Monday, April 30, 2007
Amaker didn't and wouldn't fit that bill. Harvard senses an opportunity in the Ivy League with Princeton basketball (which along with Penn has dominated league play) in transition. Harvard has never made the commitment to hire a big time men's basketball coach like Amaker. Amaker, a classy leader, should fit right in, perhaps the trail blazed by John Thompson III from the Ivy League to a major conference job to the Final Four is a path Ammaker believes he can follow.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Automated answering services...
the ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
Hello. You have reached the offices of the Israeli government. Congratulations on having a telephone. If you are calling for the Likud Party, press 1-9-7-7. If you are calling for the Labor Party, press 1-9-9-3. If you are calling for one of the religious parties, remember they do not answer on the Sabbath, and don't make sense anyway. If you are in favor of territorial compromise, press 1-9-6-7. If you are in favor of retaining all of the territories, press 1000 B-C-E. If you wish to speak to a civil servant, don't get your hopes up.
the BOARD OF RABBIS
"Hello. You have reached the office of the Board of Rabbis. If you are Orthodox, press 1. If you are Conservative, press 1 or 2. If you are Reform, press any button you like. If you are Reconstructionist, press all the buttons. Please hold while I transfer your call."
(1) Hello. You have reached the Orthodox rabbi. The answer to your question is that it is forbidden by the Torah.
(2) Hello. You have reached the Conservative rabbi. The answer to your question is that we have ruled that either answer is acceptable to some of us and neither answer is acceptable to all of us. We hope this has been helpful.
(3) Hello. You have reached the Reform rabbi. The answer to your question is: if you want to, sure, why not? Who are we to say?
(4) Hello. You have reached the Reconstructionist rabbi. The answer to your question presumes there is an answer to your question. However, my role is to empower you to answer your own question. To answer your own question, please hang up now.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
This is the core of what has made baseball great, its utter unpredictability on so many scales. It is a narrative writ large and small, and larger and smaller. From the confrontation of each pitch and each at-bat, to the story of every game, every series and each team's season. The Clarion didn't even tell you about the beanballs that were flying in this Royals-Twins game.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
All the pressure is on Dallas. Golden State will go small and likely win some games. Thanks to Don Nelson they know the Mavs style inside and out. And how’s about Nellie? The Clarion had left him for dead, again. And what about Baron Davis being a star. Jason Richardson? As for Steven Jackson we'll let Bill Simmons say it, "he caused the fading Pacers to make one of the worst deals of the decade because they were so desperate to dump him; he turned his career around by embracing NellieBall, even giving point guard a whirl for a few games (now that was a sight); and if that's not enough, the fact that he's living in Oakland doubles as the most dangerous running subplot in sports right now that doesn't involve Pacman Jones."
Golden State has done well against the Mavs head to head this year, 3 and 0. They will not win this series. There is too much talent in Dallas. Starting with Nowitski and Josh Howard. But Nellie and the aptly named battlers from NorCal will get a couple from his former employer Mark Cuban. Don’t understand why people are all over Nowitski for MVP, once again Bill Simmons says it best, "his 2007 stats ranked behind Larry Bird's best nine seasons, Charles Barkley's best 10 seasons and Karl Malone's best 11 seasons. Nowitzki's shooting percentages were remarkable (50 percent on field goals, 90 percent on free throws, 42 percent on 3-pointers), but his relevant averages (24.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists) look like a peak season from Tom Chambers. He can't affect games unless he's scoring, doesn't make his teammates better and plays decent defense at best. If you're giving the MVP to someone because of his offense, he'd better be a killer offensive player. You can't say that about the 2007 Dirk Nowitzki."
As for the
Phoenix Suns-LA Lakers
Kobe. Kobe. Kobe. So many points, Bob MacAdoo would be proud. But the other Lakers, they stand around and they watch Kobe. Odom and Walton have potential, but rarely get to show it. Unlike a brief midseason stretch where Los Angeles tried to execute the triangle offense, in this series the Clarion believes they will gawk as Kobe goes one on one. Kobe, he will have one 60 point plus game, and probably, one quarter where he pouts after getting criticized and doesn't shoot at all. This year the Suns have Amare Stoudemire. They also have Kurt Thomas, an underrated, hard nose player, with skills that once led the NCAA in scoring when he was a TCU Horned Frog. The Clarion is rooting for Nash to win the NBA championship this year. Aye, the wee Canadian, why not? Phil Jackson is an excellent coach and will devise a plan to make it tough on the Suns, but Phoenix has so many pieces that fit so well together. They will outscore the Lakers, who don’t have the big guys to match the pace of Stoudemire, Marion and Thomas. Suns in five.
The Clarion's early Finals pick: Phoenix versus Detroit; and an epic seven game series decided late in Game 7.
San Antonio Spurs vs. the Denver Nuggets
Coach Popovich of the Spurs made sure his starters played limited minutes per game for big stars. See Ginobilli 27.5 minutes per and Duncan averaging 20pts and 10rbs per game, but only playing low 30’s minutes, same for the venerable Bruce Bowen 82 games at age 35 but only 30 minutes per ...versus the Nuggets with huge minutes for the Nuggets stars A.I. 42 minutes plus and ‘Melo over 38 minutes per. Iverson is a freak. Won't be seen again, 165lbs or 74.8kg and over 41 minutes per game for his whole 747 game career. How many hard fouls has he taken? Hey, they are both true stars. Iverson is the toughest guy in the league. He and 'Melo, they both can get their own shots and score. Who can D them up? Bowen, the Spurs all defensive rock, is too short to D-up Anthony and too slow to D-up A.I. Who can Ginobilli cover? Will J.R. Smith or Marcus Camby show and up and make a big contribution for the Nuggets? It says here, if the Spurs are to win, they will have to out score the Nuggets. The Spurs led the league in point differential, plus over 8 points per contest, but they will not be able to shut down the Nuggets. The Clarion is picking the shocker here! The one team that made a deadline deal gets a payoff and upsets the Spurs. The Spurs have won theirs, for now, maybe forever, no more rings for Duncan and Parker this year. Unless Big Shot Bob wanting an 11th ring pulls it out single handledly.
