Saturday, June 03, 2006
The Washington Post
Saturday, June 3, 2006; Page A17
Even in "good wars" things go horribly wrong. The following quotations from "Naples '44," by the late Norman Lewis (perhaps the greatest English travel writer of the past century), are instructive. Lewis was stationed in Naples following Italy's liberation from the Nazis, and he kept a diary:
"What we saw was ineptitude and cowardice spreading down from the command, and this resulted in chaos . . .
"I saw an ugly sight: a British officer interrogating a civilian, and repeatedly hitting him about the head with the chair; treatment which the [civilian], his face a mask of blood, suffered with stoicism. At the end of the interrogation, which had not been considered successful, the officer called on a private and asked him in a pleasant, conversational sort of manner, 'Would you like to take this man away, and shoot him?' The private's reply was to spit on his hands, and say, 'I don't mind if I do, sir.'
"I received confirmation . . . that American combat units were ordered by their officers to beat to death [those] who attempted to surrender to them. These men seem very naive and childlike, but some of them are beginning to question the ethics of this order.
"We liberated them from the Fascist Monster. And what is the prize? The rebirth of democracy. The glorious prospect of being able one day to choose their rulers from a list of powerful men, most of whose corruptions are generally known and accepted with weary resignation. The days of Mussolini must seem like a lost paradise compared to us."
If Lewis's account were the only surviving document from World War II, we might assume that allied nation-building ended in catastrophe. We would wonder why a morally outraged peace movement didn't stop our troops from carrying out their failed and brutal campaigns.
Sixty years later and caught up in another war, we are confronted by the massacre in Haditha.
And we are also caught up in the anguish of another generation of young men and women asked to kill but to keep killing within "civilized" bounds, to take insults, be fired upon by men hiding behind women and children, yet not respond in kind.
To most readers this is an academic question of morality, or I-told-you-so politics. To those of us with loved ones in the military, the allegations of an atrocity committed by U.S. Marines in Haditha are personal.
All our troops confront the tortured "morality" of war. My son wrote this from his first combat tour in Afghanistan as a Marine intelligence noncom: "Date: 9/25/03 8:27:01 PM Dear Mom and Dad: I have learned that the right thing and the necessary thing are not synonymous, rarely are they even in the same ballpark. It's very depressing to see the results of some necessary actions, it's never pure, and there is no purity here . . .
"People ignore what they cannot see. They just don't want to know. The truth is too ugly and vicious to comprehend . . .
"In a natural state a human will kill, and kill not always for necessity, but for convenience as well. The only way that I know I am still me is that I hate that fact; I hate it more than anything I have ever known."
I think Lewis would have understood my son's distress. Perhaps he would have also understood my tears when confronting a son's loss of innocence. Yet I am proud my son volunteered, and of his two tours in Afghanistan and his mission in Iraq. And he is glad he served his country. I wish all Americans had a gut connection to the troops so they would know that people like my son don't kill civilians and that they anguish over the vicissitudes of war. And I also wish more people read books like "Naples '44" to give them some sense of perspective when terrible things do happen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Judging by Lewis's diary -- and many other accounts -- the so-called Greatest Generation of World War II was often badly led and worse-behaved, and was certainly less merciful than our present-day soldiers and their leaders. We haven't carpet-bombed Baghdad or nuked Fallujah to spare the lives of our troops. Yet most Americans are glad we forced Italy, Germany and Japan to become democracies, however brutal our means.
The flag-waving boosters of our current war and their critics all seem to forget that war really is hell. Proponents sweep the inconvenient dreadfulness under the carpet (no photographs of coffins, please) while opponents are shocked, just shocked, at the nastiness. All sides seem to forget that there are no good wars, only morally ambiguous conflicts that lead to better or worse outcomes.
In this war, we do not have enough political leaders and opinion-makers receiving soul-searing letters from their children. Their sons and daughters are notably absent from our military.
That's too bad.
A personal connection to our wars might discourage the sort of glib hubris that leads the media to trumpet events such as the Haditha killings without putting them in the context of the everyday heroism that is the norm, or in the context of history. And a personal connection to our military by our political leaders would give them a stake in our troops' welfare and what we are asking them to do.
It's time for the critics of our military to also earn a little moral authority by volunteering themselves or encouraging their children to do so. Anything less is nothing more than arm's-length moralizing.
Frank Schaeffer is co-author of "AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from the Military and How it Hurts Our Country."
Friday, June 02, 2006
America may be ready for a new political party.
The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, June 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Something's happening. I have a feeling we're at some new beginning, that a big breakup's coming, and that though it isn't and will not be immediately apparent, we'll someday look back on this era as the time when a shift began.
All my adult life, people have been saying that the two-party system is ending, that the Democrats' and Republicans' control of political power in America is winding down. According to the traditional critique, the two parties no longer offer the people the choice they want and deserve. Sometimes it's said they are too much alike--Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Sometimes it's said they're too polarizing--too red and too blue for a nation in which many see things through purple glasses.
In 1992 Ross Perot looked like the breakthrough, the man who would make third parties a reality. He destabilized the Republicans and then destabilized himself. By the end of his campaign he seemed to be the crazy old aunt in the attic.
The Perot experience seemed to put an end to third-party fever. But I think it's coming back, I think it's going to grow, and I think the force behind it is unique in our history.
This week there was a small boomlet of talk about a new internet entity called Unity '08--a small collection of party veterans including moderate Democrats (former Carter aide Hamilton Jordan) and liberal-leaning Republicans (former Ford hand Doug Bailey) trying to join together with college students and broaden the options in the 2008 election. In terms of composition, Unity seems like the Concord Coalition, the bipartisan group (Warren Rudman, Bob Kerrey) that warns against high spending and deficits.
Unity seems to me to have America's growing desire for more political options right. But I think they've got the description of the problem wrong.
