Thursday, December 16, 2010

Human Interest Thursday: Struggle in Gaza

One of the things I enjoy doing on this blog is taking a break from taking about large, often-vague matters and focus on the individual stories. The book I am currently reading by Israeli author David Grossman, "Sleeping On a Wire" is perfect at putting a face to the struggle of Palestinians in Israel. I'm just finishing that book up and should have the review up sometime early next week.

Until then, here are two interesting stories illustrating the immense struggles of Gazans:

Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul is fighting against both the Islamist Hamas government in Gaza and Israeli military's blockade of the Gaza Strip, asserting her desires for freedom as a Palestinian woman. She's also currently writing a novel about the Islamization of Gaza, entitled City of Love and Taboo.

Meanwhile, Nader el Masri has dreams of running the 5,000m race in the London Olympics. He's become a hero for dozens of Gazan school children.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hillary Clinton's new strategy for peace sounds a lot like the old one

Last Friday American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented the failure of the first 18 months of the Obama peace process and explained the new direction the administration intends to take in order to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Clinton's speech was illuminating in that it showed the total lack of vision of the U.S.-mediated process since Obama took office and demonstrated that the administration is still making things up as they go along.

This is not a peace process reset. This is simply a transparent effort to throw up a facade and avoid the media from reporting what has transpired as a total collapse which would bring into question the continued viability of the two-state solution. Make no mistake, what has happened with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is a total collapse that should cause us to question whether U.S.-mediated negotiations can ever result in a final two-state solution.

The U.S. has been pursuing the same peace
process strategy since Hillary Clinton looked
like this. Seriously.
The Obama administration has apparently dropped the peace process on Clinton's desk and George Mitchell is still eyes on the ground, responsible for the actual negotiations. According to Clinton, the new old strategy will consist of the U.S. pursuing indirect negotiations with Mitchell shuttling between them. This is piece for piece exactly what the administration set into motion 18 months ago and which failed to result in any meaningful breakthroughs. The only difference between now and the start of Obama's presidency is that the U.S. will stop pressing Israel over settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, despite the fact that the this was the only smart component of Obama's doomed strategy.

Clinton has promised that, in contrast to the indirect negotiations of 18 months ago, these shuttle talks will focus on substantive issues such as borders, the status of Jeruslaem, refugees, and settlements. This statement begs the question of what the old talks were even focused on. Why was the administration even talking to the parties and attempting to get them to talk if they were not going to bother to focus on issues that actually cause this conflict. The more the administration talks about the "new" strategy the more terribly planned and executed the "old" strategy sounds.

Furthermore, Clinton's assertion that the U.S. will not bother Israel over settlements (despite the fact that the administration and Clinton herself see settlements and their growth as obvious obstacles to peace) is contradictory to her statements that settlements are one of the core issues. According to Clinton the indirect negotiations must include discussions about the ever-expanding settlements but cannot include discussion of stopping them from ever-expanding while the negotiations are going on. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fateh party leaders reject negotiations with Israel without a stop to settlement expansion. Despite Abbas' seemingly hard assertions, his announcement is certainly vague enough to allow him to continue to repeat the mantra ad infinitum while still sending his negotiating team to take part in shuttle negotiations with George Mitchell.

The "new" strategy's lack of focus on Israeli settlements also shows the Obama administration's refusal to acknowledge the errors learned from the Camp David process. In the immediate aftermath of that failure, American negotiator Aaron David Miller lamented that the U.S. had far too often acted as Israel's lawyer instead of an impartial mediator and Israeli and American negotiators had failed to fully appreciate how important stopping settlement growth was to the Palestinians.

To wrap up, the Obama administration has proposed a "new" strategy for Middle East peace that hinges on engaging the two parties in indirect talks with Special Envoy George Mitchell conducting the shuttle diplomacy. Eventually Mitchell hopes to induce the two parties to begin direct negotiations. The U.S. will refrain from pressing the Israelis on settlement expansion, despite the fact that this growth is of critical concern to the Palestinians. Why anyone, including the American administration, thinks this will work is beyond me. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone involved in this plan is insane.

