seventh inning. The Astros second baseman was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double on his third hit of the night, which tied the game at 1.

That says it all about Biggio. He could have settled for the single and let the cheers rain down on him, but he sensed a chance to take the extra base in a close game and went for it. Sure, he was out, but the point is that the guy never stops hustling.

He added his fourth hit on a single to right field in the ninth for hit No. 3001 and his first four-hit game of the season.
Biggio is the first player to reach 3,000 hits since Rafael Palmeiro
on July 15, 2005, with Baltimore.

The 41-year-old, who entered the season needing 70 hits to reach the milestone, has played his entire 20-year career with the Astros, making him the longest tenured player in franchise history.

He dragged Jeff Bagwell, a teammate of his for 15 seasons, onto the field after reaching the mark. After all the two went through together, he wanted to share the moment with him.

"I wanted him on that field, between the lines one more time with me to really let the fans say goodbye, say hello, say thank you for so many things," Biggio said. "To me that was what it was about. He deserved it and I deserved it in a way. I just wanted him to enjoy it and be happy one more time with me."

Bagwell was moved by the gesture. "I'm just so proud of him," Bagwell said. "I just want everyone to appreciate that that's the kind of person he is off the field as well the kind he is on it. I'll never forget this moment."

A classy move by Biggio. A few years ago, the Red Sox hosted the Astros as part of interleague play, and Bags hit a long homer over the Monster. Of course, that homer was just one of the 449 he slugged that should have come in a Sox uniform, if not for the idiotic trade that sent him to Houston for middle reliever Larry Andersen at the 1990 trade deadline. But now is not the time for bitterness. Congratulations to Craig Biggio, the newest Mr. 3000. Next up for Biggio is the all-time career record for times having been hit by a pitch. At 283, he is four behind leader dead-ball era Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings' 287.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Frank Thomas Hits 500th Career Home Run

Frank Thomas of the Blue Jays hit his 500th career home run (and his 13th of the season) last night in Minneapolis against the Twins in an 8-5 Blue Jay loss. excerpt:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Thankfully for Frank Thomas, his family had to catch an early flight Thursday. That meant his wife, three children and father-in-law got to see Thomas hit his 500th home run. And they were gone when Thomas got ejected.

"They had to leave for the airport at 1:45. My daughter said, 'Dad, you've got to do it in the first couple of at-bats," he said. Thomas hit a three-run shot in the first inning of the Toronto Blue Jays 8
-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, becoming the 21st major leaguer to reach 500.

But in the ninth, Thomas was ejected by plate umpire Mark Wegner after being called out on strikes for the second time in the game. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to argue and also got tossed.

"I'm probably the first to get 500 home runs and get thrown out of the ballgame," Thomas said. "That's something I didn't want to happen, but the moment just got the best of me."

Next on Thomas' ascent on the career home run list are Eddie Murray (504), Mel Ott (511) and Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512 each). Also within reach of 500 this year are Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

Congratulations to Thomas, who also has 468 career doubles. Members of the 500 Homer - 500 Doubles Club: Henry Aaron (755-624), Barry (749-595) Bonds, Babe Ruth (714-506), Willie Mays (660-523), Frank Robinson (586-528), Rafael Palmeiro (569-585), Ted Williams (521-525) and Eddie Murray (504-565).

A-Rod, with 492 homers, has 382 doubles, but at age 31, if he stays healthy, he should be a lock for 500-500. Thome, with 482 homers, has just 356 doubles, and will likely not get to 500 doubles. Manny has 481 homers and 454 doubles, so he is a good bet to join this club some time next season. Gary Sheffield, with 472 homers, has 430 doubles, so he has a chance to join also, but at 38, he needs to stay healthy and productive.

Barry Bonds also has 514 stolen bases, which makes him the only member of the 500 Homers - 500 Doubles - 500 Steals Club. Aaron, Mays and Robinson are the only 500-500 guys with at least 200 career steals (240 for Aaron, 338 for Mays and 204 for Robinson).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guiliani Lies About Clinton's Response to 1993 World Trade Center Attack

Republican Presidential candidate, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani (R-Neocon Wannabee), spent part of his speech to a bunch of right-wing loons at Pat Robertson's (R-Religiously Insane) Regent University today, claiming that Islamic terror is all Bill Clinton's fault because he didn't do enough after the World Trade Center was attacked in February 1993--a mere six weeks after he took office. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday accused former President Clinton of not responding forcefully enough to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing or later terrorist attacks.

