Monthly Archives: February 2006

Hockey Gold

In the end, the best team won. Not the collection of the best players, but the best band of cohesive players. It wasn’t that Latvia or Slovakia or the Swiss weren’t cohesive, but they weren’t the best as a collective. Sweden was.

This isn’t an argument for eliminating pros. That’s only a good idea if the World Cup of Hockey can really live up to its name. The Olympics are not the premier international soccer event, the World Cup is. So, it can be done. There needs to be a best on best world championship.

And why? Because, as I’ve argued for more than 10 years now, hockey needs to copy soccer. Why? Because soccer, believe it or not Americans, is the most popular sport in the world by a country mile. Copying basketball (by hiring Bettman) assures only regional support. Soccer is a better template, because not only is it more successful, it more closely models the international talent pool that hockey depends on. Remove non-North American players, and the NHL would have to contract to 10 teams. Remove South American players, and European soccer would dwindle as well.

We need more, not less, professional national tournaments in hockey. We need the Americas Cup and the European Cup. We need more, not less, professional club tournaments in hockey. We need a tournament where the defending Stanley Cup champion plays a series against the Russian, Swedish, and Finnish Elite leagues. And where an American team wins the Stanley Cup, the best Canadian team should be included.

This will spread the sport by using national passions for fuel, instead of egoes and salaries.

The Angry Olympiad

Never before have so many gotten so little enjoyment out of a spectacle by choice. Despite the second-best medal haul in memory, the American performance in Torino was a debacle. By the time Blowhard Number 12 in the NY Post was lambasting the hot-dogging-then-blew-it snowboarder chick the rancor moved from excessive frustration to pathology. Why the fury?

Back in the day, it was always easy to root for our guys against the Soviet athletes because the Commies were the product of a machine: plucked away to hone their skill from childhood, trained, fed regularly like a stud horse, injected with substances, now spurted onto the ice and snow on your TV; precise, emotionless, expert. Our athletes were always humane—practicing skiing while at high school and giving a shout out to the people watching back in the dorms at UCLA.

Now our athletes are a capitalist version of the old Soviets: they are trained by the market and are expected to develop a compelling storyline and a sparkling, marketable reaction shot, and to behave like a good product. Sure there is less funding for some obscure sports, but the athletes for the marquee events join the national team at an early age, get sponsored by corporations, and are tossed freebies throughout.

So when the product fails we get mad. We aren’t watching the show that was previewed, the demographics wanted one storyline but no version of it is occurring and we’re too grumpy to invent a new one, all the peevish people who took a piece of someone like Bode Miller-to bask their endorsements in his afterglow-are not getting the return they were promised on their investment.

This all feels too familiar. As Iraq stampedes into Civil War aren’t we watching the ultimate product, the thing that so many so foolishly endorsed, not turn out how we were promised? Deep inside, doesn’t everyone feel that Bush is exactly like that picture of Miller drinking with a playmate and flipping the bird when he should have been resting to get ready to deliver what we have invested in him on the proving grounds? (Except that Bush is a dry drunk and his wife looks like the Joker)

Some other Olympic thoughts:

The best athletes were definitely the goober snowboarders. Sure they are sponsored like everyone else, but they still had that eating a PB&J in dad’s backseat on the way to practice authenticity. I’d be content blowing it for only a silver (gasp) medal too if my job was to, essentially, be a character in a Nintendo game.
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How annoying was it to see the coverage surrounding the Hockey Tournament turn into a Ranger$ asskissathon after the charismatic megafauna from USA and Canada were KOed?
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Speaking of hockey. Laviolette and Waddell are morons. What were Parrish, Grahame, Knuble, and Hedican doing on that team? Where were Brian Leetch and Ryan Miller, to say nothing of Jamie Langenbrunner?
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Somehow, the guy who won the men’s skiing moguls was from Australia. Also, he started an Internet company to finance his skiing and is now a millionaire and an Olympic gold medalist. He is twenty-one years old. No one should be allowed to get laid as much as this guy certainly does.
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I’ve never understood the obsession with figure skating, but I think i finally get it. Figure skating is the athletic equivalent of a High School play or talent show.

