Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

big-three-automakers-detroit

As the economy turns, Detroit auto executives are back on Capitol Hill arguing their case for a bailout of their companies.  While Congressional leaders have developed a nasty habit of putting on ridiculous publicized corporate CEO scalpings to feed to the rabid proletariat which really don’t address the actual economic issues at hand (such as the over-the-top uproar about the fact that the auto executives took private jets to Washington last month – I understand it wasn’t the greatest move from a PR standpoint, but the problems in Detroit have very little to do with the existence of corporate airplanes), it will hopefully result in absolutely no bailout for the automobile industry.

We can take up an entire business book aisle at Barnes & Noble about the reasons why a bailout would do nothing to change the fundamental business issues, but I’ll just address a handful of them.  At the top of the list, the auto industry’s issues were not caused by the current credit crunch – the problems with credit have only exacerbated items that the Big Three automakers have failed to change for nearly four decades.  Simply put, Congress propping up the American auto industry isn’t going to get people to want to buy American cars.  My wife and I own a Toyota and a Mercedes-Benz, and I have to say that the performance improvement of those cars over the GM and Chysler cars that we used to own have made the likelihood of us ever buying an American car again essentially zero.  I know plenty of people that would say the exact same thing (and these aren’t Lincoln Park chads and trixies or Naperville yuppies – I’m talking about blue collar people who would have always bought Chevys and Fords back in the day).  The combination of mileage, maintenance, and performance of the Japanese and German cars since the 1970s have vastly surpassed their American counterparts.  For far too long, the Big Three automakers have relied on guilting Americans into thinking that they have some type of patriotic duty to buy their cars (even though Toyota and Honda are actually the car companies that are expanding production in the United States as opposed to the Big Three) instead of improving their product.  While Detroit has attempted to catch up to the Japanese and German automakers in quality over the past few years, it’s a classic case of “too little, too late”.  The decades of neglect have made a close to irreversible dent in the perception of the Big Three where it is directly reflected in their resale values.  Outside of UAW enclaves in Michigan and Ohio, people are pretty rational consumers of cars overall, particularly when it comes to the second-most expensive household purchase after a house (or the most expensive purchase for those who rent).  If a Toyota sedan is about the same price as a Chevy sedan, but the Chevy depreciates in value 2-3 times faster than the Toyota, then more people are going to move toward the product that is going to keep its value longer (much less get a couple hundred thousand miles of low maintenance use out of that product).  The current poor economic conditions have heightened these problems but they aren’t the root cause of them, which is why government assistance would merely put off the inevitable for the auto industry.  If the Big Three couldn’t get their act together over the course of four decades, then I have absolutely no faith that they would be able to change a thing over the course of a three month bridge loan.

A common argument among supporters of the auto bailout is that Congress has already done the same for the financial industry.  This is certainly a fair argument as the government has now gone down the dangerous path of judging which companies are deemed “too big to fail”.  However, there are some key differences between the banks and the automakers.  The broad issue with the financial industry is that each major bank has literally millions of transactions with the other major banks such that the flow of money in both this country and around the world is closely intertwined (whether this is right or wrong is a discussion for another day).  Thus, the failure of a single major bank could endanger the liquidity of healthy (or at least stable) banks that are on the other ends of those transactions.  It then becomes a vicious circle, where each bank whose balance sheet is suddenly thrown up in the air then causes the balance sheets of many other banks to suffer, as well.  This leads to both consumers losing confidence in those banks by withdrawing their deposits and banks then stopping the flow of credit since they don’t have any liquidity.  As a result, entities ranging from individuals looking for credit cards and huge corporations searching for business loans can’t find any credit, causing overall spending and investment in the economy to grind to nearly a complete halt.  Indeed, if the federal government could change one thing over the past couple of months, it would not have allowed Lehman Brothers to fail since their filing for bankruptcy started this circular financial drain almost immediately.  At the end of the day, the American economy is driven by the flow of credit, so the financial industry was indeed “too big to fail” in this case since the repercussions went far beyond those wealthy Wall Street bankers and lawyers.  It has always driven me nuts when the media intimated that there was some type of line of demarcation between “Wall Street” and “Main Street” as if they had conflicting interests.  The fact of the matter is that Main Street can’t function from a financial perspective, whether it’s using your credit card to buy groceries, getting a student loan to go to school, or obtaining a mortgage to buy a house, without a healthy Wall Street.

As large as the auto industry might be in this country, it doesn’t have the same impact on every single person in the United States in the same manner as the financial industry.  This isn’t to ignore the impact of auto industry on millions of people that either work for the Big Three or are peripherally impacted as suppliers and providers of support services.  That being said, the UAW leaders need to understand that it’s no longer about what higher-than-market wages their locals are able to maintain – it’s now about whether their union members are going to have any jobs at all in the next few months.  Until both executive and union leaders come together to figure out how to trim costs, come up with better products, and have wage and production flexibility that is up to speed in the information age as opposed to the industrial age, any government assistance to the auto industry would simply be throwing money away.  Filing for bankruptcy is actually one of the best ways for force all of those stakeholders to come to the table (and it doesn’t mean that anyone will go out of business – United Airlines didn’t stop flying planes or layoff all of their employees just because it went into Chapter 11 a few years ago and the company is in better position today to survive a tougher economic climate as a result of its restructuring).  A government handout, however, would simply put off the tough changes necessary to make the Big Three to be viable again further into the future.

(Image from Tickerwatch)

I will be the first to admit that I am one of the few in Chicago’s legal community that has a lot of issues with the political philosophy of President-elect Obama.  However, his apparent passion for the creation of a college football playoff system, as shown in the above video clip from his interview this past week on 60 Minutes, is admirable.  Indeed, as a fellow South Sider and White Sox fan, I would be more then willing to lead the Presidential Commission on the Establishment of a College Football Playoff System in the spirit of bipartisanship.  I can tell Obama has given this issue a ton of thought judging by the “You can’t remember to pick up a carton a milk from the store within 5 minutes of asking you to do it, but you can instantly recite the names, positions, and social security numbers of the 1992 Chicago Bears roster that had a 5-11 record” look from the future First Lady as soon as brought up the subject.  (Brad Muster, your table is ready.)  I have been on the receiving end of that look more than anyone in history assuming that the guy from “Stump the Schwab” hasn’t found a life partner yet.

