Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Stanley Cup Nod Offs?

Is it just me or have the playoffs thus far been a collective yawn? Perhaps it's due in part to the screwy scheduling(some series have played four games while some have only played two-the Blues & Hawks played Saturday in St. Louis and then Sunday in Chicago while the B's & Habs play Thursday then don't play again until Sunday and both games are in Boston!) and ESPN's penchant for showing the same series time and again probably contributes as well. Plus the fact that many of the more interesting series are out West has probably limited my viewing and thus appreciation. But it seems like the thrilling OTs have been few and far between and too many games are one sided shutouts. Here's my breakdown after the first week of the opening series and what I've gotten out of them:

Worst Series:
Ottawa and Philly. So far the Flyers have scored one goal in three games and yet only trail the Sens two games to one. Ottawa has hardly been lighting it up either scoring a total of six goals so far with three of them being empty netters. These games are boring as all get out and yet so far every one has been on either ESPN or ESPN2. Yawn.

Best Series:
The Bruins & Canadians might be a great one but so far ESPN has only shown one of the two games. I was glad to see that tonight's contest is on so I can catch some more of this rivalry. The series that I like so far is Colorado-LA. All three games have been televised and they all have featured up and down action, hard hitting, and a growing dislike between the teams. Plus both squads have talented players who can put the puck in the net. In three games the teams have totaled nine goals each and watching Sakic, Forseberg, Allison(my God he's a big son of a B with hands), and Palfy is a treat especially after you've sat through a Sens-Flyers bore fest.

Biggest Upset:
The Nucks taking two at the Joe was sweet. But if the Wings can win tonight and even the series at two it's over baby. This series is interesting in that the Canucks are a clear dog to the high powered Wings but expect for the opening game there has been little drama. If it goes seven it could be fun.

Who Cares?:
Carolina-NJ. This has got to be the least interesting series going. Yes, Jersey's got Brodeur and a lot of playoff experience but I have a hard time getting into this one. I didn't see much of the first two games but they were both low scoring duels where Carolina won despite being outshot by a significant margin. Finally on Sunday I have a chance to watch a whole game and the Devils blow em' out early and cruise to an easy win. I don't care who wins this series just get it over with.

Muddling Through:
St. Louis-Chicago and San Jose-Phoenix. Talk about lack of drama. I haven't been able to see a lot of the Sharks-Yotes series but I gather I'm not missing much since all four games haven't really been close. I have seen some of the Blues-Hawks and it's doing nuthin' for me. After the Hawks split two in St. Louis you'd figure they'd come out for the home crowd on Sunday flying high. Instead they fell on their faces and got dumped 4-0.

Can't Even Judge It:
Islanders-Leafs. The Isles haven't been to the playoffs for years and the Leafs are one of the classic NHL teams so I figured this could have some viewing interest. Apparently ESPN doesn't feel this way since they haven't shown one game of this series yet. Yeah, can't enough of that heated Philly-Ottawa rivalry and by all means show me the Devils-Canes showdown everyone is talking about. There is a very good chance that the Islanders will be eliminated without me having a chance to watch two minutes from one of their games. That just ain't right.

Lest you think I'm giving up easy on my beloved sport I'll have you know that I still have faith that the playoffs will shake off a poor first week and turn the intensity and action up another notch so that I can continue to tell people that there ain't nothing better in sports than the Stanley Cup playoffs. Three OT games tonight would be a great start.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Nothing to offer but fear itself

Bing bing. Ladies and gentleman we have a winner. Will Kurt Seaberg of Minneapolis please come on down and accept the award for the most ridiculous letter to the editor to be published in the Star Tribune in 2002? The selection committee is aware that we're only four months in to the year and there will plenty of other contestants to come but at this point it is hard to imagine anyone being able to misstate facts and reach illogical conclusions any better than Kurt. Please read Kurt's letter below followed by a few comments from the committee:

Nuke waste isn't ever safe

The editors at the Star Tribune assure us not to worry about nuclear waste passing through our communities on its way to Yucca Mountain ("Tote that nuke," editorial, April 14). The containers are leakproof, they say, and since there's never been a serious accident in the past, of course there never will be.

Sound familiar? These are the arrogant and irresponsible assurances that rooters for technology have given for generations. The Titanic would never sink, they said. It did. "Smart bombs" won't kill civilians. They do. The World Trade Center buildings could withstand the impact of a 747. They didn't. And so on.

Technology may appear flawless to some, but people aren't. After long hours on the job they pull the wrong switch, give the wrong directions, cut corners to save time and money. Fatal choices are made that result in terrible accidents. This has always happened and always will.

