It’s been a long dry spell for sports – a Marx Borthers so-called Super Bowl, a good Grey Cup after a Marx Brothers season, overhyped US semi-pro (i.e.) college football and basketball tournaments, and now the US tv moguls are trying to add semi-pro hockey of all things, of zero interest in real hockeyland, no soccer of note except when the Faroe Islands beat Greece in the European Championship prelims, baseball struggling almost pitifully with drug abuse, and with a potential summer race of interest a long way off, And all the while an overly long regular season NH L hockey agenda , half to it played in southern or near southern US cities with little or no interest in ice, and then – poof – suddenly the premier playoff schedule blazes forth in today’s papers. The real season of hockey begins – and finally a playoff scenario for the next 6 weeks is in store that will be terrific.. This time lady luck played its hand beautifully in forming the schedule.
Some of the usual suspects are present:New York Rangers have won the President’s Cup as the league champions, and their former world’s best goalie is just coming back from a lengthy injury (watch out!), the Detroit Red Wings, after a scare, are right in the middle of things, where they always show up at a minimum, and they are always welcome. They may be a bit old, but they have tons of skill and some young studs are working there way in nicely with the big boys (watch out!). Ditto for Chicago. The Pittsburgh Penguins, should by all rights be out of the playoffs, after a complete collapse, but just managed to stagger in as the last team on the last day, despite the fact that they think they have the best star players in existence – they’re wrong and will make a quick exit. The untalented but ruffian Boston Bruins are out and deservedly so – too old, too tired, too unskilled. And the incomprehensibly incompetent Toronto Maple Leafs outdid even their own seemingly endless disappointing seasons with a total turkey. Their supposed big scorer scored one goal after new year. Most of the rest of the country began to feel sorry for them. But not very. What is with that city? Maybe the endless snow got to them.
But look who is in and how they got there. Mordecai Richler can look down from above with delight on his beloved hometown Montréal Canadiéns . With the current best goalie on earth, an inherently modest First Nations chap from the splendid wilds of the Chilcotin plateau of British Columbia, and with plenty of help from a sassy Torontonian, of all things, this team has brought real excitement to the wonderful city where hockey really counts (watch out!!). And Vancouver, destroyed last year by self-destructive coaching, replied this year with a minor-league coach with major league talent, and a return to game-changing form by their superlative Swedish twins (watch out!!!). And this time no less than five Canadian teams are in the playoffs who will all be chomping at the bit, the last three after breathtaking final runs – none more than the Ottawa Senators who thumped Boston out of contention behind a supposedly mediocre minor-league has-been (or never was) goalie who was an injury call-up and then won 19 of the last 22 games. No matter what now happens, this team will be the sentimental favourite, but they shouldn’t be able to get past Montreal in the first round this year, though the do have the best defenceman in existence and home team support will be tremendous, but it also will be down the road. It is in any case easy to predict that this will be a great opening round series. Winnipeg hasn’t played a playoff game since 1996, so their new arena will be hopping, and their bigness and toughness may give Anaheim more trouble than they should expect from the eighth place team. And Calgary was picked for last by most pre-season experts, and came through in the end in hair-raising fashion game after game with a bunch of young guys who will make them a real contender in the future. The start against arch -rival Vancouver, and that too will be a sizzling series. Prediction, Vancouver vs Montreal in the final. Anybody’s series then, but the weather will be nicer in Vancouver. Bring it on!!!2 Comments
Anyone who has visited the great state of California in the last couple of years could not fail to notice dramatic signs of a rapidly approaching potentially disastrous problem. When you drive down from the north the reservoirs that used to be filled are shockingly low, even close to empty everywhere and in the east there is virtually no snow in the great Sierra Nevada Mountains, no sign of a snowpack that is crucial for almost all the water that has traditionally been pumped wastefully south to fill the golf courses and pools of southern California. It seems pretty obvious – California may be the seventh leading industrial power among the “states” of the world, but without water they cannot come close to maintaining that position. Ans now many experts feel that the aquatic demands of the great central valley which provides a significant percentage of the entire agricultural production of the US is in imminent danger of permanent serious damage as wells are dug ever deeper into the underground water supply.
