Saturday, June 08, 2013

Brothers, Stars, Rivals

When Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement in December 1951, a standing-room-only news conference featured the Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, who wept and tried to persuade him to continue playing. When DiMaggio’s youngest brother, Dom, retired from the Boston Red Sox on May 12, 1953, he told a handful of reporters , “I believe I could have played one more year of good baseball.”
Dom accepted playing in Joe’s shadow and never expressed resentment that his accomplishments were overlooked. Joe had power and grace and earned nine World Series rings; Dom was a contact hitter with great speed who won one American League pennant.
More than 350 sets of brothers have played in the major leagues, but the only set of three brothers to have been All-Stars are the DiMaggios. Vince, two years older than Joe, was a two-time All-Star who played in the National League, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After Vince defied their fisherman father, Giuseppe, and ran off to play professionally, Joe followed him onto the roster of the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. Dom, the youngest of the nine DiMaggio children, took over as the Seals’ center fielder when Joe headed to New York and embarked on a Hall of Fame career in 1936.
Dom, who broke in with the rival Red Sox in 1940, established Hall of Fame-worthy credentials, too, although he spent three of his peak years in the Navy during World War II. During his 10 full seasons, he totaled 1,679 base hits, more than any other major leaguer in that time. The next four players — Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Pee Wee Reese — are all in the Hall of Fame.
Dom, a seven-time All-Star, was second in runs in those 10 seasons, behind Williams, and he was third in doubles, behind Williams and Musial. More than a few Hall of Famers have career batting averages below Dom’s .298.
By the end of the 1940s, he had surpassed Joe as the best defensive center fielder in the league. Dom was one of only five outfielders in baseball history to record 500 putouts or more in a season.
His integrity was unquestioned, and he volunteered as the A.L. representative working on the players’ behalf before their union was formed. Dom was ahead of his time when he declared himself a free agent after his military service. The panicked Boston front office persuaded him to sign a contract before the 1946 season by giving him a percentage of the gate at Fenway Park, the same arrangement it had secretly made with Williams.
But Dom, who died in 2009, did not measure up in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters, or later with the veterans committee. When the committee voted the less-accomplished center fielder Richie Ashburn into the Hall of Fame in 1995, Williams, who was on the panel, said that Dom had been a better ballplayer statistically and that “if the game was on the line and you needed a clean hit or a hard-hit ball, he was as good as anybody.”
In the 1940s, many Yankees-Red Sox contests hinged on whether Williams and Bobby Doerr could drive in Dom and Johnny Pesky more times than Joe and Tommy Henrich could drive in Phil Rizzuto and Snuffy Stirnweiss. Joe was known for fierce competitiveness, and that was never more true than when opposing Dom, who never backed down when facing his brother.
After the war, “Joe and I picked up right where we left off in our brotherly competition,” Dom wrote in “Real Grass, Real Heroes,” his 1990 book with Bill Gilbert. During a game at Yankee Stadium in May 1946, Dom hit a ball to deep center field. Joe raced after it and climbed the wall to make the catch. When the inning ended and the brothers crossed paths behind second base, Joe called out, “It’s 32-21,” referring to the number of times one of them had taken a hit away from the other. Only they knew that Dom was leading the competition.
The Yankees and the Red Sox battled to the wire for the pennant in 1948. Dom and his fiancĂ©e, Emily, had set their wedding for Oct. 7, but that would not work if Boston made it to the World Series. Joe told his mother, Rosalie, “I will personally see to it that Dom is free to get married on the 7th.”
The Red Sox missed the pennant by one game. The Yankees finished two and a half games out.
On Aug. 9, 1949, Dom took a 34-game hitting streak into a game at Yankee Stadium, where it had begun July 4. Down to his last at-bat, he sent a screaming line drive to the outfield that Joe caught, preventing Dom from coming any closer to Joe’s record 56-game streak.
That October, the Red Sox arrived in New York in first place by a game with two games to play. Joe was in a hospital with pneumonia, but he left his bed in time for the first game. It was Joe DiMaggio Day at Yankee Stadium, and Dom emerged from the Boston dugout to help him stay upright during the pregame ceremony.
Joe’s presence helped lift the Yankees to the two-game sweep, and they won the pennant by one game. He had gotten the better of Dom one more time.
After he retired, Dom became a successful textile manufacturer who gave a lot of time to raise millions of dollars for charities in the Boston area. Although smaller than Joe in stature and in the baseball record books, Dom cast quite a long shadow himself.
Tom Clavin is the author of “The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream,” to be published this month by Ecco/Harper Collins.

