Sunday, December 23, 2007


Some great 1973 game photos from J.D. Hastings.


More than you ever wanted to know about the shoes Kobe has worn since entering the NBA.


With Andrew Bynum in his third season and having already jumped from lost rookie to average NBA center to star center, it's easy to forget just how young this guy is. Here's a list of NBA players younger than Bynum: teammate Javaris Crittenton, Kevin Durant (Sea), Spencer Hawes (Sac) and Thaddeus Young (Phi). And Greg Oden (Por), who will not make his NBA debut until next year.

So Bynum should have more improvement left in him than all but five NBA players. And he's already an impact player, the second best on a deep Lakers roster.

Is it any wonder that Kobe no longer wants to be traded?


You've got to love those records that pass from one Laker to another, as was the case today when Kobe surpassed Wilt as the "Youngest to reach 20,000 points."

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Fall 2003...hmm, rings a bell

If we accept, for the sake of argument, that the NIE conclusion that Iran suspended its nuclear program in fall 2003, the next logical question is…why fall 2003? Why not summer 2001 or winter 2005? The timing makes the underlying cause obvious, but the precise motivation somewhat less clear.

That cause was pretty clearly the removal of Saddam Hussein from his post as Iraqi dictator for life by US armed forces. But I can see two separate threads behind that driving force.

The first is good old-fashioned fear. The removal of Saddam showed that our engagement in the War on Terror was not just going to be going after bin Laden and the Taliban and then going back into our 1990’s shell. No, we were in this thing for the long haul, and those who harbored or otherwise aided terrorists would have to answer for doing so. Qaddafi had seen the writing on the wall and, not wanting any part of a new and bolder US, voluntarily disbanded Libya’s nuclear weapons program, a happy side effect of which was the dismantling of the A.Q. Kahn nuclear black market.

It’s not hard to imagine that in this atmosphere, where the previous 12 months had seen the removal of the Taliban and Saddam and the emasculation of Qaddafi, the Mad Mullahs opted for self-preservation in deciding to back off their quest for the bomb for a spell. This is the Occam’s Razor version, the most likely scenario.

The second possibility is that the decision was made after Saddam was extracted from his hole in the ground. The thinking here is that Iran was pursuing the bomb precisely because they had a next-door neighbor who was as unstable and unpredictable as, well themselves, one who had already attempted to conquer them and another neighbor within the last two decades and change. This grave threat was clearly hell-bent on obtaining his own nuclear bomb, indeed there is a pretty good chance that he would have succeeded in doing so and used it against Iran in their war if not for the fortuitous intervention of the Israelis.

The US had finally, after over a decade of his thumbing his nose at the world and violating the Gulf War cease fire, removed this loose cannon from power in the spring of 2003. But, like the Iraqi people themselves, the Iranians had to stay pretty nervous as long as he was on the lam. Who’s to say that he would not manage to hide out until the US lost its will? They certainly had left the South Vietnamese people hanging out to dry in 1975 and the Iraqis in 1991, why would this time be different? All they had to do was flick on CNN or check out the New York Times to see cheerleading for a burgeoning anti-war movement.

No, they would not be safe until this guy was caught. And then, in fall 2003 he was. The Iraqi people, having been burned before, still greatly feared a Saddam return to power, but the Iranians probably realized that the US was not about to let him go under any circumstances. With their primary threat gone, and in a world grown hostile to rouge nations developing nukes, the time seemed right to back off for a while, making sure that aspects of the program remained and that the whole thing could be restarted in full on fairly short notice.

This is also for a very plausible scenario. It has some problems, not the least of which is that one of (the primary?) Iran’s primary foreign policy goals is to remove Israel from the map and push all Middle Eastern Jews into the ground or out of the region, a modern version of Hitler’s Final Solution. And this fantasy would obviously require the bomb if it were to have any hope of succeeding.

Further evidence against it is that Iran continues to wage hot war against the US and occasionally Israel; if they only wanted nukes to defend themselves against Saddam this makes no sense. It is more in line with the fear scenario and what they would do if they wanted to remove the source of their fear. Destabilizing Iraq and waiting for US useful idiots to help them drive the US out of Iraq would be the quickest way to do so, at which point they could get back to the business of preparing to kill millions of Jews.

So I have to ultimately side with fear as Iran’s motivation in the hypothetical that the late November NIE is correct. As the sane world certainly hopes and prays that it is.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bush NIEd

What to make of the NIE report that that the president received November 28 and was made public December 4, suggesting that Iran suspended (not disbanded, although it will often be spun as such) its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003?

