Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Johnny Damon is gone. Take it easy, Red Sox Nation – breathe. This is a good thing.

I liked Johnny just as much as the next fan. He played some great ball for the Sox. Sometimes he did so many things well, he made it possible to forget that he had the throwing arm of an 11 year old girl.

But here’s the thing to remember: Bill James once wrote that a player’s career is like a watermelon. You’ve got the skin, the rind, and the tasty pink part. As a franchise, you want to make sure you get a given player’s tasty pink part and as little of the rind and skin as possible.

That’s what the Red Sox did with Damon. Before coming to the Sox, Damon had enjoyed an up and down career. He had been a good player with the small market Kansas City Royals but when he signed a big contract with the Oakland A’s, he completely spit the bit. Whether it was the pressure of being a huge free agent signing or not, we’ll perhaps never know, but ask any Oakland fan what he thinks of Johnny Damon. I’ll predict you’ll find few Damon worshippers in the Bay Area.

Damon next came to Boston not as a free agent savior but instead as a guy hoping to right his career. What’s more, he was able to ply his trade in relative anonymity. He joined a team that already had Nomar Garciapara, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez – three certified superstars and certifiable fruit-loops. There simply wasn’t enough column space to document the adventures of the eccentric, newly arrived center fielder.

Damon got off to a good start with the Sox and the run lasted for four fine years. But now Damon is a 33 year old who has relied on speed for much of his success. What’s more, Damon hasn’t exactly shown a fanatical devotion to conditioning or clean living. If you were to list the players who might defy the odds of getting old, Damon wouldn’t be on it.

Johnny Damon is likely to enter a serious decline phase in his career. Soon. He’s likely to be injury prone. Added to the mix is that he’s arriving in New York with the same kind of fanfare that accompanied his arrival in Oakland, only this time with Big Apple level decibels rather than Oakland volume. He has not shown an ability to handle that kind of pressure in the past.

Any Red Sox fan has to wish Damon well. His positive contributions to the team were significant, and he was generally a blast to have around. The fans will miss him.

But it’s important to note that the Johnny Damon that the fans adored wasn’t going to be playing in Fenway Park regardless of whether the Red Sox signed him or not. That Damon, the young swift one, was going to be replaced by a slower, more injury prone, less effective version of the guy.

So, in sum, the Yankees have once again cast their lot with an old player. They have once again invested in a resource that is destined to decline. When Damon’s productivity wanes or he gets injured, the Yankees will curse their luck. But when you cross Death Valley in a Model T, you ought to expect some engine problems.

As far as the Red Sox are concerned, they ate the juicy tasty part of Damon’s career. Just like they did with Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. And Pedro Martinez. And Nomar.

Red Sox Nation and the Cassandra-like scribes that document the team’s fortunes will doubtlessly lament this day. But such days are necessary if you want to compete not just for the few years when a core nucleus hits its stride but over the long haul.

Red Sox management understands this. The media will be a little slower to catch on.

UPDATE: ESPN's always excellent "Quickie" also thinks Damon will be a wash-out in the Apple, citing the Sampson factor as a leading cause.

UPDATE II: A distraught Mrs. Soxblog disagrees. She emails, "But Dean. He was our sexiest Sox, by far. He is a stud. A swoon-inducing, ga-ga heartthrob on a team of otherwise regular guys. We lost our sizzle."

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Monday, December 19, 2005


When I was preparing the Weekly Standard’s story about the Islamic Society of Boston’s $22 million mega-mosque going up in Boston, one of my interview subjects asked me, “Why doesn’t someone ask the Boston Globe why they’ve ignored this story that’s been going on right in their own back yard?”

It was a pretty good question. After all the ISB has had some rather intimate contact with some rather off-putting people. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the cleric who gave the okay to women deploying themselves as suicide bombers (and without even using a male chaperone to get to the sight of the attack, if you can believe it). Al-Qaradawi appeared on the ISB’s IRS tax returns as one of the group’s seven trustees from 1998 -2000. The ISB used him as a fund-raising tool for the mosque’s development and to this day has a page on its website dedicated to defending al-Qaradawi and the ISB’s employment of his good will, such as it is.

And then of course there is another ISB board member Walid Fitaihi. Fitaihi wrote, among other things, that Jews are the “murderers of prophets” and claimed that they “would be punished for their oppression, murder and rape of the worshippers of Allah.” When these comments came to the ISB’s attention, the group expressed “shock.” Nonetheless, the ISB ultimately stood by its man; Fitaihi remains on the ISB’s board to this day.