Book Review: ‘The DiMaggios’ by Tom Clavin

By Bill Littlefield / Globe Correspondent / May 24, 2013

Ray Howard/Associated Press
Dom, left, and Joe DiMaggio in July 1949. That August, Joe helped end Dom’s 34-game hitting streak.

Everybody knows Joe DiMaggio was the greatest of the three DiMaggio brothers who played Major League Baseball, right?
Well, sure, except that “meanwhile, Dominic had become arguably the best combination in the [American] League in manufacturing runs on offense and preventing them on defense.”
The contention that Dom DiMaggio, playing for the dependably unfortunate, underachieving Red Sox, may have been, for a number of years, more useful to his team than his celebrated brother was to the all-powerful Yankees is one of the delicious nuggets in Tom Clavin’s “The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream.” But the most fascinating revelations about Joe, Dominic, and Vince DiMaggio pertain to the extraordinary ways in which they differed from each other not as ballplayers, but as people.
For a long time the toast of New York, Joe DiMaggio eventually came to seem to almost everyone who knew him a sad and lonely man incapable of intimacy or trust. Even during his days as the hero of the Yankees, according to Clavin, Joe struck his teammates as “chilly, even intimidating.” His older, more personable brother, Vince, had a fine if peripatetic Major League career that included two All-Star Game appearances for the National League, but unlike Joe and Dominic, he could not walk away from the game, essentially because he couldn’t find anything to walk toward. He played for a succession of lower and lower minor league teams into his late 30s, and found managing “frustrating” when he eventually tried that for a Class D team in Pittsburg, Calif.
But Dom, the youngest of the DiMaggios to play in the Bigs, not only made friends easily and patiently taught younger teammates all he know about the game, he sustained those friendships throughout his life, became an exceptionally successful and generous businessman, and built a family life that must have been the envy of those who knew him within and beyond the DiMaggio family. As Clavin puts it, “unlike Joe’s marriages, Dominic and Emily’s would endure for 61 years.” In “The DiMaggios,’’ Dominic’s daughter speaks of him with great affection and admiration. Joe was essentially estranged from his only son, whom he referred to as a bum. Beyond all that, unlike Vince, Dominic never seemed to resent the celebrity brother Joe attained and eventually took for granted. (Joe insisted that at every event he attended, he must be introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer.”)
Because Clavin explores the dynamics of the family itself, “The DiMaggios” becomes much more than the story of three ballplaying brothers. Initially dubious about Vince figuring he could make a living by playing a game, Papa Giuseppe, a fisherman by trade, became a fan of all three sons and followed their careers via box scores each day. He and his wife, Rosalie, traveled by train from California to New York to witness the World Series, where Giuseppe himself was interviewed and celebrated as Joe starred on what Clavin calls “the world’s biggest stage,” Yankee Stadium.
But Clavin finds a quieter moment just as worthy of his attention. At the end of the 1949 season, before a game against the Red Sox that would decide the pennant, the Yankees staged Joe DiMaggio Day. Joe had been ill with “something like the flu,” and was weak enough during his obligatory pregame appearance that, according to Dominic, “he made his whole speech leaning on me.” But he rallied at game time, and the Yankees won. Giuseppe DiMaggio had died earlier in the year. Rosalie had made the trip east with the oldest of the DiMaggio brothers, Tom, who escorted her to the ballpark. After the game, Yankees officials led Rosalie to the Yankee clubhouse. As Clavin reports, “When it appeared there would be a wait to see Joe, Frank Scott, then the Yankees’ traveling secretary, offered to bring her to a room upstairs. With a sad smile she said, ‘No, take me to Dominic, he lose today.’”
With the perspective provided by the passage of time and the deaths of Vince, Joe, and Dominic DiMaggio, the unmistakable conclusion is that even that loss, heartbreaking at the time, is as nothing to the full and joyful life Dominic DiMaggio built for himself and his family. The contrast to Joe’s haughty isolation is dramatic, and Tom Clavin’s admiration for Dominic DiMaggio as a ballplayer and, more significantly, as a man, is palpable.

Column One: Wounded...and dangerous

June 6, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) is joined by Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Center, at the Dead Sea, May 26, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Jim Young)

US Secretary of State John Kerry looks like a bit of an idiot these days. On Monday he announced that he will be returning to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for the fifth time since he was sworn into office on February 1. That is an average of more than one visit a month.

And aside from frequent flier miles, the only thing he has to show for it is a big black eye from PLO chief and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

When Kerry was here last month he unveiled a stunning plan to bring $4 billion in investment funds to the PA. If his plan actually pans out, its champions claim it will increase the PA’s GDP by a mind-numbing 50 percent in three years and drop Palestinian unemployment from 21 to 8 percent.

