Friday, July 12, 2002

ZoNotes: She's a Super Freak, Super Freak...

Balking at the Strike
The All-Star game debacle earlier this week was not the straw that will break the camel's back. At best, I suppose major league baseball has about a good month left before the players strike. The main contention with the owners is the issue of money. The owners want a luxuryt tax on teams with payrolls over $90 million and revenue sharing to keep small-market teams operational. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig over the past year has tried two operational tricks to force the players' union's hand -- threats of contraction and the latest gambit of asserting that two MLB teams cannot make payroll on Monday. Neither has resonated with the public or the players. It would have been a better negotiating tactic for Selig to just let Detroit or Arizona simply fail to make payroll. The sudden impact would have been more convincing for the players. However, this being an imperfectly constructed world, that didn't happen. The players, with the relevant case law on their side, are fundamentally in a better position than the feckless owners.
Put simply, 30 cold-blooded capitalists (the owners) want a system of socialism and high taxation to protect themselves from their own terrible decisionmaking in assembling players and talent. Plus, let's remember something here -- people harp about the "golden age" of baseball, which, depending on who you talk to, is any year before the 1994 strike that obviated the World Series. The 1990s up until that point were a guilded exeption to the general rule. Small market teams like Toronto became dominant. However, baseball is usually about a hegemonic large-market team crushing its unwitting opponents.
This really ought to be a showdown between the small-market owners and their larger contemporaries. I do not see the Yankees, Braves, or Dodgers willing to compromise on their capability to buy the players that they need in order to ensure that baseball in, say, Tampa Bay remains viable.
That is why the owners are trying to fit an elephant into a Yugo. There are competing interests within the owners big enough to force a split in their negotiating position. The players are all in it for the money. That's a selfish assessment. But then again it's an honest movitivation.
Sean Mullaney (B'00) thinks that baseball will "die" if the players move to strike. I initially agreed with that, but as of late I am altering the deal. Pray that I don't alter it any further. The fans will come back, well, because both the players and the owners can rely on the chronic collective American sickness known as "short-term memory." Just 4 years after that August in 1994 when the players walked out, we were all gazing on the McGuire-Sosa home run chase. In the immediate aftermath of the 9.11 attacks, we as a country truly missed the game when games were cancelled. We all watched Barry Bonds eclipse McGuire last fall. There will be some white-hot anger as pennant races are stunted and championship dreams go unfulfilled. But eventually, the same fans who moan and groan will most likely return to the stadiums.
The owners cannot be trusted with the well-being of the game. They as a group are fundamentally unable to act decisively and creatively. When tasked with a need to act spontaneously during the All-Star game, Selig simply let the game play out to a tie. He didn't even consider a mini-home run derby, or didn't pause to consider how to declare a winner in the circumstances. Imagine if Selig had boldly asserted himself Tuesday night. Could his public perception have changed? No, and in fact all about what is wrong with the owners crystallized on that surreal July night. The game didn't even offer an MVP award. This is what owners do. Given the choice between being memorable and being infamous, Selig chose the latter. No one goes to the diamond to watch the owner's box.

The Iverson Brief
It was the product of a historical hiccup that Allen Iverson arrived at Georgetown in 1994, having only just been pardoned by Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder for his role in a fight. Iverson's mother went to Coach John Thompson himself to ask that Iverson receive the master's tutelage at the Hilltop. Instead of playing football at the University of Kentucky, Iverson donned the Blue&Gray for 2 seasons, providing Coach John Thompson and the Hoyas with a brief happy time of NCAA Tournament runs and an Elite 8 appearance in 1996.
Yesterday's announcement that Iverson will face charges of assault and threats is another turbulent chapter for the Answer, and it makes the recent squawking with Philadelphia 76ers head coach Larry Brown seem all the more insignificant. Iverson has a troubled past, but what is disappointing is that he still has a temper that could jeopardize his standing as a multimillion-dollar athlete. Iverson's skills on the court make him a freak of nature. His darker side inhibits any progress on the hardcourt he makes. What argument would lead to Iverson throwing out his wife from their home? What in turn motivated Iverson to allegedly bust into his cousin's apartment demanding to find her? Iverson surrenders to police on Tuesday. This has only just begun.

"The gun can give you power, but you also need the authority."

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Be ready for tomorrow's baseball rant. The All-Star nonfinish was just the beginning...
ZoNotes: You've Got to Know When to Use It...