The interest of the President-elect has brought back up one of the few posts that I have written that has aged relatively well: this “modest proposal” for taking the existing 4 BCS bowls, keeping the traditional conference tie-ins such as the Big Ten and Pac-10 always being in the Rose Bowl, and making it into an 8-game playoff.  (As horrific as the actual Rose Bowl game last year was for me as an Illini fan, once you’ve experienced the spectacular pagentary around Pasadena on New Year’s Day, you understand exactly why those two conferences don’t want anything to do with giving up that game.  President-elect Obama should be aware from a political standpoint that the all 8 of the Big Ten states and 3 out of the 4 Pac-10 states, with the lone exception being John McCain’s home state of Arizona, voted for him, making those conferences his strongest supporters in the BCS.  He should remember this when he starts hearing suggestions from SEC fans that believe that the winner of the SEC Championship Game should be automatically crowned the national champion, since Florida was the only Obama win among the 9 states in the conference.  On another note, I am sincerely humbled by the fact that Professor Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated’s legal expert, linked to my playoff proposal post on the Sports Law Blog.  I love my job, but I have certainly dreamed of becoming a sports law professor of Professor McCann’s stature.)  The only item that I’d alter from the original proposal from 2 ½ years ago would be the timing of the playoff so that it would be in line with the comment from Slant reader Richard Gadsden, such that the national championship game would be played one week prior to the Super Bowl.  It’s such an obvious open date on the sports calendar that I can’t see any downside to it (other than the faux bemoaning of how long the college football season would be at that point, which I addressed in my original proposal post).  That way, the Rose Bowl and the other BCS games would continue to be on or around New Year’s Day as they always have, while the semifinals would be one or two weeks later in prime time weeknight slots (so that they do not conflict with the NFL playoff games that occur on the weekends in January).  Otherwise, every single item that I brought up then would still apply today.

The main overarching point that I can’t emphasize enough is that the only reasonable way that we will ever see a college football playoff in my lifetime is if the process is driven by the BCS conferences as opposed to being imposed on them.  There are plenty of proposals out there that advocate an NCAA Tournament-style system with automatic bids to the non-BCS conferences and an abolishment of the bowl system, which might work if we were living in a theoretical vacuum, but pretty much removes any type of incentive for the BCS conferences, who are the ultimate decision-makers here, to actually agree to such a playoff.  If people advocate an “all or nothing” approach to a college football playoff system, then no one should be surprised when the BCS conferences reflexively opt for “nothing”.  The reason why I believe that my proposal would have a reasonable chance of actually being enacted is that it would simply add to the bowl system that already exists as opposed to taking anything away.

For his part, President-elect Obama has preached pragmatism to addressing America’s issues more than any Presidential candidate in recent history.  In this case, the pragmatic approach would be to provide an incentive to bring the BCS conferences to the table with a proposal that allows them to keep the same disproportionate share of television and postseason revenue that they currently enjoy while still adding a playoff system that the general public craves.  It’s very easy for people to throw out college football playoff proposals that they believe would be perfect for their personal purposes, but my proposal is aimed at instituting a playoff that the BCS conferences would actually agree to at the end of the day.  Otherwise, we’ll still be debating this same issue thirty years from now.

(Video from YouTube)

In the aftermath of the 2006 mid-term elections, I wrote this post lamenting about how the Republican Party’s losses that year were indicative of a widening gulf between the libertarian wing (which I consider myself to be a part of) and the social conservatives. This trend has sprung up more prominently as an issue in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks as it has become almost assured that Americans will choose Barack Obama over John McCain for President on November 4th (unless you believe that every single reputable poll is incorrect). The internal struggle between the various factions of the GOP is characterized in a number of ways (i.e. elites vs. evangelicals or urban vs. rural), but it still basically comes down to a fight over whether the party should focus on fiscal conservatism or social conservatism.

Since 1980, Ronald Reagan was able to create a coalition of those two conflicting groups that would be a force in American politics for a quarter of a century. Indeed, George W. Bush won two elections by leveraging this powerful coalition – the irony is that the splinter of the party is going to come on his watch (whether this was substantially his fault is a discussion for another day). Even before the nation’s economy became the predominant issue over the past month, John McCain was handed a Republican Party that was in disarray without a vision (and in turn, his campaign has failed to create any vision in its place). In the zeal with which the current leadership of the GOP to use the “50-plus-1” model of securing an ideological base with a slight majority, they forgot that moderate independents are the ones that elect Presidents in this country. This group increasingly felt shunned by the Republicans, which resulted in the changing of control in Congress to the Democrats in 2006 and putting the 2008 GOP Presidential candidate, no matter who it was, at a severe disadvantage against any Democratic candidate. The Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world believed that those people that didn’t meet every single litmus test of being supposedly conservative were RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) that ought to be kicked out of the party and ridiculed (Right Wing Nut House has a great post on this subject – despite the title of this blog by Rick Moran, who is the brother of Nightline anchor Terry Moran, it is actually one of the most well-reasoned and rationally-based conservative sites out there). Well, guess what – those so-called RINOs did end up leaving in great numbers, taking with them tons of independent voters that have similar viewpoints, and could very well end up giving the Democrats both the White House and a veto-proof Congress.

I’ll be straight-forward with you on my personal bias here – there is absolutely no political philosophy that I abhor more than populism. Most people that have my political worldview – fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and live in a large progressive city – would say the same thing. Traditionally, the Democrats have been the party most open to populists and they have certainly hammered home that type of message on the economic front in this election (which is why I will not be voting for Barack Obama). However, the Republican Party has increasingly become more populist since the 1990s (encapsulated by Pat Buchanan’s horrific speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention – of course, he came back this year and called Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention the greatest convention address ever). Even worse is the anti-intellectualism that seems to have come along with this rising tide of populism in both the GOP (once again, Rick Moran hits this point directly). As the evangelical and rural influence in the Republican Party has increased, so has the corresponding aversion to intellectualism. (Minneapolis Red Sox alludes to this in one of his latest posts.)  It wasn’t that long ago that people with higher income and educational levels were voting Republican by large margins over Democrats. Yet, the GOP has become so beholden to its populist wing that it is now the opposite, where the wealthy and highly-educated are actually voting for Democrats more (despite the lingering perception that the Republican Party is the party for the rich).

These Republican populists are more likely to be ideologues on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. This isn’t a good thing for the Republicans simply because of demographic trends which will likely come to fruition in this year’s election. The interior Western states that voted heavily for Bush in 2000 and 2004 have more libertarians as opposed to evangelicals, which means that they are less likely to vote on socially conservative issues (other than possibly gun ownership). Those states also happen to have the fastest-growing Hispanic populations outside of Florida, which will make the Republican Party pay for its nativist rhetoric over the past two years (even though John McCain was at the forefront of trying to get a compromise passed on this issue, which made him so unpopular with the GOP populist base that it almost doomed him in the party nomination process from the get-go). Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that McCain is poised to lose Colorado and Nevada, which would essentially make it impossible for him to win the Presidency.

