Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

The Obama administration has completed its first 100 days. Overall, I feel it was a better 100 days than anything in the Bush administration. I do think he will need to govern a little more from the center if he wants to bring both parties together, especially when the focus is not losing Senate and House seats in the 2010 election.
On a personal note, I planned on starting this blog at the beginning of the Obama administration and I am going to celebrate this being live for "100 days." I hope all of my readers have enjoyed what I have put up and hope to get many more in the next 100 days and beyond.

Specter switching parties

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced yesterday that he is switching party affiliation from the Republicans to the Democratic party. While we did know that he was a RINO (Republican in Name Only), I never thought that he would ever switch to the other party especially since it is late in his career. This gives a strong message as to how much disarray the Republican Party is in. The Democrats are now on their way to having a fillabuster proof majority so there are no excuses for the Obama administration not to get stuff accomplished.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

swine flu

This is scary. A strain of the flu that comes from pigs and originated in Mexico has spread to the United States. There have been several reported cases of it already. I hope the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies and authorities can get to the bottom of this as soon as possible and use the technology and resources that we have to prevent it from spreading even more. For now everyone better wash their hands!

Very warm weekend in DC

As much as I was looking forward to this weekend, it was a tad warmer than I expected. Nevertheless it was still a great weekend to be outside. Door knocking went well, there were a lot of people that were aware of the House of Delgetes race and appreciated my visit. I even ran into one family coming back from the greenhouse with tomato plants. I may have not mentioned this yet but my family has a greenhouse business back in Massachusetts where I worked growing up. Seeing flowers and plants will always be a part of me no matter what I do. This particular family had met Miles already and hopefully between that and me taking the time to make an observation like that with a personal touch will help garner a vote or two!

I also met a group of friends for dinner at a Thai restaurant in town. I am not exactly a "sucker for Thai" as they say so I wound up ordering fried flounder. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones. I also got to hit some golf balls-no excuses now that I have a zip car subscription. I went to a course/driving range in Washington, DC. What make it unique is that you can see the Washington Monument from the course and on some holes it is the target off the tee. Pebble Beach and Augusta can't boast the Washington Monument from their golf course! It will be warm for the next few days but it should cool down later in the week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the torture memos

Yes, I do think it was right to release the memos on torture during the Bush administration. The American people knew something was up and they have a right to have the details as to what was going on with POWs in Iraq as well as suspected terrorists, particularly at Gitmo. However, it is important to think of a few important issues as the Obama administration gets to the bottom of torture issues:
-Protect the identity of CIA officials as much as possible, one of the biggest scandals in a laundry list of them during the Bush years was the outing of Valerie Plame, Obama and his administration does not want to go down that route otherwise there could be some serious criticism and most likely charges against officials just like in the Bush administration.
-Use discretion as to who is brought to testify and eventually charged. While those that are high up on the chain of command are responsible for the actions regarding torture, there could be some backlash from the Republicans and they could take all measures possible to prevent charges being filed. Additionally, they will use everything in their power to stop Obama's agenda and if they get back control of either house in 2010, they could stall his agenda to the point where there is a moving van on January 20, 2013 in front of the White House.

Sports this weekend

The Red Sox and the Yankees play their first series of the season this weekend. Lets go Red Sox! Some are saying it does not have the buzz that it has had in recent years-what are they thinking? It is Sox-Yankees and as long as both are serious contenders it is going to have a lot of fireworks.

The NFL Draft is also this weekend. Leave it to the Internet and ESPN to make a lot of hype over something that officials compared to "reading a phone book" when they thought about putting it on TV live. I am sick of always seeing 100 different mock drafts as they do not go to plan. Consider the "Reggie Bush Sweepstakes" of a few years ago, he did not go as the first pick. Teams make last minute decisions and they have to adjust based on who is ahead of them in the selection order.

