Archive for September, 2007

Beat the drum

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Jay at The Blue-Gray Sky has a Top 10 list of superstitious rituals that might help break Notre Dame’s six-game losing streak. I particularly like #4:

Collect the poison of a Yellow Jacket, the tooth of a Nittany Lion, the hair of a Wolverine, and the sweat of a Spartan. Mix together in a large pot and boil for 24 hours, chanting the ancient Celtic Rite of Purification. Pour mixture in the trash and immediately shotgun 12 Keystone Lights.

Heh. #6 is good, too: "Zahm Hall shall remain celibate until the first win. Zahm is delighted to finally have an excuse."

Whatever it takes, I hope the Irish can find some way to pull out a win tomorrow against Purdue. If they don’t, there’s an excellent chance the November 3 home game against Navy will become a "something’s gotta give" matchup, and not in a good way. I can hear the pregame commentary already in my mind’s ear: Which streak will end today? Navy’s 43-year string of futility against the Irish, or Notre Dame’s 10-game losing streak? Somebody’s gotta win! … Yeah, that wouldn’t be fun. Not fun at all. Blech.

Go Irish. Beat Boilers.

The Terrific Twenty-Three

Friday, September 28th, 2007

For the second week in a row, Friday-night football on ESPN2 features a matchup between two undefeated teams tonight. This week’s showdown, West Virginia at South Florida, is a much bigger deal than last week’s Oklahoma-Tulsa nonconference curiosity. Tonight’s game will go a long way toward determining who wins the Big East, and the folks in Tampa are ready — they’ve been ready for some time, actually — for the biggest game in their young football program’s history (not to mention their first home sellout). The visiting, #5-ranked Mountaineers, whose BCS hopes were derailed last season by a stunning home loss to South Florida, are a one-touchdown favorite.

Saturday will feature two more unbeaten-versus-unbeaten showdowns, both at 3:30 PM. In the Big Ten, Michigan State visits Wisconsin, and in the Pac-10, Cal visits Oregon. The latter, which is basically the battle to see who will challenge USC for the conference title (though Arizona State may also have something to say about that), is the ESPN GameDay game, though most of the country won’t get to see it because of other ABC games airing at the same time. (Here in Knoxville, for example, we get Clemson-Georgia Tech instead. Harumph.) There’s also, technically speaking, another unbeaten-versus-unbeaten showdown between Boston College at UMass at 1:00 PM, but the Minutemen are a Division I-AA team, so that doesn’t really count.

There’s only one unbeaten-vs.-winless game this week: Notre Dame (0-4) at Purdue (4-0). If the Irish keep losing, they could potentially face a grand total of five such games before the season is over (not counting the season-opening 0-0 vs. 0-0 game against Georgia Tech) — vs. Penn State, vs. Michigan State, vs. Purdue, vs. Boston College and vs. USC. I wonder if that would be some kind of record? Anyway, the Irish are 22-point underdogs against Purdue.

Easily the heaviest favorite among the unbeatens this weekend is LSU, which visits a Tulane team that Vegas has pegged as a 41-point underdog. Ouch. The second-heaviest favorite is Hawaii, the lone remaining undefeated team from a non-BCS conference, which resumes its WAC schedule at Idaho — and is favored by 25.

Outside of the three games between a pair of Division I-A unbeatens, the only game featuring one of the Terrific 23 with a point-spread of less than 14 points is the aforementioned Clemson at Georgia Tech contest; the Tigers are favored by just 3. Other than that, all the unbeatens are heavily favored — even the runt of the group, UConn, which hosts 15.5-point underdog Akron at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field. The Huskies, by the way, got three votes in this week’s AP poll, courtesy of a 23rd-place vote by Doug Doughty of the Roanoke (Va.) Times. That means all 23 undefeated teams are now getting at least some recognition in the polls.

Anyway, the Terrific 23 will definitely shrink to at most 20 this weekend, thanks to the three unbeaten-vs.-unbeaten games, and a Clemson loss would drop the total to 19… but any further attrition would entail a major upset.

