Monday, July 31, 2006

Sporty sport sport

A couple of items on the ssssppppoooorrrttttzzzz front that require a bit of commentary:

1. Big-time, colossal, wicked awesome Rangers trade

Yep, it's true. I like the deal Doogie pulled off last week. I would do Choke-o Cordero, Shrek Mench, "Give It To Me, Laynce" Nix, and Julian (No Relation) Cordero for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Even if Lee is only here for two months.

Choke-o wore out his welcome here earlier in the year by setting a major league record for blown saves. He's been up and down since losing his job to Aki Otsuka, and I think he's done. He may rattle around the bigs for a few more years, but I don't think you're going to hear much about him after this.

Kevin Mench is a great guy, hustles his ass off, and has streaks where he just beats the crap out of the ball. But, we've seen all we're gonna see from him. He will end his career as a very average player. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He just wasn't ever going to get much better.

And Laynce Nix? So much potential, which may yet be realized. But the guy just couldn't string any luck together. Moving to a new situation may be just the thing he needed. However, it was hard to see him ever living up the billing here.

Oh, about Julian Cordero? I got nothing. Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better. Never heard of the guy.

And in return we get a legit power hitter in Carlos Lee. A guy who should put the "feared" adjective back into the Rangers line-up. I hope Doogie can resign him, but that's not even the point.

To me, the point is this: You gave up essentially nothing (Mench is a little something, but not much) for Nelson Cruz. This guy has the potential to be a HUGE star. Keep an eye on him.

We would also be remiss if we didn't mention the hustle we've seen from Doogie. You know, this time last year, I wasn't sure telephone lines had made it out to the Temple. No one there seemed to be using a phone, so I just assumed, you know? Thank you, Doogie, for proving me wrong. Even if Eaton bombs and Lee bolts, you still get an A in my book for this year.

2. Cowboy camp opens

The fatality rate on Dallas-area freeways is sure to skyrocket, as the Pear-Shaped Football Genius puts drivers all over the Metroplex to sleep with his circle-jerk press conferences. They ought to pipe those damn things into the cells down in Gitmo, except the ACLU would probably go nuts about the cruelty being shown to those poor jihadists. And they'd be right. What a time waste.

And, for the record, I still wish failure on this team. I like my chances to get it, too.

We don't know how it's gonna end, but neither does Iran

Michael Slackman's piece in yesterday's NYT (available on the free online edition - thanks for that, Grey Lady) is worth a read. His point - the current hostilities in Lebanon and Israel offer huge opportunity and huge risk for all involved. And that includes the Iranians.

I don't know about you, but I tend to think of the other guys, whether it was the Commies in the bad old days, or the Iranians and Chinese today, as smarter than the nincompoops in DC. Take a look at who's been running our foreign policy since Kissinger, and you might see why I think that.

While there might be some truth to it, I keep reminding myself the other guys are not necessarily geniuses either.

Slackman writes that the Iranians have some real doubts about the outcome. If Hezbollah is destroyed (unlikely) or seriously diminished (highly likely) as a fighting force, Iran loses one of it's principal deterrents vis-a-vis Israel. Think about it: Israel might hesitate to go after Iran if a strong Hezbollah is sitting just to the north. But, with no (or much less) Hezbollah, what can Iran really do to Israel in an open conflict? Launch some missiles of questionable range and accuracy, and that's about it. They can't launch a ground attack, at least not easily, as there are two countries in the way (one of which is crawling w/ American troops, btw). Iran's Air Force and their ancient F-14s would get routed by the IAF, one of the most efficient, experienced, well-armed, and well-trained Air Forces in the world.

And maybe the US would like to see Iran's proxy armies (a.k.a. Hamas and Hezbollah) get taken down a notch or seven. Reducing Iran's ability to project force is always a good thing if you're sitting in DC, regardless of whether you buy your grandkids stuffed elephants or stuffed donkeys at Christmas.

