The University of Louisville Cardinals have just fallen to the University of Illinois, 72-57.
It was good to see the Cardinals in the Final Four, and the Cards played a scrappy game, trailing for most of the way but never going away. When the history of the game is written, though, the turning point will undoubtedly be an absolutely inexplicable decision by veteran coach Rick Pitino. With five minutes to go and the Cards trailing slightly, the Cards resumed its zone defense, enabling the Illini to shave precious seconds off the clock before setting up, yet again, a crucial three-point shot. I'm far from the basketball expert my buddy Hardin is, and yet that call struck even me as puzzling, especially given Illinois' demonstrated ability to penetrate the U of L zone -- or to set up a three from outside. Anyway, from then on, it was no contest. Congratulations to the Illini on advancing to the championship round, and to the Cardinals for the pleasure of seeing them in the Final Four once again.
I haven't yet given credit, though I've been meaning to, to John Cole of Balloon Juice -- with whom I normally disagree on quite a bit -- for his principledstand against the pandering politicians and preachers in the 'publican party that made such an inappropriate national spectacle of the Terri Schaivo affair. As I've speculated, the grandstanding by some extremist elements of the party seem to be making more traditional conservatives uncomfortable.
By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.
Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party.
...High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.
...When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.
...But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.
What culture-of-death pinko commie liberal wrote this screed? Why, none other than Republican John C. Danforth, former United States senator from Missouri, former, United States ambassador to the United Nations, and Episcopal minister.
Terri Schaivo died today, completing the final stage in a process that began some 15 years ago. Planet Swank expresses its condolences to Ms. Schaivo's family, friends, and self-appointed supporters, misguided as I consider some of them to have been.
I've spent considerable time over the last week or two commenting on the various Schaivo-related discussion threads at Kevin Drum's blog. For example, I engage in a rather lengthy debate here.
Right now, though, I don't have much to say that I haven't before, except to hope that Terri's spirit is finally at peace, and that her husband and parents alike can get on with their lives now.
The surgical evisceration by Dr. Ronald Cranford, one of the two neurologists selected by Michael Schiavo to examine Terri Schiavo pursuant to an October 2001 appellate court mandate, of TV host Joe Scarborough and his cohorts is a wonderful thing to behold.
CRANFORD: I am 105 percent sure she is in a vegetative state. And the autopsy will show severe irreversible brain damage to the higher centers, yes.
Several sites compared the game to a goth version of the classic arcade video game Gauntlet, and the comparison is spot on. The game's four initial characters each correspond with a Gauntlet archetype:
Mark Kleiman notes that George W. Bush's approval rating has taken a beating, and posits that his actions and his brother's in the Terri Schaivo case were at once enough to rouse the ire of civil libertarians, while failing to satisfy the religious right.
[T]hink of this from the perspective of the people getting their news from Fox and Rush Limbaugh. The feed-Terri forces, including Tom DeLay, have been telling their supporters loudly for two weeks that there's an innocent woman in Florida being killed by her husband and a cabal of judges.
Of course that's not the way the case looks to you and me, but imagine just for a moment that it did.
...Wouldn't you expect the governor to send in the state troopers to rescue the victim? I would. (And if instead the judge had "ordered" the victim killed at once, and there was no time to get a higher court to overrule him, I would absolutely expect the governor to send the troopers in, and even to order them to shoot the court officers if necessary to rescue the prisoner.)
...So there's no reconciling the rhetoric of "murder" with the failure of the two Bushes to act even more forcefully than they have. What to you and me looks reckless looks, to those who think an innocent person is being starved to death by court order, intolerably weak.
The President "stood up for life" only until it became politically inconvenient. Then he backed off, not even mentioning the "murder victim" in his Easter message.
Once there is no more new news, the Schiavo affair will fade from public consciousness. But the image of the President as a straight shooter, someone who stands up for what he believes in, and someone who manages to get his way has surely suffered, and may not recover soon.
And that damage to the base comes on top of the alienation of reality-based and process conservatives and libertarians, and of whatever the incident might have done to mobilize Democrats.
Kevin Drum recently took note of the same phenomenon, and observed that the spin now seems to be that the President was reluctant to take the action he did. Of course, the fact that he interrupted his vacation for the first time ever in order to gly to Washington to sign the bill makes that claim stretch credulity even further than this Administration usually does.
Three reasons to like Louisville: 1. They're scrappier. This is partly because the Cardinals have to be, but I'm not sure Illinois has faced a team that attacks at both ends of the floor the way the Cards do. This team has talent, but outside of freshman Juan Diego Palacios, none of Louisville's players were considered plum recruits. The Cards embrace being slighted -- witness their reaction to getting a No. 4 seed in the tournament -- and this is a rare opportunity for them to play the role of underdog. It fits them well.
