Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This week's Sports Commentary

I've been reading Hunter S. Thompson's "The Proud Highway," and it's reinspired my love of the job, even at this menial Army stage of the game.

Anyway, yesterday I wrote this column, which is set to appear in Thursday's edition of The Turret.

Scandals! Brawls! Partial nudity!

I hate to add more ink to the tremendous puddle that’s already been spilled over all these controversies rocking the sports world, but seriously, when material comes this good, it’s a hard temptation to resist.

Speaking of which, apparently networks have had a hard time resisting the urge to replay the footage from the Pacers/Pistons brawl a couple weekends ago. You couldn’t turn on a television set last week without getting at least a segment of the Ron Artest et al ruckus in Detroit.

Who’s at fault in this one? Artest may very well be certifiably insane, but as my colleague – Spc. Christopher Fincham – has pointed out, the sparks really started to fly thanks to a miraculously-thrown cup of beer launched by a "fan" in the stands, which hit Artest as he was lying on the scorer’s table.

Fincham also noted the fact that the missile – as well as the large amount of beer dumped on players as they left the court – was given the gift of flight in the fourth quarter of the game. The venue is supposed to stop serving alcohol during the third.

The man who threw the beer was identified as John Green, who apparently has a criminal record that includes a 1989 conviction for "assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder" of a Michigan woman.

So, Artest isn’t the only one with a spotted history. Green, strangely enough, reportedly lives next door to the county prosecutor.

So far Artest has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season, and other players involved have received lesser penalties. But what about the Detroit fans who were at the Palace? Aren’t they to blame, too? Some have suggested disallowing the venue from selling beer, but the vendors would scream bloody murder if they couldn’t make thousands of dollars off beverage sales.

As if this whole fiasco wasn’t strange enough, the cup that struck Artest appeared briefly on eBay last Monday, but according to ESPN, it was taken off Tuesday when the bidding went up to $99,999,999.

And that’s not all. The Turret has learned that CI Host, an Internet hosting company, is offering $10,000 to the first player or fan who threw a punch captured on camera during the brawl who comes forward and tattoos the company logo on his or her fist. That’ll surely teach them not to start fights at sports events.

This is hardly an isolated event. We had the Steelers and the Browns knocking the sense out of each other a couple weekends ago, and the bench-clearing, state trooper charging, two-team stampede at the Clemson/South Carolina game.

Add to this the Eagles' Terrell Owens’ now-infamous Monday Night Football skit with "desperate housewife" Nicollete Sheridan, and you’ve got the makings for an Oliver Stone-directed feature-length episode of The Jerry Springer Show. We just need Dale Earnhardt Jr. on hand to supply the necessary colorful language.

It will be interesting to see what form the eventual fallout from all these violent altercations takes. I suppose fans could be strapped into seats with padded harnesses like the ones on rollercoasters. Or, games could take place inside huge plexiglass bubbles like the ones that cover those arcade hockey machines.

Whatever happens, it won’t be good either for sports or the people who love them.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Liars and thieves

"No one is completely useless...
you can always be a horrible example."
– Maj. Brian Maka
U.S. Army
Former 2ID Public Affairs Officer

William Safire has written this column about Kofi Annan’s son Kojo’s involvement with the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. Apparently, Kofi denied charges that his son had been receiving payments from Cotecna Inspection for years after he resigned from the company, which would have led to a de facto conflict of interest when Cotecna received the "open-ended no-compete contract." Highlights:

The story put out by the U.N. Secretariat at the time was that the son, Kojo, had resigned from Cotecna just weeks before the U.N. switched its fast-growing inspection business to the Swiss firm. Though such a timely termination looked fishy on its face, the absence of post-contract payments to Kofi's son was the basis for the U.N.'s claim that there had been no conflict of interest or nepotism.
Last week the truth was outed. The U.S. attorney's office in New York is in competition with the U.N.'s "independent" investigation, whose Paul Volcker - while stonewalling angry Congressional investigators - has grand jury help from the Manhattan district attorney's office...