Armed When Flying
So the House passed a bill allowing pilots to be armed on flights. The Senate of course is going to be lobbied hard by the antigun establishment and its enablers in the national media to defeat the bill as soon as it arrives in the chamber. As with all issues in homeland security, this one is linked to others. Arming pilots is a last-line of defense option, the proverbial "red button" when all other preventive measures -- passenger screening, random searches, profiling, sky marshals, and reinforced cockpit doors fail. I don't expect pilots to start showing their pieces at the first sign of trouble. I understand the antigun stance here on this one -- and in a perfect world, I'd prefer that pilots simply fly the plane. Of course, the ensuing question is stark, what would have happened on 9.11 if the pilots had been armed with the necessary firepower? All the homicide bombers had that day were boxcutters. The balance of armament was in their favor -- but ever so slightly.
Perhaps a compromise option would be to return to something I proposed awhile back -- training stewardesses, um, flight attendants in close quarter combat tactics and arming them with weapons. There are a number of fighting systems that we can begin training stewardesses and their male counterparts in -- the Israeli Krav Maga comes to mind. You could conceal a pistol in the drink cart, or, as with the police, just show them off in full view. I really think highly of this option, because it represents a compromise between the bill as it stands now and understandable concern by the opposition. The fundamental point here is that the passengers need as many high-powered weapons on their side against potential terrorists. Remember, on 9.11 the attacks proceeded exactly as Al Qaeda had planned precisely because the passengers on the initial 3 flights followed the homicide bombers demands. Don't forget that. Flight 93's passengers rebelled only after realizing that their fate was already sealed. Arming pilots and flight crews adds another layer of protection. It isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

"Entertainment is where you download it."

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

ZoNotes: More value than a Worldcom balance sheet

The Boys of Summer Run Out of Players, OR -- GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!!
Sorry for the late posting this morning, but I've had a busy kickoff to the day, and I'm in no mood to recount the little adventure on 395 I had today. Last night's kiss-your-sister 7-7 stalemate between the National and American League All-Star teams is the sports deities' way of telegraphing to us in the general public that there is going to be a work stoppage later this summer. Everything about the game itself paralleled the season -- an exciting beginning, a Barry Bonds home run, excellent play by the Yankees, a managing conundrum, and then the unfortunately goatish role played by Bud Selig. It is sad, humorous, and indeed humbling to see World Series-winning managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly sheepishly approach Dar Komissar of beísbol and propose exactly what to do now that there were no more pitchers available. Understandably, I support the decision to call it off. Of course the fans get el shafto, but why should we be outraged now? Beísbol has not been very very good to the fans, but that was never the point in the first place. If given the choice between a 16-inning marathon no one will remember in September or the crucial phase of a pennant race, clubs will go with the latter.

"A tie is a loss without the clarity and a win without the glory."

