Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spider on the Window

I was driving in the neighborhood when I saw a spider crawling on my widow. I'm not even really afraid of spiders, but I  tried to play with the window to get it to go outside. Instead, the spider fell into my car. I started looking for where the spider could have fallen and plowed right into a group of little girls riding their bicycles. The good news is I didn't kill all of them.

And thank god they weren't little white girls or I might have had to serve some jail time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Inaugural Address

My fellow citizens, I sincerely thank you for your vote. You have made your voice heard and the world is listening. You have told the world that, regardless of what they think, you support innovative ideas and creative solutions to our nation's profuse troubles. He rebuked the naysayers who accuse your leader of dictatorship, authoritarianism, and other neo-colonial euphemisms. We, as a people, are free from outside domination. We are a self-determined people and act in no nation's interest save our own.

When a leader does not have legitimacy in the international community, it can be difficult to fulfill one's promise and to provide his populace with the fuel they need to thrive. This conundrum has caused some of the difficulties that have dotted my rule thus far, such as the various Tajikistan crises, the strange suicide epidemic among critics of my regime, and many others. Now that I am a democratically elected leader, the international community will  hopefully remove the obstacles to our progress.

My new term will feature a reshaping of our society into a blissful utopian that will satisfy our deepest desires, passions, and grant us everlasting happiness. But I don't want to oversell it. Let our path towards the "New Society" begin.

Today's decrees
Dairy products are hereby deemed fresh a month beyond the "sell by" date.

To celebrate our nation's diversity we will promote a different ethnic group each month and persecute them because they are responsible for our coming up short of this new utopian vision I've espoused. First up, the Druze. Next month, the Circassions. Then the Kurds.

Ay man caught with slick-backed hair will have the slick-backed part shaved off by our vaunted Fashion Police.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Election

I am pleased to announce the results of the first caucus of our presidential race, my fellow citizens. Apparently, I have been declared the winner with 124.6% of the vote. No leader has reached this electoral height since Angola's Jose Eduardo dos Santos garnered 135% in 1992. Here are the full results:

Dear and Fearless Leader: 124.6%
Betty Buxom: 7.8%
Oboto Chiluba:: -32.4%
Total: 100%

Today's decrees
Since my win in our nation's first vote was so convincing, there really is no need to continue with the election. It's clear, you like me, you really like me!

I am hereby a democratically elected and legitimate leader. I must say, it feels good. First and foremost, I want to thank my god. I'd like to thank the voters. And last but not least, I'd like to thank your god, ME!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Obnoxious Pound-for-Pound List

Here is the updated version of my obnoxiously unnecessary and utterly superfluous list of the top 10 pound-for-pound boxers. The previous list was posted on December 21.

1) Floyd Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs), [Previous Rank: 1]
2) Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), [PR: 2]
3) Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs), [PR: 3]
4) Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs), [PR: 4]
5) Wladimir Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs), [PR: 5]
6) Vitali Klitschko (44-2, 40 KOs), [PR: 6]
7) Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs), [PR: 7]
8) Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), [PR: 8]
9) Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), [PR: 9]
10) Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs), [PR: 10]

Monday, March 19, 2012


Time is indifferent and unrelenting.
Seconds are constant and yet move faster.
Now never leaves us, yet alludes our grasp.
Time is finite and infinite.
We are controlled by time, but it doesn't exist.
Time is so contradictory and so simple.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2012 NCAA Tournament Predictions

The Real First Round (upsets only)
9 UCONN over 8 Iowa St.
10 Xavier over 7 Notre Dame
12 VCU over 5 Wichita St.
12 Long Beach St. over 5 New Mexico
10 West Virginia over 7 Gonzaga
12 South Florida over 5 Temple
13 Ohio over 4 Michigan

Thrilling 32 (upsets only)
12 VCU over 4 Indiana
6 Murray St. over 3 Marquette
7 Florida over 2 Missouri
12 Long Beach St. over 4 Louisville
5 Vanderbilt over 4 Wisconsin
7 St. Mary's over 2 Kansas
13 Ohio over 12 South Florida

Sweet 16
1 Kentucky over 12 VCU
3 Baylor over 2 Duke
1 Michigan St. over 12 Long Beach St.
6 Murray St. over 7 Florida
5 Vanderbilt over 1 Syracuse
2 Ohio St. over 3 Florida St.
1 UNC over 13 Ohio
3 Georgetown over 7 St. Mary's

Elite 8
1 Kentucky over 3 Baylor
6 Murray St. over 1 Michigan St.
2 Ohio St. over 5 Vanderbilt
3 Georgetown over 1 UNC

Final 4
1 Kentucky over 6 Murray St.
3 Georgetown over 2 Ohio St.