Their idea is that the two parties are too polarized to govern well. It is certainly true that the level of partisanship in Washington seems high. (Such things, admittedly, ebb, flow and are hard to judge. We look back at the post-World War II years and see a political climate of relative amity and moderation. But Alger Hiss and Dick Nixon didn't see it that way.) Nancy Pelosi seems to be pretty much in favor of anything that hurts Republicans, and Ken Mehlman is in favor of anything that works against Democrats. They both want their teams to win. Part of winning is making sure the other guy loses, and part of the fun of politics, of any contest, of life, can be the dance in the end zone.
But the dance has gotten dark.
Partisanship is fine when it's an expression of the high animal spirits produced by real political contention based on true political belief. But the current partisanship seems sour, not joyous. The partisanship has gotten deeper as less separates the governing parties in Washington. It is like what has been said of academic infighting: that it's so vicious because the stakes are so low.
The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they're closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people--between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there.
On the ground in America, people worry terribly--really, there are people who actually worry about it every day--about endless, weird, gushing government spending. But in Washington, those in power--Republicans and Democrats--stand arm in arm as they spend and spend. (Part of the reason is that they think they can buy off your unhappiness one way or another. After all, it's worked in the past. A hunch: It's not going to work forever or much longer. They've really run that trick into the ground.)
On the ground in America, regular people worry about the changes wrought by the biggest wave of immigration in our history, much of it illegal and therefore wholly connected to the needs of the immigrant and wholly unconnected to the agreed-upon needs of our nation. Americans worry about the myriad implications of the collapse of the American border. But Washington doesn't. Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican George W. Bush see things pretty much eye to eye. They are going to educate the American people out of their low concerns.
There is a widespread sense in America--a conviction, actually--that we are not safe in the age of terror. That the port, the local power plant, even the local school, are not protected. Is Washington worried about this? Not so you'd notice. They're only worried about seeming unconcerned.
More to the point, people see the Republicans as incapable of managing the monster they've helped create--this big Homeland Security/Intelligence apparatus that is like some huge buffed guy at the gym who looks strong but can't even put on his T-shirt without help because he's so muscle-bound. As for the Democrats, who co-created Homeland Security, no one--no one--thinks they would be more managerially competent. Nor does anyone expect the Democrats to be more visionary as to what needs to be done. The best they can hope is the Democrats competently serve their interest groups and let the benefits trickle down.
Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc.
Are there some dramatic differences? Yes. But both parties act as if they see them not as important questions (gay marriage, for instance) but as wedge issues. Which is, actually, abusive of people on both sides of the question. If it's a serious issue, face it. Don't play with it.
I don't see any potential party, or potential candidate, on the scene right now who can harness the disaffection of growing portions of the electorate. But a new group or entity that could define the problem correctly--that sees the big divide not as something between the parties but between America's ruling elite and its people--would be making long strides in putting third party ideas in play in America again.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
June 1, 2006
The Indianapolis Star
'The Boss' doesn't forget the fun
By David Lindquist
More than a handful of moments during Wednesday's Bruce Springsteen concert sparked memories of the musician's wild and innocent early days.
Before the simultaneous cover appearances on Time and Newsweek magazines, before the oversaturated success of "Born in the U.S.A.," and before Hollywood handed him an Academy Award, there were absurd lyrics, over-the-top instrumentation and a sense of fun when fun wasn't necessarily in style.
Springsteen brought all of his old-school tricks to Verizon Wireless Music Center for the fourth stop of his "We Shall Overcome" U.S. tour, yet most of his words were borrowed.
"Overcome" is a covers album of old-time songs associated with folk music icon Pete Seeger, and things don't get much sillier than the two songs that bookend the project -- "Old Dan Tucker" and "Froggie Went a Courtin'."
Springsteen performed loose-limbed versions of both tunes Wednesday, with "Froggie" being a rarity earned thanks to one young fan's gift of a plush toy frog.
Much weightier topics were addressed, of course, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer maintained his mission to entertain throughout the 2 1/2-hour performance.
"My Oklahoma Home," a downtrodden tale from the Dust Bowl era, showcased the breadth of the program within one song.
After featuring just Springsteen and his acoustic guitar, "Oklahoma" expanded to segments featuring a Western swing solo played on pedal-steel guitar and exaggerated wailing from a four-man horn section.
The singer sold the tune's gallows humor through the line, "Everything except my mortgage blowed away." Realizing that misery loves company, the audience echoed the song's refrain of "Blowed away" with gusto.
When Springsteen dipped into his own catalog, 1982 album "Nebraska" provided two highlights as well as the evening's only misstep:
• The show began with a surprise visit to "Atlantic City," which benefited from a striking banjo riff and a persistent drum beat. The instruments have been around for centuries, but the tune resembled a cutting-edge remix commissioned for "The Sopranos."
• "Open All Night" mashed a rapid spoken-word performance by Springsteen against a exuberant Big Band arrangement. By the time the clinching line of, "Hey, ho, rock 'n' roll, deliver me from nowhere," arrived, the pavilion erupted in cheers.
• Too much joy was heard, however, in the reworked "Johnny 99." A song in which the protagonist begs for death row is no picnic, regardless of the whistles and bells you hang on it.
Everywhere else, the flexibility of the 16-member Seeger Sessions Band (vocalist Patti Scialfa was absent) worked in Springsteen's favor.
When he needed harmony for "Overcome's" title track -- a civil-rights anthem that deserves a positive reputation on par with John Lennon's "Imagine" -- three backing vocalists answered the call.
When musical myth "Jesse James" required moments of flash, the horn section took care of business.
And for earthy truths in songs such as "John Henry," attention turned to a pair of violinists and a banjo player.
Springsteen's workload on Wednesday may have rivaled "Henry's" hammering hero. And despite playing to a modest audience of less than 4,000, he also seemed to have a very good time.
Ann Coulter ( bio archive contact )
If Congress adopts the Bush plan and gives amnesty to illegal aliens, Senate Republicans will be asking President Cheney for a pardon.
