I suppose this is better than visa restrictions.
U.S. officials have embraced sanctions and visa restrictions to punish Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Now, two U.S. senators want to hurt Russian President Vladimir Putin where it could really sting: on the soccer pitch.
Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Dan Coats (R., Ind.) on Friday wrote to the head of soccer’s international governing body requesting that Russia’s membership be suspended and the country not be allowed to participate in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil later this year.
Citing FIFA statutes that bar discrimination against any country based on politics or ethnic origin, the two lawmakers asked FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter to also strip Russia’s right to host the 2018 World Cup. They cited FIFA’s decision to prevent then-Yugoslavia from participating in the 1992 European Championship and 1994 World Cup as a precedent.
“Since Russia has similarly displayed a brazen disrespect for fundamental principles of FIFA and international law, I hope you will agree that it doesn’t deserve the honor of either hosting the World Cup or participating in one,” the senators wrote.
FIFA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. is currently ranked 13th in the world in FIFA’s world rankings, while Russia is 22nd. The World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo in June, has the potential to pit the U.S. and Russia in an on-field clash if both teams make it out of the tournament’s group stage. They could then meet in the World Cup round-of-16 matches.
I suspect that FIFA will do nothing unless Ukraine becomes a shooting war. Then, I believe they would give a proposal to ban Russia from Brazil serious consideration. As the Journal points out, there is precedent for such an action. Although claiming to be a global organization, FIFA is actually run by the Europeans, who are desperately casting about for a way to sanction Russia without causing themselves any pain. Keeping the Russian national team home this summer is about as far as they would go to punish Putin for his actions in Ukraine.
The World Cup tune up match between the US and Ukraine was originally scheduled to be played in Kharkiv. But with protestors currently occupying the provincial building and the general unrest in the region, the game was hastily moved 600 miles away to the island of Cyprus.
Only 1500 fans showed up to watch a lackluster performance by the US side, who lost the match 2-0.
In truth, most of the best US players stayed home or weren’t released by their European club teams. Coach Jurgen Klinsman decided to give some European based US national players a chance to excel, thus improving their chances of making the 23 man roster that he will take to Brazil in June.
It was not to be.
The match was billed as a golden opportunity for the Yanks’ many European-based bubble players to make one final push for a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man tournament roster. Instead, the under-strength Americans were thoroughly outclassed during a 2-0 defeat, with few players raising their stock.
It’s hard to see defenders John Brooks, Edgar Castillo or Oguchi Onyewu making the plane to Brazil after struggling so profoundly on Wednesday. Those three were long shots to begin with, of course, even if Onyewu made January’s list as a backup. Then, the hope was that a healthy Onyewu — a two-time World Cup vet who was finally playing regularly after battling injuries for much of the last four years — would lend valuable experience to a mostly untested back line. Now, it looks as if Geoff Cameron, who on Wednesday lined up at right back once again, will be called on to provide cover in the event still-green central defenders Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez aren’t quite up to the task in Brazil.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan also failed to take advantage of what was probably his last chance, while youngsters Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd and Danny Williams barely got enough time off the bench to make a compelling case.
Still, several players helped — or at least didn’t hurt — their chances.
Brek Shea remains in contention for a reserve role on the left wing after another active performance off the bench. Alejandro Bedoya, with a spirited display, kept the pressure on MLS-based right wing Graham Zusi. And surefire starters Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones showed why Klinsmann will rely so heavily on them this summer.
The lack of experience and depth on the back line spells big trouble for the US in Brazil. At this level of competition one mistake — one misplay of the ball or bad pass — and your tournament is over. That’s the cruel reality and for the US it’s doubly true since they are going to have a hard time scoring goals as it is. Their mid field does not lack talent, but even against inferior competition, they have trouble maintaining a flow to their offense. Individual talents like Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey are excellent in space, but World Cup matches aren’t like MSL games with room to operate and set up plays. A premium is placed on short, crisp passes that move the ball forward deliberately, relentlessly. Frankly, American players in general just don’t possess the ball skills to play that kind of game.
