Monday, February 28, 2005

My Oscar Reactions

So for the second time in my life I watched the entire Oscar show. In fairness to me, it was to impress a beautiful woman. Ok, it was my mom. The evening began with these inane superficial "reporters" who pissed me off, to set the mood for the evening. For every "Who are you wearing" I was heard to retort, "Shut the fuck up asshole."

Chris Rock was this generation's version of Dave Chappelle and Billy Crystal, except not at all. I will say that his political humor was not biased at all. He simply made accurate observations about Mr. Bush and then constructed a humorous metaphor. To those who thought it was politically bias, are you saying that Bush has not run up a huge national debt and did not claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And you would be denying the fact that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Also you would be implying that if he worked at the Gap he wouldn't be fired. Ridiculous, simply ridiculous; although all options are on the table. (That last sentence constitutes Bush's Iran policy when answering questions about an imminent attack against Iran).

I also enjoyed Chris Rock slamming Sean Penn, the great great great great great great great great great great great great grandson of William Penn, the man who "discovered" Pennsylvania.

I was rooting for Jamie Foxx to win for supporting actor, because I saw that movie, Collateral. But I like Morgan Freeman, so it's all good. I'm glad Jamie Foxx won for best actor, but I also liked Don Cheadle. I saw Ray and Hotel Rwanda. I like both a lot, but actually I thought Hotel Rwanda was better. So I was surprised it wasn't nominated for best picture. Jamie Foxx's speech was obviously very moving.

By the way, the fact that four black people were nominated for acting awards is not really a great deal. It's a testament to the discrimination in the movie industry that it is a big deal more than anything else.

Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Hey! they were at the Oscars! it's relevant!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Guide to Anti-Asian American Violence

I understand that there are many people in the United States who want to perform violence against Asian Americans, but executing this can be difficult. Here are a few helpful steps towards attaining your goals.

First, there are numerous different groups that makeup the generic term "Asian American." It is important to understand which group you want to target for your blind rage. Say you are still fighting a war that was lost some thirty years ago against the Vietnamese, now how would throwing a brick at a Malaysian guy help your cause? Quite frankly it wouldn't. So the first step in our little journey is to accurately determine the correct ethnicity of the individual you wish to attack.

I know what you're asking, how do I do that? It's simple. Get to know your potential victim. Hang out with him or her. Learn their likes and dislikes. Ask about their family. Spend countless hours looking at their photo albums and hearing about their grandparents' stories back in the Philippines. Ah, the Philippines, now you've got it!

But you're still not ready to beat someone up simply because of factors that are beyond their control, yet. There are many obstacles to overcome until you reach the perfect act of persecution. While you are crucifying someone, you have to know which slurs to spout. There is nothing more embarrassing than some patriotic American kicking the shit out of an Asian American for the love of country and then to fuck it up by confusing their verbal bigotry. Plus, no one likes an ignorant bigot!

Don't fret, this problem is also easy to conquer. Study your victim's culture. Say you are resolutely anti-Communist. So much so that you have a bunch of naked posters of former senator Joseph McCarthy hanging on your wall, or you have cut the head of former senator Joseph McCarthy out of old newspapers and placed it on posters of naked men's bodies, I don't know it's none of my business, you have a right to privacy, so you really want to beat up some Chinese people. Take classes and learn about Chinese history. Go to China. Learn about the various viewpoints of the over one billion Chinese people. In fact, you should master Chinese. Now you might be ready to smack a Chinese guy in the face and scream the appropriate slander while you do it!

Unfortunately, there is still more to know. You may feel that the Japanese are stealing all of our jobs that rightfully belong to Americans. You have chosen a potential prey. You have followed all of the steps listed above. But you have a problem (besides not picking up a newspaper in the last ten years and clearly not understanding the global economic outlook). What you want to do is to punch a Japanese national right in his penis, not injure a Japanese American. In a way, Japanese Americans are Americans too, you think. 'Hmmm,' you muse, 'dis dun huttin peepel es hard wark.'

Yet again, the problem is all in your mind. There are ways of obtaining an individual's citizenship status. Go to college in a four-year program. Then get a job with the INS. Next, work your way to the point where you have access to such information and whallah!

I am putting this information out there because I want the United States to be a better place. Personally I don't think hurting Asian Americans is right at all, but I am aware that there are people who disagree with me. So all I'm saying to those people is: be smart in your exploits of hatred against your fellow human. Make sure your actions are consistent with your ideology. I am not an Asian American; I am a Jew. And I can assure you that nothing pisses me off more than when some douchebag is beating me mercilessly, when his intention was to wail on a Sephardic Jew. For you see, I'm Ashkenazi.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

2005 NBA All Star Game Recap

With all the hype about the young players in the NBA, the All Star Game showed who is still at the top of the league. Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett are the cream of the crop in today's NBA. I thought Iverson or O'Neal should have won the MVP award, and sure enough Iverson's double-double was enough. Vince Carter always plays well in All Star Games because his style is suited for the form the game takes. His off the glass dunk, reminiscent of his distant cousin, Tracy McGrady was quite good. He had to reach his hand back because he threw himself a bad pass, grab the ball, and dunk it home. Amare Stoudemire's reverse alley oop was also notable. In the end, the East won, snapping the West's three game winning streak.

At half time, some country bumpkins sang the lyrics "save a horse, ride a cowboy." For some of our dumber Christian conservatives, that's sexual innuendo. To be honest, I really don't have a problem with the line. But I am appalled at the hypocrisy in the United States today. Granted, no fake breast was shown in this display, but let's compare this to some other "outrageous" sports antics of the past few months. Newly appointed saint, Terrell Owens reluctantly caught a woman who had jumped into his arms before a Monday Night Game last fall. We saw the woman's bare back. Bedlam ensued after Owens performance. The skit had sexual overtones, but then so does our country friends' song, now doesn't it? The more absurd case involves Randy Moss. After scoring a touchdown, Moss PRETENDED to moon the Green Bay faithful. I hope this is not sexual or else I'm in a whole heap of trouble because I once saw my baby cousin's tuckus while his diaper was being changed, which would seem much worse then PRETENDING to moon some people. And singing about fucking cowboys is also worse than PRETENDING to moon some people. So in conclusion to my All Star Game wrap up, many Americans are hypocrites.

Or are they? Owens and Moss are black, if I'm not mistaken. Despite the country singers rappin' cowboy friend, they were white. Ah, so I get it! Americans are not hypocrites, just vicious racists. Ok, my mistake.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Togo's Political Crisis

Togo seems to have joined many of their West African partners in the doldrums of instability. For many years after Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first leader following independence, Togo's neighbor to the west had featured numerous coups. But in recent years, Ghana has been the pillar of stability among the ECOWAS nations (Economic Community of West African States). Liberia, a country founded by ex-United States slaves in the mid-nineteenth century, has experienced a civil war for decades. Sierra Leone fell into Civil War during the 1990s because of the military's involvement in Liberia. Côte d'Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast) had been stable under the apolitical mentoring of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. When Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993, Côte d'Ivoire fell into a political crisis which has led to numerous changes in leadership, resembling its neighbors.

