Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Belated Comments Jimmy Carter's Book

It seems to me that Carter's book was 2006's version of the debate around Spielberg's Munich in 2005--a hot topic that every member of the Jewish community felt strong enough about to form some opinion.

So naturally I have an opinion. But it holds little weight because I haven't read the book.

In any case, this is what I think: from reading about those former members of Carter's inner circle, it would seem that Carter has either lost his mind or spontaneously decided to place himself on the Palestinians' side. Because of Carter's commitment to peace around the globe, and the importance of his reputation as a non-governmental
negotiator, however, it doesn't make sense that he would take such a stand.

The thing is, it would be foolish to base an opinion solely around these dissenters, who are Jewish and Zionist. They provide just as half-hearted an objectivity as Carter's book did through all its

The only logical conclusion I can draw, then, is that Carter consciously chose to write an inflammatory book in hope that he could slap Israel and the Jewish diaspora in the face, waking them up and jump-starting the peace process.

Obviously, he and/or his PR team underestimated the Jews' would-be reaction to such a call out. Personally, I find using the word Apartheid as inappropriate, offensive, and historically manipulative as when throwing around Hitler's name and Holocaust buzzwords just for their power. Unfortunately, because the media has grouped Israel's occupation of the territories with the Iraq War, it has suddenly become perfectly popular to compare Israel to so many horrible historical or current examples, even though every situation is unique and carries with it years of complex sequences that should eliminate any quick judgments.

In so far as Carter's goal was presumably a shot at peace (albeit a sort of shot in the dark), it should be admired. But on the other hand, such an approach seems immature to me and completely unfitting for a supposedly neutral--and important--world figure.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Film Review--The Lives of Others

Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote that the purpose of all art is to answer the fundamental question, What is life?

“The Lives of Others,” a film on a writer in East Germany in the 1980s and the intricate surveillance of the Stasi (the DDR's CIA, in effect), will shake your outlook on everything from personal experience to US policy in trying to answer Schopenhauer.

We learn from the very beginning that through their system of informants and threats, the Stasi force decisions from DDR citizens, eventually (inevitably) reaching the film's main characters. The strength of the Stasi necessitates speed, which adds constant stress to the characters' decisions, and creates the tension that drives the movie.

The film’s twist comes from the fact that one of the Stasi’s most diligent and committed members is faced with the same kind of high-stakes decision: turn in the other main character, a playwright who smuggles an incendiary article that is published in West Germany, or sacrifice his reputation.

Although all the characters are interrelated, they are often pictured alone, in their own lives, which enhances the central decision-making current that courses through the movie. Separating each character in his/her personal decision(s) also allows us viewers to enter into their positions and ask these same questions of ourselves: insofar as what I do is what I am, how can I make a decision contrary to what I’ve done thus far? How can I do the morally best thing? How does love affect my choice?

Unlike “The Good Shepherd,” this film poses these questions gracefully. The characters are developed, deep, and approachable, they speak in a dialogue that is at once easy to understand and yet far from shallow--much like a good play. The subtitles, usually an obstruction, were hardly an afterthought as the German language was put on full display. Too often this beautiful language is reduced to Nazism's trademark. Through these methods, the movie even goes so far as to answer those questions.

The answers lie in the relations of self to state and self to self and here the movie becomes pertinent for us 21st century Americans. The movie shows that nobody, not even the top Stasi officials, is perfectly clean, so stringently monitoring every phone call is ridiculous. To borrow a Children’s Book title, Everybody Poops. Everybody has secrets.

The film’s main question, then, is whether we ever really have control over our decisions--and thus whether we really have any control over our lives and who we are.

By the end of the movie, the answer is clear: though we might not always be comfortable with our choices, especially those made under duress, so long as we are guided by those invariably truthful benchmarks of life—compassion, modesty, and love, just to name a few—we can survive, even if our decisions strip us of our comforts.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A few thoughts.

I was wrong last weekend when I proclaimed "winter is over". It came back today. Hard.


A question: Say you know a kid at school, and this kid is a bit socially inept (I avoided awkward because bsto hates the word). This kid is planning on running for student president, and you know full well that he is not the best man for the job and not going to win, but he is unaware of these facts because he is a bit out of touch with public opinion (what politician isn't, though?).

You know that he won't win, but you're also one of his only friends. He will be told how many votes he received, and you can count the number of people that will vote for him on one hand.

Do you vote for him, knowing that he is NOT THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THE JOB? Or do you vote for the person who you think is best, knowing full well that this candidate is going to win in a landslide?

In Dead Prez's "Hip Hop", the line:
"This real hip-hop; and it don't stop 'til we get the po-po off the block"
is rapped.

