Friday Links

No, I’m not hitting the golf course today. Can’t remember the last time I actually did pick up clubs and try to play (emphasis on “try,” of course). But maybe a haircut or trip to the gym…?

So here goes…

Rick Klein’s daily Note with everything you need to know from the Capital and beyond.

Yesterday’s news that the Senate won’t finish up its healthcare debate before a scheduled recess will apparently trigger a multimillion dollar interest group war in the weeks to come. Lovely. Get the popcorn ready! Or youtube…

Cillizza also thinks that despite Republicans still have an uphill climb as far as gaining seats in the Senate next year, even though President Obama has clearly taken some hits lately and his party will most likely lose some seats in the House (especially in districts which voted for John McCain last year). On the other hand, the GOP may find it easier to hold some of the seats that conventional wisdom held might be tough ones because of all the swing-states which Obama won or narrowly lost last year (especially Ohio, Florida, and Missouri).

The President hasn’t given up hope on a speedy resolution to healthcare (and he insists he won’t be ‘broken’), as he’ll meet with two very important senators today. Probably won’t be able to goad either Max Baucus or Harry Reid that much, the Senate tends to do things in its own sweet time, and was, after all, designed to be a deliberative, federalist body. At least President Obama can still bask in the glow of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, and DeWayne Wise’s spectacular catch to preserve it. Buehrle was actually on the mound for a little over 30 minutes, and didn’t need more than 3 minutes for any one hitter. Amazing.

Apparently, New York does not have a monopoly on corruption and greed at the local levels of government. You only have to cross the Hudson River for evidence

California’s budget crisis is getting closer to resolution. It’s not going to be pretty for anyone.

The federal minimum wage officially goes up to $7.25 per hour today (states are allowed to set higher minimums if they wish). For workers in a few states, the increase could be worth $1,400 or more over the next 12 months- which could really help with paying debts or stimulating local economies-, but some economists worry that it could kill jobs for businesses lacking strong profit margins. I don’t think the wage has gone up so much in recent years that it’s going to be a huge problem yet. But we should keep an eye on the small businesses most affected by minimum wage laws, because they do provide a lot of jobs when put together.

This won’t happen, but I think it would be nice for cooling off our political discourse and providing voters with competitive elections.

Michael Phelps returns to action this weekend. What can he possibly do for an encore? In fact, it might really be a second encore considering he took home quite a few medals in the 2004 Athens games.

Michael Vick may also be back soon, but he will apparently face a suspension to start the new NFL season. Oh, and he has to find a team. Obviously, Vick hopes that a definite decision on his future will lead one or more teams to show real interest.

Roger Federer now has twins to go along with all of his trophies. At least one oddsmaker is already taking bets on whether or not his daughters will win tennis majors.

Nike is no longer trying to suppress videos of LeBron getting dunked on. Not that what we saw turned out to be much of a big deal. Nor is it really that big a deal that he apparently tried marijuana while in high school.

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Snore…

So here’s why I didn’t do a big NBA post in the last couple of days: Not that much of any interest actually happened! Or, to be more specific, nothing that really changes the equation as far as next year’s title contenders are concerned. The Lakers signing Ron Artest only makes them better, and he is a net addition over Trevor Ariza despite being older- especially on defense. Oh, and don’t forget the Rockets likely won’t have Yao Ming at all this season. Antonio McDyess could help the Spurs, but if they are going to win the West, it’ll be on the backs of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker just like in previous years. Any other serious contenders? Maybe Portland could get in there if the youngsters blossom, but they still be a year or two away. Shawn Marion is a good addition for Dallas, and they kept Jason Kidd, but is Marcin Gortat really ready to become a starter, especially for over $6 million per year? Oh, and Marion, as noted in the article about his acquisition, had a rough time in Toronto last year.

I guess the East could be a little more interesting, with Detroit letting Rasheed Wallace go to Boston and instead bring in Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Will a big chemistry change and infusion of youth get them back to the elite level? Not sure those two guys are really on par with the old Pistons troika, but then Larry Brown and Flip Saunders did do yeoman’s work getting that bunch to play bigger than the sum of their parts in sheer talent. The Raptors are quietly building a good team, which Hedo Turkoglu strengthens further still. Of course, with Chris Bosh a year from free agency, their window to make a title run may not be a big one. But they’re definitely in the conversation along with Cleveland and Boston. Doubt Orlando’s gonna stick; they really did catch some fire in the playoffs and Turkoglu came up huge for them in several games. But they should have Jameer Nelson back at the point, and of course Dwight Howard isn’t even in his prime yet. Plus, they turned Courtney Lee and a couple of other pieces (including Rafer Alston, who was going to lose his point guard job upon Nelson’s return) into Vince Carter.

