Saturday, February 19, 2005

Yes I am still alive.

Hello my blogging friends. I wish I could say that I am back and will be blogging more regularly but the sheer truth is my internship search has gone into disaster mode and I will be spending the next two weeks trying to salvage what is left so that I actually have something to do this summer. A few notes of interest to keep your eyes on are McCain’s and Lieberman’s proposals to take Russia out of the G8. Also another news story to read up on is the presidents upcoming trip to Europe which is sure to turn a few heads and hopefully bring some rapprochement with Europe. On the recommend read list a book I finished several weeks ago “Give me a Break: How I exposed Hucksters, cheats, and scam artists and became the scourge of the liberal media by John Stossel. Although I don’t agree with everything he says his free market and small government policies are very appealing to me and I wish we could have more common sense like that out there. Anyway I hope to return in a few weeks and I wish good luck to our wonderful intern and hope that I can by the best damn intern since Mary Yoder this summer.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

An American in the World's Court

Jim Geraghty of TKS (formerly The Kerry Spot) is moving to Turkey shortly to begin a bit of Middle East reporting for the National Review and is wondering how to talk to an Anti-American. His readers weigh in with some suggestions here as does my other hero of the written word (Lileks being the original) Jonah "Lehigh Girls are Boring" Goldberg.

I thought I'd add a bit about my own experiences as an exchange student in Japan for Jim's benefit. Like Jonah, I found that most Anti-Americans I met were American themselves. It certinaly makes sense for citizens who dislike America to be living abroad, but I also think there is a bit of social pressure to remind others that you disagree with unpopular American policies. In my experience, it is, of course, Europeans and other Americans who are the most anti-American people you will meet. However, most people start out rather polite. It's just that their misconceptions, as Jonah suggests, run deep. One may be confronted with questions like "Why does America bully North Korea?" or "Why does Bush start wars for oil?" It's rather daunting for people to be confronted by such questions, including, I imagine, very intelligent and well-read pundits like Jonah and Jim. One wonders just where to begin.

Personally, my solution was similar to the TKS reader from Canada's suggestion, tell the person that I voted for Bush and savor the look on the person's face. I did make it a point to defend the US in my classes against unfair comments (usually from European students). I found, though, that my political discussions were usually with the other exchange students rather than with Japanese people. Now, this is likely because my Japanese is not quite good enough to properly discuss politics (though I tried on several occasions) and because all the exchange students spoke English pretty well, making if fairly easy. Also, because I had closer interaction with the exchange students, I didn't really get much of a sense of general Japanese views on the US. Most did not seem very concerned with my nationality. I was just another non-Japanese person (gaijin) visiting their fair country.

For Jim, though, I very much like Jonah's suggestion of picking a couple articles to dispel myths and propaganda regarding the United States. The question is which one, though? I don't have any specific suggestions off the top of my head, but my instinct suggests that a few essays by Steven Den Beste or Victor Davis Hanson would be excellent choices. I think one of Den Beste's essays on Jacksonianism might be a good palce to start, but I'd have to go back and look at one to be sure.

Offsides

I need to correct something I said in yesterday's post about the NHL lockout. I said that neither the NHLPA nor the NHL owners had initiated any negotiations concerning the CBA prior to the summer of last year. According to today's Colorado Springs Gazette (unfortunately, that link does not include the timeline that was in the paper today), though, talks were actually initiated in early 2003 but were kept relatively quiet until the end of the 2003-04 season.

It's heartening to see that they did try earlier than it seems they did, and again, I do believe Bettman and the union genuinely want to play, but I stand by my assertion that not enough of an effort was made. There was a great deal of time for negotiations and the fact that the union spent so much time insisting that it would not abide a salary cap and then giving in at the last minute in an attempt to make a deal. They claim they gave in because the owners dropped a demand.

As many on ESPN.com noted yesterday: that's what compromise and negotiation are all about! I just cannot get over the thick-headedness from both sides here. The initial lockout in September, I think, was enough to prove the resolution of both sides. Afterwards, there was no reason to hold back constructive offers. They were close to an agreement Tuesday and had this happened a month ago, we could be watching NHL hockey right now. Had this happened 6 months ago, we would be discussing the race for the playoffs instead of wondering if we'll even have hockey by September of this year.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

On Ice

Leave it to me to make a great post about how I'm going to get back to blogging regularly only get sick right afterward, thus nixing that. Now that I'm mostly recovered, though, this is attempt number two.

Something I believe I mentioned among my excuses for a lack of blogging was a lack of things that I felt I wanted to write about or comment on. Well, in the last few days, there have been a multitude of stories that are intersting or infuriating enough for me to comment on, so I'm hoping I can get few good posts out in the nest few days.

Today, though, I have to start with something that's not political which dragged me back in the last 24 hours or so, namely the NHL lockout. Those readers who know me are aware of my affection for hockey and those who have read this blog (and are inexplicably patient enough to continue reading) for some time may recall some posts of mine about hockey. Needless to say, then, the lockout has been frustrating for me.

No, I don't religiously watch regular season, but I always enjoy catching what games I can, since I don't have the money for NHL Center Ice (the league TV pass). Just last year the NHL renegotiated its TV rights with ESPN and NBC, unfortunately providing for fewer televised games. At the very least I could count on ESPN to pick up the Avs-Wings games, but this year, of course, nothing.

And really, this lockout is ridiculous. Unless the NHL and NHLPA have their collective heads stuck in the ice, they're well aware that hockey has image problems in the United States, coupled with a sports press that relentlessly ignores it and overzealous expansion into dubious markets like Nashville, while leaving smaller but more dedicated markets like Winnipeg behind. There are also the concerns among many that the game has become too slow due to things such as neutral zone trapping (thank you, New Jersey Devils) and that there is not enough scoring because of the increased size of goalie equipment. So for a sport that barely manages to keep its head above water in the American sports world, a lockout cancelling the whole season is perhaps the worst thing it could do. It's disrespectful to everyone involved with the NHL and a spit in the face of the fans.

That said, I do sympathize with the owners in that salaries have gotten out of control and a salary cap seems perfectly reasonable. I get the impression that the players were not united behind the union's opposition to such a cap; many just want to play and the Europeans are getting to watch some good hockey this year at our expense. For a league that is struggling financially, I think capping salary growth, is an acceptable compromise. Both sides, though, have been incredibly stubborn. I think Bettman and the union have good intentions, but it's pure BS when they say they tried to resolve this early on and tried their best to avoid having to cancel the season. People were discussing the upcoming CBA (collective bargaining agreement) issues near the end of the 2002-03 season and all throughout 2003-04. They had a long time to attempt to resolve this, but neither side lifted a finger until the summer of 2004 and then when it was clear there were huge differences in positions, each side basically acquiesced to the lockout as a way to try and sweat the other side out. Stances solidifed after the September 15th deadline and zero progress was made in the few talks held between then and late January.

What increased the frustration here exponentially was the flurry of attempted deal-making in the last few days to try and save the season and avoid the dubious distinction of not awarding the Stanley Cup for the first year since 1919. I didn't expect much initially, but I was stunned to hear that the players union had accepted a salary cap in principle (after the owners gave up a stipulation linking salaries to revenues; now there's a foreign concept--compromise)yesterday and a last-ditch effort was underway. But of course, things bogged down again over the amount of the cap and positions stalemated yet again. Why am I reminded of trench warfare? And so the deadline came and went today and Bettman officially cancelled the 2004-05 season. Thanks a lot, guys.

If I devoted the proper amount of vindictiveness the NHL and NHLPA has earned for this behavior, I'd stop caring about hockey and not watch when it returns (hopefully). I can't do that, though. So despite the enmity the NHL has earned I will give it a pass, because I just want to see my beloved Avalanche take the ice again. Preferably before Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic retire, please. In the meantime, at least the NCAA Frozen Four will be on ESPN.