New York Times, Haaretz

Friday, December 10, 2010

Casual Friday: 2010 Album of the Year

I hinted a few days ago that I had decided to write about my nominations (and winner) for 2010 Album of the Year. The albums that made the final cut were not necessarily released in 2010, but I discovered them this year and are thus 2010 releases to me. I've never reviewed music, nor have I ever even read a review of an album, so I'm winging it here. Of course, that is kind of my point with the Casual Friday posts: to write about things I know little or nothing about. I know what music sounds good to me, though, so that's what I'm going by. (And seriously, isn't that what the pros are doing with reviews anyway?)

First, the nominations for the Holy Land Peace 2010 Album of the Year:

The Black Keys: Brothers (2010)
I love the Black Keys for a number of reason: 1.) they play rough jam-band rock like it's their God-given mission; 2.) they're from Akron, Ohio - not too far from where I grew up; and 3.) They release a new CD featuring great rock and roll just about every year. This year they treated listeners to the slightly more quirky, slightly more pop-inspired album Brothers. It's predominantly full of the great sounding guitar-driven rock tracks that have defined the Black Keys but has a few interesting "pop-ier" songs thrown in for variety, like the single "Tighten Up." The vocals are catchy and the guitars thick and crunchy, like rock and roll should be. Though a couple songs are easily forgettable and you could easily be excused for believing the entire album only had a few 15 minute songs rather than the 13 tracks the album boasts, it's still greater than the sum of its parts. It's a another solid CD by the Black Keys

Best Songs: "She's Long Gone", "Tighten Up", "10 Cent Pistol", "Howlin' For You"

Marcy Playground: Leaving Wonderland in a Fit of Rage (2009)
Yes, you remember right; these are the "Sex and Candy" guys from a decade ago. Their newest album, released last year, was one of my top listened to of this year. That's a testament to not only the variety available on Leaving Wonderland but the strength of just about every one of the dozen songs on the CD. This is a great album for listening to just about anywhere, while doing just about anything, and being in just about any mood. The vocals are strong and the hooks catchy, but there's absolutely no backup vocals at any point. Most of the songs are upbeat acoustic guitar-driven tracks that blend perfectly with the quirky lyrics. Although I very rarely drive, Leaving Wonderland has a semi-permanent presence in my car. It's the perfect driving album.

Best Songs: "I Must Have Been Dreaming", "Good Times", "Gin and Money"

Goo Goo Dolls: Something For the Rest of Us (2010)
The Goo Goo Dolls have been making music together for just about as long as I've been alive, and their sound has changed immensely, from hardcore punk-metal in the late 80s, to grunge rock through the early 90s, mainstream alt rock in the later half of the 90s, and then firmly planted itself in the adult alternative genre. The album itself is enjoyable, though nothing special. Most of the songs are sadly, thoroughly forgettable and despite criticism of their last CD "Let Love In" for being over produced, Something For the Rest of Us doesn't address that short coming. Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik seems to have swung and missed on the catchy hooks he's known for. The music is pretty bland, aside from a few gems like "Say You're Free" and "One Night". It's a far cry from the great music of A Boy Named Goo and the catchy vocals of Dizzy Up the Girl. The band has always been terrific live, but their last couple studio albums seem to be lacking of a little musical passion. If you love the gravel-gargling vocals of bassist Robby Takac (and I certainly do) then "Say You're Free" is the song to check out.

