Monthly Archives: March 2006

Bubble Teams

Tampa: IN, but first-round fodder.
New Jersey: IN. It would require an amazing skid to miss it. They’ll right the ship in time.
Montreal: IN. They’ll be able to build up enough of a cushion before the tough part of the schedule comes.
…that means:
Atlanta: OUT. Too little, too late.
Florida: OUT. Face it, you’re playing spoiler.

Anaheim: IN. They’ve been beating up on the teams that supposedly make their schedule too hard to make the playoffs. A win tonight against Colorado will put them within 4 points of home ice.
Colorado: IN. This team still has enough veteran leadership to gut out the rest of the season.
Edmonton: IN. I hope they’re seeded seventh so they can play Dallas.
Vancouver: OUT. Too many issues in the locker room, too many games already played.
San Jose: IN. Remember 1994?
Los Angeles: OUT. Taylor’s gambit ain’t going to work.

Feingold Has the Right Detractors

Since calling for the censure of Generalissimo Bush Senator Russell Feingold has received a down arrow from Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom rectangle, a dissembling Talk of the Town editorial from the New Yorker saying that he is correct on the merits but wrong on the tactics, and a succession of jellyfish palm sweatings from the establishment barnacles at the NY Times. Their admonishment started with a newspaper article, quoting Rush “Oxycontin” Limbaugh, asserting the Feingold’s strategem had excited the Conservatron base. It continued with a disapproving editorial and reached its apex with a guest opinion piece from a history professor stating that censuring Andrew Jackson wound up hurting Henry Clay and therefore Feingold, though “no Henry Clay,” would be due a similar nasty boomerang effect should he censure Bush. As a man with a BA in history I am fond of the everyone’s-excited-about-this-today-but-back-in-xyz-a-version-of-this-same-drama-played-out smugness that is the historian’s intellectual scabbard. The Clay/Jackson censure opinion, however, was the worst and stupidest historical analogy I have ever heard. Clay’s censure of Jackson for scuttling of the Bank of the United States had everything to do with personal politics stemming from the “corrupt bargain,” and Clay’s successive inability to become president was merely the reality of an old plantation aristocracy style politician trying to win a national election where every white man could vote. Jackson ushered in and personified the change to universal white male suffrage, which is why his mangy racist Indian murdering face is on the twenty-dollar bill, but I digress. The point is that publishing such drivel reveals a degree of pant-wetting anxiety on the part of the Times over Feingold’s resolute call for censure.

It is interesting that this excitement from the Conservatron base has not materialized despite the cheerleading of ol’ Hillbilly Heroin Limbaugh. It’s not for nothing that the Conservatron echo chamber has not cause celebred Feingold’s censure resolution. Given that the censure is almost toothless, it only officially sanctions the President for breaking the law, playing the classic Conservatron game of False Choice – holding the president accountable only helps the terrorists! – instantaneously descends into self-parody. A talking head blabberfest on the matter would, of course, focus on how Bush is breaking the law. Not the way to win a news cycle. Moreover, there are enough Republicans who maintain a bit of non-loony Goldwater libertarianism that this issue divides the base too much to energize it.

The censure resolution may yet turn out to be brilliant politics. One of the few Senators to endorse it was Tom Harkin of Iowa, an early Dean supporter in ’04 that Iowa has sent to the Senate several times. No matter how powerful the Hillary Juggernaut may seem, Harkin’s support indicates that Iowa Dems are behind the idea.

Feingold had the brains to vote against the Patriot Act while the remains of the Twin Towers were still smoldering. He had the guts to vote against the Iraq War Resolution at the height of the freedom fries hysteria. The publications decrying the censure resolution came around to those points of view eventually too.

Should Democrats win either house of Congress in ’06 Bush will either be impeached or resign. Why? Simple. Subpoena power. Should this occur Feingold, once again, will have proved himself to be way ahead of his yellow establishment detractors. Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States….

The Kings Under Andy Murray

For a team that has never won the Stanley Cup, there are moments, not champioinships. For the Kings, there have been three main triumphal moments that have involved the Kings as a team. (Wayne Gretzky accomplished several personal triumphs with the Kings.)

First, the Miracle on Manchester. This is probably the single most famous King moment, and arguably the most stunning comeback in NHL history.

Second, was the miraculous victory over the heavily favorede Toronto Maple Leafs in the waining moments of game seven of the Campbell Conference finals in 1993, led by Gretzky.

Third has to be the defeat of the Detroit Red Wings in 2001. Felix Potvin, Adam Deadmarsh and company overcame the Cup favorite Wings in a playoff round for the ages. The Kings then took the Avalanche, the eventual champion, to seven games.

