Saturday, April 06, 2002

SORRY, VOL.II: A still-crushing work schedule and the second phase of Passover has resulted in another absence from the site. Certain "lost posts" are below, and I will resume posting more regularly.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

A HISTORY LESSON: Victor Davis Hanson offers some perspective on U.S.-Arab-Israeli relations:

Does America's support for Israel contribute to the present unrest, and thus create a destabilizing preponderance of military strength for the Jewish state? Forget for the moment that our current aggregate aid to the Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt is roughly the same amount as we give the Israelis, and instead think back to the first twenty years of Israel's existence. Then America gave almost no military hardware to Israel — except for a few outdated tanks and some short-ranged missiles. Its Air Force consisted mostly of French Mirages and Ouragans — largess that quickly ceased once the 1967 war broke out.
...The Palestinians now like to cite the unfairness of American-made "Apaches and F-16s" in Israel. Yet when their side had all the material advantages and a staggering edge in weaponry the Arabs still lost.
Has America shown a decided prejudice toward the Israeli side that explains the sudden Arab hostility toward the United States? Not really. An Israeli head of state had never officially been received at the White House until 1964 — nearly 20 years after the foundation of the Jewish State! For most of its early years, Israel depended on support initially from the Soviet Union and later France. Indeed, during the first three Middle East wars the United States sold weapons to nearly every Arab regime and had a military base in Libya. During the 1967 war it essentially supplied no weapons to Israel during the fighting — in dire worry over its military arrangements with many Arab countries and its access to Middle East oil. Nearly forty years ago, as today, Americans were giving Egypt free grain, shipping tanks to Jordan, cozying up to the Saudis, and lecturing Israel on restraint — and the Arab world liked us no better then than it does now.

Monday, April 01, 2002

BASEBALL PREVIEW: I know the season has already started, but better late than never.
AL East
1. Yankees
Can they lose? Sure – if they have several major injuries and everyone on the Red Sox is completely healthy. Will they lose? No. Look for Ted Lilly and Juan Rivera to make an impact as injury replacements, and for David Wells, El Duque and Sterling Hitchcock to rotate through the DL, solving the 3-for-2-spots dilemma.
2. Red Sox
I’ve already discussed the pros and cons of Dan Duquette’s reign. But the worst outcome of last year’s mess may be the loss of Joe Kerrigan as pitching coach. It would seem unlikely that Tony Cloninger would be as likely to work miracles with the motley crew of Derek Lowe, John Burkett, Dustin Hermanson and Darren Oliver. And all this is irrelevant if Pedro Martinez is not completely healthy all season. Since he hasn’t been completely healthy since 1998 and couldn’t get anyone out all spring, it looks like 84 years and counting.
3. Blue Jays
Now that they have a real G.M. in J.P. Riccardi, watch out for them next year. This year is a retrenching. Second place is possible if Boston implodes.
4-5. Orioles – Devil Rays
Two organizations rotted to the core – no talent, be it in the majors, the minors, or in management.
AL Central
1. White Sox
Decisions regarding their pitching leave a lot to be desired, but they have enough talent (and the rest of the division has little enough) that the race should not be close.
2. Twins
They were lucky last year and will need another year, but look out if a couple of bats develop.
3. Indians
They were due for a fall, but it’s going to be very hard due to avoidable actions on the part of its management (i.e., trading Roberto Alomar to save money and signing Matt Lawton and Rickey Gutierrez to long-term deals for about the same amount)
4. Tigers
Their long-term picture is bright thanks to a decent farm system and Dave Dombrowski running the team.
5. Royals
Yes, they have no money. But they wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it if they did. See Rany Jazayerli for details.
AL West
1. Mariners
In March 2001, if you’d told them that they’d win 95 games in 2002, they’d probably have taken it. It’s amazing how expectations change. Their dominance in recruiting players from the Pacific Rim may be the greatest threat to the Yankees that nobody talks about.
2. Athletics
If they decline, it won’t be because of the loss of Jason Giambi. It will be because one of their big three starting pitchers is hurt or regresses to the mean. I think Mark Mulder is likely to do either one, as he took the biggest step forward last year.
3. Rangers
Just what they needed – another great hitter in Hank Blalock. Still no pitching, though.
4. Angels
Underrated on-field management can’t make up for the fact that upper management wasted the second half of the 1990s.

