Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Wee Sojourn

I am leaving this morning for a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I'll be participating in the British Association of American Studies meeting. Blogging will be light to nonexistent until Tuesday. Have a great weekend and keep an eye on Saturday's election in Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spam For You, Spam For Me

Although this is a cumbersome and inefficient way to deal with a techie problem, if any of you have received emails from me that seemed really peculiar the reason is most likely because some sort of worm invaded my computer and has been sending emails to everyone in my address book. I have received more than a hundred emails showing that many of the deliveries failed, but I also know that many are getting through. I have no idea how to stop this or what the ramifications might be, so bear with me if you are one of the lucky ones whose spam firewall is not up to snuff. The irony is that the hijacker is a Chinese company (or says that it is) called "HonestestSeller." Honest(est)ly.

Obama and the Black Man's Burden

Derrick Z. Jackson of The Boston Globe addresses the dramatically overblown Obama-Wright-race issue in a generally perceptive column. From the conclusion:
Once again, America's white leaders play footsie with white intolerance while Obama was pressured to bring the nation the head of Jeremiah Wright. Once again, a black person holds the nation's bag of racial burdens. Whatever discussions Obama started across America with his speech, the fact that Huckabee and McCain offer more comfort to Obama than Clinton is evidence that at the top, the conversation is tongue-tied.
This situation will only hurt Obama among the camp of white voters looking for an excuse not to vote for Obama and for those who never would have voted for him in the first place. The former group might hurt him. The latter presumably will not.

Opening Day!

The Sox-A's season kickoff in Japan starts in just a minute or two. Perhaps you'll find this Jason Stark column on this brave new world we have entered in which the Sox are favorites and frontrunners and in which the pre-2004 mindset is a distant (unpleasant) memory. Opening Day should be a national holiday.

Play Ball!

[Hat Tip to the Thunderstick.]

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Not Out of Africa Debate Revisited

The Chronicle Review revisits the debate surrounding the work of Mary Lefkowitz whose challenges to Afrocentrism in the early 1990s became a cause celebre in academic circles. Lefkowitz contributes her own thoughts as well. These pieces are as much about academic controversies as about the case in particular, though readers interested in finding out about the debate will be given more than enough of a foundation.

The Red Sox Take Japan

As the Sox prepare to open their season against the A's in Japan Dan Shaughnessy has a lot of scattershot observations about the scene in Tokyo on the eve of the game. I'll be up and in front of the tv at 5:00 tomorrow morning to see Daisuke Matsuzaka kick off what I expect will be a sterling sophomore season.

Mocking Falwell

As a tenure-gift to himself, a friend recently published in a British horror-zine this horror-satire that is in no small part a mockery of Jerry Falwell's self-importance in building this monument. (By the way, an I just get it straight: It is not ok for Obama to be loyal to someone he has known for a long time but whose words he condemns, but it is ok for McCain to have once condemned Jerry Falwell, who makes Jeremiah Wright look like Pollyanna, but now to hold Falwell close to his bosom? How, exactly, does that work? I suppose it has something to do with those looking for an excuse to oppose the blacks also hating the gays, but the logic is just too Byzantine for me.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Oxford American on Sports

The Oxford American (which you should be reading) has devoted its latest issue to sports. Great writing + Sports = Yummy Goodness.

An Easter Gift You Should Buy Yourself

I hope you are all having a happy Easter. Why not buy yourself a holiday gift? I'd recommend my friend Matt Guenette's book of poetry, Sudden Anthem. The man is about to have a baby. The least you can do is buy a copy of his book to make sure the kid gets diapers and clothes!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sox Take a Stand

While many of us partake of the secular holiday known in America as "March Madness" (look it up Brits, South Africans, and others) I thought I'd simply praise the Red Sox for taking a stand on behalf of their coaches and support staff (be sure to click on the video link at the top of the story from Bob Ryan's PTI-style show on NESN). Basically the players refused to play yesterday's exhibition game or to go to Japan without MLB following through on its promise to pay coaches and other personnel a $40,000 stipend for making the trip. The Sox since 2004 (when they voted record shares for non-players) are a far cry from the often unlikable Sox of the 1980s who notoriously shafted the little guys in their 1986 playoff shares and who were reknowned for being a "25 guys, 25 cabs" group.