This bothered me. Of course, there are the economics of crime and all of that, but it bothers me because Dead Prez talks about justice and the truth very frequently. I understand that the government has a lot of underhanded, sticky dealings and programs, but to say that the state is the entire reason for all problems is just ludicrous.

I know that racial profiling exists and that minorities are very frequently targeted very unfairly, and this is clearly wrong. But hip-hop should not just be about getting the "po-po off the block."

I know things are never as easy as we'd like to make them, and Dead Prez and Immortal Technique and other rappers and rap groups make sure we know this. Nothing is ever simple. But, saying "real hip hop" won't stop until the "po-po" are "off the block" is just overly simplistic and don't accomplish anything.

It's easy for Nas to say that "hip-hop is dead", but is he doing anything other than just saying it? Let's see something that produces results. When Jay-Z admits to having to dumb things down so that the masses get it...well, is that his fault or ours? If he was concerned about the struggle and about the game, he wouldn't dumb it down. It's all about the Benjamins, baby.

That's my real point of contention with the world, I've come to realize: I'm sick of people who are willing to say that there are so many problems and that all the methods used to try and fix these problems are wrong and asinine, but when it comes for them to step up an offer a solution, they have absolutely nothing.

It reminds me of that joke "how many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

"Twenty. One to call an electrician and nineteen to sit around and critique how terrible of a job the electrician did."

Sure. Twenty is an arbitrary number, but I'm sure a lot of people want to argue over it--which is typical. People are willing to fight over trivial matters while the big issues are left unresolved.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Music of the Week: Part II

Cold War Kids "Hang Me Up to Dry"

This song has a really killer bassline. They did their stints as the opener for "big" bands (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tapes 'n Tapes) and are on their own tour now. They admitted that they loved Billy Joel's music but denied that their band name is derived from a line from one of his songs.

Bob Marley "Could You Be Loved"

Great song.

Young Jeezy feat. R Kelly "Go Getta"

This is relevant for a few reasons: my name works out to be Jheezy in Fifa 2007's lounge, bsto loves the song, and who doesn't want to be a "go getta"? Alright.

My Bloody Valentine "Only Shallow"

I love this band, this album and this song immensely--and yet, I have never seen this video. I thought I'd share it with everybody.

Radiohead "Everything in its Right Place"

bsto has just started listening to Radiohead, and says this is now one of his "favorite songs ever." It's hard to argue with that Rhodes.

Radiohead "Pyramid Song" (live)

All the Ondes Martenots! Man.

Bobby Brown "Every Little Step"

Snoop named this one of his top videos ever. Good gracious, it's fantastic.

John Legend "Save Room"

The video is kind of dodgy, but the song is pretty.

Alright. We'll be back next week/month/whenever with a music update.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Some Girls are Bigger than Others.

I don't see where it says that on the site. If are indeed going to do that with the money, I think it's a noble cause and I said as much in the blog. As of now, though, I don't see any mention of it on that site. I see that the 3rd, 4th and 5th are being auctioned off for charity, but see no mention of what the money for number one and two is being used for. One could assume that it is going to charity, but my motto for assumptions is that it makes an ass out of u and me.

It's great that the money goes to charity, but as usual, there are a few problems:

Transparency at GW. They make no clear mention of where the money goes. Why not? Wouldn’t a school like GW love the publicity that giving this money to charity would bring? Don’t tell me that this school doesn’t like to honk it’s own horn—it trumpets every little thing on the GW site and sends home numerous pamphlets to our parents bragging about every little thing done on campus.

Money. Again: fine, it goes to charity, but there are a lot of kids who are being priced out of having a fair shot in the housing lottery because of this lottery. The money goes towards charity, but it is not a fair system at all. Don’t call it a “random draw” if you can BUY THE RIGHTS TO THE FIRST FIVE SLOTS. The school offers ways for students to get better housing without paying more money, and I think that this is admirable. We live in Building JJ this year because we put in a proposal for a Living and Learning Community. The proposal was thirty pages long and done during midterms. If students are willing to put in the work in exchange for better housing, fine. Many students do apply for LLCs.

But how is a system that prices out the University’s own students even fathomable? The school is run as a corporation and sells out to the highest bidder. I'm not being a poor sport about the housing lottery--I have no idea what my number is and have no intention to find out. I would have no problem with having the first, second, third, fourth and fifth slots randomly given away to students, though. Wait! That's what is supposed to happen!

And to the comment about living near school: it’s a law in Washington D.C. that all universities must house their freshmen and sophomores on campus. We cannot commute or live in cheaper, “off-campus” housing because we are prevented by law from doing so. We should be given a fair shake.

I’m not complaining about the prices that we pay for housing, I’m complaining about the fact that some students can bypass the system that the school calls “random” by being the highest bidder. I understand that money makes the world go ‘round, but it’s unfair to treat one student who is paying the same amount of money (in theory—if one forgets about scholarships and financial aid) worse than a student who comes from a richer family. All students are supposed to be equal. At GW, though, some students are more equal than others.

