Sunday, April 30, 2006

Steyn: Iran already at war with the US

During his weekly radio chat with Hugh Hewitt, Mark Steyn offers opinion on the US and Iran. He says that Iran has been at a state of war with the US since 1979. He adds that Iran is already trying to harm American interests in Iraq and is "contemptuous of western weakness." He starts with interesting comments on the media and "Flight 93."

Give it a listen.

Coaching rumors and fan message boards

When I first started reading the internet regularly, I spent most of my time reading posts on ACC message boards. I never posted myself because I never wanted to take the time it seemed to require to establish yourself on the pecking order to get replies to anything you wrote. Sometimes I learned some real news, but I mostly got a kick reading many fans' knee-jerk reactions to the ebb and flow of their teams' fortunes.

I just came across a rumor making its way around Maryland boards that Gary Williams was planning to interview with the Charlotte Bobcats about a heading coaching vacancy that at this point is not a head coaching vacancy. These two posts attracted a great deal of attention with Maryland fans coming from several angles. Some were fearful of Williams's departure, while others were already speculating if Tubby Smith or Jay Wright would make the move to College Park. As it turns out, the Charlotte Observers' NBA writer, Rick Bonnell, quashed the rumor on his blog earlier this week along with another that had Smith making his way to Charlotte. That one apparently lit up the threads on UK boards.

For anyone unfamiliar with the boards, don't rely on them for accurate news. They make good psychological studies after the team has lost. Some guys are ready to jump off bridges while others seem to possess the knowledge to outcoach the coach. Sometimes you get very good threads like this one that make following sports a satifying past time.

Educators defeat law enforcement

Make it two in a row for the Western Rockingham Middle School faculty against local law enforcement. That's two in a row on the hard court. For the last two years, the faculty and staff at my school have played Rockingham County law enforcement officers in a benefit for Special Olympics and we've managed to come out on top both times.

Last year, we had true ringers. This year we needed a little help, but it was necessary to get enough bodies on the floor. We staked the officers to an 18-0 lead, but managed to trim it to 12 by the half. We ended up winning by 6. What we may have lacked in talent was overcome by the fact that we put 6 current and former coaches on the floor. The proper adjustments were made throughout the game. It would be immodest to say I made a modest contribution. My only shot found nothing but air. However, I banged around with their big guys and got back on defense consistently. I'm not as sore as expected today, but it's making a good excuse to take it easy.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Going soft on old Persia

Bill Kristol doesn't sense too much enthusiasm for the Bush Doctrine inside the halls of the US government these days. He writes that government officials say privately that their talk of a diplomatic solution to prevent a nuclear Iran does not mean the administration is shying away from a military option. Kristol isn't buying it. He goes on to contend that this stand has left Bush weakened:

...And it's true the Europeans don't fear the Bush administration any more. Nor, unfortunately, do others. One might also note that, despite all the goodwill built up by our outreach to the capitals of Europe, President Bush seems much weaker today than he was in the bad old days of unilateralism and bellicosity, and so does the United States. But the State Department is popular, and at least we don't look like Neanderthals in the drawing rooms of Europe and Georgetown.

Bush has lost much of his boldness. His refusal to actively take on critics has left him in a weaker position. The US military is more than capable enough of doing the job in Iran, but there is good reason at the moment to question the resolve of the nation's political leadership. I guess they're too busy doing something about rising gas prices.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The nature of modern warfare and the Generals' Revolt

British journalist and historian Max Hastings takes his turn in analyzing the recent flap involving Donald Rumsfeld and retired generals. He provides a convinicing history of the changing nature of warfare since the end of World War II. Hastings contends field commanders have lost much of their latitude over battlefield operations to civilian leadership. With this change, Hastings contends that the military is justified in taking a non-tradtional route in publically criticizing civilian leadership if they take the brunt of the blame when military solutions don't completely solve the problem:

If commanders are denied the power to manage campaigns as they think right, it is unjust to allow them to accept blame when these go awry. In the new world, the generals' revolt seems a legitimate response to political mismanagement of operations. If a civilian such as Donald Rumsfeld seeks to exercise from Washington functions that were traditionally those of soldiers, he should take the customary consequences. The most conspicuous historical example of a politician presiding over a military fiasco was that of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. He sponsored the 1915 Dardanelles campaign -- and was forced to quit.

I'm sympathetic to Hastings's view to a point. However, I don't see how this applies to Iraq. I've heard nothing but praise for the performance of our troops from civilian leaders. It's well-deserved. I also find the Gallipoli/Iraq, Rumsfeld/Churchill comparisons misplaced. Rumsfeld's made his share of mistakes, but their impact pales in comparison to the World War I bloodbath.

