Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Soccer Stuff -- MLS Eastern Conference: D.C. United or Chicago Fire? The Chicago Fire looked pretty darn good tonight in beating the L.A. Galaxy to claim their fourth U.S. Open Cup title (the Galaxy won the tournament last year). The Fire looked even better a couple of weeks ago, when Chicago beat D.C. United in the tournament semifinal.

This tournament may not have the cache of European Cup tournaments, but both teams played their hearts out, and Chicago proved to be the better team with a 3-1 win. ESPN's soccernet has a nice piece on the Open Cup, noting how the success of non-MLS teams, like Dallas' FC Roma, is bringing increasing attention to the tournament. Hopefully, the trends will continue. It would be wonderful to see a team from outside the MLS really give the big boys a run for the money.

Getting back to the topic at hand -- (which team is the beast of the east?): While D.C. United may be showing signs of emerging from a two-month long slump, the Chicago Fire has been very consistent, in league play and the Open Cup. They have terrific young players, including Chris Rolfe, Nate Jaqua and Justin Mapp. To that group, you can add Chad Barrett, one of the most stars of the 2005 U.S. under-20 team. The Fire also have great experience in the defense with Tony Sanneh, C.J. Brown and Chris Armas, along with a top goalkeeper, Zach Thornton. Tonight, the Fire had exciting, athletic goalkeeping from Thornton's back-up, Matt Pickens, and great play from veteran striker Andy Herron, who has 8 goals in only 17 games in MLS play. The Fire has no chance of catching D.C. United to take first-place in the MLS Eastern Conference, but they are playing the best soccer right now.

That news has to shake D.C. United and their fans who still smart from the stunning 4-0 pasting that the Fire gave United at D.C.'s RFK home, during the Conference semifinals last year. In 2006, despite having the strongest start in league history, United has gone through a terrible slump in August and September, as they seemed unable to play an entire game with any consistency. United finally won one this past Saturday, with a game effort against the New York Red Bulls. To be sure, United made some terrible plays that almost cost them the win, but they also put together some nice combinations on offense. They played most of the second half down a man, after Facundo Erpen stomped the Bulls' John Wolyniec. Still, D.C. United extended their lead to 3-1, after going down a man, and held on for the 4-3 victory.

In that United victory over the Red Bulls, 16-year old Jozmer ("Jozey") Altidore entered the game as a second half substitute for the second straight Red Bulls' game, and scored a goal in his second straight game. All indications are that this kid will be something special -- maybe even the top-flight scorer that the U.S. national team has been expecting for at least a generation. He's big and strong -- a real presence -- with soccer sense and real skills, to boot -- including good speed, and an accurate, powerful shot.

Finally, speaking of the U.S. squad, the N.Y. Times ran a great piece in Wednesday's paper on Alkis Panagoulias run as coach of Team America (an NASL experiment to build a national squad), as well as the 1984 Olympic team, and the national side that failed to qualify for the 1986 World Cup, held in Mexico. For those too young to remember, Team America was the NASL's last-ditch effort to save the league and American soccer by creating a team that would play a league schedule, while the players developed individually, training and coalescing as a team.

The team played one year, in RFK Stadium, with a 10-20 won-loss record. Panagoulias, a coaching legend in New York and Greece, never got the support he needed from the other team owners and the players. For example two of the best Americans, Ricky Davis and Steve Moyers of the New York Cosmos, chose to stay with their club. The basic Team America notion died after the 1983 season, and the NASL folded after the next season.

The recent documentary on the Cosmos and the NASL, "Once In a Lifetime," focuses on the Cosmos' glory years, yet also offer some interesting insight into the final collapse of the NASL -- which, is attributed, in the film, to FIFA's decision to award the 1986 World Cup to Mexico rather than the United States (after Brazil lost the right to stage the Cup). If you haven't seen the movie yet, it's a must-see for any fan of U.S. soccer or a student of history. The film ran last week on ESPN2, after a select city theater run last year. I expect it will be out on tape and DVD any day now.

As for Panagoulias, now 72 -- he argues that the USSF needs to select an American coach, or at least someone coaching in the MLS now, rather than seeking out a foreign coach. He also offers up his services. The USSF could do worse. Not withstanding the 1985 heartbreak loss to Costa Rica, Panagoulias is a winning coach with significant international experience, coaching American and Greek national squads. Even if he is not chosen (he's about a million-to-one shot), the USSF should find a way to get him really involved in the U.S. program.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shana Tova -- A Good Year. Shana Tova u'metukhah tikvateinu. A good and sweet year. That goes out to all the tribe of Israel. Even to those who say they just learned of their Jewish heritage. Yes, George Allen -- I can wish you a good year. I just hope and pray that it doesn't include your reelection. I can't help thinking that if Webb beats Allen, that would be a pretty good fresh start to the year. It's been a rough year in Israel, and here. We could use some fresh hope.

I'll be taking a break from blogging during the Jewish New Year holiday this weekend. See ya'll next week -- when I can get started on getting another 500 visitors to The Fisch Fry.
He's a Jew! To paraphrase an old movie, "I'm shocked...shocked" to hear Senator George Allen confess his Jewish family roots. Earlier visitors to The Fisch Fry will have seen my posts last month discussing prior press reports of Senator Allen's family lineage, and wondering if Allen was trying to cover-up the possibility as part of a larger effort at pandering to Virginia voters that Allen may believe to be racist or anti-Semitic.

Because Senator Allen's mother was raised in French Tunisia, some wondered if Allen had learned the term "macaca" from his mother, but I was more intrigued by why Allen seemed to be hiding his heritage. In a televised debate on Monday, a reporter, Peggy Fox asked Allen about the question of his Jewish family history. I don't know if Peggy Fox ever saw any of my internet musings on the question, but I am amused to see it suddenly explode into national news, when I have been writing about it for almost a month.

During Monday’s debate, Allen reacted angrily to the question, insisted that his mother, as far as he knew, was raised Catholic. And Allen added that it was inappropriate to cast aspersions, leaving many wondering if Allen meant and believed that it was an aspersion to ask whether Allen's mother was born Jewish. It was a curious moment. I wondered if maybe Allen wasn't really so blindsided by the suggestion his mother was Jewish, and that he understood the "aspersion" to be something else which was not actually asked -- the possibility that he had been lying about his family history.

Allen has since spoken about the whole matter to the press, and has decided to be a little more candid. He says now that he did not know his mother was raised Jewish in Tunisia prior to the Second World War. Allen has always spoken of his grandfather who was taken and imprisoned by the Nazis during the war, which had led to some low-level speculation over the years that his mother's family was Jewish. Allen even demanded a retraction be printed when one Virginia reporter wrote that the family was Jewish.

According to Allen, his mother hid this bit of knowledge from her children, to spare them from facing the suffering that her father endured for his religion. Allen says he only learned of his family history after the report appeared in the Forward (a Jewish-interest newspaper) last month -- the report which caused me to speculate on why Allen might be denying his own heritage. Allen acknowledges his answer during the debate was less than honest, but says that he was obeying his mother's wishes not to disclose the information, so it could be kept from his siblings -- supposedly to protect them.

I certainly have no desire to challenge Henrietta ("Etty") Allen's actions or motivations. I'd also like to give the Senator the benefit of the doubt -- that he is being forthright and candid now. Unfortunately, that dog just won't hunt...that bird won't fly...that... -- (I think you get the idea): His explanations don't square with the facts.

The most glaring contradiction involves the Senator's sister, who has already written a personal memoir -- mostly of her life as the daughter of a famous pro football coach (and sister of a famous politician). In the memoir, she wrote about her parents' wedding: asserting that a priest insisted he would not officiate a church wedding unless Etty promised to raise her kids in a Catholic household. The future Mrs. Allen reportedly rebuffed the priest, and the couple were "married by a justice of the peace in a Jewish friend’s home with two witnesses."

The fact that Senator Allen's sister knew this story suggests that she also knew that her mother was not a Catholic -- at least not at the time. It seems likely that she knew her mother was Jewish -- clearly the priest knew this, and the story would not make much sense to the children unless they also knew this. If Senator Allen's sister knew this story, it is not a big leap to guess that the Senator also knew the story. If he didn't before the book was published, he must have known it when the story was made public in the sister's memoir.

Moreover, before the article by Eve Kessler appeared in The Forward -- the story that Allen says prompted him to ask his mother about her personal history -- Ms. Kessler tried repeatedly to discuss it with Allen's sister. She also tried to raise the issue with Allen's own staff, but her detailed messages were not returned. In most senators' offices, it would be a firing offense for staffers to ignore messages from a reporter who was going to write an article making a controversial revelation -- unless they were ordered not to return the phone calls.

So, it is likely that Senator Allen knew this was a subject of speculation before the Forward article appeared in print -- one would think he was aware of the scuttlebutt for years. It also seems likely that his sister already knew about the speculation -- and the article in the Forward -- long before the question was asked at the debate on Monday.

My best guess here: Allen's still lying. Previously, he was covering up the truth about his mother and her family. Now, he is trying to deflect attention from the original lie. It stretches credulity to believe that he did not know all of this earlier -- there has been too much public speculation before. Because of very base political calculations, Allen was trying to hide the truth about his mother's family background. Now that the question finally got some attention from television and major media outlets, Senator Allen realized he couldn't conceal the information any longer. So, he has concocted a cover story to explain why he has not acknowledged his Jewish heritage previously. At least, that's my best guess.

I'm not saying the Senator's version of the facts is impossible. It's not. Maybe, this just isn't a family that communicates much. Certainly, the senator and his sister seem to be somewhat estranged (she wrote some rather unflattering things about her brother, the future senator). Maybe the sister never saw the article -- never realize why the reporter was trying to reach her. Maybe the sister knew but no one else in the family realized this.

