Monday, July 31, 2006

Sustainable Peace: An Augustinian View

Just as those who suffer the calamities of war live in hope of the future, President Bush, looking forward, hopes to see war in the Middle East make a long, lasting, sustainable peace emerge. For what is the ultimate purpose of war if not peace? But both sides desire to fight to gain peace with glory, that is, through victory. After all, wars are fought to be won, no less. When one side conquers the other there will be peace.

But it will not be sustainable, for such peace is a poetical fiction, unavailable on earth. Peace on earth is always a doubtful good in the sense that it always admits of either improvement or increase, and so men who wish to disturb the present peace do so not because they hate peace, but because they desire the present peace to be exchanged for one that better suits their wishes. Thus it is that the major disturbers of peace are often those who claim to be upholding it.

The Middle East will enjoy unbroken peace so long as neighboring peoples refrain from attacking each other. But no country, not even the U.S., feels that it possesses its dominion so securely as not to fear attack by its enemies. As long as there is this dread of attack, the earth will never be a dwelling place of lasting peace and security. On earth, ceasefire is the best peace available.

Friday, July 28, 2006

When to Spot an American Outdoors

Americans spend most of their time indoors. And one can make a pretty good generalization about when Americans venture out of their climate controlled environments. As political scientist Sebastian de Grazia forecasted in his Of Time, Work, and Leisure (1962):
Together, indoor work and indoor at-homeness [after work, as well as indoor free-time in general] may make the American timorous of outdoor temperatures below 60º or above 85ºF. Certainly his ingenuity at the technology of central and individual unit heating makes it difficult to feel cold in America without deliberately going ice skating, or being foolhardy enough to take a walk instead of a ride on a wintry Sunday. He is somewhat better at withstanding heat and humidity than cold, but with the coupled heating and cooling systems now appearing it won't be long before he feels suffocated on the un-air-conditioned summer street. (184-185)

Pie-Eyed Poll: Choose Your Own Adventure

With all precinct reporting (32 votes! Wo!), the Pie-Eyed Poll results are in for the week. The question: How do you think the Israel-Lebanon conflict will play out? The results:
  • Diplomatic solution brokered with help from the US - 6%
  • Diplomatic solution brokered without help from the US - 6%
  • Continued escalation resulting in Israeli occupation - 25%
  • Continued escalation drawing Syria and/or Iran into the conflict - 22%
  • World War III - 19%
  • Israeli withdrawal; Hezbollah disarmament; multi-ethnic drum circle on the border - 22%

Personally, my vote was for Israeli occupation, which now seems unlikely, but you never know. The sleeper favorite, though, really surprised me. Obviously, many of you in the Pie-Eyed Network are optimists who enjoy drum circles.

This week, we've got a related poll. With all that's going on in the world, we want to know "What's your favorite international crisis?" Vote early; vote often, PePpers!

Week in Review: The Silence is Deafening Edition

The lazy, hazy, dog days of summer are upon us, and the Pie-Eyed Krewe is feeling the effects. Sure, it's been a slow week...but what about the content? Marginal, as usual.
  • Anti-Everything offers everyone a chance to make an "informed decision" on the AG race, while Xtra throws down his endorsement from light-years away
  • Ilya comes out of the closet as a pedant. As if we didn't know...
  • AFF comes back with a vengeance, discussing the finer points of keeping prisoners alive in order to kill them
  • The first Pie-Eyed Party consisted of three contributors, two baskets of free popcorn, some condescending laughter at those "other" people participating in a trivia game, and one-and-a-half beers shared among all
  • A Green Cowboy seeks to resolutely crush those who live on the coasts
  • Ilya, Maureen Dowd, and yet another "zing" ... weird

MOVIES/BOOKS: Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"; Schnitzler's "Dream Story"

Stanley Kubrick's last masterpiece, "Eyes Wide Shut," released after his death in 1999, did not draw great praise from film critics; like so many overly-hyped movies, it opened with great expectations—sparked by the great secrecy surrounding its production—that it was bound to disappoint. In America, the unreal yet worldly orgy scenes were censored so the movie would earn an 'R' rating. Unfortunately, many critics failed to understand that those scenes were not meant to be scary or charged with sexual energy; they were meant to be strange and phantomlike, seeing as Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) found himself in a large mansion among lunatics? conspirators? some religious sect? jokers? We never really know. To see the uncensored, 'NC-17' version, one must obtain the European version, as the European film industry in contrast to Hollywood is more mature about sex on the silver screen. As NYT critic Elvis Mitchell observed, "A foreigner judging the United States by its films would think Americans spend more time running from exploding fireballs than having sex." Indeed, when is the last time you saw a good movie about sex?

"Eyes Wide Shut" is based on Arthur Schnitzler's novella, Traumnovelle ("Dream Story"). Kubrick's is a story about erotic desire and fidelity, whose primary lesson is that, as Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) says at the end of the movie, "dreams are never merely dreams." We come away from the movie questioning the reality of Dr. Bill's ostensibly real adventure consisting in a succession of sexual encounters in a world that feels more and more unreal. And in the second half of the movie, Dr. Bill himself resolves to clear up the mystery of his adventure, to find some meaning in what he has witnessed. Faithful to Schnitzler's novella, Kubrick troubles the distinction between dreams and reality, showing that reality is never entirely real, just as dreams attend and belong to our reality.

Like so many of Kubrick's movies, you have to watch them over and over again to see the things that are not readily apparent. For instance, the experiences of both Dr. Bill and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), testify to the theme of the sudden power of male sexuality over females. This theme is spelled out more explicitly in "Dream Story" than in the movie. As Schnitzler writes, "there may be hours or nights, he thought, in which some strange, irresistible charm emanates from men who under normal circumstances have no special power over the other sex."

If you haven't seen the movie, see it; if you have, see it again.

Xtra's Challenge; Pied's Retort

In the comments of my post last week on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's essay in the book A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law, our eminent Xtra challenged my assertion that Scalia's dissent in Romer v. Evans contained what I refer to as a gay conspiracy theory. In the same vein as Justice Scalia, I dissent. A selection of quotes from Scalia's dissent in that very intriguing case:
"The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite. [Amendment 2 of the Colorado state constitution] is not the manifestation of a 'bare desire to harm' homosexuals, but is rather a modest attempt [to] preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politcally powerful minority to revise those mores through the use of the law..." Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620, 636 (1996).

“The Court's opinion contains grim, disapproving hints that Coloradans have been guilty of "animus" or "animosity" toward homosexuality, as though that has been established as un-American. Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible--murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals--and could exhibit even "animus" toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of "animus" at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct …” Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620, 644 (1996).

"The problem (a problem, that is, for those who wish to retain social disapprobation of homosexuality) is that, because those who engage in homosexual conduct tend to reside in disproportionate numbers in certain communities … have high disposable income …
and, of course, care about homosexual-rights issues much more ardently than the public at large, they possess political power much greater than their numbers, both locally and statewide. Quite understandably, they devote this political power to achieving not merely a grudging social toleration, but full social acceptance, of homosexuality.” Romer v. Evans 517 U.S. 620, 645, (1996).


First, some background about this case. Colorado had passed Amendment 2, which essentially allowed landlords, employers, and other similarly appointed folks to deny homosexuals housing, jobs, etc. based on their sexual orientation. In the majority opinion striking down the amendment, Justice Anthony Kennedy applied minimal, rational-basis review citing the fact that it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Obviously, there was much more involved in this case than I'm willing to discuss here, but that's the gist of it.

Scalia, in dissent with Rehnquist and Thomas, does three things here:

First, he attempts to turn the law on its head by proclaiming that the Colorado amendment didn't deny equal protection, but rather that it prevented homosexuals from obtaining "preferential treatment." This, of course, is a complete farce. As Kennedy pointed out, the law's single objective was to deny protection to a class of individuals based solely on a single trait.