Reassessing Australia's role in the Great War

Yesterday marked the 91st anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of Gallipoli. Once again Australians and New Zealanders traveled by the thousands to Turkey's Aegean coast to participate in a dawn ceremony at the battle site. While only a part of the Allied force, The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) stood in the forefront. In a little over six months of fighting against the Turks, ANZAC lost 10,000 troops.

ANZAC Day, April 25, has become the most important national holiday in both Australia and New Zealand. Paul Kelly used the occassion to note the change in attitude toward the former's assessement of it role in World War I. Throughout the 20th century, ultranationalists held considerable sway promoting the view that the country's participation in the Great War was a great mistake. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kelly and others argue that Australia's participation in the proved necessary. They argue that sitting out the war would have hampered the country's development and crippled its national spirit. Kelly also writes that participation in the war and the performance of ANZAC troops at Gallipoli showed Australia's commitment to participating in the larger world.

I'll catalogue this under learning something new everyday. I've long been aware of the significance of ANZAC Day to Australia and New Zealand, but I was unaware of its political saliency through the 20th century. I'm glad Australia is a solid US ally. Here's a belated salute to ANZAC Day.

Waynesville Marine receives second Bronze Star Medal

A Waynesville Marine recently earned his second Bronze Star Medal for actions in Iraq. Capt. Thomas Douglas earned his lastest medal for leading a specially-trained Iraqi police unit in actions against insurgents. He played a big role in training what the military calls one of the top Iraqi units, the Hilla Specical Weapons and Tactics Team. Douglas earned the first Bronze Star for his actions in the Jessica Lynch rescue.

You don't read much of the heroic news out of Iraq. A big part of reason is the military's reluctance in pushing individual achievment. I do believe Douglas's actions are indicitive of the military in Iraq. Their performance has been nothing short of impressive in my opinion. I don't think it hurts the cause to tout their actions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Washington gas attack

David Boyd has some interesting thoughts on Republicans braying like jackasses over the most recent spiral of gasoline prices. I'm sure a smirk passes across my face anytime I hear politicians of both parties speaking boldly of bringing oil companies to their knees in atonement for sticking it to the little guy. While Sen. Robert Menendez's proposal to suspend the federal gas tax may sound good to the man on the street, who do you think will end up paying for the tax breaks the plan would take away from oil companies? Give me a break. Anything the politicians might do will only lead to two things, we either pay the price at the pump eventually or we really do see a tightening supply of the black gold.

We've got oil here. It's not as simple as opening up shop at ANWR and other places, but it can be done cleanly and it's hard to see why we don't tap our own underground reserves. At the same time, I'm all for finding alternatives. The only way alternatives will capture the imaginations of consumers though is if an alternative engine can be developed to run as powerfully as the gas burner. I'm sorry. I can't go for flooring it just to get up to the speed limit on the highway. However, I'm optimistic that it can be done. In the meantime, peanut butter crackers along with chips and salsa taste like delicacies to me.

Billy Joel concerto to debut at EMF

This sounds like good news. A Billy Joel concerto will debut at the Eastern Muscial Festival this summer. I haven't kept up with Joel in many years, but I've always respected his work. The height of my interest in Joel came with "The Stranger" and "52nd Street." I'm sure he's made a little money here in the past and Greensboro should be as good a place as any to unveil some new work.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Alice Cooper talks about Christian faith and rock and roll

Alice Cooper rocks on as a Christian. Though he rarely discusses it, Cooper has been a practicing Christian since the '80s. He turned to the faith to deal with his alcoholism. Continuing his trademark bizarre rock act raises the ire of some Christians, but it has not dampened his enthusiasm for his faith or act. He also addresses Marilyn Manson and believes the world is in the midst of a spiritual reawakening. Here's his summary of his journey:

"I used to celebrate moral decay, the decadence of it," he admitted in the interview. "I can look back on what I did then and what I'm doing now and they're two different things. But at the time I was the poster boy for moral decay, you know. So yeah, I've got a lot to be forgiven for ... out of ignorance, I thought I was doing the right thing. I was totally in agreement that every guy should sleep with every girl and drink as much as they can. I don't believe that now. I don't believe in it, because I see how destructive it is."

Read it here.

Potato pancakes and All Quiet on the Western Front

Last week's visit home for Easter yielded a healthy supply of leftovers. They kept me fed most of the week. The last dish contained mashed potatoes. I'm not much for reheated potatoes so I fried up three nice potato pancakes.

