Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Wishes

8 things that I hope to see happen in 2008 (tagged by koplobpobajob via Iain Dale) not necessarily in any particular order:

1) The addition of a little dcat progeny (and no, this is not a subtle attempt to make an announcement).
2) The publication of my Freedom Ride book. This should happen in the fall. I hope.
3) 19-0, Celtic Pride in June, a Sox repeat.
4) Tenure.
5) A Democratic victory in November (preferably Obama, but I have not 100% committed).
6) Resolution to crises in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Somalia.
7) An alternative to Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki in the South African succession struggle. (Cyril Ramaphosa, are you listening?)
8) The chance to return to South Africa.

And as an added bonus: A happy, prosperous New Year to all of my readers.

Reactionary Security Policy

Patrick Smith at Jetlagged, a New York Times travel blog, eviscerates our absurd airport security system. Anyone who flies regularly knows just how reactionary our response to the threat of terrorism has been. And anyone who cares to remember knows how the airlines lined up to suckle at the teat of government largesse while the debris was still settling at Ground Zero and the Pentagon, despite the fact that those same airlines were both responsible for the lax security that prevailed and that they had always aggressively resisted encroachment on their ability to conduct their own security as they saw fit. The airlines and the attendant airport apparatus failed. So naturally they wanted to get paid for what they lost as the result of their own malfeasance when air traffic was shut down. I am always astounded by how this little pas de deux got buried amidst everything surrounding 9/11.

I Love the 80s

On a night when the Lakers wore the sorts of short shorts that Larry Legend and Magic once donned, the C's plastered the Lakers 110-91. It was like the 1980s all over again. The Celtics are relevant. Hell, the C's are dominant. And so this game in LA mattered too. As G-Rob, who sent that link, wrote me today:
Boston LA was the greatest rivalry in the 80s. My life seemed to hinge on their match-ups throughout the year.

He's right, of course. It is hard to remember, but there was a time when C's-Lakers was the biggest rivalry in sports. It was much bigger than Sox-Yanks in the 1980s when neither baseball team was good at the same time. (If the C's relevance is hazy it might be even harder for most of you to believe that Bruins-Canadiens was a monster rivalry as well. By the way -- The B's were supposed to be awful this year, and as of right now are one of the top five teams in the East.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Racism in the North Country

I was always perplexed by the racism that I saw and heard in my home town in New Hampshire. People trafficked in the most appalling stereotypes about blacks despite the fact that almost no one in Newport could even plausibly say that he or she knew any black people. If one wants to see racism as a function of ignorance and unfamiliarity, most of northern New England would be the place to go. Of course there are other wellsprings for racism as well, but that which springs from ignorance born of unfamiliarity, the most literal kind of ignorance, is among the most truculent. I was reminded of these experiences from those years while reading this story in The New York Times about death threats levied against anyone who dared attend NAACP meetings in Bangor, Maine. Not surprisingly, Maine is apparently the whitest state in the country. And this example shows that the racism of unfamiliarity can carry with it every bit of the malice of any other form of racism. Keep this example in mind also when someone next tries to tell you that America is over its racist past, or that blacks just need to get over it, or any of the other cliches that some people reflexively blurt out in order to avoid scrutinizing a country that has come a long way but that still has a long way yet to travel.

Greatest. Cover. Ever.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame?

Will 2008 be the year that Big Jim Ed Rice receives the call from Cooperstown telling him he has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Rice was my favorite player growing up, and so I really hope so. And Dan Shaughnessy thinks it is going to happen this time around. I know all of the arguments against -- his prime was too short, he missed by just a few on a couple of the magic numbers -- but the gods of your childhood will always be gods, and I think that he also has a compelling case for admission, especially with voters looking with fresh eyes at the most feared power hitter of his era in the wake of the steroids scandal.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wearin O' the Green

The Sacramento Bee has a great article on the Celtics in which the writer, Sam Amick, shows how the C's current success will always be measured in terms of the franchise's unmatched history of greatness but also provides a mindset into how the franchise is working its way back into Boston fans' hearts. Thanks to g-rob, one of the kingpins of the dcat west coast reader mafia, for the tip.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ho Ho Ho!!

Merry Christmas everybody! I hope Santa was as good to those of you who celebrate this holiday as he was to me. Here is one of several gifts that brightened my morning (not surprisingtly, perhaps, there was a strong Sox-Pats theme to many of my presents):

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Omagh Revisited

I hope this won't be my last post before Christmas, but I do want to say a few words about the news that Sean Hoey, the only person to have been accused and brought to trial for Northern Ireland's 1998 Omagh Bombing, has been acquitted of charges related to the Omagh bombing and many other terrorist activities. The Real IRA's August 1998 attack in a busy market center of nationalist Omagh was the single most brutal terrorist attack during the entire period of Northern Ireland's Troubles. It also lingers as the last major attack and the one that caused the Real IRA to announce a cessation of violence. The most disquieting aspect of the acquittal is the fact that it was necessitated by incompetence and malfeasance on the part of the authorities, particularly the police. Not at all surprisingly, the public response has been outrage at those officials who effectively assured that the victims of Omagh and their families will never see justice done.

The fact that the peace in Northern Ireland has held for nearly a decade is too easy to take for granted. Not too long ago the Troubles seemed every bit as intractable as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And yet the fear is that Unionists, and particularly the paramilitaries that claim to speak and act for the unionist community, will use the acquittal as a pretense to re-engage in their own terror campaigns. When people discuss terrorism in Northern Ireland, they tend to think in terms of the Irish Republican Army and Nationalist violence. But the reality is that in Northern Ireland Unionist paramilitaries operated independent of the formidable power of the state, which itself stacked the decks against both the Nationalists and the Catholic minority.There is no doubting that the IRA was a ruthless, thuggish organization. One need look no further than Omagh to realize as much. But the IRA did not operate in a vacuum, and it was not alone in perpetuating Troubles that I hope we will continue to reference in the past tense despite the recent reminder of how that past is not so distant.

Merry Christmas!

Although I may post in the next few days, you may well not read, so I want to wish all of my readers, regular, casual, and those who just stumble upon this site a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Bounteous New Year. I'll be in San Antonio for the next few days, then back here with some family visitors, and then back to San Antonio, and finally off to Washington, DC. Have a wonderful time with family and friends, and thank you so much for reading. Check back in when you can.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

South African Politics and the ANC: Self Indulgence Alert

The African National Congress just completed its national conference in Polokwane at wich it nominated Jacob Zuma to be the party president, paving the way for him to succeed Thabo Mbeki as South Africa's president in 2009. Zuma has been a lightning rod for controversy over the last few years and his rivalry with Mbeki had grown increasingly acrimonious over the course of 2007. Today comes the news that ther National Prosecuting Authority has enough evidence to pursue corruption charges against Zuma. Suffice it to say that this changes the political dynamic, though in what ways it is almost impossible to know. I've been following events closely at the South Africa Blog.

Green, Black, and White

JA Adande has a great column on the Celtics in which he debunks the myth that the C's somehow represent a historically racially retrograde team. The reality is that the Celtics set the standard for racial integration in the NBA. I've been working on a book proposal on sport and society in the United States since the Civil War and one of the chapters is going to try to address the reputations and realities of two cities with fascinating histories of race relations, Cleveland and Boston, in which sports played a vital role (for good and for ill) in racial transformation (and white reaction).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Literary Forays

A few bits and pieces on literature and public intellectuals have cauight my eye in recent days. here's a rundown for your reading pleasure. After poring through them I feel a bit guilty about not providing some deep thoughts and well-constructed insights, but sometimes it's ok to let the work speak for itself.

At The New Republic Christopher Benfey reviews two vital Library of America collections of Edmund Wilson's work. Benfey describes Wilson as "a marmoreal figure, a sort of jowly Supreme Court justice of the literary imagination" in this long and often insightful review essay. The Library of America has been for a long time now creating an indispensible, well, library of American writers and their works with far-ranging tastes and interests. These two volumes fit perfectly into the LOA mission.

At the Chronicle Review historian Michal Kazin wrestles with living in the shadow of a towering figure in American intellectual life. I am far more familiar with the work of the father than the son, so the whole thing seems a bit dynastic for my decidedly not to-the-menner-born background, but Kazin treats his subject, which is in some ways himself, with honety and verve and in so doing tells us something about the changing nature of the American life of the mind in the past half century and more.

In the most recent New York Times Sunday Book Review Gil Troy reviews (Williams alum) Edward Larson's new book on the 1800 election, A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign. The review and the book now have me thinking about an op-ed I might write comparing the 1800 election to a more current affair.