Good weather weekend

Summer is slowly arriving in Washington, DC. It is going to be in the mid-80s all weekend. Saturday I am looking forward to a great day of door knocking in North Arlington. Sunday I will probably take a zipcar and go hit some golf balls for the first time. I will spend time with my friend or meet up with one of my Jewish professionals groups afterwards. I found a driving range in Alexandria which looks like a great place. It will be a great weekend to do some running as well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bruins sweep Habs

The Boston Bruins swept their hated archrival Montreal Canadiens and will advance in the playoffs for the first time in ten years winning 4-1. It is good they got over this hump especially against Montreal.

Recap of 47th District Candidate Forum

Recap of forum for the race for House Delegate in Arlington’s 47th District

Last night I was at the candidates' forum for the House Delegate Race in Arlington. The five candidates vying for this seat were Miles Grant, Alan Howze, Adam Parkhomenko, Patrick Hope and Andres Tobar. All were in agreement on issues such as gay marriage and against using coal for energy production. Based on my observations and the general consensus of the audience, Miles, Alan and Patrick all performed the strongest. What follows is my summary of the each candidate’s strong points (and setbacks) for each one.

Miles Grant: Miles had very good answers on most of the questions. He restated his position of running a platform of environmental protection, civil liberties, and civic engagement. In terms of gay marriage, he says that making it legal in Virginia should be one of the next delegate’s top priorities. While some people see gay marriage as impossible to have in Virginia, he stressed that there are states that just recently made it legal (like Iowa) where most did not think it would happen. A question was asked about whether the position should be a full time job. He stressed that he would use experiences from his full time job in his role as legislator.

His response to a question of what he would do to protect women’s rights, he cited an example of how he knew of a pharmacy that would not fill birth control prescriptions. He could not fathom how that was possible. Additionally, when asked who his political role models were, he cited Henry Waxman and Paul Wellstone, who fought the good fight although they were in the minority. He had one egg out of line when discussing universal health care in Massachusetts (which was pointed out) but overall it was a good presentation by him.

Adam Parkhomenko: He stressed that he is the only candidate that has lived in Arlington all of his life. He was in agreement with the Democratic positions that were presented. He did say that he distinguishes himself from the other candidates because he would make his job as delegate a full time job (although it pays a part time salary) and the job was too important to do otherwise. Patrick Hope called him on that saying that eventually he would have to settle down and buy a house and that was difficult to do on a part time salary.

Patrick Hope: He also stressed support of most Democratic positions. When asked about what out of state program interested him, he responded that a program in the state of North Carolina that funds homecare services was critical as that state had a lack of those. In terms of women’s issues, he said that he would support programs that would fund treatment for women’s health issues. Of all the candidates, he was the only one that made negative remarks, correcting Miles on his presentation of health care in Massachusetts and telling Adam that he could not live on a part time salary forever.

Alan Howze: He stressed that he has lived across the state and worked for Mark Warner. His most interesting answer was regarding his favorite out of state program, which was the California decoupling program where private energy companies invest in conservation. The concern that voters might have with him is that of living across the state as opposed to staying in Arlington.

Andres Tobar: He said that his top priority was education. His strongest response was also regarding the out of state program that he liked-that being in Maryland where legal immigration status is not a barrier to getting a drivers' license. In my observation, he was not answering all questions completely and voters might be concerned that he is running on just one issue.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

47th District Delegates Candidate Forum Tonight

Anyone that lives in Arlington should come to the 47th District Delegates Candidate Forum tonight in Ballston. It is at the NRECA Building at 4301 N. Wilson Blvd in Arlington. It should be a great event to hear all of the candidates in this race present their views on the issue affecting Arlington and Northern Virginia for that matter.

If you cannot make it, I am going to "turn back the clock" a bit to the days when I was an ace reporter and assistant news editor for my college newspaper (among other publications) and will provide a lively and even handed recap of the event on the blog. However, debates are best judged by watching them so hopefully there will be a great turnout.