It's kind of unfair to have such personal issues playing out in the public eye. If the Senator is being completely honest now, I am sorry for suggesting that he is being less than honest. The story he told the Washington Post is a touching one, showing him as a largely innocent, and loyal son. .

Yet, Senator Allen has been less than open and honest before now, so he has earned any distrust and suspicion. I'm no Johnny-come-lately to this story, and I have to admit that I find these latest disclosures to be less than full and complete. My suspicions regarding the Senator's latest version of events only feeds my more profound suspicion that this story is exposing Allen's deliberate strategy to appeal to a conservative, evangelical base that he perceives, rightly or wrongly, as being receptive to coded xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-black, and anti-Semitic messages.

Allen is desperately trying to prove that he is 'one of them.' He is trying to be the political heir to President Bush, especially in becoming the darling of the fundamentalist Christian groups. It is not a big stretch to imagine the Senator would fear that public disclosure of his mother's Jewish childhood might seriously damage his efforts in this regard. Allen’s "macaca" remark, and his references to “Hollywood movie moguls,” contrasting them with “real” Virginians and real Americans, were aimed at certain prejudiced ears.

These remarks betray Allen's own tin ear -- he seems oblivious as to how these things sound to the rest of us. Even in the wake of the disclosures about his mother, Allen says he still had a ham sandwich. It's amazing how insensitive, crude and demeaning he can be, when he wants to be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Baseball! Here I am, ready to crow about the New York Mets' first division title since 1988 (the year that the Dodgers Mike Scioscia hit an improbable ninth-inning two-run home run off Dwight Gooden to tie game 4 of the N.L.C.S., which Kirk Gibson won with a 12th inning dinger -- yes, the same year that Gibson hit "the most improbable" home run in World Series history). It's been a long-time (fourteen years) since any team other than the Atlanta Braves has won the N.L. East, so the Mets should have been the big story last night. Yup, I was ready to do some crowing, and then those rotten L.A. Dodgers tried to throw some cold water on Mets fans. Last night, the Dodgers staged what may have been the most exciting comeback in a baseball game, ever (OK, us Mets fans still think Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is untouchable because of the circumstances, but last night's Dodgers' game comes close).

Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, to the N.L. West division leading San Diego Padres, the Dodgers hit four straight home runs to tie the game. The last of the four came on a first pitch swing by Marlon Anderson, recently traded from the Washington Nationals. Anderson had been surprised and a little disappointed by his trade, but sometimes things have a way of working out for the best. “That was absolutely the most wonderful game I have ever seen in my life,” Anderson said. “It is the best thing that’s ever happened to me on a baseball field.” (see nytimes. com - - link to 2006/09/19/sports/baseball/19dodgers.late.html). You have to happy for him.

Another guy you have to be happy for is Nomar Garciaparra. He's had to live with some real disappointments in baseball. The Red Sox' near misses, including blowing Game 7 of the 2003 A.LC.S. All the injuries. The indignity of being traded for a lesser player, who then got much of the credit for the Red Sox' turnaround in '04. Then, he had to watch his old teammates pull off the greatest comeback in any playoff series ever, to finally beat the Yankees, before finally winning the World Series. For Garciaparra, there were more injuries and disappointment with the Cubs. Through all that, he has landed on his feet in Los Angeles, even though he had to accept a switch to a new position: first base.

With the Dodgers again trailing in the 10th inning of last night's game, this time by only one run, Garciaparra smacked a game-winning walk-off two-run home run. Not only did the Dodgers win the game, but the win catapulted them into first place over the Padres. Garciaparra has always seemed like one of the truly nice guys in baseball. It's great that he could still get a moment like this one. Dodgers' pitcher Brett Tomko told Garciaparra, “It is the greatest thing I have ever seen.” (see -- link to 2006/09/19/sports/baseball/19dodgers.late.html).

For the fans, this was one of the greatest thrills in team history. Ten minutes later, they were still in their seats cheering. An hour later, they were honking their car horns in the Doger Stadium lots and L.A. freeways. If you're a Mets fan, you have to hope that this remains the Dodgers' fans biggest thrill this year. The Mets will be the favorite to get through the N.L. playoffs and represent the N.L. in the World Series.

Frankly, though, the Mets have serious questions going into the playoffs. Their top two starters are coming off injuries, with Pedro Martinez looking absolutely horrible in his first game back. They have no idea who their fourth starter will be. And they have struggled mightily against left-handed pitching ever since they traded Xavier Nady - a trade that left the Mets with a batting order that is overloaded with left-handed hitters.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, have been a much better team since the team made a series of trades at the July 31 trading deadline. Anything can happen in the final two weeks -- the Dodgers may not even make the playoffs. Right now, though, I think they look like a formidable opponent. If they do make the playoffs, I think they may be in the strongest position of any the N.L. contenders.

Of course, if the past is prologue, whoever come out of the N.L. may just be lambs to the slaughter in the World Series. Before losing Francisco Liriano to an elbow injury, the Minnesota Twins looked like the best team in baseball. Right now, that honor probably should go to -- who else? -- the New York Yankees. But, if the Mets can get their pitching back together and get to the Series, they would give the Yankees (or whoever emerges from the A.L. playoffs) a real run for their money.
Arena's Challenge -- I was in New York this past weekend. I missed both of United's games, so I won't insult anyone's intelligence by writing about games I haven't seen. When I was in New York, I did have the displeasure of watching the New York Red Bulls take on the Columbus Crew. I thought I'd write about the monumental challenge that Bruce Arena has taken on in coaching the Red Bulls. The former D.C. United and U.S. national team coach has a long row to hoe.

The Red Bulls played most of the game with a man advantage, but you wouldn't have known it watching the game. They were rarely dangerous, and they were disorganized. They were mostly plodding, unimaginative and not especially skilled. Despite getting every break possible, it seemed that the Red Bulls were destined for an unearned scoreless draw. There was very little to hold one's interest in the game, except that it was a delight to hear the best broadcast team: J.P. Delacamera and Shep Messing. Still, I found there were two players worth discussing here.

The Red Bulls have the most famous player in the league, Youri Djorkaeff. One of the real stars of the 1998 World Cup champion France team, Djorkaeff may not be a household name here, but he is known throughout the world. With the New York team, Djorkaeff has had some memorable moments, including a brilliantly taken free kick for a goal in the opener against United earlier this year. But, he poses a real challenge for Coach Arena.

During Saturday's game, Djorkaeff played like one who is convinced his teammates are of little help -- that he, and only he, can be relied upon to make anything happen. Djorkaeff repeatedly held on to the ball far too long, trying to create chances on his own, when there were better options available. Attack after attack fizzles at Djorkaeff's feet. But, how does Bruce Arena coach the French star to do things differently? Djorkaeff is playing out the string, winding up a proud career. Right now, he is bigger than the coach, bigger than the team.

On the other end of the career spectrum is the Red Bulls' 16-year old Jozmer Altidore. A Jersey native, and the son of Haitian immigrants, Altidore has been a sensation on the United States Under-17 youth national team. In the second half of Saturday night's game, the kid got his first taste of MLS' play. Josey made all the right moves, playing with the poise of a much more experienced veteran.

His big moment came unexpectedly. Taking the ball about 35-40 yards from goal, Altidore created a little space for himself as he drove towards the goal. He surprised everyone in the stadium with a well-struck right-footed drive to the upper right corner of the goal, from about 28-30 yards out. His sudden strike for goal showed the confidence, imagination, intention and skill that a top player must have. This was no garbage goal, cleaning up a loose ball around the goal -- nor was it a mere finish to an attack created by another. This play was all Josey.

One good shot and 30 minutes in one game does not make a career, but Altidore showed enormous potential and poise. As he gets a little older and develops the fitness he will need to play 90 minutes regularly, Altidore may become one of the best American players. For now, he is as he described: "I'm 16. I'm just having fun, man."

Here's hoping soccer stays fun for Jozmer ("Josey") Altidore -- for a long time to come. If he can maintain that enthusiasm, even as he learns the work habits of a top-level professional, Altidore will be something really special. He'll be only 20 when the next World Cup rolls around, but he may merit serious consideration for a place on the team. And he is the kind of player the Red Bulls can build around -- at least until he is discovered by top European clubs.

I'd like to propose that the MLS consider a novel arrangement. Right now, the MLS is stifling the development of top American players in refusing to transfer their contracts to interested European clubs. Instead of battling with its players, the MLS can work with them. With the players' agreement, the MLS can sign them up for long-term rights deals, and loan them out to the European clubs for extended stays -- perhaps with options up to five years -- long enough to interest the European clubs, who would be taking the risk that the American player will take to the European game.

I think the Clint Dempseys of the world would agree to such an arrangement, committing them to return to the MLS while they are still at the peak of their game, while providing them the chance to develop their potential in the top European leagues...and earning the large salaries that players in Europe can command. MLS would benefit because they would get these players back while they are still at the peak of their powers.

In the long run, the level of play in the MLS would surely benefit from such an arrangement -- and that would be the best thing that could happen to the league. If the league can find a way to grow the talent to avoid more games like the Red Bulls-Crew affair, the crowds will come out consistently, even as the ticket prices inevitably rise. TV ratings will also go up. It would be great if the league could raise its level of play, all on its own. But that's just not going to happen. A cadre of Americans skilled and trained in European play would be the biggest shot-in-the-arm that the league can get.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Edwards v. Wynn -- Just a quick note here on the continuing primary challenge by Donna Edwards to the Democratic incumbent in the 4th Congressional District of Maryland, Rep. Al Wynn. The challenger, Ms. Edwards, a former Wynn staffer, is within 3,000 votes of the lead, with over 20,000 provisional ballots still to be counted. Three-fourths of those ballots are from Montgomery County, which staged what may have been the most problem-ridden election this country has seen, rivaling Palm Beach County in 2000. Problems with the vote tallies and the machines in Prince George's County have led Ms. Edwards to promise a legal challenge.

