Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Seymour Hersh article

From The New Yorker, 11/27/06

THE NEXT ACT
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/061127fa_fact

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NU Re-View: Nebraska 28, Texas A&M 27

THE GOOD ...
- THE DRIVE TO KANSAS CITY: I know, it's ripping off from the World-Herald, but it's as good a name for Nebraska's last drive as any I could think of. NU's execution of their two-minute offense (with the help of a timely roughing the passer penalty) will go down in Nebraska lore with the Immaculate Deflection in Columbia and Billy Sims' fumble.
- ALSO PARTICIPATING: Lost in the glory of Maurice Purify's game-winner was the performance of Todd Peterson, who hauled in seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Peterson was the workhorse of the receiving corps, particularly after Nate Swift went down. A special note of congratulations should also go to Dan Erickson, who made a clutch catch to advance the final drive. Generally, when he's been in the game you could expect a run, so it was very nice to see him get into the stat column for something other than a pancake.
- YOU ARE WHAT YOUR RECORD SAYS YOU ARE: Regardless of the underlying problems, sports is a business of results. The entire world would be different for Bill Callahan if Terrence Nunn doesn't fumble the ball against Texas. The same can be said for the results of this game. Even though the flaws that have plagued Nebraska all year (see below) have not really been resolved, a win is a win is a win, and Callahan has delivered the hardware he said he would this year. There's no "yeah, but ..." inscribed on the Big XII North trophy.

THE BAD ...
- DON'T LET THE DEODORANT FOOL YOU: The Taylor-to-Purify last-second heroics covered up a disturbing sense of deja vu, as the A&M game bore striking similarities to Nebraska's collapse in Stillwater a few weeks ago. As was the case against Oklahoma State, in the first half it looked like NU was in control of the game and should have landed a knockout punch in the third quarter. Instead, mystifyingly conservative play calling and poor defensive execution (which can be traced in part to a lack of focus on the players and fatigue from being on the field the whole second half) just about snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again. It's great that Nebraska won, but there's nothing in this win that makes a fan think the problems are any closer to being solved.
- TAYLOR AT EASE: No one can say that Zac Taylor isn't clutch. My concern is his level of performance when he doesn't HAVE to be clutch. How is it that a guy can complete over sixty percent of his passes when the game is on the line, and yet be under fifty percent at the time when Nebraska is in control, and ready to throw the knockout punch?
- STRONG LEGS GO FOR IT ON FOURTH DOWN, SO WEAK LEGS DON'T HAVE TO KICK A LONG FIELD GOAL: Yeah, I know, it's a stretch. But this has been a point of concern all year in terms of field position on kickoffs. But when Callahan elected to go for a fourth down rather than take a chance on a 44-yard field goal, then we learned all we needed to know about his faith (or lack thereof) in the strength of Jordan Congdon's leg. Having a kicker who cannot be relied upon to kick a 44-yard field goal is a significant weakness in a football team that wants to compete for championships.

... AND THE ENDGAME.
The day after Thanksgiving comes again, and for the first time in three years, almost nothing is on the line. Colorado will certainly be looking for a strong end to the season by beating Nebraska on Senior Day and trying to salvage some momentum from a disastrous first year for Dan Hawkins. But even a CU win wouldn't keep Nebraska from the Big XII championship game. This time, instead of bringing hammers (as they did in '04 to "nail the coffin shut" on NU's bowl streak), the best they can do is staplers.

THE BIG PICTURE
Mission accomplished. Amazing how that phrase, made so famous by President Bush after the "end of hostilities" in Iraq, fits Nebraska's situation. Yes, Callahan and Co. did deliver the hardware they said they would, thanks to a last-second drive that will live forever in Nebraska history. But that final drive shouldn't make Nebraska fans feel any more comfortable about this team's consistent inability to finish games. Enjoy the win, enjoy the trip to Kansas City, enjoy the glory of Nebraska winning again, but do not be fooled into thinking that the order has been restored yet. As we've learned before, "mission accomplished" doesn't mean there's not a lot of hard work left to do.

THE NEXT GAME
Colorado @ Nebraska. As the game is the day after Thanksgiving, there's no line, so I can't tell you where to put your Christmas money yet. Colorado does have the 24th-rated rush defense in the country. Unfortunately for the Buffs, that's coupled with the 92nd-rated pass defense. Colorado is currently sitting at 2-9, but they have been playing better as of late. Nebraska is in danger of "mission accomplished" syndrome and not having the focus to be successful in this game. However, it IS Colorado, and after the hammer stunt two years ago it's hard to imagine Callahan not having the squad ready. Nebraska is a superior team athletically, and there's no reason that NU should not win this game comfortably. Nebraska 45, Colorado 17. (You can figure out which way to bet when the lines come out after that. Thank me for earning enough to buy your PlayStation 3 later.)