Finally, for those of you into lists (and the untilately false but reassuring hierarchy and order they provide) the Sunday Book review has also provided lists of 100 Notable Books of the Year and the ten best books of 2007. I'd be interested to hear your choices for 2007's best books given that I am voting for just such an honor in the next few weeks and would like to be reminded of some of the good stuff, from all genres, that came out in 2007.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Jonah Goldberg

It's almost impossible to state just how fatuous, intellectually irresponsible and dishonest Jonah Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism looks like it is going to be. I've written about this book before and had quite the contre temps with Goldberg via email, who chided me for judging a book I had not read, even though my objection was with the title, which I had read, with the publisher's press materials, which I had read, and with the picture on the cover, which depicted the iconic liberal smiley-face with a Hitler moustache, which even a fucking retard could quite clearly read. (He also tried to get all historical on me, snidely mentioning that much of his intellectual foundation came from a book that in his snide words I "really ought to read," Alonzo Hamby's For the Survival of Democracy. One: Hamby's book does not even vaguely provide intellectual cover for him. Two: I was Hamby's research assistant on that book for more than two years. My name features in the acknowledgments and everything. So maybe, Jonah, you "really ought to read" Hmaby's book as well. Had you actually done so you might not have descended quite so far down the slippery slope of fucktardery.)

Well, Goldberg's book, which was supposed to appear a year-and-a-half ago, might be on its way. It seems that he has not tempered his argument all that much despite the delay. Here is the excerpt from his book jacket that has gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere:

The quintessential liberal fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.
Now I have my issues with education majors and the very idea of most education departments teaching anything but early childhood ed. But this is so offensively, muddle-headedly, noxiously, stupidly insane that it boggles the imagination. Goldberg is of a type with lots of guys who have climbed the ranks of America's intellectual journals, right and left: He's smart but nowhere near as smart as he has come to conclude that he is. He's been given a lot but believes that those gifts are nothing more than a function of merit. And he is so used to a culture of shouting that in a situation where he is supposed simply to speak -- I'm speaking metaphorically about the responsibility serious people take when writing a book -- that he screams incoherently. I've long been unimpressed with Goldberg is my point.

If you want to see a sample of what other blogging critics have said about Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, I'd recommend starting with Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias, where you can get a sample of the screen captures of the dust jacket ( and see that not only female -- I've no idea why it is just female -- education majors, but also the Democratic Party, The New York Times, and Ivy League professors all fit into his "friendly fascist" category) and a link to more captures from Sadly, No. TNR's Jason Zengerle weighs in at The Plank here, citing Kieren at Crooked Timber, who helpfully points out that one cannot receive an education degree from Swarthmore. Jonah Goldberg sloppy with facts? now I've seen everything! I cannot wait to see who crawls up to defend Goldberg, who in this case really is beyond defense.

Ten Stories You Missed

Foreign Policy has a list of the top ten stories you missed in 2007. Naturally I'd like to point out that we almost always "miss" stories on Africa, and as if to prove my point, notice the paucity of Africa-related stories on this list of what you missed in 2007. That's, like, irony or something.

Self Indulgence Alert

If you scroll down and look to the right you'll see that I have substantially expanded the links to my various op-ed and other pieces, though there are a few that I am having a remarkably difficult time tracking down. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waterboarding = Torture

Let's say it all together, kids: "waterboarding is torture." Justify it if you want. Present your 1% doctrine arguments, discuss necessary evils, present your case for the ugliness of war. I'll tell you why I think you are wrong. But don't dismiss the reality: Waterboarding is torture. (So is sleep deprivation and a host of other stuff, by the way.)

I Was Right! (Neener Neener Neener Edition)

I find it amusing how writers have been tripping all over themselves to tell us how maybe Houston's decision to pick Mario Williams #1 wasn't so much of a mistake after all. Some of us have been saying as much
for more than a year. Here is what I wrote in October 2006, and with the exception of some ill-advised overrating of David Carr, I think it stands:
Could announcers and the so-called experts please stop asserting in their most outraged tones that the Houston Texans made an atrocious decision by choosing Mario Williams over Reggie Bush? It is far too early to draw such a conclusion, some of us are frankly tired of hearing about Reggie Bush's, let's say "whelming" (as in: neither under- nor over-) numbers, which always seem padded with (again "whelming") kickoff return numbers, and it is hardly certain that Bush is going to set the league on fire. Meanwhile, Mario Williams plays a position where it is difficult to make an immediate impact, and in case you have not noticed, Williams actually gets quite a few double teams because the interior defenders for Houston are not threats -- not exactly the treatment accorded to a bust. Maybe offensive coordinators around the league know something the headset-jocks don't. Here is my prediction: If anything, teams will regret not having taken Matt Leinart and Vince Young more than they will regret not taking Reggie Bush, and since Houston has David Carr, who lo and behold is better than anyone thought now that he is not viewing the game from his earhole while lying on his back, they were not really in the market for picking either of the quarterbacks. Enough is enough -- if Houston made the mistake, let's wait for the electrifying (it is mandated in Bush's contract that his slurpers use the word "electric" or some derivation thereof whenever they speak of him) Reggie Bush to have more than a couple of good third-down-back-type-games before we make that judgment. And if Mario Williams is in the league for ten years and Bush blows out his acl on Sunday against Baltimore after Ray Lewis uses him to show his Baltimore teammates how he learned origami in the offseason, let's not pretend that such things cannot be taken into account: Fast but small guys get hurt all the time, and these things can be predicted. Ten years of a speed rushing defensive end is better than three years of a show pony.

I'm just sayin', is all. What is a revelation to the Peter Kings of this world is to many fans simply a function of realizing that people's opinions the day after the draft are pretty much worthless. And so venting outrage on draft day is pretty silly for even ardent fans, never mind for journalists who ought to know better.

Dreams of Travel

Christmas is just over the horizon, and so most of us are looking inward, preparing to enjoy time with kith and kin, home and hearth. But before long most of the country will be deeply immersed in deep, whited-out winter and our inner armchair traveler will be itching to dream of getting away from it all. that might be the time to pull out "The 53 Places to Go in 2008" from last Sunday's New York Times Sunday travel section.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pats Fans Await Your Outrage

From FanNation via New York's Newsday:
According to league sources familiar with the situation, the Jets were caught using a videotaping device during a game in Foxborough last season that resulted in the removal of a Jets employee. After Gillette Stadium officials saw him using the recorder early in the game, he was told to stop and leave the area. He had been filming from the mezzanine level between the scoreboard and a decorative lighthouse in an end zone. The camera was not confiscated by the Patriots or stadium security. Tuesday night the Jets admitted that they did videotape the game and their employee was confronted, but said they had permission from the Patriots to film from that location.

Huh. Maybe that will change the narrative a little bit. The Jets were caught videotaping the Patriots BEFORE the Patriots were caught videotaping the Jets. I find that interesting. And I fully expect this story to get the same amount of play that the Pats videotaping the Jets did in the first quarter of a 7-7 game that the Pats won 34-14, after which they reeled off 12 more victories. OK, actually I don't.

By the way, if the Pats reach 15-0 (maybe even irrespective of whether they go 19-0), don't the 1972 Dolphins automatically warrant an asterisk? It seems like we always want to privilege past performances over present and are quick to resort to the asterisk for modern sporting feats. Well, the Dolphins did not play a 16-game schedule. (They also did not beat anybody, but that's an entirely different matter.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Brady and Moss Season For the Ages

With the seasons Tom Brady and Randy Moss are having for the Patriots, The Boston Globe got to wondering (in picture gallery form): Where do their seasons fit in the pantheon of Boston sports? Enjoy this glorious tour through Boston sports lore. All of the usual suspects (Big Papi, Pedro, Yaz, Jim Rice, Teddy Ballgame, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and many others) appear.

The Algeria Attacks

This morning's bombings in Algeria could tell us many things, if we chose to listen to them. But I fear we'll only hear them partially, and through partisan ears at that. Assuming that al Qaeda is responsible for the bombings (a conclusion that does not seem unreasonable) we should be reminded that this we face a fanatical foe determined to wreak havoc across the globe against liberal democracy and those sympathetic with liberal democracies, and even those illiberal states that do not cater to al Qaeda's particular form of extremist Islamic tyranny.

We'll hear that narrative in the days to come, as well we should. But what I imagine we will not hear is that an attack such as this one in Algeria really ought to remind us that when the Bush administration proclaims success in the Global War on Terror (or whatever barbarous neologism they're spinning these days -- I follow these things and I'm not even sure. Are we still rolling with "The Long War," an indeterminate construction that seems befitting of the Bush years?) it seems apparent that they want to elide the "global" aspect of things. For while it is true that there have been no attacks on American soil since 2001 there had not been a whole lot of attacks on American soil prior to 9/11. (The Bush Administration has somehow spun being in office during the worst terrorist attack in American history into a model of stewardship which is brilliant, albeit in an Orwellian way.) But there have been attacks across the globe, many against our allies (The atrocities in Spain and England) and innumerable attacks in Iraq that may show many things, but not that we've crushed terrorism. And while too many have been willing to overlook the clear improvements from the recent surge, many others seem bound and determined to try to freeze this moment in amber, to take on a whiggish approach in which today's improvement represents inevitable improvement and in which they ignore the fact that the United States is sort of responsible for what has gone on in Iraq for ill as well as for good -- and there are representatives of both.

