Sunday, June 29, 2008

Unity Schmunity!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A while back I wrote a post that included the following conclusion:
If Hillary really wants a Democrat to return to the White House in 2008, she will show her leadership by defending Obama against her own most vitriolic anti-Obama supporters!
A few days ago, Hillary Clinton held a formal unity rally with Barack Obama, and gave a rousing speech in support of his campaign. Purportedly at the request of both candidates, Bill Clinton was not present at the event.

Now, it appears that Bill is quite a bit more reluctant to embrace the Obama campaign, reportedly telling friends that Obama will have to “kiss his ass” to gain Bill’s support.

I’ll admit that Hillary has a limited ability to stop nutjobs like Larry Johnson from trashing Obama in an effort to undermine his campaign against John McCain. However, if there is one person she can be expected to influence if she really wants Obama to win in the general election, it’s her husband!

As I’ve said before, Hillary knows she has to be seen as being 100 percent behind Barack Obama to remain a contender for the democratic nomination in 2012 if Obama were to lose to McCain.

If she doesn’t get Bill to support him 100 percent as well, it will be a sign to me that she isn’t really “kissing” Obama, but is kissing the air next to Obama as a photo op to prove she wasn’t the reason he lost, but that she and Bill are really still counting on him to lose to John McCain so she can resume her presidential aspirations!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Now Croatia Is Like a Normal Raiders' Parking Lot!

This post is a follow-up to my account of the pre-game hype for the Croatia vs Turkey quarterfinal, since the game is now in the books and you might wonder what happened, at least from our vantage point among the throng of tourists from all over the world in the Old Town Square of Prague, during a 5 day stop-over on the way home.

It was a pretty wild scene, with a huge screen set up for several thousand people, who were either eating in the cafes on the perimeter, or picnicking in the middle of the square.

There was a large contingent of Turkish fans waving flags and singing, and a smaller group of obvious Croatian fans. We ended up sharing a table at one of the cafes with a couple of Canadians of Croatian heritage who were hardcore about the game, having attended the Croatia-Poland game in person.

Despite the high energy levels of fans from both sides, and in contrast with what I've always heard about soccer crowds, there was a noticeable lack of security. In fact, this guy, who appeared to be about 80 hard years old, was the only person within view who appeared to have any sort of security role:

The game itself turned out to be a classic! Croatia just missed a bunch of shots on goal and dominated possession throughout the game, but finished 0-0 at the end of regulation.

The teams had played another two scoreless 15 minute periods of overtime, and were 3 seconds into the single minute of stoppage time, when Croatia scored a dramatic “game-winning” goal with approximately 57 seconds to go!

Here's the shot I took of the screen to memorialize the winning score:

The Croatian fans were delirious! The Turkish fans were dejected! The ball flied back and forth across the field aimlessly as the clock ran toward the end of the final minute. As our small group of Croatia loyalists began to count down the final seconds, the ball was kicked high the entire length of the field toward the Croatia goal.






"Holy shit!"

As we yelled out the word "One," a Turkish player kicked a rebounded ball into the Croatian goal to tie the game and send it to penalty kicks!

You can probably guess the rest. With a sure win snatched from their grasp, Croatia was rattled and missed a couple of kicks, while Turkey, given new life, made every opportunity and moved on to the semifinals.

With such an emotional turnaround, you might expect some animosity between the rival fans. You might expect security forces to swarm the square in order to maintain order and prevent chaos. Well, here was the only security guard, sound asleep, at the moment the game ended (and being mocked by a drunken German who was quite a hit with fans of both teams, I might add!)

From what I could see, no security was needed anywhere. Everyone appeared to simply say "good evening" or "I'm sorry," depending on whether theirs was the losing or winning team, and then went about their business.

If only every other international conflict could be resolved so politely!

[Update] Apparently, my experience in Prague was not indicative of the behavior of some fans attending the actual game!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rock, Paper, Scissors?

I finally had the chance to hear John Woo and David Addington speak today, during questioning by the House Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. If I thought they were contemptible on paper, I now realize that I had no idea how contemptible until actually hearing the words coming out of their mouths!

I was only able to watch a short segment of the questioning, but fortunately I got to see this exchange, as John Conyers desperately tries to find a “yes or no” question that Yoo will answer with a “yes” or “no.”

I guess it’s reassuring to know that Yoo has never advised the president that he “can bury somebody alive!” I suppose that’s something to be proud of!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the questioning by one of my favorite House members, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, which included one of the quotes of the day in this exchange:

However, this time I think Cohen missed the mark by referring to the vice president as a “barnacle” attached to the legislative branch. A barnacle is way too neutral and harmless; I would have gone with “tick” instead!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Whole Country Was a Raiders' Parking Lot After a Win Over the Broncos!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In an earlier post, I briefly mentioned watching one of Croatia's games in the European Football Championships (that's soccer to our American readers).

