Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2007-2008 NBA Picks

So the NBA is getting underway, I figured I would put up my predictions here so we could all have a laugh in about a month or so. One note, looking at espn and almost everywhere else, I feel like people have forgotten that the wizards would have been serious contenders to get to the finals were their two best players not injured. They are being completely ignored, and in some cases not even picked to make the playoffs. Well, better that then being the favorites I guess.

The East
  1. Boston
  2. Toronto
  3. Washington
  4. Chicago
  5. Orlando
  6. Detroit
  7. New Jersey
  8. Miami
  9. Cleveland
  10. Milwaukee
  11. Charlotte
  12. Atlanta
  13. Indiana
  14. New York
  15. Philadelphia
The West
  1. Phoenix
  2. San Antonio
  3. Denver
  4. Houston
  5. Dallas
  6. Memphis
  7. Utah
  8. Seattle
  9. Golden State
  10. Portland
  11. New Orleans
  12. L.A. Lakers
  13. L.A. Clippers
  14. Sacramento
  15. Minnesota
Eastern Champ: Boston - Western Champ: Phoenix

NBA Champion: Phoenix

2007-2008 Award Tour

MVP: Carmelo Anthony
Most Improved: Andray Blatche
Rookie of the Year: Al Horford wins, but Durant and Juan Carlos Navarro will make it very close.

I'm curious what you think, put your picks in the comments if you'd like.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Obama Campaign Takes a Stupid Pill

First it was supporting the Peru FTA.
Then it was the appalling handling of gay denying gospel singer.
Then when you thought he was going to turn up the heat on Hillary, you find out that he meant to attack her on social security.
This is beyond frustrating. Barack Obama is an amazing person with all the tools to be arguable a near perfect candidate. (In fact if I had written this one pre-grand slam week ago, I might have said he is the J.D. Drew of politicians.) The problems haven't just been that he has been disappointing his supporters or making some backwards policy moves on both trade and the war. In the past weeks, his campaign has been making some really bonehead political moves, and it's just been painful to watch.
So Senator Obama, here is some unsolicited advice from someone who has no absolutely experience or education on how to run a campaign. Instead of attacking Hillary Clinton on an issue where you don't differ like social security, why not constantly bring up subjects where she has been completely out of touch with democratic voters? A few examples:
  1. The fact that she opposes how the Iraq war was handled, and NOT the Iraq war itself.
  2. The fact that until 2006, not only was she a supporter/defender of the war, but she would regularly demonize other democrats who were criticizing it.
  3. The fact that she has been extremely vague about her plan to withdraw from Iraq, and going to great lengths to avoid discussing how long she would keep troops in the country.
  4. Her warmongering/lack of learning from mistakes with Iran, specifically voting yes on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment.
  5. And just as a personal favor to me, next time you speak at a union hall, maybe mention the fact that her chief strategist is the CEO of a union-busting firm. Or you could you bring up that her chief strategist's firm represents Blackwater. But enough about Mark Penn, I promise, there will be more on him later.
This list could go on and on, but any of these will do. So please Barack, I'm begging you. I know you have been hesitant to go on the all-out attack, and you don't have to. Just point out some of these incredibly unpopular positions, and maybe, just maybe, I'll stop seeing these cars with both Hillary 08' and "End the War" bumper stickers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Edwards announces opposition to new Free Trade deals

Sorry for the lack of postings, its been a busy week. However, this is huge.
The Democratic presidential field tilted to the left over the weekend as John Edwards came out against the US free trade agreement with Peru. Mr. Edwards is the first leading contender for the nomination to oppose the pact with the Latin American nation, now making its way through Congress.
This sets the stage for what could be an actual debate over corporate interests in the democratic party. With Obama having already pissed me (and others) off by supporting this deal, this forces Hillary Clinton to show her hand.
The vote on the Peru agreement will be a key test of the New York senator's desire to distance herself from her husband's legacy, which includes passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, now unpopular with the party's grassroots.
"This is where the rubber hits the road and we find out how far Hillary thinks she needs to go on trade to court the Democratic base. Peru is about to go to a Senate vote so she can't duck the issue," said Lori Wallach, a critic of the deal at Global Trade Watch.
In addition, as Sirota points out, this move places the major split within the democratic party front and center. I don't consider myself a supporter of anyone in the race yet, I see myself as more of a dork who likes to talk about it a lot. However, as far as showing actual leadership on such a vitally important issue, this is exactly what I want to see. Edwards is also the first candidate who has made me consider giving them 20 bucks that I don't really have, so take that for what it's worth. This is a smart move, and hopefully it can shake up the stale media narrative and shift the debate to the real differences between these candidates.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Labor rights - NAFTA style