Everytime I come across potato pancakes, I remember "All Quiet on the Western Front." Almost everytime Paul Baumer received a package from home, his mother included potato pancakes. As Germany ran out of spuds, she managed to slip in her son's favorite dish. They seemed to be his last connection to the innocence and naivete of his boyhood. While not usually pointed out in studies of the novel, it stands out to me.

I can't say my latest batch matched the literary symbolism of those made by Paul Baumer's mother. I added a little sweet onion, celery salt and black pepper. I poured some olive oil in an iron skillet and fried them up. I made sure to cook them slow to keep them somewhat firm. Topped off with hot salsa, they made an entire meal.

That's enough for this guide to literary dining.

Measuring footprints in Iraq

Jack Kelly weighs in on the Rumsfeld/General spat today. He commends Gen. John Batiste for his service, but questions his judgment:

I have great respect for Maj. Gen. Batiste's character, courage and integrity. He turned down a third star to retire in protest. But I don't think much of his judgment.

However, Kelly dedicates the most space to the bureaucratic nature of the conflict. He sees the roots of the dispute lying in the disagreement over troop levels needed in Iraq. He calls the military offensive to oust Saddam brilliant, but calls the postwar approach a mistake, conceding that more troops were needed to finish the job. The biggest mistake being the creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by Paul Bremmer.

I think Kelly's arguments ring true. Rumsfeld and the civilian leadership did not anticipate many of the intricacies of creating a new government from scratch. I would have never protested a greater troop presence in Iraq. At the same time, who knows what other troubles may have arisen from those higher levels? Mistakes are always made in war. Our country has overcome them before and the mistakes made in Iraq have not risen to the level of irredeemable.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The CIA leaker and prison time

Will Collier writes that former CIA employee Mary McCarthy deserves prison time for leaking information about secret prisons for terror suspects to the media. Collier, who has a security clearance, points out that periodically he must sign legal papers affirming that he will not leak classified material, summing it up with this hypothetical:

Now, let's just suppose that during the last election, I had taken it upon myself to go and leak classified information about the F-22 fighter to, say, Bill Gertz at the Washington Times, in the hopes that such information would bolster the campaign of George W. Bush. Or what if I'd leaked that information before last year's budget was finalized, trying to get a competitive advantage over rival aircraft? (There are no rival aircraft when the F-22 is in the air, but that's beside the point.) Or what if I just did it to make myself look and feel cool?
I'll tell you what would happen. I'd be fired, and then I'd be locked up, and I'd deserve it.

Collier will get no argument from me. As more time passes, it is apparent that many in the CIA consider the president of the United States a bigger enemy than the ones we fight overseas.

Bring on that puck

Now that the NHL playoffs are here, I'm ready to jump on the Carolina Hurricanes bandwagon. To cement my status as a bonafide fair-weather follower of the puck, I'll admit I didn't even know who coached the Canes until I read this. Knock 'em against the glass Carolina. I always love the home team.

Iraqi parliament wrap up

Iraq the Model provides a good blow-by-blow account of yesterday's meeting of the Iraqi parliament.

Hammer on the world wide web

Rhino Times publisher John Hammer gets a spot on the bill of Real Clear Politics today. He calls for Duke president Richard Brodhead to do some explaining about his handling of the Duke lacrosse fury. A Duke alum, Hammer hammers Brodhead at all points in his handling of the case and does advocate for his resignation. Read it here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Durham manager touts WFU/W-S plan

An interesting sidebar to the Duke lacrosse story appeared in the Herald-Sun today. Durham City Manager Patrick Baker planned to talk to Duke officials today in an attempt to get them to take a look at a policy Wake Forest has impelemented that has decreased tensions between off campus students and neighboring residents. Wake officials created a policy in the following spirit:

Wake enforces the policy by defining the chance to live in off-campus housing as a privilege, one its students can lose for even minor infractions. Students have to apply for permission to live off-campus, and administrators use the process to control where students live and how many move into a given house or apartment.

Baker, a WFU alum, told the H-S the plan was at least worth at look, but not a cure-all.

Duke's press spokesman could not have been more non-committal:

"We're welcoming input" about the university's judicial process, said John Burness, Duke senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "I think it is appropriate that we invite the city manager to talk about that."

