I stumbled across the Yahoo SAT test prep and decided to answer a few sample questions. 10/10 on both sentence completion and sentence improvement. Just like riding a bicycle ...
With immigration/illegal immigration topping the concerns of Congress - and many others - it's time for the "North of the Border" edition of Furtive Glances. Here's a discreet look around.
If I saw an expert shooter who blew away target after target, each time missing the center and instead clustering his shots off to one side, I'd have no choice to conclude that it was a deliberate choice: for whatever reason, the shooter was deliberately missing the bullseye and arbitrarily picking another part of the target. Because a good shooter would correct or compensate for a misaligned gun, not just keep plugging away.
The Times has had years and countless prime examples to notice and observe its own reporting, and has made absolutely no effort to do so. I am left with no choice to conclude that they are not being inaccurate, but rather know exactly what they are doing -- and don't mind it in the least.
This is very troubling. Read this post at Strange Women Lying In Ponds and see if you don't think it's a bad idea to a) continue allowing a steady stream of newcomers from the south into the country illegally, and b) grant an easy path to citizenship and voting rights to those already here. (Hat tip: Captain Ed)
Speaking of Ed Morrissey, he's got a post from this morning on the Gallup poll now identifying the number of self-identified Republicans and Democrats as approximately equal (1% different, within the margin of error). As he points out, doesn't that fact make all of the polls that sample Democrats more heavily than Republicans, like this one, garbage?
Now we have a benchmark against which to measure these polls. Any poll purporting to take the political temperature of the American electorate that doesn't reflect these rather steady numbers should receive the scorn it deserves.
Hostage journalist Jill Carroll was released this morning in Iraq. All the information you need - with links galore - is provided by Dr. Rusty Shackleford at The Jawa Report. We're all obviously grateful that another innocent life was not taken.
Immigration, particularly legal immigration (though I would hope it would be true of those here illegally as well), should be characterized by a desire to embrace your new nation, to become a part of the fabric, to revel in the joy of coming to a new land with new opportunities. In the United States that means being a part of the greatest and most successful democratic experiment the world has seen. It means a chance for advancement denied citizens of in many other lands.
This nation is all about the American spirit, and the American dream. Come to the nation legally, learn the benefits of the American system, and assimilate into the America that you will grow to love, as my father did, and I will hold out my arms to you in welcome. You have my word.
And you still have my word. Unfortunately, when you place the flag of your former home above the flag of your new home, and disrespect that latter flag by flying it upside down, you are not holding up your end of the bargain. And you are not welcome.
3/29/06 1600: More from Rob Port at Say Anything - quoting Teddy Roosevelt, who said it better:
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all."
3/30/06 1650: Kim Priestap at Wizbang! posts regarding a school in Houston that flew the Mexican flag along with the flag of Texas and the American flag. They had to take it down, but are upset and want it back up.
It's interesting that this student believes that the Mexican flag is a symbol of Mexican culture. It isn't. It's a symbol of Mexican patriotism. So, where's his American patriotism? After all, he is living in and being educated in America.
That's the point. No one is saying that your culture cannot survive. Nor are they saying that when you come to this country on a permanent basis you should have scorn for your former homeland. On the contrary, it's fine to take pride in your origins and the people and nation which bore you. But if you are, or hope to be, an American citizen this great nation is your home, and your allegiance is here above all other nations. Your country, right or wrong. Now, that doesn't mean that you should approve of everything America does. What it means is that you don't stop loving your country even if it does something wrong, and it means that you don't take sides against the interests of your country just because you disagree with its actions.
Perseveration is defined as "continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point." The media quite obviously sees the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal as the ultimate indictment of the Bush administration's entire Iraq policy, all of it, and so they perseverate relentlessly. The scandal raised its head again today when the Defense Department withdrew its appeal of a federal court order to release additional photos and videos, most of which have already been published.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Defense Department on Tuesday agreed to release 74 photos and three videos -- many that have already been published -- that depict prisoner abuse inand were sought by civil rights groups.
In court papers, the government noted that Web site Salon.com published images depicting the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.
According to the, Salon.com recently posted 279 photographs and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib on its Web site.
The Defense Department will identify any of Darby's images already published on Salon.com and release edited versions of any that may not have appeared on the Web site, it said in court documents. The pictures have been edited so the faces of the prisoners are not shown.
A U.S. defense official, who asked not to be named, said: "This stipulation only applies to the 74 photos and three videos that were part of the litigation. We reserve the right to repeat arguments and to appeal future orders to release other images."
The ACLU is positively giddy that "justice" will finally be served.
"The withdrawal of the government's appeal only confirms there was no legal basis for withholding these images from the public in the first case," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said.
"This is a significant victory for the public's right to know the whole truth about the widespread abuse of detainees in US custody abroad."
There are a number of points worth making. First and foremost is that even if the the photos and videos were the most horrid physical abuse ever perpetrated by man against man - and to beat, for example, Saddam's activities in Iraq would take some doing - publicizing them does not, in any way, "tell the whole truth about the widespread abuse of detainees in US custody abroad." They tell a story of abuse by those in charge of the detainees at a single prison in Iraq, in the middle of a war zone, in the middle of a war. They tell a story of a command and control structure that failed - but perhaps only at that one prison.
Second, is there anyone in the US who occasionally reads the news or watches TV who does not know that prisoners were treated badly at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq 3 years ago. Is the publication of 'new' photos and videos going to inform anyone of activity that was previously unknown? No, not at all.
Third, does the prosecution of those responsible, even if it goes all the way to Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush, require the publication of the inflammatory photos? No, any efforts to "hold those responsible to account" could easily take place in the absence of publication of the photos.
No, for the ACLU and the media, in this case Reuters, this isn't about justice. And it isn't about informing the public. And it certainly isn't about horror about the level of the atrocities committed. It's about harming the project that is Iraq by undermining public support at home, and in particular it's about defeating the administration. It's just another facet of being "anti-war."
Okay, so I'm a UConn fan, and I'm upset today. The tournament was shaping up as Connecticut's to win, if only they could play just a little defense for five minutes. But no, it was not to be for the Huskies. George Mason played a flawless overtime after a nearly flawless second half and came away with 2 point victory. I guess now I'll root for the Patriots - I do during football season, so that won't be much of a departure.
While I've been immersed in basketball - and with my schedule and current demands I can really only be immersed in one thing at a time (in addition to my family and my work) - the world has continued to turn, so this is a look around with brief commentary on some of the notable goings on and posts I've encountered as I emerge from my roundball-induced coma.
Wow!! All I can say is wow!! No number one seeds in the Final Four? Only one of the top 8 seeds, only 2 of the top 12 seeds have reached Indianapolis. And a number 11 seed joins the party? Wow!!
George Mason pulled off the upset over top seed (and number two in the nation) Connecticut 86-84 in overtime. They did it with style. They did it with substance. This was no mirage game, where the favorite plays simply so horribly that any decent team could have beaten them. So, exactly how did the Patriots do it. Let's have a look.
All of these enabled GMU to pull off a tremendous upset win over UConn, and they represent the first true "mid-major" entrant in the final four since Indiana State and Pennsylvania in 1979.
"We couldn't get a stop," UConn point guard Marcus Williams said. "We just couldn't. That's only the second time a team has shot 50 percent against us ... They beat us on the glass. They went after every loose ball. They made big shots."
I'm still scratching my head over the other game. Villanova shot poorly against Florida, and certainly some of it was good defense. But Villanova was even missing the open looks they got, as Mike Nardi did several times in the first half, and Allan Ray and Randy Foye did numerous other times. That 'Nova was within 3 points about 10 minutes into the second half was a miracle. But they needed a bigger miracle. Villanova was badly outplayed inside by Horford and Noah, though that was somewhat expected. Villanova has handled that adversity all year by outplaying their opponents on the perimeter, particulary from three point range. Not yesterday. In addition, they defended the perimeter poorly by allowing dribble penetration, gave up fast breaks, and seemed to lose their focus a little each time one of the cement blocks they threw up clanged hard off the rim.
So it's on to Indianapolis with Florida, LSU, UCLA and George Mason. Did anybody have that in their bracket when this started?
