Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Train of Thought presents: The Reverend Wright Speculation Blowout Extravaganza!

If you're like most Americans, you've been completely mesmerized by the continuous coverage of the comments by pastor Jeremiah Wright. These comments range in content from deeply uninteresting to easily misinterpretable and fairly silly. While I haven't personally met anyone who cares about what he's saying, and although no one with half a brain is suggesting that Obama himself believes any of this, the news media immediately recognized the story as one that could be easily rehashed and repeated for hours days weeks months. When substance itself runs out, hey, bring in some experts/talking heads/racists and see how long you can keep it up with bizarre speculation and attempts to conflate Wright with Obama. Luckily we here at the Train of Thought have some inside sources, and are able to bring you several upcoming stories from the same guys who have brought you the never-ending Wright controversy:


May 5 (Washington DC)- New revelations about Jeremiah Wright have Obama on the run again, after interested parties/ Republican operatives uncovered evidence that Wright was born in Germantown in 1941. Enthusiastic Bush apologist and devoted Iraq War supporter Will Kristol led the way, stating "It simply can't be a coincidence that Wrights birthplace has the word German in it, given that he was born during the Third Reich. Obama hasn't ever publicly denied or renounced neonazism, and here we see the liberal media giving him a free pass again."

At that point the press conference was interrupted by Kristol removing his pants, singing unintelligibly about the glorious victory in Iraq, and beginning, much to the dismay of the gathered press corp, to [more...]


May 28 (Chicago)- After a quick glance at Wikipedia, concerned citizens brought several points to light regarding Reverend Wright, which also raised salient existential concerns among the American public. Noting that Wright had cared for Johnson, who would die some 20 years later, questions have been raised about whether or not interacting with Obama seals one's fate.

Dependably incorrect columnist Bill Kristol declined to comment, stating that he was under a restraining order restricting him from interacting with the press pending the outcome of a public indecency trial following the May 5th incident, in which he [more...]


June 12 (Lexington Park)- A new attack on Democratic contender Obama has formed, accusing him of planning to establish a theocratic government following the election. Although his opponents disagree about whether this would be a Muslim or Christian theocracy, the one thing they are all able to agree on is that allowing this to happen would be a grave mistake for the American people.

"I've always enthusiastically supported the idea of an American theocracy, but I'm sure the DEMONcrats would just screw it up," wrote noted real-life troll Ann Coulter. "Besides that, weeks of writing about his Christian pastor have left me unconvinced that he isn't still really a Muslim. I'm not sure how I'd be able to reconcile my advocacy for bombing Muslim countries with having an officially Muslim USA, and I'd rather not take the time to figure that all out, thank you very much."

While a small number of media personalities have pointed out the growing insanity of the charges leveled against Obama, most are putting on a very good show of being cautiously worried by these latest developments. Bill Kristol, for example, released a statement from prison in which he said the following: "It's nice to see that people are starting to finally realize that Obama and Wright are the same person. The accusations against Obama are a very serious matter, unlike those who claim that I, in full view of 20 reporters, [more...]

Yes, the next weeks and months will be a joy to behold. Oh and for anyone who might have noticed the irony of someone writing a post about Wright complaining about the number of people writing about Wright: Repeat to yourself "it's just a blog, I should really just relax."

Resurrecting Tom Joad

When we were young, our parents would tell us stories of heroism and courage. Our teachers would mesmerize us with tales of great heroes, and glorious victory. No child ever really wonders about the truth, so long as the heroes win out the day and defeat the bad guy at the end of the story. Think about all the stories you have ever heard of America's Great Patriots, Soldiers, Presidents, Firefighters and even business tycoons.

I ask you now whether you can still believe in heroes after the past 8 years.

Who does America look to in this election cycle? No incumbent to support, no dashing hero to come save the day. Polls indicate a drastic change in public opinion on the Iraq War as well as a decline in the state of the economy. Are we actually waking up? Or is this just another systemic ideological shift, inherent to the political climate of American style democracy?

Can you feel the change? I sit here now at the same campfire Springsteen built some years ago. We have all been sitting here, slowly stacking the wood and trying our best to find comfort in its heat. Perhaps in the past all we needed was that spectre beside us, just a whisper in the dark from the Ghost of Tom Joad to make us feel better about ourselves; Oh America the Great!

In the past 8 years, however, good ole Tommy Joad was ignored and his spirit left to wither as the campfire died.
8 years gone, but now there is a change in the political landscape. Progressives from the left are itching for a fight, and this election gives us that chance. For all those who do not remember, please watch this clip in its entirety, especially from 2:40 to the end:

'I'll be there in the dark, I'll be everywhere wherever you can look. What do you all say?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

GTA & Rising Down out today: holy crap!

A double-whammy of big releases takes place today as both the new Grand Theft Auto and Roots album Rising Down hit the shelves. The release of GTA 4 is clearly the most-anticipated for any video game in history, with sales expected to top $400 million in the first week. Somehow, I have been able to resist the lure of the game up to this point. This is basically because I knew that if I ever did own the game, I would probably have to drop out of school. But now that JJ will be getting his pre-ordered copy, he will force me to indulge in the violence and I won't try to stop him.

As for the new Roots album, I am completely blown away that this album is already out. I knew it was slated for a 2008 release, but what a pleasant surprise to have it out in stores this soon. The Roots' last album, Game Theory, was released in late 2006 to the usual critical acclaim, but very little buzz from the general public or otherwise. Rising Down is only poised to top its predecessor.  

Common. Mos Def. Talib Kweli. Saigon. Styles P. And probably my favorite-named rapper of all-time, Porn. All appear on the album. But the absolute shocker is the appearance of Wale, the great hope for D.C. rap, on the go-go tinged track, "Rising Up." Unfortunately, I cannot provide a full album review because I refuse to download this album, I will wait to buy it in stores (I could not uphold this pledge when Game Theory came out). But if anyone else has the money, I implore you to BUY THIS RECORD!

In other news, the Wizards face elimination tomorrow night, nobody gave the Montreal Canadiens the memo but they are not allowed to lose, and what???? Furthermore, WHAT????????   

