Friday, January 20, 2006

 

NBA "Bull"

So, a man at work rushes to the aid of his wife who seems to be endangered by strangers that may or may not have been drinking. What should be his reward? How about suspending him from work!

Absurd? Well then, obviously you're not employed by the National Basketball Association!

Upon seeing his wife involved in a potential altercation with fans, New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis went into the stands Wednesday during a game against the Bulls (in Chicago). After less than a minute with Davis in the stands, the situation calmed and he returned to the court.

Per NBA rules after the Ron Artest-led
brawl in Detroit last season, Davis was immediately thrown out of the game.

That's fine. But suspending a guy five games, for essentially doing the right thing -- as even NBA officials admit?

"His conduct in the stands, I thought, was very reasonable," said Stu Jackson, the National Basketball Association's senior vice president for basketball operations. "He was calm, and the result was a good one, in that he got back down onto the floor without an incident erupting. But it brings to light really the danger that you have when a player enters the spectators' stands, in that at that point, we lose control of the situation and anything could have happened. Fortunately, in this situation, it didn't."

The league was not so fortunate 14 months ago when Indiana's Ron Artest went into the stands and attacked fans after he was hit with a plastic cup of beer or soda. Several teammates followed him into the stands, and the sight of players and fans trading punches was replayed for days on television. Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, and the league vowed to take a more stringent approach to player and fan misconduct.
So, because one idiot led a near-riot last year, a guy who tries to play the hero gets penalized?
Jackson cited "mitigating circumstances" in setting the Davis suspension at five games, but said that "any player going into the stands after this, automatically we would consider double-digit game suspensions."
Heaven forbid if a fire breaks out in an arena and the players try to come to the aid of fans. What will the league do then -- issue month-long penalties?

For those who care -- chivalry ain't dead: It's just been grievously wounded by excessively following rules, while forgetting the common-sense reason behind the laws in the first place.

Meanwhile, absent Davis (and injured point guard Stephon Marbury), the Knicks lost their fourth game in a row, following a six-game winning streak.



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Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

Hillary's Gambit/Gore's Seriousness

After my Hillary-MLK post, a reader asks: "WHY was Hillary pandering now? Do you think Hillary's remark was made with her Senatorial re-elect audience in mind or are her people feeling the need to quash any Democrats getting to the Left of her for 2008 -- ala Gore or Feingold?"

My sense is the latter; she has the re-election sewn up (sorry, John Spencer). Note this
Tuesday Times piece piece discussing Hillary's balancing act between her '06 and '08 plans.

The whole series of events over the last few days looks like a classic script out of Bill Clinton's 90's playbook. Remember that he was the master of thinking three steps ahead of everyone else. Say something that He/She must have guessed what the reaction to the "plantation" line would be from Republicans. The more the GOP "demonizes" Hillary, the more the Democratic base will flock to her -- and the harder it will be for Feingold to draw any of the Kossacks toward them. However, that is true for any Democratic opponent to Hillary.


Well, all except one.

Former Vice President Al Gore -- easily mocked by most conservatives -- can certainly pose a formidable challenge to Hillary. Not only does he not have to explain votes on Iraq or any other support for the Bush policy; he can be a very serious candidate -- and not just from the perspective of his ability to raise money. Over the last few years, his various tirades against the Bush administration have been somewhat self-defeating because of his seeming need to -- literally -- SHOUT out his critique of the Bush policy.

That's not the case with
Gore's Monday (MLK Day) speech. With a more modulated and mannered delivery, it still not something that would convince more than a handful of conservatives and Republicans. However, it is not automatically dismissable. In addressing the issues surrounding NSA wiretapping, Gore made some serious points about the rule of law, executive power and the open-ended nature of the war on terror. Unlike Hillary's "plantation" pandering, this was an intellectual laying out of serious charges. Gore needs to be responded to in a manner beyond simple partisanship.