Governor Jerry Brown has now ordered a 25% cut in water usage in most areas of the state. For those of you who who missed it, yes that is the same Jerry Brown who was called Moonbeam when he governed the state 40 years ago and who has done an excellent job of stabilizing the California economy now at 76, but this kind of drought may be unmanageable. Palm Springs – refuge of the very rich and famous – will lose its golf courses and swimming pools, Los Angeles its lawns and the glass of water in restaurants, not to mention anything but short showers. Wildfires will be a real threat all over the state. Agricultural production will drop like a rock.There is no doubt about it. This is the real thing, and only prolonged heavy rain and colder weather can bring things back to where they were not long ago. Much of California is a beautiful place and the rest of us can only hope that this is somewhere on the horizon. But the truth is that there is no sign of it.1 Comment
“The Armed Forces Are the Instrument of Foreign Policy, Not Its Master”, Hans Morgenthau
Some see war as a failure of diplomacy; others see it as a substitute. Twelve years after the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq those who prefer war to diplomacy are back and priming the pump for what could be the next exercise in American folly in the Middle East. This time it is Iran that looms as the target.
President Obama has chosen diplomacy joined with sanctions to reduce Iran’s likelihood of attaining a nuclear capability. And while success in this effort is by no means guaranteed, neither is the likely success of a military intervention despite claims by some that we should cease our diplomatic efforts and move apace to war.
In recent weeks our two major newspapers -the Washington Post and the New York Times- have published clear calls to bomb Iran on its op ed pages. In the once great Washington Post Joshua Muravchik, a Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Politics, argued that “war [[against Iran] is probably our best option” and was explicitly critical of any diplomatic efforts. This is a reprise of his November, 2006 op ed in the L.A. Times which opens with: “We must bomb Iran” and predicts Iran’s creating conflicts all over the world, including Southeast Asia. He then urged then President Bush to attack at once, despite the “unpopularity” of his Iraq war.
Similarly, last week in the New York Times, John Bolton, analyst at he American Enterprise Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, provided an op ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”. This is consistent with Bolton’s predilection to send other people’s sons and daughters to fight unnecessary wars in places like Iraq, and to view diplomacy as a sign of weakness.
Add to this mix the views of politicians like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and what seems to be the entire Republican membership of the House of Representatives and we have the seeds of an effort to move the country toward acceptance of yet another irrational attempt to change that part of the world in which we have been notoriously ineffective-even destructive-in the past. It is all too reminiscent of the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq which has provided much of the impetus for an energized battle between Shia and Sunni forces throughout the Middle east.
The press was instrumental in building support for the invasion of Iraq and that alone should be enough to warn us of the danger of accepting press reports and untested analyses without careful vetting. The fact that U.S. intelligence agencies participated in driving the argument to invade Iraq adds to the need to be careful whom we trust. The quality of the press is of fundamental importance and unfortunately there are reasons to be skeptical.2 Comments
“Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may account in part for Likud’s startling margin of victory. For the first time since his Bar Ilan speech in 2009, he explicitly renounced a two-state solution and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch. He promised vast new building projects in the Palestinian territorial concessions, anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists.” from,
“Israel The Stark Truth” by David Shulman, New York Review Blog, March 21, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s thinly veiled attacks on President Obama – and indeed on the office of the American Presidency – have opened the door to a long overdue reassessment of American policy in the Middle East, where we have invested a lot and gained little.
