Monday, June 16, 2014

Today's Tune: Ben Howard - Oats In The Water

The Dog Ate My E-Mails, for Two Years

IT experts and the IRS’s own manual note that backups of Lerner’s e-mails must exist. 

Greatness of Duncan-Popovich lost on them, but not us

By Phil Taylor
June 16, 2014

Tim Duncan; Gregg Popovich
Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have won the third-most (five) titles by a player-coach duo in history.
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

With just seven words, Gregg Popovich told you all you really need to know about his enduringly successful partnership with Tim Duncan. The Spurs' coach spoke them in a press conference after Game 4 of the Finals, a victory that put San Antonio one win away from the NBA title that they eventually claimed Sunday night with a 104-87 victory over the Heat in Game 5. One questioner made the mistake of trying to get Popovich to stray from analyzing the series at hand and consider matters of history after Game 4, pointing out that Duncan had just achieved two career playoff records -- for most minutes and most double-doubles. He asked for Popovich's thoughts on Duncan's achievements.

Pop's succinct response: "I can assure you he doesn't care."

They don't say much, Duncan and Popovich, and yet if you pay attention they tell you everything. The single sentence reminded everyone that the coach and his star 7-footer are so perfectly in tune that one could speak about the other's thinking with absolute certainty. It also showed that there is no need for the stroking of egos in the Popovich-Duncan dynamic. Most coaches faced with that question would have taken the opportunity to flatter their star, to pump him full of praise for his longevity and accomplishments, but Popovich is not the type to offer that kind of puffery and Duncan is not the type to require it. Pop's terse answer also spoke to their shared lack of regard for such subjective issues as legacy and assessments of greatness. Popovich could assure you that Duncan didn't care about individual records because if he did, they never could have formed such a perfect alliance.

Duncan later confirmed Popovich's assessment, although more diplomatically. "The focus is winning one more, and once that one more is done, I can look back and say, hey, it's truly an honor," Duncan said. In other words, his coach was right. At that moment, while there was work left to be done, Duncan didn't care.

Since it matters so little to them, it is left to us to consider the Duncan-Popovich duo's place in history. After 17 years together they are the longest tenured player-coach tandem the NBA has ever produced, the Law & Order of pro basketball. It is rare enough for a pro athlete to spend his entire career with the same team, but it is almost unheard of for a player to spend that career under the same coach. Even Kobe Bryant, with his five rings, has admitted to being jealous of the Big Fundamental's good fortune in that regard. Duncan, 38, has benefited from playing exclusively for perhaps the greatest coach of his era. And Popovich, 65, has been lucky to coach the lowest-maintenance star of his generation.

There are any number of ways to measure the quality of the work they have done together over those 17 seasons, the most important of which, of course, are the five championship rings Duncan and Popovich have earned. Only two player-coach pairings have had a more decorated run -- the Celtics' Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, who won nine championships in 10 seasons from 1956-66, and the Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson with the Bulls, who won six titles in their nine years together from 1989-96 (including the two seasons Jordan missed all or part of during his baseball experiment.) The Spurs' pair falls in right behind those two as the third greatest such duo in NBA history, according to the numbers.

But in a way the Duncan-Popovich dynasty is as impressive as the Jordan-Jackson reign. The Spurs didn't have a burst of dominance like the Bulls, rather they have had a steady run of excellence (this was their 15th consecutive season of 50 or more wins) punctuated by championships spaced at longer intervals. San Antonio has had to push through more near-misses -- none more devastating than last year's Finals loss to the Heat -- than most dynasties. That the Spurs have been able to overcome those disappointments to win again this year, seven years after their last title, and 15 after their first together, is due in no small part to the steadiness and single-mindedness of their coach and star.

Duncan and Popovich may not have the championship jewelry possessed by Russell-Auerbach or Jordan-Jackson, but then again, their collection may not be complete. Their renaissance performances in these Finals indicated that this isn't necessarily their last title run. But eventually, even Duncan will have to give in to the realities of time. Though Popovich has gone on record saying that when Duncan retires he will follow his friend out the door, you get the feeling that won't be the case, that he has more years left in him than his power forward.