Nuclear waste is a substance so deadly we can't afford to risk even one accident with it. We have no right to play Russian roulette with the lives of our children.

-- Kurt Seaberg, Minneapolis.

Well now, Kurt is quite the pessimistic Luddite isn't he? But he does site some great examples of failed technological promises right? Let's take a closer look.

First off, I'll give him the Titanic. Of course if we want to bring up the Titanic as a reason not to trust technology we might as well fold up our tents, move back into caves, and become tribes of hunter/gatherers again. You say this Apollo spacecraft can safely reach the moon and return? But what about the Titanic?

His next example is where he starts to lose touch with reality. I would challenge Kurt to site an instance in which one of his "rooters for technology" has ever promised that "smart bombs" won't kill civilians. I am certain that no military source has ever uttered such claptrap and no one with a smattering of common sense would be duped into such a child-like belief. Smart bombs certainly do seek to minimize civilian deaths but as the Pentagon tirelessly points out when you go to war there will be unintended civilian casualties no matter how careful you are or how smart your weapons are.

But Kurt really scores big with his next point. Can anyone point out the three factual errors in his WTC claim?

Okay time's up.

1. The WTC buildings were not built to withstand the impact of a 747. When the buildings were being planned they were designed to withstand the impact of the largest commercial plane at that time. A 707.

2. The planes involved in the 9/11 attacks were not 747s but rather 767s.

3. Technically speaking the buildings did withstand the impact of the initial crashes. What caused the buildings to collapse was not the impact of the planes hitting the buildings rather it was the super heated fires resulting from the thousands of gallons of jet fuel being ignited. This had not been foreseen in the original design and was what doomed the buildings.

Kurt then goes on to paint a picture of the nuclear waste being transported to Yucca Flats by a gaggle of Homer Simpson-like dullards eating donuts and pushing the wrong buttons that accidentally dumps the waste in your backyard. In the April 8th National Review Jonah Goldberg had an article detailing the years of research and study that have gone into the Yucca Flats project. This is probably the one of safest and most well thought out plans of action in the history of man. The idea that someone would even be in a position to "pull the wrong switch" or mishear the word launch instead of lunch(70's TV ref for you) is absurd.

Finally, Kurt continues a pattern found in many of his ideological peers. Froth at the mouth in opposition to a position or policy designed to solve a very real and serious problem, in this case nuclear waste, while offering no alternatives. What would Kurt have us do with the nuclear waste that is currently scattered all over the country in facilities that are neither safe nor secure? In this case the genie is already out of the bottle and we can't put it back in. The best we can hope for is to get all the genies and all the bottles in one place to ensure their safety.

Friday, April 19, 2002

A Brilliant Disguise?

Pause for a moment to consider that perhaps the Bush administration's recent diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian situation were nothing but a mirage designed to placate more moderate elements in the administration and silence the critics who had accused the president of doing nothing to resolve the conflict. Bush has been hammered by some conservatives of late for what they consider his abandonment of support for Israel and for being hypocritical for pursuing terrorists in Afghanistan while calling for Israel to refrain from doing the same in the West Bank. But despite the fact that publicly the Bush administration through Powell was saying that Israel "must" stop the incursions in the West Bank and withdraw immediately the Israelis continued to carry out military operations for several days. That leads me to believe that the public call for Israel to cease and desist did not match what the administration privately communicated to the Israelis. I imagine that private communication to be something along the lines of "In order to calm our Arab friends and the Europeans down we're going to have to call on you to withdraw from the West Bank. And we're going to have send Powell over to make it look like we're trying to be fair to both sides. But we know that you gotta do what you gotta do."

After Powell left the region without being able to secure a cease fire critics labeled the trip a failure. But no one can now say that the administration didn't make an effort. In fact Powell seemed to go out of his way near the end of his stay to lay most of the blame on Arafat labeling him as the main obstacle to peace. Meanwhile the Israelis were allowed many fruitful days of activities to roust out terrorists, seize rockets, bombs, and other weapons, and throw the Palestinian groups into chaos. Capturing one of the most wanted Palestinian leaders didn't hurt either. It certainly won't stop the terror in the long run but it might have been enough to buy themselves some breathing room and time. The US too has bought some time and perhaps managed to avoid having the conflict escalating out of control. A few months of relative quiet in the region could be used to finalize our plans to deal with Iraq. Trying to solve the Iraqi problem when the powder keg in the West Bank seems just about blow would not be possible. But with the Palestinians on their heels we may have a window to carry out a swift and successful operation against Iraq that will be the first step to achieving a long term peace for the entire region including the Israelis and Palestinians.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

The Need For Hounds

Last night at home, trying to study the dreadfully boring material for an upcoming exam on Execution and Control of Operations when my efforts are interrupted by the buzz of the door bell. I wearily rise from the couch saunter over and open the door to find a young, side-burned punk with clipboard in hand. Let's see, Fresh Water Action Committee? People for the Ethical Treatment of Ants? Watch where you're walking there bud.