A pair of "Friends of Giacomo" sites are moving, or have moved to new digs. Jason Smith's Generation Why? is now Texas Rainmaker at a new URL, and I'm still waiting for the site to come up. And American Princess E.M. Zanotti has moved as well. Both have left Blogger, which seems to be a trend.
Be sure and bookmark them, or stop by Joust The Facts -often - to find their links in the "Friends" blogroll.
I should also belatedly note the passing of Conservative Friends, which stopped publishing in January. Drew was kind enough to profile Joust The Facts as his "Blog of the Week" early on, and I appreciated the recognition. I think he intended CF to be more of an online community, a la Daily Kos, but that model of conservative weblog doesn't seem to work, or at least it hasn't to this point. This has been one of the interesting contrasts in the blogosphere, with the left side comprising a few very well attended blogs, with the same people all talking to each other, and with the right side comprising a much larger number of smaller blogs with several larger ones, in terms of traffic, though not as large as those on the left. You can still find Drew posting occasionally at The Jawa Report.
Hey, I call em the way I see 'em. And how I saw 'em was just how it happened today.
UCLA just put the finishing touches on Memphis in a defensive struggle, 50-45, locking up the Tigers' offense in a windowless 4-by-8 cell with no cot. The Bruins' efforts resulted in 31% shooting by the opposition. Ben Howland coached some hardcore defensive teams at Pitt before moving west, and he, at UCLA, and Lorenzo Romar, at Washington, are teaching the Pac 10 how it's done. UCLA proved also that they are fairly limited offensively, and while that may be their undoing ultimately, with defense like they play they won't be blown out.
And LSU took care of business in overtime against Texas by 70-60, led by Tyrus Thomas (21 and 13, with 3 blocks), a talented forward who seems to just now be discovering how good he can be. And that is very, very good. He blocks shots; he rebounds; he runs the court; he even handles the ball on the break with aplomb. This team, like UCLA, plays solid defense. They don't shoot that well from deep, but again, their defense is solid so they are in every game.
Tomorrow the early game features the UConn Huskies, survivors from last nights marathon against Washington, and the George Mason Patriots. GMU has shocked everyone that they're still here, beating Michigan State and UNC before a somewhat easier time against Wichita State. UConn is bigger, with a concensus All-American in Rudy Gay and NBA-caliber talent at nearly every position. George Mason is very quick, and has talented offensive performers. But if Washington, with their splendid leader Brandon Roy and their opportunistic turnover-forcing defense couldn't derail the Huskies, don't look for the Patriots to do it. I suspect that UConn will suppress their tendency to spend half the game uninspired with only three games left in the season, and this number one seed will find its way to Indianapolis.
The late game is the Minneapolis final, Villanova vs. Florida, and will be a very good matchup. Taurean Green and Corey Brewer vs. Allan Ray and Randy Foye. Villanova has managed to develop some big men to go with their four superb guards, and will not be dominated inside by Horford and Noah. As I mentioned earlier, although Florida has looked strong it has not been against the strongest competition. Well, now they'll see the strongest. That strong competition is senior-led, while the Gators are young. Very young. I've got the Wildcats surviving and advancing, joining UConn, LSU and UCLA in the Final Four.
Last night saw some remarkable games, and we've got two regional finals today, the winners comprising half of the Final Four. LSU and Texas meet in the Atlanta final, while UCLA and Memphis meet in Oakland. But let's look back at the games last night first.
Villanova beat Boston College in overtime last night in a tight game that was decided on a goaltending call in overtime. I asked whether it would be Randy Foye or Craig Smith who went off in this game; it was Foye, who scored nearly half of Villanova's 60 points (29) as they rallied from a 16 point deficit. Down by one point late, the Wildcats ran an out of bounds play under the basket to perfection, leading to a layup for forward Will Sheriden. BC's shot blocker Sean Williams came over and knocked the ball away, but it had already gotten a piece of the backboard - goaltending, two points. Villanova moves on.
The other Minneapolis game featured the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas. Florida's offense wasn't nearly so prolific facing Georgetown defense, but they held on to win by four. It's been said that the Gators have been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament. That may be the case, but it's not because they've excelled against superior opponents. They've been favored in each game - against South Alabama and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and yesterday against Georgetown. They will not be the favorites against Villanova, who has experience and senior leadership, and beat Florida in last year's tournament.
In the Washington DC regional George Mason continued the cliche Cinderella story by beating Wichita State for the second time this season. They lead wire-to-wire and were never really threatened. The Patriots play smart basketball, and get good shots. They will need their best game in the final against ...
The Connecticut Huskies, who
lucked out persevered and won an overtime foul-and-turnover filled fast-paced game against the Washington Huskies. The game turned on a play about 6 1/2 minutes into the second half. UW was up by 10 when star Brandon Roy picked up three fouls in less than a minute, the latter two for holding UConn's Rudy Gay as he curled around a screen, then getting in Gay's face and jawing, drawing a technical foul. That last one was foul number four, and Roy then sat as Connecticut closed the gap. The UW lead was three after Roy hit two free throws with 8 seconds left, but UConn got the ball to Rashad Anderson who nailed a three pointer with 2 seconds left to tie it. Going into the overtime Washington had major foul and fatigue problems, and the East Coast Huskies ended up with a 6 point win. Five West Coast Huskies fouled out to the game, two in regulation and three in overtime.
On to today's games. The Texas Longhorns are now a trendy pick to win it all, and they played a very solid game against West Virginia. They meet the vanquishers of Duke, LSU, in the final. The Tigers frontcourt matches up well with Texas, something that was not true of West Virginia. Then again, WVU made up for that by bringing Pittsnogle outside to shoot threes, something Glen Davis will not do. I can see this game also going right down to the wire, but I like LSU's athleticism for an upset win. The Tigers will need to keep track of Daniel Gibson, but they did so with J.J. Redick.
The other final is UCLA-Memphis. Although these Tigers have looked very strong in all of their games, the teams they played were a 16, 9 and 13 seed respectively. Memphis has played very well, but here's a reason those teams were seeded low. UCLA is a two seed, and this will be a much more challenging game for Memphis. For me it's a tossup. Memphis beat UCLA earlier in the season after establishing a big lead, but I'm picking the Bruins because, well, it's more fun that way.
There has been a long running and largely heated discussion over the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research and the development of treatments for some of humanity's most challenging diseases. The possibility for pluripotential stem cells to be manipulated for cure and/or amelioration of the ravages of, for example, Alzheimer's disease is exciting to scientists and lay persons alike. There are adult stem cells that can be harvested, and in fact the adult cells have been used more successfully to this point (references). In search of a more powerful magic bullet advocates of stem cell research have held out embryonic cells, the least diffentiated cells, as the great hope for future research.
But cloning and embryonic stem cell research present a moral problem. Pro-life observors and bioethicists have been troubled by what is seen as disregard for the potential human lives that are the destroyed embryos, and by the potential for abuse that cloning represents. Contrary to the way the pro-life view is sometimes presented, there is no problem with use of stem cells that do not involve the creation and/or destruction of a human embryo, as this statement indicates.
Those in favor of the use of embryonic stem cells point out that the embryos they propose using are excess from fertility clinics, and that they'd be destroyed regardless. In this view the embryo, which would otherwise be discarded, is more valued in that it may provide a tremendous benefit to society.
Over time, though, scientists have become innovative in trying to advance the cause of medicine while respecting the creation of human life, and as a result the competing viewpoints may become irrelevant. We may indeed be able to have our cake and eat it, too, as a German project is trying to turn this turmoil into mush. The team of scientists seem to have discovered a way to produce embryonic stem cells without embryos.
German scientists said yesterday that they have created cells similar to embryonic stem cells without using embryos, suggesting a way that stem cell research might advance without the controversy that has surrounded it.
The team of scientists removed sperm-producing stem cells from mice and transformed them into cells that appear to be identical to embryonic stem cells, which can become any type of cell in the body and which lead to new treatments for a variety of diseases.
If the same technique can be adapted to human cells, scientists would not need to use frozen embryos to create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, and they would not need to clone stem cells -- the two approaches most scientists have been investigating.
