As an American, I have recently been surrounded at all angles by the financial crisis, both presidential and vice-presidential debates, and already interestingly enough, the ongoing saga of Sarah Palin. 

So as I tuned in to CNN, passing through images of Wall Street, abandoned houses and OJ Simpson’s Trial, I knew it was only a matter of seconds before I saw Sarah Palin. And when that did in fact become reality, I was completely dumbfounded — not only did I see her, but rather I heard her. 

What do I mean? CNN’s routine coverage of a McCain campaign stop in Carson, California showed Palin addressing the public, but not like I was used to. I’ll get to the point — she wasn’t delivering a stump speech. 

Yes, a non-stump speech wouldn’t have been such a spectacle at any other campaign event in recent history, but the truth is recent history has never seen Sarah Palin. Although today I will lay off the long saga of Palin herself, I must point out something like this has not only been a rarity in the past few months, but to me shows a turning point in the McCain campaign. 

 Although I believe that Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential  debate, I also will point out that Palin didn’t lose it. She  fought, but was taken captive by Biden’s foreign policy  credentials and successful soundbite gambles. 

 But what I think Palin accomplished in the debate gave her  more long term firepower than any single thing she has  done as running mate for John McCain (and sorry for the  bluntness) — she is now no longer a joke.

 If you asked strategists from both the right an the left on  the morning of the VP debate, there would be no disputing  from them across the board that Sarah Palin has been in the public’s eye a PR ploy. Whether that is what the McCain campaign intended to accomplish is another analysis in itself, but my blunt point here is that the Vice Presidential debate simply changed the way people thought of Palin. 

She didn’t have any coupe-de-grace moments, she didn’t gaffe, and she certainly didn’t win, but Palin kept up. And in doing that she passed a certain point of public status — from more of a joke and PR stunt to a vice presidential candidate. This will admittedly not change opinions on her policies, especially mine, but as pointed out in a rather comic tone by one of my friends, “Palin achieved the expectations of stringing together multiple coherent and complete sentences.” 

Although that comment wasn’t exactly correct, it was essentially in the right direction. Palin’s expectations were in fact incredibly low, and because she exceeded them in such a national stage, my guess is that Palin became a valid political figure to many people. 

So what does that have to do with Palin not delivering a stump speech? In truth, a lot.

In more of a bold statement, because of Palin’s renewed status, she has essentially set herself into the position to carefully open herself up to the MSM and public alike. My point here is that because of her partial success in the debate, Palin was either herself motivated or given the green light by the McCain campaign to open herself up to the press.

And this of course temps the question: what would have happened if Palin had gaffed and knocked herself out of the debate?

In my opinion the McCain campaign would be very hard pressed to do virtually anything in that situation. They would face a press fire if they didn’t bring Palin to an event, but would also face a brutal media wall if they let her speak.  

So I’ll let the commentators have a say at this.

Today’s announcement from John McCain was more than what the press uttered, it was a strategic campaign move that more than took Barack Obama off-guard, but poses as a trap. 

This morning McCain announced the suspension of his campaign and his proposal to delay the first presidential debate so he can participate in bailout talks, urging opposing candidate Barack Obama to do the same. 

But to me this is no more than a genius PR stunt with a popular campaign trap strapped on as bait. By suspending his campaign, McCain has provided himself a chance to rebound from the political loss he was handed to by Obama’s bold economy talking point that was made out of the bailout plan when it first surfaced. 

 The most crucial word used in McCain’s statement is  “suspend.” This is a popular strategic move which acts as a  giant bait for the opposing party to jump on, and this has  essentially already started. Similar to what McCain attempted  during Hurricane Ike and the GOP Convention, McCain is  taking the hint of the economy crisis and the bailout and  stopping campaigning to help a topic that is popular with  the America people, and most importantly, popular with the  non-partisan mainstream media. 

 What McCain is essentially doing is getting himself into the  press as someone who seemingly wants help with the  economy, and furthermore give Obama enough bait for him to complain. And if this is successful, McCain could unleash a statement looking something like this:

I am disgusted over the selfish actions of senator Barack Obama for intervening politically with a cause that is posing a national crisis. I originally encouraged him to join with me and rise above campaigning to help solve this problem, but it seems that has ignored me and thus the rest of the American people.

And this could seriously injure the Obama campaign, hitting them with something they have never been hit before: a attack questioning their morals. And so far, Obama has been fast on his feet reacting to McCain’s decisions. We’ll just have to see for ourselves if he takes the bait.

After two weeks in South America, daily reminders that I’ve been spoiled keep presenting themselves. But I had always thought that the skiing would be different. Trust me, after all that time I spent on vallenevado.com, many assuring thoughts entered my mind. The pictures on the site described not a resort, but a huge central lodge surrounded by mountains on all sides blanketed with powder, much like a volcano inside out (if you remember your 6th grade geometry). But after a rather frightening one and a half hour drive, which had more traverses than the Yankees have pennants, I was getting a bit skeptical. So as far as the actual skiing: I’ll quote Andy Roddick here: “It was horrible, it sucked. Otherwise it was great.” 

My point is the skiing here is not an exception to my spoiled points. The snow quality wasn’t great (I ski in Utah so that’s another world in itself), there was only one high speed lift, and to top it off it was extremely overcast which probably got me into a bad mood. But besides that, it was great. 

