Friday, September 22, 2006

Will History Be Kind To George W. Bush?

For a change, George Bush set his eyes on the future. Chit-chatting with a select group of seven conservative journalists in the White House last week, the president made known in his usual cock-sure way how he would like to be remembered fifty years from now. He said, “I firmly believe that some day American presidents will be looking back at this period in time, saying, ‘Thank goodness they saw the vision.’”

This is so not the George W. Bush we have come to know over the years. The George W. Bush we know loves to ride his toughness made in Texas, loves to demonize his critics, and loves to give a damn about what other people think. No one has ever accused him of being a visionary, so I presume he took it upon himself.

Bush is thinking long-term; nothing wrong in that, except he's screwing the present.

He further expressed his hope to leave behind "…something — foundations and institutions that will enable future presidents to be able to more likely make the tough decisions that they’re going to have to make.”

This sounds like he's been trying to make the job of the future presidents easier. That is, how to take tough decisions in tough times without breaking a sweat, which certainly has some merit because the future guardians of America don't have to look any further than the 700+ signing statements of the current guardian.

There is a minor problem though. Chances are good that soon after he retires from the presidency, "patriotic" citizens might be frantically searching for the remains of the foundations and institutions — and perhaps, restoring them back to what they once were.

That would make Jefferson happy.

To sum it up, Bush is convinced that his rapidly backfiring policies that embody the "toughness" at the cost of core American values will somehow stand the test of time and someday, even if that day is half a century from now, the much vilified president will get the due he thinks he so rightfully deserves.

I would be foolish to speculate whether history will be kind or harsh to George W. Bush. Scores of visionaries had been routinely hung and left to dry in their times for what they thought was the right thing to do. And Father Time has only vindicated their positions and the principles for which they once willed to be the last men standing.

I cannot help but to think Bush could not be more wrong in his assessment.

Never before in history has someone been so eager to wield the executive sword and cut down the foundations and institutions. He believes that's a good thing. He perhaps forgot that his legacy is etched on the abuses of the constitution and the laws. How could he be possibly vindicated later? What could possibly go wrong in the future that could prove him right?

There are pretty good reasons why people around the world look up to America when their own existences are at stake. It's no coincidence. America holds an envious record of filtering the right from wrong, and perhaps, more crucially, installing the appropriate checks and balances to protect the “rights" from the future possibilities of contamination.

In his six years of presidency Bush has left the entirety of the American soul in jeopardy. He's failed, time and again, to distinguish his doctrine from what is truly American. Fifty years from now, I could still be proved wrong, but somehow I doubt that.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

NCAA Has No Moral Authority To Penalize Reggie Bush And USC

Reggie Bush is in the news again, this time for all the wrong reasons. A Yahoo Sports investigation going on for eight months uncovered evidence that Bush and his family "appear to have accepted financial benefits more than $100,000 from prospective agents while at USC."

Please help yourself with the details from the above link, but the evidence is enough to convince me that Reggie violated the NCAA rules beyond reasonable doubt.

I'm interested because Reggie Bush is an ex-Trojan, and since I was once a UCLA Bruin, I can't keep quiet on the topic of the crosstown rival's Heisman running back.

Reggie Bush is a now a Saint — not a Saint defined by the Pope, who, unfortunately, is also facing the flak these days for spelling out the truth from some obscure book written during the hay days of Christian brutality.

Before Reggie became a New Orleans Saint, he helped the Trojans to a national championship in 2004. Then he won the Heisman in 2005.

Now we are retroactively dealing with a situation. Had he taken the favors then, should the NCAA make him and USC suffer now?

Take away his Heisman? As if the financial benefits made him the most amazing running back in the recent memory.

Take away the national championship from the Trojans? Please — I beg you. (But that was just the Bruin in me talking.)

I say, don't touch the championship. It doesn't make sense. There are tons of gift showers happening in college sports. We all know that. The coaches know that. The colleges know that. Every damn two-legged football junkie knows that.

This inquest shouldn't be just about Reggie Bush. All the college superstars, in all sports, have a skeleton or two in their closets.