At the same time, a number of Southern states are seeing rapid changes in their own demographics due to an influx non-evangelical and educated Northerners transplants. Case in point is Virginia, which has gone from a solid-red state to one where Obama appears to have a commanding lead as a result of the increasingly Democratic area of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. North Carolina has experienced a similar influx and, not surprisingly, what once was a lock for the Republicans is now a toss-up. Essentially, these moves are mirroring what has happened in suburban areas across the country, which were once rock-hard Republican bases but are now leaning Democratic. (When DuPage County is having toss-up races, the GOP should note that it’s in a whole lot of trouble.) Add in a worrisome economy on top of all of those demographic shifts and the likelihood of America witnessing a landslide early on Tuesday night (as opposed to staying up late to see if a couple of precincts in Florida and Ohio get their returns in to decide the election) is extremely high.

While John McCain’s campaign has been far from stellar at any level (whether it’s the incoherent day-to-day messaging, the pick of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate that has backfired with independent voters, or the complete lack of an overarching message as evidenced by this New York Times Magazine piece), it’s important to note that he personally is actually polling better than the Republican Party generally. This means that if McCain loses, it will be more because of the long-term political miscalculations of the party behind him (plus the economy) as opposed to anything his campaign could have possibly done. The Republican Party needs to take note of this since there will be the inevitable ill-advised mouth-breathing calls from the conservative media establishment in the event of a McCain loss that he failed to generate any excitement from the conservative base and moved away from the moral values of the party.

Even though I will be voting for John McCain because I truly believe he’s the one national politician of our time that has proven that he is an independent thinker even when it was politically detrimental to him (I personally like Obama and will ultimately be fine with him as President, but I concur with Ruth Marcus in failing to see how his policies break with the traditional Democratic Party approach at all – the fact that Obama’s incredibly well-oiled Chicago-style campaign has been able to get the American public to largely perceive that he is the supposed change agent while McCain is “four more years of Bush” is sad on a number of levels) and hope that he will somehow win (which would be kind of like saying that I hope that the Illini will get to the BCS National Championship Game this year – technically, they could if they win out and every team ahead of them lost every single other game, just as McCain could win by sweeping every single battleground state despite the fact he’s not leading in any of them with less than a week to go), in a way, a horrible loss for the Republicans next Tuesday would be a good thing long-term for the party. This will put the discord between the libertarians and the populists front-and-center such that the GOP has to figure out which direction it’s going to take since the old Reagan coalition will have become fodder for the history books. The Republicans have the opportunity to either perform a make-over to become a true majority party that invites intellectual debate or alternatively could choose to be a vocal minority that only cares about ideological purity. Is the party going to opt to grow and attempt to expand its base by adopting a libertarian platform in light of substantial demographic trends, even in the traditionally Republican strongholds in the South? Or is the party going to look to protect its evangelical core because they are the loudest and most activist group? If the Republicans take the former approach, they will retain me as a supporter in general. However, it will be the last straw for me and a whole lot of other people if the party decides to largely stick the same old socially backward tactics to scare up evangelical votes.

(Image from Los Angeles Times)

A few links for the weekend:

(1) The Conservative Revival (New York Times) – David Brooks has long been one of the more sensible conservative political commentators out there and this column is an example of this. Right after the 2006 midterm elections, I wrote a lengthy post about how disaffected I was with the Republican Party from the libertarian standpoint. Brooks points out that the Conservative Party in Britain is on the ascent since it’s embracing a different social agenda while still adhering to its fiscally conservative principles. The party in our country that is able to mirror what the Tories have done will get my support.

(2) Your Friday Coaching Search Update (Blog-a-Bull) – Let me just start off by saying that I could have very easily turned this blog into “Frank the Tank’s Rantings About the Bulls” for at least until the conclusion of this year’s NBA Draft and really through the free agency period (which would almost bring us right to the start of next season), but I’m trying to exercise some self-restraint. It’s good to see that we didn’t have to go down the road of Rick Carlisle with his new deal with Mark Cuban and I’ve been actually getting increasingly excited about the prospect of Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines at the United Center. While he doesn’t have the defensive philosophy that John Paxson has long preached, it’s clear that the Bulls needed a complete readjustment in attitude which is what the almost-former Suns coach would provide. Granted, the Bulls don’t have the personnel on offense to come close to the scoring proficiency of D’Antoni’s Suns teams, but we are a team that is capable of playing uptempo (which is how the Bulls took down the Heat in the playoffs last year). The one thing that I don’t want to hear about from the Bulls is how much D’Antoni might cost in terms of salary, especially with the offer that the Knicks have thrown on the table. I’ve actually been an overall defender of Jerry Reinsdorf over the years (as Ozzie Guillen “eloquently” pointed out this week, Reinsdorf is the Chicago owner with seven rings), but if the Bulls really want D’Antoni, they had better put their best efforts forward. While the White Sox might be a mid-market team that happens to be located in a large market (and I’m saying this as a huge Sox fan) which at least allows for a tenuous argument about payroll limits on their end, the Bulls are a legitimate marquee NBA franchise on pretty much every financial and media metric (on a related note, Minneapolis Red Sox and I had a back-and-forth on where the Bulls place on the Chicago sports scene a couple of weeks ago), so I don’t want to hear a peep from that organization about how much a coach of D’Antoni’s caliber might cost. Reinsdorf and Paxson just need to get this deal done.

(UPDATE:  Apparently, D’Antoni has now taken the Knicks job because the Bulls wouldn’t match their offer.  I’m seriously THIS close to making Frank the Tank’s Rantings About the Bulls into an entirely separate blog since there’s so much material to be mined.  This is what we get from the third most valuable and second most profitable franchise in the NBA.)

(3) Law Firms and Layoffs: Who Are the Most Vulnerable? (Wall Street Journal Law Blog) – There’s always a question as to whether law firms provide more steady employment for lawyers than being in other environments (i.e. corporations, government, etc.). In the end, like most other work environments, it’s the people in the middle that get squeezed.

And finally…

(4) Hyping Sidney Crosby Won’t Help the NHL Win Over New Fans (Slate) – There’s been little movement from my modest proposal to save the NHL from a couple of years ago, although the Blackhawks have finally figured out that VHF exists.