3 Georgetown over 1 Kentucky

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NCAA Tournament Ridiculousness

The so-called first round of the NCAA Tournament involves eight teams. Sixty teams have a "bye" into the second round. Sound stupid? It is.

It all dates back to a manufactured crisis when the WAC broke into two conferences, the WAC and the Mountain West. For some reason, both conferences got automatic bids. The winners of each conference tournament could've played each other for the sole automatic bid. Or the NCAA could've reduced the number of at large bids by one. These sensible options never occurred to the NCAA.

So we got 65 teams for a few years. The NCAA saw this dreadful play-in game and said, "We want more!" So naturally, all four play-in games feature 16 seeds, right? Wrong!

This year, two 12 seeds play, two 14 seeds, and four 16 seeds. That means in one region, the 12 seeds are playing int he first round while the 13 seed gets a bye. A dare you to find any logic in that. Or how about this? Four 16 seeds have to take part int he play-in games while the other two don't. Why? I have no idea and neither does anyone else.

The "first round" has cheapened the tournament. I used to watch every game religiously until this play-in junk. In fact, it's on right now and I'm writing this post with the 76ers-Pacers game on in the background. Let's get rid of the play-in round.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kony 2012, It's Not So Simple

By now, anyone reading this would have seen Kony 2012, a thirty minute video posted on YouTube by Invisible Children chronicling the terrorism of Joseph Kony. The video has garnered tens of millions of views thus far. It calls for the U.S. to maintain military advisers in the northern Uganda region to fight Kony's Lord Resistance Army (LRA).

The video is having a positive effect in one important regard. It is giving global attention to a local African problem, something that rarely happens. Americans should know about the world and if a simplistic, emotional video on YouTube sparks intellectual curiosity, that is an extremely good development.

But to even begin to understand the problem in northern Uganda, we must moved past Kony 2012 and learn about the region. The LRA poses numerous contradictions.The LRA purports to protect the Acholi people, the very people they abduct. The security threat posed by the LRA de-legitimizes the government while their presence fuels enormous funding of the military, the very institution that gives the government its legitimacy. For all its evil, the LRA has been willing to negotiate for peace.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, took over power in a coup in 1986. Alice Lakwena led a rebellion based on mystical beliefs against Museveni. Lakwena, an Acholi, motivated many people from her tribe to fight against the new regime. In Uganda, politics have been tribal, and the tribe in power enjoys the spoils while the  tribes not in power must fall in line or suffer the consequences. The Acholi, who were protected and privileged under the regime of Idi Amin, suffered under Museveni. The rebellion was brutally put down by the military, a political wing of the government, in 1987.

Kony's LRA movement was a decedent of Lakwena's rebellion. The movement abducted Acholi of all ages, including children, in order to build a force large enough to protect its people. The LRA have committed heinous acts of violence. But so have the Ugandan military.

While those soldiers on the frontlines want the war to end, the military elite profit from the war. In fact, there were reports that the Ugandan budget overestimated the number of troops by 50,000. The money directed to these phantom troops supposedly fighting the LRA went into the pockets of military elites. It also must be noted that in addition to the LRA, numerous other rebel groups have taken up arms against the regime.

For the U.S. to keep military advisers, or possibly send in more American troops, to fight the LRA, we would need to work with the Ugandan government. We've seen that the military is corrupt and has violated human rights in the most horrific fashion. Scholar Aili Mari Tripp argues that Museveni's government is semi-authoritarian. Museveni gains his legitimacy from two areas: economic growth (which is dependent on foreign aid) and the fiction that his military is able to keep the peace. Any help in squashing the LRA would give Museveni more legitimacy. This would come at the expense of the Acholi.

The Acholi live in refugee camps. The government's official line is that these people have been taken out of their homes for their own safety against the LRA. But most observers believe the government has done this in order to prevent further rebellion from the Acholi.

