Your Thoughts Exactly: February 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Combatting Idiocy: The Papal Edition

So the Pope has a new book out: Memory and Identity. How much of it is actually his words? I don't know. It is possible he wrote all of it, but it's equally possible that he drafted it and his lackeys wrote it for him. Or even possible that they wrote it without his senile old brain knowing about any of it. But it's not important who the specific source is. The point is that it comes from the Vatican; and thus many Catholics take it as the word of god.

I haven't read the book, but there are two contentions in it that I want to rail against. Firstly, the Pope calls gay marriage "evil" and says that it's deteriorating marriage, somehow unsanctifying it, and that it is important to fight this evil because it threatens society. Now, you all know how I feel about gay marriage, so I won't rehash my opinions here. But aren't there bigger evils out there than gay marriage? Like, perhaps, war, murder, poverty, and racism/gender inequality? Obviously, according to the Bible, homosexuality is evil in and of itself. But the Catholic Church can no longer say out and out that homosexuality is wrong, because it's too mainstream, so they're making their stand at a totally arbitrary point; the point where gay people actually get rights and equality. I might even understand it if they were going to say "homosexuality is evil, so we hate gays." Well, not understand it, but you know what I mean.

The second big point in the book is abortion. This blog has been up for months, and we haven't had a serious discussion about abortion. In fact, I even had a reader request to post about abortion, but I didn't follow through because of it. Now, most people are making a big stink about the Pope comparing legalized abortion to the Holocaust, but that's not what I'm going to find fault with right now. Honestly, if they believe abortion is murder, then I logically it would follow that it's simply a mass murder. No, it's not one borne out of hatred and racism, but to them, it's murder nonetheless. What bothers me is that the Pope, and the Catholic church in general, is simply overstepping their bounds in this matter, and have been for years now. Where in the Bible does it mention that conception is where a human soul is created? Instead, the Pope makes up his mind for the entire Catholic populace, and forces them to believe it or be heretics. Yes, heretics, because by calling it a scourge of great evil, you are either with him or against him on this one. And that's true even if you're Catholic and pro-choice.

He mentions in his book that the 20th century saw great evil with Nazism (oh wait, didn't the Pope sit idly by back then too?), communism, and fascism, and that we will continue to be faced with great evil, even in "liberal societies." Yeah, and before the 20th century, the Vatican led a lot of great evil, like the Crusades, and wars led in the name of Catholicism. I had sort of assumed that the Vatican was getting more and more liberal (and they are, in a larger sense), but this just shows you what happens when you put a bunch of old-ass white men in charge of philosophy and theology.

As for the Pope, he needs ... not to be alive anymore. This isn't a malicious wish, not like with Marmar and Skip Bayless. Would a new Pope be any more liberal? Almost certainly not, but maybe after that one died or the one after that, there would be. At least a new Pope would be able to defend (ok, not defend, the Pope doesn't need to defend anything) his views in public. And when you have the spiritual leader of one of the largest religions in the world, unable to walk and talk, yet publishing controversial and heated books, it's safe to say he needs to go.

In case it isn't obvious enough, a lot of my problems with the Pope are rooted in much deeper problems with religion and Christianity in general. Marmar has asked me to write an anti-religious post, (and this one certainly qualifies), but I'm shooting for a bigger target next time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


We don't need no thought control

The press release I linked above is yet another breakthrough in thought controlled robotics. In this study, researchers linked a computer up to a monkey's brain and had it reach for objects like food. When they had a good idea of how the brain's neurons fired to reach for objects left, right, far, and near, they hooked it up to a robotic arm and restrained the monkey's real arm. By extrapolating data, the arm can use the general pattern of the firing neurons to tell it how far to go and when to stop.

