Friday, June 24, 2011
Wow. Trying to place myself in Mark Kelly's shoes: My wife has been a target of threats, harassment, and finally a near-successful assassination attempt, due to her work in politics. Now she is disabled and needs daily rehab for a brain injury, from the assassination attempt previously mentioned. Now I am going to leave her side AND enter the business that messed up her life?
Monday, February 14, 2011
As a media figure, Ronaldo was never cool in the ruthless-visionary way of Zidane or in the lost-album-cover manner of Beckham. He seemed affable, funny, a little ingenuous, a little strange. Those qualities made him human, but they also made him a terrible fit for modern sports journalism, which knows how to handle only one kind of superstar—the kind who is entirely focused on being one. (That is, the kind of superstar who uses the media back.)...
And so, in the retirement stories, you get bizarre summations like this one, from Paul Wilson's oddly half-hearted Guardian write-up: "His career choices may not have been ideal, his lifestyle questionable and his fitness, particularly his knees, suspect throughout, but in spite of all that Ronaldo deserves to be remembered as a remarkable player." In spite of being the person who became a remarkable player, Ronaldo deserves to be remembered as a remarkable player. This is where you can either stay alive to what's wonderful about sports or give up and admit you see players as oil wells. Ronaldo isn't a quantifiable reserve of potential that was never efficiently tapped or a set of character traits that never reliably pumped out his natural talent. He's a person, the interface of whose personality with the world produced some breathtaking moments in a game.
Phillips also touches on that theme beloved of futbol-intellectuals, that the highest purpose of the game is to model beauty and innocence, not to yield the competitively-correct outcome.
Monday, February 01, 2010
There was a 1973 made-for-TV bio of Vince Lombardi, Legend In Granite, starring Ernest Borgnine. There is a scene when Lombardi is in his first training camp as the newly-hired coach of the woefully bad, underachieving Green Bay Packers. Lombardi has been brought in to instill discipline and get back to fundamentals, and in his first team meeting holds up a pigskin and intones, solemn as the grave, "Gentlemen, this is a football."
One of the players, Paul Hornung probably, pipes up: "Slow down, coach, you're going too fast," and Lombardi struggles to look mad but finally breaks down laughing, the whole room full of players cracks up, the tension is lowered and male bonding ensues. The players begin to see that in Lombardi there is love beneath the sadism; he bullies because he cares. A well-crafted piece of sports hagiography, this film.
But I'm thinking Coach Lombardi probably never used the "this is a football" line again, it was just too ridiculous.
Why do I mention this today? Via Atrios: The Federal Reserve has created an online training resource for new bank directors. The need for this is that some people are appointed to bank boards knowing very, very little about banks. From the Fed website:
The legendary Green Bay Packers football coach, Vince Lombardi, recognized the importance of teaching basics to his players. Even after winning championships and being surrounded by future Hall-of-Fame players, Lombardi had a tradition of beginning every preseason training camp the same way. He stood before his players, football in hand, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He assumed his players were a blank slate at the beginning of each season. With that in mind, we begin with the basic discussion, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a bank.”
Suffice it to say, this is an analogy that is botched in a revealing way. Our banks are far from being champions -- at this point they are underachieving failures. But the Fed's approach here does not fill one with optimism. As a general observation, when Vince Lombardi is invoked to make a point about leadership in this day and age, little good can come of it.
Man, Ernest Borgnine's IMDB page is a trip. I never thought about it, but Ernest is Italian himself (originally Borgnino -- man, he needed either to change his name more drastically or not at all) and darn near as old as Lombardi, who died in 1970! This is one of those pairings of actor to non-fiction role that was destined to be, like Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, or Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. I'm a little bummed that IMDB will no longer show the full cast and crew of an old program like Legend In Granite unless you register for IMDB Pro. For people who enjoy aimlessly browsing the cast lists of unremarkable made-for-TV films from the 70s, this is a shame.
