Monday, December 03, 2007

Quick Hits: Sudanese President Pardons British Teacher. If Bush can do it, why not Chavez? Peter Garrett Named Australian Environment Minister.

I've got a little extra time on my hands this evening, so I think I'll follow my last post up with an update from a recent post, plus two more tidbits to tide you over:

The case of the British teacher who had the insensitivity to let her students name a teddy bear Muhammad, and who spent over a week in jail while religiously insane nitwits concocted crazier and crazier ways to execute her for that transgression, has been pardoned by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

I linked a quick hit to this case a couple of posts ago, and I am glad to see that this seems to be turning out well for Ms. Gibbons.

In other news, if, as the article I am about to link claims, that Venezuela's vote against President Hugo Chavez's proposed additional reforms really is "a message from the Venezuelan people that they do not want any further erosion in their democracy and their democratic institutions," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after the referendum.", then can we have a similar election here in the United States NOW to send Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy the same message?

And lastly, Peter Garrett, former singer for Australian rockers Midnight Oil, was named the Australian Environment Minister last week by new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (Nice job bouncing former PM John Howard! See what being a Bush Poodle gets you John?). The job is a shared one, and there are hints that Mr. Garrett is just a tad compromised as he begins this new job, but I'll give his record the benefit of the doubt (At least there were no Nader-like smears such as the "A vote for Gore is a vote for Bush" that resonated with the stupid in Campaign 2000).

Mr. Garrett and I have a few things in common. He and I are both six-foot-six, slender and we both shave our heads. This was a point of mild distraction during my 2005 trip to Australia, where I spent most of my time between Sydney and North Ryde (about a 30 minute drive west of Sydney). As I got out and about the Circular Quay area (where the Sydney Opera House stands), I got more than a handful of autograph requests, and an equal number of disappointed autograph seekers when I revealed that, not only was I not Mr. Garrett, but an American as well. Still, the lads and sheilas in the support centre thought it all good fun and whatnot. Anyway, do yourself a favor and click the link. The article contains a Reader's Digest version of Mr. Garrett's accomplishments in politics. Congratulations Mr. Garrett. Well done!

Veterans Committee Elects Five (Two, Possibly Three Actually Deserved It...).

In a strange turn of events, the latest version of major league baseball's Veterans Committee elected five people into the Hall of Fame today. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

At last, Bowie Kuhn beat Marvin Miller at something. The late commissioner was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday while Miller was rejected by a revamped Veterans Committee stacked with those he regularly opposed -- and beat -- in arbitration and bargaining sessions that altered the history of the game.

"Bowie was a close friend and a respected leader who served as commissioner during an important period in history, amid a time of change," commissioner Bud Selig said, adding: "I was surprised that Marvin Miller did not receive the required support given his important impact on the game."

So am I. Miller had a much greater positive impact on the game than Kuhn did, a fact underscored by the realization that, as Commissioner, Kuhn went out of his way to do things that led directly to the skyrocketing salaries we now take for granted. Part of this occurred in the way he dealt with former A's owner Charles Finley, a man Kuhn hated (and I'm sure the feeling was mutual on Finley's part).

Former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth and ex-Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss also were elected.

Dreyfuss helped bring peace between the American and National Leagues by arranging the first World Series in 1903. O'Malley united the East and West Coasts under baseball's flag when he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. Southworth and Williams won World Series titles.

Kuhn presided over the introduction of night games to the World Series and baseball's first, tentative steps into national marketing. But the game also changed in ways he fiercely resisted: Free agency, salary arbitration and dozens of other benefits that Miller won for the players as the head of their union.

This article makes it seem as if he was some force for good during the era that these things were introduced. He was not. Mr. Kuhn let the 1972 season start with a strike that wiped out a weeks worth of games. Oh, and let's not forget the 1981 strike and the silly split-season format he and his elves cooked up that made the 1981 post-season a joke.

"I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some of these (people) in. It's not a pretty picture," Miller said by telephone after being informed of the results by The Associated Press. "It's demeaning, the whole thing, and I don't mean just to me. It's demeaning to the Hall and demeaning to the people in it."

The veterans panel has been changed twice since 2001, when charges of cronyism followed the election of glove man Bill Mazeroski. The original 15-member panel was expanded to include every living member of the Hall, but that group failed to elect anyone in three tries.

It was replaced by three separate panels -- one for players, one for managers and umpires and one for executives and pioneers, leaving Miller's fortunes largely in the hands of the same group he once fought in collective bargaining and the courts.

He did not come close, receiving only three of 12 possible votes. Under the previous system, Miller received 63 percent of the votes earlier this year while Kuhn got 17 percent -- a reversal noticed by Miller's successor at the players' union, Donald Fehr.

