June 17, 2006

I would be remiss if I didn't note that Univision has the best weekend "pre-game show". Who are those women?
Ghana 2, Czech Republic 0: Finally, an upset. Wow. This game was not that close, as Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech (what is it with the Czechs and great goalies, anyway?) made a series of spectacular saves, and Ghana blew numerous other chances with a man advantage in the final twenty minutes, including a penalty kick that clanged off the goal post. But they converted twice, the first time with the game barely a minute old, and dominated the game in much the same way the U.S. was dominated by the Czechs on Monday. The Czechs still have a goal scored advantage on Ghana, which could make margins of victory important come Wednesday.

The ABC announcers have coyly stated that even if the U.S. loses today, they cannot now be eliminated. That would be exactly what the world of soccer needs, the Americans still alive after two bad losses and the brave players from the Ivory Coast and Poland already assured of going home....
Alexi Lalas did not just call out Giorgio Chinaglia for the '74 World Cup, did he?!?
Portugal 2, Iran 0: It took awhile, thanks to some inspired goalkeeping by first game goat Ebrahim Mirzapour, but Portugal scored twice in the second half, including the second goal in as many days by a Man U. star, to knock out Iran. The legendary Figo set up the final goal with a crafty manuever into the penalty area, where he was tripped, setting up Cristiano Ronaldo's clincher. After the huge disappointment of 2002, the Portuguese got out of the first round for the first time since 1966, where they will play either Holland or Argentina. Putting aside the scoreless draws by Angola and Trinidad, there have been no upsets so far, due in large part to the mandate from FIFA after the 2002 Cup that European leagues end their seasons this year in early May, enabling the stars from Europe and South America to be more rested entering the tournament.
LAist, the blog for hip Angelenos not in the "Business", has been hot under new editor Tony "Shaq" Pierce. It's what Defamer could be if it didn't obsess about Brangelina....

June 16, 2006

Angola 0, Mexico 0: The third scoreless draw of the World Cup, and the second huge surprise. Angola went toe-to-toe with the world's fourth-ranked team, played evenly until a 79th minute expulsion, then held on against a relentless Mexican onslaught in the waning moments to gain their first point of the tourney. Teams from outside Europe and South America are 3-12-4 so far, and have gone 0-9-1 against teams from the two dominant continents.

One of the things you hear soccer haters in this country recite as their justification is that it's boring, due to the low-scoring (and no-scoring) nature of the sport. It's a silly criticism, for two reasons. First, people don't follow a sport because it's "exciting." They follow it because they develop an emotional interest in the outcome. Once they develop that, they grow to understand the sport, giving the games a context that transcend the process of how they are won or lost. To someone who isn't a baseball fan, a pitchers' duel can be like watching paint dry; if you have a rooting interest in one of the teams, it's a tense, taut exhibition of defense and skill. Once you become a fan of baseball, you accept the lack of scoring activity in a particular game as routine, even necessary, a fractional segment to a larger season, one of the many nuances you understand when following a team for six months. Nobody becomes a baseball fan simply because they follow a team that scores a lot of runs, or plays in a lot of close games. Across the planet, billions of sports fans have made the same decision in following soccer. Scoring goals may be the object, but its not the only thing that needs to happen to make the game interesting.

And second, with soccer, as with almost every sport, the most exciting games are almost always not high-scoring affairs. For example, the most boring game today was the first game, in which the two teams combined for six goals, while the two later games, which featured three goals and a double goose egg, were much more interesting for even the casual spectator. Of course, the game that saw six shots hit the back of the net was a 6-0 whitewash, but that's true in almost all sports; a baseball game that features 19 combined runs is much more likely to end 14-5 than 10-9, while a game that features only one run is, by necessity, close and dramatic. "Excitement" comes from witnessing a team break down an impregnable defense with a sustained attack, even if it means sitting through 90+ minutes waiting for that to happen, not from seeing one side exploit a mismatch in talent to produce a rout. Even if the team isn't that good, like Angola, the excitement comes from seeing whether they can pull off the surprise, and hold off the team with superior talent. The number of goals scored has little to do with it.
Ezra Klein, on the meaning of Kos:
When Markos bragged that "popular movements are rarely so practical," it's important to focus in on the word movement because that, it appears, is what Markos is focused on. His pragmatism has mostly been painted as an obsession with winning, and attacks against him tend to focus on his rather poor electoral record. But that's because Markos picks prospects rather than winners, campaigns and candidates who attract little establishment support and whose victory, thus, can be attributed to the netroots. No gambler gains a reputation by betting on 50:1 favorites, but any gambler can make one by putting enough money on a 1:50 longshot.