Scientists have suggested other ways of avoiding the ethical controversy around embryonic stem cell research. But the new results electrified the scientific community yesterday because the results provided the most convincing evidence yet that doctors may be able to take cells from a patient and turn them into any tissue their body needs, without creating or destroying an embryo.
Now, obviously this is an early result, and the technique, if workable, will need to be refined and perfected. But this could indeed end a bitter and divisive argument if the cells produced are the equivalent of embryonic stem cells - or better. Let's keep our fingers crossed, and remember never to underestimate the ingenuity of man.
Linked to Wizbang's COTT LVI.
The first two games of the evening are over, and the keys were as predicted. All you Duke-haters out there can break out the champagne.
Duke was tied in knots when the focus of LSU's defense was J.J. Redick. The Tigers took him out of the game by pressing him, forcing drives into traffic, and making the other Blue Devils step up to beat them. They couldn't, and LSU walked away with a 62-54 win.
Memphis was able to run and to hit open three pointers on the way to a comfortable 80-64 win over one of three Cinderellas, the Bradley Braves. Memphis has looked strong in all of their games. Then again, they've played, in order, Oral Roberts, Bucknell and Bradley. Good teams, sure, but not Murderers' Row by any means.
Two more tonight; in the East we get the Texas-WVU game.
3/24/06 1800: Wow! First chance I've had to get back to them, but the two late games were unbelievable. Texas took control of the game in the first half, then West Virginia ran them down in the second. Texas was up by five when Mike Gansey stuck a three from NBA range, then after a UT free throw Kevin Pittsnogle nailed another three to tie the game with 5 seconds left. Texas didn't hesitate, getting the ball to the frontcourt in a hurry, and Kenton Paulino hit his own three pointer as the buzzer sounded. Whew! Great game.
That wasn't quite dramatic enough, though. UCLA came roaring back from a huge deficit, and scored the final 11 points of the game to beat Gonzaga by two. This reminded me of the 1996 Big East championship game between Ray Allen's UConn Huskies and Allen Iverson's Georgetown Hoyas. In that game UConn scored the final 13 points to take the game by one on a leaning shot in the lane by Allen. Adam Morrison was left in tears of frustration on the floor at the conclusion, as the Bruins celebrated around him.
Four more games tonight.
A quick look around at what is happening reveals that a large number of individuals seem to be willing to part with their credibility in embracing their ideology. Let's go to the tape, shall we?
In all of these situations a respected or allegedly non-partisan organization has given evidence to doubters that, indeed, their ideology is more important than their credibility. How do you get to the point where that happens?
Tomorrow the tournament picks up again, and it's time to take a look at the 8 games to be played on Thursday and Friday. While there have been a number of upsets - and in George Mason and Bradley two double-digit seeds still alive - all four of the number one picks remain alive, and three of the regions have three of their top 4 seeds alive.
Beginning with Thursday's games:
#4 LSU vs. #1 Duke: This one has a very interesting inside battle shaping up between Shelden Williams of Duke and Glen "Big Baby" Davis of LSU. Davis is massive, and you simply do not move him off of his spot in the low post. Williams has great timing and can elevate, however, and is more polished inside offensively. LSU's shot blocker Tyrus Thomas may help to neutralize Josh McRoberts. The key will be whether, as I've said before, Duke gets significant contributions from freshman. If they do they are very difficult to beat. What to look for: Is Redick getting his feet set and squaring up, or is he under pressure and drifting on his shot?
#13 Bradley vs. #1 Memphis: The Braves have been one of the tournament darlings, playing great defense, with confidence and aggression. They boast a seven-foot center in Patrick O'Bryant who popped in 28 against Pitt in round 2, and a talented small forward in Marcellus Sommerville. Memphis played a not-so-demanding league schedule in Conference USA, but played a very demanding non-conference schedule including UCLA, Texas, Duke, Cincinnati, Alabama and Gonzaga. They shoot threes very well and have NBA caliber talent at several positions. What to look for: Is Memphis running? They're very good when they run.
#6 WVU vs. #2 Texas: These two teams met early in the season, with Texas squeaking by 76-75 in Austin after trailing by 10 midway through the second half. The Mountaineers play solid basketball, defending well and with discipline on offense. They get good shots. The one thing they don't do very well is rebound, and unfortunately for them that is Texas' strength. LaMarcus Aldridge, Brad Buckman and PJ Tucker simply attack the boards. If WVU can keep this trio off the offensive glass they'll be successful. If not, they'll be heading back to Morgantown. Kevin Pittsnogle will have to do more than drain three-pointers. What to look for: Are Texas' big guys grabbing every loose orange?
#3 Gonzaga vs. #2 UCLA: Adam Morrison of Gonzaga is either #1 or #1A as Player of the Year, and he's attacking this tournament. But he needs help, from point guard Derek Raivio and center JP Batista. UCLA is coached by Ben Howland, who formerly coached Pittsburgh, and is a very good defensive coach. He just might have something up his sleeve to slow down Morrison. If UCLA can slow down his production then they'll be successful. If he's getting the ball where he wants, when he wants, and is seeing open shots then it'll be a long night for the Bruins. What to look for: UCLA likes to run; can they run and still keep track of Morrison?
#4 Boston College vs. #1 Villanova: The Wildcats have been very good all year long. They haven't really had a clunker, and earlier this year when they beat Connecticut they got big contributions from their overlooked frontcourt players, particularly Will Sheriden. Boston College plays a very disciplined offense, and they, like WVU, almost always end up with a good shot. They defend fairly well, but they'll have to deal with two very dynamic guards in Allen Ray and Randy Foye. What to look for: Who goes off, Randy Foye or Craig Smith? Is 'Nova forcing turnovers?
#11 George Mason vs. #7 Wichita State: I have to be honest here. The only things I know about these teams is what I've seen in the tournament. George Mason did a great job against North Carolina. Wichita State played an over-seeded Tennessee team after dispatching a mediocre Seton Hall. The teams played earlier this year and George Mason prevailed at home by 3. What to look for: Offensive execution. Is one team turning the ball over and taking shots under duress, or are they getting open looks or driving to the rim?
#7 Georgetown vs. #3 Florida: The Hoyas are still alive after sending Ohio State back to Columbus bruised and battered. Georgetown plays a much different game than they did under previous coaches, much lower scoring. They still play in-your-grille man-to-man defense, however. Florida has been one of the more impressive teams in the tournament so far, but the teams they've beaten were 14 seed South Alabama and 11 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Will the Hoyas be able to handle Taurean Green and Joakim Noah? What to look for: Is Florida getting three-pointers open or under pressure? Is Green getting to the rim, or kept on the perimeter?
#5 Washington vs. #1 Connecticut: Washington totally shut down the Illini in the second round, coming back from a big deficit with stifling defense. Every shot was covered, and no penetration was allowed. They're led by a terrific 6-6 guard, Brandon Roy. Connecticut has not been nearly as good defensively, despite all the shot blocking. What UConn does have, however, is an offensive threat at every position, and the first two off the bench also. What to look for: Is Marcus Williams able to run the offense for the Eastern Huskies, or are the Western Huskies pressuring him into poor or rushed decisions?
Well, this should be fun. Games start at 7 Eastern.
3/23/06 0930: I just read Clark Kellogg's take this morning on Yahoo! Sports, and I'm thinking it sounds very familiar...
Japan meets Cuba tonight in San Diego for the World Baseball Championship. Japan torched Korea while Cuba held on against the Dominican Republic in the semifinals several days ago. For almost all of the national teams involved this event is an exhibition, a distraction from the preparations for their regular season. The American players taking part joined their team a week after the start of spring training. Those of other nationalities who are also major leaguers include Ichiro Suzuki of Japan, and David Ortiz and Miguel Tejada of the Dominican Republic. The Canadian entry was made up largely of minor league players also just at the start of their spring training.
For almost all of the teams this series of games was a competitive exhibition, but an exhibition nonetheless. It presents a distraction from their usual preparation for the baseball season. All, that is, except for Cuba. Communist dictator Fidel Castro takes both his baseball and his politics seriously, and for Fidel it's not just national pride, it's the "superiority" of his communism. Some very good baseball writers seem to be clueless about this aspect.
