Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Helping Things Get Better

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Life will get better.

Most of my posts on the Fodder’s domestic issues are borderline rambling and have to do with recent Congressional bills, political happenings or a hot-button issue that has taken control of the most recent news cycle. Today will be different. It will be short and to the point. Today, all I want is to draw your attention to a YouTube initiative started by author, activist and media pundit Dan Savage:  The “It Gets Better Project

Founded before the nationally covered, tragic suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, It Gets Better is a forum for happy, openly gay adults to post their own stories of bully-filled, persecuted childhoods (not that all LGBT childhood are by any means) and to deliver one message: “It gets better.” Life gets better. Narrow, close-minded, spiteful people will try to wear you down; but do no, do not,t let them take away your spirit. It gets better. In a time where suicides in the LGBT communities are increasingly prevalent, the testimonials on the itgetsbetterproject channel are touching, powerful and necessary.

In ways, it’s a shame that Mr. Savage and his fellow contributors had to turn to an internet/social media campaign, circumventing the “traditional” media sources, to bring a message to a population of vulnerable teenagers. In other ways, it is a fitting venue considering some in this society would still consider this a “subversive” message.  Either way, all I ask of you is to log on to YouTube and watch a video or two or three. You will be so happy you did.

Listen to a NPR interview with Mr. Savage here.

To add some star-power (so I can tag it an increase some hits!), watch Project Runway’s Tim Gunn‘s testimonial here.

Finally, please “like” the project on Facebook!

LeBron to Miami: A Team-First Tale

July 22, 2010 1 comment

LeBron risked all the grief in the world for this.

Another day, another guest blogger. Today, we present to you, the one and only, Chazzerific. A maverick of the sporting world, Chazzerific’s first post will give you a new take (YES, a new one!!) on the LeBron James free agency fiasco. He will be helping out, from time to time, in the sports section to keep our voice fresh and sharp. So, without further explanation…

Since LeBron James announced his decision to “take his talents” to South Beach, to team up with Dwayne Wade and the newly acquired Chris Bosh, he’s been called a disappointment, selfish, even cowardly. Critics say the King shied away from his chance to be “the man;”  that he gave up his chance to be considered among the greatest players of all time and failed to fulfill his destiny as the second coming of Michael Jordan. At first, I pretty much agreed with these assessments. Then I realized something. LeBron isn’t Michael. There are similarities for sure: in Cleveland he wore number 23 and he can jump out of the gym just like Mike. However, according to NBA scouts, what really set LeBron apart, even in high school, was his playmaking ability, his on-court vision, passing and unselfish play. In contrast, Michael was a scorer. He is the only player to lead the NBA in scoring during a Championship season and he did it six times. The more I think about it, the more I realize that his move to Miami represents an old school, team-first basketball attitude in a new school, big market NBA. The clash between those two worlds has made LeBron one of the most polarizing figures in sports and overall it has given him a bad rap.

No player, even the players we all know on a first name basis – Michael, Kobe, Larry, Magic, and so on – has ever won an NBA Championship by himself. They were all surrounded by talented teammates. In fact, they all had at least one teammate that, like them, that can be identified by a single name. Michael had Scottie. Kobe had Shaq and then Pau. Larry and Magic were lucky enough to have a couple guys each. Larry had Ainge and McHale. Magic had Kareem and Worthy; you’ve heard of them right? In signing with the Heat, LeBron has succeeded in doing for himself what the Cavs, despite their best efforts, failed to do for him. He surrounded himself with great teammates; a group of players that will highlight his strengths as a passer and a play maker and emphasize team-first basketball.

I know what you’re thinking… if LeBron is such a team-first guy, why in the world did he keep the spotlight so singularly on himself during his free agency? I am not about to try and defend the spectacle that was “The Decision.” As mentioned in a previous Fodder posting, everything about that press conference – from the day-long build up on ESPN to the location from which it was broadcast – was a microcosm of everything that is wrong in professional sports today. So you will not find a defense of “The Decision” here.

The new "Showtime?"

But I digress… critics say that LeBron’s move to Miami is selfish, I would argue the exact opposite. Other teams offered him the Sun and the Moon, but he took less money in order to play for the Heat. Wade and Bosh have done the same. It brings to mind something Bill Russell said in a conversation with KG during the Celtics 2008 Championship run: “You may have to put your arms around a couple guys and take them with you, but you can’t drag them. You’ve got to put your arms around them and take them with you.” A look at the Miami’s revamped roster shows that LeBron, Dwayne and Chris won’t have to drag anyone with them. The team-first, self-second attitude has become contagious. The new additions did cost them some young talent, namely Michael Beasley, who was sent to Toronto as part of the Chris Bosh sign and trade. On the flip-side, however, Miami has been able to retain the services of some young talent in both Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. Haslem, in particular, will provide a hard-nosed defender and another big body down low during particularly physical contests. While talks with NBA Finals regular Derek Fisher fell through, Miami found veteran role players from other places in the form of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard and Mike Miller; all of whom have played at least 10 seasons in the NBA. Alongside D Wayde, LeBron and Chris Bosh, these salty vets will play a key role in helping to mold rookies Dexter Pittman, Da’Sean Butler and Jarvis Varnado.