"Hi my name is B and I'm out trying to raise awareness and money for the Sierra Club the oldest environmental activist organization in America, blah, blah, blah..."

Mentally a door slams in my mind and I fantasize being able to utter the simple command, "Release the hounds" and watching the terrified youngster experience an up close and personal encounter with nature.

Burns: What's wrong with Crippler?

Smithers: Ah, he's getting on, sir, he's been here since the late '60s.

Burns: Ah, yes. I never forget the day he bagged his first hippie. That young man didn't think it was too grooooovy.

But I control my more base impulses and politely inform him that I'm not interested. He shoots me a condescending glance that says "You ungrateful suburban fool. Here I am out to save the planet and all you care about is watching TV, driving your SUV, and exploiting our precious resources. You just don't understand these grave issues of the day."

For a moment I'm tempting to grab the insolent punk by his shirt, physically drag him into my home, and deliver an intellectual thrashing that shatters his naive worldview and leaves him sobbing like a child who learns that there really isn't a Santa Claus. You wanna talk about drilling in Anwar? How about global warming and the Kyoto Treaty? The population explosion you say? The destruction of the rain forest concerns you? It's go time.

But instead I simply sigh, shake my head, and close the door. He ain't even worth my time.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Perfectly reasonable folks

Last night on Frontline, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was comparing the competition that his group and the Islamic Jihad have over who has the higher number of martyrs--read suicide bombers who have killed woman and children--to the spirited rivalry that fans of English soccer teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool have.

Yes, if Israel withdraws to her pre-1967 borders there will be no more terrorism and we will have peace. Sure.

Build it and they will drive

Driving around the other day listening to Minnesota Public Radio (yes, all the AM talk radio stations had commercials on and the music stations were playing crap) I caught a bit of a discussion on transportation issues facing Minnesota. The host chimed in with this wonderful insight:

"We just can't keep building more roads."

My response is the same as to the tired old cannard that says "we can't just keep building more prisons".

Yes. Yes we can. Using my taxes for either road or prison building is exactly where I want my money to go. If we need more prisons to make society safer build em'. If we need more roads to ease congestion build em' too.

To imply that the transporation infrastructure in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has reached max capacity for roads is ridiculous. The metropolitan area is relatively new compared to Eastern cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia and would hardly be considered high density. It also doesn't have the geopgraphic constraints that limit road building in cities like Seattle, Chicago, and Denver. Other than needing bridges to crosss a couple of rivers the downtowns are fairly wide open to approach from all directions.

The fact that major beltway around the metro area the 494/694 loop has only two lanes for most of it's length is in itself proof that we haven't even begun to build yet. Let's get that concrete pouring.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

No Sanctuary

The mark of a truly terrible newspaper is that no section of it is safe from biased and/or inaccurate information and sloppy writing. I give you this movie capsule from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

We Were Soldiers Not since 1968's "The Green Berets" has there been a Vietnam War movie with as much flag-waving spirit. Mel Gibson commands a U.S. unit lured into a Viet Cong Trap.

A coupla points to make here.

1. The comparison with "The Green Berets" is clearly intended as a snipe at "We Were Soldiers" since sophisticated movie critics know that any movie about Vietnam that does not portray the US involvement in a negative light is obviously flawed. The sad thing is that while "The Green Berets" was definitely a pro-American movie it wasn't a mindless propaganda film as many portray it today. And it certainly was not the only other Vietnam War movie that was not blatantly anti-American although there have been many of those. I would say that "Full Metal Jacket" could be considered a classic war movie that portrayed American soldiers positively and heroicly for the most part. "Bat 21" and "Go Tell the Spartans" also fit into this category.

2. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the Vietnam War or who paid any attention to "We Were Soldiers" would know that the battle in the Ia Drang Valley that the movie depicts was not against the Viet Cong but rather against North Vietnamese Army regulars. This was significant since it was the first major clash of US and NVA troops during the war. Some might say this is a small mistake but it speaks volumes to me.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Evil Close To Home

When President Bush detailed what he termed the "axis of evil" during his state of the union speech he clearly forgot to mention one group operating within our own borders which perpetrates more evil against ordinary American civilians than even the most hardened terrorist has dreamed of. The name of this unholy organization? The NCAA.