I admire Baker's optimism in hoping to improve the relationship between the city and university. We'll see how far he gets.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Military transformation and the Generals' Revolt

Rowan Scarborough's coverage for the Washington Times of Donald Rumsfeld's press conference yesterday zeroed in on the Sec Def's claim that the current grousing of retired generals is a result of military transformation, not the war in Iraq. Scarborough quotes retired army personnel, speaking anonymously, who concur with Rumsfeld while being critical of current troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Yet, a number of retired officers say privately that Mr. Rumsfeld is correct and that the resignation calls are rooted in how he has treated the Army during sweeping transformation. They also complain that the Army has too few soldiers to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to keeping other global commitments. Mr. Rumsfeld has resisted any permanent increase in what is called "end strength," but he has authorized a temporary buildup of 30,000 soldiers.

While not as sexy as war opposition, transformation has been a source of great tension between Rumsfeld and some members of the army brass. It would be futile to try to explain transformation fully in a blog post. (Even Wikipedia doesn't have an entry) It creates a leaner fighting force, but more importantly, it's a transformation of attitude. One aspect is extending special forces style training and mentality through all ranks of the military. As an example of this impact, the current edition of US News and World Report features an article on how the Air Force has begun to emphasize combat skills during its basic training. A big change for that branch of the military.

The most famous breach on transformation came when Rumsfeld named General Eric Shinseki's replacement as Army Chief of Staff in '03. Not only did the secretary appoint a special forces guru, he brought General Peter Schoomaker out of retirement to take the post. posted an article by John Weisman soon after Schoomaker's appointment that addressed the chagrin of Schoomaker detractors rather bluntly:

Let’s get real. This nastiness isn’t just about Schoomaker. It’s about Rumsfeld. This is about the fact that Don Rumsfeld has turned most of the military establishment on its ear. He is dragging America’s top-heavy, cumbersome, often pig-headed military establishment kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. Dragging them by their noses, and most of ‘em don’t like it at all.

While the struggle over transformation may be hard to decipher, it's not unreasonable to see it looming in the current calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Do we have ourselves a good old fashioned cabal?

Tony Blankley isn't calling it seditious, at least not yet. He does raise some questions about the motivation and timing behind the recent calls of retired generals for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.

Blankley hones in on Richard Holbrook's Washington Post oped titled "Behind the Military Revolt." He offers Bill Clinton's former UN ambassador as someone who "is at the least very well informed if he is not himself part of this military cabal intended to 'consume ... Donald Rumsfeld.'" In his piece, Holbrook seems convinced more generals currently on active duty will step forward after retirement and continue the current storm "until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld."

Earlier in his piece, Holbrook calls the situation the most significant civilian/military standoff on authority since MacArthur versus Truman during the Korean War and later points to the struggles between McClellan and Lincoln during the Civil War. Civilian authority prevailed in both situations. I'm guessing Holbrook sees both results as a good. What makes the present standoff different?

Blankley argues that if active duty generals are in fact agreeing among themselves to speak out upon retirement, a case of sedition could be made against them. He keeps his speculation at the theoretical level, but does quote from the Uniform Code of Military Conduct to contend his theory could easily fit the category of mutiny.

I don't know the motivation behind the wave of denunciation aimed at Rumsfeld. I hope to learn more. I suspect much of the tension stems from the transformational approach the Sec Def insisted upon in conducting the Iraq War. It made for brilliant strategy in taking out the enemy with minimal casualites, but has proven more problematic in reconstruction. Our nation has always been well served by the subordination of the military to civilian rule. I respect the opinions of generals who have served in the field mightily, but I'll have to hear much more than I have so far to agree with their political assessments.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Will a fortnight pass quickly enough for Nifong?

It looks like the May 2 primary for Durham County DA can't get here fast enough for Mike Nifong. He's got two sealed indictments, but no one is talking about who or what charges the Manila envelope contains.

I found interesting a Nifong quote published by the News and Observer as all awaited a decision. After Nifong entered a restroom, a throng of reporters stood poised at the door awaiting the flush. The DA emerged with this to say:

"I no longer get to go anywhere in my community without people knowing who I am," Nifong said. "I wish you could find me a way to give me my anonymity back."

It's hard not to suspect Nifong of disingenuousness. Just last week after getting nothing in the way of DNA evidence, he asked at the last minute for a seat on a forum discussing the case at NC Central. A week later he speaks in the spirit of Garbo. It looks like the primary looms large in how Nifong has handled the matter. Both of his opponents, Freda Black and Keith Bishop, are criticizing the incumbent for his tactics. Nifong has mounted a tiger. Will he fall off in two weeks?