The Washington Post's David Broder noticed
its significance too:
[E]ven after discounting for political motivations, it seems to me that Gore has done a service by laying out the case as clearly and copiously as he has done. His overall charge is that Bush has systematically broken the laws and bent the Constitution by his actions in the areas of national security and domestic anti-terrorism.

...[T]he administration's resistance to setting and enforcing clear prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism raises legitimate questions about its willingness to adhere to the rule of law. From the first days after Sept. 11, Bush has appeared to believe that he is essentially unconstrained. His oddly equivocal recent signing statement on John McCain's legislation banning such tactics seemed to say he could ignore the plain terms of the law.

...Gore's final example -- on which he has lots of company among legal scholars -- is the contention that Bush broke the law in ordering the National Security Agency to monitor domestic phone calls without a warrant from the court Congress had created to supervise all such wiretapping. If -- as the Justice Department and the White House insist -- the president can flout that law, then it is hard to imagine what power he cannot assert.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has summoned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to a hearing on the warrantless wiretap issue, and that hearing should be the occasion for a broad exploration of the willingness of this administration to be constrained by the Constitution and the laws.

...Gore is certainly right about one thing. When he challenged the members of Congress to "start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be," he was issuing a call of conscience that goes well beyond any partisan criticism.
Say what you will about Al Gore, but contrast Broder's description of his speech with Hillary's rather weak complaint over how the House of Representatives is being run. One doesn't have to admire -- or even like -- Gore to recognize that he is playing on a higher field of play than the junior senator from New York. She's playing simple politics; he's talking constitutional urgency. And at least a couple of the conservatives who signed themselves to this statement share some of those concerns.

Gore has said that he's not planning on running for president in '08. If Hillary looks like the breakaway candidate and she chooses to run a campaign that -- in Gore's eyes -- doesn't rise to the level of intellectual gravity that he feels is merited, who's to say that he won't change his mind?



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Laugh Retrospective...

Sean L. McCarthy also participated in last week's "Funniest Reporter" show -- coming all the way down from Bah-ston! Here's a recap of his experiences!

He's a funny guy -- and also works for the New York Post's Bay State "cousin", the Boston Herald.

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Is Munich the Straw that Broke Spielberg's Back?

Drudge reports that Universal appears to be pushing Brokeback Mountain over Munich as its preferred Oscar-worthy pic. That would mean that, in the context of Hollywood politics, the "gay cowboy" is winning out over the "Jewish avenger."

If true, that's something of a change from years past when the criticism was mounting that Hollywood was too quick to honor
Holocaust-related documentaries and feature films:

After Spike Lee's documentary Four Little Girls lost to The Long Way Home in 1997, Lee said, "When the film is about the Holocaust and one of the producers is a rabbi and it comes from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, there are not many sure things in life, but that was a sure thing when you consider the makeup of the voting body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I'd have rather been the New York Knicks in the fourth quarter, down ten points, a minute left in the United Center, than have the odds we faced of winning the Oscar against the Holocaust film."
Of course, there will be much debate over whether Spielberg's controversial, morally ambiguous take on the actions of the Israeli agents tracking down the Munich terrorists may have turned off the Academy as opposed to the straightforward documentary take of One Day in September.

However, there could be another, not quite so obvious explanation -- but of which Spielberg is already painfully familiar: Sometimes "love" wins over "war." In 1999, Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan -- the odds-on favorite from Day One -- was upset in the Best Picture category by Shakespeare In Love. Spielberg still won for Best Director, but the shock still reverberated.

History could repeat itself.

On the other hand, don't be surprised if, come Oscar night, the real contest comes down to which "cowboy love story" Hollywood wants to endorse: Is it
Ennis & Jake -- or Johnny & June?


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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

MLK-ing Plantation Politics

OK. Enough is enough. Let's bury the "plantation" metaphor in politics.

Please.

Hillary Clinton used it on Martin Luther King Day at
an appearance in Harlem. She was talking about how Republicans ran the House of Representatives, but made sure she threw in a "and you know what I'm talking about," in case her primarily African-American audience didn't catch the subtelty of her words.