I know the posts have been sparse, especially considering that we’re in the middle of March Madness, but I promise you that this blog will be coming out of its once-a-month-or-so rut very soon. Anyway, the Illini basketball team ended the season with their best impression of the 1999 club in the Big Ten Tournament on the heels of my previous post. Maybe next year won’t be so bad with the return of Jamar Smith and the addition of Alex Legion, right? Here are some links to tide you over in anticipation of the Final Four, baseball opening day and the Masters:

(1) Stuff White People Like – I’m sure that if you’re interweb-savvy that you’ve seen this blog already, but those that haven’t would be remiss not to check out the daily postings here. As many others have observed, it’s really Stuff Liberal White Yuppies and Hipsters Like, but of course that type of title would not lead to people passing around the link to this blog. My favorite gems are how white people like dinner parties, knowing what’s best for poor people, hating corporations (other than corporations that make stuff that white people like, such as Apple and Target), public radio, gifted children, and, of course, Wrigley Field. The only thing is that despite being a half-Asian libertarian Republican, this blog really hammers home how I’m pretty much a pasty white liberal yuppie on paper outside of the anti-capitalist undertones.

(Edit: In my long overdue review of everyone on my blogroll, I’ll note that Kenny pointed this blog out a couple of weeks ago.)

(2) The Republican Resurrection (The New York Times) – I don’t agree with Frank Rich very often (although my link history does show that I’m an avid New York Times reader), but he nailed the political analysis on the spot here. The Democratic Party somehow is grasping defeat from the jaws of victory yet again with a prolonged and increasingly nasty nomination battle. I’ll be upfront that I’ve always been a John McCain fan, but realistically, I’ve thought that he could only win in the general election if Hillary Clinton somehow grabbed the Democratic nomination at the last moment. That would mean that the Democrats would be putting up a politically polarizing candidate AND the party base would be less than enthusiastic in the general election. As unlikely as that may happen, the Clinton family sway over the Democratic superdelegates at least makes that a real possibility. I’m also simply amazed that there are still Democratic primary voters who sincerely believe that Hillary would do better than Barack Obama in the general election. Believe me – every Republican alive that has any knowledge whatsoever about the tempermant of the general electorate would rather face Hillary than Obama in November. This seems to be pretty obvious to everyone other than a blindly loyal subset of Clinton supporters.

(3) Fighting Illini Announce 2008 Spring Games (FightingIllini.com) – Given the state of the White Sox and Bulls, I’m being dead serious when I say that Illinois spring football is what I’m looking forward to the most in April sports-wise (other than the Masters).

(4) Playoffs or Lottery for Bulls? (Hoopsworld) – Speaking of the Bulls, I really hate being in this predicament as a fan. The team is 15 games under .500, yet the Eastern Conference is so horrible that they are still within 3 games of a playoff spot. So, what is better for the club in the long term – squeaking by into the #8-seed, where they would most likely be swept by the Celtics or Pistons in the first round, or taking its chances in the NBA Draft lottery with the hope that everything comes up Milhouse to be in position to get Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose (where either one would probably make the team a true championship contender next season)? I hate the notion of cheering against your own team from a bad karma perspective, but I have to disagree with the Hoopsworld writer and say that the Bulls would be better off heading to the lottery. Unlike football or baseball, where moving up draft positions is almost never worth the thought of losing more games, the NBA, as I’ve noted many times before, is a boom-or-bust environment where you need a superstar to have a reasonable chance to win it all. Not only are those superstars almost universally lottery picks, but they are disproportionately drafted with one of the top three picks. I’m not one of those chumps that wants a “nice Bulls team” that gets to the playoffs regularly but never gets over the hump – I was admittedly spoiled growing up with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, so I want to see the team be in position to win more championships. As a result, I’d rather see the Bulls wait for some ping-pong balls in May than watch them get crushed by KG or Chauncey Billups in four straight games. This all could have been prevented by John Paxson last year, but that’s another rant for another time.

And finally…

(5) American League Preview 2008 (Siberian Baseball) – Minneapolis Red Sox is starting up his annual baseball previews and I’m sure he’ll have the National League shortly. He has charitably put the White Sox in third place in the AL Central (actually, I think that’s about right – I don’t know how some crack smokers think that the Sox will be worse than either the Twins or Royals this season, but the South Siders are clearly way behind Detroit and Cleveland as we stand today).

Enjoy the rest of the NCAA Tournament and have a great day!

bob-barker-adam-sandler-happy-gilmore.jpg

As I prepare to actually have to cheer for a team from Cleveland since Deron Williams (as much as he tried) wasn’t able to derail the Western half of the impending national nightmare of another Pistons-Spurs NBA Finals, here are some links:

(1) Priceless! (Chicago Tribune) – When I was flying on JetBlue a couple of weeks ago, which has DirecTV at every seat, I came across a showing of “Happy Gilmore” and my wife had to restrain me from busting out of my seat in laughter during Bob Barker’s scenes even though I’ve seen them a million times.  There are also two programs I’ll always remember watching on TV during the days that I spent at my Grandma’s house when I was a kid: baseball on WGN and the “The Price is Right”.  As to the thought of Rosie O’Donnell or Mario Lopez as replacements for the legendary Barker, I only have one thing to say: the price is wrong, bitch!

(2) Lost Season 3 Finale Recap (The Lost Blog) – SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE “LOST” SEASON FINALE.  After a pretty disappointing “24” season – CTU has been compromised more than [insert Lindsay Lohan joke here] – the “Lost” season finale more than made up for it with a simply mind-blowing turn with the flash forward.  I’m not quite convinced that the Losties are getting off of the island at the very beginning of next season; for once, I think Ben isn’t feeding a line of B.S. that the “rescuers” are going to do a lot more harm than good.  Anyway, I’m extremely glad that I didn’t encounter the numerous spoilers that were posted on the Internet prior to the show’s airing since the surprise twist had such a huge impact if you didn’t know it was coming.  I argued last year that “Lost” (and pretty much all television programs) ought to go to a “24”-type of schedule where all of the episodes run in succession without reruns, which ABC has decided to do.  Even though I still think that’s a good idea, that also means we’re going to have to wait until next February for new episodes, which is going to be an excruciating wait after such an incredible cliff hanger.

(3)  Thompson Begins Steps for 2008 Bid (Washington Post) – I personally like Fred Thompson and he was great on “Law & Order”, but with the likelihood of the two parties’ presidential nominees being decided within the first month of the primary season, the late start in the money race is going to be an albatross on the viability of his candidacy.