Second, Scalia attempts to paint a picture of homosexuals as a politically powerful minority that does not need equal protection. Scalia appears to believe homosexuals strategically amass themselves and their wealth in order to create a favorable social climate throughout the nation.

Finally, as many conservatives often do, Scalia compares homosexuality to polygamy and bestiality, trying to make a connection that allowing equal protection to homosexuals will open the door to equal protection to all sorts of other "conduct" that society morally disapproves. It is not homsexuals, Scalia asserts, that he has a problem with, it is homosexual conduct.

Similar arguments, of course, have been used throughout the ages to justify unequal and, in fact, immoral, treatment of disfavored minority groups. In several passages of Scalia's dissent, one could easily substitute "homosexual" and "homosexual conduct" with "Jew," "Asian," "race," or "religion." Scalia reaches for the moral high ground, as most arrogant social conservatives do, but it doesn't take much searching to find his crass and homophobic message.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Zinger: "It's not even like watching paint dry..."

From Dowd's latest column, "The Immutable President":

That’s what’s so frustrating about watching him [G.W. Bush] deal — or not deal — with Iraq and Lebanon. There’s almost nothing to watch. It’s not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It’s like watching dry paint.


Zing!

For a definition of a Zinger go here, for Dowd's previous zinger, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quit building on the coasts, dammit!

July's National Geographic magazine had a feature story on the increasing degradation of our nation's coasts, particularly in light of the impending boomer retirement.

Today's NYTimes had an article about climate researchers who disagree on the importance of human-caused climate change in hurricane trends, but who all agree that our country is building too much too fast on the coasts. These trends are encouraged by friendly disaster insurance created through political pressure.

This isn't neuroscience, theoretical ecology, rocket science, or even a challenging rubik's cube. This is straightforward: our coasts are important, and they are delicate.

As the interface between two ecosystems - terrestrial and aquatic - our coasts are critically important for our ecological health (remember, we are part of these ecosystems just as much as seaweed, horseshoe crabs, squirrels and beetles). The coasts are also extremely dynamic...a simple example: beaches are supposed to be destroyed during storms, a process balanced by slow rebuilding during times of gentle wave action.

Human construction to interrupt natural processes like beach building, tidal movement, wetland migration, barrier island formation, etc, is going to screw up the coast. No two ways about it. We need to get serious about mitigating our coastal damage, and being thoughtful about new construction.

Khrushchev's shoe, Ivan Drago, Hunt for Red October...

The region of the world that was home to the former Soviet Union has, unfortunately, a stereotyped identity in the minds of many Americans. A certain interpretation of the iron-fisted strength of the "motherland."

In the news on NPR this morning, there was a story on growing tension at the Russia/Georgia border, where a local warlord has declared an uprising against Georgia. Georgia claims this warlord is being supported by Russia. Russia has warned Georgia that it will not tolerate instability near its borders.

The Georgian president (or a spokesperson - it was hard to tell) had this to say about the warlord and his nascent uprising (I'm trying for verbatim, but give me a little slack):

"The revolution will be resolutely crushed...the only kind of negotiations I can make will be for the size of their cells..the president and his team will make their mothers weep."

You can't make this up.

Pie-Eyed Party: Tonight at Tracy's Bar and Saloon


Who: PeP editors, hangers-on, and assorted local dignitaries
What: A field trip to the virtual center of the PeP Cosmos, Tracy's Bar and Saloon
Why: Our most lettered contributor, "Ilya", has just finished his mid-degree exams
When: 'Round 9pm tonight
Where: 2207 East Franklin Avenue; Minneapolis, MN 55404

Also, since the commenters at this here blog (those few who don't include ourselves) provide about 75% of the enjoyment of writing this thing, we'd like to say thanks and share a drink. See you tonight!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saddam hospitalized, fed with tube


That's the actual Strib headline currently gracing the front page (though not front and center) of the dot-com.

There's a certain irony about giving Hussein the 'ol Fristy McDoctor Schiavo treatment. Because of his hunger strike, he's too weak to go through the trial that will ultimately lead to his hanging. So he gets put on a feeding tube to give him strength back. So we can kill him.

The fact that we can't allow him to starve himself to death is an insight into the way the community perceives justice. If he were to starve himself, it would mean that he had the agency and the power to do so. The courts and the justice system were powerless to stop his agency. Yet, because we want justice--or some form of closure, perhaps--we are forced to go through the farce of saving him so we can kill him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Phraseology: Pedantic

Though I've used Mandingo's "Phraseology" posts as occasions to question his linguistic competence, and more generally to make cheap shots at his pie-eyed posts, today I'll do him the honor of considering his recent post as worthy of this piece of phraseology. Besides, someone has got to keep an eye on the phraseology of the self-proclaimed phraseologist.

Before leaving from Minneapolis to D.C., Mandingo shot off a quick "ripost" to my "pedantic" remarks about the very definition of "phraseology." "Pedantic" was an apt word to use there. As Thomas Wolfe wrote in his short story "A Portrait of Bascom Hawke,"
there was something sneering and pedantical in the way he pronounced each word, biting it off with a prim, nasal and heavily accented enunciation in the manner of certain pedants and purists who suggest by their pronunciation that language in the mouths of most people is vilely and carelessly treated, that each word has a precise, subtle, and careful meaning of its own, and that they—they alone—understand these matters.
My attitude, vain of language usage, cannot be spelled out any better than that.

Attention: Xtra's Endorsement for the Minnesota AG

Thanks to Anti's recent post, I feel adequately informed now to endorse Steve Kelley as the Democratic Nominee for Minnesota's Attorney General. Not that I would advise anyone to actually vote for him in the general election, he is a Democrat, and thus a National Socialist. In fact, I read a study that said all Democrats are Nazi's, and that explains a lot.

Pie-Eyed Poll: War in the Middle East

The results of our latest Pie-Eyed Poll shouldn't surprise me, but I guess they do in some ways. In answering the question of what should be done with North Korea's nukes, the largest response came in favor of multi-lateral regional talks. Fair enough. With 38 votes in, here are the results:
  • Nuke 'em - 5%
  • Defer to UN - 11%
  • Withdraw troops from South Korea - 8%
  • Push for multi-lateral talks - 37%
  • Push for bi-lateral talks - 24%
  • Nothing; wait patiently for Kim Jong Il to die - 16%

I encourage any and all to explain their rationale for voting as they did.

This week, in light of the tragic, muddled, and incredibly dangerous situation transpiring on the Israel-Lebanon border, I thought it would be worth asking our PePpers their thoughts on what should be done in the world's most volatile region. And, as always, vote early and vote often.

Jen Mattson

Alright here is what the candidate for attorney general looks like...now we can all make an informed decision based on her appearance.

Week in Review: A Day Without A Mandingo Edition

The Pie-Eyed Network continues to skyrocket onward and upward, despite Mandingo's sabbatical. Perhaps our next Pie-Eyed Poll should be a referendum on his adminstrative service...

BOOKS: Scathing Scalia

One of the most enjoyable parts about taking Constitutional Law in law school is reading and thinking about Antonin Scalia's dissents. (See Romer v. Evans; Lawrence v. Texas; U.S. v. Virginia) Justice Scalia is so vehement, so definitive in his beliefs, and often so colorful in his descriptions of legal situations and the logic behind his reasoning, that no matter where one stands on the political spectrum, one cannot help but give him credit. Of course, this is also a man who believes in a super-rich homosexual cabal that acts as a political juggernaut, pulling the strings of the nation's consciousness, and does not hesitate to explain such conspiracy theories in his dissents. Scalia is both a man to respect for his intellect, and seriously question for his motivation. Thus, I picked up a copy of A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law at the St. Paul Central Library.

The book, published in 1997, contains Scalia's essay "Common-Law Courts in a Civil-Law System: The Role of United States Federal Courts in Interpreting the Constitution and Laws," which was extracted from a series of Tanner Lectures at Princeton. His essay is followed by commentaries from Gordon Wood, Laurence Tribe, Mary Ann Glendon, and Ronald Dworkin.