The former New York mayor criticized Democrats, accusing them of weakness and naivete in dealing with terrorism. Giuliani made the comments to about 650 business, corporate and political leaders at Regent University, the conservative Christian college founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

"Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11. Many people think the first attack on America was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993," said the former New York mayor.

Giuliani argued that Clinton treated the World Trade Center bombing as a criminal act instead of a terrorist attack, calling it "a big mistake" that emboldened other strikes on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, in Kenya and Tanzania and later on the USS Cole while docked in Yemen in 2000.

"The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond," Giuliani said. "(Osama) bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it."

Are you finished Mr. Guiliani? Then, in the immortal words of Jules from Pulp Fiction: "Well allow me to RETORT!"

President Clinton not only successfully prosecuted this act, he did so without forcing Orwellian laws on the American people. Don't believe me? Here's an excerpt from concerning the FACTS of this case:

The World Trade Center (WTC) bombing of 1993 has long since been overshadowed by the attack that brought the twin towers down on September 11, 2001. Yet, at the time it occurred, the attack loomed as large on the American landscape as the towers themselves once did on the Manhattan skyline. The attack killed six people and injured more than a thousand, the first casualties from foreign terrorists on U.S. soil. American authorities identified at least eight perpetrators, but questions remain as to the ultimate cause of the attack.

The attack and its aftermath. At 12:18 p.m. on Friday, February 26, 1993, an explosion rocked the second level of the parking basement beneath Trade Tower One. The explosive material, as investigators would later determine, was somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds (544–680 kg) of urea nitrate, a homemade fertilizer-based explosive.

The blast ripped open a crater 150 feet (46 m) in diameter and five floors deep, rupturing sewer and water mains and cutting off electricity. Over the hours that followed, more than 50,000 people were evacuated from the Trade Center complex. A stunned nation soon grasped a fact larger than the incident itself: foreign-sponsored terrorism—which had long plagued Western Europe and parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—had come to the United States.

The forensic investigation, with two chemists each from the FBI, ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), and New York Police Department collecting and studying residue from the blast area. In the course of this work, investigators found a key piece of evidence: a 300-pound (136-kg) fragment of a vehicle that, based on the damage it had sustained, must have been at the very epicenter of the blast. Sewage contamination had rendered it unusable for residue analysis, but it bore something much better: a vehicle identification number (VIN).

This was not to be the first fortunate break for investigators. Authorities traced the vehicle to a Ryder truck rental facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, from which it had been reported stolen. On Monday, while FBI special agents were at the Jersey City facility to speak with personnel there, the Ryder clerk received a call from a man identified as Mohamed Salemeh. The latter demanded the return of his $400 deposit for the van in question, and the Ryder clerk arranged for him to return and collect the deposit on March 4, 1993. When Salemeh arrived, he was arrested.

A search of Salemeh's belongings led investigators to Nidal Ayad, a chemist working for the Allied Signal Corporation in New Jersey. Toll records and receipts helped lead to a safe house in Jersey City, New Jersey, where authorities found traces of nitroglycerine and urea nitrate. They also uncovered evidence that Salemeh and Ayad had obtained three tanks of compressed hydrogen gas, and in the course of searching a storage room rented by Salemeh, investigators found large caches of urea, sulphuric acid, and other chemicals used in making a bomb. On March 3, the New York Times received a letter claiming responsibility for the bombing, and subsequent investigation of DNA samples matched Ayad with the saliva on the envelope flap.

The trail of investigation would eventually lead to Ramzi Yousef, who authorities believe was in the van that delivered the explosives to the WTC. With him was Eyad Ismoil. Also implicated in the bombing, along with Salemeh and Ayad, were Ahmad Ajaj, Mahmoud Abouhalima, and Abdul Rahman Yasin. On March 4, 1994, a jury found Salemeh, Ajaj, Abouhalima, and Ayad guilty on 38 counts, including murder and conspiracy, and the judge handed down multiple life sentences.

Yousef fled the country, and engaged in other terror plots before he was captured and brought to the United States from Pakistan in February 1995. He was sentenced to life plus 240 years. As of 2003, Yasin had not been captured, and was believed to be in Iraq. In October 1995, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who taught at mosques in Brooklyn and New Jersey, was sentenced to life imprisonment for masterminding the attack.