The full "Terrific 23" schedule is after the jump.

P.S. Stay tuned for pick ’em contest standings! Really! Tonight! (Hopefully.)


Jones to Cincy

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Demetrius Jones, who disastrously started Notre Dame’s season opener at QB and then notoriously quit the team right before the Michigan game without telling anybody his plans, is going to Cincinnati instead of Northern Illinois. (Hat tip: Patrick.)

The sad thing is, that’s a step up at this point. The Bearcats are 4-0 and ranked for the first time since 1976. Notre Dame… eh, you all know how Notre Dame is doing. In any event, I wish him well.

On an unrelated note, I’m really, really going to try to make time tomorrow evening to finally get the pick ’em contest online. Considering the regular season is basically one-third over, I figure it’s time. :) Also coming tomorrow, hopefully: an update on the Terrific Twenty-Three (i.e., the remaining undefeated teams), and who they play this weekend. If I have time, I’ll do the Egregious Eleven as well (the winless teams).

UPDATE BY DAVID K.: The South Bend Tribune is reporting that Notre Dame sophomore lineman Chris Stewart has traveled home to Texas to spend time with his family, and is considering leaving the school and the team. If he leaves, Stewart would be the third player to leave the team in the past two weeks and the 17th to leave since Charlie Weis took over the program.

(Hat tip: Timugen in comments.)

Another out-of-the-blue Gulf hurricane

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Hurricane Lorenzo is about to make landfall along the central Mexican Gulf coast. If you don’t remember hearing me mention Lorenzo before on the blog, that’s because I haven’t: like Humberto before him, Lorenzo blew up very quickly, from a tropical depression as late as 11:00 AM today to a hurricane as of 8:00 PM. Now he’s at 80 mph, and some additional slight strengthening is possible before landfall in the next few hours.

Meanwhile, out in the middle of the Atlantic is Tropical Storm Karen, struggling with wind shear and currently no threat to land. That could change eventually, but it’s very hard to say at this point. Alan Sullivan writes: “If conditions were right, this would have been a mighty hurricane. As it is, we will see a feeble, sputtering tropical storm headed slowly northwest then west for days to come. The GFS model keeps Karen alive long enough to recover strength off the East Coast, recurve, and pass just off Cape Cod as a sizeable hurricane.” That’s just one computer model, though, and it’s trying to predict something a long way off (like ~10 days), so take it with several buckets full of salt.

Apparently we’ve killed some bad guys in Iraq

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

One of the things that struck me watching the first part of Ken Burns’s The War last night on my TiVo was the focus on body counts. Whenever he would talk about a battle in the Pacific, it was always the comparitive body count that seemed to matter most: yeah, we lost X number of men, but the Japanese lost more, so it was a success! And it wasn’t just Burns. One of the soldiers he interviewed talked about a failed Japanese ambush on Guadalcanal in which 900+ Japanese soldiers were killed, but only 36 Americans died. “That was really great for morale,” the soldier said. And of course, I understand why — that’s a huge victory — but at the same time, I thought, wow, it really shows how your perspective changes in war. Those 36 dead Americans undoubtedly had good friends in the unit who were devastated to lose them. And yet it was “great” for morale that they were the only ones who died.

With that in mind, I was struck by the top headline in today’s issue of USA Today as I walked past a news box in downtown Knoxville this afternoon:

19,000 militant fatalities since ’03.” My initial, instinctive reaction upon reading that was: “Really? 19,000? Well, hey, that puts those 3,800 American fatalities in perspective, doesn’t it?” To which I think, upon reflection, that the correct answer is: yes and no. On the one hand, this is a very, very different kind of war than the mass-mobilization, fight-to-the-last-man battle that was World War II, so the cruel arithmetic of body counts doesn’t have the same significance. Plus, unlike in conventional wars, we have to ask whether our presence in Iraq is breeding anger to such a degree that two new militants are popping up for every militant who dies. (I don’t presume to know the answer to that question; I’m just saying it has to be asked.) But on the other hand, it is nice to know that we’re more efficient at killing the enemy than they are at killing us. I mean, I think we all suspect that instinctively, but it’s nice to have hard numbers to back it up.