The closeness of the Edwards-Wynn race was the true surprise of all the races on Tuesday, though some were surprised by the third-place finish in the Maryland Comptroller's race by former Gov. Donald Schaefer. Both of these races, like the Lieberman-Lamont race weeks earlier in Connecticut, show what can happen to even the most popular incumbent, when he (or she) develops a case of tin ear, mixed in with hubris. If the incumbent candidate is so out of step with his base of support that they feel abandoned, one can no longer expect them to stick by the incumbent. In Schaefer's case it was his abominable behavior and Neandertal attitudes towards women that did him in. For Wynn, it may be a voting record that was so far out of step with his liberal district, he has fed a perception that his vote is easily bought. His tenure carries a whiff of corruption, even if no evidence of that has been produced.

This political season reminds me of the tale in All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren -- a delicious read, if you weren't force-fed this one in school. Coincidentally, the book is once again a major motion picture, about to be released, starring Sean Penn. The Last Hurrah is also apropos, and also a great read.

Hope I haven't disappointed too many people, as the Fisch Fry has been off the fire for a few days -- a little personal business in New York has occupied my time. I hope to have something more substantial over the weekend here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Great Maryland Vote Debacle (My story) -- Things got off to a rocky start in many polling places -- especially throughout Montgomery County, because state election officials forgot to supply the polls with the ATM-like voter access cards that operate the controversial Diebold vote machines. Those plastic voter access cards turned out to be a problem in other ways.

My story: The poll worker found my registration in the database, but got a "card reader error" when she tried to encode the card for my vote. After destroying the faulty card, she tried to program a new card, unsuccesfully, because the database then indicated I had already voted. So, I was directed to vote with a provisional paper ballot. The exact same thing happened to the woman who was next in line behind me.

Even though there was much human error -- the failure to deliver the cards, poll workers' ignorance of the paper ballot option, and the shortages in paper ballots -- there are clearly significant technical issues in the system. I imagine that the glitches in the system prevented many voters from being able to cast their votes electronically -- which, in turn, must have contributed to the shortage of paper ballots. According to the Washington Post, during the final hour when only paper ballots were allowed, voters were writing their choices on any scrap of paper they could find, and poll workers were running out to the store to buy envelopes, since the ballots were required to be placed in sealed envelopes.

Maryland needs to take a very extensive and thorough review of the entire system. There will need to be better back-up to an electronic system that is problematic. For future votes, there must be a sufficient number of paper ballots, at every polling place, to cover all contingencies. In addition, the State will need to be better training of poll workers -- or provide better guides for them to refer to in case of problems.

There will also need to be a review of the hardware and software employed for these elections. The card system needs to be made more reliable...and there needs to be some reprogramming that takes account of problems like the one that forced me to vote by paper ballot. If one attempt to program a card fails, there needs to be a procedure to enable poll workers to keep trying until the voter has been provided with a properly encoded access card -- or, the state needs to abandon this card system in favor of one that isn't so fickle.

As of this writing, there are two notable races that my turn on how many of these scraps of paper end up ebing counted: The Democratic primary race for Comptroller of Maryland, and for U.S. Representative in the 4th District of Maryland. Given the demographic splits that have already appeared in these races, the outcome may turn on how many of the paper ballots are actually counted. Will all the paper ballots be counted, including the ad hoc paper scraps that were substituted for proper ballots? What about votes like mine, where the database suggests I was given an electronic vote, but actually had to fill out a paper ballot.

If all these ballots are counted, Peter Franchot may be the nominee for Comptroller--otherwise it will be Janet Owens. Similarly, Donna Edwards' stunningly strong challenge to incumbent Rep. Al Wynn may turn on how many votes remain to be counted in Montgomery County, which went heavily for Edwards. The court challenges may be myriad.

This was only a primary day -- the turnout is lower than for the general election. And the court battles that we may see in the coming days would pale compared to the intensity of a close general election that effectively required a court to decide the outcome. We could wind up with a close facsimile of the 2000 Florida Presidential vote. Can Maryland step up to the plate to make the necessary improvements and avert a real electoral disaster in November?
The Race race -- Maryland Elections Update: It seems that Ben Cardin is headed for victory in the Maryland Democratic primary for Senate, defeating his African-American opponent Kweisi Mfume. This will set up an interesting dynamic, with the long-term Congressman, who is Jewish, taking on the African-American Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, in the general election. In the Attorney-General race, Doug Gansler has a surprisingly commanding lead over Stuart Simms, especially surprising because of all the voting problems in Gansler's home base of Montgomery County. Of course, there were similar problems in Simms' base of Baltimore City. The larger question is whether these results will spell future troubles for the Democratic Party, in Maryland...and beyond?

Many pundits and politicians have wondered what would be the effect on the African-American core of the Maryland Democratic Party if both Mfume and Simms lost. Mfume ran strong in P.G. County, and, I assume, also in Baltimore City, but Cardin seems to have been strong elsewhere, including Montgomery County. I mention this county, because it is home of the third black-white race in this trifecta of races for Maryland Democrats. In the race for County Executive, it appears that Ike Leggett, the African-American former Council leader, will handily defeat Steve Silverman, a relatively high-profile Jewish councilman in heavily Jewish Montgomery County. So, the County voters proved they could vote for the black candidate, but perhaps they needed to know him better. Or maybe, as is so much of politics, it was just strictly local issues -- here, a clash of personalities. Leggett is well-liked, and Silverman had a reputation for alienating others.

One can only hope that this result will help soften the reaction statewide to the defeats of Mfume and Simms, averting a racial schism in the Democratic coalition. Such a schism would be the worst result of all. Hopefully, the African-American community can unite behind Cardin's Senate candidacy.

Democrats hope that gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley's selection of an African-American running mate, Del. Anthony Brown, will lessen the blow to feelings in the black community. In '02, it was the Republican party that had a black candidate in the Lieut. Governor slot, and the Democratic candidate for Governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was hurt by her failure to reach out to blacks with a reciprocal gesture. Anthony Brown is a much-admired figure. His presence on the ticket will make a difference in the race for Governor, but Democrats will hope his coattails extend down the ticket.

With Brown's name joining O'Malley at the top of the ticket, perhaps Cardin won't face the same kind of backlash, as he takes on Steele. It would be a devastating blow to the Party's effort to retake control of the Senate, if significant numbers of African-Americans crossed the aisle to support Michael Steele's candidacy and helped the Republicans pick up a seat there.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Borat is Coming to America -- I posted a couple of nights ago about HBO's The Wire -- the best drama now running on TV. I thought I'd stick with the entertainment theme. Sacha Baron Cohen, the brilliant British comedian behind the sometimes piss-your-pants, it's hard-to-breathe funny "Da Ali G Show" (also an HBO production), is taking another one of his characters to the big screen. "Borat" is due out in November, but it' s been leaving 'em laughing in the aisles at various film festivals. I'm posting today because there's a terrific piece in the New York Times on the movie -- and, since it ran last week, you only have a couple of days to get free access to the article.

The movie's central character is a marginal TV personality in Kazakhstan, who is exploring the United States -- at least, that's the premise in the Borat sketches on the Da Ali G Show. As a result, the Kazakh government had been very critical of the movie, as the central character is a tasteless, backwards, bigoted boor, who asks a realtor if a home can be modified to have a steel-enclosed room where he can chain up his retarded brother. The Kazakhs fear the movie portrays their citizens as backwards and prejudiced. This concern misses the point. Borat could be from anywhere -- locating him in Kazakhstan allows Cohen to use a vaguely Eastern European accent and create the patina of a character that is believably out-of-step with modernity. The humor is less at his (and Kazaks' expense) as it is with the incredulous real-life Americans he runs across in his travels.

As the article in the Times notes, Cohen has turned his double-barreled humor on anti-Semitism. There are numerous scenes where Borat expresses the most outrageous anti-Semitism, including one scene where Borat explains he is driving to California, instead of flying, "in case the Jews repeat their attack of 9/11.” The movie, which is expected to be very successful, comes at an important time. Anti-Semitism is becoming far more acceptable, and certainly far more pervasive in recent years. It is an inexplicable irony of the post-9/11 world. in which anti-Muslim fears are so widespread, that anti-Jewish feeling is also on the rise. Of course, Jews have always been a scapegoat for the troubles of the time. Cohen's ability to lampoon prejudice and ignorance is unparalleled. Assuming that almost everyone gets the joke, this movie could have some impact.

The Times article is at

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cardin for Senate -- When I vote, I usually have strong opinions to vote for one candidate or another, and I'm usually clear on why. The race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator from Maryland is different, because I have strong opinions about why I should vote for each candidate. In the end, I think I will vote for Ben Cardin, but I don't think Democrats would go wrong voting for either candidate.

In Kweisi Mfume's case, I think he would be a strong voice in the Senate for progressive causes, and the Senate would benefit from having a Senator of his, as Mfume put it, "ilk." Barack Obama may be a senator for the ages, but there's no reason why there should only be one African-American senator, or even only two should Harold Ford, Jr. win the seat in Tennessee. The former NAACP chairman, Mfume would be an articulate voice representing urban blacks in a way others cannot - because he grew up on the mean streets. The importance of that should not be underestimated.