Mr. Guiliani's claim that "President Clinton, did not respond" is simply not true. Of the eight prime suspects in this case, seven were quickly apprehended and brought to justice, with Yasin having been captured in Iraq, where he was doing time as recently as 2002. By my math, that percentage beats Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's record when it comes to Osama bin Laden and his accomplices. And speaking of bin Laden, Clinton didn't ignore, the way the Preznit did, a Presidential Daily Briefing that warned of an impending attack so that he could go on vacation.

So, Mr. Guiliani, it appears that you are, as my Granfather used to say, full of old shoes. The way I'M saying it is that you, Mr. Guiliani, are full of shit, and you know it. As an attorney, you must be familiar with the meaning of the word "evidence", of which there is plenty contained in the second excerpt to refute your position. Additionally, you must also be familiar with the word "perjury", especially since you are guilty of having committed that act when you spoke to these rubes.

If you, Mr. Guiliani, end up being the GOP nominee, you will have to answer to Mrs. Clinton, if she ends up being the Democratic nominee, for your slander. Hell, you may have to start explaining yourself by the end of this week. Either way, I cannot wait for that to happen.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Former Relief Ace Rod Beck (1968-2007)

Former relief ace, Rod Beck, who pitched for the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Padres, was found dead yesterday at the age of 38. excerpt:

Rod Beck was a menacing sight on the mound, with a bushy mustache and a searing stare that intimidated batters throughout his 13-year career as one of baseball's best closers.

Yet his friends in the game knew Beck as a hardworking teammate and a jovial character whose early death saddened players all around the major leagues.

Beck, an All-Star relief pitcher who earned 286 career saves, was found dead in his home Saturday. He was 38.

Nicknamed "Shooter" and well-known for his fondness for country music, cowboy boots and cigarettes, Beck pitched for the San Francisco Giants (1991-97), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99) and the Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) before finishing his career with the Padres (2003-04).

While working his way back to the majors in 2003, Beck pitched for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and famously lived in his Winnebago parked just beyond the outfield fence. Delighted fans would drop by for autographs and stay for a beer.

Beck set the Giants' single-season record with 48 saves in 1993. He was on the mound when San Francisco clinched the NL West title in 1997, and was the Giants' career saves leader with 199 until Robb Nen passed him in 2002.

"I broadcast a lot of games when he got the final out," Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Half of those times, he did it on guts."

Beck was a favorite at Candlestick Park through most of the 1990s, but left to sign with the Cubs as a free agent in 1998. "Everyone in the Giants organization is deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend," Giants owner Peter Magowan said. "Rod Beck was a true Giant in every sense of the word, from his dedication on the field to his selflessness away from the park."

Beck saved 51 games in his first season in Chicago, helping the Cubs win the NL wild card. He had a career record of 38-45 in 704 games with a 3.30 ERA.

At a Giants-Cubs game at Wrigley Field last Sept. 2, Beck threw out the ceremonial first pitch and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Beck was involved in charity work with the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and other worthy causes during his time in San Francisco.

Kuiper is right about his observation that a lot of the time Beck got the final outs of games on guts. His performance in the 1998 tie-breaker between the Cubs and Giants to determine the NL Wild Card that season was a prime example. He had been pitching almost every day down the stretch (appearing in a career high 81 games), and had almost nothing left when he faced the Giants. He had no fastball, and his sliders were about 75 MPH, but he got the job done. Unfortunately for Beck, the after effects of that heavy workload carried over into the beginning of 1999 and he was hit hard, and the Cubs traded him to the Red Sox.

By the time the Red Sox got him, Beck was basically a setup man (9 wins against 5 losses and 9 saves with a 3.46 ERA in 114 games and 135 1/3 innings), but he still had that aura about him that seemed to say to hitters, "Here it is, try to hit it." He looked and acted absolutely fearless on the mound, even when he struggled, which is the type of mentality a closer needs to perform well, which Beck did far more often than not.

Full Story

Rod Beck's Career Stats

Latest Supreme Court Atrocities, Courtesy of Alito and Roberts (ably assisted by Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas)

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court ruled on three (3) cases today that involved free speech, and in each case, the court exhibited the hard rightward turn that Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy wanted when he appointed empty suits, Alito and Roberts to fill the vacancies left by slightly less empty suits, Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist.

I'm too aggravated to give you any excerpts. Check out the following links and document the atrocities yourselves.