The lawyer confirmed that Kojo received payments of $2,500 per month for four years after he supposedly severed his relationship with Cotecna - up to February of this year, when Iraqis blew the lid off the U.N.-Saddam-French-Russian conspiracy.

Ha! So these are the bastards who we needed to head up the "international effort" into Iraq, eh? Naturally, there’s nothing left of Annan’s credibility, if he ever had a shred. But I’d be surprised if he has the spine to step down. Safire seems to think that’s his only option:

This marks the end of the beginning of the scandal. Its end will not begin until Kofi Annan, even if personally innocent, resigns - having, through initial ineptitude and final obstructionism, brought dishonor on the Secretariat of the United Nations.

And you know, Kofi himself may be clean... but I strongly suspect he isn’t. In fact, as Safire points out, the $125,000 pocketed by Kojo is "chump change" when the issue at hand is a $20 billion embezzlement.

It does seem that we need some kind of international oversight committee to keep the nations and powers of the world in line... but the United Nations is a doomed shell of the founders’ original intent, and is instead a model of inefficacy and flaccid bureaucracy.

And this band of thieves is the group who’s supposed to be making the moral pronouncements for the just treatment of the "international community." They’re just another bunch of money-grubbers looking for their next scam.


Update: CNN reports that Kofi Annan is "disappointed" at his son's continued involvement in Cotecna. Annan is quoted in the article as saying that his son works in a "different field," and that the two don't meddle in each other's affairs.

Great story, Mr. Secretariat. When you are the United Nations Secretary General, and your son is involved in a company on contract with the U.N., you've officially meddled in each others' affairs.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Another shot at Dan

ScrappleFace has this on CBS' credibility... Ukraine Journalists Drop Bias, CBS to Study Idea.

Pundits on both sides of the fence consistenly cry foul over either the "liberal big-media agenda" or the "right-wing media takeover." Let's set the record straight on this one, huh?

I think we can all basically agree that the worst way to describe broadcast journalism is as "fair and balanced." And why is this? It's not because the media is trying to shape and mold public opinion, it's because they want the public to watch commercials. That's all it boils down to. Networks schedule their programming in such a way as to get the biggest market share, which means they can charge their advertisers more.

Why do you suppose all the major networks have those insanely flashy three-dimensional segue graphics between every segment, or every cut to or from commercial? It's to grab your attention. I'd go so far as to say that these graphics are more important than whatever the anchors are jabbering about at a given time.

For instance, on a certain network, back when the war in Iraq was just getting going, every cut to or from commercial had this ridiculous CGI sequence where a fighter jet swooped around the screen, transforming into a screeching bald eagle as it swept out of the frame. I don't care what you think of Fox News, that was stupid. It went right along with all the American flags they have integrated into the on-screen infographics. "Hey, we're patriotic! Watch us! Oh, and by the way, we are Fair and Balanced."

Look, I think it's my job as the viewer to decide whether someone's fair and/or balanced. Having that as your slogan is like when they write on the side of the orange juice carton that it "tastes great!" Oh, yeah? I'll figure that out for myself, thanks.

Even though that's tangential, it highlights the point I'm trying to make, which is only that networks like CBS and Fox don't have honesty and credibility high on their corporate goals list, even if it's on there somewhere. Priority number one is the bottom line.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What's the frequency now, Kenneth?

I know I'm late in posting about Dan Rather's step-down as CBS' anchor, but, well, Dan Rather has stepped down as CBS' anchor.

Anyone else not sorry to see the guy leave?

Of course, he's just one example of how broadcast journalists are more apt to be, in the words of Jon Stewart, "partisan hacks" than searchers-of-the-truth.

In other news, I got a press release on the FAX yesterday from C I Host, the guys who brought us the "human billboard" - a dude who agreed to tattoo the company's logo on his shaved head - a year or so ago.