(4) Kobe Wants to be Traded… or Does He? (Los Angeles Times) – Don’t tease me with another NBA star allegedly on the market that would look pretty nice in a Bulls uniform.  As much as I’d like to see it happen, there’s no way Kobe Bryant is leaving Hollywood – this will blow over.

And finally…

(5)  50 Cent’s Investment Pays Off (AllHipHop.com) – Remember last year when 50 Cent starting selling grape drink?  Showing that sugar, water, and purple equals Fort Knox, Coca-Cola is buying the company that produces 50’s drink where his take is going to end up being around $400 million.  Something tells me that the “G” in G-Unit must stand for “grape”.

(Image from celebsarepeopletoo.com

As I sit here sulking over not winning my Grammy moment with Justin Timberlake last night, here are some links:

(1) Close Call Would Have Helped on Selection Sunday (Mark Tupper Weblog) – Putting aside my disdain for Satan’s Spawn, Illinois missed a golden opportunity to virtually lock up an NCAA Tournament bid by faltering in the final minute on the road against Indiana on Saturday. As Mark Tupper alludes to in the link, Illini fans are now going to be extremely nervous heading into Selection Sunday. I still believe that a 9-7 record in the Big Ten ought to be enough for a bid (which would require us to win 3 out of the last 4, but we’d better also win at least 1 game in the Big Ten Tournament on top of that to be sure.

(2) Bubble Watch (ESPN.com) – Speaking of the NCAA Tournament and Selection Sunday, ESPN is back with its overview of the bubble teams. What’s amazing is that UConn and LSU, who were simply dominant last year, are almost certainly not going to be invited to the dance unless they win their conference tournaments while Michigan State is pretty close to being in the same position.

(3) A New Chandler in Chicago (Zoner Sports) – In one more note on college basketball before getting onto other subjects, it should be reiterated that Wilson Chandler of DePaul simply rules. That being said, DePaul has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. With victories against Kansas, UConn, and, most recently, Notre Dame, the Blue Demons should have been a lock for the NCAA Tournament along with being at least a middle seed in the Big East Tournament. However, with 3 horrible losses to sub-100 teams in the RPI (including a dreary 49-39 early season loss to Northwestern that had George Mikan rolling in his grave), DePaul isn’t even considered to be a bubble team anymore and still could miss the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden for the second time in as many seasons as a Big East member. The remaining regular season schedule ought to play in DePaul’s favor (besides a home game versus Marquette and a return road game at Notre Dame, the Demons have 2 games against bottom-feeder USF plus a putrid Cincinnati team at home), but their game-to-game inconsistencies have made the Illini look stable in comparison.

(4) Obama Questions Rivals on Iraq (Washington Post) – The most prominent political story in Chicago and the nation from this past weekend was the inevitable announcement by Senator Barack Obama that he will be running for President. As I’ve said before, I never thought that his relative lack of experience in the Senate would matter much on the campaign trail (otherwise, the history books would be peppered with stories about Presidents Dole and Kerry).

However, the main disadavantage that Obama has against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and, if he survives that, Rudy Giuliani or John McCain in the general election, is that the Presidential campaign will be the first time that the Senator from Illinois will ever experience the invasive and daily media scrutiny that comes with being on the national stage. While Obama has received almost universal fawning from the national media since his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention, the negative press is going to eventually come and we have no idea how he’s going to react to it. As John Kass pointed out in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, the national and international media has been ignorant with regard to (or at least ignoring) the Tony Rezko scandal so far – I’d be willing to bet on a lot more damaging stories surfacing as we go along. (I’m not saying Obama is by any means a nefarious person, but bad stories are simply going to come up no matter what.)

Meanwhile, is there anything that can be thrown at Hillary that could be any worse than the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals while her husband was in the White House? By the same token, what hasn’t Rudy Giuliani heard while having to deal with the rabid New York press on a daily basis for 8 years? If Barack Obama is going to win the Presidency, the key for him will be how he deals with his lack of experience of dealing with the negative, if not personally invasive, media stories that will eventually come to fruition as opposed to only having two years on the national stage in the Senate.

(5) Las Vegas Has Got the Game, but It Wants a Team (New York Times) – If you thought a Super Bowl in Miami was insane, just watch out when the highest-paid athletes in all of sports all get together this weekend in Las Vegas for the NBA All-Star Game. It takes a town with 124,000 hotel rooms to be able to hold that many entourages and posses. Honestly, I’d skip the game just to watch Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley take on the house in blackjack.

On another note, it’s simply criminal that none of the professional sports leagues have set up shop in Las Vegas yet. I can understand the NFL’s reservations since pro football is by far the most wagered on sport (followed by college football and a smattering of college basketball games), but the amount of dollars placed on Major League Baseball,NBA, and NHL games are minimal. As alluded to in the linked article, the best compromise would be for the casinos to take any games played by the Las Vegas franchises off of the board, which would eliminate the largest preceived (if not misguided) fear of illicit activity by the mere presence of teams in the city. With a town that is at the center of one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, a magnet for tourists from across the world, and more than flush with potential customers with a ton of cash, it’s only a matter of time before one of the leagues makes the plunge.

And finally…

(6) Bow Wow Launches New Label, Crew (AllHipHop.com) – Anyone can launch a new record label. Launching a new crew, on the other hand…

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It’s difficult to believe, but the first two posts on Frank the Tank’s Slant were put up for posterity one year ago today. Since then, you’ve witnessed a steady stream of bloviations from me along with Land-o-Links (my device to comment on numerous items from around the web that don’t warrant full-fledged posts), classic music videos (with a heavy emphasis on old school hip-hop and monster arena rock), and maybe even a different take on the world of sports and news every once in awhile.

Despite becoming a fairly active blogger, I’m not one of those people that believes that blogs will completely turn the media landscape on its head. In my mind, there’s still an important role for “old media” such as newspapers and television to look at events and issues without the colored commentary that inherently accompanies blogs). However, I do think that blogs give the opportunity for yeomen such as myself to stake out places in this flattened world that were previously only the domain of an exclusive media elite while also finally providing exposure to some of the best writers anywhere, including those Slant readers out there that blog themselves.