It was a huge win against the favored Germans, but unfortunately the weather short circuited our plans to watch the game at one of every bar, restaurant or ice cream shop in town that had the game blaring on TVs set up on packed outdoor terraces!

Luckily, I got one more chance to see Croatia's last pool game against Poland at a restaurant in Rijeka, on the night before I left the country.

Although Croatia had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with two straight wins, they had the chance to become the first team to be undefeated in a pool (after Portugal was upset by the host Swiss the prior evening.)

The crowd - in a restaurant hundreds of miles from the game, mind you - looked like a red and white version of the "Black Hole" at an Oakland Raiders' game (for readers unfamiliar with the NFL Raiders, you can just imagine an Obama rally taking place during the bar scene from Star Wars!)

The game didn't really matter, but Croatia won 1-0 on a second half goal, and the restaurant crowd went wild. As we started our walk home, I realized that the entire city was going wild, with flags waving, cars honking, air horns tooting, and from every bar, the sound of delirious singing (of what I later learned was the theme of an apparently very successful advertising campaign by the brewers of Osjusko Pivo!)

I have no doubt that every other municipality in the entire country - from our tiny island town of Veli Losinj to the capital of Zagreb - were joined in a shared moment of uncontrollable mass joy that I can only compare to those increasingly rare occasions when I've walked through the parking lot after a big Raiders' win!

Of course, my comparison fell apart the next day when I picked up a newspaper and saw a preview of Croatia's upcoming quarter-final game against Turkey. I snapped the above image of the story, which my rudimentary Croatian skills told me showed equivalent enthusiasm and passion from both sides of the coming battle, not unlike what I would expect in a similar story about, say, Raider and Bronco fans.

But then I noticed this box associated with the story and realized a key flaw in my point of reference:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

There were approximately 20,000 Croatian fans expected to travel to Austria for the game. Presumably there would be similar numbers of Turkish fans in attendance. As a part of their preview, the paper included a Croatian to Turkish translation of some common phrases that these fans may have reason to share with each other - phrases that make the cut even into my miniscule Croatian vocabulary:

"Good day!"

"How are you?"

"Thank you!"

"I'm sorry!"

Not exactly the phrases I would expect to hear offered to a Broncos fan who ventured into the Black Hole!

Those phrases could have been reduced to pictures of body gestures, and perhaps the phrase "your mother!"

(to be continued)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back To Reality

I'm sitting in the Atlanta airport during a 2-hour layover on my way home, "enjoying" web access for the first time since leaving Croatia for a week in Prague (pictured above), compiments of a roundabout FF ticket. I'll post more when my head clears.

Monday, June 16, 2008

John McCain is . . .

As John McCain travels the country, furiously trying to define himself on his own terms, it must be pointed out that you are defined not just by what you say, but by what you do. Or, to be more accurate, by how you seem to those looking at what you do and say.

So, in that spirit, I thought I'd offer up a few potential definitions based on how John McCain seems to me:

John McCain is the guy who says he's your friend, while he steals your stuff and gives it to his real friends to get them to like him.

John McCain is plain Cream of Wheat every morning for breakfast.

John McCain is the old guy who still teaches traffic school at the American Legion Hall.

John McCain is George Bush's intellect but with more time to have forgotten what he once knew.

John McCain is all the Batman villains rolled into one.

John McCain is the high school gym coach who laughs when you get hit in the nuts while playing dodgeball.

John McCain is the sound (and feel) of your own fingernails on a blackboard that is just out of arms reach.

John McCain is the guy who takes up adjacent handicapped spaces to pick up his dry cleaning so his wife won't yell at him for getting door dings on her Lexus.

John McCain is the recurring dream where you are being chased while running in quicksand.

John McCain is Bob Dole on steroids HDH (Human Dwarf Hormone.)

And if slightly less than a thousand words don't say it, here's a small modification of the above unedited pic from Reuters that does:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Two Hundred Year Old Stone House With a Satellite Dish

Well, we recently took the ulimate step toward pulling our island vacation life into the 21st century, by getting a TV and installing a satellite dish.

And God looked down on us and said "So you want a reason not to leave the house, I'll give you a reason not to leave the house!"

In the four days since the dish went up, it has rained all but one afternoon (during which we were fortunate enough to squeeze in a dive.) Before that, we had been able to go to the beach just about every day.

