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Braden: Perfection

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Dallas Braden and first baseman Daric Barton

[Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle]

In baseball, a pitcher throws a perfect game when he pitches nine innings (or more, if necessary) and retires every batter he faces. No opposing batter gets on base, whether through a hit, a walk, an error, being hit by a pitch, or any other means.

Perfect games are rare. When one is thrown, attention must be paid. Today, Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s threw the nineteenth perfect game in baseball history, against the Tampa Bay Rays. I’m paying attention.

Alas, I didn’t see it. This afternoon, we celebrated Mother’s Day by watching golf — the Players Championship, in which Tim Clark won dramatically with a come-from-behind 67 featuring five birdies in six holes. Joel caught the baseball news online, too late for us to switch over to watch the end. (I’m assuming that some network, most likely ESPN, interrupted other coverage to show it.)

Fortunately, Major League Baseball has a website commemorating the game, with links to an assortment of related sites, including a page with seven-and-a-half minute video excerpting from the game’s broadcast all 27 Rays outs.

If you don’t want to watch the entire video, you might at least check out the last two minutes for the final out, after which the camera shows section 209 of the stadium, then Braden and his grandmother in a long embrace. For background on all this, you may enjoy Joe Posnanski’s post tonight about the game. See also the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage, and the accompanying box score, a thing of beauty.

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Categories: Baseball, Sports

Elena Kagan

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

From the moment John Paul Stevens announced that he would step down from the Supreme Court, the person most often described as President Obama’s most likely choice to succeed him has been Elena Kagan, his solicitor general. It now appears that this speculation will be confirmed tomorrow morning. I could hardly be more depressed.

For months, I have made lists every week or two of political topics to blog about, and then not followed through. I always decided, as I reviewed these lists, that I would be better off pointing to the posts or articles of far more knowledgeable people, with nothing original for me to add, so why bother? Well, this time I’ll bother, though again, all I will do is point to others’ writings. Actually, it will suffice to point to one post, since it contains many references. As word circulated yesterday morning that Kagan would be chosen, Glenn Greenwald provided a note with a reference to his case last month against Kagan along with a list of other pieces arguing against her appointment.

It’s surely too late. As Greenwald noted last month, the time to stop Kagan’s appointment was before her nomination. Her lack of a judicial record will almost certainly ensure Senate confirmation. Yet another example of Obama’s conservatism and unwillingness to fight the Senate to bring about change we can believe in.

Here’s one excerpt from Greenwald’s argument last month:

. . . replacing Stevens with Kagan risks moving the Court to the Right, perhaps substantially to the Right (by “the Right,” I mean: closer to the Bush/Cheney vision of Government and the Thomas/Scalia approach to executive power and law).

Consider how amazing it is that such a prospect is even possible. Democrats around the country worked extremely hard to elect a Democratic President, a huge majority in the House, and 59 Democratic Senators — only to watch as the Supreme Court is moved further to the Right? Even for those who struggle to find good reasons to vote for Democrats, the prospect of a better Supreme Court remains a significant motive (the day after Obama’s election, I wrote that everyone who believed in the Constitution and basic civil liberties should be happy at the result due to the numerous Supreme Court appointments Obama would likely make, even if for no other reason).

There will, of course, be some Democrats who will be convinced that any nominee Obama chooses is the right one by virtue of being Obama’s choice. But for those who want to make an informed, rational judgment, it’s worthwhile to know her record. I’ve tried here to subject that record to as comprehensive and objective an assessment as possible. And now is the time to do this, because if Kagan is nominated, it’s virtually certain that she will be confirmed. There will be more than enough Republicans joining with the vast majority of Democrats to confirm her; no proposal ever loses in Washington for being insufficiently progressive (when is the last time such a thing happened?). If a Kagan nomination is to be stopped, it can only happen before her nomination is announced by Obama, not after.

. . .