Today's attacks in Algeria represent the dangers we face but also the dangers we have not eradicated. They represent the evil men can do but also the slippery nature of our political dialogue. They represent the triumph of terror over hope, but somehow also the triumph of hope over reality.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Radiohead: Pay If You Please

There is a pretty good case to be made that Radiohead is the reigning "Greatest Band in the World." For people who share that belief, this feature on Thom Yorke and company in today's New York Times is welcome. I want to run into them at The Rose and Crown, which is apparently their preferred pub in Oxford. (I suppose I'm now fit for mockery from "real fans" who probably knew that little bit of trivia even though I've been an ardent Radiohead fan for a decade or so now.)

Radiohead currently is the talk of the music biz because of their bold approach to their newest album, In Rainbows, which is available on a pay what you want basis by download here. Because of the reticence of the guys in the band and the innovative nature of their endeavor we may never know exactly how successful this approach has been for them financially, but I think it shows how fans truly are willing to pay a fair price for music they love. It is in its way remarkable to think that a large number of people who could have gotten In Rainbows for free anted up the lucre. I paid 5 pounds for it, which comes out to right about what one might expect to pay for a reasonably priced (which is to say significantly overpriced) cd.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The GOP Horse Race: Indecision or Reflection?

Boston-area GOP political analyst Todd Domke analyzes the Republican race in an attempt to figure out the apparently unprecedented indecision on the part of party voters. Implicit in Domke's otherwise astute assessment is a belief that such "indecision" is somehow bad. On the other hand, one can argue with some confidence that it might be good for American politics for the nomination process not to be wrapped up by President's Day.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

South Africa Year in Review

Over at the South Africa Blog I have created a year in review page at the request of my editor. It is lengthy, but I hope you'll take the time to read it. There is a section of predictions for 2008, so you'll inevitably be able to mock me in a year.

Herf on German Silence and Ahmadinejad

dcat friend and mentor Jeff Herf has a piece at TNR in which he asks why Germans have not been more vocal in decrying Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his fascist leanings. As usual Herf is smart and insightful and informs his commentary with a wide range of ideas and readings.

Most Walkable Cities

The Brookings Institution has ranked America's most walkable cities. The top five are Washington, DC, Boston (some Bostonians are miffed about coming in second to DC), San Francisco, Denver, and Portland, Oregon. I'm pretty ecumenical about the DC-Boston walkability debate. They are two of my favorites cities in which to walk,and as with just about any sort of ranking like this one, it's all pretty capricious so that the difference between, say, number one and number 5 seems pretty meaningless.

A History of Histories

"Historiography" is one of those needlessly daunting words that historians use both fully cognizant of its meaning and utterly unaware of how offputting it is to those who don't have the profession's union card and know the secret handshakes. And yet historiography is little more than the direction of arguments, ideas and evidence. It is the history of the history, as it were, in which ideas have developed, pissing matches played out, new information shared. When I was getting my MA one of my professors, who has become a friend, (and who at the time was about the age that I am now) explained how he once hated historiography, but how by that point in his career it had taken ahold of him and he found it fascinating. That's sort of how I feel. An element of the discipline with which I once had an uncomfortable relationship has been the source of to of my recent scholarly articles (one forthcoming) and the very idea of historiography has heavily informed two other recent articles.

I was thus interested to see Michael Binyon's review of British historian John Burrow's apparently impressive new book A History of Histories. In Binyon's words:

John Burrow's A History of Histories is itself an exemplar of how history should be written. Witty, scholarly and, above all, fair, it relates, in chronological order, the lives, learning and influence of the greatest historians, from Herodotus, Thucydides and Polybius to Herbert Butterfield, G.M. Trevelyan and Arnold Toynbee.

[. . .]
Burrow is absorbingly informative. He knows his subject and he knows how to tell it to those who have heard of, but never read, Sallust, Jean Froissart, David Hume, Leopold von Ranke or Henry Adams. He tells us a bit about each man (there are almost no women historians), sets out the political framework and summarises the writer's argument, style and intention. It brings to mind Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, and the result is just as happy. Burrow comments with enormous authority on a historian's pedigree, judgment and influence.

Although the book does not appear to cover modern historians (or American historiography, never mind Africa) especially well, this appears to be a wonderful book for, say, a graduate seminar in historiography, methods, or the historian's craft.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Culture of Books and Reviewing

Over at The New Republic James Walcott reviews Gail Pool's new book Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America. This probably seems like one of those discussions that only effete snobs and pointy-headed intellectuals care about. And maybe it is. But effete snobs and pointy-headed intellectuals are not always wrong and more often than those who castigate them would like to believe, are quite often right. I don't think that it creates a mythologized or idealized past to argue that there was once a more vibrant culture of books and book reviewing in the United States and that now as much as ever there are the means and mechanisms to have such a culture again but that there seems not to be the will and the desire.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mmmmmmm, Donuts!

MSN has America's top 10 donut shops (via Bret Stetka, a donut- obsessive who serves his country by maintaining The Blognut, which devotes coverage to "all donuts, all the time."). Mmmmm, donuts! Texas gets an entry but on the whole I find that the Lone Star State does not get the art of the pastry with the hole in it. Let us know your favorite donut stops. (Or weigh in on the eternal Krispy Kreme v. Dunkin' Donuts debate. I love fresh Krispy Kreme glazed, but pound for pound, donut for donut, this native New Englander is going to keep with his regional loyalties and back Dunkin' Donuts.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Greatest Indie Rock Albums Ever

Blender has a list of the 100 greatest indie rock albums ever. This should start a few arguments. I agree with the top three, but would place them in a different order. (The Replacements' Let It Be is the greatest album ever. I won's entertain any arguments that say otherwise!) Start here with albums 100-91 and follow the countdown in increments of ten.

G-Rob Enters the Big Tent

The guys at Big Tent have made the wise decision to add G-Rob, longtime reader of both Big Tent and dcat, one of their own. He has been busily adding his byline to their little slice of the blogosphere.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Celebrity Endorsement.

Courtesy of Homz:

Terry Francona says, "Read DCAT's blog!!!"

The BCS, BC and VTech

Soon enough I'll have my annual rants about the Bowl Championship Series and the patent fraud that is the end of the major college football season. But let me give you a little preview:

Can someone please explain to me how Virginia Tech is ranked ahead of Boston College? The two teams play in the same conference. They have the same record, as both teams are 10-2. And they played once this year. Boston College won. And so what we have here is a case in which the voters (I realize there is the computer component to consider as well) have decided, despite what has happened on the field when the two teams played, that Virginia Tech is better than Boston College despite the fact that all things are equal and Boston College won when they met on the field. The experts have chosen to place themselves above the action on the field. And yet at the end of year we are supposed to believe that things have worked out because the very people who have a say in the system tell us that they have finally gotten it right.

I realize that neither Boston College nor Virginia Tech is going to be in the national championship picture. And I realize that BC and Virginia tech will meet again tomorrow in the ACC championship game. But if the supposed experts can allow this pretty clearly unjustifiable glitch in the system to happen largely because of their own belief that their opinions matter more than what has happened on the field, how can we take them seriously as the final arbiters of a system that everyone else knows is flawed?

Soon enough I'll be making my case for Hawaii's deserved place in the BCS Championship game (if they hold up their end of the bargain in the last game of the regular season at home against Washington tomorrow night).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The GOP Leaders and Immigration Policy

At The Boston Globe Jeff Jacoby laments Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney embodying the contemporary equivalent of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings. The money excerpt:
The Know-Nothings today are spoken of with disdain, but their attractiveness to voters was once a powerful political phenomenon. One of Romney's predecessors as governor of Massachusetts, Henry J. Gardner, was elected three times on the American Party (the "Know-Nothing") ticket. He had plenty of company: In the 1854 election in Massachusetts alone, the Know-Nothings won every statewide office, every seat in the state Senate, virtually the entire state House of Representatives, every seat in the congressional delegation, and a slew of local offices.

It wasn't a party of single-issue yahoos. The Know-Nothings opposed slavery, supported greater rights for women, expanded constitutional liberties, mandated paid legal counsel for poor defendants, increased aid to public schools and libraries, enacted numerous consumer protections, and cracked down on corruption in public office.

But who recalls any of that today? The Know-Nothings are remembered now for one thing only: the anti-immigrant bigotry they inflamed and exploited for political gain.

Giuliani and Romney are not single-issue yahoos either. But they are letting their hunger for power overwhelm their better judgment and decency. Recklessly bashing illegal immigrants may score them points with one angry segment in the GOP base. But what are they doing to their party's reputation - and their own?

Jacoby, I'll remind you, is a very conservative columnist. This does not represent an attack from the left.