Here’s the full story. It points out that “U.S. commanders consider the number of enemy deaths a poor measure of progress in an insurgency.” I sort of figured that, but even so, seeing the headline got me thinking along lines similar to the question I asked earlier this month in reference to blogger Michael Totten’s account of the surge’s success: “why aren’t we hearing more about this sort of thing?” The subheadline on the USA Today story reads, “Military discloses stats for first time.” Well, for heaven’s sake, what’s taken them so long?

Leaving aside the merits for a moment, and looking at this purely as a P.R. issue, it strikes me as head-smackingly stupid for the Bush Administration to not publicize these numbers. Even if they’re not terribly meaningful in reality, an awful lot of people will have the same initial reaction I did — or perhaps even a more rah-rah version of it, along the lines of Hey! We’re kickin’ ass! — and many won’t then retreat to the more philosophical “yes and no” answer that I eventually settled on. They’ll stick with instinctual “hell yeah!” sort of response. Needless to say, from President Bush’s perspective, such reactions are pure gold.

Memo to the Bush Administration: If you want people to support an ongoing war, you need to tell them we’re killing the bad guys. It helps with morale. It gives people something to rally around. It prevents them from feeling like the whole effort is pointless and we’re just wasting money and lives. Helping the Iraqi people build a stable democracy — that’s a worthy goal, but an esoteric one, hard to wrap your mind around. But killing bad guys: everybody understands that.

Ideally, you’d like to be able to say that we’re killing the bad guys more efficiently and consistently than they’re killing us. The government understood that in World War II, which is why they initially suppressed the news of how bad the death toll at Pearl Harbor was, and how poorly things were going in some early Pacific battles. They had to lie to rally support. All the Bush Administration needs to do is tell the truth! So what’s taken them so long? Why aren’t they shouting these numbers from the rooftops?

The article explains that the answer is at least partially a reaction to Vietnam:

The U.S. military rarely discusses the numbers of enemy dead, fearful of raising parallels with the Vietnam War when the U.S. military’s reliance on “body counts” led to allegations of inflated figures because of political pressure to show results.

Well, I understand that fear, I guess, but isn’t this a case of the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction? Just because you don’t want to exaggerate body counts, which I certainly agree with, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t even release accurate ones! Especially with the media being veritably obsessed with the body count on our side, doesn’t it make sense to tell ’em the count on the other side, to provide some context? Yet the military didn’t even release this data of its own accord. It was “provided at USA TODAY’s request.”

Say what you will about the media and its biases, but one thing I know for sure is this: journalists love numbers. You give them a number that quantifies, or purports to quantify, a major news story, and they will report it far and wide. This is a reality that Rudy Giuliani understood when he refused to speculate about the death toll on 9/11, and that Ray Nagin, Kathleen Blanco and others failed to understand when they shot off their mouths about “10,000 body bags” after Katrina. (Giuliani, like everyone else, probably feared the World Trade Center toll was well into the five digits, but he knew better than to give voice to that fear, since his pessimistic estimate, based on nothing, would have been treated like gospel in the media. Instead, he said the toll would be “more than any of us can bear” — a pitch-perfect answer, even if it frustrated the number-hungry journos. By contrast, the Louisiana officials had no such self-restraint, and the result was widespread and long-lasting overreporting of Katrina’s toll.) Whether they love the war or hate it, the media would report these numbers if the administration was harping on them regularly, and the numbers would provide a valuable counterweight — in media coverage and public perception, regardless of the realities on the ground — to the ever-growing, always-heavily-reported “milestones” in the death toll among U.S. soldiers.

I am continually baffled and amazed by this administration’s incompetence, not only in mismanaging the war in Iraq, but in mismanaging the propaganda war at home. Good grief.