Beginning in 2007, the LRA was willing to negotiate for peace with the Ugandan government. High level figures from both sides met in Sudan and had reached an agreement. But Kony never emerged out of the jungle to sign the agreement, likely for fear of arrest. He had been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005. Ironically, the ICC's indictment prevented a peace deal.

Any hope of a peace agreement ended with the military operation Lightening Thunder in 2008. The U.S. financially and technologically supported this attack. In fact, Riek Machar, Vice President of South Sudan, said that the U.S. instigated this attack and pressured the Ugandans, South Sudanese, and Congolese to go after the LRA at this point. Why? Oil. The LRA's attacks in southern Sudan were preventing the U.S. from profiting from the regions oil. In fact, oil had been discovered in Uganda as well.

Machar said that the attack against the LRA was like "disturbing a bee hive. Once you destroy the bee hive, the bees hit indiscriminately." That is what happened. The LRA redoubled its attacks in the wake of Operation Lightening Thunder and any chance for peace dissolved.

The LRA have been a murderous menace in the Congo and Uganda. But U.S. military action, as we have seen in the past, will only make things worse. Legitimizing the Ugandan government should not be a principle of U.S. policy. We must trust the Ugandans, Congolese, and South Sudanese to find a peaceful solution on their own. (more at HQT-IE)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Mid Majors

The NCAA conspires to keep mid majors out of the NCAA tournament year in and year out. As parody has overtaken men's college basketball, the NCAA selection committee refuses to acknowledge this reality. Instead, they privilege the power conference cabal that runs the sport.

A team such as Drexel is shamefully on the bubble. This is a team that won the Colonial regular season and won 19 straight games until the CAA tournament championship game. There is no way Drexel should be on the bubble; they should be solidly in with an 8 seed if there was justice.

The reality is that the best three teams in the CAA are better than the mediocre teams in the power conferences. This isn't limited to the CAA either. There are numerous mid majors this year that deserve serious consideration for the NCAA tournament as at large bids. I'd rather see great mid majors than average power conference teams because the great mid majors have earned the nod with their record.

The rating system the NCAA uses is flawed. it privileged who you beat. But just because you beat a school with a name (i.e. a school from a power conference) doesn't mean that team is any good. George Mason's defeat of VCU must be considered a better win than anything South Florida has. But because South Florida is in the Big East, they are privileged.

It's a system that desperately needs changing. Strength of schedule is a flawed statistic based on the same erroneous logic I mentioned above. it's unfair for the mid majors, for the fans, and for the sport.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

My experience in Turkey shined some anecdotal light on Prime Minister Erdogan. There were mixed, but mostly negative opinions of him.

A carpet seller from Konya in his late 20s had a favorable view of Erdogan. His views were in the context of religious freedom in Turkey. He said that people in Turkey are free to do what they want, whether it is drinking alcohol or follow a religious course. He also lauded society's tolerance towards minorities, specifically with regards to my Jewishness.

A doctor from Izmir in her 50s felt that now was the most frightening time in Turkey because of Erdogan and the AKP. She agreed with the ruling that smoking should not be allowed indoors and the potential law change involving the drinking age being moved up to 21. However, she said some of her friends were considered that these measures are part of a wider effort of the government to assert more control over society and impose its Islamic ideas (especially on alcohol) on the country.

She criticized the Prime Minister for not helping the poor though he came from a poor family. She said the poor view Erdogan as a symbol and were not concerned with his anti-poor policies. She also accused him of giving deeds just before the election to poor people who built illegal houses in exchange for their vote. She also was critical of his conciliatory tone towards the Kurds.

Two hotel receptionists from Istanbul in their 20s were also critical of Erdogan. As did the doctor from Izmir, they noted Erdogan and his wife's extraordinary wealth. Much of it was gained by way of corruption, according to the people I talked to. A third hotel receptionist from Istanbul said that he was not a supporter of Erdogan, but that he was the most capable to run the country and realistically the only option.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Hank Gathers

It was dark. It was cold. But I ran out to shoot my left handed free throw in honor of Hank Gathers, who died 22 years ago today. It's a tradition that I've kept for a while.

I suppose the tradition links me with my youth. Or, perhaps more accurately, it ties me to the moment when a piece of my childhood ended. My father died a month and a half before Hank. When I saw the Hank had died on television, I was beginning to understand what death meant. That person was never coming back. None of us would even see that person again. I believe that's why Hank Gathers's death has stayed with me all these years.