According to the NCAA rules you cannot accept favors — not even from Don "make him an offer he can't refuse" Corleone. To make matters worse, the celebrity studs of the college get as much press as the pros and yet we expect them to live like ordinary freshmen and sophomores and remind them and their family of their responsibilities. How unfair is that?

I am not saying NCAA doesn't have the right to hypocrisy. By all means, they should feel free to be one, but they should stay away from crucifying their bread and butters for not being Jesus.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Right Decisions Of George Bush

"Let me just first tell you that I've never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions" — George Bush addressing a few columnists in the White House on Tuesday. . [Link]

The words "right decisions" sound ominous to my ears because unless someone helps Bush distinguish the right from wrong, his rhetoric indicates there would be more such "right decisions" .

Bush is convinced he made the right choices, but his conviction doesn't carry the weight it's supposed to. Here's a President who's so oblivious to the not-quite-so-right consequences of his "right decisions", methinks he's not even remotely aware of what really goes on beyond his manicured White House lawn. I know he's briefed everyday and I guess he hears what he wants to hear--otherwise how could he be so blind to the reality?

Here's a short list of the reality checks--Afghanistan is a mess, so is Iraq, and Osama is still out there, somewhere, recording his next video taped message — domestic security is still full of gaping holes, — and, mind if I tell you the cost of his last five years of right decisions? — thousands of American lives, hundreds of billions of dollars — and yes, there're also the small matters of molesting freedom, and civil liberties, the Constitution, and the international laws.

May be what he actually meant, was, it could have been worse had he not made the right decisions.

It could have been worse had he pursued the real terrorists when they fled to Tora Bora, Hell, it could have even led to the capture or death of Osama. But then what reason would people have to be scared anymore?

It's infinitely better to keep Osama on the loose — the politics of fear plays so well — and Karl Rove keeps his job.

It could have been worse had he left Saddam alone with his dreams of WMD. One never knows when dreams come true. Saddam could have also shed his secular skin and started having breakfast with Zawahiri and then we would all be in the soup.

It could have been worse, had he not "stayed the course". Critics will tell you Iraq had zero terrorist before we went there and Iraq had absolutely no connection to 9/11. But make no mistake, the Iraqis, always were potential terrorists. Who do you think we are now fighting on the streets of Baghdad?

They were terrorists in hibernation, before we woke them up and kicked their collective asses. We got them on the streets of Baghdad before they got us on the streets of New York and Los Angeles.

Only ignorance speaks against invasion, never mind, if the invasion speaks of ignorance.

It could have been worse had he not allowed wiretapping without warrants. Really, who has the time for warrants? This is war on terror — and time is the difference between life and death. You gotta trust your guts more than your facts.

It could have been worse had we still been enjoying the same freedom and liberties that we enjoyed five years ago. Because it's more expensive to protect more freedom, and less expensive to protect less freedom. Besides, the terrorists hate our freedom — why keep giving them the reason they hate us for?

It could have been worse had he stuck to the Constitution. The terrorists don't have one, do they? Now it's a fair game.

It could have been worse without the signing statements, because they make his tasks so easy.

It could have been worse had he followed the Geneva convention, international laws and didn't have those dark prisons of the CIA and Gitmo. Without those tortured confessions, and abuses at the prisons, how could you expect him to prevent another 9/11?

People who talk about the rights of detainees and their rights to access the courts and their right to see the evidence against them have no idea what they are getting into. We got them there, didn't we? And who knew what they had in mind? Too bad, if most of them were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You know, there's no reason why the President should get bogged down by the laws, congress, courts and other constitutional checks and balances. Yes, he loves riding the bike and over-riding the laws but he only did all of that for America.

You know, it could have been worse had George Bush not made the right decisions.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Religious Intolerance: A Young Saudi Serves A Life Sentence For A Deadly Joke

There are good jokes, bad jokes, and PJs. Now there's a new kid in the block, the DJ — a deadly joke, a joke that could lead you to years of imprisonment and perhaps cost your life.