The "netroots" are, I think, a revolution of tone, not ideology. They've got a few defining characteristics, none of them ideological. A contempt for the establishment is one. An appetite for pugilism is another.
This is in reference to The Kos purportedly rebuffing feelers from the Hillary for President campaign. Considering that he put publicly announced he was putting HRC's e-mails in his spamfilter several months ago, that is no big surprise.

I would add that, as nostagic for the Clinton Presidency as I am, the steady decline of the Democratic Party began under The Big Dog; there is nothing that is quite so deadly to party-building than having your President, and nominal leader of the party, triangulate his way to reelection. Failure to make serious headway against the GOP majority in Congress after 1994 can be laid squarely at his doorstep, as it was Clinton's foibles (his shady fundraising which came up at the end of the '96 campaign, and Monicagate in '98) that thwarted efforts by the party to recapture one or both houses of Congress. Hillary's wishy-washiness on Iraq brings back memories of the Bad Bill Clinton, and someone who has aspirations for building a more durable Democratic majority, like Markos Moulitsas, will understandably wish to shy away from that legacy.
Holland 2, Cote d'Ivoire 1: The two best games of the Cup so far have both featured the same West African nation, and both were 2-1 losses. Great end-to-end action, spectacular goals, and non-stop pressure by both teams, but the Dutch advance to the next round, whilst the nation formerly known as the Ivory Coast will go home next week. Life sucks.
Argentina 6, Serbia-Montenegro 0: In what may be a preview of tomorrow's game against Italy, Argentina showed why they are being considered the co-favorites to win the World Cup in routing their hapless Balkan foes. Two players considered to be the future of the sport, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, scored the first of what may be several World Cup goals to punctuate the victory. The Serbians fell behind early, and quit; hearing Claudio Reyna being interviewed this morning, talking about the need to play "cautiously" and "carefully" against the Italians, I fear the U.S. may be in for a similar treat tomorrow.

Throughout the game, one couldn't help but notice that one of the few S&M players to attract attention was their team captain, Savo Milosevic. Are Milosevics as ubiquitous in Serbia as Smiths or Johnsons? If not, don't you think it might have been worthwhile if one of the ESPN announcers had mentioned whether the player was in some way related to the late dictator? We still have troops in that region, in large part because of Slobodan Milosevic; if Saadi Ghadaffi were playing, would they bother mentioning who his dad is?

June 15, 2006

For baseball fans, the battle between the sabermetric world view and the traditionalist view has always been analogous to the "debate" between evolution and creationism. One view utilizes facts and reason to formulate an hypothesis over, lets say, how a team can best create runs, while the other uses magical thinking, and stresses "clutch ability" and "character". Basketball, which has displaced baseball as the number two sport in America, is a much newer sport; if baseball became a distinct pastime in the 1850's and became a modern game in the 1920's, basketball has had a more protracted evolution, invented in 1887, but not becoming the game we know now until Bird and Magic entered the NBA in 1979. As such, literary analysis of the sport has been much more spotty, and "sabermetric" (or to use the correct term, "objective") analysis of the sport has developed more slowly, and those who do write about the sport tend to be more enamored with flash and hype, rather than who can do what to help his team win.