Standing before world and regional leaders on May 26, Kerry said plaintively, “This will help build the future. Is this a fantasy? I don’t think so.”

Abbas and his underlings wasted no time, however, in demonstrating that indeed, Kerry’s plan is fantasy. Abbas appointed Rami Hamdallah, a Fatah apparatchik with perfect English, to replace America’s favorite moderate Palestinian, Salam Fayyad, as PA prime minister.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh has pointedly explained, Hamdallah was appointed for two reasons. First, to facilitate Fatah’s absconding with hundreds of millions of dollars in donor aid to the PA and to Palestinian development projects precisely of the type that Kerry hopes to finance with his $4b. grant. The second reason Abbas appointed Hamdallah the English professor from Nablus was because his language skills will enable him to make American and European donors feel comfortable as his colleagues in Fatah pick their taxpayer- funded pockets.

Aside from mooning Kerry in the middle of his speech in Jordan, Abbas couldn’t have thought of a more graphic way to show his contempt for Kerry and the Obama administration.

But that wasn’t the only thing the Palestinians did. Again, as Abu Toameh has reported, the popular Palestinian response to last week’s World Economic Forum in Jordan, where Abbas and Kerry rubbed elbows with President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, was to attack the businessmen who accompanied Abbas to the conference. Their crime was meeting with Israeli businessmen who came to the conference in Peres’s entourage. Led by Fatah activists, Palestinian writers, unions and others also went after Palestinian businessmen from Jenin who went to Haifa to meet with Israeli businesspeople at the invitation of Haifa’s Chamber of Commerce. The “anti-normalization” crowd is calling for Palestinians to boycott Palestinian businesses that do business with Israelis.

And again, that isn’t all. At the PLO’s birthday celebrations this week, Abbas said that the group’s 1964 charter reflects the will of the Palestinian people. That charter calls for the destruction of Israel. It was written three years before Israel took control of Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem.

But wait, there’s more. The Palestinian leadership attacked Kerry personally and his plan as an attempt to bribe them. They promised that while they will happily take the money, $4b. measly dollars won’t convince them to moderate one iota. They still demand that Israel release all Palestinian terrorists from its jails, agree to its demographic destruction through the so-called “right of return,” or unfettered immigration of millions of foreign Arabs to Israel, and the surrender of all of Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem to the PLO as a precondition to beginning negotiations.

And for all that, Kerry responded by applauding Hamdallah’s appointment and announcing he will return here next week and is planning to roll out his own comprehensive peace plan very soon.

Israeli leaders for the most part have reacted to Kerry’s constant harping by rolling their eyes. He seems like a complete lunatic. Obviously he will fail and the best thing we can do is smile and nod, like you do when you are dealing with a crazy person.

Even when Kerry claimed that the reason Israelis aren’t interested in peace is that our lives are too happy, we didn’t take offense. Because really, why take anything he says seriously? And aside from that, they ask, what can the Obama administration do to us, at this point? Every single day it becomes more mired in scandal.

The Guardian’s revelation Wednesday that the US government has been confiscating the phone records of tens of millions of Americans who use the Verizon business network since April is just the latest serious, normal-presidency destroying scandal to be exposed in the past month. And every single scandal – the IRS’s unlawful harassment and discrimination of conservative organizations and individuals, the Justice Department’s spying on AP journalists and attempt to criminalize the normal practice of journalism through its investigation of Fox News correspondent James Rosen – makes it more difficult for President Barack Obama to advance his agenda.

As for foreign policy, the whistle-blower testimony that exposed Obama’s cover-up of the September 11, 2012, al-Qaida attack on the US Consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi has caused massive damage to Obama’s credibility in foreign affairs and to the basic logic of his foreign policy.

Ambassador Chris Stevens was tortured and murdered by al-Qaida terrorists who owed their freedom of operation to the Obama administration. If it hadn’t been for Obama’s decision to bring down the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who had been largely harmless to the US since he gave up his illicit nuclear weapons program in 2004, those al-Qaida forces probably wouldn’t have be capable of waging an eight-hour assault on US installations and personnel in Benghazi.

With the Benghazi scandal hounding him, the Syrian civil war and, for the past week, the antigovernment protests in Turkey all exposing his incompetence on a daily basis, these Israeli leaders take heart, no doubt in the belief that Obama’s freedom to attack us has vastly diminished.

Although this interpretation of events is attractive, and on its face seems reasonable, it is wrong.

And it would be a devastating mistake for Israeli leaders to believe it.

Since he entered office, Obama has responded to every defeat by doubling down and radicalizing.