One of Five:
"Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker's bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country. Marco Tulio Ramirez, killed last month, was the fifth Guatemalan labor leader murdered this year."
NAFTA and CAFTA promised labor rights for workers for all the countries in the agreement, and there even though there is countless evidence to the contrary, it's either written off or ignored all together. This is why when looking ahead at the new series of trade agreements in front of congress, we need to remember one thing: Having strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards ARE NOT THE GOALS of these agreements - THEY ARE THE OBSTACLES.
Case and Point: Following the negotiations of the Great May Sellout, Pelosi and Rangel defended their mind boggling decision to negotiate more Free Trade agreements with President Bush in secret by explaining that these agreements were different, and that there were labor and environmental protections in the deal. The problem with that?
"The US Chamber of Commerce welcomed the bipartisan deal, saying it would secure support for Congressional approval of the four pending bilateral trade agreements... [Said Tom Donohue, president and chief executive of the world's largest business federation.] "we are encouraged by assurances that the labor provisions cannot be read to require compliance with ILO Conventions."
The US Chamber of Commerce sees it as a positive that these standards cannot be enforced either in the United States, or any of the countries where deals are still pending. We should probably give them credit for being at least being honest, and admitting the true motive of these free trade agreements... but it doesn't make it any better. The point here is that until the fundamental model of these deals is changed, different results cannot be expected. And as the situation in Guatemala shows, the consequences of these failures are often matters of life and death.

The MD Primary

Towards the end of the glorious Red Sox game yesterday, I asked my mom (A diehard Obama supporter), when she would begin to get nervous about the democratic primary. She said that she wouldn't be nervous, because there wasn't anything she could do about. Now if you know me or my family, you know that is she didn't mean that voting in general didn't matter, or that one vote is not important. What bothered me was that her attitude wasn't just a way of saying, "Hey, he's getting my vote, what more can I do?". It was actually a pretty dead on take to the situation and a strong indictment of the problems of our primary system. Being registered to vote in Maryland, my vote on February 12th is over a month after the first states and a week after "Super Tuesday" and will very likely have no impact at all on the race.
The ridiculousness of Iowa and New Hampshire being so influential has always bothered me, but there was something about hearing it in those stark terms that hit me.
Although if we had a national primary, the Bill Richardson wouldn't have given us this defense of Iowa importance:
"Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary"
I'm glad Bill cleared that one up for us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver: Assholes

Tonight they both take a page from the Eric Wynalda School of Announcing, where a sportscaster chooses a player who they already dislike, and then they proceed to trash them all game long for absolutely no reason. Tonight that player is Manny Ramirez, and because of his non-offensive and downright sensible comments before the game, they decide to throw him under the bus for being confused about a play that it took them 10 minutes and 40 replays to not understand.
Of course letting personal hatred of a player lead to a completely over the top and blown out of proportion reaction is nothing new to Buck, whose idiotic "That is a disgusting act" comment about a Randy Moss TD celebration is now legendary. Good to see him keep that streak going.