What about the West's ability to create some distance between Syria and Iran? Perhaps Big Dorky Bashar would be more willing to listen to the US/Egyptian/Jordanian/Saudi pitch if the 500,000 Palestinian martyr-wannabes in the neighborhood were thinned out a bit?

Long and short - Arab leaders are NOTORIOUS for stepping on their own weenies when it really counts. Petty jealousies, nepotism- (and other-) related incompetence, hubris, and cowardice have all caused colossal errors in Arab and Persian perceptions and actions in recent history. Believing all of that has been righted and won't happen ever again is asking too much.

All this is not to say, "Oh, no worries. The Arabs will f%$# it up again." It's just meant to give us a bit of hope, and to remind us that perhaps it's not so dark out there.

Geography the AQ way

Omar from Iraq The Model writes about the latest missive from Ayman al-Zawahiri and the nutty geography lesson contained within.

Al-Zawahiri, as usual, keeps the focus on Iraq. Clearly, AQ is targeting Iraq as the center of their new, party-all-the-time Caliphate, and this time al-Zawahiri is gobbing off about it's proximity to Israel as a big selling point.

Omar points out, as would anyone with access to a map, that Syria is quite a bit closer to Israel than Iraq is, and is actually in between the two. Further, Omar makes two additional points:

1. Syria shares a bit of border with Israel (in fact, Israel has occupied Syrian territory - the Golan Heights - since they took it in 1967's Six Day War).

2. Syria's giraffe-necked "President", Bashar al-Assad, is supposedly an ally of AQ.

Given all of this, wouldn't you expect Syria to be the spot to launch the Emirate? Wouldn't it be, like, more cost effective than fighting the US, the Shiites, the Kurds, and who-knows-who-else for Iraq?

Hmm, maybe Syria isn't quite as in-the-pocket as AQ and Iran might like? Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but wouldn't you LOVE to be a fly on the wall when Condi Rice uses her anonymous Wal-Mart calling card to ring a payphone next to the falafel stand on Hafez Blvd in Damascus, where a long-necked, big-eared dude in a fake Bedouin robe and Groucho glasses waits to answer?

I would!

Bloggy quick hit: Just in case you forgot...

An interesting little reminder from Glenn Reynolds: Terrorism is interested in you.

Major circus fun

Took the fam to circus on Saturday night, and I have to stop down a give some quick love to those Ringling boys.

They bill themselves as the "Greatest Show on Earth", and that may be going a BIT too far. What the heck, though; I'm all for hyperbole in advertising. It helps me keep things in perspective.

Regardless, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is one amazing show. Two full hours of just non-stop great stuff. Singing, dancing, clown skits, astounding acrobatics of all sorts, people shooting out of cannons (without helmets, might I add), animals out the kazoo, and on and on and on.

Aly (our eight-year-old) has been to the circus before, so she sorta knew what to expect. Even so, she was laughing and clapping and basically glued the entire time.

Drew (our five-year-old) was seeing everything for the first time. He was so excited, he literally could not sit still. It helps that he's currently enthralled by elephants, and our seats were good enough to almost touch the dozen or so elephants performing.

It ain't cheap, and the onslaught of questionable (although, I have to say, better quality than I remember as a kid) souvenirs is daunting. But, if you're looking for a once-a-year, fabulous night of family entertainment, I do recommend those Ringling boys (and girls) to you.

Work and play - the recipe for balance

Brad Feld posted a really good one the other day: "My Work is Play to Me". If you really love what you're doing, Brad says, it's not difficult to redefine what's "work" and what's "play".

This same thought has been buzzing around the fringes of my little brain recently as well. I love what I do - when I'm at a client site and working directly with people, hell, I'd do that part for free (Note to INS brass if you're reading this: I'm just making a point. I'm not asking for a pay cut.).

The part that is "work" to me is the travel. And it's getting to be more "work" all the time. If, as Robynne and I discussed last week, I can do something about that part, then I'm a little closer to the kind of balance Brad seems to have, which is a pretty good goal to have.