While this might disappoint some, I do not have the comedic genius to write up a Saturday Night Live sketch off of the event so I will be staying on the serious side and we will just leave that type of thing to Seth Meyers and Company. I am sure they could come up with something.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine 10 years later

In remembrance of the Columbine massacre in Littleton, CO ten years ago. It had a profound impact on me at the time as I was still in high school and one that was very similar to Columbine. I even planted Columbine plants in our garden that summer. A lot more needs to be done to deal with students with issues so that tragedies like Columbine and VA Tech do not happen again.

Boston Marathon

Today is Patriots Day in Massachusetts and the 113th running of the Boston Marathon, often considered the "holy grail" of Marathons, I always enjoyed watching it growing up and still follow it today. Three years ago I got to see it in person along the Newton stretch. It is neat watching it and then listening on the radio for the winners to cross at the finish line (not to mention the Red Sox play their tradition Patriots Day game as well and fans can get out in time to see the end of the race). I have a very good friend running the Marathon today (whom I have known 10 years) and definitely following him to see how he does. They are having good running weather as well- sunny and in the low 50s.

Update: My friend finished in 3 hours, 32 minutes, 8:07 mile pace. Very impressive for a race where the average runner's goal is to finish.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Successful trip to Latin America

Obama had a very successful trip to Latin America. At the Summit of the Americas he exchanged pleasantries (and a book) with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and even brought up the possibility of eliminating the trade embargo with Cuba. In addition to helping our economy, it will bring more American influence and ideas into Cuba to assist the nation in getting out of communism. I feel this is an inevitability but if it happens during the Obama administration, it will be evidence of his campaign promise of "Change We Can Believe In."

C's and B's

It is spring playoff time again and the Celtics and Bruins are in action. While both are seeded high, the prospects of the Celtics repeating are looking very bleak. They are without Kevin Garnett for the rest of the playoffs and it looks like it will not be a matter of if or when they get dethroned as NBA Champions. As for the Bruins, they are the number one seed in the East but with the way the organization has been run, they are a team that is not worth getting emotionally invested in. Hopefully they will suprise everyone and break the championship drought!

Great weekend

Had a wonderful weekend with the family in town. My parents enjoyed a relaxing weekend with wonderful weather and we went to the Newseum and walked around the monuments. Although going to the monuments is nothing original, this was the weekend we all wanted to be outside. We got to have dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, a tradition of ours and a highly recommended restaurant for anyone who lives in or visits Washington. I even took my brother for a drink at Crystal City Sports Pub. He was surprised to see they allowed smoking in the bars there but I informed him that a smoking ban is taking effect at the end of the year in Virginia. There is a smoking ban in the bars in Massachusetts. Other than that he thought CC Sports Pub was a really cool place and wishes there was a bar just like that in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts! These trips are always too short but there is always the next one to look forward to.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shad Planking

Virginia has an annual event called Shad Planking, a gathering of politicians in Virginia to celebrate the beginning of their election season. A notable feature is the placement of a lot of signs at the entrance to the event. I myself admit seeing political signs on the streets and in yards really gets me into the spirit of the election season (kind of like "Go Sox!" on strip mall signs during the playoffs in October) but Terry McAuliffe may have took it a little too far. He is demonstrating that he has plenty of money with his "sign wars" but if this is how the money is being utilized I think there is a little problem. At least the Obama campaign put their earnings towards building their ground game in every state across the nation not on frivolousness.

Family in town

My family will be visiting town this weekend. I expect it to be more relaxing than their visit for the Inauguration. The weather is also expected to be really nice too so I am looking forward to getting outside and walking around downtown and the monuments with them as well. They are staying at a hotel near my apartment so it is close enough but "not too close." It should be a good time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama in Mexico

President Obama is making his first visit to Mexico as president and first by an American president in over 12 years. This is a very important step as the United States needs to work with Mexico to deal with immigration issues. Additionally, they are having many problems with drug cartel violence and this could have a ripple effect on America's war on drugs. Hopefully this trip will help refine the trade and commerce policies between the two nations in order to help boost the economies of both nations.