BTW: Black helped successfully prosecute Michael Peterson in Durham's last nationally-famous court case.

Pull the stuffing out of those cushy congressional districts with a pitchfork

On Slate today, Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin proposes a solution to our current incumbent-friendly Congressional redistricting process. Well, she more or less touts the plan of election attorney Sam Hirsch, who envisions a commission with a non-partisan "resdistricting dictator" who would block the maneuvering of the politicians to draw new congressional distrcits.

While Eilpern would find me a kindred spirit on the idea of exploding today's gerrymandered districts, I don't think we can count on the wonks to carry the day. They can devise a good plan, but it will be up to the people to change things. I don't see this as hopeless. The debate over illegal immigration shows a great deal of disconnect between the political elites and the populace. Many of the former may come to realize that rarely challenged politicians feel little compunction at ignoring the wishes of constituients.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Aussie PM never suspected board's involvement in oil for food scandal

Austrailian Prime Minister John Howard said he did not suspect the Australian Wheat Board's involvement in Saddam Hussein's oil for food scandal. In its investigation of the matter, the UN determined that the AWB funneled the most illegal money to Saddam, $290m(Australian). Howard said no evidence of the company's role came across his desk.

I'm intrigued by the word "rort" in the headline. I assume it has something to do with rip off, but I couldn't find it listed in my Webster's.

Poland wants to change name of Auschwitz

Poland is asking the UN to change the name of the most infamous World War II concentration camp to Auschwitz of the former Nazi Germany. In a letter to the world body, Poland claimed that Nazi Germany, not it was responsible for the atrocities.

A spokesman for the World Jewish Congress claimed Poland is trying to re-write history and that many Poles worked in the camp during its operation.

I admire much about Poland, but they should leave this one alone.

GOP legislative civil war takes another turn

Found via NC Rumors, Republican Rep. Richard Morgan has asked the State Board of Elections to investigate independent committees formed to defeat him and his allies in next month's primary election. The groups are tied to former GOP legislator Art Pope and have raised money through corporate donations to target Morgan and five of his allies for defeat on May 2. Morgan contends the contributions are illegal and wants the BOE to halt the broadcast of ads targeting him and his allies.

I've never liked Morgan's cozy relationship with House Speaker Jim Black. I wouldn't have a problem with him working with Black to move legislation. However, I have strong objections to his cutting deals to gain power. Also, I found his past defense of his moves condescending, taking the tone that he was only trying to save the GOP from itself. When you make controversial moves such as Morgan, you and your supporters should not be surprised by opposition, expecially if you alienate opponents with the ability to raise money.

Barnett: try to see Barnes, Calipari rejections as liberating

Ned Barnett at the N&O writes that rejections by Rick Barnes and John Calipari now frees NC State to bring in an up and coming coach:

Now State is free to take a better course. It can hire someone who is young, promising and intent on making a name instead of being one.

To those Pack fans who want a return to the stature of coaches past:

Now it's time, they say, for a coach with the spark and the recruiting connections to electrify State basketball like it was in the days of Jim Valvano, Norm Sloan and Everett Case.
But those coaches became famous college coaches at State. They didn't bring fame with them.

Though I'm not a State fan, I would have loved seeing Barnes or Calipari in the ACC. State made the attempt, but couldn't pull it off. State can still hire a great coach, but may have to be willing and patient enough to see that greatness grow over time. It's a gamble, but looks like the more realistic course to follow.

Snakeskin boots to make a comeback?

Burmese pythons love the Florida Everglades climate. A Florida legislator has introduced a bill to place the mammoth snakes on the state's regulated reptile list. Among other provisions, people caught turning the snake loose could face jail time. Many pet owners have released the python into Florida's Everglades after becoming overwhelmed by the size. Burmese pythons can easily grow longer than 10 feet. While capable of killing humans, the most immediate concern is the python's ability to prey upon fragile animal species in the Everglades. Wildlife experts say the snakes are breeding as well in the giant Florida bog.

A Davidson College biology professor and student are part of a team that is studying how to remove the snakes from the Everglades. They inserted tracking devices into four snakes caught in the swamp late last year.

Tracking them is fine, but it may be hard to extract them without some killing. I wouldn't want this problem to get farther along if I lived in Florida. Bring the snakeskin boot into fashion. Buy a matching jacket too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Totten's ride to Iraq through Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan

It sounds like a crazy idea, but it makes for a great read. Michael J. Totten is posting in installments of his trip across Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan. I've come back everyday to read more. His writing talent impresses. I've linked to part 3, there are links to parts 1 and 2 at the top of the post.