That's why the publication of The Wages of Wins will no doubt do to traditionalists in the Realm of Hoops what The Bill James Baseball Abstract did to dinosaurs like Dick Young: begin the process of their extinction. I don't think it's any coincidence that this book was published in the aftermath of the U.S. bronze medal debacle at the 2004 Summer Olympics, when a team of superstars went to Athens and got beaten badly by less-talented players from Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina. For the first time, Americans saw that the evolution of the game in this country weakened the sport, making our players helpless against foreign teams that still emphasized teamwork, innovation, and unselfish play. It was inevitable that someone would try to figure out why that happened, and what type of player can help his team best accomplish what is supposed to be the object of the game, namely, win.
It's been three days, and a devastated nation still mourns....
Sweden 1, Paraguay 0: Freddy Ljungberg's goal in the final minute of regulation provided the only scoring in this dreary affair. The last few days have been suspiciously reminiscent of the 1990 Cup, low-scoring battles in which all the scoring is done late in the second half. Paraguay is now eliminated, with T&T barely hanging on; the four combined goals scored in the four games so far in Group B make this the Group of Death Warmed Over.
England 2, Trinidad & Tobago 0: You gotta love English understatement. From the first line of Auntie Beeb's account of today's game:
Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard spared England's blushes with late goals against Trinidad & Tobago to book their place in the last 16 of the World Cup.
"Spared England's blushes ?!?" Wayne Rooney, the latest in a line of miscreant English soccer stars that includes Paul Gascoigne, entered the game in the second half as a sub for former teen phenom Michael Owen, only six weeks after breaking his foot.

For me, the big difference between watching this and past World Cups is the use of TiVo. I had to be in court most of the morning, so I was unable to watch the game live. When I got home, I was able to watch the whole thing in less than fifteen minutes, putting the replay on maximum speed and reading the score line at the top to see if anything was happening. With eight minutes left, and the game still scoreless, I decided to watch the rest in normal time, and sure enough, Crouch gets his header almost immediately. The marvels of the age we live in....
Ecuador 3, Costa Rica 0: Brushing aside critics who derided them for only being able to win at altitude, Ecuador decisively entered the second round with a convincing victory over Costa Rica in Hamburg (elevation 10 feet). The victory also clinched a second round berth for the host country, Germany, while the Ticos and Poland become the first countries to be eliminated. Should their final game with Germany end in a draw, Ecuador, a team with no stars, would win the group, and thus avoid a likely showdown with England in the Second Round.

One of more interesting facets of Ecuador over the years has been how predominantly black their national soccer team is. In a country where only 3% of the population has African ancestry, the fact that 9 of the 11 starters for this year's team are black is, at least from a sociological standpoint, curious. Other South American countries have a much higher percentage of blacks among the total population (for example, Brazil has a demographic base of 45% combined black and mixed race in the population), but nowhere near that number on their soccer teams. And this year's team is not unusual; in the past, Ecuador has always seemed to be
have more than a fair share of black players. Is the racism in Ecuador somehow more acute? Do blacks have even fewer options other than sports?

June 14, 2006

Every now and then, you come across a number that reminds you of what your community is really like, and how irrelevant our focus is upon certain issues: last Sunday's World Cup game between Mexico and Iran, broadcast on both ABC and Univision, drew a 40 share in Los Angeles. That's 40% of the combined sets that were on at the time, tuned into a soccer game. Three-quarters of that audience saw the game on the Spanish language channel, a UHF station. Univision's local ratings for the game, broadcast at 9:00 a.m., were 68% higher than for the NBA Finals played in prime time that same night.
Germany 1, Poland 0: For 90+ minutes, as hooligans from the two countries fought with the police outside the stadium, Poland battled the heavily-favored Germans evenly, thwarting wave after wave of attack, even after they were forced to play down a man over the final 25 minutes. Just when it seemed that a tie might be assured, less than a minute after two point-blank shots ricocheted off the goal post, Oliver Neuville deflected in a crossing pass in injury time to give the host country the win, and an almost-certain berth in the second round. The Poles, bereft of the kindness of a merciful and just god, will now likely go home, having once again failed to beat their rivals to the west.
Kevin Roderick has the scoop on the demand by the Chandler Family that the Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times, break up its media holdings and/or sell the newspaper. I happen to believe there should be a law outlawing the public trading of corporations which own newspapers. There is an inevitable conflict of interest. The business side has an obligation to investors to maximize share prices, which can only be done by exponentially increasing profits quarter to quarter. On the other hand, the newspaper's sole interest must be to put out the best possible newspaper.