Throughout the essay, Scalia lays out his theories of interpretation, in several different areas. He bemoans the state of statutory interpretation; discusses "textualism"; offers his disgust for the use of legislative history in modern court cases; and finally, looks at constitutional interpretation.

While Scalia eloquently puts forward these theories, much of what he writes ultimately falls apart. His notion is that we look for the "original meaning" of constitutional provisions, and then determine how that would apply to new circumstances of today. What's wrong with this, and what several of the commentators point out, is that this leaves much of the decision up to judicial discretion, which is precisely what Scalia loathes. Take free speech, for example. The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech [...]." That's it. It appears to my eyes, and to anyone with common sense, that the drafters of the Constitution deliberately left this - and other similar provisions like "equal protection under the laws" (which was drafted and added to the Constitution much later than the First Amendment)up for future interpretation to constantly changing situations. This particular point becomes even stronger when considering the fact that the constitutional drafters purposefully included specific language in other provisions, such as the make-up of our representative government.

There is much, of course, to think about in this book. The above argument is only the tip of the iceberg. Politically, I stand on very different ground than Justice Scalia, but I cannot just write him off, as many people who have never read a Supreme Court opinion (or the Constitution, for that matter) would like. No matter how you dice it, he has legitimate arguments that demand legitimate responses. Which why anyone who chooses to bitch about conservatism on the Supreme Court ought to read pay more attention.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Less than full Hitlers?

Making the rounds today through Minnesota, on the airwaves and at the U of MN, where I attended his lecture, John Dean, author, most recently, of “Conservatives Without Conscience,” wants everyone to know that Dick Cheney really calls the shots in the White House (“he lets Bush wake up every morning thinking he is president”), which he has set up in a very secretive, authoritarian manner. “It’s Nixon’s imperial presidency on steroids,” remarked Dean. With the prominence of Bush-Cheney and their followers, we are witnessing a revolution in conservatism, “a whole different political animal in these people.” Whereas his friend Barry Goldwater described the “Conscience of a Conservative,” Dean describes Conservatives who have forgotten the Conservative Conscience. And Dean thinks he has an explanation for what is going on with conservatism these days.

To make a long story short, Dean sees himself as a popularizer of a large body of technical social science research, dating back to WWII, concerned with the “Authoritarian Personality.” Dean argues that today’s conservatives, both the “base” of the Republican party as well as its leaders, exhibit textbook authoritarian personalities in their lemming-like willingness to obey authority— Bush/Cheney—wherever it takes them, never mind the consequences. The authoritarian personality is more or less attracted to others with the same character structure. While today’s conservatives blindly follow authority, says Dean, what is peculiar to this “type” is that they at the same time “think of themselves as running the world.” Hitler, he said (yes, he mentioned Hitler), was one of these types, albeit much more extreme. And he advances this thesis, discussed at length in his book, to explain why Fox News style conservatives exhibit so little “conscience” in their actions regarding spying, torture, civil liberties, presidential powers, and so forth.

Is there anything to this idea of “authoritarian” personality? Historically, the idea germinated from various investigations undertaken into Hitler’s psychological character as part of broader efforts to understand the psychology of Nazism. For instance, as Erich Fromm wrote in his book Escape from Freedom, “The love for the powerful and the hatred for the powerless which is so typical for the sado-masochistic character [the essence of the authoritarian character] explains a great deal of Hitler’s and his follower’s political actions” (230).

This level of analysis didn’t work then, and it’s not going to work now. We don’t face some monolithic force called “the authoritarian personality”; we face specific actors with specific agendas and ideologies that cannot be explained and summed up by saying that these people set aside their conscience and take refuge and comfort in authority. At best this describes something going on, but even so, it’s a very crude description. Dean shouldn’t be selling it, and I’m not buying it. Neither should you, dear readers.

President Bush on Freedom

Addressing the NAACP Annual Convention this morning, President Bush spoke of his commitment to see the blessings of freedom extended to every American. He called freedom “the most basic birthright,” identified its “unfolding” as the “unfinished” “story” of America, a story which “began with the founding promise of equality and justice and freedom for all men.” God, “the Creator,” he said, implanted “the desire for liberty in our hearts," and "also gives us the strength and wisdom to fulfill it.” In other words, Bush believes that God gave all people, not just Americans or Christians, the innate desire for liberty, as well as the means to satisfy this desire, and human history is the history of man's endeavor to become free. Everything about liberty here except its imperfect fulfillment in America is situated outside of human history—in Nature or in God—that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God's providence is also at work in political history, according to President Bush.

More importantly, as a way to understand history, this articulation is problematic in that it cannot help us understand the obstacles to the unfolding of freedom. It ignores the other forces that work through history, particularly the social forces set in play by one or another institutional form. Bush's determination to express his confidence in the innate desire of all peoples for liberty is so far from how the world works, that it amounts to whistling while the earth and the Middle East burn. Indeed, the more Bush talks about history as the progressive unfolding of freedom, the more he begins to sound like a preacher interested less in what is possible politically than in what God has in store for the world. No advancement in liberty has been made by leaving it up to God to act in its favor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Attorney General Maelstrom: The Day that was Yesterday

The epicenter of yesterday's local political earthquake was the steps of the State Capitol, the time just before noon. Matt Entenza, former minority leader of the Minnesota House and DFL-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Attorney General, dropped out of the race. This move set off a chain reaction, a mad scramble, and will prove to be a defining moment of Election 2006.

As a resident of Entenza's district - 64A in Saint Paul - I can tell you that I am more than a bit sad about this news. Despite the ridiculous assertions by Nick Coleman - what exactly do you know about conflicts of interest, Nick? - Entenza is a stand-up guy who honestly believes in Minnesota. I don't blame him for pulling out of the race; the accusations and insinuations over the past two weeks have been deafening, and I know I would not want to put my family through another four months of that. And Entenza's responses to those accusations were not what they should have been. But alas...

After the annoucement, however, came the craziness. The filing deadline was also yesterday, and Entenza's annoucement gave potential candidates just five hours to decide whether to run or not. Almost immediately, rumors circulated throughout the Minnesota political landscape. Who would step up to the plate? Some said Mike Freeman, others Steve Kelley, Bill Luther, David Lillehaug, Lori Swanson. Some lesser-knowns showed up also at the SecState's office. When the dust settled the only candidates with statewide recognition and the moxy to really pull through were Steve Kelley (who recently lost the endorsement for governor to Mike Hatch) and Bill Luther. Now, the state central committee must decide who gets the endorsement.

My personal endorsement goes to Steve Kelley. A patient, down-to-earth politician, Kelley has proved himself wise at the Capitol and willing stay above politics in favor of his constituents. A good Attorney General needs to be someone trustworthy, competent, and capable of skilled leadership. Kelley has proven this time and time again.

Also, as opposed to Coleman's baseless assertions, Kelley was not hand-picked by party elites. This was a mad dash, where candidates had to decide for themselves whether to shoot for the moon or not. That takes guts. Coleman, however, would have us all voting for Jennifer Mattson, who just finished law school three years ago. I'm sorry, Nick, but you need to know the law and how to lead in order to be AG.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is Israel A Terrorist State?

So the death toll from the escalating Israeli conflict continues to grow. As of this morning 215 people have died in Lebanon, 85 Palestinians have died in Gaza, and 24 Israelis have died in Northern Israel.

Add to this that the Israeli bombings have displaced more than 400,000 Lebanese residents from their homes and the World Health Organization expects the number of Lebanese residents displaced from their homes to reach 900,000 by the end of today.

I understand that every country has the right to defend themselves, but the more this situation escalates the more it appears that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is collective punishment on the Lebanese people rather then self-defense. Israel is punishing the Lebanese people because their government, in this very fragile democracy, is incapable of disarming Hezbollah, much like Israel after 22 years of occupation was never able to disarm Hezbollah.