The GOP's response to Hillary caused others to note that erstwhile liberal bete noire (as it were) Newt Gingrich (full disclosure: my former boss) also used "plantation" language
in describing how the House was run -- in 1994, under Democrats.

Then, various liberals noted how various conservatives
have bandied the phrase around over the years -- specifically in discussing racial politics.

Then, the White House
chimed in on Tuesday.

Oh please.

The time for "plantation" rhetoric -- of an explicitly racial nature -- is over. Completely over. End of story.

First, as a quick aside, the left is really stretching in claiming that Gingrich's comments are the same as Hillary's. Not to defend a former boss, but the context here matters: He said those words in the course of a Washington Post profile of the man identified as the likely next Speaker of the House. If the context is about the majority abusing its powers when running a legislative body, then the partisan analogy holds.

But -- important difference. He was not speaking to a black audience -- or even obliquely referring to one; there was not an implicit racial connotation to his words. Yes, talking about plantations usually conjures up images of American slavery, but referring to oneself as the "leader of the slave rebellion," one could be referencing Spartacus as much as anything.

Hillary, on the other hand, made a clear -- "and you know what I'm talking about" line to a black audience. I'm actually a little surprised that those on the left whose eyes were raised when Ross Perot made reference in 1992 to "you people" when speaking to a Southern black audience, didn't find Hillary's implied "you people" just a little it pandering.

But conservatives don't get a free pass on this. I don't know who started it -- though
this was an early entry -- but too many on the right have adopted the "plantation" language as a favorite trope in trying to dislodge minority (particularly African American) allegiance to the Democratic Party. It matters little whether those comments have come from black conservatives or white conservatives (or Latino conservatives), it is inherently insulting and counterproductive to the very principle that the writer is advocating.

It's very difficult to convince someone of the validity of your argument by suggesting that continuing to vote for the other party is evidence of a slave-like mentality. Invite individuals over with the power of your positive arguments, not by trashing the "family" that they have been part of for large segments of their lives. In short, suggesting that blacks have a plantation mentality for continuing to support Democrats -- and then expecting them to support Republicans -- makes about as much sense as trying to convince a Republican to switch parties because, well, "the GOP are Nazis."

It's actually worse really.


The plantation rhetoric is the manipulation and exploitation of American racial tropes that are better of dead and buried. Yes, the left-wing will often use it against black conservatives. (We've been down that road before; no need to dredge all THAT fun stuff up again.) But that is hardly an excuse. This country will never move beyond its history until it decides to leave noxious racial references dead and buried -- especially on King's birthday.

Hillary Clinton is pandering shamelessly, yes. But, those on the right stamping their feet at her comments are deluding themselves if they think she is going to pay a price for it. She was speaking in front of a friendly (black, liberal, New York) audience and that audience had no problem accepting her use of language against a group (House Republicans) that they hold in fairly high contempt. She was preaching to the choir.

In praying for an audience who will be as offended as they are at Clinton's comments, conservatives are likely only to be heard by a choir of their own.


UPDATE: Sullivan, Malkin, RCP and other visitors -- welcome!! More on Hillary's pander and '08 challenges can be found here.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

Score One For Federalism!

The Supreme Court upholds Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law.

For those keeping track, according to SCOTUS, you can't
go to a doctor for a prescription for marijuana to alleviate your pain. But you can get one to help you die if you are terminal.

You can't get high,
But you can die!

Hmmm...now, there's an interesting look at the law.


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ADD: Alito's Dem Danger

My pal and occasional cross-ideological partner-in-crime, Dan Gerstein, gets premium space today on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed section (it's not really an op-ed "page," because the opinion stuff is on the same page as the editorials, which is completely different from just about any other newspaper).