Quiet in the tropics - for now

Strangely absent from national news is the lack of any significant weather in the tropics. According to our pals at StormTrack, there's not much to note at the moment - a fizzling wave of instability in the Atlantic and a big thunderstorm coming off the African continent which may or may not develop further.

So far this season, we've had two named storms (Alberto and Beryl), neither of which made it to hurricane status, and neither of which did much, if any, damage.

Big contrast to last year, which saw 7 named storms before the end of July, including Hurricanes Dennis and Emily - two all-timers in their own right.

Let's hope it holds - "real" hurricane season is just starting now.

UPDATE: Just as soon as I say it, here comes a post with the headline "Activity Increasing". Figures. Just for the record, I will not be washng either vehicle this weekend, so the drought in North Texas will probably continue.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A bit of family-fun genius

My 5-year-old would go friggin' BANANAS at this place. It may be worth a trip to the UK just to take him there.

Which super-hero are you?

I don't know where the heck Keith finds this stuff, but here's a really good one: Take this quiz and find out which super-hero you most resemble.

It turns out I'm Spider-Man - witty, a bit geeky and have great power and responsibility

Beirut destroyed? Depends on who you ask

We've been all-Israel, all-the-time here lately, which was never my intention. However, the coverage of Israeli operations in Lebanon has been driving me crazy for the past week, and I just can't help myself.

Today's lesson in media objectivity: MSNBC and Newsweek have an article entitled "Torn to Shreds" and an accompanying photo essay they call "Hell on Earth". Very dramatic. Lots of pictures of death, blood, and destruction, esp in Beirut and southern Lebanon. Looking at these pictures, you'd think the entire country has been blown into the Stone Age.

On NPR a bit ago, I heard the Lebanese are claiming Israel's campaign has set the country back 50 years, and that the damage from the past week and a half may be more severe than all the damage done in Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

Please contrast all that doom and gloom w/ this article from Vital Perspective, which relays CNN hotshot Anderson Cooper's perspective on his Hezbollah-guided tour of Beirut and southern Lebanon, and includes a map illustrating precisely what Israel has hit in Beirut.

Let's all sing the song from Sesame Street together now: One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.

UPDATE: A bit more info from Vital Perspective on what's really getting blown up in Beirut and environs. Again, this is not what you're seeing on the network newscasts.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friedman: Hezbollah has really screwed the pooch this time

VERY interesting column from Big Smart Tom Friedman in today's DMN. Of course, it's property of the NYT, so you can't read it online unless you've shelled out the dough for TimeSelect (my opinion of which has been made clear before).

Go read your copy of the DMN today, or get raped by the Grey Lady. Get your hands on this column.

Friedman's point is: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been lauded over the years as a visionary Arab leader. However, lately he's shown his true colors, which seem to indicate that he's just another Big Muslim Dummy.

Hezbollah had been making some progress. They had a couple of guys in the Lebanese parliament, they had a fairly stable state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon, and their little buddies from Hamas were actually elected to govern the Palestinian territories.

They (Hezbollah and Hamas) have thrown it all away, and in the process, have severely, and maybe permanently, damaged the whole concept of Arab democracy. Islamist parties were making some headway in the political process, but how on Earth are Israel and the West going to feel about free elections when freely elected Arab governments are launching missiles at civilians and kidnapping soldiers of other nations?

Fascist regimes like the Saudis should be sending Nasrallah a big Thank You bouquet from ProFlowers.

Friedman goes on to conject (is that a word?) about the end-game between Israel and it's friendly neighbors. This could be, Friedman opines, the chance to create some distance between Syria and Iran. Unlikely, to be sure, but tantalizing enough that I sincerely hope the Big Washington Dummies are at least thinking about it.

Go read it, if you can.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel vs. Hezbollah – Don't cry for me, Lebanon

I’ve stayed away from commenting on the Middle East recently for the usual reason: People who know way more than I do are covering the heck out of it, and there’s no need to add my silly opinion to the din.