I live in the Southwest where the issue of immigration is more than just a cynical topic to scare white suburbanites and I find Giuliani and Romney's conversion to represent facile opportunism. There is no easy solution to this issue. But demonizing immigrants strikes me as a vicious and craven way to approach immigration policy. Texan George W. Bush understands this, and I don't give the president all that much credit on many issues. I don't entirely agree with Bush's immigration policies either, but at least he is making an attempt to find a solution within a context where any policy is going to lead to deep dissatisfaction.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mike Huckabee and the Conservative Divide

Is Mike Huckabee a "false conservative"? That's the argument Robert Novak makes in today's Washington Post.:
The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
But rather than representing false conservatism, doesn't Huckabee represent one of conservatism's two distinct wings in a party that has an increasingly divided Big Tent? Novak has a distinct view of what conservatism is, and his version certainly long held firm. But conservatism also now "is," to some degree, its socially conservative, religious evangelical wing as well. For so long the Democratic Party had to balance disparate and often conflicting constituencies. The rise of conservatism in the last third or so of the twentieth century as uch as anything capitalized on the Democratic inability to maintain that balancing act by drawing some of that constituency toward the GOP. Think, for example, of Reagan Democrats. But the rise of the religious right appears not to have strengthened the Republican party by making it bigger, but rather to have created a divide among conservatives and the party within which they long have felt comfortable.

The Five Worst Airports in the World

We're back from our week in the greater Phoenix area, a period in which we never actually set foot in the city of Phoenix. We drove both ways, and so avoided some of the worst aspects of holidayb travel. Yes, it takes a long time to drive and traffic can be a hassle. But in the period from the days before Thanksgiving to the days after New Year's Day, we all know what a nightmare airports can be. Still, if you find yourself cheek-to-jowl in a terminal or stuck for an extra hour on the tarmac, feel thankful that you are not spending those hours in one of the five worst airports in the world. Unless, of course, your holiday travel takes you to Senegal, India, Russia, Iraq, or France (yes, France).

Monday, November 19, 2007

In the Valley of the Sun

We spent the day driving from Odessa to the greater Phoenix area in order to spend the week with this guy and his family. It took about ten hours driving across desert terrain that took us through El Paso, Las Cruces, Tucson, and into the epicenter of the Valley of the Sun. Thanksgiving Day activities will involve your faithful scribe participating in a fun run with Jaime's son while his parents run the real race, an enormous amount of food, and then tailgating before that night's Arizona State-USC game, for which we have tickets. Otherwise the week will consist of world class caliber hanging out, overeating, and buying ASU stuff. I'll post as I can, but in any case, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Klein on Wenner and Seymour on Thompson

This weekend's New York Times Book Review has Joe Klein's assessment of Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour's new oral history, Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson. I discovered and devoured Thompson's ouvre when most people do: in high school and college. He was a force of nature, the sine qua non of Gonzo journalism. But unlike a lot of the work of many of his colleagues, and unlike most of the Beat movement that led the way to The New Journalism, the high falutin' term for Gonzo, Thompson's best work has aged pretty well.

As for the book, Klein writes:

“Gonzo” is a wonderfully entertaining chronicle of Hunter’s wild ride, but it is also a detailed, painful account of his self-destructive immersions; the brutality he visited upon his wife, Sandy; and the anguish of a life that veered from inspired performance art to ruinous solipsism.
I'll certainly read Wenner and Seymour's book at some point, but even before I do, I'm sure I'll revisit some of Thompson's work. With the election coming up, I may well go back to Thompson's tour de force, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail, 72, which reveals Thompson not only as the doyen of Gonzo journalists, but also as an acerbic, uproarious, and astute political observer.

Big Papi for MVP?

At The Boston Globe Jason Tuouhey argues that not only did David Ortiz have a much better season than people realize, he also deserves MVP consideration over Alex Rodriguez, who is practically preordained to receive the award unanimously, or nearly so, when voting is announced on Monday. Every year the discussion ensues as to what the Most Valuable Player award actually means. That is to say, how do we define "valuable"? I'm not certain I buy Tuouhey's argument, but he makes a much better case than I expected that he would when I first started reading his piece.

But one aspect I find interesting is that i simply do not care about the postseason awards now. For years, the award season was all that Red Sox fans had to salvage a season that went awry sometime between June and late October. Now? Let Sabbathia win thew Cy Young Award over Josh Beckett. Anyone who watched the postseason knows who is the better pitcher. Let Eric Wedge win Manager of the Year. We have Terry Francona, the only manager ever to win his first five World Series games as a manager (he is at eight and counting). I hope ARod enjoys his MVP award (and his new contract. Way to take a tough stand, Hank Steinbrenner. Punk.). Big Papi will just have to wait to size his second World Series winners ring.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Torture, Mississippi Style

Guess where they once used a form of the "water cure"? Jim Crow Mississippi. That probably comes as no surprise. But guess where the practice was outlawed as being barbaric? Also in Jim Crow Mississippi, in the case Fisher v. State, 110 So. 361, 362 (Miss. 1926). From the blog Is That Legal (With a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan:
Waterboarding, known ironically in earlier times as "the water cure", remains -- in the view of this administration and many supporters -- not torture. And if it's not torture, then it's not cruel and unusual punishment or a violation of due process.

But here's the rub.

In 1926, the Mississippi Supreme Court called the water cure torture. No qualifiers. No hedging. Just plain, good ol' fashion torture . . . and therefore a forbidden means for securing a confession. These men were hardly a group I'd call *activist* or *liberal* and certainly not bent on subverting our country in the name of coddling criminals.

I'm just not certain what case there is justifying these sorts of measures. I think that the United States can withstand bad foreign policy. I'm not certain for how long we can withstand engaging in practices that even repellent regimes have found to be repellent. It's unnecessary. It does not make us safer. It does not provide us with actionable intelligence. And it violates the very principles that are supposed to separate ourselves from our enemies. I can see no defense for waterboarding and similar practices and I do not know why anyone would try to do so.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In Defense of DIII

Over at The Slice Holmes has a great post on Division III sports. It starts with the Williams-Amherst gameday appearance and goes on to discuss an encounter with one of those guys who disparage DIII sports without themselves ever having played a game beyond the jv level in high school. Good stuff.

Joltin' Joe and the Streak (*?)

In the October issue of Canada's best magazine, The Walrus (think The New Yorker meets Harper's) David Robbeson raises an intriguing question: is it possible that Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak might deserve an asterisk, or at least some skepticism. The most damning criticism: On more than one occasion DiMaggio maintained the hit streak as the result of the official scorer judging a play that could have been ruled an error as a hit. The problem is that the official scorer practically worshipped DiMaggio, was a good friend of him and several other players, and served as a de facto house publicist for the Yankees.
Baseball, more than most sports, reflects the times in which it is played. Rules change, ethics shift, and one era’s decisions become another’s poor judgment. Sometimes the judgments of the day are merely questionable; often they’re exercises in hypocrisy. If, in an age when Barry Bonds, a seven-time mvp, can be demonized strongly enough to dull the lustre of the all-time home run record, it seems only fair to apply the same kind of critical scrutiny back through the ages, to re-examine the “great” feats of yesteryear.

One can choose to believe that Joe DiMaggio ran the equivalent of a nine-second 100-metre dash in 1941. But to do so one must neglect the fact that his race was timed not by an impartial third party, but by a friend of his — an admirer, a co-worker — and that it took place at a time when America badly needed heroes. Was the streak the most singular sustained accomplishment in the history of sport or the work of a collective imagination seeking a new mythology?
This is one of those cases that we can never solve completely. But it just should remind us that we are on a slippery slope when we start trying to invoke asterisks for modern-day records, or when we privilege the past over the present.

Lapham's Quarterly

A new periodical, Lapham's Quarterly, has taken its place on the magazine racks and online. Founded by editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham:
LAPHAM'S QUARTERLY sets the story of the past in the frame of the present. Four times a year the editors seize upon the most urgent question then current in the headlines - foreign war, financial panic, separation of church and state - and find answers to that question from authors whose writings have passed the test of time.

In effect, Lapham seems to believe there is a mass market, or at least a market among intellectuals, for what we historians call "primary sources." It's a daring venture, to say the least. Let's hope it amounts to something. Or if it fails, that it is an interesting failure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Day Out in Oxford

This week's New York Times travel section suggests a day out in Oxford when the throngs of tourists have receded and the city is back to the business of being one of the world's intellectual centers. (Or, if you will, centres.)

Gameday at Williams

Donnie Baseball asked for it, and I responded. Here is an expanded version of my views on ESPN's Gameday spending their Saturday in Williamstown for the Williams-Amherst game (which Williams won 20-0).