Now, the company is putting a call out to anyone - player or fan - who threw a punch captured on camera during the Pistons / Pacers brawl last weekend. They're going to pay the first person who comes forward $10,000 to tattoo the company logo on their fist.

My editor handed me the FAX and said, "Look at this. They're putting a bounty on stupidity now."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Still trying to make the election make sense?

I was reading an article in the New York Times Magazine today that discussed some of the disparities between the red and blue states. Statistics included: the five wealthiest states are blue, while the five poorest went red. Blue states tend to give more to the federal government than they receive, while red states, as a group, receive more than they pay.

Interesting that this is the lament of a NYTM writer, who under normal circumstances would be a loud proponent of the redistribution of wealth idea that's so popular with fans of democratic socialism.

I guess it's really just about getting your way.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Defeatism masks a remarkable victory

I'm not particularly excited about the war in Iraq, being that within the next three to six years, I may very well find myself there. But I don't care what side of the "right war/wrong war" argument you're coming from - defeatism is despicable.

What's going on in Fallujah? Well, the coalition forces, suffering a total loss (thus far) of 56 soldiers, have wiped out the last real "stronghold" in Iraq (see below for CNN links).

But what's the real story? Apparently, it's about American "war crimes," insurgency in other areas of Iraq (the capture of Iraqi police stations), and the awful casualties suffered by Americans.

Well, to borrow a term from the English, bollocks. This is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: a commentary by Jack Kelly, asking whether Fallujah is the Iwo Jima of Iraq.

Here are some highlights:

The swift capture of Fallujah is taxing the imagination of Arab journalists and -- sadly -- our own. How does one portray a remarkable American victory as if it were of little consequence, or even a defeat? For CNN's Walter Rodgers, camped out in front the main U.S. military hospital in Germany, you do this by emphasizing American casualties.

Other publications across the world have taken different approaches, Kelly says, including playing up insurgency "victories" elsewhere in Iraq or screaming about the Marine who shot the Iraqi playing dead.

Journalists quick to judge the Marine are more forgiving when it comes to the terrorists. "They're not bad guys, especially, just people who disagree with us," said MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

As my friend and fellow soldier sometimes asks aloud when things like this come up, "Ok, how many heads have we cut off on TV? Just making sure I had the score right."


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Finishing up in Fallujah? And more racial slurs.

Looks like things are winding down in Fallujah, according to CNN.

I thought it was interesting that at the same time the Monday Night Football nonsense was going on, Condoleeza Rice was being maligned as an "Aunt Jemima" by a small-market radio host. I'll have to go see if I can find the story. Cartoonists including Doonesbury's Gary Trudeau have also jumped on the opportunity to make fun of Rice, reverting to unacceptable racial stereotypes.

Is this suddenly okay? Being a white male, I don't usually think about racial issues very often. But this latest stuff is just blowing my mind.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Out on a limb

I decided once I got back to the office that I'd write my weekly commentary about this Terrell Owens issue. It was decided after I saw comments from both Rush Limbaugh and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy saying that the skit involving Owens and Nicollette Sheridan (of ABC's "Desparate Housewives") was "racially offensive."

Anyway, here's the column, in draft.

Terrell Owens is in trouble again.

And now, everyone from T.O to the Philadelphia Eagles to ABC is apologizing on national media for his "steamy" introductory skit to last week’s episode of "Monday Night Football."

Everyone else is weighing in on the skit, which featured Owens talking with "Desperate Housewives" costar Nicollette Sheridan, who wore only a towel, which she eventually dropped before jumping into T.O.’s arms.

Was it the partial nudity (viewers saw her from the back) that raised so many hackles across the nation? Was it the fact that the segment aired at 9 p.m. on the east coast, but 6 p.m. on the west? Was it the "suggestive" nature of the segment?

That’s not what Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy thinks. He’s gone on the record saying he found the segment "racially offensive."

So the problem is the fact that Owens is black and Sheridan is white, then?

Well, Dungy seemed to think that the skit was "stereotypical" toward black athletes.

