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|Tuesday, December 11th, 2012|
|The Shred Life: Part One
With a cold front finally pushing through this week it is looking more likely that winter is going to finally settle in here on the East Coast. Temps will begin plummeting tonight and it looks like the local resorts are all geared up for snowmaking operations that should run well into the weekend. There are hints at the possibility of a winter storm event next week so with any luck; the slopes could be open as soon as next weekend and possibly even this weekend on a limited basis. If you couldn’t already tell, I am more than a little bit stoked about this prospect. ( Read MoreCollapse )
|Wednesday, December 5th, 2012|
|The Fiscal Cliff
With the election at an end the American political scene has quickly shifted its focus to the impending “fiscal cliff” negotiations ongoing between the legislative and executive branches of our government. The issue confronting the nation concerns the impending economic doom that some say could ensue should the government fail to adequately address the hybrid problem of looming tax increases and spending cuts. Born out of failed debt negotiations of yesteryear, the fiscal cliff is nothing short of a draconian pogrom of austerity aimed at all levels of the economy including the tax system, entitlement programs, and the defense budget. Indeed, a failure to stop impending tax increases that are set to revert to Clinton-era levels would not normally present much of an issue for a strong, robust economy. After all, during the Clinton years growth and GDP soared, people were finding good jobs, and the economy was humming along with its greatest strength since WWII. This period equated to a surplus in the federal budget, higher wages, and stock market indexes that were increasing seemingly exponentially on an annual basis. Things were good then and the middle class could afford to pay a bit more in taxes, but like all good things, the 90’s boom quickly came to an end at the turn of the millennium as the combined effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, two unfunded wars, and unfunded education, tax, and healthcare mandates propagated by the Bush Administration wreaked havoc on an economy raked over the coals by the housing crisis. The federal deficit reached dangerous levels and the Federal Reserve quickly ran out of answers as quantitative easing and bailouts did little to lift a sagging global economy out of the doldrums.
It is in this pretext that we find the conception of the current fiscal cliff. With time running out on increasing the federal debt ceiling the government was at risk of defaulting on its obligations. A divided government in Washington could not reach an accord on deficit spending, taxes, or other economic reforms, so the can was kicked down the road to a later date and unfortunately the day of reckoning is upon us. If one examines the plans laid out by both parties it becomes clear that one side is pushing a continuation of federal spending policies aimed at reinforcing social safety nets and reestablishing a firm economic foundation while the other is pushing for a program of fiscal austerity similar to the experiment that has been undertaken in the European Union to lift that region out of its economic malaise. The question then is which side is right? The good thing is that we have hard data history, and facts, although none of these things seems to matter much in certain circles anymore, to back up claims that austerity is the absolute last thing a government should entertain when combating an ailing or recovering economy. First, when he took office, President Obama immediately undertook an ambitious agenda of federal spending designed to stimulate an economy that was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month. The plan was simple; the federal government would bolster the weakened private sector until the economy started to recover. While some have claimed the president’s plan was futile, others have argued that the plan did not go far enough. Looking at the data, it is difficult to see how this spending plan was anything but effective. Indeed, upon examining a comparative growth chart composed by Reuter’s Scotty Barber , it is clear that the American economy is in a much better position than that of the United Kingdom and Europe, areas of the world that feature economies that are most similar to American-style capitalism.
As the chart shows, while European and British GDP growth has leveled out and even started another fall, American growth has been comparatively robust and steady. This remains to be the case as growth has continued unabated for the past several economic quarters while European economies have continued to sputter. In fact, as of the middle of November 2012, European austerity had hit so hard that economists officially declared that the region reentered recession for the second time in four years as growth contracted by 0.1% in September and 0.2% in October, officially marking the beginning of another economic downturn. At the same time, while American economic growth has been anemic, it still outperformed the majority of the developed world with a growth rate of about 1.3% annually compared to the frightening -6.3% rate seen at the start of the Great Recession in 2009.
This of course begs of the question, what’s the difference? Why has the American economy rebounded, albeit ever so slightly, while Europe and the UK continued to be mired in a period of stagnation that does not have a clear end in sight and in fact could get much worse as the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland continue to be a drag upon the region? The answer is relatively simple. While the European Union, headed by Germany’s Angel Markel and Great Britain, under the direction of David Cameron’s Conservative Party have adopted deep austerity measures designed to erase government debt and ease recession, the Obama administration decided to chart a different course, and one championed by prominent economists might I add, that advocates for increased federal spending following an economic crisis of this magnitude.
From the GDP stats alluded to previously, or steady American job growth that has chipped away at the losses suffered because of the recession, it is not difficult to see which strategy emerged the victor. While Europe has slipped back into recession and has seen physical violence in its cities as a result of severed social safety nets, American industrial orders have risen, the stock market has made a historic recovery, and people are being put back to work. While some may argue that U.S. growth has been slow and the pace of job creation has not been as strong as past recoveries, they fail to take into account the fact that the 2009 economic downturn was and continues to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Unlike the Depression-era however, growth is a much more complicated equation this time as a result of a global economy in which decisions made in Shanghai or Singapore now have the ability to impact the behavior of economies half-way around the world. In an economy that features the outsourcing of industry at a rapid rate as well as the emergence of a high-tech sector that requires specialized skills unavailable to the general day laborer, it is absurd to think that a post-Depression style jobs boom, which in that case was fueled by a major war, could once again occur in a modern economy shackled, for better or worse, by the chains of globalization.
As Noble prize winning economist Paul Krugman has indicated, this is exactly why the problem we face should not be called the fiscal cliff, but instead should be termed the austerity bomb. Europe’s grim industrial output, further recession, and worsening unemployment crisis should cause any sane person to run far, far away from any sort of government austerity measure at this point.
American history following the Great Depression paints an even clearer picture of the outright stupidity of austerity as FDR's deficit spending policies in the early 1930's resulted in an astonishing 5.2% growth rate, a rate that unfortunately crashed in 1937 when, you guessed it, pressure from Republicans and business groups forced FDR to cut federal spending in a vain attempt to balance the budget. This move caused the recovering economy to spiral back into a near cataclysmic recession, an event that was only cured by increased federal spending. It is unbelievable to think that in the face of a mountain of data that indicates the need for increased, and not decreased federal stimulus spending, that spending cuts would even be a part of the equation, but that is exactly what is happening. The signatures of European-style spending cuts are precisely on the table not only should fiscal cliff talks fail, but they are also clearly evident in the GOP debt reduction plan forwarded to the president by the Speaker of the House this week. As I have mentioned on here before, this decoupling of reality is at the crux of the problem. When you have an entire organization that so deeply despises fact and logic, it is only a matter of time before they believe the lies spun by their own pundits and act in a way that is detrimental to the interests of the entire country. This should come as no surprise for a political party that has become more fundamentalist, and frankly, more asinine and out of touch with each passing election cycle. If you truly believe that women have the ability to “cure” themselves of a rape-induced pregnancy, or that the earth is only as old as your storybook tells you, can you really be trusted to understand complicated economic policies?
As time ticks away and the end of the year rapidly approaches, Americans that like things like food on the table, secure roads, good schools, and safe neighborhoods should let their voice be hear and reach out to their representatives in support of a deal that preserves tax rates for the lower and middle classes while at the same time, protects the social safety net for those still trying to dig out of the hole. This is the smart and sound thing to do and while I agree that cuts will eventually need to come, now is neither the time nor the place to be discussing that sort of action. The recovery is just picking up steam, why would you want to push it back into reverse?
|Tuesday, November 13th, 2012|
New Blog Post!
The Benghazi Blues: Foreign Policy, U.S. Consular attacks, and even a special guest appearance by Ronald Reagan! Oh my!http://theheirloomtroubadour.tumblr.com/
Following the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the conservative media has been foaming at the mouth, demanding blood from the Obama administration for the deaths of 4 American consular officers, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. While the attacks were horrible to be sure, a review of the historical record indicates that these types of attacks are not only normative, they have unfortunately become expected as collateral operating costs in certain high-risk portions of the world in which the United States does business and presidents from Nixon, to Reagan, and Obama, have all responded in a similar manner.