Bush wants to grant illegal aliens amnesty while sounding like he's really cracking down on them. It tells you where Americans stand on illegal immigration that Bush has to pull the Democrat trick of hiding from the public what he really believes when it comes to immigration.
The "path to citizenship" that Bush and the Senate are trying to pawn off on Americans requires that illegals pay huge fines and back taxes, with "huge" being defined as a $2,000 fine and taxes for three of the last five years. Even with the special "Two Years Tax-Free" package for illegals, this is about as likely as me paying my dad back the money I "borrowed" from him when I was in college.
We're told illegal immigrants are dying to pay taxes if only they can become citizens. Oh by the way, they also will have a panoply of government benefits available to them if they become citizens -- in fact, even if they get green cards. They're probably unaware of this and are just dying to send half their paychecks to the government just like us shiftless, lazy Americans.
Inasmuch as most of these low-skilled immigrant workers are in the 0 percent tax bracket, this should be a real boon for the U.S. Treasury. Indeed, the government may end up paying the illegals money: "Let's see, Juan. According to our records, you owe us 0 percent for the past three years, and because you qualify for the earned-income tax credit, we actually owe you! Are 20s OK?"
The Senate bill also forgives illegal aliens who have committed identity theft by stealing American Social Security numbers to get jobs.
So in addition to the Two Years Tax-Free plan for illegals, they get one free felony. Also, illegal immigrants from Mexico qualify for affirmative action, allowing them to get into U.S. colleges with lower grades and scores than Americans.
What's the process for losing your citizenship and becoming an illegal alien?
However hardworking illegal immigrants are when they come here, the moment they become citizens, they will be immediately demagogued by Democrats into viewing welfare as a universal human right, just as they now view living in America.
Of course illegal immigrants will "work for less." They don't have to pay taxes at all now, and under Bush's plan they will have to pay taxes for only -- at most -- three of the last five years. Not only that, but illegal aliens don't require their employers to comply with OSHA regulations, overtime and minimum wage laws, unemployment insurance, disability laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act, a slew of oppressive environmental regulations, and 4 million other ways the government has developed to make it extremely expensive to hire legal employees.
Instead of creating a separate class of citizens who are immune from oppressive government rules, how about relieving all of us -- even us shiftless Americans -- from the cost of government?
I thought all these trade agreements the free-trade fetishists have pushed on us over the years already allowed corporations to take advantage of cheap labor in other countries -- countries that don't have the panoply of oppressive government regulations that make it so expensive to hire American workers. Doesn't NAFTA already allow us to buy inexpensive goods made by Mexicans in Mexico?
In addition to discriminating against American citizens in favor of illegal immigrants, Bush wants to continue our immigration policy of massively discriminating against immigrants who live farther than walking distance from the United States. America's immigration laws are applied only to immigrants who are separated from the U.S. by an ocean. But if they live near the border and can run across it, they're in.
Even if one accepts Bush's theory that we need more immigrants to do the jobs that lazy, shiftless Americans won't do, isn't it possible that Korean immigrants, Italian immigrants or Indian immigrants would work hard too? But they can't run across the border to America, so they're out of luck. (Unless you are spokesmen for the Taliban, in which case there's a seat waiting for you at Yale.)
Since when did conservatives start encouraging people to walk more? What are we, a bunch of Al Gores now?
Ann Coulter is the author of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), Treason, Slander, and High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
May 31, 2006
You know what I hate most about Barry Bonds and his joyless, fraudulent pursuit of the home run gods?
My Hall of Fame ballot.
And Mark McGwire.
The Barry Plague infects Shea Stadium this weekend, which means another tonnage of speculation and suspicion about Bonds and his place in baseball history. Barry surpassed Babe Ruth's home run total last weekend and goes into tonight's action 40 home runs shy of honorable Hank Aaron's career mark of 755. With the Bambino in the rearview mirror, there will be a lot of talk about Barry and Hank in New York this weekend.
And we'll hold our noses. I'm still hoping Barry retires, or confesses and asks our forgiveness, but that's not likely. As Sundance said to Butch when considering options while they were hopelessly cornered by a team of hired guns, ``They could surrender to us, but I wouldn't count on that."
Barry is going to be 42 in July. He's standing in the batter's box on a surgically repaired right knee and he has bone chips in his left elbow. Most nights he runs around like a man with a Steinway baby grand on his broad back. He has stopped hitting home runs with regularity.
Waiting for No. 714 and No. 715 was like waiting for Franco to die (Generalissimo, not Julio).
Barry's $90 million contract with the Giants expires at the end of this season and it looks as if his days in the National League are almost over. At best, Bonds is bound for a role as a designated hitter, but right now he'd be a drag on any American League team, and Oakland is probably the only place where he'd be welcomed by new hometown fans.
But what's killing me the most is the prospect of McGwire on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. And that is because those of us who vote are going to be held to new scrutiny now that the Steroid Boys are coming up for election. We won't have to decide on Bonds for at least five years (players are not eligible for election until five years after they retire), but McGwire is up this year and he's going to be the litmus test for all who follow.
Unlike Bonds, McGwire is not tainted by the BALCO scandal, and there is no grand jury testimony of Big Mac admitting to using ``the cream" and ``the clear." There also is no best-selling book detailing Mac's steroid history.
But I know what I saw on that infamous day when a lawyered-up McGwire sat before Congress and told us he was not there to talk about the past. I saw a confession. Pure and simple. And nothing since that day has changed my opinion. McGwire clammed up because he knew he was dirty and he didn't want to face a perjury charge down the road.
So now we'll have Big Mac on the ballot, and by Dec. 31 more than 500 card-carrying members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will vote heads or tails on his Hall of Fame candidacy. And woe is he who votes for McGwire this year, then turns thumbs-down on Bonds five or more years from now.