One of the difficulties in assessing Kagan’s judicial philosophy and view of the Constitution is that direct evidence is extremely sparse. That’s not only because she’s never been a judge, but also because (a) her academic career is surprisingly and disturbingly devoid of writings or speeches on most key legal and Constitutional controversies, and (b) she has spent the last year as Obama’s Solicitor General, where (like any lawyer) she was obligated to defend the administration’s policies regardless of whether she agreed with them. As Goldstein wrote at SCOTUSblog: “it seems entirely possible that Elena Kagan does not really have a fixed and uniform view of how to judge and to interpret the Constitution.”

As I’ve previously documented and examine further below, the evidence that is available strongly suggests that a Kagan-for-Stevens substitution would move the Court to the Right in critical areas. But Kagan’s lack of a real record on these vital questions, by itself, should cause progressives to oppose her nomination.

Categories: Law, Politics

Change in the Weather

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Safeco Field

This post is a few days overdue, as are several more that I hope to get to. I wrote last a week ago, from Gettysburg, briefly describing our visits to Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields. I will have more to say about that. This post is about our attendance four nights ago at the Mariners baseball game.

We got back home from Washington, D.C., Tuesday night. It wasn’t entirely the best timing that last month we had arranged with Gail’s sister to attend the Mariners game Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. I figured I would be falling asleep by the third inning. But worse, it was cold. Just four days earlier, back in Maryland, we toured Antietam National Battlefield in 90 degree heat and high humidity. The weather was only slightly more tolerable Sunday and Monday, summer having come early to the mid-Atlantic coastal region. All I could think was, I’m sure glad I live in a more temperate climate.

Ha. It was in the 40s most of the day Wednesday. When we arrived at Safeco around 6:00 PM, it was probably the warmest and sunniest part of the day, over 50 and beautiful. We headed up to the third deck along the first base line to grab dinner. This is the part of Safeco that provides the best views: west over Elliott Bay, the Sound, and the Olympic Mountains; north to downtown. It was also the warmest part, in direct sun. After eating, we walked over to the first base line to get to our seats. The sun was still high enough to sit above the top of the third base roof, so we were still in sunlight, with commanding views over the field and to downtown. Of course, at that height, the players are pretty small, but it’s a great outlook.

And then, round about the 4th inning, the sun disappeared from view. It got cold really fast. Here it is, May 5th, a gorgeous evening, but a cold one, with temperatures now in the mid 40s, and all I could think was, maybe DC’s climate isn’t so bad after all. At least we were winning, and Cliff Lee was dominating through four. When we scored 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth (see box score here), one could imagine that might just be enough. But Lee weakened in the top of the 5th, gave up an equalizing pair of runs, and one wondered if we would score again. Lee was in command again the next two innings. If we could just get a run across, we might win. Though mostly I was rooting to get home.

Lee ran out of steam in the 8th, giving up 3 runs. No way we were going to win now. Perhaps this was a good time to leave. Many of the 14,627 (officially) in attendance seemed to think so. We stuck it out through the bottom of the 8th, then through some mis-communication between Gail and me, we stayed into the 9th, when the Rays got another 3 runs. If you’re keeping track, you’ll know the score was 8-2 at this point, entering the bottom of the 9th. I said okay, we should at least go down to the first level and watch from there as we work our way to the exit. We did so, and suddenly the Mariners had loaded the bases. We got a run, then Sweeney ended the game by striking out. We were near the exit at this point and made a hasty retreat.

I’m so glad we no longer have to watch the Mariners play in the Kingdome, that awful concrete bunker of a building. And I’m so glad that even though Safeco was built with a sliding roof that can keep rain out, the roof is more like an umbrella, leaving the interior open to the outdoor air at all times. In principle, This was, however, one of those nights when watching indoors might not have been so bad.

My one regret in all this is that we didn’t get to see the Nationals play in their new ballpark when we were in Washington. I was there most of a week, but that week coincided exactly with a road trip. As we flew back to Seattle Tuesday night, they opened a home stand.

Categories: Baseball, Travel, Weather