Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sports Saturday

Taking a break from politics, let's talk about my first love: football. I need to get settled down before TCU tees it up against New Mexico tonight. We're talking BCS in Fort Worth this year. But what else is new?:

Bad start to the football season for fans in Virginia. The Cavs' loss wasn't entirely unexpected - it's just tough to swallow getting rolled like that in the home opener. On the other hand, USC - and first-year starting quarterback Mark Sanchez in particular - looked mighty impressive.

As for the Hokies, they're always prone to the occasional upset because of their perennially anemic offense. Sean Glennon at quarterback? Yuck. Off top, I'm struggling to think of an offensive gamebreaker they've had since Michael Vick was on the yard there.

Beanie Wells was about the only person Ohio State couldn't afford to lose to injury. And it happened in today's blowout against Youngstown State. If he's not ready to go against USC in a couple weeks, the Buckeyes might get rolled out of L.A.

I'm still not sold on Florida as a national championship contender. The Gators need someone other than Tebow to get those tough yards on 3rd-and-short.

Speaking of the spread, having watched most of that Utah-Michigan game, I was once again reminded why I'm not a big fan of that offense. The spread requires a dynamic quarterback and, if you don't have one, you might as well be running in place. The Wolverines might as well be running backward. Look at Oregon after Dennis Dixon went down last fall. Check out West Virginia in games where Pat White goes out of the game - think about the Mountaineers' loss to Pittsburgh. Imagine Florida if Tebow gets seriously nicked up. Not to be a cheerleader for the Trojans and Pete Carroll, but USC will almost always have a scary offense despite the relative talents of its quarterbacks. There's a huge gap in ability from Carson Palmer to Mark Sanchez to John David Booty to Sanchez. But the Trojans have remained tough to stop over the years because they're committed to a two-back offense and a timing-based passing attack that can handle the occasional drop in skill under center. That's just not the case for a spread attack in most instances. And I never want to be beholden to one player, if I don't have to be.

Can you imagine how frustrated Ryan Perriloux must be this weekend? Think about the opportunity he lost when he was booted out of Baton Rouge. Having covered a game at Tiger Stadium before, it must feel like a mighty big fall to be playing in the relative obscurity of Jacksonville, Ala. I hope Perriloux can keep his head about him, something he failed to do given chance after chance at LSU.

Btw, I saw that the Bengals cut Rudi Johnson earlier today. Wow. I hope he can get a good deal on that four-bedroom, seven-bathroom pad in Cincinnati in this market. The Bengals are in trouble themselves. Put it this way: there's no way in hell I'll be picking Chris Perry in my fantasy draft.

If business truly is "very strong" for the LPGA, then I have even more problems understanding their recent insistence on all international members being able to speak English by the end of 2009. Can you imagine if the NBA handled its international players in the same way?

Ok. I'm trying to decide if I have more to say about Sarah Palin or not today. I still can't get over this, for some reason. Continue Reading »

The future gaffe machine

The Atlantic's James Fallows muses about the danger of plucking someone out of the relative obscurity of Alaska politics and dropping them right into the middle of a heated presidential campaign:

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it's what the press is going to start out looking for. So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes.

Exactly. Sarah Palin has little record of dealing with foreign policy issues of any importance, and until now, has never been pressed by a press corps in the way that she will be over the coming couple of months. And she'll be virtually required to have a working knowledge of almost any question that comes here way.

To borrow a sports analogy, she's a Not-Ready-For-Primetime player thrust onto an island against Randy Moss. Maybe she won't give up a big play all game long but all it takes is a few blown coverages to lose the game.

Also, Fallows has a very keen comparison of McCain's pick of Palin: more like Clarence Thomas than Dan Quayle.

Ok, at this point, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here. You get the point: Sarah Palin wouldn't have been my pick if my political future was on the line. More on the great day of football a little later. Continue Reading »

From Anchorage With Love

Feel free to check out this blog, where we can all share in Sarah Palin's personal journey to the White House. Continue Reading »

Spin this, please

Karl Rove usually has an answer for everything. Even if it's a stupid one.

Thus, I'd love to see his response after The Washington Monthly dug up this bit of gold from his recent appearance on "Face The Nation." Rove said Obama's choice for veep was going to be "intensely political choice, not a governing choice," and used Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as an example:
"With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

Of course, Sarah Palin was mayor of a city that isn't even one of the 10 largest in Alaska and was governor there for fewer than two years - she hadn't even taken office when McCain started his campaign.

Could you clear up that issue about qualifications again, Karl?

