Friday, April 27, 2007

Romney on Osama

In an Associated Press story last night, Governor Mitt Romney apparently discounted the importance of catching Osama bin Laden:
[Romney] said the country would be safer by only "a small percentage" and would see "a very insignificant increase in safety" if al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught because another terrorist would rise to power. "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More on Halberstam

Tributes to David Halberstam continue to be published. In today's New York Times, a long piece putting his ground-breaking Vietnam work into context, and then bringing the experiences forward to today and Iraq:
"I just never thought it was going to work at all,” Mr. Halberstam said of Iraq during a public appearance in New York in January. “I thought that in both Vietnam and Iraq, we were going against history. My view — and I think it was because of Vietnam — was that the forces against us were going to be hostile, that we would not be viewed as liberators. We were going to punch our fist into the largest hornets’ nest in the world."

Update: In an interesting tribute in the Washington Post, Henry Allen closes with:
For those who remember journalism back in a 1970s heyday they can't explain to to the young, Halberstam's death was not just the death of a hero, it was like the death of the great Hollywood stars -- Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable. Who would replace them? No one has. Maybe no one ever does.

Who is Manny?

Despite dozens of beat reporters covering the Red Sox every day, the essence of Manny Ramirez does not seem to warrant much coverage. A few years ago, Kevin Millar popularized the slugger's loopiness as "Manny-being-Manny" and that, it seemed, settled it. (The "Manny-being-Manny" is itself a reference to the post-1962 Richard M. Nixon, a "New Nixon" who would throw aside his handlers and "let Nixon be Nixon," all as documented by Joe McGinniss.)

Manny was the topic of a lengthy profile in last week's New Yorker. Among the never-before-heard anecdotes: like George Foreman, he has named his first two sons "Manny Jr."; he didn't keep track of balls or strikes (until he had two strikes) when in the batter's box; and:
A running joke in Boston has it that none of Ramirez’s coaches know when he gets to the ballpark in the morning, because he’s always there (if sometimes napping) when they arrive.

Why haven't we heard that before? Perhaps because the fact that Manny-is-the-first-to-arrive at the ballpark every day does not really fit with the Manny-being-Manny meme that otherwise drives the coverage.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halbertsam, RIP

There are tributes and memorials to David Halbertsam (who died in a traffic accident last night in Northern California) all over the web this morning.

In looking back at his career, what stands out are the number of phrases or concepts - Vietnam (in 1965, well before Tet) as a 'quagmire', the 'best and brighest', the 'powers that be' - that he either invented or popularized.

In recent years, his sports books have seemed to have a Boston-bias, from the Ted Williams' Teammates to the profile of Bill Belichick.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Obama/Agent Zero 2008?

From Deadspin.

The Golden Age of Newspapers?

Conventional wisdom says that the newspaper business is dead or dying. Yet Boston now has three daily papers (the Globe, the Herald, and the free Metro); this morning, 'vendors' were also distributing a new freebie: Vol 1, Issue 2 of "BostonNOW."

(Once upon a time, Boston was the home of multiple papers, a few of which are listed here.)

Unlike Metro, which generally relies on AP and wire reports with a few local columnists, NOW appears to have local correspondents as well and (perhaps) intends to break news. Today's cover story in NOW is a by-lined piece on "Crime on the T", although NOW also has items from, among other the Christian Science Monitor, State House News Service, and some articles that are uncredited. The NOW website also appears to be part of an on-line/off-line 'synergy' strategy.

While I wouldn't (and don't) bet against Warren Buffett's view of the newspaper business, somebody out there thinks that there's money to be made in ol' fish wrap, yet.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The "I" Word

In this week's Time Magazine, Joe Klein appears to edge close to the 'impeachment' argument, on a 'national interest' line of reasoning. Key quote:
I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.

The strongest argument against impeachment, of course, is Dick Cheney.

UPDATE: He is not, apparently, hinting at impeachment.

Masters Week

For the desk-bound, only a few more minutes (10:30 am ET) until the first groups hit Amen Corner at Augusta, and the video from that page on Masters website goes live.