The Death Penalty

Here’s my position on the death penalty. It’s not a common one. I have absolutely no problem with the concept of people being put to death. It happens all the time. A lot of people deserve it. I do have a problem with the idea that the State does it, because it can slide down a fairly slippery slope into political retribution. But, even still, I don’t care much about the substantive human rights issue of someone being killed.

What is a problem is the process, not the substance, in my opinion. The process has lead to well documented racial bias in applying the death penalty. It has led to well documented cases of innocent people being put to death. And even if none of these conditions obtained, it is such a clown show when it is actually done that it doesn’t matter much anyway. It’s also pretty well documented that it doesn’t impact or deter the crimes that it can stem from. In a sense, it’s contained vigilantism–it is state prevented retaliation, not state prevented crime. We up until recently were executing children and retarded people, who, I believe we share in responsbility with for their crimes–children and retarded people are our failures up to a point when they become criminals.

So, when I see that a judge in California has required a doctor to be put in a position that would violate medical ethics in as a requirement for an execution to go forward, I cringe. It’s a circus. Almost to the level that abortion is. It has also transcended the true issue and become a proxy for other culture war issues.

My sense is that if a solid procedure was put in place, very few people would be executed. That’s probably a good thing.

PortGate and Authenticity

Kos et al. are pretending that PortGate is not because the company is from the middle east. They are pretending it’s an issue because a foreign company is running the ports. Hogwash. There are racial overtones to this issue and we all know it. It’s a convenient vehicle to highlight what the 9/11 Commission reported: that our port security is sad, and for that reason it’s fine.

But this is simply a sleight of hand distraction to change the subject from Cheney. After all, Republicans are out front on this. Do you think they are all doing that without permission? If so, then why isn’t that the story? This is the biggest rank-breaking ever in Bush’s presidency.

Port security matters, but this is another instance of Democrats putting themselves in a position of being off message and just being seen as the critics. If everyone who hated Bush voted for Kerry, he would have topped 300 EVs. The fact is, Dems need to start selling their brand now that the people are turning against Bush.

If this is the way to do it, then it needs to be more intentional.

Personally, I think this is just a bunch of hack noise and is more or less irrelevant.

The Democrats' Story Is Not Authentic

The most important business book of the last year is Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars. Godin is only purporting to write a marketing book, but what he’s saying graps our Zeitgeist in a way that’s quite profound.

Just read this excerpt: “How did Fiji water become one of the bestselling brands of water in the United States—even though it’s one of the most expensive? Is it because it tastes that much better or is more nutritious? Nope. Fiji water is a winner because of the story the bottle tells.”

The premise of the book is that people are irrational, and lie to themselves. As long as they can maintain their illusions, they will act on them. We know that we’re not going to turn into a famous supermodel by using that makeup, but, using it is glamorous because these cool people are using it. You know how it goes.

The key is that you can make shit up, but it has to have at least some supporting connections to observable reality.

Republicans have had trouble lately. Their story is falling apart. They are supposed to be the party of traditional moral values, low taxes, limited federal government, traditional consitutional values, etc. George Bush has violated all of their story, except for ass kickin’ national defense, which has required a whole substory of its own in order to keep it looking that way.

But the Democrats’ story has been fucked since Clinton. It’s not that Clinton was a bad president; he wasn’t. But the Democrats swore on centrism and policy-based solution to just about everything without changing their image from the unofficial party of the 60s. The reason is, they haven’t tried to change. Democrats still try and sell their stuff as really progressive and Rooseveltian. They aren’t trying to sell themselves as “The People Who Know How To Govern(tm).” (Remember feeling like it would have been wayyyy better if Clinton was still in office on 9/11? Bush was barely tolerable until he had to actually handle something important.)

As such, everyone knows there’s no there there. Everyone to the center and right of the party thinks its a radical left wing party, still fitting that 60s image; everyone to the left of the party thinks they’re Diet-Republicans.

Democrats should make their message reflect their seeming ideological inconsistency: say, yeah, sometimes we don’t always act liberal–our real ideology is practicality. Maybe it’s bullshit, but that’s not the point; it will explain their behaviors and fit into people’s expectations of them on both sides. The difference between Dems isn’t that they’re simply more liberal, but that we’re not trying to make the world follow their ideology the way Bush has–and with disastrous results.