Continue Reading »

Friday, August 29, 2008

Linked Up, Northern Exposure Edition

What a day. McCain has tabbed a virtual stranger as his No. 2, Obama and Biden are cruising on the good vibes of their special moment in Denver and today is virtually Christmas for a college football fan like myself.
I can barely sit still. Do you know how good it feels to wake up and realize that "College Gameday" is on the tube? More on that later:

I wouldn't allow anyone into my home after meeting them once. And I might think long and hard before agreeing to meet that person for dinner. Thus, I find it incomprehensible that John McCain would invite Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin along for his journey to the White House under similar circumstances. Does this not seem sketchy? This sounds like a John Edwards move. I can make you a celebrity overnight, Sarah.

For someone whose hallmark accomplishment in public office is pushing ethics reform, Palin sure seems headed for troubles of her own on that front. And let's be honest: ethics reform is an overrated bit of public policy, especially in a time of war and recession and general dissatisfaction with the course of the federal government. Sorry.

We've heard that Palin has executive experience. Ok. Fine. But let's say Obama tabbed the mayor of Austin or Jacksonville to be his veep. Ludicrous? Well, both cities have more people than the entire state of Alaska. And a mayor is most certainly an executive position.

Is it not ironic to think that Republicans are seriously (uh, maybe) courting women who would have voted for Hillary Clinton? Mrs. "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy" herself? Think anyone would have seen this coming 10 years ago?

I think it's unconscionable that anyone would be in favor of, say, a 12-year-old girl being forced to have a child that was the product of rape or incest. Not Palin.

That said, Democrats should show more humility in their attacks against Palin and in their rush to make Alaska seem irrelevant. It'd be good to avoid getting tagged as elitists again. Just ask the sensible questions, keep bringing the heat and let Palin expose herself. That debate against an attack dog like Joe Biden will a sight to behold.

For Palin's sake, I hope she's prepared to be vetted like no No. 2 in history. The national press won't waste any time in trying to pry into every nook and cranny of her closet. There's a huge difference between the intensity, talent and resources of reporters from the Washington Post and, say, the Anchorage Daily News.

Not to mention, dealing with legislators in Alaska as opposed to those on Capitol Hill is a jump in league on the scale of Pop Warner to the NFC East. I've covered small-town politics before, in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Trust me: she never ran into an opponent like John Kerry in Juneau.

Much like Palin, I own a journalism degree, a minor in political science and I worked as a sports journalist for several years. Unlike Palin, I'm nowhere near qualified to run for public office on that scale. Maybe I'd feel different if I lived in Alaska.

If McCain and Co. wanted to change the conversation and win the news cycle the day after Obama's spine-tingling speech in Denver, it absolutely worked. In that regard, it was the only smart aspect of the pick.

Palin seems to hate polar bears. Her opposition to listing them as an endangered species has drawn fierce criticism. "She's either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading, and both are unbecoming," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Alaska deserves better." Palin forms strong opinions about complicated issues in spite of the facts? Sounds like she'll fit right in on the ticket.

Palin is the nation's hottest governor. Really? Then again, doesn't seem like there's much competition for that honor. I wonder if that's how McCain ultimately chose her over Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal? That would make more sense than trying to convince us she was qualified for the job.

And I hope this renewed national focus on Alaska spurs some cable TV network to start airing more reruns of "Northern Exposure." I loved that show as a kid - I had a little crush on Maggie O'Connell, who oddly enough, looked a bit like a younger version of Palin.

Continue Reading »

Life imitating art imitating life

David Duchovny enters a facility for treatment of sex addiction. Continue Reading »

About that VP debate

I think I'm going to go with Joe Biden.

But if it comes down to a beauty contest, then yes, I'd pick the former Miss Wasilla of 1984. Continue Reading »

Compassionless conservatism

Pity the poor Republicans and their plans to party. Why must hurricanes cause them so much trouble?

"The Republicans can’t seem to get a break when it comes to August and when it comes to the weather,” said Karl Rove, a FOX News analyst.

Yeah, I'm positively broken up about their misfortune. Continue Reading »

The Hate That Hate Produced

Do you like blackface? Do you think it's funny to call Michelle Obama a "bitch" and "grand dragon" of the NAACP ("National Association for the Annihilation of Caucasian People")?

If so, then you'll love the PUMA- produced and directed "The Lost Michelle Obama Tapes." Continue Reading »

Can't please everyone

Over the past few weeks, my blogger crush on The Atlantic's Megan McArdle has subsided. Tonight, I think it finally came to an end.