NL East
1. Braves
They were in danger, but Gary Sheffield will cure many ills.
2. Mets
Their hitting will not be quite as good as people think. There is no more interesting experiment in baseball than the Mets’ starting rotation; Pedro Astacio, Bruce Chen, Jeff D’Amico, et al are all high-risk, high-reward types. The team could win 100 games or 75.
3. Marlins
If Dave Dombrowski and a good manager were in charge, this team would have an outstanding chance to replicate the 1969 Mets story; no other team has a comparable group of young pitching. With Jeff Torborg and Jeff Loria in town, that seems less likely.
4. Phillies
Larry Bowa’s act will quickly wear thin, especially when the organization is at war with its best player and did not improve itself in the off-season.
5. Expos
“The Team That Baseball Killed” – thanks to a revenue-sharing plan that created incentives for teams like the Expos to not even try to compete.
NL Central
1. Cardinals
Tony LaRussa, Tino Martinez and Jason Isringhausen are all overrated, but there is still plenty of talent on hand. What is Bud Smith doing in the minor leagues?
2. Astros
One of baseball’s best organizations will give Daryle Ward the full-time job he has deserved for three years and use a seasoned group of outstanding young pitchers. One of these years, they’ll actually win a playoff series.
3. Cubs
I think they will disappoint this year, as Don Baylor’s issues with young players may cost him his job. Watch out for them starting in 2003, as baseball’s best farm system kicks in.
4. Reds
By 2004, Griffey, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns will be the best outfield in baseball and may be so for five years. They won’t win until they get a real manager and some starting pitchers better than Elmer Dessens.
5. Brewers
Yes, they have their new park. They are already learning – as Detroit did previously and Pittsburgh did simultaneously – that a new park doesn’t automatically deliver good players. At the rate they’re going, they should figure out how to produce those in about 15 years.
6. Pirates
Now that they have a real GM and “Operation Shutdown” has been terminated, there may be reason to hope. But the organization needs several years of care before it can recover.
NL West
1. Giants
They need some more pitching, but Barry Bonds should be good for about…65 or so home runs.
2. Diamondbacks
Age is going to catch up with this team sooner or later.
3. Padres
Watch out for this team in 2003, with their stockpile of young talent. (I’m still resentful over the D’Angelo Jiminez-for-Jay Witasik deal.)
4. Rockies
If they don’t win in the next two years, I’m going to conclude that no team can win in Denver. They could easily win the division this year.
5. Dodgers
This team is a couple of injuries (to Green and Brown) away from being the Orioles. Their manager, Jim Tracy, is extremely underrated.
GETTING THERE: Thomas Friedman gets close to the truth:

The world must understand that the Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of "desperation" stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie. Why? To begin with, a lot of other people in the world are desperate, yet they have not gone around strapping dynamite to themselves. More important, President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their "desperate" occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away. Still more important, the Palestinians have long had a tactical alternative to suicide: nonviolent resistance, à la Gandhi. A nonviolent Palestinian movement appealing to the conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered a Palestinian state 30 years ago, but they have rejected that strategy, too.
The reason the Palestinians have not adopted these alternatives is because they actually want to win their independence in blood and fire. All they can agree on as a community is what they want to destroy, not what they want to build. Have you ever heard Mr. Arafat talk about what sort of education system or economy he would prefer, what sort of constitution he wants? No, because Mr. Arafat is not interested in the content of a Palestinian state, only the contours.
Let's be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice, not out of desperation. This threatens all civilization because if suicide bombing is allowed to work in Israel, then, like hijacking and airplane bombing, it will be copied and will eventually lead to a bomber strapped with a nuclear device threatening entire nations. That is why the whole world must see this Palestinian suicide strategy defeated.

But his solutions do not compute:
... Israel needs to deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay. ... Israel must tell the Palestinian people that it is ready to resume talks where they left off with Mr. Clinton, before this intifada.

First, the "strategy" behind Sharon's actions has actually not been so difficult to discern: he's been trying to "deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay" that falls short of all-out war. But recent events have shown that nothing short of all-out war will indeed make that point. Second, if Israel then offers to negotiate starting from where the Clinton talks left off...then hasn't terror paid off?

No Middle East correspondent has ever been better than Friedman at describing the details of 2+2. But he has a persistent habit of coming up with 5 as his answer.
THE ARSONIST: A great piece by the great Fouad Ajami on Arafat and his preference for conflict over peace.
GREAT MOMENTS IN AIRLINE SECURITY: As is our annual wont, our family went to Chicago to spend the first part of Passover with my in-laws. After we had boarded the plane, they paged my 2½-year old daughter to the front of the plane. Apparently, she had been selected for random screening, and since they had neglected to subject her to such screening before boarding (this was LaGuardia, after all) it would be necessary for her to disembark so they could screen her. My daughter was not amused, and neither were her parents.
I’m not saying that children should never be screened; anyone who thinks that children aren’t used as pawns for terrorism hasn’t followed the subject closely enough (the Palestinians have spent 15 years sacrificing their children’s lives in their war against Israel). But if you’re going to do so, shouldn’t you check out the parents as well? Or, in cases like ours, shouldn’t you check the seats vacated by the search subjects, in case they left a nasty surprise behind? (I stayed behind with child #2, and can confirm they did not do so.)
SORRY: Thanks to Passover and a crushing work schedule, I haven't posted in a long time. I intend for that to change.