Winds of change

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Those crazy liberal Al Gore-worshipping nutjobs in the Bush White House are officially on the global-warming bandwagon.

Also, I am officially a bad person for categorizing this post under “Weather.” It’s climate, not weather, you moron!  Yeah, but I don’t have a “climate” category…

Before Mike Gundy, there was…

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

…Jim Boeheim. (Warning: clip contains profanity!)

God, I love that clip. Best. Rant. Ever. I can’t believe I didn’t think of posting it earlier, in relation to the Gundy incident.

How did Notre Dame get so bad, so fast?

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

As noted previously here and here, I’ve been planning for some time — since the Michigan game, in fact — to write a serious post about Notre Dame’s struggles this season. I’ve been working on it mentally for almost two weeks, and I actually started typing it up shortly before the Michigan State game. I was hoping that game would render the post moot, but alas, no. So, here goes.

Admittedly, against the Spartans, the Irish showed some improvement over the previous week’s performance — going "from total ineptitude to just sucking" — to the point where it’s now at least possible to envision them beating the likes of Navy and Duke. But make no mistake, they’re still horrible. In terms of quality of play, the Irish have got to be in the bottom 25% of Division I-A right now, and probably the bottom 10%. And so the question must be asked: Why? How? What the hell has happened?

I realize Notre Dame graduated a lot of good players last year. I realize there’s inexperience at key positions. I realize the talent and depth are thin on the offensive line, among other places. I realize Jimmy Clausen is young, green, and getting pushed around like nobody’s business. I accept all that. And believe me, I didn’t expect the Irish to be good this year. But I still don’t understand how they got this bad, this quickly. It simply boggles my mind.

Perhaps the boggling of my mind is not too surprising in itself. I’m not a terribly good football analysisist
when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of the game; I’ve never
claimed to be. (I can explain to you all about the BCS, though. I’m
better with the nerdy stuff than with the actual game.) But when I read the analyses from people who do
know what they’re talking about… I still don’t get it. None of the
explanations for the Irish’s sudden and calamitous fall from grace seem
adequate. Many seem, if I can be uncharitable for a moment, more like
apologias than analyses.

I feel like some of my fellow Irish fans aren’t fully
grappling with the enormity of the team’s suckiness. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the feeling I get — and as a result,
their explanations ring hollow and inadequate, and leave me feeling
continually confused over what the heck is going on in South Bend.


The Integer That Must Not Be Named

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Lest I invoke a jinx or hex of some kind (the "curse of the Brendino"?), I’m not going to mention any baseball-related terms that rhyme with "tragic lumber." However, the Red Sox won yesterday to stretch their AL East lead over the Yankees to 3 games, with each team having 4 games left to play. (Ahem, you do the math.)

In some ways, this divisional "race" is academic. No matter the outcome, both teams are going to the playoffs — one as the AL East champ, the other as the wild card — and since two teams from the same division can’t meet in the opening round, we could be building toward another epic ALCS clash regardless. However, as a Boston fan, I would be much happier if it’s the Sox who are the champs and the Yanks the chumps wild-card winners. Not only does it mean home-field advantage in a possible ALCS meeting, but it’s a matter of pride: as I wrote previously, "We broke the Curse in 2004, and in the process we humiliated the Yankees in historic back-from-3-0 fashion, but we still
haven’t beaten them in the division race — that is to say, been better
than them over the course of the entire regular season — since, like,
forever." So… GO SAWX!

P.S. My Uncle Scott calls me "Brendino," if anybody is wondering where on earth that came from.

My family’s “greatest generation”

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

[UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! I published this post yesterday (Wednesday) evening. However, as noted below, the referenced episode of The War can be seen this Sunday, when the first five episodes will be aired back-to-back starting at 11:00 AM.]