But it goes to charity! But someone is still bypassing what is supposed to be a system that favors no one by paying money to the school, who will then give the money to a charity (supposedly—there is surprisingly little mention of this).

We all pay some exorbitant and obscene amount of money for tuition. We should all be treated the same. I guess I'm too naive to think such a thought.

Morrissey, lead singer of the Smiths, once sang:

"Some girls are bigger than others
Some girls' mothers are bigger than
Other girls' mothers"

Morrissey sang it as a sad fact of life. GW, though, decided to switch out "are bigger than" for "have more money", made it their motto and are doing their damnedest to capitalize on it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The point of the blog is to create conversation. We appreciate comments. Here are my rebuttals:

To the point about crystal meth: I never once said that locking people up is the answer. I think rehabilitation is clearly the right path to take. Obviously, the problem with drugs in Hawaii is enormous--just a few months ago, a teacher at Leilehua was arrested for selling meth on campus. This needs to be solved with something other than locking people up--I agree. But what can be done? All of the television networks play that meth documentary, and while cheesy documentaries don't get the point across, what do you suggest? You've got a lot of bones to pick with the some of the answers, but you don't have any answers of your own (very similar to the Democrats). Rehabilitation is the fix, but if the government can't even get a rail transit system, the West O'ahu UH campus or a new prison built, how are they going to COMPLETELY OVERHAUL the prison system?

The prison "problem" isn't one of "not in my backyard"--it's one of overcrowding. We have to build new prisons, and doing so will require planning and space. When looking for this land, everyone is going to want it built somewhere as far from where they live as possible. It isn't an "elite" point of view--people in Waianae don't want a prison across the street from their homes. Are they "elite"? Let's get real, here. No one is going to be ecstatic to have a prison in their neighborhood. Don't pull that collegiate, anti-establishment pretentious "elite" talk--be honest with yourself.

And if you really do feel like it is an elite point of view, call Governor Lingle's office. I'm sure she'd be happy to hear that there is a location where she can build the new state prison.

And about housing: We're already getting hosed on rent in Foggy Bottom. We pay more than any of the independent apartments right across the street from us. It's not expensive because we're living downtown--it's expensive because the school marks it up. The "breadbasket" price for a comparable apartment in the same area is much less. I've written about housing issues before (here) and have done my research. Foggy Bottom is by no means the nicest area in town, but one would think so based on the prices that we pay.

I understand that people should have to pay more for nice houses in nice areas, but should they have to pay more money just to have the right to pay rent? That was my original point, which you don't seem to have addressed.

The Student Association is More Fake than Michael Jackson's Face

When thinking about college Student Association politics, my roommate Pat (a JJ Collective guest writer) summarized it best: Last year's president was accused of sexually harassing another student (who ran against him for office). So, a fake president had to go to a fake hearing in front of a fake supreme court of students. Kids here take the things that are not important far too seriously and don't anything seriously that actually do require much thought and consideration.

It hit me the last couple of days that the posters of the candidates for collegiate Student Association positions just underline the problem with college politics: it's all about popularity. All of them have pictures of the candidate on them, with almost nothing else. No platforms, no promises. Just a huge picture, name, and the name of their "party", which stands for nothing more than what clique they belong to.

Yesterday, the Hatchet ran stories about the Presidential candidates, and talked about their platforms. What was the most popular platform? "Expanding wireless capabilities". Let's get real: I don't care much. The Capp candidate, though, has a lot of ideas, but they are things that the SA has been trying to get done for years, with little success.

I also just discovered that the SA President receives a $15,000 scholarship. There's a reason to run, isn't it? I'm going to be honest, though: I'll probably vote for the Jackson party. They're running Samuel L, Andrew, Bo, Michael and Jesse. I know that they're not running just to get the scholarship money offered to the winner.

Sure, real politicians hand out free things (kickbacks) just like the college politicians do (lollipops). But parties actually stand for something, and issues actually separate the candidates that are in the running. I can guarantee that the winner of this year's SA Presidential election will be the student with the most friends on Facebook.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hey troop surge, suck it!

This video of Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold explains my position better than I could.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Troop Surge Comment

"Honestly though, [Iraq War veterans I've met] all complained of the reactive nature of patrols. If they're just supposed to walk and drive around as targets, the mentality is grinding and there is no hope of smoking anything out without going on the complete offensive. It's time to re-clear the country, and go place US troops all over every border crossing in the entire country."

This is a comment in response to my post (below) arguing in favor of the troop surge. I think it is in line with what I was arguing, but takes it to a level I was at first unwilling to approach.

