Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What To Do About Iran?

I have been meaning to write this post for a while but with the announcement that Germany and the five other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plan to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program I think it is even more fitting now. I agree that the current situation concerning Iran’s nuclear program is a serious one, but any response to this looming crisis other then a diplomatic response will ultimately result in failure and death.

There are a number of options available to the Unite States and the international community as a whole to deal with the Iranian nuclear crisis. They include economic sanctions, direct military action, or continued diplomatic negotiations.

Let me address each option directly. First and for most sanctions will accomplish nothing, aside from making those who impose the sanctions feel good about themselves. All one needs to do to back up this assumption is to look at the success of recent economic sanctions such as the 14 years of sanctions imposed on Burma, 40 years of sanctions imposed on Cuba, or the failed oil for food program that was part of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. With the exception of South African economic sanctions have done nothing to cause political change in the desired countries. And to add to the ineffective nature of economic sanctions is that our current administration is either incapable or unwilling to actually enforce these sanctions in respect to U.S. firms.

Further more, as pointed out in a New York Times editorial posted on the Global Policy Forum website, sanctions do nothing to weaken corrupt dictators and governments. Instead they serve to provide these corrupt leaders with a scapegoat for their citizens living conditions and only serve to empower them even more while causing greater death, disease, pain and suffering for the country’s citizens.

Utilizing a military option is the option which holds the greatest potential for failure, both concerning Iran and the region as a whole. With the announcement that Iran and Syria have allied, meaning that if one is attacked the other will also respond, utilizing military means to settle this crisis seems to be a poor decision. Add to this that The Times of London reported in early December that Israel is preparing its military for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran by the end of March. If Israel were to strike Iran’s uranium enrichment sites, even without U.S. approval, it would force the U.S. military into a conflict that would stretch from Syria to Pakistan. This is because it actually doesn’t really matter whether the U.S. or Israel performs the air strike, because Iran would retaliate, which also means Syria would retaliate. The problem is that Iran really can't retaliate against Israel, but it could easily retaliate against the United States, so if Israel carries out air strikes, it will be the United States that will suffer for it.

These retaliatory strikes from Iran against the United States will come predominantly in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both countries there are a great number of assets that will cause a lot of trouble for United States. And the last thing, the U.S. military wants in Iraq is a Shia revolt while they're dealing with a Sunni revolt, accompanied by increased hostilities between Syria and Israel. This would basically escalate hostilities in the region to a boiling point. Add to this the fact the U.S. military is already stretched extremely thin and you see a very bad scenario starting to form.

This is why I see no solution to the problem other then continued diplomatic talks and negotiations. But before I go into this I think it is very important to first look at why Iran feels they need a nuclear weapons program (even though they claim that isn’t their goal).

Iran’s main rational is directly related to Iran's experience during the Iraqi war, when the Iraqis were using weapons of mass destruction and the international community didn't lift a finger. In fact, countries like the United States helped Iraq use these weapons on Iran. The United States sold Iraq the materials for these weapons, then looked the other way and denied the fact that Iraq had been using them. From this experience, the Iranian decision makers have come to the conclusion that they need to be self-reliant. And if they're ever in a situation like that again, they would have a nuclear weapon in their arsenal as a deterrent.

One must also look at our current administrations brash and cowboy like foreign policy of preemption as another reason for the increased nuclear escalation in Iran. Take for example the presidents use of the term “axis of evil”. When decision makers in Iran are considering whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapons program they need only look at the difference between how the United States deals with countries who have nuclear capabilities compared to those who do not. The message is rather clear, North Korea has nuclear capabilities and the U.S. is not threatening it with possible military action, instead they are encouraging North Korea to engage in multilateral talks. Then look at how the policy of preemption was used on Iraq who does not possess nuclear capabilities and one’s conclusion as to why Iran wants nuclear weapons is rather simple.

Also stemming from the use of the term “axis of evil” the main casualty in Iran has been the democratic movement. By referring to Iran as part of the “axis of evil” the president has basically undercut the reformers in Iran, because the reformers were inevitably associated with good relations with United States under the Clinton and Carter administration. This was the main reason why a right wing radical government was elected in Iran in their most recent elections.