To begin, while information about the attack remains fragmented at this point, it is apparent that on the evening of 9/11/2012, armed insurgents, possibly linked to Al Qaeda, stormed the embassy compound, which left four American consular employees dead. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the intelligence annex received a call at 9:40 PM local time that indicated the compound had come under attack. A team of six CIA operatives were sent to the consulate within 25 minutes of receiving the call. During this time the team approached the compound and attempted to procure heavy weapons but were unsuccessful in this endeavor as they encountered heavy enemy fire upon their approach. They entered the compound, attempting to locate Ambassador Stevens and the rest of the staff. At 11:11 PM, an unarmed U.S. military surveillance drone arrived at the compound to provide aerial support, and by 11:30 PM, all of the American consular officers, with the exception of Stevens, were loaded onto vehicles that came under heavy fire as they exited the compound. The intelligence annex of the compound then came under sporadic fire for the next 30 minutes or so when it was realized that the ambassador had been transported to a local hospital because of his wounds. With the situation rapidly deteriorating, CIA operatives, who were joined by a contingent of operatives from the American Embassy in Tripoli that were flown into Benghazi, determined that it was too risky to approach the hospital and extract the ambassador, especially since reports were already indicating that he had succumbed to smoke inhalation. As such, the decision was made to remove the remaining American consular officers from the annex, at which time a “heavily armed Libyan military unit” provided cover so that the agents and officers could be escorted to safety.
Glancing back at history, it is apparent that extremists and other subversive elements have had U.S. consular offices in their crosshairs since at least the 1958 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. While these attacks leveled off in the 1960’s, they came back with a vengeance in the 1970’s, and have continued unabated into the modern era. Indeed, since the September 26, 1971 attack on a consular softball game in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, serious consular-based attacks have occurred in every presidential administration from Nixon to Obama.
It is important to note that while the Benghazi attack was horrific, both the casualty count and impact of the attack pales in comparison to previous assaults that have occurred at these types of facilities. From the Al Qaeda-directed truck bomb attacks at U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed 224, to the 1983 Islamic Jihad truck bomb that killed 63 in Beirut. It is abundantly clear that consular work is a major occupational hazard for anyone seeking employment in international affairs. U.S. embassies represent am American presence on often hostile foreign soils. As such they act as lightning rods for popular discontent with American hegemony, policy, and presence. The facilities absorb the grievances and complaints of a litany of people and interests throughout the world from terrorist organizations and other subversive groups, to religious and political refugees, and anarchist elements that seek nothing more than to cause chaos and mayhem in the international sphere. Often these actors lack the resources to project their grievances by other means, so an attack or demonstration outside the gates of an American or other Western consulate provides a source of power. While this power is generally temporary, it nonetheless has increasingly proved irresistible to people and groups that seek an audience with the U.S. government that they would not otherwise obtain.
This is the necessary price the U.S. government pays for operating in dangerous parts of the world, especially in the era of globalization where U.S. political, economic, and social power has expanded outwardly at such a rapid pace, pitting Western values against more traditional cultures around the globe. This is Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and Thomas Friedman’s Lexus and the Olive Tree playing out before our eyes, albeit in a very violent way. Unfortunately, consular attacks are forecasted to not only increase in frequency, but also in terms of sophistication in coming years as factors such as the price of food, peak oil, medicine, climate change, access to technology, and even water hamper the quality of life for people throughout the world. When such events happen people generally seek a scapegoat and one cannot think of a better bogeyman than the diplomatic outposts of the world’s sole remaining superpower.
Yet, in a stark example of the conservative “bubble” at play, those in the right-wing of the American political spectrum have tried to turn the Benghazi attack into something it is not. This fits perfectly into the pattern of absurdity that gripped the GOP since the late 1990’s, which has continued unabated until, well hopefully, last Tuesday’s thorough trouncing at the polls. One would hope that the party would wake up from their self-induced anti-reality coma as attempts to “create our own reality,” as a George W. Bush staffer once described the GOP’s truth avoidance campaign, have proven futile and useless time and again. While the collective GOP divorce from reality has been well documented, it is not the point of this essay. Rather, it is within this context that we see the Benghazi attack, viewed through the fractured conservative perceptual lens, as somehow equating in importance to the Iranian hostage crisis of the Carter era, or worse, the attacks of September 11, 2001. For many of the pundits on the right, Benghazi is the new Monica Lewinsky, scandalous, potentially ready to take down a president. Yet, the proper conduct of international affairs requires a bit more than Rush Limbaugh one-liners and tabloid style headlines. Foreign policy is serious business, it is life or death, and it is not for the weak at heart. The collective conservative reaction to the Benghazi attack should serve as a stark reminder of the ineffective and misplaced policies of the Bush years that endangered American lives and ran up the national debt to levels unheard of. The modern Republican Party has proven endlessly that it does not have the patience to wait for investigations to be conducted, the nation’s intelligence apparatus to cycle, or for diplomatic efforts to kick in. The reaction to Benghazi exemplifies this point mightily. In essence, knee-jerk responses to these types of events generally trigger major repercussions somewhere down the line, whether these costs are paid in American lives or in dollars via a struggling economy, the point is that the collateral damage of action before thought is massive and dangerous to U.S. interests.
Like so many other so-called “truths” espoused by the right, the narrative of Benghazi spinning on Fox News and conservative talk radio does not take into account the nature of consular work, the historical patterns surrounding embassy attacks, or the situation on the ground in Libya the day in which the attack occurred. Indeed, if the government had acted as conservatives would have preferred following the attacks, U.S. foreign policy in the region could have been dealt a significant blow in a region that is already frail and on the brink of major collapse. Conservative talking heads have criticized the president for not defining the attack as an act of terrorism at a time that was early enough to suit their tastes. This the famous line of questioning used by Mitt Romney during the debates that was proven to lack a factual basis, and it is also the same line of questioning that shows a distinct ignorance of the nature of intelligence and law enforcement work in a time of crisis that has become one of the hallmarks of neoconservative foreign policy. One of the most fundamental truths of crisis management is that early information that originates from the scene of an incident, whether that incident is a plane crash, natural disaster, or an attack on an embassy, is known to be riddled with mistakes that make the information fragmented at best, and unreliable at worst.
The Benghazi attack is no different as all early indications coming from the ground pointed to the fact that the attack was fueled by anti-American sentiments radiating from a now famous inflammatory YouTube video on Islam. Demonstrations had been ongoing throughout the Arab world prior to the attack, so it was relatively safe to assume that the Benghazi incident was somehow linked to these uprisings.
Yet, as investigations ran deeper, the Central Intelligence Agency noted in an initial assessment that the attack was in all likelihood a hybrid scenario in which extremists utilized the cover of demonstrations inspired by spontaneous protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to plan and execute a direct assault against the Libyan consulate. This is what led President Obama, on 9/12/2012, the day after the attack, to comment in the Rose Garden that “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. … No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” So, as better information came in, the president rightly condemned the action as an act of terrorism. There is a lesson here though that is greater than political points scored in a presidential election. 
Given the knee-jerk reaction to foreign policy exhibited by the Bush Administration and other Neocons, I for one am happy to have a president that waits for the professionals on the ground to properly assess the situation and report before they go in front of the world and make grand pronouncements that lack accuracy. Far too often shooting from the hip has endangered American lives and rendered American foreign policy options weaker because we wanted to play cowboy instead of conducting our foreign affairs in a smart, business-like manner. Lest we forget one of the fundamental lessons of 9/11 as Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to Osama bin Laden, even though it is well-documented that the two could not stand each other and had entirely different aims in mind.
The knee-jerk reaction is what caused us to spend billions removing Hussein from power, money that would have been better spent tracking down and capturing or killing Al Qaeda operatives that were linked to the organization that actually claimed thousands of American lives on 9/11. This type of determined prosecution of the actual perpetrators of 9/11 did not begin in earnest until President Obama took office in 2008. Instead, the United States became involved in two quagmires in the Middle East just because we sought a vengeance that was fundamentally misplaced and misguided. In essence, we started a war with the wrong people, if this does not call for caution in our international dealings, then I am afraid that we are adrift, lost at sea without bearing. Indeed, realpolitik alone demands that an international actor move definitively only if it serves their best interest, a lesson in the proper conduct of foreign policy that Republican hawks have either never learned, which is frightening beyond belief, or conveniently forgotten.