Now Togo faces a similar situation. As with many African nations, once a long-time leader, in this case Gnassingbe Eyadema, dies or is overthrown, a constitutional crisis occurs. This is generally because no natural successor is chosen or unanimously agreed to. Togo is a former French colony. France has had an integral part in their former colonies' affairs since independence.

Togo is located in the southeastern portion of West Africa between Ghana and Benin.


- RECENT BACKGROUND: former French colony won independence in 1960.

- GEOGRAPHY: slightly smaller than West Virginia; sits between Ghana and Benin on the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa.

- ECONOMY: annual per capita income is $270; economicly dependent on cocoa and coffee production and the extraction of phosphates, limestone and marble.

- THE PEOPLE: 21 ethnic groups; dominated by the Ewe in the south and the Kabye in the north. Nearly one-half the people are under age 15.

Africans impose sanctions over new Togo president

"West African nations suspended Togo from their bloc and imposed an arms embargo on Saturday, piling pressure on the country's new leader as thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand he step down."

link to the article:

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Dunk Contest winner

For basketball fans, there are certain plays that make us scream out uncontrollably in glee, awe, and astonishment. Kenyon Martin threw a pass straight up into the air; waiting there were the arms of Josh Smith, who proceeded to gracefully maneuver his legs around Martin's head. Then, in a burst of creativity, he pumped the ball before the throw down, reminiscent of Jordan. Josh Smith's dunk was awesome.

But the dunk of the night belonged to Amare Stoudemire, with an assist, no surprise, from Steve Nash. Stoudemire through a perfect pass off of the backboard and onto the unkempt locks of the Canadian point guard. From Nash's head the ball flew into the air, where Stoudemire grabbed it, spun around past 180 degrees and left all who witnessed in shock. However, Josh Smith went retro, putting on a Dominique Wilkins jersey and executing a two-handed windmill from outside of the paint. Lastly, Smith went 360 degrees, switched the ball into his left hand and put the ball through the hoop for the victory.

Josh Smith jumped over Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets and into dunk contest immortality.

Three-point Contest Winner

Quentin Richardson leads the league in three-point attempts this season thus far. He showed that he can make a few too this evening. Richardson, the ex-DePaul star, made his last nine threes to take home the crown. Ray Allen missed in the clutch and failed to make the finals. Kyle Korver put up a solid number in the finals, but lost. 400-pound Voshon Leanord ran out of gas. Vladamir Rad.... scored just 6 in the first round. I thought he might surprise some by making the finals because he has the strength the withstand the event. But it doesn't matter how strong you are when you can't shoot.

Quentin Richardson came out a winner and proved me a loser.

Dunk Contest Prediction

The contestants for the 2005 NBA slam dunk contest are:
Atlanta - Josh Smith
New Orleans - Chris Andersen
New Orleans - J.R. Smith
Phoenix - Amare Stoudemire

Josh Smith, the youngster from the Atlanta Hawks, is my choice to win the dunk contest.

Three-point Contest Prediction

The contestants for the 2005 NBA Three-point contest are:
Denver - Voshon Lenard* (defending champion)
Philadelphia - Kyle Korver
Phoenix - Joe Johnson
Phoenix - Quentin Richardson
Seattle - Ray Allen
Seattle - Vladamir Radmanovic

Ray Allen of the Seattle Sonics, my choice to win the three-point contest.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

2004-2005 NFL All H-duk Team

Here is the ninth annual All H-duk Team. These are not necessarily the best players from this past year, but the players that I would want on my team based on their performance this season. For example, no one is going to argue that Troy Brown is the best corner in the league, but his willingness to help his team by any means earns him the spot on this roster. So basically, you can't argue with me. The numbers following the players' names indicate how many times they've made the All H-duk team. If there is no number then this is their first.

Head Coach: Pit- Bill Cowher 2nd

Quarterbacks: Ind- Peyton Manning 4th, Phi- Donavan McNabb 2nd, Min- Dante Culpepper

Running Backs: NYJ- Curtis Martin, Ind- Edgerrin James 3rd, NE- Corey Dillon

Fullbacks: Pit- Jerome Bettis 2nd, Den- Ruben Droughns

Wide Receivers: Ind- Marvin Harrison 3rd, Phi- Terrell Owens 2nd, Car- Muhsin Muhammad, Pit- Hines Ward 3rd

Tight Ends: KC- Tony Gonzalez 5th, SD- Antonio Gates, Atl- Alge Crumpler

Offensive Line: Pit- Alan Faneca 2nd, KC- Willie Roaf 3rd, Den- Tom Nalen 2nd, Dal- Larry Allen 4th, GB- Marco Rivera

Defensive Line: Car- Julius Peppers, Ind- Dwight Freeney, NE- Willie McGinest 2nd, Chi- Alex Brown

Linebackers: Car- Mark Fields, Bal- Ray Lewis 6th, Pit- James Farrior, Buf- Takeo Spikes, Was- Antonio Pierce

Secondary: Phi- Brian Dawkins 2nd, Pit- Troy Polamalu, NE- Troy Brown 2nd, Bal- Ed Reed 2nd

Kickoff Returner: Buf- Terrence McGee

Kicker: NE- Adam Vinatieri 2nd

Punter: SD- Mike Scifres Special Teams Cover Men: NE- Tedy Bruschi, Was- James Thrash

Punt Returner: Bal- B.J. Sams

Thursday, February 10, 2005

U.S.- E.U. Tensions Over Iran

Iran, nestled between Iraq and Afghanistan, may have something in common with its two neighbors in the near future. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose name sounds like a Mexican dish, continued the Bush administration's tough talk against the Persian country during her diplomatic visit to Europe. The European Union wants to take the diplomatic route in dealing with Iran, but the United States seems to be doing its best to continue its pre-emptive striking ways. The sad part is all of the useless deaths that will ensue if such an attack becomes reality. The ironic part is that Iran does have elections, which have been deemed fair. However, a non-elected Grand Ayatollah does hold significant power over the nation's policies. Some Iranian people have protested in the streets of Tehran in recent years, demanding further democratic reforms. Every effort must be made to achieve this goal peacefully. Any United States military attacks must be stopped in the name of peace.

Here are excerpts from the article:

Rice Seeks to Define New Tone for US-EU Ties
By Saul Hudson

"But on Iran, Rice remained firm.

She rejected a week of European lobbying that culminated with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier pleading in public for more U.S. support for the region's negotiations over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

Rather than woo Europe with pledges to become more involved in the talks that offer Iran economic incentives for scrapping some nuclear work, Rice pushed back and told the negotiators, Britain, Germany and France, to get tough.

They needed to join the U.S. hardline and threaten Tehran with referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, she said.