By the end of the study, the monkey was able to feed itself, which seems like a huge breakthrough for prosthetics, AI, neuroscience, and cybernetics. And it is, because with a few (ok, maybe more than a few) years of refinement, paralyzed people may be able to be walk, and people with ALS could be self-reliant. However, one little caveat is that the monkey had to train its thoughts to control the arm well. You might think that humans might be able to do this even better, but if it requires conscious thought, it might actually be more difficult. Nobody wants to have to exert massive brainpower to walk or write. Then again, I'm wondering, why didn't they just use human subjects in the first place? It seems that they could give better feedback as to whether it was working well and probably be able to control their thoughts better. Perhaps monkey brains are just that much simpler.

Anyway, I am ambivalent about the humanitarian uses of this technology. Not that it isn't a good use; I simply think that stem cell research and cures for the diseases in questions are probably just as far off as seamless cybernetic integration. Personally, I'm more interested in the augmentation uses of this technology, like being able to hook yourself up to a giant machine and have it be a natural extension of your body. Except you'd be able to pick up thousands of pounds with ease. And of course, I'm also incredibly interested in whether you'd be able to hook yourself up to a video game and control it without having to interface with a mouse and keyboard, or a joystick.

It's worth mentioning anyway, though, could we possibly be headed for a future where we're all augmented with computers and machines? Like the Borg, for example? I'd say that is much further down the line, and not worth speculation, because while we are making incredible strides in AI, computers, and biology, mechanical engineering is at a relative standstill. No one has made a machine that is as easy to use, efficient, and reliable as the human body. It wouldn't be worth it to replace your muscles with big robotic arms if they broke down every week and required oiling, recharging, and replacement parts. But computer implantation is much more realistic. Most people would probably shudder to think at it, but I think it would be tremendously cool if you could access a computer from your own mind. You'd have the knowledge of the entire internet with just a thought. Of course, we'd have to work on the interface, because nobody wants to run Windows and see ads inside their mind, but you get the idea.

If we've learned anything from Hollywood, though, we probably shouldn't hook Arnold up with any of this, or replace dead soldiers' arms with miniguns.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Official Declaration of Candidacy

I am officially announcing my intentions to run as a candidate for House of Representatives. The only reason I haven’t done so earlier is a stupid Constitutional requirement saying you have to be 25 to be elected. In 2006, my time finally comes!

What party will I be representing? Well ideally I would be an independent, simply so I don’t have to associate myself with any hierarchies within the DC political quagmire that is Congress. However I believe my chances for getting placed on any relevant committees as an incoming independent are low. I considered running as a Republican, if only to gain notoriety by switching parties one month into my term (a HaHa fooled you!,) but realized that running as a Republican in Massachusetts is a fool’s errand (unless I’m running for governor.) Thus, I am throwing my lot in with the Dems. I believe I immediately become their fourth most interesting party member, just with that sentence.

Let’s face it: the current in power Democrats are generally a bunch of well-off, white, baby boomers, just like the Republicans. They are in no way representative of their actual constituency: young people, minorities, the anti-establishment crowd, unions, intellectuals. The party needs to get younger, fresher, and more representative of the vision of America the Democratic Party should be about. An America that values freedom, but that represents freedom not through annihilation of evil forces or through lowering taxes to levels that the economy can’t support, but through opportunity for everyone, acceptance, integration, and understanding of the differences between humans, freedom to live a secure life.

Plus, the Democratic Party needs someone who can creatively make fun of the Republican power elite without self-imploding. This would be my specialty. The key to my success would be not caring about whatever political response Rove and his cronies drum up. Call me a Massachusetts liberal? Damn straight and proud to be from the state the initiated the American Revolution, was the birthplace of the abolitionist movement, and schooled George W Bush in the art of varsity manship. Dig up dirt on my “New Orleans incident,” or occasional experiments with drugs of questionable legality? Too easy: “At least I’ve never done coke.”

I will gladly sacrifice any chance of future political success by spending my time bothering Republicans so that they have to waste their time refuting my claims. I would not say anything that wasn’t true. I will also spend time actually trying to connect with young people, which may be easier for me since, you know, I’m young.