Finally, another factor at play in the post-game right-wing analysis of the attack has been formulated around the belief that somehow the president did not do enough to protect the compound. First, as has been mentioned throughout, the U.S. government simply does not have the resources to harden every single consular office against the myriad of threats faced by these offices on a daily basis. It is completely spurious to conclude that a president from either party could have prevented any of the hundreds of consular attacks committed since the 1950’s if they had only committed more troops, or sent more money. Let us not forget that in 1983 Ronald Reagan came under severe criticism for failing to act on intelligence reports prior to the car bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that left 63 dead. In fact, Reagan acted in a justifiable and proper manner as any other president faced with an attack on a consulate. As such, today’s Republicans should take note of both the rhetoric and inaction employed by one of their supposed heroes in a similar situation.
International terrorism loomed as large in foreign policy in the 1980’s as it does today and Reagan neither declared the bombing and act of terrorism, or took immediate action as he instead preferred to let U.S. foreign policy work. In an editorial for the New York Post Reagan claimed, “We have taken a position — and it is our policy that if this continues — we’re not there to shoot first or to enter into combat. But I’m never going to send our men anyplace where they wouldn’t be allowed to defend themselves. And it’s been our policy that if they are attacked, they will defend.” In other words, the president was not soft on terrorism, he was smart, and waited for intelligence to be collected and diplomacy to work its due course before acting erratically in a way that could do further harm to U.S. interests in a fragile region. The similarities between the 1983 Beirut attack and Benghazi are striking, except for the casualty count. Responding as Reagan did to calls that he did not act quickly enough, President Obama comment, “…as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts.” Now, there is a thought, foreign policy being conducted on the basis of truth and knowledge. I am sure Reagan is rolling over in his grave.
 Laquer, Walter. The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
 Schilling, William. Nontraditional Warfare: 21st Century Threats and Responses. Washington D.C.: Brassey’s, 2002.
 Reich, Walter. Origins of Terrorism. Washington D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998.
 Hook, Stephen and John Spanier. American Foreign Policy Since World War II. Washington D.C: CQ Press, 2004.
|Monday, November 5th, 2012|
| Racial Politics: A Disturbing American Tradition
Also see: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/theheirloomtroubadour
Okay, so the election is tomorrow and we will finally see the outcome of the months-long democratic process come to fruition, at least that’s the game plan barring voter suppression efforts, hanging chads, and well, space alien invasions. This week though I think it prudent to discuss something that has been bothering me for a while that resurfaced again after Tom Scocca’s incredible Slate article this week entitled, “Why Do White People Think Mitt Romney Should Be President?” Yes, my friends, this post is about racism, the boogeyman in American politics and society that everyone wants to ignore, thinks doesn’t exist, or even practices, albeit secretly, in hushed tones across dinner tables throughout this entire country. Unfortunately racism is alive and well, and it has reared its ugly head not only throughout the entire presidency of Barack Obama, but also through the entirety of the electoral process, to include, perhaps most importantly, the civic discourse of everyday Americans.
This should come as no surprise in a country that has such a long, troubled history in relation to this issue; however, I fear that the racially motivated attacks that have encompassed this campaign will make the rhetoric difficult to mute, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome. Indeed, in recent polling from The Washington Post/ABC News, President Obama trails Mitt Romney among white voters with 60% breaking for Romney, and only 37% supporting the president. When one breaks these stats down even further and looks at each candidates support among gender lines the results are even starker with Mr. Romney enjoying the support of about 65% of white men that lack a college degree, and the president only backed by 32% of the demographic in recent polling. Meanwhile, the non-white vote is completely tilted in favor of Mr. Obama, which Republican Senator Lindsay Graham recently lamented as being the most plausible reason for a Romney loss, “If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95% of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”
This begs of the question, what is going on here? While statistically-speaking correlation does not prove causation, there appears to be something lurking beneath the surface that drives these numbers. Why are whites overwhelmingly in support of one candidate, and why does that same candidate receive what is tantamount to no support amongst minorities? For minorities the answer is quite easy, the Republican Party has never truly attempted to court their vote (see Lindsay Graham comment above), for whites, the issue is much more complex and speaks to a complex social history that is mired in racial politics. Enter Tom Scocca who wrote that while white people don’t like to believe that they practice identity politics, these forces have exceedingly been at play throughout the Obama administration with the accusations that have tried to paint the president as being somehow un-American. In these all too familiar attacks the president is supposedly either Muslim or more sinisterly, not an American citizen. In other attacks, and I only wish I were kidding, it is alleged that he fought for the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980’s against the Soviet Union and as such is a card-carrying terrorist, on top of being a communist.  These allegations, I believe, are not wholly based upon a hatred of the president, although that is certainly a part of it, but they are more associated with race.
This belief stems from the fact that not surprisingly similar insults and overtures were made against Hiram Revels, the first African American to serve in the United States Senate. Elected in Reconstruction-era Mississippi in 1870, Revels nationality was immediately questioned upon his arrival to Washington as his opponents, vaguely masking their racist contempt, attempted to paint him as an outsider that had not been a U.S. citizen for the nine years required of all senators. These white men hated Revels because they could not stand the thought of a black man serving in the Senate, which would begin to erode their grasp on power. Sound familiar? It should. You see, the right-wing caricature of Obama, this imaginary narrative that paints him as a foreign-born America-hater of the worst variety is ripped from the pages of our segregationist and racist past. In every Anne Coulter “retard” taunt, or Sarah Palin “shuck and jive” comment, the southern, racist past reveals itself once more.
When you cannot run on issues, which I firmly believe the Republican Party is unable to do following the eight years of travesty that occurred under Bush II that even Republicans do not attempt to sugarcoat, what you are left with is character assassinations and ad hominem attacks that are incredibly disturbing. The situation harkens back to the late 1950’s when George Wallace, a Democrat mind you, claimed he would never be “outniggered” again after losing the 1958 Alabama Democratic gubernatorial nomination to John Malcolm Pearson. In order to get ahead politically, Wallace campaigned for the white vote in the 1962 Alabama gubernatorial election by adopting a hard-line segregationist stance as he claimed, quite stunningly, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.” Here we see the beginning of the “us versus them” mentality that is so common in our nation’s political discourse, even in the modern era that is at the very heart of this week’s post.
Unfortunately, ever since the infamous Reagan-era inner-city “welfare momma” became a part of the national discussion in the 1980’s, any discussion of entitlement or social welfare programs, at least from a white perspective, took on an ugly, racist tone. From Wallace to Reagan, campaigns quickly learned of the political expediency of fostering the mentality amongst white, lower and middle-class voters that someone, somewhere is out to cheat them out of their jobs, money, and tax dollars, and yes, the person doing the swindling is not of the same skin complexion as you. This is the American that is made up of regular, productive folks that work 9-5, and the leeches on the cusp of society that are victimizing them and their tax dollars. It’s the force at play behind Mr. Romney’s 47% comment, and it is the line of thinking that is responsible for the Tea Party. In essence, as Scocca indicates, this is nothing less than the old Confederate bugle being played one last time.
Yet, this is only the half of the equation as the discussion trickles all the way down to families throughout the country. It makes me sick to think about how many functions I have been to in my life where the Reaganesque welfare momma has come up as the topic of discussion, waiting to be dissected to the roar and approval of the crowd. The seeds of racial contempt are often part and parcel of the comments that I have heard one too many times: my tax dollar go to pay for her shrimp, but she can afford cigarettes?!?; or, they should have to take drug tests to get welfare; or I can’t believe they let ‘those people’ mooch on our tax dollars while I am out here busting my ass! I wish I was making up half of this, but I, like I assume most of you, have heard it countless times before. In other words, if they would only get their lazy asses up and find a job, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, then things would somehow work out better. Nothing like Thanksgiving dinner and a good old bit of Uncle John’s post Civil War racist ramblings to liven up the holidays, huh? Yet, speaking from experience, I suspect that this is exactly the calculation that goes through the heads of more white voters than I would care to imagine.
Interestingly, these comments usually emanate from people that are wholly reliant on government programs themselves for economic vitality whether it be through tax cuts, schools, Medicare, or the litany of other big, bad guv’ment programs that make our society run smoothly. I am sorry, but if you have 2.5 kids, receive government income tax credits for said kids, utilize public schools, and wait like a rabid animal for your federal refund check to arrive in the mail come March, then you have no right to complain about a single mother that works two jobs and receives food stamps so that her kids don’t starve. It is really as simple as that but personal responsibility only applies in this equation to “them” not “us.” Not to mention the fact that social welfare programs are dwarfed in comparison to other federal expenditures including corporate welfare and defense spending, which accounts for billions in the federal budget, but that is a topic for another day.