Cardin, though grew up in Baltimore, too. He knows the needs of the city, and he understands the suburban and rural residents in his disparate district that covers parts of three counties. In the House, Cardin had earned the respect of his colleagues. Though he hasn't been the most forceful advocate, he has made an impression for his seriousness and dedication in mastering difficult policy areas. He will bring measured professionalism and great expertise to the position. In a Senate that will be closely split, regardless of which party ends up in control, Cardin's civility may prove more useful than Mfume's stridence and declared passion.

Each candidate would bring different strengths and challenges as the Democratic nominee. If Mfume is the nominee, the Republican, Michael Steele, will raise questions about his character -- and alleged disrespectful treatment of women. With Mfume, though, Steele cannot appeal to blacks based on racial solidarity, splitting the traditional Democratic vote. Ultimately, I cannot support Mfume on that basis. Many blacks have already expressed support for Cardin. I hope that would carry over into the general election.

Cardin will likely appeal to more independents, perhaps even more Republicans, who will distrust Mfume's record as a zealous proponent of traditional liberal causes. For all that, Cardin can be counted on to make the right vote, when it counts. He cannot be easily pinned with a label. He did not go along with the Congressional majority that authorized the President to start a war that would put the United States on the wrong side of international law and international opinion. Yet, Cardin has shown hinmself to be a rational voice in an era of fiscal insanity. He has been highly critical of the huge deficits that the Republican-controlled government has created.

Perhaps, finally, I could choose to support Cardin, in part, because he's a nice, smart Jewish guy from Baltimore. There are probably worse reasons to support a candidate, but it's not enough for me. I choose to support Ben Cardin for United States Senator from Maryland because he will be a fine representative for the people of Maryland. I believe he can win what may prove to be a close race, and I believe he will bring thoughtfulness and and the ability to reach out across the aisle to craft sensible policies in a Senate that could use someone like that.
The Wire is Up and Running -- Everything must stop. HBO has finally brought back The Wire. There isn't more disturbing, gripping, compelling or realistic television -- In the age of so-called 'reality shows' that have nothing to do with reality, The Wire does an amazing job of taking the viewer on to the feral, violent streets of Baltimore. For those who haven't seen this brilliant series, on The Wire, the Charm City proves the perfect setting to look at the wasted lives of a huge chunk of our nation's youth -- the ones you don't see unless you wander into those neighborhoods where the corner store is on the stoop, and the product is decidedlly illegal.

While NBC's Homicide was set in Baltimore, The Wire is truly of Baltimore -- right down to many of the actors, who are simply local youth that fit the bill. They play local kids caught up in the drug business that rules the streets. The adults are played by as good an ensemble of actors as you will find anywhere. This year, the plot ranges wider, as we track the quixotic mayoral campaign of a white city councilman, and the struggles of teachers and students in the aimless out-of-control public school system. Tonight's season premiere was one of the best produced hours of television drama I have seen. Sundays on HBO.

Now, if only Showtime would get around to the third season of Dead Like Me -- along with Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of the best comedies American TV has produced in a very long time (The Office doesn't really count, since that's lifted from the British series of the same name, and I've only watched one episode of the American version, and Arrested Development suffers similarly -- it was brilliantly done, but I hardly ever got to watch it). It's been a year and a half since Showtime promised the next season, and I believe Mandy Patinkin has had two failed series since. Strike while the iron is hot.

Sometime Monday, look for my recommendation on the Cardin - Mfume primary race.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

D.C. United: The Slide Continues -- It was a tale of two halves, tonight at RFK, as D.C. United lost a halftime lead and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake. United entered the game severely short-handed. Four starters, including likely league MVP Christian Gomez, were suspended for the game because of accumulated yellow cards. A fifth starter, star striker Jaime Moreno, was recovering from a knee injury. Watching Moreno, it was clear he was not match fit -- he may have been in the lineup only because of the suspensions to Gomez and Alecko Eskandarian. In their places were three first-time starters: Rod Dyachenko, Matias Donnet and Stephen deRoux.

So, it fell to the kid, the superstar-in-waiting, Freddy Adu. From my seat in Section 312, I couldn't tell you whether Coach Peter Nowak personally challenged Adu to step up his game, but Freddy delivered his finest half of football (oops, I mean soccer), since turning professional as the child prodigy. Adu seemed to be everywhere on the field. He was consistently dangerous -- on his own account and setting up his teammates. At one point, Adu picked up a loose ball, and threaded the ball through to Moreno in front of the goal. It appeared a goal was almost certain, but Moreno took the pass awkwardly, tripping over the ball. As the half drew to a close, it seemed Adu's hard work would go unrewarded.

Just before halftime, the United faithful were treated to the kind of magical play they have been awaiting since the teenaged Adu first arrived with oh-so-much hype. Adu fought off a hard tackle and drew the foul, just beyond the top of the box. Normally, the honors for this direct free kick would have gone to Gomez, but this was hardly a normal night. Up stepped Freddy Adu, mighty mite Freddy Adu...and Freddy rose to the occasion with a superbly taken kick, over the wall and neatly tucked inside the corner post. With that kick, Adu served notice that he is edging ever closer to realizing his boundless potential. While the large pro-United crowd lustily roared its approval, United walked off to the locker room, holding a 1-0 lead.

For the first ten minutes of the second half, United tried to keep the pressure on. Rod Dyachenko, making his first MLS start, with much praise from Coach Nowak seemed lost and immobile through most of the first half, but he woke up with a pair of dangerous runs. The real revelation, though, was the previously unheralded local boy making good, Stephen deRoux, who used his blistering pace to give the RSL defense fits throughout the first half and early part of the second half. The newest addition to United’s roster, Argentinian Matias Donnet also turned in some nifty plays, early on, setting up two great scoring chances, but he was subbed out during the second half.

As suddenly as D.C. had struck for its lead in the first half, the life seemed to drain out of United and the run of play suddenly turned in RSL's favor. RSL hadn't really challenged United goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was making his first start of the MLS season [after All-Star keeper Troy Perkins turned in two rough outings in his last three games]. In the 55th minute, Rimando had to make two sparkling saves. First, Rimando parried a shot by all-time league-leading scorer Jason Kreis on a near post attempt. Off the ensuing corner kick, Rimando was called upon to make a spectacular one-handed diving save, as fine as you will ever see, laying out to the far post to rob Mehdi Ballouchy of the certain tying goal.

For all his brilliance on those plays, it was an apparent misplay by Rimando that led to RSL's tying goal, ten minutes later. When the United defense was thoroughly beaten on a run by RSL's Jeff Cunningham that took him wide of the goal, to Rimando's left, the United goalkeeper took a huge risk in coming out to challenge RSL's Jeff Cunningham along the goal line. With Rimando ranging so far from goal, and helplessly out of position, it was almost child's play for Cunningham to slot a pass to Chris Klein, who easily tallied the tying goal into a practically undefended net.

United's coach Nowak struggled to find an answer over the remainder of the game. For much of the second half, United was disorganized on defense and ineffective in its attack. Real Salt Lake seemed more than content to settle for a tie on the road, against the team that still sits atop the league standings. United made several substitutions but never found the winning combination. Facundo Erpen hit the post with one try in the 71st minute, but that was as close as D.C. came, until the game's waning moments.

It almost seemed that Nowak was throwing in the towel, when he substituted for Ben Olsen, in the 81st minute. Since suffering a disabling ankle injury years ago, Olsen has lost almost all of his speed, agility and much of his once potent skills. Yet, he can still carry United at times, with an indomitable will to win. Olsen seemed to be the engine in United's offense at this point, but Coach Nowak apparently had seen enough of Olsen's near-misses, as he tried to work combinations with the speedier Adu, Clyde Simms and Jamil Walker.

Into the game, came another rookie, Matt Nickel, the 12th pick in last year's supplemental draft. This was Nickel's second appearance his year, but he did not give the appearance of a clueless, nervous novice. Instead, he played with intention and skill, and he created an excellent opportunity for himself in the final minute of stoppage time. Nickel skillfully controlled a pass over the top and then executed a strong turn and shoot maneuver, but put the shot over the crossbar -- the last scoring attempt by either team. A few minutes before, Nickel nearly had an assist, when he set up Clyde Simms for a blast that was saved by former United keeper, Scott Garlick.

Adding injury to insult, D.C.'s Jaime Moreno went down in stoppage time, apparently aggravating the left knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday's game.

So, United continues its dreary run that began when they played RSL in Utah one month ago. They defeated Chivas USA last week, but they haven't turned in a convincing effort in some time. For Adu, this was probably his strongest overall effort of the year. He certainly did not leave anything in the tank, as he collapsed to the ground with the final whistle.

The only significant criticism I can offer of Adu is that he continues to be a disaster taking corner kicks. This is the one part of his game that needs huge improvement. His brilliant free kick showed he certainly can kick the ball skillfully, putting it where he wants, with decent velocity. If he can channel that talent and make himself a dangerous corner kick taker, Adu will become indispensable.

Right now, that is an element that is missing from his game, and it is also absent from D.C.'s attack. United has scored some memorable free kick goals this year, with Adu's tonight being the finest. If they can become as dangerous on corner kicks, they will be able to ride out the unevenness in their attack that they are suffering through right now.

Meanwhile, United's faithful continue to wonder when the team will pull out its tailspin. Perhaps the question may soon become not "when," but "if" United will pull out of this slide. In his article for the Washington Post, Steven Goff protrays Coach Nowak and his players as very satisfied with the play of their patchwork lineup, even if they were disappointed by the result. Ben Olsen says the team is "back to dominating and playing the way we want to play."

We will have to wait and see. United's next game is Wednesday, against the New England Revolution. After tonight's strong performances from unlikely places, Coach Nowak may have some interesting choices to make.