The Abramoff Photos: Dem Missed Opportunity Number 1523

Vice-Generalissimo Cheney’s “instant karma” shooting of aging conservatron swine number 324 notwithstanding, Democrats have once again missed a platinum opportunity to use the infantile instincts of the neutered press to their advantage. The Bush junta has refused to make photos of Bush’s meeting with the the disgraced Jack Abramoff public. For sure there have been the normal cries against secrecy, but they have not gone anywhere.

To take advantage of the slow news days the Dems should have approached this issue sideways, as the Conservatrons surely would have done. These White House photos were taken by an official White House photographer who no doubt is paid for by the taxpayer dollars. All it would have taken to force the photos out would have been this steady drumbeat on the 24 hour cable networks and other outlets: “All I’m saying is these photoraphers are paid for by tax payer dollars and I think the American people have a right to see what they have produced. These weren’t meetings on national security measures. Surely the American people deserve to see the photographs that their taxes pay for.”

With enough of an echo chamber the photos would have been forced out. Would it have made a discenable difference? Probably not. But the Bush junta isn’t keeping them secret for nothing and the process would have resulted in several news cycle “wins”. In hockey terms (and there is really no other sensical way to think about things) this is the equivalent of a strong fourth line shift; the little things that win games. It’s hard for the faithful to keep their spirits up when their teams tactics are so bad.

Oh and missed opportunity number 1524: Blowing it with Hackett. Maybe there was a better Senate candidate, but you have got to keep your promising talent in the fold. If the Dems don’t win Ohio Reid and Schumer should step down from their leadership positions.

This Just In!

According to Polemic’s sources Vice-Generalissimo Dick “Cockroach” Cheney was involved in a foreign policy accident four years ago. He was on a routine war mongering vacation trip when he shot at what he said was Osama bin Laden but wound up hitting Iraq instead. Over 150,000 troops, escalating hundreds of biilions of dollars, thousands of corrupt contractors, and dozens of braindead young conservatron operatives (made permanenetly retarded from having drunk paint thinner to get into their frats) were immediately rushed to the scene, yet Iraq remains in very unstable condition to this day. Indeed, most experts say that there is no hope for Iraq, but maintaining the monetary feeding tube into the ” freindly fire” country has become a passionate cause for envangelicals, who claim that continuing the carnage in Iraq is part of the “culture of life.”

And all of Generalissimo Bush’s horses and all of Generalissimo Bush’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

"Liberal"=anti-Bush, Nothing Else

Glenn Greenwald’s post about liberal equalling any criticism of Bush is spot on. But this isn’t new. This has been the case since his campaign in 2000 with regards to Bush, and longer still in the minds of Republicans and the media.

I, for one, would never have been labeled a “liberal” 35 or even 20 years ago. On real liberal G-spots like poverty, pacifism, and identity politics issues, I’m far apart from both liberals and conservatives. Other traditionally liberal matters, like gun control and criminal defendants’ rights, I’m somewhere in the middle. The only thing that drives me into anything near any kind of radicalism is environment and health care issues. I’m not a tax and spend or borrow and spend person, either.

Sounds like a boilerplate centrist, at least to me. But these days, I’m a foaming at the mouth rabid liberal.

Legalize it… but…

Larry Brooks is right that the American public is affecting a Star Chamber mentality. It is also right that gamlbing is a victimless crime. One even wonders if the mafia hasn’t lobbied to keep in their rackets.

But…

When you trade on a squeeeeeky clean image like Gretzky, you’re insulting everyone’s intelligence by acting like you can just “get away” with whatever you want. Now, I don’t know much about Janet Gretzky, but I find it hard to believe that she’s placing all of those bets just for herself. Another layer of deception.

This is the man who almost-singlehandedly advocated for the ballet-ification of ice hockey; the man whose number is officially retired by every NHL team. He is the pope of the new religion of hockey, the New Testament where the rough justice of the past is heresy. But he is a sinner. He is human. He is fallible. And the NHL in blind obedience to his religion has not grown, it has declined.