When Mitt Romney spoke of the infamous 47% he stated, “…my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. “ As Scocca indicates, in these comments Romney is speaking fluent white because in the political lexicon for this class, indeed what is nothing less than the Reagan rallying cry can be ascertained: “personal responsibility” is the opposite of “handouts,” “food stamps,” and particularly “welfare,” all of which are synonyms for “niggers.” There is the raw truth behind both the attacks on the president as well as the dinnertime discussions that blame “them” for all of the supposed ills of our society from high unemployment to government deficits. It is the mantra of so many to blame their own failures on the scapegoat, and it is disgusting. In essence, it is the argument that although I never went to college, went through with a teen pregnancy, or decided that a job at Burger King was a good career move, my failures are not my own, and if only there weren’t so many damn mooches on the dole, then my situation would be different. It is sad and pathetic, yet this is the perceived truth for so many people.
This is where we are today, living in a political environment where low-to-middle class citizens throughout the nation fight amongst themselves and lay blame upon those less fortunate, while the puppet masters on high laugh hysterically while they slash employee health benefits, cut payrolls, and run retirees 401K savings into the ground. Yet, time and again people are snookered to vote against their own economic self-preservation because they buy into the lie. This cycle has been spinning perpetually since Lee surrendered at Appomattox and unfortunately it does not show any signs of abating in the future.
|Wednesday, October 31st, 2012|
|Hurricane Sandy:The New Normal?
Also see: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/theheirloomtroubadour
Following another treacherous weather event hailed as the “storm of a century,” “storm of a lifetime,” and one that has caused “billions of losses,” editorial pages throughout the country, as well as the internet, have been ablaze with discussions concerning the potential impact of climate change on weather events that appear to be exponentially increasing in terms of severity. First, let me be clear that meteorologically-speaking, Sandy was a weather system that was long overdue. Many in the meteorological community, including former Accuweather lead forecaster Joe Bastardi, have wondered for years why this setup hasn’t happened before. Essentially Sandy was a hybrid storm that consisted of a tropical system that combined with a fast-moving wintertime Canadian low to create a monster that hit the Eastern United States. The North Atlantic Oscillation was incredibly negative for this time of year, and the famed Greenland blocking high pressure system that typically drives wintertime Nor’easters was also at play, steering Sandy towards a disastrous union with the New Jersey shorefront. Yet, even with forecasters predicting that this type of system would eventually come to pass, was it in any way linked to climate change? The short answer is, who knows, but there are some initial theories being posed by climate scientists that intrinsically link the two events.
In essence, there is no denying that the ocean off shore of the Eastern Seaboard is much warmer than it should be for the end of October. Whether it is linked to the historic loss of Arctic sea ice observed this year, or a summer of record-breaking high temperatures in the northern hemisphere, Sandy was able to get as strong as she did because of access to this warm water, which serves as the fuel for tropical systems. In an interesting piece today in the NYTimes, a climate scientist is quoted as saying, “Surface temperatures in the western Atlantic Ocean were remarkably high just ahead of the storm — in places, about five degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal for this time of year. In fact, part of the ocean was warmer than it would normally be in September, when accumulated summer heat tends to peak.” As such, there is no denying the fact that Sandy strengthened precisely because of her access to these abnormally warm waters. Furthermore, local sea level rise as a result of melting polar ice fields has already hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States hard, allowing a storm like Sandy to raise typical high tide water levels in NYC’s Battery Park area to an unprecedented height of 13.7 feet above normal, contributing to the crippling floods that hit the city’s financial district. To put it into perspective it was always thought that any high tide to hit the southern tip of Manhattan that was greater than 8 feet would be catastrophic, well, not only did Sandy reach that benchmark, she raised it by nearly 5 feet.
Still, is this enough to link the storm to the effects of climate change? The simple answer is, science cannot provide that answer yet, but it has a hunch, and that hunch alarmingly points in an affirmative direction. This has caused leading climatologists to argue that this type of storm is not only expected in the new global climate paradigm, but that things are set to get a whole lot worse. Indeed, as Brenda Ekwurzel from the Union of Concerned Scientists has indicated, “Human-caused climate change is delivering a one-two punch that is chipping away at our coasts. Sea-level rise and more intense precipitation from a warmer, moister atmosphere make coastal storms more damaging.” Problematically, U.S. infrastructure including roads, power grids, and bridges are built for our grandparent’s climate, a situation that has exacerbated recovery efforts in the wake of storms such as Katrina and Irene
From record-breaking Siberian heatwaves to superstorms and droughts, it is clear that the planet is telling us something, the question is, will anyone listen? Regardless of the opinions of blowhard political pundits or climate predictions, weather weirding throughout the planet is clearly the new norm. In many ways this situation reminds me of what happened in the United States in terms of counterterrorism policy in the years before 9/11. Those in the know in the national security, intelligence, and international relations fields were screaming at the top of their lungs about the dangers associated with Islamic extremism, and in particular, the brand linked to Al Qaeda, but the pleas went unheeded and the results were disastrous. And here we are again, with experts pointing to a new clear and present danger to national security, but once again, no one seems to want to listen.
After a series of presidential debates where the issue wasn’t even broached, and a long overdue national discussion of the issue that has yet to happen, it is evident that perhaps the biggest threat to our future prosperity is not as important as jobs or Iran. This is a huge mistake that I fear will come back to haunt us in the not too distant future, just as the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center were a sobering reminder of failed counter-terrorism policies. Simply put, neither jobs nor Iranian nuclear weapons will matter much if the country cannot feed itself in the wake of increasingly severe droughts, or if coastlines are redrawn by the ever-increasing threat of superstorms.
Unfortunately this time, the national security problem we face is much more daunting than a bunch of religious fundamentalists with an axe to grind. Our climate will be our climate regardless of religious creed, political philosophy, or social position; we will all be impacted in some way. As such climate change is something that cannot be tackled by one country alone as it requires global agreements and international diplomacy for sweeping policy changes that I fear are necessary, but unfortunately these are changes that the world is largely unprepared to make. Even if the big G8 nations of the world agreed to reduce carbon emissions, if economically emerging countries such as Brazil, China, and India are not on board, which they are unlikely to be, then the results will largely fail.
Everyone wants to keep their cookies at this point, especially when giving up your cookie could push back both economic development and the possible eventual entry into world affairs as a global actor, something that no country is easily going to give up. China and India for example, are unlikely to limit the activities of their industries to account for the looming impacts of climate change because it would impact their GDP, which would then affect internal developments. The situation is even worse in the West where countries are reluctant to enact any measure that could potentially cause further damage to sputtering economies that are still struggling to emerge from the grasp of the financial crisis. There is no leadership in this venue as the world’s lone remaining superpower, the United States, is increasingly on the sidelines of world events as its influence wanes as a result of a combination of domestic issues and the country’s under-performing economic engine, which was severely damaged by years of neglect. What we are left with is a fragmented international community that is unable to come to the bargaining table, even for the most basic of agreements, even though it is in everyone’s best security interests to do so.
As such, while droughts will worsen and storms will continue to strengthen, killing more, damaging more, and impacting more, the world writ large will continue to stick its collective head in the sand and pretend like nothing is happening. We do this at our own peril because there may come a time in the future when things like economic growth or immigration policy seem trivial when compared to problems like starving populations or a lack of access to potable water. These are impacts that we are already beginning to see, but they will get much worse if efforts are not undertaken to alleviate their causes. At the end of the day, the international community needs to understand that you can’t eat money, and that stock markets cannot provide shelter in the wake of a hurricane, but again, I am afraid that we will not wake up to these truths until it is far too late in the game.
|Monday, September 8th, 2008|
Yesterday Dawn and I attended an Society fo Creative Anachronism (SCA) event called the Lochmere Baronial Investiture. We had a blast! In the morning my fighting trainer Graham and another fighter friend Todd were squired to Sir Alfred of Lochmere. He is a really awesome knight that I have been training with on Tuesday nights in Columbia, MD. He has a very open and loose fighting style, and I think the training is really starting to come through! Yesterday they held a Bedford Points Tourney yesterday that featured several knights, a duke, and other fighters of various skill levels (most have been fighting for years). His Majesty, the King of Atlantia (which is the Kingdom in which Dawn and I live), was on hand for the Investiture, and he was a very active spectator which ratcheted the pressure up quite a bit! During the first round, with my luck being what it is, I of course drew the Duke and got my ass handed to me on a silver platter. After that though, I settled, got into my groove, and fought quite well for the rest of the day. In the end, out of twenty fighters who participated, I finished in tenth place! I was really happy with the result, and I feel as though I fought very well.
