"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Big in Japan

You only think you know how weird it is to be a non-Japanese living in Japan. In fact, you have no idea. I'd nearly forgotten that last weekend was the big celebration of the American Vice President in Kawasaki. I went to this festival about ten years ago, as many new ex-pats do. Weird doesn't begin to describe it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tom Kostopoulos (No.6) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his first-ever playoff goal in the Canadiens' win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Real Hockey and a new Spiritual leader of the Moment!

Forget the nonsense about him getting into a scrap with the cops down in Florida at the Habs rookie dinner while defending a team mate in a misunderstanding with the cops. Tom the Bomb Nonstopoulos is our new Spiritual Leader of the Moment because of this story.
Prior to yesterday's first round win against the Boston Bruins (One down, 15 to go), in which No. 6 scored his first playoff goal and got his first playoff point with a assist on the Canadiens right winger and all around grinder got invited to a different kind of warm up for the opening game of this year's playoffs. Some kids rang his doorbell Monday and invited him out play some street hockey. Now this is guy making a pile of money to play a sport and who obviously has to take his game seriously. He got his sneakers and stick and got out the door as fast as he could and spent the day playing with a crowd of 30-40 kids in Nuns Island where he lives.

Kostopoulos is not a star,  he's a fourth line grinder who in 68 games this season, only managed 13 points.  Last night he had a goal, an assist, five hits and was generally a menace to the Bruins all night long. That's why the Canadiens are going all the way this year, guys like him. He is basically the team's muscle along the boards - lead the team in hits in March and tops the list in penalty minutes- but he lead the offense last night. His first goal with the Canadiens back in November was a shorthanded goal against Philly.  He had two other short handed goals in a season where he only scored seven times on 98 shots. The last time the Habs played Boston he got a Gordie Howe hat-trick (A goal, an assist, and a fight) This is a guy who steps up when he's needed. He's got heart. 

If  bunch of kids knocked on Barry Bonds' door a couple of days before the World's Series looking for a game of sandlot sweep and scrub, do you think he would go along? Hockey is different and Kostopoulos is a hockey guy. Here's a song for him.

A little weekend entertainment

Most of this is not really safe for work, but what the hell are you doing working on the weekend and what the hell are you doing reading blogs at work?

Hick Hop by Wammo and the Asylum Street Spankers 

Wammo peformance poetry/rant: There is too much light in this bar.

More Asylum Street Spankers. Hard to believe their latest album is a fantastic kids album - or maybe not so hard to believe when you think about it.

I dunno where you work, but I wouldn't play this one in my office and we swear like longshoremen half the time. I'll also warn you that the song will stick in your head for weeks, causing you to giggle and hum during your commute, which can be a good way to get more room on those bench seats.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How to breed terrorists

1. Attack and terrorize a country with overwhelming military force, destroy the quality of life for people living there and kill lots of civilians.
2. Occupy that country and keep killing civilians while trying to kill the people trying to make you leave. Do as little as you can to help the civilians and make sure your occupying troops are as isolated from the civilian population as possible.
3. Continue for as long as people back home can stand it. 

Well said Boris.
(This started out as a comment on Boris' excellent post over at the Beaver, and then just plain got to be too long to be a comment)

The nonsensical rah-rah bullshit about "fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight'em over here" is just that - nonsensical bullshit. The coalition isn't just fighting them over there, it is creating them over there.

I'm all for hunting down and shooting every card-carrying Taliban and Al-Qaida member, but they don't carry cards or wear sweaters with a big red "T" for terrorist on them. I sympathize with soldiers wanting to err on the side of not getting killed....................BUT YOU CAN'T JUST GO AROUND SHOOTING EVERYONE JUST TO MAKE SURE!!!!!

Nor can you "precision" bomb a house in a crowded neighborhood just because someone told you there was a bad guy there. Nor can you shoot people for carrying shovels or talking on cell phones or kick in innocent people's doors in the middle of the night and disappear them to the tender mercies of Abu Graib or turn a car full of people into scrap metal and bloody rags because they didn't slow down fast enough as they approached your checkpoint.

You can't do any of these things and expect the people to whom you are doing them to thank you, shower you with candy and flowers and give you their hearts and minds.

What you can expect is the kind of ripple effect that is going on in Iraq.

Most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussien, but they had running water and electricity and there were jobs and as bad as things were, you could feed your family, go to the mosque when and if you wanted, and have some idea of what to expect day to day. Sure, there was always the threat that your crazy neighbour might denounce you to the secret police or that you'd get strung up by the thumbs in Abu Ghraib because your cousin ran an anti-Saddam website, but there wasn't much you could do about it.

When the invasion came and Saddam was given the boot, people cheered. "Hurrah! No more secret police! No more Abu Ghraib! Democracy! Whisky! Sexy!"