When in 2009 public sentiment against his plan to nationalize the US healthcare industry was so high that Republican Scott Brown was elected senator from Massachusetts for the sole purpose of blocking Obamacare’s passage in the US Senate, Obama did not accept the public’s verdict.

He used a technicality to ram the hated legislation through without giving Brown and the Senate the chance to vote it down.

And now, as his Middle East strategy of appeasing Islamists lies in the ruins of the US Consulate in Benghazi and in the cemeteries interning the Syrians murdered in sarin gas attacks as Obama shrugged his shoulders, Obama is again doubling down. On Wednesday he announced that he is elevating the two architects of his policy to senior leadership roles in his administration.

Obama’s appointments of UN Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as his national security adviser, and of former National Security Council member Samantha Power to serve as ambassador to the UN, are a finger in the eye to his critics. These women rose to national prominence through their breathless insistence that the US use force to overthrow Gaddafi in spite of clear evidence that al-Qaida was a major force in his opposition.

Power is reportedly the author of Obama’s policy of apologizing to foreign countries for the actions of past administrations. Certainly she shares Obama’s hostility toward Israel. And she has been outspoken in expressing her negative opinions.

In a nutshell, Power’s vision for US foreign policy is a noxious brew of equal parts self-righteousness, ignorance and prejudice. And now she will be responsible for defending Israel (or not) at the most hostile international arena in the world, where Israel’s very right to exist is subject to assault on a daily basis.

Obama’s decision to appoint Rice and Power in the face of the mounting scandals surrounding his presidency generally and his foreign policy particularly is not the only reason Israeli leaders should not expect for his weakened political position to diminish Obama’s plan to put the screws on Israel in the coming years. There is also the disturbing pattern of the abuse of power that the scandals expose.

To date, all administration officials questioned have denied that Obama was in any way involved in directing the IRS to use the tax code to intimidate with the aim of discrediting and destroying conservative organizations and donors. Likewise, they say he played no role in the Justice Department’s espionage operations against American journalists, or in the intentional cover-up of the al-Qaida assault on US installations and personnel in Benghazi. But mounting circumstantial evidence indicates that this is not true. White House visitor records show that IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman visited Obama’s White House 157 times. His predecessor Mark Everson who served under president George W.

Bush only visited the White House once.

So, too, as Andrew McCarthy reported last month in National Review, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Obama spoke with then secretary of state Hillary Clinton at 10 p.m. on September 11, 2012, during the al- Qaida assault in Benghazi.

It was after that phone conversation that the administration changed its talking points about the nature of the assault, purging details on the identity of the perpetrators and blaming an unrelated Internet movie trailer for inciting the attack.

The one thing all the scandals share is a singleminded willingness to pursue radical goals to the bitter end. The IRS’s targeting of conservatives was an appalling abuse of executive power, unlike anything we have seen in recent history. The passage of Obamacare in the face massive public opposition was another means to the end of destroying his opponents. The cover-up of the Benghazi attack was a bid to hide the failure of a policy in order to double down on it – despite its failure. The only reason you would want to double down on an already failed policy is if you are ideologically committed to a larger goal that the failed policy advances.

The similarities of the pattern of behavior in all of these actions, as well as the circumstantial evidence already unearthed, indicate strongly that despite the denials, Obama was in fact involved and may have directed the actions of all of his underlings in all of the scandals now unfolding.

What this means for Israel is we cannot be lured into complacency by Kerry’s buffoonery or Obama’s apparent political weakness. This is a man who is most dangerous when attacked. And this is a man who is absolutely committed to his ideological agenda. We had better be ready, because if we are not, we won’t know what has hit us.

The All-Seeing State

The inevitable corruption of the permanent bureaucracy 

Friday, June 07, 2013

Today's Tune: The Killers - Miss Atomic Bomb (Tour Video)

The Not-So-Veiled Threat to Non-Muslims in Tennessee

By Janet Levy
June 7, 2013

The attempted snow job by the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) of Tennessee which sponsored the joint Department of Justice/FBI event, "Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society," Tuesday night in Manchester, Tennessee, did not work with the 2,000 attendees. Claims that American Muslims are loyal citizens, partners in counterterrorism investigations, part of radicalization prevention efforts, and an integral part of American society for centuries fell flat, especially coming from the host organization that was formed only two years ago in response to anti-shariah legislation in the Volunteer State.

A well-informed crowd responded with calls of "taqiyyah" when members of AMAC, a group that bills itself as "a bridge between the Muslim community and law enforcement," touted Muslim contributions to U.S. society and their dedication to upholding American values. (Taqiyyah doctrine obligates Muslims to deceive infidels as part the required effort or jihad to institute Islamic doctrine or shariah). In actuality, Muslim organizations have specifically instructed Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement and have demanded that all counterterrorism-training materials be expunged of critical references to Islam and Muslims, as well the training instructors fired or retrained who fail to follow along.

