Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not to sound cliched...

There is no "I" in "team," and never can an "I" precede the word "team."

Former Arsenal captain, William Gallas, failed to recognize this when he went before the media recently and revealed a supposed "dressing room rift" during the 4-4 tie versus Tottenham. Coincidentally, this press conference was called to reveal Gallas's autobiography. I believe that would define put yourself before the team. This move was all the more perturbing given not only his reputation on the training ground but also because Arsenal is widely known to be greater than the sum of its parts. Arsene Wenger was equally worried and removed the armband from the 31 year-old rearguard who had, in all honesty, been faltering since Eduardo was torn apart at Birmingham City last year.

Wenger yesterday installed 21 year-old dynamo Cesc Fabregas as captain on a permanent basis. Some members of the media are already questioning the appointment but ultimately Fabregas has the links from the starting 11 on down to unite a dressing room recently struck by controversy. Whilst the need of such an appointment has me a little confused, Arsenal has been Fabregas's team since the day Thierry Henry left for the allegedly greener pastures of Barcelona. Here's what I don't understand: what amounts to Arsenal's youth team beat full-strength Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic sides by an aggregate score of 9-0. Such a resounding achievement whiffs of squad chemistry, and if the first team is rid of its aged annoyances, such as Gallas and Mikael "Stick a fork in it" Silvestre, there is no reason why Arsenal can't spring up the Premier League tables once more.

For reassurance, Wenger need only look across the pond to the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. Since the pre-lockout Bertuzzi saga, the former West Coast Express line of Brendan Morrison, Todd Bertuzzi and Captain, Markus Naslund had been a destabilising force in the locker room, battling the Sedin twins for offensive supremacy. The rift was apparently settled when Bertuzzi was shipped to Florida for goaltender extraordinaire Roberto Luongo. The saviour collected 47 wins, tying Bernie Parent's record as the Canucks recorded their most succesful regular season. After a seven game series against the Dallas Stars, the Canucks succumbed in 5 to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks. Then 2007-08 happened: the season finished on a bitter note with a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames and the firing of then-GM, Dave Nonis.

Then, Mike "Moneyball" Gillis took the reigns. Since then, the team was lost just once in pre-season and is 14-6-2 on the year, good for 5th in the NHL. And the reason: locker room unity and camaraderie. A cohesive unit, the Canucks are greater than the sum of the parts. Arsenal should be too. Arsene knows...what he has to do.

Monday, November 17, 2008

They listened!

Five minutes after my post earlier today, the IDF let food aid into Gaza!

Courtesy of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Israel opened a border crossing into the Gaza Strip on Monday for the first time in two weeks, according to UN officials, allowing limited aid to cross into the impoverished territory despite resumed militant rocket attacks.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, told the BBC that eight of its trucks carrying powdered milk and luncheon meat were allowed into Gaza with the convoy.

The Israeli military said about 30 trucks had entered the territory, while the decision to allow more shipments would depend on whether the rocket fire continued.

"This will be gone in a matter of days, and what happens then?" the UN's Gunness said.

Gaza's 1.5 million residents have been forced to contend with food and fuel shortages since Israel sealed its borders to Gaza earlier this month. Egypt, which also shares a border with the territory, has also kept its border crossings closed.

Between a Wall and a Hard Place

Up until the moment when planes began falling out of the sky over the Eastern United States on September 11th, 2001, the plight of Palestine had enjoyed reasonable status on broadsheets eitehr side of the Atlantic. In the past eight years, US-led incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan has distracted the press, who up until very recently have stocked the frontpages so heavily with tales of carbombs and and assasinations that articles on those war-torn corners of the world have become mundane. Whilst the situation in those two countries is deserving, even needing of media coverage, it has afforded the Israeli government a curtain of smoke and mirrors behind which it can flout its influence over its unwilling dependent , Palestine.

In Gaza, 80% of the population live below the poverty line with 35% unemployed. Some may argue that this situation is a product of their own doing, or more accurately Hamas's own doing but given that Israel has, since 1991, instituted a tight closure policy over the state, thus reducing trade and migration to a quite literal standstill, it is hard to see how Ehud Olmert can still reiterate that the dire situation is not his fault. The GDP per capita is slightly above $1000. Whether this would be the case had the Israeli airforce not flattened the airport near Ramallah is an interesting question, one that the Prime Minister's office is not keen to reflect upon. Mark Regev, Olmert's spokesman, claims that the Gazan people were being "held hostage" to Hamas's "extremist and nihilist" ideology which was causing undoubted suffering. This confuses me for two reasons. Unless Hamas is a front for Mossad or some such organisation, its membership would largely be Gazan. Why would anybody hold themselves hostage? The second issue is that Israel and Israel alone has the power to allow imports into the Strip. People would not be dying of malnutrition if Israel had a) not allowed things to deteriorate to the extent that a militant organization like Hamas could take "control" or b) simply allow the Strip to trade reasonably freely. Unfortunately, as Hareetz.com suggests, this may be exactly what Ariel Sharon's old cronies want, an excuse to wreak further havoc in Gaza. Thankfully, the smoke is blowing away, heavy press coverage is returning to the region, the Red Cross is at the very least, pushing the Israeli government to allow food aid to pass through the closure policy. The world is watching. Time to make ammends. There is a chance to be good again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letters...of hope