Laters, y'all.

Obama and Fox News: The Debate

So there's been somewhat of a pretty big debate on the left surrounding Obama's appearance on fox news last Sunday. To start, Kos provides a good explanation on the background, and why he was didn't approve.
We've spent the last few years in the netroots working to discredit Fox News as the propaganda network strives for mainstream respectability. The more it is viewed as a legitimate news outlet, the better it will be at injecting right-wing narratives into the broader media stream. It's why we fought so strongly against the attempts by the Nevada Democratic Party and the Congressional Black Caucus to partner with Fox on several Democratic primary debates. Debating on Fox made as much sense as Republicans debating on Air America. Or Daily Kos.

Given Fox's role in pushing several bullshit attacks against Obama (including the one about Obama attending a Muslim Madras while living in Indonesia in his youth), Obama had wisely steered clear of the network during the primary. Yet he clearly hit on a dilemma -- Indiana is an open primary, hence Republican crossover support could be key to victory in the state. And where do Republicans hang out? Yup. Fox News.

On the other hand, the network had consistently taunted his refusal to visit Fox. His appearance essentially sends the message that Obama is susceptible to caving to right-wing bullying taunts and threats. Perhaps not a surprise since that appears a trait embedded in the Democrats' DNA.
Move on (whose members have endorsed Obama) explains further(with links):

It was a mistake for Obama to go on FOX’s Sunday show and treat the experience as if it was a real news interview. Democratic politicians need to understand that FOX is a Republican mouthpiece masquerading as a news outlet. When dealing with FOX, you either burn them or they will burn you.

It's well documented that FOX executives send morning memos to anchors and reporters dictating Republican talking points. In 2006, one said, “Be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents...thrilled at the prospect of a Dem controlled Congress.” Robert Greenwald's videos have shown FOX's consistent pattern of smearing Barack Obama, smearing Hillary Clinton, smearing African Americans, and denying global warming.

FOX's power lies not in its audience size – which is puny and consists mostly of unpersuadable voters. Instead, FOX's power comes from tricking politicians and real journalists into treating their “breaking stories” like real news, thereby propelling smears like the Swift Boats and Rev. Wright into the mainstream political dialogue. That's why progressives fought (successfully) last year to deprive FOX of the legitimacy that comes with hosting a Democratic presidential debate. And that's why Democratic politicians should never treat FOX like a real news outlet - including FOX's Sunday show.

So I've gone back and for on this. I agree with most of the stuff written above, and successfully marginalizing fox as a conservative news network is a very important goal, and the tool we have on that front is to stop democrats from legitimizing it as a network. But even though I wouldn't have advised him to go on, the narrative of his campaign kind of paints him a in corner for these situations. If you build your campaign on inclusiveness and ending divisions, you could see why he wouldn't want to be seen as freezing out a right wing news outlet because of "politics" or "partisanship".

[Tangent: This and racism are the only two actual weakness I see in Obama's general election campaign. His narrative painting himself into a corner when it comes to strongly taking on the GOP and undercurrents of racism that still exist in a big way. Other than that, he's pretty much as good as we could hope for in a general election candidates ]

I see why his campaign did it, but I just don't think it was that smart to do so. I'm not sure how many votes are gained, as Move On pointed out, and you tend to harbor ill will from your own side when campaign operatives lie about your motives for going on the air.

And for the record... I am fully aware this whole debate doesn't have very much significance outside of dailykos and that world, but I found it interesting nonetheless. Oh yeah, and for those how cared about how the ACTUAL interview went, here are some pieces (Transcript here):

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Train of Thought Lounge: Bad Brains

Today's installment of The Train of Thought Lounge features Bad Brains, one of the most influential and innovative bands in the history of hardcore/punk rock. All four original members hail from Washington D.C. and they are one of few punk bands to feature an all-Black lineup. Bad Brains, along with other local bands such as Fugazi and Minor Threat, established DC as a major scene for hardcore music from the late 70's to the early 90's.

Adding to the band's lore, Bad Brains were actually barred from performing in Washington's three main music venues and relocated to New York City. They also found success in the U.K. The group has done shows and recorded on and off to this day.

Bad Brains - At The Movies

Thursday, April 24, 2008

DC Train of Thought: The Official Beijing 2008 Olympics Celebration Station!

Over the last few weeks the world has witnessed rising excitement and anticipation for the Summer Games in Beijing. As a fever for the new competitive games of Torch Extinguishing and Placard Waving followed the Olympic Flame on its journey around the world, China has shown a cool commitment to running a professional, well-managed show. Indeed, with new sports arenas being built at breakneck speed, with factories being shut down to help clear the air, and with human rights enjoying a great leap forward, it seems like the PRC
really has thought of it all!

It was only a few days ago that I realized that there IS something they've forgotten. If the Chinese want to show the world a truly human face that will bring home the idea of The New China as the everyone tunes in for the games, they need to choose a poster child! Now while I'm sure that the Chinese are already working to rectify this oversight, I figured I'd go ahead and make the pitch for my choice: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the eleventh Panchem Lama!

Yes indeed, a cute face to plaster on posters all over the world! May as
well get the most use out of them and make them missing posters as well, because the reason that we don't have a more recent picture of the kid is because he's been missing for over a decade. I'm positive the Chinese Communist Party will own up and tell everyone where he is some day soon, although then they'll have to figure out what to do with the false Panchem Lama they openly forced the Tibetans to accept instead.

Some people might say that he isn't the best choice for spot, but... well, it takes a village to raise a child. Actually, in this case I suppose it would be more accurate say it takes an authoritarian government to kidnap a spiritual leader and replace him with a puppet. Still, I suppose this may be overly cynical. Coming soon: another contender for Beijing 2008 poster child.