The expectations she placed on Barack Obama were of her own making. And then she made it impossible for him to clear the bar. (Sigh).

I guess it's tough to calibrate disappointment - Obama still gave a relatively impressive speech for a politician, in her estimation. But if Pat Buchanan, of all people, can appreciate the moment and she can't, you have to wonder if Obama could have said anything to capture her imagination.

UPDATE: Yeah, lump the AP's Charles Babington in with those who weren't impressed. Sample line: "Mostly, however, he touched on major issues quickly and lightly." It was a speech, sir. Not a time to break down legislation line by line or explain the vagaries of the bill-writing process. Continue Reading »

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Some advice for Barack Obama

Not that he needs any from me, let alone anyone else. But since everyone else is playing pundit today, so will I:

Don't follow any unsolicited advice. Follow your instincts and trust the people you've always trusted. Just do you. You didn't get here - on the cusp of the White House - by following the conventional wisdom.

Understand that no matter what you say, or how you say it, at least half of the people will disagree (most of them will be watching on Fox News) and another quarter or so will wish you had said something else (most of them will be wearing "Team Hillary" T-shirts).

Some will say you didn't prove that you could relate to blue-collar America. Others will complain that you didn't offer any specifics about your policies. A few will fret that you did nothing to calm the fears of those who don't believe you're experienced enough. The rest will just generally hate on you.

And they have every right to go make a speech of their own somewhere else on some other day. But - as the late Ralph Wiley might have said - having seen you in action, I'm sure they would rather not suffer greatly by any comparisons.

Good luck and Godspeed. I'll be watching.

P.S. - That will probably be all the posting I can muster for the day. I want to watch some football (ah, finally), watch the speech and generally relax away from the computer. But, chances are, I might come back later in the night or early in the morning for some reax to Barack's big moment. Let's meet up again soon. Continue Reading »

One thumb down, one finger up for Mariotti

In what has become an increasingly ugly goodbye, Roger Ebert essentially flipped the bird to Jay Mariotti on his way out of the door at the Chicago Sun-Times:

What an ugly way to leave the Sun-Times. It does not speak well for you. Your timing was exquisite. You signed a new contract, waited until days after the newspaper had paid for your trip to Beijing at great cost, and then resigned with only an e-mail.

... On your way out, don't let the door bang you on the ass.

Wow. I'm not a big fan of the way either side is handling this divorce. Someone has to be the grownup here, you know? Continue Reading »

The argument against appeasement

"It's a little scary to think that he would be leading the country. Is it time to turn the country around and make white people the slaves?"

God bless Judy Avila, a Democrat from Spring Hill, Fla., for her candor about Barack Obama in this story that ran in today's St. Petersburg Times.

People like Avila offer proof, at least to me, that no amount of contrition, humility or rationale from Obama will persuade some voters of his worthiness to be president. It's all been a farce promoted by some of these Hillary holdouts and undecided voters, who claim they want more from Obama to prove himself ready for the White House.

Do we need to call it for what it is? Or will I be accused of playing the race card?

We hear so often about what Barack must do to win over the so-called working-class voters: prove his patriotism (wear that flag pin, sir); tone down his supposedly elite mannerisms (huh?); extend himself to the "army of 18 million"; encourage wife Michelle Obama to show a softer side (flash more teeth); avoid any overt links to civil-rights luminaries like Al Sharpton; even offer up more fodder for sorry-ass comedians who can't come up with jokes about him.

Enough. Barack is running for president and the politics involved are serious business.

He doesn't have time to appease racists and pacify idiots. No one does. If people are truly interested in the issues, they can roll up their sleeves, cut on their computers and do the hard work of informing themselves about the issues. Barack has been pretty clear throughout the campaign about the policies he would pursue, if elected.

There is serious work awaiting Obama or McCain in the White House and beyond. Being president is about picking Supreme Court justices, protecting civil liberties, responsibly deploying our troops or returning them home, among a thousand (maybe even a million) other things.

It's most certainly not about proving his humanity to people who would first deny him that based on the color of his skin. Continue Reading »

Staying away from the Rays

With a little more than a month remaining in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the thick of the pennant race for the first time in franchise history.

And, really, no one down here cares. Tonight's Rays game against Toronto figures to be the fifth time in the past six games when Tropicana Field has hosted fewer than 16,000 fans.

Says John Romano:
Call it sobering. Call it disappointing. Soon, you may be calling it disturbing or threatening.

Because if you assume the attendance figures have been lost in the excitement of the division standings, you are naive. The commissioner's office has taken notice, and owner Stuart Sternberg has surely been paying attention.