This will make the US vulnerable to the counter attack, which is why your back line has to be rock solid. At this point, this crucial aspect of the game appears to be the greatest weakness of the US squad.
It doesn’t help that the Yanks are playing in a genuine “Group of Death” with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. To advance, the US will need to beat Ghana and get a result of some kind — win or tie — against Germany or Portugal. A tall order that. Germany will be one of the favorites to win it all while Portugal has a bevy of quality offensive players that will give the US fits.
Perhaps the low expectations will work in America’s favor. They’re going to need all the help they can get.
According to Israel National News, the organization Stop the ISM has taken responsibility for getting Benjamin deported from Egypt:
The news wires were all abuzz today with the report that Medea Benjamin of Code Pink was deported from Egypt on trying to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Stop the ISM, a division of DAFKA.org was responsible for this.
Upon learning that Benjamin was planning a trip to Gaza under the ruse of bringing lanterns to the Palestinian Arabs, our agency contacted the Egyptian embassy in Washington D.C. and alerted them to her plans. The result was Egyptian officials met her airplane when she arrived and immediately arrested her.
…Benjamin’s arrest and deportation show a serious shift in Egypt’s relationship with Hamas since the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi from that country. Only days ago, Egypt closed the Hamas office in the country and put out a clear signal that Egypt recognizes that the threat from Hamas extremists poses just as much of a threat to stability in Egypt as elsewhere in the Middle East.
Benjamin is part of the ISM network in the United States and was involved in several excursions to Gaza where her NGO’s would bring support to the Hamas terrorist leadership in Gaza.
Egypt is to be commended for finally putting a stop to this woman’s penchant for encouraging aid to a terrorist organization and disguising that aid as “humanitarian work.” In any case, her arrest and removal by the Egyptian authorities is the first concrete step taken toward reining in Hamas in Gaza.
Hamas has been aligning itself more and more with Iran, also increasingly supported by Benjamin, so that she is seen as posing a security concern for Egypt.
Lebron James dropped 61 points on the Charlotte Hornets last night, going 8 for 8 from the 3-point line and proving why he’s a near shoo in to repeat as MVP.
When LeBron is hitting his jump shots, he becomes the most unfair player on the planet. We know this. What’s frustrating is that sometimes he’ll hit his jump shots and take only like 16. He can still score 25 a game that way — and average something like 10 boards and six assists, and dominate on defense — and get his teammates involved, and it all makes him the best player in the league. But it’s not as fun. There are so many times you watch LeBron and it looks like he can do whatever he wants on the floor, only it almost never translates as scorched-earth scoring.
What he said. Kevin Durant is a superstar who’s had a very nice run the last couple of months, but when Lebron ups his level of play as he did last night, he does stuff like this:
LeBron James’ eighth 3-pointer splashed through the net about 30 feet away from where the reigning MVP stood, which was just a few feet in front of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, who watched from his normal courtside spot at halfcourt.
Once the nylon snapped in the air, James turned his head and roared through a plastic mask toward the incredulous AmericanAirlines Arena crowd as he trotted back on defense. James had taken eight 3s at that point and all had gone in. None had even grazed the rim.
The game clock ticked down from 1:19 … 1:18 … 1:17 remaining.
In the third quarter.
James had 49 even before the fourth quarter began.
“When that one went in, I knew,” James said, “I was in a really, really good groove.”
James wasn’t done. He opened the fourth quarter with a swooping layup past three helpless Charlotte Bobcats defenders. Fifty-one, his first 50-point game of his career in front of his home crowd. Nine 50-plus in his 11-year career, all previously on the road.
That’s when the Bobcats started sending double teams on James before he even crossed halfcourt.
“First time it happened to me probably since high school,” James said of the radical coverage.
No matter. Pull-up jumper from 20 feet. Fifty-three. Another layup, this time cutting off the ball to the rim. Fifty-five. Isolation from the top of the key, dribble right, spin past two Bobcats, lay it up off-balance, glass. Fifty-seven. Career-high, franchise record. More. This time, a high pick-and-roll, past one defender, split three more, fading jumper, glass. Fifty-nine.