Add to this collective punishment that Israel is basically destroying Lebanon’s entire infrastructure. Lebanon’s airports and seaports have been destroyed. Thirty-Eight roads have been cut off by bombs or shells and 42 bridges have been destroyed. Power stations, water-processing plants, grain silos and gas stations have also been targeted as well as communication and television antennas. In addition to the destruction of the countries infrastructure Israel is specifically targeting civilian neighborhoods. All of this is in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Even the Vatican is speaking out against Israel. A spokesperson for the Pope stated that Israel's right to self-defense "does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations."

Israel may also be in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act by using U.S.-made fighter planes and missiles to kill civilians and to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure. Defense experts say Israel has over five-hundred F-16 and F-15 fighter planes – all of them supplied by the United States.

So my question is what is the difference between terrorist acts, such as detonating a bomb in a coffee shop, and being a terrorist state? I think we would all agree that any specific targeting of civilians, like my example of a suicide bomber in an Israeli coffee shop, constitutes terrorism. So f the state of Israel is targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure then by definition doesn’t this constitute state terrorism.

I make the argument that Israel’s excessively harsh military response and the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure constitutes that Israel has become a terrorist state. Israel’s response to the kidnapping of two soldiers is basically the military equivalent of beating the shit out of someone with a baseball bat for stepping on your foot, an extreme and unnecessary response.

Dove-Hunting and the Story of the One-Issue Voter

I met a middle-aged, scraggly gray-haired woman this weekend when I was pressing the flesh on the steamy hot campaign trail. I engaged her in conversation about the upcoming election, and began a litany of accomplishments made in the past two legislative sessions. Increased funding for education, fighting for transportation, the defense of health care, etc., etc. The woman looked at me listlessly. She said:

"I don't care about any of that. My only concern is banning dove-hunting. I know a lot of people who are going to fight against dove-hunting, and we want a candidate who's going to fight with us. Where does your guy stand on dove-hunting?"

Uhhh. Not knowing where my candidate stands on dove-hunting, I offered some lit with his e-mail address. Someone will be happy to get back to her on that issue.

The incident, while humorous and odd, brings up a good question. In the face of so many other problems, what makes a person chuck it all and show concern only for doves? Why do one-issue voters exist, and what is their motivation? Also, if you were going to vote on just one issue, what would it be and why?

Discuss.

Jihad defined

Okay, on those same lines. I am relatively ignorant on the subject, but a world religions class and a book on the history of Islam (Reza Aslan's "No god but god") compel me to try and share what I understand of the subject.

The image of Islam as a "warrior religion" probably has roots in papal propaganda from the Christian Crusades. Back then, every religion was a religion "of the sword." Aslan's words: "Muslim armies that spread out of the Arabian Peninsula simply joined in the existing fracas; they neither created it nor defined it..."

The term Jihad has several meanings; the primary definition is that of an internal struggle of the soul to overcome sinful obstacles separating an individual from God. This struggle is often intertwined with external conditions, such as oppression by a state. Thus, a secondary meaning of Jihad is "any exertion against oppression or tyranny." The Qu'ran identifies war as either just or unjust, but never "holy war."

The evolution of this external Jihad led to the evolution of a code of conduct in times of war. This Islamic code includes: combatant/noncombatant distinctions, the outlawing of prisoner torture, the outlawing of sexual violence, the outlawing of the killing of diplomats, and the order to only fight defensively, not offensively. A code many nations certainly could heed.

The idea of killing nonbelievers and nonconverters defies much of Islamic belief according to the 13th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya. The Qu'ran says "there can be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) and "To you your religion; to me mine." (109:6). The prophet Mohammed believed that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all held different chapters of the one "mother book" of God, and that no chapter was correct alone.

The term Jihad, in the 20th century, was wrought into new definitions by individuals, not by the whole of Islam. I must already be on some government watch list, so I'm not going to go there. But I think it is important that we as a country understand just what we are up to in Iraq, including understanding the terrorists so often referred to in the "war on terror."

By the way, Iraq...

Yes, the war is still going on. And it does not appear to be getting any better.

Yesterday, depending on the news source, at least two American soldiers were killed. We are closing in on the loss of 3,000 American soldiers - Bush's dramatic 2003 proclamation on the aircraft carrier, that major combat operations are over and US and Allied forces had prevailed, no longer seems boastful and almost comedic.

Yesterday, depending on the news source, at least 45 Iraqi civilans were killed. We are closing in on the loss of tens of thousands of civilans, and an entire generation of a nation that will not be able to forget this conflict and whatever lessons they take from it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mandingo as National Socialist

Some time ago I loosened my grip on power over the Pie-Eyed Picayune - my brainchild - and bestowed administrative privileges to Mandingo (aka Herr Diktator) and his willow-o-wisp Mustache. In some of the necessary changes to the PeP, 'Dingo enabled comment moderation, thus stifling the speech of anyone not affiliated with the PeP. And this, my friends, was how the Reichstag was won. I've reasserted myself in the face of my protege, and taught him a worthy lesson with a fresh switch. Your voices will no longer be muzzled, PePpers. Herr Diktator ist tot.

The ever pedantic Ilya has chosen the sword. Short riposte.


I've tried over the past couple weeks to introduce a regularly occuring post about phrases/idioms/whatevers that I came across through tv, radio, casual convo, etc. When I sat down with the Board of Trustees and created the mission statement for the "Phraseology" post we didn't spell out a particular need to "attempt to justify [any] beliefs about language"
This whole Phraseology bit isn't supposed to be a deconstruction of the English language. I'm no Safire or, God forbid, Derrida. I'll be out of town on Friday, so I encourage you to pick up the gauntlet and make it your own.

Phraseology: "Phraseology"

"Hopefully, if I remember, I'll make 'Phraseology' an every Friday-thing where I recall an interesting phrase or word I came across throughout the week."—Mandingo

Phraseology (noun): Mandingo's attempt to justify his unjustifiable beliefs about language.

Eden Prairie?

CNNMoney.com (a credible source, if there ever was one) has named Eden Prairie, Minn., No. 10 on its list of Best Places to Live in the US. And you can live there too...for a down payment on the $300,000 average mortgage. I hope whoever said money can't buy happiness is helping Sisyphus push the rock.

Guv's Race: The Hutchinson Effect

Just a quick follow-up to the my post below about the governor's race. The Independence Party of Minnesota (aka the Party of the Body and the Mind, Jesse Ventura; aka the Party of the Buffalo) has put ex-Democrat Peter Hutchinson in the race. While Hutchinson's (and the rest of the Independence Party's) numbers are anemic, especially compared to the heyday of Ventura and Tim Penny, they are worth mentioning. Hutchinson currently polls at around 5 percent. That 5 percent is taken primarily out of anything Hatch musters. The word around town is that if Hutchinson secures 5-7 percent of the electorate in November, Pawlenty wins. If Hutchinson's support falls below that 5 percent, Hatch wins. Buckle your seatbelts, PePpers...it's going to be one heckuva fall.

(I'd also like to mention that the Green Party comes in at less than 2 percent, offering Ken Pentel, of Election 2002 fame, once again. I wouldn't mind seeing their numbers drop even further, as after this weekend I have lost considerable respect for one of their candidates, Jay Pond, who is running for the 5th Congressional seat. Pond is bar-none one of the most obnoxious human beings I've ever met. Pentel, on the other hand, is quite a decent chap.)
"Stop doin' this shit"

Even though we didn't scoop this story we might as well post it anyway. In case you didn't hear, W was caught using some Texas slang on the BBC. And that British reporter repeating the word shit live on the air. Just classic.