And what they see is a community running out of excuses. It's no longer about poor ownership, because Sternberg's crew has done everything possible to reach out to the fans. And it's no longer about losing because the Rays have been among baseball's best teams for four months.

For a number of reasons, Florida - in particular, the Tampa Bay area - is a terrible market for professional teams: many residents (like me) are transplants with allegiances to other teams; the downturn in the economy has hurt Florida more than most other places; and, to be honest, most people down here care only about college football.

But the Tampa-St. Pete metro area isn't going to get too many chances to prove itself as a viable market for pro baseball. The clock is ticking and the nation will soon be watching, assuming the Rays advance to the postseason. Those empty seats at the Trop will look awfully sad before a national TV audience.

I get the feeling, however, no one will really miss the Rays until they're gone. If then. Continue Reading »

No room for you in this party

Lanny Davis was easily the most detestable cable TV pundit during the primaries, eclipsing even Karl Rove. Most of the time, I wondered if Davis was merely delusional, crazy or in love with Hillary Clinton.

It might have been all three (hey, Davis and Clinton did attend Yale Law School together before either was married).

Here he is again, telling Slate's Christopher Beam that it's Barack Obama's responsibility to mend fences with the pro-Clinton crowd by acknowledging his perceived lack of experience:

"And rather than his arguing, as he did in the primaries, that you don't need experience … it's better to say, You're right, I do lack experience. He has implicitly said that [by picking] Joe Biden already."

(from Beam) I don't doubt Davis is serious. But as Lanny himself would say, I don't question his motives—only his judgment.
A few other interesting nuggets from this story: Lanny Davis is the father of Sports Illustrated basketball analyst Seth Davis; Davis apparently starts to cry during the video montage that played before Clinton's address Tuesday; and Sen. Chuck Schumer apparently can't stand Davis.

Which makes at least two of us. Continue Reading »

Did you hear about McCain's other house?

Republicans would have voters believe John McCain and his campaign handlers would never use his days as a POW for political advantage. Unless, of course, he was running for political office.

Check out this ad from the South Carolina Republican Party. It will run on cable in Minneapolis-St. Paul, starting tomorrow and through the GOP convention. Continue Reading »

Welcome Back, Kerry

For Barack Obama, it's great to have someone like Joe Biden at your side. And to welcome Bill Clinton back in the fold is a pleasing development. However, the strident support of John Kerry for Obama might be one of the most overlooked aspects of the convention - the cable networks made the wrong decision to go with their pundits during much of his speech last night.

Though his speech received much less hoopla, Kerry probably delivered a stinging rebuke of the Bush White House and the very important reasons why Democrats must unite in time for the November election. Matt quips that Kerry "he razed the right wing in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

Better than anyone in Denver so far (even Michelle Obama), Kerry rebutted these poisonous right-wing attacks against Barack's patriotism:

So who can we trust to keep America safe? The McCain-Bush Republicans have been wrong again and again and again. And they know they will lose on the issues. So, the candidate who once promised a "contest of ideas," now has nothing left but personal attacks. How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn't put America first.

In many ways, Kerry has become the forgotten man of Democratic politics since he was Swift Boated into second place in the 2004 election. But, like Al Gore before him, he seems to have been liberated by that loss over the past four years.

I find the idea that Kerry is trying to make up for his failed presidential campaign "by attempting to become the best ex-presidential nominee" an intriguing one. If Hillary Clinton feels the same way, and they continue to take up the Democratic cause with tenacity over the next few months, then I think Nov. 4 will be their vindication. History would remember them all favorably.

UPDATE: Guess I wasn't alone. Ta-Nehisi, Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall all think Kerry was on the money last night, too. Continue Reading »

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To Denver, by way of Pine Bluff

My cell phone buzzed near the end of the work day, my mother was crying on the other end and I immediately got worried.

See, in 30 years, I've probably seen my mother tear up about a dozen times - usually after a relative passed or some serious, life-altering turmoil had unfolded at the homestead. My mother rarely resorts to tears in times of crisis, thus all sorts of alarms were set off by the sound of her sobbing.

Then it all made sense: I had missed the historic nomination of Barack Obama because I had been otherwise occupied. My mother, in her way, wanted to talk about how we got here. I listened to her, something I don't do nearly enough.

It's hard for me, a child who has known only integrated schools and front-door service, to imagine the America that my parents were born into. My father is from Hot Springs, Ark., and my mother originally hails from West Monroe, La., and was raised in Pine Bluff, Ark., which were all towns once firmly beholden to the rules - or, more accurately, the absence thereof - of Jim Crow.

