Sunday, July 31, 2011

A debt deal has been reached (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 9:07 p.m. EDT: The various Democratic and Republican leaders involved in the discussions are urging their party's Congressional members to approve the deal (and for obvious reasons).

One question that is certain to come up in this media environment is which side won? At first blush, it would appear the Republicans surrendered less than the Democrats because there is nothing in it that suggests tax increases are going to be part of it.

House Speaker John Boehner already has suggested that the GOP got almost everything it wanted in the deal. And at least one news organization reported that the absence of tax increases on America's wealthy and corporations suggests the president will appear weakened.

My expectation is that the initial media conversation will focus on the deal, but the "who won?" question will not be far from the surface.

ORIGINAL POST: Our nation (almost certainly) is not going to default on its debt obligations!

President Obama announced late Sunday night (EDT) that an agreement between top Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and the White House has been reached.

Standing in the way of the deal is approval by Congress. And as Politico reports in this breaking news alert it sent at 8:53 p.m. EDT, the president is urging both parties to do that.
President Barack Obama announced Sunday night that congressional leaders have reached an agreement to cut the deficit and avoid default and urged members of Congress to ratify it.
"Is this the deal I would have preferred? No," said the president in a brief statement from the White House. But he said it will begin "to lift the cloud of debt and uncertainty" over the economy.
The New York Times sent its news alert a few minutes before that, and it suggested:
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate announced Sunday night that they had reached a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avert a default. 
President Obama spoke moments later at the White House, telling reporters that “the leaders of both parties in both chambers have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid a default.”
“My message to the world tonight is that this nation and this Congress are moving forward and we are moving forward together,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said from the floor of the Senate. 
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said, “There is now a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington’s spending.”
The announcement came even as House Speaker John A. Boehner was holding a conference call with his Republican members.
On its live blog, the Wall Street Journal outlined the plan's details:
The emerging plan would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in three stages and provide initially for roughly $900 billion in spending cuts over 10 years. A special committee of lawmakers would be charged with finding another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through a tax overhaul and changes to safety-net programs.
The debt ceiling increase would be done in three phases: $400 billion initially; another $500 billion later this year would be subject to a congressional vote of disapproval; a third increase of $1.5 trillion which would provide the government with enough cash to cover all its bills through 2012, also be subject to vote of disapproval.

Management has spoken

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to be one of the surprise teams in Major League Baseball this season; and over the past 24 hours, the team's management has indicated it is confident that the team can make a run at a division championship.

In desperate need of a corner infielder and a corner outfielder who will consistently drive in runs, the Pirates acquired first baseman Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles and outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the San Diego Padres. In both cases, the team gave up none of its top-flight minor-league players and didn't significantly increase the team's payroll.

The Pirates will begin the final two months of the regular season with an everyday lineup that will look something like this:

LF Jose Tabata (currently on the disabled list)
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Derrek Lee
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Pedro Alvarez
C Chris Snyder (currently on the disabled list)
SS Ronnie Cedeno

No, Murderer's Row it is not. But in the current National League Central Division, those eight could be enough to get past the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals (the teams right now ahead of the Pirates in the division standings).

Pittsburgh is 4-1/2 games behind Milwaukee. That is not a difficult amount of games to make up, especially considering a favorable upcoming schedule that has Pittsburgh playing two National League doormats over the next week, and then the Brewers and Cardinals 13 times this month.

There is a pennant race in Pittsburgh for the first time in almost two decades. The players have overachieved so far this season; and the fans have shown their appreciation by turning out in large numbers. Now management has shown it's behind the team as well.

Let the race for October continue.

The updated CFL power rankings

After five weeks of the season, the top two teams in the league were the bottom two one year ago. Indeed, how quickly things can change.

Here are this week's power rankings (with last week's rankings in parentheses).

  1. Edmonton (1), 5-0. The Esks can beat you early, and now they’ve proven they can beat you late. Week 6 at Winnipeg.
  2. Winnipeg (3), 4-1: After an emotional win and a tough week, can the Blue Bombers be ready this week? Week 6 vs Edmonton.
  3. Hamilton (4), 3-2. That’s three straight wins for the suddenly alive Ticats. Week 6 at Calgary.
  4. Montreal (2), 3-2: The wheels started to wobble against Saskatchewan and lost even more traction against Hamilton. Week 6 at Toronto.
  5. Calgary (5), 3-2. The Stamps have a winning record but don’t at all look impressive. Week 6 vs Hamilton.
  6. Saskatchewan (6), 1-4. Right now, the Roughriders look nothing like the team that has been to consecutive Grey Cup championship games. Week 6 at British Columbia.
  7. Toronto (7), 1-4. Four straight losses. Enough said. Week 6 vs Montreal.
  8. British Columbia (8), 0-5. The Lions’ cumulative record over the last three Julys – 2-13. Week 6 vs Saskatchewan.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Los Angeles TV news crew fired upon (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 11:45 p.m. EDT: The following tweet was sent by Los Angeles freelance journalist Edward Lawrence: Leanne Suter from ABC7 was shot in hand w/ a pellet from BB Gun during her 6p Live shot. She's ok. 2 arrested for shooting

ORIGINAL POST: The Los Angeles Times sent this news alert at 11:40 p.m. EDT:
A reporter and TV crew from KABC-TV Channel 7 were fired upon Saturday while doing a live report on a weather story, the station's general manager said in a statement.