The Pursuit of Perfection

The Boston Globe's Jim McCabe has a lengthy feature on the history of the quest for an undefeated NFL season, which of course the Patriots are pursuing but are still a long way from achieving. I think it is clear that the Patriots are far and away the most talented team in the league, and as their results indicate, the best. But as McCabe's article makes equally clear, even the most talented teams in NFL history have fallen short at some point. I would even argue that the one team that did accomplish the feat, the 1972 Dolphins, were not necessarily one of the truly great all-time teams, though just by virtue of that record they force their way into the conversation.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Glory Days

Not only are Boston sports teams on a four-week streak of making the cover of Sports Illustrated, since October 1 Boston teams have graced the cover six times if you include the World Series commemorative dition (which, incidentally, I do).

Nick Hornby Speaks

Over at The Atlantic's website, Jessica Murphy conducts an interview with Nick Hornby, who is one of my very favorite writers. He has a new book out, Slam, which is geared toward a young adult audience. Hornby also pens a great, quirky column in a magazine you should be reading, The Believer. And from the interview I discovered that he has a blog as well.

I read. A lot. It's sort of a professional imperative. And I love much of what I read -- scholarship, political commentary, reviews, and so forth. And yet there are certain writers whose work will always get me to stop what I am doing. Hornby is one. Chuck Klosterman is another. Both write readable, sometimes mesmerizing prose with a distinctive voice and worldview. Their work is quite removed (in many ways -- Hornby's Fever Pitch did influence Bleeding Red and I am writing a review essay in which Hornby's High Fidelity and several of Klosterman's books feature prominently) from anything I write about or teach. Some probably see them as fluff, but I don't buy that.

Accessibility should not be a bad word. Scholars in all fields (history is far from the worst) need to absorb this message. Clear, crisply written narrative history ought to be the gold standard in the field. Even for those writers whose narrative strengths do not measure up, the goal of clear, readable prose still should be foremost. Most writers could learn something about their craft from Nick Hornby.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Waterboarding By Any Other Name

In a convincing op-ed at The Washington Post Evan Wallach, a former JAG and currently a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York and adjunct professor of who teaches the law of war at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School, wants us at least to call a spade a spade in the debate over waterboarding:
That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as "simulated drowning." That's incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is,the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding's effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

There can be little doubt that these forms of water-based interrogation are torture. We have always known that they are torture. And arguments of convenience to try to argue otherwise are little more than intellectual chicanery and amoral, indeed immoral, posturing.

Wearin' O' the Green

Courtesy of the Thunderstick, Ian Thomsen at SI onine has an article on the Celtics in which he says that things are good now, but issues loom. I think for now it's ok for C's fans simply to enjoy having our team be relevant again. The Big 3 have been every bit as good as advertised, but the NBA season is a long one. My favorite aspect of how they have played through just three games is that there has been great balance -- all three have had one or two great games, each has had a game when he was not the star. And the supporting cast has been great. If Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo can just keep the opposition honest it is going to be a very good season for the Green.

Oh -- and I'm sure those of you who aren't Boston sports fans are thrilled that four consecutive SI covers have had Boston teams on them. (Pats twice, Sox once, C's once, all wholly justifiable.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Representing the Lollipop Guild

I'm not sure what to make of this article in The Believer. Basically, it's about a fetishism for cute, little things and particularly for the marriages (real and mock) of these wee ones. Little people -- your midgets, your dwarves, what have you -- feature prominently. But so do pet weddings and other weird aspects of this bizarre fringe of quasi-erotica.

Someone help me figure out what to think of an article that has a paragraph like the following (and if you think I'm not using my puzzlement to promote this teaser, you really don't know me after all these years):

All royal courts of the day had their dwarfs. King Sigismund-Augustus of Poland had nine dwarfs while Catherine de’ Medici had only six but actively encouraged those six to engender more. Vitelli, a Roman cardinal, amassed thirty-nine to serve as waiters at a special dinner. But it was during the reign of Charles I, king of England from 1625 until he was beheaded by his people in 1649, Leslie Fielder claims, that “the erotic cult of the Dwarf” reached its peak and was perhaps most sumptuously embodied by all eighteen inches of Jeffery Hudson, whom Charles presented to his young bride hidden beneath the crust of a cold pie.
Mmmmm. Pie.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Alonzo Hamby on American Exceptionalism

Many of you by now know one of dcat's iron-clad rules: If my advisor, mentor, and friend Alonzo Hamby takes the time to write something, you can be certain that it is worth reading closely. Over at History News Network he has taken on the topic of American Exceptionalism with his typical insight and grace. I'm not certain that I entirely agree with him -- Hamby falls on the side of embracing the idea of American exceptionalism or something close to it -- largely because my own comparative work has led me to be instinctively wary of such arguments, but also because I usually want to steer clear of the political agenda that often lurks behind such assertions. But as he has done so often, Hamby has me rethinking my beliefs and looking at the question in a different way. That, I know, is exceptional.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A's for the C's

At The Boston Globe Jackie MacMullen and Bob Ryan (does any newspaper in America have a better 1-2 punch when it comes to basketball?) are effusive about the Celtics' 103-83 victory over the Wizards last night. It has been more than two decades since the C's last one a championship for the overcrowded rafters in the Garden (version 2.0). Adding an unprecedented 17th title suddenly does not seem a distant dream.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On: The Glory of Newspapers and the Pats' World Dominance

One of the great joys of being on the road and in a major city is the ability to read that city's daily newspaper. We dedidedly do not live in a golden age of newspapers, but almost despite themselves, local papers still provide a sense of a city and its character. More than that, though, is that a world class newspaper (and despite accusations to the contrary and the constant, sneering invocation in some ideological corners of the "Mainstream Media," or MSM, usually for not covering some story that may or may not actually be essential news, or for not covering a story the way the accuser feels it should be covered, there are world class papers in the United States) provides a tactile connection to the world. I can read The Washington Post online every day, and I do. But it is so much better to be able to hold the Post, to flip through it, to let the stories draw you in, to carry it around.

This unintended homage to newspapers is merely my way of directing you to Sally Jenkins' column today in the Post's sports section, which is easily one of the five best in the country. I probably would not have discovered it had I not been flipping through that sports section this morning. It provides the best non-Boston, non-Pats-fan perspective on the various pseudo-controversies swirling around the Patriots these days. It really is a fantastic column.

Now I need to go check out the op-ed pages. And then wash this damned ink off of my hands.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the Road, Again

Your faithful and humble correspondent is bound for Richmond for the Southern Historical Association's annual shindig. I'll actually be making the commute between DC, where I'll be staying, and Richmond each day of the meeting. I'm sure I'll be able to be found most days wandering the book exhibit aimlessly, trying to appear as if I am not andering the book exhibit aimlessly. I'll post as possible, but things might be a little slow around here for the next few days.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Definitive Case Against Waterboarding

Small Wars Journal blogger Malcolm Nance has what I would hope is the definitive argument that waterboarding is torture. Nance's bio is impressive. He is "a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies" as well as "a 20-year veteran of the US intelligence community's Combating Terrorism program and a six year veteran of the Global War on Terrorism."

This should be a no-brainer. In my own work in South Africa I have seen how simulated drowning and suffocation were a popular means of inflicting pain and suffering -- of torturing -- alleged enemies of the state. Examples abound of other totalitarian regimes -- regimes against which the United States has always tried to define itself -- engaging in similar behaviors. I can see no justification for waterboarding and its ilk, and I do not see how illegitimate, indeed evil, means help us fight legitimate wars, never mind highly contested ones.

Hat Tip to Christopher Orr at The Plank

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: World Series Champs Edition!

Thunderstick: Well, we counted down the magic number every time it changed from the beginning of April until we clinched the AL East and we counted down the wins for the past few weeks until the number went from 11 to 0, and we finally rolled to the World Series title. Sweet. What a game last night. And while there's no doubt that there was much less relief this time than in 2004, it was pretty f'in great none the less. You can go straight down this entire lineup and see where almost every guy on this roster had a hand in something over the past couple weeks. What a great feel good story last night to see Lester come in and go 5+ and not give up any runs.

There's a lot to go through and to rehash but for today, let's just bask in the idea that we were able to have a fun playoff run to a world title and not have to listen to the 1918 nonsense and all that stuff. As was quoted so many times during 2004, people wondered if Sox fans would be the same without having the curse attached to us and I think it's shown that we aren't the same. We're a much happier bunch that was really able to enjoy this run this year rather than in 2004 where as we've said many times, it was great, incredible, awesome, etc., but would we really call it fun? It was fun this time around.

Props to Mikey Lowell for getting the MVP. I love the guy. He's a throw in, so we eat his salary in the Beckett trade, but he comes through like this for the last two seasons. I know there are ARod rumors swirling and everything, but give me a high- character guy like Lowell who is central in the clubhouse and plays his heart out first to play third. I still think Pap should have won MVP--the story in game 2 was he and Okajima locking down that win (recall Pap came in with two guys on base and the Sox up 1 and he didn't let it get away). His part in game 3 was kind of minimalized, but he got the out that stopped the Rockies' late rally. And last night, with Delcarmen, Timlin and especially Okie looking shaky, he came in and locked things down in another one-run game. But these are arguments that are fun to have because you won. There's an offseason to talk about how well this team is set up for the long haul and what needs to be done in free agency and such, but we can spend a few days really relishing this and then we can throw ourselves into the C's opener, BC/Florida State and Pats/Colts. What a great time to be a Boston sports fan.