Moving to series two...
Houston Rockets-Utah Jazz
Houston is led by their stars. McGrady had an MVP type year, though he won't get it. Yao had great year when he was healthy, a great scorer and rebounder, he shoots his free throw really well. The Rockets also have the gritty Shane Battier. The toughest intensity and most consistent focus in the league, he makes all kinds of helpful plays. People dog McGrady for not having gotten out of the first round of the playoffs. But this year, in addition to having home court, he has the best supporting group of his career. It should be noted, however, that there is not a lot of positive playoff history on the roster, example, key part Battier has never won a playoff game in his career.
Utah, what do we know about them? How did they win 51 games? What happened to Kirilenko? Aren’t they playing him out of position? So they can play Mehmet Okur? At the Clarion we can’t get it out of our heads that Boozer sucks. He's a stiff, nu? How can Boozer be good? We watched him his whole career at Duke. This is why he sucks. Deron Williams, Utah’s point guard, is the real deal. He has a huge match-up edge on his opposite number, Rafer Alston. Utah beat Houston at home this year by out executing them down the stretch, this according to Houston's own Coach Van Gundy. But McGrady is likely to be handling the ball down the stretch now, if the Jazz double him, can the Rockets score with Yao rolling to the basket? Or from spot up three point shooters? (Deron Williams former back court mate at Illinois, Luther Head, toils for the Rockets.)
The Clarion sees this series as a coin flip. Could go either way. Houston would do well to play with the series lead, opening at home, without a lot of players who have had success in the playoffs. If they advance, the Rockets could gain confidence and become a dangerous team. McGrady is a prodiguous talent and by all accounts a genuine team player, plus Battier’s unselfishness, plus an excellent coach in Van Gundy, plus a legit’ big guy, in Yao. If Utah wins this series, they will be gone from the second round in no more than five games. Thanks for coming, despite Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan. (Utah needs to trade one of their bigs for a two guard this off season.)
Likewise the Pistons-Magic is also likely to be absent of much drama. The Pistons with the addition of former University of Michigan unindicted co-conspirator Chris Webber look likely to contend for the Eastern Conference championship. Replacing aging, Ben Wallace with the terrific passer Webber might be addition by subtraction. However, despite being surround by talent when he was a Wolverine and then later as an official paid employee for the Sacramento Kings, Webber has never won it all. Pistons Coach Flip Saunders is not a champion, yet, either. None of this will matter against Orlando. The Pistons won't lose more than a game or two, tops. It will be fun to watch Dwight Howard's first appearance in the playoffs. What's the limit on his upside? The Clarion hasn't seen enough to say. Bill Simmons keep saying that Al Jefferson of Boston has outplayed Howard in the second half of the year...from his MVP selection column.
• Jefferson: 19.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 56 percent shooting.
• Howard: 17.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 62 percent shooting.
Another story on the Orlando roster is Grant Hill. Hill is possibly the biggest woulda, coulda, shoulda, story in all of sport over the last twenty five years. Since he tore up his ankle he has never been the same, it is amazing he is still in the league. It won't be enough to slow Detroit.
Isaiah has done a solid job making draft picks with mid-round selections. Even so, this year’s lottery pick is gone! Eddie Curry is a good scoring center, but a soft defender and a poor rebounder. Could the Clarion possibly see a starting front court of David Lee (uber rebounding, hustling, garbage man) and Channing Frey alongside Curry making it to the playoffs?? Not with Steve Francis and Stephon Starbury in the backcourt. Unfortunately, their contracts are untradable. We agree with Dolan’s contention that in a lot of ways last year, under carpetbagger, negativist inconoclast, Larry Brown was a wasted year. We know that all around tool shed Dave Checketts was who screwed this thing up to begin with, terrible draft picks, the Ewing debacle, the Allan Houston deal. The Clarion heard on WFAN that Checketts was recently whining the the Garden didn't give him enough free tickets to a hockey game. Awwwwww.
However. Be all that as it may be, in the Knicks' now; there is so much dead weight on the payroll. The Knicks' young guys include no guards better than NBA back-ups, Crawford is not good enough to start for contender. He would be excellent as the third guard to back up both spots. But the Knicks are not contenders, they plan to build around a soft center. How with no salary cap room? Where to then? Isaiah? Mr. Dolan? The high side expectations, the highest hopes Knicks's fans can have is first round playoff losses. Which is tough drafting, coupled with several years of being capped out and without enough offense. They can cut Francis loose the way they did with Jalen Rose, but fat lot of good that will do them.
There is too much young talent in the East. Detroit. Washington. Cleveland. Toronto. When is Lebron a free agent?