(My Final Four are UCLA, Georgetown, Texas, and Carolina. Texas and Georgetown in the finals. Texas to win it all. Just a gut instinct. Now you can bet heavily against it happening. Enjoy the games.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama, Wright, and Race

I have been mute on the Barack Obama-Jeremiah Wright imbroglio because, frankly, I was sick of it before the whole thing turned into the latest excuse for mock outrage. First, Obama's speech yesterday encapsulated everything I like and admire about the man. It was sophisticated and smart and powerful and inspiring and it will do little to dissuade those who are either looking for reasons not to support him or who, such as Republicans looking to win a general election in the fall, were never so interested in an Obama presidency in the first place.

Let's just say that I find the demand that Obama do more to separate himself from Wright and his church comical coming from at least two groups of people. First, if you are a Catholic, I do not want to hear it unless you have disavowed the entire Catholic Church after years of priests raping children, protecting those who did it, and covering up the crimes to begin with. Second, the Republican Party has largely suckled at the teat of the religious right for two decades now. And that religious right has spewed so much hatred it is hard to fathom where Wright's crimes alleged and real and that happen to have a foundation in some reality -- America's racial history is so loathsomely terrible it is hard to take seriously those who assert that Wright's assertions amount to racism -- rate, but they rate pretty low.

In any case, there is plenty of coverage of the Wright fiasco and Obama's response. The Washington Post had worthwhile pieces here,
here, and here. The New Republic asked several people to weigh in on the politically salient question of whether the speech was effective here and here. The New York Times' praiseful editorial is worth perusing, and naturally Andrew Sullivan has peppered The Daily Dish with Obama and Wright. And finally, I think one of the more thoughtful (and historically based) reflections, which came before Obama's speech, is Ralph Luker's Jeremiah, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution republished in slightly modified form. The topic of the religious tradition in the black community plays right into Ralph's wheelhouse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Cold War and the Terrorist Threat: Self-Indulgence Alert

So it appears that the government is beginning to look to the Cold War to provide a model for how to combat terrorism. That seems like a sound idea. You know when it also seemed like a sound idea? In January 2006 when I proposed just such an idea in an op-ed distributed by History News Service.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Talking Wire

Over at The Atlantic online Mark Bowden, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Ross Douthat discuss The Wire in four segments.

Conservatism and the 1970s

The Chronicle Review has an article by historians Bruce Schulman and Julian Zelizer on the 1970s roots of modern conservatism. Here is a taste of the first three paragraphs:
Today is a puzzling time for American politics. In many ways, conservatism dominates the political landscape. Unilateralism and militarism seem to rule U.S. foreign policy, while in domestic affairs, Washington resists robust federal controls on energy consumption or greenhouse-gas emissions. The nation battles over creationism in the public schools and financing stem-cell research, and every few years, Republicans and Democrats scramble to cut taxes. The conservative President Ronald Reagan has become the iconic figure for the current generation of voters that the liberal eminence Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet conservatives' vulnerabilities sometimes appear as prominent as their strengths, and not just because of particular problems facing President Bush. The reality of "conservative" America is that the federal government remains a large presence in American life. When disasters strike, we turn to government. When we retire, we turn to government. When we face external threats, we turn to government. Republicans failed to curb the growth of federal spending between 2001 and 2007, when they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. In fact the Republican leadership developed new forms of government, ranging from the No Child Left Behind Act in education to a sweeping domestic-surveillance program. Notwithstanding the hawkish rhetoric flowing out of Washington, Americans are not flocking to volunteer for the war effort in Iraq. Public opinion of the president's military programs remains at historically low levels. With all the talk about the power of the religious right, popular culture is replete with the brash sexuality that conservatives have repeatedly decried. Such racy material is just as popular in the so-called red states as it is in the coastal cities of New York and Los Angeles.

We can understand the current situation only by unraveling the origins of the conservative movement — and the incomplete revolution that took place in the 1970s. The 70s unlock the mysteries of today because the decade constituted a decisive turning point in American history and set the foundations for current debates. The policies, social movements, leaders, and institutional changes that emerged from that decade continue to define the American political scene.
Tootle is working on a book on the 1970s, and he is a conservative and a Republican, so I'd be curious to know what he thinks about their argument. I certainly agree with them that the 1970s represent a more vital decade than most historians and political and cultural critics have heretofore acknowledged (and Schulman has persistently made this case for some time now) and that it is a decade that warrants as much attention as the sexier 1960s even if its narrative isn't as seductive or easy to capture.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On Bill James

Last week Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe had a great feature on the incomparable Bill James, father of sabermetrics and Red Sox advisor. Just thought you ought to know.

Can They Do It?