Rivalry Renewed

The Boston Bruins will be opening up against the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs this week. This is the classic original six rivalry-like the Red Sox and Yankees on ice. The Bruins are not a team that I get too emotionally invested in, the ownership and management have never been had the aggressiveness to go out and put together a high quality team-the biggest slap in the face being trading Ray Borque to Colorado to get his Stanley Cup-and then having a celebration for it in City Hall Plaza! Maybe with a little luck the Bruins will have one of their own come June. However it is most important to get past the first round as their good seasons this decade have gone for naught in the first round.

Slow start for Sox

It has been a slow start for the Red Sox not to mention that they are having issues with their pitching lineup. Josh Beckett is serving a suspensio and Dice K is going on the disabled list. This is the time of the year where you can't clinch a playoff birth but you can play yourself out of one. The goal for the Red Sox (and every team for that matter) is to keep yourself in contention (head above water) in April and May and then make the run in the second half of the season.

In rememberance 4-16-07

The Virginia Tech shooting took place two years ago today. Lets keep the memory of the victims in our thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

BU wins national championship

Saturday night was one of the most thrilling college hockey games I have ever seen. Boston University played Miami of Ohio for the national championship at the Verizon Center in Washington. BU scored two goals in the final minute of the game to send it into overtime and they won it in the extra session. It was heartbreaking for Miami of Ohio but long overdue for BU since they had not won the national title since 1995.

Enjoyable holiday weekend

I had an enjoyable holiday weekend. Saturday night I went to a Passover Seder with a Jewish social group that I belong to that was in Pentagon City-a five minute walk from my apartment building. It was a very informal affair and got to meet some new people and see regular friends.
Sunday I made brunch for one of my friends and then we grabbed a cup of coffee and I topped it off with watching the Masters today. Overall it was very quiet and relaxing. Next weekend I get to look forward to my family coming into town which should be very eventful.

Captain rescued

Richard Phillips, the captain of the American freighter that was held up by pirates, was rescued today. Navy SEALs saw the captain in imminent danger and fired shots at the ship and killed three of the captors. While this was a risky move, the snipers had no choice once they saw the danger Phillips was in. Kudos to the highly skilled Navy SEALs for pulling off a risky rescue mission successfully getting Phillips out of danger. I am sure the Obama administration is relieved that this crisis ended on a happy note.

Angel Cabrera wins 2009 Masters

Argentinian Angel Cabrera won the 2009 Masters in a playoff. Kenny Perry had a two stroke lead with two holes left and could not hold onto the lead-basically a typical Sunday afternoon major championship fold. Congratulations to Cabrera, a two-time major winner who already triumphed at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter and Happy Passover

It is always enjoyable when the two spring holidays come at exactly the same time. Tomorrow night I will be enjoying a Passover Seder with a group of people not too far from my apartment and on Easter Sunday I will be having a friend over for brunch. It should be a very enjoyable weekend and the weather is supposed to be good as well so hopefully I can get out a little bit. Best wishes for a Happy Easter and Passover to everyone.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Parks and Recreation

Tonight former SNL star Amy Poehler stars in a new sitcom called "Parks and Recreation" where she plays a mid-level bureaucrat in municipal government. As one with a Masters in Public Administration, it should be a heightened reality from what goes on in the field on a daily basis.

Shocking tragedy in baseball

Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car crash last evening. He was only 22 years old and had a very promising career ahead of him. Even his agent, Scott Boras, who is like a shark when it comes to dealing with his clients, was in tears when asked about it in the press conference. My condolences to the family and the Angels organization.

