Sunday, November 29, 2009

NFL picks Week Twelve - Part II

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays. NOTE: Dave Adams' picks were all for the Thanksgiving games, in which he went 1-2.

STEVE CIRVELLO (2-1 last week, 20-13 overall)
Atlanta -12 over Tampa Bay
Carolina +3 over NY Jets
Cincinnati -14 over Cleveland

DAVE ADAMS (3-0 last week, 1-2 on Thanksgiving, 18-18 overall)

RICK MORRIS (0-3 last week, 0-1 with my best pick, 16-17 overall, 6-5 on best picks)
Miami -3 over Buffalo (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
Seattle -3 over St. Louis
Cincinnati -14 over Cleveland

RYAN ISLEY (1-2 last week, 15-18 overall)
Indianapolis -3 1/2 over Houston
Cleveland +14 over Cincinnati
Philadelphia -9 over Washington

SEAN TRENCH (0-3 last week, 13-19-1 overall)
Atlanta -12 over Tampa Bay
San Francisco -3 over Jacksonville
Philadelphia -9 over Washington

My remaining picks (6-10 last week, 1-2 on Thanksgiving, 83-77-1 overall):
Indianapolis -3 1/2 over Houston
Jacksonville +3 over San Francisco
Chicago +11 over Minnesota
Washington +9 over Philadelphia
Baltimore -2 over Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay +12 over Atlanta
NY Jets -3 over Carolina
Arizona +3 over Tennessee
Kansas City +13 1/2 over San Diego
New England +1 1/2 over New Orleans

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video Clips: Fun Timewasters

By Rick Morris

From time to time, we try to accommodate our Lounge content consumers who just want some fun, light entertainment. Hence this edition of our Video Clips series, entitled "Fun Timewasters."

These are simply some video clips that you can enjoy and consume in the form of good, mindless entertainment. On with the show!

Playing soccer ... with actual cars? Yes, it's true.

Here's some of Pete Maravich's greatest shots from the HORSE competitions back in the '70s:

And how about this Pistol Pete/Iceman showdown!

From the outstanding StepBrothers movie, here's the great "business pitch" scene. Boats'n'Hoes!

From The Sopranos, Richie Aprile lays the smack down on Beansie - repeatedly and painfully!

And to close, here's two promos from a 'rassler who really knew how to bring the goods back in the day, Captain Redneck Dick Murdoch!

Sportsology: Prematurely burying rookie QBs

By Rick Morris

Our good pal Russ Cohen at Sportsology (fellow members of The 21st Century Media Alliance) made some very good points about rookie QBs in a recent column, which we replicate here. The only note that I would add is that most teams having issues with first and second-year QBs regressing recently have been turning them loose way too quickly. The sane instinct at the first sign of success is not to treat these passers as veterans, but to continue to bring them along slowly.

Now, on to Russ's excellent column:

Take It Easy On Rookie Quarterbacks
By Russ Cohen

While watching the Mike and Mike show recently on ESPN2, I heard some alarming statements from Tim Hasselbeck when he was analyzing Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez and how their rookie campaigns are going.

Thankfully, I didn’t hear his entire spot because this hatchet job was too much. Stafford had some amazing heroics and actually came back on the field after his shoulder was clearly killing him by avoiding the medical staff. As a result, he threw the game-winning touchdown and led the Lions to their second win. WOW! I was impressed. Hasselbeck was too, but after that quickly faded, he talked about how he has trouble completing short passes.

“Quite honestly, when I’ve seen him play, I haven’t been really impressed,” he quipped. “We see the live arm. I’ve seen him miss guys, wide open, so many times, for a guy who was a #1 overall pick You would expect him to make certain throws that he’s missed a lot of this year, quite honestly.”

So now Sanchez gets ripped for his interceptions and “ball security” that Hasselbeck said he didn’t want to say he called, but he did when he started talking about it. He had “concerns” in Week Two when he was winning. So what, he’s a ROOKIE. In Sanchez’s case, he never talked about the positives.

Mark Sanchez – His pass completion percentage is low, but for a rookie 52.1 isn’t too bad. Matt Hasselbeck was 52.2 last year. I’m sure this will improve over time. His ten touchdowns are two more than David Garrard, and just one behind Kyle Orton and Tim’s brother. Stafford has done better than Sanchez in both of those categories, but his team is pretty bad, so I give higher marks for sure.

What wasn’t talked about are the terrible play calls. How about that 4th and 1 call by the Jets against New England? Tony Richardson, who has 12 rushing yards all season (and three carries at the time), gained nothing. Or what about that dropped pass on third down, by Braylon Edwards, when the Jets were trying to get back into the game?

Sanchez has three rushing touchdowns, and that’s tied for the league lead, but that wasn’t mentioned. One other thing about Sanchez, he has made an awful lot of QB sneaks this year to keep drives alive, that takes guts, and he has guts. He will go out there and mix it up strongly. He has moxy, and he will be a solid NFL quarterback, I’d say somewhere between Richard Todd and Ken O’Brien.

So let's keep this in mind: these guys are rookies! This kind of criticism is too harsh, and quite frankly, it’s too easy because they are at the beginning of their careers. Forget about the money they make, or where they have been drafted, that means nothing when they are on the field.

Let's remember:
Peyton Manning had 28 interceptions in his rookie season.
I saw John Elway fall down out of the huddle in one of his first attempts in his first game.
Joe Namath’s rookie season pass completion percentage was 48.2%, he had 2,220 yards, Sanchez will beat that (I know it's a different era but Joe threw the ball a lot for back then). He had 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The numbers are similar, folks. I am not comparing the two, but nobody threw him under the bus in his rookie campaign.

The future of media and technology

By Rick Morris

We at FDH are preparing a big project dealing with the turn of the decade; there's a special edition of our FDH LOUNGE program and a special publication coming out through our website.

One interview that we will have in that publication will be with our good friend Simon Applebaum. He disseminates his Tomorrow Will Be Televised brand on different platforms: his blog at and his weekly webcast (Mondays/two Fridays a month, 3-4 PM EDT on BlogTalkRadio and podcast at He is one of the foremost authorities on the convergence of technology and entertainment.

As a preview of our conversation with him, here are some snippets of an interview with journalist Charlene Weisler.

These are some thoughts on broadcast cable models moving into the future:

Here, he speaks about the ramifications of Jay Leno's move to 10 PM EDT on NBC:

These are some thoughts on issues of the Internet, TV and privacy:

And here are some predictions for the next five years:

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLVII

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NCAA football picks Week Thirteen

By Rick Morris

Last week 1-4, 32-37-1 overall.

Ohio +2 over Temple
West Virginia +1 over Pitt
Auburn +10 over Alabama
Nevada +13 1/2 over Boise State
Colorado +10 1/2 over Nebraska

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NFL picks Week Twelve - Part I

By Rick Morris

We continue posting FDH Lounge NFL picks on the site each week - here's a look back to Week Eleven for the full rundown of how we do this - and we've got a few for you today. Dave Adams' picks are his three for the week in our Dignitary Pick Contest and mine are not, simply part of my effort to pick every game this season. We will repost these picks as part of our full rundown this weekend.

Green Bay -12 over Detroit
Oakland -13 1/2 over Dallas
NY Giants -6 over Denver

Green Bay -12 over Detroit
Oakland -13 1/2 over Dallas
NY Giants -6 over Denver

Happy Thanksgiving

By Rick Morris

From all of us at FDH, we wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your bountiful turkey dinners today with your families as you ponder your blessings as we will be doing -- and enjoy this great MADtv skit celebrating the holiday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #81: November 25, 2009

By Rick Morris

After our vacation last week, we return tonight with Episode #81 of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on for our Thanksgiving Eve blowout.

We lead off with This Week in The FDH Lounge and our Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries, then we bring back one of our all-time favorite guests: second-generation Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson. Check out our coverage of Tom’s ZIGGY MILLION DOLLAR LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE, because we will be talking about this great initiative to fight cancer, as well as everything going on in the world of Ziggy. Then, towards the end of Hour One, our FDH Lounge Pigskin Report examines the most recent events in college and pro football, as well as our latest FDH LOUNGE Power Rankings.