Oh yea what else do Congressmen do? Make laws. Well I’ll tell you this: I will not be swayed by party politics. If I think a law is a good idea, I’ll vote for it. If not, I won’t. I will not be introducing any massive revolutionary pieces of legislation, mostly because let’s face it, they won’t pass. I will be doing what all Congressional Dems should be doing for these four years: doing my best to keep the Republicans from passing anything horribly damaging to the future of the U.S., like a Defense of Marriage Act, future tax cuts without balancing the budget, or more blank checks for military operations with illegitimate justifications and no definition of goals. If the opportunity comes for smart bipartisan action, I will do my best to make the most of the opportunity, as I believe they will be few and far between.

Do you want to hear my stances on policies? No? Well fine. I’ll bore you with that later. For now, All I have to say is…vote early, vote often, Marshall in 06


The Frightening Illini!

So you're all wondering why I haven't made a post about the Illini when they're 26-0, 2/3s of the way to a perfect season. Wait, you're not wondering about that? Well, then you are sure to be disappointed by this post.

Anyway, I actually have been watching a decent amount of Illini games (or I had been until we got our cable and thus, ESPN, disconnected). There are a few things I have noticed about this team.

1) They are a step above the rest of the pack, including Kansas, UNC, Wake, and yes, Syracuse, Derek. This is made obvious enough by the No. 1 ranking, the undefeated record, the throttling of Wake, etc. Some naysayers think they play in an easy conference, but I say give the Big Ten a little credit- It may not be the deepest conference, but the games are usually tough. And even if it is true, you can't fault the Illini for having an easier schedule: it's not like they've lost any easy games.

2) They thrive under pressure, evidenced by big games against Wake and Wisconsin. Down by 8 midway through the second half against Wisconsin, they pulled out a 10 point victory and ended their 38 game home winning streak. Against Wake, they wanted to prove they were No. 1, and they blew right past their guards, putting an end to the question of whose guards were better.

3) They will finish the regular season undefeated. All they have left is the Big Ten tourney to worry about. And since they've dominated the other two contenders in the conference, I can't see a letdown like they have had in previous years.

4) So fitting- they will make the Final Four. Because this team is so used to pressure, getting to the Final Four will be a relative cakewalk. The last two games are, of course, always a toss-up, but the odds are strongly in the Illini's favor, with the game in St. Louis and only a 2 hour drive from Champaign. That said, I'm picking the Illini to go undefeated simply because they are playing the best team basketball in the nation. Sure, UNC may have a better inside presence, but they don't always play on the same page; teams like Wake and Syracuse lack consistency, Duke is overrated. In fact, the team the Illini should be most worried about is Kansas, not only because of Bill Self, but also because Kansas is also a short hop away from St. Louis and because they seem a little more consistent (though they did just lose again) than UNC.

Admittedly, if the Illini have a bad game against one of those teams, they'll be going home. But who would you rather go with? The teams that have had several bad games and lost some of them? Or the team that has had several bad games but managed to pull them all out?

Of course, the one year that the Illini are going to win the tournament, is the one year everyone believes in them. So I probably won't clean up in my pools because other people will pick the Illini. So feel free to pick against them. And bet against me. Derek? What do you say?

Friday, February 11, 2005


Back for the First Time

Oh yea that’s right, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. As a New Englander, I feel obligated to comment on this although I have nothing interesting to say. I watched the game on Super Bowl Monday in a crowded sports bar in Sydney at 1030 AM. There were an even mix of hardcore Pats and Iggles fans, but Philly garnered more support by virtue of having most neutral fans on their bandwagon. The highlight in terms of fan interaction for me was some guy wearing a Steelers hat trying to start a shit talking battle. I just laughed at him. God entitled arrogance is fun.