Masters Tournament begins

You know spring is here when the Masters opens up play. It never gets old seeing the perfectly maintained golf course, the beautiful azaleas and dogwoods and then the excitement of the back nine on Sunday afternoon. Those that are fans of the excitement of the tournament have been disappointed the past few years as it seems like they schedule the Masters "and the U.S. Open breaks out." Although the up and down excitement is what makes the Masters special, I believe fans should not complain too much because majors are supposed to be difficult and any course setup that is a "birdie fest" on Sundays should not be hosting a major championship. Under normal circumstances it would be too late to make a pick but I am still going to go with the sure bet in Tiger winning for the first time since 2005.

American ship attacked

An American freighter carrying food to needy people in East Africa was held up by pirates over the past 24 hours and the captain was taken hostage. It was released today but the captain is still in captivity with the pirates. This incident shows that American commerce not immune to this type of crime on the water, especially in this area (not that they are immune to anything). While there are probably more pressing security concerns, the Obama administration needs to look into cracking down on this activity and forming an alliance of countries, particularly near the trouble area. It is not like ships can avoid it because it is the route that goes to and from the Suez Canal.

Update: The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips, is still being held hostage in a lifeboat by the pirates. The United States has sent in Navy vessels and sailors to assist in the negotiations and have an armed presence. This is the first major foreign crisis for the Obama administration. If the negotiations are not successful there will be mounting criticism that he is not tough enough on terror.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Red Sox (finally) open up!

The Red Sox will finally start their 2009 season against Tampa Bay today after a rain out yesterday. After last seasons' close call with getting to the World Series, there is a lot of excitement and high expectations coming into this season. Many experts have them ging to the World Series some have then winning it. Hopefully the two teams can avoid fighting today.

Update: Sox win 5-3. Still a long way to go but always good to get off on a winning note. A fight did not break out.

North Carolina wins title

North Carolina won the national championship last night defeating Michigan State 89-72. The game was a snoozefest. For all the excitement that March Madness gets, the majority of the title games can be very boring like last night. Given the expectations that UNC had, the fact they went out on Monday night and proved they were the best team in the nation is not a surprise. With the majority of the fans being Michigan State fans, the post game celebration did not have as much excitement as at other venues.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama's European vacation

Obama is having a successful vacation over in Europe drawing large enthusiastic crowds in the cities that he is visiting. The trip has been by no means uneventful, with North Korea launching a nuclear warhead as Obama was about to speak on nuclear weapons. When the president gets back he has to assemble his national security team as it looks like a conflict with North Korea would be on the rise. VP Biden was right saying that he would have a crisis early in his presidency and it potentially be on the horizon soon.

Today he was in Turkey and while he is fulfilling a promise of reaching out to the Muslim world, he sidestepped the issue of recognizing the Armenian genocide. This has always been an issue that presidents want to avoid so that US-Turkey relations are not soured as the nation has always been a strategic location in the Cold War and now the War on Terror. While it is not a surprise that he avoids this issue, for an Armenian-American like myself it is not "Change We Can Believe In."

Office pool

I won the office pool even before the National Championship game tips off. I did not think I would with so many favorites. I will still be rooting for North Carolina tonight.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lots of excitement for the spring

With the spring and warm weather here I have a lot to look forward to in the next few months. First of all I went to the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin today and Easter Sunday, Passover, and the Masters are this coming weekend. My entire family will be here in a couple of weeks. I will have graduations to look forward to in May and June. My roommate will be finishing up at George Washington. I do not know what the future will bring with that but at least we can celebrate a job well done. My cousin is also graduating high school. I remember when I graduated in 2000 and her graduation in 2009 seemed so far off. It has been great to see her grow up and move on to adulthood (supposedly). I am also going to my fifth reunion from Brandeis which is an exciting milestone. All of this in addition to the campaign (and that important thing called work) will keep me busy.

