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Your Thoughts Exactly



where we save you the trouble of thinking for yourself.



Updated: 2012-04-15T21:09:10.793-05:00

 



Great Eater

2009-10-11T18:58:17.308-05:00

Just so you know, myself and YTE friend TJ Smoov have started a new blog "Great Eater," dedicated to the art of eating, and all that it entails. Make sure to check it out!

Hopefully I'll be back on here soon. Everyone always says that I know.



Tetris and life

2009-03-21T01:33:13.484-05:00

One of my favorite parables I heard as a kid goes something like this:One day, flood waters were rising and threatening to submerge a small patch of land where we find our friend, the scorpion. He cried out for help, but most other animals fled for their own safety, not trusting the dangerous creature. Finally, a frog stopped to examine the plight of the scorpion. "Please, you've got to help me and take me to safety on the other side of the river!" the scorpion pleaded. "Ha!" says the frog. "Why should I trust you? as soon as I get you on my back, you'll sting me!"The scorpion reasoned- "No, why would I do that? If I were to sting you, you would die, and we would both drown!"The frog thought this over, and reassured by this logic, agreed to let the scorpion climb on his back. No sooner than they were halfway across the river did the frog feel the searing pain of the scorpion's sting. "Why did you sting me?" he cried out. "Now I will die, and we will both drown!""Because," said the scorpion, "it is in my nature to sting."I don't know why that story has stuck with me for so long, but it's always left an impression on me. I thought of it the other day as I played Tetris- one of the top games of all time, if you'll recall my list from a few years ago. Like many people, my first exposure to Tetris came through the original Nintendo Game Boy- pretty much the gold standard of Tetris, the one that other versions of Tetris tried to one up or duplicate, but yet never really manage to outdo.I mention that version because there's a version I play on my iPhone that is nearly identical to that version, except for one major difference- the scoring. The original version of Tetris, for those that don't know, gave a bonus for completing a Tetris (clearing four lines at once.) So many of us played that version and its derivatives that I'm sure many of us would agree that the "right" way to play tetris is to build up a large block of squares, leaving one column open for the long, straight pieces. So it was with an annoying realization that I found out the version on my iPhone gives the same reward for four one-liners that it does for a full Tetris. It seemed wrong to me. At first I chalked it up to a bug, because they obviously had not followed the reference material closely enough. I mostly ignored it, and I continued to play the way I had trained myself to play- slowly growing a block tower only punctuated by drops of the long pieces into the waiting empty space. But I wondered to myself- why play this way, when it's far less risky and far more sensible to continually go for the one-liners at the bottom? But try as I might, I would always find myself placing the blocks to arrange a beautiful (at least in my mind) tower with a gaping hole on the right side.I realized that regardless of score, I enjoyed playing only when I could complete Tetrises (sp?) and regardless of score, it didn't feel right to play any other way. They could come out with a version of Tetris where you got penalized points to clear four-liners, and I would still not play it any other way.Life is a lot like that. Sometimes everything works out great, the pieces come just as you want them to, and you do great. But was it luck? Could you have adapted had things not come as they did? Because sometimes you spend the whole game waiting for that straight piece to come, and it never does. You build up the whole tower, and in the end, your incessant drive to go for what you've trained yourself to do ends up screwing you. It never comes, and you lose. And sometimes your nature loses you the game, despite the best intentions, strongest logic, and all the luck in the world.I remember when I was younger, I would see people who committed suicide on the news, and I would think- "Why would you do that? What could be so bad in your life that you can't just pick up your stuff and move on to something completely new?" I had an all-purpose contingency plan- if things ever got so bad that I was contemplating suicide, I would move to Mexico and open a Chinese res[...]



Yet Another Political Endorsement

2008-02-06T09:51:31.777-06:00

If you've been a long-standing reader of Your Thoughts Exactly, you know we differ on the relevance and importance of voting. I do feel its worthwhile to put my vote down, and trudged a whole 100 yards through the slush this morning to show my faith in Democracy and the Greatest Nation of All Time.I try to have as great a grasp of the issues as possible when going into vote for the candidates, which becomes more difficult in primaries where the nuances between the candidates are slight. Many pundits have been reiterating that the policy differences between Hilary and Barack are almost inconsequential, so instead you need to look at alternative factors: The vision of the country in the next ten years. The personalities of the candidates and their abilities to inspire and lead. And the role the candidates see themselves in as President, in terms of how they will do their job once elected. To me though, policy always comes first. I have specific ideas about policies I would like the country to enforce in order to transform our society. In 2008, they prioritize this way:Foreign policy, both in trade and relations, with getting out of Iraq within the next 18 months being priority A short-term and relations with China being priority A long-term, Reversing the moves made by the Bush Administration to curtail civil liberties while expanding the power of the executive branch, with new FISA regulations and the closing of Guantanamo Bay being priority A. Universal Healthcare Education.Energy Reform. In terms of policy, Hilary and Barack are both vast improvements over the current clown-in-chief, and the differences are slight. I prefer Barack's ideas on Iraq and engagement with Iran, but Hilary is a little more pro free-trade. I'm wary of how the Clintons would do at curtailing executive power. Hilary has been a stronger advocate for universal healthcare throughout her career. Policy wise, I lean towards Obama, but for the first time the other factors almost equal out. There is one man to thank for this: George W. Bush.As awful as his policies are, the style of his government is that much worse. Staunch, unquestioned partisanship that punishes party members who go against the grain. Secrecy and misdirection. Willfull ignorance points of view and perspectives different from your beliefs. We've seen a Clinton White House before, and so we have an idea of what to expect. Partisanship and secrecy were major problems of the Clinton White House, especially in the last six years of office after the Republican takeover. The Clintons play the victimization card as a political tool, and are also both skilled and comfortable slandering and defying those whom they see as providing little political gain or suction to themselves. What they failed to learn, in my opinion, is that its better to have enemies that tolerate you than those that hate you passionately.The other major flaw of the Clinton White House is how the personal relationship of the Clintons dominated their presidency in ways that hindered Bill's ability to govern and provided ammunition for the same enemies they made already. Is this is bad as the Bush Presidencies foibles? Hell no. But it was a problem and remains a problem today.Meanwhile, Obama's greatest strength is the vision he offers of his Presidency and the fundamentals he claims he will run his government by. The role of the Presidency, for Obama, is providing a uniting force and positive image for America, in order to allow and enable the government as a whole to legislate based on the principles this country is based on. Many a candidate has played this card in my lifetime, but none has done it as poetically or as convincingly as Barack Obama. Being able to persuade, to have a vision of the office and gain the support of the people would be crucial to actually fulfilling this vision. It's a similar one to what Bill Clinton had in 1992, that he was ultimately unable to enact. Partly because maybe Americans weren't ready, and partly because he might not[...]



Oops

2007-12-12T09:17:20.069-06:00

Scroll down to my May 23rd post.

Yea I guess I was wrong about that one. At least about the Celtics being crappily run….maybe.

Trading for Ray Allen made very little sense to me at the time, because I thought that a Pierce/Jefferson/Allen corps was good for maybe a 5 seed in the East and unlikely to get by who I thought was going to be the top teams, the Bulls (oops) and the Cavs. But then the KG trade went down and…wow.

I don’t know if this was Danny’s master plan all along, and how much of it is just good fortune, the right guys becoming available at the right time. I wonder if he was working on Garnett during the Allen negotiations. The Allen move doesn’t make sense to me without the KG move, so if not, it’s just another example of incredible Boston sports luck that will hopefully keep going for another 8 months. But as Baseball Prospectus is fond of saying, luck is the residue of design.