Double-team off the catch in the left corner, curl past off the dribble to the right, bump into a sliding third defender, over a fourth, whistle. Two free throws: sixty and sixty-one.
“It felt like I had a golf ball, throwing it in the ocean,” James said.
All told: A career-high, franchise-record 61 points on 22-of-33 shooting, one shy of Carmelo Anthony’s 62 points against Charlotte on Jan. 24.
Amazing. Being from Chicago, I’m often asked to compare Lebron to Michael Jordan. It’s useless. They are two entirely different players, playing in entirely different systems. Michael has it over Lebron in pure athleticism while Lebron is stronger and faster. I give the edge to Lebron as a pure shooter. Give the nod to Michael when it comes to creativity. Both players are equally fabulous in getting the ball to the basket.
Both players had to learn how to make their teammates better. Both had to push themselves to become all-NBA defensive players. Does it matter who was better? They’re both a joy to watch.
Mega spoiler alert regarding the new Liam Neeson flick Non-Stop via Breitbart. Stop reading now if you’d like to be surprised when you go to the theater to see Lady Mary on the big screen.
The hero of the movie about a plane being hijacked is an observant Muslim.
Wait, it gets better.
The terrorist is a 9/11 family member. Yes, you read that right; the terrorist is a 9/11 family-member who lost a loved-one in the World Trade Center on that terrible September morning.
It gets worse…
After 9/11, this 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist then joined the military but found himself disillusioned by the pointless wars.
The 9/11 family member-turned-terrorist is upset because America hasn’t done enough to ensure there will never be another 9/11. And so he figures that if he can get an air marshal blamed for a terrorist attack, America will wake up and anally probe us before we’re allowed on a plane, or something.
It gets worse…
The villain’s sidekick is a member of the American military willing to murder 150 innocent people for a payday.
It gets worse…
The one passenger on the plane who is forever helpful, kind, reasonable, noble, and never under suspicion is a Muslim doctor dressed in traditional Muslim garb including a full beard.
Screw you, Hollywood.
Wikipedia’s summary of the film had a kinder, gentler, more bureaucratic approach to the biased plotline:
…as soldiers who were appalled by the lack of security at U.S. airports before 9/11, they hoped that framing [Neeson] as a terrorist will lead to drastically increased security.
Great. A propaganda film that uses the American military to advocate for the increased empowerment of the TSA. What next? A film featuring American soldiers deployed on the edge of the communist world spending their precious time dressing up in drag, defending gay rights on base? (Cue musical number Springtime for Obama.)
As bizarre as it may seem, the plotline of Non Stop shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liam Neeson, the film’s star, has been contemplating converting to Islam since filming Taken 2 in Istanbul in 2012:
Movie star Liam Neeson has admitted he’s afraid to convert to Islam because of how locals in his home town would take it.
The Northern Irish actor thinks Islam “is the answer” after experiencing the Muslim call to prayer while filming Taken 2 in Istanbul.
But the 61-year-old doesn’t want to go all the way because people in Ballymena, Co Antrim, may be annoyed with his decision.
…“It wouldn’t go down very well in Ballymena.
“They would say to me, ‘You’re a Muslim? Are you a Catholic Muslim or a Protestant Muslim?’ ”
Perhaps he’ll be able to answer that question in Non Stop 2. Having edged out Son of God for top rating at the box office this weekend, it doesn’t look like the blatantly anti-American tone will disappear anytime soon, despite the lackluster ratings. Casting suggestion for the sequel: Katy Perry as the flight attendant demonstrating an appropriate use of a Muslim pendant as a non-blasphemous work-wardrobe accessory. It’d be nice to see her cover up for a change.
Matthew McConaughey thanked God for his Oscar win last night and the conservative crowd went wild.
McConaughey’s speech sparked a feeding frenzy for conservatives to outdo each other when it came to applauding him, while simultaneously taking shots at liberals. Rick Perry tweeted Monday morning, saying, “Texas boy counting his blessing.” His tweet linked to a Breitbart piece titled “Matthew McConaughey Praises God in Acceptance Speech, Hollywood Crowd Grows Quiet.” On Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s site, the speech ran as “Matthew McConaughey rattles Oscar crowd, wins hearts by thanking God.” Fox News got in the game with the headline, “Matthew McConaughey one of few to thank God in Oscar acceptance speech.” And so on.