"We are grateful no one was seriously hurt, and we are fully cooperating with police in their investigation," said Arnold J. Kleiner, KABC's president and general manager. "Our crews and reporters are very conscious of good safety practices and take proper precautions when on assignment. They could not have anticipated that someone would decide to target them in this way."
The station did not provide further details, and it's unclear whether police have made any arrests in the case.

ABC News is reporting that a debt deal is coming together (2x UPDATED)

2nd UPDATE: 11:27 p.m. EDT: The New York Times, in examining the big picture associated with the debt, suggests that President Obama could be alienating liberals as he seeks to complete a deal that will satisfy Republicans.
Besides turning off independents, Mr. Obama risks alienating Democratic voters already disappointed by his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his failure to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, end the Bush-era tax cuts and enact a government-run health insurance system.
“The activist liberal base will support Obama because they’re terrified of the right wing,” said Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future.
But he said, “I believe that the voting base of the Democratic Party — young people, single women, African-Americans, Latinos — are going to be so discouraged by this economy and so dismayed unless the president starts to champion a jobs program and take on the Republican Congress that the ability of labor to turn out its vote, the ability of activists to mobilize that vote, is going to be dramatically reduced."
1st UPDATE: 11:10 p.m. EDT: Or perhaps not? The following tweet was posted at 11:05 p.m. EDT: Dem familiar with situation disputes ABC report. (Sam Youngman is the White House correspondent for The Hill.)

ORIGINAL POST: ABC News reports that:
ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports:
ABC News has learned that Republicans and the White House have struck a tenative deal to raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline. It's not done yet, but here is the framework of the tentative deal they have worked out, according to a source familiar with the negotiations: 
  • Debt ceiling increase of up to $2.8 trillion 
  • Spending cuts of roughly $1 trillion
  • Special committee to recommend cuts of $1.8 trillion (or whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase) 
  • Committee must make recommendations before Thanksgiving recess 
  • If Congress does not approve those cuts by late December, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare.

Perhaps this is progress?

The Washington Post sent this news alert at 10:16 p.m. EDT:
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid announced late Saturday that negotiations with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House had made enough progress that he would delay consideration of his own legislation to avert the debt crisis. Rather than a 1 a.m. Sunday vote, Reid said he would give the negotiators room to maneuver and set a 1 p.m. Sunday vote on his bill -- which McConnell has already assured would be defeated.

If he could have, then Anders Behring Breivik...

...might have attacked other targets in Oslo.

According to the Associated Press, Breivik, who has confessed to a bombing and mass shooting that killed at least 77 people, has told investigators that he had multiple targets in mind.
During a 10-hour questioning session Friday, Anders Behring Breivik asked interrogators how many people he had killed in the July 22 attacks and "showed no emotion" when they told him, police attorney Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby told reporters in Oslo.
The 32-year-old Norwegian has confessed to setting off a car bomb that killed eight people in downtown Oslo and then gunning down scores of youths from the left-leaning Labor Party at their annual retreat on an island northwest of the capital. Sixty-nine of them died.
"The other targets were government and Labor Party targets," Kraby said.
He declined to confirm a report in Norwegian tabloid VG saying Breivik had described the Royal Palace and the Labor Party's head office as potential targets.
"They were targets that one would say are natural for terror attacks," Kraby told reporters.
The knee-jerk reaction that many people had upon hearing about the attacks was that Breivik was insane. Reuters takes a look at the challenge in determining if a person is, indeed, insane

Forensic psychiatrists who analyze the minds of murderers point to clear patterns of behavior that can date far back and may give vital clues to Breivik's mental state when he killed at least 76 people in a shooting spree and bomb attack on July 22.

They say the most likely final outcome is that Breivik, 32, will be jailed or kept in a secure mental hospital until he is at least in his early fifties, and any release beyond that would be allowed only if a parole board thinks it is safe -- unlikely given the scale and severity of his crimes.

"The insanity defense is about whether someone understands what they're doing, and if they do..whether they realize it is legally wrong," said Seena Fazel, a clinical senior lecturer in forensic psychiatry at the University of Oxford.
In a separate report, the Associated Press reports a few people who knew Breivik are speaking out about him.

Former friends confirm the tales of schoolboy troublemaking. But they also recall Breivik as the one who repeatedly stepped forward to stop the most popular kids in school from teasing or bullying his classmates. He was a singular boy, reluctant to reveal his own thoughts, but one who would willingly sit for hours in the garden outside a friend's house listening to her talk about herself.

"If someone were mean to me he would always stand up for me ... and I think in his head he was just trying to protect us," recalls Caroline Fronth, a friend of Breivik's between 7th and 9th grade. "He was struggling to find his path and we all did in our class ... and that's what's terrible here, because he found his way."

"But it was the wrong way. It was a monstrous way."

Summing up the debt talks (to the tune of Barney)

I hate you...

You hate me...

I'm not going to deal with thee.

With a middle finger... your eye...

I'll blame you when the debt talks die.

Here are some baseball trades that ought to be made

Remember that none of these trades involve any discussion of contracts, contract extensions or commonsense. Imagine if...

1. The Rays trade Evan Longoria, James Shields and B. J. Upton to the Pirates for some of Pittsburgh's top minor-league talent, Pedro Alvarez and Paul Maholm. The Rays initial demands for PNC Park so that they could play in a real stadium almost scuttles the deal.