But the goal of putting out the best newspaper becomes almost impossible when it confronts the bottom line of the market. Right now, in spite of the declining circulation numbers that are endemic in the computer age, the LA Times has never been so profitable. But it has come at the expense of the quality of the newspaper, which has been forced to follow a policy of cut-backs and lay-offs. The first thing I read in the morning, the sport section, is but a shadow of its former greatness, a barebones shell of box scores and hack columnists. It is not enough for the Times merely to match last quarter's profits; it must beat those numbers simply in order to maintain the price of Tribune stock. And of course, other considerations, such as appeasing advertisers and tabloidization, further diminish the quality of the product. Back when newspapers were privately-held, the sole consideration was the idiosyncratic views of whomever the pubisher was, and the newspaper became interesting precisely because of the personality quirks of the person running it.

It may well be that newspapers, like motion pictures, are a dying media, and that people will one day look back at actually getting news from a paper delivered to your doorstep as a quaint relic, akin to having milk or bread delivered to your home forty years ago. As with the neighborhood milkman, it became easier (and cheaper) to buy fresh milk at the supermarket, just as its more convenient to watch movies on your DVD player. But I will miss having the impermeable relic of the newspaper, least of all for the crossword puzzles and sudoku, in a way that I don't miss having to go to the multiplex. It will be a shame if the market, which has brought so much to improving our standard of living, should cause of the extinction of newspapers.
One of the most miserable summer days I ever spent was in London, July, 1995. The temperature got up to a "scorching" 80 degrees, which wouldn't even be noticed in L.A., but in a town where air conditioning is a novelty, I ended up sitting in my hotel room all day, waiting for a phone call from my sister, slowly baking.
Saudi Arabia 2, Tunisia 2: Most exciting match of the tourney so far, and it turns out to be the least anticipated. The Saudis came from behind in the second half to take the lead from their North African foes, sparked by an 84th minute goal by Sami el Jabar, who also scored goals in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. Just when they seemed to be running out the clock, Tunisia took advantage of a monumental defensive blunder in the third minute of injury time, with an unmarked Jaidi pulling the game even. The real winner, though, was Ukraine, which now can set aside today's debacle with minimal fear that goal differential will prove pivotal.
Spain 4, Ukraine 0: Well, the U.S. didn't have the most embarrassing opener at this Cup after all. Two goals in the first fifteen minutes but the East European debutants in a big hole, then a very harsh red card, and ensuing penalty kick, doomed the only representative from the former Soviet Union. More to the point, though, the Ukraine came in with hopes at least as inflated as the Americans. They were the first team to qualify in Europe, and they did so besting a group that also included Romania, 2002 Bronze Medalist Turkey, and Euro 2004 champ Greece. They also have one of the best players on the planet in Andrei Schevchenko, who may be one of the most recognizable soccer stars in America, thanks to his ubiquitous ad on ESPN. He, and his team, simply laid an egg, while Spain, on the other hand, just sent its supporters expectations to the roof.