Critics say that by joining the Heat, “King” James will never be anything more than a “Prince” in the court of His Majesty Dwayne Wade; is that really such a bad thing though? Magic orchestrated Showtime by distributing more often than scoring yet he is still considered among the greats. Isn’t Lebron capable of similar feats? It’s true that LeBron probably won’t score as many points while playing with two other top ten NBA superstars, but they will play extremely entertaining basketball. Aggressive defense will lead to a fast and loose type of offense with James and Wade exchanging high altitude finishes. In teaming up with D-Wade and Chris Bosh, LeBron may not be “the man” but he will undoubtedly be one of “the men” on what might prove to be one of the most talented teams the NBA has seen in recent memory.  Even if you put all that aside, let’s face it, the guy gets to do something we should all be fortunate enough to do at some point in our lives… work with his best friends. I mean c’mon, who are you kidding? You would jump at the chance to get paid to hang out with best friends at work all day, especially if it meant you might get to win an NBA Championship (or several) and you know it.

Wine for Thought: Our newest guest blogger joins Cocktail Fodder with a value Rosé you can’t miss!

July 21, 2010 1 comment

Spain's wine regions.

In today’s Wine for Thought segment, I would like to introduce Sarah as our first guest wine blogger. I’ve wanted to give Sarah a guest spot on the Fodder since her arrival at the East Village Wine Geek‘s shop a month ago. Sarah splits her time as a wine manager at the shop and as an intern at WineChap; a slick online resource that gives you reviews of restaurant’s wine lists throughout New York City. (Definitely worth a look!) A passionate student of wine with an already enviable palate, (“Sarah, I still don’t get the citrus fruits in this wine!”) Sarah will be helping out on Wednesday’s Wine for Thought segments. Here is her first post about a 10 year old Spanish Rosé that is worth a try for the daring and curious wine drinker. Enjoy!

Wine is not just for drinking. Obviously, wine is great for just drinking, but there comes a time in a drinker’s life when the urge to get something more than intoxication out of a bottle may arise. The desire to taste something new, better and different can overcome even the most apathetic boozer and encourage them to find a new experience.

Enter López de Heredia. One of the oldest bodegas in Rioja, López was founded by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta in the late 1800s during the post-phylloxera exodus from France to Spain. While the bodega is decently large, with three vineyards covering 170 hecatres, the López family continues to make traditional wines with care and attention that are released only when deemed ready.

Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000

The López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 2000 is love in a bottle. Bottled love is a pretty good experience, and this blend of Garnacho, Tempranillo and Viura is the best lover that you can get at this price point. She has been waiting for years to become exactly what you want and need; to fulfill desires you did not know that you had. Most rosé is made to buy young and drink yesterday, but this is primed to give you all the nutty caramel goodness you could possibly want.

The day-glo orange hue and distinctive oloroso-style nose come from the purposeful oxidation of the wine throughout the ageing process. When oxygen comes in contact with wine, it beats the poor drink into submission. However, in a controlled environment, oxygen can be used to add complex flavors and aromas. While hints of burnt sugar and sweet spice are evident on the nose, the palate is dry and tangy; she is surprisingly fresh for her age. Drink chilled but not cold, with food or without, but definitely in good company.

To be clear, this wine is a bit bizarre. This is especially true if it is your first time with an older one. That said, the López rosé – which is aged for four years in barrel before being tucked away in some dank, dark corner for another six in bottle – offers a chance to taste age at a ridiculously low price. While $26.99 may exceed your normal wine budget, remember that this weird, orange wine has been lying down in the cool dark for ten years waiting for you.

Until next time, keep on sipping and swirling the good juice.

*For those of you in the Tri-State area, September Wines in New York City currently carries the 2000 vintage. Be on the lookout at your local wine shop to see if they carry any of this producer’s wines.

Lieutenant General James Clapper, Good Luck Sir.

July 20, 2010 1 comment

DNI... just a dream?