1Q Primary Money

ABCNews now reporting that Obama beat Hillary in raising primary money in the first quarter. Although this is 'inside' inside baseball stuff, it show the energy and hope that Obama has tapped into.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Championship Night Thoughts

This entry is cross-posted on TNR's March Madness blog, Posting Up:

-- Not a very dramatic game, but compelling nonetheless. The Buckeyes gave a good account of themselves, and it was nice to see a group of players (the Gators) that seemed to enjoy being together--both on and off the court.

-- OSU did almost everything right--stay relatively close in the first half, keep Greg Oden (25 points, 12 rebounds) out of foul trouble, give itself a chance after halftime. Especially with good execution coming out of halftime, you felt the Buckeyes might get themselves in position to steal a close game against a seemingly superior opponent. But OSU couldn't get the lead down to the point where the pressure shifted onto Florida, and Florida had too much Corey Brewer (named Most Outstanding Player), Lee Humphrey, Taureen Green, and Al Horford at crunch time. (In fact, Florida is so deep that the Gators were able to survive a sub-par championship game from Joakim Noah, last year's MOP.)

-- So where do the Gators stand in the all-time great list? Florida showed a lot of balance and depth against OSU--not only the five starters, all of whom scored 1,000 or more points while getting all the publicity, but also big men Chris Richard and Marreese Speights, who ate up minutes and fouls against Oden on the low post. In the modern era (post-1979), only Duke has repeated, and the intervening years have shown the difficulty of keeping a team together--and healthy. The closest analogy is probably UNLV (1990) but the Rebels were famously defeated by the Duke team that went on to win the first of two straight championships (1991 and 1992). With the depth, balance, and versatility the Gators have shown, they have to be considered among the best college teams ever.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Few Thoughts from Saturday (Semifinal) Night

This entry is cross-posted at TNR's blog, Posting Up:

• Neither game (G-town/OSU or FLA/UCLA) will be listed the “memorable” ones. UCLA’s performance was the more disappointing, never putting any real pressure on Florida except for the first few minutes of the game – and even then, the foul trouble for Aaron Afflalo meant the Bruins’ early lead was destined to be short-lived.

• As mentioned before, OSU becomes a sleeker and more dangerous team without Greg Oden – primarily because they (led primarily by Mike Conley, Jr., who has played himself into a much better draft position) appear ready to attack on any potential fast-break, without worrying about whether the ‘big man’ is down the floor and ready to rebound. The Hoya turnovers in the first half – when Oden was on the bench with two fouls – were critical.

• Georgetown was the beneficiary of the refs’ no-call on a possible Jeff Green travel in the Sweet Sixteen game. Last night, they were on the short-end of two calls that could gone either way: a block/charge on Green against Oden with 6:37 left and the score 50-44, OSU; and a charge/block on Green (taken by David Lighty, who did a terrific job on Green all night) at the other end, four minutes later and with OSU clinging to a 4-point lead.

• In 1965, John McPhee wrote the following in The New Yorker:]
The rules of basketball are such that if they were ever literally interpreted, the referees would call enough fouls in any game to eliminate everyone or both squads two or three times over. No sport, therefore, is more difficult to officiate, since the referee’s judgment is infinitely more important that his vision, and the fairness of the outcome depends on the consistency and balance of the referee’s decisions rather than on any set of inflexible rules.
Forty-two years later, those words still ring true. Last night’s early fouls – two on Oden in the first three minutes of Game One, and three on Afflalo in less than ten minutes in Game Two -- probably did not influence the outcome of either contest, but did much to lessen the drama that both games potentially held.

• The spectre of Kentucky’s head coaching job seems to overshadow the entire Final Four right now, as George Vescey observed in the Times yesterday. Florida’s Billy Donovan has all-but-signaled that he will be moving to Lexington as soon as Monday’s game is over, for a contract that will be likely north of $3M per year. CBS continues to pay big money for the rights to the NCAA tournament; several universities (including OSU) now have athletic ‘businesses’ that have more than $100M in annual revenue; the players continue to (theoretically) get the same ‘compensation’ – tuition, room, and board – although fewer of them receive the scholarships, as Stacey noted; and coaches are the ones who seem to be capturing more and more of the economic ‘rents’ created by the TV contracts, as Andrew noted when we started here several weeks ago.