Tomorrow, or the next day, I hope to post a blog entry on the weekend's matches in the E.P.L. So far, the most noteworthy performance was turned in by American Brad Friedel, who saved two second half penalty kicks, and added a terrific kick save on a point blank attempt in the final minute, for good measure -- to preserve a scoreless draw for Blackburn, against Tottenham.

When I watch Freidel play, I sort of cringe, thinking about Alexei Lalas' idiotic statement, during the World Cup, that Kasey Keller was the best goalie in the world. I like Kasey Keller, but he's hardly the best. He's not even the best American goalie. If someone said that Brad Friedel was the best goalie in the world, I might be inclined to agree. When I watch him play, I also wonder if he could've made a difference for the U.S.A. in Germany this summer. I understand that he probably didn't want to tarnish the memory of what he'd accomplished in 2002, but I wish he'd been willing to take the chance and give it the old college try one more time.
Thank You! Over 100 visits this week. I feel as if the last couple of hours were part of a public radio pledge drive. I'm pleased to report we met both our challenges this week, as we also met our new-member goal of 100 first-time visitors.

We can return now to our regular programming. Thanks, again.
Just Wait 'Till Next Year!!! For Washington Nationals fans, there's also some news about next year. The Nats will finally open at home, on April 2nd, against the Florida Marlins. Now, if we only had a decent opening-day pitcher...

April 2nd -- time to mark it on your calendar. See you at RFK. Whaddya say, my former SMABL comrades in fantasy baseball? Can we get it together, SMABLers, for '07 - for the Nationals' first and last opening day at RFK?
Time's Running Out. The Fisch Fry is about 2 visits (updated numbers) shy of 100 for the week. It would be the first time we hit triple digits for one week. As it stands now, with only a few minutes (or hours -- the blogger and Bravenet clocks seem to be a little erratic) before the week ends, I've already had more visitors than any previous week. But, it's slowed down in the last 48 hours, since the end of the D.C. United game (I had lots of traffic -- I guess checking out my in-game updates).

I've posted a lot of material since then, so I thought I'd index/summarize it quickly here, so returnees can see what they've missed:

The biggest audiences were for my posts, last weekend, on the upcoming Maryland elections -- focusing mainly on the touchy issue of race in each of the major contests.

I followed that with Soccer stuff -- mostly, the D.C. United game against Chivas USA. United won that one. Also, I had some stuff in there about Euro 2008 qualifying.

Next came my post on Open Cup match between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire. United lost that one. There was a little more about the Euro 2008 tournament -- specifically, the rematch of the World Cup final between France and Italy.

In that same post, I wrote about the Bush Administration's piss-poor attempt at complying with the Supreme Court Hamdan decision regarding trials for detainees. I also gave grudging props to Michael Steele's ad in the Maryland Senate race.

In another post, I commented on FOX's newest show Standoff, and their subliminal slam at Hillary Clinton.

I followed that with my comments on Va. Gov. Kaine's decision to give up on the idea of building a tunnel for the Metro project thourgh Tysons Corner -- a victory for Republican Congressmen Wolf and Davis, who made clear to Kaine that not only were they willing to cut off the federal funding, but that they would throw up other procedural roadblocks if Kaine chose the tunnel over an elevated track contract already awarded to Bechtel.

For the first time in weeks I wrote about baseball, focusing on the Florida Marlins' rapid climb, and the Boston Red Sox' dramatic collapse.

I wound up yesterday with a few short pieces -- on Comcast finally airing Washington Nationals' games, and a letter to the editor that was supposed to be in today's Montgomery Gazette -- written by yours truly (I haven't seen the paper, so I can't confirm it ran -- the online letters section hasnt been updated yet this week).

Friday was endorsement day -- as I have thrown my support (such as it is) to Stuart Simms (Maryland Attorney-General) and Ike Leggett (Montgomery County Executive).

And I closed with the good news confirmed -- the Nationals are finally on my TV!! The week that was....

Remember to vote on Tuesday, if there's an election where you are -- If you're in Maryland or D.C, there is. I'll post my recommendation for the Democratic primary choice in the race for Maryland's open U.S. Senate seat before the end of the weekend.

You can also look forward to my report on D.C. United's match Saturday night, against Real Salt Lake -- United comes into the game missing four starters suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards. This means a big role, finally, for Rookie Rod Dyachenko. The Washingotn Post is running an interetsing profile of him in today's paper.
Hey -- The Nats were on my TV tonight! Thanks, Comcast -- it only took nearly two full seasons for ya'll to do the right thing. I never really understood this dispute, since all parties could only benefit from televising these games. Comcast was cutting off its nose to spite its face -- and then showing the bloody pictures to Peter Angelos, saying "Now look what you've made us go and do!"

Anyway, the long Washington nightmare is finally over. We have local baseball on TV -- nearly 35 years after the Senators left -- and nearly 2 years after the Nationals came to town.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Fisch Fry endorses Stuart Simms for Attorney-General.

First, a word about Simms's opponent, Douglas Gansler. Mr. Gansler has come in for some criticism for spending the taxpayers money trying John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo for their killing spree, which took place primarily in Montgomery County, where Gansler has served as State's Attorney -- the top prosecutor's job. The critics, in essence, held that it was a waste of money, since the defendants had already been found guilty in Virginia, and Muhammad was sentenced to death there. The Montgomery County trials were said to be another example of Mr. Gansler's propensity to seek out the cameras at all costs. In this instance, the criticism is unfair. Mr. Gansler would not have been doing his job had he deferred to the Virginia justice system. Montgomery County had been terrorized by the sniper spree and justice could not be done without a trial here. If ever there was a need to prosecute someone, there was a need to try Muhammad here, in Montgomery County.

That said, Mr. Gansler's reputation for grandstanding is well-earned. He was reprimanded by the Court of Appeals for comments he made on a radio program about some of his office's cases. We all have seen politicians like him before. Their ambition can be a good thing in an office like the Attorney-General. The A-G's office has the power to really represent the people's interests, if the A-G is willing to be creative and aggressive. That's what Eliot Spitzer did in New York. Doug Gansler could be that kind of Attorney-General, but there is legitimate concern that he does not have a serious enough temperament for the job.

Stuart Simms epitomizes seriousness. No one could have a more sterling resume, with a long record of public service. He is well-respected by the state's leading politicians. He is highly intelligent, and experienced. As a prosecutor in Baltimore, he's seen the state's biggest problems up close -- in his face. He may have a more reserved reputation than does Gansler, but Simms' resume belies his ambition. Doug Gansler would be an excellent choice for Attorney-General, but Stu Simms is a better one. Simms will be a terrific Attorney-General for Maryland. Vote for Stuart Simms on September 12th.

For a more detailed review of Stu Simms' record, click the link to the Baltimore Sun's endorsement of Mr. Simms.,0,5008607.story

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Fisch Fry offers its first official election endorsement:

I'd like to urge all Montgomery County residents to vote against Steve Silverman in the County Executive race. Silverman has lots of money for TV advertising. Apparently, though, he's quite desperate to win -- and he's running a shamefully negative advertising campaign.

Instead of sticking to touting his own record and ideas, Silverman is focusing on tearing down his opposition, Ike Leggett. The ads call Leggett "A Nice Guy with Bad Ideas." The latest features a clip of Leggett on a radio program, stating that he believes the gas tax in Maryland should be raised. Regardless of whether this is a good or a bad idea, it's not a matter for the County Executive. The state gas tax is an issue for state legislators and the Governor.

I was prepared to vote for Silverman. Even after the Washington Post and the Montgomery Gazette both endorsed Leggett, I was still trying to learn about the issues and the candidates, because my instincts were that Silverman might do a better job. Each new nasty ad that Silverman runs drives me further from his camp. I feel for him -- he's bitter that the endorsements went to Leggett, and he fears Leggett might win. This would slow Silverman's climb up the political ladder. Too bad, Steve. There's no excuse for your disgusting ad campaign. If this is a sign of your political future, we can all do without it.

On September 12th, Democrats in Montgomery County should cast their vote for Ike Leggett to be the next County Executive.

Check back this weekend for The Fisch Fry picks in the races for U.S. Senator and Attorney-General in Maryland...
Maryland's Elections and the Race Problem -- Just a little update, so I can blow my horn a wee bit. The editor of the Montgomery Gazette has written me to let me know that tomorrow's print edition will likely feature my letter to the editor on the Gazette's reporting that Congressman Steny Hoyer and Maryland General Assembly Speaker Mike Miller endorsed Stu Simms for Attorney-General in order to placate African-Americans.
Comcast/MASN Update -- Tomorrow, Comcast will supposedly follow through on its promise to televise Washington Nationals' games -- at least that's what I'm told in an email from a customer service rep. As the saying goes I'll believe it when I see it.

A little heads up -- With the Maryland Democratic primary approaching, I'm posting my first official election endorsement tomorrow. Others will follow over the course of the weekend. Also, expect a report on the D.C. United vs. Real Salt Lake match on Saturday. Wouldn't want to disappoint regular visitor, The BardGuy.
Are you ready for some Baseball? Anibel Sanchez tossed a no-hitter for the Florida Marlins. Fisch Fry newcomers can check the archives, for my post, moons ago, about this team, including much praise for the young Mr. Sanchez. I predicted great things for this squad. Their management knows how to hold a fire sale -- they get real value in return, when they deal their top players. So, it should surprise no one that the Marlins are making a strong run at the wild-card, as I predicted back in July.