I agree that we need to be proactive, but I'm not sure we have the political capital to initialize such an approach. Sadly, it may well be the best approach at this point, considering we've blown every chance at diplomacy, to lock down the entire country. Obviously, it wouldn't be pretty--we're talking about more deaths, more ugly press, and more time--but it might be the only way out.

Now I hate to get into political philosophy, but this puts us firmly in a Machiavellian camp and points us towards the idea that no government can be run effectively without instilling respect through fear. Is this really the only way? Can’t the citizens buy into their government without the draconian motivation?

I, for one, don’t know—especially with deadly extremists messing with the whole process every day—but I certainly would like to believe that government can be run without blood; that what was great about the American Revolution as opposed to, say, the French Revolution, was its lack of internal deaths and that a majority of any country can buy into their system and make it work.

However, since Iraq has devolved past such a compassionate threshold, I believe that a Machiavellian solution is the only viable one as things stand today. It is a sad truth, one that reflects the horrid management of the War these three years. But we have to be honest with ourselves and stand courageously in favor of what is the poltically and socially unpopular opinion but most certainly the correct one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


From where does blood-thirsty sports passion derive?

One's upbringing--as in, where someone grew up or their parent's influence;


Style of play--as in, finding some aspects of one's own personality in his/her favorite team, admiring a set of tactics, etc.

The Housing Lottery Isn't as Random as One Would Like to Think

Bsto and I frequently have discussions about how this University is run like a corporation. Sure, the goal of the school is to make money (while educating students), but many times, it feels as if the school is more in it for the money than anything else.

Case in point: here.

You can argue that there isn't anything wrong with raffles, and you'd be half-right. In this case, though, it greatly prefers the rich and is disadvantageous to less well-off students.

Housing is supposed to be a lottery. Sure, selling raffle tickets does not change this entirely, but only rich students can afford to buy a lot of tickets. Money should not play a part in a "random housing lottery". Unfortunately, though, it does.

It is one thing if this raffle money was going to be put towards a charity--but no mention of that is made anywhere. I am under the impression that it is going back to the housing department--who already price gouges its tenants as it is.

What are the larger implications? I understand that the world is a cold, unfair place and that there are poor people who are less well off and who have less opportunities.

But let's be fair here: we all pay $50,000 plus dollars. The housing system here seems to change every year. Let's keep it as a raffle--the rights to the number one and number two housing slots should be random and should not be sold. This is just another indication that anything at this school can be had--for the right place.

This brings up an idea brought up in my Asian Ethnographies class: people in China can buy the rights to move to cities and then purchase the right to pay rent in a certain building. In past times, Chinese people were not allowed to move from the places their parents were from, but now, with Chinese capitalist communism, they can move if they have enough money to purchase the right to move to a new city. Then, they can purchase the right to pay rent in an apartment.

Is that what this is coming to? We already pay application fees to get in. Are we going to have to pay for the right to pay tuition and pay for the right to pay for housing as well?

We pay enough. We are treated like patrons and not like degree-seeking students. Keep the housing draw completely random--don't let daddy's money rock the boat any more than it already does.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Building Something Out of Nothing

A Preface: the following is not meant to be read the in the way that one would take in Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. If this means nothing to you, great—it really isn’t supposed to be read that way.

It’s no big surprise that Hawaii has a prison problem—when you live on an island, everything becomes a problem. Land is at a premium everywhere in the world, but this is especially true for sunny, tropical islands. And, when one considers that Hawaii has America’s biggest crystal methamphetamine problem in the country, it is no small wonder just how we have reached the point where the correctional system is bursting at the seams.

For many years, Hawaii jails have been overcrowded, and while discussions have been held over what to do with the “extra prisoners”, they have been sent to Arizona, Texas and Montana prisons for the time being—at a hefty price. Many of these Hawaii prisoners “abroad” are also having a hard time dealing with their non-Kanaka cellmates and have been in many a brutal ruckus. For an OpEd piece on the matter, read this link
What should be done, then? Obviously, the prison question is always answered with “Yes, we need more prisons, but not in my backyard.” How do you deal with this problem, though, when you live on an island and every piece of land is your backyard? The prisons in Halawa and Kalihi undoubtedly drive down the land values of the surrounding areas immensely—Kalihi has one of the worst reputations of any neighborhood in Hawaii—the Kuhio Park Terrace development is likened to the Marcy Project in Brooklyn or South Central Los Angeles—and the area will never recover from the stigma that the Oahu Community Correctional Center has given it. To view other Hawaii jails, visit this page

Land is at a premium in Hawaii, and we cannot afford to have any other areas of the islands viewed in such a negative way. But, we also cannot possibly continue to ship our troubled citizens away—it is simply too expensive. The money that we are shipping off to the continental United States (in the shape of inmates) would be much better served in the suffering public education system.