Now five years later they have electricity about an hour a day, sometimes less, no running water in most of country, shit blowing up all over the place, foreign soldiers who don't speak your language in the streets willing to shoot you for looking at them the wrong way, checkpoints everywhere, the constant threat that your crazy neighbor will denounce you to the Americans who will hang up by your thumbs in Abu Ghraib, religious fanatics who will shoot you for going to the wrong mosque and who will beat and rape your daughter for not wearing a burqa. There are no jobs, you don't know where your next meal is coming from half the time and you never know when a firefight is going to break out. Those lousy bastards who go to the other mosque shot your son last week and your wife lost her legs three years ago when a bomb went off at the market. And the occupation forces killed six of your cousins, three of your uncles and your grandmother. And they keep calling you Haji.

(at this point someone is saying "you've never been there, you don't know -- go do your homework." Yeah, well, your right I've never been there, but I have heard some stories from the people that have. I suggest listening to the As it Happens Podcast from March 19th in which they play a pair of interviews with an Iraqi who works for the Ministry of Electricity. The first interview is from the end of the first year of the occupation, the second is from this past March, the fifth anniversary. If you don't do podcasting, you can listen to the interviews  here)

Imagine you were born in Baghdad in  the late 1980s to early 1990s. Your childhood was bit messed up what with the aftermath of the eight year war with Iran and the pounding your country took from the Americans  in the Gulf War and the subsequent years of sactions that left your formerly reasonably wealthy developed country poor and scraping for material goods. But you've never know it to be any different, you're just a kid. The grown ups might talk of a time before the country went downhill, but you spend your time playing soccer with your friends, going to school and doing what kids all over the world do - hanging out with your friends and family, scheming to score some candy and having fun. As you get older you start to realize that people in other countries don't have it as tough as you do because their countries don't have economic sanction against them that prevent them from importing stuff. You get a bit ticked off with rest of the world for being mean to Iraq, but maybe they have a point, your president is a pretty scary guy after all and nobody much likes him. 

Then, when you're between 15 and 11 the shit really hits the fan. The sky opens one night in March and the every power station, water works, military base blows up. The sky seems dark with planes and the bombs just keep on exploding everywhere. The earth shakes. You think you will go deaf from the constant onslaught of explosions. The house up the street is just...gone. When the bombing stops the soldiers come and there is some shooting for a few days. The whole city goes crazy for a while - Saddam is gone! People are looting government buildings! Once things start to calm down a little bit, you realize that the foreign soldiers are settling in. Bombs keep going off in your neighbourhood, the soldiers come in the night and take away your neighbours, the electricity doesn't work, the school has been turned into a command post for the police, everyone is scared all the time and everyone you know has lost a brother or a sister or a cousin or a friend or a mother or a father to bombs from one side or the other. You had hoped to go to college one day and be an engineer like your dad, but the college keeps blowing up and you its too dangerous to go to the high school. 

Five years of this go by and now you're 16 to 20 and you HATE the Americans. They have fucked up your life and killed your friends and your family. Just last week, one of their convoys came past and they ran over your cousin like a dog in the street. Your dad got shot by the Militia because he worked for the electricity ministry and was working with the Americans trying to get the power back on in Baghdad. Your cousin lost a leg in a car bombing near the Green Zone. That girl you thought was pretty in your third grade math class way back when, she died in the shock and awe bombings. No one has seen your older brother in two years -- he could be dead, he could be with the insurgents, he could be in Abu Ghraib. Your mother cries every night and your little sister is scared to leave the house.

  You ask yourself "What in the name of the prophet did we do to deserve this? Why don't the infidels go home and leave us alone?" Then, one day after the Americans smashed the front of your neighbours house in with a tank at 3 am and hauled him away, a man comes to you and your friends while you are sitting in the dirt in front of your neighbours house talking about what happened and how angry you all are. "You hate the Americans?" he says. "So do I, what are you willing to do about it?"  He says he knows how you can teach them a lesson, how you can make them leave Iraq, how you can get revenge. You smile and shake his hand and say "Tell me more"

Now, those of you with a conservative bent may think this is unrealistic, but go back and substitute Dallas for Baghdad in these descriptions and tell me it could never happen. Go watch the favorite film of the neo-con cool kids and tell me that if Russia or France or the Pan-Arab Islamofacist League or whoever invaded and occupied the United States that vast swathes of young men would not take to the hills and back alleys and fight to the death to drive them out.

Remember the surge in enlistment in the U.S. armed forces after 9/11? People in middle America who hated arrogant, cosmopolitan New York, who thought it was full of nothing but Jewish pornographers and black gangbangers and rich liberal yuppies, who previously would not have pissed on New York City if it had been one fire, suddenly got all indignant and patriotic and ready to kick some ass somewhere, anywhere to get even. Imagine a smaller version of  9/11 happening in your neighborhood on a frequent basis. What would you want to do to the people responsible? Greet them with flowers and candy?