I mentioned Bosh’s impending free agency. Well, he, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and others undoubtedly heard about this coming season’s decreased cap and that it could be lower still in 2010. In fact, this piece from Alan Hahn suggests that LeBron could actually see his 2010-2011 salary decrease if he opts out of his contract to become a free agent, instead of taking the option and waiting a year (though he could also take a shorter-term contract and hit the market again before he turns 30). Meanwhile, Frank Isola’s not impressed at how Wade is treating the Heat.

A little less random analysis down the road if warranted and especially closer to the season. Soccer and other stuff later today.

Busy Week

Pleased with the Yankees apparent turnaround in Atlanta and then against the Mets (or is it MASH Unit, or even David Wright and the seven dwarfs?). Congrats to Mariano Rivera on his 500th save. That’s a great achievement, but also hides what he will be remembered for- his postseason track record.

Also proud of what our national team did, despite Brazil’s second-half comeback. And of our soldiers, as they turned over control of Iraq’s cities to an Iraqi military.

Anyway, on to present matters. NBA and NHL free agents to chat about tomorrow, more so with hockey because basketball players can’t sign until next week. Ronaldo and Kaka to be officially introduced at Real Madrid… more big money signings to come?

I’ll have some thoughts on this stuff later… after dealing with my own business! Damn, the holiday weekend can’t get here soon enough. Should I go out to the beach or hit the city? Your thoughts welcome…

Monday Monday…

So the Red Wings and USA both get it turned around on Saturday night, and how! No newsworthy, funny, or otherwise photos this morning because the computer I’m typing from seems to have a problem uploading them right now…

Plus the Yankees record another come from behind win and finally beat the Rays at home, this time in front of Sarah Palin, there as a guest of uber-fan Rudy Giuliani during her visit to New York. Ken Davidoff adds that it was arguably a bit of a statement win for them. We’ll see. They’ve got another one tonight, followed by three with Boston in Fenway, but frankly, with about 100 games to go, the real statement games don’t come until after the All Star Game, to put it kindly. Off the field, the Yankees could become the first team to stream games online within their regional market, if you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

The Magic had Game 2 of the NBA Finals in their grasp twice, and couldn’t finish the job, writes Mitch Lawrence, who uses the “cursed” word by reminding us of Nick Anderson’s missed free throws in 1995. They paid for it in OT and are now in big trouble, especially since to win the series, they now must go back to LA for a potential Game 6 (unlike the earlier playoff rounds, the NBA uses a 2-3-2 for the Finals). You can ask if Pau Gasol got away with goaltending at the end of regulation, but I think the Magic shouldn’t be making any rationalizations for badly missing a very makeable shot.

Lots of other good sports action this weekend. I went to Belmont for the first time, which I’ll elaborate on later and hopefully be able to post a picture or two. Bottom line, I didn’t fare well but at least I didn’t wager much in the first place! Props to Kent Desormeaux for an outstanding ride, culminating in Summer Bird’s explosive final surge evocative of what Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird (they both have the same sire, Birdstone, but different dams) did to blow away the field in the Kentucky Derby.

More later…

Underrated?

Indian food might just be in that category. Had it for dinner tonight with my grandmother in Queens (conveniently located down Union Turnpike from my gym). For starters, we shared a Masala Dosa (thin crepe with potatoes/onions/peas/nuts). Then a goat mixed with spinach and some herbs plus a Shahjahani Biryani (saffron rice dish of chicken, shrimp, and lamb mixed together with a few vegetables). Delicious (and plenty to bring home for leftovers). Plus, the side sauces were flavorful and none of the food was too spicy. We asked for everything to come mild, but even that is probably spicier than what you could get at lots of other restaurants. Dessert was a little unconventional, two balls of cottage cheese in condensed milk (and flavored with rose water). That might have been the weak link in the meal, but still worth trying.

All in all, an excellent meal. I will have to go again sometime down the road. Coincidentally, I saw Slumdog Millionaire the previous night in NYC, which was enjoyable and fully deserves the accolades it has received.

The other underrated of the day is Nate Robinson. How he dunks a basketball like he did tonight in the annual Slam Dunk Contest is beyond me and probably everyone else on the planet. I’m not a Knicks fan, but that was impressive. As noted in the link to his bio, we are talking about someone who is not even 5 feet 9 inches but has a vertical leap of about 43 inches. I wonder what Muggsy Bogues might be thinking right now.

I hope everyone had a terrific Valentine’s Day.