*   *   *

Tonight at 8:00 PM, the fourth episode of Ken Burns‘s documentary on World War II, The War, will air on PBS.  (It’ll be rerun at 10:30 PM and 2:30 AM, and on Sunday at 5:30 PM.  The first five episodes will be aired consecutively on Sunday from 11:00 AM to 10:30 PM.)  The episode, titled
"Pride of Our Nation," details the events that occurred from June through August of 1944, including D-Day and the battles of Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian.

As I’ve mentioned before, my Grandpa Loomer was a Marine, and he fought in all three of those battles.  Here’s a photo of him — wearing the fatigue jacket that he would later give to me — sitting on a wrecked Japanese airplane along a captured airstrip in Tinian:

My mom, who has been watching The War with considerable interest these last two nights, e-mailed me yesterday to share some more details about our family history vis a vis World War II.  (My paternal grandfather was in his 30s by the time the war broke out, so he didn’t fight.  As a result, it was on my mother’s side that the war’s impact was most acutely felt.)  Ken Burns’s focus on the impact that the war had on ordinary people has gotten my mom thinking about how it affected her own family.  She wrote, in part:

We are from a
family wrapped around World War II.  Grandpa started going out with Grandma in the summer of ’42, while planning to enlist in the service as
a carpenter 4th class.  When he found out how much more officers
earned, he decided to do that [instead], [so] that he could support a wife, and
proposed to Grandma.  They were married in Fredericksburg VA, right
near Quantico VA [home of the Marine Officer Candidate School.  He was 26 years old, and she was 25.]  They
had to wait to have a wedding reception when he got 30 day’s leave, a
month later (and they had gotten married on a 3-day pass at Christmas). 

When he shipped out it was with the 2nd Marine Division, seeing combat
on Tarawa, then Saipan [and] Tinian … He and Grandma didn’t
know when they would be able to start a family, with all the danger Grandpa was in, so they were married from Dec. 1942 through 1944
putting it off.  It finally reached the point where they thought if
they waited any longer, they might have to wait ten years (which before
the bomb seemed likely).  So when he was sent back in California (as it
turned out for his last leave), in late 1944, he and Grandma stayed
together there for three months, and it was then that they decided they
shouldn’t wait any longer.  When Grandma saw him off and took the train
back home to Wisconsin, she was 1 month pregnant with Patty.  As a
result, Patty was born before the end of the war (4 days before Roosevelt died).  Grandpa got posted to Japan for the occupation and
didn’t get home until early 1946, when Patty was 8 months old.  (That
was the first time he saw her.)  But not knowing what lay ahead, their
going ahead as they did was pretty brave.  Patty’s best friend
in high school was raised by just her mother.  Her dad had died in the
war.  We knew of other families like that, young widows raising small
children alone. …

When we were
little kids, there were assorted things around the house that we never
thought were unusual — a (real) Japanese kimono for a small child (for Patty), a stuffy named Zealy that Grandpa had bought in New Zealand (also for Patty – it’s a rabbit).  We also had a ceremonial Japanese sword in the attic, Grandpa’s full-dress uniform, his rifle
and bayonet, the fatigue jacket he gave you, some really cool toy
military vehicles — scale models, very accurate and well-made.  He
also had a book of photographs that had been made and published for the
veterans of one of the above battles.  Lots of images like on the Ken Burns special, flame-throwers shooting into caves, burnt corpses of
Japanese soldiers, battle landscape, etc.  Grandpa had a rising sun
flag (red circle on white) with a lot of Japanese characters on it.  Much, much later, he decided to try to find the family of the soldier
it had belonged to.  He actually did locate them (with the help of
someone who could read Japanese, and a few other contacts) and sent
them the flag.  They were grateful — they had lost their son in the
war and it was something of him being returned.   

As I know I’ve told you, Grandpa never talked much about the war to
us.  I remember (idiot that I was) asking him how many Japs he had
killed, but I don’t remember whether he gave me an answer to that.  Once, when a relative of one of our Macomb neighbors visited who
happened to have been a soldier under Grandpa’s command, the two of
them sat out in the backyard for quite awhile one evening reminiscing.  That’s the only time I remember him talking about it.  Even the
fact that he got flashbacks when he was too close under fireworks, I
didn’t learn until you were a little kiddo and we were spending the 4th
of July in Arkansas with him and Grandma.