It's not the end yet, but Popovich and Duncan, realists that they are, know it is coming soon. They understand each other so well that they know it will come with little fanfare. Pop can envision how Duncan will call it quits. "It will probably be the third quarter of some game on the road some year," Pop says, "and he'll feel like he's not as significant, and he'll walk into the locker room."

And as Duncan walks past Popovich on his way to retirement, the coach and his star probably won't exchange much more than a glance, just as they have done so often when Duncan would walk to the bench after yet another win had been sealed. Their place in history will always matter less to them than the history they have shared, and for them, that goes without saying. Duncan and Popovich have never needed many words to tell each other everything.

More NBA Finals coverage

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Spurs' Fifth Title Elevates Them Among Greats

By J.A. Adande | ESPN.com 15, 2014
SAN ANTONIO -- All of a sudden the San Antonio Spurs don't seem so simple anymore. They're the 2014 NBA champions, sure, but their significance is far broader. By thoroughly dismantling the Miami Heat in five games, by winning their fifth championship since Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich got this thing going in 1999, they're forcing us to recalibrate our definition of a superteam and to rearrange the hierarchy of modern great franchises in the NBA and all of sports.
They're the best NBA team since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Yes, theLos Angeles Lakers have also won five championships in the time since Jordan finally dropped his shooting hand at the finish of the 1998 Finals. But the Spurs get the edge in continuity and longevity -- "the span," as Duncan kept calling it. The Spurs have made the playoffs for 17 consecutive years. They've won at least 50 regular-season games in every one of those years except 1999, when the lockout shortened the entire season to 50 games.
AP Photo/David J. PhillipManu Ginobili and Tim Duncan relished the franchise's fifth NBA title.
Duncan and Popovich have two more championships than the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick New England Patriots. And while Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees have as many championship rings as Tim Duncan, dating back to 2006, Jeter has also had more managers and has reached the World Series only once since 2003.
Back to basketball: Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili outlasted the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, then reached two NBA Finals since the last time Kobe andPau Gasol won a playoff game. The Spurs quelled the Seven Seconds or Less basketball revolution in Phoenix. And now they have exacted vengeance on the Miami Heat, the only team that could claim a victory over them in the NBA Finals.
Seven years after their most recent championship, long after we figured they were through, the Spurs sprinted to the finish. By the time the clock hit zero on their 104-87 victory in Game 5, the Spurs had outscored the Heat by 70 points over the course of the series, the biggest point differential in NBA Finals history.
So which team was the superteam again? It sure seemed like the Boston Celtics and then the Heat had found the formula in the years since the Spurs last won it in 2007. Quickly assemble a team of established veterans, grab all the magazine covers, then pop the champagne.
The Spurs struck a blow for scouting and development. And patience. Most of all, patience. They've kept the core together for more than a decade.
"The alternative wasn't any better," Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. "These guys have been a part of our organization. They'll determine when they're done here, I would hope."
Notice how neither the agonizing seven-game loss to the Heat last season nor the stunning first-round upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011 caused a massive upheaval in the Spurs. Three years later they still have half of that 2011 team. And one of the departures, George Hill, was traded for the guy who won the Bill Russell Award as the 2014 Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Definite upgrade.
The fact that the Finals MVP was open to debate until the moment Mr. Russell himself came on stage to hand out his namesake trophy speaks to the Spurs' balance. It could have been Boris Diaw (whom they picked up as an overweight castoff from the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012, by the way) even though he never had a double-digit scoring game in the series. It could have been Duncan, who happened to notch his NBA record 158th playoff double-double during the Finals.
But it was Leonard who went for 20-plus in each of the final three games, who provided the athleticism the Spurs needed, who had Duncan gushing "I'm honored to be on this team right now" as if Leonard, not himself, was the franchise cornerstone.
Trying to pick the MVP of the 104-87 Game 5 clincher was almost as tough as choosing a Spur for the series. Leonard had 22 and 10 rebounds. Patty Mills hit five 3-pointers, scored 17 points and made a strong bid for the honorary Tyronn Lue Award, which goes to the upcoming free agent who earns the biggest contract with his play during the NBA Finals.
But this game really belonged to Ginobili, who resurrected the Spurs after they fell behind by 16 points at the outset. At one point, when the Heat looked like they were going to make this a game and quite possibly a series again, Ginobili came in and quickly produced two of the Spurs' first three baskets. The second, a 3-pointer, resulted in a Spurs' timeout and a big Ginobili fist pump. The Spurs were on their way back.
"We were a little impressed, intimidated by the way they started," Ginobili said. "You know, LeBron being a bull and scoring 17 points. So I felt like I had to try to push it and be a contagious guy.
It felt like each game in these playoffs -- at times each quarter -- belonged to a different Spur. It's another reason this team is multifaceted.
This night could be about Leonard and San Antonio's future, or Ginobili and a link back to the past, to his arrival in 2002 that started the most successful playoff trio (in terms of games won together) in NBA history. Also, the four championships that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have won as a group surpass any combo of more than two players since Magic Johnson,Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis won four in the 1980s.
Ginobili was the one who had to give up the minutes and the status to make it work, primarily coming off the bench as a Spur.
"I don't think it was a big sacrifice," Ginobili said. "Maybe the first time it was a little painful on your ego, then you understand. And the way that we played when I got on the court, I started to feel, 'OK, this may be good.' Because when I get in, Tony and Tim were out and all the plays were for me. And I started to feel confident in that role.
"I really believed Pop and the thought we were better like that. Once that happened. Now I'm a backup and I enjoy it and I don't even want to start."
It sounds like Ginobili embodies the Spurs. Well, actually ...
"We embody him," Buford said. "He's given us the personality. He and Pop and Tim and Tony are a great fit, but we're the beneficiaries of what he's given us."
What's next? We can't simply say, "See you next June" because Duncan and Popovich have yet to formally declare they'll be back next season. Then again, they haven't said they won't be.
"You watched them out there," Buford said. "They committed to each other this year. I don't see anything that leads us to know anything other than they can be proud of the commitment they made to each other and they'll decide when it's over."
Then it will be up to us to decide where they rate among the NBA annals. It sure is getting tougher to keep them off the upper shelves.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: 'Inventing Freedom' by Daniel Hannan

The U.S. and Britain together midwifed political freedom into the modern world.

By Barton Swaim
November 29, 2013
Years ago, when I was an American student in Edinburgh, I had a long conversation about British foreign affairs with another student—an Italian—and remember finding it slightly amusing that he kept referring to the British as "your cousins." I had never thought much about the political and cultural ties binding the U.S. and Great Britain and was at the time more keenly aware of the differences between the two peoples than of their essential sameness. But as Daniel Hannan observes in "Inventing Freedom," his history of the principles and institutions that have defined English-speaking nations, non-English speakers much oftener think of the U.S. and Britain as a single entity than as two countries. When French political commentators and European Union officials complain about "Anglo-Saxon" values—liberalized labor markets, low taxes—they are coming closer to the truth than Americans and Britons typically realize.

Inventing Freedom

By Daniel Hannan
Broadside Books, 395 pages, $26.99
Douglas Rowe
Mr. Hannan's book is more than intellectual history; it's also an argument and a plea. The principles of representative democracy, individual liberty and property rights aren't the products of some general European phenomenon called "capitalism," he says, and any belief that they are owes more to Karl Marx than to the historical record. These principles originated in pre-Norman England, were realized fully in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and spread as English speakers left the British Isles to colonize the New World, India, East Asia and Australia.
A British member of the European Parliament, Mr. Hannan believes that Continental Europeans have never valued representative government and personal liberty in the way the English have for more than a millennium. "Inventing Freedom" is, though, very far from a jingoistic tirade; the author doesn't argue that the people of non-Anglophone nations are somehow deficient in political understanding, and indeed he goes out of his way to show that patriotism in English-speaking countries has almost always based itself on principles and institutions rather than on military superiority or genetics. He contends, rather, that by a combination of historical development and geographical accident, the people of what is now called Great Britain created something entirely different from the closed and centralized regimes that have been the norm in most of human history. They produced a society where rulers were subject to the law and the law belonged to the people, where collective will did not trump individual right, and where free citizens were permitted to create and keep their own wealth. These principles have transformed the world: "The miracles of the past three and a half centuries—the unprecedented improvements in democracy, in longevity, in freedom, in literacy, in calorie intake, in infant survival rates, in height, in equality of opportunity—came about largely because of the individualist market system developed by the Anglosphere."
The author, though, is worried. By aligning its laws and policies increasingly with the Continent rather than the U.S. and the other Anglophone democracies to which it gave birth, he fears, Britain may be abandoning the principles that brought political freedom to the world. Recent political developments on this side of the Atlantic suggest a similar course for the U.S. Yet none of this takes away from the sunny winsomeness of Mr. Hannan's writing or the book's narrative drive (the first chapter begins with the words, "When I was four years old, a mob attacked our family farm").
Mr. Hannan has engaged with a wide array of important academic historical works, among them James Campbell's "The Anglo-Saxon State" (2003) and the Cambridge historian Alan Macfarlane's groundbreaking "The Origins of English Individualism" (1978) and "The Culture of Capitalism" (1987). The book's chapters cover medieval and early modern England, move to what the author calls the First and Second Anglosphere Wars—the struggle between king and Parliament in the 1650s and the comparatively humane war over American independence in the 1770s and '80s—and finally tell the story of how the British Empire transformed itself into a loosely connected Commonwealth and, later, a global alliance of nations united primarily by values rather than formal agreements. That the book contains no bibliography or proper citations is irritating, but the decision to give it a tract-like feel is defensible.
The story begins in the 10th century, when the Saxons were living in an England that, in a primitive but no less real way, valued law over force. These were litigious people, always bringing disputes before magistrates and demanding adjudication. It was among the Saxons that English common law was born. The common law—the form of law used throughout most of the Anglosphere even now—was based on the premise that judges should decide cases, not by applying an abstract principle of law to specific situations, but by determining how cases had been decided in similar situations before.
This bottom-up form of jurisprudence in effect put the law itself in charge; judges didn't so much "decide" cases as discern how they'd been decided already. The common law, Mr. Hannan argues, contrasting as it did with the more top-down Continental traditions, has had profound effects on the way English speakers think about the world. "The pragmatic nature of the Anglosphere peoples," he writes, "their dislike of purely theoretical reasoning, was built from the first into the way they made—or, rather, discovered—their laws."
By the early 11th century, the Saxon form of government was already premised on the belief that kings couldn't do whatever they pleased. In 1013, a Danish invasion had driven the Saxon king Aethelred into exile and placed a Dane, Sweyn, on the throne. When Sweyn died unexpectedly the next year, the Saxon ruling assembly, the Witan, invited Aethelred to return—on condition that he refrain from imposing excessive taxes and heed the Witan's counsel. And when Aethelred died two years later, the same offer was extended to the Danish king Cnut. The Saxons were devastated by the Normans in 1066, and so were all their traditions of law. But the Saxons' political worldview survived in regional and municipal assemblies. That worldview would be given its most sublime expression in 1215, when the egregious King John was forced to sign the charter that circumscribed monarchical power and dealt a death blow to absolutism in the Anglosphere—the Magna Carta.
The book's strongest chapter asks us to rethink the narrative of European economic history that scholars have for the most part uncritically accepted for generations. During the late Middle Ages, the story goes, European society was based on the shared ownership of land. Boys were expected, in effect forced, to remain on that land and practice their father's trade. Only with the rise of "capitalism" in the 16th century—i.e., the freer movement of labor and wealth—was the system fractured. That narrative, says Mr. Hannan, describes just about everywhere in Europe except England. Long before the 16th century, English law had considered boys free agents the moment they reached legal maturity. Once he left home, a young Englishman could join whatever trade he wished.
English law, too, allowed a man to leave his property to whomever he pleased, whereas Continental laws required a more equitable distribution to all family members—a difference that still exists. Long before the rise of industrialism in the 18th century, then, English society reflected a view of individual rights and economic mobility that was largely absent on the Continent.
The Glorious Revolution was the next pivotal event. By inviting the Protestant William of Orange to invade in 1688 and chase the Catholic James II from the throne, England's political leaders created a nation in which state power was limited by the will of Parliament. Mr. Hannan records a beautiful moment when seven Anglican bishops, having been consigned by James II to the Tower of London for refusing to pronounce a royal edict in their churches, were cheered by vast crowds as they made their way to prison. As they entered the tower, the guards, ostensibly working for the king, knelt for a blessing. In England, the doctrine of the divine right of kings was truly dead.
Mr. Hannan goes to great lengths to emphasize the ways in which the American Founders drew on the documents of English libertarianism (that's his term for it). It's more than just a debt of language, although the language is suggestive: The Magna Carta forbade taxation without representation, for example, and England's 1689 Bill of Rights maintained that "excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