First off, the court voted 5-4 to severely restrict the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Have these people learned nothing from the Tom DeLay K-Street debacle? Justices Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia voted in the majority. One clue to how wrong this ruling is, is that Mitt Romney (R-No Chane of Being President) cheered the news.

Second, the court pretended that a high school kid who toted a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" was some kind of a drug kingpin, and decided that he enjoys no first amendment protection. The count went 5-4 with justices Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia voted in the majority.

Third, the Bush mis-administration's faith-based initiatives got their wish when the court ruled that ordinary taxpayers cannot sue to stop conferences that help religious (extremist Christian) charities apply for federal grants. The count was, again, 5-4, and in a shocking turn of events, justices Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas and Scalia, once again voted in the majority. That makes three-for-three for the knuckledraggers. Apparently the work of Thomas Jefferson to separate church and state has no meaning to these people.

Oh well, maybe Frank Thomas will hit his 500th career homer tonight, which will give me something more positive about which to report tomorrow...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sammy Sosa Hits 600th Career Homer. Damon and Chipper Join the 2,000 Hit Club.

Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career homer last night. Here's the Yahoo News AP Sports excerpt:

Sammy Sosa joined an elite club, hitting his 600th home run against his former team. Meanwhile, two younger sluggers hit key home runs to rally baseball's hottest teams to victories.

Sosa became the fifth member of the 600-homer club, hitting a solo shot in the fifth inning of Texas' 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs, his former team.

"It was something that cannot be explained," Sosa said. "Getting my 600th against the Chicago Cubs, and my first team (was) the Texas Rangers. It's like everything clicked. My emotions, I don't know what they are."

After driving a 1-2 pitch to right-center for a solo shot in the fifth inning of Texas' 7-3 victory, Slammin' Sammy bounced out of the batter's box with his trademark hop and thrust his right fist into the air before reaching first base. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates while the scoreboard showed pictures of all five members of the elite club: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sosa.

The home run came off Jason Marquis (5-4), the 364th pitcher the 38-year-old Sosa has homered off in his 18 major league seasons.

Full Story

There are a lot of people who lump Sammy into the steroid swamp with Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, but the only thing he has ever been caught doing is having once used a corked bat. Well then, why the sudden improvement from being a 30-35 homer a year guy to having three years of 60 or more homers in a four year span? How about the fact that he learned to control the strike zone better?

As a youngster with the Rangers and White Sox, his strikeout to walk ratio was a horrendous 5-to-1. With the Cubs, from 1992-7 it improved to 3.3-to-1, still pretty bad. Then, Sammy was mostly a mistake hitter who crushed careless fastballs and hanging curves. From 1998-2003, his ratio of strikeouts to walks improved to 1.6-to-1, which is why he showed a proportionate improvement in his batting average (from about a .260 average before 1998 to .302 from 1998-2003, though his career average is .273) and his power numbers.

Do corked bats or steroids make one a better judge of the strike zone? Was Sammy on the juice? I don't know the answer to those questions. Instead, I think we should look at his stats and see that he figured out, either by himself or with the help of a solid coach or coaches, that he could get better pitches to hit if he would make the pitcher work rather than swing at the first fastball that looked good to him. The results speak for themselves, and Sammy should be proud of this accomplishment.

Also, belated congratulations to former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. He got his 2, 000th career base hit about three weeks ago against the White Sox. The same kudos for Braves third baseman Larry "Chipper" Jones who got his 2,000th career hit this past weekend against the Indians.

In late-breaking news, the Red Sox are off today, and are travelling to San Diego for a three-game weekend series against the San Diego Padres who lead the NL West. The Yankees lost today in Colorado, which made it a three-game sweep for the Rockies as they beat Roger Clemens (who failed to get his 350th career win) 4-3 at Coors Field. The loss puts the Yanks back at .500 (35-35), 10 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gliese 581 Update: First Good Candidate for Life is Out, but a Second Candidate in Same System is Looking Better...

Today's Gliese 581 update from concerns new observations that lead researchers to believe that Gliese 581c, a rocky world of about five Earth masses, may now be too hot to support life--the consequence of a runaway greenhouse affect similar to that found on Venus. But all hope is not lost for this system. It turns out that Gliese 581d, slightly further from the primary star, and as massive as about eight Earths, may turn out to be the better candidate for life. Excerpt:

Scientists earlier this year announced they had found a small, rocky planet located just far enough from its star to sustain liquid water on its surface, and thus possibly support life.