A crushing blow

How does that old saying go? It's better to have loved and lost... or something, than to... something something? Well, whatever it is, it just about sums up the Caps' playoff experience after a heart-wrenching overtime loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

I guess I got so caught up in the excitement of having playoff hockey around again that I forgot to mention a few things. First, that as exhilarating and fun as the playoffs can be, they can be equally as devastating when you lose. In a game filled with dubious calls, including one which gifted Philadelphia a power play goal in OT, to lose at home after clawing all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit... well, it just sucked, quite frankly.

The other thing I neglected to mention, probably out of fear of bad karma, was that the words "Playoffs" and "Disappointment" have gone hand in hand throughout the Capitals' history. Apart from one magical run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998 (which we lost, 4-games-to-0, to the Detroit Red Wings), Washington was known for blowing the big games. I thought it would be different this time because those teams of the past never had Alex Ovechkin, but I found myself reliving the same familiar memories from elementary school of a first or second round exit for the Caps.

This is not meant to overlook how incredible this season was. Either me or J will write up a proper eulogy of the season sometime in the near future. And, unlike all those years back in the day, the Wizards are still alive in the NBA Playoffs (albeit, just barely) and I will be at Verizon tonight commemorating a year in which the Redskins, Caps and Wizards all made the playoffs. I've been lucky enough to be in attendance at critical games for all three (Capitals Game 5, Redskins vs. Cowboys which we needed to win to make the playoffs, and tonight's game). Contrast that with the days when all three teams sucked and there was no baseball team to even speak of (let alone, a brand new stadium) and it's hard to really complain. So, I'll take in the playoff game tonight, have a few beers and chalk it up as an overall win for D.C. sports.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Close your eyes and pretend the last 14 years never happened...

Bush warned that without NAFTA, migratory pressure from Mexico would be worse."If you do away with NAFTA, there's going to be a lot of Mexicans, more Mexicans out of work," Bush said. "It will make it harder on the border.
October 8th, 1993:
"Attorney General Janet Reno, linking two of the nation's most politicized issues, predicted Thursday that the United States can halt illegal immigration from Mexico only by passing the North American Free Trade Agreement."
Study from 2006
Undocumented Immigrants in 1992: 3.9 Million
Undocumented Immigrants in 2005: 12 Million
NAFTA lowered wages for workers in Mexico, which lead to an increase in poverty. More poverty meant more people coming to the United States for work so that they can make enough money to feed their families.

NAFTA > Poverty > Illegal Immigration

You'd think we'd have caught on by now. Then again...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh yeah, that primary that we waited 6 weeks for...

So for the record I'd guess that Hillary will win by 8% tonight, which won't really matter, cause she can't win the nomination anyway. And by can't win, I mean she can't win unless some unforeseen crazy event alters the race... or the superdelegates overrule the popular vote and the democratic party is destroyed(a pretty crazy event in itself). Now that we've got that straight, lets recap what really matters tonight:
  1. Game 7 of Caps-Flyers
  2. If Hillary Clinton somehow manages to win by 20% of the vote.
Since there's a 100% chance of event #1 occurring, and a almost 0% chance of event #2 occurring, you can guess what will have my attention tonight. I've got a feeling that Hillary Clinton's lying, scare tactics and war-mongering will still be there in the morning... here's hoping the caps are too.

Caps back from the dead - a few quick thoughts

There is no greater defining moment in sports than a Game 7. As J said earlier today, I will be able to express very few actual rational thoughts on tonight's game at the Verizon Center, so I will offer some quick hits:
  • You just had the feeling that the longer this series dragged on, the more likely it was that Alex Ovechkin would have a breakout game. That game finally arrived last night and there really isn't anyone else you would want to score two critical goals on the road.
  • This team has thrived all year with its back against the wall. Really, the Capitals started performing in this series when they were backed into a corner down 3-games-to-1. Psychologically, now all the pressure is off Washington and pushed squarely to the Flyers. How will they handle it?
  • The Caps are historically bad in Game 7's, with an all-time record of just 1-4, but that one win came against Philadelphia in 1988 after (you guessed it) overcoming a 3-1 series deficit.

That win in 1988 created what is arguably the greatest defining moment in Capitals' franchise history. As JP said on his blog, it might be kind of cliche to put it up, but really, how could I not do it? Without further ado, the series-winning overtime goal in Game 7 20 years ago that sent Caps fans into delirium and Dale Hunter into the hockey annals:

Finally, I want to thank the NHL for not making me wait one whole extra day for Game 7. Genius.

Sadly, the news is not all good, since as good as things have gone for the Caps, they have been equally as bad for the Wizards. They need to mount a huge response in Game 3 and 4 or else they are in serious trouble. Tonight will also see the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary take place. I have no idea what will happen but let's hope that tonight can effectively end Hillary's nomination bid and we can get back to focusing on boring things like sports and music. Much more on all of this to come in the following days... LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Reason #193 Why I love Alex Ovechkin

From Tarik El-Bashir's chat today over at the post:

Arlington, Va.: Explain to me the logic of moving Ovie down in front of the net? Why take the puck away from the game's most dangerous sniper? We need him to shoot the puck, not set up for deflections.

Tarik El-Bashir: I was told that Ovechkin actually volunteered to go in front.

Not saying that I don't agree with the question, but it's that type of leadership and commitment that will make him one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Update: Why not add reasons 194 and 195 while were at it:

Oh yeah, and speaking of game 6, I should mention that even though there isn't video of it online yet, Mike Green's Scott Stevens-esque stickless hip check was poetry in motion. Game 7 is too intense to think about rationally right now, so if you want a real preview check out J.P.'s spot as always.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This isn't a good sign...

Bad news for those of us who favor democracy in the... you know... Democratic party:
Many of the Democratic superdelegates who are still undecided say the most important factor in their decision is simple - they just want a winner in November.