As the Daily Beast points out, McConaughey’s God-nod was most likely reassuring to a Christian population that’s been ostracized more than not:
In recent decades, religious figures are often found more often in niche movies, wrote Cieply, or if they are in major pictures, they “are often hypocrites and villains, driving plot lines that make, at best, a token bow toward the virtues of a faith-based life.”
One need look no further than a recent episode of the hit Scandal, in which the evangelical female vice president who murdered her gay husband claims she is not culpable because the devil made her do it.
Fair enough. I’m sure the Son of God giddiness also contributed to the Tweetfest, despite the fact that McConaughey never did specifically go beyond the name “God,” let alone drop “Jesus” during the speech. He did, however, express conviction that Miller Lite is served in heaven, which I’m sure won over the Duck Dynasty crowd.
What most conservative Oscar watchers failed to lavish with praise wasn’t the mere thanking of God, but the praising of Him by singer Darlene Love. The career backup singer celebrated 20 Feet From Stardom’s Best Documentary win by singing the refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow:
I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.
The refreshingly simple, faith-laced, joyful lyrics made up the majority of her acceptance “speech” and were received with a full-house standing ovation led by an incredibly enthusiastic, non-religious Bill Murray. Where’s the barrage of Tweets about that?
McConaughey returned to his pot-smoking, bongo-banging self by the end of his speech, concluding with:
…whatever we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we’re chasing — to that I say, alright, alright, alright. And then I say, just keep livin’.
It’s a generic statement that illustrates God is “whatever” and “whoever” and, therefore, “alright, alright, alright.” I have yet to read a conservative commentary that points out the many ways this level of ambiguity has eroded our nation’s ability to put faith in the God of our ancestors, let alone have faith in ourselves, both as a free nation and as individuals with free will. But hey, that’s cool; an actor said the G-word on stage and it got captured by social media, which makes it count.
Alright, alright, alright.
With 49 states buried in snow and most schools in the northeastern U.S. looking at anywhere from 7-10 snow days to make up, our country is ready for a warm up of national proportions. Throw on your heat lamps, put on a bathing suit under that fleece, and cuddle up to these 18 (the number of chai or “life”) warm images of sun, beach and desert (sweet, hot desert) from Israel.
Islamic organizations, led by the 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), have for years been trying to intimidate the West into criminalizing criticism of Islam, so as to render us mute and defenseless in the face of the advancing jihad. Last week, their effort made a few small but significant advances.
5. Bahrain arrests four for insulting Muhammad’s companions on Instagram
Reaffirming the Islamic supremacist distaste for the freedom of speech, in Bahrain last week “four cyberactivists” were arrested for posting to Instagram what the state news agency described as “texts and pictures damaging to companions of the Prophet.” Most likely these “cyberactivists” are Shi’ites who dared to disparage figures of early Islamic history who are revered by Sunnis, such as the early caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman – all of whom were chosen as caliph instead of the Shi’ite’s favorite, Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Bahrain is a majority Shi’ite nation ruled by a Sunni minority, so the authorities who had them arrested no doubt saw these “cyberactivists” as making a political statement. But whatever they may have thought, they shut them down for making statements that have only been characterized in published reports as religious – thereby neatly reinforcing the OIC’s campaign to criminalize internationally what it terms “incitement to religious hatred,” by which it means “anything said about Islam that the OIC doesn’t like.”
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in October of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
Now that school is in session, parents have begun sharing on Facebook and other social media outlets some of the Common Core homework assignments their children are bringing home. Below are ten really bad ones that will give you an idea of the direction education is going under Common Core. All of these assignments were shared recently on social media sites dedicated to informing parents about Common Core.