[Written a little while later] It is just so much better to be World Series champs than to not be World Series champs. I literally had no time to read the articles on ESPN or CNNSI or even in the Globe this morning until about lunch time and even then I read them hurriedly, but they were great to see. They are all variations on the same themes--sure the team spends money, but look at what the rooks did, how the Sox spent money wisely, how this is no longer a culture of fearing the worst and my favorite, how well the Sox are set up to make a good run at things the next several years.

Throw on that all the ARod stuff and it's a fun sports day. The ARod thing has me a bit perplexed I have to admit. All year I've always been of the mind that as much as I hate ARod, it'd be ridiculous to not sign him and I could instantly love him if he was in the Sox uniform. That said, I think if there's one thing we have learned from 2004 and 2007 is that team chemistry does count for something. It might not count for as much as a lot of people want you to believe, but I think it counts for something and it might be that little something that gets you over the hill in a 7 game series as opposed to losing in 6. And I'm wondering if it's worth signing ARod, particularly from the standpoint that we've learned that what isn't necessarily important is to have a guy that can hit dingers in the middle of your lineup--what is more important is that you have 9 guys that go deep into count and are just relentless at making pitchers pitch and I'm concerned that if you spend $30 million a year on ARod you can't get those 8 or 9 guys that batter pitchers, not to mention that even more important than all that is pitching and I'd much rather spend $12 million per year apiece on two stud pitchers than $30 million on ARod. It has been enteraining if only because everyone within the Yanks organization has bungled everything since the end of the season--from how they let Torre go, to Torre's whole "insult" thing after it was shown that he had incentives in his other contracts, to some of the statements by the younger Steinbrenner [Hank], to now this and the flak ARod is catching for making his announcement during the World Series, not to mention doing it on a day when he said previous committments kept him from coming to the game to get that award from Hank Aaron. This is more of the Yankees team that I know and love. It'll be really interesting to see how all this plays out over the next couple months.

dcat: Let's not worry about ARod or the Yankees or Boras or even the future. One of the big transitions after 2004 is that it has become too easy as a fan not just of the Sox but of Boston sports generally not to be able to appreciate what we have. We've been really lucky. And Sox fans are going to have to make a transition too: While the Sox will always be vitally important to us, to the rest of the world we are just another really successful sports team who they are coming to hate, and whose fans can make that hatred easy to cultivate. Sure, the Sox hold a vital place in the history of baseball. And the fan base is huge and loyal and devoted, far moreso than those of most teams. But the reality is that where 2004 was a great story, my guess is that most of the rest of the world is going to get really weary of the Red Sox. And I'm ok with that -- if people hate you, it means you're relevant.

I too believe Paps deserved the World Series MVP, though Lowell had a hell of a series, and in addition to his obvious numbers, he also scored a lot of runs, played great D, and made some brilliant baseruning decisions. But what I like about it is that it reminds me of 2004: When you sweep a World Series in such convincing fashion, inevitably everyone contributes. Had Dusty or Ellsbury or Paps on the MVP it also would have made sense. I felt that it should have gone to Foulke in 2004 and to paps this time, but the glory of it is that the MVP goes to someone on the winning team, and I doubt anyone on that roster cared in the end who won the MVP except to feel good for their teammate.

The Red Sox are the champions. Again. Looks like I'll happily be spending a lot of money in the next few weeks. And I slept last night with Sportscenter on a permanent loop on the tv in the background. You'll have to report to us from the victory parade. The Red Sox are just another team celebrating just another championship, something that happens every year in baseball, and many times a year in lots of sports. Isn't it glorious?

Sox World Series Champs! (Again!) [dcat Charity Drive Reminder]

I waited my whole life for the Red Sox to win a World series title, and as you all well know, it finally happened in 2004. Naturally this one feels different, but it still feels good. The Thunderstick and I will weigh in with some assessments in a little bit. But there is some business to address, and we may as well not let it wait:

Please don't forget the dcat Charity Drive. A number of you committed yourselves either in comments or in emails to donate money to charity based on various performance parameters for your teams. It's time to pony up. I will be sending $137 the way of the Jimmy Fund, which I'll round up to $150. Please let us know either in the comments or via email what you'll be donating so that we can have a tally for the dcat charity drive.

The Red Sox have now won two titles in a span of four years, are likely candidates for the fictive title of team of the decade, and we have every reason to believe that they will be competitive for years to come. This is not my grandfather's Red Sox team, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game Four, Let's Get It Done Tonight, Edition

My hope is that while we'll be able to write about the Sox in the next few days, this will be the last game preview of the 2007 season. Thunderstick kept his remarks brief and to the point:

Thunderstick: I think there was one big message in the game last night which was the Sox jumped out early and took control of the game, which is what champion teams do, and then when Colorado mounted a serious threat, not only did they not ever give up the lead, but when things got tense, they responded big and took their heart and finished the game with a big inning--another thing that champions do. We can go into the heroics of Ellsbury and Dusty and Lowell and Pap, but the big story here was that the Sox looked like the world champions last night. You go through the scenario--Colorado has a good shot to beat Lester tonight and then maybe if they can get by Beckett somehow and get back to Boston and maybe they catch bad outings from Schil and Dice, they could pull it off. But clearly these first three games couldn't have gone much better as the Sox have shown they can win a blowout, they can win a low scoring game and they can win one that is kind of wild.

dcat: Do you remember what we were like at this point in 2004? It was a combination of anticipation and disbelief and, frankly, fear. It seemed too good to be true and while we had seen the Pats win and can even remember the C's winning, and you had Duke basketball, we were entering uncharted territory with the Sox.

This feels different. It just feels good. Now as you say, we are not out of the woods yet. The Lester story is a great one, and there is something wonderful about him getting his shot to close out the World Series given the cancer scare from the offseason. But realistically he is also our weakest link. If there is any chance for the Rockies to snag a win and get that elusive (and maybe fictive) momentum going, it's tonight. But acknowledging that there is still important baseball to be played does not change the reality that we have controlled this series in every imaginable way so far. The lineup has been outstanding. Losing Youks and Papi for half a game each did not end up mattering. Dice was better-than-solid for five innings. The end of the bullpen faltered but did not fail. And when they closed the gap, we awoke and put the game out of reach again, with Paps closing the door yet again, and putting himself in the lead for the MVP discussion.

Get one more win. Do it tonight. This has been fun. I have no interest in drama of any kind. In this case, I am happy to win what I'm sure the rest of the country sees as a boring World Series rather than get caught up in an exciting one.

Go Sox!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: On To Colorado Edition

Well, it was another damned good night to be a Boston sports fan, especially if you root for BC, as I do (and many in Boston do not, though the bandwagon is filling up fast). The Boston College comeback was beyond improbable and keeps them in the hunt for a BCS bowl and maybe, just maybe a national title. But as great as the win over Virginia Tech was in Blacksburg, it pales next to the Sox taking a 2-0 lead in the World Series over the Rockies. So let's hear what the Thunderstick has to say.

Thunderstick: Great win last night. Really they are all great at this time of year because they get you one victory closer to winning the whole thing, but everyone in the world was predicting a high scoring affair and the Sox were able to win a pitcher's duel. Schil did what he had to and Tito once again showed that he's a master at managing the pitching in the playoffs by knowing exactly when Schill had had enough and exactly how long he could go with Okie and Pap. Hell of a performance by those guys. Jimenez was better than I expected. He walked too many guys and that ultimately led to him not getting out of the 5th, but his stuff was either in the strike zone and nasty or out of the strike zone (and still nasty), so the Sox couldn't get a lot of good hits on him to drive in those walked batters. But they got it done and go up 2-0 heading to Colorado.

Two things after this game--one looking back, one looking forward. We've spent many emails and text messages the last 4 years discussing Schilling, talking about how we wished he'd shut up from time to time and discussing a lot of non-baseball-related items about him. But I hope that was his last start at Fenway because it was the perfect way to go out. Despite the extra stuff that comes along with Schilling, he's had a huge effect on this organization and region. When he came in 2004, it was his presence that kept Sox fans up after the Yanks got ARod in an offseason that came off of that brutal game 7 loss to the Yanks in the 2003 ALCS. And his attitude was huge as one of the personalities to drive that 2004 team. His heroics led to him never being quite right again, with two years where he really wasn't very good at all. But this year, he hasn't been overpowering and he hasn't been dominant, but he's gotten it done when he needed to--in game 3 against Anaheim and game 6 against Cleveland and again last night and his approach has typified this Sox team where he's just doing what he can, doing it intelligently and doing it effectively and he just keeps at it. You heard them talk about him and Ortiz leading that players-only meeting during the series with the Tribe and you see his thoughts echoed in the post-game interviews that are conducted with other players. I won't miss some of the stuff that goes along with Schill if this was his last start, but I will very much miss watching him pitch, particularly in October, even if it is this version of him that rarely goes over 90 and can only throw 80+ pitches a game and while it becomes fashionable to bash on Schilling for some of the stuff he says, it'll be nice to see the full appreciation of Red Sox Nation for him after he passes out of town when people tend to forget the non-game related nonsense and remember his performances.