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

ZoNotes: No Strikes, No Lockouts, Just ZoNotes

The Big Iraq Essay: The Quiver Is Deep
How does one "take down" Iraq? It is a lightly posed question with all sorts of consequences for those involved. Those of us who will not take part in the operation, should it take place, speak in hypotheticals. Those who will invade are of course silent and in preparation. Ideally, a full-on Iraq operation would employ 250,000 ground troops accompanied by supporting armor, artillery, close air support, and logistics. However, as it is unlikely that the Saudis will allow the U.S. to use the kingdom as a springboard for military operations, we must rely on NATO bases in Turkey, and the small Arab states such as Qatar and Kuwait. In my opinion, the operation will involve about 100,000 troops. The crucial element here is air dominance -- the airpower role will remain prominent even as the number of combat troops stays small. Given the requirements for constant support, carrier air wings will play the primary role, but American landbased strategic bombers will fill gaps as well.
The Participants
For the multilaterally-minded, this operation could keep you up at night. The DESERT STORM coalition was a historically exclusive and most unlikely combination of actors and forces. The current climate means that two states will bear the burden of sending in troops -- the UK and the US. The Qataris, Kuwaitis, and the Turks will supply bases and logisitcal support, and the Israelis will probably maintain an intelligence sword. Of course, of the secondary partners in this assembly, it's Israel that is most likely to introduce combat forces.
Maximus' Order...
By keeping the force structure small and focused, we may see repeats of the Afghanistan experience. Squads on the ground will help forces in the air acquire and strike targets. The idea will be for airpower and heavily-armed small units to render carnage before larger occupying forces sweep in. Many factors come into play here -- not the least of which is the average Iraqi soldier's will to fight. I suspect that in the Army that it is low. Given last time's performance, attacking coalition forces may encounter light resistance. Up to a point.
All Roads Lead to the Guard
Try not to think of division-level engagements. American brigades and Marine Corps expeditionary units carry significant firepower, enough to successfully engage the Iraqi Army in the field. The especially difficult nut to crack will be the Republican Guard. As brilliant as GEN Norman Schwarzkopf's "Hail Mary" pass into southern Iraq in 1991 was, it failed to "roll up" and obliterate the Republican Guard. Many of the Guard's units survived not only to fight another day, but also to protect Saddam Hussein from coup or assassination. These units are more motivated than their Army counterparts, and generally better-equipped. Once the Iraqi Army is dispatched, a vital thrust will go against the Guard.
The Fullback Dive
Playing with football lexicon, the major difference between DESERT STORM and any future operation against Iraq will be the prominence of the "SCUD hunt" -- a fullback dive instead of a longshot pass. Iraqi forces, from what we know publicly, didn't deploy their considerable biological or chemical weapons capability in 1991 given the very clear American promise to wipe Iraq from existence. Assume for the moment that the Iraqis have nukes on their SCUDs as well, along with artillery shells. It is likely that allied special operations forces with air support will have to knock out as many missiles in the western Iraqi launch areas before they are fired. It is in this capacity that I think Israel will play a major intelligence and targeting role. Schwarzkopf had initially regarded the last SCUD hunt as detracting from the main goal of defeating the Iraqi Army. As this is a different situation, the SCUD hunt becomes one of -- if not the most --important mission in the entire campaign. The consequences are clear. In 1991, the Israelis literally surprised American officials when they showed up in Washington having already desinged a strike package for the SCUDS. If Saddam were to get a nerve gas-tipped missile into Tel Aviv, then there would be no stopping the IDF from responding with the full force of their "undeclared" nuclear arsenal.
Closing Thoughts
All of this is largely hypothetical, but I think likely given the circumstances. Elements here will be involved later in the real deal. "Taking down Iraq" and "getting" Saddam Hussein is certainly possible and likely, but nonetheless difficult. It would be impetuous to think otherwise. But make no mistake. Even though the American military is considerably and regrettably smaller than the DESERT STORM force, it can still defeat any enemy in the field.

"Civilians plan invasions without the burden of executing them."

Monday, July 08, 2002

ZoNotes: Braving food poisoning, unruly passengers, and traffic jams

Where Angels Go to Sunbathe: The San Diego Roundup
Having suffered a stomach-burning bout of food poisoning last Tuesday, I gathered myself for the long flight to the West Coast on 3 July. Security at Reagan National was visible but not overbearing. Indeed, I got there at seemingly the right time. Meanwhile, I downed 2 bottles of ginger ale and popped some Immodium AD before I boarded to counter the deleterious effects of the bug I was carrying around. The combination worked amicably on the connecting flight to St. Louis. The 3-hour flight to San Diego was slightly more difficult given the duration, but I managed to avoid a repeat of the morning, where I couldn't even keep a glass of water in.
San Diego itself is a beautiful place, cool and relaxing to outsiders. On the 4th, after downing a small lunch at Cheesecake Factory, my hostess Myra Garcia took us to the Aquarium, where I saw the nice sea horse exhibit and a "baby" 140-lb. sea bass!
That evening, we attended a smashingly entertaining outdoor concert hosted by the San Diego Pops. The show included a medley of patriotically-themed music, which provided for the weekend's most inspiring moment. Towards the end the band struck up a mix of the armed forces' tunes and hymns. No one stood up for the Army's "Over There" or the Coast Guard's song, but a plethora of Marines stood tall immediately as they heard The Marines' Hymn. It was a goosebumpy moment.
Friday was notable for a great dinner at Hash House, where I talked to San Diego litigator and ZoNoter Gil Cabrera and met his lovely girlfriend. Thanks again to Gil for the fine dinner there (fried chicken & waffles!).
The veins of Temecula run sweet with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvingnon, and Muscat. I visited 4 wineries on Saturday, averaging 6 tastings per stop. Yum. Myra selected a fine hilltop spot to have a small picnic, complete with sandwiches, more wine, fruit, and cheese (the picnic conformed to the Sean Mullaney (B'00)Standard -- brie was served) That evening, transplanted Laredoan Mr. Shaun Khaledi took us to Sadaf -- a Persian locale of high repute -- where I downed 5 shots of Persian vodka. Wow, that stuff is strong, perhaps the strongest alcholic beverage I have ever consumed in my short life on God's green earth. The dinner -- rich Persian rice with meat, chicken, and fish -- was a smashingly delicious combination. All in all, a great weekend in San Diego.

"The sun shines brighter the more you open your windows."