Well, if it’s true then it is great news for the world in general and the US in particular. Iran is a nation whose leaders are insane and which has been waging war against the US in various capacities for almost three decades, most recently the hot war in Iraq. Anything that would even temporarily make them less dangerous is a very good thing.

Of course, that’s the rub – if it’s true. The US really has very little intelligence capability left, having seen it weakened by a series of stupid policy decisions ranging from the Church Committee’s work to the Torricelli Principle and post-Cold War budget cuts. Human intelligence in the areas where we most need it is all but nonexistent, leading us to rely on informants (whose motivations and loyalties are often questionable at best) as primary sources. And on our end we get fuzzy analysis of this dubious data by domestic bureaucrats, who we have seen are often driven by their own political agendas. Intelligence gathering is a difficult task even if the employees are loyal to their boss and organization; when rouge agents are openly hostile to a sitting president and official US policy you get a chaotic mess.

Thus the infamous “slam dunk” of stockpiles of Iraqi WMD, which gave ammunition to anti-American demagogues around the globe (and, sadly, at home). And the current state of Iranian nuclear intelligence, where a 2007 report, by all accounts based on the word of a single defector, directly contradicts the 2005 report based on the totality of then-existing fuzzy data and analysis. Pardon me if my confidence in pronouncements which change 180 degrees in two years is not even “moderate,” much less “high.”

Adding to the doubt is a Wall Street Journal report that “the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials [Tom Fingar, Vann Van Diepen and Kenneth Brill] with previous reputations as ‘hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials.’" CIA officials have in the (very recent) past shown a willingness to undermine US policy and endanger the lives of Americans for nothing more than scoring cheap political points against the president, so it’s not like more sabotage would be out of character.

Others share my skepticism. A senior IAEA official said "To be frank, we are more skeptical. We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." Israeli is also far from convinced, but then again their very survival probably depends on keeping Iran from going nuclear, so they have a vested interest in erring on the side of caution.

I should probably mention the political spin, which (as usual) reads like something from The Onion. The basic premise is that the president “lied” when he followed past NIE’s, and that he again “lied” because he…uhh, here’s where it gets murky, but apparently because he did not have a clairvoyant vision of what was to come in this one in the months leading up to November 28, when he actually saw the document for the first time. I will give Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers credit here, they may be fundamentally unserious but they are extremely creative and produce some genuinely hilarious stuff. If only they would channel that creativity into something useful, like trying to figure out how college football could determine their champion by playing football games.

In summary, I fear that we are overcompensating for previous intelligence mistakes by becoming timid and risk-averse, which is even more dangerous. Or that this whole thing is just another attempt by the CIA/State axis to undermine the president. I would dearly love for this report to ultimately be proven correct, especially if the program is still in hiatus today and remains so well into the future. But I’ve heard boy crying wolf so many times that I remain somewhere between anxious and terrified of the Mad Mullahs and their insane figurehead.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

It's sad, but...

The NFL really is just the WWE with better packaging. It's all about advancing the story.

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The world's least prolific blogger returns

I send out my best wishes to Greg "The Hammer" Williams. Hang in there buddy, we're thinking about you and we miss you.

Lest you think the world’s bookmakers are all-knowing, on November 14 lines were dealt and bets taken on a college hoops game (741-742 on published schedules) between Cornell and Drake. Betting was eventually suspended and refunds issued when they figured out that the Cornell in question was not the Ivy League Cornell Big Red but the Division 3 Cornell Rams from Mount Vernon, Iowa and the always powerful Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

I can’t remember why I’m posting this link.

The college football game between North Texas and Arkansas State was moved from Saturday 11/17 to Thursday 11/15 so as not to interfere with the start of deer season in Arkansas. I had always wondered how folks like the Clintons could come to power, now it’s suddenly making sense to me.

Fun fact: There are currently 32 closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras located within 200 yards of the flat where 1984 author George Orwell lived.

You would have guessed that the Patriots were the most overachieving football team of this season, but Kansas was 10-0 against the spread leading into their showdown with Missouri. And doing it with much more class, I might add.

I don’t know whether to credit or blame my friend Joe Duffy for this, but…Does Ann Arbor get a new Carr with Les Miles?
Rock me!

Anybody who's ever thrown out that idiotic "Every game's a playoff game" line in defense of college football's indefensible system of determining a mythical champion without playing games, say congratulations to Hawaii, who has already won the national championship by your criteria.

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