Shortly into Hour Two, we welcome back another guest we’ve enjoyed in the past, Ken Palmer of the site The Giants Insider. He’ll have observations on that team’s huge win from last week and the overall state of the NFC playoff chase, as well as the other team he covers – the New Jersey Devils – and his alma mater (Penn State) being on the BCS bubble at the moment. Then, the return of our FDH Panel Question offers the Dignitaries an interesting query that people have wondered since the expansion of a few years ago: Why is ACC football such a disappointment?

In Hour Three, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER breaks down NFL Week 12 and we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape. We wrap with our other show-within-a-show, THE GOON SQUAD, and a look at the present NHL standings as well as a preview of one of the big early games of the season: the Thanksgiving Eve showdown in San Jose between the Sharks and the Hawks (now with 100% more Hossa!). Also, with the Olympic break mere weeks away, we’ll examine the remarks of Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman (for the record, FDH Managing Editor Rick Morris’s favorite athlete of all time). He indicated that his squad may see a fair number of combos at both forward and defense that have played together in the NHL. That seems to make a lot of sense.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NFL Week Twelve power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Previous ratings in parentheses.
1 New Orleans (1)
2 Indianapolis (2)
3 Minnesota (3)
4 New England (5)
5 Arizona (7)
6 Cincinnati (4)
7 Pittsburgh (6)
8 San Diego (8)
9 NY Giants (9)
10 Philadelphia (11)
11 Dallas (10)
12 Green Bay (17)
13 Jacksonville (19)
14 Baltimore (12)
15 Atlanta (14)
16 Denver (15)
17 Houston (13)
18 Miami (16)
19 Tennessee (23)
20 Chicago (21)
21 Carolina (18)
22 San Francisco (22)
23 NY Jets (20)
24 Washington (24)
25 Kansas City (27)
26 Oakland (28)
27 Seattle (25)
28 Buffalo (26)
29 Detroit (30)
30 St. Louis (29)
31 Tampa Bay (31)
32 Cleveland (32)

BIGGEST RISERS: Jacksonville (6 spots), Green Bay (5 spots), Tennessee (4 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Houston (4 spots), Carolina and NY Jets (3 spots)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

RIP Ken Ober

By Rick Morris

I'm dating myself horribly by mentioning this, but MTV's REMOTE CONTROL used to be playing all the time back in the dorms at Ohio University. It was a revolutionary show, the first game show to really embrace the irony in that genre and not take itself so seriously. It was also the first non-musical program on MTV, thus setting the stage for its present-day descent into no music and all-crap programming (but we won't blame the show for that!).

Great talents like Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn and Denis Leary got their first big breaks on the show. But it was built largely around the talents of comic Ken Ober, whose sarcastic-yet-smooth style made the show what it was, even more than the creative MTV gadgets that populated so much of the set.

Ober was just so great in that role on a show that really never got a chance to overstay its welcome, remaining forever attached to our memories of the end of the 1980s. He was so talented that many people almost took him for granted because he made it look so easy. I know that when I examine the people who helped shape my persona and approach for our FDH LOUNGE program that I've tended to overlook him myself (generally citing Tony Bruno, Steve Czaban and Glenn Beck -- when his show was goofier and less political), but I can see now how much I absorbed from him. I can't imagine how many other broadcasters of my generation can say the same.

It's tremendously sad that he passed away suddenly this week at age 52, with natural causes being strongly suspected. It is at least comforting to read that he had to know how respected he was based on the outpouring of people who did apparently have the opportunity to tell him that.

In the realm of giving credit where credit is due, we at FDH salute Matt Berry for an eloquent piece about what Ken Ober meant to him. We disagree with Berry's fantasy advice from time to time, particularly when we feel that it crosses over into advocating overmanaging, but he hit a bulls-eye with this tribute and it backs up what I said about how Ober influenced the broadcast style of our generation.

Ken's colleague at MTV Kurt Loder wrote a wonderful piece about his friend and co-worker.

And also, just to make this piece concrete and demonstrate just how easy Ken Ober made his job look, here's a clip from the first-ever edition of the show on MTV back on December 7, 1987. Take a trip back 22 years and relive the fun of that great program. There was only one REMOTE CONTROL and there will only ever be one Ken Ober. RIP to a true great and, from what his friends say, a truly nice man off the air.

NFL Picks Week Eleven

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

STEVE CIRVELLO (2-1 last week, 18-12 overall)
Pittsburgh -10 over Kansas City
New Orleans -11 ½ over Tampa Bay
Minnesota -10 ½ over Seattle

RICK MORRIS (1-2 last week, 1-0 with my best pick, 16-14 overall, 6-4 on best picks)
Houston -4 ½ over Tennessee (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
Detroit -3 ½ over Cleveland
Pittsburgh -10 over Kansas City

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 14-16 overall)
Tennessee -4 ½ over Houston
Indianapolis -1 ½ over Baltimore
San Diego -2 ½ over Denver

SEAN TRENCH (1-2 last week, 13-16-1 overall)
Houston -4 ½ over Tennessee
Cincinnati -9 ½ over Oakland
Pittsburgh -10 over Kansas City

RYAN ISLEY (2-1 last week, 14-16 overall)
Pittsburgh -10 over Kansas City
Indianapolis -1 ½ over Baltimore
Detroit -3 ½ over Cleveland

My remaining picks (7-8 last week, 76-67-1 overall, including the Thursday night pick posted on The FDH Lounge Twitter account:

Buffalo +8 ½ over Jacksonville
Baltimore +1 ½ over Indianapolis
NY Giants -6 ½ over Atlanta
San Francisco +6 ½ over Green Bay
Minnesota -10 ½ over Seattle
Washington +11 over Dallas
Tampa Bay +11 ½ over New Orleans
Arizona -9 over St. Louis
NY Jets +10 ½ over New England
Cincinnati -9 ½ over Oakland
San Diego -2 ½ over Denver
Philadelphia -3 over Chicago

Friday, November 20, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLVI

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

NCAA football picks Week Twelve

By Rick Morris

Last week 2-3, 31-33-1 on the season.

Northern Illinois +1 over Ohio
Notre Dame -6 over UConn
Ohio State -11 1/2 over Michigan
Mississippi -4 1/2 over LSU
Texas Tech +6 1/2 over Oklahoma

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Ziggy-related challenge we want to promote

By Rick Morris

The chance to meet great people and form relationships with them has been so valuable to us as we have built the FDH brands. One of the great thrills thus far was to interview Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson (as one of only two in-studio interviews in the history of our FDH LOUNGE program!) and get to know him and form a friendship.

As such, we would be inclined to promote Tom's latest good work even if we at FDH did not have our own difficult family run-ins with cancer.

Here is Tom's initiative, in his own words:

"My wife, Susan Shephard Wilson, died in my arms on November 18, 2000. She was forty-four years old. From the moment she was diagnosed with Stage 3b invasive breast cancer, Susan, who had always been my strength, began to teach me what it truly means to LIVESTRONG ...

Zig-Zagging: Loving Madly, Losing Badly…How Ziggy Saved My Life, came from the journaling I did in an effort to make sense for myself of the seven years my family battled the consuming, insidious disease that is cancer. The decision to publish the raw, emotional, and painful story of our personal war against cancer and my personal struggle against the crippling grief, was in the hope that telling it might bring comfort to someone else struggling along a similar path of cancer diagnosis ...

ZIGGY’s MILLION DOLLAR LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE is OUR opportunity to come together to make a real difference! Through this campaign starting November 18, the anniversary of Susan’s death, to January 19, her birthday, I am donating 100% of my personal royalties to LIVESTRONG, and coupled with the HCI affiliate program, that averages out to roughly $4.50 from every purchase of Zig-Zagging to the LIVESTRONG organization when ordered from this link. My HOPE is that together we will raise a MILLION dollars (or more!)for LIVESTRONG over the next two months!