Why would we expect anything less from the young men of Iraq? Or Afghanistan?

Fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here? The longer we stay over there, the more likely they are to come over here to make us stop and the more of them there will be.

Playoffs start tonight

taken from the damned fine Habs site Eyes on the Prize

Monday, April 07, 2008

Use a hedgehog, go to jail

Police, those opposed to gun control and other experts on violence often talk about the number of people attacked not with guns or knives, but with so-called weapons of opportunity, in other words whatever comes to hand - chairs, pipes, baseball bats, shovels and even...

Hedgehog used in non-lethal assault
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A New Zealand man has been accused of assault with a prickly weapon -- a hedgehog.
Police allege that William Singalargh, 27, picked up the hedgehog and threw it at a 15-year-old boy in the North Island east coast town of Whakatane on February 9.
"It hit the victim in the leg, causing a large, red welt and several puncture marks," police Senior Sgt. Bruce Jenkins said Monday. The teen did not need medical treatment, he added.
Police arrested Singalargh shortly after the incident, and charged him with assault with a weapon -- "namely the hedgehog," Jenkins said.
At a hearing in Whakatane District Court on February 14, Singalargh's lawyer said he intended to plead innocent, The Herald on Sunday newspaper reported. The case is due to resume on April 17. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison, Jenkins said.

Now I know some of the nervous Nellies on the left side of the blogosphere will now start calling for a ban on hedgehogs, but just remember: If hedgehogs are outlawed, only outlaws will have hedgehogs.

April - no longer the cruelest month

Unless you happen to live in Boston, that is.
I won't jinx things by saying that this is the year the Canadiens win their 25th Stanley Cup and 24th NHL Championship (they won their first cup in 1916, the year before the NHL was formed) but despite their own captain's predictions it's been a very good year so far.

First round match up and predictions:


Montreal vs Boston - Is this even in question? Even with Montreal's Saku Koivu sidelined with a broken foot, Montreal pretty much owns Boston in the playoffs, beating them in 23 of 30 post-season series and taking all eight games from them this season. Montreal in four.

Pittsburgh vs Ottawa - Pittsburgh has Syd Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Ottawa is missing Daniel Alfredsson and role-player Mike Fisher. Ottawa had a good season before stumbling in the stretch and barely making the playoffs, while Pittsburgh, despite a so-so defence, finished a very strong second to the Habs. Assuming Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't fall apart more than once or twice Pittsburgh ought to win this one. Pittsburgh in five.

Washington vs Philidelphia - Philly could win this if they can shut down Alex Ovechkin and Sergi Federov goes back into hibernation. And as a friend of mine likes to say, if you aunt had balls she's be your uncle. Washington ended the season by winning 11 of 12 games and they have a very strong goalie in Christobel Huet. Philidelphia, eh...not so much - Martin Biron has it in him to be a good goalie, but as numerous scouting reports and pundit predictions point out, plays lousy when he has to play back-to-back games. Washington in five.

New Jersey vs New York - The Devils finished ahead of the Rangers (just) and have Martin Brodeur, one of the best playoff goalies ever. The Rangers on the other hand took seven of eight games off the Devils this season. Both teams are solid defensively so this could come down to a lot of 2-1 games. Based on the track record for the season, it's New York, but NJ has a tendency to do well in tight spots so this one is tough to call. New York in seven


Detroit vs Nashville - Detroit took the regular season title 24 points ahead of Nashville. The Predators won five of their last six to make the playoffs and aren't a bad team, but they are totally outclassed by the Red Wings. Detroit in four

San Jose vs Calgary - As much as I'd love to see Calgary go all the way to the finals just so Montreal can whip their asses and make heads explode across Texas north (I'm sure they would find a way to blame it on Stephane Dion), San Jose has a juggernaut since the trade deadline. The Sharks have lots of offensive punch led by Joe Thornton with plenty of secondary scorers, whereas once you get past Jarome Iginla, the Flames don't have much in the way of big scorers. Both side have good goaltending, but a collapse between the pipes for either side would be a disaster because neither goalie is playing behind a stellar blueline corps. San Jose in five.

Minnesota vs. Colorado - Minnesota's had a good year but lack the depth on offense that Colorado has with vets like Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. If Jose Theodore plays well, Minnesota is doomed. Colorado in six.

Anaheim vs Dallas - Anaheim is not a drastically different team from the one that won the cup last year. Their goaltending is solid and they have a very stingy defense and with Teemu Selanne back in the line up may start scoring some goals. Besides Dallas has sucked hard for the last month and the addition of Brad Richards hasn't worked out anything like as well as the Stars had hoped. Anaheim in 6.

Leave your prediction or criticisms in the comments. Habs-haters will be treated with the respect they deserve, ie: Much the way a dog treats a fire hydrant.

Update: Scott Lemieux has his picks posted over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, along with the predictions of the World's Most Dangerous Professor