Turns out the scientists might have picked the right star for hosting a habitable world, but got the planet wrong. The world known as Gliese 581c
is probably too hot to support liquid water or life, new computer models suggest, but conditions on its neighbor, Gliese 581d, might be just right.

The findings are detailed in the May 25 issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Gliese 581c, discovered in April by a team led by Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. It is located about 20.5 light-years away, and circles a dim red dwarf star called Gliese 581.

Of the more than 200 extrasolar planets
, or "exoplanets," discovered since 1995, Gliese 581c was the first found that resides within the habitable zone of its star, if only barely. The habitable, or "Goldilocks" zone is the region around a star where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, so water can exist on a planet's surface in its liquid state. Water is a key ingredient for life as we know it.

But new simulations of the climate on Gliese 581c created by Werner von Bloh of the Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and his team suggest the planet is no Earthly paradise, but rather a faraway Venus, where carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere create a runaway greenhouse effect that warms the planet well above 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), boiling away liquid water and with it any promise of life.

But the same greenhouse effect that squashes prospects for life on Gliese 581c raises the same hope for another planet in the system, a world of eight Earth-masses called Gliese 581d, which was also discovered by Udry's team.

"This planet is actually outside the habitable zone," said Manfred Cuntz, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Arlington and a member of von Bloh's team. "It appears at first sight too cold. However, based on the greenhouse effect, physical processes can occur which are heating up the planet to a temperature that allows for fluid water."

And where this is fluid water, there is the chance of life as well. The researchers speculate that "at least some primitive forms of life" might exist on Gliese 581d. There is no evidence to support that speculation, however.

Jaymie Matthews, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia in Canada, doesn't treat the new findings as conclusive, but finds them "interesting as an illustration of how we can use remote exoplanetary environments as possible test beds for climate models."

Matthews own research, recently presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society, suggests one reason Gliese 581 is such a promising star for finding habitable planets is that it is similar to our own sun in that it is remarkably stable.

Matthews and his team used a Canadian space telescope called MOST to monitor Gliese 581 for six weeks. During that time, they observed very few instances of the powerful solar flares common among red dwarf stars.

"If the star showed significant variations in brightness during the weeks we monitored it, that would at least complicate the thermal equilibrium of the planets around it," Matthews explained.

The stability of the light also suggests Gliese 581 is old and that is has been around for at least a few billion years. "Young stars, like young people, can have bad cases of acne (large starspots and activity) and spin around," Matthews said in an email interview. "Older stars like the sun have relatively clear complexions and rotate rather sedately."

Gliese 581's advanced age is good news for scientists hoping to find signs of life in the system. "We know it took about three and a half billion years for life on Earth to reach the level of complexity that we call human," Matthews said, "so it's more encouraging for the prospects of complex life on any planet around Gliese 581 if it's been around for at least as long."

These points are extremely important. As is correctly detailed here, young red dwarf stars exhibit flare activity, and this activity would put any planets with anything close to Earth-like conditions at risk of being bathed in radiation, and to have their temperatures skyrocket within short time periods. The fact that this activity is absent in Gliese 581 is a good thing, as it points to the star's stability.

As for the planets in question, Gliese 581c lies only about 7 million miles from the primary (figures obtained from blog roll), so if it is as massive as the measurements indicate (five Earth masses), then it should come as no surprise to find that the planet's atmosphere will trap the heat of the star in the manner described above. Gliese 581d (eight Earth masses) appears to lie at roughly 23 million miles from the primary. That distance places it just outside the speculative habitable zone, but with its increased mass, 581d may have a thick enough atmosphere to trap the primary's feeble heat, and make it just warm enough for life to evolve.

Keep in mind that Gliese 581 has only about 30 percent of our Sun's mass, and 38 percent of its diameter, and these distances make sense when trying to figure out what we are observing. It is too bad we have no data (at least none I've been able to find) about densities, from which we could extrapolate who strong each planet's gravitational pull would be. One clue is that the star appears to have between 36 and 62 percent as enriched as the Sun is in proportion to elements heavier than hydrogen. That would indicate that these worlds would be less dense than Earth, and therefore their increased mass may not lead to proportionately high gravitational effects.

The hits just keep on coming with Gliese 581. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I'm certain that we are far from finished with this fascinating system.