Monday, January 25, 2010
It's no longer clear whether Congress will pass a comprehensive health care reform bill this year.
The White House and Congress will decide within days whether or not to go forward with reform—and before they do, it's critical they know the impact that decision will have in terms of participation in the next election.
So we're polling MoveOn members: If Democrats do not pass comprehensive health care reform this year, will you donate to Democratic candidates in the 2010 elections? Just click the appropriate link below to let us know:
- Definitely won't donate
- Probably won't donate
- Probably will donate
- Definitely will donate
I clicked Probably Won't. But I wished for a 50/50 option, and I also wished for a comment field to say the following:
Let's be honest, I don't have a lot of discretionary cash for political contributions, so I wouldn't be "making it rain" in a midterm election anyway. The best I could conceivably answer is Probably Will.
However, if the Congressional Dems walked away from the health care bill, I would likely conclude (1) they were acting like a minority party anyway -- like a de facto opposition party to Obama, and (2) they were acting as if special interests were more important to them than the "un-organized" support of individual base voters like me. So I'd be inclined to treat them the way they're asking to be treated.
I'd vote for my Democratic candidates, sure, but give money to the DCCC or DSCC? Give financial expression of enthusiasm for the national party's efforts? Not bloody likely.
Well, that was quick! More later.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Mark Schmitt argues that a 59-vote Democratic caucus will be an improvement.
Sixty votes not only put Lieberman and Nelson in charge, it meant that every little twist and turn in political life became the difference between total policy deadlock and historically breathtaking progress. A butterfly flaps its wings in Uruguay, and health reform survives or dies. Just as a few hundred votes in Minnesota created the 60-vote majority, a bizarrely incompetent candidate in Massachusetts took it away, but if it had not been that, it would have been something else.
Certainly the main lesson I've gotten from the health care reform debate is the need to reform the Senate and do away with the supermajority.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Via Ezra Klein, an interesting piece by Kevin Carey in Democracy about the need for reform in American higher education.
The main takeaway: The marketplace in US colleges operates on reputation, not information – there is a paucity of comparative outcomes data on how well, e.g., business departments’ graduates perform in business – and the elite colleges (via a powerful lobbying shop in Washington) do their best to keep useful outcomes data from seeing the light of day.
Carey notes the huge boom since World War II in the number of Americans who attend college. Some of the younger institutions founded in that time frame deserve more credit, and some of the older brand-name institutions are coasting. I am the parent of a high school student, soon-to-be tuition payer, and as a matter of fact the college she expresses most interest in is in the “young and possibly on the rise” category. So color me intrigued.
I've been seeing the end-of-decade spate of retrospectives, mostly gloomy. Also, I'm working through James Fallows's Atlantic cover story which is an anti-jeremiad: why Americans shouldn't be pessimistic about our national future. I still worry that America has slipped into a state of decadence preceding a steep fall. One reason is the harmful influence of lobbying. Carey's story may not be the best example, but it is a data point. The US has lost focus on producing goods and services. Our economy is founded on real estate flips, other forms of financial sleight-of-hand, and lobbying for regulatory relief and/or government-sponsored obfuscation. Add college presidents to the list of classes of leaders who would rather pay lobbyists to sustain the corrupt and ultimately unsustainable status quo, rather than seriously re-vision and reform their way of working.
Also, I want to highlight this passage that compares the arrogance and self-protectiveness of colleges to that of churches:
Colleges are often lumped in with other non-profit entities like charities and hospitals in the public mind. But they actually most resemble the institution from which many of the oldest and most renowned colleges sprang: organized religion. Like the church, colleges have roots that pre-date the founding of the republic. They see themselves as occupying an exalted place in human society, for which they are owed deference and gratitude. They cherish their priests and mysteries, and they are disinclined to subject either to public scrutiny.
Interesting to me largely for the view of religion being expressed. Not saying it’s right or wrong, either the view of contemporary religion or the college-church analogy. It bears thinking about.