Bubble Teams

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

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

Feingold Has the Right Detractors

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

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

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

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

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

The Kings Under Andy Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protests Don't Work

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

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

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

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

50 years ago it worked. It did something.

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

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

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

To the Smart Men Go the Spoils

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

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

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

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

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

America Needs (at least) Two Parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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