Best Songs: "Home", "Say You're Free", "Soldier"

Kristin Diable: Shelter (2005)
Kristin Diable is an almost unknown singer/songwriter based in New Orleans and her lack of commercial success and widespread musical popularity should be a damn crime. Her (as far as I can tell) first album was Shelter followed in 2009 by Extended Play which is a spectacular CD. I just found out about Shelter this year so that's why I've included it with my 2010 Best Album nominees. Kristin Diable plays great jazz/blues-inspired music with great variety between tracks, thoughtful lyrics, strong soulful vocals, twangy guitars, and a overwhelming upbeat sound. Kristin Diable's voice is top-notch. She avoids the "breathy" quality of far too many female vocalists and belts out the words with passion and force. The album has everything from a slow (and rather forgettable) piano ballad in "Circumstance" to a fast, guitar-heavy rock jam in "Black Plague & Dynamite." Along the way there's the acoustic-driven and mellow "Redemption's Son" and the full of soul "Sister Sadie." Being a fan of Norah Jones, I find Kristin Diable to be an upgrade of Norah, with grit, soul, and a hankering for great guitar riffs.

Best Songs: "Black Plague and Dynamite", "Where Do You Sleep", "Sister Sadie"

So with the nominees in, the award for 2010 Album of the Year, as presented by Holy Land Peace, goes to:

Kristin Diable's Shelter! Yeah, it's kind of a stolen victory considering I'm awarding 2010 Album of the Year to an album that came out in 2005, but that's the liberty you get to take when you write a blog. I'm sure she'll be happy to be featured on a blog that has a picture of the leader of Hamas not far under her.

Got an album you think I should hear? Leave your recommendations in the comments!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So who is to blame?

President Barack Obama's peace process seems to have breathed it's last breath, and like always, whenever a peace process falters it's time to assign blame. Playing the blame game with this recent process is actually pretty easy. In 18 months absolutely nothing was accomplished. I've decided to break up the blame into easy-to-compare percentages, which will of course add up to 100% of the blame for failure. You might think my numbers are subjective, but I assure you they are based on strict social science. Let's take a look:

"For once, it's not my fault!" - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal
The Obama Administration (50% of the total blame for failure)
I alluded a few days ago to the fact that the Obama administration really owns the lion's share of the blame for the fiasco that the peace talks became. Obama's team (including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell) lacked any semblance of either a vision for a post-agreement Israel/Palestine or a strategy for conducting productive talks. I still maintain that unless Obama knew he had the time, tools, and strategy to pursue final status negotiations, he should never have started them. It quickly became apparent that he lacked all three as his domestic problems (including the health care bill, constant stalling from Republicans in Congress, and Don't Ask-Don't Tell) began to eat away at any time he had to lend his leadership to the peace process. The attention these other issues demanded also played a role in denying Obama tools to pressure the parties when they stalled or refused to budge from their positions.

The Obama administration sized up Netanyahu after Biden was blind-sided on his visit to Israel by the declaration of additional settlement housing in East Jerusalem and there was even the snub of Netanyahu (as he was left waiting in the White House while Obama had a long, pleasant dinner with his family). Both of these actions initially showed that Obama was willing to get rough with both the Palestinians and Israelis to push them towards peace. He came out swinging by strongly asserting that peace was in the interest of the U.S. and refused to live by the old "we can't want peace more than the Israelis and Palestinians do" mantra of Clinton and G.W. Bush. However, as soon as the tension became apparent in the Israeli and American press Obama backed way off and gave Netanyahu a huge victory, allowing him to dictate the terms of negotiations. When Obama blinked in his game of chicken with Netanyahu the Israeli prime minister knew full well Obama would be unable or unwilling to put pressure on him. By the end of the fiasco, Netanyahu was in such a strong position that he had the Americans begging for a mere 90 days of a partial settlement freeze and Obama offering to pay the Israelis billions for the pleasure of keeping the crashing talks afloat.