Headed in the opposite direction are the Boston Red Sox, who dealt Sanchez to the Marlins during the offseason in the Josh Beckett deal. The New York Times ran a fascinating piece on the Marlins and Red Sox. Murray Chass, my arch-enemy (it's an old, long story), dissects the various deals the Red Sox have made this year, noting the great success that pitchers the Red Sox dealt away are having in their new homes. This includes Sanchez, of course, and Bronson Arroyo, and also Cha Meredith. Chass also goes back in history to point out the disatrous results of the trading deadline deal for Jeff Suppan in 2003. Suppan never contributed much to the Sox -- certainly nothing like the contributions that Pittsburgh has gotten out of Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez, the players that the Pirates received in the Suppan deal.

If we play pretend, as if the Red Sox had never dealt these players, and then take their statistics this year, adding in Johnny Damon's numbers (clearly the Red Sox hugely underestimated his value to the team and the numbers he's still capable of putting up), it seems likely that, in this pretend world, the Red Sox would still be sitting in first place in the A.L. East. As deep and good as the Yankees are this year, they would not be in the same position without Damon. Moreover, imagine how good the Red Sox would be with a pitching staff that featured Mike Gonzalez as the closer (with Cha Martinez in the set-up role), and a starting rotation featuring Curt Schilling, Bronson Arroyo and John Papelbon, who would never have been tried in the bullpen -- possibly joined by Anibel Sanchez, if the Red Sox would have moved him up to the big squad as quickly as did the Marlins.

There's also one other move that the Times reporter, Chass, did not mention, and that's the decision to allow Pedro Martinez to leave Boston. As they did with Roger Clemens before him, the Red Sox wrongly decided that Martinez was not going to continue to be a front-line pitcher, so they chose not to pay him front-line money to stay in Boston. Imagine the above fantasy Red Sox rotation, and then add Pedro Martinez to the mix? Any chance that team might have already clinched the division title? Probably that would be an exaggeration, but it's hard to imagine that the Yankees could have kept close with such a team.

As a New York Mets' fan, I have cursed the Scott Kazmir trade from the second I learned of it. It was a trade that made no sense at all, since Kazmir, as a minor leaguer, was already a better pitcher than Victor Zambrano was at Tampa Bay. Yes, Kazmir's potential was seemingly limitless, and it was incredible that he would be dealt for such a mediocre pitcher. The really stunning aspect of the deal was that, if the Mets were serious about making a run at the playoffs that year, it was clear they would have done better to call up Kazmir, rather than trade him for Zambrano.

Every Mets' fan winces at the memory of the Kazmir trade, wondering how good the team could be with Kazmir. He'd probably be the star of the rotation, but he'd also be the foundation for the pitching staff in the post-Glavine, post-Martinez years to come. Still, looking at the Red Sox recent history of disastrous, short-sighted personnel decisions, I can say it's a darn sight worse than the Mets' move in dealing Kazmir.

Murray Chass' article is at
Updates Today -- Tysons Corner Metro project update -- Apparently, the battle is over. Bechtel, and its Republican friends have won the day. In the end, Virgina's Governor, Tim Kaine, blinked. Kaine took seriously the threats to squelch federal funding for a Metro tunnel, so he finally settled on elevated track through Tysons Corner. This means that Bechtel will continue to manage the project. Rep. Tom Davis (VA-11th) stuck his nose in this, warning Gov. Kaine that federal funding might be lost if he chose to go with an alternate proposal to build underground stations and a tunnel through the area. It's not even his district. An historic opportunity to build something really special in that area of Northern Virginia has been lost. Rep. Davis can be proud. Every time Virginians look up at the track and watch trains cut through the neighborhood, they can remember this corrupt bastard.

Davis' history of accepting money from Bechtel ($11,000), and a former Bechtel executive ($20,000) is documented at and on the website of Davis' challenger, Andrew Hurst. This year, Bechtel contributed the maximum allowable $5,000.00 to Davis' war chest. This was a small investment by the historically Republican-run international construction company -- a small investment that has paid a big dividend today.

The story on Gov. Kaine's regrettable decision is in today's Washington Post.
FOX Pillories Hillary by Proxy -- If you didn’t see the premiere of the new series, Standoff, on the FOX network, you missed a really mean and not so subtle personal attack on Senator Hillary Clinton. The show revolves around a pair of FBI hostage negotiators. In tonight’s episode, a Congressman’s kid takes over a diner wearing a vest packed full of explosives. His shtick is he’s a Muslim convert, but the reality is he’s a troubled young man who has come to hate his absent mother. Mom, you see, has spent her adult life devoted to her husband’s political career. Picture the Emma Thompson character in Primary Colors, but much colder. Mom, also, wears stylish blue suits and with her short coiffed dyed blond hair bears a definite physical resemblance to a certain U.S. senator from New York.

The son, you see, decided to go out in a blaze of infamy to destroy the only thing his mother cared about it – her husband’s political career. As the drama plays out, Mom saves the day by sending her son a message: “I’m sorry. I never wanted children.” So, the son realizes that it was never his fault – it was always his mother’s problem, because she was 100% the ambitious political wife, and never a mother to her child.

Of course, the actress who played the congressman’s wife is quite beautiful, tanned and fit. Still, the resemblance to Clinton leaps out at you in the final shot of her, as she watches her son being led away in handcuffs. In fact, I didn’t see the resemblance until that moment, but it was so striking, that I have to believe it was deliberate. Given FOX’s political bent I have to think it was a not-so subtle effort to subliminally assassinate the Senator’s image.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Grab Bag. So much news, so I'll focus on soccer. Huh? I can't give a quick and still decent treatment to the Bush Administration's thumbing one big collective nose-thumbing to the Supreme Court. A constitutional crisis isn't exactly in the offing, since the Administration can say it is attempting to comply with the Court's opinion in Hamdan. In essence, the Administration is now asking the Congress to authorize basically the same illegally constituted tribunals that the Supreme Court struck down. That would be O.K. if the Court's only problem with the tribunals was the lack of statutory authority. There was more to it, as the Court noted problems with the process afforded the detainees.

The Administration is trying to come up with a passable forum for trying those detainees that it wants to try. The rest, it seems, may yet continue to rot in jails, even though the Administration is admitting it lacks sufficient evidence to charge and try these people. In fact they will be treated as P.O.W.s -- not guilty of much more than taking the wrong side in a war without end. The problem with that is, allegedly, some number of the detainees deny they were ever combatants. They may continue to be stuck in a Kafka-esque limbo, as the Administration resists every effort to provide real justice, in line with the Geneva Conventions and the general rule of law.

I have a couple of other essays percolating, but I'll wait to post them -- until I'm happier with the product. I did want to comment on the new ad by the Republican candidate for Senate in Maryland, the current Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. I'm not voting for him, but if I had any say on the Clios, I'd push for this ad to win everything. This is the best, most original political ad I have ever seen. There's not a lot of substance to the ad, but that's kind of the point. The ad aims to present Steele as a likable guy, and a cool dude. The message of the ad is that he's a different kind of politician that will challenge the establishment in both parties. The ad really is all about style, and it is loaded with style. The message IS the form.

Unlike most ads that try to show the candidate in some real world setting, or maybe some office, this ad is clearly a slick studio product. More than anything else, the ad looks as if it's a promo for a new HBO show called "Steele". The candidate appears on a barstool in front of a plain white background. The camera moves, the shots change, and Steele smiles as he talks, looking very cool -- like a TV star, not a politician. Even Steele's name appears stylized in a graphic that evokes a steel girder, bolts and all.

There's no real substance in the ad, but as I have said, the style is the point. It is very effective. It really suggests that Steele is different. He's willing to be cool, not too earnest or serious. He comes across as very likable and very cool, much the image he tried to set for himself before, appearing on Bill Maher's HBO show. Steele will have to to do more conventional spots that give voters some idea of what he will do for them, what he believes in -- at least, I think he'll have to do these kind of ads eventually. Maybe not. It's certainly a strong start for his campaign -- a great introduction to Marylanders in his first big campaign on his own.

OK -- on to soccer. I'll get to tonight's U.S. Open Cup matches in a moment, but I wanted to cover a few other things in the media today. The New York Times had a soccer grab-bag piece, including a link to the video for the fastest goal in history. Technically, it was the fastest goal in women's collegiate soccer, but no other goal could ever come any quicker. On the opening kickoff, Yael Averbuch of the Lady Tar Heels (North Carolina) ran up and launched the ball from the midfield spot. The ball rose high into the New Haven sky intil it arced down towards the Yale goal. The Yale goalie tried backpedaling into position, but could not get back in time to keep the perfectly struck ball out of the goal. You can find video at

Houston's Edwin De Rosario continues to impress this fan. He also took a shot from midfield, beating Zack Thornton, to earn De Rosario the MLS Goal of the Week. Video can be found on the MLS' site: De Rosario, a Canadian, may be the MLS' best North American player, though Landon Donovan hasn't been clearly dethroned.

The Times also had a bit of a shout-out to the Yanks Abroad website. You can always follow our boys overseas by checking out: The Times piece noted the recent flow of Americans to Scandinavian teams. then, copy and paste:

The MLSnet site also has a cool piece on MLS' historical best. As this is the 11th season, the writer, Jeff Bradley, took the occasion to reminisce about the top eleven impact players -- picking one player for each year. Not exactly an all-star side, as it is laden with strikers and midfielders. There is one goalie, though. Bradley's list, starting in 1996, and working forward: Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Peter Nowak, Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis, Diego Serna, Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan, Jon Busch (from the Columbus Crew, the lone goalie on the list), Taylor Twellman, and, this year, Christian Gomez. I gave you the list, but Bradley's piece is worth reading for the details. Check out the MLS site: and copy and paste this link:

Finally, the Dallas Morning-News has a fun piece on the trouble that the Dallas team has had in finding a decent, appropriate name. If I had a vote, it would be for the Toros. then, copy and paste the link:

Now, as promised, the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

Just over 5,100 turned up in Illinois for the match. Clearly, there needs to be better publicity. That would be a pathetic turnout for a weekday regular season MLS match-up with nothing on the line.