With love,

Tom Wilson

…and Ziggy"

This book would certainly make a wonderful Christmas present. I found it very inspiring and I plan to have a review up on our site well before the challenge period is done so that people can learn more and thus put themselves in a position to benefit from reading it.

Please consider taking part in this challenge by purchasing the book. You will certainly gain from it and you will be helping a great cause as well.

Sportsology: Tiffani Theissen & the new White Collar show

Posted by Rick Morris

Courtesy of our good friends at Sportsology, fellow members of The 21st Century Media Alliance, here is a great profile about an excellent new show on the USA network.

Tiffani Theissen Loves Her New Role
By Russ Cohen

Tiffani Theissen will always be remembered for her roles on “Saved By the Bell” and “Beverly Hills 90210” but now she is playing a role that she absolutely loves. She is Elizabeth Burke, and her new show is the USA hit White Collar, which airs every Friday at 10/9C.

“Ever since I read the script, which has been a little over a year ago now, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the show, and more and more, when the cast was brought together, the more excitement I had for the show and wanting to be a part of it,” she said joyfully. “This is really the first time I feel like in my whole entire career which has been over 25, 26 years of doing this that I finally feel like I’m kind of playing a role a little closer to home for me, which is kind of exciting.”

Wow, that is a strong statement from this veteran actress, who is expecting her first child, and now this entire experience puts her in uncharted water.

“You know, that’s a very good question in the sense that I really don’t know being that I am a first-time mom, so it’ll be a very different kind of thing for me being that I’ll be working and being a mother at the same time. There are millions of people who do it. My mom did it herself, so I know I can handle it, but it’ll be a very new experience, so it’s hard to say what is going to be like. It’ll be all brand new for me.”

Why should viewers tune into White Collar?

“Oh gosh, well, besides having really cute guys on the show, it’s definitely the type of TV and movies that I like to see. I’m a huge fan of The Thomas Crown Affair and those kinds of feels of movies and shows and 48 Hours, which is so interesting, Catch Me If You Can, things like that,” she said playfully. “If people are really into those kinds of movies and those kind of story-telling, they have to watch this show. It is so absolutely entertaining. The characters are so rich and so fun to watch and follow.

“As well as you see New York City in a completely different way. It’s shot in a beautiful way. It’s interesting, a lot of shows that are shot in New York City can be a little more dark and gray, and this show really, I think, kind of captures New York City in a really beautiful light, and it’s nice.”

Theissen has embraced her past and now looks forward to the future.

“Yes, well, it’s bittersweet at times. There’s good and bad. There are people who of course followed my career and who have loved the shows that I’ve done in the past and are always up to seeing something new of myself or any of my past co-stars, which is really wonderful. Then there’s always people who have opinions, and of course, that’s how the world works, and that’s A-OK.

“Some people were really open and loving to the fact that I’m actually playing a role that’s quite different than what I’ve played in the past. Like I said, it’s definitely much more close to home for me, this character, but some people had a hard time with it. Some people didn’t believe the relationship between Tim and I, which is so funny to me because we had chemistry from day one, but that’s how the entertainment business works. That’s how people are, and that’s okay. Everybody has their opinions.”

Our opinion is this show is a hit. Check out the video of Lisa Marie Latino interviewing stars Tim DeKay (Peter Burke) and Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer).

Stratfor: Breaking down the KSM trial

Posted by Rick Morris

This column is courtesy of the great geopolitics site Stratfor, which remarkably allows for some of their great articles to be syndicated to other sites with full credit. Fortunately, this is one such article.

Deciphering the Mohammed Trial
from Stratfor

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in federal court in New York. Holder’s decision was driven by the need for the U.S. government to decide how to dispose of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. Naval base outside the boundaries of the United States selected as the camp in which to hold suspected al Qaeda members.

We very carefully use the word “camp” rather than prison or prisoner of war camp. This is because of an ongoing and profound ambiguity not only in U.S. government perceptions of how to define those held there, but also due to uncertainties in international law, particularly with regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Were the U.S. facility at Guantanamo a prison, then its residents would be criminals. If it were a POW camp, then they would be enemy soldiers being held under the rules of war. It has never really been decided which these men are, and therefore their legal standing has remained unclear.

War vs. Criminal Justice

The ambiguity began shortly after 9/11, when then-U.S. President George W. Bush defined two missions: waging a war on terror, and bringing Osama bin Laden and his followers to justice. Both made for good rhetoric. But they also were fundamentally contradictory. A war is not a judicial inquiry, and a criminal investigation is not part of war.

An analogy might be drawn from Pearl Harbor. Imagine that in addition to stating that the United States was at war with Japan, Franklin Roosevelt also called for bringing the individual Japanese pilots who struck Hawaii to justice under American law. This would make no sense. As an act of war, the Japanese action fell under the rules of war as provided for in international law, the U.S. Constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Japanese pilots could not be held individually responsible for the lawful order they received. In the same sense, trying to bring soldiers to trial in a civilian court in the United States would make no sense. Creating a mission in which individual Japanese airmen would be hunted down and tried under the rules of evidence not only would make no sense, it would be impossible. Building a case against them individually also would be impossible. Judges would rule on evidence, on whether an unprejudiced jury could be found, and so on. None of this happened, of course — World War II was a war, not a judicial inquiry.

It is important to consider how wars are conducted. Enemy soldiers are not shot or captured because of what they have done; they are shot and captured because of who they are — members of an enemy military force. War, once launched, is pre-emptive. Soldiers are killed or captured in the course of fighting enemy forces, or even before they have carried out hostile acts. Soldiers are not held responsible for their actions, but neither are they immune to attack just because they have not done anything. Guilt and innocence do not enter into the equation. Certainly, if war crimes are in question, charges may be brought; the UCMJ determines how they will be tried by U.S. forces. Soldiers are tried by courts-martial, not by civilian courts, because of their status as soldiers. Soldiers are tried by a jury of their peers, and their peers are held to be other soldiers.

International law is actually not particularly ambiguous about the status of the members of al Qaeda. The Geneva Conventions do not apply to them because they have not adhered to a fundamental requirement of the Geneva Conventions, namely, identifying themselves as soldiers of an army. Doing so does not mean they must wear a uniform. The postwar Geneva Conventions make room for partisans, something older versions of the conventions did not. A partisan is not a uniformed fighter, but he must wear some form of insignia identifying himself as a soldier to enjoy the conventions’ protections. As Article 4.1.6 puts it, prisoners of war include “Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.” The Geneva Conventions of 1949 does not mention, nor provide protection to, civilians attacking foreign countries without openly carrying arms.

The reasoning behind this is important. During the Franco-Prussian war, French franc-tireurs fired on Prussian soldiers. Ununiformed and without insignia, they melded into the crowd. It was impossible for the Prussians to distinguish between civilians and soldiers, so they fired on both, and civilian casualties resulted. The framers of the Geneva Conventions held the franc-tireurs, not the Prussian soldiers, responsible for the casualties. Their failure to be in uniform forced the Prussians to defend themselves at the cost of civilian lives. The franc-tireurs were seen as using civilians as camouflage. This was regarded as outside the rules of war, and those who carried out such acts were seen as not protected by the conventions. They were not soldiers, and were not to be treated as such.

An Ambiguous Status

Extending protections to partisans following World War II was seen as a major concession. It was done with concerns that it not be extended so far that combatants of irregular forces could legally operate using their ability to blend in with surrounding civilians, and hence a requirement of wearing armbands. The status of purely covert operatives remained unchanged: They were not protected under the Geneva Conventions. Their status remained ambiguous.

During World War II, it was U.S. Army practice to hold perfunctory trials followed by executions. During the Battle of the Bulge, German commandos captured wearing U.S. uniforms — in violation of the Geneva Conventions — were summarily tried in field courts-martial and executed. The idea that such individuals were to be handed over to civilian courts was never considered. The actions of al Qaeda simply were not anticipated in the Geneva Conventions. And to the extent they were expected, they violated the conventions.