1. Star citizen: quiet, sitting, neat
This paper came from a Rhode Island first grade classroom. One mother commented, “I went to elementary school in Poland during communism. This is exactly what I was forced to learn.” It’s a step in the right direction for those who want a compliant, obedient citizenry. That said, this is not new to schools and we shouldn’t necessarily blame Common Core. Children — boys in particular — have been taught for decades that being “good” means being quiet and compliant. The link to good citizenry is something I haven’t seen before, however.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in March of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
The joy of children also comes with the horrors of what motherhood does to the body. Trying to recapture some semblance of my former self, I joined a few fancy corporate gyms with salons and spas and pretty associates selling banana-choco-gluten-free $12 shakes, but I never achieved the results I wanted. It turns out that quitting was the answer. I finally discovered how to get fit and have a great time doing it. I joined a family-owned, martial arts gym. The following truths will convince you to ditch your corporate gym membership in favor of a much better option that actually produces results while improving every area of your life.
9. “Do you believe in love at first sight or do I have to walk by you again?”
A simple Google search on “picking up girls” will lead to hundreds of smarmy articles advising men on how to hook up at the gym. This particular sentiment — from someone claiming to be a gentleman — sums it up about perfectly:
Utilized properly, the gym is one of the finest hunting grounds for the well prepared cocksman.
Wow. Where to begin? If you’re 20 and this is the kind of thing you’re into, I’d say that guy is right. Big corporate gyms with lots of young, dumb girls would be a good place for a sexual predator to stalk his kill. However, when you’re a married mom or dad, this is not the kind of environment that will encourage your marriage. Further, it’s uncomfortable to feel as if you are being sized up by people who refer to themselves as “cocksmen.” It’s also disconcerting trying to avoid that one guy who stalks you with his eyes when you’re trying to use that embarrassing machine where you pretend to strangle someone with your thighs. Awkward.
A small, family-owned gym that caters to both children and adults has a totally different vibe for more mature members with the goal of family fitness. Many people don’t know that most martial arts programs have cardio classes and training for adults. My family belongs to Randori Jiu-Jitsu, where we can take a variety of classes like jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, judo, karate, mixed martial arts, and conditioning and strength training all without a nightclub atmosphere or threat of venereal disease.
Instagram user _contra__ has some great ones:
Liam Neeson is back in fine form with an old-school whodunnit packaged as an action thriller, Non-Stop. Fans of the over-the-top action style of Taken may wish it had more stunts and less Agatha Christie, but it’s a solid piece of entertainment. Here are five reasons it works:
1) The setup is grabby.
Neeson plays a down-at-heel federal air marshal with a bad attitude and a drinking problem (he takes a belt of whiskey before getting on the plane, then tries to order a gin and tonic when he’s on it) but a kindly way with children. It turns out he’s harboring one of those routine Deep Dark Movie Secrets, but his backstory does both make him easy to identify with and mark him with a possible red flag when, in the middle of a flight halfway across the Atlantic, he starts getting text messages informing him that someone on the plane is going to die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired into a specified bank account.
When people do indeed start dying — though none in a way that can be definitely tied to terrorism — air marshal Bill Marks discovers that security people on the ground have reason to believe he is the one hijacking the plane, for his own profit.
With the NCAA basketball season heading into the home stretch, there’s the usual gaggle of teams from major conferences who, for one reason or another, could find themselves on the outside looking in when March Madness rolls around.
Most bubble teams have only themselves to blame. They’re chances of making the big dance usually hang on doing well in their conference tournament. Their record alone won’t get them an invite. Chances are, they’ve had what the NCAA Selection Committee refers to as “bad” losses — a stumble or two against clearly inferior teams.
But where there’s hope, there’s life and several of the most prominent bubble teams can improve their chances immensely with a strong finish to the regular season and a good showing in their conference tournaments.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi takes a look at 10 bubble teams who have some work to do (subscription only):
(Note: RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index is a complicated formula that takes into account a team’s winning percentage, their opponent’s winning percentage, and their strength of scheduled or SOS).