Having gone to watch the Celts play the Bulls on Saturday, I was once again impressed by how well the team fits together in terms of how the players strengths complement each other. As stars, the combo of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett works because of their different offensive games, KG inside, Allen as a pure shooter, and Pierce as one most versatile scorers in the league. They are a matchup nightmare, because of Garnett and Pierce’s flexibility (both can handle being on the post or wing) and the passing ability of all three. Moreover, Rondo and Perkins are now relegated to roles in which they can excel, Perk as the recipient of layups off putbacks and other’s penetration, and Rondo as a quick PG who isn’t always asked to run the offense and can now hit 18 footers. It’s freaking awesome.

Defensively, KG’s presence inside, along with a not to be overlooked Perk allows Rondo and Pierce to step up the pressure on the outside. Being able to cheat on your man by overplaying the outside game because you have one of the best interior help defenders in the league is why the Spurs have played such great D the last 10 years, and why the Celtics are now destroying in defensive metrics.

So how far can this team go? Certainly the Finals are within reach. I know people are clamoring for a Sam Cassel addition (stay the fuck away) but if I were Danny, I wouldn’t be that concerned. Maybe add another big body for the Perk role because he still gets in foul trouble, and Pollard aint gonna cut it against Dwight Howard in May.

For now though, it’s definitely easy being green.




We Are Stll in Iraq

2007-12-05T12:18:45.434-06:00

And I am responsible.

I must be, if we truly live in a free and democratic society. For the Constitution of the United States, begins with “We the People” and acts as the ultimate source of authority in our nation, of which I am a citizen. Thus the decisions of our politicians, elected by myself and my fellow citizens, are the responsibility of the people. Ideally, the majority will be able to make rational decisions that move the country forward in a positive manner.

Yet how much time have we allowed our country to be involved in a conflict that was clearly a mistake?

Our government is set up so that change occurs slowly over time, which is a good thing. Thus we are not totally at the mercy of the whims of the populace, which in this day and age of constant stimulation from various media sources, runs completely contrary to the rest of society. The re-election of Bush in 2004 was the death sentence for thousands of young American soldiers. It was an affirmation of his policies, even if Truth is something completely different. Truth is not subject to the electoral college, and the rationale behind going into Iraq (the WMDs!) does not hold up to Truth. Moreover the entire plan does not hold up to reason, it was foolhardy and wrong-headed. Democratization of the Middle East, which was the goal of this War in order to obtain easier access to a natural resource, combined with a little payback at a dictator was the ultimate goal of this administration. But hoping we could initiate a viral spread of democracy was a fairytale that ignored a basic fact about human society: The world is not a democratic place. Even in 2007, how many countries truly operate within a free, democratic system of government? Democracies can flourish, but they are so fragile and can be upset so easily; by a leader who wants increased power, by money and its persuasion, and worst of all by complacency, by refusing to listen to opposing and differing points of view to where those that air them are shouted down or mocked.

In fact, rather than spread Democracy to another country, the lasting legacy of the Bush Administration will be a weakening of Democracy and freedom within our own country. From reduced opportunity for social mobility to curtailing civil liberties to embracing exclusive rather than inclusive values, all of the actions on a domestic front have been about enhancing their personal power while reducing that of the individual or the other branches of government one of which represents the people more directly (Congress) and one of which is supposedly bound to enforce the principles and rights on which our Consitiution was written. It's a modus operendi that contradicts their international ambitions, and calls into question the very fabric of their administration. How can two such divergent tactics be part of any coherent moral plan other than to increase their power and wealth? What is the difference between a despot and elected leaders who act only to enhance their own power? Does the fact that they were elected make it ok? Hell no.

What we need is a reasoned reevaluation of American Democracy, before we go about trying to spread it to other places. Does this mean retreat from the international scene for a lull? Yes. I am not advocating isolationism...I'm advocating prioritization. The priority is Us. We the People, and our health, education, and opportunity. Through turning inward, and refreshing freedom and democracy here, we will be able to turn outward and play an important world in helping to bring freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world.




It's reality, stupid

2007-11-28T22:54:40.262-06:00

Didn't think this was going to happen again, did you? Well, today's topic of discussion was inspired by a REAL-LIFE conversation between your two favorite former bloggers.

Recently, I've had discussions about media and its role in shaping behavior of the masses- specifically, whether mass-market culture promotes consumerism and environmentally unsustainable practices; and whether hip-hop culture promotes violence and racism. The flip side to the argument is whether these cultures are merely a byproduct of audience tastes. I've done my share of media-bashing, but I'm also pretty sure that they're only a small part of the puzzle. CNN is terrible, but if it is viewed by millions of Americans as the daily news, then who is to blame, CNN or Americans?

The short answer is both, but since that's a cop-out answer, the long answer is: what good is it to blame anybody? It's fashionable to blame hip-hop culture when gang violence rears its ugly head, and it's fashionable to blame the media when it spends 6 hours of coverage on Britney Spears or Drew Peterson. But blaming "the media" is akin to blaming nobody; it's like a blame version of Kitty Genovese- spread enough blame around and nobody is really going to take responsibility.

The link above is another symptom of this knee-jerk reaction to assign blame. It's a bill in Congress to do something about the Internet and its role in radicalizing terrorist groups. A lot of things that Congress does make no sense, and this is actually not the crux of the bill, but I wanted to point out that it is the only medium mentioned by name. As if terrorists don't use cell phones, television, paper, and even face-to-face communication. No, it's the internet that has helped spread terrorism.

The thing is, I won't even disagree with assertion. Just like I'm not going to dispute that video games (and violent movies and television) might cause violence in less stable members of the population, or that guns might cause violence. Sure, it might be true, but what are you going to do about it? Ban violent culture? Ban guns? Blame the internet? The point I'm trying to make is that these things are reality, and blaming them or trying to quell them is like the industrial revolution workers that destroyed the machinery that was "taking" their jobs. Things change in the world, and it's better to work with them than it is to fight against the inevitable. So it makes sense to blame the Internet. To the creators of this bill, cell phones, television, and talking are part of reality for them. They've accepted their place in the world, but the Internet just doesn't make sense to them.

I'm sure that's an oversimplification, but I'm painting with a broad brush. Blaming the media is fashionable, I'm sure, because it's an unprovable assertion. But what if we really could understand the causes and effects of the media? If we really knew why Britney Spears gets so much airtime, maybe we can change the rules of the game so that it isn't such a profitable combination to air her 24/7. Or maybe we would just learn to accept that Britney Spears is an absolutely compelling human interest story, that violent video games are fun, and that hip hop is violent and racist because it's just more awesome that way.



Poor Celtics

2007-05-23T10:49:49.347-05:00

So the Celtics aren't going to get Durant or Oden. Boo-hoo. While I feel bad for Simmons because he may off himself, we've got to realize that 1) the Celtics had less than 50 percent chance of getting one of the two and 2) it's still not a bad time to be a Boston sports fan. The Pats and Red Sox are two of the better run organizations in sports. (The Pats being possibly the best.) Plus they've had some karma. We drafted the greatest QB of our generation with a sixth round pick. We signed David Ortiz off the scrap heap and he became a Boston legend. The Celtics are crappily run, and losing out on the lottery will turn people's attention to that. Perhaps, only if we get the organization moving in the right direction, from ownership on down, will we be able to have a fortunate break like getting an Oden. Would have been freaking sweet though.



MANNNN THATS SOME BULLLLLSHITT

2007-05-17T10:07:21.457-05:00

Thats two straight posts with bullshit in the title, in case you were wondering.