When it became clear at Tuesday's event that the promulgation of lies was falling on deaf ears, one AMAC speaker resorted to shaming the audience for their alleged rudeness and intolerance. In the crowd's defense, the passionate response was one of righteous anger against a doctrine that increasingly threatens Western civilization and values in the wake of the Boston bombings and the murder and beheading of British soldier Lee Rigby. That indignation was also a response to the hypocrisy of a program designed to falsely portray Muslims as victims of prejudice in dire need of special civil rights protection from hate crimes. No mention was made of jihadist acts, honor killings, demands for special accommodations, and the Muslim disinclination to assimilate to American cultural norms.

To further insult the crowd, the AMAC speaker showed a condensed version of the video "Welcome to Shelbyville" in which Tennesseans were portrayed as ignorant, bigoted rednecks. The rejection of the Muslim presence in Tennessee was explained away by previous resistance to integrating blacks and Hispanics. The situation was addressed as one of racism and fear of the unknown rather than a very real fear of what Islamic doctrine requires Muslims to do. This was an educated crowd well aware that Islamic doctrine clearly states that Muslims must not befriend non-Muslims and are required to wage jihad to establish a global Islamic government under shariah. Attendees appeared very familiar with the enemy threat doctrine, Muslim aspirations to replace the Constitution with shariah, and ubiquitous calls from Muslims for "death to America" and "death to Christians and Jews."
It is particularly telling that no other group in the United States has been the focus of such a degree of attention and outreach, although FBI religious hate crime statistics from 2009 indicate that Jews are more than eight times more likely to be victims of religious hate crimes than Muslims. Yet there is no special protection afforded to Jews, no events announcing the prosecution of individuals who post material offensive to Jews, nor outreach programs to the American Jewish community to better serve their interests. When it comes to Jews and Christians, offensive remarks and portrayals are permitted under the First Amendment.

It is truly remarkable that the mission of an entire government agency, NASA, was reconfigured from space exploration and aerospace technology to Muslim outreach by the Obama administration in 2009. At that time, Obama required NASA to reach out to Muslims and help them "feel good about their historic contributions to science, math, and engineering."

Recently, Obama announced that he was launching the Muslim Outreach Summit to elicit feedback from American Muslims on how the government can better serve them. It is unprecedented for any group in the U.S. to receive this level of special consideration.

Following the Benghazi attack, Obama went to the UN and announced, "The future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam" and that "Intolerance is a form of violence." He didn't reference the desecrations of images of Jesus Christ and churches or voice concern about Holocaust denial. He mentioned only the criticism of Islam as a cause for concern and a reason to curtail free speech rights. Let us not forget that in the "Audacity of Hope," Obama avowed, "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

DOJ attorney Bill Killian addressed the crowd by reading statutes verbatim from PowerPoint slides that defined hate crimes, civil rights violations, and federally prescribed violations and penalties. Prior to the event, he had released this statement: "This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion.... This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are." However, the DOJ and FBI have not scheduled meetings addressing the concerns of any other group but Muslims. Twelve such outreach sessions are planned for Tennessee alone.

FBI Special Agent Kenneth Moore ridiculed the idea that the evening was intended to threaten citizens with the possibility of prosecution and imprisonment for offending Muslims. He pointed out that despite the raucous conduct exhibited during the event and the protests, no one would be arrested that evening as evidence of the government's commitment to the First Amendment. However, the crowd remained unconvinced that their free speech rights were not in jeopardy at some future point as part of the government's program to accommodate the demands of Muslim and Islamic doctrine.
The event presented messages on two levels. Overtly, Muslims attempted to airbrush their image in America as having nothing to do with supremacy, triumphalism, and terrorism. A few hijabed members of the AMAC even sported T-shirts with messages supporting the First Amendment to apocryphally showcase their dedication to American principles and laws.

As for government officials, they ostensibly conducted an informational session on legal statutes related to offensive statements and reassured the crowd that arrests would not take place. But the covert message was clear: This event was held to reinforce the supremacy of Muslims and their civil rights as no other group has been afforded this level of deference or accommodation. It was a veiled threat to non-Muslims that Muslims and Muslims alone will receive special protection by the government and hate crime prosecutions are on the table at some future point. Americans beware.