The Clarion has no love for either of these franchises. We have had running friendly wagers against the Nets since about 1985. We have also had a long standing dislike of the Colangelo family, which increased substantially when they shadily bought a World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. Of all years this was the World Series the Yankees should have won, after the miracle comebacks to take a 3-2 lead. It was not supposed to be the Diamondbacks with hired guns Schilling and Johnson. They were so deep in the hole, fiscally, that MLB’s central office had to loan them $70 million in the middle of the season. This after the Colangelo’s had overpaid for these free agents that their franchise's revenue stream couldn’t justify. This after they worked over the local authorities to get their original stadium deal. All arranged by the father, Baseball has prostituted the World Series and the pimps have come out. (see the Marlins ) The Colangelo son, Bryan, has moved on to manage the Raptors. The Clarion has carried the grudge forward. However, we have to admit Bryan has done a stupendous job of player personnel acquisition, as Knicks fans, we can only envy his work.
Anyhow, so, Raptors-Nets, we’re intrigued, but have no rooting interest. This is the series where Game One is most important. The inexperienced Raptors get behind 1-0 or worse 2-0 in this series against the battle tested Nets, and they’re done. If the Nets lose who will have failed in the clutch? Which of their stars? Will infighting, finger pointing and blame assigning start?
As Game One has unfolded the Raptors were within three points with two minutes to go in the second quarter, but they let the Nets run off a big spurt to end the half. Why is it that young teams always have such trouble closing a quarter or a half? They haven’t threatened in the third quarter. Vince Carter is being booed every touch, and shooting lousy. It hasn’t hurt the Nets. Kidd and Jefferson are carrying them, and the Raptors look nervous.
The next game is the Bulls-Heat, a rematch of a first round series that went six games last year. The Bulls said they wanted the defending champion Heat again. Well that is nice bravado, but a dumb idea. How hurt is Dwayne Wade? ?Quien sabe? But when you have Shaq, too, it doesn’t matter. Miami’s Eddie Jones is an underrated defensive stopper. The Bulls are gritty, especially Ben Gordon. But do they have enough scoring? Can Ben Wallace shut down Shaq? The Clarion says the answer to both those questions is no. The Bulls have home court, so Heat might need six or seven games, but they will get it done.
Monday, April 16, 2007
All of us need to take this as a reminder to go out and actively do good in the world. Show Love.
for those of you who wish, Kaddish.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
There has been much talk about the declining numbers of American Black baseball players in the Major Leagues. While the number of American Blacks in the Majors has been steadily declining, the number of Hispanics and Asians has been steadily increasing. This statistic mirrors the population trend in the United States. Minorities other than blacks have been steadily increasing their percentage of the total American population.
How well will baseball and America handle this trend? By all indications baseball is doing an excellent job integrating its Hispanic and Asian players. Though if one listens carefully, there are occasionally uncomfortable jingoistic undertones, as in New York before last season when fans groused on talk radio about Mets General Manager Omar Minaya bringing in his "own kind" and "too many Hispanics." Wiser and cooler heads seemed to predominate, resisting this talk even before the season started. Again reflecting the realities of America, in this case its capitalist-ni-winning hierarchy, once the Mets started winning all of the racist anti-Hispanic talk disappeared. American society shows similar inclinations. Occasionally baring its ugly fangs and snarling at America's great wave of Latin American immigrants, demanding wall building, but then meeting someone personally, benefitting personally, watching the work ethic and happily accepting the individual.
Baseball led from the fore in the Jackie Robinson era. Jackie integrated baseball eight years before Rosa Parks gave up her seat. Sixteen years before Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and 18-20 years before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. [Thanks to ESPN's Buster Olney for that nugget.] Yet for all it's good works baseball reflects some of the improvements America has failed to make, as well. Baseball has done a woeful job of promoting American Blacks to executive and General Manager positions. America likewise, for all its progress, is still under-representing minorities and women in the boardroom and the boss's chair.
This weekend many are questioning what the decline in American Blacks players and participation in baseball reflects about American society. Hip-Hop stars' preference for basketball and football? American culture's preference for faster, higher scoring games? Baseball's and America's less than benign neglect of urban areas and cities?
The Clarion urges its readers to reflect, too.
Of course, the NHL playoff seeding still isn't as screwed up as the NBA system. The NBA ought to consider stealing the NHL's old school intra-divisional method, if it really thinks division titles are as important as Stern and spokesmen have been proclaiming them.
Then again, David Stern sent the NHL its worst pollution, Gary Bettman. In the NHL of the now, not only has the league lost all of its cool conference and division names, but it doesn't even play the same game in the regular season and the playoffs. Deciding things via shoot-out in the regular season. This is like deciding NBA games that go to overtime by holding slam dunk contest, or MLB deciding extra inning baseball games via a batting practice home run derby. Even worse, this creates for the NHL an incomprehensibly dumb point accumulation system. [It would be better to award zero points for a tie. Plus, in the NHL come playoff time the shoot-out disappears without mention.]
Old brilliant Bettman better ask NASCAR how running away from their roots is working.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Tiger doesn’t make mental errors or at least he hasn’t since about 17, when he started dominating the U.S. Amateur. But Sunday on #15 at Augusta when he went for the green and eagle, he made a bad call. It wasn’t an awful, inexplicable, inexcusable decision; he was down a couple of shots with only four holes to play. However, he was facing far less experienced, less seasoned, competition. Perhaps, he was still mad about his missed birdie put at #14. But rare as it is, Tiger Woods made the wrong call.
It feels shocking to write it. He made the Phil Mickelson call,the Hefty Lefty play. He should have laid up from the second cut of rough. Yes, he saved his par after he hit it in the water, a great par save. But if he had laid up and made an almost sure birdie, instead of playing #17 and #18 two behind eventual champ Zach Johnson, he’d a been only one stroke back. The way Augusta was playing uber-tough, one stroke in two holes would have been so much less pressure. As was, Tiger still would have had a chance to make a birdie on #18 to force a playoff, instead of having to hole out from the fairway.