The Suns should have won last night, except they couldn't because when they needed to score in the 4th quarter, they had to run pick and rolls with Kurt Thomas instead of Amare or Diaw. This enabled Duncan to cheat of Thomas cutting off Nash's penetration. As usual, I defer to Simmons when describing the NBA; the Spurs have the edge on the Suns right now because 1) The NBA is retarded (suspensions etc.) and 2) Duncan is amazing. The Spurs are not a great team, they execute very well and put their players in positions where they can succeed. But there entire defensive scheme (pressuring the ball up top) is based on the fact that Duncan will save their ass if they get beat on dribble penetration. Which he did last time. Every freaking time.

Which is why the loss of Amare hurt so much. Amare is a young stud who actually has the ability to take it the rim with Duncan there and finish. Which is what he did twice in the last minute of game 4, to put the Suns on top. While everyone was focusing on Nash's passes, that was the real key to victory for the Suns. It's also why they still have a chance in Game 6.

On the suspension, it's made clear that David Stern has lost his ability to be an effective executive. Giving someone authoritarian control over a business enterprise works, until the power foes to said person's head and he/she starts making bad decisions that aren't questioned by outside sources because everyone is afraid of jeapordizing their own position. The first sign of this is when Stern lengthened first round series from 5 games to 7 in the middle of the season in 03 because the Lakers were in danger of getting a 5 seed and he wanted to ensure that they made it out of the first round. Changing a rule in the middle of the season? Who does that?

Of course Stern couldn't change this rule in the middle of the season because that would make him look incompetent. Which is more important than the integrity of the game of course.

Or not. I've written on the Smoking Section about the connection between basketball and hip-hop in the public eye, as two of the main avenues whereby young black males are famous and get exposure. What I wrote there, is that while elements of hip-hop exploit the "gangster" image, the NBA patronizes their players and fans. Everything done by the NBA in the last ten years has been aimed at taming this image, even if it's impossible, so that they can sell young black males to upper middle class white people.

What the NBA needs is an executive who can balance the positives of hip-hop culture, the style and expressiveness, with the corporate interests tied into the game, and market the product to youth. Jay-Z for NBA commissioner?



Feeding the Monster Bullshit

2007-05-15T10:42:15.359-05:00

I read "Feeding the Monster," by Seth Mnookin, a former New Yorker writer who followed Red Sox management around for a few years (03-05ish) and wrote a tome on them.

While Mnookin does have some interesting insights on the Red Sox, this is one of the worst pieces of non-fiction I have read about the Sox. As a non-fiction writer, the goal should be to take a broad view, understanding that in profiling something as large as an organization, there are going to be different individual views as to how things happened. In something as that garners as much media coverage, opinionizing, and rumor-mongering as the Red Sox, this is definitely going to be the case.

Unfortunately, this "insider's" perspective reads as a PR piece put out by Red Sox brass. Mnookin, rewards ownership for the amount of access given to him by taking their line in every single major conflict. His lack of reporting skill is especially evident in his inability to get the player's side of the story. Granted, getting interviews with Manny Ramirez can be a challenge, but answering such a challenge is necessary if you are going to write about the man.

Mnookin consistently labels the players as "greedy," consistently pointing out the large salaries they make while referencing their complaints in order to make them look spoiled. No mention then, of the penny-pinching done by ownership, rather according to how Mnookin portrays it, the Red Sox are struggling to make money what with revenue sharing etc. (Mnookin places the caveat that revenues from NESN arent counted, total garbage because the Sox moved all their games to NESN after buying the network, cable packages then added NESN to extended basic and charged ALL New England consumers extra, whether they are Red Sox fans or not.) Who does he think he's fooling? The Sox have by far the most expensive tickets and fuck their fans over for money in a ton of ways. Don't look to me for pity.

Worse then this portrayal however is the misrepresentation of truth. Two examples come to mind.

The first is Mnookin calling out Dan Shaugnessy for glossing over the Red Sox racist history in his book "The Curse of the Bambino." The Shank is a total putz, and the city will be a better place when he retires, but I've got to back him on this one. I've read the book and his account of the Jackie Robinson tryout (with the famous "get these niggers off the field," from the owners box) the Willie Mays tryout, the racism of Pinky Higgins, and the de facto limit on minorities through the 80s are all covered in Dan's book. He even floats a theory that there is a twin curse of Ruth and Robinson, tying Boston's futility to their racist attitudes. Mnookin's statement is slanderous.

A second comes in backing the Red Sox decisions and buying the party line as truth. Mnookin claims that, in signing David Wells and Matt Clement over Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, the Sox managed to get a better combination of pitchers for 8 million dollars less. Of course at the end of 2005, Pedro and Lowe had a combined VORP of 86 while Clement and Wells were at 50. Whoops.

The 2004 Red Sox were a great team both as the game of baseball and in terms of the confluence of personalities. Shame that out of such a team, no one has written a definitive profile. Skip Mnookin's for sure, Johnny Damon's bio will probably provide more level-headed insight



Bwah?

2007-05-13T14:37:28.845-05:00

Ok I was just about to write a quick update on the NBA playoffs, but while I was waiting for the Bulls-Pistons games to start, I noticed something horrendous.

On one of the ubiquitous, much-maligned “Our Country” Cougar Melloncamp Chevy commercials, they pan between shots of white males working on farms. In addition to the acknowledged racism of these adds, the next of which will feature a group of guys standing in white hoods, two yokels are listening to the radio while bailing hay. Over the radio we hear, “The war in Iraq is over. The Enemy has surrendered.”

Um What the fuck are you thinking GM? I assume this is reference to the first Iraq War, a reminder of a time when you could fight wars without land power or casualties. If it’s a reference to the current Iraq conflict, it’s a giant fuck you to the troops dying by the day. Even as a reference to 91, it seems horribly irresponsible. Utilizing nostalgia of American military dominance may play up to the demographic group you are targeting, but in case you hadn’t noticed, that group is shrinking fast. The majority of Americans are going to find this jingoism disturbing and flock to the Toyota and Honda dealers to buy better cars. Tying their economic success by hoping for a resurgence in “Buy American,” while reminding consumers of exactly why they are disappointed in their country sounds like the business model for a company that wants to break their own record for net loss in a quarter. Goodbye GM.




Baseball has been bery bery good to me

2007-05-12T12:29:41.297-05:00

And it has. In the last three years I have seen my Red Sox finally break through to win the title and my fantasy baseball team win the inaugural Parade of Horribles championship. Can life be any better?

Yes, if I can somehow manage a way to have both happen in one season. 2007 looks like it could be that year.

First of all, the Red Sox have started hot. I mean super hot. The pitching looks excellent; two seasoned vets in Schilling/Wake, two young studs in Dice-K and Beckett have combined to lead us to the best ERA in the majors. The bullpen has also been solid, behind Papelbon and Okajima.

The offense looks like it will be at worst good, at best near the tops in the league although still not fucking with the 03 and 04 juggernauts. The Hall of Fame 3-4 has never been underappreciated from this corner and will ensure nothing less than above average. Greatness depends on the ability of Crisp, KY, Drew, and Lugo to live up to what the smartest front office in history envisioned of them. So far this year they are 1 for 4. It’s early.

Of course one of those 4 is not J.D. Drew, who was also supposed to play a vital role on B&B Enterprises (my fantasy team.) Currently his SLG stands at .368 making him one of four players on my team to have a slugging percentage within 50 points of their on base. Not good.