The observation has often been made, but it bears repeating: The Founders didn't consider themselves revolutionaries; they considered themselves Englishmen who had been denied the right to govern themselves by an arrogant monarch enabled by a misguided Parliament. "The Grand Union Flag was the banner that the Continental Congress met under," Mr. Hannan writes, "the banner that flew over their chamber when they approved the Declaration of Independence. It was the banner that George Washington fought beneath, that John Paul Jones hoisted on the first ship of the United States Navy. That it has been almost excised from America's collective memory tells us a great deal about how the story of the revolution was afterward edited."
The point here isn't merely academic. The U.S. and Britain together midwifed political freedom into the modern world, and their vibrant economies and political stability have ratified their principles. Mr. Hannan rightly notes that representative democracy and individual rights have never been popular around the world. In 1688, the absolutism personified by Louis XIV was the wave of the future, and in the 1930s the idea of democratic rule was laughed at by sophisticated people all over the globe and particularly on the Continent. At both moments, it was the Anglosphere's task to defend the ideals of individual freedom and self-governance against their enemies. And on both occasions the task was fulfilled more or less successfully.
How unfortunate, then, that at a time when Anglosphere nations have begun to coalesce around shared values—Mr. Hannan argues that Ireland and perhaps even India are now full-fledged members of the Anglosphere—the U.S. president should defenestrate those values and embrace statism and centralization instead. As if to reinforce his rejection of Anglosphere principles, Barack Obama has pointedly downgraded the long-standing special relationship existing between Britain and the U.S. Mr. Obama's straining of these ties is typical of the left's reluctance to champion the Anglosphere's political heritage. This, even though, over the past century, English-speaking nations have defended and fostered precisely the values that left-liberals claim to cherish and even as the regimes the left has too often defended—from Soviet Russia to the Palestinian Authority—have spurned those values in all but rhetoric.
But there is another fundamental antagonism at work here, and it has to do with the Anglosphere's religious inheritance. "Protestantism," writes Mr. Hannan, drawing on Linda Colley's marvelous history of British identity, "Britons" (1992), "was the single biggest factor in the forging of a common British nationality out of the older English, Scottish, and Welsh identities—a common nationality then transmitted to the settler societies." That's undeniable. The Protestant worldview, with its emphasis on individual conscience and personal Bible-reading and its elevation of industry, facilitated the rise of Northern and Western Europe's mercantile culture as nothing else did. But even the loosest forms of Protestantism, and indeed all forms of Christianity, necessarily imply a metaphysical source of authority, and radical ideologies from the mid-19th century forward have usually defined themselves in opposition to all forms of spiritual authority. Church attendance may have hit rock bottom throughout much of the Anglosphere today, but the history and present habits of these nations, as Mr. Hannan is right to observe, are still soaked in an essentially religious outlook.
Whether the "Protestant ethic" can survive the recession of Protestantism is another question altogether. Mr. Hannan sounds upbeat: "While Protestantism might have been an important component in establishing the Anglosphere's political culture, that political culture quickly took on a durability and energy that allowed it to flourish from Ireland to Singapore." True enough. But the habits of thought instilled by a century of welfare-state entitlements and big-government cronyism have gradually and quietly undermined the older outlook, based as it was on the dignity of work and individual attainment. It's far from clear to me, anyhow, that a post-Protestant work ethic animated solely by material gain can compete with an ethic of handouts and bailouts.
But Mr. Hannan shouldn't be faulted for his optimism—particularly given the gravity of his book's central argument: that the survival of democratic self-governance, individual rights and economic freedom depends largely on the choices made today by the world's English-speaking cousins.
—Mr. Swaim is writing a book about political language and public life.