Brigham Young Cougars
The Cougars (20-10, RPI 35, SOS 21) have hung around the bubble longer than expected thanks to their off-the-charts SOS rankings and a pair of very solid nonconference victories (at Stanford, neutral against Texas). Last week’s home-court win over Gonzaga should keep them in the conversation.
What they need: A win in the regular-season finale at San Diego and nothing less than a run to the West Coast Conference tournament title game.
The Tigers (19-9, RPI 49, SOS 70) haven’t distinguished themselves either outside the league or within a mediocre SEC. The long-ago win over UCLA is only going to go so far, especially now that Mizzou has been swept by the likes of Georgia.
What they need: Win out (regular season) and probably no less than a berth in the SEC tournament title game.
The Friars (18-10, RPI 60, SOS 68) represent the muddled middle of the new Big East. With its best wins at home, Providence clearly has more work to do. I’m not optimistic given two of the Friars’ remaining three games are on the road (at Seton Hall, at Creighton), the second of which is Doug McDermott’s senior night.
What they need: Three more wins, regardless of opponent or location. The Friars are going down to the wire.
St. John’s Red Storm
The Red Storm (18-11, RPI 63, SOS 30) and Providence have each won on the other’s court. It could be we see an elimination game between the two at the Big East tournament. Conveniently that would also be a home game for St. John’s, but it was Tuesday’s home loss to Xavier that made this much harder than necessary.
What they need: Same as Providence. The Red Storm need three more wins, regardless of opponent or location.
The Volunteers (17-11, RPI 56, SOS 10) will live to fight another day after a workmanlike road victory at Mississippi State. Tennessee is now third in a two-team SEC pecking order, but with a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. I actually like the Vols’ chances.
What they need: Tennessee can and should run the table to reach 11-7 in the conference. Avoiding a bad loss in the SEC tournament might be enough.
A minimum of 20 wins is necessary to even be considered for selection to the tournament. At least, for the major conferences. But what about teams from weaker conferences?
Sam Houston State might be considered a true bubble team. Their overall record is 19-7 and are second in the Southland Conference to perennial power Stephen F. Austin. SFA is currently 25-2 and is a near shoo-in for the tournament.
But Sam Houston State might end up winning 23 games and be frozen out of the tournament. Their paltry SOS rank is 274 and their opponent’s SOS is even worse — 320. They have played only 2 games against teams in the top 50 RPI — Toledo and SMU — and been blown out of both.
The only way Sam Houston State is going to make it into the tournament is if they beat Stephen F. Austin to win the Southland Conference. The smaller colleges and universities in Division I have been complaining about this for years, but the NCAA has turned a deaf ear to them. The big conferences bring in the big bucks and that’s the way it is. The lion’s share of slots in the 68 team tournament will go to teams in the top conferences.
The teams mentioned above being on the bubble basically have their fate in their own hands. For a few of them, their efforts are likely to come up short.
Oh well, there’s always the NIT…
In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?
There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.
That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.
By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.
The trickle of Cuban defectors who have made it to baseball’s Big Leagues the past few years is about to become a genuine flood — and pro ball is going to be the better for it.
The recent relaxation of rules by the Cuban government that allows their athletes to sign contracts and play for foreign teams means a potential bonanza for Major League Baseball. Scouts say that there at least a dozen players of varying ages who could be signed in the next few years. And their impact on the game is expected to be large.
The first “wave” of the Cuban invasion were defectors who took advantage of the Cuban national team’s entrance into international tournaments to arrange their escape. Cuban stars like Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, known during his playing days as “El Duque” fled Cuba and found great success in MLB during the 1990′s.
More recent defectors include Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, and Oakland’s power hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Last year, the defection of the Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig astonished baseball as he helped propel the Los Angeles Dodgers into the playoffs. This year’s best chance for a breakthrough star lies with 27 year old defector Jose Abreu who signed with the White Sox. Abreu had some eye opening years in Cuba hitting 35 home runs in 2011 in what amounts to half a major league season.
The process of defecting and finding their way to the US was a long, onerous journey. Loved ones in Cuba had to be left behind. Many times, the players arrived in the states with little more than the clothes on their back.