Holder’s decision to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to federal court makes it clear that Mohammed was not a soldier acting in time of war, but a criminal. While during times of war spies are tried as criminals, their status is precarious, particularly if they are members of an enemy army. Enemy soldiers out of uniform carrying out reconnaissance or espionage are subject to military, not civilian, justice, and frequently are executed. A spy captured in the course of collecting information is a civilian, particularly in peacetime, and normally is tried as a criminal with rules of evidence.

Which was Mohammed? Under the Geneva Conventions, his actions in organizing the Sept. 11 attacks, which were carried out without uniforms or other badges of a combatant, denies him status and protection as a POW. Logically, he is therefore a criminal, but if he is, consider the consequences.

Criminal law is focused on punishments meted out after the fact. They rarely have been preventive measures. In either case, they follow strict rules of evidence, require certain treatments of prisoners and so on. For example, prisoners have to be read the Miranda warning. Soldiers are not policeman. They are not trained or expected to protect the legal rights of captives save as POWs under the UCMJ, nor protect the chain of custody of evidence nor countless other things that are required in a civilian court. In criminal law, it is assumed that law enforcement has captured the prisoner and is well-versed in these rules. In this case, the capture was made without any consideration of these matters, nor would one expect such consideration.

Consider further the role of U.S. covert operations in these captures. The United States conducts covert operations in which operatives work out of uniform and are generally not members of the military. Operating outside the United States, they are not protected by U.S. law although they do operate under the laws and regulations promulgated by the U.S. government. Much of their operations run counter to international and national law. At the same time, their operations are accepted as best practices by the international system. Some operate under cover of diplomatic immunity but carry out operations incompatible with their status as diplomats. Others operate without official cover. Should those under unofficial cover be captured, their treatment falls under local law, if such exists. The Geneva Conventions do not apply to them, nor was it intended to.

Spies, saboteurs and terrorists fall outside the realm of international law. This class of actors falls under the category of national law, leaving open the question of their liability if they conduct acts inimical to a third country. Who has jurisdiction? The United States is claiming that Mohammed is to be tried under the criminal code of the United States for actions planned in Afghanistan but carried out by others in the United States. It is a defensible position, but where does this leave American intelligence planners working at CIA headquarters for actions carried out by others in a third country? Are they subject to prosecution in the third country? Those captured in the third country clearly are, but the claim here is that Mohammed is subject to prosecution under U.S. laws for actions carried out by others in the United States. And that creates an interesting reciprocal liability.

A Failure to Evolve

The fact is that international law has not evolved to deal with persons like Mohammed. Or more precisely, most legal discussion under international law is moving counter to the Geneva Conventions’ intent, which was to treat the franc-tireurs as unworthy of legal protection because they were not soldiers and were violating the rules of war. International law wants to push Mohammed into a category where he doesn’t fit, providing protections that are not apparent under the Geneva Conventions. The United States has shoved him into U.S. criminal law, where he doesn’t fit either, unless the United States is prepared to accept reciprocal liability for CIA personnel based in the United States planning and supporting operations in third countries. The United States has never claimed, for example, that the KGB planners who operated agents in the United States on behalf of the Soviet Union were themselves subject to criminal prosecution.

A new variety of warfare has emerged in which treatment as a traditional POW doesn’t apply and criminal law doesn’t work. Criminal law creates liabilities the United States doesn’t want to incur, and it is not geared to deal with a terrorist like Mohammed. U.S. criminal law assumes that capture is in the hands of law enforcement officials. Rights are prescribed and demanded, including having lawyers present and so forth. Such protections are practically and theoretically absurd in this case: Mohammed is not a soldier and he is not a suspected criminal presumed innocent until proven guilty. Law enforcement is not a practical counter to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A nation cannot move from the rules of counterterrorism to an American courtroom; they are incompatible modes of operation. Nor can a nation use the code of criminal procedures against a terrorist organization operating transnationally. Instead, they must be stopped before they commit their action, and issuing search warrants and allowing attorneys present at questioning is not an option.

Therefore — and now we move to the political reality — it is difficult to imagine how the evidence accumulated against Mohammed could enter a courtroom. Ignoring the methods of questioning, which is a separate issue, how can one prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without compromising sources and methods, and why should one? Mohammed was on a battlefield but not operating as a soldier. Imagine doing criminal forensics on a battlefield to prove the criminal liability of German commandos wearing American uniforms.

In our mind, there is a very real possibility that Mohammed could be found not guilty in a courtroom. The cases of O.J. Simpson and of Jewish Defense League head Rabbi Meir Kahane’s killer, El Sayyid Nosair — both found not guilty despite overwhelming evidence — come to mind. Juries do strange things, particularly amid what will be the greatest media circus imaginable in the media capital of the world.

But it may not be the jury that is the problem. A federal judge will have to ask the question of whether prejudicial publicity of such magnitude has occurred that Mohammed can’t receive a fair trial. (This is probably true.) Questions will be raised about whether he has received proper legal counsel, which undoubtedly he hasn’t. Issues about the chain of custody of evidence will be raised; given that he was held by troops and agents, and not by law enforcement, the chances of compromised evidence is likely. The issue of torture will, of course, also be raised but that really isn’t the main problem. How do you try a man under U.S. legal procedures who was captured in a third country by non-law enforcement personnel, and who has been in military custody for seven years?

There is a nontrivial possibility that he will be acquitted or have his case thrown out of court, which would be a foreign policy disaster for the United States. Some might view it as a sign of American adherence to the rule of law and be impressed, others might be convinced that Mohammed was not guilty in more than a legal sense and was held unjustly, and others might think the United States has bungled another matter.

The real problem here is international law, which does not address acts of war committed by non-state actors out of uniform. Or more precisely, it does, but leaves them deliberately in a state of legal limbo, with captors left free to deal with them as they wish. If the international legal community does not like the latter, it is time they did the hard work of defining precisely how a nation deals with an act of war carried out under these circumstances.

The international legal community has been quite vocal in condemning American treatment of POWs after 9/11, but it hasn’t evolved international law, even theoretically, to cope with this. Sept. 11 is not a crime in the proper sense of the term, and prosecuting the guilty is not the goal. Instead, it was an act of war carried out outside the confines of the Geneva Conventions. The U.S. goal is destroying al Qaeda so that it can no longer function, not punishing those who have acted. Similarly the goal in 1941 was not punishing the Japanese pilots at Pearl Harbor but destroying the Japanese Empire, and any Japanese soldier was a target who could be killed without trial in the course of combat. If it wishes to solve this problem, international law will have to recognize that al Qaeda committed an act of war, and its destruction has legal sanction without judicial review. And if some sort of protection is to be provided al Qaeda operatives out of uniform, then the Geneva Conventions must be changed, and with it the status of spies and saboteurs of all countries.

Holder has opened up an extraordinarily complex can of worms with this decision. As U.S. attorney general, he has committed himself to proving Mohammed’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt while guaranteeing that his constitutional rights (for a non-U.S. citizen captured and held outside the United States under extraordinary circumstances by individuals not trained as law enforcement personnel, no less) are protected. It is Holder’s duty to ensure Mohammed’s prosecution, conviction and fair treatment under the law. It is hard to see how he can.

Whatever the politics of this decision — and all such decisions have political dimensions — the real problem faced by both the Obama and Bush administrations has been the failure of international law to evolve to provide guidance on dealing with combatants such as al Qaeda. International law has clung to a model of law governing a very different type of warfare despite new realities. International law must therefore either reaffirm the doctrine that combatants who do not distinguish themselves from noncombatants are not due the protections of international law, or it must clearly define what those protections are. Otherwise, international law discredits itself.

Stratfor: The Fort Hood massacre

Posted by Rick Morris

This column is courtesy of the great geopolitics site Stratfor, which remarkably allows for some of their great articles to be syndicated to other sites with full credit. Fortunately, this is one such article.

The Hasan Case: Overt Clues and Tactical Challenges
from Stratfor

In last week’s global security and intelligence report, we discussed the recent call by the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wahayshi, for jihadists to conduct simple attacks against a variety of targets in the Muslim world and the West. We also noted how it is relatively simple to conduct such attacks against soft targets using improvised explosive devices, guns or even knives and clubs.

The next day, a lone gunman, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. The victims were in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, a facility on the base where troops are prepared for deployment and where they take care of certain processing tasks such as completing insurance paperwork and receiving medical examinations and vaccinations.

Even though the targets of Hasan’s attack were soldiers, they represented a very soft target in this environment. Most soldiers on bases inside the United States are normally not armed and are only provided weapons for training. The only personnel who regularly carry weapons are the military police and the base civilian police officers. In addition to being unarmed, the soldiers at the center were closely packed together in the facility as they waited to proceed from station to station. The unarmed, densely packed mass of people allowed Hasan to kill 13 (12 soldiers and one civilian employee of the center) and wound 42 others when he opened fire.

Hasan is a U.S.-born Muslim who, according to STRATFOR sources and media accounts, has had past contact with jihadists, including the radical Imam Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is a U.S.-born imam who espouses a jihadist ideology and who was discussed at some length in the 9/11 commission report for his links to 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Al-Awlaki, who is currently living in Yemen and reportedly has contacts with al Qaeda, posted a message on his Web site Nov. 9 praising Hasan’s actions. Despite Hasan’s connections to al-Awlaki and other jihadists, it is unknown at this point if he was even aware of al-Wahayshi’s recent message calling for simple attacks, and therefore it is impossible to tell if his attack was in response to it.

However, one thing that is certain is that investigators examining Hasan’s computer hard drive, e-mail traffic and Internet history will be looking into that possibility, along with other indications that Hasan was linked to radicals.

We noted last week that by their very nature, individual actors and small cells are very difficult for the government to detect. They must somehow identify themselves by contacting a government informant or another person who reports them to the authorities, attend a militant training camp or conduct correspondence with a person or organization under government scrutiny. In the Hasan case, it now appears that Hasan did self-identify by making radical statements to people he worked with, who reported him to the authorities. It also appears that he had correspondence with people such as al-Awlaki, whom the government was monitoring. Because of this behavior, Hasan brought himself to the attention of the Department of Defense, the FBI and the CIA.

The fact that Hasan was able to commit this attack after bringing government attention to himself could be due to a number of factors. Chief among them is the fact that it is tactically impossible for a government to identify every aspiring militant actor and to pre-empt every act of violence. The degree of difficulty is increased greatly if an actor does indeed act alone and does not give any overt clues through his actions or his communications of his intent to attack. Because of this, the Hasan case provides an excellent opportunity to examine national security investigations and their utility and limitations.

The Nature of Intelligence Investigations

The FBI will typically open up an intelligence investigation (usually referred to as a national security investigation) in any case where there is an indication or allegation that a person is involved in terrorist activity but there is no evidence that a specific law has been broken. Many times these investigations are opened up due to a lead passed by the CIA, National Security Agency or a foreign liaison intelligence service. Other times an FBI investigation can come as a spin-off from another FBI counterterrorism investigation already under way or be prompted by a piece of information collected by an FBI informant or even by a tip from a concerned citizen — like the flight instructors who alerted the FBI to the suspicious behavior of some foreign flight students prior to the 9/11 attacks. In such a case, the FBI case agent in charge of the investigation will open a preliminary inquiry, which gives the agent a limited window of time to look into the matter. If no indication of criminal activity is found, the preliminary inquiry must be closed unless the agent receives authorization from the special agent in charge of his division and FBI headquarters to extend it.

If, during the preliminary inquiry, the investigating agents find probable cause that a crime has been committed, the FBI will open a full-fledged criminal investigation into the case, similar to what we saw in the case of Luqman Ameen Abdullah and his followers in Detroit.

One of the large problems in national security investigations is separating the wheat from the chaff. Many leads are based on erroneous information or a misidentification of the suspect — there is a huge issue associated with the confusion caused by the transliteration of Arabic names and the fact that there are many people bearing the same names. Jihadists also have the tendency to use multiple names and identities. And there are many cases in which people will falsely report a person to the FBI out of malice. Because of these factors, national security investigations proceed slowly and usually do not involve much (if any) contact with the suspect and his close associates. If the suspect is a real militant planning a terrorist attack, investigators do not want to tip him off, and if he is innocent, they do not want to sully his reputation by showing up and overtly interviewing everyone he knows. Due to its controversial history of domestic intelligence activities, the FBI has become acutely aware of its responsibility to protect privacy rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and other laws.

And the rights guaranteed under the Constitution do complicate these national security investigations. It is not illegal for someone to say that Muslims should attack U.S. troops due to their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that more Muslims should conduct attacks like the June 1 shooting at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark. — things that Hasan is reported to have said. Radical statements and convictions are not illegal — although they certainly would appear to be conduct unbecoming a U.S. Army officer. (We will leave to others the discussion of the difficulties in dealing with problem officers who are minorities and doctors and who owe several years of service in return for their education.)

There are also many officers and enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Army who own personal weapons and who use them for self-defense, target shooting or hunting. There is nothing extraordinary or illegal about a U.S. Army major owning personal weapons. With no articulable violation of U.S. law, the FBI would have very little to act upon in a case like Hasan’s. Instead, even if they found cause to extend their preliminary inquiry, they would be pretty much limited to monitoring his activities (and perhaps his communications, with a court order) and waiting for a law to be violated. In the Hasan case, it would appear that the FBI did not find probable cause that a law had been violated before he opened fire at Fort Hood. Although perhaps if the FBI had been watching his activities closely and with an eye toward “the how” of terrorist attacks, they might have noticed him conducting preoperational surveillance of the readiness center and even a dry run of the attack.

Of course, in addition to just looking for violations of the law, the other main thrust of a national security investigation is to determine whom the suspect is connected to and whom he is talking to or planning with. In past cases, such investigations have uncovered networks of jihadist actors working together in the United States, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. However, if all Hasan did in his correspondence with people such as al-Awlaki was exercise his First Amendment right to hold radical convictions, and if he did not engage in any type of conspiracy to conduct an attack, he did not break the law.

Another issue that complicates national security cases is that they are almost always classified at the secret level or above. This is understandable, considering they are often opened based upon intelligence produced by sensitive intelligence programs. However, this classification means that only those people with the proper clearance and an established need to know can be briefed on the case. It is not at all unusual for the FBI to visit a high-ranking official at another agency to brief the official on the fact that the FBI is conducting a classified national security investigation involving a person working for the official’s agency. The rub is that they will frequently tell the official that he or she is not at liberty to share details of the investigation with other individuals in the agency because they do not have a clear need to know. The FBI agent will also usually ask the person briefed not to take any action against the target of the investigation, so that the investigation is not compromised. While some people will disagree with the FBI’s determination of who really needs to know about the investigation and go on to brief a wider audience, many officials are cowed by the FBI and sit on the information.

Of course, the size of an organization is also a factor in the dissemination of information. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army are large organizations, and it is possible that officials at the Pentagon or the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (still known by its old acronym CID) headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., were briefed on the case and that local officials at Fort Hood were not. The Associated Press is now reporting that the FBI had alerted a Defense Criminal Investigative Service agent assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Washington about Hasan’s contacts with al-Awlaki, and ABC reports that the Defense Department is denying the FBI notified them. It would appear that the finger-pointing and bureaucratic blame-shifting normally associated with such cases has begun.

Even more severe problems would have plagued the dissemination of information from the CIA to local commanders and CID officers at Fort Hood. Despite the intelligence reforms put in place after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government still faces large obstacles when it comes to sharing intelligence information with law enforcement personnel.

Criminal Acts vs. Terrorism

So far, the Hasan shooting investigation is being run by the Army CID, and the FBI has been noticeably — and uncharacteristically — absent from the scene. As the premier law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI will often assume authority over investigations where there is even a hint of terrorism. Since 9/11, the number of FBI/JTTF offices across the country has been dramatically increased, and the JTTFs are specifically charged with investigating cases that may involve terrorism. Therefore, we find the FBI’s absence in this case to be quite out of the ordinary.

However, with Hasan being a member of the armed forces, the victims being soldiers or army civilian employees and the incident occurring at Fort Hood, the case would seem to fall squarely under the mantle of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). From a prosecutorial perspective, a homicide trial under the UCMJ should be very tidy and could be quickly concluded. It will not involve all the potential loose ends that could pop up in a federal terrorism trial, especially when those loose ends involve what the FBI and CIA knew about Hasan, when they learned it and who they told. Also, politically, there are some who would like to see the Hasan case remain a criminal matter rather than a case of terrorism. Following the shooting death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah and considering the delicate relationship between Muslim advocacy groups and the U.S. government, some people would rather see Hasan portrayed as a mentally disturbed criminal than as an ideologically driven lone wolf.

Despite the CID taking the lead in prosecuting the case, the classified national security investigation by the CIA and FBI into Hasan and his possible connections to jihadist elements is undoubtedly continuing. Senior members of the government will certainly demand to know if Hasan had any confederates, if he was part of a bigger plot and if there are more attacks to come. Several congressmen and senators are also calling for hearings into the case, and if such hearings occur, they will certainly produce an abundance of interesting information pertaining to Hasan and the national security investigation of his activities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #81: next week

By Rick Morris

THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on is taking our Thanksgiving break one week early. We return for Episode #81 on Wednesday, November 25 at our usual time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NFL Week Eleven power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Previous ratings in parentheses.

1 New Orleans (1)
2 Indianapolis (3)
3 Minnesota (2)
4 Cincinnati (9)
5 New England (5)
6 Pittsburgh (4)
7 Arizona (11)
8 San Diego (13)
9 NY Giants (12)
10 Dallas (8)
11 Philadelphia (10)
12 Baltimore (14)
13 Houston (15)
14 Atlanta (7)
15 Denver (6)
16 Miami (17)
17 Green Bay (18)
18 Carolina (21)
19 Jacksonville (20)
20 NY Jets (16)
21 Chicago (19)
22 San Francisco (22)
23 Tennessee (26)
24 Washington (25)
25 Seattle (24)
26 Buffalo (23)
27 Kansas City (27)
28 Oakland (28)
29 St. Louis (29)
30 Detroit (30)
31 Tampa Bay (31)
32 Cleveland (32)

BIGGEST RISERS: Cincinnati and San Diego (5 spots), Arizona (4 spots), NY Giants (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Denver (9 spots), Atlanta (7 spots), NY Jets (4 spots), Buffalo, Carolina and Tennessee (3 spots)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Video Clips: Japanese game shows

By Rick Morris

In order to help entertain you, we have always sought to bring you entertaining videos here on the site from time to time. Today's theme? Japanese game shows!

Now this is a country that knows how to put on a game show! Granted, some of this is a little sadistic, but that just ups the entertainment value in our book. And as you will see, some of these shows have spread beyond Japanese soil, because again, nobody thinks of this kind of cool stuff like they do.

We've got a couple of different genres for you:

The "Silent Library" game (and we'll start with one of the greatest Internet clips ever)

Human Tetris

Treadmill/Rope Swing

NFL picks Week Ten

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

STEVE CIRVELLO (1-2 last week, 16-10 overall)
New Orleans -14 over St. Louis
Minnesota -16 1/2 over Detroit
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Cleveland

RICK MORRIS (1-2 last week, 0-1 with my best pick, 15-12 overall, 5-4 on best picks)
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Cleveland (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
Denver -4 over Washington
Dallas -3 over Green Bay

DAVE ADAMS (2-1 last week, 13-14 overall)
New Orleans -14 over St. Louis
Baltimore -10 1/2 over Cleveland
Indianapolis -3 over New England

SEAN TRENCH (2-1 last week, 12-14-1 overall)
New Orleans -14 over St. Louis
Pittsburgh -7 over Cleveland
San Diego -1 over Philadelphia

RYAN ISLEY (1-2 last week, 12-15 overall)
Tampa Bay +10 over Miami
San Diego -1 over Philadelphia
Indianapolis -3 over New England

My remaining picks (9-4 last week, 69-58-1 overall, including the Thursday night pick posted on The FDH Lounge Twitter account)
NY Jets -7 over Jacksonville
Pittsburgh -7 over Cincinnati
Tennessee -7 over Buffalo
Detroit +16 1/2 over Minnesota
New Orleans -14 over St. Louis
Atlanta -1 1/2 over Carolina
Tampa Bay +10 over Miami
Kansas City +2 over Oakland
Seattle +9 over Arizona
San Diego -1 over Philadelphia
New England +3 over Indianapolis

Saturday, November 14, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

NCAA football picks Week Eleven

By Rick Morris

Last week 3-2, 29-30-1 on the season.

Ohio State -16 1/2 over Iowa
Tennessee +5 1/2 over Mississippi
Notre Dame +6 1/2 over Pittsburgh
Texas Tech +4 1/2 over Oklahoma State
California -3 over Arizona

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

By Rick Morris

As Ryan Isley and I said earlier tonight on our FDH LOUNGE program, veterans are among the greatest heroes walking the earth today. All of us living our lives away from the dangers they have faced on our behalf truly stand on their shoulders, as their willingness to shield us from the worst of humanity is inspirational beyond words.

This tribute symbolizes what they have done for us. God Bless them today and always.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #80: November 11, 2009

By Rick Morris

Our 80th episode of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on demonstrates yet again why we say that our theme is "nothing is off-topic."

After The Opening Statements of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge, we bring back another episode of The FDH Lounge Pigskin Report with a look at pro football headlines. In the second half of Hour One, we welcome the chance to speak with Pat O’Conner, President of Minor League Baseball as he talks about continuing developments with the national pastime’s representation at the grass roots level.

Hour Two opens with a talk with new Philadelphia Phillies scout and former All-Star Phillies third baseman Dave Hollins. His observations on the recent baseball postseason will surely be interesting, especially in light of his 1993 World Series appearance with the Phils. Also, a late addition to the broadcast: Hollins' former teammate, another former Phillies third baseman and Big League Baseball Academy proprietor Charlie Hayes.

In the second half of the hour, we start our FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER a bit early as we bring you our college hoops team draft: a fantasy-sports style pool where we draft college basketball teams instead of individual players. Check out our scoring system and draft board from the blog.

In Hour Three, the INSIDER continues with a fantasy football stretch run preview with Steve Schwartz of We'll subsequently break down NFL Week 10 before we then bring on KFFL Managing Editor Bryce McRae for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape. We wrap with our other show-within-a-show, THE GOON SQUAD, and a look at the present NHL standings and Monday night's inductions into the Hockey Hall of Fame (including the one and only Stevie Y!).

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

NFL Week Ten power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Previous ratings in parentheses.

1 New Orleans (1)
2 Minnesota (3)
3 Indianapolis (2)
4 Pittsburgh (4)
5 New England (5)
6 Denver (6)
7 Atlanta (11)
8 Dallas (10)
9 Cincinnati (12)
10 Philadelphia (7)
11 Arizona (14)
12 NY Giants (8)
13 San Diego (16)
14 Baltimore (9)
15 Houston (13)
16 NY Jets (15)
17 Miami (17)
18 Green Bay (18)
19 Chicago (19)
20 Jacksonville (24)
21 Carolina (21)
22 San Francisco (20)
23 Buffalo (22)
24 Seattle (23)
25 Washington (25)
26 Tennessee (26)
27 Kansas City (27)
28 Oakland (28)
29 St. Louis (29)
30 Detroit (30)
31 Tampa Bay (32)
32 Cleveland (31)

BIGGEST RISERS: Atlanta and Jacksonville (4 spots), Arizona, Cincinnati and San Diego (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Philadelphia (3 spots), NY Giants (4 spots), Baltimore (5 spots)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The fall of the Berlin Wall - the moment of a lifetime

By Rick Morris

For a child of the Cold War like me, the fall of the Berlin Wall was unthinkable. Regardless of the political liberalization in Eastern Europe in 1989, that one seemingly unassailable symbol of communist hegemony loomed larger than life -- and after the Chinese government cracked down in such cruel and inhuman fashion mere months earlier. It was the site of Ronald Reagan's seemingly futile challenge to the Soviet Union to "tear down this wall" a mere 2 1/2 years earlier.

But on November 9, 1989, it happened.

Whether by accident or design, the East German officials communicated to the public, almost in passing, that travel restrictions were being lifted. A mass of humanity descended on the Wall and unlike what had happened months earlier in Beijing, senior officials were unwilling to order the authorities on the scene to use lethal force to put down the uprising.

So the people called the bluff and before you knew it, people were going through the border passings, climbing up on the Wall itself and essentially a mass party broke out in front of cameras beaming the scene worldwide.

Check out the prescient opening statement from this CBC piece on that night.

Sensing the end was near, a good friend and I grabbed some Stoli and headed to his apartment to watch it all unfold on TV (for whatever reason, I also remember that we saw the episode of Cheers that night in which Carla was widowed when her husband was run over with a Zamboni). Unfortunately for me, I then had to put in an overnight shift at the school newspaper supervising the layout of the sports section, but I survived my youthful overindulgence in heroic fashion!

But all in all, that night was completely unforgettable to me. For my money, we have never seen a moment like that and we never will again (if only because it would seem like a pale imitation of the first time): the world's foremost physical symbol of tyranny being toppled live in front of the world as a vast populace celebrates newfound freedom in real time. Growing up as a child with distant relatives behind the Iron Curtain, hearing stories of how my great-aunt would send one box of shoes to Poland with only left shoes and one with only right shoes so that the totalitarians in the government would not be easily able to loot the contents -- suffice it to say that I never could have imagined the crumbling of that era, much less the way that it actually unfolded.

Quite simply, it's one of the most inspirational and memorable moments in human history. May it inspire us to resist the overbearing efforts of government whenever they arise.

Stevie Y goes into the Hall of Fame tonight

By Rick Morris

My all-time favorite athlete and the reason I started following hockey in the first place, Steve Yzerman, took his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. Beneath this highlight video of ten of his greatest NHL goals, I will reprint my tribute to him that I wrote for the blog when he retired in 2006.

"Steve Yzerman retired yesterday. He is my favorite athlete of all time in any sport and I feel it necessary to add to the tributes coming his way at this time.

Before I add my personal perspectives, I would like to mention why he is my favorite. He had outstanding God-given talent, but also radiated class and became, in my opinion, the greatest leader in team sports. His two decades with the captain's "C" set a record by quite a wide margin, one that I believe will never be approached, much less surpassed. Hockey players as a whole tend to be the humblest and classiest in team sports and Steve Yzerman exemplified that better than most. I do not believe that we will see anyone quite like him ever again.

I was not a fan of hockey until my freshman year of college in 1987. Growing up in the Cleveland area, where the media coverage of the NHL has always been woeful, I was simply not exposed to the greatness of the game. But working at public radio station WOUB in Athens, Ohio, I began to read about and see footage in the newsroom of the guy in Detroit with the odd-spelled name and the incredible scoring moves. I quickly began to wonder why he was so obscured by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, because his numbers and his play didn't deserve to be hidden in the shadows. Singlehandedly, he made me a fan of the Winged Wheel and the game of hockey.

As he grew as a player, embracing the role of captain and the greater emphasis on two-way play mandated by Scotty Bowman in the '90s, I suffered through the team's playoff setbacks. On a shuttle ride at the airport back in those days, an AHL player who struck up a conversation with me upon spotting my Wings jacket told me that the hot rumor was that Yzerman was soon to be traded to Ottawa. It seemed that the man and the team would never get what they deserved.

And then, in 1997, 10 years into my awareness and appreciation of this man and this franchise, they ended the 42-year drought and captured the Stanley Cup. To this day, my favorite video to pop into the VCR remains the postgame footage after Game 4 when Stevie Y accepted the Cup from Gary Bettman and performed his victory lap around Joe Louis Arena. I do not lightly lump in sports events with the greatest moments of my life, but I make an exception for that night, June 7, 1997. That was one of the greatest moments of my life.

Within a week the victory would be overshadowed dramatically by the car crash that would leave team trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov and defensive franchise player Vladimir Konstantinov fighting for their lives. With their friends permanently out of the game, the team went on one of the greatest inspirational runs in the history of sports in the spring of 1998 and successfully defended their title. The on-ice celebration was even more stirring this time, as Stevie cut short his victory skate with the Cup to place it in the lap of Vladdie as the players wheeled him around the ice. They validated their slogan of "Believe," which conveyed their desire to win for their fallen friends.

More playoff disappointments would come before the final Stanley Cup win of the Yzerman era in 2002. The 7-0 pounding of Colorado in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals provided a fitting coda to the playoff rivalry with the Avs -- a feud that was arguably the most heated in sports at the time. All throughout the playoffs, Steve Yzerman skated on a knee so shattered that he needed to be shot up like a racehorse and taped tightly before every game. The surgical path he chose had ended the career of every player who had suffered through it. But Steve Yzerman became the first man to come back from it. I think I can speak for all of his fans when I say that we never really had a doubt that he would be that pioneer. It just fit who he is.

Throughout his career, he battled injuries, including various knee problems. He not only never complained, he sought to downplay the severity of them and the extent of the sacrifices he made for his team. To the end, his main concern was what was best for the team. He concluded, sadly, that the uncertainty about how his body would hold up next season would outweigh the solid production that he could still provide when healthy.

Having come to my appreciation of #19 in my own way, imagine my surprise when I read an account that eerily mimicked my circumstances. It's from John Buccigross of ESPN:

'When I was senior at Heidelberg College, I cut a 2-inch by 1-inch picture of Steve Yzerman out of the newspaper and hung it on my dormitory door. I wasn't a Wings fan and had never seen Yzerman play. This was the mid-80's, I lived in Eastern Ohio, and the NHL was on SportsChannel. I wasn't one of the 47 people who had that network as part of their cable package. But his eyes mesmerized me. I thought, this is a person who has big dreams. Big visions. He has a plan and a focus to see it through and stick it out. I knew nothing about him, had never seen or heard him speak, but something moved me to hang that picture on my door as inspiration that life's biggest joys and awards come from dealing with and overcoming pain and discomfort. Those eyes said, 'Nothing good comes easy.' Have a vision and stick it out.'

That anecodote is part of a larger story on The Captain here, behind the ESPN Insider wall. It's great writing from a powerful wordsmith and fan of professional hockey.

The best way to sum up what he means to his fans is this: the best word that comes to mind when we think of his is "respect." The Canadian Olympic team chose to vacate the #19 during the Turin Games when Yzerman withdrew from the team for health reasons -- and that's saying quite a bit, because so many players of this generation wear that number out of respect for him. Respect, there's that word again. And as the Red Wings have become over the last decade hockey's version of the New York Yankees, the single most polarizing force in the sport, rarely if ever will you hear opposing fans speaking ill of Stevie Franchise. They will bash the ownership, or other Wings players, or Wings coaches, but not The Man. They know in their heart of hearts that they would kill to have him wearing their colors -- and we who love him know how fortunate we were that he wore ours.

Doubtless Steve Yzerman is befuddled by the response his departure from the ice is evoking. That's part of his charm. In a day and age of entitlement, he not only acted devoid of ego, but was embarrassed when he received the acclaim he deserved. But it's important that his fans have this chance to relive the great moments he provided to us, because it helps take the sting out of the moment we all knew we would face someday but dreaded nonetheless."

Congratulations on your well-deserved reward, Number 19.

RIP Captain Lou Albano

By Rick Morris

I regret that we did not get around to posting this sooner, but we do want to pay tribute to one of the greatest pro wrestling managers of all time, Captain Lou Albano, who recently passed away.

His antics were a natural bridge between the old days of territorial wrestling and the new era of "sports entertainment" that materialized in the mid-1980s. He is one of the few figures that the business has ever had with substantial name recognition even among non-wrestling fans.

Of course, he started his career as a wrestler before Bruno Sammartino saw his potential as a manager. This clip showing him in a rare late-career match against Superfly Jimmy Snuka in 1982 shows what a great all-around performer he really was.

Lou Albano was an outstanding entertainer, a successful fundraiser for charitable causes and a man much beloved by his peers -- a man of great character. RIP, Captain Lou.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mad Men Season 3 Finale liveblog

By Rick Morris

NFL picks Week Nine

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. Each week, we will single out our three strongest plays.

STEVE CIRVELLO (2-1 last week, 15-9 overall)
Atlanta -9 over Washington
Green Bay -9 1/2 over Tampa Bay
Seattle -10 over Detroit

RICK MORRIS (2-1 last week, 1-0 with my best pick, 14-10 overall, 5-3 on best picks)
New York Giants -4 1/2 over San Diego (my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for this week)
San Francisco -4 over Tennessee
Atlanta -9 over Washington

SEAN TRENCH (2-1 last week, 12-11-1 overall)
New York Giants -4 1/2 over San Diego
Green Bay -9 1/2 over Tampa Bay
San Francisco -4 over Tennessee

DAVE ADAMS (1-2 last week, 11-13 overall)
Miami +10 1/2 over New England
Tennessee +4 over San Francisco
Denver +3 over Pittsburgh

RYAN ISLEY (1-2 last week, 11-13 overall): Ryan's picks are pending; we trust him even if they come in late!

My remaining picks (7-6 last week, 59-54-1 overall)
Kansas City +7 over Jacksonville
Baltimore -3 over Cincinnati
Houston +9 over Indianapolis
Tampa Bay +9 1/2 over Green Bay
Arizona +3 over Chicago
Miami +10 1/2 over New England
Carolina +13 over New Orleans
Seattle -10 over Detroit
Dallas +3 over Philadelphia
Pittsburgh -3 over Denver

Saturday, November 7, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XLIV

By Rick Morris

For the most part, we keep our fantasy content on our fantasy website and fantasy blog and keep this site for content on all subjects. It allows our readers to find specific content more easily that way. However, it has come to our attention that because our new fantasy sports newsletter is published on the older Blogger platform that our readers may be limited in their ability to subscribe to it. There does not appear to be a way to have content on the blog forwarded to an aggregate news reader -- however, we know that we have that ability here. So we will link to that newsletter each week right here when it is published. Here is this week's newsletter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NCAA football picks Week Ten

By Rick Morris

Last week 2-3, 26-28-1 on the season. Stop complaining, you're barely down the juice!

This week:

Ohio State +5 1/2 over Penn State
LSU +7 1/2 over Alabama
Purdue +6 over Michigan
UCLA -5 over Washington
Arkansas -7 over South Carolina

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FDH Lounge Show #79: November 4, 2009

By Rick Morris

So as not to violate any trademarks or be too cheesy, we won’t refer to the 79th edition of THE FDH LOUNGE (Wednesdays, 7-10 PM EDT on as “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be” – but we could!

That’s because, if you hadn’t guessed already, we come right out of the box with an interview with legendary wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart. His autobiography “Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling” was released in paperback in the US this week and we will be speaking with him for the first half of Hour One about his experiences and his thoughts on the industry where he earned his fame.

Then, we belatedly come back with our Opening Statements from The FDH Lounge Dignitaries and our look at This Week in The FDH Lounge before we speak with Huffington Post Senior Congressional Correspondent Ryan Grim, author of This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.

In Hour Two, we are pleased to welcome Time Senior Editor Richard Zoglin, author of “Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America.” He traces the post-Lenny Bruce comedians through the transitional decade that altered not only the industry but the greater entertainment world as well. We’ll talk to him about what that time was like and all of the fascinating creatures covered in his book – names including, but not limited to: Carlin, Pryor, Leno, Letterman, Williams, Kaufman, Martin and Klein.

From there, our FDH Lounge Pigskin Report examines the BCS rankings in college football and what they tell us about the bowl matchups we are likely to see – as well as the horrific Cleveland Browns coaching/organizational situation and our latest FDH NFL Power Rankings.

In Hour Three, THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER breaks down NFL Week 9 and we then bring on KFFL Senior Editor Cory J. Bonini for his thoughts on the fantasy football landscape. We wrap with our other show-within-a-show, THE GOON SQUAD, and a look at the present NHL standings. We’ll then break down some controversial thoughts from ESPN’s John Buccigross about the Red Wings’ Eurotwins supposedly having their best days behind them! Not surprisingly, such thoughts are being dismissed as absurd across the blogosphere. Also, the player being hailed as the potential “savior” of one of the league’s signature franchises made his debut with the team Tuesday night. Although his Leafs lost 2-1 to the lowly Lightning, Phil Kessel was named as the third star of the game. We’ll discuss his anticipated impact over the next few years.

As always, we urge you to watch the show live (or listen if you’re on dial-up), but if you can’t catch this as it’s happening, you can always catch the FDH archives 24-7 right here or catch us now on iTunes!

NFL Week Nine power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Previous ratings in parentheses.

1 New Orleans (1)
2 Indianapolis (2)
3 Minnesota (3)
4 Pittsburgh (6)
5 New England (7)
6 Denver (4)
7 Philadelphia (13)
8 NY Giants (5)
9 Baltimore (12)
10 Dallas (10)
11 Atlanta (8)
12 Cincinnati (11)
13 Houston (15)
14 Arizona (9)
15 NY Jets (16)
16 San Diego (18)
17 Miami (19)
18 Green Bay (14)
19 Chicago (17)
20 San Francisco (20)
21 Carolina (24)
22 Buffalo (23)
23 Seattle (21)
24 Jacksonville (22)
25 Washington (25)
26 Tennessee (28)
27 Kansas City (29)
28 Oakland (27)
29 St. Louis (32)
30 Detroit (26)
31 Cleveland (30)
32 Tampa Bay (31)

BIGGEST RISERS: Philadelphia (6 spots), Baltimore, Carolina and St. Louis (3 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Arizona (5 spots), Detroit and Green Bay (4 spots), Atlanta and New York Giants (3 spots)

Monday, November 2, 2009

World Series Game 5 liveblog

By Rick Morris

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NFL Week Eight power rankings

By Rick Morris

NOTE: Previous ratings in parentheses.

1 New Orleans (1)
2 Indianapolis (2)
3 Minnesota (3)
4 Denver (5)
5 NY Giants (4)
6 Pittsburgh (8)
7 New England (6)
8 Atlanta (7)
9 Arizona (19)
10 Dallas (18)
11 Cincinnati (11)
12 Baltimore (9)
13 Philadelphia (14)
14 Green Bay (12)
15 Houston (20)
16 NY Jets (17)
17 Chicago (10)
18 San Diego (15)
19 Miami (16)
20 San Francisco (13)
21 Seattle (21)
22 Jacksonville (23)
23 Buffalo (28)
24 Carolina (22)
25 Washington (24)
26 Detroit (25)
27 Oakland (29)
28 Tennessee (26)
29 Kansas City (30)
30 Cleveland (27)
31 Tampa Bay (31)
32 St. Louis (32)

BIGGEST RISERS: Arizona (10 spots), Dallas (8 spots), Buffalo and Houston (5 spots)
BIGGEST FALLERS: Chicago and San Francisco (7 spots), Baltimore, Miami and San Diego (3 spots)