This begs the question of why Obama ever decided to launch peace talks (he did very early in his presidency too - just two months in). I hardly think he saw a peace agreement as low-hanging fruit. I think he was more or less probably convinced he needed to pursue Israeli/Palestinian peace by his closest foreign policy advisors or those at the State Department that tend to see negotiations as an end in themselves. If you remember, one of the first foreign policy goals was a historic reset with the Muslim world and the Cairo Speech. How could an American president "reset" relations with the Middle East without pursuing Israeli/Palestinian peace. It was intended as a gesture to help him reach out, but the whole strategy behind it was never really fleshed out (much like the Iraq War under Bush). Good intentions obscured the immense challenges that would accompany the peace process. In a phrase, Obama was "mugged by reality."

The Israelis (35% of the blame)
While the Obama team is mostly the blame, the Israeli administration under Netanyahu does share in this. His constant assertions as to what conditions a future Palestinian state would have to have placed on it (no military, no control over airspace or air waves, and a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan valley) only gave the Palestinians more reasons to not even sit down with him. The partial settlement freeze was meek but it was the right move. The lack of East Jerusalem's inclusion was a sore spot for the Palestinians and it obviously signaled Israel's unwillingness to talk about the final status of Jerusalem. From most of the Israeli media reports, it was obvious that the Israelis were generally unwilling throughout the 18 lackluster months to discuss any substantive issues and instead wanted to talk endlessly about unhelpful issues that would neither build trust nor get the parties any closer to an agreement. I don't honestly blame the Israelis for not extending the 10-month partial settlement freeze. No progress had been made in talks during those months (partly due to their stalling) and the U.S. lacked a cogent strategy going forward. It seemed like political suicide to keep going along with Obama's all-but-failed peace process any further and Netanyahu did what was best for him politically. How can you blame him? Finally, one thing you can blame Netanyahu for is his constant assertion that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state before any peace negotiations could be completed. It's unhelpful, unnecessary, and was meant to be a stalling tactic with Abbas. Abbas countered this demand by simply reiterating that it was not the place of the Palestinian Authority to comment on the identity of foreign states. Good for him. The PLO and PA recognized Israel long ago and it's senseless and unhelpful for them to recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state. The U.S. government doesn't formally recognize Israel that way, why ask it of the Palestinians?

The Palestinians (15% of the blame)
The Palestinians, of course, share in the blame. They stalled for months after the start of the partial settlement freeze because it did not include East Jerusalem and there were still concerns over whether any substantive issues would be discussed (no.) I understand their reasoning for stalling, and it makes a decent amount of sense, but in the interest of serious peace negotiations, they should have swallowed their pride and hit the negotiating table months earlier. The early peace process Obama administration was easily the friendliest American administration they'll ever see and they should have shown that they were fully committed. Their stalling didn't win them any benefits for their  Palestinian constituents and rushed Obama's team to try and cram more and more into the few months they had before the freeze expired. Peace takes courage and Abbas showed very little.

And there you have it, my rundown for who's to blame for the failure of the Obama peace process. Apparently the parties are going to move back to U.S. mediated proximity talks. The Israelis, Palestinians, and Obama administration can still redeem themselves, but I find it extraordinarily unlikely that they'll behave themselves, make smart decisions, and be courageous for the sake of peace. The Israelis and Palestinians need to refrain from taking needlessly antagonistic actions towards each other and the Americans need to make a final status proposal and develop a cogent proximity talks strategy. Time will tell...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

With the peace process dead, the Israelis are not even trying to make sense

The Washington Post's article on the Obama administration's decision to give up on an extension of the partial settlement freeze is actually quite good, and it features a number of rather telling (and even humorous) quotes.

"What me? I stopped making sense years ago."
First you have Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat cautioning both the U.S. and Israel about what the total failure of yet another peace process might do to their already waning credibility: "If you cannot have [Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu] stop settlements for a few months, what do you expect to get out of him on Jerusalem or the 1967 borders. I think Mr. Netanyahu knows the consequences for the American administration's credibility in the region.''