I still think I can win because there will be regression in terms of home runs for my team, which will lift me in the three categories I am trailing horribly in (runs, home runs, and slugging.) The question is, will current leader (and part-time contributor to YTE, David) experience a similar correction in pitching? Who can pull off the trade that puts them over the top?

In the words of Master Splinter: We shall see, Oroko Saki.




The World 3-20

2007-03-20T09:21:02.255-05:00

Quick hit update before I try to keep shit moving with a longer piece on some awesomeness later in the week. There are three big sporting events going on in the world right now, the Cricket World Cup, the NCAA tourney and the Parade of Horribles Fantasy Baseball League, which everyone needs to keep updated with.

In cricket, the huge story has been the absolute destruction of everything Pakistan; not only did their team lose to Ireland meaning they don’t make it to the Super 8s, but the night after this historic loss their coach was found dead in his hotel room. People are afraid to speculate whether this was natural or shady for obvious reasons, but it’s put quite the damper on the whole tournament. Unfortunate, since the hosts (Windies,) have played well and moved on to the next round. The other Big Team that is threatened with missing the next round is India, who lost to Bangladesh, meaning their matchup with Sri Lanka on the 23rd is huge. Follow all scores live on www.cricinfo.com

As for the tourney, I filled out three brackets, all with different outcomes, so hopefully one of them will end up right. I have Ohio State going too far, they aren’t that good and should have lost already. The toughest teams so far look like Kansas, Georgetown, and Florida. I really hope Florida doesn’t win again.

As for the PoH, we submitted our keepers this week; I chose to keep Ryan Zimmerman and Huston Street as my last two keepers, with the logic that it was more difficult to find good third basemen and closers as opposed to starting pitchers. The bottom line is I still have two of the top five players (Reyes and Howard,) and two more in the top 15 (Haf-Daddy and Beltran.) I love myself.

As for the rest of the world, we seem to be on the brink of a long hot summer, where things in Washington will continue to get nastier as Bushites are exposed for all the wrongdoing they have been involved in. What we have to realize here is that it’s not the specific machinations that are the problem; it’s the general disrespect for the other branches of government, the Constitution, and the laws on the books. No one likes legal smackdowns, but in this case, it’s deserved. And let me tell you, it’s great seeing them fall one by one.




Sports Sports Sports Sports

2007-03-14T16:16:17.109-05:00

Some quick thoughts on the sports events I saw yesterday. First I watched about 40 overs of the West Indies-Pakistan opener of the Cricket World Cup. When we arrived at the bar, the Pakis had the Windies on 7-170 and on the ropes, but some crucial slogging by the bottom order brought their total to 240 and none of the Pakistani batters could build a partnership. Of course its way too early to be making statements about the outcome of the World Cup since the first round is all about the Big Fish not being upset by the minnows, but it looks like Pakistan is going to need a super-human performance from their 3-4-5 of Khan, Yosouf and Inzamam to have a chance of getting to the semis, since the rest of their team either bowling or batting doesn’t impress. The Windies, while not looking perfect, at least found out that their bowling can win games for them against quality batsmen. That’s key, since it was their biggest question mark coming into the tourney.

Second I went to the Bulls-Celtics game, where I went in about thirty seconds from paying 20 dollars for standing room seats to getting comped to Google’s luxury suite. After recovering from the giddiness of free beer and sandwiches, I came away with the following observations about the teams in question.

The Celtics have some pieces; Pierce is still Pierce albeit maybe giving 80 percent (fine by me, this year is worthless and he is back from injury,) Al is a crucial frontline piece going forward, Delonte has some serious off the bench scoring potential…

Other than that though: Gerald Green is Kedrick Brown part 2, (someone who can jump and nothing else,) Rondo can beat anyone off the dribble but can’t play PG, Perkins got destroyed on the boards, Telfair is a joke, Scalabrine would be a great tenth man on a good team, etc. etc.

As much as the world’s most visible Celtics’ fan (Bill Simmons,) fiends over Durant in every column he writes, I am here to say that if I had the first pick, I’d draft Oden. It’s about need right now, and Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace DESTROYED us on the boards and inside. We don’t need another scorer, even if Durant is a once in a life time offensive player, Oden could be a once in a lifetime defensive player. In the Big Ten Championship, Wisconsin was afraid to come within ten feet of the basket.

As for the Bulls, they have as good a chance as anyone to emerge from the East. The key to their success will be Tyrus Thomas; it’s a good thing that they didn’t trade him for Gasol since he’ll be a better player in two years. Regardless with Deng, Hinrich, and Gordon in the back court and Big Ben in the middle, they have the pieces.

Of course they’ll still probably get killed in the Finals. Sorry Stu.



Know Your History

2007-03-05T18:04:19.227-06:00

Remember ten years ago? You probably were at entering your peak pimple/masturbation years, thinking about trying out that “marijuana,” thing, and lying about how much sex you had. But in between managing your hormones, you were in high school. And if you were like me, you were taking European history, learning about white rich men the world over. Anyways I want you to dig deep into your memory banks and see if you can’t recall one of history’s most dire times: The 30 Years War. Taking place between 1618 and 1648, it’s generally regarded as one of the deadliest periods in human history. (In “Germany,” 1/3 of the population died.) It eventually drew in nearly every major state, kingdom, dukedom and earldom, in the region. It grew out of tensions between the two major branches of the major regional religion, specifically the dominant branch (Catholicism) learning to deal with the increased power of the minority branch (Lutheran Protestants.) Surrounding nations were drawn into the conflict as a proxy war to fight over control of the resources of the weaker areas. Why am I bringing this up? Because, as this blog says, you have to know your history, or you are doomed to repeat mistakes that have already been made. And I think that the lessons of the 30 Years War can teach us about what we are dealing with in the present day Middle East. The violence taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan is due to two factors: anger about control over the Middle East by larger outside states (especially among previous groups who used to have power,) and underlying tensions between Shias and Sunnis that have been inadvertently brought to the forefront of geopolitical interactions by the U.S’ terrible foreign policy of the last six years. The U.S. and Europe’s support of Israel and more importantly, exploitation of natural resources and military presence (colonization and neo-colonization) fermented the seeds of dissent in people in the region. This led to the creation of radical groups, many of them strongly religious, who began committing acts of war against people they thought were invading their area: the U.S., Israel, and Europe. The invasion of Afghanistan by NATO was a response to the most severe and deadly act of war by a radical group. The invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing, is starting to look like a resource grab gone horribly wrong. Yes the Bush Administration tried to tie it to the acts of war, but this connection by our leaders was either gross misjudgment or outright lying. While WMDs were not in Iraq, the oil always was, as well as the hope that Iraq would transform itself into a western-friendly proxy state that could supply energy while allowing the U.S. and others to use their territory as a military base and counter-balance to other Anti-West states. What we know now is that idea was a pipe dream; instead the radical groups, realizing that an invaded Iraq was a prime area to conduct an insurgency, destabilized Iraq and Baghdad. Lack of security in this environment led groups of Shia’s and Sunnis to gang together for protection, increasing sectarian conflict. On a larger scale, the destabilization of Iraq increased Iran’s regional power by getting rid of one of their largest threats. Iran is the heartland of Shia Islam, and has done its best to step into the void of leadership in the Middle East that has existed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This has threatened traditional Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan; the Saudis don’t want Iran flexing its muscles in the oil regime, the Jordanians and Egyptians are worried about getting caught up i[...]



CRICKET!!!!