On Sunday at the Masters, on #15 , for the first time in many’s a year Tiger made the Phil play, tried to go for it all at once, tried to make up the whole deficit in one fell swoop with an eagle from the second cut. In an un-Tiger like instant the miraculous didn’t come, and he hit it in the water. For a brief moment the Clarion flashed to a statistic CBS had been running all day, Tiger’s never won a Major coming from behind after round three. He didn’t come Sunday, either. Mortal Tiger, no flaw his, we’re all mortal. Great a champion as he is, when he didn’t roll in his biride put on the par 3, 16th, a mental error had the fat lady singing Zach Johnson a sweet, sweet song.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
And lo and behold if the New York Rangers aren’t gonna get to participate. How exciting!! Rangers fans have been waiting for this moment ever since getting swept in the first round last year by the hated New Jersey Devils. Prior to the 2005-6 season it looked like Rangers fans were going have to accept that opposing crowds chanting 1994, was far better than opposing crosing chanting, 1940.
All Ranger fans breathed a huge sigh of relief as the team’s late season drive landed them the sixth seed and a first round match-up with the Atlanta Thrashers. The Rangers are as hot as anybody in the Prince of Wales conference. 17 up, 5 down and 6 ties since the arrival of all around star, and Elisha Cuthbert's boyfriend, Sean Avery. Already beloved by the blue shirt faithful, and hated by on ice rivals, the Rangers haven’t had an agitating goal scorer like this since the glory days of the legendary future Hall of Famer, Esa Tikannen. A man whose name is on Lord Stanley’s Cup five times.
The Rangers also have a shot in these NHL playoffs because they have a great goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. A goaltender who has won Olympic gold for his country, Sweden, always gives you a shot. The favorites at the beginning of this tournament are the two teams with the best goalies. In the West, the Detroit Red Wings and Dominick Hasek, and in the East, that means future Hall of Famer and three time Cup winner, Marty Brodeur and the Devils.
Favorites, aside, the Clarion's sentiment is...Let’s go RANGERS!!! Let’s go RANGERS!!!
One last hockey thought, are their two anymore underexploited, undervalued sports brands than original-sixers the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Somebody could make serious bank reviving either one of those moribund franchises.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
This historically Muslim area, which is geographically closer to Malaysia than Manila has been trying to establish autonomy for 500 years. Twice in the recent past, once in 1990 and once in 1996, it appeared that the central government was moving in that direction. Both attempts have been thwarted by corruption, co-option and infighting over the spoils of power. These problems haunt the Philippines, in general. In a pattern typical across the globe, the lack of economic opportunity in Mindanao has exacerbated other grievances. Grouping this fight as part of global War on Terror is ludicrously inappropriate. It is insensitive to the subtleties required to mediate a solution.
Following the lead and the rubric of the Bush II team, mainstream, ostensibly neutral news sources lost their way. Their mislabeling of the participants has contributed to on-going mistakes in the War on Terror. “The Economist” in its 3/17/07 issue (“Latin upbeat”, p.43) referred to Abu Sayyaf as “the al-Qaeda-linked separatist group with a nasty sideline in abductions and banditry...”
To put it this way is to buy into propaganda. Propaganda sponsored by the same propaganda machine that made leap from the September 11th attacks to invading Iraq over non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The methodology is the same: apply a label, make a prima facie decision, ignore, disregard, minimalize what doesn’t fit. Proceed. If it sounds Orwellian, it is because it is.
This undoubtedly vicious, awful group, Abu-Sayyaf had long a incarnation before it had any al-Qaeda connections. Abu-Sayyaf's forebears were at various times separatists, leftists, bandits, political thugs, and extortionists. They were primarily involved in small time, local, criminal activity and political power plays in their portion of the Philippines, Mindanao. Abu-Sayyaf's primogeniture, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had nothing to do with fomenting international Islamic terrorism or supporting a worldwide caliphate. The MNLF was concerned with its sphere of influence. It fought for power where local Muslims have been fighting for independence from the rest of the Christian Philippines for five centuries.
This is a struggle which locals believe has included phases of fighting against, Spain, China, Japan and the United States, as well as the Philippines central government. Locals refer to their region as Bangsamoro, meaning homeland of the Moro. Moro is a derogatory term, related to Moor, originally applied by the Spanish to the Muslim inhabitants of this area. Following the Spanish-American war of 1898, an American-Philippine war between the American government and the First Philippine Republic ostensibly ended in 1902. However, despite that, conflict and United States suppression efforts continued in Bangsamoro until 1913. This on-going conflict was sometimes referred to as the Moro Rebellion. Rather than facing any united front with a supra-cause, American forces fought very local battles against individual Datus. (Datu is ancient tribal chieftain title of the pre-Hispanic Philippines.) If it is Chomskyian to ask questions about Empire and neo-neo-post-post colonialism the Clarion is guilty as charged.
It is unquestionable that Abu-Sayyaf is an awful group. Proud of its beheadings of ten hostages in August 2001. Abu-Sayyaf interests differed greatly from al-Qaeda then, in that, they were firstly pecuniary. Other Western hostages were ransomed, including some paid for by secularist al-Qaeda nemesis, Muammar Khaddafi, in an attempt to curry favor with the West.