D.C. United had a few surprises in their opening lineup. With Jaime Moreno out, D.C. coach Peter Nowak decided to pair his two speediest strikers, Jamil Walker and Freddy Adu. The biggest surprise was this left Alecko Eskandarian on the bench. Esky will miss Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake, as he is suspended for accumulated yellow cards, so he would have been expected to start tonight. You can't say that Nowak wasn't taking the game seriously, as he went with his No. 1 goalkeeper, Troy Perkins, over Nick Rimando, who had started in the prior Open Cup matches. On defense, Brandon Prideaux got a rare start.

Neither team generated much offense in the first half. Nowak continued to surprise at the half, when he replaced Walker with Rod Dyachenko. D.C. controlled the play, but fell behind in the 58th minute as Justin Mapp beat Troy Perkins to put the Fire up 1-0.

D.C. continued to press the Chicago side, but the score would keep getting farther away from them. Prideaux was replaced by D.C.'s newest player Matias Donnet, who created chances for his team immediately. Ben Olsen subbed in a little later, but Esky still sits. Donnet put one in the net, but offsides was ruled. The Fire answered with a goal of their own in the 76th minute, to take a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later, D.C.'s Facundo Erpen was ejected for a dangerous challenge. Chicago's Chris Armas was also ejected for striking Erpen in retaliation.

Though down 2-0, United went on a furious attack. All the results this night, however, belonged to the Chicago Fire. Chicago weathered D.C.'s blistering attack. Finally, in stoppage time, the Fire put United out of its misery with the final nail, making the score 3-0. Chicago continued its mastery over D.C. in Open Cup and MLS playoff matches. On this night, the Fire advanced to the Cup final, on Sept. 27th, when they will host the winner of the L.A. Galaxy-Houston Dynamo game.

Lastly, news from the Euro 2008 qualifying: The beautiful game is restored. To my mind, the French are the real heirs to the Brazilian beautiful game of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Without Zidane, they may not have an answer to Ronaldinho, and they have no one the equal of Roberto Carlos on the free kicks. Still, the French play this game right, when they have it together . Obviously, they didn't quite have it together when the World Cup started. They pulled it together during the Togo game in Cologne, and went on a magnificent run. The point of all this? France had its revenge on Italy today, vanquishing the world champs by a 3-1 score. France does have the world's most exciting striker in Thierry Henry, who confirmed his status with one of the goals, but the real hero was Sidney Govou. Govou tallied twice, including a score in the 2nd minute. Vive Le France!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Still More Soccer News -- An Update on last weekend's Fisch Fry tirade about the officiating in the United-Galaxy game. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the Galaxy's Ugo Ihemelu has been suspended for two MLS games for his reckless tackle that resulted in a broken leg for United's Dominic Mediate. United's President Kevin Payne sees it the way I do. Said Payne, "I'm at a little bit of a loss to explain how the player didn't receive at least a yellow card."

Do I dare claim credit for the league's response in this affair? Naaahh -- but, it would be interesting to find out if my wide-ranging efforts to call attention to the incident did influence the league in any way. Anyone at the league offices care to share some inside info?
It's Sunday Night -- So this must be the Soccer / Sports Report. I had record traffic this weekend with my discussion of the primary elections next week. That was nice for me to see, because I'd like this blog primarily to be about politics and world affairs. Soccer seemed to be the number one attraction to the site, so I've focused on that, lately. I will be writing more about politics and world events, but I'm not about to give up writing about soccer, or other sports, as the mood strikes. Tonight, it's all about the world's game.

D.C. United played tonight -- kicking of a marathon week with three games. Tonight, United took on Chivas USA in an M.L.S. tilt in Carson, CA. On Wednesday, United will be in the Chicago area for the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Fire. They finish the week in RFK with a league game, hosting Real Salt Lake, at RFK, on Saturday.

After a month filled with disappointing efforts in league play, culminating in the 5-2 drubbing against L.A.'s other team, the Galaxy, I expected wholesale changes against Chivas. More than any other change, I expected to see Nick Rimando replacing Troy Perkins in goal. Coach Peter Nowak saw things differently. For him, the biggest change the D.C. side ended was to see the return of a healthy Christian Gomez to the starting lineup, along with a healthy Freddy Adu.

Two minutes in, Nowak's faith was rewarded. Adu won a free kick on the left side. Gomez drove the kick towards the near post. Chivas' goalie Preston Burpo was caught by surprise by the shot on goal, and was unable to recover in time to keep the ball out of the net. Chivas rebounded when Facundo Erpen was charged with a penalty in the box for defending a crossing pass with a high kick that caught Chivas' Ante Razov in the face. Perhaps an indirect kick would have been the appropriate call here, but Chivas took the gift, and buried the penalty kick to tie the score at 1-1.

Having lost their early lead, D.C. United responded very quickly. Actually, it would be more accurate to say Christian Gomez responded quickly. Gomez took a pass at midfield with his back to the goal, then turned and raced thorough and past most of the Chivas' defense. Finally, Gomez finished the play, driving a grass-skipper inside the opposite post. Again, the Chivas keeper, Burpo, out of position and late to dive, probably should have made the save, but much credit is due Gomez for one of the best efforts of the MLS' season.

United turned in a spirited, feisty effort in a chippy game. They defended well. Aside from the penalty, Perkins' faced few real threats, but he seemed to make all the right plays. Nowak has to be pleased that Perkins didn't fall apart after his calamitous play last weekend. Props to Nowak for keeping faith with his young goalie.

While Gomez dominated the game, Adu turned invisible after his initial burst of speed, and he was subbed out at halftime, in favor of United's newest player, Matias Donnet. Donnet was signed off Boca Juniors' reserve squad, after injuries sidetracked a promising career with Argentina's top club side. Early returns on Donnet are promising, based on his one half of solid play.

In the second half, Chivas threatened regularly, but United defenders made some fine plays that, combined with Perkins' good positional play, kept Chivas from tying the game. Clearly, Chivas did not learn from the Galaxy's victory over D.C. last week. The crossing game is not the way to attack D.C., as it just plays to Perkins' strengths. His size and athleticism allows him to cover these crosses. Where Perkins is soft, is facing an attacker with a ball at his feet. Alecko Eskandarian has remarked that Perkins used to be ridiculously easy to score on, during practice. Taking over as the starter this year, Perkins has improved immeasurably, but still can be taken by a skilled striker.

For his own part, Gomez wasn't satisfied with the one goal lead. Before having to leave the game with a cramped calf, Gomez twice came very close to a hat trick. In the end, without anyone left to create offense, United had to happy to close out a 2-1 win. No doubt, Gomez earned some more votes for league M.V.P. tonight.

The second most dangerous player on the field was Chivas' rookie, Jonathan Bornstein. Chivas has a future star in this Torrance native. Look for Bornstein to start showing up in U.S. national games in fairly short order.

Next up for United is the U.S. Open Cup match against the Chicago Fire. No doubt, Rimando will take his turn in goal. United fans can hope he plays as solid as Perkins did tonight. On Wednesday, United may be without top striker Jaime Moreno, who left with an injury to his knee. Early reports are that Moreno will be available for the next league match, on Saturday.

The week ends with Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake. RSL lost at home to Colorado last night, but they had some good shots at tying the game late. Unfortunately, every shot seemed to be directed right at Rapids' keeper Joe Cannon. In their last encounter against RSL, D.C. United's 14-game unbeaten streak came to an end when United gave away the lead on two penalties in the final minutes. That game was the start of D.C.'s slump. This time out, United will be looking to reassert their league dominance for the stretch run. It could turn out to be one heck of a week for D.C.'s standard-bearers.

As good as Gomez' second goal was, I wanted to mention that there were at least three truly spectacular goals in the opening of Euro 2008 qualifying play. England's Steven Gerrard took one pass at the sideline, with a defender in his face. Then he put on a dazzling display of feints and dribbling that would have made Earl the Pearl proud. When he got a step past the defender, Gerrard launched a beautiful cross that bent between two defenders and was knocked home by the onrushing Jermain Defoe. The other two beauties came in the Bulgaria-Romania tilt. Trailing 2-0 against Romania, Bulgarian Martin Petrov, who plays for Atletico Madrid, struck a perfect free kick over the wall, impossible for the Romanian keeper to react to in time. Petrov then brought Romania level as he took a perfectly delivered pass over the defense and drove it low, past the goalie. Most of the credit for the tying goal should go to Elin Topuzakov, whose dribbling in tight space and perfect cross to Petrov were as good as you will ever see. It's worth seeking out replays on the internet, or catching one of FSC's multitude of rebroadcasts.

I mentioned above that Bornstein is a great prospect for U.S. national team play. I thought I'd close with a little news about a national team player. DaMarcus Beasley has been moved by PSV Eindhoven. Beasley will spend the year on lease to Manchester City. At least, there he can expect regular playing time. The rapid pace of the English Premier League may be more suited to the speedy Beasley. But, he still needs to find a way to put on a few pounds. I'm sure he can do that without sacrificing his speed and fluidity.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Race Matters Update: Apparently, I blasted my way far too quickly through yesterday's Gazette story on race concerns among Democrats in Maryland. The travails of looking at online links, instead of a print version, I guess. There's a passage in an accompanying Gazette piece, by longtime reporter Blair Lee, that I want to highlight. I would insert my comments into my earlier post, but so many have read the post already, that I think it's best to address this article separately.