Page Printed from: at June 07, 2013 - 06:24:05 AM CDT

On court filled with stars, Parker emerging as Finals' best

Michael Rosenberg>INSIDE THE NBA
June 7, 2013

Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs makes a shot with 5.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during Game One of the 2013 NBA Finals. (Getty Images)

MIAMI -- Tony Parker beat the shot clock by the thinnest of margins, after a bungled possession, but he has lived a basketball life of thin margins. This was Parker's moment, and it may yet be his Finals.

Leading 90-88, Parker dribbled everywhere, fell on his butt, looked around for an opening. From the outside, it looked like chaos. But it was also a slice of basketball wizardry. Parker did two things that only a few NBA players would do in that situation: He kept his dribble alive, and he stayed fully aware of the clock. He pulled up and under LeBron James and sank the shot that would clinch a 92-88 win in Game 1 for the San Antonio Spurs. There was less than a tenth of a second in the shot clock when he released the shot.

James and his friends should be worried right now, and not just because the government is tracking their phone calls. The Spurs were the steadier team, the smoother team, and when it mattered most, they had the best player on the floor.

Parker finished with 21 points, the most on either team. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. In 40 minutes at point guard against a variety of defenders and traps, he did not commit a single turnover. Try dribbling through traffic cones for 40 minutes without losing the ball once. Parker just did it against the NBA champions.

Led by Parker, the Spurs committed only four turnovers. This is what the Spurs do, and why they are perpetually overlooked. They don't demolish teams with athleticism or decimate them with defense. They just hang in games until they win. It looks like the other team beats itself. The Spurs don't care, and Parker especially doesn't care.

The guy is everything you want a winner to be. If he were American, you would have seen a dozen commercials about his toughness and read 100 stories about his heart. Instead, you'll just have to settle for this one.

"Never panics, never nervous," said Spurs teammate Boris Diaw, who grew up in France with Parker. "He is always confident in himself. That's what brought him to this level. When we were growing up, when he was a kid, he always had great confidence in himself."

A lot of people just assume the Spurs are too old, and I have occasionally been one of those people. But the Spurs are not too old. They have just been winning for a long time. There is a difference.

In Parker, the Spurs have a true superstar in his prime, surrounded by enough talent of varying generations to give anybody fits. Tim Duncan is old, but Kawhi Leonard is young. Manu Ginobili has been around forever, but Tiago Splitter just cracked the starting lineup this year.

You know who else is old? Ray AllenMike MillerShane BattierChris Andersen. The Heat need at least two of them to play well to beat the Spurs on any given night. Some nights, Dwyane Wade looks old, too.

Parker is as smooth as any NBA star in a press conference. Thursday night, he spoke glowingly of James and Wade and humbly about his own performance, and it all hid an assassin's heart. He is here to destroy the Heat, every bit as much as Wade and James want to whip the Spurs.

The telling moment of Parker's media session came after his press conference. In a hallway at American Airlines Arena, Parker took questions from the French-speaking media, shortly after Ginobili had taken questions from the Spanish-speaking media in the same spot. Ginobili was surrounded by considerably more people. But one of Parker's greatest accomplishments is that the French care about basketball at all.

Diaw once told me of his youth basketball days in France: "Either you wanted to dream or you wanted to be realistic. Realistically, there was no path to the NBA." Parker believed. Always. Even as a nine-year old in basketball camps in Normandy.

So there they were in Game 1, the three superstars who tried to create a dynasty, and the little Spurs point guard who had to fight for his job after he won his first championship in 2003.

James had a very good game by any reasonable measure, though James is rarely measured reasonably. But Chris Bosh is fighting an allergy to paint, Wade was scoreless in the fourth, and Parker scored those 10 points in the final quarter, including that final shot.

If he were Kobe Bryant, we'd talk about how clutch he is.

If he were Dwyane Wade, we'd marvel at his body control.

He isn't. He is Tony Parker, an unlikely superstar on an unusual contending team, and Miami had better figure him out. Fast.

Read More:

The IRS Can't Plead Incompetence

If the agency didn't know what it was doing, it wouldn't have done it so well.