Full Story

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Red Sox Sweep Giants as Barry Bonds Hits Number 748

The Red Sox beat the San Francisco Giants this afternoon 9-5 to sweep the three-game weekend series. Sox starting pitcher Tim Wakefield evened his record at 7-7 despite having given up five runs in five and two-thirds innings. Wake was bailed out by a lively Sox attack that featured Manny Ramirez's tenth homer of the year (and second in two games) and five doubles (two from David Ortiz and one each from Manny, Mike Lowell and JD Drew). The bullpen work by Manny DelCarmen, Javier Lopez, Joel Piniero (who induced a bases loaded 6-4-3 GIDP off the bat of Begnie Molina, after a Barry Bonds walk, to end the seventh inning) and a scoreless ninth from the incredible Hideki Okajima sealed the deal for the Sox.

Barry Bonds hit his 14th homer of the season, and the 748th of his career in the sixth inning when he lofted a hanging knuckler into the right-field bullpen. Bonds went also had a single and a walk in four plate appearances as he faced Wakefield, a former Pirate teammate (Wake came to the majors in 1992 with Pittsburgh) who became the 441st different pitcher off of whom Bonds has hit a homer. Two innings earlier, Pedro Feliz, the Giants third baseman hit his ninth homer of the year as Wake was not sharp, but, as noted above, the Sox bats came through for him.

The win gives the Sox a momentary nine-game lead on the Yankees (who have won ten of their last eleven games), who host the Mets tonight. The game will be carried on ESPN, and I'm sure that Joe Morgan will continue to verbally fellate Derek Jeter and A-Rod to the point where the fine minds at the Fire Joe Morgan site will have no choice but to document the atrocities. I just hope that Mets staring pitcher, the 83-year-old former Yankee El Duque can spin a gem against his old club tonight.

The Sox now travel south to play the Atlanta Braves (second in the NL East as I type this) for three games from Monday through Wednesday, then, after another travel day on Thursday they cross the country to play the San Diego Padres (first in the NL West as I type this) in a three-game weekend series that ends interleague play for 2007.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Martian Ocean Mystery Solved? Dwarf Planet Eris Bigger Than Pluto.

Today I have two stories to present from the Yahoo News section. The first deals with evidence that Mars once had large oceans , and also deals with how the determination that Mars even HAD oceans was made, and the phenomenon that may have worked in tandem to cause Mars to lose most of the water. The second story deals with the determination that Dwarf Planet Eris, discovered in 2005, is larger than Pluto. Read on...

Martian Oceans Mystery

Since 1991, planetary scientists have floated the idea that Mars once harbored vast oceans that covered roughly one-third of the planet. Two long shore-like lips of rock in the planet's northern hemisphere were thought to be the best evidence, but experts argued that they were too "hilly" to describe the smooth edges of ancient oceans.

The view just changed dramatically with a surprisingly simple breakthrough. The once-flat shorelines were disfigured by a massive toppling over of the planet, scientists announced today. The warping of the Martian rock has hidden clear evidence of the oceans
, which in any case have been gone for at least 2 billion years.

"This really confirms that there was an ocean on Mars," said Mark Richards, a planetary scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and co-author of the study, which is detailed in the June 14 issue of the journal Nature.

Two major shorelines exist on Mars, each thousands of miles long--one remaining from the older Arabia Ocean, and another from the younger Deuteronilus Ocean, said study co-author Taylor Perron of UC Berkeley. "The Arabia would have contained two to three times the volume of water than in the ice that covers Antarctica," Perron told

Somewhere along the way to toppling over 50 degrees to the north, Mars probably lost some of its water
, leaving the Deuteronilus Ocean's shoreline exposed. "The volume of water was too large to simply evaporate into space, so we think there is still some subterranean reservoirs on Mars," Perron said. The remaining sea would have been located in the same lowland plain as the Arabia Ocean, but almost 40 degrees to the north.

As a planet spins, the heaviest things tend to shift towards the equator, where they are most stable. Earth, too, has a bulge
at its equator. The volcanic Tharsis region of Mars, a vast raised area along Mars' equator, is evidence for how this works.

"On planets like Mars and Earth that have an outer shell ... that behaves elastically, the solid surface will deform," Richards said. By calculating the deformation, which occurs in a predictable way, the planetary research team found the ridges had to have once been flat, like ocean shorelines.

Perron and his colleagues aren't certain what caused the toppling of the planet, but they think forces beneath the surface are to blame. "There could have been a massive change in the distribution of mantle," Perron said, "which would have caused the planet to shift into its current position."