What I mean by this is the resort itself has great potential. First off, let me say Valle Nevado has a lot of terrain. South American ski resorts have a different mentality than the ones in the States and Canada — there are no rope lines. Everything out of the groomed runs are at your own risk, and that’s great. You don’t get your lift passes clipped from you, and most of the non-groomers end up at a lift, plus its a ghost town anywhere away from a groomed slope. But it’s not like you should stay away from the off-piste though, its amazing. Sadly we came too late (3 days after the storm) so we only found patches of the untracked stuff left. Here’s the video — bare with me on the on music…

But if you get bored with all the huge area that Valle Nevado offers, don’t worry — you have access to two other great resorts: La Parva and El Colorado — which border Nevado on both sides. So with a clear day and powder, you can have the day of your life here. And hopefully that’s what I am going to get in a matter of days — the weather man is calling for a meter of fresh snow. By that time I will be skiing in the famous Portillo resort, entirely in another direction. And hopefully then I will be able to see beyond a few feet in front of me. Well, we’re excited — I am writing this in the car smack dab in the center of Santiago our two hour pilgrimage to Portillo.

Although they are only separated by a river, Buenos Aires and Montevideo are like New York and South Africa. Compared to Montevideo, Buenos Aires is much larger and more modern, with a very European feel to it. There are a lot more English speaking people and directions, so that is always a good sign. But even though the city is huge and spacious — and cluttered with gigantic skyscrapers — it still has a very Spanish feel to it. My point? If you took a picture of one of the streets here and gave it to anyone, they would guess it was somewhere in Spain.

We are staying at the Alvear hotel, and I think it means posh in Spanish. I would conclude that this hotel is like the Four Seasons, with diamond studs falling off of it. My room has a bright red floor, two bathrooms (thats intense), posh couches, three high-definition televisions (one above the bathtub), and the most comfortable bed in the universe (besides mine at home). And don’t think we just picked the coolest hotel we could find — on the drive from the airport, I didn’t see one hotel on the way that wasn’t a skyscraper. 

We are staying in Buenos Aires for about five days, and we have plenty to do here. My mom (the master scheduler) has set up a lot of cool things to do. These include some tennis for me (I am a tournament player that hasn’t played since I left) on the famous Argentine red clay, a sports event (probably a soccer game) and a few museums, which I can live with if I can bring my computer. 

Although I must admit I am most looking forward to Chile because of my love for the Mountains, you could say I am not getting the full Argentine experience because we aren’t exploring outside of Buenos Aires, which is basically on the Eastern edge of Argentina. I will almost be back here when I ski in Portillo, Chile in a week, (it is almost on the border) but besides that I will be missing the “Argentina Andes” experience. I bet the rest of Argentina is awesome and much different that this Barcelona-like city, but I guess you can’t cover South America entirely in two weeks, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

I’m excited to be here in Buenos Aires and I’ll keep posting as long as interesting stuff keeps happening (which it has a habit to do).

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            After four more hours of flying after the Lima stop, I got the chance to rest in the Santiago, Chile airport for a few hours before hitting the sky again for another two hours to get to Montevideo, Uruguay. Not being as tired (I got a good three hours of sleep on the way back), I got to settle down and roam the Santiago airport. Chile is more relaxed and laid back than Peru, and there are English signs hanging (which there were none of in Lima). The people still look at me in udder disgust, but since there are considerably more Americans roaming around Santiago, I guess it’s not as unique to be here. But don’t get me wrong — Chile is beautiful. As I write and look out of the window from the airplane, you can see gigantic seaside mountains that tower above the clouds, completely covered with snow. The Andes range is truly the most beautiful I have ever seen, its towering presence so imposing but at the same time so beautiful you end up starting at its jagged peaks like you just saw a Bugatti. The sky is a beautiful dark blue, something I only get to experience when I go to Utah. I am definitely looking forward to skiing here in a week.

            As far as the airport, tourism is definitely a huge income. Walking down the narrow hallways, you are surrounded by tourist shops with everything from gummy bears to the Easter Island statues advertised. My mom was eventually lured into one, and I had to follow. You can see the pictures above. The entire shop was in English – even the magazines were all American. And the customers – well, you would think you were in California. My mom ended up buying some food and a few tourist items, and I bought a white cap with penguins on it reading: Pinguinos de Chile. Why? After officially becoming a tourist, I had to look the part. And to solidify I was American, I wore it backwards. 

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In past years, USA basketball has come into big competitions with high expectations, and after “shockingly” being beaten by teams that trained together the entire year for these moments, one might wonder if they are destined to lose unless they play with a team’s mentality. Can this country, blessed with the most talented basketball players the world has to offer, ever assemble a group of ball-players to compare with Jordan’s historic 1992 Barcelona squad? Is this Coach K’s year to make a gold medal team? Can America put aside its troubles and rivalries, and instead of playing for themselves, play for the world? Is this their year? All signs point yes, but what do I think? No. And I’ll tell you why.

In today’s basketball, more and more of our best players are assembling overseas, and less are developing in America. Our young american players grow up under a coach’s eye, each and every one of them with tremendous talent, but most totally uncoachable. And this is the exact opposite over in Europe, with great, coachable team player being mass produced like Toyota Prius’s. So unless America can get it together NOW and play for the common prize, a gold medal (which I don’t think is going to happen this year), our future looks dim.

In contrast, the 1992 team consisting of the NBA’s legends who united once a year to play together as one, were much like Europe’s players today, but much more talented. Led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley, that team had depth too, their entire bench hand-picked from the nba’s greatest role players. Jordan, among his teammates, sacrificed points for assists (he rarely posted over 18 points in a game), and the team excelled more than any USA team could wish to do today (or ever again). My point is, unless the US can take away their star power and ego, we’re not going anywhere in the olympics. Do I think we can do it this year? Yes. Will we do it this year? No.

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