Jayson Stark writes on ESPN in preparation for the game. Cuban baseball historian Peter Bjorkman says there are three things that give Cuban baseball a "flair" that distinguishes it. The first two are Cuba's African roots and their seemingly endless supply of baseball talent. He continues:
"And the third thing," Bjorkman says, "is a kind of innocence and naiveté. These kids, when you're around them, you find they are so isolated in many respects from the rest of the world. I mean, they're 90 miles away from South Florida, but they don't have the exposure to international media you have almost everywhere else in world. ...
"The world they live in is very focused on the island of Cuba, on Cuban culture, on the Cuban revolution. And I think these kids are kind of like kids off the streets in the United States in the 1940s. Just like the cars in Cuba go back to the '40s and '50s, really the life of the people, in many ways, does too."
There could be no simpler example of that than this: Every player in the WBC was given his own iPod. Only the Cubans had no idea what to make of it, no means to access the songs and videos they could use to fill it with life, not even any way to plug it in or charge it.
Uh, Peter? Jayson? It's very simple. They are very focused on the island of Cuba because they are not allowed exposure and focus elsewhere. For political reasons the people have no access to the internet, so how would they have access to ITunes and online music? Should they have internet access they might discover subversive concepts like "freedom" and "democracy" and "representative government" and "capitalism." That could never be knowingly allowed.
That Cuban baseball players regularly defect to the United States is an indication that even their minimal exposure to a free society and opportunity is enough to spark desire for a better life. Peter Gammons, writing in his blog at ESPN, fails to recognize this.
Would [Cuban phenom Yulieski] Gourriel like the money? Who wouldn't? But to Cubans, beating the Japanese in a U.S. park -- in the country that founded the game that is now Cuban, Dominican, Venezuelan, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Mexican -- transcends dollars.
Gourriel is not playing for Fidel Castro's Cuba, but for Cuban baseball and the island that gave us Luis Tiant, Tony Perez, Tony Olivo and Pedro Ramos.
No, Mr. Gammons. Gourriel is playing for the Revolution, as are all the other Cubans. At least that's the way that the Cuban papers will present it to the people, particularly if they win. Gourriel may not think he's playing for Fidel Castro's Cuba, but Castro thinks he is, and he'll want the Cuban people to also think so. The game transcends dollars in the sense that, for Castro, the politics will be much more important.
3/23/06 0615: Rick Moran's Carnival of the Clueless, the "What would an army of Davids do?" edition, is up. Cluelessness, cluelessness everywhere, as far as they eye can see.
After a 48 game frenzy we've pared the field to 16, and it's not precisely the 16 that anyone thought it would be when the tournament began. Big 12 tourney champs Kansas? Gone. 'Defending' national champ UNC? Gone. Top-ten Tennessee? Go sing a few choruses of Rocky Top to cheer yourselves up. Big East tourney darlings Syracuse? Knocked out in 1. Big Ten members Illinois, Iowa, Ohio St., Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin? All gone, every last one of 'em.
I believe I'm correct in saying nobody thought this would be the 16. ESPN got over 3 million entries in their online bracket challenge, and not a single one picked all of the Sweet 16. I understand that only 12 entries picked even 15 correct. Less than 50 of 3 million had George Mason going this far. Parity has come to college basketball. Sure, Duke is still Duke, and the ACC and Big East are strong as always. But get yourself a good coach, one who knows both how to uncover and develop talent and how to teach "x's and o's", and with much of the best talent either skipping college entirely or leaving after a year you've got a chance to knock off a heavyweight. Or at least, give 'em a game.
The Big East has 25% of those remaining - UConn, 'Nova, Georgetown and West Virginia. The ACC has 2 teams - BC and Duke. There are 2 from the Pac 10 (UCLA and Washington), 2 from the SEC (Florida and LSU) and 2 from the Missouri Valley Conference (Bradley and Wichita State). Finally there are Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference and George Mason from the Colonial Athletic Association. I'm very impressed with the accomplishments of George Mason, taking out Mich. St. and UNC, and Bradley, taking out Kansas and Pitt. Wichita State had a somewhat easier task with Seton Hall and Tennessee.
We'll run down the Sweet 16 later this week, but for a basketball afficionado this past weekend was pure gold. Yeah, I know I only got 9 of the 16 correct, but like I said, "for entertainment purposes only." Now I'm just relaxing, enjoying, and anticipating.
Oh, I hope you didn't take my advice on filling out your bracket. Clearly I know nothing about basketball. Things aren't quite that bad, in reality. My Final Four choices are all still active, and seven of eight regional finalists as well (bye bye, MSU).
Actually, there were so many close games, games that could easily have gone the other way, among these 32 first round contests that it's hard to see how anyone could really predict them.
So, if you used my picks - sorry. Didn't you know this is "for entertainment purposes only"?
I'm watching some great games tonight, including an overtime game the UNC-Wilmington just let slip from its grasp at the end; a highly rated Gonzaga team pushed right to the final minute by 14 seed Xavier; and not Air Force giving Illinois fits early in the second half. As long as the TV is on and the Syracusee game is yet to start I thought I'd have a look around the blogosphere.
The real issue here is: what is the Constitution? Justice Scalia has famously noted that the Constitution is a legal document which, like all legal documents, says some things and does not say others. In Justice Ginsburg's view the Constitution is, on the contrary, a roving charter for nine individuals to decide what "basic fairness" requires. It should hardly be necessary to point out that the former understanding, which was universal until quite recently, is a charter of freedom, inasmuch as the people's representatives can vote on amendments. Conversely, the "basic fairness" approach is a form of tyranny in which a small elite can impose its policy preferences on the rest of us.
It is also utterly unworkable. There is a reason why people reduce legal documents to writing: it's the only way to know what the deal is. Under Justice Ginsburg's approach, the "law" is ineffable. There is no way to know from one day to the next what it might be.
From Mr. Moran:
What I do know is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg should not be deciding cases on our Supreme Court. She, and her fellow Justices who think as she does, must be prevented from allowing foreign law or precedent to influence their decisions in any way. By doing so, they drive a stake through the heart of the concept of American exceptionalism – that we consciously do things differently here because of who we are and what kind of people we see ourselves as.
Read them both. Rick Moran's 36th Carnival of the Clueless is up. I've been remiss in not pointing out several recent editions.
Mr. Right compares George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler (what, again?) at The Right Place and finds them, strangely, not all that dissimilar. Thought provoking, to be sure.
HITLER...Hated the Jews. BUSH...Not all that fond of Barbra Streisand.
Charlottesvillain, blogging at Tigerhawk, notes some fascinating medical information. It seems that the prime mover in hot peppers may kill prostate cancer cells. Now, don't go downing a bottle of habanero pepper thinking you're curing cancer. Eat them for the fun of it. And feel good about yourself.
I like the look of the 'new and improved' Real Clear Politics. Neat.
Great comment from the Baseball Crank about a week ago on the Barry Bonds/steroid question:
Next time you wonder if Mark McGwire was a bad role model for kids, remember that he turned out to be a bad role model for a 35-year-old with a first-ballot Hall of Fame career already behind him.
Oh, and the Nike ad that offended me, and which I thought had been pulled, was apparently on the air last week on at least one occasion, in the Philadelphia area, but I haven't seen it at all today. Have no fear. I'm willing to watch more basketball to see if it shows up.
Well, Winthrop almost pulled it off, losing 63-61 to Tennessee when it looked like the game would go to OT. The Vols hit a fallaway long jumper from the corner with 0.4 on the clock to win it. Nuts.
I almost picked Wisconsin-Milwaukee, chickening out at the last minute thinking I was picking too many lower seeds. The Panthers swept aside Oklahoma by 8.
Marquette almost came all the way back from a double digit deficit to top Alabama, but a swingman from the Congo, Jean Felix, threw in 31 including 8 for 11 on threes (season avg. 29.6%) and the Tide won by 5.
BC almost ruined my final four, taking 2 overtimes to oust the Pacific Tigers. And listening to Ted Sarandis call the game on WEEI in Boston almost made me throw up with his incessant whining over the heavily-favored Eagles' circumstances.
If all goes according to my previous prognostications, and there's really no reason that it should though we'll assume so for the sake of argument, we'll be left with Duke, Connecticut, Boston College and UCLA as the teams heading to Indianapolis for the last weekend. Let's look at each of these, then make some picks.