U.S. foreign policy is – or should be – based on analysis of what serves the strategic national interest of the United States. Most of the time that national interest is consistent with that of its allies — but not always. The United States has historically played a major role in the ongoing security of Israel and, in fact, Israel’s security has been a linchpin of American foreign policy since the post WWII years. It has included billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, and a Middle East foreign policy built on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. It has also been a forgiving policy. When Israel bombed the America ship U.S. Liberty in 1967, killing some 34 Americans, domestic politics led to the U.S. government joining in a pretension that it was simply a mistake by Israeli pilots, later proved to be false, and therefore arguably, a killing of Americans by Israeli pilots flying planes paid for by American taxpayers. Also, Israel’s nuclear force is at least partly a result of Israeli spies stealing secrets from the U.S. This is also largely winked at by the U.S. although one man remains in jail for that crime in spite of annual public relations efforts by the Israelis to get him released. While there have been other minor blips in the U.S.-Israel relationship over the years it has been largely collaborative until recently.
Domestic political pressure supporting Israeli interest in America is strong. Currently the U.S. provides annually ca. $3.1 Billion to Israel – a country of just over 8 million people. Israel supporters such as Sheldon Adelson have been willing to commit significant financial resources to politicians willing to support Israeli interests even when those interests are in conflict with U. S. interests. While America’s foreign policy has always been influenced by national or ethnic diaspora in the U.S., it is hard to imagine a more intrusive and negative influence on American foreign policy than what we have seen over the last several years with Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister. He joined forces with American extreme conservatives to help push American foreign policy towards the absurdly counter-productive 2003 invasion of Iraq and continues his attempt to destroy any hope of detente with Iran. And never mind peace with the Palestinians – both by 8 years of action and now open speech – Netanyahu has declared that a dead issue, while waffling slightly – and unbelievably – after he won reelection earlier last week. Netanyahu’s campaign was characterized by a not so subtle attack on Israeli Arabs and his spoken commitment to walk away from the possibility of a Palestinian state, the latter an open disagreement with long agreed Israeli-American Middle East policy.
Netanyahu meddled in American politics when he worked openly for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election – a foolish act mostly ignored by the American press some of whom now wonder why President Obama hasn’t been friendlier to Netanyahu. More recently Netanyahu worked with John Boehner in an attempt to join forces with the anti-Obama right wingers in the Congress to destroy a multinational negotiation with Iran. These negotiations involve France, Germany, the UK, U.S., Russia and China and represent the only realistic possibility to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear military capability. At this point Netanyahu’s arrogant bumbling has increased Israel’s isolation and raised the possibility of the U.S. – for the first time – supporting the concept of a Palestinian state in the UN. It puts at risk America’s historic relationship with Israel.
The U.S. has expended billions of dollars in the Middle East and has little to show for it other than a nuclear armed Israel that has managed to isolate itself from much of the Western world. The memory of the Holocaust and Israel’s strong democratic traditions have argued for almost unconditional love of Americans for Israelis but Netanyahu has managed to put that relationship at great risk to satisfy his narrow, personal political agenda. For many Americans this is now seen as an opportunity to loosen the ties that bind.No Comments
The has never been more dramatic proof of the threat of global warming than what has happened on the west coast of Canada this winter. Here it is February 20 and Vancouverites are faced with all the consequences. The cheery tree are in full bloom on the streets, and the leaves leaves smudge marks on parked cars. The sound of lawnmowers has awakened the hibernating animals, coming two months early out of their burrows, to see what’s up this early in the day. And the gras iss unusually thick due to sudden surge of too warm sun. After working up a sweat from the hand-mowing work, it is an old tradition to take a run down to the beach for a swim, and many are doing that only to find the lifeguards are not on duty. and red warn ing flags are waving. The water is nevertheless refreshing if dangerous . The orcas have shown up much earlier than usual in the bay and we are all delighted to see more than the usual little ones following Mama around. And the skiers, bereft of snow in the local mountains, have to drive north for an hour and half before hitting the powdery slopes. Frustrating it is too for those who like to shovel snow or push a snow blower, as they must seek some other form of exercise.