This would be less problematic if Barry were up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Canton cares only about performance. Gamblers are not kept out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A disgraced O.J. Simpson keeps his place in the football hall. Baseball, on the other hand, asks voters to consider a ballplayer's character and contributions to the game in general -- in addition to his performance on the field.
Baseball writers making judgments about a ballplayer's character? Pretty absurd, no? It's never been a comfortable place for this 30-year member of the association.
So what are we to do with those suspected of cheating? And how to quantify the impact of performance enhancers? Bonds no doubt was a Hall of Famer before his head inflated to the size of a basketball. How many of his home runs can we attribute to steroid use? And what about the fact that baseball did not legislate against most of the stuff during the times Bonds appeared to be juicing?
McGwire's fate will set a standard. There no doubt will be voters who elect to punish Big Mac by making him wait -- ``just say no" this December, then vote for him one year later. Nonsense. Withholding one's vote for a year as punishment strikes me as childish and pointless. A guy is either in or out. ``End of story," as Tony Soprano would say.
It's not just about McGwire and Bonds, either. Among others, there will be tough calls to make on the likes of Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a drug test, and Sammy Sosa, who never failed a drug test, but appears as guilty as McGwire.
Will I vote for McGwire? Not telling. I'm still hoping new information surfaces between now and New Year's Eve. It's a dark, dreaded task, made especially difficult because we all know Barry is getting loose in the on-deck circle.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Boston Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. What do you think about Bonds passing the Babe on the all-time home run list? Share your opinion at www.boston.com/sports
The New York Daily News
31 March 2006
A few days before coming to New York, something he does tomorrow night when he comes to Shea to play the Mets, Barry Bonds gives the kind of interview to Jim Gray of ESPN that celebrities in career trouble, or celebrities desperate for even more attention than they already have, give to Barbara Walters. Bonds doesn't cry for Gray. He does, however, make you want to laugh.
The headline, as far as I could tell, was that he likes himself now, he really likes himself. And wants us to like him, too. It is a little late in the game for that. So is this: Bonds trying to somehow wipe the slate clean. That doesn't work, either. Because he won't come clean. And wasn't.
There was the suggestion that the circus around Bonds, the one that exists around him in San Francisco and everywhere he goes, would subside now that he has caught Babe Ruth and passed him. That surely doesn't happen yet. Only five days after getting to 715, he comes to Shea Stadium. He comes to New York.
They asked him last Sunday about what kind of reception he might get at Shea on Friday night and he said, "I don't care." Except now he gives this interview to Gray and we are supposed to believe he cares deeply about where he fits into the grand scheme of things now that is alone in second place, really alone, on the all-time home run list. He shares things like this about himself:
"I like the person inside of me now."
When Gray asks him about comments he used to make about Ruth, Bonds says he can't remember, but if he said anything bad, that was the "old Barry." He must mean the skinnier one.
The amazing thing, more amazing than the way his home run totals have grown over these past several seasons, is that he was able to deliver a lot of this material with a straight face. You watch the interview and the general sense you get is that Bonds, without coming out and saying it to Gray, thinks we're supposed to feel bad for him about the mistakes he's made. It is a little late in the game for that, too. There are things, he says, he would have done differently. You bet. When he says that about steroids, we'll all listen a lot more attentively.
He is no victim of life's circumstances. And the fans who go out to Shea this weekend should make sure not to do anything that will make him out to be more of a victim. Nobody throws anything this weekend, the way they threw things in other cities. Nobody brings stupid banners. Nobody goes out on the field. Nobody does vulgar chants. Sometimes you have to be better than the guy you come to see.
You want to boo Barry Bonds in New York this weekend, have at him, do it at the top of your lungs, from the top of the first inning tomorrow night. You want to cheer him because you believe he was the best player in baseball for a long time, because you remember him for all those MVP awards he won before he began to grow faster than the budget deficit, because you don't care about steroids and what they've done to him and the record books, stand up and cheer for the guy, it's a free country.
"I'm having more fun in my career than I've had at any time of my life," he says to Jim Gray, and then he says it's because of his teammates.
Right. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the brilliant reporters who wrote "Game of Shadows," have thrown the book at him in all ways, whatever happens with the law out in San Francisco, whether they can pin a perjury rap on him or not. An ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, says that he told her how to hide money he paid her from the government, which historically has made the government real mad.
And most baseball fans believe the only way his home run totals could have gotten this big is if he took everything Fainaru-Wada and Williams say he took. It is something that corrupts the record books and makes him corrupt, in the eyes of people who love the game.
Bonds wants us to believe that he is having the time of his life. So you don't believe what the guy does and you don't believe what the guy says as he gives these interviews and refuses to address the subject of drugs. Until he does, he can tell his story walking, and that doesn't mean to first base.
Gray asks him what he will feel like if he someday has an asterisk attached to his records and Bonds says, "I would be hurt....I'm human."
He treats so many people with contempt along the way and now he wants us to believe he suddenly is the most sensitive guy in the universe. You're surprised he took this to ESPN and not a prime-time special with Dr. Phil. Or an hour with Oprah.
He comes to New York and it should be like what it was when Michael Jordan used to come here to play basketball, or Magic Johnson, when Magic was young and we knew he was going to be at the Garden only one night a year. It does not feel like that.
More than any black hat we ever had here, more than Charlie Barkley in his prime, Bonds makes the whole thing feel like pro wrestling this weekend. Something else that is bulked up and not quite real.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Special to ESPN.com
No one knows what Roger Clemens is going to be doing come July 4. Not Roger. Not Debbie. Not Randy or Alan Hendricks.
Astros owner Drayton McLane may be hesitant to pay Clemens what he can command, but he knows Roger's ties to the community, to the Astros, to Andy Pettitte and Brad Ausmus. Rangers owner Tom Hicks knows how deep that Longhorns tie binds them. George Steinbrenner knows Clemens reveres Joe Torre and Derek Jeter.