When I labeled the question of why the Globe hadn’t covered this story in its own backyard as only a “pretty good” one, the reason I gave it relatively low marks is because we all know the answer as to why the Globe ignored the story. The Globe would be incapable of covering such a matter without its trademark slavish adherence to political correctness. There’s no way the Globe could cover the controversy either honestly or accurately.

As if to prove my point, the Globe finally waddled into the fray yesterday only five days after a national publication beat it to the punch, not to mention two years after its cross town rival the Boston Herald printed a series of exposés on the subject.

The Globe’s story begins inauspiciously with the headline, “Praised as beacon, mosque project stalls amid rancor.” That headline reminds me of why my high school English teacher, Dwight Mackerron, was almost pathologically opposed to the use of the passive construction. The Globe’s headline can’t help but make you wonder, “Who was doing this praising?”

Well, rather than just pose the question rhetorically, I’ll give a couple of answers. A bunch of now oddly-silent local politicians who seemingly delighted in posing for a photo opportunity with shovels in hand at the mosque’s ground-breaking lavished such praise. So too did Massachusetts’ junior Senator, a certain John Kerry, who sent a fawning note to the ISB upon the mosque’s groundbreaking. And then of course there’s a certain Boston broadsheet that editorialized that the mosque would no doubt be a “moderating force.” This broadsheet, of course, is none other than the Globe.

But a sloppy and vague headline is the least of the Globe story’s problems. Far more significantly, the Globe’s story lumbers on for 1500 tedious words and yet curiously never even mentions the names “al-Qaradawi” and “Fitaihi.”

More disingenuously, the Globe story introduces a straw man to make the ISB’s plight more sympathetic. One of the ISB’s co-founders is a gentleman named Alamoudi. Said gentleman now resides in federal government-provided accommodations sporting an orange jump suit because of his nasty habit of aiding terrorists.

The ISB’s detractors have often noted Alamoudi’s role as one of the ISB’s eight co-founders in 1984 while acknowledging the fact that he hasn’t played an active role in the organization for several years. The Globe story mentions the Alamoudi kerfuffle and the ISB’s refutation of any present-day Alamoudi link. The Globe story, however, conspicuously avoids the far more current al-Qaradawi and Fitaihi connections for which the ISB has issued no compelling response.

In putting together the story for the Standard, part of my research was reading Steve Emerson’s book “American Jihad.” Emerson wrote of how a radical Muslim cleric gave a 1995 address where he vowed Islam would eventually conquer Europe and conquer America. The venue for the address was Toledo; the cleric was Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Throughout the 1990’s and the first 20 months of this decade, America largely yawned at such incendiary proclamations. Certainly the media didn’t care. 9/11 purportedly changed all that.

But then again…

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Yesterday I had a story on the Weekly Standard’s site about the Islamic Society of Boston’s efforts to build a $22 million mosque in Boston. If I do day so myself, it’s a pretty interesting tale.

The ISB keeps company with some pretty unsavory figures (e.g. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the cleric who issued the fatwa that unleashed the spate of female suicide bombing that continues to this day). The ISB has also sued media outlets and private citizens who have had the audacity to notice its contacts with such unsavory figures. And then there are the politicians who have either extended a financial handout to the ISB or have done something that sure look likes it, but still won’t comment on the matter.

So, go – read the story in the Standard. You’ll be gone for a while because it’s so long, but I’ll wait.

Are you back? Good. Because I have one more thing to add which is more of an opinion nature than the reporting narrative that constituted the story. Thus, it had to wait for the Soxblog audience.

One of the plaintiffs in the ISB’s lawsuit against the media outlets and citizens is a gentleman named Osama Kandil. The complaint alleges that Kandil was defamed because (among other things) it was reported that he supported suicide bombing.

I’ll quote the ISB’s complaint’s own words on the matter: “Dr. Kandil did not and does not support suicide bombings, a fact he made clear in an interview with Defendant Wells in which he had not ‘declined comment’ but instead had informed Defendant Wells that in light of the ISB’s charitable tax status he wanted to be careful about voicing any opinions on behalf of the ISB on any matters related to politics or terrorism.”

Let’s list the absurdities in the above quote in descending order of ridiculousness:

1) The quote says he made it “clear” that he did not support suicide bombing. Read the quote again. There is nothing whatsoever in that quote that makes any such thing “clear.” Quite the contrary, Kandil’s ludicrous hiding behind the IRS code seems rather portentous.