People who have had to travel east or to the high arctic come back with a different story. It’s hard to believe but they say that it hasn’t been nearly as warm and green out east. No doubt as a piece of satire, the New York Times claimed that the mayor of New York closed the city subway system down one day in advance of a two-inch snowfall, fearful that the white stuff would fill the subway tunnels. The mayor of Winnipeg offered him a week’s vacation there to clear his mind, but he has not had a reply. And the Peg has always been the place for the true winter fans.4 Comments
As predicted in the same-titled blog of not so long ago, (Part One), a 60 year-old woman who does not care about charisma, and lives in a modest apartment in Berlin, rather than a mansion, is now the undisputed most powerful woman in existence. Angela Merkel has also earned the right to at least be considered the most powerful and respected political leader in the world. The German Kanzlerin seems to be the only one still willing to take her position seriously.as someone who just might be able to talk to enough lions who might be convinced to see solutions other than aggression, killing and warfare to solve the world’s miserable problems these days. She may well fail, but at least somebody is trying.
Seconded only by a large security detail, and in Europe by the President of France, die Kanzlerin pushed herself to the edge of exhaustion by visiting Kiew, Moscow, Munich , Berlin (f0r a pit stop) Ottawa, Washington and Minsk in one week, delivering speeches and talking with leaders who are missing in action in all of them except Russia, where Putin is very much in action. By skipping London and spending as much time in Ottawa as in Washington, whose leader recently refused to meet either with the President of Israel or the Dalai Lama, Merkel made a statement of her own about the support she could have expected but has not received in attempting to stop an all out war in Europe. She herself has said that all that it has resulted in only a shimmer of hope. But that’s one more shimmer than anyone else has been willing to risk his/her own health to produce.4 Comments
Why was Iraq in 2003 not a “vital American interest” while in 2014 it is. Bush certainly made an awful mistake in his judgment, no doubt aided by lousy advisors, but the US is once again attacking in Irag – and Syria -, and did not leave Afghanistan during most of the Obama presidency – and actually still hasn’t. This time it is on Obama’s orders. How come Bush was a fool while these military actions are (still?) supposed to be considered wise diplomacy?
Comment to earlier blog from Flaming Bombadier
Hey Flamer: Whoa!! take a deep breath and sit down. Fan yourself and relax. And consider some history and some contemporary events.
1. Iraq invasion in 2003 was an illegal invasion of a country, based on fabricated intelligence which led to the dismemberment of an (unpleasant, but recognized) government to satisfy the wet dreams of Dick Cheney and possibly W. Bush. It involved over 200,000 American troops, killed nearly 4000 of them, added hundreds of thousand of Iraqis to the death list, sent some 4 million Iraqis to refugee camps and cost the U.S economy between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. In terms of national interest it was an enormous deficit and we continue to pay the price., Which brings us to number:
2. U.S. troops sent into Iraq by Obama were and are sent specifically to support the currently existing Iraq government – not a terribly difficult to understand difference from sending in troops to overthrow a government – but it is a government produced by the Bush/Cheney war. It is a great example of the consequences of stupidity, but Obama has sent 1500 – soon to be 3000- and maybe more later – in response to a real threat. Ask The Parisians. Ask London, Ask Madrid. There is – in my view- a threat to not only our national interest, but the interests of all Western liberal democracies iby a theocratic, existential movement opposed to Western ideals and our right to hold them.
3. It has taken a long time (too long) to get out of Afghanistan, but to say the U.S. is ttacking Syria is a rather bizarre comment. Obama has been butchered in the U.S. by McCain, Lindsey Graham and their ilk for not invading Syria. He is holding back and resisting anything more than plane attacks on ISIS. And it is very hard to argue in favor of letting ISIS go its merry way unmolested.
It is an ugly world out there and today’s murder of journalists in Paris, and the beheadings of American and British journalists and the random bombings of innocent people every day, yes, every day, makes this battle one of national interest for us all.