What other word but evil can be used to describe a group that absolutely prohibits the sale of alcohol at it's hockey tournament? Last night I attended the semifinal game of the "Frozen Four" in St. Paul along with 19,244 other fans(around 19,212 were men judging by the bathroom lines) and was forced to watch the entire contest without enjoying even a solitary beer. Hockey without beer? It just ain't right. And when the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers allowed a 3-0 third period lead shrink to a one goal margin with a minute and a half left and you could cut the tension in the building with a Somali machette I damn well needed something to calm my frayed nerves.

Is is not bad enough that the NCAA forces fans to sit through endless public service announcements during breaks in the action lecturing us on the evils of gambling and drugs and touting such dubious goals as "diversity" and "youth leadership"? Must they also take away the simple pleasure of sipping a brew while watching the best college hockey teams battle for the championship? It's a sad statement on our society today that after a hard day of work a man can't head down to the local arena, scalp a ticket minutes before game time, and be allowed to responsibly consume a few drinks.

If nothing else I would think the greed of the NCAA would overcome it's otherwise silly sensibilities and cause it to sell beer at the games. Think about it in economic terms. The NCAA probably gets at least 10% of the concessions at the events if not more. Let's just say that 10,000 folks in the crowd would choose to drink alcoholic beverages if they could do so. That might be a bit on the high side but just go with me here. If these 10,000 drink an average of three drinks each at $5 a drink we're talking $150,000 gross. Going with the 10% take that would net the NCAA $15k a game. Multiply that by three games and you're talking nearly fitty grand. Let's see. The NCAA makes money and their fans are happy. Perish the thought.

Evil. Pure evil I tells ya.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

This reptile still can bite

PJ O'Rourke trains his sharp wit on a Nobel Prize winner's call for peace in
Nobel Sentiments.

Really, really stupid white man

In case anyone is looking for further evidence of the complete lack of credibility in Michael Moore's new book check out this analysis from Spinsanity.

Can you imagine the media outcry if a conservative wrote a best selling book that so completely misrepresented the truth?

It's times like this I wish we actually had the sort of government that paranoid leftists like Moore claim we do so that on the way to his next book signing a nondescript van would pull up, and while a black helicopter circled overhead heavily armed agents would leap from the van, seize Moore and whisk him away(given his considerable girth it might take several) never to be seen or heard from again.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Open Up The Doors And Here's All The Terrorists

Listened to the BBC news at lunch today and was struck by the language used to describe today's events in the West Bank. According to the report Israeli troops continue to "besiege" the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where hundreds of Palestinians have taken "refuge". Sort of conjures up images of bedraggled masses huddled together praying while shells explode in the background, shaking the building to it's foundation, and threatening to extinguish the candles burning in the background. The BBC reporter went on to say that an Israeli Army spokesman "claimed" that the Palestinians were armed and firing on Israeli troops from the church.

From what I've been able to discern from a variety of news sources the way this whole thing went down is that Palestinian gunman engaged Israeli troops in gun battles as the Israelis entered the city. Some of the gunman were forced to retreat and essentially were trapped. They decided to hide in the church reasoning that the Israelis would be reluctant to continue the attack on such a well known religious site. I'm sure there are some civilians inside the church as well who have sought shelter from the fighting around them. The Israelis have surrounded the church but are hardly "beseiging" it and I doubt if they have plans for a Monte Cassino-like destruction of it. Why is the moral outrage not focussed on the armed Palestinians who have clearly violated the sanctity of the church instead of the Israelis who at least up to this point have shown marked restraint?

Monday, April 01, 2002

Fighting the Battle of Who Can Print Worse

My brother and I have been debating which newspaper is worse in terms of liberal bias and just overall crappy journalism the Boston Globe or Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here's my opening salvo in favor the Star Tribune.

For the last year or so the Minneapolis Star Tribune has been running a feature every Monday on the editorial page featuring 'Samples of Great Rhetoric From The Past'. Along with speeches from George Washington, John Adams, Voltaire, and Churchill the Strib has also published a speech Lenin made shortly after the 1917 revolution and last week featured the lyrics to 'L'Internationale' with a note that it was adapted as the national anthem of the Soviet Union until World War II.

Isn't that special? The theme song to an ideology that murdered and enslaved millions during the 20th century and threatened the demise of Western civilization for nearly fifty years. I can't wait for the week when the paper features an excerpt from a Hitler Nuremburg rally speech as an example of "great rhetoric". Oh wait I almost forgot. Nazis are evil because they killed millions in pursuit of their totalitarian desires to rule the world. In the view of the Star Tribune, Communists, who also killed millions in pursuit of their totalitarian desires, are OK because you know they meant well.