The most exciting part of the day for me occurred after the tournament was over however when His Majesty walked over to us and asked if he could play a bit! We of course said yes, and after waiting my turn I finally got to take on the King of Atlantia! It was really cool because before we fought he asked me my name and how long I had been fighting. I told him that I had been authorized for less than a year and he got a surprised look on his face and said something along the lines of, you did really well in the tournament today, I thought that you had been fighting for some years! I think my jaw must have hit the floor after hearing that from the king!
We fought a few rounds, and he gave me some really excellent pointers that I will be working on in the backyard over the next few days. He took the time to fight all comers who wished to challenge him, and he spent at least 10 minutes with each fighter having at it, and giving them advice. He is a really cool guy, as well as being the best fighter I have personally ever seen.
Following the fighting, I was soaking wet as it rained heavily off and on all day long. I got changed and then it was time to serve feast for the evening. Dawn and I hang out with a group in our barony known as House Wulfshaven and they were asked by Sir Alfred, the autocrat i.e. the guy in charge of the event, to help out. We each took a table and served a mighty feast to all those on hand. Being a feast server certainly has its advantages as we got to sample all of the leftover food that did not get eaten! The food was quite outstanding and featured medieval recipes such as honey and cheese pie, cinnamon chicken, almond tart, cheese savory dip, roasted apples, braised beef, and orange custard just to name a few! Following our table serving duties, Dawn and I helped out with all of the dishes which reminded us all the days we used to work in food service at The Piece!
Following the feast, we got everything cleaned up, and drove off into the rainy night. I was completely exhausted when I got home from fighting all day and then helping out in the kitchen so when we got home I freshened up, and we went downstairs with a warm cup of tea and watched Episode 1 of The Tutors miniseries on DVD.
In all it was an awesome event, an awesome day, and one that I will never forget for numerous reasons.
So, without further ado, here are the pictures!
I am the guy with the great helm and black leather body armor, the king has the blue shield, and blue surcoat. Current Mood: accomplished
|Thursday, November 15th, 2007|
|My Life Sountrack
I saw this on Rhapsody's journal and it looked like fun. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a bit obsessed with music, itunes, and my ipod. I have nearly three weeks worth of music on my itunes playlist, and my range of styles covers the gamut of everything including rock/metal (my favorites), classical/medieval, rap, country, and even some latino. Basically, if I like it I will listen to it. I have no boundaries but I must say that heavy metal and hard/classic rock get me going the most. So, here goes:( Read more...Collapse )
|Thursday, October 25th, 2007|
|The Bannockburn Chronicles: Bobby's Medieval History Project
In an effort to consolidate documents, perspectives, thoughts, photographs, historical evidence, as well as all things related to my upcoming venture into graduate school for an M.A. in classical/ancient studies (fancy three-dollar words for medieval history), I have decided to start a forum, through my LiveJournal to capture all of these elements in one concise place for quick retrieval and browsing. Anyone is welcome to follow along, and newcomers are always welcome to join. The project is going to be called The Bannockburn Chronicles, in reverence to one of the greatest battles in medieval history. For the trials of life can at times be as daunting as being outnumbered by hundreds of charging mounted nobles, but with perseverance, one can succeed.
At the start of this project, and indeed at the start of my studies, I wanted to write a personal statement, or a purpose, which I can look back to as a guide as I progress and ultimately reach my destination, whatever that might be. It is something that I have been needing and wanting to do for quite some time. ( Read more...Collapse ) Current Mood: accomplished
|Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007|
|Word of the Day
Here is another one trying to get the mood right for a historical fiction piece.
William readied himself for the impending charge, his feet planted squarely in the earth as he had been taught, and his teeth grinding together causing the veins in his forehead to protrude. About 150 yards ahead the nobility of England, the knights, sat high upon their steeds, full-plate armor shining in the sun, and lances at the ready for the coming battle. William sweated; this would be his first taste of war and although a single blade had yet to be unsheathed, he already had a deep disdain for the foul taste that these games of brinkmanship, the appetizers of war, left in his mouth. He wondered how an iron shield and a sharpened wooden pike would protect him from the charge of a fully trained knight. He knew it would not. He knew he would die. Suddenly, without warning, a horn sounded on the other side of the field. The English had had their fun and now boredom has set it. The knights thus raced towards the row of pikeman in front, William’s row, creating a whirlwind of dust that eclipsed the midsummer’s sun. William dug in, a blind, lost look on his face, distrait over the beginning of his end.
|Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007|
|Word O' The Day
Following the great Feast of the Brightening with its food, drink, dancing, and merriment, reality supervened, and all remembered the dark events that would greet them upon the hour of morning. The warriors gathered about the ramparts, spears and swords at the ready, and archers made haste to the great field, preparing for the battles that lie ahead. Mothers whisked their children off to their rooms, least there eyes be tainted by the foul sights that would embrace the morning, and the great iron gate was closed, blocking passage into the fortress for all those who sought foul business. Time passed with the speed of molasses, almost motionless, and throughout the castle it was as if all were holding their breath, fearful that the forces of the unknown could rob the very air that provided life to their lungs. The lone cry of a crow could be heard in the distance, and thick fog began to settle upon the field, filtering reality such that it appeared as though the castle was seated high in the sky, perhaps even among the stars. However, the hour was near. Three trumpets sounded a mournful tune that reminded all of pain, pity, and the suffering that inevitably accompanied life in this place. The Crucible Mountain, whose majestic snow-capped peaks and pinnacles eclipsed the rays of the sun, provided the backdrop for the coming events. As the sun sank away, not to return for four long, cold months, tears gripped the eyes of everyone in the kingdom. For although they knew that this day would come, as it always did, and although they feasted properly in deference, the sting of the departure of the sun, and of life, bit hard and inexorably.
Not even waiting for the last of the sun’s rays to exit, the ground began to shake, and grinding noises could be heard in the distance. The sun had set and as had happened for 600 years, the Horde was upon them and would soon begin the relentless siege upon the fortress until the time of the sun’s return to grace the sky with its warmth.
|Monday, October 1st, 2007|
This is a bunch of word of the day short, some very short, practice ficlets from last week's word of the day. I posted them all at the same time because of a technical problem with LJ. Some are a bit experimental as far as POV, and I also tried a bit of historical fiction in others. Number IV is my favorite, and is told from the POV of a Scottish knight during the Battle of Bannockburn, which occurred in 1314 Scotland. The battle pitted the Scottish against the English, and was a bloody duel in which Robert the Bruce (contemporary of William Wallace) defeats Edward II, securing a free Scotland. Here goes:
I. Preparation for Tourney
Upon receipt of the king’s pronumciamento for a grand tournament to be held before his embarkation to lands south of Brittany for exploration of new trading partners, knights and squires throughout the realm scrambled to prepare for the coronation of a new champion. Much work needed to be done in order to prepare as blades had to be sharpened, lances readied, and suits of armor had to shined to a silver sheen, as was the custom for Knights of Brittany.
In the days leading up to the tournament, the courts of Edenmire Castle became emblazoned with fantastic tapestries, woven in the colors of the coats of arms of all of the knights of the realm. Brilliant lions, dragons, griffons, and other creatures of dreams graced the fronts of these magnificent pieces of art. The colors of many houses hung nearby, fusing to form a sea of rainbows along the castle courts. Flags were hung atop high poles, signaling the preparation for tournament to those who dwelled outside the gatehouse walls, and the king’s brassmen, those who sounded the call to chivalry and trumpeted the sweet sounds of the arrival of the king, as well as the knightly virtues, busily polished their long horns.