When Dennis C. Blair resigned as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in May, the intelligence community, Congress and the rest of the federal government were left to wonder: “is the position of Director of National Intelligence feasible?” Since the creation of the position in 2006 – I will go into more detail about this in the following paragraphs – four men have held the post. For a Cabinet-level position, four different appointees is not a healthy turnover rate. So as we watch the newest nominee – Lieutenant General James Clapper – go through the nomination process today, it is time to start thinking about the hard questions revolving around the US intelligence community and the position that is entrusted to keep all the 16 individual agencies in line. Does the DNI have enough power to press people into following its lead? Can the CIA Chief live without being the end-all and be-all in the intelligence game? And finally, is General Clapper the answer?

Post-9/11, Americans were left to wonder “how did this happen on American soil without the intelligence community knowing?” Congress immediately went to work trying to find an answer to this question. Authorized by lawmakers, the 9/11 Commission produced a long, scathing report on the failures of the intelligence apparatus and recommendations on how to clean it up. Over and over again, the report speaks to the need for “cooperation and coordination” between the different intelligence arms. What resulted from the investigation was the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The centerpiece of this legislation was the establishment of the DNI; someone who could take the reigns of the sprawling intelligence landscape and make sure that everyone got along and shared information. The DNI, for lack of a better metaphor, was to be the study hall proctor for the individual, petulant agencies. The only problem is, the position has not been able to get all of those agencies in their seats, let alone tell them what to do.

So what’s the problem here? Why can’t the DNI gain traction? Let’s go through the DNIs and why they each left office. It might shed some light on the problems. The inaugural DNI, John Negroponte, left the post in order to allow President Bush to change his strategy in Iraq. Although a seemingly benign rationale, there were already rumors of Mr. Negroponte having trouble getting the spy agencies in line. Next up was Vice Admiral John Michael McConnell. During his tenure as the DNI, Mr. McConnell repeatedly made detrimental mistakes to solidifying his power over the community. In 2007, Mr. McConnell granted an all access interview to the El Paso Times (over-sharing?) and then proceeded to threatened the reporter. In 2008, he directly contradicted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ assessment of the Afghanistan War. He finally stepped down to return to the private sector in January, 2009 after losing respect in a myriad of difference agencies. Finally, we come to Dennis Blair; the quintessential case study in the failure of the Directorship of National Intelligence.

The Seal of the United States Intelligence Community: the DNI's worst nightmare.

Mr. Blair’s tenure was littered with controversy. Last year, Mr. Blair appointed John Deutch, a former CIA Director who was unceremoniously dismissed from the community for improperly storing top secret information, to a board of independent intelligence overseers; at best a careless oversight, at worst a disregard for protocol. Earlier this year, he told Congress that the Obama Administration did not consult him on the charges brought against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; inappropriately aired dirty laundry. Most importantly, Mr. Blair continually clashed over intelligence turf – drones in Pakistan, agency budgets, type of tea at meetings, etc. – with CIA Director Leon Panetta.

So what does this all mean? First, it means the DNI may be the hardest position in the Cabinet to hold. Whether it be controversy or territorial clashes, the DNI seems to be continually impeded by something. Second, something clearly needs to change in order for a person to step into this Directorship and get things done. No one has been able to succeed and these men have been more than qualified and competent. Third, and most importantly, the CIA must understand – for the good of the intelligence community – that it is no longer running the show. THIS will undoubtedly be the hardest sell.

As we watch this newest (and unluckiest?) man go through the nomination process for the DNI, we can only cross our fingers that he will be the study hall proctor we have been waiting for. In order to stop the extremists – who are, no matter your politics, out to hurt Americans – from attacking this country, we need a healthy and capable intelligence community. The DNI can only help this cause. So, Lieutenant General Clapper, good luck. I’ll be rooting for you.

Wine for Thought: An introduction to wine and cheese

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Wine and Cheese

In this week’s Cocktail Fodder “Wine for Thought,” I want to talk about pairing wine with cheese. Wine and cheese just makes sense together and have been enjoyed that way since the beginning of time. The Greeks were even known to grate cheese directly into their wine goblets! Blasphemy by today’s standards, but maybe they were onto something like they were with democracy. Anyway, if paired correctly, wine and cheese can enhance your overall food experience and allow you to better appreciate both. Discovering new tasting notes on a wine, by way of cheese, is quite the rewarding gastronomical experience.