What can be done?
It’s quite simple: build a large state prison on the island of Kaho’olawe. Take a deep breath before you respond. I understand that to close off an entire island seems asinine, but remember that Kaho’olawe has not been inhabited for quite some time. After the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, when Marshall Law was introduced in Hawaii, the US Army took control of the island. It was used after the war as a bombing range after World War II’s conclusion, and bombing ceased on the island in the early 1990s.

The island has been left barren by all of the bombing done. It is not very hospitable, and any attempt at development would be prohibitively expensive. Would you leave your home to live on a red-dirt covered island? Didn’t think so.
The biggest obstacles to this from ever happening would be the same obstacle that prevents any audacious construction project from happening—protestors. We all know that there is a small yet vocal force of separatists in Hawaii (Kau Inoa[1]—to build a nation) that want the American government as well as non-Hawaiians out of Hawaii. Would they be upset that one of their islands would be used to house their prisoners? You bet. I would also venture a wage that they would be even more unhappy if they had a bunch of prisoners living next to their houses. The Outdoor Circle is also huge in Hawaii and have worked to keep Hawaii green. Their efforts against billboards are very admirable, but they would also oppose a prison being built on an island that was once a nature preserve. Let’s be realistic, though: the island no longer resembles a natural habitat—it more closely resembles Mars. And, the Outdoor Circle people probably also would not like their homes and communities sullied by a prison.

Having a large state prison on Kaho’olawe would not put anyone out. Sure, the native birds and flora may be inconvenienced, but they would be more hassled if an actual community was built on the island. There’s a precedent for a prison on an island, if you’ll recall—it happens to be Alcatraz and it happens to be one of America’s favorite storytelling backdrops. And, if you’re up on your knowledge of Alcatraz, you’re well aware that it is a nationally protected park with an abundance of nature. The reason that a Kaho’olawe prison would work when Alcatraz didn’t is simple—Alcatraz was too far out in San Francisco Bay and maintenance costs got too high. But, Hawaii still relies on barges and boat shipments for most of its goods. Having to divert a ship to Kaho'olawe wouldn’t be too much work—think about how Lanai, Molokai and Ni’ihau are serviced. Kaho’olawe would be no different.

It should be noted that Hawaii is one of only six states in the United States that has its prisons run at the state level instead of at the county level. And, guess who has control of the island? No, not Maui County—the State of Hawaii! A lot of bureaucratic work would have to be done, of course, but the state should definitely examine the idea, at least in an exploratory way. Something needs to be done--and quick--before the idea to build a prison Kaho'olawe comes to the minds of the state planners, only to be met with jeers from new Kaho'olawe residents of "not in my backyard!" that will be audible at the State Capitol.

[1] I love the Kau Inoa separatists—these people love Wal-Mart more than anything in the world (and love it more than anyone else in the world does), but they constantly call for all things western to leave Hawaii. I used to watch a woman who spewed Kau Inoa rhetoric (tripe) on the public access station in Honolulu every week and could not help but notice that her lau hala (dried pandanus) hat was featured prominently in Wal Mart—as were her puka shell necklaces and macadamia nut leis.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fire Karl Hobbs

The George Washington University Athletic Department needs to fire its head basketball coach. This has nothing to do with the Xavier game and everything to do with poor game management and terrible out-of-conference scheduling.

One might ask "Why would the school do such a thing?" after noting that Hobbs took a struggling program out of the doldrums and to the NCAA tournament two years in a row, but let's not lie to ourselves: those teams were not very good, and Hobbs did not do anything more than any other run-of-the-mill coach could have done. In fact, with the likes of Danilo Pinnock and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, I think that the GW program actually underachieved. Why? It wasn’t because of the players—it was because they had an inept coach.

I don't have illusions of grandeur. This team is nothing more than a mid-major basketball program. GW does not have a football program to bring in the money, so we must accept that. It's a small, urban school with no place for a huge new arena or practice facilities. I understand all of these things.

Karl Hobbs does a fine job recruiting the kids that he can--sure, McDonalds All-Americans won't want to play in a 5,000 seat arena--but we really can't recruit players who "attend high school" at schools that are nothing more than one room offices in Philadelphia.

Really, though, the man is a terrible coach. I can't bear to watch the team play very often because he just does not seem to know what he is doing. He runs zone traps against great three-point shooting teams...and continues to do so, all night long. The result was a thirty point drubbing. Need I say more?

The man thinks that he is bigger than the team. He has been thrown out of close games for throwing fits--and the two technical fouls assessed against him probably cost GW the game. It isn't that he is intense--it's that he is immature. So many times, a Hatchet article is written the day after game-night about Hobbs' "sweat stained shirts" and about "how he slaps the ground". Great. But I do not want a recap on the coach's night--I want to know how the team did.