On the eve of the tournament, excitement was at its pinnacle throughout the kingdom as the first signs of the tournament, the many merchants who came to the castle during events to peddle their wares, began to arrive and seek entry at the south gate. Children, normally exhausted from the day’s studies and play, lay awake in their beds, smelling the sunflower breads being baked nearby, and dreaming of knights careening into one another, lances at the ready and great helms shining with the beauty of diamonds in the summer sun. Even adults, normally bound to duties required of their master, could not escape the magic that was tournament. Lords and ladies alike fancied their most expensive clothes, and prepared for a day of feasting and celebration.
II. The Lord of Misgiving
His followers knew Ollarayx as the true Lord of the Misgiving. Any other could not eclipse his deeds in battle, as they were ferocious and quick, seemingly taking life without thought of guilt or justice. His armor of plates was once a brilliant metal, but over time, as his campaign of murder spread, they became black, void of light and life. The name, Ollarayx, was spoken in only the darkest corners, and those who dared speak it whispered, as if it were some mendacious rumor that might incite men to commit random acts of savagery, or worse, drive them to the threshold of insanity that lurks within the hidden corners of the mind.
III. A Meeting of Friends
The Thunder Anvil metalsmith shop sat high atop one of the hills in the town of Maglisian, hundreds of stovepipes jetting out of the thatched roof, making the place seem more like a giant musical instrument instead of the forge of a master craftsman. The structure, made of pinewood, was circular in shape, and was decorated with ancient runes that were meticulously carved into various poles, pillars, and structures on the edifice. Various wares of leather and metal were hung on strings at the bulding’s large awning, and traveler’s could not help but notice the smell of smoked meats that wafted through the air near Thunder Anvil.
Sir Oliseamon walked to the door and halted, leaning against the inside, arms crossed, admiring the silent, steady work of his friend at the forge. The dwarf hammered away at a piece of metal on a jet-black anvil, taking time to finely shape the point to the standards of his ancient ancestors. Sweat beaded on his brow and pooled about his goggles, even as he sipped ale from a leather mug, wiping his mouth with his long, red beard. His hammering finished, the dwarf turned and placed the metal rod back in the flame, causing the birth of smoke that raced out through the stovepipes at the top of the shop.
He went to a small wooden stool at his desk, and began writing notes with ink and quiver, careful to document the exact specifications of the weapons design for its new owner. It was the attention to detail that separated the dwarfs from all other races of blacksmith. Their tediousness and commitment to quality far surpassed that of any other.
Finishing his notes, and taking one final sip of stout from his mug, the dwarf turned, and in that moment, caught a glimpse of Sir Olseamon in the corner. A wide grin appeared on both of their faces, and the sound of laughter filled every corner in the room as the two friends, who had once looked the very soul of evil dead in the eyes and escaped unscathed, met once more.
IV. Musings on War
I am a knight, a nobleman, sworn to protect and serve my realm. I bear no personal grudge against my opponent, yet, on this day, I swell with the hatred of a hundred years of oppression that the colors of my opposition stand for. Charge on as I may, my steed embraces the earth with mighty hooves providing percussion, and my metal armor clanks together producing the sweet melody of a symphony of destruction. We meet, lances crash, a shot to the chest, and I struggle to regain my breath. Where is my opponent? Still struggling to breath I unsheathe my sword; it glistens with the brilliance of the sun’s rays upon the waves of the sea. Taking the reigns I wheel about see his colors, red, rage. He swings, I block with my shield. He turns, a mistake, an opportunity. I bring my blade down upon his great helm, splitting the metal in two; I feel metal hit bone and drive on, the irony taste of blood greets my lips and paints my helm as his head is doffed from his body. He trembles; his body goes lifeless, dropping from his mount. I turn, there are others, the roar of battle is deafening, and sweat beads down my face. Two pikemen, 50 yards forward. Lance readied, I charge for glory and honor, I charge for Scotland.
V. The Spoils of War
The line held well upon the heavy cavalry advance. The flowers of the forest, the archers, had done well in thinning their numbers. Bows with arrows set afire with the flames of hell would decide this day. Smoke arose from the field, and the screams of men could be heard from a distance as they burned. The lord grinned; his marshal plans had met with success. Now it was time for the finish. His hand went into the air. Knights upon mighty steeds steadied themselves and gripped their lances. His hand moved downward, the frown of a maniacal oppressor spread across his face. The charge advanced, victory was in the air, and all knew the consequences of the bouleversementabout to take place.
VI. A Sight For Sore Eyes
The precipice upon which they stood rose hundreds of feet into the air, giving the travelers full view of the landscape below. As they peered over, their eyes were treated to a lush green valley of rolling hills, fertile farmland that stretched onward for miles. As they looked around they saw forests, orchards, and small lakes that invited them to come visit, especially given the torture of the hot summer sun. Shades of green, gold, red, like a fairytale quilt working of legends graced their stares. The site brought joy to their hearts for they knew the rest of the journey would be long and arduous. But for now at least, atop the rocks of Mount Ranis, they could finally rest, if but only for a while.
|Sunday, September 30th, 2007|
|Word O' The Day 2
Green lava leapt from the small stream beside the travelers as they made there way across the downtrodden wooden bridge on their way to the Anticoke Mountains. The air was still, calm, and the shadows that danced a waltz with the night swayed gracefully under the stars. The travelers were weary from their journey, and a hunger grew inside their bellies, yet they sat and watched, knowing that they still had many leagues to travel, but mesmerized to the point of blindness by the liquid lightshow that began before them. The colors: hues of red, blue, yellow, orange, green, and purple, raced about the stream and cascaded into one another as if motivated by some unforeseen hand.
The phantasmagoric orchestra of light played a soft, sweet melody that pleased the ears of those who had met with little sleep since their departure. The assault on the senses brought a great weight upon their eyelids, and as they sat, eyes drooping, the lights of their dreams vanished, turning into a noisome smoke that diffused into the air about them. No one, not even the keen thief who had the eyes of a hawk, noticed the man cloaked in gray that stood behind them for they did not care as the pleasure of sleep, a luxury lost to them, finally announced its arrival and seduced them with its pleasures.
|Saturday, September 29th, 2007|
|Word O' The Day
The lord sat idly at his table, sipping on a sweet red wine, his hands gripping his aching forehead, an open book of untold knowledge sitting on the table beside him. The sun’s rays peered through the window, giving little light to the room. Not even the marvelous red tapestries laced with gold, hanging on the damp gray walls about the keep, brought any brightness to this day. Perhaps the lack of light was a portentous omen given the shadowy events that had besieged his realm over the past week. The lord muttered to himself, something in an ancient forgotten language, and quickly returned to his sorrowful thoughts. For no amount of light, or knowledge, whether or not they represent one of the same, could offer a panacea for the ills of his enfeebled grip on power.
|Thursday, October 5th, 2006|
So here we go folks. This week marks the official start of hockey season, both for the pros, and for myself. While I do love and enjoy all aspects of summer, I admit that I get a little giddy every year when the end of September rolls around because I know that the drop of the puck is but a few short weeks away. While I play and follow everything during the lazy days of summer, the game just seems to come alive during the month of October. Fantasy hockey starts (and both of my teams this year are beastworthyä), leagues begin to form, and equipment goes on sale on all of the websites.
To that end, I told myself during the start of the summer session that I was going to purchase new ice skates before the winter season began. I had been eying up a pair of CCM Vector skates that are the same used by Washington Capitals phenom Alexander Ovechkin, however, every time I checked the hockey websites the ads would say “call for price,” which, in equipment terms, translates into something along the lines of “expensive as all hell.” I was getting ready to order my second choice, a really nice pair of Mission skates, when I logged onto Hockeymonkey.com and found the Vectors reduced from $500 to $230. I quickly, got my foot sized and ordered the skates, before the hockey Gods became angry with me and took them off of rebate.
I tried them out Sunday night during a public skating session and all I have to say is, WOW! They feel like wearing socks, they are so light, quick, and agile. I glide around corners with ease, and the ½ inch hollow creates a signature crunching sound in the ice. I told Dawn last night that I think the skates have improved my speed by about 10-15%. No longer do I feel as though I am working against my skates, now, my skates are working for me, which is a truly awesome feeling.