Hot, Hot, Heat

I am sorry but Minnesotans complaining about heat is like Washingtonians bitching about the cold. We have a high of 98 degrees and the air is so thick you can cut it. Dingo, welcome to D.C. because it just gets worse in August.

Summer in the City


Not enough has been made of the sultry weather here on the blog. I heard this morning on 830 WCCO that this morning's low temperature (usually recorded between 4-5am) dipped all the way down to 83 degrees. I woke up this morning and peeled off the sheets like Saran Wrap.

You might have figured as much, but when the going gets hot I usually head outside and engage in physical activity--against the wishes of meteorologists and doctors alike. Yesterday evening it was a three mile bike ride around my neighborhood and today it's a trip to the disc golf course up on 36.

Regardless, the recent spate of muggy heat has been a fine primer for my weeklong sojourn out to D.C. to find an apartment.

Hatch and Pawlenty: Neck-and-Neck

The same Minnesota Poll referenced below by Anti-Everything also showed the-one-the-only Teflon Tim Pawlenty running just about dead even with DFL challenger Mike Hatch. The spread is 43% Pawlenty and 41% Hatch. A few interesting things to note about these numbers:
  • As Lori Sturdevant noted in yesterday's Strib, the DFL candidates have had a rocky start this summer. From the inimical Keith Ellison, to the dust-up over a Hatch-Entenza feud, to the Ember Reichgott-Junge bitch-slap, us DFLers have not made things easy on ourselves, per usual. The poll, however, was conducted July 6-11, which was right in the thick of some of this bad press. Being that voters typically respond more negatively to candidates and parties in the throes of negative news, the numbers for Hatch and Klobuchar are helpful.
  • I'm very interested in the comparison of these two races. A lot of people support Klobuchar not only because of party, but because of profession (prosecutor) and gender (female). Both bode very well for her, especially against Kennedy, who the entire state watched demonize one of its most beloved icons, Patty Wetterling, two years ago. Hatch and Pawlenty, on the other hand, are both shrewd, seasoned politicians, who've already won statewide races. That may prove to be more of a slugfest.
  • It's also interesting to note that the Strib Minnesota Poll is one of the most accurate in the country. For whatever that's worth...

This is the 477th post on the Pie-Eyed Picayune

O! How I loathe my fellow Pie-Eyed contributors! A pox on thee!

Amy Takes The Lead

A new poll was released today by the Star Tribune looking at the upcoming Senate race between Amy Klobuchar and Mark Kennedy.

The poll found that 50% of respondents support Amy Klobuchar while 31% support Mark Kennedy.

My favorite part of this poll was the response from Mark Kennedy’s campaign where his press secretary stated that “given the Star Tribune poll's long and consistent track record of getting it wrong, we weren't exactly expecting good news. We're confident about where we're at this point in the campaign. We're hopeful the Democrats actually believe this stuff."

Also I believe this post is now number 476.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This is the 500th post on the Pie-Eyed Picayune

I guess you could say we're kind of a big deal.

"War on Terror" up for grabs

New York Times reporter Scott Shane ("Fighting Locally, Fighting Globally") shows that the phrase "War on Terror" has served as a convenient rationale to justify violent aggression by anyone against imminent threats because its meaning is totally up for grabs:
“Other countries dress their actions up as ‘the war on terror,’ and we have a hard time condemning it,” said Paul R. Pillar, a retired Central Intelligence Agency analyst who served as national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.
President Bush has of strategic necessity had to shift away from such a broad characterization of the enemy, Shane notes. Professor Stanley Fish ("Condemnation Without Absolutes") was prescient in pointing out, just over a month after September 11, 2001, that international terrorism is not our, or anybody's, enemy, and as long as we hold on to this conception, we deprive ourselves of the ability to determine the identity and whereabouts of our real enemies. A phrase such as The Global War on Terror (GWOT), explains Fish, "prevents us from making distinctions that would allow us to get a better picture of where we are and what we might do. If you think of yourself as the target of terrorism with a capital T, your opponent is everywhere and nowhere. But if you think of yourself as the target of a terrorist who comes from somewhere, even if he operates internationally, you can at least try to anticipate his future assaults."

As I wrote about a year ago ("Know Your Enemy"): "Metaphors and rhetoric matter because if we continue to speak about the war on terror in ambivalent terms, our language will continue to provide our enemy with secrecy, anonymity, and the ability to change identity at will."

You think this weather is hot?

As Governor Pawlenty and others make heavy weather about how hot it has been in Minnesota this week, we should bear in mind what excessive heat can really do to men:
Moreover, is it not a fact that excessive heat has brought men to such extremity of thirst that they have drunk human urine, and even their own?
(St. Augustine, City of God, Book XXII, Chapter 22)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sh*t and Fans

Alright well anyone who has watched the news or read a newspaper lately knows that the shit is about to hit the fan in the middle east.

But never fear, I have been watching CNN and just found out that Anderson Cooper has just arrived in Israel and will be broadcasting Anderson Cooper 360 live from Israel...thank God.

Touché

NYT: "The firebrand Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said on today that Iraqis would not “sit by with folded hands” while Israel struck at Lebanon, signaling a possible increase in attacks from his mercurial militia, the Mahdi Army. Mr. Sadr made it clear in a written statement that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America is the largest foreign ally of Israel."

What have we heard from Bush? What have we heard from Arendt? Either you're with us or against us—for politics is not like the nursery, there is no such thing as neutrality. Mr. Sadr is right.

Pie-Eyed Poll

Apparently, our vast PePper Network considers Anti-Everything their favorite Pie-Eyed Contributor, despite a dormancy nearly rivaling PiedPiper's winter doldrum. This proves one of two things: (a) Anti-Everything has more money for bribes than the other contributors; or (b) Anti-Everything's friends have less to do at work than he did this week. The results (out of 55 votes):

  • Anti-Everything - 29%
  • XtraChromosomeConservative - 18%
  • PiedPiper - 16%
  • Ilya - 15%
  • Mandingo, GreeCe, AFF - 7%

Hopefully, our next poll will be cleaner. The question is: What should we do about North Korea's nukes? As the saying goes, vote early; vote often...and you can also vote for multiple answers. Cast your ballot today!

Two Sides of a Coin

Google News headline 1:
Nebraskas Too Broad Marriage Amendment Ruled Constitutional

Google News headline 2:
Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Nebraska Anti-Gay Amendment

The first headline is from the Christian Public Relations webpage, WDC media. The second is from 365Gay.com. The fact that our blog now links to 365Gay.com will bring both a boycott by the Christian Coalition and lots and lots of window treatments.

Nebraska's law says that homosexuals have no way to legally recognize their relationship, short of starting a "I'm gay with Pedro" club.

I am not sure about the details of the opinion, however according to the Christian site the court "took note of the large majority" of voters who said Nay on the sodomy. However, I was under the opinion that the job of the United States courts was not to take into account the will of the majority, but instead to protect the Constitution. Having said that, I'm not enough of a law scholar to tell you whether the Equal Protection Clause should allow homosexuals to marry, as the usual argument goes, I am enough of a law scholar to tell you that miscegenation was a crime in Virginia until 1967, 3 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Week in Review: Casual Friday Edition

The combination of skank-nasty heat and Friday giddiness has apparently caused our Pie-Eyed Contributors to relax both language and grammar standards. After two days of conversation covering foreign policy issues with North Korea and environmental policy, we've devolved considerably. Sure, we can't be serious all the time, but can't we be decent? A review:

Looking ahead: If you've got nothing better to do this weekend than melt into a cesspool, feel free to join me at the Hopkins Raspberry Festival! I'll be sweating off so many pounds, I fully expect to be thinner than a wisp of Mandingo's Mustache come Sunday.

Phraseology: "Hotter than a witche's titty"

--in response to Ilya's question in the "comments" section of a previous post

My use of the construction "a witche's titty" is well-documented. It is now more legendary than Paul Bunyan & Pecos Bill. However, my usage of the phrase probably jumped the shark sometime back in high school. It no longer flies, the rickety old sonafobitch! With little value (say, a nickel or maybe a dime, in the currency of my humor) one would think that it would be tossed to the curb with a cardboard sign saying "Free. Please Take. God Bless!"