"(The) Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to take the deal, really, that the Europeans are giving ... then the Security Council referral looms," she told Fox News. "I don't know that anyone has said that as clearly as they should to the Iranians."

Iran denies U.S. charges it seeks nuclear weapons. But President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday the country would never abandon its quest to master nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment that can help produce power or bombs.

Despite European engagement, the uncompromising stands of Iran and the United States could be the world's worst geopolitical crisis of the next few years and spark a replay of the divisive Iraq war, according to some political analysts."


Rwanda Revisited

I found an article on how the Rwandan government was going to improve the nations' struggle with poverty through growing coffee a few days ago, but I've seemed to have lost the article now. The government set realistic goals, hoping to decrease poverty to 25% by a specified date. They also hoped to improve the average per capita income to $900 from roughly $200 in the same period of time. Rwandan farmers are able to make a significant profit through fair trade. But much of the nation is poor. War has ravaged these proud people. For those that died in the genocide of 1994, their pain is now over. But for those still living, it never stopped. The mass murder impacted emotions, the economy, and the future of Hutus and Tutsis. The movie Hotel Rwanda was a moving depiction of those tragic events. Since the genocide, Rwanda has invaded its larger unstable neighbor twice. AIDS is a very real threat. Hope for peace and stability have been fleeting. Below are facts and articles about Rwanda today.

Map of Rwanda, located in eastern central Africa

Some facts about Rwanda:

-Population: About 8 million
-Location: Central Africa bordered by Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Uganda
-Size: 10,169 square miles, slightly smaller than Maryland
-Government: Republic. Multi-party system
-Capital: Kigali
-Economy: The 1994 genocide severely impoverished the population, particularly women. About 90 percent of the population works in agriculture. About 60 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Source: CIA World Fact Book/Associated Press files

Links to more articles about Rwanda:

Rwanda's Tormentors Emerge From the Forest to Haunt Congo
Hutu Guerrillas Find New Victims

"A decade after the genocide in Rwanda, as many as 15,000 Hutu guerrillas are still hiding in the forests of eastern Congo, according to U.N. peacekeepers."

Rwanda Dismisses UN Report on Congo Arms Violation

"Rwanda Tuesday dismissed a United Nations report accusing it of violating an arms embargo in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which it has twice invaded in the past decade."

Rwanda Estimates 1 Million Face Genocide Charges

"An estimated 1 million Rwandans -- an eighth of the population -- are expected to be tried in traditional "gacaca" village courts for alleged participation in the 1994 genocide."

Highlights from another article about Rwanda and coffee:

Coffee, Michigan State program perk up farming in Rwanda
By Tim Martin, Associated Press Writer

"Michigan State is part of a project aimed at helping Rwandan farmers - many of them widows whose husbands were among the genocide's 800,000 victims - grow and sell gourmet coffee beans. The project has helped raise the standard of living for thousands of Rwandans as they emerge from the devastation wrought by years of civil war.

About 90 percent of the Rwandan labor force is connected to agriculture. Many of the nation's 8 million people live in poverty, so higher coffee prices and bigger markets have been a boost to the economy.

The project trained 17 Rwandans in agricultural science at U.S. universities. Those trainees then returned to their homeland, taking their knowledge to small towns and villages.

The farming often is done on steep terrain with little or no machinery. Farmers are taught to pool their resources in cooperatives. Washing stations are set up to care for the beans after harvest, and the best are separated from the rest. Taste-testers are taught to monitor quality control.

Although most Rwandans drink tea rather than coffee, marketing help has connected Rwandan farmers with gourmet coffee companies in Europe and the United States, allowing them to tap a growing customer base. Michigan State will begin selling a Rwandan coffee blend arriving on campus in the next few weeks.

[Dan] Clay [director of Michigan State's Institute of International Agriculture] can't forget the faces of despairing Rwandans along the side of the highway as he and his family rode in a convoy to safety."

It haunts me to this day," he said. "Now you see some of the same faces, and there is great hope. It's enough to make anybody be glad to come back."
Michigan State University's Rwandan coffee page:
Michigan State University's online shop:

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Cable "News"

So I was flipping through the channels, and came across a segment on MSNBC. Evidently some college professor made some comments about September 11th or something, I'm not sure I didn't really watch. However, at that moment I saw Joe Scarborough talking with the headline underneath him saying: Are America's Universities Too Liberal?

Now, since when was Joe Scarborough qualified to answer such a question? And how does a wacko right-wing pundit like Mr. Scarborough get his own "news" show?

So, I've decided to ask and answer my own question:

Are America's Cable News Channels Too Conservative?


So much for that.

Conservatives Compare Bush to Hitler

This article examines several anti-war conservatives' opposition to not only the Iraq war, but their fears that the Bush administration is moving towards fascism. Asa sent me this article, and I decided to post it because I wanted to give various perspectives on this blog and not simply post articles that reinforce my own. However, I would like to mention that I disagree with many of the author's statements. Here are two examples:

"The emergence of terrorism as the central security issue had to lead, at the very least, to increased domestic surveillance—of Muslim immigrants especially. War is the health of the state…"

Uh, no.

"… a deep gratitude for their success in the Anglo-American world…"


Here are some provoking comments from the article, taken out of context of course.

"One of the biggest right-wing talk-radio hosts regularly calls for the mass destruction of Arab cities. Letters that come to this magazine from the pro-war Right leave no doubt that their writers would welcome the jailing of dissidents."

"The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth—not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself."

"Now the word ‘freedom’ has become a newly invoked justification for the occupation of a country that did not attack us, whose people have not greeted our soldiers as liberators…"

"… hungry to bomb foreigners and smash those Americans who might object."

"those from Christian Zionists may quote Scripture about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in ways that are maddeningly nonrational and indisputably pre-Enlightenment,"


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Super Bowl Recap

The Patriots win again.

The New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl in the last four years on Sunday. Usually a requirement in determining sports dynasties is time and distance from the achievement, so I will refrain from further discussing this subject. The game started off a defensive struggle. It took several possessions from both teams before an elusive first down was finally attained. The Eagles were forced to use an early challenge in order to thwart a potential disastrous play. McNabb was nearly up to his old tricks, escaping every defender in sight, when the ball inadvertently popped out of his right hand and into the waiting arms of the Patriots' defense. But on further review, McNabb's knee had been down and the Eagles retained possession.

Terrell Owens looked healthy. He aided the Eagles offense, but despite his 100 yard receiving performance, he wasn't a factor on game-changing plays. The wideout who was the story was the Patriots' Deion Branch. He tied a Super Bowl record 11 catches and totaled 133 yards. The Eagles 7-0 lead quickly evaporated. They would never lead again.

The Patriots defense held down the Eagles. Rodney Harrison caught two balls thrown by McNabb. Bruschi punished both Westbrook and McNabb. Linebacker Mike Vrabel caught another Super Bowl touchdown pass.