Whether or not he did anything to hurt anyone else, he is trading on a false image. Hopefully, the hockey world will wake up and see that their icon is less like a pope, and more like the wizard of oz.

Legalize It

Not just IT, but gambling too. Legalize gambling in all its forms, in all of its places, in any which way. With legal gambling no athlete will get caught up in any point shaving or game throwing schemes because there is too much money to be lost for blowing it. With legal gambling, Mafioso will have one less in to blackmail a prominent person. Instead of all of that “illegal” money going into the black market it will go into the open market and tax coffers.

Legalize most every “vice,” NJ State Troopers surely have better things to do then track down washed up hockey stars on a gambling binge.

Has Iran Pulled Off The Greatest Intelligence Trick Of All Time?

Look at the facts and ask cui bono?

* Iran has been a state-sponsor of terrorism since at least its takeover by the ayatollahs.
* Iranian sponsored terrorism has been killing Americans for decades.
* Iran repelled the vaunted army of Saddam Hussein, showing a Viet Cong like willingness to take casualties.
* Iran sponsored anti-Saddam forces in Iraq, including Ahmed Chalabi.
* Iran sat by and watched as the United States defanged Iraq–three times (Gulf War, UN inspections, and this war).
* Iran’s agents, including especially Chalabi, convinced American hawks that invading Iraq would be a “cakewalk.”
* Even while the US and UN were disarming Iraq, Iran was continuing to press on with its own “civil” nuclear program (Iran has tons of oil and couldn’t give a Frenchman’s fuck about Kyoto).
* Iran sits by and watched as the US Army is stretched beyond its breaking point and the US’s leader presides over a bitterly divided country and has alienated almost all of the US’s traditional allies and has spent its last true ally, the UK.
* Iran escalates its nuclear program after this is done.

So, we know Chalabi was connected to Iranian intelligence. We know Chalabi promised this easy victory. Even if there’s no connection between Iran and al Qaeda (I can’t imagine there would be…) Iran was able to strike while the iron was hot and get the US stuck in a quagmire of Johnsonian proportions.

Even if we wanted to, we could not strike or allow Israel to strike Iran. First of all, Iraq would explode with Shiite attacks on “coalition” troops, and Iran’s own army would descend upon our troops in Iraq and possible Afghanistan.

Even if we pulled everything we had out of Korea, Europe, and the low-level readiness units stateside, we could only fight to a stalemate with the Iranians in a conventional war at this point. Of course, we would establish air supremacy in less than 24 hours, and I don’t imagine Iran’s navy would be able to do jack to ours in the Gulf–but could we possibly do the job with air power and an overstretched army–and what exactly would they be defending? Iraq? Where would/could they retreat? Israel?

The only way out of this is to use nuclear weapons, and if we do that without buying off the Russians, we’re probably at least in Cold War II. I can’t play out the scenario much further than that, but it’s scary.

I don’t have the liberal complex about whether it’s “fair” or not that only certain countries get to have nuclear weapons. Sorry. The fewer the better. If it were up to me, the nuclear powers would not exist, or be Iceland, Switzerland, and Micronesia. But as it happens, there are the US, Russia, France, UK, China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, and, really, Israel.

That’s 9 and that’s 9 too many. No one else gets it just to be fair, especially Iran. If we worry now about Saddam passing some VX to bin Laden, or bin Laden getting his hands on some derelict Soviet nukes, imagine how much we should worry about Iran manufacturing them and simply giving them to Hizb’allah. And that’s just what happens in our backyard. Imagine the dynamics of the middle East without the US to stop Iran.

Well, we’re sure left with our dicks in our hands here. Our military should have been saved for real emergencies like Iran and Afghanistan. Bush probably doesn’t have the political capital to go to Iran, and so we’re probably just going to have to eat this shitburger.

Perhaps moreso that most readers of this blog or most of my friends, I believe in the military and am by no means a pacifist. The world is full of people who can only be stopped by force. But it sure seems like we hardly ever use the military for that; instead we use it to keep it big for no reason.

Bush, you moron. You should have held Afghanistan tight and then played brinksmanship with Iran, not Iraq. He probably doesn’t even know which is which unless he remembers which one tried to get his dad.