Speaking of awesome feelings, on Tuesday night I had my first practice with my new team, the Baltimore Piranhas. We started at about 10:30 and didn’t get off of the ice until nearly 12:15 (life is just too good sometimes)! For the first hour we did a bunch of line drills, skating drills, and then we put our goalie in the shooting gallery. I started out taking my normal wrist shots, high and to the top-shelf, glove side, but halfway through the shots, I decided to work on my slap shot. After some practice, and a little advice on technique from our team captain, and some other random dude who was in the stands, but knew a whole hell of a lot about hockey (maybe a scout, hmmm, I wish), I was cracking some blazing slap shots into the back of the net.
We then scrimmaged the other team, The Dull Blades, and I scored three goals in my first two shifts. I think that made a good first impressionJ The funny thing was that during the practice, some of my friends were coming up to me and asking if I would also play part-time for the Baltimore Bulldogs, a Hockey North America team based out of our local Columbia rink. So it looks as though I will be splitting a slot with someone else and playing about ten games for the Bulldogs as well as wreaking havoc for the Piranhas (I’m not obsessed with hockey or anything, really).
So as far as playing is concerned, pickup is back with Columbia, I am playing for two teams, the ice is getting firmer by the week, and all is right with the world.
Now onto the pros. The bug has been biting quite hard over the past few weeks, and to that end, I simply couldn’t resist going to see some professional action so last Friday, Dawn and I went to see the Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center. Hockey’s back!
The season officially starts this week and the NHL Center Ice package is all ready to go! Tonight, I get to see the first out of eight Battle of Alberta games this season in which the Calgary Flames face-off against the Edmonton Oilers. Classic stuff. Last night I watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Ottawa Senators. Toronto wound up losing, but I was getting really excited watching the game because Dawn and I have decided that we are taking a road trip to Toronto this coming January!
We had wanted to do this last year, but opted to go to Puerto Rico instead. We have plans to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CCM factory, the old Maple Leaf Gardens, and we are going to see the Maple Leafs play the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. As you can tell, I am not excited or anything.
So, all is quite well in the hockey world. Game on! I leave you with a list of things I am most looking forward to about the upcoming hockey seasons:
1. Standing in awe at the Hall of Fame, gazing into the Stanley Cup and thinking about all of the history.
2. Seeing Ovechkin make fools out of a good 95% of the Eastern Conference.
3. Being in true hockey city during the winter and seeing the Maple Leafs at home.
4. Ovechkin/Crosby on the same line during the All Star game.
5. The opening face-off of any game that I skate in, when the adrenaline is pumping.
6. Scoring my first season goal with my new teams.
7. Watching Miikka Kiprusoff make his acrobatic saves.
8. Seeing my wife in the stands at my games, and wearing her Capitals jersey when we go to see the pros.
9. Road trips to Hershey, PA to see the AHL Calder Cup champs play. In my opinion, Hershey is a great hockey town; it really has the vibe to it.
10. Seeing Saint Patrick (Patrick Roy) being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
11. Coming out of the rink after a good game, when the snow is beginning to fall.
12. The sound of the blades on the ice, and sticks smacking pucks.
13. Tuesday night pickup with the boys.
14. Seeing some of the greats finish their careers and hang em’ up.
15. Spur of the moment Caps games.
16. Watching the Center Ice package, with my wife, and a cold Molson by my side.
17. Arguments over who will win the cup, who are the best players currently, and who are the greats of all time.
18. The smell of the rink. It’s hard to describe, but anyone who has ever spent any time in an ice rink knows exactly what I mean.
|Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006|
I was tagged by my lovely wife for this so here goes:
Name ten of life's simple pleasures that you like most:
1. Watching a Movie: It is always exciting when the previews end, and the first flashes appear on the screen. Whether it is the summer blockbuster, the low budget release, an experimental film, or a dumb horror movie rented for Halloween, movies are all about the unexpected and the unknown. Will this be one that needs to be added to “the collection” or will it be horrible? Whatever the case may be, those two or three hours allow one to escape reality and dive into an entirely different world where anything is possible. Pretty cool if you ask me.
2. The Drop of the Puck: Whether it is playing or watching an ice hockey game, there is something about the tension and drama that surrounds the opening face-off.
3. A Summer Thunderstorm or a Winter Snowstorm: To me, both represent the season, so I enjoy when each type of storm rolls through. I love the sheer power of nature; I think it helps to put things in perspective.
4. Friday Evening: Dawn and I refer to this time as the “threshold of the weekend”. It is exciting because of the endless possibilities. What movie will we see? Where will we go for dinner? What friends are coming over? Where are we going on Sunday? Our weekends are full of fun and promise.
5. Hiking: there is nothing quite like getting up on Saturday morning, cooking breakfast, and heading out to explore nature with my wife at my side.
6. An evening with my wife: Dinner and a movie, or just lounging around the apartment, these are actually my favorite times.
7. A new album by one of my favorite bands: I love ripping the cellophane from a new album and popping it into my CD player.
8. A crisp, clear body of water: either the ocean or a pool, it doesn’t matter. I think I may have been a fish in a past life.
9. Vacation/Road Trips: For Dawn and I, the Bruce Springsteen song “Baby we were Born to Run” should be our soundtrack. We love to go anywhere and everywhere, Ocean City, Deep Creek Lake, Puerto Rico, Florida or anywhere else in between.
10. I have to agree with Dawn on my last one, however, I shall up the ante a bit: the first drop on a brand new rollercoaster that we have never ridden before.
Once you've been tagged, you have to write a blog with 6 facts about yourself:
1. I use ketchup on everything.
2. I play center, left wing, and right wing in ice hockey.
3. I am very interested in the supernatural and paranormal.
4. I voted for the other guy.
5. I seek (use absurd Scottish accent here) The Graiiillllll!!!!!!!!!
6. I think Sammy Hagar was the best Van Halen front man.
|Tuesday, March 14th, 2006|
Here are 5 things one could definitely bribe me with:
1. Calgary Flames/Montreal Canadiens season tickets: Seeing a game in D.C at the MCI (now Verizon) Center just isn’t the same as watching the sport where it was created, with 13,000 drunk fans screaming for the home team. Plus, admit it, who wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time in a place called the Pengrowth Saddledome Arena?
2. A backyard rink: wouldn’t it be great to wake up and catch an early morning skate on a Saturday before breakfast? Or go shoot pucks under a clear, starlit December evening? Plus, this would definitely save some dough that is given to the local rinks each week.
3. A job where I don’t have to get up at 5 AM and travel to get into D.C every damn day.
4. A log cabin in Deep Creek, one of those beachfront joints between Ocean City and Delaware, or a house on Sanibel Island in Florida. Any or all would do, just sign Bobby and Dawn Walls-Thumma to the deed(s) if you please.
5. I have to agree with Dawn…a storefront in historic Ellicott City with an apartment over top, and preferably a few ghosts (only nice one’s though please).
|Wednesday, February 15th, 2006|
Where did we meet?
How long have you known me?
When is the last time that we saw/spoke to each other?
Do I smoke?
Do I drink?
When is my birthday?
What was your first impression of upon meeting me?
What’s one of my favorite things to do?
Am I funny?
What’s my favorite type of music?
What is my best quality?
Am I shy or outgoing?
Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?
Do I have any special talents?
Would you consider me a friend/good friend?
What is a memory we have once had?
Have you ever hugged me?
How well do you know me?
What is my favorite food?
If there was one good nickname for me, what would it be?
What is my worst habit?
If you and I were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would I bring?
What is my favorite fandom?
Who are my favorite characters in that fandom?
What was the last thing I said to you?
Will you repost this so I can do it for you?
|Friday, February 3rd, 2006|
Here ya go!
Four Movies You Could Watch Over And Over
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
2. Apollo 13
3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
4. Die Hard Trilogy
Four Places You've Lived
1. Baltimore, Maryland (with my parents)
2. Kingsville, Maryland (with my in-laws)
3. Ellicott City, Maryland
4. Hmmm…what else, I guess when I was young I lived in Tampa, FL, but only for a month while I was on vacation with my grandmother.
Four TV Shows You Love To Watch
1. NHL Center Ice package
2. NFL Football
3. Ghost Hunters
4. Crazy alien/ghost shows
Four Places You've Been On Holiday/Vacation
Only 4, C’mon! I’m not going to list Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake, because they are in state pilgrimages that basically occur every year.