June 13, 2006

Not everyone spent last weekend in Vegas being coopted by the Warner Campaign. Tony Pierce checks out the new Hooters Hotel and Casino, and receives some pearls of wisdom from working girls. Pierce's sage advice: stay away from the hotel pool.
Brazil 1, Croatia 0: A player with a nickname Beavis and Butthead could love scored late in the first half to get the defending champs off on the right foot. Kaka's goal in the final minute before halftime enabled the Brazilians to win their eighth straight game at the World Cup, a new record. The hero last time, Ronaldo, played poorly, and was jeered off the field late in the game. Brazil, the only team to have appeared in every World Cup, has not lost an opener in 72 years.
Classy: James Wolcott, the number one fan of the late and odious fabulist Albert Goldman, sucks up to one of the leading lights in the lefty blogosphere:
But all of Las Vegas's top dominatrixes cleared room and clung to the walls last week when Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher hit the neon strip for Yearly Kos, her arrival heralded by whipcrack lightning and the baying of distant coyetes. Now Jane Hamsher looked amiable and sweetly accessorized hosting a panel on C-SPAN, almost schoolteacherly in her glasses; but cross her, displease her, and the cruel lash will be one's crimson reward.* She has visited her wrath upon the former Wonkette, shown here flanked by a jovial pair of freeloaders. But even that pales beside the rejoinder she offers a critic in the comments section. It's quite a pithy exchange.

margaret says:
June 12th, 2006 at 2:16 pm

"Well, now, we have a bunch of folks who love the nastiness, and we have a small bunch who like some intelligent analysis, sans vituperation. And, we have a few who suggest if you don’t like what you read, go……..somewhere else. And, a really physically lovely, intelligent woman with a gift for language, i.e., Jane, abuses her gifts with really the kind of words, I’m afraid I have never encountered, not even on bathroom walls while in college. I don’t even know what they mean.

"The problem with these dark words is that they stay in the head, and change one’s internal grace as a human being. I simply don’t want certain images in my head, be it bathroom graffiti, or, to carry it further, detailed descriptions of beheadings by Middle East terrorists, or stories about rape victims, or accident victims, or any other victims of horrendous action. Words have great power, and we should be careful how we use them. They can incite the unhealthy to assassinations and other kinds of violence. On the FDL level, it doesn’t amount to anything with any depth. It’s only word-slinging back and forth to give the Poster and the bloggers who share the Poster’s low-mindedness strokes. Weird, to me. And, a form of word-rape.

"It’s responsible to be inventive and creative with language; it’s dangerous to sling language around, carelessly, insensitive to whom it may hurt or offend. Ah, for the days of Addison and Steele."

"Jane Hamsher says:
June 12th, 2006 at 2:17 pm

"Margaret 116 — 'Ah, for the days of Addison and Steele.'

"You’re a smug, self-righteous bitch. How about those words?"
To which I say, the compassionate liberalism of MLK and RFK is truly dead. We have become our enemies.
France 0, Switzerland 0: Two teams that have a problem putting the ball in the back of the net played to a scoreless draw. The French, who scored only a handful of goals in qualifying, where they tied the Swiss twice, have now been shutout in the four Cup games they've played since they won it all in 1998; the Swiss now have three straight goose eggs dating back to 1994. France ties Peru (1978-82), England (1982-6), and Tunisia (1978-1998) in that regard; the record for goalscoring futility is held by Bolivia, which was blanked in the first five games they played in the World Cup before scoring against Spain in 1994.
In addition to being a racist scumbag, a perjurer, and a plagiarist, who despises the widows, police and firemen of 9/11, it also appears Ann Coulter is a world-class airhead. Kudos to Rude Pundit for discovering that she can't even rip off the mistakes and typos of smarter people very well...and to Art Buchwald, who has come out of retirement to pen this column eviscerating NaziPundit. It starts:
A broomstick in my closet was missing. I asked someone about it and he said,
"Ann Coulter took it."

"What did she do with it?" I asked.

She's flying around on it as a witch, looking for more 9/11 widows for a follow-up
book called 'The Coulter Code.'"

I said, "She's a very busy witch. This is her fifth broomstick."
There's also a good Walmart dig at the end.
No Fitzmas: Karl Rove walks. Bush aide didn't break law. Man Bites Dog.