Ukraine and Russia; the Holmodor

Anne Applebaum writes of her recent sit down with Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko. The investigation into who poisoned him before the '04 election has stalled. Apparently, the Russians won't hand over key witnesses.

There is at least a facade of attempting to come to terms with some past grievances, especially the famine of '32-33. Stalin and the Soviets created a famine to starve Ukrainians and implement the collectivization of farms. Called the Holmodor by Ukrainians, the death toll officially stands at 4.8 million. Some estimate the numbers may be between 5 and 10 million. Also called the Black Famine, Ukrainians faced the death penalty for offenses such as hording grain, not properly feeding livestock and stealing a lump of coal. Even 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia denies any systematic plan for killing Ukrainians existed. It doesn't sound like Russia is ready to come to terms with one of the dark moments of its past.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Jackson Browne: for me it all stopped with Running on Empty

I recently downloaded a couple of tunes from Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty," the title cut and "You Love the Thunder." In high school, I bought the vinyl soon after release and it quickly became a favorite. A bold concept too, releasing all new material on a live album. A performance so tight and clean, you wouldn't know he recorded it live until you heard the applause.

A casual Browne fan before the album, I expected to be hooked. For whatever reason, his later material never inspired to go the record store. Still, I never tire of listening to "Running on Empty." David Lindley's lap steel playing is matchless. Every tune is about some aspect of being on the road with the rock and roll tour. Songs about riding the bus and even more nefarious topics as evidenced by "Cocaine," not the Clapton version, and "Rosie." (Scroll down the link to read the lyrics.) Never have caught Browne's live act, the recorded version will have to do, which is fine by me.

WRAL: Calipari says no to Pack

Apparently John Calipari doesn't want to trade Memphis BBQ for eastern NC style. WRAL reports that NC State offered its hoops coaching job to Calipari, but Memphis countered with a raise and he decided to stay put.

Nifong's forum appearance puzzling

The Durham Herald-Sun and WRAL take slightly different angles in covering Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong's appearance at a forum at North Carolina Central today, both good reads. During the forum , the DA announced that the Duke lacrosse investigation continues.

According to the H-S, Nifong asked to be placed on the panel Monday night. Why would he feel the need to address the forum to assure them that the investigation conintued? In the news footage I saw, Nifong handled himself well, but you could tell his answers did not satisfy all those in attendance. I don't see how this helps if he truly believes he can bring charges of sexual assault against Duke lacrosse players.

DNA evidence has exonorated people convicted in NC. It's hard to see how it can be refuted in a case where no one has been charged. If the DA believes he still has the evidence to bring charges, it looks like it would be more prudent if he took it behind closed doors, considering his side suffered, at best, a near fatal blow when DNA evidence from the players could not be found. On the other hand, Nifong may already sit astride a tiger and he dare not dismount.

The H-S article reports that DC attorney Bob Bennett, brother of Bill, and at various times lawyer for Bill Clinton, Enron and Judith Miller, is representing the Committee for Fairness to Duke Families, which includes some of Duke's big contributors.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bonds and the Bambino; I won't be celebrating

One week into the '06 season and Barry Bonds is no closer to passing Babe Ruth than he was on opening today. I heard some buzz today on his anemic start to the season, batting about .167 and no homers. Kornheiser and Wilbon declared his career in decline today on PTI.

I've never fretted about the eclipsing of sports records. As long as the games are played, athletes will have their marks passed. It's a part of the game. Bonds approaching ascension as homerun king has changed that. I really hate to see him pass Ruth and threaten Hank Aaron's all-time mark. The steroids cloud bothers me, but Bonds's self-pitying press conferences turn me off the most. He's just not approaching the record like a man, at least in my book. Not even a tip of the hat to the greatness of Babe, as far as I know.

Even if Bonds caught Ruth straight up, there will never be another Babe Ruth. He is the father of the homerun. Before Ruth, the long ball was an insignificant part of the game. For instance, in 1918 Ruth led the AL with 11 HRs while splitting time between the mound and outfield for the Red Sox. After going to the New York, the Yanks lived and died by Ruth's output. He wasn't a choirboy either. He missed a third of the '22 season for a series of suspensions, this one the most entertaining:

In May, he threw dirt in an umpire's eyes, took off after a heckler in the stands, and when the crowd booed him, he stood on the dugout roof shaking his fist and yelling, "You're all yellow!" Once again he was suspended.