"Over the entire scope of the last half of the 20th century, no other individual had as much influence on the game of baseball as did Marvin Miller," Fehr said. "Because he was the players' voice, and represented them vigorously, Marvin Miller was the owners' adversary. This time around, a majority of those voting were owner representatives, and results of the vote demonstrate the effect that had. "The failure to elect Marvin Miller is an unfortunate and regrettable decision. Without question, the Hall of Fame is poorer for it."

Well said, Mr. Fehr. Too bad you couldn't be as articulate when addressing the concepts that drove the last two Basic Agreement negotiations.

Kuhn, who died in March at the age of 80, is the first commissioner elected since Happy Chandler in 1982.

Attendance tripled during Kuhn's tenure, from 1969-84. But during essentially the same era, Miller was leading the players to more lucrative and revolutionary gains, taking the average salary from $19,000 to $241,000 and pitching a virtual shutout against the owners when he went head-to-head.

Please, let's not pretend that attendance tripled because of Kuhn. The major leagues expanded twice while he was in the big seat, going from 20 teams in 1968 to 24 in 1969, then to 26 teams in 1977.

Selig, a former owner and longtime bargaining foe of the players, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Miller's candidacy. Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who was on the panel that considered Miller, said he was limited because he could only vote for four of the 10 candidates.

"Everybody on that list deserved to be there," Killebrew said, declining to reveal whether he voted for Miller. "He certainly had a tremendous impact."

Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark defended the process. "There was no concerted effort other than to have very qualified committee members evaluate very qualified candidates," she said. "There was a very open and frank discussion about each of the candidates. Everyone on that committee knows Marvin and respects what he did for the game. And that showed in the discussions."

So just what IS the process? Does anyone know?

The five elected this time will be inducted into the Hall on July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.. They will be joined by any players elected in traditional voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to be announced Jan. 8.

The Veterans Committee did not consider players this time, but will meet late next year to vote on candidates for enshrinement in 2009.

Dreyfuss, who received 10 of 12 votes, helped end the longtime feud between the American and National Leagues when he and Boston owner Henry Killilea agreed to meet on the diamond after the 1903 season. The World Series was born.

Southworth, who was chosen on 13 of 16 ballots from the panel that considered umpires and managers, won four pennants and two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Braves.

"Billy Southworth oversaw one of the greatest eras in Cardinals history and it is gratifying to see his career accomplishments recognized by the Veterans Committee," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement.

Southworth had a 1044-704 record for the Cardinals (1929, 1940-45) and Braves (1946-1951). That's a .597 winning percentage. He won three NL pennants in a row with the Cardinals in 1942, 1943 and 1944, and won the World Series in '42 and '44. His fourth pennant came with the 1948 Boston Braves. It's a wonder Southworth is not already in the Hall of Fame.

Williams was a spare part on O'Malley's Dodgers in Brooklyn but earned his way into the Hall as a manager, making his debut by taking the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox to the 1967 AL pennant and winning the '72 and '73 World Series with the Oakland Athletics. Williams, the only one of the most recent inductees who is alive, said he and his wife, Norma, broke down and cried when they got the call on Monday morning. "It just blew our mind," he said. "Under the (voting) regime they had previously ... I didn't think anybody would get there."

Again, a mystery as to why Williams is finally getting this honor now instead of earlier.

O'Malley moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles after the 1957 season -- a baseball version of the California Gold Rush that helped open the West to the national pastime.

This is has to be a joke. Does anyone really think that baseball did not exist in the west before 1957, particularly in California? Remember the old Pacific Coast League before it became a slave to the majors (a move hastened by the Dodgers AND Giants both leaving New York for California)? The San Francisco Seals and Los Angeles Angels are two of the greatest franchises to play in the PCL. Not enough? How about the San Diego Padres, Sacramento Solons, Vernon Tigers, Hollywood Stars, Mission Reds and Oakland Oaks? It looks to me like there was plenty of baseball action going on in California (Not to mention in other West Coast locales such as Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Salt Lake City and Vancouver).

Among the players who came through the PCL were Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, all three DiMaggio brothers, Earl Averill, Paul Waner, Andy Pafko, Gene Woodling and a lot of other star quality players. Casey Stengel managed the Oaks just before the Yankees brought him back to manage in the bigs. Other PCL stars were guys like Jigger Statz, Smead Jolley, Ike Boone, Buzz Arlett, Ox Eckhardt, Frank Schellenback, Tony Frietas and Sam Gibson. Were they just taking up space until you brought your "real" players into town? I think not.

Anyway, there you have it. Check out the full story link and see what you think.