And John Henry knows only the Red Sox can bring Clemens' career full circle, have his close friend Al Nipper as pitching coach and, since he will likely go into the Hall of Fame in a Boston cap, can retire his uniform No. 21 while he is wearing it.
However, none of them even know if he's going to come back and play, much less when.
But they, we and most everyone else hold one truth to be self-evident: Roger Clemens is the greatest living pitcher.
Now that is a broad statement when one begins to consider the credentials of Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, et al. But not only is Clemens the winningest modern pitcher with 341 victories, but he has done it (and compiled a 3.12 ERA) entirely in the era of the five-man rotation and in three offensive-oriented ballparks: Fenway Park, SkyDome, Minute Maid Park.
Clemens learned a lesson when he was a freshman at San Jacinto Junior College, after going undrafted out of high school. His coach, Wayne Graham, now the head coach at Rice, insisted that Clemens would never be a power pitcher unless he built up his legs and became a workout warrior. Twenty-five years later, it is obvious that Roger listened, because the warrior king is still in premium condition. All these years, you never heard Clemens talk about his arm or shoulder being tired -- only, when he did tire, that "my legs started to go."
Once he signed as Boston's first-round selection in 1983, the makeup was always there. Roger was slated to be the second pitcher in the first spring training game the next spring, and on the Tigers' bus ride across Florida's Polk County, from Lakeland to Winter Haven, one Detroit minor leaguer told his Clemens story.
In a Florida State League game after Clemens signed, a Lakeland first baseman named Jim Morris took out and injured Clemens' Texas teammate Mike Brumley. Morris, it seems, had played at Oklahoma State, a team Texas had had some scuffles with. And when Lakeland went to Winter Haven the next week, Clemens started and struck out the first six batters, then beaned Morris in the head.
"Sparky [Anderson] told the kid to shut up," says Indians pitching coach Carl Willis, who was on the bus. Yeah, and this spring, when Roger's son Koby homered off him in a simulated game, the next time he came up, Roger brushed back his own kid.
When Clemens needed shoulder surgery in 1985, Dr. James Andrews said, "He was the first athlete I ever operated on who'd started his rehab before the operation." A year later, Clemens had the first of two 20 strikeout/no-walk games, finished 24-4 and won both the MVP and Cy Young.
He has won six more Cy Young Awards (with one second- and two third-place finishes), led his league in ERA six times and in wins five times, won 12 more postseason games and at the age of 43 compiled a 1.87 ERA. And oh yes, he pinch-hit in the NLCS.
And at 44, he may hold the key to three divisional races.
Peter Gammons is an ESPN baseball reporter and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
• Here are the results of ESPN.com's poll, asking 32 of ESPN's baseball experts (named below) to list the top 10 greatest living pitchers. Points were awarded on a 1-10 scale (10 for a first-place vote down to a 1 for a 10th-place vote).
NO. PITCHER PTS.
1. Roger Clemens- 278
2. Tom Seaver- 196
3. Sandy Koufax- 192
4. Bob Gibson- 186
5. Greg Maddux- 177
6. Bob Feller- 126
7 .Randy Johnson- 123
8. Pedro Martinez- 119
9. Steve Carlton- 101
10. Juan Marichal- 71
Others receiving votes: Nolan Ryan 67, Mariano Rivera 41, Whitey Ford 35, Jim Palmer 33, Fergie Jenkins 6, Dennis Eckersley 6, Robin Roberts 2, Goose Gossage 2 Dave Stewart 2.
Dave Barnett, Jim Callis, Jim Caple, Dave Campbell, Jerry Crasnick, Orestes Destrade, Peter Gammons, Gary Gillette, Pedro Gomez, Orel Hershiser, Eric Karabell, Eric Karros, Bob Klapisch, Tim Kurkjian, Michael Knisley, Buck Martinez, Sean McAdam, Sean McDonough, Jon Miller, Rob Neyer, Steve Phillips, Karl Ravech, Phil Rogers, Enrique Rojas, David Schoenfield, Alan Schwarz, Jon Sciambi, John Shea, Dan Shulman, Jayson Stark, Rick Sutcliffe, Gary Thorne
The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; Page E01
The term "posterized" was coined for NBA players who appeared on posters as Michael Jordan dunked on their heads. Now, players duck out of the frame when Shaq, Kobe or LeBron jam on top of them. Who needs such immortality?
On Sunday, the entire San Francisco team avoided being posterized by Barry Bonds as he crossed home plate after he hit his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth. The only person there to meet him was the batboy -- his son. Who needs such immortality?
Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel said the team wanted Bonds to "be able to have his moment."
Yes, a moment alone.
When Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run in '74, two fans jumped out of the stands in Atlanta to run the bases with him. Braves in the bullpen jockeyed for the honor of grabbing the ball. None of Aaron's teammates shied away from sharing the moment with Hank.
These days, when Bonds's batting (.239) and slugging (.423) averages in May are below the big league norm, the 41-year-old looks like he may not have 41 more home runs left in him. But if he ever does hit No. 756 to pass Aaron, his teammates may hide in the dugout tunnel or lock themselves in the clubhouse as he runs the bases.
Don't rule out an Aaron chase, one much more ugly than the last few weeks, when Bonds needed 73 plate appearances to hit Nos. 714 and 715. As long as the gimpy Giant can stand upright in the box, and there are enough people screaming, "Quit the game, you cheater," Bonds may have just the right fuel -- bile -- to keep on playing.
"If my health is good and I feel like I can play, then I'm going to play," Bonds said on Monday, the day after the remnants of the national media who had been his Ruth-race prisoners finally were released to the custody of their families. "My son keeps telling me, 'Dad, you can still play.' I told him, 'You get straight A's and I'll consider it.' "
The longer Bonds plays, the more he threatens to keep chasing Aaron -- and that's what it is, a threat -- the more obvious it becomes that his desire for the spotlight, his need for one more "Bonds on Bonds," his whole state of muted, persecuted rage, has replaced the affection he once held for the sport he played so magnificently.