My fascination with Ruth intensified two summers ago while roaming the lobby of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. Ruth came to town a few times and stayed there. They have a couple of pictures hanging on the wall. In one Ruth is standing with San Antonio's minor league team. He towered over them, the tallest player may have reached Ruth's shoulders. He was a baseball giant in all ways. Sadly, he ended life as a pariah among the baseball leadership, never getting a managing job he wanted badly.

Bonds will heat up enough to pass the Sultan of Swat, but for the first time, I'll begrudge a player moving up a notch on a record list.

Federal judge may halt NC execution; wants guarantee of unconsciousness

A federal judge said he will stop the state's scheduled April 21 execution of Willie Brown unless the it can assure it will keep him unconscious during his lethal injection. The state has until Wednesday to show it meets US District Judge Malcolm Howard's standards.

This is an interesting case. It sounds reasonable that a person be unconscious at the time of lethal injection. On the other hand, how can the state guarantee that a prisoner will remain unconscious as the procedure takes place? The N&R story quotes the head of a state association of anesthesiologists who says the judge's ruling will require an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist to be on hand at executions. A California execution was halted earlier this year when doctors declined to participate after a similar ruling by a federal judge.

Where would a ruling by Howard to halt Brown's execution lead? Suppose doctors or nurses fitting the judge's criteria refuse to participate? Is it in the best interest of the state for them to obstruct a verdict reached by a jury? In performing executions, it is important that they be conducted humanely as possible, including keeping a prisoner unconscious during the procedure. However, I think it will be hard to guarantee unconsciousness, which may make it an unreasonbale standard. It looks like this issue may wind up on a future Supreme Court docket.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cyrus, the Persians and western benevolence coming to the big screen

For those interested in reaching back about 2,500 years in time, Regime Change Iran links to a video clip on Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. Cyrus was one of the first conqerors who chose not to slaughter his defeated opponents. In fact, he showed devotion to their customs. Work is underway on film documentary of Cyrus and a British filmmaker has announced plans to produce a feature-length movie on the ruler. Entertaining clip for those who love history.

Seven-foot "turkesaur" roamed Utah

The announcement this week of the discovery of fossils a new dinosaur made me appreciate the educational value of travel. The reptile, hagryphus giganteus, is believed to resemble a seven-foot turkey. Based on this despriction, I'm glad I don't have to worry about coming across it:

Oviraptors had simple feathers, winglike arms, powerful legs, long claws, and powerful, toothless beaks for shearing through food.

What caught my attention the most is the discovery of the species in Utah. Unexpectedly, I learned last summer that Utah has been a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils. For the past few summers I've helped chaperone groups of high school students on a tour of the West. On one leg of the trip we stopped for lunch in Price, UT. Another chaperone and I decided to skip lunch in favor of a walk downtown. We walked right to the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum. Not a big place, but good displays. The star attraction is the Utahraptor, whose remains were first found in eastern Utah during the 1990s. Love those dino stories.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Julius Hodge suffers gunshot wounds

The N&O has just reported that former NC State and current Denver Nugget basketball player Julius Hodge was shot early this morning on a Denver freeway. Details are sketchy, but Hodge is reported in fair condition and expected to make a full recovery. Hodge won ACC player of the year honors in '04 and had played in 14 games for the Nuggets so far this year.

Blue Jersey

Steven Malanga pens a lengthy piece chronicling the tax woes of New Jersey and the resulting overall woe they have created. Malanga points to powerful public employee unions as the culprit behind the Garden State's fall as the Valhalla of American suburbia, which may be chronic:

In short, it may be that New Jersey, having for years enthusiastically welcomed New York’s residents and jobs, is now watching the Empire State take a measure of revenge as its neighbor settles into a familiar high-tax, low-growth inertia. Jersey has caught a bad case of the blue-state blues.

Some great history, which always sucks me in. Malanga mentions the crime family that inspired the Sopranos. Great read here.

Marines roll in Iraq

Large scale US Marine forces have entered Najaf and the western suburbs of Karbala. The target is the Mahdi Army. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has been smuggled out of Najaf by armed Shi'a tribesmen to guard against his being taken hostage by Sadr's forces. The Mahdi is building military positions inside Karbala.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Coyotes on the prowl in NC

State wildlife experts say that coyotes may be found in all 100 NC counties. No one is sure how they made their way to the state, but some officials believe they may have been introduced by fox hunters who used them for practice.

While many city dwellers may have been charmed by the late Hal, the coyote caught in Central Park last month, these critters are not loveable. Just ask Harnett County cattle farmer Ted Gardner who has lost 30 calves over the last two years to coyotes. Gardner has taken matters into his own hands and now traps the elusive hunters. Also, watch out for your cats which seem to be a tasty item on the menu.