2. The Cubs trade Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena and Matt Garza to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, Brandon Inge and four minor-league players. The Cubs now have zero recognizable players and no hope (which they didn't have before this deal was made, come to think of it).

3. The Dodgers trade Hiroki Kuroda and owner Frank McCourt to the Red Sox for...oh wait, no one wants McCourt.

4. The Marlins deal Leo Nunez and Randy Choate to the Brewers for prospects and cash. The Brewers become the first team in MLB history with three closers. Imagine that 7th, 8th and 9th inning!

5. The Brewers then trade Choate to the Padres for Heath Bell. Now imagine the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th innings!

6. The Blue Jays trade J. P. Arencibia and Jose Bautista to the Phillies for Domonoc Brown, Vance Worley and three prospects. The deal is made because the Blue Jays believed the Phillies had an incomplete team.

7. The Yankees trade Derek Jeter to the Red Sox for David Ortiz. The Red Sox had wanted the ghost of Babe Ruth but George Steinbrenner returned from the dead to veto that aspect of the deal.

8. The White Sox trade Carlos Quentin to the Astros for a prized minor league player. No one seems to know why.

9. The Cardinals trade Edwin Jackson to a Japanese team for piles of yen. Jackson becomes the first player in the modern era to have played for four teams in three countries and on two continents in one week.

10. The Astros trade Michael Bourn to the Phillies to ensure their supremacy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hunter Pence is a Phillie (4x UPDATED)

4th UPDATE: 9:33 p.m. EDT: The original and first two updates asked if Pence was a Phillie. Now, it can be turned into a declarative statement -- Pence has been traded from the Astros to the Phillies. takes a look at the two minor league players the Astros are getting. Two other players to be named later also will be joining the Astros.

The Philadelphia Inquirer explores what Pence brings the Phillies.

Pence is not a superstar, but he is the complementary righthanded bat the Phillies have missed once Jayson Werth bolted for his mega-millions deal in Washington. He will be inserted into right field and the middle of Manuel's lineup.

In Pence, the Phillies have long-term certainty. The 28-year-old has two years of arbitration remaining. That doesn't mean he will come cheap; Pence is already making $6.9 million in 2011 and will be due a significant raise in 2012 and 2013. But with his addition, the 2012 outfield of Pence, Shane Victorino and Domonic Brown is set.

It's unclear whether the Phillies will pay the remaining $2.2 million on Pence's deal this season. If they do, it could put them dangerously close or over baseball's luxury tax limit of $178 million. No National League team has surpassed that threshold since instituted in 2003.
3rd UPDATE: 9:17 p.m. EDT: The aforementioned Heyman filed this report earlier today about Pence, the Astros and why he was a valuable property to the Phillies (and other teams).

2nd UPDATE: 9:10 p.m. EDT: Sports Illustrated reporter Jon Heyman reports the deal is done. The Phillies will get Pence for two top minor league players with two other players who will be agreed upon later.

1st UPDATE: 9:03 p.m. EDT: The addition of Pence, who is a consistent .300 hitter with power, adds an important right-handed bat to the Philadelphia lineup. But more importantly, the trade would match (if not better) the deal made earlier this week that sent Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets to San Francisco.

The Phillies and the Giants right now are on a collision course to again meet in the National League Championship Series. The teams played in that NLCS one year ago, and the Giants -- a decided underdog -- stunned the Phillies.

Pence is 28 and the best player on a dreadful Houston team.

Pence was wanted by several teams. If the Phillies have added him -- and there is still no official announcement -- then they have improved their team and prevented their National League opponents from picking up a valuable hitter.

ORIGINAL POST: The answer appears to be yes.

Though no formal report has hit the wires yet, there are multiple Twitter posts indicating that the Houston Astros are completing a trade that will bring Hunter Pence to Philadelphia.

The Phillies are expected to surrender between two and four minor league players; the uncertainty as to the number of players reflects that the deal appears to being closing but is not absolutely done.

An MLB batting order in which no one is older than 25

The challenge is simple: I'm building a Major League Baseball lineup and I can only select players who are 25 and under.

To either spice up (or dull down?) this process, the selected players must have played at least one Major League Baseball game. In other words, sure-fire hot shots (i.e. Bryce Harper, the top pick one year ago by the Washington Nationals) who haven't seen an MLB field cannot be chosen.

So, here we go, and they're listed in the batting order in which they would appear

SS: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
CF: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh 
RF: Jason Heyward, Atlanta
LF: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
1B: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
C: Matt Weiters, Baltimore
3B: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh
2B: Dustin Ackley, Seattle

There is one issue about this team that concerns me -- the bulk of the lineup bats left-handed. I'd consider moving McCutchen into the middle of the order, simply to break up the preponderance of left-handed hitters.(And, yes, I am aware that I have moved Jay Bruce to left field; sorry, baseball fans, no current left fielder under 25 was worthy of cracking this lineup.)

So, there you have it. Pick it apart, if you like. Or, praise it, if it's worthy of such.

Turkey's entire military command has resigned

As VOA News reports, the reason for the mass exodus in the leadership ranks remains unclear.
Local Turkish media said Friday the head of the armed forces, and the army, naval and air commanders had tendered their resignations to the government.