There is one line in Lee's 'My Maryland' Gazette piece that I want to highlight. Here goes (from The Gazette, Sept. 1, 2006):

“As the Gonzales poll makes clear, without blacks Cardin and O’Malley lose in November. That’s why Cardin and the Democratic establishment are treating Mfume with kid gloves. Cardin calls his primary fight with Mfume ‘‘a contest between friends,” and the Washington Post lavished praise on Mfume as it recently endorsed Cardin. Likewise, Democratic luminaries such as Senate President Mike Miller and Congressman Steny Hoyer have endorsed Simms to help placate black Democratic leaders."

Holy Sheep S***t, Batman! If true, the assertion that Miller and Hoyer endorsed Simms in order to placate black leaders, would be the most awful example of racial politics in Maryland yet this year. That's an incredible level of Machiavellian dishonesty and manipulation. So much so, that it's amazing that there's no attribution for that assertion. I would like to know who said that is why Miller and Hoyer endorsed Simms. Maybe Miller and Hoyer have been impressed with Simms during years of dealings with him in politics. Maybe they think he's the better candidate and that it is appropriate for them to give him their endorsement. C'mon Gazette, Mr. Blair Lee: Tell me who said that these two men did the deed so as to placate black leaders!!!
The Big Elephant in the Room -- Race Matters (Part II of a series): If you look through this blog you'll find my earlier post today, discussing the Maryland Senate race and my uncertainty regarding which candidate I should support. There are two other local/state races perplexing me: The race for Montgomery County Executive, between Ike Leggett and Steve Silverman; and the Maryland Attorney General's race between Doug Gansler and Stuart Simms. These two races, along with the Maryland Senate race discussed above, and even the upcoming November vote for Maryland Governor all have one thing in common: The big elephant in the room -- race.

There are, of course, real issues beyond race -- real reasons to support one candidate or another besides race. In the Montgomery County Executive race, the campaign has mostly seemed to be a clash of visions and personal styles. The Washington Post had this description of Steve Silverman: "Silverman, who has been on the council since 1998, has shown that he can raise money like a Republican and spend it like a liberal -- an effective combination in Montgomery, a heavily Democratic jurisdiction where many voters expect an array of services, including social programs that pick up where state and federal efforts leave off...His campaign emphasizes the light-rail link known as the Purple Line, which he hopes will one day connect Bethesda and New Carrollton. Silverman wants voters to see his advocacy of the Purple Line and of using county money to build roads as evidence that he will deliver on a central promise of his campaign: 'Sick of Traffic? Vote Silverman.'"

Leggett gets higher marks because he doesn't have the 'cozy with developers' reputation, and because he's far more popular with the other council members. He may not be the deal-maker that Silverman is, but he's more of a consensus builder. Silverman comes off as brash and ambitious. It's not clear to me that these are necessarily bad traits in a politician, but it does rub people the wrong way.

Silverman ran a truly despicable and badly written ad on TV last night. With a graphic that said "Leggett voted against a version of the Purple Line," this ad really insults the intelligence of voters. There have been multiple proposals for the Purple Line --

[For those who don't know, when the D.C. Metro was first conceived there was the idea of a circular route that would parallel the beltway and connect the different Metro lines and the suburban stations directly -- the so-called Purple Line. Because of the expense involved and questions of need, it is unlikely that the Purple Line would ever get constructed in such form, as a Metrorail line circling the entire Washington DC area. However, because of the nearly constant bumper-to-bumper traffic on the beltway through Montgomery County, there is some movement towards building some version of the Line, at least to connect the suburban cities of Bethesda and Silver Spring. This would offer a decent mass-transit alternative to the beltway traffic jams, and might relieve some of the load on the beltway and local roads. Debate has been waged over what type of line this should be -- a less expensive above-ground light-rail system or a much costlier, heavier rail system that would be largely, or at least partly underground, like the current Metro system. There has also been debate over the exact path of this Purple Line, and whether the Line should extend through the neighboring county of Prince George's, including stops at the University of Maryland and ending at New Carrolton -- endpoint of the orange line and location of an Amtrak station on the Northeast Corridor].

So -- there have been multiple proposals for the Purple Line. One would hope that the legislators have their own opinions about which would be best, and one would hope that they would express those opinions in their votes. Though I think the Purple Line is probably a good idea, I would hope that Mr. Leggett has voted against at least one version of the Purple Line. At least, that would suggest he has an opinion on the matter. Silverman's criticism of that is insultingly simplistic and suggests to me that there is truth to the criticism that Silverman has never met a development proposal he didn't like. The ad also shows some scary apartment block along with the graphic that the Washington Post said Mr. Leggett supported some massive development project -- though which project that was is not made clear. In short, if I’m any indication, this ad will cost Silverman a lot of votes.

In the race for Attorney-General, I'm not really clear what the issues are that separate the two candidates. The number one issue seems to be the personality and ambition of Gansler, currently State's attorney for Montgomery County -- the office that prosecuted the DC sniper case (this is a misnomer, since the shootings did not occur in the District -- most were in my 'hood, lower Montgomery County, around Rockville -- yes, that's the 'Rockville' in the old R.E.M. song "Don't Go Back to Rockville"). Gansler has always sought the spotlight, and has been running for the office for years, while his opponent, Stuart Simms, only joined the race recently.

Simms had been Douglas Duncan's announced choice for Lieutenant Governor. Duncan, the current Montgomery County executive, was running for Governor, and tabbed Simms for his running mate, after Duncan's primary opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, named his own running mate. Duncan dropped out of the race recently, citing a personal struggle with clinical depression (one could be cynical and note that Duncan's campaign was probably not getting statewide traction, but his courage in admitting depression is admirable). So, Simms decided to go for the A-G slot. Recently, the other major candidate, Tom Perez, a Hispanic, was disqualified, and he threw his support behind the African-American, Simms.

Anyway, it seems to me that the primary consideration in the Attorney-General race, as it has become in each of these races, is race itself. Four years ago, Republican congressman Robert Ehrlich broke new ground, and probably got himself elected Governor, by naming Michael Steele, a black man, as his running mate in the race for Governor. Now, Steele has been pushed into running for the open U.S. Senate seat for Maryland. His greatest appeal seems to be that he is black, and that he might siphon away enough black votes to elect a Republican to the seat. He just got the endorsement of rap mogul Russell Simmons.

In answering a question as to why he would be the better choice to oppose Steele, Kweisi Mfume focused on race. Because he and Steele "are of the same ilk," Mfume said that would eliminate race as a consideration in the general election. Mfume's primary challenger, Ben Cardin focused on the fact that his district encompasses parts of three counties that each supported Ehrlich for Governor on '02. Cardin was suggesting that he would have broader appeal than Mfume. Presumably, he is inplying that Mfume's appeal would be limited mostly to Baltimore City and Prince George's County whose politics are dominated by their large black populations. I'd like to think that white voters will not be so narrow. Besides, Cardin's district is largely a Democratic one, encompassing small, liberal pockets within counties that generally are more evenly split. Thus, his boast of broad, cross-party appeal is unconvincing.

Between the two contentions, I'd say Mfume has the better of the argument, but I’m deeply troubled by it. Race shouldn't be the best argument for voting for someone. It shouldn't be in Steele's case, and it shouldn't be in Mfume's case, either. In a sense, I'm OK with race being a factor. In this country, as Mfume said the other night, "race matters." It would be a very healthy thing to have more blacks in the Senate. I hold hope for Harold Ford's candidacy in Tennessee. And, I'd like to see Mfume get in, too.

I think it's OK if racial diversity becomes a consideration in casting one's vote. It's a curious argument -- kind of an electoral affirmative action. In theory, I guess that I'm OK with racial diversity being a consideration. I'm just really troubled that both parties are so busy playing racial politics. Even if one accepts that it can be a legitimate consideration, the candidate's race shouldn't be at the forefront of the campaign.

In the GOP's case, the party pushed Steele to run for the Senate seat because Republicans love the idea of a black Republican in the Senate, and they figure that a black candidate has a better chance of being elected to statewide office than would another white Republican. But race has become the big question and appeal in the Maryland Democratic Party this year, as well. When Steele announced his candidacy for Senate, the leading Democratic candidate for Governor, Martin O’Malley, quickly followed by making the unprecedented move of announcing his preference for a running mate. O’Malley tabbed a black candidate, Del. Anthony Brown, widely regarded as the one of the up-and-coming stars of Maryland politics. Not to be outdone, O’Malley’s then challenger for the Party nomination, Doug Duncan, named his own choice for Lieut. Gov., Stu Simms, also an African-American. The symbolism and the baldness of the Democratic candidates’ race-based strategy was not lost on anyone.

Race has also figured in the other major races here in Maryland. Besides Mfume's own appeal, based on his race, attention is being drawn to the racial differences between the Democratic primary A-G candidates, Simms and Gansler. Some party leaders are fearful of a backlash among the traditionally loyal African-American community should both Simms and Mfume lose to their white primary opponents. There’s more about these concerns in a local Gazette newspaper on the race question, found at

Even here, in Montgomery County, the County Executive campaign is down to two contenders, one white and one black. I have to admit that race is a consideration in each of these races, though I’m not sure how that will shake out. Even in my own personal case, I am still undecided in each case. I don’t want race to be the primary reason I vote for or against a candidate, but it’s hard to escape the whole question when the candidates for Governor haven’t been shy about playing the race card, and when most of the other races are between two serious contenders, one white and one black.

These electoral races and the issues are explored on other local blogs. See for example:

Outside the Beltway: African American Revolt if Simms and Mfume Lose?

A scathing indictment of Steve Silverman can be found at

The granddaddy listing for Maryland Democratic politics --

There’s even an article worth noting in the right-wing rag, The Washington Times: