Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. Gone But Not Forgotten

The father of modern American conservatism died in his home today at the age of 82. I am a Ronald Reagan Republican. When I first started taking an interest in politics and political thought, Reagan dominated the field. But as I began to read more about Reagan and the source of the ideology he personified for my generation, I became aware of the profound role that William F. Buckley Jr. played in giving birth to the modern conservative movement. I always admired Reagan for his qualities as "the Great Communicator," but William F. Buckley Jr. was the first person who ever awed me with his intellect and his skills as an advocate for a cause. His command of the English language and the world of ideas set the standard by which all other so-called intellectuals of his era were judged (and generally found wanting).

I subscribed for a number of years to the National Review, the magazine Buckley founded in an effort to "stand athwart history, yelling Stop!" Today the National Review Online remains one of my favorite websites. As you can imagine, they have quite a discussion of WFB going over at NRO, and included in all the memorials and tributes was the original mission statement published by Buckley upon establishing the National Review on November 19, 1955. It is amazing to read that statement and realize that the historical forces that were in play in 1955 are the same forces shaping the political landscape today. Likewise, although they have fallen out of favor recently, the bedrock principles of American conservatism laid out by Buckley over 50 years ago remain the benchmarks by which we measure the successes and the failures of the conservative movement today. Among the core convictions expressed by Buckley at the founding of the National Review were the following:

  • It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens' lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government(the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side.
  • The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.
  • The century's most blatant force of satanic utopianism is communism. We consider "coexistence" with communism neither desirable nor possible, nor honorable; we find ourselves irrevocably at war with communism and shall oppose any substitute for victory.
  • The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so. In this cultural issue, we are, without reservations, on the side of excellence (rather than "newness") and of honest intellectual combat (rather than conformity).
  • No superstition has more effectively bewitched America's Liberal elite than the fashionable concepts of world government, the United Nations, internationalism, international atomic pools, etc. Perhaps the most important and readily demonstrable lesson of history is that freedom goes hand in hand with a state of political decentralization, that remote government is irresponsible government. It would make greater sense to grant independence to each of our 50 states than to surrender U.S. sovereignty to a world organization.
Although Buckley laid it all out for us in 1955 (and throughout the intervening years), it is disturbingly rare for modern "conservative" leaders to effectively articulate to the people the core principles that animate the conservative movement. Barry Goldwater did it. Ronald Reagan did it. Newt Gingrich has done it. Fred Thompson attempted to do it, but botched it. John McCain seems to have one leg in the boat, and one still on the dock. He's strong on some of these principles, but out of step with his party on others. The very fact that McCain is being held to answer for his conservative credentials (or lack thereof) by the Republican faithful is due to the long shadow cast by William F. Buckley Jr. He may be gone, but he will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vote for Purdue Pete!

EA Sports is holding an on-line vote to decide which college mascot will grace the cover of EA Sports' NCAA Football 2009, which will be available for the Wii gaming console for the first time this year. I am urging everyone to go to the site and cast a vote for Purdue Pete! Several reasons:

  1. Irony. Nothing says "college football" quite like the Purdue Boilermakers.
  2. Pete is the scariest, freakiest "mascot" in college football. Those eyes!
  3. Pete is not the actual mascot for the Boilermakers. The official mascot is the Boilermaker Special.
  4. If there is anything like a "Madden Curse" associated with NCAA 2009, I sure don't want to bring any voodoo down on the Irish - but wouldn't mind bringing some down on Purdue.
  5. Think how hacked off Michigan, Ohio State, USC, and the entire SEC would be if Purdue Pete got the cover! The outrage would be totally entertaining.
  6. If Pete wins, there is no way EA Sports has the guts to actually put him on the cover.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Mike Rothstein a Moron?

Is Mike Rothstein of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette a total moron? Or is he just an anti-Notre Dame buffoon? Until recently I generally dismissed Mike as a harmless lightweight who could occasionally turn up a useful nugget of information since he is able to attend portions of Notre Dame football practices as well as press conferences. Even a blind squirrel will sometimes find a nut.

But I'm fed up with his act now. Lately he has taken to "blogging" about Charlie Weis' connection/involvement in the New England Patriots "spygate" scandal. The thing is, there is no Charlie Weis connection or involvement with that story. Mike is just making things up and publishing his random, baseless, speculations on the Journal Gazette's website - in a tone that hints of a hope that evidence implicating Coach Weis will turn up at some point in the future.

Today, Mike breathlessly (and carelessly) posted to his Irish Insights blog a piece headlined "Did ND (and others) Commit NCAA Violations?" The post was premised on a Yahoo story that described a common (and commonly known) practice of college coaches speaking at high school fundraisers. The premise of the Yahoo story was that this is (in the authors' view) an unwise practice and that the NCAA rules in this area are confusing or need clarification. Coach Weis was featured in the story, but numerous coaches from other school are mentioned. Also mentioned are Coaches Davie and Willingham when they were head coaches at Notre Dame. The story addresses both sides of the issue in some detail, and explains the 1991 NCAA ruling that the schools rely on in approving the practice. It's a sensationalist piece generally, but the Yahoo story is at least thorough and balanced. But Mike loves a good headline - "Did ND Commit NCAA Violations?"

About an hour after his original post, Mike posted to "Irish Insights" an "update." The "update" points out that the entire speaking event which was the subject of the possible ND violations had been reviewed and cleared not only by the Notre Dame compliance staff beforehand, but by the compliance staff of the Big East conference. Mike's clarification?

Notre Dame clearly believes they followed the rules and, to use a Charlie Weis term, did their due diligence in making sure Weis and the school were compliant. So if this shows anything, it displays that the NCAA needs to be more clear about this rule, since there seems to be confusion about it at multiple institutions.
In other words, despite what Yahoo or Mike Rothstein thinks, it's pretty clear that no violation occurred at all, and that if one did occur, it wasn't because Charlie Weis is a loose cannon careening around on the deck of the S.S. Notre Dame without regard for NCAA rules. The institution that is most confused here is the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. And of course, Mike's "update" isn't headlined "Notre Dame Cleared of NCAA Violation Charge." Rather, it is very boringly tagged "Update on ND/Yahoo! Story." Not quite as eye-catching.

Here is the comment I wrote to Mike to let him know what I think about his sloppy posting:


Maybe you ought to do some research into this "due diligence" concept, and learn to do a little of it before plastering stories on the internet about Notre Dame NCAA violations that never happened.

It's not fair to headline a story about "ND NCAA Violations" and then retract it an hour later while grumbling about how confusing the rules are. There's no doubt the NCAA rules are a confusing mess - which is why you need to do some homework and make your phone calls before you write the story.

I hope others will let Mike, or his bosses, know how we feel about the deteriorating quality of the product at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Notre Dame Blogger Kicked Off American Idol

Okay, I admit it. I have been known, on rare occasion, to watch American Idol. Last night (and the night before, and a couple of times last week) was one such instance. The American Idol contestants were in "Hollywood" (actually Pasadena) vying for the chance to be one of the Top 24 performers who would get a chance to compete for viewers' votes in the coming weeks.

And there he was!

Serious (i.e., obsessed and disturbed) Notre Dame football fans are familiar with the work of Michael Rothstein, erstwhile blogger with the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette who brings us his "Irish Insights" on a regular basis. Now, I've been critical of some of Mike's work, and he posts very little that is new or original, but he does serve a useful purpose as the eyes and ears for those of us who don't have a press pass and can't make it to practices or press conferences ourselves. But I had no idea Mike could sing! Here's a shot of Mike's last performance for the American Idol judges just before he was one of the last hopefuls eliminated from the show:

So it's back to Fort Wayne for Mike. Tough break.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Welcome Notre Dame Class of 2012!

Just a few very quick thoughts on the recently concluded recruiting cycle.

  1. Let's have a big OC Domer welcome to all the members of the Notre Dame graduating class of 2012. Yes, that's right, graduating class of 2012, because unlike many "premiere" football "schools" we at ND actually provide our kids with a world-class education and a meaningful college degree - in four years. There will no doubt be a few exceptions, but most of these young men will don a cap, gown, and tassel in May of 2012 and get their diploma just like Coach Weis promised their moms they would.
  2. Congratulations to Coach Weis and the rest of the staff for bringing in one of the top classes in America in talent, and the top class in America in character - no matter what ESPN says. I was very impressed by how many of these young men committed to the Irish before, or even during, the worst football season in University history and stuck by their commitment to the very end. That tells me all I need to know about the caliber of young man we are recruiting, and I pledge right now to always keep that in mind when writing about the performance of these guys on the field. Even when things go wrong, and the level of play is not up to our level of expectation, these are fine young men who should be respected as people even if they are being critiqued as football players.
  3. I guess Coach Weis gets a big "I told you so" on the rest of us. When the Irish lost out on a couple of big recruits at the last minute last February, he told us all he was going to reinvent the process to prevent that from happening again. He was largely scoffed at for his remarks at the time, but the reality is that he re-wrote the rules on how recruiting should be done, and his plan bore a bounty of fruit this year. The fact that he was able to analyze a problem and come up with an original solution that yielded positive results makes me optimistic that the other changes he recently announced with regard to coaching style and play calling may well be similarly successful.
  4. While I am very excited about the infusion of talent that Coach Weis has brought into the program, I must remain only guardedly optimistic (rather than wildly optimistic). With respect to recruiting, we've seen this story before. For three years running - 1981, 1982, 1983 - Gerry Faust brought the #1 recruiting class in the nation to Notre Dame. Notre Dame did not win a bowl game with any of those classes, and the Irish failed to crack the Top 20 in the final Associated Press Poll until they were ranked #17 at the end of the 1987 season (the season after most of the 1983 recruiting class would have graduated). As much as we have lamented the lack of talent in the program (and by "we" I mean Boob Davie, Ty Willingham, and Mark May), talent has to be well coached in order to translate into wins. Coach Weis has just about used up the benefit of the doubt he was getting on the talent side of the equation. Now it's time to coach that talent up. To coin a phrase, 3-and-9 is not good enough.
  5. One reason I am a little skeptical that this new class will make huge contributions on the field this season is the lessons we learned from 2007. The first lesson was that true freshman players, at any position, have a hard time getting on the field and being truly ready to play. The learning curve is just very steep, and we saw how our young players, even though they had a world of talent, struggled early in the season. The second reason is that when you look at the depth chart, the positions where you might expect freshman to have a chance to play (generally the skill positions) are already occupied by talented young guys who survived the trial by fire last year, and the positions where we have most need (generally in the line) are the positions where guys usually need a year or two of physical development before they can be really effective. Dayne Crist is great, but he's probably not going to push Clausen for playing time in the first season. We have three terrific running backs who got a lot of time last season (Aldridge, Hughes, Allen) - are true freshman going to pass all of them on the depth chart? Michael Floyd is a stud - but he has to get by Duval Kamara and Golden Tate, among others, to get on the field. I'm sure there will be a glaring exception or two (tight end?), but for the most part the Irish will have to compete and win next year with the same guys who went 3-9 last year.
I'll finish with a few non-recruiting thoughts.
  1. Great hire to get Jon Tenuta. Frankly, I can't believe he was available.
  2. I like the decision to empower the offensive staff to put together the game plan and call the plays. When Charlie was calling plays I think he sometimes outsmarted himself by calling plays that should theoretically work in spectacular fashion (but that failed for lack of execution) rather than calling plays that would reliably work for a first down. When Charlie first came in he had at his disposal an uneven distribution of talent, and he did a great job of using scheme and X's and O's to get the most out if that talent. But the program is ready to enter a new phase. Beginning soon, the Irish aren't going to out-scheme opponents, we're going to out-play them. Our O-line will block better than your D-line rushes, our receivers will beat your DBs, and our QB will deliver the ball in stride. We'll no longer need to call exotic plays in an attempt to mask talent deficiencies. Coach Haywood, being closer to the players, will be in a good position to call plays based upon what is working and who is hot. And hopefully he won't allow his gaudy reputation as a genius play caller to interfere with calling a solid and effective, if un-spectacular game.
  3. Maybe Coach Weis can use some of his spare time to help Coach Latina with the offensive line. I predicted last year that the season would hinge on the play of the O-line, and I was right. With an improving defense and capable players at the skill positions, I believe the same thing is true this year - maybe more so. The defense is good, but possibly thin on the defensive line. The offense has to control the ball this season so that the D-line doesn't get absolutely worn out. And the offense has to score some points so that our opponents can't just grind it out on the ground. We have some talented outside pass rushers and an effective secondary that can defend the pass once our opponents are forced to take to the air. But a thin (young) D-line and linebackers who aren't real run stuffers could be vulnerable to a punishing running attack if we're playing from behind.
When does Spring ball start? I'm going through serious football withdrawals.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lacrosse Season Preview