On the positive side, we were able to watch Croatia stun Germany in the European Football Championships, while waiting out a torrential downpour.

And it's not quite as frivolous as it looks, since there are no monthly fees to pay when we aren't here, and the cost was pretty reasonable (even with the crappy exchange rate.) For about $800, we got a TV, dish, and decoder box, including a 3-hour installation, which gives us access to about 750 channels (with only about a dozen or so in English) for as long as it takes the dish to rust away from the salt air!

I've already learned a few things from the unfiltered satellite programming. Based on the huge number of channels broadcasting in Arabic, I can surmise that citizens of western cultures aren't the only ones prone to becoming couch potatos who want to sit around scanning for the opportunity to call up "Hot Girls, who are waiting to talk to you." In fact, there are about 100 channels offering some variation of "Hot Girls waiting to talk to you" in just about every language known to man, including titles like "Hot Arab Girls" and "Persian Sex World."

I'm quite sure the right wingers would be quick to accuse the Arabic language channels of disseminating terrorist propaganda. Of course, mixed in among the Arabic and other channels are "The Pentagon Channel" and "Voice of America," offering an image of the large American military footprint that conveniently leaves out shows like "This Week in Blackwater Target Practice!"

As for the English programming, unless your primary interests are the weather or Wall Street, there isn't a whole lot to choose from.

Right now, however, I'm content with being able to satisfy my newly acquired obsession with the weather!

Some bonus dive pics:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

McCain Doesn't Use Computers but Obama Does!

John McCain is illiterate - or should I say computer illiterate! When asked if he prefers a Mac or PC - he indicated that he doesn't use computers - that his wife takes care of that for him.

On the other hand Barack Obama uses computers and definitely understands the influence of computers and the Internet on modern society. His campaign has used the "Internets" masterfully to get out his message, connect to his supporters and raise huge amounts of money. Obama's latest web site is one that debunks the right wing smears.

I wonder what plans Cindy has for McCain's web presence?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New NBC/WSJ Poll: Up Up and Away!

Today's NBC/WSJ poll shows a great start for Obama's "general" run. My sense has been that once the primary was over the clear distinctions between Obama and McCain would be painfully (for the Republicans) obvious. The state of the economy, gas prices and frustration with the war - all fall squarely on McCain's "slumping" shoulders as he tries to convince the electorate that we need more of the same. This poll shows that he's got one ginormous hill to climb:
Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7 percent), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The True Test of Hillary's Leadership

While I didn't hear Hillary give her concession speech, I read the transcript and can't quibble with the widespread media reaction that called it her most compelling, perhaps even brilliant, speech of the campaign.

However, after such a speech, what will be most interesting to me in the coming months is not what her political surrogates - the Wesley Clarks, the Tom Vilsacks and the Ed Rendells - will say after her endorsement of Obama. I think they understand the importance to Hillary's political rehabilitation of appearing to be completely behind Obama in the general election.

The important test of Hillary's leadership will be what her non-political advocates - the Paul Krugmans, the Joe Wilsons, and the Taylor Marshes - will say.

If Krugman writes more columns ripping Obama, will Hillary play dumb or come to his defense? If the former, then we'll know she's being disingenuous when she says she wants Obama to beat McCain.

If Hillary quietly tolerates an undercurrent of continued criticism of Obama from those to whom she can claim no direct political connection, then we will know that her outward support for Obama is tactical, that she knows she can't be seen as the reason for his loss, but that she is still hoping he will lose and make her the frontrunner again in 2112.

If Hillary really wants a Democrat to return to the White House in 2008, she will show her leadership by defending Obama against her own most vitriolic anti-Obama supporters!

If she doesn't defend him from such attacks, and the commercial media continues to report, ad nauseum, about her conciliatory brilliance, then they (and anyone who believes them) will be guilty of being duped, yet again, by the Clintons!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Another Great Obama Speech!

This one to his campaign staff at his Chicago headquarters after clinching the nomination. All I can say is what a great inspiring leader! I have no doubt that his staff will work night and day to get him elected.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hillary: One Day at a Time!

So Hillary has decided to concede the nomination and endorse Barack Obama.

That's great, but given the arc of her campaign, is this a greater commitment than was her pledge "not to participate" in the Michigan and Florida primaries?

OK, I doubt she could go back to claiming she deserves the nomination, but think about what happened here!

On the night Obama clinched the nomination by getting an insurmountable number of delegates, Hillary gave a speech touting her own support after allowing herself to be introduced by Terry McAulliffe as "the next president of the United States!"

It was only after what can best be described an "intervention" by her own high profile supporters on Capitol Hill that she agreed to try to kick the "campaigning to be president" habit!