The month before the attacks of September 11th, 2001, “The Economist” (08/09/01, “South Sea Trouble”) described Abu-Sayyaf as, “former guerrillas who have turned to kidnapping for ransom.” Less than six years polluted by Bush-Cheney unthink, “The Economist” is referring to Abu-Sayyaf's raison d'etre as a "sideline."
This is to once again follow the group think of the same administration that took an attack on New York and America by a bunch of ruthlessly evil, largely Saudi Arabian, private citizens and told the public that these folks were affiliated somehow with Iraq. Cheney repeated the line over and over again in the face of all sorts of dissenting evidence, as if repetition would make it true. This is the same administration that said weapons of mass destruction were a “slam dunk.” And subsequently awarded the fellow who said so America’s highest civilian commendation. Following their lead on Iraq has killed more than 3,000 Americans, more than 50,000 Iraqis and has left both countries with thousands of other wounded; hundreds of thousand of lives racked to their very foundation.
To continue to buy into the Bush II administrations false characterizations of situations and conflicts risks completely losing perspective. The Bush team’s rhetoric assists in creating alliances where none existed, pushing the Abu-Sayyaf’s of the world into the arms of Jemaat-e-Islami and al-Qaeda. By creating these false linkages, American narrative helps beget a sense in the Islamic community, mainstream and radical, that these conflicts so obviously uber-local to one part of the Philippines less than a century ago in 1913, are inter-related to a worldwide struggle. This gives these conflicts foreign financing legs they would otherwise not merit. In Mindanao an American backed regional gubernatorial candidate is running against an MNLF candidate charged with crimes related to fighting the central government for his people’s independence. (This same MNLF candidate was dismissed by his own people for incompetence and corruption post the 1996 autonomy accords with the Philippine central government, but is now back because some believe anything is better than the American candidate.)
A similar line of thinking, and misclassification, is persistently undermining America’s policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan where internecine tribal conflicts over the spoils, extrapolated by globalization, are being fought under the singular, unifying and utterly false rubric of the War on Terrorism.
Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethno-tribal and linguistic groups including but not limited to, Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmen and Balochis. Pakistan is much the same, a unified territory only in some British mapmaker’s mind, so ethno-tribally diverse that English!! is the official language.
By classifying conflicts this local, rooted in resource competition, economics, tribalism, nationalism, and regionalism under the singular rubric of the War on Terrorism inherently makes America ineffective in dealing with them. It is analogous to the massive rhetorical misclassification of the Vietnam War as about world communism. This misclassification led directly to misunderstanding and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. There were no communist dominoes lined up to fall after Vietnam. America was fighting a non-existent cause. Wasting its citizen lives fighting an inherently nationalist conflict.
Parallel to the discussion of Mindanao and Afghanistan, the Vietnamese saw this war as part of a continuing conflict for autonomy they had fought against the Chinese, Japanese, French and finally Americans. Contrary to the conclusions of the neo-con sages of that era, Vietnam, circa 2007, is not a communist state heading back toward the Stone Age. It is rather a totalitarian-capitalist state. It has less in common with North Korea than it does with Singapore, Hong Kong and the larger People’s Republic of China. Vietnam was never going to capitulate to American war efforts to fight communism no matter how many tons of bombs were dropped, no matter how long American troops fought. The Vietnamese were not fighting for or over communism. The Vietnamese were NEVER going to surrender anymore than Americans would surrender Ohio to a foreign invader.
American leadership’s misclassification of the conflict obscured that reality from the American people for a long time. The use of the word leadership is deliberate. In both the Vietnam era and today, there were members of the American government who knew these classifications were false and specious. They were ruthlessly suppressed. Their lives destroyed for daring to disagree. In the Vietnam era, these dissenters were largely centered in the State Department, in this era, they were CIA analysts.
In the Vietnam era, the media played a substantial role in uncovering these roots, as did stories from American soldiers on the ground. In the War on Terrorism is the media willing and able to play a similar role? Or will it kowtow to the rubric of the Bush II-Cheney administration? The soldiers on the ground in the Philippines, Afghanistan and Iraq see the situation for what it is. Will the media help the American people see the same?
Monday, April 02, 2007
The Clarion thinks the Philadelphia Phillies have enough to win the best division in the National League. This year’s second best NL shortstop Jimmy Rollins was right, they are the team to beat. In addition to All-Star Rollins, the Phils have MVP Ryan Howard and All-Star Chase Utley. We also love the gritty Aaron Rowand. For all the talk about last year’s Mets offense, the Phillies outscored the Metropolitans by 21 runs. Their pitching looks like just enough, though the bullpen could prove their Achilles heel.
It is not like the Mets are loaded with pitching. Tom Glavine and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez are a combined 103 years of age. Which would be less of a big deal if they were New York’s number three and four starters as opposed to the numbers one and two. Pete Martinez, on the DL until August, will be missed. John Maine and Oliver Perez will be solid number three and four starters. It is not like the Mets pitching is totally lousy, there just is no top end of the rotation. Plus the Clarion feels the bigger the spot, the more likely Billy “hint: I perfectly straight fastball.” Wagner is to melt down. Fortunately they have the Clarion's pick for 2007 NL MVP, Jose Reyes and the classy Carlos Delgado.
The Marlins should be contracted. They are an abomination. Their World Series wins contrasted with their subsequent seasons depict everything that is wrong with the game. Way to screw your fans, once, twice, three times. Oh, wait, you have no fans left. Good job. Nice follow up, by self-serving jerk Jeffrey Loria fire the manager of the year, Joe Giradi. Smooth move Ex-Lax. Support the Clarion’s campaign to free Dontrelle Willis.