Relations between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government and the military have been strained.
Al Jazeera adds that charges that the military was trying to topple the government might have prompted the move.
The mass resignations came hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers with carrying out an internet campaign to undermine the government.
The unprecedented departures come ahead of the annual spring meeting scheduled for August 1, where leaders of the government and the military come together to discuss key appointments for the next year.
Reports say Friday's news signal a deep-rooted rift between the military and the government, amid an ongoing trial accusing dozens of generals and officers for plotting to overthrow the government.

Merrily (not) it creeps along

The following news alert was sent around 9:00 a.m. EDT from the New York Times:
The United States economy has slowed considerably this year from a year ago, according to a report from the Commerce Department released on Friday.

The country’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of the goods and services produced across the economy, grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the second quarter, after having grown at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in the first quarter. Data revisions going back to 2003 also showed that the 2007-2009 recession was deeper, and the recovery to date weaker, than originally estimated.

The news comes as Congress is debating how to put the nation on a more sustainable fiscal path, with measures that some economists worry could further slow the recovery and even throw the economy back into recession.
Happy day (not)!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The passing of Richard Harris

You might have missed earlier this week the news that Winnipeg Blue Bombers assistant coach Richard Harris had passed away.

Various tributes from many people have been distributed through media reports over the past couple days, but tonight, as I watched the Blue Bombers play the British Columbia Lions, I saw one that at first I didn't grasp.

The Lions head coach is Wally Buono. During the 2004 Canadian Football League season, Harris was one of his assistant coaches. In an excerpt from an interview with TSN, which is broadcasting the game, Mr. Buono discussed what happened immediately after his team had won a game and earned the right to play in the Grey Cup, the CFL championship game.

As a couple players carrying a Gatorade bucket approached Mr. Buono, Mr. Harris quietly but firmly told the players not to do it. What he knew but the players didn't was that Mr. Buono would be undergoing heart surgery at the end of the season.

As The Star Phoenix newspaper reported this week, had he been doused with that Gatorade, his heart might not have been able to handle the shock.
"Richard, as you know, always had a big, big heart for people," recalled Buono. "He was a very gentle and considerate man."
That consideration was evident when Harris, knowing that Buono was weeks away from a scheduled heart bypass operation following the 2004 Grey Cup game, intervened just in time as some Lion players were about to douse their head coach with a barrel of iced Gatorade after the West Division final. Harris, aware of Buono's tenuous condition, unlike the players, instinctively grasped that the cold shock from the traditional victory salute to the winning coach might affect a man living on borrowed time. Ironically, Harris died from cardiac arrest after collapsing in his office at Canad Inn Stadiums before practice. He was taken to hospital but could not be revived.
"Richard, being as sensitive as he is, sensed something," Buono said of that Gatorade intervention. "Thank God, at least I was able to deal with it (Buono said of his arterial blockage). Unfortunately, for Richard, it took him."
Mr. Buono's words on the TSN broadcast said much the same thing.

Fate can be a cruel thing, can't it?

I didn't know Mr. Harris, but it certainly sounds like the world of football has lost a great man.

Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu found dead

NBC Sports reports he was found in his California home.
The initial reports came from the Japanese paper, Asahi Shimbum, and his death has since been confirmed by the New York Yankees. Suicide by hanging is suspected.

Irabu has had a troubled post-baseball career. He was arrested in Gardena, California last year for drunk driving.  Back in 2008 he was arrested for assaulting a bar manager in Japan after allegedly consuming 20 glasses of beer.

New Jersey governor Christie taken to hospital (2x UPDATE)

2nd UPDATE: 6:40 p.m. EDT: The Wall Street Journal sends a "tweet" indicating that Gov. Christie left the hospital only a few minutes ago. He will speak to the media soon.

1st UPDATE: 11:59 a.m. EDT: The National Journal is reporting that Gov. Christie was hospitalized because of an asthma flare up, and he appears to be doing well.

ORIGINAL POST: CBS News is reporting that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been rushed to a hospital after having difficulty breathing.

It's time for the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates to make an important decision

Will it speed up its building process because of the unexpected success of the 2011 team? Or will it stay the course, knowing that the potential to win the National League Central this season will be lost?

You might think this is an unimportant issue; but once you understand the dynamics of the Pirates and their fans, you might think differently.

The Pirates have been a zero in major leagues for almost 20 years. Their last attempt at a championship ended when Atlanta's Sid Bream slid under a Mike LaValliere tag in the National League Championship Series. The Braves advanced to the World Series; and the Pirates began to slow, steady and awful slide to mediocrity, and then last place.

The 2011 Pirates were expected to extend the losing seasons. Now, don't misunderstand me, there is talent on this team. But it is young and inexperienced. The consensus around Major League Baseball was that the Pirates needed at least one and possibly two more years before the talent would coalesce into a championship-caliber team.

So much for that. This morning Pittsburgh sits four games over .500 and only 1-1/2 games out of first place.

Yes, the Pirates benefit from playing in a mediocre division; nevertheless, the fan base is excited (just check out the number of suddenly not empty seats at PNC Park), and thinking that 2011 could be the year that their beloved

After almost two decades of empty rhetoric from management that the team was getting better, that the corner had been turned and that success could be had, the fans are revved up about their team. 

And there is the quandary for management. How aggressive does it become in picking up a desperately needed quality, proven and veteran hitter? Doing so won't come without surrendering a prime chip -- a minor-league player who has the potential to be a fantastic player for the Pirates, and for many years. Such a move would demonstrate to the current players and the fans that, yes, management also is committed to winning this season.