My mother has told me of crosses burning in the yards of her neighbors. My father remembers, as a child, being chased into the woods by a group of surly teenage rednecks. Both of them recall their parents and uncles and aunts bowing their heads, minding their step and hoping to avoid a racist on the wrong day. The consequence of brown skin and bad timing could sometimes mean swift, inexplicable cruelty.

Imagine a world with no recourse or protection from the law. Cemeteries were full of people of color with talent, a mind for change and rightfully held grievances. Considering that sort of history, my family's expectations about America's capacity for change was understandably low.

Fast forward to Wednesday. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president, a development that no reasonable black person who endured such a history could have ever imagined. My mother was overcome.

"Never in my life could I have ever expected this," said my mother over the phone, still choked up. "Not even in your life," my father said later that night.

Understand, I didn't do anything to inherit the America I live in today. By mere blessing and circumstance, I was born after decades of struggle and 14 years after the Civil Rights Act. The hard work was done by people like my parents; my uncles who fought in Vietnam; my aunts who were the first to attend integrated schools; and my grandfather who raised 12 children with a third-grade education and a laborer's salary. "I wish he was alive to see this," my mother said.

We're not naive: Barack still must win in November to complete their dream. At this point, anything less might feel like a crushing failure.

But enough with the future. For this moment, I feel compelled to honor the past. Obama and the rest of us didn't get here alone. Remember: the road to Denver would not have been possible had it not passed through places like Pine Bluff. Continue Reading »

Too many choices

I'm watching the Joe Biden acceptance speech at the moment and it occurred to me that, man, the Democrats have an awfully deep bench behind the Obamas.

Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton. Howard Dean. John Kerry. Joe Biden. Hell, Beau Biden. Ted Kennedy.

It might be because there's so many dynamic, talented people waiting in the wings, dysfunction is the only natural byproduct. You figure the Republicans wish they had so many appealing options for No. 2, No. 3 and beyond. Unless, uh, you actually know who Tim Pawlenty is.

I only wonder what might happen if the Democrats could unite all their forces. Maybe we'll find out this fall.

UPDATE: I try not to be overly syrupy or offer too much instant analysis in this spot but, my goodness, the closing moment of the convention tonight - with Barack taking the stage with his veep - was something that Democrats couldn't have scripted any better. It's going to be tough to top Wednesday.

But Spike Lee predicted a Jordan-like performance tomorrow and you know Mike rarely settled for second-best. Continue Reading »

Doing the Right Thing

Right now, I'm falling in love all over again with Spike Lee.

A few minutes ago, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux tracked down Lee for a brief interview from the floor of the convention. Malveaux breathlessly asked him about former President Clinton, who seems to have somehow turned into Grandpa Simpson during the spring. She wanted to know if the "black community" could ever again accept the guy once considered, only a tad facetiously, as America's "first black president."

Lee had to make one thing clear first, lest people again conflate his opinion with that of all black Americans - a common problem for only a handful of prominent brothas to make a name for themselves: "These are just my opinions. I'm not a spokesperson or anything."

Genius. Not to mention, he gave a wise, conciliatory and brief analysis of the Clintons' meltdown in the final weeks of the Democratic primary:
Some people take losses harder than others. This was a devastating loss.
I think, sometimes, people want to write off Senator Clinton's extended push for the nomination as a power play, a simple feeling of entitlement. But as sports fans like myself and Lee know all too well, some people just don't take losses all that well. Especially not people who are used to winning.

And especially winners on the scale of the Clintons.
Continue Reading »

What's playing in my deck...

I'm close to sharing my thoughts - again - about Sen. Clinton's moment in Denver last night. In the end, I think I feel pretty much the same way that I did after she finished: it was a great moment for Democrats and a chance for much-needed healing in a very dysfunctional party.

But, yeah, it could have been better.

1. Just Me and You by Tony Toni Tone
2. Flashing Lights (remix) by Kanye West featuring the Clipse
3. Mary Jane by Scarface
4. Love Song by The Cure
5. Nann by Trick Daddy featuring Trina

Get your mind right, people. The march goes on. Continue Reading »

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Freakishly fast

Officially, Usain Bolt is more than 20 years ahead of time. But I could have told you he was fast already.

Biomechanicist John Hutchinson says:

"You could see really freakish things and we probably will."

Seems like it's too late for that, huh? Continue Reading »


So Hillary nailed it. From start to rousing finish.