Of course by that Erekat knows that lack of progress on Israel/Palestine peace only strengthens Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, all three of who gain notoriety and support by continuously pointing to the conflict to bolster their claims that only militancy can solve the region's problems and that the U.S. is unable to stand up to Israel, regardless of the issue.

Next, you have an extremely bizarre line from an unnamed Israeli official that makes absolutely no sense given the topic we're discussing. It's almost as if he was asked about something entirely different and the Post simply threw his lines into this article: "As we go into this next stage of the peace process, we think the chances of it succeeding are even greater because of the close coordination with the United States.''

What!? That quote doesn't even attempt to make sense. What "next stage of the peace process" is this joker even talking about? And furthermore, how could anyone in their right mind think that the chances of a negotiated two-state solution succeeding are now higher rather than lower after another total peace process failure? I'm not quite sure what this official is even talking about concerning the "close coordination with the United States." From what I've read it sounds like the U.S. pretty much signaled it's intent to extricate itself from this recent round of negotiations, pulled the humiliating offers to the Israelis off the table, and just decided to continue releasing lukewarm statements noting their "concern" over settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Of course, because no article on the peace process would be complete without a heavyweight of status quo thinking weighing in, Aaron David Miller was interviewed and one vague, contradictory line to pad out the piece. I've read his exact, "focusing on freezing settlements was always the wrong decision" line close to a half-dozen times now and I still think it's disingenuous given what he's said about the failure of Camp David and how he thinks this mess needs to be worked out. If you'll remember, Miller was the former U.S. negotiator involved with the 2000 Camp David talks that lamented that the U.S. was not a good partial mediator for Middle East peace because it had a tendency to act as Israel's lawyer. He also remarked, perhaps more importantly, that one of the biggest failures of the U.S. and Israeli negotiators during Camp David was their inability to come to terms with just how important an issue continued settlement growth (both in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) was for the Palestinians. They wanted it stopped in no uncertain terms, especially while they were negotiating. But despite Miller's assertions that the settlements are a huge thorn in the Palestinians' side and that the U.S. in the past had failed to realize this, he's back to claiming the Obama administration was boneheaded for trying to get a settlement freeze as a part of the current negotiations.

I might be a bit harsh on Aaron David Miller. When I last saw him (during a panel discussion at the Wilson Center), he seemed pretty much devoid of any hope for a negotiated two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, and instead of being contradictory with his recent statements, perhaps he truly believes that the Obama administration should not have even tried to bring the parties together, regardless of whether or not his focus was on a settlement freeze. I have not actually heard him say that, but maybe it's what he's thinking or muttering privately, but just not yet ready to say publicly.

The WaPo article is relatively good, though I'm not sure the writer fully grasps some of the very big issues that  she's got her hands on. In one of the last paragraphs, almost as an afterthought Ms. Zacharia drops the bomb that the Palestinians are seriously considering asking the U.S. to formally recognize the State of Palestine, an act Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay did less than a week ago.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Obama-Clinton-Mitchell Peace Talks are Over

The Obama administration officially gave up on its pursuit to seduce Israel to halt settlements in order to continue the most recent round of stalled peace talk earlier today. The New York Times of course tells its readers that talks between Israel and the Palestinians are "in limbo" when in reality the Obama-Clinton-Mitchell team has simply allowed the curtain to close on yet another long, boring, and useless act of the Israel-Palestine peace process.

"Don't look at me, it's not my fault!"
The State Department (unnamed sources of course) explained that the decision was made based on the fact that, despite the Obama administration's package of bribes intended to sway Netanyahu and his cabinet into extending the settlement "freeze", Bibi has been unable (or unwilling) to sway his cabinet to back the extension. Furthermore, the State sources interviewed by the Times actually got a bit candid and explained that American negotiators do not actually have any confidence that the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to come to an agreement on "core issues" in 90 days before the need would once again arise to sign another blank check over to Israel for the pleasure of sitting with both sides at the same table.