Suicide bombers target SCIRI mosque

According to Iraq the Model, today's suicide bombing at Baghdad's Buratha mosque targeted a Shi'a opponent of Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari. The mosque's preacher, Jalal Addin al-Sagheer, was the first member of SCIRI to publicly call for Jafari to step down from the PM post. Jafari's top supporter is militant Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands his own personal militia, the Mahdi Army.

As usual, this latest attack represents the complicated state of Iraqi politics. Omar at ITM writes that the attack was likely carried out by al Qaeda in its attempt to derail the political process and foment civil war. He speculates further that orders for the attack came from outside Iraq, possibly from Syria or Iran.

Also, Omar writes that a US/Sadr showdown is "imminent" and that today's attack represented an attempt to draw more parties into the conflict. Recent events make a SCIRI alliance with Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shi'as as a realistic way to break the political impasse. The attack may have been intended to make SCIRI think twice about breaking with other religious Shi'a parties who make up the UIA.

How can winning election to Congress top this?

A New Hamsphire congressional candidate survived an automobile accident ordeal in the countryside. Authorities found Gary Dodds dazed and cold, but alive a day after they found his abandoned wrecked car. Dodds, apparently thinking his car was on fire, swam across the Bellamy River and then kept himself warm by covering up with pine needles. Dodds is one several Democrat candidates seeking to unseat a GOP incumbent. The struggle to win a seat in Congress may now seem anticlimatic.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wrestling impostors nabbed in Tehran

I learned this via Samir Mohyeddin, an Iranian blogger living Toronto. Seven men posing as members of Iran's national wrestling team didn't make it out of the country. The men had obtained visas to Hungary where the real team was to participate in a meet. The coach tipped off authorities about the ruse. They couldn't get as lucky as the Iron Sheik. Seriously, it looks like many of Iran's youth want out.

Haven't had much time to sit down

It's been hard lately to get more than 15-20 minutes to sit down at the computer. Thankfully, the distractions have been more pleasant than stressful. Caught up with some friends at Cafe Europa last night. A good night on the patio, but the breeze made me question by decision to go out without a jacket. Lincoln Financial needs to work on the thermometer. As I braced myself against the breeze, the big board in the Greensboro sky read 70 degrees. If you're just down from Philly it might feel like it, but it's not quite summertime yet.

Zarqawi's top aide captured

The US military just announced that it captured Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's top aide in Iraq. American and Iraqi troops captured Abu Ayman last month. Announcement of the capture was not released until DNA tests confirmed Ayman was their man. Ayman masterminded many of the roadside bombings that have occurred in Iraq. The military also released news of the capture after insurgents released a video showing the desecration of a dead body reported to be a member of a helicopter crew that went down last week.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Title time

We're about five minutes from opening tip and I'll hope to do better as I pick one more NCAA tourney game. I struck out Saturday. I'll take UCLA to go 12-1 all time in NCAA championship games.

There may be a fight before there's a new Iraqi government

Omar at Iraq the Model posted this evening and believes the talks on creating a new Iraqi government are deteriorating. He doesn't see the talks breaking down over the structure of the new government, but over sectarian turf. He also reports on Sadrists talking up an offensive if they don't get their way. On the positive side, he sees growing pressure inside the religious Shi'a bloc UIA to move Jafaari aside as prime minister. Good information here.

There's no way a government gets formed if Jafaari refuses to step aside. If Sadr wants to fight, he should not be shown the mercy he received in '04.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Davie County will not be site of Duke nuclear reactor this time

Duke Energy will not apply for a permit to build a nuclear reactor in Davie County. Instead, the company will seek a permit for a site in Cherokee County, SC. The Davie site, located in the southeastern part of the county, will still be under consideration for any future reactor plans.

Carroll repudiates statments made immediately after release

Former hostage Jill Carroll disavowed comments she made immediately after her release earlier this week. She also said she was forced to make a video-taped anti-American statement the night before her release which ended up posted on an Islamist website. Soon after her release, Carroll said she had not been mistreated or threatened by her captors. Today, she had this to say:

"At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times."

Final Four is here

Less than two hours and the '06 Final Four is upon us. It's a final weekend filled with teams no one expected to be there. I've enjoyed the George Mason story. Apparently, others are starting to say enough already. I'm with them all the way. I'd love to see them win. I'll go ahead and take them to top Florida and I'll go with Big Baby and LSU in the nightcap.