The Colonial Congress: The Berlin Biden plan

Why limit the colonialism of our Iraq policy to just empty rhetoric, its about time for someone to step up and put some walk behind that talk. Enter Joe Biden and Sam Brownback:
"The clunkly named Biden-Brownback Iraq Federalism Bipartisan Amendment is the latest in a series of calls for a "soft partition" of Iraq into three semiautonomous regions -- split up according to ethnicity and sect -- that appear to be gaining currency in Washington."
In an article that finally points some of the fatal flaws of this plan, the writer Joshua Holland makes my day by pointing out an obvious but often ignored comparison:
"Proponents of the plan deserve credit for understanding that there's no military solution to be found in Iraq -- that a political conflict requires a political fix. This already puts them miles ahead of the administration and defenders of the status quo, and they should be commended for seeking a practical way out of the mess created by the U.S. invasion.
But Iraqis do not live in neat enclaves; 4 million have already been forced to flee their homes by sectarian and separatist militias, and thousands more have been killed in the process. Whatever the intentions of the proponents of the plan might be, calling for more of the same is profoundly immoral, and doing so from the remote confines of Washington conference rooms is reminiscent of earlier eras in which Western powers carved up distant lands by drawing new lines on the map."
Holland's whole article is worth reading, simply because this plan has been given a lot of support from a lot of different places, and its fundamental problems are rarely discussed. Besides the fact that this plan would likely lead to more violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the larger colonial point is the one that the media has ignored. When did this become our decision? What better way to show the world the power of democratic rule than dividing their country into pieces for them. The logic of "These savages clearly don't know what their doing, so we'll have to do it for them" is so eerily similar to the justifications of the 1800s that it's frightening.
Just for the record, how does Joe Biden respond to the Iraqis themselves criticizing his plan?
"Other Iraqi politicians have said we have no right to tell the Iraqis [what to do]," Biden told reporters. "Let me tell you, we have a right. Three thousand and eight hundred dead. Twenty seven thousand wounded. Billions of dollars. Let me tell you as President of the United States, they'd have to understand full well that if they don't keep their commitment to implement their constitution then they're on their own. And so, ladies and gentlemen, the idea that al Maliki questions whether or not we have a right to express our opinion, he'd better get it straight real quick."
Damn right he better! If we decide to send our military into a country for absolutely no reason, and then kill 3800 of our own people, several hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, and waste billions of our own dollars all while destroying all aspects of their society, then they better damn well let us decide how to run their country! I mean that's what democracy is all about, right? The nerve! We're trying to do these savages a favor and bring them out of the stone-age; then they have the nerve to question our right to do so.

Ahhh... the logic of colonialism, as disgusting and immoral today as it was 500 years ago.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Colonial Congress

Long before I had a blog, I wanted to write something about the increasingly colonial rhetoric that many of the democrats had adopted during the Iraq war debate. One of the most frustrating aspects of this rhetoric was that it was being used by people who I otherwise liked. (Jim Webb and Jon Tester are some of the first names that come to mind)

However, the most striking example of this came when I attended the Take Back America conference and Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd about the Iraq war, and placed the blame of that smoldering mess on the Iraqi people and government. After that speech, my aunt Helen and I were completely stunned. It could have been one of the more offensive speeches I had ever head, or at least live. She was boo-ed, but not nearly as much as it deserved. Not only would she not begin to accept responsibility for her foolish vote and war cheer-leading for years that followed, but she actually blamed the mess on the Iraqis themselves.

In my mind this seemed quite similar to the rhetoric of the colonial era, where it was the noble Europeans with their high minded idealism taming savages throughout the world. At one point around the time of Clinton's speech, some focus group must have shown this to be effective, because it seemed to really take off and become more widespread. Now, it is almost commonplace among most politicians, and it is something to keep an eye on, and be very concerned about as the situation in Iraq gets worse, and the political pressure to withdraw heightens.

Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but I just wanted to get some of this out there before I wrote about it further. And sadly, I believe there is a strong undercurrent of racism that exists just below the surface of our culture and discourse, which means that there is a market for this type of talk out there. And if there is a market for this nonsense, someone will be there to take the bait.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Draft Gore!: Uh... let's not and say we did

After the nobel prize win last week, the draft Al Gore movement is in full effect once again, and once again, I just don't get it. I mean, I understand he has raised awareness of global warming and spoken out against the war in recent years, both of which should be commended.
But looking at rest of his history:

* Strongly promoting NAFTA for the Clinton administration, which has and continues to have disastrous consequences for the environment as well as labor rights throughout North America

* His wife's hobby is censorship. (By the way, apparently Tipper Gore's awakening to the need for censorship was hearing her daughter play "Darling Nikki" by Prince. Seriously, if Prince wasn't enough of a badass, he can legitimately claim that his song singlehandedly caused music censorship!)

* He was a holier-than thou asshole during the 2000 campaign, opting to distance himself from Clinton because his advisers thought it would be damaging to be seen with a president with a 60-some percent approval rating.