Duke is the "Cheers" team in this group - everybody knows their names. Start with the premier sharpshooter in the field in J.J. Redick, who can light the lamp from 25 feet with regularity. Occasionally he doesn't square his shoulders, and if you can make him shoot off the dribble his percentage falls. But catch-and-shoot he is deadly. This year he's driving more, but as a playmaker in the lane he's only so-so. Shelden Williams is the big man inside, not huge height-wise but solid as a rock, very strong, and great timing as a shot blocker. It's easy to get in foul trouble against him. The two star freshmen are point guard Greg Paulus and power forward Josh McRoberts. Both will be much better next year and the year after than they are now. Paulus handles it well and passes very well, but is not exceedingly quick and can be harrassed by a quick defender. McRoberts has a small bag of moves down low that will expand in future years. Now he scores mostly when the defense leaves to double Williams and on offensive rebounds.
DeMarcus Nelson can shoot well at times, but is not a prime threat. Sean Dockery is a defender primarily, but will hit an occasional three. Lee Melchionni is primarily a three point threat. They are all good, but not the players you worry about. Defensively Duke is a man-to-man team that plays good help defense and recovers, and they rebound well. If this all sounds good, it is. That's why they are number one in the country.
Connecticut is also very gifted at many positions, and deeper. They go four or five deep in the frontcourt with first team All-American Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, freshman Jeff Adrien and former ACC freshman of the year Ed Nelson - yes, he's fifth on the depth chart. In the backcourt Marcus Williams is the most talented passer in the nation, but sometimes makes iffy decisions with the ball. The backup point is a freshman, Craig Austrie. The wings are great shooters and scorers, Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson. Marcus Johnson is a 6-6 freshman swingman who started some games this season. Yes, that's 10 players, and they all can play.
Defensively the Huskies don't pressure the ball on the perimeter as much as some teams, and they can be beat off the dribble. But they get hands up on perimeter jumpers and they are big. They block a lot of shots inside after that dribble penetration, having led the nation in that stat for five years in a row. To beat them you'd better force turnovers, hit threes, and not get in foul trouble inside - they've got more depth than you.
Pittsburgh is a very tough defensive team, led by senior NYC point guard Carl Krauser. The NYC point guard reference is important - it means he wants the ball in his hands at big moments and wants to take big shots, and he has no fear. They've got a talented three point shooter in Antonio Graves, and a seven foot center with soft hands in Aaron Gray. They rebound, and they can run. Their other major contributors are an athletic wing forward (Sam Young) and skilled 6-9 forward Levon Kendall, and two other New York guards, Ronald Ramon and Levance Fields.
Their flaw is streaky shooting. If Krauser and Graves are not on target then they can struggle to score. They do move the ball well, however, and they play hard. Can they beat Duke? Ay, there's the rub.
Boston College runs what is called the "flex offense," and they run it very well. The principles are lots of screens, back door moves against overplays, and keeping the movement going until a good shot appears. BC rarely takes bad shots as a result. They also run this offense with very few turnovers. Defensively they're a man-to-man team with a very good on the ball defender in Sean Marshall, whose job it was to tag J.J. Redick in the ACC final. The center is Sean Williams who can block shots not put up with authority.
Offensively the Eagles have an active forward with ball-handling skills in Jared Dudley, and a very strong post player - who can also stick a jumper - in Craig Smith. Louis Hinnant, the point guard, was a revelation in the ACC tournament dishing assists and hitting three pointers. Freshman point guard Tyrese Rice is talented but erratic. Marshall has never quite been as good a shooter as he is alleged to be. The team doesn't shoot free throws that well, either. Altogether they seem to be a classic case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.
So who will win? UConn is deeper and stronger at more positions than the other three teams. Joe Lunardi (of ESPN Bracketology fame) says of the Huskies, whom he also picked to win the tournament
"Ever notice how the team that wins the NCAA title usually has the most future NBA players? This isn't about Jim Calhoun's getting a third championship as much as it is the nation's best talent winning the final game. "
I've got Duke over Pittsburgh (too much Redick), and Connecticut over Boston College (simply too much), with UConn taking an 84-78 final over the Blue Devils.
Last, but not least, the Minneapolis Region.
Once again, links are to the team's schedule, referenced from this list, so you can see how they did and against what competition.
After last evening's tour de force we come to the final region, Minneapolis. Again, you're going to want your number 1, Villanova, and your number 2, Ohio State, in the second round without thinking too much about it. Those two will easily dispatch Monmouth, who easily knocked off Hampton last night, and Davidson. Monmouth has a 7-2 big man with soft hands, but he's too slow for the Wildcats. The Hawks are notable, however, for holding Princeton to 21 points for an entire game earlier this season, so you never know.
Wisconsin has been unsteady for some time, with losses in their last three and an earlier loss to Northwestern making 4 of 5 on short end. Take Arizona, and hope that Hassan Adams doesn't completely disrupt Lute's boys. But it's one-and-done for these Wildcats, as the Philadelphia ones, playing at home move on. 'Nova will have several more days for Allen Ray to heal before they need him.
Nevada is a strong team that played a strong schedule this year, beating Kansas, but will they be ready for Montana's Grizzlies in round one? Montana beat teams like Loyola Marymount (who nearly knocked off Gonzaga in the conference tournament), Stanford and Oral Roberts (in the field of 64). I'm going with the Grizzlies for a 12-5 upset despite Nevada's Nick Fazekas. That's as far as they go, however. Boston College plays a very good Pacific team, winners of 13 of their last 14, but immediately after seeing UNC and Duke BC should be ready. The Eagles should also handle Montana, who will have difficulty against the Eagle frontcourt of Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and shot-blocker Sean Williams.
Let's think about another upset in the Oklahoma matchup against Wisconsin - Milwaukee. The Sooners lost their last two, to Texas and Nebraska, while U M-W has the momentum of a Sweet Sixteen appearance last year as a 12 seed. Then again, they have a new coach this year, so is there much carry-over? Stick with the Sooners, but this will be one to watch. Florida and South Alabama? No contest - sorry Jaguars. Now go out and prove me wrong. I'll take the Gators over Oklahoma, as they're playing better late in the year.
Some are picking Georgetown to go to the Final Four. I don't know if I'm that excited about them, but they should be good enough offensively and defensively against Northern Iowa. They're very active, and Jeff Green and Brandon Bowman are tall and talented. The Hoyas game with Ohio State will be very interesting, and I think it'll come down to who shoots better from the outside, or really who guards the outside shot better. I like the defensive intensity of Georgetown.
That leaves us with Georgetown, Boston College, Villanova and Florida, nearly a Big East reunion. I saw firsthand what a talented point guard can do to Georgetown, but Florida is also very young. Hmmmm, let's go with Florida, but it's a close call. BC knows from experience last year all about Michael Nardi, Randy Foye, Allen Ray and Kyle Lowry, and has a better frontcourt. The Wildcats flourish when they force turnovers, and BC doesn't do that. Go with Boston College, but this game will be the best of the regional semis, in my opinion. And I'm sticking with Boston College over Florida. The Gators will only go as far as Taurean Green will take them, and someone will eventually slow him down. I think it'll be the Eagles.
I didn't really put Winthrop in the Sweet Sixteen last night, did I? You can all laugh at me Saturday morning.
I'm getting some Google search traffic from people searching "Gerry McNamara overrated" and "Allen Ray eye injury." Nice - hoop fans ... or bettors?
Moving on to the Nation's Capitol, the Washington DC region:
If you listen to the experts it's UConn, UConn, UConn all the way here, but they've got some serious hurdles in front of them, barring upsets, so they'd better be ready. They'll move onto the second round with ease over Albany. Now get out your erasers. Remember when I told you to move all the 1's and 2's through? You might want to take a look at Winthrop over Tennesee. They have experience against SEC teams, and played Alabama, Auburn and Memphis close. The Vols, meanwhile, lost four of their last six.
Here's my 12-5 upset - Utah State over Washington. The west coast Huskies don't play enough defense for my taste, but they do have talent. Okay, so I'm out on a limb here. Illinois strafes the Air Force, and then remove the smiles from the Utah St. faithful. Illinois is experienced, talented, and plays much tougher competition game-in and game-out.