The latter came under Andy Murray. It was one of three moments in 40 years that matter to King fans. For that, they should thank him. But Murray got so much from so little by pushing the players past the breaking point. His punishing coaching resulted in a team that sustained so many lost man-games to injury that we’ll never know how they would have done otherwise. But the two situations are inextricable. Without the punishing workouts and demanding coach, they might never have been in a position to succeed in the first place.

The problems with this organization run deep. They lack a good, young core group that they can build around, and they have for a long time. They will need to build from the draft for years before they will work themselves into a serious contender. And unfortunately for them, every single team in their division is way ahead. Dallas is a contender again. Anaheim is on the cusp. Phoenix and San Jose will improve markedly next season.

LA needs more than a new coach. A new owner, gm, front office staff, and farm system would be better.

Protests Don't Work

This isn’t about Byelarus’. In other countries, especially those with unstable governments, massive public gatherings matter. In our country, the “right to assemble” is ensconsed in the Bill of Rights. It’s a good thing that it is, but it just doesn’t matter anymore.

In the 60s, all of the big movements had some gathering that drew national attention and began debate about certain issues. But that was then.

At my college, there was a protest for everything. Kids protested the most ridiculous of things, like the French resuming nuclear testing. Protests don’t matter because they don’t reach anyone anymore. The people there are in an echo chamber, and an anachronistic one at that.

So, gather as many people as you can. 500,000? Great. Protest the immigration bill all you want, but it’s going to do as much to antagonize others as to get them to join you. This is not an issue that people don’t talk about. Illegal immigration is not something people don’t talk about.

50 years ago it worked. It did something.

Today, we live in a media world. I submit to you that Farenheit 9/11 did as much for the anti-Iraq war movement as any mass gathering in the 60s did for the anti-Vietnam war did, and Brokeback Mountain will ultimately do as much for acceptance of gays (see the recent polls? people are more accepting of gay marriage than they were just two years ago) as any march did for women’s rights.

Massive protests only highlight the “otherness” of the people involved to people who don’t protest. Complex characters showing their normalcy (think Big Love, too, by the way) in context only breaks those barriers down.

So, produce a film or a sitcom–leave the signs at home.

To the Smart Men Go the Spoils

Nimrod NY Times Conservatron John Tierney responds to a recent report that colleges are turning away qualified women for men merely to maintain a male presence on campus by suggesting that additional attention be paid to boys in their K-12 years. Educators should be spending more time on competition-oriented learning, Tierney suggests, once again sounding like a bitter eunuch as he gasps to emphasize “manliness” from his perch atop his PC’s keyboard.

Taking JT’s suggestion lets think of K-12 as one huge competition. The reward? Getting to live for four years in a stocked booze-stoked motel, set in a pleasant landscape, that bursts into a bacchanal of beer, bass music, strobe lights and marijuana every weekend, where you have no real responsibilities other than listening to geniuses spout their insights to you a few times a week and, best of all, you get to populate campus as one of the two young men for which there will be three corresponding comely young women. As a bonus upon leaving you get handed a piece of paper that, over the course of your life, will on average confer much more money and many more mating opportunities for you than for people without it.

“Boys will remain more inclined to skip college in favor of relatively well-paying jobs in fields like construction and manufacturing,” Tierney types from his ivory tower at the Times, as though such a decision bears the weight of homespun tobacco-spitting pragmatism. Brilliant advice from this maven of the competitive genius of the marketplace: pass over college for a spine cracking career that is one corporate merger away from being Bangalored because your second grade teacher made you participate in a group project instead of allowing you to punish your classmates by outperforming them on the multiplication table.

As a liberal I believe the American meritocracy is best served when the divisions of all discrimination are leveled allowing the best person to fill each role. If this leveling has necessarily meant diminishing the traditional deference given to white men (which are the people JT is surely actually talking about, even if he only says “men”) such as myself than that is a process of efficiency. Equality of opportunity is still an ideal and each individual’s circumstances are unique, but if the coital and long-term monetary benefits of college are not incentive enough to focus a man on getting there, then perhaps he just does not size up.

So please, lets have Tierney’s army of self-pitying men of unappreciated aggression spend their 30s pursuing their emasculating insecure careers in construction and manufacturing as they grow soft around the middle, lose their attention span, get angry watching Fox News, drink lousy beer and become all frothy listening to the old Springsteen standard “Glory Days” while lacking the education to grasp the irony. I’ll be savoring my paid vacations in Hawaii with the days in the surf and the nights at the hotel bar, where, thanks to my college education and the meaningful and interesting job it engendered, I will have plenty to say to the multi-ethnic cadre of successful, brainy nubile women I will be buying pineapple-and-umbrella-oriented booze concoctions for. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it “Professor” Tierney! You pansy!