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe addresses the question that is on the lips of the entirety of Red Sox Nation: Can they repeat. His answer, which is hardly revelatory: It isn't an easy task to accomplish. The American League is once again stacked. The Red Sox are relying on player development, rather than free agency or trades, in their quest to win back-to-back World Series championships. This is smart from a long-range perspective but requires the development of the young guys to be steady rather than episodic. Still, the Sox seem built to contend for a long time, and that is all any fans can ask from their team.

The Never-Ending PED Controversy

There is so much hypocrisy, inconsistency, and overwrought fulmination over the supposed scourge of performance enhancing drugs in baseball that the critical mass of opinion has buried the ability of most observers to sit back and take a reasoned, rational look at the issue without the moralization snd mock outrage that characterizes the state of the debate. Malcolm Gladwell's recent postings on this issue at his blog are thus welcome. He has four salient posts, here, here, here, and here.

Sportsguy on An Athlete Dying Young

For a reminder of what Sportsguy is like when he is truly on, I would strongly recommend that you take a look at this article on the death of a high school athlete in Los Angeles. This is heartbreaking, essential reading.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vegas Bound

The Southwest Social Science Association, under which the Southwest Historical Association is a constituent organization, is holding its annual meeting this week in Vegas. Mrs. dcat (who will be experiencing Vegas for the first time) and I are both presenting papers (and I'm chairing two panels), as is this guy. Posting may, I suspect, be light, though I'll recount any noteworthy shenanigans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Supporting Torture, Diminishing the United States

So, apparently the President feels that we cannot win wars in which our strongest claim is that we are better than our enemies without doing things that cast into doubt whether we are actually better than our enemies. That is the message I draw, anyway, from President Bush's decision to veto a law that would have limited the CIA's ability to torture prisoners.

I really do not know what more there is to say. There was a time when the very idea of Americans engaging in such noxious practices inspired outrage. But too many have acquiesced. Does torture make us safer? Does it give us actionable intelligence? We have seen scant cases where either would be the case. in the meantime what we do is diminish ourselves while exposing our own troops to even worse treatment. I would just strongly encourage you all to read every one of the articles in the latest Washington Monthly, which is devoted to advocating stopping these policies. As long as this administration, which has done so much harm and so little good, is in power such cries will represent little more than lamentations. But a better day will come.

The Wire, RIP

I have not had much to say about The Wire's finale, at least in part because I needed some time to digest it (and to mourn just a little bit) and in part because my friends and I, especially the Thunderstick, have been writing back and forth about it a lot. Alow what follows to be episodic and suggestive. I'd be happy to continue the discussion in the comments if any of my readers are fans of the show.

My first impression is to step back from the final episode, in which we always place far too much freight any time a show comes to an end, to look at the series in its entirety. Whenever I have said that The Wire is the greatest show in human history, almost inarguably the greatest drama at the least, I imagine many of you simply assumed that was dcat hyperbole. It was not. The Wire operated on such a higher, richer, deeper plane than any other show that has ever been on television. When you put together the best writing, the best acting, and the best directing over five taut, interconnected seasons, you have the recipe for greatness.

The Wire is not for everyone. You have to watch from the outset and you have to give each season three or four episodes before the picture begins to become clear. But if you do that the payoff is greater than any television experience you will ever have. Buy, beg, borrow, rent, or steal season one.

I would also argue that from the midway point of season three through the finale of season four The Wire was at its best. I really loved this season, and was more willing to go along with two plotlines -- the exploration of the media and especially the Baltimore Sun and the role that the homeless killings played. I know that many felt that the Sun plot in particular did not work. I disagree, but I can see the argument. And I would agree inasmuch as that plotline did not feel as seamless as some of the others have in the past. And I think the reason for this is that David Simon and his cadre of writers were able to take critical distance from everything else in the show, whether the terraces and corners or the police or the docks or the politicians. But because of Simon's experiences with newspapers, and his profound disappointment with The Sun, he could never quite step back from that element of the show. But my argument to this, and it incorporates the homeless killings as well, was that in the end Simon's desire was to create a seamless show that depicted a holistic Baltimore, or as close to it as he could in the time he was allotted. And part of this holistic world had to include the role of the media, both as that media effects the outside world, but also its dysfunctional inner-workings.