Problem is, after nearly four months of primaries and caucuses in 46 states, territories and the District of Columbia, they still aren't sure who that is, don't seem be in any hurry to make up their minds and aren't interested in any artificial process that might force them to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Most of the more than 100 undecided superdelegates who discussed their decision-making with The Associated Press in the past two weeks agreed that the primaries and caucuses do matter _ whether it's who has the most national delegates or the candidate who won their state or congressional district. But few said the primaries will be the biggest factor in their decision.
It's pretty amazing to watch some elements in the democratic party be perfectly comfortable overturning the popular vote to steal an election after what happened 8 years ago. It's not like there's much of a chance of a "superdelegate coup" actually happening, but hearing this type of open disregard for the will of the voters is still pretty upsetting.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NBA Playoff Predictions

So my nba pre-season picks weren't exactly on point, but it's not like that was gonna stop me from giving a go at the playoffs, so here it is:

Round 1
Boston over Atlanta in 5
Philadelphia over Detroit in 7
Orlando over Toronto in 7
Washington over Cleveland in 6.

East Semis
Boston over Washington in 6
Orlando over Philadelphia in 6

East Finals
Boston over Orlando in 6

Round 1
L.A over Denver in 6
New Orleans over Dallas in 6
Phoenix over San Antonio in 7
Utah over Houston in 6

Western Semis
L.A. over Utah in 7
Phoenix over N.O. in 6

Western Finals
Phoenix over L.A. in 7

NBA Finals

Phoenix over Boston in 7
MVP: Amare Stoudemire

The biggest surprise here isn't that I picked Philly to beat Detroit, it's that I would pick the city of Philadelphia to do something well ever again after the garbage they've given us over the past 3 days. A win over the caps on Tuesday, a disgrace of a debate on Wednesday, and then a completely undeserved spirit crushing 2OT win over the caps on Thursday. Seriously, has there ever been a city that produced more disgusting acts in such a short period of time? Ughh. Oh yeah, and for the record, will somebody please wrap Danny Briere's spine around the crossbar next time he tries to touch Huet in front of net? Brash? Erskine? Thanks. Oh yeah, and speaking of Brashear, if you're like me and were thrilled to find out that he has an NBA playoffs Pool, here's the link.

Lets see your picks in the comments... the winner gets a mystery prize!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Rahm Emanuel and Bill Clinton

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week is awarded to whatever event/person best deserves Joe Buck's unnecessary and over the top outrage after a 2004 Randy Moss' touchdown celebration.

Rahm Emanuel:
"We've put about $45 billion into Iraq's reconstruction . . . and they have not spent their own resources...They have got to have some skin in the game."
"Skin" in the game? SKIN? How about several hundred thousand dead you prick! Is that enough "skin" for you? And just when you think you've heard the worst... enter former president Bill Clinton:
He boils down complex international affairs to the most digestible basics—Iraq is a neighbor still crashing on your couch five years after his house burned down. “It’s not about the fire anymore,” he says.
There is so much nonsense in that statement I really don't know where to begin. First things first, if you're gonna use such a ridiculous analogy, lets at least get the main thrust of it right. Bill, I'm not sure if you were paying attention in 2003 or not, but unlike Billy Joel, we DID start the fire! So, I guess that makes it a lot less like a fire in this guys house, and more like arson committed by us. But even with that out of the way, it's still idiotic, so I figure we might as well just rewrite his quote in order to make it closer to reality:
He boils down complex international affairs to the most digestible basics—He tells the crowd that Iraq is like that time when you had a bad day at work and decided to torch your neighbor's house. "After you torched his house, you figured it's only right to invite him to crash on your couch till he gets a new house. Wait, did I say crash on your couch? Sorry, I meant to say that after the fire you went to the burnt rubble where he now lives and beat the crap out of him every day for the next couple of years until his family has had enough and decides it's safer to be homeless than live in the rubble with him. After a while, other people start joining you when you beat the guy up, and pretty soon every psychopath in the neighborhood is walking a few blocks over to kick his ass, or just start another fire where his house used to be. As you can imagine, this starts to get out of hand, and thats when you have might have to stop beating up him up everyday, give him the tough love he needs by telling him: 'Hey buddy, it's not about the fire anymore'"
Even though my fake quote may have gone on far too long, the funny part is that it still makes a hell of a lot more sense then the actual quote from our former president.

This is a serious problem. Back in the fall I was worried that this trend would spread among democrats who don't feel like they can oppose the war without stooping to the racist rhetoric of the colonial powers. This type of talk is truly disgraceful, but if people think that racism works for short term political gain, (and clearly, some democrats do) you know someone's gonna take the bait.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Bitter" - A lesson on Self-Medication

I've heard it. You've Heard it. CNN, Washington Post, and talk radio have all pounced on it.


Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama's comments about small-town Pennsylvania voters have caused a small, but very vocal outcry from fellow democrat Hillary Clinton.

Despite her best attempts, Clinton's polling numbers seem to have actually declined.
Recent Polls by the Post have Obama building in his national lead, with voters preferring him as more electable when pitted against Republican John McCain. Hillary Clinton now trails nationally in the same contest.

Hillary's biggest problem is her own imagination, one possibly spurred on by Beltway Idiot Mark Penn. Now, I am not sure whose idea it was, but by calling Barack Obama an 'elitist'Clinton has only weakened the democratic party in the upcoming elections. Why feed the fire? Why aide the Joe Liebermans in tearing apart a fragile coalition of democrats, or better yet, WHY WOULD HILARY RODHAM CLINTON, A FORMER FIRST LADY, and YALE LAW GRADUATE, who has probably made more money this year than I will ever see in my life (including in pictures, TV and visits to the US Treasury) call Obama an elitist?

In her mind, she has nothing to lose. She is already losing, and despite her best attempts to build on her hefty lead in Pennsylvania, the public isn't buying it. Interestingly enough, Rasmussen shows Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania between 5-9%, with the greatest gains in Gun Owners, and for voters with positions closer to core republican values on gun control and immigration. But what happened to that insurmountable 20-25 lead going into the primary? How has Obama chiseled away, even with the 'bitter' comments?

It may just be me, but I really think that even with his words, Obama at least appeared to be somewhat genuine in his sentiments. Voters can and do respect that quality. Look at George Bush, he may be crazy, but most people agree that during the 2000 and 2004 election he at least cared and believed in what he was saying. Voters are starting to see what it means when someone who trumpeted NAFTA calls someone else an 'elitist.'