America Needs (at least) Two Parties

We can all see it happening before our eyes: the Nixon-Reagan-Bush GOP coalition is falling apart. The over-reach of the Bush II presidency and its legacy of fiscal irresponsibility juxtaposed by a surplus from a recent Democratic president, adventurous foreign policy failing before our eyes, and ever-escalating attempts that go nowhere to theocratize the country are all contributing to the fracture of the GOP.

The best case scenario for the Democrats is something of a Clinton restoration. The Democrats could regain control of the House and Senate in 2006, and the White House in 2008. The new president could then appoint enough moderate or liberal Supreme Court justices to maintain the present balance, or, with luck, increase it. If this happens, the GOP as we know it now will disintegrate. It could be worse if McCain begins his oft-speculated third party run (assuming he loses the GOP primary).

I’m not saying this because of how badly I want it to happen. It might be nice for a while to dance on the carcass of the oppresor, but to what end?

The Democratic Party, frankly, is not ready to reassume power in the context of a realignment. It’s equally possible that in 2012, we could be right back where we are now. It needs leadership that doesn’t flinch at the first sign of trouble. I’m not sure I’m fully on board with the Kosish ape everything the Republicans have done to win program, but, it might be nice for a start if we had some leaders with balls.

If the country is governed by a fractured GOP and a spineless, shell-shocked post-minority Democratic party, we’re in even bigger trouble than we are now regardless of who has control of what branch.

The fact is right now we need the GOP to fix itself. We need the Republican party to mean something, something like it did before it was hijacked by theocrats. This was, the party after all, which, despite its efforts to compare the Iraq war to WW2, that had the only vote against declaring war on Japan.

We need the Democrats to whip themselves into shape too. Their problem is getting behind the policies that they want without shame. The Republicans, on the other hand, need to find policies without shame.

Deadpool Strikes Again!

From January 29: (the most recent)

#2 – Andy Murray: I heard his name mentioned for coach of the year recently. That’s a natural reaction when a team seems to be overachieving, but the Kings are finally showing signs that they can’t hang with the big boys, which is too bad, because they were fun when they were clicking on all cylinders.

They did it. Here.

More Gore

Ezra Klein has this piece in The American Prospect and this is the most commented on DailyKos post in months.

Also, the straw polls on MyDD and DailyKos are showing “Other” (inserted for “Gorebots”) outpolling everyone except Feingold, Clark, and Warner. A DailyKos poll including Gore (with 3800+ repsonses) show him winning a majority of 50% over the increasingly popular Feingold with 26%.

I’m on record here supporting Gore in May 2005.

The Great State of America: An Electoral College Solution

America has never had a national election. It has had quadrennial statewide elections for President where the person who wins the proper combination of states is given control over all of them, but every American has never voted for President as an equal. A Californian’s vote for President, carrying the weight of 54 electoral votes, is almost eight times stronger than an Iowan’s whose vote only carries 7 electoral votes. Yet, because Iowa is currently a competitive state and California is not more per capita money and effort will be spent on pursuing Iowa’s 7 electoral votes and correspondingly greater attention and creativity will go towards remedying the concerns necessary to win those votes.

Demographics and ideologies will inevitably shift which states are contested in the future, but the Electoral College system guarantees that statewide Presidential votes will always be worth a disproportionate amount of currency (EVs) and each state will merit inconsistent responsiveness from elected leaders based on its competitiveness. America is a vast, complicated and weird place, however, and just because a state like North Dakota has sparse population does not mean that the issues enclosed by it’s boundaries are not intricate and worthy of national direction; the Electoral Colleger assures that such states are not overlooked. That said, the Electoral College also means that areas like Southern cities or upstate New York with more geographic and demographic weight than a Dakota are currently almost completely ignored.

The conversation over retiring the Electoral College has generally settled on the false choice of having either a direct presidential election by popular vote or maintaining the Electoral College as it is, or the almost pointless concept of awarding one EV per congressional district win and two bonus ones for the popular winner of each state (congressional districts are so gerrymandered so as to be unrepresentative). A better option would be to make the entirety of America (including all of its territories) an additional “state” in the Electoral College worth 52 electoral votes; one for each state, one for DC and one for the numerous territories like Guam, the Marshall Islands etc. In this way each vote cast for President would be cast twice: once to select the electors from the voters’ state, the second to select the electors form all of the states and territories en masse.