I’d be interested to know what Dungy thought about last season’s Super Bowl halftime show performance by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson.

Conservative radio motormouth Rush Limbaugh also had to say his piece on the steamy skit. According to a transcript of his show, it’s "too close to this whole Kobe Bryant situation for comfort," echoing sentiments already expressed by Dungy.

I’m sorry, what? I fail to see the correlation between the Bryant case and this latest stunt of Terrell Owens’.

Bryant was accused of a felony – statutory rape. Terrell Owens was in a racy skit on network television. I don’t see what the two instances have in common.

Except, of course, that they both involve a black man and a white woman.

Seems to me that this is what’s causing the most uproar, whether the agitators will admit it or not. It isn’t the partial nudity – why, Sheridan’s ABC show has that kind of stuff on all the time, I’m led to believe, and they’re getting big ratings, not angry phone calls from the Federal Communications Commission.

We broke the nudity barrier on cable TV ten years ago, with "NYPD Blue."

I suppose I had naively been under the impression that we were past this kind of nonsense. Are we still closed-minded enough to be drawing lines in the sand over which members of other races "shall not cross"? The answer, apparently, is yes.

Dungy is one of five black coaches in the National Football League, another being the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith.

According to ESPN, Smith took exception with the skit’s risque content, but that was it.

"I saw a naked lady with an athlete, period," he said. "Black, white, that doesn’t really matter an awful lot to me."

It’s fine to be outraged over the content of national television. There’s plenty to be outraged over. But let’s make sure we’re all clear on why we’re outraged.

If the bile starts rising at the implication of an interracial relationship, it might be time to reevaluate your sense of moral propriety.


Desperate House-wide receivers

You know, I was afraid that since starting this new blog, I'd lost my sense of humor. I was taking everything so seriously. But I was jumping to conclusions. Nothing to worry about, not when stuff like this "outrage" over Terrell Owens' Monday Night Football/Desperate Housewives skit is still taking up so much newsspace.

Don't get me wrong. I think Owens is a jerk. But this... this is ridiculous.

According to Sports Illustrated online's 10 Spot, the Federal Communications Commission's Michael Powell asked ABC reps if "Walt Disney would be proud" of the skit. Where did this guy find Quaaludes in this day and age? The 10-spot:

In fact, ABC insiders say Walt would prefer family fare like The Bachelor, where he would relish seeing how many women the "star" can make out with each week.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I'm sure old Walt would be thrilled with the quality programming his own studio has been producing, too. Princess Jasmine could have appeared in the Arabian Nights version of Maxim.

What else do we have to work with today? People are still upset the world over about the young Marine who shot an unarmed Iraqi in Fallujah, the video of which was immediately sent out (naturally, without any real context) to the international community, such as it is. Send your thank-you notes to NBC's Kevin Sites.

There's a lot of Geneva Conventions-thumping going on, but just like Bible-thumpers, these guys are conveniently forgetting some of the more important clauses of the agreement; namely, they apply to uniformed members of recognized military.

I'm not saying that anyone doesn't have rights. But when you refuse to identify yourself as a combatant, you cease to be a soldier and begin to be a - uh oh, I'm going to say it - terrorist.

It's a bit like the hand-wringing going on over the fact that we might have damaged some mosques and hospitals. We can't damage mosques and hospitals!

That's true. But when snipers use minarets as vantage points, or hospital basements are used to store munitions, they cease to be mosques and hospitals. At that point, the mosque or hospital is, practically speaking, a military asset, and as such, a valid target.

So, did our Marine rifleman commit a "war crime"? I don't think so.



Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm back from funeral detail; and it was quite an experience, really. I'm heading out for PT, but there will be more to follow.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Funeral Detail

From time to time, we Garrison soldiers get tasked out to render military honors at the funerals of those who, at one time or another, served their country in the Army. That's what I'll be doing for the next couple days, so if there are no new posts, that's why. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rice to replace Powell as Secretary of State

ABC News seems certain that National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice will replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State, the senior position in the president's cabinet.