I loved the Harriet Tubman line. The "Twin Cities" riff was clutch, too. She let everyone know what the stakes are this November.

Pretty much, she made the holdouts seem really, really petty. If you're not down with Team Obama, she essentially said, then you're not really down for the Democrat cause.

In any Obama administration, Clinton (hey, maybe both of them) needs to be involved in some way. Democrats need Hillary's influence and votes on the Senate floor, and she will have another opportunity to push through universal health care. No one will ever deny Hillary her standing in the Democratic Party, certainly not Obama.

So, can we all just get along?

(By the way, sorry about the light posting today. Tuesday is almost always my busiest day of the week. I'll have more tonight and tomorrow).

UPDATE: Damn. Michael Tomasky is making me rethink some things tonight. I'll revisit this in the morning. Continue Reading »

The decisions that really matter, Denver edition

On the night of my college graduation party, my father shared some advice with me that seemed odd at the moment but still resonates eight years later: when choosing a woman to settle and start a family with, make sure that she's the one you want raising your children and someone who brings pride to the family name.

We all know people who've erred in this decision before, bringing upon themselves untold amounts of chaos and grief and distress. It's one of those crucial decisions that you really can't afford to get wrong.

My father's words came back to me Monday night as Michelle Obama bathed in applause following her address to the Democratic National Convention, a heartrending speech that proved her to be every bit the equal of her oratorically-gifted husband.

I've heard this sentiment bandied about a lot over the past few months but, more than ever, I find myself admiring Barack Obama - if he knew enough to pursue and marry a woman like the former Michelle Robinson, then I'm more inclined to trust his judgment in other areas.

Other notes from the Democrats' opening night in Denver:

It was great to see Senator Ted Kennedy in fighter's form last night. I, too, hope he makes it back to Capitol Hill in January. But judging from the reaction of Maria Shriver and the cryptic calmness of Kennedy's friends and supporters, I think this might have been his final moment in the spotlight. Which is sad for a host of reasons, particularly that Kennedy might be one of the few proud, unapologetically liberal members left in the House.

Despite Michelle Obama's big moment onstage, the most powerful line of the night went to Kennedy: "Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake."

If Oregon State isn't going to have a great basketball program under Craig Robinson, then it's never going to happen. What a moment for the Beavers last night. Shouldn't Robinson be able to get into most of the homes of every second- and third-tier basketball recruit of the country?

If it wasn't already obvious before, Karl Rove is a nauseous douchebag. I made the mistake of forcing myself to watch the reaction to Michelle Obama's speech on Fox News. Here's Rove assorted takes on the night: "she didn't do a great job of saying she loves America" and "I didn't get a sense of connectedness" and "they have a very businesslike relationship" and "I didn't get a sense of deep warmth there" and "I thought it was a call for a union organizing drive" and "it was a stump speech." Not to mention this closing nugget of compassionate conservatism, with Rove complaining that Michelle Obama promised "every family will get this and every child will have a world-class education." Rove snorted at the end of the sentence. Snorted, as if those weren't admirable goals. Again people, there's an important choice to make this fall and we tend get the government that we deserve. What are we going to do? Continue Reading »

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pobody is nerfect

Including Joe Biden.

I can only hope that, in the upcoming months, Biden might reconsider some of his positions as they relate to the "War on Drugs" and the federalization of crime. It might actually give Barack Obama the impetus he needs to seriously take on our nation's drug laws and the prison-industrial complex.

But, again, no one out there would have been a perfect veep candidate or been able to escape the GOP hatchet machine. Continue Reading »

The government we deserve

Bill Maher went on this great riff with Larry King the other night, something to the effect of Americans being "too dumb to be governed."

What then would Maher make of the good people of Birmingham, who sent Larry Langford into the mayor's office?

Not only is Langford pushing the absurd prospect of Birmingham hosting the Olympics in 2020, but he ran his campaign under the ridiculously ambiguous slogan of "Let's Do Something," and in his previous gig as president of the County Commission, led the agency to the brink of possibly "the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history," according to the New York Times.

A sampling of Langford's genius:

“There’s all this talk about inflation, recession ... I choose not to participate. I just don’t have this defeatist attitude.”

I sincerely wish this was satire. The serious problems that Birmingham has (rampant crime, poverty, crumbling infrastructure) deserve serious public servants. But, like the rest of us, Birmingham is getting the government it deserves. Continue Reading »

All politics are local ... news

From the Washington Post, yet another disturbing aspect of the recent rash of layoffs and cutbacks at American newspapers has been the gradual loss of regional reporting on Capitol Hill:

Incumbents already get most of the breaks, with high name recognition and deep cash reserves. But now there's an even stronger protection program for U.S. representatives and senators: the demise of regional reporters who keep tabs on what those veteran officeholders actually do for the constituents who keep returning them to power.