The tremendous prize derived from winning the popular vote would expand the area of necessary competition. Winning Ohio would still be crucial, but so would running up the Democratic margin in New York City and Los Angeles or increasing the Republican edge in rural Kansas and the Texas suburbs. Republicans would have to pay attention to upstate New York and Democrats would have to get every vote they can out of Southern cities. Attention, energy and creativity would be applied to the issues confronting these areas without demolishing the pertinence of Nevada, Nebraska and New Hampshire.

Fifty-two American EVs would have done much to legitimize the last two elections. Regardless of Generalissimo Bush’s 537 vote putsch in Florida in 2000, Gore’s 500,000 plus popular margin from America would have indisputably carried him into the White House. The Bush junta likely padded their results in Ohio and Florida in 2004, but Bush’s 3.5 million popular margin would have pushed him over the top in a manner that would not demand a congressional investigation. Moreover, with the 52 American EVs incorporated into an electoral strategy, who is to say Kerry might not have won? It may have been easier to massage an extra 4 million votes out of all of America instead of 50,000 votes in Ohio.

Best of all, 52 EVs for America would make the national portion of all votes the most egalitarian vote in America. One vote in Alaska would be worth equally as much as one vote in Manhattan. Democrats would need to assure that they get every last one of their Oklahoman voters to the polls. Republicans would have to strive to get every single party member in Seattle to pull the lever.

A Constitutional Amendment scuttling the Electoral College would never pass enough small-state legislatures to succeed. An alteration of the system awarding the candidate who best represents the lot of America with 52 “American” electoral votes would open the entire country for competition without eliminating the attention given to less populous states.

Gore Rumors Heat Up

WASHINGTON ? Democrat Al Gore, who in 2000 lost one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history to Republican George W. Bush, should run for president in 2008, a congressman said Wednesday.

Questioned about the contest, Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia said: “I’d like to see him get into the race.”

“He won the popular vote in 2000, and I think he’s even stronger and more committed,” Moran said Wednesday on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “But you know, he’s got his own life and it’s his decision to make.”

Gore has retreated into private life in Tennessee since his contested loss to Bush in the 2000 election. But the former vice president occasionally delivers spirited speeches criticizing Bush administration policies and promoting his views on foreign policy, the environment and other issues.

Last weekend, Gore returned to Florida where he lost the presidency by a few hundred votes to campaign for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. During the trip, Gore jokingly referred to himself as “a recovering politician.”

A spokesman for Gore had no immediate reaction to Moran’s comments.

Can South Park Be Over Now… Please?

Isaac Hayes is leaving South Park. Apparently, it has to do with their recent anti-Scientology episode (Hayes is a Scientologist.) South Park creator Matt Stone said that he “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.”

This is a very telling reaction from Stone, whose “fuck you” attitude has informed the political beliefs of a generation, mostly without any factual basis at all. South Park has created its own anti-PC version of political correctness, where anyone who dares acknowledge differences between blacks, whites, or anyone else is a PC shock troop, and anyone who has the temerity to accept that people in general don’t know what’s good for them is a proto-fascist.

What has been received for years by younger (white) Americans as a positive message is really just the latest phase in white reaction to race issues: ignore it and it will go away. We have all the excuses we need: OJ got off because he’s rich, and, uh, oh yeah, Condolezza Rice. Nothing to see here, move along.

South Park was funny, popular, and ground breaking for nothing more and nothing less than its sense of humor. Once the creators tried to have messages, and be political, they changed my impression of them from comedic geniuses to dilettantes simply out of their depth. Advancing the argument that voting is stupid, that people who try to stop others from smoking are evil themselves, and that race issues are in the past is, frankly, wankerish. In other words, it’s ok to make fun of religions, handicapped people, and gay people as long as you realize you aren’t being serious. Thinking that you are somehow advancing something righteous in the process is where you become lame.

And what’s worse, they wouldn’t get off it, either. So, now Chef’s gone. Maybe they’ll follow their self-cast roles as tortured, not-to-be-understood-in-their-time artists and cancel the show to preserve its purity.

NHL Trade Deadline: I hear crickets

Are that many general managers really unable to swing deals given the complexities of the salary cap? I don’t think so. I think there are too many buyers. There are too many teams that are looking to add a piece in order to get a little more revenue from a home playoff game or two, and there are as many as ten looking for a cup. It’s making what’s apparently availble, Olli Jokinen, Shawn Bates, et al. too expensive.

So, if there is a problem, it’s probably the fact that too many teams make the playoffs; I’m not sure that’s really a problem, but a lot of people think it is, that it makes the regular season not matter enough, and so on. Maybe, but I doubt it really has much to do with the cap, unless, of course the cap is really succeeding in creating more parity.