As for the game itself, I mean we should have known the Pats wouldn’t blow anyone out. Of course in calculating our predictions, the Your Thoughts staff all assumed TO would have no impact and, given the performance of the rest of the Eagle wideouts, its pretty clear that without TO a blowout would have occurred. Even if Eugene Wilson hadn’t gotten hurt, the score would have been greater than three. No matter, a win is a win is a win. That is the greatest lesson of this Pats championship run. It doesn’t matter how sexy your offense looks, or if you have a bunch of characters on your defensive line, it’s the scoreboard.

So what next as a New England sports fan? The same as any other year, bitching about the Celtics and the Red Sox. I can’t wait.

Another New Englander had a good week, as Howard Dean became the only candidate in contention for the position of chair of the Democratic National Committee. Now normally this position hasn’t been glamourous in the public sense: I could not point out outgoing chair Terry McAulffie in a police lineup. Or spell his name correctly. Dean’s status as a public figure with a compelling story (his rise from nowhere followed by his media-induced collapse: he’s the comeback kid!) will hopefully lead to the position becoming a spotlight within the press for Democractic reaction over the next four years. Lord knows the Democrats need somebody, as their current opposition leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don’t inspire anyone. Now all they need is Bill Clinton to become Secretary General of the UN.

I think Dean is the right man for the job: he has shown he is a skilled at raising grassroots support, gaining buzz for the party, and sniping at the opposition. But since he won’t be running for anything, he’ll be immune to having to portray himself as something he isn’t and partially immune to Republican counterattacks…after all what’s the point of bashing someone who isn’t running for anything? As long as Dean can keep his hands out of elections and focus on moving the party in a focused direction, whatever that may be, I believe it’s a win for the Dems. For too long their party has been splintered without leadership or direction of any kind.

Monday, February 07, 2005


pitchers and catchers?




The second-biggest day of stuffing ones stomach has come and gone, and all I can say is, "meh." It was a close game all the way, as the score at the end of each quarter shows: 0-0, 7-7, 14-14, 24-21. There were some exciting plays - TO made some great runs and catches, the TD pass that somehow got to Westbrook, Corey Dillon's fantastic 27 yard run down to the 7, the 40 yard grab by Pinkston, etc, along with plenty of hard hits. Despite all this, it was a pretty uninteresting game. Because Donovan played so terribly, even though there was much to be excited about, it did not feel like watching a super bowl. The Eagles were clearly not at their best, all because of Donovan. He put up ugly throw after ugly throw, and yet the Patriots couldn't put them away. This made it feel like a regular, early season game.

Oh well. The season is over. Sunday's are now free for reading poetry, picking berries, and working in the garden. Or playing Madden.

And don't forget - pitchers and catchers report in 10 days.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


3rd and short

Completing the trifecta, it is now time for a superbowl preview from none other than that oft-absent blogger, David. Marmar has provided an preview based more on analysis, Stu on a couple of focus points; I will try to find a new angle.

I used to love T.O. He was a badass emerging in San Fran replacing Rice as the go-to-guy. Though I loved Rice, I was drawn to T.O.'s ability to rack up the yards after the catch. And I've always enjoyed his end-zone celebrations. (as a matter of fact, that may be a topic of a whole separate post). I have also rooted for the Eagles as one of my favorite teams outside of Seattle in recent years, and been disappointed by their struggles in the post season. So put the two together this year, and you'd think I'd be as big of a fan of the Eagles as one can be for a team that isn't their own. Alas, 1+1 does not equal two.

I'm not sure what it is; maybe it was T.O. blasting Jeff Garcia for the last year and a half. (Another player I have liked over the last half-decade) Maybe I felt it was a cheap way for the Eagles to get over the hump, just by yankee-ing up and getting the best player they could find. Or perhaps I never really liked the Eagles, but they were playing the Rams and Packers in the playoffs, and its easy to love any team trying to beat those two. But sometimes two things you like just don't go well together. Have you ever tried pickles in your ice cream?