By Peggy Noonan 
The Wall Street Journal
June 6, 2013


John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP)

Quickly: Everyone agrees the Internal Revenue Service is, under current governmental structures, the proper agency to determine the legitimacy of applications for tax-exempt status. Everyone agrees the IRS has the duty to scrutinize each request, making sure that the organization meets relevant criteria. Everyone agrees groups requesting tax-exempt status must back up their requests with truthful answers and honest information.
Some ask, "Don't conservatives know they have to be questioned like anyone else?" Yes, they do. Their grievance centers on the fact they have not been. They were targeted, and their rights violated.
The most compelling evidence of that is what happened to the National Organization for Marriage. Its chairman, John Eastman, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, and the tale he told was different from the now-familiar stories of harassment and abuse.
In March 2012, the organization, which argues the case for traditional marriage, found out its confidential tax information had been obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, one of its primary opponents in the marriage debate. The HRC put the leaked information on its website—including the names of NOM donors. NOM not only has the legal right to keep its donors' names private, it has to, because when contributors' names have been revealed in the past they have been harassed, boycotted and threatened. This is a free speech right, one the Supreme Court upheld in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to surrender its membership list.
The NOM did a computer forensic investigation and determined that its leaked IRS information had come from within the IRS itself. If it was leaked by a worker or workers within the IRS it would be a federal crime, with penalties including up to five years in prison.
In April 2012, the NOM asked the IRS for an investigation. The inspector general's office gave them a complaint number. Soon they were in touch. Even though the leaked document bore internal IRS markings, the inspector general decided that maybe the document came from within the NOM. The NOM demonstrated that was not true.
For the next 14 months they heard nothing about an investigation. By August, 2012, NOM was filing Freedom of Information Act requests trying to find out if there was one. The IRS stonewalled. Their "latest nonresponse response," said Mr. Eastman, claimed that the law prohibiting the disclosure of confidential tax returns also prevents disclosure of information about who disclosed them. Eastman called this "Orwellian." He said that what NOM experienced "suggests that problems at the IRS are potentially far more serious" than the targeting of conservative organizations for scrutiny.
In hearings Thursday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who disagrees with the basic stand of the NOM, said that what had happened to the organization was nonetheless particularly offensive to him. The new IRS director agreed he would look into it.
Almost a month after the IRS story broke—a month after the high-profile scandal started to unravel after a botched spin operation that was meant to make the story go away—no one has been able to produce a liberal or progressive group that was targeted and thwarted by the agency's tax-exemption arm in the years leading up to the 2012 election. The House Ways and Means Committee this week held hearings featuring witnesses from six of the targeted groups. Before the hearing, Republicans invited Democrats to include witnesses from the other side. The Democrats didn't produce one. The McClatchy news service also looked for nonconservative targets. "Virtually no organizations perceived to be liberal or nonpartisan have come forward to say they were unfairly targeted." it reported. Liberal groups told McClatchy "they thought the scrutiny they got was fair."
Some sophisticated Democrats who've worked in executive agencies have suggested to me that the story is simpler than it seem—that the targeting wasn't a political operation, an expression of political preference enforced by an increasingly partisan agency, its union and assorted higher-ups. A former senior White House official, and a very bright man, said this week he didn't believe it was mischief but incompetence. But why did all the incompetent workers misunderstand their jobs and their mission in exactly the same way? Wouldn't general incompetence suggest both liberal and conservative groups would be abused more or less equally, or in proportion to the number of their applications? Wouldn't a lot of left-wing groups have been caught in the incompetence net? Wouldn't we now be hearing honest and aggrieved statements from indignant progressives who expected better from their government?
Some person or persons made the decision to target, harass, delay and abuse. Some person or persons communicated the decision. Some persons executed them. Maybe we're getting closer. John McKinnon and Dionne Searcey of The Wall Street Journal reported this week that IRS employees in the Cincinnati office—those are the ones tax-exempt unit chief Lois Lerner accused of going rogue, and attempted to throw under the bus—have told congressional investigators that agency officials in Washington helped direct the probe of the tea-party groups. Mr. McKinnon and Ms. Searcey reported that one of the workers told investigators an IRS lawyer in Washington, Carter Hull, "closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants."
"The IRS didn't respond to a request for comment," they wrote. There really is an air about the IRS that they think they are The Untouchables.
Some have said the IRS didn't have enough money to do its job well. But a lack of money isn't what makes you target political groups—a directive is what makes you do that. In any case, this week's bombshell makes it clear the IRS, from 2010 to 2012, the years of prime targeting, did have money to improve its processes. During those years they spent $49 million on themselve—on conferences and gatherings, on $1,500 hotel rooms and self-esteem presentations. "Maliciously self-indulgent," said chairman Darrell Issa at Thursday's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings.
What a culture of entitlement, and what confusion it reveals about what motivates people. You want to increase the morale, cohesion and self-respect of IRS workers? Allow them to work in an agency that is famous for integrity, fairness and professionalism. That gives people spirit and guts, not 'Star Trek" parody videos.
Finally, this week Russell George, the inspector general whose audit confirmed the targeting of conservative groups, mentioned, as we all do these days, Richard Nixon's attempt to use the agency to target his enemies. But part of that Watergate story is that Nixon failed. Last week David Dykes of the Greenville (S.C.) News wrote of meeting with 93-year-old Johnnie Mac Walters, head of the IRS almost 40 years ago, in the Nixon era. Mr. Dykes quoted Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, who told him the IRS wouldn't do what Nixon asked: "It didn't happen, not because the White House didn't want it to happen, but because people like Johnnie Walters said 'no.'"
That was the IRS doing its job—attempting to be above politics, refusing to act as the muscle for a political agenda.
Man—those were the days.