But there's no guarantee that a big deal will bring big results.

The other National League teams positioned to make the post-season already are making their deals. For example, the San Francisco Giants picked up Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets. The St. Louis Cardinals, the current leaders of the Central Division, picked up a couple pitchers in a three-team, multi-player deal.

The fans are watching. Undoubtedly, the players are, too.

One player who would bring some of the needed offense is Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton. No, he's not a classic power hitter, but he would be an improvement on some of the average performances being turned in by current Pirates' every day players. So, too, would Houston's Hunter Pence, although there are conflicting reports about whether the Astros are committed to dealing him.

Other players are out there, but the dilemma no matter what name is discussed is what to do. As Rob Biertempfel, who covers the Pirates for the Tribune-Review, found, there is no clear answer. 

The deadline to complete trades without players passing through waivers is Sunday. So, decisions need to be made.

There are a lot of people watching.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Your 2011 NFL Predictions

Can the Green Bay Packers repeat? Are the Pittsburgh Steelers capable of getting back to the Super Bowl? Read on and find out.

Philadelphia -- Still the best team in this division though I'm not confident the Eagles will win it
New York -- The Giants could be sneaky good
Dallas -- The Cowboys floundered while the Rangers went to the World Series and the Mavs won a title
Washington -- Mike Shanahan doesn't deserve this mess

Green Bay -- The talent is there for another Super Bowl run
Chicago -- Don't expect da Bears in the NFC Championship Game this season
Detroit -- The Lions aren't the worst team in this division for the first time in about 15,809,532 years
Minnesota -- The Vikings seem to have a thing for veteran quarterbacks

Atlanta -- The Falcons crashed and burned in last season's playoffs; did they learn from that?
New Orleans -- There might be one more championship run in this team
Tampa Bay -- Good enough to make the playoffs this year
Carolina -- Cam Newton will run for his life instead of for first downs

San Francisco -- Being the best in this division is saying very little
St. Louis -- The Rams could steal this division, finishing at 7-9
Seattle -- Does Pete Carroll miss USC now?
Arizona -- With Kevin Kolb, the Cardinals are 5-11; without Kevin Kolb, the Cardinals are 5-11

New England -- The loss of Mrs. Kraft makes this team a sentimental favorite
New York -- Do the Jets ever stop talking?
Miami -- This might be the most bland team in the league
Buffalo -- The Bills deserve better

Pittsburgh -- The Steelers are again in the Super Bowl discussion
Baltimore -- The Ravens lack that undefinable "it" that the Patriots and Steelers have
Cleveland -- Not as dysfunctional as...
Cincinnati -- Dysfunctional

Houston -- NFL fans have been waiting for the Texans to win for...too many years.
Indianapolis -- Peyton Manning can't do it all, especially when he's not at 100%
Jacksonville -- Getting ready for a move to Los Angeles?
Tennessee -- Management might have done Jeff Fisher a favor when it canned him

San Diego -- Still the best in this otherwise mediocre division
Oakland -- The greatness of the Raiders must indeed be in the future because it isn't now
Kansas City -- The Chiefs could win 10 or lose 10
Denver -- If John Elway were 20 years younger....

So, if this is how they finish, then the post-season sets up this way:

6 New York beats 3 Atlanta
5 New Orleans beats 4 San Francisco

3 San Diego beats 6 Baltimore
5 New York beats 4 Houston

1 Green Bay beats 6 New York
5 New Orleans beats 2 Philadelphia

1 New England beats 5 New York
2 Pittsburgh beats 3 San Diego

1 Green Bay beats 5 New Orleans

1 New England beats 2 Pittsburgh

New England 27, Green Bay 24

Former CNN host Rick Sanchez has a new job

He's going to be...

...on the radio...

...doing color commentary...

...of Florida International University football.

I'm serious. Here's the proof.

Butch Davis out at North Carolina

Just days after Butch Davis said he believed he had the support of his university's administration, he's gone. And perhaps the overriding question is what took so long?

The Sporting News picks up the story from there.
When word leaked that North Carolina was facing its second significant NCAA investigation in as many years, many people figured Davis was on his way out. But when the most recent Notice of Allegations arrived and Davis wasn’t specifically named in any of the major points detailed by the NCAA, it seemed he might be spared. And when the calendar sped toward the opening of fall practices, it seemed a foregone conclusion Davis would hold the job for at least another season.
Which is why, when Davis said he felt he had the support of the administration, none of the reporters gathered around the table scoffed, and nobody peppered him with repeat questions. Because why, at this point in the summer after all the challenges and storms he’d already weathered, would North Carolina fire Davis now? It just wouldn’t make any sense.
Two days later, the timing still doesn’t.
Bloomberg notes that the university's chancellor attempted to explain now, with the team's pre-season practice beginning in just nine days. 
University of North Carolina coach Butch Davis was fired today as the school tries to deal with a probe into its football team, Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a news release.
Davis, 59, was dismissed to “restore confidence” in the university and its football program, which is the subject of a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation into whether players violated academic rules and engaged in improper deals with agents.
“I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution,” Thorp said in the release. “The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.”
You did notice that the announcement came via a press release, ensuring that the university's leadership opted to hide behind closed doors and not immediately answer questions.