2007-02-26T20:18:25.236-06:00

Let’s say in a fantasy world, I was in some situation where a company gave me a check every two weeks, which was directly deposited into my bank account. Let’s also say that said company also gave me a certain amount of days per year where I was paid yet did not have to show up at work. They would call this “vacation.” If I was in this outrageous situation, I would take a week off and head to Jamaica for the world’s second greatest international sporting event, the Cricket World Cup. This event getting no play in the United States because our team sucks, even though almost half the world’s population has a deep rooting interest in one team or another. The games won’t even be shown on any cable channel; you are going to have to spring for a dish package. Anyways I am here to give you a quick intro. THE FORMAT: 16 teams make the World Cup, split into 4 groups of 4 in the first round. Of these teams, 6 (Kenya, Canada, Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands) are what are called “minnows.” They do not have ICC test status, (meaning they participate in the multi-year rotation of Tests,) because their teams aren’t good enough. They have no chance of winning. The top two teams from each group go into the next round, the Super 8s, a second round-robin. The top 4 teams go into the semi-finals. All games are played under the One-Day International (ODI) format. Each team gets 50 overs to bat. (An over equals six balls bowled, from alternating ends…the same bowler cannot bowl two overs in a row.) You try and score as many runs as possible in this time; if your whole lineup gets out, then you don’t get to fulfill your 50 overs. THE TEAMS: What will follow is a capsule preview of each of the ten test nations participating in the World Cup, for your enjoyment. AUSTRALIA Population: 20 million Best Result: Champion (1987, 1999, 2003) Top Exports: Babes, Kangaroo meat, meatheads. Why you should root for them: Australians are some of the friendliest most relaxed people in the world. They have an absolutely beautiful country that everyone should visit. They have stupidly stood by the U.S. in the War on Terror. Plus their country will be out of water in 20 years, and they could be potentially invaded by Indonesia at any moment. They need a lot of championships to build up their confidence. Why you should root against them: They are the greatest dynasty in sports right now. In addition to winning the last two world cups, they have been by far the best test nation in the last decade (think Roger Federer/Tiger Woods domination,) which has led to the usual amount of arrogance and entitlement among their fans. Plus their fans are prone to making racist comments towards the opposition. Three players to watch: Ricky Ponting, the captain and the best batsman in the world. Andrew Symonds, an all-rounder (batsman, fielder, and bowler) who excels at the one day game and is trying to make it back from injury. Glenn McGrath, fast bowler who is retiring after the World Cup and one of the two most important players to Australia’s long-term success. BANGLADESH Population: 147 million Best Result: First Round Top Exports: People, Despair Why you should root for them: The newest team to achieve test status, Bangladesh has had to fight for respect ever since, with players from countries like Australia and England sneering at them that they don’t belong. Add on top of that they are one of the poorest countries in the world, and their government was recently ouste[...]



I Resolve to Look the Other Way

2007-02-20T19:54:50.270-06:00

What did we honestly expect the Democrats to do when we voted them into power three months ago about the War? Many dovish peaceniks fantasized about an automatic pull-out of Iraq, although those of us not totally doped up thought. Some, like myself, wanted at least a substantial policy to come out of the change in power, either implementing the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group, or David Harris (a massive troop surge, followed by a phased withdrawal.) At least, I hoped, the Bush Administration would be forced to take a multilateral approach to their policy-making, realizing that the election was a direct rebuke to the reign of Rumsfield. The Democrats, in the middle of a celebration of their newfound power, allowed The Presidency to draw the line in the sand on the most important issue of our time. While they were busy pushing through their 100 hours reforms, the President, through his primetime speech and the State of the Union laid out the stakes: He would not be accepting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. He would not be working with Congress on foreign policy. Instead, he would poor some salt on a shit sandwich by sending a token amount of troops into Baghdad and calling it a “surge.” Most importantly, Bush offered no new ideas about acceptable outcomes that would lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. This straight up “Fuck You” to the Democratic Party (and the people who voted them into power,) regarding Iraq was pretty bold, even for Bush. In the face of falling popularity at home and continual failure abroad, he smiled and kept moving forward with what he (or his cronies,) think is the right thing to do (or the most profitable. If this is not a case of morality gone awry for Bush then he is as bad as Stalin.) In my view, it is the responsibility of the Congress to respond accordingly. While foreign policy is traditionally the realm of the executive branch, what we have here is an administration that’s unwilling to listen to suggestions or alternatives from qualified sources when it’s clear we are involved in an international crisis that has the potential to affect the U.S. for decades to come. The time is now for Congress to step in and utilize the power of the purse. Instead, we get this non-binding resolution crap. This is the worst of all worlds. It doesn’t even make sense politically. If the troop surge fails, Congress gets to say I told you so about Bush’s foreign policy, but Bush’s foreign policy is already about as unpopular as it can possibly be. If the troop surge succeeds, the Dems look like idiots for coming out against it. And enough with the “we support the troops.” bullshit which is just the Democrats running scared from Republican accusations about potentially cutting funding. The Democrats need to show some balls and argue that cutting off funding isn’t a fuck you to the troops, it’s a fuck you to the leadership that is getting our troops killed. There has to be some level of accountability in government and this is the power that our forefathers granted to the Congress. Sure this reasoning will piss some people off, but now is the time to do that, 18 months away from the next election, with popularity for the war at an all-time low. Of course everything the Democrats do in their first two years of power will be done with consideration for its effect on the ’08 election. They will be paralyzed to make any unpopular moves that can be brought back upon them, even if they may be the correct ones. With so much at stake, it will be hard for pols to move away from the influence o[...]



What do We Want? Gays in Sports!

2007-02-17T12:02:33.411-06:00

Why is the idea of a Gay jock such a big deal? Gay ballerina, not so big a deal. Gay basketball player? Huge deal! Stop the presses! Front page news! Pull Wolf Blitzer off the Anna Nicole Smith autopsy watch! One reason is that people in the ballet industry have probably been dealing with gay colleagues for a long period of time because their society is one where homosexuality is not stigmatized. In the world of professional sports, one of the solitary figures to come out, John Ameachi has to deal with Tim Hardaway making a comment like “I hate gay people…I think there is no place in the world or the United States for homosexuality.” If Hardaway is willing to make this comment in a public forum, god knows what he or others are willing to say in more private settings. The problem here is twofold. First of all, athletes from any sport are not necessarily the smartest subsection of humanity. Yet when an issue such as a homosexual co-worker arises, they are asked to comment because they are public figures. These are questions that sometimes require an ability to understand a complex issue and digest multiple viewpoints. You are going to get some ignorance and stupidity that reflects that of the general population. Second, and more importantly, it’s ok for ballerina’s to be gay because ballet is seen as a feminine persuasion. The two major institutions of manliness, are the military and athletics. And over the last decade, they have been the two institutions where discrimination against homosexuals has been tolerated, rationalized, and excused. In the military, it’s in the rules; you can’t be openly gay and serve your country. Evidently a homosexual in the forces kills morale, camaraderie, trust, discipline, and spreads Communism. (Look up the military’s official statement on the matter from 1981, which is still in force.) Similar arguments are made by athletes when they talk about a “lack of trust in the locker room,” or similar garbage, which substitutes for people’s true discomfort, being in a situation where they are around gay people and how it effects their own views of their sexuality. What do people mean by comments such as “I wouldn’t want to shower with that guy.?” Evidently standing naked with someone who is gay is a dangerous habit; you never know if the gay person might sneak up behind you when you are washing the shampoo out of your eyes and try and cop a feel. Of course, if you asked a gay person about that, they would laugh in your face. The truth is that most people, whether they are gay or straight, probably have some level of discomfort about showering next to other dudes. That doesn’t make them ignorant or weird, it just makes them normal. Society reinforces standard sexual roles that many people do not fit into, starting of course with the standard husband-wife model. The fact is a majority of people do make it through life fulfilling this supposed “proper,” model. Yet anyone who does not is stigmatized as a failure. In fact, they are also normal. The athlete and the soldier, enshrouded in the myth of manliness, are supposed to live up to their status as alpha males by sexually dominating multiple females. Males in this position are so obsessed by maintaining this image that they can’t even accept associating with homosexuals. Fear of the different and the unaccepted, combined with uncertainty about the self leads to a group reaction of discrimination and abuse. It’s the same old story. American society is going through a conflict with regards[...]