I use it still, at inappropriate times, as a solid standby. If nothing else, it generates a modest chuckle of sympathy from half, while the other more enlightened half stares bewildered as if to say, "is this guy really serious?" True, I use "it's colder than a witche's titty" more often, but I like to randomly mix up the sayings to see what happens. For example, "it's colder than a whisky dick outside." or "that door's locked up tighter than a coal digger's ass." You know. Just to be different, I guess.

Listen to Dingo's Playlist on Friday Afternoon. Part deux.

back from the co-op, mates!. i picked up 86 cents worth of salad greens, and paid $1.59 for an 8 oz. cup of cream of tomato basil soup. and you wonder how I keep up my physique. And following those five songs:

  1. genius/gza - liquid swords
  2. hi-fidelity dub sessions - horny dub (not that horny, sillies! the other horny.)
  3. medeski, martin, and wood - the dropper
  4. outkast - aquemini
  5. delinquent habits - lower east side

Listen to Dingo's Playlist on Friday Afternoon.


it's hotter than a witche's titty outside and i'm comtemplating a bike ride. but not after i take a lanky walk over to the co-op to pick up some mixed greens to accompany my medalliion of grilled pork. "it's hard out there for a mustache."
since igot my ipod (40 gb) for christmas i've been a somewhat lukewarm user. not that i don't absolutely love the thing it's just that i didn't get into a groove where it transforms into an appendage. right now, i have one of my playlists on. the first five songs:
  1. missy elliot-i can't stand the rain
  2. damien marley-welcome to jamrock
  3. outkast-spottieottiedopalicious
  4. wu tang clan-m.e.t.h.o.d man
  5. duke reid band-lock jaw

Douche Baggery

A few weeks ago the Senate voted down an amendment that would have raised the minimum wage for the first time in nine years. This was the 11th time since 1998 that the Senate rejected attempts to raise the minimum wage. The proposed increase would have raised the minimum wage from it’s current level of $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour.

Here are some facts about the minimum wage:

  • There are 7.3 million Americans working for the minimum wage.
  • 72% of minimum wage workers are adults.
  • The average worker brings home more than half of the family’s weekly income, a third bring home 100% of their families’ earnings and 60% of these workers are women, 760,000 are single mothers.
  • $5.15 an hour is a gross pay of $10,500 a year for full-time work, which is well below the poverty level.
  • The last increase in the minimum wage has been entirely eroded by inflation – the purchasing power of $5.15 today is the equivalent of $4.23 in 1997. In 1997 when the last increase took place it was raised from $4.25 an hour.

Interestingly a week prior to this vote the House approved $3,300 salary increase for all members of the house, this would be the seventh year in a row that members of the house have voted to increase their own salaries.

So apparently Congress feels they deserve an increase in pay, but that the working poor in America do not. Regardless of party I am giving all members of Congress the title of DOUCHE BAG for not getting this wage increase passed…it’s pathetic.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Marx?

"I am sure you can partially offset an increase in gas taxes with a cut in income taxes."

I think "offset" is the operative word. I think the phrase "cut in income taxes" threw you off.

Xtra, I had no idea

Raise taxes, reduce the State -- Xtra, I had no idea you were a fellow follower of Karl Marx. I should have known, given that you keep reminding us about your JOB.

It Was Only a Matter of Time...

Before Prince Pied finally realized that the $25 for a year's subscription of Newsweek is ill-advised. I did a google search (an internet search engine) of "Newsweek" and found a whole slew of covers from the past decade or so. If this latest issue is the "worst cover photo" and headline, just take a look at some past examples. I didn't look all that hard:


Where's GecCo in all of this?


A conversation about environmentalism and gas taxes without GitCo is like Kool-Aid without sugar.

Gas Taxes

There is essentially nothing inconsistent with my ideology or prior remarks with having a gas tax. Or for that matter, a much broader consumption tax or a partially broader carbon tax. I have advocated it in prior comments. Savings and consumption are in direct competition. Disincentives to consumption provide incentives to saving. The more one saves the less one needs government. A liberty enhancing proposition. That said, adding the gas tax to current tax rates would simply increase government, a liberty diminishing proposition. I am sure you can partially offset an increase in gas taxes with a cut in income taxes.

Dost mine ears d'ceive me?

Xtra...advocating a $1 per gallon gasoline tax? Based on the temperature outside, I've clearly died and gone to hell.

All in all, X, the greenies and the progressives (and a majority of both houses in the Minnesota Legislature) agree that a gas tax is one primary answer to the problem. Why? Because it generates income that can be used for more eco-friendly transportation options, while increasing reliance by people on those alternatives. So what's lacking? Political will and no-tax Republican rhetoric. As long as political obstacles are laid in front of solid, economical, and helpful policy proposals, little is capable.

Which brings me back to one of my original thoughts on this whole subject: Ultimately, reducing the effects of global warming and preserving the environment are extra-governmental problems. A gas tax would undoubtedly prove helpful; but, if a Critical Mass of individuals and businesses alter their lifestyles and practices (and these alterations are not large - it's a matter of biking, walking, taking public transportation, and/or turning off your unnecessary lights in your home, and/or purchasing more efficient appliances, etc., etc.) that begins a wave of change. Once sustainable and environment-friendly options are seen not only as a government concern (although, obviously, it must always be), but as economic and moral concerns, then we will see interesting things happen.

Captain Planet, He's My Hero

Can't we just raise the gas tax? There are all of these wonky green proposals floating around at anytime that move along the petty tyranny continuum of shaming people to stipulating every little potential human activity (think about waterless toilets, great idea till you figure out they suck). Increase the gas tax by a dollar a gallon, and I am guessing that we won't be talking so much about the ratio of SUVs to hybrids.

Go green or go home

Despite what may possibly be the worst cover photo (see right) and headline ("The New Greening of America: From Politics to Lifestyle, Why Saving the Environment is Suddenly Hot"), Newsweek has managed to put together an interesting survey of different ways conservation/environmentalism is changing the way people interact with and react to the environment.

The trap this article tries to avoid, and the trap most similar articles fall into, is that of providing merely anecdotal information, while failing to comprehend or offer a glimpse of the larger picture. Here, we find out that a woman who rides her bike and takes the bus on a 24-mile commute subtracts 15 pounds of potential carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere. That, of course, is 15 pounds out of the 1.7 billion tons of carbon produced annually by vehicles in the U.S.

This brings up an interesting question, that the author, Jerry Adler, issues forth toward the end: "Is the relevant statistic that sales of hybrid cars doubled last year to 200,000 - or that they were outsold by SUVs by a ratio of 23-1?"

Critical Mass on July 28th!



I just read my friend Laila's account of her participation in last month's incident-filled Critical Mass and it sounded like a doozy. For the unlettered, and there's a fair amount of you who read this blog, Critical Mass began as a monthly massing of bikers to spread the slogan "We Are Traffic". The first recognized event took place in (where else) San Francisco circa 1992. Perhaps they were also the genesis of the early 2000's fad, The Flash Mob. But CM's, unlike FM's, have a recognized political electricity.

Nowadays, they are apparently rather sane, organic get togethers. However, June's CM in Minneapolis was marred by arrests and alleged (there's that word again!) police brutality. Since I wasn't there, I'll defer to holisticgeek's interpretation of the situation.

I'm planning on this month's CM on the 28th of July that starts at the fountain in Loring Park. Since we all have new, or relatively new, bikes, The PeP faithful should show up en masse. We can even coordinate a look if you want. See you there!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BTW

Sorry that I haven't kept pace with my fellow bloggers. I have this obnoxious thing called a JOB!