Anywho, I think I'll be pulling for the Patriots yet again. I've always been a semi-fan of the Pats and the Red Sox; perhaps it's the bleeding-heart liberal in me. I expect a good game tomorrow. Brady will probably be forced into a costly mistake early, but he's too smart to let that get to him, and has too many weapons and makes too many good decisions to repeat it. The Patriots should take a slim lead into the half, and pull away by the end of the third, with Donovan saving his mistake for the second half. Dillon will keep the aggressive and ball-hungry Eagles' D honest, and, combined with creative passing sets and routes, the Patriots should move steadily down the field more than enough to lock up a solid victory. Let the "best team ever" debates begin.

Patriots 34, Eagles 20


Stu-per Bowl Preview

My first thought when Marmar asked me to write a Super Bowl preview was "Why?" He had already written one, and there isn't much to say. The Patriots are big favorites going in, the Eagles don't really have much to counter with, and after their last two performances I'm not about to pick against the Pats for the third game in a row.

I will, however, be rooting for the Eagles. My reasons are simple: The Pats have won two out of three, and I really like Donovan McNabb. And he's going to be the key for the Eagles to have any chance at all.

The last two Patriot losses have occurred mainly because Tom Brady played out of character (fumble and int against the Steelers, two awful, awful, awful, ints against the Dolphins). The Eagles can't be counting on that- their defense is not that good. But several of the close games the Patriots have played in, like the first game against the Colts, and the Titans playoff game last year, have come when the opposing QB was chewing up clock and forcing constant adjustments by the defense. Donovan is not like the other QBs the Patriots have faced this year. I compare him this year to McNair last year during his MVP season. He excels at converting broken plays and doing unpredictable things. You could make a good case for Peyton and Roethlisberger simply being too predictable to be victorious over the Patriots.

Let's not forget that the Titans, with a worse team at almost every aspect of the game, came within a Hail Mary of beating (or was it tying? I don't remember) the Patriots last year. The Eagles obviously need to keep it close, and Donovan needs to play out of his mind. Then we'll talk about having a game. As for T.O., I don't think it'll make much difference with him or without him. As an aside, as long as we're Skip Bayless bashing, have you read his T.O. article? Hey Skip, did it ever occur to you that T.O. wants to play because he'd be a loser either way if he sat out? Wouldn't it suck if your team won the Super Bowl without you ever taking the field in the playoffs? And wouldn't it suck if your team lost, and you thought you could help them? I commend Owens on playing. And the doctor who wouldn't clear him, I commend him too. Everyone involved is doing what is best for them. Except Skip Bayless.

Anyhow, I just can't pick the Eagles to win. Although the Pats can't seem to dominate an opponent in the Super Bowl, maybe the third time's the charm. Seeing as every odd year super bowl has sucked for the last decade, we're probably in for a laugher.

Patriots 31, Eagles 13

Friday, February 04, 2005


Super Bowl XXXIX Preview

Well it’s taken two weeks of being in the US, but I’m finally adequately pumped for the Super Bowl, although I am most certainly not pumped enough considering my team’s playing in it for the third time in fourth years. This is not because I have become an arrogant championship fan (no really I swear,) but because I have missed most of the NFL season. Even in Australia, however, the Super Bowl gets free-to-air treatment, meaning I can actually watch the game from my house rather than a seedy 24 hour bar. Additionally, the game starts at a reasonable 1030 AM, so I’ll have some beers, the grill going, and watch the game at home with my Dad who’ll be in town. Just like Middle America would want it.

I’ve only see this Pats team play a few games, but I get feeling that the 2004 edition may be our strongest yet. As I have harped on in previous entries, our offensive proficiency particularly with regards to a stable running game sets us apart from previous editions. Our defense lacks the overall strength of last year’s team, but this is mainly due to the Law injury. With a healthy Seymour, our defensive line and linebacking corps may be even stronger than last years’ edition.