2) The quote implies that he was itching to swing the hammer down on suicide bombing, but couldn’t for fear that doing so would be such an overtly political act that the ISB could lose its standing as a non-profit with the IRS. Such a claim would almost be funny if…actually, it is funny. Now mind you, this is the ISB’s own attorneys, not their opponents’.

3) For the purpose of the lawsuit, the ISB maintains that from the above quotation any reasonable person would have concluded that Kandil was opposed to suicide bombing.

That little quotation above I think provides perhaps the most disturbing element of this entire story. Let’s just posit for a second that Osama Kandil is no radical and an ardent foe of suicide bombing. If that’s the case, why won’t he just say so? If a reporter came up to you and asked you if you supported suicide bombing, would you have any trouble quickly responding “No?”

But here’s the really worrisome part. The ISB is a big organization with thousands of members. There is little doubt that the vast majority of the rank and file does indeed practice moderate Islam and is as appalled by the Yusuf al Qaradawis of the world as everyone else is.

So, where are they? Why has their voice not been part of this debate?

Their religion and their community is being disgraced by the ISB’s leadership. With all due respect, it’s time for them to get into the fray.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


A special “All Return” issue!

1) RETURN OF KONG – (I read this somewhere else, just can’t remember where. I certainly don’t want to be accused of stealing someone else’s insights without appropriate attribution.)

Like the rest of country, I’m excited to see the new King Kong movie. Let’s face it – this great land is spoiling for a yarn about a gigantic monkey with a heart of gold and fine taste in women.

But the new Kong, like the old one, has a glaringly illogical element in its plot. The film-makers in the movie go to this exotic island seeking out crazy beasts never seen before by western eyes. On this island, there are a bunch of dinosaurs running around.

So what happens? The humans pretty much ignore the amazing fact that the island is littered with a species thought extinct for millions of years and go ape over a big monkey. I’m telling you, it makes no sense.

Person 1: “Look, there’s two T-Rexes!”
Person 2: “Forget that – I just a saw a big monkey!!”

2) RETURN OF TED – As is so often the case, the American left is crying foul. Democratic flacks are enraged that there appears to be a Republican threat that if Democratic solons like Ted Kennedy opt to point to decades old (not to mention bogus) ethics charges in their crusade against Sam Alito, the Republicans will respond by mentioning that Ted Kennedy has some decades old ethical embarrassments of his own. (So, for that matter, do Robert Byrd and Joe Biden.)

At Soxblog, we have a general guideline about dealing with Chappaquaddick. We eschew the cheap Chappaquiddick joke because exploiting it for laughs would be inappropriate. After all, a young person died in what was doubtlessly an unspeakable tragedy for the family. If Ted Kennedy were capable of shame, he would have slinked off the public stage shortly after Chappaquiddick. But a surfeit of shame doesn’t seem to be a Kennedy family hallmark.

What I find odd about the left’s latest pre-fabbed outrage (one wonders if they get a discount because they buy outrage in bulk) is that the left wanted to contest the last presidential election entirely on the matter of what the two candidates were doing around the time Ted Kennedy was driving off bridges. Yet now the left wants to let the past stay in the past.

Except when Mary Mapes goes on a book tour.

3) RETURN OF ROGER - This has to happen.

When Roger Clemens left Boston, it was ugly. He feuded with the team, he feuded with the media, and he feuded with the fans. Now that Clemens has become a full-fledged legend, it’s tough to remember what a narcissistic asshole he frequently was during his Boston tenure. He ceaselessly bragged about his fitness regimen while he got fatter and fatter and his effectiveness waned. He said money didn’t matter but then took the plumpest check available even though he had to go to the baseball Siberia of Toronto to get it. When he joined the Yankees, Red Sox fans seethed over what seemed the ultimate betrayal.

I was at Fenway when Roger returned in 1997 for the first time as a non-Red Sox. I was one of the very few who applauded him. In spite of his off-putting behavior, he had been without doubt the greatest pitcher in franchise history and he had almost single-handedly revived interest in the franchise after it had spent several years in the doldrums during the early 1980’s.

Time heals all wounds, and it especially makes you forget interviews where an immature athlete complained about how he had to carry his own luggage. (Yes, Clemens actually gave such an interview while with the Sox.) The time has come for Roger to come home for one last season. The city’s ready, the franchise is ready. I bet even he’s ready.

This has to happen.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Saturday, December 10, 2005


When I write about the Daily Kos, I can always depend on at least three or four letters saying words to the effect of, “Stop boring us with stories about this clown.” First of all, I get it – for some of you, these pieces are a turn-off. No need to repeat the message. Second of all, you carping few should be thanking me instead of bitching at me. I’m doing you a favor. Kos and the other liberal bloggers represent a major force in the Democratic Party, and I slog through this crap so you don’t have to.