Michigan State is playing near home against George Mason, and that will be the difference. The Spartans have very good guards in Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager. They'll likely face the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round, after the Heels dispatch Murray State. Although the Racers are very good, Roy Williams is not going to lose a first round game even with a young team. MSU/UNC is a pick 'em game. I like Michigan State to edge out Carolina, based on experience primarily, but you can flip a coin if you want.
Seton Hall is out of the Big East, but put up a very weak effort in their last game, a loss to Rutgers in the Big East Tournament. Take the Shockers of Wichita State. Now you've got Winthrop and Wichita State - we can't have a 15 seed in the Sweet Sixteen, can we? Absolutely.
So we're left with UConn, Illinois, Michigan State and Winthrop. UConn will be fully ready for the Illini, and I can't see Winthrop beating the Spartans. Another great matchup in the regional final sees the Huskies cutting down the nets to head to Indianapolis. Can Kentucky, Illinois, or Michigan State derail Connecticut? Of course they can, if, and only if they a) avoid turnovers that lead to transition baskets, b) hit more than half of their threes, c) keep the Huskies off the offensive glass, e) stop Marcus Williams from penetrating and e) tag Rashad Anderson out deep while preventing the ball from going down low. Good luck with that.
Let's now look at the Oakland region.
I hope you were paying attention earlier, and already have Memphis and UCLA in your second round. Belmont and Oral Roberts are nice stories, and if Memphis isn't careful ORU can be trouble for them, but you're looking for likely, not for possible.
Now Bucknell and Arkansas will be a very competitive game. Bucknell has a great lead guard in Charles Lee, and a 6-11 German center. Arkansas is too quick and strong for the Bison, and don't really have any "bad losses" on their schedule. Go with the Hogs. And you know what, I like a fired up Arkansas to find their way past Memphis, too.
Pittsburgh is a vicious defensive team with great guards, and a seven foot center in Aaron Gray. They'll beat Kent State with that defense. The Golden Flashes have losses to Big East teams Syracuse and Rutgers on their schedule. Kansas is on a roll and will take Bradley, then will have a great matchup with Pitt. I think the Panthers beat the Jayhawks on a late bucket by Carl Krauser. Remember, defense wins.
San Diego St. is a very good team, but really have a so-so schedule and out-of-conference performance. The Hoosiers have been playing well lately - I'll take Indiana. Gonzaga will have their hands full from moment one in this tournament. I like the Bulldogs and Adam Morrison over Xavier, who are playing well but out of the weak A-10, but their run stops with Indiana in round two. Almost all of Gonzaga's games have been closer than you'd expect for a team with only 3 losses, two of which were to UConn and Memphis.
Finally we have Marquette and Alabama. The Crimson Tide is very erratic, making picking this game difficult. Will the Tide roll the Golden Eagles over in an upset, or will Steve Novak fill it up? I like Coach Tom Crean with nearly a week to prepare. But Marquette doesn't get past UCLA, who have too many good players and an experienced coach in Ben Howland.
Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Indiana and UCLA make up our regional final four, and it would be poetic justice if Howland's former team plays his current team for a Final Four slot. UCLA over Pittsburgh - the Bruins move on.
3/16/06 1000: Okay, I goofed. I've looked into it more thoroughly, and I just can't see any way that UCLA beats Pitt. UCLA is a perimeter oriented team, and as such they are not as good at it as Villanova. Give the edge in the regional semis to Indiana, who have Marco Killingsworth to beat up the Bruins inside, and in the final to Pitt.
Okay, so the office pool bracket is due by Thursday at noon, tipoff for the first games, and here you sit looking at the 64 team field without a clue. You stare at the names, and you've heard, maybe, that North Carolina and Duke are kind of good. Oh, and a while ago UCLA won a championship or two, didn't they?
Well, I'm here to help. Call it a public service - you can thank me later. One disclaimer - I don't work in sports journalism, so I can't claim to have seen every team play. And I'm not a Vegas guy, so point spreads mean nothing to me. This is about winners and losers, who plays smart and hard and who doesn't, and who's not as good as their rep. As we go through this I'll link the team's schedule page, so you can see who each team beat, and who they didn't.
The first game in the tournament is actually being played tonight (...ahem) between Monmouth and Hampton. As I write this Monmouth (from New Jersey) leads Hampton (Virginia) by
16 20 midway through the second half, so they will probably meet Villanova as the Minneapolis region's 16 seed.
Let's start with the Atlanta bracket
If Duke doesn't beat Southern, and if Texas doesn't beat Penn they should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, while you're at it just move all the 1 and 2 seeds through to the second round. Only two 15 seeds have ever beaten a 2, and a 16 has never beaten a 1. The Quakers are good, but Texas is too big and too good.
NC State plays in the ACC, but I suspect Cal watched the Wolfpack get shredded by Wake Forest in the ACC tournament and is licking their chops. Leon Powe is tough inside, and Wake showed you can beat NCSt that way. Take Cal. Can Cal beat Texas? Sure, absolutely. Will they? Errr, not so much. Texas has Aldridge and Buckman inside to defend Powe, and is also better on the perimeter defensively.
Iowa is in no danger against Northwestern St. That's not to say the Demons can't play - they can, as wins over Mississippi St, Oklahoma St. and Oregon St. show. But that big an upset takes a favorite with questionable shooting and questionable discipline. Iowa is neither. Now, Southern Illinois is very good, but so is West Virginia. This is a real tossup game, but I've seen WVU play quite a few times this year, and the Mountaineers are very difficult to play. They run a very disciplined spread motion offense, and play very good defense despite a lack of size. Southern Illinois best win out of conference is over Murray State, but they also lost to Monmouth. Take the Mountaineers, but don't be shocked if the Salukis win. I like WVU over Iowa, for the simple reason that Iowa will not be able to overpower the Mountaineers as the teams that beat them have. Mike Gansey is a clone of former Iowa guard Jeff Hornacek, so he should look familiar to them.
Louisiana St. beats Iona because of Tyrus Thomas, a superior shot blocker, and widebody Glen Davis. The Gaels can't handle them. The Steve Burtt Jr. stars for Iona as his dad did before him. Syracuse is on a roll, and on a high. I wrote earlier about Gerry McNamara, but the big advantage they'll have over Texas A&M is the Orange 2-3 zone defense, which is unique in its man-to-man principles and ball-hawking. On the other hand, A&M doesn't really have a "bad loss" on their schedule, except maybe one to Kansas St., but that was a road game. This could be your 12-5 upset special. Take the Orange, but keep your fingers crossed. I like Syracuse over the Tigers in what should be a great game.
Finally, UNC -Wilmington can beat George Washington, especially with a weakened Pops Mensah-Bonsu coming off a knee injury. I saw the Seahawks win their tournament final against Hofstra, and this team can play. The Colonials have to be a little miffed at getting an 8 seed with their 26-2 record, and will be very focused. But I'm going with the Seahawks, but that's as far as they go.
So the last four standing should be Duke, Syracuse, WVU and Texas. Take the top two seeds, then Duke over Texas in the regional final, like they waxed the 'Horns earlier this year. One down, three to go.
There will be posts looking at each region in some detail (provided I have enough time to do them justice), but this first look is a collection of thoughts as the bracket came out last night.
CBS Sportsline basketball writer Gregg Doyel has an interesting column with similar quick looks around the tournament. I'll agree with him on at least one point, that the vaunted RPI either needs adjusting or scrapping.
Finally, let's get intellectual for a second. Like Memphis in 2005, the numbers are clear: South Carolina is not a 2006 NCAA Tournament team. The Gamecocks are 18-15 overall, their SEC record including the tournament is 8-11, their postseason resumé is weak and their RPI is a middling No. 61. And yet if you paid attention to South Carolina this week in the SEC Tournament -- the Gamecocks beat Tennessee and Kentucky, and played Florida to a dead heat for 39 minutes, 45 seconds on Sunday -- you know beyond a doubt that the Gamecocks would be a fine NCAA Tournament team. But the RPI says it's not to be, so it's not to be. This is why the RPI should be poked with a porcupine.