No, the administration will not be able to hide forever. The athletic director, at minimum, will have to face the media, and they will be seeking substantive clarification.

A no-hitter!

Kudos to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Ervin Santana, who has thrown a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

Santana struck out nine, walked one and gave up an unearned run in the 1st inning, but was given enough support by his teammates to win the game, 3-1.

The no-hitter was the ninth in Angels' history.

President Bush to discuss 9/11 and bin Laden's death

This should be a fascinating interview.

As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Mr. Bush has been interviewed by a New York filmmaker as part of a  National Geographic Channel special, with the program airing in late August.

George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview premieres Aug. 28 and is the keystone of seven days of Sept. 11th-themed programming.
Nat Geo executives called on New York filmmaker Peter Schnall, whose previous work for the network includes the top-rated 2009 documentary Onboard Air Force One. (Schnall’s Partisan Pictures is also producing two additional specials for Nat Geo’s 10th anniversary coverage. The topic has been one that Nat Geo has explored consistently over the years and the two-part 2005 documentary Inside 9/11 stands as the network’s most-watched program with nearly 18 million viewers.)
Schnall got to know the president while working on the Air Force One special; flying on the famous plane with Bush during the early weeks of his presidency.
“I reminded him of our journeys together,” says Schnall. “I wasn’t a journalist who was out to dig. So we had a friendly relationship in a sense.”
After four months of back-and-forth, Bush agreed to the interview. He did not ask to see questions in advance, nor did he request final approval over the film – which would have been a deal breaker, says Schnall. “We would never allow that.” The only condition was that the interview would be limited to the days and events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001.
Yes, there will be critics shouting that the president isn't sitting down with a "real journalist." Pardon my bluntness, but shut up. Mr. Bush opted not to speak to a news organization, so get over it. If you choose to not watch the program because you think it is not going to be "newsy" enough, fine.

I, for one, will be watching. We don't get enough opportunities to hear our former presidents discuss national and international issues; they are an amazing fraternity, regardless of the party with which they are affiliated and the policies they pursued while in office.

The National Geographic Channel special is one we should watch.

A sad day for the Canadian Football League

The following announcement was sent out this morning by the CFL office:

Richard Harris, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers assistant head coach and defensive line coach, died Tuesday afternoon after collapsing at Canad Inns Stadium. He was 63.

A league source requesting anonymity said Harris collapsed in his office and was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Harris was in his sixth season with the CFL club.

Bombers president Jim Bell confirmed Harris's death.

"This has struck our entire organization from the top down,'' he said in a statement. "We are all in a state of shock and first and foremost would like to express our deepest sympathies to his family.

"The Winnipeg Football Club has lost not only a great coach, but an even better man.''

Harris joined the Bombers in 2006 as their defensive line coach and was appointed assistant head coach prior to the start of this season.

Winnipeg's defence has played a major role in the club's resurgence this year. The Bombers (3-1) are tied with Montreal atop the East Division standings after posting a league-worst 4-14 record in 2010.

The club's defence is allowing a league-low 293 yards per game and is ranked second in fewest points allowed (19.2 per game). And the defensive line has terrorized rival quarterbacks, posting a league-high 15 sacks.

Commissioner Mark Cohon also expressed his sympathies.

"On behalf of our Board of Governors, our teams and our fans across the country, I want to express my deepest sympathies to Coach Harris' family, as well as his many close friends across our league," said Cohon.

"I had the good fortune to chat with him on the sideline in Winnipeg only recently, and that experience confirmed for me what I had always heard about Coach Harris - that this was a man of tremendous warmth and knowledge, a true gentleman and a credit to our game,'' he added.

Harris arrived in Winnipeg after one season with the Ottawa Renegades as their defensive line coach. He had the same role for four years before that with the B.C. Lions.

Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, appeared shaken by the news. Harris served as B.C.'s defensive line coach for Buono's first two years in Vancouver.

"When somebody passes away it's always shocking,'' said Buono, who underwent heart bypass surgery in 2004. "Richard was a good man. Just the fact he's gone is almost discouraging.''

In 2000, Harris was head coach of the Portland Prowlers of the Indoor Professional Football League. And he won three semi-pro championships as head coach in the Northwest Football League, with the Eastside Express in 1989 and the Pudget Sound Jets in 1994 and 1995.

Harris, a defensive lineman, spent eight seasons in the NFL after being picked fifth overall in the 1971 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was all-rookie that year.

He played three seasons with the Eagles before joining the Chicago Bears for two years. Harris finished his career by playing three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Harris played at Grambling State University under legendary head coach Eddie Robinson.

He is survived by wife Tami and children Kimberly, Chianti, Jennifer and Michael.

Those of you who understand economics better than I do...

...can answer this question with certainty.

If we temporarily increase the debt ceiling, aren't we making an already horrible situation worse?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So, if he lied...he'll be fired. Right?

Well now. CNN Piers Morgan has a problem.

He recently said he had no knowledge of any phone hacking that had taken place when he was an editor at the Daily Mirror, a British tabloid.