So, what about that last episode? First off, I'd recommend that you go read the incomparable Alan Sepinwall's article on the final episode. Sepinwall is my favorite television critic and has been a huge fan of the show. And while you're at it, read Alessandra Stanley's summation in The New York Times. The Thunderstick and I disagree on my conclusion to some extent, but I believed before Sunday that the conclusion would ultimately conclude by reaffirming the mantra of the corners: The Game is the Game. Thunderstick does not think this was the final message, but I do. Not just the game on the corners, but the game in the offices of politicians and the corridors of the police administration and the cubicled rooms of the Sun and the alleys and bridges of the homeless -- the game is the game, and the game goes on. Thunderstick argues that he saw the possibility of change given the right people doing the right things, but for me it is clear that the odds are so long, the system so twisted, that to make the changes would require a systemic overhaul that the five seasons of the show plainly reveal to be impossible. The game is the game, and the game goes on.

As for specifics, you can find that sort of stuff with any Google search. You grow so deeply involved with the characters on a show like The Wire that love them or hate them (or, as is appropriate for the show, feel a whole range of emotions about each person), the investment is real. I was absolutely heartbroken -- I still am -- about what happened to Dukie, just as I was achingly happy for the small victory we see Bubbles earn in the final montage that managed to capture perfectly the fate of most of the show's characters, and by extension of the fate of Baltimore (and presumably inner-city America in general, though the show is arguably the most place-specific in television history).

There is talk of a movie or miniseries or even another season sometime down the road. I'd be thrilled if the principles signed on and if David Simon had the same mastery over the totality of the show. But for now I am taking some time to mourn and to remember before, sometime not so long from now, putting the first disc of season One in my dvd player and becoming involved in the heartbreaking, exasperating, devastating world of Bodymore, Murderland. The Game is the Game.

Holy Scheisse!

That was my immediate response after reading this post at The Spine:
I thought that a Ph.D. in the sciences having been bestowed on scholars from distinguished American universities would permit these men and women to call themselves doctor. Not so, at least in Germany.

Now seven scientists at the Max Planck Society's Institutes for Chemical Ecology (Jena) and for Gravitational Physics (Potsdam) with American Ph.D.s from Stanford, Caltech, University of Texas (Austin) and Cornell are facing charges under German federal law that might land them in jail for one year and sock them with a large fine. You see, under German law, the only Ph.D. that can certify a person as "doctor" is one that comes from an academic institution in the European Union. If your degree comes from a Maltese university (if there is one) you are a doctor with all the pretense and privileges that come with it. But if your doctorate comes from Caltech you are stuck.
This is, if I may say it, batshit crazy. Effectively the German government has decided that it can simply yank scholarly credentials from people who have earned their PhD. I do not even understand the rationale for this law. And I certainly do not understand imposing it against American scientists.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Amen, Bob Ryan

Brett Favre was a great player and very good both for the Green Bay Packers and for the NFL. But can we stop hyperventilating about him being one of the top five quarterbacks of all time? Bob Ryan writes some of the things I have been arguing for the last week or so. A sample:
Beyond that, I cannot rank Brett Favre much higher than 8 all-time, and that's just among the guys whose NFL careers began after 1970. I would definitely place John Elway, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, and Steve Young ahead of him. Oh, and was he really better than either Dan Fouts or Warren Moon? Then you enter into another generation from the '50s, '60s, and '70s that includes Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Norm Van Brocklin, Y.A. Tittle, Bobby Layne, Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Terry Bradshaw, Sonny Jurgensen, and, of course, Starr. Favre was better than some of these guys, but not all. And if you really want to get historical, consider Sid Luckman, Sammy Baugh, and Frankie Albert. Let's just say Brett Favre should be honored to be in their company.

That seems about right to me. Favre was a great player. And it is no insult to be one of the greatest of all time. But anything beyond that is hyperbole derived of presentism.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Africa Blog: An Announcement (Self Indulgence Alert!)

In order to rationalize and expand upon the Foreign Policy Association's coverage of Africa, the FPA has started a new blog with roots extending from the South Africa Blog. The Africa Blog will cover both continentwide issues as well as regional and country concerns. I will be the senior editor/blogger at the Africa blog while continuing my work here at the South Africa Blog.

This change will allow the South Africa Blog blog to emphasize South African issues more specifically while still giving both the FPA and me a voice on larger African affairs. The biggest change will likely come in the fact that within the next few days I will shift coverage of Zimbabwe to the Africa blog. I hope that you will read and engage with both blogs.

Is McCain a Lightweight?

A pretty reasonable case can be made that John McCain is something of a lightweight on domestic policies. But, we're told, that does not matter because he is strong on foreign policy. And Republicans want to convince us that we'll finally get the leadership that we need in Iraq. But not so fast says Steve Chapman at Real Clear Politics.