WMDs: If only We'd Known

2007-01-29T12:16:17.298-06:00

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have for you a Your Thoughts Exactly exclusive that explains everything from 2003 onward and validates the previously nonsensical neo-conservative foreign policy. What we did not know is that Messrs. Rumsfield, Rice, and Wolfowitz were privy to secret information about the nature of the threat emanating out of the Middle East that, unbeknownst to the general population, threatened the very existence of the Untied States, the West, and sweet Freedom herself. I am talking, of course, about WMDs. The genius of the Bush Administration is that they were able to hint at the true threat the whole time while throwing Congress, several foreign nations, and the majority of the press and the public off the trail. They all had us convinced that Saddam was secretly hiding and building Weapons of Mass Destruction. This was the primary justification given for invading Iraq (at least publicly,) in 2002-3, one that has been disproved as either the worst intelligence gaffe in US history, or an outright planned lie. When press members mention the subsequent lack of WMDs to current administration officials, like say Dick Cheney, they get flustered and try and make up other reasons for the invasion in their efforts to hide the real truth from us. For example, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer this week, VP Cheney rationalized invading Iraq on the basis of the fact that if we had left Saddam in power, he would currently be involved in a nuclear arms race with Iran’s President Mahmoud Amhadinejad as they are bitter enemies. Now in response to this assertion, one could say something like “gee Dick, Saddam had no access to highly enriched uranium in ’03, you really think that would he would have been able to get some so quickly when he was an international pariah?” Or alternatively “Wow Dick, you mean the U.S. knew in 2003 that Ahmadinejad would get elected in 2005, so you used your supreme knowledge of the future to invade Iraq to stop a nuclear arms race? You guys are fucking geniuses!” Of course, Supreme knowledge of the future flies in the face of logic and rationality. But as YTE has recently discovered, there is nothing rational about what is going on in the world today, and the grave threat that every human being now faces. You see, a drunken Saddam let loose a slip of the tongue about his plan to secret US ally Kim Jong Il, the Bush Administration has known the real meaning behind WMDs. What those of us in the know, like a certain Taylor James Peterson, have long feared: War-Mongering Monkey Dolphins. You see, ever since the dawn of man, over seven thousand years ago, we have been able to dominate nature in every way possible, from domesticating the horse and dog to controlling the weather. (You think Katrina was an accident?) Yet there always existed the potential for two animals to team up through mating to form some sort of super-hybrid capable of dethroning man from his rightful perch as supreme guardian of of Earth. Monkeys and Dolphins have long been seen by political scientists as two of the largest threats (along with peacocks.) Monkey-Dolphin hybrids combine the prehensile tales and opposable thumbs of primates with the large brains, superior vision, and echolocation ability of dolphins. Thankfully, with one confined to the Oceans, and the other to the Jungles, monkeys and dolphins never got the chance to procreate, except for in extremely rare cases when a monkey would grab a dolphin out of the water, rape it, and throw it back in. The only possible opportunity for such a threat to em[...]



Damn White People

2007-01-26T07:55:19.918-06:00

The first two MCs that came up on ITunes for me this morning were KRS-One and Chuck D, so I guess I may as well speak about what a terrible racist I am. After writing my endorsement of Barack Obama for the blog last Saturday, I took a nap, then went down to Clark Street Alehouse for a friend’s birthday party. Upon walking in I noticed two things. First, there were a solid amount of good looking women complete with engagement rings, which not only depressed me because I was unlikely to hook up with them, but also frayed my corneas and depressed me again based on the lack of funds in my bank account to spend on such a crappy rock. After recovering from this depressive wave, I notice for the second time this weekend that I had ended up at a bar with only white people. Ok well the bouncer was black. And over the course of the night I was able to spot one other black guy and an Asian dude. But still, I was in Crackerland. And hey I guess it’s cool to roll with your own right? I do believe in the melting pot America of the 21st century. But America is a big place, and it’s going to develop at different speeds and with different dynamics depending on local history and demographics. One of the reasons I loved Miami was its multiculturalism. It felt like a city that was twenty five years ahead of the rest of the US in this manner. Sydney also was surprisingly multi-cultural, considering Australians in general are about thirty years behind in terms of racist attitudes. Chicago, not so much. It is a city of 9 million people that obviously has representation from every racial demographic somewhere. But something about it, maybe the sprawl, maybe where I have chosen to live, maybe the weather, gives me the impression that there are still barriers that separate groups of people. The bottom line is, I should never be in a situation where there is only one race of people in a bar in a major city in the US. Now, bars don’t help by catering to specific races of people. I know this from my brief experience working as a barback. One weekend, we hosted a “black party,” on a Friday and a traditional “white party,” on a Saturday. The main difference, of course, was the music played. Interestingly, my bar manager had decided that black people prefer Heineken while white people prefer Amstel Light, so we served one on Friday and one on Saturday. Weird. I was talking about this with Breezy Boo (my African-American sister) last year; she said that is was natural for groups of people to “hang with their own.” I guess that is true. While I grew up in an extremely multi-cultural neighborhood, my parents’ decision to send me to private schools with mostly all white kids limited my exposure to families and friends of different ethnicities. I guess it is “natural,” for me to not be friends with very many black people because I haven’t interacted with as many as I have white people in my lifetime. And when people “hang with their own,” they develop different cultures and backgrounds, which lead to an increased divide between groups. Increased divide in racial subcultures means that people have to expose themselves to unfamiliar situations to bridge gaps. Well, people don’t like uncomfortable situations. Most people are self-conscious and don’t like being in situations where they stand out, or where their differences are noticeable. No wonder all the black people avoided the bar last Saturday. This isn't the America I want though.[...]



Preceding Me in the Office of President should be,..