So, in honor of the first anniversary of Frank the Tank’s Slant, here’s a look back at my 15 favorite posts from the past year, ranked in ascending order, that range from thoughts on the world of sports to political election strategies and television scheduling with some updated comments and observations:

(15) Football vs. Football: College or Pro? (August 16, 2006) – A point-by-point comparison of college football and the NFL, with me giving the college game a slight edge. Of course, I noted that this was a debate comparable to deciding “whether it was more shocking to find out that Liberace was gay versus Lance Bass – if there’s any answer at all, we’re definitely splitting hairs here.” At the same time, I have a zealous hatred of the current BCS system, which has been outlined on this blog a number of times.

(14) Demons Dog the Irish (January 9, 2006) – Regular readers can easily observe that I’m a devoted and frequent writer on the happenings at my undergraduate alma mater of the University of Illinois, but this post featured a rarer instance when I focused on the basketball program at my law school alma mater of DePaul in the wake of my attendance at its inaugural Big East game against rival Notre Dame.

(13) The Yellow Rose Bowl of Texas: My BCS Bowl Picks (December 26, 2005) – I absolutely nailed 3 out of the 4 games right down to a “Penn State will win but not cover” prediction while being comforted that no one that dates outside of his or her own family could have possibly bet money that West Virginia would have beaten Georgia straight-up in a virtual home game at the Georgia Dome. That initial success only a couple weeks after starting this blog emboldened me to make predictions on a regular basis in all of the major sports, which have turned out to be all completely wrong and boneheaded.

(12) Non-Stop TV Seasons Need to be Adopted Everywhere (April 24, 2006) – With ABC changing the scheduling of “Lost” this year, it seems as though the television networks are beginning to heed my calls to get out of its “sweeps feast vs. non-sweeps famine” cycle. They’re about a decade too late to stem the tide to alternative forms of entertainment, but it’s a start.

(11) No Need for an Apology from the Daily Illini (February 14, 2006), The Daily Illini Needs to Apologize for Something Else (February 15, 2006), More Thoughts From Minneapolis Red Sox and Frank the Tank on the Daily Illini (February 16, 2006) – A trilogy of posts on the controversy that surrounded the Daily Illini’s decision to print the Danish cartoons that were the impetus for deadly riots across the Muslim world. The “More Thoughts” post is one of my favorites as the product of a back-and-forth email discussion between my buddy Minneapolis Red Sox and me, particularly since it revealed some surprising views from the “Siberia, Minnesota” writer as a former newspaper reporter.

(10) Springtime for Kiper on Broadway (April 28, 2006) – My pre-NFL Draft thoughts that explained why I love the event so much and predicted the eventual decision of the Bears to trade out of the first round. The follow-up post after the draft had a scathing criticism of the Bears’ moves, but I have since admitted that I was completely wrong, particularly about special teams sage and my new man crush Devin Hester.

(9) Frank the Tank’s Great All-You-Can-Eat Buffets of Chicago (July 14, 2006) – All-you-can-eat is all-that-I-need.

(8) Big Ten from Eleven to Twelve? If There’s No Luck of the Irish, Bring in More Orange (March 5, 2006) – The types of posts that I enjoy writing the most are about wonky sports business and law subjects. At least from my perspective, while there are multitudes of people in the blogosphere that break down the games on the field on a daily basis (and do it very well), there’s a dearth of perspectives on the off-the-field matters, so I attempt to fill that gap from time-to-time. On the particular subject of big Ten expansion, I’m from the camp that the conference should only expand to 12 teams if it means that it’s maximizing its national footprint, which means the 2 real choices for the conference are either Notre Dame (unparalleled in terms of national exposure) or Syracuse (a strong East Coast counterpart for Penn State). As a result, I pass this post along everytime I hear suggestions for Pittsburgh (market already covered by Penn State), West Virginia (an even smaller market), or Missouri (besides the practical matter of whether it would worth it to secede from the Big 12, Illinois already covers the St. Louis market).

(7) The Bears Are Who They Thought They Were! (October 17, 2006) – This was written on only a couple of hours of sleep since I was completed wired after the Bears’ Monday Night comeback against the Cardinals. Regardless of my writing, the YouTube clip of the uncensored Dennis Green press conference is going to be the subject of mutiple NFL Films specials years from now.

(6) The Mason Midmajor Myth (April 6, 2006) – At the time that this post was written, my Billy Packer-esque sentiment was about as popular as, well, Billy Packer himself. However, I still believe that George Mason’s run to the Final Four was the peak of the midmajors as opposed to the start of any trend. We’ll see how this college basketball season will play out.

(5) The Lonely Libertarian: A View From a Disaffected Republican (November 10, 2006) – A rare post from me that was dedicated solely to politics (and I explained exactly why I haven’t written much about the political arena despite my deep interest in the subject). The output here was a bit long-winded yet long overdue as a result of a whole lot of pent-up frustration. Simply put, if the Republicans don’t pay attention to people such as myself, they’re going to lose even more ground in 2008 than they did in this year’s midterm elections.

(4) Chi-Town vs. Motown: Rivalries Across the Board (July 19, 2006) – After the sports business posts, my second favorite broad topic to write about is the nature of rivalries. The analysis of the Chicago-Detroit rivalries was something that I brewed over for months before I finally got down to writing it since there’s much more involved than just a single major rivalry between two particular teams such as the Bears vs. Packers.

(3) Hoosier Fleecing: A Q&A with Frank the Tank on the Eric Gordon Debacle (October 16, 2006) – The most widely read post that I’ve had on this blog to date due to links from Deadspin and numerous other sites from across the blogosphere along with continued interest in the story. As you can probably tell, the emotions were extremely raw at the time. Even though I’ve clamed down a bit, Satan’s Spawn, er, Kelvin Sampson, is going to need to wear some SWAT team gear if he wants to survive his visit the real Assembly Hall in Champaign on January 23rd.

(2) The Best of Both Worlds: A Modest Proposal for a College Football Playoff That Keeps the Bowls (July 28, 2006) – As long as the BCS school presidents continue to support the current bowl system, this post will stand the test of time. My college football playoff proposal wasn’t necessarily the most original idea (I’ve seen variations of the playoff/bowl hybrid before), but I did want to set forth a system that would give incentives for the BCS conferences to implement it as opposed to the standard calls for an NCAA Tournament-style format, which the powers that be will never go for. In the wake of this year’s Michigan-Florida debacle, it’s time to get this done.

(1) The Paranoia of Illini Nation (December 15, 2005) – This was the issue that spurred me to begin this blog and was my first real substantive post. Even though the Eric Gordon reference is obviously now dated, it’s still my favorite piece of writing as it combines my emotional love for the Illini with an attempt to step back from the proverbial chip on the shoulder that seems to plague our fan base.