Obama has been criticized for 6 years for being who he is – a thoughtful, careful, rational leader who has led America out of most of their foreign battles. It has become easy to just criticize him without thinking about what came before, what he was left with and what he has accomplished. Perhaps Flaming Bombadier would have been happier with a McCain or a Chamberlain, but I think not. There are always disappointments but in these issues Obama has acted wisely and with restraint.
Maybe Flaming Bombardier has some thoughts on how best to negotiate with ISIS, Al Queda, et alia and how to bring diplomacy to the process. if not maybe a bare chested Putin can do it. We shall see. But probably not4 Comments
In the great world of men’s ice hockey, the results in the World Junior (Under 20) Championship that is now going on in Toronto and Montreal both confirm and rattle the previously understood natural order of things among elite national teams. While it is true that three of the four teams that will meet in the semifinals have long belonged to that elite (Sweden, Canada, Russia), it is the surprising rise of new entrants to the quarter finals – Denmark, Slovakia, Switzerland – and the quick exit of former occasional pretenders to the throne that has hockey fans reflecting on the future. There seems to be no obvious reason other than ongoing decline for the collapse of last year’s champion, Finland, as well as formerly perennial challengers, the Czech Republic and the USA in this tournament that can be used to predict the future of the upcoming men’s national teams.. Suggestions by veteran US hockey commentators that the Yanks, who were quite easily knocked out in the quarterfinals for the second straight year by a pretty unconvincing Russian squad, may have been because the largely college-based players felt sorry for their Russians because of the sad state of their country at the moment must be taken with a grain of salt. The more likely reason is that the attempt to turn hockey in the US into a college-based minor league, much like football, playing out of hockey-mill colleges, particularly in the Boston area, is a failure for obvious reasons. Hockey demands well-trained team work and students at Boston College, Boston University, Tuffs, Harvard, etc (which seem to make up a serious percentage of the US payers), can’t spend all of their time practicing,as football players can .
The Russians traditionally play unpredictably in early relatively unimportant matches (they tied Denmark), but not in the ones that count against Sweden or Canada. So don’t be surprised if the Russians look like a different team against Sweden in the semi-final and face a Canadian squad in the final that has been untouchable so far. Most commentators still believe that Canada has too much depth to be considered an underdog to Russia this time, but it is a virtual guarantee that this final would be one of the best hockey games played this year. And don’t put too much money against Russia. If Sweden meets Slovakia in the bronze-medal game, don’t be surprised if the totally undervalued Slovaks, who have the best goalie in the tournament and have been playing with great passion, don’t upset the rather lackadaisical-seeming Swedish squad.
Who would have thunk it?
“We don’t need tough guys. We need wise guys. We’ve tried tough guys, and it always ends in tears. Tough guys you know right away because they’re never scared of a fight. Wise guys you only know in retrospect, when you remember that they quietly walked away from the fight that now has the tough guy in a hospital.” Adam Gopnik, The NewYorker Magazine
As 2014 winds down we find the two Putins – the Russian Vladimir and Turkish President -Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – struggling to maintain their images of power, strength and competence. I’ll save Erdogan for a later posting, but for the Russian Putin the struggle has become increasingly difficult. This is in spite of the admiration expressed by the likes of America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, former Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers and Fox News TV evangelist, Mike Huckabee. In fact,reviewing the past year or two, commentators from both respected and semi-respected media outlets have nourished the fantasies of the right wing by questioning Obama’s manhood while praising Putin’s bare chested virility. This has included analysts from beltway think tanks, the editorial board of the once great Washington Post and, of some note, the NYTimes’ columnist Maureen Dowd, who has consistently whined that Obama is not an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie character. Honoring Putin’s heroic posturing following his takeover of the Crimea, Rogers said that “Putin played chess” while Obama played marbles; Giuliani commented that Putin defined “leadership” while poor Obama spent too much time “thinking”. As for erstwhile presidential candidate and Fox News analyst, Mike Huckabee, he said “I know the only time that Vladimir Putin shivers is when he takes his shirt off in a cold Russian winter”, as opposed to poor old thoughtful Obama. Other notable comments on Putin’s manly leadership included these from some of America’s finest blowhards:
- “Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everyone’s eyes roll, including mine,” noted war lover Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
- “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” Former Alaska Gov. and heartbeat away from the presidency VP candidate, Sarah Palin said. “They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
- “This is Putin running rings about us. There’s no question what’s going on here, is Vladimir Putin is reassembling the Soviet Union,” said conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
- “The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement,” Fox’s (noted psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer said. “What he’s saying is, we’re not really going to do anything.”