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I think my head's gonna explode

There is way, way, way too much going on all at the same time in terms of sports. Honestly, I never thought I would ever complain about having too many important sports events to watch but I have literally been stressed out trying to plan out my life according to when each game occurs, how/where/when I'm going to watch it, and how not to let all of my other important responsibilities fall by the wayside. Although I wouldn't mind having this "problem" more often, it's true that too much of a good thing can be bad.

Ok, now for a quick round-up. Today marked Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, including a national celebration for the pioneer at Shea Stadium where the New York Mets played the Washington Nationals. On a far more somber note, tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre, which is a day forever ingrained in my memory, as much as I would like to forget it. My sister is a sophomore at VT and she knew one of the 32 fallen victims personally. She texted me on the morning of the shootings letting me know that she was safe and that they had locked down the dorms, but learning later that she had class in the same building where most of the carnage took place still weighs on my mind. I'll never forget watching CNN as they had an estimated death count of around seven people, then announcing that it had jumped directly to 21 deaths, illicting audible gasps on the air from the studio. The Washington Post offers this piece and I'm sure there will be plenty more to read in the news tomorrow.

Back to sports, and it's postseason overload in the District. For the first time since 1988, the Capitals and the Wizards have both qualified for the playoffs. That means that for as long as I can remember, only one or the other has had my attention around this time of year. Through my early childhood, that was generally the Caps' territory as they qualified for the playoffs 14 straight seasons (1983-1996) and four out of the next seven years, highlighted by a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Game 1 was simply amazing. Game 2 brought us all back down to Earth. Tonight's game was pretty disheartening, I have to say, not simply because we lost but how we lost.

I'm not saying the series is anywhere near over. The truth is, though, that all the momentum rests with the Flyers now and if the Capitals lose Game 4, I don't see us winning an improbable three in a row. By and large, the team is not playing poorly. Washington lost its last two games (and almost lost Game 1, let's not forget) for two basic reasons. We are making far too many critical mistakes on the defensive end in the way of turnovers, poor positioning & rotation and not clearing the puck effectively. It's strange how well we have done all of those aforementioned things against Philly's vaunted power play, but in even strength is where our defence (Canadian spelling) has struggled. Secondly, the Flyers are playing with more energy overall, finishing checks and getting into the Caps' heads a little. It's extremely frustrating to see Philadelphia send player after player into the crease to knock Huet off his game, but it's even more disturbing not to see anyone sticking up for him. Huet got a minor penalty for shoving Danny Briere after he had basically humped his right pad and you can't blame him, but he shouldn't have to do that himself. Briere should be met with a conveniently-placed shoulder in his 5'6'' face every time he's on the ice and that hasn't been happening.

But with the NHL playoffs, momentum is usually short-lived. Each game is entirely different and you will never see me count out any team that has Alexander Ovechkin. I think we will take Game 4 to even up the series, possibly convincingly in the scoreline. 2 or 3-0 or 4-1 or something along those lines.

Also infuriating has been the constant debate over whether all Caps fans are bandwagon fans. Quite simply; WE AREN'T. Philadelphia fans' inferiority complex has caused them to ignore any actual matters on the ice because let's face it, we have the best player in the league, our future is set up extremely well for success in the future, and our story this season dwarfs the fact that they went from only 56 points last year to the playoffs this year. Philly fans feeling underappreciated -- what else is new? Post blogger Lindsay Applebaum discusses the subject here, check out the comments for some good/bad stuff (by the way, am I the only one that finds Ms. Applebaum very attractive? What's up, Lindsay? Holla at an aspiring journalist...). Then there's this gem from the broadcast of Game 2 on NBC, where studio analyst/franchise ruiner Mike Milbury called us the "Crapitals" live on the air. This is the same Mike Milbury whose claim to fame is going into the stands as a player for the Boston Bruins and beating a fan with his own shoe. And we're supposed to take this man's word as expertise? He's pretty much the hockey version of Isiah Thomas. Yep, he's a jackass.

Look out for an NBA playoff preview by the end of the week where, among other things, I'll point out the several reasons why LeBron James is an idiot. I'm going to go lie down now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meet the Press: how low can you go?

Wonder why our political discourse is so fucked up? Your Sunday round table on Meet the Press, arguably the most influential political show in the country:
  • Mary Matalin: Republican consultant, most recently worked for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
  • Mike Murphy: Republican consultant who don't know much about.
  • James Carville: Unabashed Hillary Clinton supporter who dropped this gem during the broadcast: "It's also fair to say this is probably the best, most courageous toughest presidential candidate that we're ever seen anywhere, anyplace in our lifetimes, OK?"
  • Bob Shrum: Professional loser of presidential campaigns, most recently John Kerry's loss in 2004.
It was good to see a panel with diverse opinions: one conservative republican, one hack republican(not sure where Murphy ranks), and two moderate DLCdemocrats. Well, it's a good thing they had plenty to agree on, you wouldn't want to get into a debate or anything like that. With minds like Bob Shurm and James Carville discussing what's best for the democratic nominee, who can we lose?

Friday, April 11, 2008

A History of (Hockey) Violence

A must read from J.P. who provides a history of hard hitting and brawling between the Flyers and the Caps in the past. It's filled with recaps of famous games throughout the history of the rivalry as well as some simply wonderful youtubes of classic fights and brawls between the two teams.

In the three playoff series between the two teams, there have been 46 fighting majors in 16 games. Check out, for example, the first period of Game 3 of the 1984 Patrick Division Semifinals - seven minor penalties (including five hi-sticks and a rough), ten fighting majors and five 10-minute misconducts. 114 PIMs in one period. But that's nothing...

The top home and road games for Caps, opponents and combined penalty minutes have both come against the Flyers in Washington blowout wins - a 6-0 win at Philly on December 21, 1980 in which the teams combined for 344 PIMs (check out Archie Henderson and Behn Wilson, not once, but twice) and a 5-2 home win on February 10, 1991 in which the teams combined for 294 penalty minutes.