You'd think I'm joking. I wish I were, but sadly, I'm not.

That's what happened to Hadi Al-Mutaif, a young Saudi whose joke about the Prophet Muhammad didn't go down well with the Saudi authorities. As a result he's already spent thirteen years in prison, and still languishes in a solitary cell without proper medical attention.

It all started 13 years ago, in 1993, when Hadi, an 18-year-old teenager from the desert of Najran joined the Najran police training camp to become a policeman. While he was getting ready to join his fellow recruits for the afternoon prayers following the usual call from the Imam to pray upon the Prophet, Hadi allegedly joked, "Let's pray upon the penis of the Prophet."

His quip was reported by two or three colleagues, leading to a series of unfortunate and equally bizarre events. He was first handed over to the local police station, then to the Saudi domestic intelligence where he was tortured, held for months, and finally put on trial in December 1994. He was found guilty and was sentenced to death.

Two subsequent appeals, one in a court of Mecca and the other one in the Supreme Judicial Council, were both rejected. Apparently in all his trials, Hadi's religious background - he's an Ismaili Shia - became a major factor that swayed the judges. In Saudi Arabia, the Ismaili Shias are hated by the ruling Wahhabi Muslims.

The Wahhabi Chief Justice had even argued that Hadi must get the death penalty, not because it's just for his derogatory comment on the Prophet but because he's an Ismaili Shia. The death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment by King Abdullah.

Presently Hadi, 31, has started a hunger strike and wishes to fast until death.

At best, Hadi's joke on the penis of the Prophet was just a joke like any other, and there's nothing more to it. At worst, it's a silly remark from an 18-year-old immature teenager. In what kind of society would such a comment earn someone in life imprisonment?

Look, I am not religious, and I really don't care about the penises and vaginas of Gods and Goddesses, and their messengers. For all I know, Gods need to screw the Goddesses because that's how you keep the God-line going. Which holds equally true for their messengers, most of whom have fathered multiple children.

I know that the Hindus worship "Shiva Lingam", the "Penis of Lord Shiva" and feel quite happy about it. I know that there have been thousands of jokes on the penis of Jesus. Actually, there's a website called Jesus Penis and I don't think the Pope is after the people who maintain that website.

And I do know most religions could care less. The portraits of Hindu Goddesses are generally quite sexy and revealing and very much acceptable.

The Pope might not like the birth control pills and condoms but he's not worried about the arguments on the length of Jesus's penis.

The problem with Islam is not that it is habitually intolerant. The problem with Islam is the people, the likes of the Saudi Royals, the Taliban, and the mullahs in Tehran, who use Islam to further their own fascist agendas.

Sending someone to prison for life, for making a "silly" comment about the Prophet when he's 18, is wrong. It violates all the letters of the word "human".

Brian Whitaker @ The Guardian and Saudi Information Agency


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quick Links

Since I am not getting the time to slap together a few paragraphs, here are some links that you might enjoy.

The good thing about Frank Rich of The New York Times is that he's grounded unlike some of his esteemed colleagues. In his recent column "Donald Rumsfeld's Dance With the Nazis", FR noted that,
Here's how brazen Mr. Rumsfeld was when he invoked Hitler's appeasers to score his cheap points: Since Hitler was photographed warmly shaking Neville Chamberlain's hand at Munich in 1938, the only image that comes close to matching it in epochal obsequiousness is the December 1983 photograph of Mr. Rumsfeld himself in Baghdad, warmly shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein in full fascist regalia. Is the defense secretary so self-deluded that he thought no one would remember a picture so easily Googled on the Web? Or worse, is he just too shameless to care?
The Daily Quickie at ESPN Page 2 is over but you can find Dan Shanoff--TheQuickieGuy (DS was on the "quickie" job for close to four years) here.

Bill Simmons is convinced that Joe Dumars doesn't belong to the HoF. And I think he's right.
And there are times when I feel that I'm living in a parallel universe.

