Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Vice President and Impeachment

Heretofore a topic only for Rep. Dennis Kucinch and others of like mind, the potential impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney is now starting to be discussed in conservative circles, such as here and here.

The proximate cause: Cheney's argument last week that, as President of the Senate, he is not subject to rules covering the Executive Branch. Needless to say, the defense of that proposition has not been easy.

While conservatives may want Cheney removed for ideological reasons (the creation of the "Fourth Branch" of government, his expansive reading of the Executive Branch that encroaches on protected liberties), others may point to his rock-bottom approval ratings as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dick Lugar, Meet David Stockman

Reliable GOP Senator -- and respected foreign policy mind(*) -- Richard Lugar raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill yesterday when he essentially declared that he has run of patience with the current strategy:
'In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved,' Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. 'Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.'

While Lugar's statement is probably the third or fourth biggest political news of the week (after, in no particular order, Dick Cheney's declaration of the Office of the Vice President as being a de facto fourth branch of government; cloture vote on the immigration law; the Washington Post's disclosures about Cheney's procedural end-arounds in the White House, and news about the 2008 GOP candidates (Fred Thompson's lobbying past, Mitt Romney's investment in his own campaign, Rudy's problems with the Catholic Church)), it was not missed by the White House. Apparently, Lugar has been 'invited ' to a sit-down -- or perhaps a visit to David Stockman's woodshed -- at the White House with NSA Stephen Hadley later in the week. No word on whether a 'surge' will be applied to Lugar himself.

(*-Ohio Senator George Voinovich echoed Lugar's remarks today, but the bet here is that Lugar's comments will carry more weight.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oregon State Repeats

Although it did not engender the publicity of Florida's back-to-back titles in April, Oregon State won a second consecutive NCAA baseball title this evening, with a convincing 11-4, 9-3 set of wins in the Finals. UNC battled to get to the Finals for the second consecutive year, but OSU's close (they trailed for only one inning in their last five games -- a streak of 61 innings going into tonight's game -- played at the CWS)

(The above photo shows one of the few balls that OSU was unable to corral this evening -- a single over the head of OSU infielder Joey Wong.)

A Brief History of America's Pastime

George Vescey's recent history of America's pastime is entitled simply "Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game," and the book is part of the Modern Library Chronicles Series.

Limited (or perhaps freed) by the Series' insistence on brevity (Vescey's book is just 224 pages without footnotes), Vescey does not attempt to delivery the comprehensive, year-by-year, history of the game; nor, does he, like Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract (which traces the game from its roots), treat each decade of baseball history evenly. Rather, Vescey choses a few themes and allows the narrative to follow.

One theme is Vescey's own boyhood idol: Stan Musial. (Of course, why Vescey -- a child of Brooklyn -- idolized an outfield who played a half a continent away in an era before television -- is probably a story for another day, and a longer book.) And related to Musial is another St. Louisian: George Sisler. Sisler appears throughout the book: as the first major 'discovery' of the young Branch Rickey; as a scout of, and mentor to, Jackie Robinson; then a further mentor to Roberto Clemente (another Rickey discovery); and finally, he appears through his children and grandchildren, who are present when Ichiro (Vescey's symbol of the internationalization of MLB) broke Sisler's single season hit record, of 257 (set in 1920).

Vescey touches on other issues: the 'creation myth' that placed Abner Doubleday (a cadet at West Point at the time) in Cooperstown 1839 when baseball was alleged invented; the role the A.G. Spalding played in codifying, then expanding, the game through his Spalding company, still located in Springfield, Mass., and still producing 'official' balls; and the role of Rickey in 'professionalizing' the front-office function. While the story will be familiar to the long-time fan, Vescey's writing, together with some (undoutedly) new anecdotes, will mean a pleasurable read.

Finally, a note on the cover photo, which is a compelling view from the upper deck of Yankee Stadium on October 4, 1961, the first game of the World Series that year against the Reds. The photo is both a moment in action -- a ball has been hit down the right field line (probably Elston Howard's homerun in the fourth) -- and a moment in time, with ads for Ballantine Beer, the monuments (and flag pole) still in play in center field, and of course, a Series game in daylight -- all harkening back to an earlier era. But it is a moment we can still almost touch.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dog Bites Man stories...

Turns out that Mayor(s) Giuliani and Bloomberg (a) didn't have a close relationship before 2001; (b) aren't very close now; and (c) neither man likes like the fact the other is in (or near) the race. (Technically, Bloomberg is not in the race, but is clearly edging closer to an entry as an independent.)

In other news, the sun rose in the East this morning...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Anteaters' Dream Ends...

The Anteaters of Cal-Irvine have thrilled NCAA College World Series watchers over the past two nights with comeback extra-inning wins in elimination games against Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State on successive nights. But the dream died tonight against Oregon State, the defending champs.

Rice and UNC play tomorrow for the right to take on Oregon State in the finals (2 of 3 series).

More Fun with Video

David Blaine was a big part of the NBA's promotion of the NBA Finals this year. Here's Part I of the series; here's the 'real' Blaine.

Unbelievable Shot

Some are speculating that this shot is faked, but it's still pretty amazing...

And more credible than this:

Bloomberg Leaves GOP

In a move that has been widely predicted, Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the GOP yesterday to free himself from "rigid idealogy." Bloomberg, who made millions with his eponymous financial terminals, can self-fund a third-party campaign, and he is clearly leaving his options open.

Of course, being the second Mayor of New York in the race should provide some interesting contrasts, as well as a revisiting of Giuliani's record. It's also conceivable that the three leading contenders (NY Senator Hillary Clinton, Rudy, and a independent Bloomberg) all "hail" from New York.

On a more series note, the traditional parties appear to be at a cyclical low in terms of appeal to the "middle 20 yards" of American politics. New vehicles like Unity 08, coupled with an internet that continues to disperse political power away from Washington, could mean a much different political season next year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Happy Ending?

The Friendly's Ice Cream saga reached a tentative conclusion yesterday with the apparent sale of the Company to a private equity concern for a modest (8%) premium over the last stock price.

Both management and Friendly's co-founder and current shareholder activist Pres Blake seemed somewhat happy with the result, although it was not his preference to sell the company:
If selling it gets rid of the chairman and the directors, this is the best for the stockholders, and the stockholders is what I'm interested in.

Now it's up to Sun Capital to turn Friendly's around.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tiger's Charge Falls Short...Again

For the second straight Major, Tiger Woods chased the leader into the clubhouse, but came up short. In April, it was Zach Johnson who recovered from a difficult Saturday (76); at the US Open at Oakmont, Angel Cabrera also shot 76 on Saturday, but bounced back with a 69 on Sunday to win.

Tiger has been chasing Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors for years; but incredibly, Tiger won his first 12 majors with only 2 second-place finishes (2002 PGA, where Rich Beem won his only major, and 2005 US Open, won by Michael Campbell (his only major title)). But with losses to two-more first-timers this year, Tiger is starting to advance against Nicklaus' (also-record) 19 second-place finishes in major championships. His reputation as a relentless finisher also seems in jeopardy, as he did little to put pressure on Cabrera in the last nine holes, finishing them in +1 (he shot 72, or +2, for the round). Of course, the course and Cabrera's own history (he blew a lead a few weeks ago on the European Tour, which Johnny Miller pointed out repeatedly on the telecast.)

Perhaps what we are learning is that the "real" record is Jack's 37 first- or second-place finishes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"I Was Wondering What that Song Was..."

Mitt Romney in Iowa, wondering what song is playing in the background. (Hat tip: MassLive (Springfield Republican) and Politico.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Battle of Algiers

When one watches the "The Battle of Algiers," it is hard to believe that the issues identified in the movie -- terrorism, reprisal, torture, martial law, Islamic resistance, and the clash of civilizations -- was not more well-known (or more widely-screened) before the war in Iraq. The Pentagon apparently watched it in during 2003 (according to the trailer above), but by that time, the policymakers had already determined to go to war.

(Also interesting: music for "La Battaglia di Algeri" was by Ennio Morricone.)

The Most Exciting Baseball on Television

While the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and the Final Four both display college athletes who are thisclose to becoming pros, when one watches the College World Series (CWS), the disparity between amateur and professional baseball made apparent. And the combination of talented players (many are throwing north of 90 MPH), a lack of experience, and the high stakes of the opportunity to go to Omaha (where the CWS is held).

For instance, just this evening, within 3 minutes, two mental mistakes were on display on two different Super Regional NCAA games. First, in the Texas A&M/Rice game, with the Owls facing a 1-2 deficit, the Rice baserunner on second (SS Brian Friday) was gunned down on a relay from right field, making the third out at third base -- a baseball no-no.

Then, literally seconds later, ESPN cut back to the main game (UNC/South Carolina), where the Gamecocks were looking at a 6-3 lead with 2 outs in the 7th. With a man at first, Tar Heel SS Josh Horton sliced a ball to left, where the left fielder, Cheyne Hurst, who had been inserted into the game "for defensive purposes" according to the announcers, tried to make a shoestring catch that allowed the ball to squirt to the wall -- and the runner scored all the way from first base.

By the time the 7th inning was over for USC, the bases had been loaded and the tying run had been walked in, two infield grounders were missed (one was called a hit), and UNC led 9-6, all the runs scoring with 2 outs.

The game continues as this is written...It's 'must see' TV.

Update: UNC held on to win, 9-6.

Later Update: Rice came back to win, 3-2 in 10 innings, although the Owls had to withstand another mental mistake when 3B Diego Seastrunk, after singling home the tying run with one out in the bottom of the 9th, failed to advance to second on the throw through to home.

Final Update: Both UNC (in 3 games) and Rice (2 games) advanced to Omaha.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bush Meltdown

With conservatives (aka "the base") abandoning the President in droves -- witness Peggy Noonan this morning -- and with the President himself saying those who oppose the bill "don't want to do what is right for America," the next set of polling numbers may be gruesome for the President. (Some have observed that the bad news on the economy will affect the numbers as well, but at 28%-34% percent, it has to be the 'true' believers that are still in support of the President.)

On a historic basis, Nixon's low water mark was 24% (early in 1974), and Carter's was 28% (summer of 1979). The lowest modern rating was Truman's 22% in early 1952.

The prediction here: Bush will bottom out below 20%.