Once, you couldn't find a player who spoke more from the heart about his passion for playing his sport properly. And he maintained that love despite a twisted history with the game. When Barry Bonds was between the ages of 10 and 17, his father, Bobby, changed teams seven times, always amid controversy and rejection. After that, Barry Bonds's relationship to the game had an alarming darkness as he developed a soul-deep, chip-on-the-shoulder need to dominate the sport and, in a sense, punish it as well, both in the name of the father.
Those who judge Bonds need to remember the diabolical confluence in the late '90s of his father's worsening health, the ubiquity of steroids in a sport that was indifferent to their use and the arrival of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to usurp his place -- presumably won fairly -- as the game's best player. Macbeth's witches couldn't make a nastier stew.
Now, however, all that subtlety in trying to understand and appreciate Bonds is likely to be distilled down to simplistic barbs. Old-timers such as Bob Feller call him a disgrace to baseball. Phillies pitcher Cory Lidle said of his performance, "I don't think it's legitimate," and former teammate Jeff Kent took Lidle's side. Red Sox pitcher David Wells said he was convinced Bonds had cheated by using steroids. Even the fan who caught home run ball No. 714 said he hated Bonds.
In response, Bonds seems tempted to keep chasing Aaron for emotional revenge. "Take that," for all the Balco, FBI, MLB and grand jury investigations, not to mention the million bleacher insults. Yet even as Bonds clasps his bitter 715th home run, the game seems determined to replace him, erase him. The instrument of choice: Albert Pujols, on pace for 82 homers.
Pujols is modest, yet a leader; massively built, but not suspiciously disproportional. He's the kind of player who wants to give himself up to advance the runner from second to third by grounding out to second base but, instead, usually hits the ball over the right field wall by mistake.
The infinite promise of Pujols, the hope that he may cleanse the game's image by surpassing Bonds, is the sport's spring obsession. Realists will point out that the more homers he hits, the more he will be walked intentionally -- or pitched around -- as the season progresses. Also, Pujols already has expanded his strike zone, swinging at pitches both up and up-and-in. He may hit them out of the park occasionally now, but can he hit them for six months?
Still, this Albert fantasy should not be dismissed out of hand. In his sixth season, Pujols already is one of the best hitters who ever lived. Bonds has a .299 career batting average and .609 slugging percentage. Pujols's marks are .331 and .630. The proper measure of Pujols is not Bonds, but Ted Williams (.344, .634) and Ruth (.342, .690).
As unlikely as it is that anybody will hit 74 homers, Pujols may have one advantage. Home run totals have jumped this season -- up 7.7 percent if the current pace continues. However, even when the weather turns hot (and the ball travels a little farther), it's unlikely the game will match its home run totals of '00, '99 and '01 -- its three highest seasons.
For the moment, baseball has found relief. It turns its eyes from Bonds's interminable No. 715 quest to the immediacy of Pujols's next turn at bat. For those who prefer such fairy tales, baseball never quite fills the bill, does it? In what sort of place would Red Sox and White Sox fans have to wait 86 and 88 years to enjoy one World Series win? The answer, please: Why, the real world, of course.
That's where we find ourselves with Bonds. Pujols is unlikely to finesse the Barry problem for us. Baseball will have to live with Bonds, digest Bonds and, to a degree, accept Bonds as the dark side of the game's post-strike lust to regain its stature relative to other major sports. Economics and institutional pride displaced conscience. The game was determined to come back to its former place in America, at any cost, even if it meant blind-eye countenancing of cheating with health-destroying drugs.
Would we even wish, for taking such cynical risks, that a sport should get away clean? Now that the bills are due, what was the sport's true cost? The price was Bonds. From his foul moods to his refusal to retire, he is baseball's proper punishment. He haunts the game nightly. Any at-bat may move him closer to Aaron. And like a guilty conscience, he cannot be wished away.
ESPN.com news services
NEW YORK -- The Houston Astros called a news conference Wednesday to announce that Roger Clemens is rejoining the team.
A source familiar with the negotiations said the Astros and Clemens have agreed on a one-year (or four-month) contract, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported.
Clemens' annual salary will be a prorated $22,000,022 -- meaning that when he returns to the Astros (around June 22), he'll make slightly under $13 million the rest of the year.
He is signing a minor-league contract for now, so he can make three minor-league tuneup starts without being formally optioned to the minors. His prorated minor-league salary is $322,000 per year.
Clemens is scheduled to make three minor-league starts: June 6 for Lexington (pitching to his son, Koby), June 11 for Double-A Corpus Christi and June 16 for Triple-A Round Rock.
Randy Hendricks, Clemens' agent, reiterated Wednesday that earlier reports of a deal were premature. Hendricks said Astros GM Tim Purpura went to Hendricks' house last night and met with Hendricks and his brother, Alan. Owner Drayton McLane also took part in the talks by phone, Hendricks said, and they worked out the terms "after midnight."
The Astros were 27-26 and 6½ games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals after Tuesday night's 6-3 victory over St. Louis.
Clemens pitched for the Astros last season and helped them reach the World Series for the first time. Houston, the New York Yankees, Boston and Texas all tried to lure Clemens to pitch this season.
Clemens last pitched competitively in the World Baseball Classic, where he beat South Africa for the United States in the first round and lost to Mexico 2-1 in the second on March 16.
Clemens retired after the 2003 season, then changed his mind and joined his hometown Astros after former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte left New York to sign with Houston.
In Detroit, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre heard the report Tuesday that Clemens was returning to Houston.
"I'm not at all surprised," he said. "I didn't think that him coming back here was ever going to happen. Houston's just such a perfect fit for him -- he lives there and Andy's on the team. That's why he came back before, and the circumstances haven't changed."
Texas owner Tom Hicks was told last week by the Hendricks brothers that the Rangers were out of consideration, GM Jon Daniels said.