The Washington Nationals would be under .500 in the AAA International League. Their opening day starting rotation had made a combined 36 starts in the majors. Sweet, way to give your fans hope. Just pay for the tickets suckers. Try to ignore the fact that we’ll be forty under by mid-July. Surely there will be lots of other good news emanating from Washington. Why there's the Caps. And look at the way le Bullet's season is ending. Some good news, 3rd baseman, Ryan Zimmerman is a bonafide major leaguer.
The Atlanta Braves are perhaps the most interesting team in the NL East. They have established stars like the Jones boys, Andruw (not yet on the downside-still the best shallow centerfield defense in the game) and Chipper (on the downside-hasn’t played in 150 games since 2003) They have emerging stars like Jeff Francoeur and catcher Brian McCann. They have an ace in John Smoltz. They have serviceable parts like SS Edgar Renteria, #2 starter Tim Hudson and the outfield platoon of Ryan Langerhans and Mike Diaz. They have a Hall of Fame manager in Bobby Cox. But this somehow doesn’t feel like their year. The back half of the rotation is a mess. The bullpen is going to lean on the aging Bob Wickman to close. They have yet to win without Cox confidant and pitching guru Leo Mazzone. (in Baltimore with his old friend Ray Miller.)
Phils win the division, Mets win in the National League Playoffs.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
over/under 89 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
2. The New York Mets
over/under 90.5 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
3. Atlanta Braves
over/under 85 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
4. Florida Marlins
over/under 77.5 wins
The Clarion takes the under.
5. Washington Nationals
over/under 64 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
The division is putrid, and will once again have no teams that deserve to make the playoffs, but the hope hear is somebody more interesting than the Cardinals breaks through. The Cards mediocre starting pitching got worse when they failed to replace three-fifths of last year’s rotation. Bradon Looper? Please, Looper, who couldn’t hack it as a reliever has 572 appearances and zero starts.
The popular pick has been the Milwaukee Brewers. The Clarion sort of likes the everyday line-up, but who in it knocks your socks off? Historical record says Milwaukee's pitching will get hurt. (sorry Ben Sheets rotisserie owners.) The Brew Crew haven’t been this likable or this well regarded since the days of Harvey’s Wallbangers, when they were led by future Hall of Famers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, ably supported by the underrated Cecil Cooper and everybody’s picture of a beer maker, Gorman Thomas.
The Chicago Cubs blew a ton of money($300 million) on? A 40 homer second baseman to play centerfield and hit lead-off, even though he strikes out a lot? And that was their most logical signing? Too bad they didn’t spend this way before they burned out the arms of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Was this a vain attempt to increase the teams value because the Tribune was up for sale? No less wacky theories made any more sense.
The Clarion is rooting for the Cincinnati Reds or the Pittsburgh Pirates. Which team has more pitching? Says here the Reds. Aaron Harang quietly tied for the NL league lead in wins last year, and led the league in strikeouts and shutouts. Broson Arroyo has serious eggs. If the Reds get a big year out of either Eric Milton or Kyle Lohse they will sneak away with this lousy division.
After all who else can? They are staring down the barrel of 14 consecutive losing seasons in Pittsburgh, and they are counting on Adam LaRoche as their clean-up hitter? Who misses, Pops, Willie Stargell?
Why can’t the Houston Astros score runs? Who knows, but they can't and the rotation will miss Pettitte, even though Woody Williams is a solid number three starter. The division could still be swayed by the return of Rocket Roger Clemens to the ‘stros in June. The Cubs can’t buy the Rocket. Rather, the Clarion sees the Yanks using the dough they saved on Soriano this winter to bring in Clemens mid-season.
1. Cincinnati Reds
over/under 74 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
over/under 86 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
3. Chicago Cubs
over/under 84.5 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
4. Houston Astros
over/under 78 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
over/under 72.5 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
over/under 83 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
The Clarion likes rookie manager Bud Black, too. Still it says here the LA Dodgers have even more pitching. Peavy is coming off a down year, Maddux and Wells are forty-one and forty-three respectively. The Los Angeles Dodgers just nose out the Pads for the division title in the last week of the season.
As for the rest of the division, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who don’t have a single head turner or former All-Star in their starting line-up are being wildly over-estimated. Yankee fans know, National League or not, Randy Johnson is f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d. Done. Fur-gettabout-it. His slide piece was spinning like a top on a table last year. No bite on it at all, and he was getting wacked all over the yard. It wasn’t just that the mean ol' New York media hurt his feelings. He had a 5.00 era last year, and hasn’t pitched a shut out in two years.
As for the San Francisco Giants, the Clarion can’t be the only one hoping Bonds retires twenty homers into the season. Regardless, they wildly overpaid for nice guy, Barry Zito, who won’t be an updgrade over the ace they let get away to a division rival Jason Schmidt. Their every day line-up is old enough that manager Bruce Bochy could blend in without anyone blinking an eye.
The Colorado Rockies will score and give up runs in bunches. Wins are likely to be scarce. Matt Holliday will have a terrific rotisserie season. 1st baseman Todd Helton is on the decline. Other the other hand, 2nd baseman Kaz Matsui figures to rebound in the hitting friendly, higher altitudes. He could be a rotisserie steal. The bigger question is; the state of the major league baseball experiment in Colorado, in general. Is this a triple AAA state? The Rockies haven’t hit the 3 million mark in attendance since 2002. Heading into last year the Rockies' attendance had declined for four straight seasons to less than 2 million from an expansion debut peak of of 4.4 million. If baseball's claims about small market teams are true, why would Denver the 25th biggest city in America by some measures merit a team?