The world keeled over with joy at around GMT 4:20 early Wednesday when Barack Obama secured the states of California, Oregon and Washington and with it the necessary votes to win the Presidency. Throughout America, people reveled in their new found sense of self-confidence. Internationally, peopled basked in the realization that this impending version of America would not be as foolish as its predecessors.
Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saw something in Barack Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" mantra, congratulating our new President-Elect on "gaining the majority of the vote. The Iranian President went on to remark on Obama's proposed foreign policy mindset, saying that, "Iranians will welcome such changes." Them and me too. The 30th anniversary of the 1979 Embassy siege is quickly advancing and yet the thaw of diplomatic relations between the two countries has not been forthcoming. The unfortunate thing is that if it was the Iranian Government that served its purpose in governing the country and did not let the Ayatollahs run around, Iranian-American relations would be a lot more amicable. Obviously that's like Gordon Brown telling the Queen where to go but nonetheless, proof lays in the friendship that has developed between Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mayor of Tehran. Now with Ahmadinejad's virtual statement of intent and Obama's promises, maybe, just maybe, US-Iranian relations can begin to approach stability.
Of course, the power of the Ayatollahs is not to be underestimated - they were rumored to be behind the temporary displacement of Ahmadinejad earlier this month, which was officially put down to exhaustion. A man who is threatened like that will be less inclined to break from the past, due largely to the sheer difficultly of such an action. It seems as if it was truly Ahmadinejad and Qalibaf who controlled the country, Iran would be well on the way to reconciliation with the community but unfortunately such a situation is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future. That isn't to say such a situation would be unsavory - a secular society will have to be put in place for that to happen, another unlikely event. After all, who would want to relinquish power.
Unfortunately, in a move that underlined the political and religious complexities of the Middle East, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister warned against unconditional dialogue between the American and Iranian Presidencies: "dialogue at this time is liable to broadcast weakness." Livni is missing the point. As Obama himself said in reference to the poorer, rural White Americans, "
It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy." That quote also transfers beautifully the situation of Israel: surrounded by those with opposing views, it follows the suite of the aforementioned demographic. Unfortunately, this mindset - which, thankfully, is restricted largely to the Army and Government, has the ability to destabilize a whole region, as it has for so long. As soon as that changes, things can begin to seriously progress. Until that point, Livni's perception that her government's word can send ripples through the region will remain frighteningly true.
As if echoing that last thought, Barack Obama today declared that he
would be reviewing the Iranian president's letter of congratulations and responding appropriately, rather than reacting in a "knee-jerk fashion". Had Livni not gone and ruined this sense of goodwill, perhaps Obama would not have been dragged into discussion in the Iranian Parliament, where he was criticised. The Speaker, Ali Larijani said "It [Obama's reviewing of the letter] signals a continuation of the erroneous policies of the past," he said. "Change has to be strategic, not just cosmetic."A fair analysis - at least Larijani had enough to dexterity to not throw a spanner too far into the works. On the other hand, Livni and the Kadima Party are putting one-upmanship over their country's safety, blind to the fact that a resolution of differences between the US and Iran and all its implications can only be beneficial to Israel. We can only hope Barack Obama does not pick up her rose-tinted spectacles.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Through the Night: Liveblogging Election 2008

Tonight's the night. Across America, people are flocking to the polls as the world watches with bated breath. Who will it be, the presumptive Barack Obama or dark horse, John McCain? Plus, the Vancouver Canucks take on the Nashville Predators starting 03:00GMT.

00:27GMT: Predictably, Barack Obama takes Vermont and its 3 electoral college votes whilst Kentucky and its 8 votes go to John McCain. As the BBC newscasters have been reiterating, this is expected, given that in the case of Vermont, the state has gone blue in the past four elections.

00:33GMT: My condolences to the family of those who died in the Hanover bus crash.

00:45GMT: I am now officially just another corporate sell-out, having registered with Google's AdSense program.

00:51GMT: Apparently Fidel Castro is backing Obama. Whilst that is probably the case, he shouldn't say it too loudly - don't want to risk pushing away conservative democrats.

00:55GMT: BBC has called South Carolina as Republican, still as expected. Some networks are also giving West Virginia to the GOP.

00:57GMT: The BBC ticker is calling South Carolina a "key battleground." Not sure about that.

