June 14, 2013

Initial #USOpen thoughts

Who will try to drive the tee on the high-risk, high-reward 10th hole?
Photo via US Open website
And, this is the golfing one; I'm not a tennis fan.

No, we won't get Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia together, at least not for the opening round.

But, TW, Rory McElroy and Adam Scott will tee it up together instead.

How nice will TW and Rory be to each other? How much gamesmanship will there be? It is the first time the two have played together in a major.

And, speaking of, I think this is the first time Woods and Scott have played together in a major since Tiger canned Steve Williams and he moved over to loop for Scott. How icy are their greetings going to be?

(And, contra Sergio, I don't think Williams' comments of a year ago about using golf clubs in a certain way were racist; I think the "black" was purely descriptive, though it was unnecessary. The rest of the comment not only was not unnecessary, but hilarious.)

I would go with the trend and say that Matt Kuchar is a good bet to become the 14th first-time winner of a major out of the last 17 played. A precision ball-striker like a Mike Weir has some sort of shot, but the last few hole are monsters. I'm not sure somebody of his short length will ever birdie 18 at US Open ruggedness.

And, I will venture that we see at least two eagles, and at least two double-bogeys or worse, on the high-risk, high-reward 10th hole.

Update, June 10: Now, about those scores? After the Andrea-related rains in the area? When the course won't be a normal level of dry until the first round?

The USGA is talking a great game about what a challenge this will be, etc., etc., and putting its best face and foot forward.

But, let's be honest.

There's likely to be a Murder at Merion, of Merion.

And, so, Robert Lusetich of Fox Sports is wrong, and not for the first time, when he says it's about more than distance.

Winning score, with chances of more showers Tuesday and Wednesday, and who knows after we start on Thursday, will be double digits below par.

Take that 10th hole. I can now, especially on Thursday and Friday, bomb it hard enough to clear the front bunker AND a bit left to make sure that, should I go long, it won't be in the far bunker. Why? Especially if I've got the distance to make that an easy 3-wood, I know the green's going to slow it a lot.

Also, if the fairways are slow, shorter hitters will get killed on that monster at 18. They could be hitting a looong second shot. And on that 621-yard par 5? For the shortest hitters, depending on wind and such, their third shot could be what, a 7 or 8 iron, not a wedge? That said, slow greens will still negate some of that disadvantage.

Flip side? Soggy rough on the first two days will be rougher rough. If, whether at 10 or elsewhere, you're going to gamble, the risk side will also be higher.

Actually, per the Lusetich piece, Cypress Point at Pebble Beach would make more sense as a short course. June in California is almost guaranteed to be rain-free, so you know in advance that you can toughen up the course and it will stay that way.

Update, June 13: Well, as of right now, I may be wrong on the scores issue. Phil Mickelson was 1 of just 2 people in the clubhouse under par, with about half the rounds complete on Thursday. Yeah, there's been two eagles on 10, but 18 is playing 3/4 of a stroke above par.

Update, June 14: Looking at players continue to back up, it looks like the cut line could easily be +6. What's happening? First, despite the rain, it looks like greens are still faster than expected. Second, the fairways are cut longer than typical at most majors, or indeed at a lot of courses in general. Merion's crew is spinning this as "sustainability," but the real spin is that a longer fairway means less bounce and roll, so shorter drives, and also means a bit less spin on second shots. In other words, the longer cuts on the fairway, half-inch rather than quarter-inch, are another element in length-proofing the place.

Beyond all the other stuff, we also appear to have a new Tiger Woods story. Injured wrist? If it's true, and he's far enough off the lead after the second round, will he do a WD?

And, speaking of second rounds, there's an outside chance, perhaps, that everybody gets through half the course today. It's going to be close, we know that. That means second round should be completed by 11 local time Saturday, allowing good time for pin placement changes and such, and yet, a relatively unrushed third round.

June 12, 2013

Covering my first murder trial ...

And, I hope, my last. A Peyton Place case like this, with no "winners," is another good reason for me hoping to get out of this biz.

And, it's illustrative that the law and justice don't necessarily intersect.

Of course, per Walter Kaufmann's "Without Guilt and Justice," a book with which I agree in many respects, there is no such thing as "justice."

Really, it's not much more useful as a concept, if we're really honest about human nature and social psychology, than are ideas such as "unitary consciousness" and "free will."

June 10, 2013

Are there "left-neoliberals"? Would they include the likes of The Nation?

If you agree with this provocative piece by Warren Benn Michaels, as I do, you'll agree that those two rhetorical questions both deserve "yes" answers.

First, Benn defines the issue of left-neolibs versus right-neolibs
The differentiation between left and right neoliberalism doesn’t really undermine the way it which it is deeply unified in its commitment to competitive markets and to the state’s role in maintaining competitive markets. For me the distinction is that “left neoliberals” are people who don’t understand themselves as neoliberals. They think that their commitments to anti-racism, to anti-sexism, to anti-homophobia constitute a critique of neoliberalism. But if you look at the history of the idea of neoliberalism you can see fairly quickly that neoliberalism arises as a kind of commitment precisely to those things.
Boom!

He then ties that to immigration in general, and illegal immigration in particular.

Here's your money graf.
"It’s a striking fact that what the American Left mainly wants to do is reduce the Tea Party to racists as quickly as humanly possible. ... But you can’t understand the real politics of the Tea Party unless you understand how important their opposition to illegal immigration is. Because who’s for illegal immigration? As far as I know only one set of people is for illegal immigration, I mean you may be [as a Marxist], but as far as I know the only people who are openly for illegal immigration are neoliberal economists."
And, that's why I could, to some degree, define the likes of The Nation as "left neoliberals" by his terms. Remember that big brouhaha several years ago when it had that long immigration article that, among other things, didn't distinguish legal and illegal immigrants?

Indeed, one Nation blogger really, really, doesn't like Michaels' writings. Richard Kim says:
From where does this seething, misplaced, amnesiac resentment, so often masquerading as class-consciousness (see Walter Benn Michaels) and fairness, come? 
Wow.

A more nuances reaction, within the Michaels piece, comes from someone I like a lot, Doug Henwood. The interviewer notes:
Doug Henwood, for example, mentioned, “Walter Benn Michaels doesn’t always phrase things to his advantage—he aims to provoke, which is an impulse I deeply understand, but he may end up putting people off who should really listen to what he has to say.”
I don't know enough about Michaels to say whether that's that true, but I'll take Henwood's word for it. Michaels admits he writes "sharply," and on purpose. 

Michaels reminds us that statistics tell us not to view economic inequality through left-neoliberal victimization, or to think that the Tea Party's railings against "handouts" that stereotypically go to black and brown minorities is true:
Victimization that does not take place through discrimination is invisible and that’s why it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of poor people in the country are White. After all, the country is about 70 percent white and if you look at the bottom quintile of income it’s about 61 percent white, so it’s an absolute majority. 
And, it's not just stereotypical white Appalachia, either.

Read the full piece for more insights, including rejecting the idea that treating the poor as an "identity group," kind of like Gordon Brown did in Britain, is the logical solution.

I would like to be less pessimistic than Michaels. But, in an America where probably half the decent-paying new jobs in America, outside the financial manipulation sector, are defense, spying, or extractive industries that suck workers dry, it's hard not to be depressed.

And, maybe, just maybe, we should put Glenn Greenwald in those left-neoliberals. That's if, despite his protestations, we don't call him a libertarian, undiluted, instead.