Message from the ruins of Qusair

By Published: June 6

This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows Qusair-based activist Hadi Abdullah, (r.), walking on a street hit by the shelling of Hezbolllah Lebanese Shiite group and the Syrian forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the town of Qusair, near the Lebanon border, Friday.
Qusair Lens/AP

On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo.
For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon. No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.
What altered the tide of battle was brazen outside intervention. A hardened, well-trained, well-armed Hezbollah force — fromthe terrorist Shiite group that dominates Lebanon and answers to Iran — crossed into Syria and drove the rebels out of Qusair, which Syrian artillery has left a smoking ruin.
This is a huge victory not just for Tehran but also for Moscow, which sustains Assad in power and prizes its warm-water port at Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside of the former Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin has stationed a dozen or more Russian warships offshore, further protecting his strategic outpost and his Syrian client.
The losers? NATO-member Turkey, the major supporter of the rebels; Jordan, America’s closest Arab ally, now drowning in half a million Syrian refugees; and America’s Gulf allies, principal weapons suppliers to the rebels.
And the United States, whose bystander president, having declared that Assad must go, that he has lost all legitimacy and that his fall is just a matter of time, is looking not just feckless but clueless.
President Obama doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Fine. No one does. But between nothing and invasion lie many intermediate measures: arming the rebels, helping Turkey maintain a safe zone in northern Syria, grounding Assad’s murderous air force by attacking airfields — all the way up to enforcing a no-fly zone by destroying the regime’s air-defense system.
Obama could have chosen any rung on the ladder. He chose none. Weeks ago, as battle fortunes began changing, the administration leaked that it was contemplating possibly, well maybe, arming the rebels. Then nothing.
Obama imagines that if America is completely hands-off, a civil war like Syria’s will carry on as is, self-contained. He simply does not understand that if America withdraws from the scene, it creates a vacuum that invites hostile outside intervention. A superpower’s role in a regional conflict is deterrence.
In 1958, President Eisenhower — venerated by today’s fashionable “realists” for his strategic restraint — landed Marines in Lebanon to protect the pro-American government from threats from Syria and Egypt.
In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Russia threatened to send troops on behalf of the Egyptian army. President Nixon threatened a U.S. counteraction, reinforced the Sixth Fleet and raised the U.S. worldwide military alert level to DEFCON 3. Russia stood down.
That’s how the region works. Power deterring power. Obama deals instead in empty abstractions — such as “international legitimacy” — and useless conclaves, such as “Friends of Syria” conferences.
Assad, in contrast, has a real friend. Putin knows Obama. Having watched Obama’s retreat in Eastern Europe, his passivity at Russian obstructionism on Iran, his bended-knee “reset” policy, Putin knows he has nothing to fear from the U.S. president.
Result? The contemptuous Putin floods Syria with weapons. Iran, equally disdainful, sendsRevolutionary Guards to advise and shore up Assad’s forces. Hezbollah invades Syria and seizes Qusair.
Obama’s response? No warning that such balance-altering provocations would trigger even the most minimal American response.
Even Obama’s chemical weapons red line is a farce. Its very pronouncement advertised passivity, signaling that anything short of WMD — say, massacring 80,000 innocents using conventional weapons — would draw no U.S. response.
And when that WMD red line was finally crossed, Obama went into lawyerly overdrive to erase it. Is it any wonder that Assad’s allies are on full offensive — Hezbollah brazenly joining the ground war, Russia sending a small armada and mountains of military materiel, Iran warning everyone to stay out?
Obama’s response is to send the secretary of state, hat in hand, to Moscow. And John Kerry returns actually thinking he’s achieved some great diplomatic breakthrough — a “peace” conference that Russia will dominate and use to re-legitimize Assad and marginalize the rebels.
Just to make sure Kerry understood his place, Putin kept him waiting outside his office for three hours. The Russians know how to send messages. And the one from Qusair is this. You’re fighting for your life. You have your choice of allies: Obama bearing “international legitimacy” and a risible White House statement that “Hezbollah and Iran should immediately withdraw their fighters from Syria” or Putin bearing Russian naval protection, Iranian arms shipments and thousands of Hezbollah fighters. Which do you choose?