I think that everyone agrees that a Middle East free of nuclear weapons is a positive goal. In order to achieve this goal current negotiations’ concerning Iran’s nuclear programs are not enough. Instead the negotiating process must be one that engages the entire Middle East, with the most important country being Israel. In order for there to be any hope of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons their must be an honest and earnest attempt at nuclear nonproliferation in the region. The most obvious place to start would be with the country that currently has nuclear weapons, meaning Israel. I feel that it is very hypocritical of western nations to stress the importance of Iran not having nuclear weapons, while turning a blind eye to the nuclear capabilities of Israel. There can be no chance of sustainable long-term peace in the region so long as Israel is in possession of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there is no real need for Israel to have nuclear capabilities when considering that Israel is allied with the military might of both the United States and members of the European Union.

Until a serious attempt at real nuclear nonproliferation in the Middle East is made there can be no solution to the nuclear crisis of Iran, and failure to properly address these issues will ultimately result in the death and destruction of thousands upon thousands of people.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Kanye Was Right...at least about the people that support Bush

A new study has been released looking at racial biases that individual’s hold and how that compares to voting habits, and the results are not exactly surprising. The study found that those individuals who voted for President Bush hold a greater anti-black prejudice then those individuals who do not support the president. Here is a little bit of what the article had to say:

For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people's associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.

"Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Holly Drinkwine

Justin Bouen

I was dusting the internets today like a meth-addled housewife, and underneath the old oaken coffee table I found two former classmates working the local political scene. No doubt each is underpaid, overworked, and completely disrespected by anyone with authority but we'll at least give them a shoutout.

Drinkwine, although her name suggests otherwise, is an avowed tea-totaler. The City Hall Scoop found that she currently scrubs toilets in the campaign office with a toothbrush "was helping to organize the recent conference on fighting methamphetamine use in the area." Jealous? No. Proud...absolutely.

Buoen, now fully aware that he's arrived in the world of politics, "was spotted holding the coat [...] of Amy Klobuchar as she marched in the MLK parade." That picture of Beuon looks like it might have been taken in the leaning, water-soaked basement of a house on Dayton--big kegger, no women. We like Bouen. He's a smart and quiet guy, and we hope to hold his coat someday.

Now that each has received some mention in The City Hall Scoop as if they were small-time celebrities, it makes me twinge with resentment because the only reason I'm interested in politics in the first place is fame and kickbacks. So far I've paid almost $20,000 to the Humphrey Institute and I all have to show for it is one measly Google hit. No fame. No kickbacks. I don't even have a picture yet. Damn you, Beoun and Drinkwine...Damn you!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

See: Loop, Continuous

In Tennessee (made famous by the song of same name by the 90s hip-hop group "Arrested Development"), drug dealers are expected to pay a tax on their income from dealing illegal drugs. They pay this tax confidentially, and then get a stamp to verify they have paid. If they are arrested on drug charges without the stamp, they get charged with tax fraud as well. The revenue from this stamp "goes to fighting drugs."

I don't want to pass judgment on the great state of Tennessee, but seriously. What the Eff? Maybe I'm not understanding the program, and maybe they've already taken this into account, but wouldn't the money be better spent on things like education and early childhood development? By taxing the drug trade you legitimize it, and as such you might as well lose all pretexts and spend your money trying to help the groups most susceptible to drug abuse to become better educated so that they'll find better jobs and become less likely to turn to drugs. Maybe they do that anyway. I don't have all the facts, but I still think the article's hilarious.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Word Cloud

The entrepreneurial people over at SnapShirts have a program that combs any website and creates a word cloud of the most common words found on your site. Of course I looked up the PeP and got our word cloud. [snapshirts]

The Pie-Eyed Picayune

The Pie-Eyed Picayune

Monday, January 23, 2006

By The Way...

Is PiedPieper dead or something?