NL WEST 2007
1. LA Dodgers
over/under 91 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
2. SD Padres
over/under 83 wins
The Clarion takes the Over.
3. SF Giants
over/under 79 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
4. AZ Diamonbacks
over/under 77.5 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
5. CO Rockies
over/under 75.5 wins
The Clarion takes the Under.
The Yankees starting pitching will be no worse than last year, but that wasn’t so great. Randy Johnson is gone, but no loss. Pettitte is a solid starter who is better in big games. He will win more in New York than Houston. Sheffield was not a positive presence. His move to Detroit is addition by subtraction. Is this the year Rivera ages? At some point he has to, he is a string bean. The Yankee line-up top to bottom is aces. When Robinson Cano bats seventh or eigth in your line-up your crushing. Posada never gets any credit, but for a catcher he is a terrific run producer. The Yankees sure could use Roger Clemens come July.
1st place, under 97.5.
The Red Sox have some great pitching Beckett, Dice-K, and Paplebon. Is this the year Schilling finally ages? At some point he has to, he has never been a workout fiend. J.D. Drew is a delicate bum. How long before he hurts an oblique? An injury which has gone from non-existent to omnipresent overnight. Coco Crisp has a nagging injury from a broken finger on a slide last year. Jason Varitek has lost his ability to hit. Will it ever come back? Manny is arguably the best right hand hitter of this era. He and Ortiz have been a tandem for the ages. Mike Lowell has been an underrated addition with the perfect swing for Fenway.
2nd place, under 93
The Blue Jays aside from ace, Roy Halladay, have thin starting pitching. They will miss Ted Lilly. But their offense, from Vernon Wells to homer hitters Frank Thomas and Troy Glaus, looks pretty potent. Wells is also an above average defensive player. Plus they have a sweet closer, B.J. Ryan. Still, they don’t have enough 1 through 25 to hang with the Yankees and Red Sox. Their everyday regulars, when matched up against the Sox and the Yanks, don’t have anyone besides Wells who absolutely cracks the starting line-up. The Blue Jays improved last year, this year they will back-up a bit, they only edge the Orioles by a sliver for third.
3rd place, under 87.
The Clarion like Baltimore to take a big leap forward. Ray Miller and Leo Mazonne finally have the pitchers. They have some guys they have been developing for a while, Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera. They have some free agent pitching signings who suck. Traschel, an anti-gamer, a slow worker, but an innings horse, who wins when he gets run support. Jaret Wright has potential, but the idea of him pitching a full season seems iffy. In the last three years, he has started 30 games only once, 2004. However, the Orioles also have a starting line-up with bats we love. Former MVP Miguel Tejada is doing terrific, last year’s numbers crushed. Dingers, RBIs, Batting Average, games played. The rest of the infield has no slouch hitters, Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora are above average. Millar is clutch. If the O’s can get offensive production from an outfield that includes Corey Patterson, Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton when he comes off the D.L., they might catch Toronto. The Clarion doesn’t think they will. Plus closer Chris Ray is not filling the confidence tank to the brim.
4th place, but, over 76
The Tampa Devil Rays have finally improved. Sure many of their best young position players were anywhere between anger management and the police blotter. But if they can keep’em between the lines and not go Cincinnati Bengals , they will win a few more than the 100 loss seasons of recent ilk. Elijah Dukes homered on Opening Day and looks like a good hitter and an above average defensive player. Delmon Young is the same kind of case as his brother, but looks like he can hit, too. The real steal, the guy to take note of, is Japanese 3rd base import, Akinori Iwamura. His defense is top notch. He was a thirty dinger a year guy in Japan, and has gotten off too a lightning quick start in Tampa Bay. He looks like a winner, he is not going to play with a defeatist attitude. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay has no more starting pitching than it ever has. Scott Kazmir looks good, but his mental durability, as a young guy, especially on a losing team, is still a work in process. The Devil Rays will be better. Maybe even so much that,that fans will be able to say, They don’t suck.
5th place, over 76
The Indians every day line-up is stacked. Led by all around talent Grady Sizemore, ably backed by Travis Hafner and the fellas. Newly added Josh Barfield is an upgrade. C.C. Sabathia is a legitimate number one starter.
1st place, over 83.5, ends in first round playoff disappointment for the Tribe faithful.
The Twins are tough and fundamentally sound. Justin Morneau was a deserving MVP, Jeter was right there but Morneau by no means, stole the award. The rest of the regulars are great. Perhaps the most underrated among them is the super quick, gritty, second baseman Luis Castillo. He makes all the small plays offensively, hitting behind the runner, taking the extra base and is terrific defensively.
2nd place, over 85.
The Tigers figure to come back to earth a little bit this year. They will be lucky if they don't have a hangover from losing the World Series the way they did. Kenny Rogers greasing the ball? Pitchers making errors every game?? U-G-L-Y. That's what baseball gets when they start letting the team with the 13th best record [St. Louis] back into the playoffs. Crappy playoffs. Duh. As for this year, the questions for Detroit are will Monroe, Inge and Granderson come close to last year's numbers? Who will join Kenny Rogers on the D.L. first, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez or the Mayor, Sean Casey? If the Tigers can say none of the above by mid-August, they will be in the thick of the race.
3rd place, under 89.