"Inside Lacrosse" has posted a great season preview of the Notre Dame lacrosse team. Included is this excerpt on Will Yeatman and the high expectations for this season:

1. Will Yeatman is back for more.

The sophomore attackman became a sensation in his freshman season - as much for his dual-sport status as a tight end with the football squad as his play on the lacrosse field. With the Irish having a subpar football season (3-9 with no bowl berth), Yeatman picked up his stick sooner than usual and had a chance to rest his body. That, plus having a year of familiarity with Division I lacrosse could mean an improvement on his 21-goal, 25-assist rookie year.

"My comfort level will carry into this season," Yeatman says. "That will certainly help me out."

2. Great Expectations.

Notre Dame had a shot to top eventual national champion Johns Hopkins in the opening round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but a goal by the Blue Jays' Michael Kimmel a minute into overtime kept the upstart Irish from a stunning upset. This year, with much of their team returning, the Irish have more ambitious goals. Like a trip to Boston for Memorial Day.

"I really expect that we're going to win the league again and to be honest, I expect to be playing for the national championship," Yeatman says. "Anything outside of that, I wouldn't be too happy with."

Go Irish!

[ADDED 2/5/2008: Holy Cow! Will Yeatman has apparently been indefinitely suspended from both football AND lacrosse for ... well ... an indefinite ... period. Unspecified violation of team rules. I hope it's something along the lines of a non-aggravated alcohol or parietals-related violation, and nothing more serious. Dang it!]

Will it be a "Super" Tuesday?

I voted on the way to work this morning, "yes" on Mitt Romney and "no" on everything else (Indian gaming, term limits funny business, transportation and community college funding tweaks). I had hoped to glean from my visit to the polls some insight as to how the day might go. I was very surprised that at 8:00 a.m. I was almost the only person casting a ballot. Poll workers easily outnumbered actual voters at that moment. So, I concluded, shockingly low turnout. Interesting.

When I got to work, my secretary reported that she had voted on the drive in as well. Her polling place was jammed with voters. Huh. Which means turnout is somewhere between "very low" and "very high." Not very helpful.

But then I thought about it a bit more. I live in Orange County, in a pretty Republican district. Low turnout in my area probably means low interest among Republican voters. This is not surprising since, as I have noted before, the slate of candidates being offered to GOP voters is not very inspiring. If Republican turnout is low, that probably means big trouble for Mitt Romney (who needs GOP voters) and good news for McCain (who has been winning GOP primaries on the strength of non-GOP, Independent support).

My secretary lives in Los Angeles, in an area with a large minority population. Heavy turnout there makes sense since the Hillary v. Obama contest is much more interesting and impassioned. Judging from the results in South Carolina, heavy Democrat turnout in minority areas of Los Angeles is probably very good news for Obama, and very bad news for Hillary.