Although the article does refer to "issues" in the plural, State previously indicated that the goal of the 90-day extension was to get an agreement on borders (not including Jerusalem) so that continuous negotiations over settlements so that negotiations over peace could continue would not be needed. Most knowledgeable observers were surprised that, given the lack of progress so far in this round of talks, the Obama administration seriously believed borders could be sufficiently worked out in a mere 90 days. The formal end of Obama's first try at Israel/Palestine peacemaking and his inability to achieve any progress comes at no surprise. Although the Cairo Speech and the appointment of former Senator George Mitchell was cause for some initial hope, three things became immediately clear: 1.) Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was not willing to propose a solution that went further to address Palestinian desires than the meek 2000 Camp David offer because his vision of a Palestinian state included so many conditions on sovereignty and statehood that it made a complete mockery to even refer to what he had in mind for the Palestinians as a "state"; 2.) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, ruling by decree as his term expired nearly two years ago, did not have the political capital or domestic support to continue negotiating without receiving solid improvements on the ground with regard to West Bank closures, settlement expansion, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip; and 3.) President Obama's team, including veteran peacemaker George Mitchell, lacked a clear vision for both how negotiations should go and the outcome of such negotiations. The President's vision for peacemaking involved nothing more than repeating the "two states for two peoples" mantra and asking Israel very politely if they could hold off just a bit on the continued expansion of settlements (though they did not much seem to mind about East Jerusalem settlement expansion).

So what do we call Obama's first Israel/Palestine peace process? Clinton had Camp David and G.W. Bush had Annapolis, but there's no clear consensus on what to call Obama's first (and perhaps last) failed attempt at peace. Should we call it the Mitchell talks, and tarnish the man's good peacemaking name? The talks never really got a good geographic location, so naming it after that is out of the question. In the absence of any other suggestions I submit that we simply call it the Obama peace process. He started it with his appointment of Mitchell and his Cairo speech to "restart" relations with the Muslim world and he ended it with his huge and disgraceful bribe to Israel in an attempted exchange for a paltry 90 days of partial settlement freeze in the West Bank. Obama certainly had plenty else to do, both domestically and in foreign policy, aside from sticking his neck out for the elusive Israel/Palestine peace, but I think if you decide to make a run at the peace process, you have to either make time to really become involved in what's going on, or you have to appoint someone with enough clout and fortitude to knock some heads together and get things done. My opinion is that he initially decided to get involved and put his best foot forward, appointing Mitchell to be his man on the ground, but soon lost interest when it proved that just getting the two parties to talk would be a major headache. After a few months he basically left Mitchell out to dry while Obama became preoccupied with other matters. When the whole process nearly fell apart, he paid lip service to getting things back up and running and told Secretary of State Clinton to become more involved. Of course in the end, none of it mattered because neither Clinton, Mitchell, (and perhaps even Obama) had to guts, political capital, or diplomatic tools to get mean with the Palestinians or Israelis when they held things up and push everyone back on track. Mistakes were made, Netanyahu and Abbas acted petulantly as expected, but this process was Obama's baby and the failure lies predominantly on his shoulders, so I'm henceforth calling this the Obama peace process. The moral here is simple: don't start a peace process in the Holy Land if you don't actually have the time, tools, and vision to see it through to a final agreement.

Tomorrow on the blog I'll answer two other big questions that always accompany a peace talk failure: Who is to blame? and What's next? Don't miss out!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Casual Friday: The Best Defense Edition

Welcome to my first Casual Friday blog post, a post specifically not about Israel/Palestine. I'm hoping to begin to delve a little deeper into other things that interest me in weekly Friday posts, including U.S. domestic politics, DC life, ice hockey, or anything that tickles my fancy come Friday morning. Today's topic: my favorite National Hockey League club the Colorado Avalanche and their recent trades.