GBR, baby.

Friday, November 10, 2006

NU Re-View: Nebraska 34, Missouri 20

THE GOOD ...
- BLACKSHIRT REBOUND: Much like after the Kansas defensive disaster, the Blackshirts buckled down and contained a strong Missouri offense. More impressively, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove responded to his linebacker injuries by going to a 3-3-5 scheme and giving the new blood like Ricky Thenarse, Bryan Wilson, and Major Culbert a lot of time on the field.
- MO' MO': As in, more of Maurice Purify. The kid threw for a touchdown and caught a touchdown with a ridiculously exciting leaping catch. When you look at Purify, you are looking at the future of Nebraska football. These big, strong, fast receivers make Callahan's offense go, and there's more coming. Next year, I suspect we will see a lot of Menelik Holt, the same type of receiver, lining up next to Purify.
- CALLAHAN THE GAMBLER: Callahan's offensive game plan was as good as Cosgrove's defensive scheme. The running game was established well, and Purify's touchdown pass was brilliantly set up by the play before, as well as by Marlon Lucky's TD pass against Texas. And the fourth down play-action pass to Phillips in the third quarter was sheer genius. Had the ball been caught, the game would have been over in a romp.

THE BAD ...
- SHORT LEGS: Nebraska still has a glaring weakness in their ability to kick the ball into the endzone on kickoffs. You know it's a problem when Jake Wesch got one into the end zone in the first half and the crowd cheered like a touchdown was scored. The 'Huskers again gave up significant field position to their opponents as a result.
- SECOND HALF BENDING: At least they didn't break this time. NU missed a chance for a knockout punch in the third quarter, and Missouri's offense got on track enough to make the last minutes of the game somewhat tense. Although it would have been a lot to ask out of players who hadn't seen a lot of playing time (the aforementioned Thenarse, Wilson, and Culbert) it would be nice to see Nebraska put a team away.
- MOVING TARGETS: At the start of the season, the generally accepted premise was that Nebraska would demonstrate progress by winning the North. It was assumed that NU would lose to Texas and USC, and probably drop a road game along the way. As we sit now, Nebraska is right where we thought they would be ... and people are disappointed. I understand the Texas game raised people's hopes and the Oklahoma State game was difficult to watch. But restoring the order is a process, and one Nebraska has not yet completed. Nebraska is on track, but they aren't there yet. To expect them to be a national contender is unreasonable and, quite honestly, foolish.

... AND THE TRADITIONAL.
Up next, Kyle Field, the 12th Man, and one of the most difficult places to play in all of college football. Texas A&M is a team that has been waiting as long, if not longer, for their promised resurgence. Their one point loss to Oklahoma last week will only make them hungrier and ready for redemption. Plus, Nebraska doesn't "need" this game to accomplish their goal of the North championship. The setup to this game looks remarkably similar to the setup for the Oklahoma State game ... and we all know how well that went.

THE BIG PICTURE
If, at the start of the season, you would have asked a 'Husker fan if they would take being 7-3 and needing just one more win to capture the North title, almost all of them would have jumped at the chance. Nebraska has shown this season that they are moving forward. They are at this point pretty clearly the best team in the Big XII north (although that is akin to being the tallest midget in a room). But it's time to stop the hand-wringing and doom-saying that 'Husker Nation fell into after the Oklahoma State game. The 'Huskers have done just about all we could have reasonably asked them for this season, up to now. Next season, though, expect the bar to be raised again.

THE NEXT GAME
Nebraska (-1) at Texas A&M. Road game in the South. Mobile quarterback. Opposing team smarting from a tough loss. Nebraska with "goals intact" even after losing. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? But let's not forget, NU had Oklahoma State beaten in the first half before falling apart. Given the firestorm that created, I don't think we'll see that again. Take Nebraska, lay the point.

GBR, baby.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Molly Ivens on Campaign '06

Good stuff, nice retrospective on the six years that were:

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Right to the end, this insane conversation between reality and Not Reailty. The president of the United States STILL says we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; STILL says we are creating democracy; STILL says we're preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and making Israel more secure; and, shoddiest of all, STILL not allowing that our fallen have died in vain.
The vice president, meanwhile, has announced that, all things considered in Iraq, "if you look at the general, overall situation, (the Iraqi government is) doing remarkably well." And now he's gone off to hunt in South Dakota, thus demonstrating a perfectly balanced sense of reality. South Dakota is so sparsely populated, it's really hard to hit another hunter.
Meanwhile, in case you hadn't noticed, Iraq is in a state of full collapse. And Afghanistan is not far from it. Baghdad is worse off for water, sewer, electricity and infrastructure than it was before the war. The R's have taken care of the whole problem with the brilliance we have come to expect from them -- they have decided to abolish the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (which has previously exposed bribery, contracts to cronies, shoddy work, lost billions of dollars, the failure to track hundreds of thousands of weapons shipped there and more). You must admit this is big, bold and brainy. This is Karl Rove problem-solving at its best.
This campaign has been like getting stuck in Alice's Wonderland for three months. "There is no use trying, " Alice said, "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," replied the White Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Every time you turn around, you run into the Jabberwocky or the Frumious Bandersnatch -- Richard Perle in penitence -- or some other equally fantastic sight. The great Skywriter in the Sky has positively run amok with irony and has been splashing it all over the campaign like Jackson Pollock. Fortunately, it is not my duty to lend dignity to the proceedings. I do make it a rule to skip talk of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- but when Mark Foley turns out to the chairman of House Committee on Missing and Exploited Children, you know you just have to sit down like a tired dog and scratch for a while.
While this perfectly insane dialogue has been taking place, Congress stands before us so hopelessly corrupt that the stench has washed all over the country. Perhaps my least favorite excuse for cheating is, "Everybody does it." NO, everybody DOESN'T do it. Nor does the system make you do it, or alcohol or drugs or Jack Abramoff. I do not want to hear one more excuse -- apologize and go.
On the other hand, I am really going to miss the stories this Congress provided. Remember Terri Schiavo? I mean, you wake up one morning and there it is, kind of like finding Fidel Castro in the refrigerator. And you listen to these people who do hold high elective office having this debate -- as though they know, as though they have any idea, as though they have any right. And then there are some of the troops, like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, semi-owner of the houseboat "The Duke-Stir." Some days you couldn't wait to get up to find out who'd been indicted. I miss watching Katherine Harris from Florida wear less and less blue eye-shadow as she went through her Senate race.
Well, it's been rank -- racist, sleazy, lying and full of insinuating scare tactics. Thank God it's over.

Friday, November 03, 2006

NU Re-View: Oklahoma State 41, Nebraska 29

THE GOOD …

- B-JAX: OK, I will admit it, I’m using that nickname only because it sounds a lot like a Mortal Kombat character. But Brandon Jackson has really surprised a number of ‘Husker observers with his performance and his tenacity. I think it’s safe to say that the Quad Squad of running backs is a thing of the past, and B-Jax is the main man.

- FIRST HALF ROAD GAME PLAN: Once again, Nebraska got out to a quick start by running the ball on the road. The plan started well, and then … well, it could have gone better.

- NOTHING: As Monty Python’s cardinals from the Spanish Inquisition would say, “we have three weapons, surprise, fear, and nothing. There is no third thing.” Given the way the game in Stillwater went, I can’t think of a third good thing, either. (That one’s for you, Frank)


THE BAD …

- THE SECOND HALF: Yeesh. Once again, Nebraska’s defense got torched. Disturbing similarities to the Kansas game this year, except without the offense able to rebound.

- ZAC TAYLOR: Please don’t get me wrong, Zac has performed admirably in the role he’s been thrust into. But he did not have a good game against the Cowboys, and he’s been struggling a lot, making poor decisions and making poor throws. At this point, you have to wonder if the progress we saw was the peak of his talent.

- HYPERVENTILATING NEBRASKA FAN: It’s truly amazing the difference one week makes. After the Texas game, ‘Husker fan was booking tickets to Kansas City for the Big XII championship and dreaming BCS dreams. After the Oklahoma State game, the same ‘Husker fan was crucifying Callahan and Co. and discussing replacement coaches. Talk about your short memories.


… AND THE BIG GAME

Yes, boys and girls, this one really is the big one. Missouri is coming to town with the Big XII North championship basically on the line. Missouri has struggled all year to stop the run, but also runs a spread offense that puts pressure on Nebraska’s weak secondary. The game sets up a fascinating match of strength-versus-weakness on both sides of the ball, which could make for an entertaining game.


THE BIG PICTURE

In Year One of the Callahan regime, NU went 5-6. In Year Two, NU improved to 8-5 with a bowl win. In Year Three, the bar was set at winning the Big XII North and playing in the championship game. That goal is sixty minutes and a reeling Mizzou team away. Regardless of the sturm und drang on talk radio this week, Nebraska’s resurgence is right on track … if they win on Saturday.


THE NEXT GAME

Missouri at Nebraska (-5 ½). I should have known that banking on Nebraska being perfect against the number would be a jinx. I’ll take responsibility for that one. But this week Nebraska has 85,000 reasons why they should win by at least a touchdown. Thanks to the Sea of Red, Nebraska covers. Take Nebraska, give the points.

GBR, baby.

The Secret Letter from Iraq

At the end, this letter from a Marine in Iraq will make you angry, sad, and proud. Phenomenal stuff, and wonderful perspective on what's going on.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1543658-1,00.html