Importantly, we played last year’s Super Bowl with a depleted secondary as well. If you remember, Strong Safety Rodney Harrison and Free Safety Eugene Wilson were both injured in the first half, allowing Carolina to exploit the middle of the field with Mushin Muhammad and Steve Smith and to fight there way back into the game in the second half. This year, the secondary has adjusted to playing without one of their stars, and Mitchell, Lewis and company don’t match up to the receiving corps of the Panthers. Owens’ health and effectiveness is the key X factor, but the Patriots generally succeed at shutting down an offensive teams’ primary weapon: Marvin Harrison or Marshall Faulk being two examples. Thus, fear not a healthy Owens.

Offensively, the Patriots should rely on a combination of Dillon and multiple wide receiver sets, testing the Eagles secondary with deep balls and quick timing routes. The Eagles defense revolves around their blitz schemes and strong secondary coverage. The Patriots match up well against this type of scheme, as Brady is masterful at picking up blitzes and staying in the pocket, and the offensive line does a good job of keeping him off his backside. Most importantly, the Pats with their depth at receiver and tight end present matchup problems for the Eagles secondary, simply because they can’t focus on shutting any one receiver down. I believe the Pats will be able to run against the Eagles base defense, on the basis that the Eagles d-line is smallish and more known for their pass rushing and the fact that Dillon has ran on everyone all year. If the Eagles can’t stop the run, they won’t be able to unleash complex blitzes on third and long, allowing Brady to reach a comfort zone. Hopefully for the Pats, Charlie Weis won’t get overanxious to unleash every trick play in the book in his last game on the sidelines, as his WR passes etc. have had a tendency to backfire into turnovers in recent years.

Ah turnovers. Last season when the Eagles and Pats faced off, McNabb had three, two picks and a fumble, and generally played an awful game in a 31-10 New England victory in Philadelphia. I don’t expect McNabb to play that bad again, but his poor performance that Sunday was as much a result of the Eagles receivers inability to get open as McNabb’s inaccuracy. Despite the TO upgrade, I could see a similar scenario unfolding. The Patriots defense consistently shows the ability to take advantage of the oppositions mistakes in big games, and there is no reason to expect any different outcome this time around. McNabb is a great player and the Eagles would be wisest in my opinion to try and use his scrambling ability as a weapon early in the game, just to get the Patriots thinking about a different option.

The Eagles have put together another fine season under Andy Reid, but I don’t believe this edition is really superior to any of the past Eagles teams, especially with an unhealthy Owens limping around. The Patriots will enter this game prepared and understanding they must not overlook the opponent for sixty minutes, as last year’s near loss to Carolina must have taught them. I don’t expect a total blowout; the Eagles have enough good players on both sides of the ball to cause the Pats some problems. I also don’t expect Vinaterri to have to win the Pats the game in the last minute. If anything I expect the game to go something like the Green Bay-New England Super Bowl, a close game for most of the first half with the better team taking the lead into halftime and holding off any late charges.

New England 38 Philadelphia 20

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Speech Review: State of the Union 2005

Here at Your Thoughts Exactly, we never want to be accused of disappointing our readership, so when I saw a lonely anonymous poster asking for a post about the State of the Union address, I complied.

Let me preface this by telling you that I didn't actually watch the speech. I read it off, and I'll break it down the same way they did. I guess I won't be able to tell you how convincing he was, but the content is what's important, right?

Bush says the things about government spending that we all want to hear, but that none of us really believe. Is he really going to be more fiscally responsible? If he really wanted to balance the budget, he wouldn't have given everyone a tax cut; instead, he should have cut the programs to make the money first. As for education, well, I think every single president could say that they gave more money to education. It's sort of like saying "Technology advanced a lot in my term." Sure, it did, but did you really have anything to do with it? Did it advance at a higher rate than usual? I'm not criticizing Bush for this because basically every president has to say things like this, but there's not too much to talk about here.
One interesting tidbit is that he makes an offhand reference to nuclear energy. Nuclear power has gotten a really bad name, but I think it's probably our best option for energy over the next few decades. Sure, the byproduct is nuclear waste, but isn't that better than massive amounts of pollution? On one hand, you get a small, containable waste product that no one knows how to clean up, and on the other hand, you get a global waste product that no one knows how to control or clean up. In fact, nuclear energy is probably the most environmentally friendly energy we have.