In a totally separate game (a 4-4 tie on March 27, 1982), the Caps and Flyers combined for 208 penalty minutes in a 49 second span of the second period.

Six times a Flyer has had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Caps, most recently Ron Sutter back in 1991.

Alex Ovechkin's first NHL fight was against the Flyers' Mike Richards in a preseason game back in September, 2006.

Speaking of Richards, he chucked knuckles with Brooks Laich earlier this season and had a bloody nose (and a win in the fight) to show for it.

Another few bouts from this season - Chris Clark and Scott Hartnell, Matt Bradley and Jason Smith and former Cap Brian Sutherby against former Fly-boy Ben Eager.

Donald Brashear has fought as a Flyer against the Caps six times since 1998-99 (here's one against Stephen Peat - watch out for that left, Peat! - and another for good measure), and against the Flyers as a Cap twice (earlier this season against Riley Cote, who he also fought in the preseason).

Former Cap and Flyer Craig Berube was never afraid to start something, as a Flyer running Don Beaupre here (igniting the brawl you can see detailed at 12:04 of the third period here) and coming in with elbows high on an incredibly well-disciplined Scott Stevens here.

While we're on the topic of goalies getting run, if you touched Scott Stevens' goalie - even if he pushed you into the goalie - you were going to answer. What a stud (seen brawling with the Flyers' Jeff Chychrun at the other end of the ice here). By the way, nice work by Smokin' Al on the color in those last few clips.

You didn't think we'd get through this list without a little more Dale Hunter and Ron Hextall did you?

The late John Kordic and Terry Carkner fought on February 10, 1991. Kordic played just seven games for the Caps, but racked up 101 PIMs, including 22 on that night.

Bonus clip, with a special guest at the 1:08 mark.

Here are Keith Jones and Joe Sacco throwing for some reason,and here's a real lightweight bout.

Finally, if you like a good ol' fashioned bench-clearer, this one from back 1980 is for you (and here's another).

Oh yeah, and lets not forget this season's Flyers team has a history of disgusting acts, which is not too much of a surprise when you combine a bunch of cheap shot artists who can't play hockey with an overrated hockey player who's best move is a spear. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2007-2008 Philadelphia Flyers!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Colombia and China

Op-eds aren't always that interesting, but flipping through the Post the past couple days these two stood out for very different reasons. First the good, a great response to the Post's idiotic editorial on the Colombia Trade deal:
If death squads with ties to the U.S. government were targeting Post reporters for assassination, I doubt that The Post would dismiss the problem by arguing that the murder rate for journalists was less than the rate for the District as a whole. Yet that is exactly what The Post did in dismissing the killings of trade union activists by paramilitaries in Colombia on the basis that trade unionists are still less likely to be killed than the average citizen ["The Sin of Speaking Truth," editorial, April 8].

Of course, the overall murder rate in Colombia -- a country in conflict -- is high. But when union members are killed for exercising basic rights, that is not just another manifestation of violence; it is a threat to Colombian democracy itself.
Nicely done, especially since the Post's coverage of Uribe has been shockingly bad, particularly when in comparison with their tabloid style articles on Hugo Chavez is over the last two years.

Now on to the bad, this from Joan Chen's op-ed defending the Beijing Olympics:
Last month I went to China and spent four weeks visiting Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Chengdu. The people I met and spoke with are proud and excited about the Beijing Games. They believe that the Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to showcase modern China to the rest of the world. Like many Americans, most Chinese people are disturbed by the recent events in Tibet. But after watching the scenes of violence and arson by the rioters, the Chinese believe that the government is doing the right thing in cracking down to restore order.
Umm, I don't think all the Chinese people feel that way, with that whole hundreds of violent protests each month thing. And just for the record, I'm glad that someone took a break from claiming that these Olympics are helping human rights in china, and decided to just flat out defend the murderous actions of the Chinese government. Good to see every now and then.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mark Penn and the Isiah Thomas question

As Nick pointed out in the comments a few posts back, Mark Penn is out as Clinton's chief strategist.

I've devoted a decent amount of posts to this asshole, so I'll write bit more about his dismissal/ or not really dismissal as details of what actually happened come out over the course of the week.

But for the moment I'll just mention that if he really was fired, it raises an interesting question. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a few fellow NBA fans (possibly dcjonesy or LSouth, can't quite remember) and we were having a laugh at the expense of the Knicks franchise. We were debating the idiocy of their owner James Dolan, and when he would finally see the writing on the wall and fire their GM(actually he has since been fired from this job)/Coach, former NBA legend Isiah Thomas.

Then someone brought up a pretty interesting point: If Isiah Thomas hadn't been fired for ruining the Knicks franchise in every way possible since he took over (leagues highest payroll, near-worst record, trades and contracts that guarantee they will be bad for years to come, constant bad press and drama which included a sex scandal that tarnished the franchise in addition to a large court settlement), why would they fire him now? If he didn't get fired for any of that, why are we so sure he's gonna get fired now? It's not like its gonna be a surprise when he makes the next bad move, and when he inevitably does, what makes it any worse than the other stuff he did that seemed to be fine with their owner?

And that's why this whole thing reminds me of Mark Penn. If Hillary Clinton was cool with all of the other stuff he was doing (unionbusting, consulting for blackwater and loansharks, being a disingenuous pollster and truly moronic strategist), what makes this different from the pattern? I mean if none of that stuff got him fired, and anyway why was this any worse than what he had already done? And when you read the news the most recent scandal over the Columbia FTA, was anybody actually shocked? Of course they weren't! He's a right wing hack! What else would he be doing? Would you be shocked tomorrow if Isiah traded Nate Robinson, David Lee and next years number one for Ricky Davis and case of beer? Of course not! He's a terrible GM! That's what he does!

And if James Dolan is dumb enough to let someone as inept as Isiah Thomas run his franchise, then the blame lies squarely at his feet. And there's no difference with Hillary Clinton. She knows he's an amoral hack, and frankly the fact that she would give some like that complete control of her campaign tells you all you need to know about her judgment and leadership skills.