Lastly, looking ahead--I mean, we can't get too overconfident, but I said after game 1 that game 2 was pretty damned important to the Rox if only because they had to figure that they aren't going to beat Beckett so if they lost game 2, it basically meant they had no margin of error in the 4 upcoming games that Beckett wasn't pitching because even though you might not know what you are going to get from Schill, Dice and Lester in these other four possible games, you have to think the Sox would win at least one of them, so by losing game 2, they might have doomed themselves. But we'll see. I'm interested to see how much the lineups are evened out with the loss of the DH. I'm also interested to see how Dice, who relies on a lot of ball movement, pitches in the thin air. The Rox will have a chance to get back in this, tomorrow night and Sunday night before seeing Beckett again, but I think if the Rox don't win both of these, the Sox will be popping champagne on Monday night. I have a feeling the Rox win one, if only because they are good enough, a young, upstart team that will get carried through one game by the emotion of being at home in the World Series, but I also think they win one because the stars of the 2007 playoffs have clearly been Beckett (for his masterful performance) and Pap (for his pitching, but also for his personality) and it seems like it's only fitting that it end with Beckett getting a win and Pap closing it down for him.

dcat: I wrote the following before Game One:

One factor in this series, I think, is that there will be at least two games when the winner will simply have to outscore the other team, and I don't mean that in the obvious way that teams to win always have to outscore the other. But given that we are talking about a World Series being played in Fenway Park and Coors Field, there are going to be times when the winner is going to have to put up 8-9-10 runs. I am not certain that the Rockies can beat us in a lot of those games. There will also be at least a couple of games when the winner is simply going to have to out-pitch the other team. I am confident that the Sox can win those games.

We know how these sorts of predictions usually work, but I think I had that one right. We've had two very different games, one a laugher, one a nail biter, and in both cases the Sox played better baseball and emerged on top. In the first game Beckett was spectacular, but he did not even have to be, as the lineup pounded the Rockies. In Game Two, runs were going to be scarce. We got what we needed and let Schill do his work, and then he handed the ball to Oki and Paps, who were simply astounding. In the NBA postseason, the ideal approach is to shorten the rotation. In the NHL playoffs coaches change the way they manage shifts. Well, in baseball, you do everything you can to maximize the time the ball is in the hands of the guys at the end of the bullpen rotation. In a game seven that might go out the window, but it is clear that in this series Tito is going to let Oki and Pap go multiple innings. These are the highest leverage situations, so we are going to maximize how we utilize those guys. They came through last night. Thankfully, we have the off day today. Still, we need some innings from Dice tomorrow.

I agree wholeheartedly with you about Schill, though there is a part of me that would love to see him close out his career with the Sox if the price is right. I don't care what Curt Schilling, or any of these guys, thinks about politics. But at this time of year I want a wily Curt Schilling both on the mound and in the clubhouse. If he wants to get bank for one last contract, I think we wish him well and cheer like mad when he returns to Fenway. But if he simply wants another year or two, is interested in being a mentor, and is not worried about being a number one guy, I'd be happy to have him back. There is, as we have seen year after year after year, no such thing as too much starting pitching.

Game Three will be the Rocks' last best chance to get back into this thing. And while Dice had been sporadic, I still maintain that he has not been bad, and the last game he was quite good. So far the Rockies have not been as patient as the Indians, have not seen as many pitches, have not shown the ability to wear our guys down. If we assume that Dice is going to have that one tough inning, and if it is likely to be the fourth, we have to hope that Dice can get to the 4th having thrown as few pitches as possible. We are going to get our runs. The question is if they can get to Dice and ride what will likely be a crazy home crowd thrilled to see their team in a World Series game.

I'm going to enjoy the off day. We have everything to be happy about. Two games down, two wins, and in very different fashion. Let's enjoy a Friday night without being glued to the television, and get back at it tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game Two of the World Series Edition

Thunderstick: I think that first game confirmed a lot about what we thought might happen in this series. Beckett was awesome. Sox lineup is hot. Rockies look to be cooled off from the layoff. I think the talent is better on the Sox. I also think experience mattered last night--the Sox went in cool and collected and did what they had to. The Rockies couldn't get the last out when they had the Sox at 2 outs all night. Hell, in that 5th inning, that dude had 2 outs and nobody on and the next thing you knew the Sox had batted around and scored 7 runs and there were still 2 outs on the board. So clearly, if you want to draw up a way that game 1 should start that was it--decisive and demoralizing.

That said, it is still one game. It doesn't matter if you win 13-1 and then lose 1-0, you are still going to Denver tied at a game a piece. I still feel like I don't know this Rockies team at all. Helton is the only guy that comes up that I think gives the Rox a good chance to get a hit. I know Holliday was great all year, but I didn't watch the Rox and my only impressions were that he looked overmatched last night (granted it was against Beckett). I guess if you were an NL person and heard all year how great ARod or Haffner were and then you saw them in the playoffs with the performances they had lately, you'd also think "I don't get it--what's the big deal."

I'm always the kind of person that says a series really doesn't start until the home team loses, although I've abandonded that in the days of the 2-3-2 format because it's so hard for the home team to win those three games at home in the middle that I don't think it's the end of the world for the home team to geek one of the first two. So normally I wouldn't think tonight would be that big for the Rox, but now I think it is. They can't afford to lose tonight. Some might say "well if they lose 4-3, it'll show they are on their way back, have shaken off the rust, etc..." I don't buy that at all because Beckett is now 4-0 in this postseason and shows no signs of letting up. I think you have to assume that game 5 is a Sox win at this point, which means that if the Rox lose this one tonight, knowing they'll likely lose game 5, you might as well consider them down 3-0 and it'll be all but over. I know an older Schilling, Dice and LEster aren't the most intimidating pitchers to come to the mound, but you have to think the Sox win at least 2 of the 5 games with them on the mound, which means if the Rox want to win, they better start trying to avoid those two losses tonight.

I think if the Sox win tonight, you have two potential outcomes for the Rox. The best the Rox can hope for is to get that one home win a la the Mets in 2000 against the Yanks to make their home fans feel good that after waiting to see a world series game, they could also see one world series game wins. The other scenario is a 4 game sweep that they are never in like the Cards in 04 or the Padres when they played the Yanks that one year. The Sox had great pitching, worked counts and got big hits. The Rox have to show they can counter that tonight with something. It'll be interesting to see if this Ubaldo dude is up to the task--from what I understand about him, he's got a cannon but doesn't exactly have great command. He better hope to find his command tonight because the Sox pummel guys that don't have great command.

dcat: Not much to disagree with in your assessment of last night's game one. That was one of the dullest Sox blowouts I have ever watched. They made it clear that they were the better team, at least last night, and now I hope they have forgotten all about last night as they prepare for the second game. We saw that stat last night -- before the Sox' blowout, the largest game one margin of victory in World Series history had been 11 runs. Both teams went on to lose the series. That actually means nothing, except to say that there is no real momentum involved in even the most overwhelming win.

But where we might have momentum is with the bats. Our offense has been astounding the last four games. We have put double digits up in the run column and have been winning games by huge margins. Basically, in the last few games we have been running roughshod in a leave-no-doubts-who-is-the-best-team sort of way. If that keeps up it will take pressure off the pitching staff.

But none of that means anything tonight if we lose game two, and I know that enough guys in that locker room are aware of this fact. What i loved about last night's game, and what I have loved about the last four games, is that we have not had to rely on Manny and Papi to carry us. Dusty has come up big the last few games, and Youkilis has probably been as much of a postseason MVP as Beckett on a day-to-day basis. This is partially why I am not going to let myself get too concerned about the fact that we will lose one of the Lowell-Youk-Papi troika during the games in Colorado. Tito will make sure they all are worked into the lineup, but we don't rely on one guy to get it done. I'd love all three to be in the games. But if you were to tell me that rather than lose one to the absence of the DH we'd, God forbid, lose one to injury, would you wring your hands in despair? Me neither.

At this time of year there is not much new that we ask for from game to game. I'd like to see us continue our hitting streak. I hope Schill is in his postseason form, I hope the bullpen has made something of the rest they've gotten. Rinse, wash repeat. This is what I'll want on Saturday and Sunday too. What I think we lack right now is the sense of moral crusade or historical comeuppance. This is the brave new post-2004 world in which we live. We want the Red Sox to win it all because any fan wants their team to win it all, and we love the Sox unconditionally. But there is little subtext or metanarrative within which to couch this postseason run. And that's good. It is nice for the angst in this series to be the same sort of angst we would feel for the Celtics or Pats, if, because it's the Red Sox, a bit more intense.