The fourth quarter began with both teams tied at 14. That's when the Pats took over. Throughout their three championship runs, they had been a fourth quarter team. Their performances in the game's last stanza always seem to come with Franco Harris (the Pittsburgh Steelers former running back, who won 4 championships) narrating in the background, "Throughout the season I had been convinced that games were decided in the fourth quarter," describing his mindset before his Immaculate Reception against the Oakland Raiders.

The Eagles valiantly attempted to fight back. A long pass to Greg Lewis, McNabb's finest of the day, shortened the lead to 24-21. The Eagles defense would not let Corey Dillon end their hopes. But a botched punt return and impossible odds finally closed the deal. The New England Patriots were the champions of the NFL for the second consecutive year. Branch was the MVP.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Super Bowl Predictions

Super Bowl XXXIX

Philadelphia Eagles 15-3 vs. New England Patriots 16-2

For the first year in many, we actually have two great teams in the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles (0-1 in SBs all-time, lost in XV) demolished the rest of the NFC throughout the year. Interestingly enough, many sports writers questioned the team's chances of a Super Bowl appearance after Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Terrell Owens went down with an injury. Many of them also criticized head coach Andy Reid for resting many of his team's starters the last two weeks of the regular season, when they had already clinched home field advantage on the NFC's side of the bracket. I have never been able to figure out either point. Without Owens, the Eagles are a vastly better team than they have ever been during this four year run near the top. They've never had a back as versatile as Westbrook in the playoffs. As great as McNabb has been, he has reached the pinnacle of performance in his career to this point. They may not have a go-to wideout without Owens, but they've never had one in the last four years. There were questions about the Eagles defense after losing their top two corners, Taylor and Vincent. But the defense has been the strength of this team. Yet again they have three pro bowl defensive backs. Dawkins is one of the very best safeties, and Michael Lewis isn't far behind. Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are two of the best at corner. But it has been the returnees that have improved the defense the most. Hugh Douglass and Hollis Thomas are part of a very deep line. And Trottier has managed to resurrect his career after a dismal stint in Washington.
New England is a great team. They have won two of the last three Super Bowls and lost in Super Bowl XXXI. This is there fourth appearance in the NFL's final game since 1997; they are 2-2 overall. As great as they have been, and will be, there is no need to rush the dynasty label on this bunch. The Broncos won the two Super Bowls following the Patriots' loss, and were never considered a dynasty. However, if the Patriots lose on Sunday, their dynasty hopes do not suddenly disappear. The 49ers of the 1980s won four Super Bowls in nine years and are considered one of the greatest dynasties in football history. Tom Brady has already been placed in the Hall of Fame by several older sports writers, who perhaps, are nervous they may not be alive five years after the Patriots' quarterback retires. Brady has been compared to Trent Dilfer and to Joe Montana. In reality he's somewhere in between. Actually, the Trent Dilfer comparison works because Brady has reach the expectations laid out for Dilfer when the latter was drafted early in the first round. As with Brady, Montana was surrounded by many great players. But Brady is not as good of a passer or as great of a player as Montana was. In addition, the Patriots' defense is far better than the old 49ers' solid unit.
Defense is what this game will come down to. The Patriots have no weaknesses of that side of the ball even with both starting corner backs out for this game. They've been out for nearly the entire season. The linebackers are probably the best group in the game. With McGinnest and Seymour (if healthy) rushing the passer, Bruschi and Harrison are able to make plays on McNabb's passes. On the other side of the ball, many people expect Corey Dillon to run the ball down the Eagles' throats. I expect a lot of play action in order to freeze the Eagles blitzes. This might also free up of few long plays for Branch and Givens down the sidelines. The key for the Patriots' offense is not so much piling on the points, but limiting turnovers.
As far as Terrell Owens, I'd be more surprised if he didn't catch a pass than if he garnered 100 yards receiving. However I expect a little less than 100 yards, but still a productive evening. He's a very good player, but not the key in this game. In the end, this game will be a defensive battle with many three and outs. Several big plays on offense and special teams will be the difference, as opposed to long methodical drives as predicted by many. Like most people, I'm rooting for the Eagles, but the Patriots will win 20-14.
As for MVP, the easy choices are McNabb, Owens, Brady, or Dillon. If the Eagles pull it out it may be a defensive player, maybe Lewis or Trottier, but Westbrook would be my pick from the Eagles. That seems like I'm on the fence, but remember I already said the Pats would win. So, I think the MVP will be WR/CB/PR Troy Brown.
But whatever happens, I'm just glad that we finally have two great teams to watch in the championship game again. I'm planning on enjoying the game, not watching the damn halftime show, and hoping that people just shut the fuck up at the party so I can watch the fucking game. Enjoy the game!

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Letter Regarding Sudan

I sent this letter to the senators from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, and to congressperson from Maryland Chris Van Hollen last fall. Because only Congressperson Van Hollen replied, I will post the version sent to him. A link of his speech on the floor of the House of Representatives is below my letter.

Dear Congressman Van Hollen,

I am deeply concerned with the horrific actions transpiring in Sudan, specifically the mass ethnic killings taking place. I have noticed that the United States and the rest of the world has done very little in halting the killings. There comes a point where we need to be more creative than sanctioning misbehaving governments. I am certainly not recommending that we send troops to continue the killing. But we must help the people who have nothing except disease and despair. I understand that concentrating on this difficult issue is not politically savvy, but humanity should outweigh campaign strategy. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Their survival is a credit to themselves, but the liberating American armed forces played a part. Many of my family did not make it alive to witness America return their people's freedom from a totalitarian regime. I am asking you to do all you can to enable the grandson of some Sudanese immigrant sixty years from now to send an email to their representative thanking America for its compassion in creating a better Sudan and Africa on the whole. And have the name Chris Van Hollen go down in the history books as a great humanitarian.

Your Fellow American,
The link to Rep. Van Hollen's speech:

Lou Dobbs Thinks Killing is Fun

Normally I don't watch these pundit-type shows unless I want to watch some mindless drivel (although the Surreal Life is more entertaining, FLAVA FLAV!), but I was flipping through the channels after the Daily Show and came to an interesting story on Lou Dobbs' CNN program. The screen said something about Iran. However, I had come at the end of the segment. The next story was about Lt. Gen. James Mattis.

Evidently Lt. General Mattis stated at a panel discussion, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.''

Now, I had heard Mr. Dobbs call George Bush's tax cut for the richest one percent in the United States, "abysmal economics," before, so I figured that Mr. Dobbs was a voice of reason.

To my surprise, for the next five minutes, I was given a lecture by Lou Dobbs on how heroic this man has been, and that anyone who dared to criticize Lt. General Mattis' statements was overly politically correct.