McCain is getting the kid glove treatment from the media because, well, he won the GOP nomination while the Democrats seem to be in some sort of cage match. But there is a long time yet to go, and McCain will get his chance to face scrutiny. Don't be surprised to discover that beneath the gravitas there is not too much policy substance. And that may be ok -- McCain is a good and honorable man and would almost certainly be better than what preceded him as president (yeah, I know, 'soft bigotry of low expectations"). But in a campaign that will be based on judgment and experience I think we have a right to ask about the judgments he made and what he has done with that experience.

George Fredrickson and Stanley Trapido Obituaries

Recently I wrote about the passing of George Fredrickson, emphasizing the role he played in my own intellectual development. Here is his New York Times obituary.

Another leading South African historian, Stanley Trapido, who left South Africa after the Sharpevile Massacre in 1960 and became a lecturer at Oxford, also died recently. You can find his obituary in The Guardian here.

Hamba kahle, gentlemen.

(Crossposted at the South Africa Blog.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Higher Education and The Wire

At The Chronicle of Higher Education's blog, Brainstorm, Mark Bousquet makes a pretty nifty comparison between the world depicted in The Wire (the greatest show in the history of television, which will, sadly, air its final episode on Sunday night) with the administrative culture of higher education.

Hat Tip to my colleague, JLag.

The Memoir Trap

It's frustrating enough being a writer with pretensions toward big-time aspirations without having to read about the recent spate of memoirs shown to be fraudulent, including, most recently, Margaret Seltzer's Love and Consequences, which gives grim but apparently false detail about growing up as a foster child and gang member in South-Central Los Angeles.

So, what's going on here? It seems like the first problem is with the publishing industry itself. There is something awry about a culture so awash in memoir, that so privileges first-person accounts over verifiable non-fiction. In their quest for the next James Frey (oops) publishers have come to privilege memoir over almost every other genre. What seems quite clear is that many of these books have relied almost wholly on their first-person vantage point for their appeal, as it seems evident that many of them would not have passed muster as fiction, and yet once we discover that they also do not work as nonfiction, what do we have? (And yes, I realize that Bleeding Red shared at least some of the attributes of memoir, but even a cursory reading indicates that it was something a bit different.)

Writing good nonfiction is hard work. The craft is every bit as difficult as writing fiction with the added burden of owing fealty to evidence. Perhaps my favorite historian, C. Vann Woodward, wrote in his preface to the first edition of The Strange Career of Jim Crow, "The twilight zone that lies between living memory and written history is one of the favorite breeding places of mythology." Would that more publishers would keep this wisdom in mind the next time they think they have struck it rich with the next groundbreaking memoir.

Celtic Pride

Jackie MacMullen of The Boston Globe has a great article on last night's huge Celtic win over the Pistons. With each passing week there seem to be fewer and fewer reasons to doubt this Celtics team, but from a national perspective one need only flip over to ESPN to find those doubters, whether in the form of the perpetually shouting Stephen A. Smith, who apparently thinks that volume equals veracity, or the Jay Mariottis of this world. The east is not as strong as the west in the NBA, that is obvious, but I am willing to assert that the top of the East is as good or better than the top of the west. In two weeks the C's will take a trip through Texas that will reveal more about what sort of team they really can be, but it seems to me that they have proven that they are the best team in the league right now, a claim that means little in the long run, but that has to mean something.

Super-Self-Indulgence Alert: On Zimbabwe at the South Africa Blog

Things have been busy at the South Africa Blog where the biggest issue has been Simba Makoni's quest to unseat Robert Mugabe. What once appeared to be a quixotic lark suddenly seems like, well, a quixotic lark that might just have a chance were it not for the fact that Mugabe will assuredly find a way either to crush Makoni or simply to steal the election if it is not going his way. At the risk of being accused of egoism run amok, the South Africa Blog has probably had as consistent coverage of the events in Zimbabwe as any source in the United States. I hope you will check it out, as this story is vitally important for the health of Zimbabwe, even if we likely know how this story ends.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Post-Nouveau Super Tuesday Assessments

Well, yesterday's primaries threw yet another wrench in what is turning out to be a remarkable election. Hillary emerges as the big winner if you, like me, agree that McCain's victories were a foregone conclusion.

Nonetheless, Hillary still faces some harsh realities when it comes to the arithmetic of the primaries. The reality is that Obama's lead is not likely to fade easily if at all, and Hillary will almost certainly have to rely on this year's kingmakers (queenmakers?) the mysterious and powerful superdelegates.