Dan writes about the problem the Alito hearings revealed of Democrats matching the energy of their left-base with the realities of the current mainstream political environment:

[T]hat's the heart of the problem with our party and its angry activist base. It's not so much that we're living in a parallel universe, but that we have dueling conceptions of what's mainstream, especially on abortion and other values-based issues, and our side is losing. We think that if we simply call someone conservative, anti-choice and anti-civil rights, that's enough to scare people to our side. But that tired dogma won't hunt in today's electorate, which is far more independent-thinking and complex in its views on values than our side presumes.
The full text can be found right here.

Quick note to Dan: The headline of the post on your blog, "DT in the Wall Street Journal", makes it sound like you've got a drinking problem. DTs? Guess that's the answer to the question, "What's shaking, baby?"


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Monday, January 16, 2006

 

King

January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968


Excerpts from At Canaan's Edge, the conclusion of Tayolor Branch's trilogy of America In The King Years, the last chapter -- the prophetic final speech in Memphis:

[H]e meandered into another speech theme to recap the parable of the Good Samaritan. "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers," he concluded, "what will happen to them? That's the question. . . . We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you."

[King talked about the time in 1958 when a demented woman stabbed him at a Harlem bookstore; the doctor said the blade would have severed his aorta if he so much as sneezed. Then he spoke briefly about a threat to bomb the airplane on which he flew to Memphis.]

He frowned. "And some began to say the threats — or talk about the threats — that were out, what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now." King paused. "Because I've been to the mountaintop," he declared in a trembling voice. Cheers and applause erupted. Some people jerked involuntarily to their feet, and others rose slowly like a choir.

"And I don't mind," he said, trailing off beneath the second and third waves of response. "Like anybody I would like to live — a long life — longevity has its place." The whole building suddenly hushed, which let sounds of thunder and rain fall from the roof. "But I'm not concerned about that now," said King. "I just want to do God's will." There was a subdued call of "Yes!" in the crowd. "And he's allowed me to go up the mountain," King cried, building intensity. "And I've looked over. And I have s-e-e-e-e-e-n, the Promised Land."

His voice searched a long peak over the word "seen," then hesitated and landed with quick relief on "the promised land," as though discovering a friend. He stared out over the microphones with brimming eyes and the trace of a smile. "And I may not get there with you," he shouted, "but I want you to know, tonight ["Yes!"] that we as a people will get to the Promised Land!"
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Steeling For Victory...

I'm not a Pittsburgh fan, but I think John Cole has a point:
[T]his is really out of character for me, because I generally think people bitching about the refs throwing games are paranoid shut-ins, but after the display I saw yesterday (the safety that was called back, the no-off-sides call, the no-call on the Pass Interference, the overturned interception, the five minutes Manning and company had to waive the punt team off and run another play without a timeout or a delay of game, etc.), and I am hard-pressed to disagree with Joey Porter":
"The world wanted Indy to win so bad, they were going to do whatever they had to do, man," Porter claimed. "It was like the 9-1-1 year, when they wanted the [New England] Patriots to win it for the world ... At a point, I didn't think the refs were going to let us get out of here with a victory."
Except for the non-call on the safety (it was clear that Manning's forward progress was stopped on the one-yard line), the refs got just about every possible call (or non-call) wrong. The pass interference on the New England Patriots the day before was equally embarrassing (though it would fit into the broader conspiracy that the league wanted the Colts to go to the Super Bowl and the Patriots out).

It's amazing that the NFL demands everything perfectly follow-the-rules (up to and including telling their coaches that they can't wear suits on the sidelines, because it
counters their Reebok contract), yet allows their product to be perpetually embarrassed by poor officiating.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

 

Factory Work Ain't Bad!





Some shots of yours truly at The Laugh Factory Thursday, at the Funniest Reporter on The Planet, show. Congratulations to Catie Lazarus of The Forward, who managed the remarkable accomplishment of going from not being on the line-up -- to winning in the space of a few hours!

Thanks to CNN's Janine Iamunno for the camera work!



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