- “For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality,” wrote the once great Washington Post’s editorial board.
- “President Obama’s attempt to seek peace through apologetic diplomacy while defunding and dismantling our military has failed. Today, our enemies don’t fear us and our allies no longer respect us,” Senator and noted climate change denier Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.
- “The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) “If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.”
So here we are some months after Obama did not get involved in a war in Ukraine and Putin is watching helplessly as the Russian economy goes in the toilet, and realizes belatedly that Obama’s sanctions combined with the drop in oil prices has pushed Russia into a catastrophic recession. He is forcing Russian companies to sell dollars in a hopeless attempt to strengthen the Russian ruble and the Central bank has increased its interest rate to 16% ensuring a disastrous 2015 for Russia’s economy. Perhaps Putin is now asking himself how he will pay the high costs of maintaining the Crimea as a vital part of his new Russian empire. American commentators seem puzzled by the success of Obama’s foreign policy moves that have placed a premium on avoiding direct American military involvement, invoking diplomacy over confrontation and waging economic war via sanctions over sending Americans to defend other countries’ interests. While many in American politics and the press have conveniently forgotten the lessons of America’s disastrous 2003 Iraq invasion, almost automatically seeking ways for American military might to be utilized, Obama has continued to resist the temptation to send American troops into foreign battles that do not threaten our vital national interests.1 Comment
In a seemingly desperate attempt to dispel the conventional image of Canada as a splendid place to live, but unfortunately a really boring place unless you are being attacked by a herd of grizzlys or a lone wolf. its self-apponted national newspaper, The Toronto Globe and Mail, affectionally known as the Maple Leaf Rag, brought excitement to its front page on Wednesday, Dec 3 by boldly confronting proposed changes in the national film industry.
Now in film history Canada may be best known for allowing its cities to be dandied up to pose as US cities in schlock films and tv series, or for developing a series of brilliant directors almost all of whom are French-speaking Quebeckers. But during the Christmas holidays its signature brand is such a minimalist idea that much of the world now is threatening to copy it as it reflects a more simple way of life. In Sweden they spend the holidays looking at Donald Duck films, in Norway at lampposts, in Germany grotesque quizzes, but in Canada they look at logs burning cheerily in a fireplace and have done so for a long time. There they are – a bunch of logs peacefully burning away in a pleasant log cabin room where all the grizzlys are outside longingly staring in through the becurtained windows.
But all things, even the most successful and exciting ones, must come to an end and the producers of this classic show have announced that the fire itself will be updated by being filmed anew in high definition. No major changes in the plot will take place, but the hand that occasionally comes in and pokes at the logs will have to be refilmed and strife has broken out between the chap who originally provided the hand 20 years ago and young whippersnappers who feel they should now be given the chance to poke away. And the flannel shirt itself that is visible above the hand will have to be replaced by a new flannel shirt that reflects more modern tastes in flannel shirt colours. It remains to be seen whether these deeply disturbing problems can be resolved peacefully, but there is no doubt that The Toronto Globe and Mail has done the print media a real service by drawing this to the readers’ attention on its front page, thus ensuring an even larger audience in front of the tv fireplace this holiday season.1 Comment