So it looks like Mark Penn may have actually lost his job. If I were Isiah, I'd be watching my back.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Don't stop believin'!!!

Cue the classic Journey song

The Washington Capitals clinched their first trip to the playoffs in five years with a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. As if that wasn't enough, the Caps vaulted all the way from 9th place and being directly on the fringe of making the playoffs to the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference as Southeast Division champs (SOUTHEAST! SOUTH SOUTHEAST!!). I think this blog post by a Carolina Hurricanes fan (the team who led the division for the majority of the season, only to blow a chance to secure a playoff spot in its final game of the season) sums up the situation pretty well...

Take into account, if you will, that the Caps ranked 30th out of 30 in the NHL at Thanksgiving. The team then fired coach Glen Hanlon, promoted minor league coach Bruce Boudreau of the Caps' top affiliate, the Hershey Bears, and ranked 14th out 15 Eastern Conference teams by Christmas. General Manager/genius George McPhee traded for goalie Cristobal Huet, 90's superstar Sergei Federov and live wire/s**t starter Matt Cooke on deadline day in February and the resurrection began in earnest. The Caps went on to win 11 of their last 12 games and Huet won his last seven consecutive starts to end the season and propel them into the playoffs ahead of the sputtering Hurricanes.  

And after today's 2-0 defeat of Pittsburgh, we know that we will be facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell explains why the Caps are a real-life sports fairy tale here, while top-notch Caps blogger JP continues to offer his in-depth analysis here (also linked to on the right-hand side of this page).

After five years without playoff hockey in the District, it will almost feel strange seeing the Capitals back in the fray. The intensity level is raised so much higher in the NHL playoffs than it is in probably any other sport and without the home team involved in them for so long, I've kind of forgotten what it feels like. Thankfully, the D.C. area will have a chance to become re-acquainted with postseason hockey. 

Having the Caps back in the playoffs also strikes a very personal chord with me, more than as simply a sports fan. The first sporting event I ever went to was a Caps game against the Detroit Red Wings, back in the old Capital Centre in Landover, Md. when I was about six years old. My dad was a big Capitals fan and, consequently, so was I after he took me to that game. I don't remember the score, but it was an unusually lopsided victory for Washington, something like 9-4. From that moment, I was hooked.

The Capitals were my dad's second favorite sports team (second only to the Redskins), which, as much as sports were a part of our household, is saying quite a lot. My family originally got cable so he could watch them play on HTS (Home Team Sports, the pre-cursor to Comcast SportsNet). To this day, I still don't know how my dad, a black man from Northwest DC, became so infatuated with hockey. But however it happened, the Washington Capitals in turn became a big part of my childhood, as well me and my father's relationship. This lasted until I got to middle school and self-consciousness and popularity changed my outlook on a lot of things. Hockey was no longer considered "popular," thus I cut all ties with the sport and did not really get back into it until a few years ago.

As you may or may not know, my dad passed away this past August. Having the Capitals back in the playoffs, especially in such a dramatic fashion, brings back so many memories from the good old days, when me and my dad were glued to the set watching my heroes Peter Bondra, Kelly Miller and Rod Langway, among others, play out my dreams on the screen. I don't know how these playoffs will turn out exactly, or how far this Capitals team will progress from here. But all that matters is that the Caps are back in the playoffs.

Damn, it feels good.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mark Penn being Mark Penn

In a move that shock people only for his brazenness, this morning Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn met with leaders of the Columbian government to advocate for a free trade deal she claims to oppose.

Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. on Monday to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact the presidential candidate opposes.

Attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian officials. He wasn't there in his campaign role, but in his separate job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, an international communications and lobbying firm. The firm has a contract with the South American nation to promote congressional approval of the trade deal, among other things, according to filings with the Justice Department.

Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Mr. Penn's campaign-consulting firm, received more than $10 million in payments from the Clinton campaign as of the end of February, according to federal election filings.

Mr. Penn declined to comment. Howard Wolfson, communications director for Sen. Clinton's campaign, said in an email that "Mark was not there on behalf of the campaign" and referred further questions to Burson-Marsteller. "Sen. Clinton's opposition to the trade deal with Colombia is clear," Mr. Wolfson added.

Her position on the deal is clear? Well, somebody better tell the Columbian government:
A spokesman for Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe said the ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. "There have also been meetings with the advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain," he said. "It's the embassy's job to explain Colombia's reality."

The spokesman said he didn't know if Mr. Penn was representing Sen. Clinton or Burson-Marsteller, which signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy in March 2007 to work on behalf of the trade deal and anti-drug-trafficking initiatives, according to the Justice Department filings.
And this is the point where I lose my mind. Mark Penn is a despicable human being who should be expected to do things like this. What bothers me is not him, but the fact that for over a year of Hillary Clinton being declared the sure thing nominee of the democratic party, almost all of organized labor refused to take a stand against him and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Too little too late I'm afraid, but I'm still glad to see that changed this morning:
Change to Win, the labor federation that includes SEIU, just sent out a statement demanding Penn's head:

The statement, from executive director Greg Tarpinian:

"It's time for Sen. Hillary Clinton to send her vaunted 'chief strategist' Mark Penn packing — back to his job consulting for union busting corporations and anti-labor governments for good."

"We have questioned Penn's role in the Clinton campaign in the past for his representation of union busting employers like Cintas. At that time, Penn said there was a wall between him and his firm's representation of union busters. The latest revelation that Penn -- whose firm represents the Colombian government in its effort to secure passage of a so-called free trade agreement -- is actively involved in securing its passage in the middle of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign is outrageous. It also suggests that he has been playing a double role - advising the Senator on what to say to curry Democratic voters and advising the Colombian government on what to say to curry a majority of votes in Congress.

"The vast majority of Americans do not believe that we should be granting preferential trade status to a government that coddles death squads that target union organizers. Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world for union members, where more than 2,200 workers have been murdered since the 1980s by Colombian death squads for trying to form unions while the government has done nothing to effectively stop the murders. It is time for Penn to go."
Well done, Change to Win, and it's about damn time. Oh yeah, and remember those union leaders who stupid enough to actually endorse Hillary Clinton despite all this? Well, I hope they feel as dumb as the should this morning, and as far as I'm concerned, they can go fuck themselves. The sooner they're through weakening the labor movement and can get forced out of their jobs, the better.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If you don't get it, you don't get it.