* His running mate: Joe Lieberman, who is such a champion of progressive causes that he was forced to leave the democratic party.

* HE LOST TO GEORGE W. BUSH! Well, I mean he didn't lose, but the fact that it was that close is downright criminal! Granted, he didn't lose to the 2007-warmongering-nutjob W that we see today. No, he only lost to the Ex-coke-head-execution-happy-governor that was 2000 George W. Bush. Granted the 2008 field of republicans doesn't look much better, but I wouldn't even trust this guy to even carry his own state. Oh wait, Nevermind.

Look, I could see if some people supported him just to right the wrongs of 2000, but his fanatical support at generally very progressive and plugged-in places like dailykos that truly boggles my mind. I mean even if I liked his politics more, who in their right mind would trust him to win? Would we nominate Kerry again? Of course not! So why Gore? This is definitely one of those things where the more I think about it, the less I understand it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wiz vs. Cavs: Pre-season notes

  • We look good... it's too early to get overly excited but not bad for a first impression of the 2007-2008 season.
  • Neither Gil or Caron got hurt. Can't emphasize that one enough.
  • The rookies look like they can contribute, and Dominic McGuire looks like he could evolve into a shut down defensive player in a couple of years, and seriously contribute this year.
  • Watching Brendan Haywood block Z's shot shot took me back 5 or so months and I couldn't help but wonder: If Brendan and Eddie Jordan hadn't been in the middle of a pissing match, maybe Z wouldn't have looked like KG and we could have taken at least game off the Cavs.
  • Also, you should note that this is the first positive thing I've said about Brendan in about 10-12 months. Hey, it's a new season - clean slate right?
  • Cleveland looked truly terrible, and I would not be surprised if they really struggled this year. We can't forget that this was possibly the worst team to make it to the finals in NBA history, and this year with a stronger east, they should be in serious trouble. But that being said, Lebron still has enough skill to make the 8th spot in the east lining up with 4 strangers, even with the handicap of Mike Brown's coaching. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2007-2008 Cleveland Cavaliers!

Hillary Clinton is smarter than you

As far as being condescending goes... this just about takes the cake.

"Rolph was one of several hundred people who turned out in this small town in northern Iowa for Clinton's appearance. When she called on him for a question, he pulled out a piece of paper and read a question about Iran.
Rolph asked Clinton to explain her Senate vote Wednesday for a resolution urging the Bush administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Rolph interpreted that measure as giving Bush authority to use military action against the Iranians."

Good question! When choosing our next president, it's probably a good idea to revisit the biggest judgment call that any of them has made, and see how they they feel about it now. The only possibly options for the democratic nominee should be:
1. They were right in 2002, allowing them to begin the first minute of each debates by flicking off all other candidates. (Obama, Kucinich)
2. They were wrong in 2002, but see it at the biggest mistake they ever made. Not nearly as good, but at least they admit their colossal error. (Edwards, Dodd, Richardson)
But thanks to the mind blowing stupidity of a certain front runner, we have a third option:
3. Does everything possible to deny the 2002 vote was a mistake, and then makes what many (like Mr. Rolph) see as the exact same mistake only on this time on the AIPAC written bill intended to provoke a confrontation with Iran.

Back to the exchange, so how does she respond to this VERY LEGITIMATE question?
She offered a detailed description of the resolution, which she said stressed robust diplomacy that could lead to imposing sanctions against Iran, and then pointedly said to Rolph that her view wasn't in "what you read to me, that somebody obviously sent to you."

Stupid person! How dare you read about the stupid stuff that I do and then ask me to explain why it's not stupid! Obviously a plant! What else could it be?
"I take exception," Rolph interjected. "This is my own research."

His OWN research? Just who the hell does he think he is? Come on Hillary! Take this fucker down a notch!
"Well, then, I apologize. It's just that I've been asked the very same question in three other places," she said."

Three other questions? The Not-Getting-Us-Into-Another-Senseless-War lobby must have planned for weeks to pull this trick off! Bastards!

Or... maybe, just maybe, people around the country are tired being lied to at every turn, and want basic answers to important questions before they make you the most powerful person in the world.