Well, Mr. Dobbs, Mr. Lou Dobbs, it doesn't take a retard to realize that killing people is wrong. In fact, there's a Commandment about it. Maybe if the Ten Commandments were allowed on the stairs of the Alabama Supreme Court, you would know that. (By the way, that was a joke, I "killed" two birds with one stone there. Where's my medal?) Well, if killing people is wrong, surely enjoying killing people must be wrong too. Let me give you an example of what is and isn't politically correct. If I were to call you, Mr. Dobbs, big boned instead of the fat ass that you are, that would be because of political correctness. However, Lt. General Mattis' statements about enjoying murdering human beings are not merely politically incorrect, they are wrong. This is not what a hero is made of. A hero is someone who saves lives, not takes them. A hero is someone who makes people's lives better, not murders them. A hero is a single mother who raises two sons on her own and still finds the energy to go back to school and eventually teach mind-body medicine to medical students at Georgetown, not a homicidal maniac. It doesn't matter if the murder is wearing a uniform or not, he is a murderer. And, Mr. Dobbs, since you condone his actions, what does that make you?

(Shout out to ma! FYI, she's the Georgetown one, not the homicidal maniac).

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Iraq's Sunnis Dissatisfied

As reported in the New York Times...

Abu Omar, a large white-haired man and the owner of an appliance repair shop, emerged from a pile of electrical parts to say Sunday's elections should never have been held.

"How do you hold an election when an entire city was obliterated a month ago?" Mr. Omar asked, referring to Falluja. "When they arrested a Sunni cleric inside his mosque, arrested Sunni party leaders?"

Mr. Omar let out a long sigh.

"I wish Saddam was here," he said. "None of this would have happened."

the excerpts above were from the article: Low Voting Rate Risks Isolation for Sunni Iraqis

Clearly these elections proceeded for the good of George Bush's image on the Iraq war issue, not for the good of Iraq or its people. Of course the Shia majority are going to be pleased with the elections. They had been persecuted since the country's inception and now find themselves in power. And obviously the Kurds are thrilled; they no longer have to worry about the threat of chemical weapons mercilessly unleashed on their villages. Many Sunnis supported having elections, but favored a delay. Their areas have been the ones destroyed by the fighting of late. They needed more time. But George Bush's push for elections before his State of the Union address superceded the needs of the Iraqi people.

I'm not saying that Iraq would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. I don't live there, how would I know? All I'm saying is that, Abu Omar does.

Social Security

Social security is very boring. I really couldn't give a rat's ass about it. But I guess it's important for us 20-somethings to think about. George Bush talked about the issue quite a bit in last night's State of the Union address, and this article reviews his proposal.

Here's the highlights:

Bush’s Social Security plan akin to a loan

Participants would forfeit part of accounts' profits
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Under the White House Social Security plan, workers who opt to divert some of their payroll taxes into individual accounts would ultimately get to keep only the investment returns that exceed the rate of return that the money would have accrued in the traditional system.

... it could come as a surprise to lawmakers and voters who have thought of these accounts as akin to an individual retirement account or a 401(k) that they could use fully upon retirement.

"You'll be able to pass along the money that accumulates in your personal account, if you wish, to your children . . . or grandchildren," Bush said last night. "And best of all, the money in the account is yours, and the government can never take it away."

The plan is more complicated...

'It's not a nest egg. It's a loan.'

In effect, the accounts would work more like a loan from the government, to be paid back upon retirement at an inflation-adjusted 3 percent interest rate — the interest the money would have earned if it had been invested in Treasury bonds, said Peter R. Orszag, a Social Security analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House economist.

"I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account so you can build a nest egg for your own future," Bush said in his speech.

Orszag retorted: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."

Under the system, the gains may be minimal...

With a 4.6 percent average gain over inflation, the government keeps more than 70 percent. With the CBO's 3.3 percent rate, the worker is left with nothing but the guaranteed benefit.
If instead, workers decide to stay in the traditional system, they would receive the benefit that Social Security could pay out of payroll taxes still flowing into the system, the official said. Which option would be best is still unclear because the White House has yet to propose how severely guaranteed benefits would be cut for those with individual accounts.

... Basically, the net effect on an individual's benefits would be zero if his personal account earned a 3 percent real rate of return. To the extent that his personal account gets a higher rate of return, his net benefit would increase."

Robert Pozen, a Massachusetts investment executive who served on the president's Social Security Commission, said the mechanism makes sense. Workers who draw money out of the Social Security system for their accounts should have to pay that money back with interest.

Limited choice

But critics of the Bush plan ...

Indeed, the system would ultimately look something like a proposal made by President Bill Clinton, in which the government would have invested Social Security taxes in the stock market.

That idea was criticized by conservatives because the federal government could end up choosing winners and losers in the financial markets. But under the Bush system, the government is still choosing the stocks and bonds to be bought with Social Security money, said Jason Furman, a former Clinton administration economist. Individuals would get a limited choice, and the government would still keep most of the returns.


if the link has expired and you want to read the article, let me know, I will get it.

Reaction to the State of the Union Address

The Speech:
Tonight, President George Bush delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term. No one can deny that the most moving moment of the speech was when an Iraqi human rights worker and the mother of a fallen marine embraced on the world stage. The pain that these two women have endured, and the courage that they displayed, was touching. However, Mr. Bush's words were far from as inspiring. Yet again, he promised relief to the United States' dependence on foreign oil, but he continues to pander to large oil corporations, as exhibited through his push for the Iraq war. He also pledged to clean and protect the environment again. However, his administration has loosened restrictions on the amounts that corporations are allowed to pollute. He talked about a "culture of life" referring in part to his anti-abortion stance, and in the same paragraph defended his past judicial selections and qualified his future Supreme Court nominations by claiming that he would appoint judges that upheld the law and were not "activist," despite their disregard for law, particularly on the issue of abortion. In addition, he promised that one person's life would not be sacrificed for another's under his administration. He deemed this human dignity. He was referring to the ethical use of stem cells for research towards curing diseases, but the contradiction with asking men and women to die in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep others safe and his statement seems clear.

The time for buzzwords such as, freedom, liberty, and democracy has past. The election in Iraq was a positive step, but the more important question is not how many voted, but whom they voted for. I doubt the American government will allow an anti-American government to control Iraq. But will the government be so pro-American as to lose credibility with the Iraqi people and be thrown out of power like the Iranian Shah 25 years ago? In the end, a real threat to the security of the United States may take control of Iraq if these next few elections do not truly reflect the will of the Iraqi people. Mr. Bush lauded the fact that the United States does not force its form of government on other nations, whereas our "enemies" want to coerce the world into a repressive version of government. Many of us already see the ridiculousness in his statement. However, Mr. Bush is a man of clarity, so he'd be damned if he didn't get the chance to show the hypocrisy of his statement himself. (This is America, the home of rugged individualism, isn't it?) Mr. Bush then claimed that he would spread democracy to the rest of the world. The world, in this case, doesn't seem to be given much of a choice.

Mr. Bush denigrated Hip Hop culture, specifically black men, during the "urban" part of his speech. He talked as if gang violence was the major problem in American cities. He stated that he would work to create institutions to teach black men to stay away from violence and to respect women. I imagine Talib Kweli would argue that those in the Hip Hop culture "are no more misogynist or violent than the society we are born into." Mr. Bush then appointed Ms. Bush the Black Czar, to run his new proposal.