So, based upon anecdotal data taken from two polling places, I'm calling California for McCain and Obama.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Irish Basketball Cracks Top 25

We're primarily a football operation here, but it's worth noting that the Notre Dame men's basketball team is quietly having a very nice season. They haven't gotten much national media attention so far, but that may change now that the Irish are a Top 25 team. Wins over Villanova, Providence and DePaul in the past nine days, have vaulted the Irish to #21 in the USA Today coaches poll and #22 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame is 16-4 overall and 6-2 in conference, which is good enough for second place in the Big East. It would seem the Irish are poised to easily garner more than the 20 wins typically necessary to get a ticket to the big dance in March. For superior coverage of Notre Dame basketball, I highly recommend the Black and Green Irish Men's Basketball Report and old Notre Dame, two blogs which are listed in our blogroll on the right under "other Irish Sports Blogs."

Not to be outdone, the Irish women's basketball team is ranked at #20 in both polls, just ahead of where the Irish men are ranked. The Irish women are 17-5 overall, 5-3 in conference, good for sixth place in the Big East.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

OC Domer Will Vote for Romney

It's definitely good news / bad news at OC Domer headquarters heading into California's primary election on Tuesday. The good news is that for the first time in a while Californians will actually have a chance to influence the Presidential nomination process in each of the major political parties. For too many years California's primaries were held far too late in the process to make a difference, the races having already been decided long before the polls opened in the Golden State. Hooray for democracy!

The bad news is that the choices being served up by the Republican party in this primary are not very appetizing to conservative voters. I was a "Friend of Fred", having concluded that Fred Thompson was the best available choice for conservative voters. But Fred didn't make it out of South Carolina, a victim of the persistent whisper campaign (repeated in the mainstream media ad nauseum) that Fred was "lazy" and didn't have sufficient "fire in the belly." So the candidate with the best grasp of the issues and the most genuinely Republican platform was shoved aside to leave the field to a group of candidates whose (1) stated positions on the issues, or (2) past record, make clear that they aren't true Republicans. Being a voter who isn't about to pull the lever for either Hillary or Obama, I needed to make a decision.

I flirted for a while with the idea of casting a protest vote for Fred Thompson (or maybe even writing in Newt Gingrich). If the race was decided, or if polls indicated that my vote would not make a difference, I was prepared to go that route. But looking at the latest polls in California, the race has tightened up between McCain and Romney and it appears that my vote could make a difference (despite the fact that the mainstream media is ready to annoint John McCain the GOP nominee).

Given a chance to make a difference, and given McCain and Romney as my choices, it was pretty easy to settle on Romney. In my previous article discussing the GOP candidates I explained my reservations about each of these men. Romney's record as Governor of Massachusetts was not nearly as conservative as his current campaign rhetoric. But he has a few things going for him that John McCain doesn't. He has strong executive experience in both the public and private sectors. He is at least saying the "right" things on most issues of importance to conservatives (even if his record is not always consistent), and he has the looks and charisma to come off as "Presidential" for the general election campaign and beyond.

I still believe that John McCain is a "conservative" more by coincidence that by conscience. Over the course of his career John McCain's positions on the various issues of the day reveal no discernible philosophical pattern. They appear to derive from random tosses of darts at a board. It just so happens that the randomly thrown darts have landed on "Republican" spaces on the dart bard more often than Democrat spaces. As a conservative I take little comfort from the degree to which McCain has always been embraced by the Washington establishment. True conservatives have never been treated so well inside the beltway. It is also discomfiting that McCain has been winning so-called Republican primary elections primarily due to votes coming not from Republican voters but from Independent voters with no affinity for or allegiance to the GOP. Recent reports that McCain has flirted with the idea of switching parties, along with the recent endorsement from Joe Lieberman do not enhance McCain's credentials to be the standard bearer of the GOP and a champion of conservative principles. John McCain would still be better than Mrs & Mr Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House. But as long as I have a real choice about who will be the GOP nominee, John McCain will not get my vote.