However, today’s headlines have touched a nerve, and I find myself unable to contain myself any longer.

The MSNBC article is headlined, “Unimaginable losses”, and it tells us about Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora’s moaning about how badly the fighting has torn southern Lebanon apart. His Honor went on to inform us Lebanon will seek compensation from Israel for the damage.

Fuad, baby. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: If your country had asserted it’s sovereignty over southern Lebanon and had thrown out the de facto Hezbollah state, Israel would not be blowing stuff up there right now. However, retaining possession of the area was not important enough to you then. So, how do you now claim the need for compensation? The area basically did not belong to you, and you made no efforts to change that fact.

Sorry, dude. It’s too late. Hezbollah is firing missiles willy-nilly from what may or may not be Lebanese territory. They’ve been blasting away at all of northern Israel, regardless of whether they’re killing Jews or Arabs. This is not a tolerable situation for ANY nation-state. If you (the Lebanese govt) are not going to do anything about it, and clearly you are not, then Israel will have to do it themselves.

Believe me, I know Stephen Colbert-style “truthiness” is part of the job description for diplomats, but sometimes the BS just gets too thick to ignore.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is Oil at the Tipping Point?

Newsweek's Robert Samuelson, he of the rolled-up shirtsleeve and rumpled tie, has an article in this week's issue that poses the question: Are oil prices finally going to put a dent in the US economy?

The answer is: Maybe. Maybe not. No one really knows.

No kidding. I could have told you that. And it would have saved you the trouble of picking up all those subscription cards that fall out of your copy of Newsweek.

Here's a real newsflash for you, folks. The field of economics has a lot more to do with psychology than it does with numbers. Why does anything have value? Because enough people think it does.

Gold? It's a shiny mineral that looks great on women and doesn't tarnish. Aluminum could fit that description too, but it's not as valuable, because enough people perceive it to be less valuable.

Cash money? It's only paper, dude. Oh sure, it's backed by the issuing country, but that only helps people believe it's got value. Just because Uncle Sam is behind that greenback in your wallet doesn't force you to believe in it's worth. It might, depending on your political inclinations, detract from your belief in it's worth.

What about oil? Maybe a little tougher to dismiss oil's intrinsic value. Certainly, before the advent of the internal combustion engine, oil was laying around in pools all over the place, essentially worthless except for kerosene and a few other derivatives.

But for the modern economy, is oil "essential"? Couldn't we, if we REALLY had to, find other ways to power our societies? Sure, we could. It wouldn't be easy to change over, and there would be other trade-offs (more cost, more pollution, more risk, etc), but it could be done.

The psychology of this whole thing is fascinating to me. As oil prices get higher, I wait for the "realization" to hit - oil is more expensive, so the economy must be worse, right? And, voila, the economy is worse.

I know how New Age, Tony Robbins-y it sounds, but a bit of positivity (whatever) would sure go a long way here.

Heat wave across US causes media to go into hyperbole overdrive

Most of the US is blanketed by a heat wave and the media hysteria has reached about Force 8 or so.

Terms like "searing heat", "baking temperatures", and "soaring mercury" appear on front pages across the nation. Despite the warm up for WWIII taking place in Lebanon, "Summer Scorcher" will probably lead all the network newscasts this afternoon.

Now I know how New Englanders feel when they read about us weenies in Texas freezing our patoots off when the temp dips below 20 degrees.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rockin' Mongol party

Mongolia is celebrating the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan's empire.

This is an example of a country and society that peaked pretty early. But what a peak it was.

Book your flights to Ulaan Bataar now, as I'm sure the hotels (such as they are) are filling rapidly.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Anti-war hunger strike - oh PLEASE!

I meant to blog this earlier in the week:

A group of anti-war activists started a hunger strike to protest US involvement in Iraq. While most of the strikers gave up food just for the day on July 4, some, including Cindy Sheehan, have stated they will continue until US troops are pulled out completely.