And crap it is. It is usually a steady stream of bile, uninterrupted by wit, cleverness or insight. But every now and then, reading this stuff pays off. Like today.

Here’s the way the Daily Kos works. First there’s Markos Moultisas, the eponymous proprietor of the site. He’s the star. But in addition to Markos, there’s a slew of other writers who have access to the Daly Kos front page which gets more page views per day than any six conservative blogs combined. These front page contributors enjoy but a year at this blogging pinnacle. Every 12 months, Markos replaces them with new talent.

Well, just like ‘tis the season to send Christmas cards to the ACLU, it’s also the time of year when Markos coronates the Daily Kos’ new front page bloggers. Markos has already done the hard thinking necessary to decide who receives the honors.

But before doling out the prize, Markos made it clear what criteria he was and wasn’t using in selecting the new guard:

“I made my decisions, like I have in the past, based on two factors -- the first is merit. I don't concern myself with sex, race, ethnicity, or any of that stuff. This is a site about politics, and I wanted the best commenters on politics…That's how I like it, no matter how controversial that might be.”

For clarity’s sake, I should point out that Markos never got around to identifying the second factor. (Which, by the way, is indicative of the kind of writing I put up with to service you people.) He did, however, go on to mention that in the past the Daily Kos roster has been highly diverse (phew!!).

Now, I don’t know if Markos has come out against diversity or affirmative action in the past nor will I research the matter. After all, even I have my limits. But I do know that this anti-diversity stuff would doubtlessly shock and appall virtually every politician that wins Markos’ favor.

So, I’m just assuming that Markos’ attitude towards diversity in, say, the workplace or at law schools, differs from his attitude towards the matter at the Daily Kos. I for one can see where he’s coming from.

Let’s say you need a brain surgeon. You certainly would hope that the brain surgeon community wasn’t composed of those who cut the mustard exclusively because of their skill at cutting the cortex. After all, how good could they be if their population as a whole hasn’t benefitted from the unquantifiable but precious gifts that only diversity offers?

But that’s just brain surgery. This is blogging, something really important where no compromise on quality can be made. I, for one, admire Markos’ commitment to excellence.

And I anxiously await that missing “second factor.”

Oh, one more thing: The Daily Kos front page has a headline today that reads, “Lieberman: Hypocrite.”

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Howard Dean is, as you know, the gift that keeps on giving. He is truly the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and I don’t mean that as a compliment to either him or the Donkey. But more important than Dean being the party's heart and soul is that he’s also its mouth.

A couple of days ago, Dean took to the airwaves in San Antonio and offered the following grim assessment of the situation in Iraq: “The idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.”

When I heard of these comments, my first reaction was, “Gosh, that’s really awful politics. “ And then my next thought was that the Democrats are always anxious to ratchet up the anti-Bush/anti-war hysterics, and thus would rush en masse to defend Dean and his latest bout with foot in mouth disease.

So thus Bob Beckel’s appearance on Hannity & Colmes last night shocked me. Beckel is normally a pretty reliable Democratic foot soldier. No matter the foolishness emanating from his party’s leadership, be it Oval Office fellatio or standing by forged TANG documents, Beckel has in the past reliably and loyally defended the perpetrators.

But last night on Fox, the man was clearly pissed off. He even said that he was upset that Dean repeatedly puts him in a position where he has to take to the airwaves to defend the party chairman’s serially foolish antics.

But Beckel feeling that way is one thing. After all, he’s an adult and a pro – seeing the game played in such an amateurish manner must at the very least offend his sensibilities.

But Markos Moulitsas, proprietor of the Daily Kos, is a different kettle of fish. Or at least you’d think he would be. After all, Moulitsas is the looniest of leftists and a big fan of Governor Dean’s. Additionally, Moulitsas can hardly summon the words to adequately express his loathing for the war and the president.

And yet even Moulitsas apparently felt the need to distance himself from Dean’s comments. Of course, he did so in a slightly disingenuous way. Here, once again, is what Dean said: “The idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.”

Now here’s Markos’ commentary on the affair: “Given all the shit Dean is taking for stating the obvious -- that we're not winning the war in Iraq -- a quick reminder is in order. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel: ‘Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.’”

As I’ve written many times here before, Markos may be many things but he’s not a moron. There is no doubt that he was well aware of the difference between Dean’s actual comments and his delicate paraphrasing of same.