No longer. Now that Cuba has opened the door, MLB should see a wealth of talent from that island nation make an immediate impact in the Majors. Although clubs are able to sign players, they must jump through a lot of hoops to get him eligible to play here.
That Cuban ballplayers will have to pay taxes on foreign salaries isn’t going to fly with MLB salaries. Because of some things that happened a few decades back, the American government doesn’t like the idea of money going from U.S. soil to Cuba, and has laws in place to largely prevent it from happening. Just because Cuba has a new policy doesn’t mean Uncle Sam has to follow suit.
Another complication is the fact that the new policy prohibits Cuban ballplayers from severing ties with their native country. Part of the agreement is that ballplayers will still be required to fulfill playing commitments in Cuba.
That means being available for international tournaments and the Cuban National Series, and the latter’s season runs from November to April. The latter end of that window overlaps with spring training and the early days of the regular season in Major League Baseball.
No doubt the process will work itself out, eventually, In the meantime, ESPN highlights a few of the better prospects who may make it to our shores soon:
One of those players is Alfredo Despaigne, a powerful slugger who holds the record for the most home runs in a single Cuban season, with 36 in 90 games. In that same season, he also accumulated 105 RBIs and batted .326.
Together with Cespedes, Despaigne, who is 27 years old, formed one of the most powerful offensive pairings in the history of the Cuban National Series. Many experts consider him a much better hitter than Cespedes, although perhaps not as complete a player.
Another who dazzled onlookers during his participation in the 2013 World Baseball Classic is the second baseman Jose Miguel Fernandez. A left-handed batter and stellar fielder, he is called by many the Cuban Robinson Cano, because of his similarities with the great Dominican second baseman who played for the Yankees and just joined the Seattle Mariners.
Fernandez, who is 25, is the current batting champion, having won the title with an astronomical average of .393 in 2013. A good judge of pitches, the Matanzas second baseman is also a cold-blooded batter who seems to thrive under pressure, a quality reserved only for a chosen few.
The outfielder Yasmani Tomas, who plays for Industriales, the most famous team in Cuban baseball over the past five decades, is only 23 and has huge potential. Physically powerful like Yasiel Puig, Tomas thrives on fastballs, in the style of Gary Sheffield, although he needs to work on hitting breaking balls.
Tomas began the 2013 World Baseball Classic as a reserve player for the Cuban national team. But on the strength of his batting, he became a lineup fixture as the tournament progressed.
Cuba has a long, rich tradition of developing great ballplayers. For most of the past 50 years, they’ve been stuck playing in the rickety stadiums built by Batista during his dictatorship and before. Now Cuba’s best have a chance to shine on the biggest baseball stage of all.
If what we’ve seen from Cuban players so far is any indication, they won’t disappoint.
First exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1765, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s ”A Girl With a Dead Canary” was designed to evoke much the same emotion as PETA member Sarah Segal’s proposed memorial to chickens who were killed in a truck accident last month in Georgia. It seems like a tacky comparison that may even be read as an insult to a well-done and even pretty (if bizarre) work of 18th century art, but the bottom line is that both pieces were created for the same purpose: To tug at viewers’ heartstrings while affirming the moral superiority of a particular cultural class.
According to British historian Simon Schama, ill-fated French King Louis XVI introduced the “cult of nature” to the throne, “replacing couches and courtisans with [the] tenderness and simplicity” of Marie Antoinette’s toy farm and the well-crafted embrace of wildlife in art. “Tears were especially prized as evidence of feeling,” Schama explains, noting that, “people wept when they saw” Greuze’s painting. “Feelings …the shallow kind were embraced by the fashionable elite.” It was the attempt of a king and class to portray themselves as perfect, superior human beings.
So it goes with the Roadkill Memorial, albeit in a much more blatantly political format. A tombstone designed to dwarf roadside memorials to mere human victims of vehicular death, the proposed memorial is intended to remind all drivers to approach all of their animal relations with reverence:
Cascada said the tombstone’s visibility would make drivers’ more wary of people and chickens alike, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary accidents and preserve the lives of chickens in transport. …But Cascada acknowledged the reality of the chickens’ final destination, making the “Go Vegan” phrase a key takeaway.