"Tom got the call on Friday that we were no longer in the running for his services," Daniels said Tuesday. "The way we looked at it was, it would be an honor to be associated with him but we've continued to focus on the 25 guys here. It would have been nice, but we weren't planning on it from the get-go."
Clemens won his seventh Cy Young Award in 2004, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA. He went 13-8 with a 1.87 ERA last year, winning the major league ERA title for the first time since 1990.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
In the Jefferson case, it’s Congress, not the executive branch, mocking separation-of-powers.
Later today, the Republican-led Congress is scheduled to raise to new heights of hysteria and arrogance its protest against the FBI’s search of the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D., La.). But as House Judiciary Chairman James F. Sensenbrenner (R., Wi.) prepares what promises to be a contentious hearing—breathlessly titled, “Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?”—we should note with gratitude that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, and FBI Director Robert Mueller have just enjoyed their finest hours.
As leaders of agencies whose best traditions lie in apolitical, non-partisan law enforcement, all three were apparently prepared to do what the hierarchy of the Justice Department and the FBI must always be prepared to do if the rule of law, so vital to our nation’s prosperity, is to thrive. They were ready to resign over a matter of high principle.
According to several media reports (see here, here and here), the trio threatened to step down rather than carry out any presidential order to return the evidence that was lawfully seized from Jefferson’s office pursuant to a search warrant. Congressional leaders have been foot-stomping for just such an order. In the end, President Bush declined (although he did direct a face-saving, 45-day cooling-off period, during which the evidence will remain sealed and Congress, one hopes, will step back from the suicidal brink). Thus, justice may yet triumph over power politics.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Jefferson has disgraced their institution by prostituting his office for piles of cash, top legislators from both parties have rallied to his defense. They say they are defending a principle. In fact, they are perverting a privilege.
To be sure, members of Congress are not like the rest of us. They are the instantiation of our democratic self-determination. Through them, we exercise our power to govern ourselves. The Constitution thus vests them with broad immunities.
The speech-and-debate clause (Art. I, Sec. 6) is all the shield an honest public servant should ever need. It ensures that if a member of Congress is tending to legislative business—not just by speeches on the floor but through engagement in any legitimately legislative activity—that member need never fear prosecution or other legal fallout based on anything said or done. No resulting remark or action, however egregious—and no matter how quickly a similar transgression would subject a private citizen to crushing liability—can be used to threaten jail time or damages against one of the people’s representatives.
For congressional leaders, however, that is not enough. When it comes to their perks, nothing ever is.
They demand, instead, to be immunized from even being investigated. With stunning hauteur, they insist that “their” office space—space that actually belongs to the American people, and in which legislators enjoy the high privilege of serving the American people—has somehow transmogrified into their very own private felony safe harbor: An exclusive, members-only club, where evidence of bribery, fraud, obstruction, and any other violations of law and betrayals of the public trust can be hidden beyond the prying eyes of the public’s enforcement officers.
Talk about trampling the Constitution! This is a blatant distortion of Article I, which, immediately before immunizing speech and debate, expressly recognizes that members of Congress may be prosecuted for crimes.
Equally preposterous is the bunkum being brayed about an imperious executive branch asserting a monarch’s prerogative to rifle through legislative chambers. The Justice Department and the FBI have not come close to claiming such a right. The rule of law was scrupulously observed here.
Before they went anywhere near Jefferson’s office, the Justice Department served the congressman with a grand-jury subpoena, giving him the opportunity to turn over the evidence on his own. For you or me, a grand-jury subpoena is court process with which we must comply, no matter how inconvenient or embarrassing. Jefferson, however, decided he was above such laws.
Pause over that. The congressman did not march into federal court like an ordinary citizen must do if he believes a subpoena has been issued illegally or violates some valid privilege against producing evidence. He did not argue his point and wait for the judge to rule. He thumbed his nose in contempt. Congressional leadership has been deafeningly mum on that—something worth bearing in mind as they bellow about separation-of-powers.
Still, Justice and the FBI were determined to fight lawlessness with law. AG Gonzales and Director Mueller did not send their charges to raid Jefferson’s office. They sent them to court. For this was not a case about a national-security threat from a foreign power. It did not involve a realm committed by our system to executive judgments. Yes, a congressman was implicated, but this remained a case of ordinary law enforcement. Our system commits judgments about searches in that realm to the courts.
Which brings us, finally, to complaints about the FBI’s purportedly unguided ransacking of Jefferson’s office. This specious claim insults not only Justice Department officials, who plainly went the extra deferential mile out of respect for Congress, but the federal judiciary. It is the last refuge of those pretending to some higher cause than closing ranks around a public official allegedly videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe (most of which was later found in his freezer), and in connection with whose corruption two people have already pled guilty to bribery charges.
Before he could authorize the search warrant, federal district judge Thomas Hogan had to make three findings that, naturally, congressional leaders prefer to ignore. There had to be (a) probable cause that a crime had been committed, (b) probable cause that evidence of that crime was inside the office, and, significantly, (c) particularity. This last owes to the Framers’ revulsion against so-called “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” which permitted indiscriminate searches of private property. The Fourth Amendment calls for search warrants to describe specifically the premises to be searched and the items to be seized.
Yes, a particularized search can still be broad. Financial fraud, for example, might call for seizing voluminous files. The protection against that, though, is its impermissibility unless the FBI can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of an impartial judge, probable cause of a crime rationally justifying an extensive search. In any event, search warrants do not license fishing expeditions. Unless they happen upon obviously criminal items (like, say, illegal drugs), the FBI is limited to seizing only items specifically set forth in the search warrant.
Here, moreover, the Justice Department added layers of protection in deference to speech-and-debate concerns. The team running the bribery investigation was walled off from the search. A non-case team executed the warrant, and a “privilege team” was assembled to vet any seized items, so that the case team would get only relevant evidence and any sensitive political materials not germane to the bribery probe would be returned to the House of Representatives. Far from trampling the Constitution, this search honored it, vindicating checks, balances, and institutional integrity.