Rice is not well-liked by folks who find themselves on the left side of the fence. She'll be both the second African-American defense secretary and the second female defense secretary... certainly the first to be both.



Ok, here's a last one before I head back to work. Validating bloggers and "guerrilla journalists" everywhere, here's a Townhall.com article by Michael Barone: A Bad Election for Old Media.


SecState Colin Powell, three others leave cabinet

This made my ears prick up this morning at work: Powell and Three Others to Leave Cabinet (Associated Press). I understand this is a normal, expected part of the transition into a new term, but I'm sure conspiracy theories have already begun to crop up.

Powell's had a rough go through this war since its onset, at least according to Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:

At times, with his closest friends, Powell was semidespondent. His president and his country were headed for a war that he thought might just be avoided, though he himself would not walk away... Powell wouldn't leave the president at the crossroads. He would do so only if he thought all the arguments for war were 100 percent wrong. And they weren't. He wanted the bastard [Saddam Hussein] gone as much as anyone....

He had not underestimated the extent to which the president had decided that letting the bastard remain was no longer an option. But he probably had underestimated his own usefulness to a president and vice president determined on war. (P. 272-273)

The others leaving the Bush cabinet are Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, says AP.

It should be noted that Powell had intimated early on that he hadn't planned on serving for more than one term, and his resignation isn't really a huge surprise, although I would be a bit confused if he were to vacate before the scheduled Iraqi elections.

I'm not particularly happy to see the man go, to say the least. He's been the Superego to Rumsfeld's Id.


More from Iran...

CNN.com reports more good news from Iran. They've cut a deal with the European Big Three (England, France, and Germany) to suspend their uranium enrichment program in return for a "promise not to refer the matter the the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions."

That's a relief, particularly considering it's 6 a.m. Monday morning.

Now, I'm off to PT.


Did the 700 Club make Kerry lose?

The OpinionJournal's James Q. Wilson has a rather sharp editorial up on John Kerry's loss of the 2004 Presidential Election, and he's as confused as I am over the incredible fear gripping the Democratic party of "fundamentalist nutjobs" hijacking the vote.

I am just as mystified by Mr. Friedman's lament that "Christian Fundamentalists" are ruining his America by fostering "divisions and intolerance." It would make as much sense to say that liberals are fostering division and intolerance by favoring abortion and gay marriages. In fact, abortion was not an issue in the election and Messrs. Bush and Kerry both opposed gay marriage. A ban on gay marriage was approved in Oregon, a state won by Sen. Kerry.

See, all these projections about voter demographics are being taken from the deceptively scanty data taken from exit polls. A few too many eggs in one pollster's basket, maybe? I particularly liked his conclusion:

Suppose the Democrats had done this better than the GOP. The result might well have been a Bush loss in Florida and Ohio, and thus the loss of the election. Our press would now be running columns about the liberal shift in public opinion, the defeat of fundamentalists, and the importance of antiwar sentiments. But in fact the Democrats did not do a better job than the Republicans. Perhaps the columnists should now just say that Karl Rove out-organized his opponents.

Well, they definitely need to run columns about something. I guess the threat of Pat Robertson disciples taking the country by storm is as good as anything else.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Wesley Clark's vision for Fallujah

Retired General and former Democratic presidential nominee Wesley Clark has written an analysis of the battle for Fallujah, and its implications for the rest of Iraq and the surrounding region. Clark makes some good points, but stumbles in other places.

Among his good points:

To win means not just to occupy the city, but to do so in a way that knocks the local opponent permanently out of the fight, demoralizes broader resistance, and builds legitimacy for U.S. aims, methods and allies. Seen this way, the battle for Fallujah is not just a matter of shooting. It is part of a larger
bargaining process that has included negotiations, threats and staged preparations to pressure insurgent groups into preemptive surrender, to deprive them of popular tolerance and support, and to demonstrate to the Iraqi people and to others that force was used only as a last resort in order to gain increased legitimacy for the interim Iraqi government."