Delegate race in Arlington getting exciting

Not all of the exciting politics is on the East side of the Potomac. As I have discussed I have been volunteering for the Miles Grant for Va. House Delegate race in Arlington's 47th district. This race is definitely starting to pick up in its intensity. There are just over two months left. We have a very intensive door to door effort going on in different precincts across the district and are determined to knock on each precinct three times and at least win the "ground game." This ground game effort would make Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler very proud-for those of us that are students of Big Ten football, specifically the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. I have said that for this district and most of Arlington for that matter is getting into the high rises and getting young professionals out to vote for your candidate. In the presidential election, at least they could follow the race and had knowledge about it (maybe to much knowledge). The only hurdle was making sure they voted in Virginia, a swing state in 08.

However, for this race, many young professionals do not take as much of an interest in local and state elections (especially being an odd-numbered year) and voter turnout of high rise professionals will be like pulling teeth. Fortunately we have a very sophisticated new media (aka "air game") using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the blogsphere in addition to an e-mail list to reach out to those that live in these complexes where getting the campaign's message across would be difficult through traditional means. To my knowledge no other campaign has a YouTube channel with actual streaming videos on it. The demographics of these consists of professionals in their 20s and 30s which would lean towards him. This is an air game that would make Tom Brady and Randy Moss very proud!

The campaign had their first debate last week in the Barcroft district and I attached a link to the recap. Unfortunately I wasn't there (slap on wrist for me). While there might have been some bias as the recap was written by a Grant supporter, if this was close to how the debate went Miles was clearly out in front, particularly the bit where the other four read their opening and closing statements. As a side, I also found out that Miles' campaign was the first at the community center and set up the chairs-before the organizers got there! If I could get that kind of help I should have more dinner parties at my house. Here is the link to the recap below:

Final Four

It will be North Carolina vs. Michigan State in the national championship on Monday night. While I am disappointed the UConn lost, I am happy that Michigan State is able to lift up the spirits of the people of Detroit and Michigan who have been hit extremely hard by the economy. As you may expect I will stay with my pick I had from the beginning of North Carolina to cut down the nets.

Binghamton shooting

There was a terrible tragedy in Binghamton, New York on Friday where a gunman shot and killed 13 people at an immigration services center. Police said that the gunman, a Vietnamese immigrant, was ostracized because of his inability to speak English and that he had recently lost his job. It is surprising to think that people that work at a place like this would be tolerant of things like that. This is especially difficult because immigrant families have many hurdles to overcome and to comprehend a tragedy like this is unthinkable for anyone, much less those trying to get accustomed to a new life and culture in the United States.

Update: On Saturday there was also a police shooting in Pennsylvania. Police officers came to a house and were ambushed by a gunman. Three police officers were killed. First of all this violence is intolerable no matter what but it is a part of the reality of times like these. Steps need to be taken to make sure disadvantaged people do not go to these extremes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Officer quits

Robert Powell, the officer that detained Texans running back Ryan Moats and prevented him from seeing his dying mother-in-law has resigned. Considering his unforgivable behavior I am sure he did this before he got fired from his job. I hope he apologizes in person to the family and uses this experience and forms some positive energy, possibly starting a program that teaches new policemen appropriate on the job behavior.

President Obama in London

What a lucky guy-President Obama gets to travel to London. However this is anything but a sightseeing trip as he has to convince world leaders that America will do what it can to lead us out of the global financial crisis, many of whom think America got us into it in the first place. While many world leaders were pleased with President Obama getting elected, this is his first chance to establish a working relationship with them as he needs to regain a trust in America with many of these nations. Additionally, he does not want to fracture relationships with countries where he has already established good relations.

Ted Stevens overturned conviction

Attorney General Eric Holder overturned Ted Stevens' convictions yesterday on all seven counts for which he was convicted late in 2008. Apparently, it was due to the prosecution withholding evidence and inappropriate relationships between witness and counsel. Talk about a technicality. The guy was guilty as sin of corruption charges and now he will be cleared. At least he knows that he will have to live with his deeds for the rest of his life and since he is guilty in the court of public opinion, he will never hold office again. The Justice Department showed its integrity by not playing politics and following the letter of the law-and by overturning due to this kind of technicality they sure did.