Randomnimity

  • It's freakin' hot out. Days like today make me realize why I love Minnesota in December. I also wonder if it has anything to do with my scathing remarks concerning Al Gore's movie in a previous post. That man has some kind of Jedi mind control over this stuff...
  • Anti-Everything, Mandingo, and I clearly need to find something more productive and fulfilling in life, as evidenced by the sheer number of posts today.
  • Mandingo: You are the Kim Jong Il to my Hu Jintao. Just a puppet...

G. Cow Apparently missed the Memo, err...Diktat.

As I commanded earlier, comments on posts should be created, instead, as regular posts. But, since your comments were rather short, I'll let it slip for now. And, kind of on topic, I think I'm the Jurgen Klinsmann of this blog while Pied is more like Bruce Arena.

Are you friggin Mad?, Zizou's balls, and Other Thoughts

First off, this idea that MAD is tenable is absurd. The USSR is fallen and now we no longer have a world dominated by two offsetting powers but rather one superpower (the US) a handful of nuclear powers: some rational, some less than nice, and some that are raving lunatics (read: Iran and North Korea). MAD assumed rational actors, some of my fellow bloggers are willing to make this leap of faith. I have to agree that I view conventional nuclear aggression on the part of North Korea as unlikely, and that Kim Jung IL the lunatic theory is probably overstated. Yet we don't know. However, what really troubles me vis-a-vis mad is another assumption, that the actors are state actors balancing each other. If I were Kim Jung Il, and I just love causing a ruckus, what would stop me from delivering a suitcase bomb to Al Qaeda or any other Islamo-Fascist group to level a sizable chunk of D.C. Now, nukes do have a DNA, so this may mean that a suitcase nuke compared to an ICBM are essentially the same in terms of their ability to be traced. However, I do not know if this is true given that most recent proliferation is based on the A.Q. Khan network. Are Pakistani, North Korean, and eventually (hopefully not) Iranian nukes going to be sufficiently different to determine who is blowing us up? If so, MAD may still be relevant provided nuclear powers are rational (an assumption I believe to be careless). If not, MAD is irrelevant. All of that said, what to do next? Atlantic Monthly reported on a Korean War simulation (part deux) forecasting 100,000 casualties in the first day and Seoul in flames. Not a pretty scenario.

On to important things like the World Cup. Now as a conservative, it is an ideological obligation to hate the French. In fact it should be a personal one as I was denied entry as a child. Nonetheless, I am a Francophile and the soccer team is no exception. Zizou is once in a generation talent. I liked both Italy and France but rooted for France on the basis of Zizou and that the Italians are inveterate divers. I found the whole diving bit to be loathsome. If I were a soccer player I would rather castrate myself with a spoon than dive. Though, that comes from a no blood no foul perspective, which I suppose is unique to the Anglosphere (American Football, Rugby, Aussie Football, Hockey, even basketball). That said, Zizou's headbutt was not prompted by diving but some good old fashioned shit talk. I believe it to be one of the rights endowed by our creator to speculate aloud on whether one's opponent has made it with a goat or about fornicating with an opponent's wife. So, Zizou was wrong to headbutt the trash talking Italian. Instead, he should have stomped one of the diving Italians in the balls. Right foul, wrong player. All of that said, Italy deserves mad props. Their defense was incredible. Oh, and while Zizou was crazy good, Fabio Cannavaro should have won the golden ball. For a compelling defense of diving go to TNR's world cup blog: http://www.tnr.com/blog/world-cup.

Klinsman by the way would be a great get for American soccer. As would Becks for the MLS.

You’re either with us or...


Alright so I found this little poll that was conducted by The Korea Times which found that almost 48 percent of young people in South Korea think that if the U.S. attacks North Korea then Seoul should support the North Koreans.

I don’t really have any commentary on this at all I just found the results of the poll interesting.

I Also Want His Balls

So Zidane was interviewed on French television today concerning the "head butt heard around the world" (I made that up myself thanks). In the interview Zidane stated:

"I want to ask for forgiveness from all the children who watched that, there was no excuse for it. I want to be open and honest about it. I do apologize but I don't regret my behavior because regretting it would mean he was right to say what he said."

In regards to what exactly Materazzi said to provoke him Zidane only replied that the remarks were "very personal and concerned my mother and sister. I tried not to listen to him but he kept repeating them.”

On a completely different note, but one that is of much greater interest to me, Jurgen Klinsmann announced today that he will not be returning as manager of the German national team, and will instead be heading back to his home in southern California to spend time with his family.

This is great news considering the numerous rumors that have been circulating around that the U.S. national team is very interested in having Klinsmann replace current national team coach and choke artist Bruce Arena. Arena needs to go and getting Klinsmann would be the greatest thing to happen to the U.S. soccer program in a very long time.

MAD...or just plain crazy

I largely agree with the fact that the world is not in danger of full-scale war a la WWII or the Korean Conflict, and that "war" as we know it will consist of small-scale actions against both rogue states and stateless organizations (read: Al Qaeda and its many, many progeny). The two nations existing as exceptions, in my estimation, reflect 2/3 of the famed Axis of Evil. [cue ominous music] North Korea and Iran both maintain large, semi-equipped forces. Both are geographically smackdab in the middle of potentially explosive international tensions. Both are governed by fellows three-sheets-to-the-wind on power and extremism. While the forces and those governing them are not as large of a concern, the geography of each situation is what makes things infinitely more complicated.

While I believe KJI is primarily a lunatic lording over a tragically malnourished populace, and that his actions largely consist of harmless saber-rattling - he has to at least know that if he were to lob a missile and actually strike Japan, it would be his downfall, one way or another - I don't think we can safely assume that he is not dangerous and his actions are not provocative, particularly to those in the same region. Containment with North Korea has worked, for the most part, in that there have been no serious incidents. In order for containment to continue to work, North Korea and the U.S. have to play along.

Optimist and Pessimist


I'm a steadfast believer in the almost perfect political counterbalance of mutual assured destruction--or what is effectively the Nash equilibrium (yes, that Nash from A Beautiful Mind). Anti raises the scenario that N. Korea, might at some undetermined time, commence ground attacks on South Korea which "would lead to the deaths of thousands". However, KJI aka Kimmy and his minions are practicing classic brinksmanship and no more. No intentions of attacking, or real practical shows of force.
As a result of this equilibrium I tend to blindly think that the world is safe from full scale war. Thus, the devolution of historical warfare into a series of low-intensity conflicts between and against rogue states (see Derrida, Rogues for a more eloquent argument). However, my pessimism kicks in when I think that this quiet reign of terror is the most peaceful situation we can possibly achieve.

Here's David Sanger's take in last Sunday's Grey Lady [nyt]

A Pacifist Constitution? I think not...

While I agree with my friend Anti's analysis of Kim Jong Il's intentions - which is badly influenced by a case of severe attention deficit disorder, imperial narcissism, empathic lacking, and bloodthirst - I must point out that the Japanese Constitution is not, in fact, "pacifist." If we go with a typical definition of pacifism - the belief that disputes between nations can and should be settled peacefully, demonstrated by refusal to participate in military actions - we see that it is not pacifist. Why? While the text of Article 9, the famed "No War" Clause, states that Japan renounces war and its use to settle international disputes, the interpretation of that article has long held the Japanese right to force in self-defense. This has allowed Japan to build and maintain strong armed forces, as well as participate in international conflicts.

As a result of this interpretation, Japan has some of the best (if not the best) defensive forces in the world. These forces, however, would not be able to successfully carry out a "preemptive" attack on North Korea. They are simply not set up or trained to follow through with such an action.

Essentially, Japan is doing what it can - making threats, empty or not - to protect itself and its citizenry. I certainly think it's foolish to expect that a targeted attack on North Korean nuclear facilities wouldn't lead to international bloodshed, particularly among South Korean and American soldiers amassed on the DMZ. But I don't know what a good plan would look like in this situation...which is probably why the Bush Administration has largely ignored it.

Got Nukes? pt. 2

I never once stated any sort of support for the North Korean regime, Kim Jong Il (or as I like to call him Kimmy) is a terrible dictator who through his actions and his father before him have completely devastated his own people.

I say that Japan's comments are hostile because of the potential fall out of what would happen if preemptive military action was taken against North Korea, meaning that in all likelihood instead of responding with an attack against Japan, which would be made very difficult without their missile arsenal, Kimmy would most like commence with ground attacks against South Korea which would lead to the deaths of thousands.

What makes it even more hostile is that unlike the U.S. Japan has a pacifist constitution so any talk of preemptive attacks is a drastic departure from every other post World War 2 military decision. It is basically the equivalent of a Quaker suddenly getting the urge to go off and fight in Iraq, Japan’s previous history makes this much more hostile then if lets say the U.S. said they were considering such action.

Furthermore although Kimmy is considered by many to be crazy, I don’t think he is. This whole missile launch thing, in my opinion, wasn’t meant to be hostile. I think that Kimmy was just getting pissed that Iran was getting all of the attention and wanted some for himself, thus the reason he launched the missiles on the 4th of July. Basically Kimmy is just one big attention whore.

See: Got Nukes?

Bring Me His Balls on a Platter.


I can't say that I'm terribly surprised by the Zidane Headbutt dust-up. Zidane's family is now getting into the fray employing the classic defense of unsubstantiated accusation. They've gone far enough to say that Zidane was protecting his family's honor--allegedly the point of Materazzi's verbal grapeshot. Anyway, the Daily Mirror caught up to Zidane's ailing mother for an interview. Here's just one excerpt:

"“I am utterly disgusted by what I have heard. I praise my son for defending his family’s honour. No one should be subjected to such foul insults on or off the football pitch and I don’t care if it was a World Cup Final. I have nothing but contempt for Materazzi and, if what he said is true, then I want his balls on a platter." [UK Mirror via Deadspin]

Here's a hilarious montage of edited video-clips from the Headbutting. Gotta love the Mortal Kombat touch. [youtube]

Conversation.


Should we try something here? Since our vast readership is mostly on vacation, or a several month long smoke break, our readership consists of six reeeeeeaaaaallly unique people. Perhaps it's a good time to experiment.

Over the past few months (particulary since G. Cow came on) the comments section of the blog has actually been far better than the posts. Like, the guts and the discussion were far more compelling to read, and sometimes react to, than the topic that was brought up. How about we turn the blog inside out? At least for the rest of this week or something. It might help to make the thing more interesting. One pretty close example was GreCo's serial novela "The Late-night Cliffhanger" where he started it and then Il and Xtra grabbed hold and ran with it. Instant Classics--at least by this blog's standards (which have fallen abysmally low since I went from last year's internet lizard to a blog cowboy. sorry if that doesn't make sense). So, what do you say?

For the rest of the week, at any point where you would have posted a reaction in the comments section, just make it a post instead. It'll shorten the posts, make them imminently more readable, and concentrate our blog around "themes", rather than disparate pieces. Cool?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why Zidane? Why?

I'm sure everyone has seen the video of Zidane's overtime headbutt that sent him off with a red card in the finals of the World Cup last Sunday.




Well now there are new theories concerning what Materazzi said to provoke him. Zidane has said that in the next few days he will reveal exactly what happened and what was said. Until then here are my favorite guesses as to what Materazzi said:

  1. "I wish an ugly death to you and all your family, Go f--- yourself."
  2. "son of a terrorist whore, so just f--- off"
  3. "a son of Harkis" (a term for collaborators in the Algerian war of independence from France)

By the way the more I looked into this the happier I am that Zidane did what he did, it may not have been a classy way for him to end his career, but Materazzi is one of the dirtiest players in the game check out this video.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Got Nukes?

I’m confused about this whole North Korea situation going on right now. As I am sure all of you are aware North Korea tested at least six long range missiles on the 4th of July. Since the testing of these missiles the rhetoric from all countries has been deafening, with the most hostile rhetoric coming from Japan where Japanese officials have called for a debate to see whether a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s missile bases violates Japan’s constitution.

Now I understand the argument that is made concerning North Korea and Iran possessing nuclear technology and how they could pass on this technology to the so called “terrorists”. Even so I have yet to see one news report of this actually occurring, unless someone out there knows something or has seen something that I haven’t. Yet we still label North Korea and Iran as two of the greatest threats facing our national security at the moment.

Now compare this stance in U.S. foreign policy to the stance we have taken with our so called “allies” in Pakistan. Thanks in large part to Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions they have started a brand new nuclear arms race with India. India just this weekend tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range that would make a nuclear strike against China possible. Back in 1998 the U.S. imposed temporary sanctions against India for nuclear testing, but I am guessing our response to these tests won’t be remotely similar since President Bush recently agreed to share nuclear technology with India.

Brand new nuclear arms races aside it is also well document that A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, has provided nuclear technology to such “terrorist” states as Libya, Iran and North Korea. And in response to Khan’s admission of providing nuclear technologies to “terrorist” states, General Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan for any crimes that were committed. And yet according to U.S. policy and our current administration Pakistan is a vital ally in the “war against terror”.

So basically I don’t get it, will someone out here in blogger world please explain to me how the current U.S. policy concerning nuclear non-proliferation is anything more then the one giant hypocrisy that I currently perceive it to be?

See also: What To Do About Iran?

Why Do We Support The Troops?

In view of the ongoing debacle that is the war in Iraq, and the widespread recognition that the war was sold to the American public on a false platform connecting Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and WMDs, one might wonder why Americans have been so consistent and steadfast in their support of the troops. What exactly are we supporting?

One argument that could be made is that we are supporting the norm of civilian control of the military. Although we may think the war unjustified, we accept the power of the president to command the troops. Moreover, we recognize the danger to our liberty and security, and ultimately to our democracy, in openly calling for disobedience on the part of the military. So we stand behind our troops, who are standing behind their civilian commanders. In this way, to support the troops is to support the norm of civilian control of the military, even though we distrust the current form of that control.

So why do we support the troops, and not those whom the troops are supporting, such as the Bush Administration's policies? If we suppose that many alert American citizens recognize that whatever degree of liberty and security they enjoy can only be the outcome of a steady recognition and pursuit of the public good of defending our "homeland" against terrorists, then our support of the troops is based on the recognition of the necessity of helping to forward the common defense so we can hope in turn to avoid a state of insecurity and tyranny. However, since we also recognize that the pursuit of liberty and security also depends on preventing the agents of the state — e.g., Bush, Rumsfeld, et. al. — from coercing the American people into serving their private ends, we have become deeply suspicious and afraid of our own government, as it has become more opaque and has built up private forces to circumvent public participation and oversight. So while we support our troops to protect us from external threats, our cries to support the troops also seem to be directed against the powerful internal threat that is our government. I suggest we say, then, "support our troops, because only through their success can we hope to maintain our freedom and security against the actions of our own government."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

ITALY WINS

Italy wins the World Cup Final on penalty kicks, perhaps in redemption for the 1994 loss in the Final, also on penalty kicks. The game was marked by some bumbling touches in the first half and several trades in offensive momentum, with Italy seeming to dominate the first half and France by far out-shooting the Italians in the second half.

In overtime the French captain Zidane was sent off for head-butting an Italian player to the ground, off the play. What a way for Zidane to cap his appearances for the French team. It was a move straight out of Street Fighter.

Here in my little town in Wyoming, the half-full bar was dominated by a big screen television and soccer fans. Quite a few homegrown fans cursing and shouting, smatterings of accents Scottish and British, encouragement and disbelief in Spanish, and maybe more. The world's game. It's a cliche, and Tom Powers may try to bastardize it into an ignorant bleating of misdirected American pride, but it is the world's game, and that's a beautiful thing.