However, when it comes to the battle's implications for the upcoming elections, Clark speaks thusly:

Bringing about change in [Syria and Iran] should be a matter of offering inducements as well as making threats, but not if it adds to the danger for our men and women in uniform. We need to choose: continue to project a grand vision, or focus on success in Iraq. Not only the safety of our troops, but the success of our mission depends on a degree of Syrian and Iranian accommodation for an American-supported, peaceful, stable, democratizing Iraq. And we won't get that support if they think they're next on the hit list."

Unless I'm sorely mistaken, success in Iraq is indeed part of "projecting a grand vision." In a sense, there's a point to wanting to "take on" one problem at a time, but the democratization of Iraq was, I thought, a piece in a "grand vision" for the entirety of the Middle East.

It's not a popular idea, since apparently the cultures of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest - which include denying women the rights to vote, work, and wear clothes that display their faces - are to be left completely inviolate. But, like it or hate it, the "plan," such as it was, was to initiate a modernization of the entire region, one that would allow a more pluralistic mentality into the overarching social structure of the Arab world, right?

Furthermore, "making threats" should be accompanied by the ability to enforce said threats. When that boils down to the level of the boots on the ground, it necessarily implies added danger to our men and women in uniform.

Another misstep:

For most of a year, the effort at political transformation has been submerged beneath the rubric of "reconstruction" and hindered by the attitude that "security must come first." Security and domestic Iraqi politics go hand in hand... Troops are in Fallujah because of a political failure: Large numbers of Sunnis either wouldn't, or couldn't, participate in the political process and the coming elections. Greater security in Fallujah may move citizens (whenever they return) to take part in the voting; it's too early to say. But it's certain that you can't bomb people into the polling booths."

No, you can't bomb them into polling booths, but bombs (in the form of car bombs and IEDs - improvised explosive devices) certainly can keep them out. I think it's pretty safe to say that security is a pretty high concern for anyone interested in seeing these elections occur.

Hey, this guy was a four-star general, and I'm just a lowly enlisted specialist, pretty close to the bottom of the Army barrel. But come on, Sir!


Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

From Brogonzo: Looks like when I set this up, all the comments made so far got erased. Sorry about that, folks.

VDH - It's a topsy-turvy world

National Review Online's Victor Davis Hanson has written a brilliant commentary on the next four years of George W. Bush's presidency. Notably:

Most Americans — in the movies they watch, the TV shows they view, the radio they hear, the abortions they receive, the sexual practices they choose, and the fashion and entertainment they enjoy — do not feel they are straight-jacketed by a Christian fundamentalist society. And yet we are told that the new jihadists are not Islamists, but our own Christians who are implementing a continental-wide red-state Jesusland.

There are a lot of scared people living in the states that showed up blue on the election exit-poll maps. Maybe they want to be scared?

Thanks to Dad for tipping me off to this one.

Iran to freeze enriched uranium program?

REUTERS is reporting that the deal between United Nations and Iran to freeze Iran's enriched uranium program is just about done.

Another quagmire that wasn't

We are just pushing them against the anvil... It's a broad attack against the entire southern front." - Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade.

MSNBC reports that the entire city of Fallujah has been occupied, after six days of fighting, at a cost of 31 American and six Iraqi lives, according to Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

This, of course, is vaguely reminiscent of the Battle for Baghdad in April 2003, which, despite preemptive cries of "quagmire," was over almost before it started, even with a three-day standstill for a sandstorm.

Do a Google search for "war in iraq," and you'll get over 15 million results. But even though people get very huffy when the phrase "mission accomplished" is tossed around, it seems to me that the actual "war" phase of the War in Iraq is indeed over, and has been for quite some time. Aren't we more in a police action / occupation stage at this point? There's a difference.


It's time for more Alternatives to Work

Right-o, folks. I'm starting a blog here strictly devoted to the political nonsense that goes on in the world, and this is the first-ever entry. It's only here to fill up space.