One reason may be that Mars does not have the good fortune to have a large moon, like we Earthlings do. Our Moon is large enough, that given the types of forces described in the last paragraph, it can counter most of the momentum shift and stabilize us before the continents and oceans go shifting all over the place. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, both of which are no bigger than mountains here on Earth, and which have a negligible gravitational effect on their primary.

Full Story

Dwarf Planet Eris Larger than Former Planet Pluto

The dwarf planet that effectively forced astronomers to strip Pluto of its planethood is not only bigger than the former ninth planet, but also much more massive, a new study finds.

Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at Caltech, and his graduate student Emily Schaller have determined that Eris, discovered in 2005 by Brown and his team, is about 27 percent more massive than Pluto. The finding, detailed in the June 15 issue of the journal Science, also confirms Eris and Pluto have similar compositions.

Eris circles the sun from about 9 billion miles away-about twice the distance of Pluto at the farthest point in its orbit. Its discovery was one of several factors that led some astronomers to create a new definition for planethood at the 2006 meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague. The ruling reduced the planet count in our solar system to eight and left Pluto renamed as a "dwarf planet."

To determine Eris' mass, the researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory to calculate the orbital speed of its moon, Dysnomia. According to Newtonian physics, the more massive a celestial object is, the faster its satellite will zip around it. "By looking at the time it takes the moon to go around Eris, we're able to calculate the mass," Schaller said.

Because Eris and Dysomnia are located more than 90 times farther from the sun than Earth--out in the Kuiper Belt region of the solar system, they appear as little more than pricks of light in telescope observations. "Eris is slightly larger than a point source, but just barely," Schaller said.

Dysnomia is thought to be less than 100 miles (150 km) across and to take about 16 Earth-days to make one trip around Eris.

Eris itself is believed to have a diameter of 1,490 to 1,860 miles (2,400 to 3,000 km). "To put that into perspective, if you took all the asteroids in the asteroid belt [between Mars and Jupiter] and multiplied by four, they would easily all fit into Eris," Schaller told

Pluto has a diameter of about 1,430 miles (2,300 km) across.

Knowing Eris' mass and size, the researchers were also able to confirm that Eris' density is similar to that of Pluto, and that it is therefore likely made up mainly of rock and water ice.

Not much too add here, except to say that "demoting" Pluto seems not to have been such a silly idea after all. And I'd be willing to bet that there are more Eris-sized (or larger) bodies out there in the Kuiper Belt.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mitt's Excuse for a Position on Pardons

Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, has an interesting position on granting pardons. He doesn't grant them. None. At all. Why? Read the following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt if you want to see political laziness and fence straddling:

BOSTON - Decorated Iraq war veteran Anthony Circosta seemed like an ideal candidate for a pardon from then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his boyhood conviction for a BB gun shooting.

Romney said no — twice — despite the recommendation of the state's Board of Pardons.

At age 13, Circosta was convicted of assault for shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun, a shot that didn't break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.

You mean that shooting someone with a BB gun, but not having broken their skin was worthy of having been prosecuted as assault? Shit, if I'd have known that in 1971 I'd have pressed charges against the little jerkoff who shot me directly in my left eye at a distance of about five (5) feet with a metal-tipped, plastic bullet that was about two inches long. I'm lucky I didn't lose an eye, while some little toad got maybe a red welt on his skin and this poor SOB gets a conviction of assault to follow him around for the rest of his days.

In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer. "I've done everything I can to give back to my state and my community and my country and to get brushed aside is very frustrating," said Circosta, 29, of Agawam, Mass. "I'm not some shlub off the street."

In his presidential bid, Romney often proudly points out that he was the first governor in modern Massachusetts history to deny every request for a pardon or commutation during his four years in office. He says he refused pardons because he didn't want to overturn a jury.

That seems like a very lazy, incurious stance to take. Hell, it also sounds a lot like the Preznit when he was Gubner Executioner. He refused to commute any sentences because he figured that if the accused were convicted then hell, that was good enough for him, so let 'em fry! It is apparent that Romney shares the Preznit's laziness.

But critics argue that the blanket policy is an abdication of a key power given governors and the president — the ability to recognize how someone convicted of a past crime has turned their life around.

During the four years Romney was in office, 100 requests for commutations and 172 requests for pardons were filed in the state. All were denied.