I hope that you enjoyed this look back on the recent past and get ready for a sophomore year that hopefully won’t have a slump!

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When I began this blog nearly one year ago, I anticipated that I would write about politics nearly as much as I do now on sports. I’ve always been an avid follower of the political game and log onto the New York Times and Washington Post websites every morning. What I quickly found out, however, is that every time I started a blog post on politics, I ended up gritting my teeth with with such disdain for today’s political climate to the point where I would almost never finish my thoughts. This is because I feel that neither of the major political parties seem to want someone like me.

Let me start out by explaining my political background. I’ve considered myself to be a Republican since long before the time that I could even cast a vote. However, I’ve always had major disagreements with large portions of the Republican Party platform because my political philosphy is purely libertarian, which is generally considered to be a position of being a fiscal and free market conservative and a social liberal. One might say that would make me a “moderate”, although I generally eschew that term since I admit that my views on fiscal and economic issues are generally in line with Ayn Rand while I could probably be mistaken for Barbara Streisand on the social side. I do believe, however, that politicians as whole need to be more pragmatic and centrist when it comes down to the practical matters of governance and legislation as opposed to being wedded to their respective ideologies. The reason why the Republicans always won out with me despite this internal conflict was that I weighed the fiscal and economic issues greater than the social issues. That’s because I felt and still feel that economic principles are based on pure logic and a government that ignores those principles will have an immediate negative effect on the financial health of the country as a whole. In contrast, I have always believed that social issues are usually hot-button topics that would inflame a lot of emotions in people but have little practical effect on me personally.

Over the past several years, however, the Republicans have increasingly focused on “wedge” social issues to drive voter turnout from evangelicals and like-minded religious conservatives while generally ignoring the libertarian wing of the party. Today, Republicans are now garnered with the reputation of being obsessed with overturning Roe v. Wade, opposing gay marriage, meddling in the family medical decisions regarding people on life-support that have been in comas for years, proposing that building a huge fence on the U.S.-Mexican border is appropriate “immigration reform” even though this economy would largely grind to a halt without such immigrants, and cutting off funds for embryonic stem cell research that could yield cures for degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. At the same time, while the Republicans still largely adhere to the principles of lower taxes and open markets, they have completely abandoned the concept of a smaller government by expanding the size of the federal bureaucracy to levels that would make even FDR blush. All of this was done in the belief that the libertarian wing of the party and similar-thinking independents would hold the line because of the liberal orthodoxy of the Democratics. Frankly, this attitude completely turned me off.

I wish that I could tell you that the Democratic Party went after my type with gusto, but that didn’t happen. Even though the Democrats were able to secure both the U.S. House and Senate by attracting large waves of independent voters that were upset at our situation in Iraq, they have mostly reverted back to the populist rhetoric of the old line liberals as opposed to the centrist policies of Bill Clinton. The sealer for me was when Ned Lamont ended up beating Joe Lieberman in the primary for Connecticut’s Senate seat, where Lieberman was representative of the type of Democrat that I would have gladly voted for in this type of environment. (It turned out that the liberals that foamed at the mouth to oust Lieberman were a bit out of touch with the general electorate as he won his seat back by running as an independent.) At this point in time, the Democratic base is more bent on being a liberal counterweight to the Bush administration as opposed to moving to the center. This is even though Clinton, an avowed centrist, has been the only Democrat to win two terms as President since Franklin D. Roosevelt. The general decision of the Democratic Party leadership to move away from such success since Clinton left office continues to astound me and has prevented me from considering to move over to their side even with my nearly complete dissatisfaction with the Republicans.

What’s amazing is that public opinion polls continuously show that the majority of the people in this country tilt slightly to the right on economic issues and slightly to the left on social issues, which would seem to be a great incentive for one of the parties to seize a libertarian platform. Yet, since libertarians are not easily mobilized or found in large groupings the way social conservatives are in evangelical churches or populists are in labor unions, neither party has spent any time courting my type in an organized manner. Meanwhile, in the rush to separate the country’s population into two simple-minded silos of being either left-wing protesters of the war in Iraq or right-wing Bible thumpers, I did not see a single story in the national media over the past two years about how the libertarian viewpoint, which is largely the independent voter’s viewpoint, has been ignored by the major political parties until this past week in The Economist, which happens to be a British newsmagazine. (On a separate note, The Economist is far superior to the U.S. newsweeklies in nearly every facet of reporting and analysis even on American stories. I highly recommend it if you want serious and in-depth news coverage.) Thus, the very voters that turn almost every election have somehow flown completely under the radar by the powers that be in politics and the media.

An argument that I hear a lot is that I should start supporting a third party candidate (in my case, the actual Libertarian Party), yet I take the view of Eric Zorn, who noted that you need to vote with your head instead of your heart. I don’t believe in the effectiveness of a “protest vote” and, as Zorn pointed out, the notion that a large number of third party votes will “send a message” to the two major political parties has always turned out to be false, such as the utter disregard for Ross Perot’s views by both Republicans and Democrats even though he ran the most successful third party presidential campaign of modern times in 1992. (“Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I fin-ish?”) As a practical matter, I doubt that the Republicans that voted for Perot in 1992 that led to 8 years of Bill Clinton or the Florida Democrats that voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 that led to 8 years of George W. Bush think a “protest vote” is all that good of an idea today. At the same time, I’ve always put the thought of strong third parties in the United States in the “be careful for what you wish for” category. Instead of being centrist parties, third parties are almost always on the fringes of the far right or left sides of the political spectrum. Having fascist and socialist representatives in government, which is not at all uncommon in “progressive” Europe, doesn’t exactly encourage more cooperation in society.

In the end, I still voted for more Republican candidates than not this past Tuesday, although the bitterness of my political philosophy being ignored by both parties is going to continue to linger. Much of the country, however, ended up disagreeing with me by giving all of Congress back to the Democrats and I honestly can’t blame them. If you controlled the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives at the same time and weren’t able to pass any reforms of the Social Security system and immigration policy that were promised in 2004, there was a clear failure of leadership. Obviously, the war in Iraq loomed and continues to loom over everything, but the fact that the Republicans failed on making advances on those domestic issues meant that the quagmire in Iraq couldn’t even be countered with positive achievements elsewhere in the campaign.