2007-01-20T16:58:30.990-06:00

My fellow Illinoisan? Barack Obama! That’s right, the Marmaniac endorsement is already in for the 2008 election. And why not? After all it’s only 21 months away. The readiness of candidates to declare themselves candidates proves that George W will add to his distinguished resume the title of being the lamest duck of all time. Democrats, fresh off their victory in November are chomping at the bit to put their names out there in hopes of carrying forward momentum. Personally, I think this is a bit dumb; Howard Dean should have taught everyone that there is no point in peaking six months before everyone votes, that just give the other pols a target to aim at before Iowans and New Hampshirens go to decide our candidates. That’s how we end up with John Kerry. Gross. Hilary and Barack, however, have such name recognition (and in the case of Hilary, have been taking shit for so many years,) that they can probably transcend the traditional American pattern of infatuation followed by backlash. So we may actually have ourselves a real primary in ’08, where all elections matter and the majority of voters don’t end up feeling disenfranchised. Barack is a good liberal; the only policies of his that I do not agree with are his reluctance to free trade and his opposing gay marriage (although he does support civil unions and voted against the constitutional amendment.) But that’s not why I’m voting for him. I’m voting for Barack because I have realized something that Anand Shah told me six years ago, the President doesn’t really do much. What the President does is act as the face of the United States to its people at home and, almost as importantly, people abroad. The Executive Branch has a lot of sway over policy, and whomever is President certainly will play a role in forming the policy decisions and path of the U.S. for the rest of the decade and beyond. But, as we’ve seen especially in the Bush Administration, this will be decided based on Cabinet appointments that we have no control over. And as much as I believe it is time for the United States to have a female President, we need Barack. He is the Anti-Bush. Bush is a representative of entitlement, of our parents’ generation which for all their progress at our age, has left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Our executive should inspire trust, and be an embodiment of America, a representative of all 300 million of us and some shared vision of where we want our country to move. Bush is the embodiment of the upper crust good old boys network that still controls much of this country domestically. Internationally, he is the embodiment of the Ugly American, who doesn’t understand that different parts of the world play by different rules, and doesn’t have the natural ability or patience to try and understand the subtleties and nuances of diplomacy and foreign policy. He is a 20th Century relic. Obama represents a projection of America in the 21st Century. First, the obvious; his skin-color and name. Of mixed heritage, he represents America’s inevitable drive towards becoming the true melting pot nation. The relative increase of the African-American and Hispanic population, combined with the increase of mixed heritage children will be as much of our future as global warming. Embrace it. Love it (hotter chicks!) Use it to our advantage. Bush’s greatest failure is the total erosion of American moral superiority gained from fighting fa[...]



Dear Premier George Walker Bush,

2007-01-18T08:29:03.160-06:00

Do you feel something on your back? Some incredible burden that keeps you from getting exactly where you want to go? That crushing sensation is known in most circles as checks and balances. That’s right, they are back. You don’t seem to understand how to react to this new found problem. On some issues, such as the Iraq War, you have pretended to come up with a new policy while simply recycling old talking points and lame assertions that attempt to link Al Qaeda to Iraq, hoping no one will notice. You even through in an additional 20,000 troops into the pile, to show your commitment, an amazingly bold decision. Bold in the fact that absolutely no one seems to agree that this is the right move. Faced with the tough choice of admitting failure in Iraq and beginning the long withdrawal or taking the risky stand of massively increasing troop levels in an effort to bring forced stability, you have done neither. Instead you chose the same path to disaster that the American people demanded you change less than two months ago. On other issues, you seemingly just give up. As if moved by a higher power, you have changed your mind on the legality of domestic warrantless wiretapping. Maybe the day off in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King gave you a chance to reflect on the values that he stood and gave his life for, which caused you to have a change of heart and realize that protecting the freedom of the citizens of America meant sacrificing some level of security. Or perhaps you just didn’t want to deal with those mean old Democrats probing into the nitty gritty details of just which nursing homes you had bugged. You even had to dig through your bedroom to find your Dad’s favorite veto pen, the one he gave you at the beginning of your second term. You hadn’t had much practice issuing veto orders, so you looked over Article II of the Constitution one more time, just to make sure you had the rules down. After all, the Democrats had passed some pretty insane laws in their first week on the job, such as raising the minimum wage by less than a dollar in real terms and giving all that money for stem-cell research. What will those crazies do next? At times I’m sure you feel like getting on Air Force One, flying off to some small island and camping out until the worst was over. But you still have two years left before you get to spend all your days at the ranch. Sucks to say, but you are still my President. As a citizen of my country, how can I advise you to act in this time of struggle? First, learn from your predecessor. Bill Clinton was able to function quite ably as President with an opposition Congress. Clinton picked his battles and moved forward on legislation where he found a common ground with the Republican majority (most notably welfare reform and NAFTA.) Find a few issues where you differ from your fellow Republicans. Immigration seems like a good starting point. Reach out to people across the aisle to prove that you can work with them, that you are not mortal enemies. That will make it less easy for them to hate you when you have to start disagreeing on things like free trade and the budget deficit. Second, wake the fuck up. You have to realize that whatever paradigm through which you view international relations is inherently flawed. It has led to no less than the collapse of American credibility in the international political regime. It is an unequivocal disaster. Fire everyone in the State and Defense[...]



Hip-Hop Adolescence

2007-01-16T09:46:07.876-06:00

Thanks to the wondrous instrument that is my iPod, as well as a few crucial links from your number one DJ savior Trackstar the DJ, I have reengaged myself with one of my truest loves: rap music. I haven’t blogged about hip-hop in quite some time; wait I haven’t blogged about anything in quite sometime. Anyways here are my thoughts on hip-hop as we enter 2007. The two most talked about news items in the last month within the greater Hip-Hop u’mmah are Nas’ newest album title (Hip Hop is Dead,) and a scholarly/useless identification of a new hip-hop sub-genre entitled “Crack rap,” or music glorifying selling drugs. Let’s deal with Nasir first. To quote DJ Trackstar, (no known association with Trackstar the DJ) “Nas was trying to start a conversation about the current state of rap music.” As someone who has gradually learned about hip-hop in the last fifteen years, since I first heard (and liked) “Knockin’ the Boots” by the Candyman and “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep, I do not agree with what Nas’ assertion. Hip-Hop is alive and well. The argument for the decline of rap music from your average white kid or hip-hop legend goes as such: The average talent of MCs on the hip-hop charts is constantly trending downward due to the industry’s rapid commercialization throughout my lifetime. Hip-Hop “on the radio,” is now, like all other forms of pop music, subject to the manipulative business tactics of record labels and media conglomerates, based on marketing data on which types of songs or which faces/stories will sell best to the general public. Talent as an MC or DJ doesn’t get you where it used to. More importantly, hip-hop no longer acts as a mechanism for empowering the African-American community, through representing current issues and struggles of black youth. Worse, hip-hop has become obsessed with materialism and violence which negatively affect impressionable youth by de-prioritizing empowerment and ignore hip-hop’s role as an educating and cautionary force. I recently (legally) downloaded Stakes is High, by De La Soul, which is a great underground album partially responsible for launching the New York “conscious rap,” scene of the late 90s. The claims of De La in 1996 were exactly the same as Nas in 2006: Hip-Hop is obsessed with materialism and violence, people need to focus more on positivity. Here is one quote from the title track I'm sick of bitches shakin' assesI'm sick of talkin' about bluntsSick of Versace glassesSick of slangSick of half-ass awards showsSick of name brand clothesSick of R&B bitches over bullshit tracksCocaine and crack What albums/artists could De La Soul have been referring to in 1996? The last three years had seen the Hip-Hop charts dominated by Snoop, Dr. Dre, and 2pac on the West Coast and Biggie and company on the East coast. Nas, Jay-Z, and Outkast were on their way to superstardom, releasing their most critically acclaimed albums in this span. The underground offered Wu-Tang at the absolute height of their powers, as well as A Tribe Called Quest and many other legendary groups. It is generally looked back on by present day hip-hop fans as the greatest period in Hip-Hop’s history. Yet the criticisms that precluded the death of Hip-Hop in ’06 were there then. Why? What has changed in 2006 that makes Hip-Hop dead as opposed to 1996? Two major changes come to mind. First, like everything else Hip-Hop has been greatly influenced by the dawning of the digital age. [...]