Sure, GW was number two in the nation last year in many polls, but that was just an indication of how inflated college rankings are. GW played no teams of any consequence (the team's "quality win" was against Maryland, who barely qualified for the NIT, and the team was pasted by an average NC State team) and flamed out of the A-10 and NCAA tournament. People cried out, saying that GW was robbed and should not have been an 8 seed. No, they shouldn't have. They should have been a 12 seed.

Karl Hobbs may be winning games, but they're meaningless games. Last night's lost ultimately meant nothing, because GW's only hope of even getting into the NCAA tournament is to outright win the A-10 tournament in Atlantic City...and judging as how GW got embarrassed at home last night by Xavier, I highly doubt that this will happen.

What's really happening is Karl Hobbs is having an identity crisis similar to that of Gordon Bombay's (Emilio Estevez) in the fine Disney film "Mighty Ducks Two". He got the job because he was a small scale winning coach who thought that he was a winner and finally got his chance to prove it. He thought that he could use his old team, throw a couple of new kids in and win everything. Then, he bought into his own hype, started gelling his hair and hobnobbing with celebrities, much to the detriment of the team. Then, to top it all off, he was found eating ice cream with the manager of the US' greatest Goodway Games hockey rival, Iceland (really? Not Sweden or Russia?). The team lost faith in him, and the only way they won the tournament was:

A) They all bought into that "ducks fly together" gimmick at half-time in the final and actually switched into the NHL team's uniforms (it was probably convenient that the final was being held in what was then called the Arrowhead Pond, which was the home of the former Mighty Ducks--who are actually more mighty since they dropped the adjective).

B) It was a Disney movie.

So, unless Karl Hobbs thinks that Jerry Bruckheimer is actually controlling his life, he needs to wake up. You won't get anywhere by beating the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. You won't get the respect of the media, of your town, of your school's own students or the respect of prospective players. Yes, Karl Hobbs toiled as an assistant for quite awhile and he has a feel good story and finally has his big shot, but he really isn't doing much with it at all.

Karl Hobbs should have left last summer. He had nowhere to go but down. And that's exactly where he is going as we speak. It's a slow, lonely descent from being college basketball's most heralded mid-major coach to just another coach at a mid-major school. He could have had the Cincinatti job, but he supposedly held out because he thinks he will be the successor to Jim Calhoun at UConn.

Gordon Bombay did not get to coach his players when they were all given prep-school hockey scholarships, though. Winners don't always go out on top, as Gordon found out. It isn't "what have you done", it's "what have you done for me lately", and well, gee golly gosh, Karl Hobbs sure hasn't done much other than beat Richmond and Dartmouth.

Oh, and lose at UMass, Dayton and St. Louis.

If Karl Hobbs doesn't start scheduling tougher non-conference games (because, let's face it, the A-10 is always going to be a cakewalk and GW will never have a tough schedule if their non-conference schedule does not include at least five top 25 teams year in, year out) a certain Gordon Bombay would probably tell him to look out for a Ted Orion character who has eyes on his jobs. You know, a coach who has pro experience, who is better with the media, more focused on the team than himself and who has an even BETTER feel good story and who can actually get the team to do something other than put up gaudy, misleading statistics.

Some people are great assistant coaches. Karl Hobbs is one of these people. Sure, he can recruit, but he has yet to prove that he can really coach.

I hope that the GW Athletic Department realizes this before it is too late.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

War, Bad. Troop Increase, Good.

Here’s the quickest argument I can muster as for why Bush’s move to increase the current troop levels is the right thing to do. I am not talking about the original reasons for the War, but the Iraq War of today, February 8, 2007. Therefore, it takes as assumed the mistakes and general ineptitude of the War thus far. I invite comments from any reader, as no doubt many will disagree.

1) The goal in Iraq is twofold: A. To have a country ruled by its own people via a government that respects the natural and civil rights of its people while maintaining an internationally recognized state (with stable boundaries, population, and interaction with other states). In order for this to occur, the citizens must acknowledge, respect, and participate in their government. B. To achieve A with the least amount of harm to everyone. This includes removing US troops—if there are troops there, someone’s in danger, be they American, Iraqi, or otherwise.

2) As of today, Iraq is further from the goals stated in 1 than when US invaded in March 2003. There is one central reason: lack of security. In order for a state to become stable, it must be safe. Here safe refers to two things. A. Secure in one’s everyday outside-the-home affairs such as going to work, shopping, etc. B. Secure in one’s personal liberties, including freedom to worship any god in anyway one pleases.

Iraq, then, has thus far failed to reach 1 because of 2.

3) The main reason why Iraq is not secure is due to a relatively small number of extremist militants, Shiite and Sunni, who are fighting each other as well as foreign troops via methods that implicate civilians’ well-being. This violates 2. Quite simply, then, the increase of troops—so long as its goal is to eliminate these extremist factions and so long as the troops leave once this is accomplished—will provide the security (at least in Baghdad) that is a necessity for the country to be successful.