"Governor Romney's view is that it would take a compelling set of circumstances to set aside the punishment and guilt resulting from a criminal trial," said Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom, who added he was not familiar with Circosta's case. "The power to pardon should only be used in extraordinary circumstances."

Typical. Have an aide make a sweeping statement to defend your position, then have that aide claim to know nothing about the situation in question.

While he refused all requests for pardons as governor, Romney has said that could change if he's elected president. Asked in last week's debate if he would consider pardoning Vice President Dick Cheney'
s former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation, Romney said: "It's worth looking at that. I will study it very closely if I'm lucky enough to be president. And I'd keep that option open."

Nice poker face Mitt! Sounds to me like Mitt's record of consecutive pardon/commution denials is in serious jeopardy should America be stupid enough to elect him Preznit...

Romney approved guidelines for issuing pardons as he took office. Among the threshold requirements was a compelling need for a pardon, such as the need to obtain a firearm, and a demonstration of "good citizenship," defined as a "demonstrated ability to lead responsible and productive life for a significant period after conviction."

The guidelines also state that pardons will rarely be issued for the purpose of obtaining a firearm if the person had been convicted of a crime involving a firearm.

During his first year in office, the Board of Pardons recommended 11 pardons and two commutations. After Romney decided against granting any, the number of hearings dropped dramatically. During the next three years, the board recommended just four pardons and a single commutation. Romney rejected every one.

For Circosta, who works as a project manager for disaster restoration company, Romney's refusal is an ongoing source of frustration. "I understand the political side, but I don't see in any way how it could hurt the campaign," Circosta said. "I'm decorated. I have a Bronze Star. I guess he just didn't want to sign it. It's obviously politically motivated and I don't know why."

I don't know why either. Perhaps Mitt secretly hates the troops, and this is his way of showing it. I think it is more likely that he is, as detailed above, just another lazy, GOP hack who is content to simply enjoy the trappings of office while doing as close to nothing that involves actual work as is possible. Either way, the signs are clear that this is just another reason that Mitt Romney is not qualified to be our next president.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Libby and Jefferson - Interesting Timing...

Does anyone else see anything interesting about the fact that the announcement of Scooter Libby's sentencing came on the same day that the GOP collectively stood up and called for the head of William Jefferson?

I sure as hell don't. Especially after reading quotes like these from the Preznit and the Vice Preznit and from his defense attorney, Theodore Wells:

"Reaction from the White House was still supportive — but somber."

"President Bush, traveling in Europe, said through a spokesman that he "felt terrible for the family," especially Libby's wife and children. Libby and his wife, Harriet Grant, have two school-age children, a son and a daughter."

"Cheney said he hoped his former top aide would prevail on appeal."

"Mr. Libby was the poster child for all that has gone wrong in this terrible war," defense attorney Theodore Wells said. "He has fallen from public grace. It is a tragic fall, a tragic fall."

"Cheney, looking to Libby's appeal, said, "Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."

Interesting stuff, no? I like the fact that the Preznit is concerned about Libby and his family. Too bad he wasn't as concerned about the fact that this snake revealed the name of a covert intelligence asset.

The bottom line is that Libby is a fall guy. Sure, he's probably guilty as hell, but he'll keep his mouth shut for thirty months, get out of prison, and write a best-seller about his experiences as a flunkie for evil men.

As to the Jefferson case, I have nothing to add except the fact that back when this case first surfaced, one of my knuckledragger colleagues at my wage slavery containment facility went on long and loud about what a "good Democrat" Jefferson was (this person knows my liberal leanings). Unfortunately for my friend with the bad posture (and judgement), Jefferson's situation first came to light about the same time Tom DeLay was indicted for the K Street extortion games, which showed rampant criminal behavior on the part of the GOP, that he'd been playing for years. I was less than gentle in informing my brutish buddy of this incovenient fact.

That having been said. Jefferson's explanations seem a bit far fetched to me, but who knows? The bottom line is that the GOP seems to have figured out a way to downplay the Libby sentencing by throwing Jefferson's plight back in the faces of the Democrats.

Here is one of their hardest hits: "Republicans, citing Pelosi's election-season promise to run the most ethical House in history, sought Jefferson's expulsion from the chamber..."

It would be funny if it wasn't so damned ironic. Do these fools really think that after six years of Bush wrecking the peace and prosperity he inherted from Bill Clinton and Al Gore, they have anything close to a leg on which to stand by issuing such a challenge? The pot calling the kettle black doesn't even come close in this case.