I have no real problem with the anti-war crowd. I think they make some legitimate points and I'm in sympathy with many of them. However, this is ridiculous.

Bobby Sands and a few other Irish Republicans kind of set the standard for hunger strikes back in 1981. Unless you're prepared to go the distance, don't waste our time with this drivel.

FBI Disrupts Alleged NYC Plot

The FBI has disrupted a potential plot to blow up transportation infrastructure in New York City. The plan, which was reportedly disrupted early in the formulation stages, called for attacks on tunnels in and out of Manhattan.

This plot was cracked by FBI agents monitoring chat rooms used by extremists. I guarantee the agents didn't type "Islamic extremist chat room" into Google.

Instead, this find is right out of Echelon. No one is ever going to say it publicly, but I'd bet you one billion dollars that's where it started.

Still think the NSA is an evil agency? Are you really sure the intelligence agencies should not be monitoring communications?

Man secrets

Thanks to Geeding for this one.

OK, it's from Redbook, which is generally not an authoritative source on manliness. However, I've read thru it and really can't argue with any of it.

Here are 11 secrets all men keep from their wives. I especially like #7: Every year we love you more.

I don't know about you, but I often feel like that 4-year-old clutching my father's pant leg.

I totally don't get fashion

The North Face is selling replica Soviet athletic wear.

Which part of the gone-and-not-missed-one-bit Soviet Union are we romanticizing? The Gulag? Collectivization? The Prague Spring?

How soon we forget...

A bad weekend in Israel?

Vital Perspective and MediaLine are reporting that Israel has increased security throughout the country. Apparently, the Israelis believe as many as 20 separate terrorist attacks are possible, many against public transportation.

Just stop for a minute and think about that.

You're trying to plan out your weekend's worth of errands and entertainment - the wife wants some new handtowels, you've been meaning to get a new soaker hose for the garden, and you want to take the kids to see "Cars". But, you know there are 20 dudes running around with Semtex Underoos on, and they're all trying to kill as many civilians as they can.

Would you even leave the house? Ever?

I don't know how the Israelis do it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

For all you soccer fans out there

I tried. I really tried to get into the World Cup this year. However, a truly awful performance by the US team, and an unexpected surge by the French team, doomed my efforts almost before they started.

I have, instead, turned my back on soccer like never before. Which permits me to appreciate the genius that is this site.

Go. Enjoy. "World game," my patootie.

Gaza reveals Palestinian agenda

We're posting very selectively here at CIT right now, but this one deserves notice in any circumstance.

Charles Krauthammer has an essay in next week's Time magazine which is stunning in it's simple hypothesis: The Israelis vacated Gaza about a year ago. What have the Palestinians done in that time? Built schools? Laid the foundations of a functioning society? Gone peacefully about their lives? No, no, and no.

Instead of these noble pursuits, Palestinians in Gaza have launched over 1,000 rockets into Israel (across the pre-1967 border, no less), dug tunnels under the border to facilitate ambushes and kidnappings, and generally kept up the violence as if nothing had occurred to deter it.

Please stop insisting the Palestinians just want their own, peaceful state in which they intend to raise their children and live their lives.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ken Lay is dead

This almost knocked me out of my chair this morning: Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron and frequent subject of abuse in this blog, is dead.

I have called Lay all sorts of nasty names, and have truly wished some bad stuff upon him, but I certainly never hoped for his death. There are probably a lot of people who are not going to be sorry to see him go, but I am not one of them. Jail - yes. Eternal Reward - no.

CIT expresses our condolences to his family, who have already been thru the wringer, and our hopes that Kenny Boy can satisfactorily explain his wrongdoing to his Maker.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke

Happy Birthday, George. I love seeing your overpriced bunch of whiners get clobbered, and 19-1 by CLE on Steinbrenner's 76th is just too sweet.