Kerry in '08 and Brokeback Mountain

Well, there has been a Kerry sighting again, this time over at the Daily Kos. Yes, that would be the same daily kos where Osama Bin Laden is less despised than George W. Bush. Somebody needs to put the man out of his misery.

I finally saw Brokeback Mountain this weekend and my wisdom was borne out. As expected, of course. Or almost. As I feared, it would be a wussy love story that featured grown men discussing their emotions and other flitty stuff. That said, it was a fairly compelling love story. Heath Ledger delivered an understated yet brilliant performance. Jake Gyllenhaal, well, he didn't drag down the movie too much. Apparently there was a rodeo, although, it was brief. I missed it because my girlfriend needed a soda. Being the stiff that I am I went and got her a soda. Thus missing the one real action scene. Heath Ledger did shoot a buck. That was cool.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mandingo's Imminent Return? Cue Madonna's "Ray of Light"

It's been a tough month and a half without the pied piper of crack cocaine. More than a few fans have sent me their well wishes and I send thanks to thee and thine. I assure you, dear readers, the Dingo has returned from a self-imposed, quasi-academic internment from deep within Satan's warm urethra--otherwise known as the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs.
Well, what is there to write on this fine, snow bereft evening? Nothing, naturally.

  • The Pied-Piper's favorite fanny duster, Patty Wetterling, goes all Loch Ness Monster on us and will announce her real intentions to run for the Senate on Friday [Strib]
  • Q: Yo, so what do ye be doin with yo' self? A: Yo, me rates nursin homes for a livin'. Mic check it...one two, one two. [Strib]
  • RIP Dean Zimmerman: Ye Hardly Knew Us. [PiPress]; [City Pages Blotter]
  • The Real Mandingo. Or a Google search for his shadowy identity. [imdb]; [VideoVista]; [iafd]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Governor Race/Vampire News

According to KSTP, our vampire-cum-gubernatorial candidate is in the midst of a bout with bloodlust...for civil rights litigation. It seems his wife, who happens to be a witch, was fired from her job as a bus driver because of her religion.

This is a bit of a sticky situation. On the one hand, I don't want someone's free exercise of religion being infringed, but I also don't want little Peter or little Madeline or little Hansel to be tempted by her gingerbread house in the middle of the woods, with its windows of sugar and cake-frosting eaves. If Gretel's not there to push the witch in the oven, what happens then? All I'm saying is that we don't want our children to be baked into pies.

Oddly enough, the candidate reckons that it's not his wife's witchiness that caused the Princeton school district to fire her, "They [the parents? the district?] are appalled at what I am, so they took it out on my wife."

As someone whose campaign platform includes impaling terrorists in front of the capitol, Mr. Sharkey is probably going to be a hard sell in the courtroom. And yes, he does at one point call his wife's dismissal a "witch hunt." Look it up. I'm serious.

Monday, January 16, 2006

School of Starbucks

From the New Yorker, some observations and remarks on the practices of Starbucks and its patrons from a professor writing a book about the chain. I'm sure Mandigo can corroborate it.

RESTAURANTS: Clicquot Club Cafe

The Birchwood Cafe has nothing to fear. The Clicquot Club Cafe may be its geographic competitor, but it is not its culinary one. Seward's newest coffee shop is an ambitious (if small) 24-seat operation that does many things right but unfortunately gets the big things wrong. After months and months of delay it is now open. But what an unfortunate time to open, in the dead of January. This sort of story - ambitious conceptions that were not carried out as planned - characterizes this conspicuous cafe on the corner of East 25th Street and 30th Avenue South.

What is nice about the CCC? For starters, the Club is ambitious. Currently, it plans to be open Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. till 9 p.m, Friday - Saturday 7:00 a.m. till 11 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. (Its website says it will be open at 6:30 a.m. on weekedays, but this conflicts with information on their menu). As with the Second Moon, the Club will fulfill the demand for a place to drink, read, write, talk, work and play until 11 p.m. on the weekends, and will supply food and drink well after 2 p.m. on Sundays, the closing time of the Birchwood.

Its menu consists of an impressive variety of coffee, espresso and tea drinks, along with sandwiches, paninis and other light fare. I had the BLT, which came with chips; it was decent. While the food and baked goods pale in comparison to the quality of the offerings at the Birchwood, particularly the Club's impoverished "breakfast" menu (I strain to even use that term to describe it), coffee and tea drinkers might enjoy the Club more than the Birchwood's great, but limited, drink menu.

I wish I could say more good things about it or be more charitable. After all, it only opened about a week ago, and many things, the kitchen fan system and the credit card scanner among them, are still to be installed. But I'm a hard critic.

What is disappointing about the CCC? The atmosphere. They tried too hard to be modern, if that is the right word to describe the solid wooden floors and chairs, the lighting system, and the clean colorfields that remind me of IKEA or those new Uptown apartments. The color scheme is unimaginative. The layout is bland and boxy. There is an oversized clock on one wall that shouldn't be there. The music is a bit too loud and sounds like some eclectic XM radio station. In short, it has no personality. Once one enters the box, it is as if one has left the Seward neighborhood and stepped into an airport, or something equally lacking in local color and distinctiveness. The Clicquot Club wasn't supposed to be this way, but it is.

However, I can see it evolving and adapting to Seward. Eventually there will be rotating art displays and interesting people behind the counter. Maybe even better music than the strange selection of hits from the 80s, 90s and today. It is hard to measure up to the Birchwood, that pillar of Seward.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Vampire Sets His Fangs On The Governor

In an interesting turn in Minnesota politics Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey, a former wrestler, a Satanic Dark Priest, Sanguinarian Vampyre and a Hecate Witch, has announced his candidacy for the governors office. According to Sharkey his Magikal Path name is Lord Ares.

If I were the governor I would watch out, it has been my experience that you don’t want to mess with angry Satan worshiping vampires. But check out “The Impaler’s” website it is pretty funny. Make sure to take a look at Jonathon's Darkside section and check out the picture of him and Jeb Bush. I guess the Bush family really is evil since they associate themselves with a Satanic Priest.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ariel Sharon is on God's hit list

Pat Robertson is at it again. This time, instead of telling the citizens of Dover that God's probably going to forsake them if there's a disaster, he diagnoses the cause of Ariel Sharon's stroke: Divine Vengeance (clip from mediamatters).

You see, Sharon's insistence on working out a compromise with the Palestinians is "dividing God's land," and God happens to be angry. Nevermind that the borders of modern-day Israel and the borders of Biblical Israel are not the same. Forget the fact that it took until 1948 to get it back on the map. None of that is really relevant, because Robertson has found another way to tell people that God is out to get them if they don't interpret the Bible in the exact manner that Robertson believes it ought to be interpreted. Hooray.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gay Cowboys Kicking Ass and Asking Questions Later: at least for Awards Nominations

This just in, Brokeback Mountain (not to be confused with my starring feature "Bareback Mountain") has garnered several SAG (Screen Actors Guild-of which Ronal Reagan was once the president) Awards. SAG is often considered a solid Oscar predictor. I just am glad that hollywood actors had the good sense not to name their union the Film Actors Guild a la Team America. Anyhow, I made an earlier post about the movie bitching about films about gay cowboys and how they never have enough action (though, Brokeback Mountain is the only gay cowboy movie I know of and am yet to see it). These award nominations nearly offer total confirmation of my original fear. However, I will still go watch the movie even if it is not really a true Western (definitions provided in orginal post: see thing #1 and thing #2).

P.S. I am yet to have any takers on my Gay Ninja film concept.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Marion Barry Robbed at Gunpoint

For those of you that are not familiar with Washington, D.C., Marion Barry is our infamous former mayor who was incarcerated after being videotaping smoking crack with hookers. Of course this did not stop him from getting re-elected. My question is: was Barry trying to score a rock or a trick when he got robbed?...To be continued.

Congressional Republicans Set to Collectively Piss Their Pants

Jack Abramoff Pleads Guilty.