This exchange is even more damning then the vote itself in my mind. It's beyond doing the wrong thing to begin with, and it's beyond not having learned anything from your mistakes. The contempt and condescension towards the average citizen seen in this exchange was truly shocking, even to someone who doesn't expect much from her like myself.
And speaking of Hillary, there will be more, much more on her chief campaign adviser Mark Penn in the next couple of days. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The teams are alright

Not a bad weekend for my squads to say the least. The skins got a comfortable win today against a not awful lions team. The gators did lose a heart breaker at LSU, but the overall picture is looking good. Arsenal got three points this morning, the sox swept, and the caps start the season 2 and 0. And they look good too. I thought people were nuts for predicting them to be among the worst teams in the league this year, but they could be even better than I thought. Everyone is clicking and after seeing both the thrashers and canes, I really think that we can take the division. I know it's early, but you can't blame me for being excited.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Progressives vs. Partisans

A very good essay by David Sirota that sums up that sinking feeling that many progressives have felt in recent times.
"Some of my friends may be angry at me for writing all this - but it ain't personal, and more importantly if we progressives don't engage in some self-reflection when our side has so clearly driven into a ditch, then we won't become the movement we need to become to improve this country. I am a progressive before I am a partisan - and I reject Partisan War Syndrome that says we must all just applaud every single tactic and decision, no matter how unproductive to the cause."

By the way, its not that long, so just read the whole thing if you have the time - I promise it'll be worth it.

I especially like him bringing up the difference between a partisan and movement progressive. The partisan way of thinking was everywhere at college, from the college dems to people who don't follow facts or issues, and would just boo anything Republican and cheer anything Democratic. It's an easy time to be a partisan these days, Bush is horribly unpopular, Larry Craig is hilarious and there is scandal after scandal making republicans(rightfully so, I'd say) as the butt of most jokes. But here's the difference: None of those punchlines or too-funny-to-be-true scandals you'll hear people gloating and joking about will accomplish anything. True, it hurts the right at the moment, and that's always good, but it's what you do with this pile of rubble that the republicans left us... that's what matters. And so far, its been hugely disappointing on too many topics to name. But that's because like the rest of the country, the congress, interest groups and think tanks are also divided between the movement progressives and the partisans. And until that power shifts, its going to be tough. Now, it's not hopeless by any means... in fact, in the last decade (especially since 2004) there has been a lot of positive change.
It's just gonna be a long fight, that's all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fight over CAFTA continues in Costa Rica

Major protests against the agreement yesterday in Costa Rica.

"More than 100,000 Costa Ricans, some dressed as skeletons, protested a U.S. trade pact on Sunday they say will flood their country with cheap farm goods and cause job losses."

"The trade deal is putting at risk our workers' rights. We need an accord with the United States, but not this way," said Juan Chacon, a 50-year-old computer technician."

A government official told Reuters that more than 100,000 people turned out for the demonstration, a huge protest in a country of 4 million."

There has been almost no coverage of this in the US, but there is a referendum scheduled for October 7th in Costa Rica on the agreement. The agreement has been approved (by rather shady and downright disgraceful means) in the US since 2005, but Costa Rica is the only country that must approve the deal by a referendum. The results should be interesting. There is also a wild PR campaign in favor of the deal which other than the lack of facts, has led to some downright hilarious ads:

It kind of reminds me of the Monsignor Martinez, but with more Bernie Sanders.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Emanuel and myth get shut down on Real Time

Watching Rahm Emanuel getting taken to task by Michael Eric Dyson and Bill Maher was simply beautiful after hearing this nonsense parroted for weeks and weeks. Emanuel launches deep into a tearful speech about how the troops need armored humvees, they even (gasp!) live in his district, and how he just can't bear to send them home. And then something cool happens: The audience heckled him. They aren't buying it, and it's about damn time!

Here's the video, you can skip ahead to 5:30 if you want the part I'm talking about:

Badass! I figured out how to embed youtube clips! This discovery is going to come back and haunt everyone come NBA season...

Look, its taken some time, but I think the left is finally getting tired of being lied to by their own party. I've noticed both talking to friends and just seeing the reactions of people online, I think many have finally reached the breaking point. And just as a side note, the more this anger builds, I think the first people to feel it will be those running for president. Hillary Clinton, that means you'll get hit first... Obama, take this as your warning.