The Democrats were the beneficiaries of a “kick the bums out” election this year, but if they want their victory to be more than a 2-year blip, they will still need to follow the gameplan that I wrote for them this past January. In my opinion, they aren’t even close to meeting those standards. The last time that the Republicans were bogged down by an unpopular war and corruption at the highest levels, they were swept out by Democrats in 1976. However, that turned out to be only a short-term diversion as Ronald Reagan rose to power in 1980 and set a conservative national agenda that is still largely in place today. That won’t be changed by the Democrats if their “policy” on the war in Iraq over the next 2 years is to subpoena current and former Bush Administration officials on what they were thinking in March 2003 as opposed to finding a forward-looking solution that allows the U.S. to withdraw its troops in a reasonable timeframe without compromising our broader goals for peace and stability in that country.

On the Republican side, I hope that they finally realize that they cannot build a “permanent majority”, as Bush and Karl Rove have sought to create, on social conservatives and the electoral votes of the South alone. The party can learn a lot from Arnold Schwarzenegger (I always found it ironic that the two most prominent politicians to ever come out of the liberal cauldron of Hollywood are the Terminator and the Gipper), who was elected to another term as Governor of California in a landslide despite it being the bluest state in the nation. (On a related point, after witnessing a Democratic governor get re-elected without barely a fight even though there are Federal investigations galore surrounding him and the Green Party receive 10% of the votes, there is no doubt that my home state of Illinois has voting patterns that are more in line with coastal states such as New York and California than the other states in the Midwest. The Illinois Republican Party needs to be constantly reminded of this whenever it feels the inevitable rumblings from its base to turn back sharply to the right on social issues.) The Republicans definitenly have potential 2008 Presidential candidates that fit the profile of attracting broad support from both sides of the aisle in John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, but the question is whether they can come out of the party’s primary without having to grant the promises to evangelicals that Bush was willing to dole out. A possible positive development of the Republicans suffering huge losses this year, from my standpoint, is that those 2008 primary voters will have to look toward a candidate’s electability in the general election as a prominent factor as opposed to ideological purity, so the likelihood of a more moderate temperant from the party the next time around might be greater.

The upshot of all of this is that I still call myself a Republican, albeit an extremely disaffected one whose decision is currrently based on choosing the lesser of two evils. There are individual Democrats that I admire and support such as Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel (who was the true architect of the Democrats’ takeover of the House as opposed to Howard Dean), yet that party’s leadership and platform overall still has done little to attract people like myself. In the end, I hope that the Republicans can get past the toxic lure of voter turnout from social conservatives with reactionary wedge issues and get back to what a broad majority of Americans really supported the party for over the past four decades, namely a smaller federal government, lower taxes, and strong national defense. That is the only way that the Republicans can win back my heart instead of just my head.

(UPDATE: The Onion summed the election up best here.)

The long Bears bye week is finally over. Until Sunday’s game, there’s a smorgasbord of links to start your weekend off right, so let’s get to it:

1) The Marques Colston Travesty (Manning Family Reunion) – I make no apologies for noticing this glitch after Week 1 and immediately picking up Colston for my Yahoo fantasy football team to exploit it. You snooze, you lose.

2) We Have Ways Of Making Your Mascot Talk (Deadspin) – A warning for all of my family members that attended or are attending Penn: this video is a bit disturbing.

3) “The Running of the Brides” (Linda) – My sister was caught on TV this past weekend (it’s one her friends that’s the future bride).

4) Portland Trail Blazers Get Hint After Being Left Off 2006-07 NBA Schedule (The Onion) – Last year, I saw a bunch of Trail Blazers walk into the Las Vegas casino I was staying in at the time. Let’s just say that it was like Grand Theft Auto, only in real life with really tall guys.

5) Slabs Are Joining Scoops in Ice Cream Retailing (New York Times) – Cold Stone Creamery rules.

6) Tom Skilling Gets Out of Jury Duty (Chicagoist) – His brother knows a thing or two about criminal courtrooms.

7) Fire Jay Mariotti (Petition Spot) – Sign me up.

8) That’s Where The Money Is (Free Darko) – Here’s a big reason why I’m excited for the upcoming Bulls season that’s starting on Halloween night.

9) Ray-Ban Hopes to Party Like It’s 1983 By Relaunching Its Wayfarer Shades (Wall Street Journal) – Remember when this fashion trend was cemented by this commentary on the University of Illinois by our favorite Scientologist?

10) Harold Ford Jr. On His Playboy Party (YouTube) – Even by today’s lowlife standards, the Tennessee Senate race has been particularly ugly. Fortunately, Harold Ford Jr. perfectly summed up his reasons for attending a Playboy Party at the Super Bowl last year. Amen, brother!

11) The Cubs Might Kill This Man (Siberian Baseball) – Take it from someone that’s a White Sox fan: hiring Lou Piniella as manager was the right move for the Cubs. I know that there was a sentiment out there to bring in hometown hero Joe Girardi, but savvy baseball fans know that you don’t get much better than Piniella at the helm. The franchise has been putzing around since 1908, so the least that it could have done for its tortured fan base was get the top manager on the market, which it certainly did here.

12) Outside of Michigan and Missouri, Series Taking Hits (MLive.com) – Mike and Mike had some ominous words this morning stating that the game of baseball is in real trouble if the only time people tune into the playoffs are when the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, or Dodgers are involved. For what it’s worth, I’m trying to figure out exactly what deal Tony LaRussa made with the devil to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead over the Tigers in the World Series heading into tonight.

And speaking of the World Series…

13) Indelible Soxtober Snapshots (Chicago Tribune) – One year ago yesterday, I was basking in the glow of the first White Sox World Series Championship since 1917 in the comfort of my home with my wife. What made that Sox season magical was that, unlike the ’85 Bears, the Bulls dynasty of the ’90s, or the ’05 Illinois Final Four run, it truly came out of the blue: I had no expectations for the team whatsoever at the beginning of last year. In fact, I was pretty convinced that I would never see the White Sox win it all in my lifetime. Fortunately, the magic of Ozzie Guillen’s signaling for the fat man from the bullpen, Paul Konerko’s grand slam, Scott Podsednik finding his power stroke twice in the postseason after not hitting a single homerun during the regular season, Geoff Blum coming off of the bench to hit a game-winning RBI after 14 innings, El Duque punching out three straight batters with the bases loaded against the Red Sox, the White Sox starting rotation pitching four straight complete games in the ALCS, A.J. Pierzynksi’s decision to run to first with a phantom ball in the dirt, and Bobby Jenks routinely making that annoying “fire” graphic come up on the Fox radar gun to close the games out made last October one of those months that I’ll be telling my kids about years from now. As for today, though, there’s always next year.