The Chicago White Sox clubhouse may not be a pleasant place this Fall. Manager Ozzie Guillen is a volatile guy, even when his team is winning. G.M. Kenny Williams is no shy, retiring flower, either. They have lost too much pitching in the last few years to make a playoff run. They still have the guns to hit dingers. Thome is enjoying D.H.ing his old age. Konerko and Dye have taken their careers to new highs in Chicago. Crede and Podsednik are timely contributors. The Clarion keeps thinking Bobby Jenks is imminently about to melt down. However, there is nothing that makes that likely. We have been looking at him and thinking that his whole career. When does he go Rob Dibble? Momentarily? Right?
4th place, under 88.
How do the Kansas City Royals sell any season tickets? Warren Buffett should negotiate a deal to buy all their extra box seats and give them out to local students. Surely they're available and cheap. Supply and demands says they out to be all but free. Seriously what Royals fan isn't excited? Four out of five seasons with 100+ losses. Breaking the team record for worst single season record, ever, three out of four years running. Twenty-one straight years and counting out of the playoffs. But wait, they signed, Gil Meche!! The Royals have too much tradition to be contracted. They should be relegated, English Premier League style, to the American Association.
The Oakland A's keep coming up with pitching. Piazza should reprise last year's Frank Thomas role. Outfield is solid, as is catcher, Jason Kendall. Young closer Huston Street may be the division's best. No reason to doubt or love new manager Bob Geren.
A's 1st place, over 89. The A's win, at the very most, a playoff series.
The Clarion likes the Mariners to steal second. We are huge Ichiro fans. They used to say the single season record for hits was one of those untouchable, never be broken, type of records. Before Ichiro. Also isn't it about time for Adrian Beltre to have a bounce back year. Had to be very impressed with the rookie year of catcher Kenji Johjima.
Mariners 2nd place, over 81
The Angels look like a team that will wilt. Says here Gary Matthews, Jr. will never reproduce his career year. Shea Hillenbrand has always been overrated. On the one hand, the right side of their infield sounds like an accounting practice, Kotchman and Kendrick. On the other hand, Vladimir Guerrero has to be in the discussion for the best all around player in the game, and the other corner outfielder Garrett Anderson is none to shabby either. Can't figure the Angels out. Is there a reason to be confident about their starting pitching? Is there a reason not to love their closer Francisco Rodriguez?
Angels 3rd place, under 89.5
The Texas Rangers are loaded with professional hitters, even if Sammy Sosa hits .220 and 12 dingers off the 'roids and with a plain ol' wood bat. Texiera, Blaylock, Wilkerson are solid, before one even gets to mentioning, the MVP candidate Michael Young, and All-Time gun for hire, the ageless, Kenny Lofton. If the Rangers can get any pitching at all...well that's probably not gonna happen, never mind.
Texas Rangers 4th place, over 78.5
In terms of furture pro-players this maybe the best final four quartet in 20 plus years, since 1982 when Georgetown vs. University of North Carolina, was the championship game in a Final Four that featured, Jordan, Ewing, Olajuwon, Worthy, Sam Perkins, not too mention the underrated Sleepy Floyd. Check out the list of future pros that entered the league in that small window of time “in a two-year span from 1984 to 1985, the following rookies entered the NBA: Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, Xavier McDaniel, Charles Oakley, Joe Dumars, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, A.C. Green, Wayman Tisdale, Jerome Kersey and Terry Porter.” Special thanks to ESPN’s Bill Simmons for that list. Now look at the future pro’s in this year’s Final Four. The once in a generation center, Greg Oden. Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green, Florida has studs all over. (Brewer, Horford, Noah you know about, but even bench guy Chris Richard could be a first round draft pick.) Jump shooter extrordinaire Lee Humphrey of Florida has Steve Kerr written all over him.
The Clarion picked a Georgetown-UCLA final at the beginning of the tourney, we can’t and won’t waiver now. We have Georgetown and the Princeton offense taking the title.
Follow this link to an excellent article from a Princeton basketball grad about why racial stereotypes play no factor in Georgetown’s offense.
Rating the coaches, in the Final Four, an excellent quartet. All right, well, at least three good ones. John Thopmson III, coaches the best offense, and gets his players to play with great intensity on the defensive end. Ben Howland at UCLA coaches great defense and gets the most out of the talent he has. What can one say about Billy Donovan? The Clarion is no Rick Pitno fan, ever since he screwed up the Knicks during some of Patrick Ewing’s prime. His teams have always had shot selection akin to a drunkin’ salesman’s beer goggling in Vegas at 3am. But Billy Donovan has been a hardworking overachiever his whole career. Wasn’t supposed to play much at Providence way back in the day. Instead he led the way to Pitno’s first Final Four appearance.
The Clarion would have given astronomical odds that anyone could coach Florida to two straight Final Fours. That’s the university in scenic Gainesville, Florida??! You know there is a reason they call their home football stadium the swamp. We’d have bet on Univeristy of Miami basketball as easier to turn around. Not only has Donovan done it twice---capping the first run with a national title, but then got everybody to come back. This isn’t Indiana 1976, but that is still remarkable, outstanding work.
On the debate about whether Durant or Oden should be the number one overall pick, assuming they both come out, the Clarion heard an excellent point from Mike Francesa WFAN radio in New York, on this issue. Francesa who is firmly in Oden’s corner points out, the guys Durant is most easily and often compared to, 6’9” lanky guys with sick range, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki a combined total of zero rings, zero NBA titles. The bigs guys on the other hand, Shaq, and Tim Duncan have won 7 of the 8 post Michael Jordan rings.