Steve Chapman of The Washington Times thinks we already have won the war on terror.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Hoops Don't Lie

A wise man once said, "To those who can dream there is no such place as faraway." To USA basketball, such faraway places include Indianapolis, Athens, and Saitama.

The onus was on Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his chosen band of hoopies (if hip is to ... you get the point) and the hoopla that went along with it. It made a strong cocktail — rich in taste, but poor for health. Few, if any, question the dream of recapturing the throne the U.S. hoops team lost four years ago, at the world basketball championship in Indianapolis.

The dream, once again, was squashed away on the sweaty floors of Saitama as Team USA finished third at the world basketball championship.

Somewhere in Los Angeles Bill Simmons is grinning with his trademark I-told-you-so face. He was spot on unlike other experts who dreamed along with Dream Team 7.2. For the record, that includes me (but the catch is I'm not an expert, unless you are making the comparison with my editor at Blogcritics).

Indianapolis in 2002 was ugly. The Athens Olympics in 2004 weren't pretty either. In fact, Athens 2004 marked the beginning of the downward spiral for coach Pound (Larry Brown). He made the mistake of not playing stars like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Now we know it wouldn't have made a difference.

This time, however, was ear-marked to be different. The kickass attitude was back. Coach K was at the helm although I was furious (there's no tangible evidence) when he cut Uncle Bruce Bowen, but I convinced myself that it was a small sacrifice to be made for the bigger goal.

This time we had a bagful of chosen ones, LeBron James--the original chosen one, Carmelo Anthony--the chosen one chosen after Darko Milicic, and Dwyane Wade--the chosen one who was chosen 2 spots after Darko, all destined to prove a point and not warm the bench. But the chosen ones, our bad, choked.

The good news is we lost to Greece - name the starting five - my salary's on the table. Thanks to Hoops God it wasn't Ginobili led Argentina, or Gasol led Spain, or Darko led Serbia and Montenegro (coughs again), or else David Stern would be calling "Houston we have a problem".

The bottom line is: you can take the chosen ones to Saitama, but you cannot take the pajamas out of the chosen ones. And that's how they played, in pajamas.

But, it's not their fault — yes, you heard me right. It wasn't their fault. It was, if any, the fault of the NBA bubble where accolades rain in every 30 seconds, where the cushy cushions and hypo-hypes make the mortals feel immortal. Do we must send them to face the pins?

There's nothing wrong with our hoop. If you say it's international game, you are simply fooling yourself. NBA games and international games are not basketball in Earth and Mars (seriously if you look at the gravity you will see what difference it makes).

The wrong is in the culture of overselling. As long as everyone makes money from the hype, everyone is happy because in the end, it's not so much about the fans as we are made to believe.

So, every two years when you put them in the same cage with people who value their game, their country and make one thousandth of the dollars that you pay the people here for the same or lesser skills, you get, what you got. A bronze for the show.

Since basketball is never played one-on-one (unless it's in your backyard) the 10,000 synonyms for putting that damn ball in the hoop from point blank range actually carries zero substance. Call it AC 360 or Tomahawk or Kid Rock. The net points you get is two, minus the Tarzan cries and chest thumps.

It's good for advertising and selling shoes and power drinks and making tons of money. As it turns out, not good enough to carry the dreams of 300 million on the spoiled shoulders.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Universality of Disproportion

The clinical observation of Bobbie Johnson that - a handful of blogs get a shitload of hits, while a shitload of blogs get a handful of hits, was spot on. Thinking about it, I realized, the observation has a more universal appeal.

  • a handful of guys/gals get a shitload of dates, while a shitload of guys/gals get a handful of dates.

  • a handful of programs get a shitload of viewers, while a shitload of programs get a handful of viewers.

  • a handful of scientists get a shitload of grants, while a shitload of scientists get a handful of grants.

  • a handful of papers get a shitload of citations, while a shitload of papers get a handful of citations.

  • a handful of athletes get a shitload of endorsements, while a shitload of athletes get a handful of endorsements.

  • a handful of investors make a shitload of money, while a shitload of investors make a handful of money.