However, as the Telegraph reports, he gave a much different answer when he was interviewed by the BBC a few years before.
“For the record, in my time at the News of the World and the Mirror, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone,” he said last week on CNN, where he now hosts a talk-show.
But it has emerged that Mr Morgan gave a notably different response when asked during an interview with the BBC about his potential involvement in covert "gutter" journalistic practices during his time as a tabloid editor between 1994 and 2004.
“What about this nice middle-class boy, who would have to be dealing with, I mean essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people’s phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff,” he was asked on BBC's Desert Island Discs in June 2009. “How did you feel about that?"
Mr Morgan replied: “To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.
"I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do,” he told the programme's host, Kirsty Young.
“I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and a lot encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.”
And Forbes reports that a British blogger says he has an even more damaging recording, one that significantly calls into question Morgan's previous denials. 
“We have a recording which contradicts his recent claims,” says Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes. Via email, I told Staines what I had heard, that the recording captures Morgan admitting to paying a third party to hack. “You are on the right lines,” he replied. He has not yet posted the recording.
If it delivers as advertised, it will be the first major expansion of the hacking scandal outside the confines of News Corp. So far, the only proven instances of voicemail hacking took place at the News of the World tabloid, although there have been numerous unsubstantiated claims of others. Despite Morgan’s denial, the Mirror’s parent company said it would undertake an internal investigation after a former employee, James Hipwell, was quoted saying hacking was commonplace at the paper during his tenure there, which overlapped Morgan’s.
All of this raises the most important question -- if Morgan lied about his knowledge of phone hacking, CNN will have no choice but to fire him. Correct?

The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib is spot on... his analysis of why Washington is mired in partisan gridlock. His editorial in today's Journal is a must read.

76 deaths equals 30 years in prison

The man who has confessed to setting off a bomb and shooting dozens of people in Norway could spend 30 years in prison, if convicted for those crimes.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Anders Behring Breivik could be found guilty of violating Norway's crimes against humanity laws.
...Mr. Breivik, who has admitted to carrying out Friday's attacks in Norway, could be charged with crimes against humanity, which carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, Norwegian police prosecutor Sturla Henreiksboe said Tuesday.

Mr. Breivik is currently charged with terrorism-related crimes, which carry a prison term of up to 21 years in Norway, following Friday's bombing and shootings in Oslo and the Utoya island where 76 people were killed. That sentence can be extended if a prisoner is deemed a risk to the public.
It will take several months before Norway's Attorney General will be able to decide whether it will be appropriate to charge Mr. Breivik with crimes against humanity, Mr. Henreiksboe said. That decision will have to take into account further technical investigations and witness hearings, he said.
Breivik's attorney, Geir Lippestad, met with the media today, and he contends that his client "is insane" and "is in a war" with the world.

The irony in Lippestad being Breivik's attorney, the Telegraph notes, is that he represents everything Breivik appears to detest.
Urbane, liberal and fluent in English, Mr Lippestad was shocked when he was contacted by police at home and told that Norway's most hated man has asked for his help. 

For several hours he hesitated and discussed with friends and family whether to defend a man who only hours early had massacred 68 young people on a summer holiday island. 
But in the end his civic instincts trumped his initial horror. "I believe that the legal system is very important in a democracy and someone has to do this job," he told reporters this afternoon. 
There are two further twists to the relationship between killer and client. First, it was revealed Breivik had once rented an office close to where Mr Lippestad's firm is based. 
They lawyer said he had never met Breivik before the killing but it's possible that the gunman knew who he was and singled him out long in advance.
Second, Mr Lippestad is also a prominent member of the ruling Labour Party, whose youth wing the terrorist targeted on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the names of many of the victims of last week's attacks will be released sometime today.

Is this the best America's leaders can give us?

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to politicians using television (and the media in general) to advance their ambitions and agendas, but I think seeing two of America's most powerful and important politicians on prime-time television pointing fingers of blame because of the debt crisis is pathetic.

Moreover, I don't think it demonstrates leadership in any form.

Yet, on Monday night, that's exactly what the American people got -- President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on television offering doom and gloom, and insisting that the other man's party is responsible for causing it.

America's leaders can't give us anything better than that?

For the speaker to claim that he gave everything he had in order to get a deal is specious -- politicians represent the people, and they don't stop finding solutions. And for the president to challenge the American people to call their member of Congress and complain about the pace of the talks also is specious -- leadership is not exhibited by passing the buck.

If this is the best America's leadership can give us, then there's no reason to doubt why the New York Times is suggesting this morning that a "unique opportunity" to demonstrate a bi-partisan approach to problem solving has been lost.

Along the same lines, the Washington Post bemoans that the "art of the deal" is gone, with politicians interested in posturing perhaps more than anything else.

Oh, yes, I know -- if you place yourself on the right of the political spectrum, this is all about a president who loves to tax us into the stratosphere. And if you place yourself on the left of the political spectrum, this is all about conservatives who want to slice to and through the bone without regard to commonsense.

In much the same way I'm telling Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner to spare me the pithy rhetoric, I, too, tell you to not waste my time with your partisan-filled criticisms.

If we're supposed to be the nation that sets the example for the world, then we do better than this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Here's how we solve the discussions about America's debt

First, we need a scandal. So, let's get a prominent, out-of-office politician in a dicey situation in which he is forced to explain his actions. He'll of course need to parse his words carefully, make sure he has a plausible alibi and then acknowledge some form of wrong doing.

Second, we need an international crisis. Something involving the Israelis and the Palestinians is sure to generate media headlines. Or, Muammar Qaddafi could announce that he is going to step down (or declare war on the world).