Social Security:
Clearly this is a big part of Bush's agenda over the next term. This part of the speech is interesting because first he's trying to convince you it's a big problem, and next he's trying to convince you that his is the best solution. Sort of like an exterminator salesman. I admit I don't know all the specifics of his plan, but all it really sounds like he's doing is rolling us off Social Security and into government-controlled (at least partially) IRAs. Not a terrible plan, but it still doesn't really change the fact that over the next few years the system will stay the same, leaving us working folk to foot the bill. I don't mind that tremendously, but we'll see. The liberal in me thinks we should just cut off social security for the wealthy, and increase taxes on the wealthy paying into social security. That way we can screw them both ways! Of course that would be tremendously unpopular with Bush's constituency, so I think we can safely say that ain't happening.

As for Bush's social agenda, let me say: blech. I don't need to say any more about the marriage amendment other than in 50 years, we'll all look back and this will be the stain on his record. And stem cell research. Bush also goes on to take a couple swipes at 'activist judges', saying they're there to interpret the law, not legislate it. Right. By having the judges actually be a check on the other branches, they're taking valuable power away from Congress and the President! Shame on you, judicial branch.

As for faith-based initiatives, I have no problem with our government supporting them, but that shouldn't be your agenda: "We don't have a good inner-city help program... let's just give some money to churches." You don't want to compete with other programs, but there's clearly some middle ground here. How about running complementary programs? Or better yet, give the money to the cities and states and have them sort it out. And they will sort it out, assuming they know their locale better than the feds do.

The war on terror:
Ah, the war on terror. The Iraq elections went well, and that was probably a boost for Bush's ego. Now, I don't like Bush for many reasons, but I've never questioned his will to improve America. Invading Iraq as part of a larger war on terror seems ridiculous to most of us, but as Marmar points out, in the long run, defeating terrorism requires regime, political, and cultural changes. In this context, a lot of the things he's doing (like promoting nuclear energy) make more sense: get the US off Middle Eastern oil dependency, while also attempting to instill democratic governments in the least stable countries. And sure, if their democracy fails, at least you have thousands of soldiers there to discourage other countries from 'trying anything'.

But I guess that's being a little simplistic. Do I think Bush wants the Iraq democracy to succeed? Yes, I'm sure he does, very badly. But I think what led him to war in the first place was a simple risk-reward ratio. At best, Iraq becomes a US ally in the Mideast. At worst, we've destroyed them and made them into an annexed US territory. When framed like that, it's no wonder he chose to invade. Of course, he did it under totally false pretenses and without the moral high ground, since they were not at war with us (nor threatening us.) To then take the moral high ground anyway and say we were trying to instill democracy rings a little hollow.

But I don't want to pass judgment on the Iraq war just yet. It's too soon, and the stakes are too high. We're looking at a window of years before we can say whether it is good or bad. Sure, thousands of lives have been lost, and many innocents have died, but if it speeds up world peace by decades, will it have been worth it? I'm not going to sit here and say something is only good if it's done for the right reasons. And I won't say anything about whether democracy can be forced upon a country. Bush wants us to think that world democracy (and specifically middle eastern) is the only path the lasting peace and freedom from terrorism. And he might be right.

If it sounds like I've softened on Bush, it's because I probably have, at least until he starts pushing the Defense of Marriage act. But is he really laying down the groundwork for democracy in the Mideast, or the groundwork for bed of anti-American sentiment? And can you really make peace by waging war? I would have been skeptical a few months ago, but maybe you can; and from what I've seen from Iraq so far has been enough to make me hope it will work. I hope he's not so crazy that he decides to invade Iran (he made a reference to it), or that future presidents won't take this as a green light for unilateralism. It's like watching someone with a gambling problem... you hope they win, but not if it means they're going to keep doing it until they lose.