A Caves Saint-Pierre Vacqueyras

I came into the shop yesterday and enjoyed an impromptu wine and cheese pairing with my co-worker Sarah. We chose a southern Côtes du Rhône from Vacqueyras that was 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. After letting the wine aerate for some time, we took a sip and made our initial tasting notes: the nose was earthy and vegetal, while the palate exhibited a prominent yet balanced acidity with hints of ripe berries. Acidity is the chemical property (pH) in wine that makes your taste buds perk up and tickle. After the initial taste, I strolled over to Barnyard to pick up two cheeses to match up with the wine. Since the wine had a bright acidity, I decided that semi-soft cheeses were the order of the day. With pairing, you can either mirror or contrast the wine and cheese. In this instance, I chose to contrast. I went with a delicious French goat cheese called Bucherondin and a triple-crème-style cheese known as Pierre Robert. The Bucherondin was delicious with a crumbling claylike consistency and slight tangy flavor, while the Pierre Robert was creamier with an even more pronounced tanginess.

The Bucherondin succeeded in softening the wine’s acidity on the palate while allowing the fruit to come through. (Success!) The Pierre Robert was an interesting pairing with the Vacqueyras in that it seemed to prop up the acidity on the palate. I honestly think I came up short with the Pierre Robert pairing. Sarah and I were both craving soft cheeses — goat cheese in particular — so both cheeses allowed us to discover what worked and what didn’t. To add a wrinkle to the story, Sarah preferred the Pierre Robert over the Bucherondin with the wine. The moral of the story: to enjoy wine, there are no rules just guidelines.

Here is an informative website with general guidelines for pairing wine with cheese.

Sip on!

Polls and Power

July 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Statistics = Power.

As we have already discussed on the Fodder, we live in a modern America that thrives on hot button issues, attacks and diatribes. All of these are inevitably propped up by statistics cut from the cloth of conservatism, liberalism and every other conceivable “ism” under the Sun. So where do politicians, lobbyists and activists get these statistics? One word: polls. In life, statistics are power. Secularity demands it. Although it is an overwhelmingly positive progression in society, there still lie serious pitfalls in this mindset. The most prominent is the unfortunate reliance on pollsters. The vast majority of pollsters are performing a vital function of civil society. Not all are, however. What happens when a polling organization goes rogue?

Luckily, we happen to have a lovely little case study unfolding before out eyes. The Daily Kos, a liberal political blog, recently filed a law suit alleging that the polling firm, Research 2000 (R2K), skewed and possibly fabricated statistics used in Daily Kos stories. For over a year, the Daily Kos ran weekly opinion polls administered and researched by R2K. After R2K received a terrible ranking in comparison to other polling firms in early June, the Daily Kos terminated its partnership with the firm. Soon afterward a group of well-known, reliable pollsters came forward to question the overall validity of the numbers R2K was producing. Submitting a preliminary analysis of R2K’s methodological results, the group found there there was almost no statistical chance that the numbers produced by R2K were reliable. In turn, Markos Moulitsas (founder of the Daily Kos) filed the lawsuit referenced above. R2K vehemently denies any wrong doing. (For more information, Pollster.com ran an informative and scathing piece on the case this past weekend.) While this is clearly an extreme example of probable statistical tampering, it still shows the relative ease in which a person or group can change the way others argue and back up their claims. It is a growing and unnerving trend in today’s political landscape.

This is not the first, nor the last, discussion that will be had about the accuracy of polling in America. Case and point: the 2008 Presidential election. From the McCain campaign staking claims on questionable polling data to sweeping analysis of the pollster landscape, the 2008 election was riddled with whispers of inaccuracies and discrepancies. While these whispers never turned into anything meaningful, it is important remember that they were there. Furthermore, this discussion is not restricted to the 2008 Election. Who can forget the media travesty of 2004? Why did the major news networks erroneously call the election in favor of Senator John Kerry? Exit polling. Admitting flaws in 2005, these exit polls led a myriad of people, including former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, to believe Senator Kerry won the Presidency. We all know the story of what ensued after the election night controversy.

The point of bringing this developing story to you is this: be careful where you get your statistics and of seemingly problematic numbers. Before you use them to make an argument, solidify a research paper or impress a member of the opposite sex, make sure they are from a reliable source. Next time you see a graph in USA Today, on Foxnews.com, in Time, on CNN or in a textbook; check the fine print. Google the firm that is providing the numbers for that chart. It might give you pause. Always see where the numbers are coming from because in this world statistics are power.

Apologies.

July 6, 2010 1 comment

Apologies.

Apologies to our readers for our lack of content this past Friday and Monday. Celebrating our fine country’s birth, and all the shenanigans that follow the 4th, distracted us and temporarily derailed our productivity. Don’t worry, it won’t happen again. Look out for our usually scheduled Domestic Diary today and check back for the 7/2 and 7/5 entries later this week! We live and learn. The 4th of July is simply too Amurrican to compete with.

Categories: Uncategorized