In the long run, this was probably good news for progressives; Plamegate focused a great deal of attention on the hypocrisy of the Neocon Right, their willingness to expose the identity of a covert agent out of ideological spite, but there are hundreds of better reasons why they should be purged from the engines of power, none of which involve the First Amendment or give blanket protection to the CIA from public exposure. Rove is an odious person who did a crummy thing, but that doesn't mean he committed a felony, and as Ken Starr could attest during his investigation of Ms. Lewinsky, actually proving "perjury" is a damnable task.

Finally, the issue seemed to be a particular obsession of some of the biggest s**ts, c**ts and a**h***s in the lefty blogosphere, so it will be fun listening to their whining the next few days. Joseph Wilson may be a noble public servant who was only doing his job, and he was certainly telling the truth about what he found in Niger, but his fifteen minutes ended a long time ago.

If the megabloggers of the left would spend half of the time thinking about health care or urban poverty that they do popping off about like some low-rent McCarthyite about"Treasongate", the blogosphere might live up to its promise. At least now there's one less distraction to worry about.
South Korea 2, Togo 1: Ahn Jung-hwan, whose game-winning heroics four years ago against Italy merited him the honor of being dumped from his Serie A team in favor of Saadi Gaddafi, once again came up big, blasting yet another knuckleball into the upper corner. Incidentally, Togo has saved Otto Pfister from a career of being a "character actor" much in demand on certain Chatsworth and Reseda sound stages, and he was on the bench today.

June 12, 2006

Italy 2, Ghana 0: So much for the theory that the Juventus Scandal was going to distract the Azurri. Hard-fought match, decided on goals late in each half, with the Ghanaians screwed on a no-call late in the game inside the penalty area. Since both teams should have an easy time against the U.S., the games against a Czech team that lost another of its stars will be critical. For Italy especially, anything less than a three-goal margin Saturday could be devastating; the Czech Republic has an edge in goal differential, and the runner-up in this group will likely play Brazil in the Second Round. Ghana, on the other hand, needs at least a point Saturday, then hope Italy beats the Czechs in the final game, to have any chance of advancing.
I see Thomas Lipscomb is still hyping his non-existent Pulitzer "nomination." The first time, it can be excused as excessive puffery; the second time, you really have to call his honesty into question. What is simply inexcusable is that the conservative bloggers hyping Mr. Lipscomb know the truth, and they just don't care.
Czech R. 3, U.S.A. 0: Men playing with boys. I saw this same game sixteen years ago, when we sent college kids to our first World Cup in 40 years and got smoked by a veteran Czechoslavakian team. Other than Reyna and sub Eddie Johnson, the team played with no heart; collectively, the team had the same look George Bush has at an unscripted event, when someone asks him about WMD's. Nevertheless, if the Czechs play at this level the rest of the way, they win it all.
Australia 3, Japan 1: On the verge of an undeserved defeat, the Socceroos scored three times in the final six minutes to pull out a stunning victory. Australia was shutout in its previous World Cup, in 1974, and took 84 minutes to pop its World Cup cherry this time. Questionable calls were prevalent; Japan's first goal came after a rather blatant foul on the goalkeeper, while Australia received the benefit of a non-call inside their penalty area after they tied the game in the 82nd minute. All three of the winners' goals were scored by second-half substitutes.