Though I'm fortunate to work for a newspaper with the resources to fully staff a Washington bureau, I wonder how much is lost when smaller media outlets across the country shutter their D.C. offices and recall their reporters.

If no one is keeping tabs - someone in the ol' watchdog role - on legislators from places like Wyoming, Iowa and Oklahoma, how do their constituents know if their interests are being represented responsibly? The New York Times and the Washington Post can't cover it all ... can they? Continue Reading »

Michelle's big moment

Via Michael Tomasky, a link to a Slate essay about some of the points Michelle Obama should cover tonight during her address in Denver.

She acknowledges that it's OK if your first impulse is to find Obama's background puzzling or even to dismiss him—because she did once, too. The idea is that you, too, will soon perceive the many ways he is wonderful; you, too, will fall for him, just as she did. She is here to walk us through the process.

The stories of the courtship of Barack and Michelle are endlessly fascinating to me, and I can't help but wonder if that could help thaw the apprehension some voters might have about a black family in the White House. At the least, there's a lot more romance and virtue to the budding relationship of the Obamas than the McCains (I won't even go into those reasons here).

Also, Tomasky makes a good point about the capacity of Americans to embrace a black First Lady: Michelle Obama has consistently outpolled Cindy McCain in terms of likability. Says Tomasky: this "is somewhat astonishing when you stop and think about it. Cindy McCain is blond, conventionally pretty and was a cheerleader for God's sakes at the University of Spoiled Children."

Though I wonder if some of this speaks, once again, to the increasing American division regarding class rather than race.

Anyhow, I'll be watching tonight. Michelle Obama has learned from a master orator in her own home, thus I think we'll be in for a treat. Continue Reading »

The tenuous link between slavery and speed

Had someone like Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder floated the theory that slavery is, in part, responsible for Jamaican supremacy at sprinting, he would have been laughed and then booted out of the building.

Not so for Herb Elliott, Jamaica's Olympic team doctor. Some people are actually willing to concede the point.

More than 20 years later, it comes back to this. Doesn't it always?

“They say that our aggression, our toughness, came out of our slave situation,” said Elliott, who is black. The team doctor said he subscribes to the view “considering that Jamaica had more slavery rebellion than any country in the world.”

“It’s not a question of genetic pool, but we have that,” he added. “It’s a cultural thing, too, that we want to achieve.”

I'm more willing to accept arguments that have a cultural component than ones that focus on the natural athletic superiority of black people. Certainly, Jamaica seems to have fostered a culture where sprinters are accorded the same respect and celebrity that Americans reserve for football and basketball players. A history of slavery, however, is not unique to the black peoples of the world.

BALCO founder Victor Conte has a more plausible explanation: Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are more inclined to protect their drug cheats rather than to root them out.

Without concrete proof, I'm not willing to tarnish the gold won by Jamaica's sprinters. But Elliott did his team and himself no favors with the controversial theory linking slavery to speed and his very weak defense of the Jamaican drug testing program:

Peppered by questions about Jamaican’s drug testing program, Elliott responded with a litany of assertions: the Jamaicans have spent about $930,000 on a government-sponsored drug testing program; he personally tested every Jamaican athlete that competed in the country’s Olympic trials; and sanctions against Julien Dunkley, a 32-year-old Jamaican sprinter, indicates the country is serious about drug testing.

... “We know that our athletes have trained hard, that the country would not tolerate any kind of cheating because we are a moral, Christian country."

It's important to remember that two Jamaican natives and former Olympic men's 100-meter champions, Ben Johnson and Linford Christie, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs at some point in their careers - Johnson notably right after his win in Seoul.

Maybe Elliott is ignorant of history. Perhaps willfully so. And maybe we are, too.

Twenty years after Jimmy The Greek ended his career with an offhand theory about the superiority of black athletes, here we go again. What goes the saying about those ignorant of history ... Continue Reading »

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do black men sing anymore?

I came across this song on my iTunes the other day and was struck by how many recognizable, moderately famous male R&B singers there were almost 15 years ago.

Keith Sweat (pictured at right). Brian McKnight. Tevin Campbell. El Debarge. Not to mention the songwriter, a mostly unknown guy named D'Angelo.