00:59GMT: McCain currently stands at a 16-3 lead in terms of Electoral College votes but with around 1.5 minutes remaining until a very blue close of voting, normalcy is soon to be restored.

01:03GMT: Blink and you miss it. I lambast a friend for his footballing beliefs and now Obama leaps out to a projected 67-16.

01:08GMT: Maine and Jersey go to Obama, sweeping further ahead to a 103-34 lead.

01:11GMT: Massachusetts, one of the two states along with California that I could register to vote in once I turn 18 goes blue. Thank god it isn't an English county.

01:13GMT: A lull descends on the BBC studio as the flood of results coming in slows to a trickle.

01:15GMT: Obama up 60% to 40% in Miami-Dade and Orange counties, 52% to 47% in Osceola. Booya!!! (Yes, I'm beyond "words.")

01:18GMT: McCain has a slight lead in Indiana but with only 32% of precincts in. The BBC are talking of Pennsylvania as a "key battleground." This time I agree.

01:25GMT: Choirboys are hogging the airtime on BBC. Where are the results??!!

01:28GMT: According to the Los Angeles Times, Ohio, Florida and Virginia are too close to call but are leaning the way of Barack Obama!

01:32GMT: My friend and I agree that some composition of Al Franken, Chris Rock, Tina Fey and Sarah Palin would make an excellent ticket in 2016. Arkansas is called for McCain. Surprise surprise.

01:38GMT: The vote counter reads 49-103 in favor of Obama. Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Michigan are scheduled to close in just over 20mins.

01:41GMT: The Palin family is reuniting at an airport somewhere, I think in Phoenix. Many a wet shoulder there will be.

01:42GMT: The Palin motorcade sweeps out onto the streets. Those gas-guzzling SUVS will be one of her only comforts right now. Some secret service agents have an open window in their car. Obviously she isn't in there.

01:47GMT: The Rvd. Jesse Jackson himself. If I wasn't wrapped up in my duvet I would bow in the presence of greatness.

01:52GMT: Just 8mins now until the next round of results. Add New York, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming to the next round of closing polls.

01:55GMT: Fox News has called Pennsylvania for the Dems. Its set in stone now.

02:01GMT: GOP stands for the "Grand Old Party." Semblances of the Ivory Tower of Academia anyone?

02:02GMT: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York go BLUE!!!!

02:04GMT: Kansas, Wyoming and North Dakota called for the GOP. Rhode Island for Obama. Meanwhile, Fox give Ohio to the Democrats amidst scenes of wild celebration on Times Square.

02:08GMT: Georgia squeaks in for McCain. 175-76 reads the tally in favor of Barack Obama.

02:11GMT: Grant Park, Chicago looks insane right now. What I would do to be there...

02:12GMT: Fox calls New Mexico for Obama. What is going on? Do the Bushes want him to win?

02:13GMT: Florida has 48% of precincts in and Obama is up, 52% to 48%. Meanwhile, 51% are in in Virgina and McCain leads by a very slim margin, 50% to 48%.

02:17GMT: Sen. Elizabeth Dole has been making a mockery of herself in North Carolina. Surely that goes for Obama now. BBC calls Wisconsin for the Illinois Senator.

02:23GMT: The Associated Press is saying that the Senate will remain under control of the Democrats. In the worlds of Quagmire, "Allllllllriiiiiiggggggggggghttt!!!!." And wow, a fight is breaking out on the BBC. Some American historian is calling the correspondent in Phoenix "ignorant" for suggesting that Palin shunned undecided voters from the Republicans.

02:30GMT: At long last, the BBC calls Ohio for the Democrats. There is very little scope for a McCain comeback now.

02:34GMT: Louisiana goes to McCain. Big surprise. Still, Obama is closer to the presidency than his rival thanks to a 195-90 lead.

02:37GMT: More networks are calling New Mexico and its 9 votes for Obama. The state has voted for the President all bar two times since before the Second World War. Interestingly, New Mexico has the largest Latino population percentage in the country, a slap in the face to my premonition that state was a redneck haven. My bad.

02:41GMT: The BBC adds New Mexico to its tally, putting the score at 200-124 after the Lone Star State went down a very familiar line. Even after that 34 vote haul, I have difficulty seeing how McCain can win given that the West Coast is still to come.

02:46GMT: Wow. Not that this has anything to do with the election but the New York Islanders, last in the NHL, beat down on the New York Rangers, 2-1.

02:50GMT: I have just received word from my "inside sources" - that's you Lorraine - that the California polls close in 1hr10mins. So yeah, I'll be jumping for joy in a little over an hour. Meanwhile, 60% of precincts in Florida are now in with Obama still leading the way at 51% to 48%.

02:53GMT: Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah are set to close in just over 5mins.

02:57GMT: CNN has Obama up 8000 in Virgina. Surely not...