2. Francisco Garcia's passing ability. We all know Garcia can shoot, but his ability to create scoring opportunities off the dribble is what sets Louisville apart. The guys catching those passes -- usually Taquan Dean and Larry O'Bannon -- are deadly if given clean looks. And how many times this season has Illinois played a team with a perimeter trio comparable to the Illini's three-headed monster?
3. Louisville's zone is tough to beat. You might think a zone is the worst defense to throw at the Illini given the way they shoot it, but because Illinois doesn't have a reliable post scorer, its guards are dependent on dribble penetration to create scoring opportunities. A zone is designed to prevent penetration. The Cardinals have played zone for most of the season, so they know how to help on penetration while still closing out on open shooters. If they disrupt Illinois' rhythm, it will really work to their advantage.
The pick: I'm actually tempted to go with Louisville here, but the Cardinals' lack of inside scoring keeps me from doing so. Unlike Arizona center Channing Frye, who gave the Illini all sorts of trouble around the basket, Louisville's Ellis Myles is a rebounder/passer with limited post moves. If you can't take advantage of the Illini's biggest weakness, it's that much harder to counter their strengths.
Here's an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal reinforcing the notion that the Cards prefer the underdog spot. Of course, that contention also reinforces the perception that the Cardinals are, in fact, the underdogs in Saturday's game -- not that I disagree.
Yesterday I dropped into Best Buy to blow a little Easter money. In addition to $10 DVDs of The Last Starfighter and Godzilla vs Gigan and a $10 copy of the PS2 game Hunter: The Reckoning - Wayward, I grabbed a special freebie preview DVD of the Sin City movie. What did I think? The verdict is posted at Destroy All Monsters. Suffice it to say, I don't think comic fans need to worry about another cinematic disappointment.
So much for not paying attention to polls. The Washington Post notes that after interrupting his vacation for the first time ever in order to sign extraordinary legislation calling for a Federal do-over in a legally settled family matter -- a move that has proved massively unpopular, even among many Republicans -- President Bush has been laying low.
in the week since, President Bush has retreated back to his ranch and remained largely out of sight as the nation wrestled with the great moral issues surrounding the fate of Terri Schiavo.
The president has said nothing publicly about the bitterly contested case since Wednesday, when reporters asked about it and he said he had exhausted his powers to intervene. On Saturday, as he used his weekly radio address to express condolences to the victims of a school shooting in Minnesota and extol a "culture that affirms life," he did not mention the most prominent culture-of-life issue in the public eye.
The juxtaposition of racing through the night in Air Force One to sign legislation intended to force doctors to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube and choosing not to use his bully pulpit to advocate for her life afterward demonstrates how uncomfortable the matter has become for the White House. For years, Bush has succeeded politically in stitching together the disparate elements of the conservative movement, marrying the libertarian and family-values wings of his party. Now he faces a major Republican rupture.
Polls show the vast majority of Americans, including conservatives and evangelical Christians, disapprove of the decision by Bush and Congress to get involved in the Schiavo matter. And more worrying for the White House, those polls have also shown a significant drop in Bush's overall approval ratings.
"It's been a very sticky issue for the president," said Stephen Moore, a Bush ally and president of the Free Enterprise Fund, which promotes limited government. "I think no matter what course he took, he was going to come under criticism. I personally believe Bush would have been better off not intervening at all."
The case came at a time when Bush was struggling to sell his plan to overhaul Social Security. "This is the second bad thing to happen to him this year, Social Security being the first," said Andrew Kohut, executive director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "We've had a week that I don't think they can count on advancing their agenda."
Again, the rifts between the religious right and the more moderate elements of the Republican Party begin to show. Bush has demonstrated for the world to see that he can't be moved to roust himself from vacation for a Presidential Daily Brief warning that al Qaeda plans to hijack aircraft, but that he'll scurry to Washington to perform a high-profile favor for the funamentalist wing of his party. After Terri Schaivo finally finds the peace she said she would have wanted, the religious right is unlikely to be satisfied with a "we tried" attitude from the politicians that failed to deliver a win for them. No, they'll likely demand even more high-profile power-grabs from legislatures and executives. Although Bush clearly wants -- far from showing the "leadership" his minions keep telling us he embodies -- to pretend he never took any active stance on the Schaivo case, the choice between appeasing the fundamentalist wing over the objections of the more libertarian-oriented in his party won't go away.