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Prague, Obama, Lincecum, Wall Street scandals, and my new favorite team

4 July 2008

Tons of stuff I’ve been meaning to put up but haven’t had time to do so, due to a crazy travel schedule and lots of work.

–I’ve got an article up at ESPN.com’s Page 2 on the unlikely best team in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays. The article looks at the hot start of the Rays and five other surprise teams, then tries to draw lessons from other unlikely fast starters of the past 20 years.

–Also up is a shorter piece I wrote for Page 2, covering Wednesday night’s thrilling 7-6 win over the Red Sox (scroll down to the bottom left of the page to read it). The game was a blast to watch, right down to the Rays playing “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the game as a big middle finger to Red Sox Nation. I also evoke memories of the ’94 Expos.

And if you haven’t been able to tell by now, the Rays have now become my de facto new favorite team. Too much to like on the roster, too many good guys in the front office and too downtrodden a fan base not to support. Heck, they even make hilarious promos featuring their star players. Go Rays!

–For you Yankees fans (and Yankees haters), here’s my latest Yankees Preview article for YESNetwork.com. The piece profiles the Yanks’ upcoming (now current) games with the Red Sox and Rays. Pretty weird to see the Bronx Bombers playing third banana in the AL East. Maybe if they slashed their payroll by 75% and started acting more like the Rays they’d have a better chance.

–After a fantastic trip that went from New Hampshire to the Berkshires to Buffalo to Toronto to Montreal and back home, we’re back out on the road again…this time in Eastern Europe. I’m currently writing from the southwestern edge of Prague. We’re exhausted from the usual lack of plane sleep and jet lag, so didn’t get to do much sightseeing in our first day here. But I’m liking it a lot so far, and the weekend should be a blast. Also, Angele fully supports my plan to attempt to re-enact as many scenes as possible from INXS’ classic “Never Tear Us Apart” video.

(The video was shot entirely in Prague, which is even cooler when you consider this was when the Berlin Wall was still around. Also interesting: Tim Farriss was said to be so drunk during the shooting of this video that they basically kept him out of the shoot.)

Articles not written by me that I recommend:

–A long but terrific Vanity Fair piece by Bryan Burrough on the fall of investment bank Bear Stearns. This is a great read even if you have little knowledge of how Wall Street works. No wonder: Burrough was also co-author of “Barbarians At The Gate”, the story of the demise of Nabisco/RJ Reynolds and the leveraged bond industry of the 1980s that ranks as one of my five favorite books of all time, business or otherwise. (Hat tip to Ron Wexler for the link)

–A super-awesome piece by SI.com’s Tom Verducci on one of my favorite athletes on the planet, San Francisco Giants pitching phenom Tim Lincecum. Again, even if you’re not that familiar with Lincecum’s work, or an avid follower of pitching mechanics per se, this article provides really cool insight into how a 172-pound string bean can generate a blazing 98-mph fastball. And if you are a fan of Lincecum like me, you’ll want to read it twice.

–Poltical blogger extraordinaire Glenn Greenwald recaps the past two weeks of Barack Obama’s campaign. The Big O has caused me some significant grief during that time, his out-of-the-blue reversal on te government’s rights to wiretap Americans without warrants the most egregious offense. My buddy Chris Liss (a fellow sports and politics junkie who’s as sharp as they come) has argued that Obama is scoring points with Independents and even some traditionally Republican voters by bucking left-wing factions such as MoveOn.org and others in buckling on FISA and other issues, in the process moving one step closer to becoming the next president of the United States.

Chris is often right, and he might be right here too. But from where I stand, the Fourth Amendment and the government staying out of my business in general is one of the most vital issues there is. I don’t think Obama needed to cave on FISA (or a couple of the other moves Greenwald cites) to put himself in better position to get elected. Greenwald sums up that mindset nicely:

If anyone has any evidence at all that: (a) Obama would be less likely to win if he continued to oppose telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping; (b) his chances to win increase by being perceived as someone who flagrantly changes positions for political gain; and/or (c) he is more likely to win by embracing Bush/Cheney policies, please alert me to such evidence. I would really like to see it, because I don’t believe any such evidence exists.

–One of the other Obama decisions that also irked me was his mad dash to distance himself from Gen. Wesley Clark’s recent comments about John McCain. Clark argued that while McCain deserves all the respect and admiration in the world for his service to his country and his courage under unimaginable stress during the Vietnam War, those experiences from 40 years ago don’t tell us anything about his ability to be President.

The usual media dunderheads have since tried to strawman Clark to death, arguing that Clark is trying to “Swiftboat” McCain (a reference to 527 ads run in 2004 that successfully cast doubt on John Kerry’s impressive military service).

The problem of course is that this is a big, fat lie. Clark went out of his way to praise McCain’s courage at every turn. At the same time, asking aloud if McCain’s service makes him more likely to make intelligent decisions on matters such as Iraq and Iran, let alone the economy and other domestic issues, is absoutely a valid and important question.

Clark could’ve made a solid high-ranking member of Obama’s cabinet, given his old impressive war record, his overall intelligence and his experience in the political spotlight. Instead, Obama (and/or his campaign) have decided that what Chris Matthews and Fox and Fools and the rest say takes precedence, so better to back away and by extension reinforce the strawman attacks.

In light of all that, I found this post at DailyKos.com by another veteran, Brandon Friedman, particularly insightful. Read to the end and you’ll fund many examples of brave men and women who also served their country, but like Clark aren’t willing to genuflect before McCain just because he did, and instead are willing to ask if he’s the right man for the world’s most powerful job.

Good night from Prague for now. I’ll try to send more updates from the trip as we go along. I’m excited to see Vienna after this and especially to retrace my family’s Hungarian roots next week, when we hit up Budapest.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. ddeldon permalink
    7 July 2008 12:24 am

    I’ll still support him (at the risk of being disowned by my family), but I’m totally with you regarding Obama and FISA. As well as the McCain/war commentary. Liss needs to get the asbestos removed from his apartment ASAP.

  2. okobojicat permalink
    7 July 2008 1:42 pm

    Jonah,

    When in Prague, you must do this: get on a tram, get off where you don’t see anything touristy. Go down 3 back alleys until you don’t know where the tram stop was. Find a pub, ask if they have an English Menu. If you don’t, eat there. Get at least 3 pivos (beer). Anything close to Kujeci (chicken) and Bramborak (potato pancakes) is what you should order.

    Also, drink Kozel Cerne. And don’t let the natives tell you dark beer is for women.

  3. Jonah permalink*
    7 July 2008 4:27 pm

    Dalton, glad to know the asbestos hasn’t taken effect on all RW staff. I do think Obama is playing politics with things like FISA. I just want to be sure he doesn’t sell out when he gets to office too. And I’d add thatg for me personally, FISA is one of the most important issues I expect to see in the next 4.5 years, with or without Obama in office.

    As for Prague, already done with that leg of the trip, now in Vienna. Best city for architecture that I’ve ever seen, stunning. Rather than drink Coyel straight in Prague, I followed the advice of my Czech New Hampshire friend Ivan and got a half and half with Coyel and Urquell. Sweet Enola Gay that was one of the best glasses of beer I’ve ever had. We found plenty of other cool things to do too…my favorite was probably lounging in a patch of green space with some cake, which is typically my fave thing to do in any European city…just soak up the atmosphere.

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