2. Montreal, Quebec
3. New York, New York
4. Williamsburg, VA
Three Blogs You Visit Daily
Hmm, I don’t have four
1. My friends list
2. NHL.com blogs
3. I think that’s about it………..
Four Of Your Favorite Foods
1. Steamed crabs/shrimp
2. Qdoba nachos and steak queso burrito
3. Chicken Cordon Bleu
4. Fried Scallops
Four Places You'd Rather Be
1. Home with the wife
2. Playing hockey
3. On vacation
4. Outside in general, I hate being cooped up in buildings all the damn time.
Four Albums You Can't Live Without
1. Duran Duran Mini Box Set
2. Dave Matthews Band: Under the Table and Dreaming
3. Led Zeppelin Greatest Hits
4. Stone Temple Pilots: Core
Four Vehicles You've Owned
1. A 1970 Ford Maverick (Hey Bob, how’s that car running?)
2. A 1995 Saturn
3. A 2000 blue Suzuki Esteem
4. A 2005 red Suzuki Aerio
|Friday, January 6th, 2006|
Here is my movie thing: 127 total, that’s just insane! This really makes me wonder how many movies I have seen in total, not just from this list, as half of the movies I have seen on here have just been things that I have watched in passing. Aside from a few, most of the movies that I would put in my top 100 are now where on this list. Scary
(The ones I have seen have an asterisk next to them because I am gimpy and I can't do bold in this thing).
Pirates of the Caribbean*
Starsky and Hutch
The Princess Bride
total here: 8
50 First Dates *
Scream 2 *
Scream 3 *
Scary Movie *
Scary Movie 2*
Scary Movie 3 *
American PieX *
American Pie 2*
Harry Potter *
Harry Potter 2*
Harry Potter 3 *
Resident Evil *
Resident Evil 2*
The Wedding Singer </b>
Little Black Book
total here : 16
Lilo & Stitch*
Finding Nemo *
13 Ghosts *
Texas Chainsaw Massacre *
White Chicks *
Butterfly Effect *
13 goin on 30 *
A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Along Came A Spider*
Deep impact *
total here: 12
Never Been Kissed
Meet The Parents *
Meet the Fockers*
Eight Crazy Nights
A Cinderella Story
The Terminal *
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Passport to Paris
Dumb & Dumber*
Dumb & Dumberer
Final Destination *
Final Destination 2*
The Ring *
The Ring 2
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
I Am Sam *
The Whole Nine Yards*
The Whole Ten Yards
The Day After Tomorrow*
Bride of Chucky
Ten Things I Hate About You
Nightmare on Elm Street*
Bad Boys *
Bad Boys 2*
total here: 24
Predator I *
Independence Day *
A Bronx Tale*
Children of the Corn *
My boss' daughter*
Maid in Manhattan
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
She's All That
total here : 9
Forrest Gump *
The Others *
Freaky Friday *
Reign of Fire
The Hot Chick *
total here : 8
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring *
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers *
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King*
A walk to remember
The Fifth Element *
Star Wars episode I The Phantom Menace *
Star Wars episode II Attack of The Clones *
Star Wars episode III Revenge of The Sith *
Star Wars episode IV A New Hope *
Star Wars episode V The Empire Strikes Back *
Star Wars episode VI Return of the Jedi *
Troop Beverly Hills
Swimming with Sharks
Air Force One *
For Richer or Poorer*
People under the stairs
Sound of Music *
Parent Trap *
The Terminator *
Meet Joe Black
The Order *
total here: 20
The Fast & The Furious *
Fast 2 Furious *
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow *
total here: 6
Bowling For Columbine *
The Sixth Sense*
Princess diaries 1
Princess diaries 2
Million Dollar Baby
Malibu's Most wanted
The Breakfast Club
West side story *
total here : 9
A Christmas Story*
Pulp Fiction *
The Evil Dead
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The Seed of chucky
Vanilla Sky *
Nightmare Before Christmas
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Interview With The Vampire *
The Crow *
Purple Rain *
Wayne's World *
total here: 7
Wayne's World 2*
Beauty and the Beast*
Stuart Little 2
Jay & Silent Bob Strike BackX
total here : 3
Last Samurai *
The Amityville Horror *
Romeo and Juliet
Legally Blonde *
Legally Blonde 2*
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
total here: 5
Grand total: 127
|Friday, December 30th, 2005|
|Le Bloge de Hockey a la Glace
Well it has been a quiet few weeks on the hockey front as the Ice World league, as well as the NHL, bestowed upon all hockey players a break for the holidays. Good thing as it allows us to stay in the good graces of our wives (i.e. no games on Christmas/New Years Eve), and it allows us to rest, relax, and heal a little. My right knee has been a little funky over the past few weeks, but through rest and a good dose of Icy Hot, I think the break has allowed it to heal.
During the last Ice World game, the Dragonfish skated to a 0-0 tie with the Cobras. Every member, well almost every member of our team, turned in a stellar performance. It was actually quite funny because the Cobras team captain, after hearing of our victory against the Hornets, told Mark that it was a nice win, but we would never have a chance of beating the Cobras. I guess that guy really ate crow after we shut down every one of their lines, including those that they stacked with their best players during the third period in order to try to win. The post-game handshake was a site to behold, as we were all smiles, but those (fucking) guys (who we hate) all had long faces that read: what in the holy hell just happened?
This team is really improving, we are getting flow, good scoring opportunities, and the defense is finally starting to step it up. The puck doesn’t stay in our zone for half the period anymore, and people are actually hustling to the puck. Now if only some of our wingers could handle passes…. but I digress. Hopefully our almost three week hiatus for the holidays wont affect our play and we will go out next Saturday and continue perfecting the formula that has given us success over the past two games. For this, we bow our heads in prayer to His Noodly Appendage.
Pickup has been great the past two outings, everybody that plays Tuesday night in Columbia really knows what the hell they are doing, it is truly a great game. My friends at Columbia keep bugging me to join their HNA “B” team (that is actually moving up to “A” next season) that plays in Laurel and Piney Orchard…. Something I am giving very serious thought to, so more will definitely follow on this one. Actually they have a Tuesday night game in Laurel at the end of January that I have been invited to. Basically, they told me to go suit up, meet some of the guys, play a little, and see what’s what. I think I will be taking them up on this offer (free hockey, no brainer, I am there).
Last night the Flames beat the Wild 4-2, which pushed them back into first place in the Northwest Division! Go Flames! As for the Habs, the injury bug continues to plague Montreal and my boys continue to struggle. The World Junior Championships are now ongoing in Canada, and the U.S team is expected to do very well, if not win, behind the play of future NHLer Phil Kessel. You heard it here first: this guy will in all likelihood be the first pick at this year’s draft, and he should wind up a St. Louis Blue (poor kid). The final game is next Saturday at 1PM, so you know where I’ll be.
Finally, last week the rosters were announced for this year’s Olympic hockey tournament In Torino (or Turin depending on you tastes), Italy. More to come on this as the games draw nearer, but expect the Canadians, Russians, Czechs, and Swedes to do well. In my own personal opinion the Americans and Canadians were foolish in deciding to leave some of the best young, agile, explosive, and quick players in the game at home for the Olympics but that’s just me (Russia evidently agrees with me as they sure as hell didn’t pass up the chance to take one Alex Ovechkin to Italy with them).
On a final newsworthy hockey note, some big billionaire dude from Hartford, Connecticut (who happens to be a major hockey fan) announced plans yesterday for the creation of a new arena in downtown Hartford (which he personally wants to pay for). Of course, a new arena is useless without a team and as such, this dude plans to petition the NHL for the return of the Whalers! I actually couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this article on ESPN.com this morning. It is every traditionalist hockey fans dream to see the game return to places such as Hartford, Quebec City, and Winnipeg…. and a few other places up north that have never had teams, but are certainly more deserving of one than Miami, Las Vegas, Houston, or Phoenix.
With the new salary cap and revenue sharing, it appears as though these areas that are hotbeds of the sport may actually be set up for teams in the next couple of years (as long as the giant ass that is Gary Bettman doesn’t have his way and move the game into Key West, the Equator, Egypt, and the moon).
That’s it for now, Olympic updates, will follow shortly but until then, go Habs, Flames, Fish, and most importantly, go Whale!