Grandpa was away at war when his mother died.  Of course a person can’t
come home for something like that in the middle of the war, but I think
he never got over that.  I told Grandma once [years later, after Grandpa died] that it seemed so unfair that she and Grandpa had had to sacrifice
so much as a couple — the first four years of their marriage, delay in
starting their family, getting married alone far from home, having the
fear of death always hanging over them for 4 years because of Grandpa’s
combat — and she just smiled and said that everybody was doing it.  I
found a letter she wrote to her mother when she and Grandpa were
traveling west as newlyweds to get him to San Diego, and she was
telling her how exciting it was to be starting off into the big world
with their whole lives before them.

Very interesting stuff, to me at least.  When I asked if it would be OK for me to blog what she had written, my mom replied, "Sure.  I think Grandma would be proud."  As well she should be, and Grandpa too.

Semper Fi.

The perils of righteous rage

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

These words don’t just apply to sports; they apply to blog comment-wars as well — and many other aspects of life, for that matter:

Your righteous indignation never looks as righteous as you think. It really doesn’t matter if you have a good reason to lose it. You still look like a maniac.

I plead guilty, Your Honor, to forgetting that principle every now and then, most often here on the blog but occasionally elsewhere too (like the time I went off on an insurance supervisor, or rather on his voicemail, because his company was totally screwing me over… which they were, and he had the power to fix it, and was infuriatingly stonewalling me at every turn… but nevertheless, my approach was all wrong).

"Your righteous indignation never looks as righteous as you think" is a good lesson to try to keep in mind — even if doing so is difficult for us logical-and-articulate-but-occasionally-hot-headed lawyer types. :)


Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

*The ball which was (un)fortunate enough to be the record-breaking 756th hit out of a ballpark by Barry Bonds will be branded with an asterisk.  The ball is headed to Cooperstown.

In other Bonds-related news, the team on which he has played for more than a dozen seasons has decided to cut its ties with him.  Here is an interesting post trying to figure out who might actually want the steroid-tainted-home-run-king.

Karen and proto-Lorenzo

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Tropical Storm Karen, which I first blogged about yesterday, has strengthened to 50 mph and is expected to become a minimal hurricane tomorrow before weakening due to increased shear. Karen appears to be no threat to land. Meanwhile, Tropical Depression 13 has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It could become T.S. Lorenzo as it meanders westward toward the Mexican coast, but is unlikely to reach hurricane strength. SciGuy has more.

Hook ’em, Hitlers!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Following hot on the heels of yesterday’s proof that Bush is Hitler, now we have proof that the Texas Longhorns are evil — or at least, that they’re supported by both President Bush, who the Left believes is Hitler, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who the Right believes is Hitler! Texas: favorite team of the Little Hitlers! Mack Brown, Colt McCoy and Limas Sweed are the new axis of evil!

P.S. This post invokes Godwin’s Law on the Texas football season, which means the Longhorns are now obligated to forfeit all of their remaining games. Congratulations, Oklahoma, you’ve just won the Big 12 South. :)

New dad killed in Iraq one day after his son’s birth

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

This story, out of Hendersonville, Tennessee, is the sort of thing that’s liable to make Becky cry these days. Hell, it might make me cry, if I think too hard about it. It’s really, really sad. Excerpt:

On Friday, Mrs. Reeves delivered her seven-pound,
14-ounce boy into this world without complications. Soon afterward she
phoned Iraq to deliver the happy news. There, Spc. Joshua H. Reeves,
her soldier-husband of two years, was stationed with troops from Fort
Riley, Kan. …

day’s joy turned to sorrow on Saturday as a bomb detonated as Joshua
Reeves’ Humvee drove down a Baghdad street. Leslie Reeves…was still in the hospital with her new baby when she learned
she was a widow.