  • Feel free to expand the list ... but if you want to correlate with merit, beware of potholes.


    Saturday, September 02, 2006


    For all you grinning suckers of freebies this post by Richard Adams is a must read.


    The Peace Of The Blind

    While the shaky Middle East cease-fire continues to survive despite occasional breaches by the Israeli defense forces, recent media reports suggest that a deal between Israel and Hezbollah, involving a prisoner swap, is under way. An Egyptian daily even went as far as to report that the exchange could take place within two to three weeks [Link].

    In 2004, a Germany brokered deal " saw the return of the bodies of three IDF soldiers who were kidnapped in October 2000 and of Israeli businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum. In return, Israel released some 430 Arab prisoners, most of them Palestinians, as well as the bodies of 60 Lebanese soldiers. The deal also includes the release of German prisoner Stephan Smyrek, accused of planning attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Bonn." [Link]

    In 1996, Israel freed 45 Shiiete Muslims and returned more than 100 Hezbollah bodies in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers. [Link]

    Since 1948, Israel has negotiated dozens of similar deals with the Arab groups, and this time will be no different from the previous ones--regardless of whether Israel and Lebanon have reached an agreement or are still hammering out the details, a deal of some form that would enable the return of the captured Israeli soldiers in exchange for a number of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails, is inevitable.

    Ironically, Israel is now holding talks for a prisoner swap after presiding over 34 days of carnage and cluster bombs--a proposal it flatly rejected when Hezbollah released a statement making clear its intention for a prisoner exchange shortly after the kidnapping of two soldiers on the fateful morning of July 12.

    The obvious question is, why not then? Why, only after turning the clock of Lebanon back 20 years? Why did Israel refuse to negotiate before, and instead launch a ferocious retaliatory attack on Lebanon?

    The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the ruins of Lebanon--the bloody message of hegemony: you live with Hezbollah, we leave you in your graves; you bite a finger, we will chop your limbs off. Period.

    From Israel's point of view, the option of negotiation was always there, it's never off the table. However, in Hezbollah's act they saw an excellent opportunity to execute what they had in mind for quite some time. All they needed, was an excuse, no matter how feeble.

    As opposed to the views of the multitude of pundits (which I'm not), Hezbollah's ambush of the Israeli patrol, although ill-advised, was hardly provocative and not under any stretch of imagination could be conceived as a serious threat to Israel's right to exist.

    Why not?

    Because the tactic of taking hostages to be used later as bargaining chips to secure the release of prisoners is hardly copy-righted by Hezbollah or Hamas. Israel is, and has always been a part of the tradition.

    In 1996, the New York Times ran a story on prisoner swap where among other things it also mentioned: "Among its Shiite prisoners, Israel still holds two top Hezbollah officials, Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, kidnapped by its commandos as potential bargaining chips, and Mr. Netanyahu expressed hope that today's agreement might lead to a further exchange."

    More recently, about two and half weeks before all hell broke loose, Reuters reported a largely ignored incident: "Israeli forces detained two Palestinians, who the army said were Hamas militants, in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in what marked the first such arrest raid in the territory since Israel pulled out of Gaza a year ago."

    The above incident led Hamas to capture Gilad Shalit. Since then, Israel has pounded away in Gaza killing tens of civilians, and has captured no less than 35 Palestinian lawmakers and 5 senior government officials, as chips to a potential prisoner swap. The list includes the deputy prime minister in the Hamas led government.

    Kidnapping of two soldiers is hardly a threat to existence, which everyone but Israel and its supporters recognize. Even if I assume that's the case, why then the measuring stick is different for the Palestinians and the Lebanese? When would we have the courage to admit that they also have the equal rights to live in peace, with dignity and not under a continuum cloud of Israeli assaults? Why should Israeli aggressions be viewed through the looking glass of the three proverbial monkeys?

    Let me say this again: Hezbollah's ambush on July 12 was neither a provocation--nor a threat to Israel's existence. It was merely advancing a pawn in one of the mindless war games played out by both sides who are blind to the consequences they bring to their own people.


    from QbiT