I believe it has. I think teams that are failing this year are failing largely because they were oversubscribed under the pre-cap regimen (St. Louis) or have been poorly managed for a while (Islanders) or who are honestly rebuilding (Washington, and given the benefit of the doubt, Washington).

This is good news then, folks.

2006: The Year Fear Is Replaced By Greed

We were greedy. And in a different way than Ivan Boesky meant, greed was good. Greed was amplifying social problems at home, and incumbating those in other countries, but there was peace and the poor were actually getting richer too.

Ah, the Clinton years. Even college students–the very raw ingredients of the 60s–were now day trading on their laptops. But so were women, gays, and minorities. Greed does indeed create a bizarre matrix of social conditions.

Then we got afraid. A fear creates an even worse matrix of social conditions. In fact, there will always vice impelling the masses at any given time–to beleieve otherwise is quaintly modernist, or utopian.

Some of us got tired of being afraid on September 12, 2001. Those early adopters caused a bunch of problems. People like Bill Maher, Barbara Lee Johnson, and Russ Feingold woke up too early for all but a few of us. The second standard deviation didn’t wake up until people like Howard Dean started making unintelligible yells on TV.

But fear was still firmly in control in 2004 when it elected Bush.

But, as more and more time goes by, more and more people forget the past and quit caring. Sure, they pay lip service, but it doesn’t have that visceral grasp it did when you could still see smoke rising from Manhattan.

That is why it is more or less unimportant whether the Democrats can get higher rankings in national security. Sure, they need to make good faith efforts to be credible, and maybe can capture a few people who were only temporary national securiy voters, but the real people that form the base of this demographic are no more likely to leave the GOP fold than Fred Phelps’s cohort of fag haters is.

This is another of the hate-factions that needs its catharsis every once in a while. The Fag Haters need to see people going around with anti gay marriage bumper stickers so they can feel normal. The black and mexican haters want to feel normal too, so they get their border security and law and order rhetoric. These people? They want to kill or conquer a foreign nation. They think they are smarter because they’re read some history–they understand that a few blacks in the neighborhood is a burden you have to bear in order to conquer and make your mark on history. They don’t care about smart strategy, good diplomacy, or even advancing our business interests. They just want to bomb.

If the election is about national security, these people come out for their bomb orgy just the way the evangelicals will if abortion is. If they stay at home because the issue is neutralized, by things like the Ports scandal, all the better.

We want the greed to come out. The people who are don’t want to pay the taxes they will have to pay to cover the Bush deficit. or risk their comapny moving abroad because of our educational system falling behind the rest of the world, and our companies having to shoot the moon just to tread water because our health care system is behind the rest of the world; The economic cost of relying on a cheap price of oil that we knew would run out and become extremely more dear as the years go buy. And, above all else, the economic cost of sprawl, traffic, and on the environment from all of these bad policies, not just as a cost of good progress, and also on the family from having to be split apart by long commutes.

Greed is good.

It's Time To Take The Devils Seriously.

Without their best skater, the Devils beat the Rangers in a show of force. The Devils lacked their perfect polish of years past, and the one Ranger goal resulted from a bone-headed blunder, but the reaction by the team was pure playoffs.

With experience and Martin Brodeur as their plusses, this team has to be taken seriously to come out of the East. With the exception of Ottawa, none of the playoff experienced teams in the East are showing up recently. The Rangers, the Hurricanes, and Buffalo don’t have the quality of recent playoff experience that the Devils do. (Carolina has a mostly-different core since its run 4 years ago, while the Devils core remains intact.)

The Devils were 50-1 in the fall of 2002. They won the Cup.

UN Official: Iraq Better Off Under Saddam

UN official says Iraq was better before.

I find that binary choice very hard to accept. Iraq may have been better off in some measurable sense when Saddam was in power than it is now, but that doesn’t mean much. There may have been some periods of time during Saddam’s regime when things were normal, and not much was going on.

Iraq shouldn’t be. There really is no “Iraq.” All Saddam did was repress dissident factions enough for his own party to pump oil. As opposed to now where the factions fight each other and no oil is pumped. So, Iraq has gone from worse to worse.

(Either way, Bush’s golden visions for Iraq have failed miserably)

The end result is going to be much what many predicted over a decade ago if Saddam was removed. Some Syria-like middle country, Kurdistan (perhaps occupied by Turkey, perhaps not), and some Iran-like southern country (which may or may not envelope Kuwait). This leaves Iran stronger, Syria stronger, and weakens Europe by potentially causing further schism with Turkey.

The denial about this, the attempt to keep Iraq in one piece, is itself what is causing the problem and has since the British left.