In addressing Jefferson, the Justice Department and the FBI are dealing with an embarrassment to Congress for which Congress itself—though immersed in an ethical crisis—has shown no stomach. Instead of overwrought hearings, the Republican leadership ought to be figuring out a way to say “thank you.”
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
By Joan Anderman, Boston Globe Staff
May 29, 2006
Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band
At: Tweeter Center, Saturday night
MANSFIELD-- Bruce Springsteen and 17 of his most musical friends transformed the Tweeter Center stage into a giant porch last night, simultaneously christening the venue's season, kicking off the artist's US tour, and welcoming the summer season with a 2 1/2-hour performance that was more backyard party than rock concert.
Springsteen is touring in support of ``We Shall Overcome," a collection of songs popularized by Pete Seeger, and last night's homespun symphony of accordions and fiddles, pedal steel guitars, and joyful voices was filled with the irrepressible spirit that's the very essence of folk music.
Springsteen hollered and stomped and led his strumming, plucking, honking, sawing ensemble through jubilant takes on ``John Henry," ``Jacob's Ladder," and nearly every other track on the new album. He also reworked a handful of songs from his back catalog -- down-home versions of ``Johnny 99," ``Cadillac Ranch," ``Open All Night," ``Ramrod," and ``You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)."
Any fans expecting a signature Springsteen show were surely startled to find themselves scrolling through musical history. Spirituals and sea chanteys, outlaw ballads and minstrel tunes, civil rights ballads and dustbowl anthems were the order of the night -- with a heavy nod to New Orleans and an unexpected dose of soul.
A blowsy horn section turned everything in its path positively Bourbon Street, while Boston-based banjo player Greg Liszt affectionately evoked the project's namesake with his four humble strings on rousing singalongs of ``Old Dan Tucker," ``Jesse James," and the grade-school staple ``Erie Canal."
Seeger's role as outspoken activist echoed as well, in the great Irish anti war song ``Mrs. McGrath" and the classic ``We Shall Overcome," which Springsteen introduced as ``the most important political protest song ever written." He also performed Seeger's ``Bring 'Em Home," which was a new addition to the set along with the Depression-era ``How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live" (with three new Bruce-penned verses dedicated to the residents of New Orleans).
Local rocker Peter Wolf joined the band for a show-closing (and show-stopping) medley of ``Dirty Water" and ``Buffalo Gals."
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
May 30, 2006
"Rescue Me," which returns to FX for its third season tonight at 10, has the perfect theme song in the Von Bondies' "C'mon, C'mon." Toggling between questions such as ``Will I ever learn" and the mocking call of "c'mon, c'mon," the garage rocker captures the show's biting sarcasm and crushing grief. It evokes the inner turmoil of the characters, particularly Denis Leary's angry firefighter Tommy Gavin, who ``can see the blood of a thousand men who have come and gone," as the song puts it.
"C'mon, C'mon" opens "Rescue Me" as fair warning of the psychic intensity that will follow. As fans know, this New York series is a cauldron of angst, hostility, and catastrophe -- a brilliant cauldron, but still. Most shows operate on half the amount of dramatic fuel in ``Rescue Me." Tommy isn't just beset by a troubled marriage: He's caught in an unending mire of tragedy, from his raging alcoholic slips to the death of his son. This season, Tommy will face a series of betrayals and twists that promise yet another run of fiery and incident-filled episodes.
"Rescue Me" isn't directly about 9/11 anymore, although Tommy's decline began with his 9/11 losses, which included the death of his cousin. But with its characters' unresolving spirals into despair and their eruptions of violence, the show definitely qualifies as a product of the terror attacks. It comes out of a time, a city, and a sensibility plagued by chaos and irrationality, and it offers no clear alternative of faith or trust.
Indeed, Tommy's attempts to lean on Catholicism have provoked some of the show's sharpest satire. His conversations with Jesus last season were absurd; and this season, his older daughter's announcement that she's born again is a hoot: ``It's the hot new thing at school," she says.
After all, this is Denis Leary, and so there has to be comedy amid the endless pain. Tommy is always ready with a zinger, as are his buddies at the firehouse, razzing one another like merciless teen boys. When one of them dates an older woman, played by Susan Sarandon, the guys toss off ``How's your old lady" jokes aplenty. The writers upend the guys, too, including Tommy, as they reveal the firefighters' fragile masculinity. Referring to a money collection for a no-smoking contest, Tommy becomes obsessed with changing the word ``kitty" to ``can" because Sheila (Callie Thorne) thinks ``kitty" is too gay.
The mood swings from buffoonery to desperation are a large part of what defines ``Rescue Me." One minute, we're laughing at Tommy's sister Maggie (Tatum O'Neal), who treats her boyfriend like a dog (``Stay. Good boy."). And the next minute we're in the gutter with Kenny (John Scurti), who's drinking himself numb after being swindled by a porn actress. One minute Tommy is joking with his incarcerated uncle (Lenny Clarke), the next he's pounding futilely on a dead little girl's chest to revive her, lost in a fit of sorrow about his own son.
For viewers, it's hard to relax -- an effect the writers clearly aim for, to convey the tempo of a firefighter's life as it jumps from calm to alarm in seconds. With all the tonal shiftiness, the writers also simulate a post-traumatic explosiveness, something the actors, particularly Leary, make both affecting and frightening. Sadly, Leary has never been nominated for an acting Emmy for his extraordinary work in ``Rescue Me."
This season, not one of the characters seems to be sleeping with the right person. I won't reveal any surprises , except to say that all the pairings in the first three episodes are oddly, humorously, and, at the end of episode 3, touchingly daring. The changing-partners theme is a little farcical -- but darkly so, with heart-wrenching consequences. ``Rescue Me" isn't for everyone, particularly those who find Leary's fuming a little too convincing. But it's certainly a TV gem, rough but gleaming.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.