Meanwhile the analysis comes fast and furious. At Slate Jeff Greenfield compares the Democratic candidates to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. At The New Republic Eric Rauchway tells Democrats to look to the 1912 election (while TNR's Plank has its usual blast-fax coverage). And of course there is going to be no paucity of Democrats Divided talk (dramatically overstated, I think) and parsing the race v. gender fracture (which I weighed in on last month.

What we actually know is this: The Democratic race will continue, Obama is in the lead, and all of these discussions will move forward as well. Yes, John McCain can now campaign against the Democrats, but all of the attention will still be on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And any advantage McCain might get in terms of the ability to knock down his opponents will long since be neutralized by the time the summer rolls around. besides, turnout in the primaries has consistently favored the Democrats. If whoever emerges as the frontrunner can rally that turnout, the interest in the primaries may well redound to the benefit of the Democratic nominee. In a sense, then, all yesterday did was allow for a maintenance of the status quo ante.

On to Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Super Tuesday, Redux

For all intents and purposes today's voting in Texas and Ohio (and Rhode Island and Vermont) represents Super Tuesday redux. Barack Obama could put this contest away, or Hillary Clinton could mount a comeback that will all but guarantee a brokered convention. Even if that happens, however, I think it is far too simplistic to break the Democratic race down into the meme of a party divided. It does not strike me that the Democratic Party's fissures are anything remotely comparable to those that divide Republicans. The Democrats just happen to be lucky enough to have two strong candidates that appeal to elements of the party. But one can easily envision a scenario whereby Dems rally behind whichever of these historic candidates emerges as the winner even if a large swath of conservatives find themselves having to hold their nose and pull the proverbial lever for McCain (or else choose a third-party social conservative if one emerges).

For my money, the best political coverage can be found at The Washington Post. Nonetheless, I'd also check out The Plank, Andrew Sullivan, The New York Times -- you know, the usual suspects.

My gut instinct is to say that Obama will pull out Texas (and likely Vermont), Hillary will claim Ohio (and possibly Rhode Island), but just barely, and the debate about whether Clinton should withdraw, which is already a ubiquitous subtext, will accelerate. It will be this issue, not the putative differences between Clinton and Obama, that runs the risk of getting ugly. If Clinton withdraws gracefully, one can imagine her in a number of scenarios, none of which plausibly includes her sitting at Vice president. I could certainly see Clinton becoming a lion of the senate. But is it too farfetched to imagine Obama nominating her for a vacancy on the Supreme Court? What about Secretary of State? Of course if Hillary fights to the bitter end, she will almost certainly guarantee that she will play no role in a potential Obama administration.

I now have to cross the street from campus to head to Nimitz Junior High to cast my vote. This is a vote that I never imagined would be anything but a symbolic gesture, falling as it does in the primary fight.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Knocking Down Down Goldberg

Some of you may enjoy this takedown of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism by Michael Tomasky in The New Republic and this one from Austin Bramwell in The American Conservative. I did. I'm hoping for my opportunity to write about this truly bad book and awful use of history (yes, I've read enough to be able to assert as much categorically), but I am not certain what the odds are that it will happen.

The NBA Race for MVP

Over at The Boston Globe the always-reliable and often-great Peter May makes the case for why Kevin Garnett ought to be the NBA MVP. A sample:
If you want to give the MVP to the guy with the best numbers on a pretty good team, then Garnett is not your guy. If you want to give it to the best player on the best team, to an individual who has transformed a franchise and brought the word "defense" into the daily discourse without the need for a laugh track, then he still has to warrant serious consideration.
MVP debates in most sports often come down to the same definitional dilemma: What do we mean by "Most Valuable." Some people simply argue that the MVP ought to go to the best player. Others try to parse what "valuable" means, especially in terms of a guy's value to his team. I have always believed that it would be appropriate to have an MVP and a Player of the Year award, even if in many years the award might well go to the same guy.

As for this year's debate, there is no doubting that LeBron is a singular talent. And Kobe is having another year of gaudy numbers on a very good team in the tougher conference. But it seems to me that Kevin Garnett has been the difference-maker in taking the Celtics from the dregs of the East to the best record in the NBA, and he has made the Celtics a great defensive team while still racking up offensive numbers. I'd rather have the C's win and other people take home the individual hardware. Nonetheless, I'd give LeBron Player of the year if such an award existed. But Garnett gets my vote for MVP.