Third, the British monarchy needs to announce that Prince Harry is marrying Kate Middleton's sister. The brothers marrying the sisters will allow for some derelict (probably a former News of the World reporter) to ask if that is incestuous.

Fourth, the NFL needs to play a game...immediately. Forget if it is exhibition or real. One team has to be the Raiders, with the understanding that one of its players will do something absolutely moronic and that brings plenty of media coverage.

Fifth, FOX and MSNBC need to voluntarily shut down. This will tone down the political rhetoric. CNN can remain on because no one knows what that network is doing.

Then while all this is happening...
We need people who "really" understand the debt problem. So, we're going to send Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan to Washington; they will be the official representatives for the parties and will have the full resources of the Washington elite in assisting them in coming to a deal. They will be allowed multiple press conferences per day.

Who are the most interesting people in the world?

If your child had a teacher who inspired, he or she is fortunate. 
If you had a teacher you remember fondly, you should remember to thank him or her. 
If you are a teacher, then you are the most interesting man or woman in the world. 
Stay thirsty for knowledge, my friends.

Glenn Beck -- Norway's shooting victims equate to Hitler Youth

Go ahead, you try to figure out what he meant.

As the Telegraph reports, the Norwegian government is outraged at the latest inane comment by Beck.
"There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing."
The Los Angeles Times takes it a step further, noting that such camps take place in the United States.
To answer Beck's question of "who does a camp for kids that's all about politics?": Caroline Shinkle does. The recent high school grad founded Camp USA two years ago. The free, nonprofit, nonpartisan political camp in Cape Cod, Mass., is designed for middle-schoolers.
According to its website, Camp USA aspires to have kids leave the camp "with knowledge, confidence, and eagerness to be politically involved."
Conservative columnist Jeff Lukens created a political camp in Tampa, Fla., which aligns itself closer to "tea party" values.  One of the games described by the St. Petersburg Times would surely make presidential hopeful Ron Paul smile.
"Children will win hard, wrapped candies to use as currency for a store, symbolizing the gold standard. On the second day, the 'banker' will issue paper money instead. Over time, students will realize their paper money buys less and less, while the candies retain their value," the newspaper explained.
There is no way that a simple apology or a claim of being misunderstood will work in this case. Beck needs to be suspended or canned for such ridiculous and insensitive remarks.

Amy Winehouse's autopsy report...

...has not made clear what caused the 27-year-old singer's death over the weekend.

As the Associated Press reports, it could be another two months before a cause could be established.

A coroner opened and adjourned an inquest into the unexplained death, leaving Winehouse's family free to plan her funeral. A private family service could be held as early as Tuesday.

An inquest into the singer's death was opened and adjourned at London's St. Pancras Coroner's Court. 

During the two-minute hearing, an official read out the name, birth date and address of Winehouse, described as "a divorced lady living at Camden Square NW1."

"She was a singer songwriter at the time of her death and was identified by her family here at St. Pancras this morning," said coroner's officer Sharon Duff.

Duff said the scene of Winehouse's death "was investigated by police and determined non-suspicious."
CBS News adds that Winehouse's parents expressed their appreciation at a memorial set up outside her apartment.

The man accused of twin terror attacks in Norway...

...remains in police custody.

And Anders Behring Breivik will remain there for at least eight weeks.

At his first court hearing this morning in Norway, the Associated Press reports that Breivik suggested that he is part of a terror network.

Voice of America adds that Breivik was calm at the court session.
Judge Kim Heger spoke to journalists following the hearing.
He said Breivik had testified that the aim of the operation was not to kill as many people as possible but to give a strong signal that Norway must not be colonized by Muslims.  
Also today, the Norwegian police reduced to 76 the total death toll from the two attacks. The police also will be asked more in coming days about the near one-hour wait survivors had to endure before police arrived on the island where the shootings took place.

Rencontrer la femme qui dit qu'avoir été agressé sexuellement par Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Meet the woman who says he was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Her name is Nassifiato Diallo, a 32-year-old hotel maid who says she was attacked by the former head of the International Monetary Fund.

The Wall Street Journal examines the interview Ms. Diallo did with Newsweek. That interview can be accessed here.

After 4 weeks of the CFL football season...

...there is one team with a perfect record; and there's no way you, I or anyone else would have guessed who it would have been.

Here are this week's rankings, with last week's in parentheses.

  1. Edmonton (2), 4-0. Wow, the Eskimos are for real. Week 5 vs Toronto.
  2. Montreal (1), 3-1: You saw the loss to Saskatchewan coming? Sure you did. Week 5 at Hamilton.
  3. Winnipeg (4), 3-1: The defense made plenty of big plays down the stretch to beat Toronto. Week 5 vs British Columbia.
  4. Hamilton (5), 2-2. Yes, they’ve won two straight, but the Ticats have knocked off two 0-4 teams. Week 5 vs Montreal.
  5. Calgary (3), 2-2. The Stamps look vulnerable. Week 5 at Saskatchewan.
  6. Saskatchewan (8), 1-3. You saw the win against Montreal coming? Sure you did. Week 5 vs Calgary.
  7. Toronto (6), 1-3. Lemon had his bell rung, and Bell couldn’t answer the call. Week 5 at Edmonton.
  8. British Columbia (7), 0-4. Not sure if the best term to describe this team is embarrassing or frustrating. Week 5 at Winnipeg.