But here’s what I find to be the interesting takeaway of this episode. Dean’s comments were so out there, so ill-advised, that even the mooniest of moonbats made no effort to defend them. What does that say about the governor and his future in the party?

Nothing good, I’d wager.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I know that the few and the brave who bother to read Soxblog regularly do so because you’ve come to expect a stream of pithily expressed original insights. Today’s insight, I regret to inform you, will be far from original. But we can still go for pithiness. Without further adieu, today’s realization: Hollywood is full of schmucks.

Exhibit A: Stephen Gaghan, the writer/director of the new terrorism film, “Syriana,” that has the critics gushing. As most pop-culturally aware people know, “Syriana” represents the Hollywood community’s first effort to deal with the war on terror. (And a mere four years after 9/11!) For those with any familiarity with the politics and half-educated ignorance so prevalent amongst Hollywood’s ranking elite, it’s little surprise that the Hollywood’s initial foray into the subject should not find terrorists as the villains but should instead find rapacious oil companies and a venal American government as the root of all global evil.

What kind of sensibility, one might ask, would be capable of harboring such a distorted vision of the world? In the pages of the December issue of “Written By” (I guess that’s a magazine), Gaghan contributes a piece that provides invaluable insight to his tortured leftist soul. Here’s the man’s grand finale:

“If we’re going to drop bombs on schoolchildren’s heads, then shouldn’t this process always be on trial? Shouldn’t there be a fairly high standard of examination required before, during, and after you drop a JDAM on a five-year-old? I can’t think of anything more important than war, or anything that matters more than putting it on trial. War should be on trial pretty much all the time. And if cinema can help… well, clap, clap, clap.”

So there you have it – the moral dimensions of the war on terror reduced to the relatively simple issue of whether the United States should “drop a JDAM on a five year old.” What’s especially sickening about Gaghan’s world view is the suggestion that it’s the United States that targets innocents for death.

Time Magazine’s story on “Syriana” told of Gaghan intrepidly gallivanting across the Middle East to pull together the facts for his story. While it’s too late to benefit “Syriana,” perhaps the auteur would be willing to schedule a trip to Netanya this afternoon to see the damage wrought by those who target innocents for real, not just in the fevered imaginations of Hollywood dolts.

And then there’s Exhibit B: The Save Tookie Campaign. Tookie Williams was the leader of the L.A. gang the Crips. Leading from the rear wasn’t Tookie’s style; amongst his offenses were murdering three people in cold blood. For these crimes, Tookie Williams got the death penalty.

Faithful readers of Soxblog know that I’m no proponent of the death penalty. Here’s why: Built into any death penalty structure is the immutable fact that innocent defendants will be killed. Government should absolutely not be in the business of killing innocent people. My other concern is that an inordinate amount of prosecutors are overly-ambitious types who might pursue the death penalty for capricious or selfish reasons.

You’ll note that neither one of the reasons for opposing the death penalty suggests that we’ll be sitting shiva in Soxblog manor when Tookie gets what he has coming. No one denies his guilt, and if you’re going to have a death penalty, it’s perpetrators of acts like Tookie’s (including shooting a 63 year old woman in the face) who ought to be first in line.

But the half-educated idiocracy that entertains America has lined up to support clemency for Tookie. Since his incarceration, Tookie has turned into a veritable Teddy Bear, authoring children’s books and even routinely being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize which includes amongst its past winners the great peacenik Yasser Arafat.

But, alas, we live in a nation of laws not men. And thus the law must apply equally to all murderers, even those who have the media savvy to sway gullible Hollywood types into anointing them a given month’s cause celébre.

The Hollywood glitterati have lined up to sign a letter pleading for clemency for Tookie, describing what an irrevocable loss for society Tookie’s demise would be. After all, this is a guy who has nine Nobel nominations to his name. Amongst the celebrities signing the letter are Dr. Patch Adams; the real guy who cures with laughter, not Robin Williams, but since it would have been cuter if the celebrities had signed their most famous characters’ names instead of their own, from now on I’ll list not the celebrity’s name but his/her most famous character’s.

In addition to Patch, other signers include George Costanza, Stretch Cunningham, Al Bundy, Lou Grant, Meathead, Nuke LaLoosh, and two guys named Mario Cuomo and Tom Harkin.

Curiously, their letter supporting Tookie doesn’t mention the victims of his crimes nor does it express any sympathy for them or their survivors.

Have I mentioned that Hollywood is full of schmucks?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett