Saturday, July 28, 2007

Clinton-Obama and Foreign Policy

Since the YouTube debate on Monday, Senators Clinton and Obama have been engaging in a war of words over the 'nuances' (to quote John Kerry) of the tactics that they each would use in engaging foreign leaders who are (or will not be) friendly to the United States. (Think: Hugo Chavez).

The verbal exchange including Hillary referring to Obama as "irresponsible and frankly naive" and he in return, wondering whether a Hillary Administration would be "Bush Cheney Lite"

Today's news indicates that Obama is continuing to press the the point, despite the conventional wisdom that wonders whether (a) Obama is on the right side of the issue; and (b) whether anyone is paying attention in the last week of July otherwise dominated by the travails of Lindsay Lohan (whose latest movie also opened this week, in a rare case of defining the rule that "all publicity is good publicity").

In response, the Clinton campaign trotted out former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. However, the somewhat tepid response showed the difficulty that all campaigns have at times in getting surrogates to be as aggressive as the campaign would like them to be -- after all, it's not the surrogate's name on the ballot. Vilsack's comment:
I think it reflects a curious approach, a curious judgment on the part of the good senator

The Soul of Baseball

It is a rare book that gets a second read in today's day-and-age. After all, there are so many books, magazines, on-line articles, blogs, and other pieces that have not yet been read. Yet, Joe Posnanski's Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America received that high praise - and right away. Shortly after finishing the book for the first time, I started over, and enjoyed it just as much.

What makes this book great is not the 'discovery' of Buck O'Neil - Ken Burns (and others) had already done so:

Posnanski has the fortune of traveling with O'Neil during the final year of his life. Despite his age (93), O'Neil continues to be a indefatigable speaker and supporter of the Negro League and its players. His travels take him to Houston, Minneapolis, and Nicodemus, KS. He remains upbeat and positive despite the bad breaks that baseball -- and its owners -- gave him. Despite never having the chance to play or manage in the Major Leagues, O'Neil's attitude is perhaps most reminiscent of Lou Gehrig.

But the book reaches a dramatic height in the last section, as Posnanski waits with O'Neil for the Baseball Hall of Fame's special committee -- chaired by former Commissioner Fay Vincent -- to select from a list of 39 former Negro Leaguers who were considered for admission. Sometimes a great piece of writing needs tragedy in the life of his subject.

In the end, O'Neil gives the speech on behalf of those who had died before admission. And he leads the audience in the same song he had sung in countless other venues: "The greatest thing in all my life is loving you."

As a sidenote: Posnanski has a website for the book (including a 'soundtrack' on iTunes), a blog (which includes a memory-invoking list of the sweetest swings that he has ever seen), and he writes regularly for the Kansas City Star. All are recommended.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Dow, the Economy, and the Polls

Although the Dow has famously predicted 9 of the last 5 recessions (to quote Paul Samuelson), there seems to be a growing unease about the latest 'correction.' Whether or not a slowdown is coming (and the Commerce Department reported this morning that growth in the second quarter was on a 3.4% annual pace), the economy is the last pillar of whatever popularity President Bush still enjoys. If the economy tanks, it's look out below.

McCain's Meltdown Continues

The on-going highway accident that is the McCain 2008 campaign continued yesterday, with departure of two more senior aides, on the heels of a not-so-flattering WSJ story earlier in the week about the campaign contracts held by Rick Davis' private company. Mr. Davis is also acting campaign manager.

Unlike previous presidential campaigns (Gore 2000 and Kerry 2004), where staff changes signaled a new direction (and better performance from the respective campaigns), these changes appear to be the sign of despair and disorganization (like Dean post-Iowa in 2004), rather than a candidate making tough choices. At this point, it's hard to see McCain -- who was considered to be the front-runner less than 6 months ago -- righting the ship.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, who came under fire earlier in the year in connection with Walter Reed, resigned on Tuesday. Time's Michael Weisskopf posits that President Bush will use the opportunity to appoint a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, in part to show the Administration's "new" commitment to serving veterans who served the U.S.

But the suggestion that Bush will appoint Tammy Duckworth, who ran as a Democrat for Congress last fall, seems a little far-fetched, even if she is apparently not going to run for Congress again in 2008. After all, what did Tammy Duckworth ever do for George W. Bush?

Story of the Day

Correction: The sports story-of-the-day is of course, Michael Vick's indictment for charges stemming from dogfighting. Jason Whitlock's take today in the Kansas City Star is worth reading.


The story of the day in sports: Performance-enhancing drugs.

In Scotland, Gary Player claimed that at least one player has told him that he uses performance-enhancers, and that Player estimates 10% of the PGA Tour uses them. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both said, in response to Player's comments, that they doubted that any players were using.

Meanwhile, across the Channel at the Tour de France, a cyclist (Team T-Mobile support rider Patrik Sinkewitz) tested positive for testosterone in his "A" sample (the "B" sample will now be tested as well, to confirm the earlier finding). In response, German TV stations ARD and ZDF ceased their coverage of the Tour; the Tour then leased the remaining coverage to German stations Sat 1 and Pro Sieben.

Baseball, of course, is facing a continuing steroid story as Barry Bonds grinds towards home run #756, which would pass Henry Aaron on the all-time list. Sports Illustrated this week has a cover portrait of Aaron, and a lengthy story by Tom Verducci, including the following quote from Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Terence Moore:

[Moore] then cited a quote from a conversation he had on that subject with Harry Edwards, the noted sports psychologist and sociologist. "You'll have the standard and the standard bearer. Then you'll have the record and the record holder. For the first time ever, they broadly will be acknowledged to be totally different people."

The story also has the definitive quote from Bonds:

Said Bonds, in a self-styled epitaph worthy of his tombstone, "I take care of me."

Of course, as Buck O'Neil says near the end of The Soul of Baseball (more about which later):
The only reason players in my time didn't use steroids, is because we didn't have them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Trade Deadline

With the trade deadline (July 31st) looming, Sox talk around town is centering on who may be moved (in order, Lugo, Crisp, Wily Mo Pena), and what the Sox may have to give up (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz seem popular "asks"). But what do the Sox need?

On one level the Sox seem to be having a terrific year, with a 56-37 record, and (more importantly) an 8 game lead over the second-place New York Yankees. But the whole seems to be better than the sum of the parts, as the Sox are getting underperformance from SS (Lugo), RF (Drew), CF (Crisp, although starting to show signs of life), and (until the last week or so), LF (Manny) and DH (Ortiz). (To be fair, 3B (Lowell), 2B (Pedroia, after a poor start) and 1B (Youkilis) have exceeded expectations, and C (Varitek) is probably at par.) Pitching has been generally good, although only Beckett, Papelbon, and Okijima have been outstanding.

A fourth outfielder (Pena is clearly not the answer for defensive replacement purposes) is probably the immediate need that can be solved cheaply; the others needs are more extensive and require a major re-tooling.

"Deterrence" in China

Some claim that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime, and others (particularly those opposed to capital punishment) believe that it does not. But a recent execution in China brings those arguments in stark relief.

Zheng Xiauyo was the head of the State Food and Drug Administration in China, and he was convicted of approving certain drugs and medicines in exchange for $850,000 in bribes. Zheng's actions were blamed for 10 deaths, and as an spokeswoman said, he brought 'shame' on the agency.

Zheng was undoubtedly a victim of a series of unfortunate recent events, including Chinese-produced but tainted dog food and toothpaste; less than two months passed from the date of his sentence to his execution.

But for high-level bureaucrats in China, it's clear that a message is being sent: don't put Chinese exports -- the engine of growth for the Chinese economy -- at risk.

Monday, July 16, 2007

More on Iran

With its Iraq strategy still in limbo, the White House is nonetheless turning its sights to Iran, the Guardian (UK) reports this morning. The shift indicates a seeming rise in power of VP Dick Cheney, whose standing has suffered in recent weeks with his claim of being a 'fourth branch' and the commutation of his aide, Scooter Libby.

It is possible that this story has been leaked by the White House to put pressure on Iran to reach some sort of accommodation that allows IAEA inspections, like North Korea over the weekend. But the story also claims that a 'well-placed source in Washington' has said:
"Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Trojan War: A New History

Barry Strauss' new (published last year, or approximately 3200 years after the events in question) account of the Trojan War is the best kind of history -- written by an author sufficiently versed in the applicable literature to be able to both comprehensive and brief.

Strauss turns a critical eye to the work of Homer (who actually wrote the Illiad and Odyssey in the 700s, or close to 500 years after the Trojan War), and the (lesser known) Epic Cycle (the Cypria (on the outbreak and first nine years of the war); the Aethiopis, about the Trojan allies; the Little Illiad, about the Trojan Horse; the Iliupersis, on the sack of Troy; the Nostoi, on the Greek heroes; and the Telegony, a continuation of the Odyssey) (all from pages xxi-xxii). The effect is a checking of Homer's sources, claims, and conclusions -- and a general conclusion that the story, while embellished, is probably at core, true.

But while the main story is not true, the two major facts -- the Trojan Horse gambit, and the length of the war (10 years) -- are probably not. The Horse is probably an allegory for some other deception the Greeks used; the ten year struggle is merely a Bronze Age euphemism for a 'long time.'

Money Troubles

The McCain campaign has borne the brunt of the press maelstrom this week, as disappointing 2nd quarter numbers were followed by a mass-exodus of senior staff. Unlike the John Kerry staff shake-up in 2003 (ahead of the early 2004 primaries), the McCain changes have the ring of a rats-off-a-sinking-ship, rather than Kerry's calculated -- albeit callous (he was heard eating his dinner while informing the remaining staff of the decision) -- dismissal of Jim Jordan.

McCain is not the only GOP candidate with money trouble however. Romney's financial reports, released Friday, showed that he spent virtually every dollar he took in during the 2nd quarter, but that includes a $6.5M loan the candidate wrote to the campaign. Without that loan (and the resources to make it), Romney's senior campaign staff might also be in hot water.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Sara Taylor's testimony this week referred to her 'oath to the President' (sic), which Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out was incorrect. While President Bush often refers to his oath to 'protect the people', such alternative constructions are becoming quite frequent in Republican circles.

Rudy Giuliani has been making the same sort of 'mistake' for months now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All-Star Contrasts

Pete Rose and Ray Fosse

Alex Rodriguez and Russell Martin

Wimbledon Remembered

Great retrospective today by Bud Collins of his 40 years of Wimbledon. While not all matches or moments were remembered by this author, it was must-read all the way through.

A few moments: the McEnroe/Borg 18-16 game; the Pancho Gonzalez moment (reminiscent of Jimmy Connors (who also appears in the story repeatedly) at the US Open in 1991); Becker's full-body dives (and the shout-out to Springfield's own, Tim Mayotte); and Chrissie/Martina.

And perhaps most memorably for Collins -- certainly for an early-round departee -- Anne White in whites:

Monday, July 9, 2007

Update #2: Jeff Bailey

Jeff Bailey's first major league hit ended up being a home run, in a 6-5 loss yesterday to the Tigers. More poignantly, Bailey's hit is likely his last AB in a big league uniform, as everyone expects him to be shipped to Pawtucket over the All-Star break, which began last night.

Update #1: Police and Kanye

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Waiting this Saturday night for:

* The Police/Kanye West video from Live Earth to be posted on YouTube

* To see Jeff Bailey's first Major League hit after 11 years in the minors...

* A Red Sox/Tigers verdict for a game that is now in the 13th inning...

UPDATE: Sox lose in the bottom of the 13th on a hit-by-pitch/stolen base of/by Gary Sheffield and long-basehit by Pudge Rodriguez.

Remember the Name

Friday, July 6, 2007

Murdoch, Drudge, and the WSJ

A strange day for news, as Drudge has already reported as the main story that "Rupert Rules" (albeit without the flashing siren), and as of the afternoon, replaced the headline with another.

Yet, the WSJ site itself is silent on the status of the, which is the biggest business story of the day (if not the year), as of 3:13pm.

No confirmation yet anywhere.

The GOP and Iraq: More Dripping

Following in the footsteps of Dick Lugar, New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici (who coincidentally -- or not -- is up for re-election next year), moved away from his previous support of the President's policy in Iraq yesterday. And the quotes from Maine's Susan Collins indicate that others may soon follow -- or go further.

And the Senator perhaps most vocal in support of the war, John McCain, has his own election next year -- and there has been no indication that his loyalty to the President on the single most important foreign policy issue of the day has earned his any points, either in the White House or with GOP primary voters.

The Ames Hotel

Welcome news in the Globe this morning that the Ames Building -- which from 1891 to 1915 was the tallest building in Boston -- is being renovated to re-open as a luxury hotel (christened the Ames Hotel for the time being). The building has been vacant since at least 1999, and two previous hotel groups were unable to make it work.


The Live Earth concert -- which begins tomorrow (July 7th) in Sydney, Australia -- will undoubtedly attract young viewers and concert-goers with a lineup that includes Dave Matthews, Corrine Bailey Rae, and KT Tunstall, and for those of viewers of a certain age, The Police, Madonna, and Smashing Pumpkins.

The concert(s) (and there are 8 different venues) appear to be a logistical nightmare, but the promise of the world's youth (and those that think they are young) congregating around a 'smart' idea has proved to be like honey to corporations that need to be young and green themselves (e.g., Philips, GM, Pepsi). And of course, the biggest brand is 'Al Gore' who has turned climate change into his own cottage industry.

For a man who has supposedly "fallen out of love with politics", he still acts like someone who loves policy.

Hill to Phoenix

A bright star in college (his Duke teams went to three Championship Games, and won two titles during his four years there), Grant Hill's began with a flourish, winning Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1994-95. But his career has been hampered by injuries, and his pro teams have never had the success that he enjoyed in college (the best was the 1996-97 Pistons team that went 54-28, but lost in the first round of the Playoffs).

But it was a shock to read this morning's Globe, and to find that Hill had moved to Phoenix in a free agent signing yesterday. The shock was not that Hill had switched teams, but that news about this one-time "next great thing" was mentioned in passing in the "NBA Notebook" column.

Here's hoping that Hill can stay healthy -- and contribute -- to a Suns team whose window is closing.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Among the more notable items (the paucity of other commutations, the fact that the commutation was not reviewed by Justice Department officials, et al.) relating to President Bush's decision to commmute, rather than pardon, Scooter Libby last night, a quote from an unnamed 'senior White House official':
One senior administration official said Bush quickly made his decision yesterday after hearing that the U.S. Court of Appeals had refused to keep Libby out of prison while his appeal ran its course. This source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the president's thinking, said there is "comfort" at the White House that the decision will not hurt him politically despite the Democratic outcry.
The question follows: will this decision "not hurt him politically" because of the timing (July 4th week, where much of the country is on vacation) or because with his poll numbers so low, the Venn diagram of Bush supporters and Libby supporters is almost identical.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mitt Romney and Clark Griswold

Mitt Romney's dog problems continue into another week; but it could be worse -- just ask Chevy Chase