Execution Style

2007-01-02T23:43:11.416-06:00

Is it wrong for me to make bad puns out of someone's death? I haven't been keeping my nose close to the news lately, so it came as a bit of a shock last weekend when I heard they were about to execute Saddam Hussein. About to? I figured that was rhetoric- that maybe they were going to keep the appeal process under 10 years this time. But no, there was Al-Maliki, pronouncing it'd be done within a week. Then I figured that was when the UN would jump in, sounding sanctimonious, demanding that there be more appeals, human rights inspectors to oversee it, etc. Even the US had to be taken aback at this timetable, right? No, US officials said things like "he's a prisoner of the Iraqi government now" and "they're free to do as they want". So Saddam Hussein was hanged, and I'm in no position to argue whether he deserved it or not. That he was hanged by an Iraqi court, and not by an international court, and executed by his former dictatees (is that a word?) seems more like an assassination than justice. But that's not what I'm irked about.No, what I'm getting at is that it somehow seems so fitting for this war. That the Iraqi prime minister, assuredly filled with anger and hatred for his former dictator, took such pleasure and haste in killing him shows what Iraq has become. It isn't surprising, maybe, that the UN wanted no part of it. Everyone wants to get out of Iraq, and it alternately makes me disgusted and happy:Poll numbers in April '04 showed that 77% of the public supported Bush and his war. Polls now show that just about 77% disapprove of Bush's handling of the war. So that means about 54% of the American public has changed their minds. The consensus? Bush told us that we'd be hailed as liberators! And he told us that Saddam had WMDs! We've been lied to! We've been had! This much is true. Isn't this why we elect representatives? Aren't they supposed to get to the truth of the matter? YTE has never been shy about our greatness, but apparently it's true- we do know better than the politicians.Because I know that all three of us, at least, were never convinced. I'm guessing that whoever's reading this counted themselves as the 23% who were against it from the start. I've actually switched into the other 23% at various points, because as Marmar would say, I'm a hater. But no, it wasn't purely just so I could be a non-conformist. It was because, (and bonus points for quote identification) "you can't play god and then wash your hands of the things you've done." But that's not what I'm thinking anymore. I say, let's cut and run. Let's let democracy lose, and have freedom stagnate, unrung, in the land of Iraq. Let's implode a country by allowing a civil war that we started, to take its course. Oh wait, is that not a very convincing argument?But the thing is, in order to leave Iraq, don't we have to be prepared to accept those consequences? Maybe, and maybe not. No matter how many times you say "there's no civil war", doesn't make it true. I don't think deep-seated religious strife and cyclical violence can be cured through daily affirmations. What Saddam's execution at the hands of mostly Shiite handlers represents (even though I won't confess to knowing Al-Maliki's actual motives) is that US forces are now accomplishing nothing over there, and in fact are no longer even the focal point for what happens in Iraq from now on.There are millions of Iraqi people at risk, and to say we should get out and leave them to the monsters goes counter to[...]



Hurrar for Incompetence!

2006-12-27T20:58:45.836-06:00

Silver Bells, Silver Bells, Soon it will be Boxing Day! Happy Holidays to those of you in the middle of breaks from school or work, and a special shout-out to those poor unfortunate souls forced into the office on this day that should be a holiday. One of the many great things about being home (although way down on the list behind getting to see my family, sleeping in my own bed, and the food,) is getting to sift through about three months worth of the New Yorker magazine. Most known for their undecipherable cartoons (famously mocked in a Seinfeld episode,) the New Yorker pieces together top-level commentary on politics, art, and culture, as well as publishing original short stories and poetry. Anyways this post is a reaction to an article I read on the prevalence of conspiracy theories within the leftist establishment with regards to Iraq, and the ways in which the media tend to legitimize conspiracy theories. According to said article, there are two major conspiracy theories that point to shadowy forces of evil that have led us into Iraq for self-serving needs. One common argument is that the War in Iraq is driven by large corporations’ need for Iraq’s oil (and defense contracts.) Removing Saddam Hussein and using Iraq’s oil were always a top priority for the Bush Administration and its happy friends the energy companies. Tying the Iraq invasion to the greater War on Terror was a matter of convenience, not truth. Backers of said plot usually refers to the Secret Energy Task Force and its map of Iraq’s oil reserves, Halliburton and other’s success in securing no-bid contracts, and assertions by members of the Bush Administration that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenues as evidence. The second most common argument is that the Iraq War is the fulfillment of the Project for the New American Century/Neo-Con’s grand plan for…A New American Century! In case you haven’t heard the story, a bunch of wimpy intellectuals wrote a treatise during the Clinton administration urging the reconstruction of the US Armed Forces and the preemptive removal of “threats.” The manifesto/pamphlet/acrobat file was co-signed by several Bush Administration policy bigwigs (Rummy, Wolfie,) and notably: called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, mentioned the need for a “Pearl Harbor-type,” event to push the restructuring of the American military into the force they envisioned. September 11th of course provided the “catastrophic” event the PNAC wished for. 18 months later, we have removed Saddam. As the New Yorker rightly points out, the efforts of the Bush Administration to label the perpetrators of this attack as a “shadowy, undefined, enemy that could strike at any time,” as well as its own shadowy, undefined, behavior, have fueled the conspiracy nuts like myself. Communication skills are lacking in this presidency, a fault that runs top down. Worse, however, is the fact that this group of leaders do not seem to have a proble, doing very nasty things to other human beings. Abu Gharib and torture in Guantanamo are the two most common examples. Sure they may have thought Saddam was a bad guy, and Iraq was a mess, and Middle Easterners aren’t their problem. In fact they most certainly think that way. The question remains, are they doing what they think is best for America as our elected leaders representing the 300 million or are they kowtowing to the whims an[...]



Iraqi Policeman Sentenced to Death

2006-11-30T13:46:50.626-06:00

Ibrahim Hassan Awad was arrested by coalition forces after killing U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jerry E. Shumate Jr. in the town of Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad, in April. Awad and seven fellow policemen kidnapped Shumate from a coffee shop in Hamdaniya while Shumate was off-duty, dragged him outside, bound and gagged him, and placed him in a roadside hole. Under the orders of their superior, the eight men then shot Shumate, killing him. Awad himself fired at least ten rounds into Shumate’s body.

The murderers then placed a stolen AK-47 rifle and a shovel next to Shumate’s body to support a fake report that Shumate was killed by insurgents.

At his trial, Awad tried to argue that he was only carrying out the orders of his superior officer, and under the regulations governing the Iraq police force, he could not disobey his superior. This did not persuade the coalition tribunal that tried Awad to offer a lighter sentence, convicting him of murder and sentencing him to death.

Sounds appropriate, right? If you do not believe in the death penalty, then perhaps this is disturbing, but he at least should be sentenced to life imprisonment, or some very long term.

What if I told you that I changed just a few facts of the story? Awad’s name is actually Hashim Ibrahim Awad. He was a retired Iraqi police officer. He was a father of 11.

Instead of the story above, Lance Corporal Shumate and 7 other American marines broke into Awad’s home, bound and gagged Awad, dragged him outside, placed him in a roadside hole and shot him to death under the orders of Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins. Shumate fired at least ten rounds. The men then placed a stolen AK-47 and shovel next to him to support their false report which suggested that Awad was an insurgent.

This is the true story, and nearly identical to the one above – I simply switched the murder and the victim and altered a few facts to make the story work.

Oh yeah – I also changed the punishment. Lance Corporal Shumate was sentenced to 21 months in prison and dishonorably discharged. 21 months. He was originally sentenced to a whopping 8 years in prison, but despite admitting he knew his actions were illegal, he was able to reach a plea bargain to the reduced sentence of 21 months and a conviction of aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in exchange for his testimony against the other Marines and in part because the incident occurred during his first tour of duty.

If you ever wonder why we were not welcomed in Iraq as liberators, why we are hated around the world, this is a good reason.