There have been fears that the United States would invade Iran and Syria before Mr. Bush's term concludes. Mr. Bush said nothing to silence these fears. He specifically called out both countries and demanded democracy become the only form of government in the region. It now becomes every American's duty to fight any potential military excursion that the United States may pursue. Those who have died in the United States military are generally considered heroes because they have given their lives for the country. As I am reminded of the mother of the marine honored tonight, I say this: I would rather they were alive.

Democratic Response:
I must say that I was very disappointed with Senator Harry Reid from Nevada. On behalf of the Democratic Party, he advocated an economic policy of global competition. He claimed that the United States would win. For some reason, poverty in the world doesn't seem like a game to me. Do we win if modern slavery continues to exist in Thailand, in many places in Africa such as Mauritania, and elsewhere? Do we win if one billion children go hungry tonight? Mr. Reid specifically named two countries: China and India. He claimed that "they" were taking jobs away from Americans that deserved them more. Do we win if billions of people in China and India go unemployed, but there are a few more computer-programming jobs in the United States? Instead of attempting to solve the problem of poverty, the Democrats are playing games with people's lives.

I was more impressed with Congressperson Nancy Pelosi. She discussed national security. I have always believed the way to improve national security is through helping those in the world community anyway possible, instead of using our military might. If the United States had no military, we would be safer.

Some Semantics:
When will Mr. Bush learn that the word he is looking for is nuclear and not nucular? While I was a counselor, a ten year old boy said nucular, and we corrected him. He didn't make the same mistake again.

Mr. Bush chose the British way to say the word "rather." He said it this way twice. I wonder if it was a conscious slight against Dan Rather after the so-called "memogate." (Do people realize that Watergate has a "gate" on it because that's the name of the hotel? Enough with the "gate" already).

Mr. Bush used alliteration an awful lot, particularly emphasizing the letter "p". What's he trying to tell us?

The left side of Mr. Bush's face has appeared to droop down since before the third presidential debate. Some sources say that Mr. Bush could have had a stroke last fall.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Thoughts On Andrew Bogut

Last night I watched my weekly Mountain West Conference game on ESPN. The game featured Utah vs. BYU. Normally I like listening to ESPN announcer Jimmy Dykes, but unfortunately this season Mr. Dykes only talks about how great Andrew Bogut is. He'll talk about him even if Utah's not even playing! I mean how does Andrew Bogut figure into the equation of a Colorado State-Wyoming game? And furthermore, why the fuck am I watching a Colorado State-Wyoming game at 2am anyway?!

Bogut scores 20 points against BYU and suddenly he's this generation's Lebron James! Don't get me wrong, Bogut is a nice player. He's seven foot tall, as Mr. Dykes reminds us constantly, plus he's a true seven footer, not 6'9" or some bullshit like that! He's mobile, good around the basket, and can block a shot. But he's not Wilt Chamberlain, Shaq, Kareem, or even Sam Bowie. (Ok he's better than Sam Bowie). Yet, Mr. Dykes continues to try to hype him at the number one pick. Now Bogut is from Australia, so he fits the new NBA rule stating that "a player must either be from another country or enter the draft straight from high school, or both, to legally be chosen number one in the NBA Draft." (rule 47-H.56). But, he plays in the fucking Mountain West. Now I don't like talking shit about mid-majors, but this Andrew Bogut-hype shit is enough. I couldn't contain myself after one particular play. Bogut had the ball down low, then went up to shoot and got his ass swatted by a shorter BYU player. Bogut retained the ball and went to shoot again, and was rejected by the same BYU player again, only the ref called an imaginary foul on the Mormon dude. (I'm guessing the guy was Mormon). Jimmy Dykes proceeds to rave about how great Andrew Bogut was on that play.

"Did you see what he did there?" Dykes screams, "I know he got blocked, but you NBA scouts should pay attention to this. He jumped, and then he jumped again. He double jumped. Not many seven footers, true seven footers, can double jump like that."

I was like what the fuck! Double jump? He just got his ass blocked twice! Anyway, that was my Andrew Bogut story. It was 2am and I actually thought about waking ma up to tell her that story. Haha, wow.

Goddamn, I always wanted a mute midget, and now I realize how much I truly need one. You know, someone to listen to my rants and my stories, and help me with the tolls on the Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State. Also, the attributed quotes to ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes may have been paraphrased, or completely made up.

Andrew Bogut, Utah center, and next year's #1 pick in the NBA draft, if Jimmy Dykes has anything to do with it.

Jimmy D. & Andrew Bogut

ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes, whom I like, but enough with Andrew Bogut already.

Tsunamis As A Metaphor

In light of the recent tragic tsunami in South Asia, I have noticed an increase in the use of tsunamis as a metaphor for various shit. Please think about the context you are using the metaphor in before you proceed. For instance, saying that the Nazis use of gas chambers produced a tsunami of dead Jewish bodies seems appropriate enough, though doesn't really make much sense.

However, the New England Patriots defense was not like a tsunami against Peyton Manning.

In this story, the Harvard president made some sexist remarks about women. This is certainly serious, but not quite enough to warrant comparison with the instant death of over 200,000 people, and the destruction of several nations-worth of people's way of life. Topical humor is funny.

Here's the highlights:

No Break in the Storm Over Harvard President's Words
The New York Times

Members of a Harvard faculty committee that has examined the recruiting of professors who are women sent a protest letter yesterday to Lawrence H. Summers, the university's president, saying his recent statements about innate differences between the sexes would only make it harder to attract top candidates.

The committee told Mr. Summers that his remarks did not ''serve our institution well.''

''Indeed,'' the letter said, ''they serve to reinforce an institutional culture at Harvard that erects numerous barriers to improving the representation of women on the faculty, and to impede our current efforts to recruit top women scholars. They also send at best mixed signals to our high-achieving women students in Harvard College and in the graduate and professional schools.

'' The letter was one part of an outcry that continued to follow remarks Mr. Summers made Friday suggesting that biological differences between the sexes may be one explanation for why fewer women succeed in mathematic and science careers.

One university dean called the aftermath an ''intellectual tsunami,'' and some Harvard alumnae said they would suspend donations to the university.

Perhaps the most outraged were prominent female professors at Harvard.

''If you were a woman scientist and had two competing offers and knew that the president of Harvard didn't think that women scientists were as good as men, which one would you take?'' said Mary C. Waters, chairman of Harvard's sociology department, who with other faculty members has been pressing Mr. Summers to reverse a sharp decline in the hiring of tenured female professors during his administration.

At the center of the storm, Mr. Summers posted a statement late Monday night on his Web page, saying that his comments at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit economic research organization in Cambridge had been misconstrued and pledging to continue efforts to ''attract and engage outstanding women scientists.''