“The more people who go vegan, the fewer chickens are in this situation to begin with,” she said.
Simply stating that “meat is murder” isn’t enough anymore. For PETA, the time for mere sloganeering is over. Humans are animals, don’t you get it? You’re all slabs of meat now, and some are much more important than others.
The first SCTV bit I ever remember seeing was also the first one I thought of when I learned of Harold Ramis’s death.
For a split second, I hesitated referencing his fake PSA “So You’re Dead, Now What?” on my blog, which isn’t like me.
My instinct to run with it proved sound:
Ed Driscoll thought of it too, and then I saw it cited elsewhere, without a single “too soon!” complaint in the comments.
That’s rather startling, given our hypersensitive, easily offended, concern-trolling society.
Then again, maybe it isn’t.
To his credit, Harold Ramis’s daunting creative output contributed not a jot nor a tittle to the spread of the toxic, politically correct culture that metastasized during his lifetime.
For that alone, he deserves all the praise he’s been receiving this week.
Mixed Martial Arts has been fighting the image that it isn’t really a serious “sport” since its inception. This Outside the Lines investigation by ESPN probably won’t help.
At least 15 MMA fighters have gotten a testosterone exemption from various state athletic commissions, all for low lab values due to a condition known as hypogonadism. One of the common causes of hypogonadism is previous use of anabolic steroids.
In the past five years, at least 15 mixed martial artists have been issued exemptions to use testosterone, the vast majority revealed or confirmed through public records requests filed by “Outside the Lines” with the major state commissions or athletic bodies overseeing the sport. The sport itself has had more than 20,000 pro fighters over the past five years, according to record keeper mixedmartialarts.com, although fewer than 1,800 MMA combatants are under contract to the sport’s dominant promoters — Zuffa (UFC) and Bellator, which account for 11 of the fighters on TRT. Although only a small fraction, the number of exemptions still dwarfs what can be found in other sports:
• The International Olympic Committee did not issue a single testosterone exemption for the 2012 London Olympics, which featured 5,892 male athletes.
• The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued one testosterone exemption last year among the thousands of elite-level athletes under its jurisdiction.
• Major League Baseball has issued six exemptions to athletes over the past six seasons — an average of 1,200 players populate its rosters each season.
• National Football League officials say testosterone exemptions are “very rare” and only a “handful” have been issued since 1990. Nearly 2,000 players circulate through rosters each season.
• No pro boxer is known to have had an exemption issued through a state athletic commission, and Nevada officials said they have never even received an application.
“It’s a huge number,” said Dr. Don Catlin, the country’s leading anti-doping expert, of the MMA testosterone exemptions. “I am on the IOC committee that reviews [therapeutic-use exemptions for testosterone] requests. We essentially grant none. But in boxing and MMA there is no central control. There is no set of rules that everybody has to follow.
“There is a set of rules for each [state athletic commission], but they are kind of Mickey Mouse rules. So the route to being able to take testosterone is wide open. … You go in and say ‘I have these symptoms.’ The doc says, ‘Oh yeah, you got low testosterone.’ You get a TUE.”
Along with exemptions, several MMA fighters and officials also described to “Outside the Lines” widespread use of performance-enhancing substances in the sport. One top contender labeled PED use in the sport “rampant,” and a prominent state athletic commission chairman matter-of-factly acknowledged: “We got some doping going on in MMA.”
As purses and contracts have skyrocketed, the temptation to juice up has become too great. We saw in baseball when even utility infielders could demand million dollar salaries, the use of PED’s got out of control. Clearly, the fighters get it — juicing up becomes part of the racket and rather than play it straight and be left behind, fighters will go with the flow and take their chances being tested.
They aren’t taking much of a chance. Some states don’t even test for PED’s. And others only test post-fight — long after the vestiges of the drugs have been flushed from the system.
If the UFC wants their sport, and their organization, to be taken more seriously, some kind of out of the ring testing regimen has to be created to crack down on the cheaters and protect the health of the fighters.