One way to see the current situation in Iraq is that there are three possible courses of action to take. One is to keep everything as is, which is obviously unacceptable; two is to increase the troop level; and three is to begin removing troops from Iraq. The following are reasons why a pullout is less likely to succeed than a troop increase.

4) The congress people who have passed resolutions against the troop increase and are advocating a pullout have failed to fully map out their idea. Even in the State of the Union rebuttal, Jim Webb of Virginia focused on the failure of the War but could not muster an explanation as to how exactly the troop pullout would work.

5) If we take both possibilities to extremes, we see yet another reason why the increase is more sensible. If the troop increase fails, the worst case scenario is that Iraq will continue to look as it does today—which is not good, but better than the alternative, described in 6—and we can always revert to the pullout plan.

6) Following the rationale behind the proposal for a troop pullout: the US and other foreign officials would train Iraqi officers and proceed with non-military assistance (meaning money and political advice). However, without a US troop presence enforcing at least some semblance of order, and considering the general ineptitude of the Iraqi forces, the extremist factions that are currently terrorizing civilians every day will gain more ground—which is hard to imagine, considering there’s already a full-scale Civil War as we speak—and remove any possibility of achieving security. Also, because of the unpopularity of the War, it would be politically impossible to return troops to the area; therefore it would be nearly impossible even to attempt the fix the situation, except perhaps through international means (which would be a good thing and a fair critique to my argument, as in: taking out troops would be better because as everything devolves into chaos the international community would have to step in; but the amount of deaths before international intervention makes this idea a grisly prospect).

The main problem with the argument is this: why should we trust the administration and its decision-makers when everything they’ve done thus far has failed time and again? Well, for one, we don’t have much of a choice. After all, we as a nation voted them (either directly or indirectly) into the positions they currently hold. Secondly, there has been a change in leadership from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Gen. David H. Petraeus. Thirdly, the War’s unpopularity has reached a level so high that all the decision-makers simply have to succeed in this endeavor—their political careers rely on it.

The major goal is to end the Iraq War as quickly as possible. There are too many tragic, avoidable deaths occurring every day. Unfortunately, the most effective way to end the War is counter-intuitive. It require more soldiers, with more guns, and therefore more death. But this is a bridge we must cross in order to reach an independent, safe, fully functioning Iraqi state.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I've heard four versions of Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago"--the original that appropriately debuted on Illinois and the acoustic, adult contemporary, and multi-personality disorder versions on the follow-up The Avalanche. But I believe tonight I heard the best version: Live at the Kennedy Center Millennium stage with members of the Opera House orchestra.

The Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser introduced Sufjan Stevens at the free show commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Millenium Stage as the biggest performer that the stage could brag (I guess, in ten years time). The orchestra sat to the left, Sufjan's band assembled at the right, and Sufjan sat in the middle on a stool in front of the piano.

Sufjan started in the fashion of a recital and sung whispery choir-boy vocals while playing the opening track, "Detroit". It was intimate and semi-private. The Orchestra contributed strings, woodwinds, and horns, and did everything but steal the show, most notably adding multiple dimensions later to "Chicago". The entire stage set in motion really enveloped the audience of mostly college students, and made the seats and silence appropriate. The variety of instruments emphasized the stylistic changes and complex structures of each song.

The Orchestra proved especially effective in juxtaposing the fullness of the music with the sweetness of Sufjan’s vocals by ceasing abruptly to leave Sufjan alone with the guitar or the piano and quiet vocals. The entire theatre was silent in awe. Other times the Orchestra created a smooth crescendo into a cacophonous roar with violin bows wildly deviating from their regularly linear path, piercing flute tremolos, and a horn freely making irregular bursts. Sufjan’s hands oscillated almost-violently along the entire length of the piano.

Sufjan was strangely captivating. He didn’t dance, or move all that much, except when he stood from his stool to play violent piano, or to switch instruments. Still, I felt like I was watching my brother starring in the school play. Of course I recognized the talent all over the stage, but I naturally focused on him and the sounds he was making. The quality of his vocals was perfect and real, as if he relied on the acoustics of a small room for amplification and not the sound system in a concert hall.

The on-stage set-up really showcased the versatility of Sufjan Stevens as a musician. The stage was balanced. There is difficulty in captivating an audience with just vocals and just one instrument (see: Church worship), and there is difficulty standing out on a stage with dozens of talented musicians. Sufjan conquered both.

At the end of each song, he humbly clapped for the rest of his stage members, and spoke minimally in order to utilize the entirety of the one-hour set. The audience stood clapping for a considerable amount of time, but no luck. No encore. I think it was the only time I ever really wanted one.