All in all, a pretty good speech from a pretty inarticulate man. But clearly, we are not going to be talking about Social Security, tort reform, or educational issues when we think about W in the years to come. He's betting his entire legacy and agenda on the Iraq war and the war on terrorism. Let's just hope he doesn't take the US down with him if it comes up tails.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Combating Idiocy yet again

I have said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again, sucks. Since my last rant, they have only gotten worse by adding Skip Bayless as a regular page 2 columnist. Bayless likes to take a popular sentiment and argue the opposite no matter the evidence to the contrary. I have taken to the habit of ignoring his columns, but was pointed in the direction of his latest offering by fellow blogmates. In his latest piece, Bayless tries to quash the Brady-Belichick hype by claiming Brady is not as good as Joe Montana and Belichick is not as good a coach as Bill Parcells.

Bayless’ “evidence,” against Brady ranges from the overdone to the ludicrously hilarious. He begins with the overdone, bringing up the Tuck Rule of all things. Aren’t we over this now? Yes our team got a break, even though the rule was interpreted correctly. Teams get breaks all the time. More importantly, teams have to capitalize on their chances. A lucky call against the Raiders didn’t guarantee our winning that game, or winning the next game in Pittsburgh or the Super Bowl against the Rams. It certainly had little effect on our 2003 season. Regardless I am uncertain what a ref’s call has to do with evaluating Tom Brady versus Joe Montana.

Bayless then moves on to the ludicrous. He somehow argues that since the Patriots were only able to beat the Rams by kicking a last second 48 yard field goal, Brady doesn’t deserve as much credit as he’s getting. The second largest upset in Super Bowl history isn’t enough for Skip: he demands game winning field goals of 40 yards or less!

Skip then decides to be selective in his evidence, reminding us that Brady threw a crucial end zone interception in last year’s Super Bowl against Carolina that kept the Panthers in the game. Skip has chosen to neglect mentioning the rest of the game, where Brady put together a performance that was rated by and Football Outsiders’ (the NFL’s Baseball Prospectus,) Aaron Schatz as the greatest performance by any QB in Super Bowl history. Isn’t it annoying how facts and evidence ruin a good straw man?

With regards to the Belichick-Parcells comparison, Bayless provides little evidence, mostly because there isn’t much there. He brings up Belichick’s record in Cleveland. He attempts to give credit for the Patriots’ success to Charlie Weis (since we’ve been such an offensive juggernaut and defensively average over the last four years.) He points out the Parcells has turned around four franchises while Belichick only has done it once.

A fair and balanced look at these two matchups would rightly conclude that Brady is no Joe Montana. Brady's still a great quarterback, even if he loses on Sunday. Montana, however, has four rings, a decade of dominance, regular season MVPs, more Pro Bowl appearances, better numbers, the old QB rating record and a stellar playoff resume. Brady is in his fifth year. Give him time to reach his peak before we evaluate his career in total. Bayless easily could have made his point by bringing up these points rather than focusing on idiotic minutia that can be easily disregarded as conjecture.

As for Belichick versus Parcells, a fair and balanced observer would have to rate them equals at this point, especially if the Patriots are able to come through on Sunday. Parcells is by no means the perfect coach, while he can turn a team around quickly, his coaching tenures have been marred by ordinary seasons in the middle of strong playoff runs. The 6-10 1995 Pats are an example, as are the 8-8 1999 Jets and this year’s Cowboys. Parcells has an aura and personality that Belichick lacks, but auras don’t win you football games. Plus Parcells has never presided over a team that dominated competition for two years the way the 2003-4 Pats have up to this point. Parcells also has worn out his welcome quite quickly in his last two stops on the coaching carousel. Plus he spent the week before the Pats-Packers Super Bowl negotiating his next contract with the Jets. What a fucking dick.

ESPN you have sucked yet again. I therefore encourage all readers of this blog to not read Skip Bayless at any time. Look something up on Wikipedia instead and learn something useful.

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