Of course, normally such an intervention is followed by extensive treatment and group therapy, with support from fellow recovering addicts. There is no such peer group for Hillary, however, and one has to wonder how soon it will be before she falls back on her old ways of boosting her own qualifications as a future commander-in-chief over Barack Obama's if doing so will give her the rush she's looking for!

And while I'm trying to stay optimistic, I'm not ready to concede to those who want to say that "all is forgiven" now that Hillary has promised to help Obama get elected. For me, all will be forgiven on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration.

Until and unless that day occurs, Hillary will be just another unfortunate loser, whose compulsions ultimately destroyed the lives of those she claimed to love!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Today, Even My Croatian Neighbor is a Democrat!

Turns out that I'm not as cut off from the U.S political scene as I thought I would be, since we've realized that we can download podcasts of Countdown and listen to Keith Olbermann give us the full rundown every couple of days for just a few kuna.

It sure beats trying to get bits and pieces of news from Croatian radio or newspaper, although it does appear that many Croatians are quite tuned in to the Barack Obama phenomenon (Obamenon?) A friend on rhe mainland sent us a text message to see if we were celebrating shortly after Obama's presumptive nomination was announced.

So I know that Obama has declared victory, and that Hillary is still trying to get Appalachian hillbilly kids to sell their bikes and donate at W! W! W! Hillary Clinton! Dot! Com!

I was also pleased to hear, directly from a local resident of Zagreb, that during George W. Bush's recent visit, Croatians were respectful out of general appreciation for the official visit from the U.S., but that they despise the man as much as the growing majority of Americans do.

I had also hoped to monitor the reaction I got to wearing an "Obama 2008" sweatshirt during my travels, feeling perhaps for the first time in years, that I wouldn't mind being tagged as an American. Fortunately, I suppose, it does not appear that I'll have much of an opportunity, as the weather seems destined to preclude things like sweatshirts.

Before I put it away, however, I did get a "Hooray for your guy!" from the security screener at Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris.

Now if we could just boost the dollar back to something surpassing the value of toilet paper over here, traveling as an American could be downright enjoyable again!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Please Pass the Jello!

From Atrios:
"Oh, Go with the Green Background"

"It'll make you look like the cottage cheese in a lime jello salad" Always a good look for an older gentlemen.The aesthetics of McCain's speech, just mercifully completed before a slightly energized crowd of literally dozens, was awesome in how dreadful it was.

Update: Here's a great mash up of McCain's speech and the pundits reaction via TPM:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

An Historic Night!

(REUTERS/Eric Miller)
There were a bunch of great moments tonight - but I think my favorite was this fist bump between Michelle and Barack - just before Obama gave his speech. It was a little gesture but it said so much.

Here are a couple more:
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

(AFP/Getty Images/Scott Olson)

AP: Obama Has Clinched the Nomination

The Associated Press has just posted a story proclaiming Obama the Democratic Nominee. I believe that this is the first official news organization to write this.

Woohoo! On to November.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hillary – It Just Won’t Be You!

Dear Hillary,

On the eve of what appears to be the end of your “historic”, “ground breaking” bid to become the first woman to earn the nomination of her party to be President of the United States – I just have to say…….. nice try!
You proved a formidable candidate and a viable choice for the Democratic party. You won a lot of support nation wide. You showed that the country may just be ready for a female president. Your candidacy was ground breaking in many ways and America will ultimately be better for your run.

But in the end, much to your chagrin, but still for our countries gain – Barack Obama proved a better candidate, a better politician and overall a better leader! His nomination also speaks volumes about the progress of the country and his election in June will be a signal to the world that America will not defined by the Bush Administration. We are better than that……………much better!

So as you reflect upon your failure to earn the nomination – know that because of you - the United States will have a woman President someday………………………It just won’t be you!

Kick His Ass! Kick His Ass!

Remember when a fight would break out in elementary school, and all the other kids were so glad not to be involved that they would gather and cheer for the loser to fight back, just so they could watch a longer, and hopefully bloodier, fight from the safety of the sidelines?

OK, so maybe you didn't grow up in a rural, white, working class, town like I did; but trust me, it happened all the time, and the kids most eager to cheer on the fight were often the ones least likely to be in one.

I'm willing to guess that the kids who were most eager to egg on the apparent loser of one of these schoolyard fights, just to see a good bloodbath from a safe distance, are the same Hillary supporters now urging her to "take it to the convention!"

Of course, they will be long gone by the time Hillary gets expelled from the Democratic Party, and has to nurse her political wounds in the solitary isolation that comes with being yesterday's loser!