I see no need to reconsider my belief that the Red Sox are going to win this series comfortably, if not easily. Schill will give us six strong and we'll score our share of runs. That will be enough. Sox 8 Rockies 4.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game One of the World Series Edition

Time for "Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick: Game One of the World Series Edition." (I really need to speak to my headline writers.)

Thunderstick: Greetings from a rainy Massachusetts, site of game 1 of the World Series tonight!! God I love the World Series. Give me this championship over any other. The Super Bowl may be the biggest one-day event, but it's gotten much to corporate as compared to the World Series which still seems pretty pure. It's warm but rainy this morning, but that should all change by gametime. From what I understand, there may be some showers at the start of the game, but nothing that would delay things. But this rain is a result of the cold front coming through, so the temps will drop. In fact it was 61 when I came in this morning, but the news said that that was the warmest it was going to be all day.

It's a bummer that Wake is out of the rotation. But the nice thing (in a sense) was that I saw his interview last night and he basically said he was going to pitch a side session and then another session the following day and he couldn't even throw the ball. They thought he might be able to get through one start, but they said if he did he absolutely wouldn't be able to throw again in the series. Wake was pretty clear that this was the right decision so at least it's not like there is any question about this and you've got a player that is sitting there mad because he got left off.

As for tonight, I'm psyched, but I also am not all that concerned if only because I don't see it is a critical game. If we win, well, we were supposed to with Beckett. If we lose, well, we already know this team can come back from large deficits. I think the only way either team leaves Boston worried is if they are down 0-2. But I don't think that's a huge risk for the Sox. I put it the odds like this--45% that we leave Boston up 2-0, 45% that we leave 1-1, 10% that we leave down 0-2.

dcat: I'll keep mine short. One factor in this series, I think, is that there will be at least two games when the winner will simply have to outscore the other team, and I don't mean that in the obvious way that teams to win always have to outscore the other. But given that we are talking about a World Series being played in Fenway Park and Coors Field, there are going to be times when the winner is going to have to put up 8-9-10 runs. I am not certain that the Rockies can beat us in a lot of those games. There will also be at least a couple of games when the winner is simply going to have to out-pitch the other team. I am confident that the Sox can win those games.

We have our rotation set up perfectly, with the exception of the Wakefield situation, which is unfortunate given all he has done for the franchise, but which also won't be the deciding factor in these games. We have had a couple of days of rest, but not too much. the Rockies have not gone this long without playing baseball since pitchers and catchers reported. That is going to be a factor. Facing live pitching is a matter of having finely honed timing. That, as much as anything, makes these guys world class athletes. Now after nine days, the Rockies are going to come in and play an ALCS-tempered Sox team with Josh Beckett on the mound? I hardly can be accused of wishful thinking or of being a homer (ok, maybe of being a homer) when I am skeptical of whether the layoff won't play a role, at least the first time the Rockies go through their lineup to face Beckett.

This is what these last eight-plus months have been all about. The Red Sox are in the World Series. I have only been able to say that three other times in my life, once when I was four. It always feels good. Hell yeah, we believe.

Quick Hits While You Wait

Here are a few links to help you while away the seven hours and six minutes between now and the first pitch of the 2007 World series.:

Baseball first, of course: I would be willing to bet that no major newspaper in the country devotes as many editorials to its professional sports teams as does The Boston Globe in any given year. Yesterday's was their latest. My guess is that the conclusion that Sox fans deserve the title more than Rockies fans, however true it might be (and it is true) won't endear Boston fans to our growing legion of shrill and irrational critics.

Meanwhile, also at the Globe, Bob Hohler reminds us (as if we needed it) of the signinificance of 2004. Now forgive me while I channel Andrew Sullivan, but I can think of another guy who spent a lot of time in 2004 trying to figure out what it all means.

But enough self indulgence. john Donovan at SI has one of those position-by-position matchup charts that seems pretty reasonably to assess the relative talent levels of the two teams. All of the speculation becomes moot in a little while, though.

On to other matters.

Normally I restrict this sort of thing to the South Africa Blog (I really am full of myself today, aren't I?) but this feature on Thabo Mbeki's relationship with the media caught my eye this morning. Essentially the Mail & Guardian asked two prominent South African writers to assess that issue, and their independent conclusions are, I think, telling.

And since I am emphasizing media issues today, could the Jena 6 case prove to have an uncomfortable amount in common with the Duke lacrosse case? Craig Franklin, assistant editor at the Jena Times, argues as much in the Christian Science Monitor.

Finally, regular readers know that I am mystified by the
appeal of Rudolph Giuliani. Now this Washington Monthly piece simply adds to the suspicion many of us have about Guliani's inclinations toward a dangerous desire to centralize his own power when he has it.

Sox take Game 1 in Fenway tonight 7-2.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick, WORLD SERIES EDITION

After an often-taut seven-game series against the Indians, the Red Sox are returning to the World Series where they'll face the Rockies, which will now be lots of people's new favorite team. Boston, whether everyone who doesn't root for the Sox-Pats-Celtics-BC Eagles-or-hell-even-the-surprising-Bruins likes it or not (and I assume the answer is "not,") is the epicenter of the sporting universe, and that universe revolves around the sun that is Fenway Park. So now that I am back from San Antonio, let's have the first Dirty Water: Sox Talk With the Thunderstick WORLD SERIES EDITION.

Thunderstick: Hell of a ballgame. Obviously anyone who watched the game knows the game was much closer than the final score indicated. It was pretty gut wrenching for the first 7.5 innings. Even when Dusty's home run opened things up in the bottom of 7, Okie put those first two guys on and there were three guys coming up that had a chance to tie the score with one swing of the bat. But Pap knocked it down and the Sox blasted it open in the bottom of 8 and made the 9th pretty easy to breathe. But for 7.5 innings, my stomach was turning.

I'm hearing a lot this morning about how it was the experienced Sox team that won this thing because when the moments got big, they knew how to handle it. I certainly think that was the case in game 5 with Beckett being brilliant and in game 6 with Schilling getting through some early trouble to settle in and go 7 strong. But look at the key players last night--Dice, Okie, Pap, Dusty, Ellsbury, Youk. None of these guys other than Youk has any playoff experience and his is limited to sitting on the bench during the 2004 run and going out three straight to the White Sox in 2005. Not exactly a ton of experience from those guys, but they all came up big in their own way last night. Cleveland on the other side had a few guys play well--most notably Victor Martinez. But the story of this series for them is that Carmona, Sebathia, Hafner and Sizemore didn't really show up at all. You can win a couple games with your big guns not doing much (Papi and Manny barely got a hit between them in games 6 and 7) but it's tough to win an ALCS. I think the Tribe was flying high after game 4, but Beckett came in in game 5 and shut them down and all off a sudden they looked up and they were at Fenway and they were thinking "uh oh" and with everyone run the Sox scored and every out they made, that stage got bigger and bigger and the Tribe didn't have guys who were quite ready to handle that yet.

dcat: As always seems to be the case with the Sox, there were lots of tense moments last night, including an excruciating fifth-through-seventh before we broke it open. But in those last three games we outscored the Indians by, I believe, 30-5, which reveals both an ability to turn it on and the strength of our rotation and bullpen. All props to the Indians, they played a great series, and they have a great few years ahead when I hope we can beat them some more. My suspicion is that these were the two best teams in baseball this year, which will be confirmed if the Sox take care of the Rockies in the manner that I expect them to.

I would disagree with you on the experience argument to at least some degree. Yes, our productivity last night was not only predominantly from guys who were not there in 2004, but disproportionately came from our rookie troika of Dice-Dusty-Okie-Jacoby. But I think that experience helps in more ways than simply having been there before and knowing what to do. I also believe that the experience factor especially permeates the clubhouse. So while those guys had never been there in any meaningful way, Youks' getting to watch in 2004 notwithstanding, they got to draw their example from Schill and Papi and Manny and Tek and Waker and Timlin.

As for the Rockies, of course they provide a formidable challenge, and 21 of 22 is awesome, and they have made a run so far through the postseason unlike any team in the Wild-Card era. And of course they are capable of beating the Red Sox. And naturally the guys will take them seriously. And blah blah blah. But I still believe that the Sox are the best team in baseball, I believe that after the series with Cleveland the Sox are playoff tempered. I believe the Sox are much more talented. Naturally that could be setting myself up for a fall, but to hell with it -- Sox in five. And if it does go five, the odds are that I might take a crazy, whirlwind, epic road trip to Denver even though I have to be back by Tuesday and head to the DC area Wednesaday for a conference.

Go Sox!!!