''My aim at the conference was to underscore that the situation is likely the product of a variety of factors and that further research can help us better understand their interplay,'' he said. ''I do not presume to have confident answers, only the conviction that the harder we work to research and understand the situation, the better the prospects for long term success.''


if the link has expired and you want to read the article, let me know, I will get it.

Women in Palestine

"'In the West, everybody with a beard is considered a terrorist,' said Saed Rheime, a charismatic man whose face is framed by a neatly trimmed ebony beard."


Here's the highlights:

Democracy's new face: radical and female

Palestinian mayor embodies both tradition and change in Mideast

By Molly Moore
Washington Post

BEIT RIMA, West Bank - Fathiya Barghouti Rheime sees herself as the new face of Islam in the democratic Middle East that President Bush so fervently espouses.

She is a 30-year-old high school teacher, mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. She describes herself as a "very religious" Muslim. She wears the hejab, a scarf wrapped tightly over her head. She does not shake hands with men outside of her family.

Two weeks ago, Rheime became the first woman ever elected mayor of a Palestinian community, an achievement that stunned many residents in this traditional, patriarchal society.

Rheime said ..."I'm deeply concerned about transmitting the picture of the active Islamic woman to the world, to wipe away the blemish of the veil."

She won public office with support from voters who do not fit Bush's conception of democracy in the Middle East: backers of the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist group, and people who consider her jailed husband a patriot because he drove the get-away car in the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in October 2001.

Rheime's victory exemplifies the contradictions between Western views of democracy and its actual practice in a Middle Eastern environment.

The results of Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank last month, the first in nine years, revealed a potentially fundamental shift in Palestinian politics. Islamic candidates, most of them members of Hamas who did not openly declare their association for fear of arrest or harassment by Israeli troops, won about 35 percent of all local council races. In Gaza on Thursday, Hamas won elections to control seven of 10 town councils.

Female candidates claimed 52 of 306 open seats in the West Bank -- nearly 17 percent of the elected positions and more than 2 1/2 times the quota that had been reserved for women in an effort to broaden their representation in a male-dominated society.

Gains from the Islamic movement

Like Rheime, many of the winning female candidates drew support from the Islamic movement. ...

Five other Islamic candidates won seats on the 13-member council in the Dec. 23 vote, including another woman, Raidah Rimawi. One Islamic candidate ran -- and won -- from his Israeli jail cell. ...

The Fatah movement, the dominant Palestinian political party founded by longtime Palestinian leader and icon Yasser Arafat, who died in November, claimed five seats. Only one member of the former all-Fatah council sought reelection. He lost. Rheime was elected mayor by the council on Jan. 16 with a seven-vote majority -- the five Islamic members, a communist and a socialist.
Rheime and her Islamic party colleagues on the council -- two of whom are distant relatives -- believe that convincing the West to change its perception of Islam is just as critical as repairing pot holes and improving the drinking water for the residents ...

Saed Rheime, 34-year-old imam of a local mosque who holds a masters degree in theology, is Islamic in his politics and ideology and embraces his party's campaign slogan, "Islam is the solution." He won more votes than any other council member in West Bani Zaid .

"In the West, everybody with a beard is considered a terrorist," said Saed Rheime, a charismatic man whose face is framed by a neatly trimmed ebony beard. "The West thinks of us as primitive. They associate us with social oppression of women. They view us as a camel civilization. Let them come and see us. We respect women. We are very civilized human beings."

Fathiya Rheime took part in socialist politics as a student at the Palestinian Bir Zeit University, but said she never became involved in Palestinian politics, which were then controlled by men. The only other woman to serve as a Palestinian mayor was appointed to the job in the 1980s before the Palestinian Authority was created.


'Everybody is watching and waiting'

Even so, the more traditional members of the community considered it inappropriate for a young mother to hold political office. But Rheime said she ran for election "to banish the idea that our society is a male society." ...

After little more than a week running a municipality with 29 employees, Rheime, who has a degree in Arabic literature, said, "I feel like I'm under the microscope; everybody is watching and waiting. I need to work harder than a man to prove myself in society."


Ahmed Fahdel, 16 and still too young to vote, offered a common view in an electorate disillusioned with the bloated, feuding political bureaucracy of the Fatah movement that Arafat left behind. "We have tried men," said the teenager with gelled black hair. "Now it's time to try women."

if the link has expired and you want to read the article, let me know, I will get it.

The Iraqi Election

"It's like a snake: The skin is soft, but the snake is poisonous. The American soldiers are the skin, but the American policy is still on the inside." - Mohammad Khuzai, a spokesman for Bashir Najafi, one of the four grand ayatollahs who make up the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf.

I think Mr. Khuzai's profound statement expressed the feelings of most people that protested the war, certainly mine.

more comments below...

Here's the article:

Iraq's Shiites plan humble rise to power

Sensing election victory, leadership urges decorum

By Doug Struck
Washington Post

"NAJAF, Iraq - The police chief, a former army colonel who still wears a uniform with eagles on its epaulets, sat in an official's office, flanked by men in dark suits, all awaiting an audience. Behind the desk, the official leaned back. She adjusted the black abaya that covered all but her face.

Bushra Zamili, the chief of the Najaf elections commission, is a symbol of change coming to Iraq. The 35-year-old Shiite Muslim, wearing religious dress, was the official to see on election day in Najaf.

As the ballots are counted from Sunday's nationwide balloting, Iraq's Shiites are poised to claim a hefty share of power. In Najaf, the Shiite-affiliated parties are confident they will oust the mayor, who was appointed to the job after arriving from Michigan with U.S. officials. Nationally, the whispered numbers collected from poll watchers hint at an impressive victory for the Shiite-backed lists.

This will be a stunning change for the Shiites, who suffered under past dictatorships, monarchies and empires and would never have seen a religiously dressed Shiite -- let alone a veiled woman like Zamili -- in a position of responsibility in Saddam Hussein's government.
But in Najaf, the symbolic capital of Shiism in Iraq, that change is being handled with political finesse. The word was spread in the mosques: no triumphalism, no revenge, no displays of smug ascendancy.

"We are not talking about competition between Sunni and Shia. No one will lose," Sadr Aldeen Kubbanchi instructed in his sermon Friday in this battered old city with one majestic jewel -- the gold-domed shrine of Ali. He preached to a balcony filled with black-shrouded women and to men below whose foreheads bore the marks of being touched to the ground in prayer five times each day.
'The Sunnis are our brothers'The Shiite leadership has dictated an inclusive message intended to reassure the Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities, as well as the United States. Everyone must work together in the next government, they say. Already, there are private negotiations over how to bring the Sunnis into the political tent if the results show that voter intimidation by insurgents has left that group with disproportionately low representation.

"The Sunnis are our brothers," said Mohammad Khuzai, a spokesman for Bashir Najafi, one of the four grand ayatollahs who make up the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf. "We are not celebrating our victory over Sunnis. We are celebrating the end of tyranny."