Among them, there weren't lots of TRL, 106 & Park-type stars. Just a few dudes who could carry a tune, sold some records to pay the bills and rolled through the Video Soul studio to break bread with Donnie Simpson from time to time.

Other than Anthony Hamilton, John Legend and Raheem DeVaughn, I'm not sure I've bought the album of a contemporary R&B singer in the past couple of years.

What happened to black men who can really sing? Do they all rap now?
UPDATE: The more I think about it, I wonder if the music industry and the changing way in which people consume music has squeezed out artists like Christopher Williams, Al B. Sure and Aaron Hall. Cats who can just sing really don't make it big anymore. You've got to be a well-rounded entertainer, I think, to make much of a dent on Soundscan these days.
UPDATE 2: On a not-so-unrelated note, I've become obsessed with reggae and dancehall music in the past couple of weeks. Maybe it's because of the Caribbean influence here in Tampa.But I've been bumping Beenie Man and Sizzla hard recently. Much res-pek.
Continue Reading »

Bonus: Sports Sunday

So much happened Saturday evening that I couldn't go into another week without sharing some of my thoughts. I spent the early part of my evening watching Jeff Garcia flail around with the Bucs on a gorgeous night at Raymond James, then closed out the night at around 4:30 a.m. with the Olympic men's basketball gold-medal game:

Once again, I'm giving my nod to Kobe Bryant as the best basketball player in the world in light of his 13-point fourth quarter against Spain. For all the talk about the considerable gifts of LeBron James, when things got dicey for the Americans late in the game, the offense started running almost exclusively through Kobe. It was quite a show, something that we've grown accustomed to seeing on winter nights against the Warriors. And, in the end, Kobe helped the "Redeem Team" hold off the surprisingly feisty Spaniards.

A couple of closing notes about Spain: they performed extremely well without the services of starting point guard Jose Calderon, who had a slight tear of the abductor muscle in his right thigh; Spain pretty much got whatever it wanted against the American's defense; and my goodness, 17-year-old Ricky Rubio was a revelation. That kid has the guts of a burglar and the skills to make a difference in the NBA. I can't imagine many other teens going toe-to-toe with the NBA's best in the way that Rubio did. He's definitely a future lottery pick.

Call this blasphemy, but I'm actually leaning toward this edition of the U.S. men's team as the best of the recent Olympic squads, including the first one in 1992. The Redeem Team has lots more firepower on the wings and faced much stiffer - and deeper - competition than the first Dream Team. People have forgotten, over time, how weak that 1992 team really was. The only wildcard here, of course, is the in-his-prime Michael Jordan. It's tough to bet against M.J.

Finally, no gold medal for the coaches? That's terrible. Though I hate to admit it as a longtime -Duke hater, Coach K did a masterful job and acquitted himself extremely well - notice how much better the NBA players seemed to get along with him as opposed to someone like Larry Brown?

On the NFL front, it became apparent early last night against Jacksonville why the Bucs were flirting with the idea of bringing Brett Favre to Tampa. Jeff Garcia looked terrible in his first game action of the preseason. I guess some folks might call it "rusty."

Also from the Bucs game, I totally forgot that Dennis Northcutt was playing with the Jags these days. I mention this because, in my old college days, Northcutt put on one of the most dominant performances I'd ever seen from the press box (how about that for a classic?). Northcutt was the best player on the field on that night in Fort Worth 10 years ago, which is saying something because LaDainian Tomlinson was on the other sideline. Anyway, good to see Dennis is still sticking around in the league.

Ok, looks like Shawne Merriman might be out for the season after all. Deadspin has some great advice for Merriman: "His best bet is to get Norv Turner's opinion on the matter and then do the exact opposite of whatever that dumbfuck suggests." It makes me a little sad for the San Diego Chargers. Some teams just never catch a break, sort of like the Houston Oilers teams of the early '90s that I rooted for as a kid.

It's probably hard for the Arizona Cardinals to not think, as of today, Matt Leinart is turning into a bust of major proportions. That's about the size of it if Leinart can't beat out Kurt Warner, a fossilizing, shot quarterback if there ever was one.

Never one for conventional thought, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach - perhaps facetiously - floated the idea of doing some recruiting in Jamaica after watching the Olympics. Indeed, what offensive whiz hasn't dreamed of having someone like Usain Bolt to run fly routes?
Finally, it's apparent that China put on quite a show for the rest of the world over the past couple weeks. The Beijing Games were clearly good for the Olympics. But were the Olympics good for China? Or, better yet, Tibet and Darfur? We're still left with more questions than answers.
Continue Reading »