June 11, 2006

Thinking Outside the Penalty Box: The New Democrat Network is spending $2 million on an ad campaign during the World Cup, focusing on Spanish-language media. The voice of the ads is none other than Mr. Goalllllllllll himself, Andres Cantor.
Did you know "Rock's Renaissance Man" (as Time Mag once called him) has a blog? I didn't...he posts even less frequently than Matt Welch, but more so than Brian Linse.
Portugal 1, Angola 0: Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Early goal (in fact, Portugal almost scored in the first eleven seconds), then 85 minutes of a Euro power treading water against an outclassed opponent. See here for more of the same.
For Angelenos Only: If you want to watch World Cup action with an interested audience and some liquid sustenance, LAist has some suggestions (including my old hang-out, Joxer Dalys).
Mexico 3, Iran 1: That's Brooklyn Avenue over Rodeo Drive, Huntington Park over Encino. In the Battle of the Great Satans, the Paleocons' edge the Neos. Going where Team U.S.A. so ignomoniously failed in 1998, the Pride of Aztlan dominated play throughout, taking advantage of the Iranian keeper's blunder with 15 minutes to play to score the winner. Viva Reconquista !!! Por las Tricolores, todo. Fuera de las Tricolores, nada.
Holland 1, Serbia-Montenegro 0: The Clockwork Orange banged out an impressive victory, both offensively and defensively. The S&M squad had managed a long scoreless streak in qualifying, but conceded an early breakaway by Arjen Robben, and never sustained any prolonged pressure on the Dutch goal.

I assume that many of you reading this blog are watching the games on ESPN or ABC. If you have access to the Spanish-language Univision network, you might partake of its programmming, which is pretty much non-stop soccer during the day. Right now, Univision is airing a between-games show featuring a mariachi band, a feature piece in which the reporter asked some Bavarian locals what they knew of Mexico (sadly, more of them seemed to know a good deal more about who the President of Mexico is than their American counterparts), and two absolutely stunning co-hosts clad in t-shirts and dolphin shorts (sex is truly the universal language). Hopefully, this will be continue to be on throughout the tourney.
A number of you have asked me whether I was going to YearlyKos, the convention of lefty bloggers now going on in Las Vegas. Having just been to Vegas over Memorial Day, I wasn't about to spend another weekend in that city so soon. Maybe next year.

If, in fact, they hold another YearlyKos next year, we should have a great deal more data on the effectiveness of the lefty blogosphere in terms of political influence. The political reporter for the nation's paper of record remarks here that blogs have become as important to the left as talk radio is by the right, which is true, but which also has the potential to worsen the partisan cancer that has afflicted our national dialogue. Talk radio reaches a much wider audience than blogs, and its listeners are a good deal more diverse than the white upper-middle class readers of Kos or Atrios. When Rush Limbaugh lies, a lot of people listen, and it actually has an impact on the political debate.

Although it is untrue that Kos has a perfect losing record in terms of endorsing candidates (his blog endorsed two special election victors in 2004), it is not irrelevant to note that the intense partisanship, while an effective money-raising tool among the party base, is a pretty lame strategy for liberals when it comes to putting up W's on the scoreboard. If liberal blogs were really all that, Howard Dean would be President, and not holding the exalted title of DNC Chief.

Hopefully, the loss last week in the special election will prove to be chastening. Tarring the other side as a cabal of corrupt hacks may be affirming to our sense of moral superiority, but it doesn't elect squat. People are concerned about the continuing quagmire in Iraq, immigration, the cost of health care, and of course, the economy; they don't give a rat's rectum about who leaked Valerie Plame's identity or who Jack Abramoff is. Conducting e-mail campaigns against least-favorite reporters or whining about how the mean MSM doesn't laugh at Steven Colbert's after-dinner jokes doesn't redound to the prestige of the blogosphere, especially when there are serious problems afflicting our country. It would be nice if the stars of next year's convention actually have ideas to tout, rather than just anger and strategies for fundraising and sucking up to the media establishment.
Argentina 2, Cote d'Ivoire 1: Argentina played without two of its stars, but still found a way to beat a determined Ivory Coast team. The Ivorians, playing their first-ever game at the World Cup, fell behind by two at halftime, but had the run of play for almost the entire second half as the RG's were content to coast and play in a defensive shell. Even after Drogba cut the lead in half with just under ten minutes to play, there was no sense that the Argentines were in trouble.

This was my first visit to a public establishment in this World Cup. After the experience of 2002, when games started at 11:30 p.m. and 2 and 4 a.m., and I discovered the sad truth that there is nothing more depressing than seeing a sunrise from a bar, getting to watch games at noon is much more to my liking.