In part, cooperation will be a political necessity. Although the Shiites are estimated to account for 60 percent of Iraq's population, their principal slate of candidates, called the United Iraqi Alliance, is not expected to win a majority in the 275-seat transitional National Assembly. Other currents tugged at the Shiite vote; interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, ran on a largely secular, Shiite-Sunni list but has significant support even here in Najaf. To win votes in the assembly, coalitions will be required."We don't need conflict between the Shia and the Sunni," said Asaad Taee, a mayoral candidate on the main Shiite list, representing the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. "We are an Iraqi list, not a religious list. We have been working for 20 years, at least, to defend all Iraqi people -- Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, everyone. That won't change."

And a strong showing by the Shiite parties, which ran on a unified list, does not guarantee a unified voice once the next government forms. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's preeminent Shiite cleric, put together the United Iraqi Alliance list, which includes parties with sharply contrasting views. Those differences are likely to sharpen over hard issues such as the writing of a new constitution and, sooner or later, asking the U.S. military to leave.
Khuzai, the spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Najafi, said the Shiite leadership had decided that U.S. forces could stay in Iraq -- for now.

"There appear to be good relations" between the Shiites here and American soldiers, said Khuzai, sitting cross-legged on a mat in a room bare except for a frame containing Koranic verse. But, he added ominously, "there are hidden aspects. It's like a snake: The skin is soft, but the snake is poisonous. The American soldiers are the skin, but the American policy is still on the inside."
'A moderate way'The new constitution to be written by the transitional assembly also could prove divisive, embracing such issues as whether Iraq should adopt Islamic or secular laws.

"None of us believe that there should be a religious government," insisted Ibrahim Bahr Uloom, a top candidate on the Shiite list. "There is no feeling in this society for a religious government, at all. On the other hand, there is no way the society will accept a secular government. The difficulty is to find a way between them, a moderate way."

That attempt at compromise will be tested by the strong Shiite showing. In another part of Najaf, in Allawi's local campaign headquarters, a local party chief put the campaign in terms of secular vs. religious.

"We should separate religion from policy," said Abdel Waheed, bleary-eyed on the morning after the election. He chain-smoked under a poster of Allawi in the crowded office.

"If the people want Iraq to be developed and rise in every aspect of modern life, religion has to be separated from government," Waheed said. "We don't want Iraq to be an Islamic state."

He said the Shiite candidates would be overly influenced by the Shiite theocracy in Iran. "The Iranian people have an ambition to make Karbala and Najaf their own," he said of the two most revered Shiite cities in Iraq. "Iraq should be for Iraqis."

But as voters lined up in Najaf on Sunday, they insisted that a vote for the Shiite parties was not a vote for Iran.

"Iraqi Shiites are not the same as Iranian Shiites," said Salam Mustafa, 43, who owns a shop near the shrine of Ali. "You won't see Iranian influence. After this election, we expect the situation will be better for everyone."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company"

This article seems a bit optimistic regarding Shia-Sunni unity. The Shiites of Iraq have been persecuted for at least the last 25 years under Saddam Hussein's rule. Why would they be forgiving after living through that type of oppression? I hope they are able to find some sort of unity, but the historical rift between the two sects runs deeper than any fictitious nationalist pride. Iraq became its own entity only in 1932, the Shia-Sunni divide has existed for a millenium. The colonial borders that makeup Iraq have no real basis, as explified by the fact that the Kurds are broken up into several different countries. Plus, the only Shia dominated countries in the world are Iraq and Iran.

I put the articles in quotes, because in my mind, I'm preventing plagiarism somehow. Hey, I cited the source, I ain't taking credit for shit!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The King of Nepal


''I have decided to dissolve the government because it has failed to make necessary arrangements to hold elections by April and promote democracy, the sovereignty of the people and life and property,'' the king said in an address on state radio.

That's a lesson for you kids, if something doesn't work, don't bother trying to fix it, just kill it.

Here's the article:

Nepal King names new cabinet after sacking govt
By Gopal Sharma

"KATHMANDU, Feb. 1 — Nepali King Gyanendra unveiled a 10-member cabinet for his new government on Wednesday, a day after he sacked the prime minister for failing to hold elections or to end an escalating civil war with Maoist rebels.

The new cabinet was formed as the rebellion-racked country remained virtually cut off a day after the king assumed power in place of sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and put many politicians under house arrest, Indian television said.

The king's action to take power for the next three years has drawn condemnation from the United States and from neighbouring India. Among those appointed to the new cabinet were Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi and Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey as well as a new finance minister, New Delhi Television (NDTV) network said.

The king, who came to power after a palace massacre in 2001, has declared a state of emergency, the Press Trust of India (PTI) has reported, quoting Nepal's state-run television.

The Maoist rebels, who have been fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy since 1996, called for a three-day general strike from Wednesday to protest against the king's actions, PTI said.

The rebel leader, Prachanda, who uses one name, said the king's action smacked of ''medieval feudal autocracy.''

Nepal is locked in a bitter three-way struggle between the king, the rebels and bitterly divided political parties.

Sacked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was Nepal's 13th premier in 14 turbulent years as a constitutional monarchy. The country has had no parliament since 2002. Phone links with the impoverished country, snapped after the king's move, continued to be disrupted.

It was not clear if international air links would resume after a lone Nepali airline flight flew from Kathmandu to the Indian capital, New Delhi, and back late on Tuesday.

New Delhi, which has been watching with concern the bloody Maoist revolt in its landlocked neighbour, had tried to dissuade Gyanendra from a ''power-grab'' a few weeks ago, The Indian Express newspaper reported on Wednesday.


Indian officials had no comment on the report. ''Clearly, King Gyanendra has calculated when it comes to a choice between the monarchy and Maoists, India and the international community would have no option but to side with him,'' the newspaper said.

Around 11,000 people have been killed in the Maoist revolt, which erupted in 1996.

In Kathmandu, there was no sign of additional security on the roads and life on the streets seemed normal.

''I just don't know anything. I am just here like any other day,'' Meenakshi, a street sweeper wearing a purple shawl and brown sari, said outside the gates of the King's palace.

The king and his wife will attend a summit of South Asian leaders in Dhaka on Sunday, Bangladesh Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan said on Tuesday.

Many people in Nepal still view the king as a reincarnation of the god Vishnu.

But the monarchy's reputation dived in 2001 when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father, the popular King Birendra, and other royal family members before turning the gun on himself.

Gyanendra, Birendra's brother, was crowned king afterwards, but is frequently accused of overstepping his powers.

The king had reappointed Deuba last June, two years after sacking him for the same reasons he cited this time -- inability to tackle the Maoist revolt and failure to call an election.

In January, Deuba had promised to go ahead with the election despite the civil war and the Maoists' refusal to come to peace talks by a Jan. 13 deadline.

Many cabinet members believed the poll plan was unrealistic in a country where the rebels control much of the countryside.

The king had promised elections would begin by the Nepali new year in mid-April.

(Additional reporting by Kamil Zaheer in NEW DELHI)"