I disagree with him on some of the geography complaints - treat every game like a road game and don't worry about it - but he's right about this. Some of the teams with high RPI's are head scratchers, like Wichita State. They have an RPI of 20, one slot ahead of Michigan State - to whom Wichita lost by 19 points.
Oh, sure, the official NCAA tournament bracket is out, but there are some other fish to fry. I've been immersed in the beauty of well-played college basketball. My hat is off to major conference tournament winners Kansas, Florida, Duke, Syracuse and Iowa, and two of the runners-up, Boston College and Pittsburgh, who played equally inspired ball despite coming up short. But the world doesn't stop in March, much as I wish it would, so there are a few observations worth mentioning.
I know all you NCAA hoop fan bloggers out there are looking forward to guidance in making your selections for the office pool. Fear not, help is on the way. Just not tonight.
3/15/06 1050: OMG, Junior shot Tony?!
Several random thoughts as I look forward to tonight's Big East final here in NYC.
The Big East Conference Tournament got underway yesterday in New York's Madison Square Garden, and a couple of early stories emerged. Of course, those stories may change today, once the four top teams play, but that's why they play the games.
The first story is Syracuse, and in particular their sharp-shooting point guard Gerry McNamara. Syracuse knocked off Cincinnati when McNamara drained a running 3 pointer from the top of the key with 0.3 on the clock. Apparently some people in Syracuse don't appreciate the play of their point guard, calling him "overrated" in an opinion piece in the Daily Orange.
Talk about selective memory. Or maybe it's denial. But there's no question his weaknesses have finally been fully exposed this season, and somebody has to say what's long overdue: Gerry McNamara is overrated.
Of course, coaches and players know better. On this year's Syracuse team, which I've seen play perhaps four or five times, he is the offense. That is, if you stop, or at least contain, McNamara's 3 pointers and penetration, you stop Syracuse. They don't have a lot of guys who create their own shot on offense. Eric Devendorf can do it on occasion, depending on the defender, but he's a freshman. After that, the rest of the team relies on McNamara to draw the defense and find them. If the defense crowds McNamara, or if his teammates don't present themselves in the gaps, then he's either going to have to force a shot, force a pass, or get rid of the ball to a player who's not in a scoring position.
Earlier this year Connecticut's Jim Calhoun made just that point after UConn knocked off the Orange in a game McNamara played only 24 minutes.
Calhoun said not having McNamara made it difficult for the Orange.
"It made it easier for us because they depend on him so much," he said.
Okay, so he's not Magic Johnson. He is, however, very good, and the heart of the Orange.
The second story involves defense, the kind of defense they play from top to bottom in the Big East, the kind of defense that very few teams in other leagues play with regularity. Pittsburgh showed that defense in the first half against Louisville last night (then hung on to win by five), and Rutgers did so against Seton Hall, throttling both of those offenses. Louisville is now NIT-bound, after scoring only 5 points in the first 16 minutes of the game. It took them 8 minutes to get their first points, on two free throws. Seton Hall was held to 25% shooting for the game, and as I watched there simply were no open shots available. Donald Copeland shot 50%; the rest of the team was 6 for 41.
Remember, defense wins in the NCAA tournament. You need scoring punch, but if the other teams have trouble getting the ball in the basket the game will at worst be close.
Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters reports a very interesting effort by Salon online magazine to boost its subscriptions by offering more glimpses of abuse from Abu Ghraib prison, a now over-2-year-old story.
The only value left in these pictures is their ability to inflame, and once again we have the parallel of the Prophet cartoons. Salon's reluctance to publish them supposedly involves their inflammatory and offensive nature. Yet Salon has no problem reminding the Muslim world that a few American soldiers engaged in graphic and sick abuse of their Muslim prisoners, which puts the rest of our troops -- almost all of which have abused no one -- at risk for more retaliations, if it means they can sell a few more subscriptions.
Precisely. There's one more point that can be made, though, that Salon is making one of two assumptions by doing this, and neither are true. The first is that only anti-war, anti-administration liberals would be interested in reading Salon. If so, then you've labeled yourself a left-wing bias publication. If not that, then their second assumption would be that they only want left-wing, anti-war, anti-administration readers, and so to "cull the herd" they chose bait that would tempt only that group. I'm pretty sure that if they want to be taken seriously - and at $35 per year subscription fee that's a reasonable assumption - they don't intend that to be the case.
One of these two assumptions must be true, because the third is just idiocy, that simply the oppportunity to see more of the abuse, as if we haven't seen enough of it already, could cause a rational person to part with their money. I don't know, maybe P.T. Barnum was right.
The USA Today carries an article discussing military desertions. The headline writer for Bill Nichols' article chose to emphasize the number of desertions, rather than the much more optimistic data on desertion rate or cause of desertions. First, the headline:
That sounds like a lot, and I'd assume, just having read the headline, that the reason this story is showing up now is that the "unpopular" and "unwinnable" Iraq war is causing a surge in desertions, just as we need our troops more than ever. I'd be wrong, of course.
At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Desertion numbers have dropped since 9/11. The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.
The desertion rate was much higher during the Vietnam era. The Army saw a high of 33,094 deserters in 1971 - 3.4% of the Army force. But there was a draft and the active-duty force was 2.7 million.
Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.
Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins. "People always desert, and most do it because they don't adapt well to the military," she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.
Most deserters return within months, without coercion.
So there we have it. Desertion represents in 2005 only 0.24% of the military, and this is down significantly since Vietnam(!). Further, most deserters aren't doing so due to opposition to the war, and the number of deserters has "dropped since 9/11,", i.e., when the actual fighting began. Also, there has been only one known desertion in Iraq. Finally, most deserters return.
So the headline could have been any one of the following:
Military Desertions Down Since 9/11
Rate of Military Desertion Much Lower Than In Vietnam Era
Desertion Among Active Iraq Military Very Rare
Military Desertion Rarely Due To War Opposition
But USA Today instead went with a technically accurate, but very misleading headline. Congratulations.
This Is Too Boring... and I'm now just watching The Thing again.
Best Use Of a Malamute As a Creepy Threat: Norwegian Sled Dog in "The Thing."
Best Actor: Kurt Russell as RJ MacReady in "The Thing."
Best Supporting Actor: Wilford Brimley as "Blair" in "The Thing."
A great John Carpenter horror film vs. Oscar. Hmmmm. Good choice, Ace.
Everyone is discussing the unanimous Supreme Court decision upholding the ability of the military to recruit on campus, or rather the inability of schools to block the military from recruiting if they take federal funds.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the government can force colleges to open their campuses to military recruiters despite university objections to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.
Justices rejected a free-speech challenge from law schools and professors who claimed they should not have to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances.
The decision was a setback for universities that had become the latest battleground over the military policy allowing gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves.
Let's just recall, for a moment, that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was established in 1993. Some have decided to stand firm:
Geoffrey Shields, dean of Vermont Law School, said the school since 1999 has given up some federal money and will continue to bar recruiters "as a symbol of the importance of fair treatment of all people."
"We've stuck to our guns and I anticipate we'll continue to stick to our guns," he said.
Guns? I thought I read that right. It looks like they'll be giving up not 'some' but 'all' of that federal money. Seriously, it boggles the mind that a university, even a private one, that takes money from the government could feel justified in blocking another agent of the government from campus. They should feel free to decline the money and block the recruiters, or take the money and allow the recruiters. Pick one. And don't worry that taking the money makes you a sellout. It doesn't. It makes you impotent.
(3/8/06 - link added)
Cindy Sheehan was arrested. Yes, again.
NEW YORK - Cindy Sheehan, who drew international attention when she camped outside President Bush's ranch to protest the Iraq war, was arrested Monday along with three other women during a demonstration demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The march to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations by about a dozen U.S. and Iraqi anti-war activists followed a news conference at U.N. headquarters, where Iraqi women described daily killings and ambulance bombings as part of the escalating violence that keeps women in their homes.
A dozen? That's it? Twelve measly protestors? And these Iraqi women are justifiably upset about "daily killings and ambulance bombings," but aren't they barking at the wrong door? I suppose, though, that's it not very likely they'd get a sympathetic ear from the Islamic extremists who are actually responsible.