Colby Cohen during his days at Boston University (Creative Commons)
The Avs have been facing some pretty serious injury woes this season, with  four men out due to concussions at one point and their two of their three-man top line out (T.J. Galiardi with a broken wrist and Chris Stewart with a broken hand). However, they have been surprisingly successful calling up young minor league players from their American Hockey League affiliate the Lake Erie Monsters. The most impressive call ups have been defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (who has seemingly earned a permanent spot on the Avs' lineup) and forwards Greg Mauldin and Kevin Porter.

To fill some gaps in the offense and to apparently confuse the heck out of Denver hockey fans, Colorado made two trades in the past week. The first sent Colorado prospect defenseman Colby Cohen to the Boston Bruins for fifth-year defenseman Matt Hunwick. The following day Colorado sent veteran defenseman Scott Hannan to the Washington Capitals for speedy winger Tomas Fleischmann.

I actually quite like the Fleischmann-Hannan trade. Injury-plagued, Colorado does need a solid NHL winger with a decent number of games under his belt. His scoring totals have been rather on the low end this year (only 4 goals and 6 assists in 23 games), but a change of locale might just prove to be the swift kick in the pants Fleischmann needs. The Czech winger also fits in nicely with Colorado's fast transition playing style, so it should be interesting to see if he ups his scoring totals or turns out to be a dud. The Denver Post reported this morning that Fleischmann will play tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes and will skate on the Avs' second line with Matt Duchene and David Jones, two quick, explosive players that Fleischmann should be able to work well with.

Now for a bit of criticism: I flat out do not understand the Hunwick-Cohen trade, especially now that Hannan has been sent to Washington. Early on in the season Colorado traded a young prospect forward to Montreal for a big, bad defenseman in Ryan O'Byrne, and it made a great deal of sense because one of the Avs' biggest weaknesses is their size and  toughness, especially their defensemen. Colorado relies, just as they do with forwards, on quick, relatively small offensive-minded defensemen like John-Michael Liles, Kyle Cumiskey, and Kevin Shattenkirk. This is all well and good, but NHL teams need size and muscle on the back end to clear opposing players out from in front of the net, protect their star players, and intimidate the opposition. O'Byrne has been that guy, Foote was (sort-of) before going down with an injury, and Scott Hannan was (sort-of too). I don't have a problem trading Scott Hannan, even though he's a big, tough defenseman. He was originally brought to Colorado (and payed $4 million a year) to be a big, tough, in-your-face and under-your-skin defenseman. He only really satisfied the "big" part with the Avs and I have no problem sending him and his bloated contract to Washington. The problem with the Hunwick-Cohen trade is that Colby Cohen, in the few games he played with Colorado this year before being sent back down to Lake Erie, showed serious potential in becoming the caliber of defenseman Hannan was supposed to be. Matt Hunwick is a quick defenseman, but Colorado is already full to the rafters with quick, smaller d-men. He's frantic with the puck (not in a good way) and despite the fact he's played far more NHL games than Cohen I have a hard time believing he's a better all-around option to have as a defenseman. Cohen is a big, tough guy at 6'3'' and 220 pounds. Hunwick is scrappy, but he's 30 pounds lighter and 3 inches shorter than Cohen. He's kind of a mixture of O'Byrne and Liles, but Colorado already has those guys so their mutant offspring Hunwick is hardly needed in an Avs uniform.

I'm almost concerned that Cohen's trade means that the movers and shakers in Colorado think they've got a tough enough team and if true, I think they're making a huge mistake. The Avs do keep tough guys Cody McCormick and David Koci around, but they're not nearly enough. I have no faith in David Koci's ability to do anything except lose fights and the man was out with a jaw injury for nearly the first two months of the season. What Colorado needs to stay competitive (and avoid injuries) is another tough defenseman like Colby Cohen. They did right by me with bringing O'Byrne to town, but I'm still baffled by their decision to send Cohen to Boston in place of another mediocre defenseman in Matt Hunwick.