02:59: BBC confirms things in Virgina, things tied at 50% each. Elizabeth Dole has officially lost in North Carolina, where Obama is up 51% against McCain's 49%. Mississippi goes to the GOP, bringing the tally to 200-130. Polls close in the four aforementioned states in one minute.

03:02: Obama wins what must be one of his favorite states, Iowa and its 7 votes. Yet another swing state goes to the man from Honolulu. Unsurprisingly, McCain takes Republican bastion Utah and its 5 votes. Interestingly, Utah has voted for the Democrats just once, in 1964.

03:06: The puck's about to drop at GM Place in Vancouver. CBC must be hating themselves as TSN picked up their Hockey Night in Canada themetune.

03:09: Obama sits up at 207 to 135 with results from Nevada and Montana expected shortly.

03:15: Just minutes into the Canucks game, defenceman Kevin Bieksa hits the deck injured. In the corresponding last season, Bieksa suffered a lacerated calf muscle at the mercy of Vern Fiddler, causing him to play just 34 games.

03:17: Back in the lower 48, McCain is up 50% to Obama's 49% with 85% of precincts reporting. Meanwhile Florida is still going Obama's way with 65% of precincts reporting.

03:21: What. a. comeback. Obama is now up in Virgina, 50% to 49%.

03:26: Gosh, this is hard. Blogging, watching hockey and watching the election. It isn't as though I've missed too much. The tally still stands at 207-135 and the score between Nashville and Vancouver is 0-0.

03:29: Yeaaahhh!!! Powerplay Vancouver. Suck that J.P Dumont.

03:31: John McCain and the Straight Talk Express have arrived in Phoenix. Tee Hee.

03:33: Wow. The LA Times and CNN both have Obama up by several percent in Utah whilst Nebraska has gone the other way.

03:39: Back in Vancouver, Alex Edler clears the puck out as the boys kill of an Alex Burrows roughing penalty.

03:41: Five states are about to close. According to the BBC, "Barack Obama is within sight of the Presidency."

03:42: The District of Columbia is projected for Obama whilst South Dakota goes to McCain. Nancy Pelosi has tears of joy streaming down her cheeks as the Democrats retain control of the Senate.

03:48: Delaware goes to Obama-Biden but BBC have not updated their tally which thus rests at 141-207 in favor of the Democrats.

03:56: My rumbling belly has been silenced thanks to milk and marzipan. Just 4 minutes remain until the polls close in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Hallelujah!!!

04:02: The Los Angeles Times has called Virginia for Obama, California and Washington by the BBC. Obama wins, 273-241. Tears are streaming fown my cheeks. Uh oh. BBC just referred to him as a "negroe." Anyhow, WOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

04:12: All else is irrelevant. Once more, I can be proud of being American. Neither the grin spread across my face or the tears dripping down my cheeks will subside.

04:15: Similarly, elation is spreading across Barack Obama Sr's hometown in Kenya. The world is on cloud nine, exactly what we need right now.

04:17: Colorado and its nine votes also go to Obama. At times like these, who cares about hockey? Well maybe everyone's favorite lipsticked pig, Sarah Palin. Good riddance.

04:21: Full credit to John McCain. A very dignified concession of defeat. Whilst his speech seems forced and seems memorized, props to McCain for such an eloquent exit, also paying tribute to Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham and urging his supporters to throw their weight behind the President Elect. Meanwhile, Florida goes Obama's way, so the tally now stands 333-145.

04:27: Wow, the crowd sure loved it when McCain paid tribute to Palin. Nonetheless, a very dignified and respectful speech from this veteran warhorse. Commiserations, Senator McCain. It would've taken a God to beat Barack Obama. And hey, he mentioned Joe Biden. Not something that happens every day.

04:34: BBC has footage outside the White House where people are...jumping around. Follow McCain's example, guys.

04:37: We've got about 30 minutes until Obama hits the stage in Grant Park. Back with the BBC in Virginia, the coffee shop crowd is chanting "YES WE CAN." I'd join in to if I wouldn't wake up everyone.

04:41: When the BBC reporter in Virginia asked the Moody family, "is this a new dawn?, " they responded, "Absolutely! This is a new dawn!" Amen.

04:48: The BBC's graphic reporter, Jeremy something, has just brought down a curtain of ticker tape. Tacky as hell but I don't care.

04:50: Gore Vidal is being interviewed and he doesn't seem too happy. Petulance and requests to be allowed to speak from the 83 year old have the studio falling over themselves in mirth. Meanwhile, one analyst in the studio earnestly professes that "if you'd told anyone that Obama would win North Carolina...no one would have believed you." There's one right here.

04:59: Obama has arrived on stage in Grant Park!
This time I really will bow in the presence of greatness.

05:03: I'm just beyond words so I'll leave you with this. Yes, We did!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Plea

November 4th: You can make it YES WE DID!