Great article by John Nichols in the Nation on the Democrats and trade. The article focuses on the presidential candidates, but makes great points about the dividing line for the Democrats as a whole on trade:
The trade debate is a challenge for Obama. For all Clinton's talk, her record of past support for free trade with China makes her vulnerable in Pennsylvania and Indiana. But to exploit that vulnerability, Obama must be more than a critic of Clinton or even NAFTA. Obama must inspire confidence that he "gets" Sherrod Brown's point that the problem is not NAFTA; it's "the NAFTA model" for trade pacts--a point Brown and Michaud plan to make this month with timely legislation that challenges US support of "race to the bottom" trade policies that encourage corporations to move jobs in search of ever lower standards for protecting workers, consumers and the environment.
And there is the divide. Either you "get" the progressive position on trade or you don't, there isn't much room for nuance. Accept the the current framework or reject it. Simple enough.

The good news is that it's easy to see who gets it and who doesn't. The bad news is that you can firmly put the Democratic speaker of the house and the two democratic candidates for president in the "don't get it" column. People like Sherrod Brown give me hope that the party is slowly headed in the right direction, but this fight isn't going to be an easy one.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sirota nails the Rev. Wright "controversy"

The recent shit-storm surrounding Obama and Rev. Wright has really been too much to take. I was struggling on what to write about it first, and then a funny thing happened, David Sirota did it. Not only did he write an amazing essay, but he also did it in his nationally syndicated newspaper column that runs in quite a few places that weren't going to be as welcoming of this piece as a audience of liberal blogs. First he gets into a few of the Joe Buckish reactions of many political pundits:

Pat Buchanan billy-clubbed Wright for saying, "God damn America." The MSNBC commentator, who avoided the draft, implied that Wright, a former Marine, lacks sufficient loyalty to country. Out of context, Wright's exclamation was admittedly offensive. But remember: It punctuated a speech about segregation. Buchanan, nonetheless, unleashed, deriding "black hustlers" and insisting descendants of those "brought from Africa in slave ships" owe whites a thank you. "Where is the gratitude?" he asked.

Fox's Charles Krauthammer berated Wright for saying the 9/11 attacks were "chickens coming home to roost." Krauthammer labeled the pronouncement "vitriolic divisiveness" despite our government acknowledging the concept of "blowback" -- or retaliation -- Wright was referencing. The CIA knows that when it supports foreign dictatorships, there can be blowback from radicals. While blowback is often immoral and undeserved, its existence is undisputed. Yet, Krauthammer alleged that Wright takes "satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents."

"Where's the gratitude?" Defending slavery in 2008... you gotta love cable news!

Sirota goes into the "controversy" that has them so riled up:

In promoting the Wright "controversy," most media outlets joined this mob and embraced "colorblind racism," says Duke University's Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of "Racism Without Racists."

It is polite pinstriped prejudice shrouding bigotry in feigned outrage against extremism -- the operative word being "feigned." After all, John McCain solicited the endorsement of John Hagee -- the pastor who called the Catholic Church "a great whore." Similarly, according to Mother Jones magazine, Hillary Clinton belongs to the "Fellowship" -- a secretive group "dedicated to 'spiritual war' on behalf of Christ." She is also friendly with Billy Graham, the reverend caught on tape spewing anti-Semitism. But while Wright's supposed "extremism" blankets the news, McCain and Clinton's relationships with real extremists receive scant attention.

Why is it "controversial" for one pastor to address the black community, racism and blowback, but OK for another pastor to slander an entire religion? Why is it news that one candidate knows a sometimes-impolitic clergyman, but not news that his opponent associates with an anti-Semite? Does the double standard prove the dominant culture despises a black man confronting taboos, but accepts whites spewing hate? Does the very reaction to Wright show he's right about racism?

Clinton seems to think so. Her aides have been calling the states they believe Obama will lose their political "firewall." That's campaign-speak for "race wall" -- one built with bricks like Pennsylvania and Indiana. These aren't the near-purely white states where racial politics is often muted (and Obama won). They are the slightly diverse states where racial politics simmers and where the black vote is too small to offset a motivated racist vote. This race wall is now being fortified.

ABC News reports that Clinton's campaign is "pushing the Wright story" ahead of the Pennsylvania and Indiana primaries. The crass tactic is designed to motivate the racist vote by reminding whites of Obama's connection to the African-American community. Put another way, Clinton's message has become simply: Obama Is Black.

Wright probably expected this brouhaha. He says our government is "controlled by rich white people" and our culture afflicted by racism. Though these statements are also deemed distasteful by the Establishment, they are truisms. You can see their veracity in the collected portraits of white millionaires commonly called the congressional photo directory. Or, just turn on your television and watch the mob continue stoking the Wright "controversy."

For more of his thoughts on the situation, he wrote a longer blog post explaining it here. When these things get out of hand, its nice to know that someone with a voice in the traditional media is out there making sense.

4-1 in a Caps wonderland

You almost never get a regular season game like that. With 2 games left in the season, a dominant 4-1 win puts us in a tie for first in the division, and gives the Caps a realistic shot at the playoff for the first time in 5 years. The rawkus (yes, that is the correct spelling in my book and forever will be) playoff atmosphere set the tone from the start and never let up. From pregame chanting outside the arena to the cheers of DC's cultured hockey fans who are as loud after a killed penalty as they are a goal, to the shouts of MVP drowning out the PA system for the last 5 minutes of the game after Ove's 63rd, the experience was truly cathartic. Who knows where they'll go from here, but it's pretty amazing to witness the collective explosion of joy from a beaten down fanbase just trying to dream of the playoffs and the chance to watch the best player on the earth find that 7th gear. Who knows what the next week will bring, but for now... what a night.