John Fund on the Taliban Man at Yale:
Almost no one will now defend Mr. Rahmatullah's presence as a special student, even though a week ago many had no such inhibitions in a splashy New York Times magazine piece, which broke the news that he had been at Yale for eight months. In that piece, Richard Shaw, Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions before he took the same post at Stanford, explained that Yale had missed out on another foreign student of the same caliber as Mr. Rahmatullah but that "we lost him to Harvard," and "I didn't want that to happen again."
Yeah, that would have been a shame. I guess keeping up with the "Joneses", even if they're parking tireless '67 Buicks on cinderblocks in their front yard, is important.
March Madness is here, and we're in the midst of the buildup to the NCAA tournament and the field of 64 (get those brackets ready), with conference tournaments and big final regular season matchups. Some thoughts on a couple of big games yesterday, and one to come from today.
Yesterday Duke and UNC met in Durham and the Tar Heels prevailed 83-76. UNC played very good defense on JJ Redick, and Sheldon Williams, with some foul trouble, was a non-factor in the first half. Thus the game pointed up a Blue Devil flaw: you need more than two great players to win a championship, because if a team is intense enough defensively to tag those players there isn't a third scorer to pick up the slack. DeMarcus Nelson and Billy Melchionni are not quite there, and Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts play like freshmen far too often, and haven't developed as fast as the North Carolina freshmen largely because they haven't had to. UNC, on the other hand, is a team that is growing stronger over time, and is a testament to Roy Williams coaching ability. I'll never be listed as a Tar Heel fan, but you've got to admire what he's done with a raw group this season. They always - always - play hard defensively, and they're very quick.
Also yesterday UConn nailed down the Big East regular season title and likely the number one national ranking going into the Big East tournament. They did so against a struggling Louisville Cardinal team that gave them fits right down to the wire. This was not UConn's best game, by far, but the game can best be seen as a testament to the depth of quality teams in the league. Louisville may not be among the twelve teams in NYC, but gave the champs all they could handle. My prediction is that eight Big East teams will be in the NCAA tournament, including both Seton Hall and Cincinnati who won big games yesterday, and if Syracuse wins either today against Villanova or two games in NYC then they'll also be in for nine. (They do have an RPI of 30 at last check.)
Finally, they 'Cuse/'Nova matchup. Syracuse may not need to win the game, but this is on national television and they'll have to play much better than in that 39 point pasting they took from Depaul the other night. They've got to show they can play with what will likely be the number two team in the nation going into the conference tournament. A good performance, even if they lose may get them in the field. A win and they're in. For basketball afficionados it's a very interesting game, with the Wildcats' four guard offense a joy to watch. They rarely turn the ball over, and they almost always end up with open looks. Allen Ray is JJ Redick without the hype and with the responsibility to share the ball more often - he's got those supporting scorers Redick lacks.
Let's start off this look around with a banana peel moment from the Associated Press.
”We’re not going to back down in the face of these killers," Mr. Bush said. “We’ll fight this war and we will win this war together."
Mr. Kasuri said that Mr. Musharraf had made a "comprehensive and telling response" to American concerns of Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism. "They had a level of discussion I had not seen before," he said, adding that Mr. Musharraf shared intelligence and documentary evidence with Mr. Bush.
There's a heartfelt apology to former FEMA director Michael Brown from Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice. He links to many others. It's perhaps wise to remember that no one is likely as bad/evil/deranged/stupid as they may look when circumstances are at their worst. For Mr. Brown to be as individuals portrayed him after Katrina he would have had to intend to cause American deaths.
Small pat on the back for JTF: I refrained from a ritual and opportunistic thrashing of Mr. Brown. Here's what I wrote on September 5:
Some will call me an apologist, but if you read above I make no apologies for anyone. What I've done is recognize that in a tremendous and unpredictable natural disaster there will be problems. Humans are involved in devising and implementing the systems that are used in such situations, and humans are fallible. The systems may not be adequate, or even if adequate may not be implemented properly or promptly.
After all, we're only human.
Finally, we have Democrats demanding an "immediate vote" on the DPW ports deal.
Democrats used their weekly radio address Saturday to scold the Bush administration over the Dubai ports management deal.
Francine Busby, a school board member in a San Diego-area district, said Democrats want an immediate vote on the controversial ports deal, an increase in the screening of arriving cargo and more resources for the Coast Guard.
This is preposterous political posturing. Is there any reason at all that an immediate vote is necessary, other than to take advantage of current political passions and undermine relations between America and what is one of our Arab world supporters? Let's phrase this differently, then. Congress should feel free to look into the deal, and look into the security ramifications of it particularly. And if they find that American security would be compromised by this any more than it is by the myriad of other foreign corporations operating within our ports, then scuttle it. But an "immediate vote" is a foolish stunt that is political, and political only.
3/4/06 1845: Since this is the "Oops Edition" of Furtive Glances, I've got one more to add.
Daniel Henninger's Friday OpinionJournal column (also at Real Clear Politics) asks a pertinent question. He makes the point that all of the normal rules that govern political interactions in Washington, if they can even be said to exist, seem to have gone out the window. He feels that the left's insistence that "Bush lied," has opened the door for more corrosive transgressions of normal political maneuvering, and that this genie needs to be re-bottled before it's too late. He starts with an anecdote from the Larry King Show interview with Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show.
Mr. Stewart replied that if government "began to solve problems in a rational way rather than just a way that involved political dividends, we would be the happiest people in the world to turn our attention to idiots like, you know, media people, no offense."
King: So, you don't want it to be bad?
Stewart: Did you really just ask me if I want it to be bad?
King: Yes because you--
Stewart: What are you--I have kids. What do you think? I want things to corrode to the point where we're all living in huts?
King: You don't want Medicare to fail?
Stewart: Are you insane?
Did Mr. King really ask if someone wanted Medicare to fail? Seriously? Mr. Stewart is a comedian; that doesn't make him an idiot. Being a talk show host who focuses on Washington may have brought Mr. King a lot closer to that tipping point than he'd like to admit if he considers that a serious question.
Rational problem-solving generally requires adhering to the rules of the game, and in politics those rules are often informal. One such rule in Washington is that a politician is as good as his word. Perhaps nothing has been more destructive to Washington's current ability to function than the belief that "Bush lied" about WMD, most notably Joe Wilson's foundational charge in the New York Times that Mr. Bush lied about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium from Niger.
This persistent belief that George Bush committed a major moral crime, which was refuted by the Robb-Silberman Commission, had consequences. It has led many people in Washington's standing institutions--Congress, the press, the intelligence and foreign-policy bureaucracies--to think they've been released from operating inside the normal boundaries that allow political Washington to function, that allow partisans to do business, whether on foreign policy, Social Security or homeland security.
[E]very issue that emerges becomes an illegitimate extension of the original "lie"--the NSA wiretaps, the Guantanamo detentions, Abu Ghraib, terrorist interrogation techniques, the Plame affair. This is a dangerous game.
Thus it's okay for the NY Times - the Times does seem to qualify as a partisan, again to their detriment - to breach national security by "outing" a covert surveillance program via likely treasonous leaks. This surveillance program, based on the president's obligations as commander in chief, is likely legal as even the FISA court in 2002 opined.
The question then arises, how should a government employee handle something that he or she feels is illegal or constitutionally disallowed? I'm not sure I can give a specific answer to that question. Perhaps by discussing it, with paperwork that documents the objections, with superiors. Perhaps by discussing it with opposition members of the proper supervisory congressional committee. But I do know there's one thing they shouldn't do, and that's illegally disclose it to the press. That's a process that sets up the NY Times and Washington Post as government watchdog agencies, a function for which they are very ill-suited.
Back from the ski trip, and we had a blast (thanks for asking). It's a real treat to see your 6- and 7- year old daughters taking to a new adventure like a shark to raw meat. Four days of lessons and they were skiing intermediate trails with wedge turns and riding the chair to the top. Both were desperately sad when it was time to go. It doesn't get much better than that (the enjoyment of skiing, not the sadness).
One thing about skiing, it's a lot like riding a bicycle, apparently. Both Gwendolyn and I were able to pick up at our previous levels despite an eight year lag. And now we'll have a couple of partners (and soon a third) for future trips.
Despite the time away it looks like things haven't changed much.
More later, as I try to get back into the swing.