Just to note--at one point, I felt like I was ascending into heaven and there was a carnival in heaven and I was going to that carnival and the angels were singing and a giant jazzy Midwest indie band of angels was playing. YEAH!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Non-stop service from Rio to Montreal

I recently took a trip to Montreal with a good friend of mine in order to soak up the high culture and European sophistication of Canada’s second largest city (Read: We went to drink. A lot.). Actually, we did go with the intention to have an experience that would be memorable beyond the novelty of buying a pitcher of beer without the fear of being carded. We stayed at a youth hostel two blocks south of Rue Sainte-Catherine and within walking distance of a metro stop. Fantastic location. Fantastic accommodations. However, I’m not writing this because our hostel rocked (which it did). I’m writing this because what I encountered in Montreal depressed me to no end: foreigners.

That’s right. Over the course of our weekend in Montreal, my companion and I had managed to meet a Belgian, four Brazilians, two Colombians, two South Koreans, two Brits, a Mexican, and one very strange Japanese guy (much love, Yanosuke). These people had all come to Montreal and to Canada for different reasons but the main thing to realize is this: they were there. They weren’t in New York or Boston or D.C. or South Beach. They were in Montreal.

Now obviously all the American cities I named are extremely cosmopolitan and guaranteed to provide any traveler with a memorable experience. All those places have people from all over the world and they are all better places for it. However, with the exception of the two Brits, everyone we hung out with was in Canada to study English. Hell, some were even in Montreal to study English.

This perplexed me. For one thing, Montreal and Quebec are largely francophone. The other, more obvious reason I was shocked was that Montreal and Quebec are not THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Why wouldn’t these people want to learn English in the most economically powerful nation on the face of the earth?

“I think we don’t go because we get hassled at the border,” my roommate, a Brazilian, informed me. He was studying English in Vancouver and was a nurse. He was also seriously considering immigrating to Canada.

George Bush, or the America he represents, was also cited as a major turn off for those travelers who might otherwise have ventured south to America.

I listened to their stories about why they love Canada and how Canada and Canadians have such great reputations back in their own countries with more and more envy. These people all loved Canada and were going to move here and become successful. Not only were they going to be successful, Canada was going to be successful. By the end of the conversation, I was advising them not to bother with the US. “It’s a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there,” I found myself saying.

How did this come to be? Does the US even know it’s missing out on talented, motivated, and worldly young men and women like the people I met in Montreal? We all sang American pop songs together and talked about Hollywood movies together, but in the end, we were singing and talking about America in Canada. We have a cultural exchange imbalance: our culture goes out without anything new coming in. Our intellectual capital growth then becomes stagnant.

My companion only confirmed my fears about Americans not appreciating the dangers of losing out on these people to Canada when he complained that, “Sure, they all say the don’t like the US but they love our culture. And what are they all doing here? Learning English.”

To which I replied, “Yeah. In CANADA.”

Maybe I’m over reacting, but I feel like this is a really big deal. America is not only losing out on these talented folks, we’re actively scaring them away with our Xenophobic, fortress America mentality. In an episode of The Office, Steve Carrell’s character asks a Mexican-American employee if he prefers a less offensive term to “Mexican”. Now, The Office is great show and an even better satire, but are people really reading into Steve Carell’s joke as much as they should be?

People back home often derisively refer to Brazilians, Mexicans, or Puerto Ricans (America Citizens, fyi) with such racial epithets as “Brazilian”, “Mexican”, or “Puerto Rican”. Have we become so paranoid about Latin American immigrants that simply referring to them by their nationality is racial slur enough? By the way, home for me isn’t the Florida panhandle or Stone Mountain, Georgia. It’s Massachusetts. Liberal, gay marrying, Democrat electing Massachusetts. Boston, we have a problem.

Americans are afraid of globalization. Americans see jobs leaving and newer, browner people coming. They don’t like this. However, I’m enough of an optimist that I believe Americans aren’t automatically predisposed to disliking immigrants. However, I’m enough of cynic to realize that our news media preys upon America’s fears in order to get the ratings their advertising. Instead of talking intelligently about what Latin Americans might be able to offer this country, they whine about trumped allegations of immigrants stealing American jobs and American tax dollars. They invent false issues, like Bill O’Reilly’s War on Christmas or Lou Dobbs’ War on the Middle Class. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had to wrap my Christmas tree in barbed wire or actively engaged in combat in order to secure a safe landing zone for Santa. And what exactly does the war on the middle class mean, Lou Dobbs? Taxes? Unbearable jobs? Terrible school systems? Corrupt politicians? I think that’s called living in America since forever.

All these things distract Americans from the intelligent discussions they’re capable of having if only the media would let them have it. But as long as Americans stay wrapped in their American flags, shunning the rest of the world and maintaining their anachronistic sense of total superiority over the rest of the world, America will continue to lose out on the creativity and vitality immigrants can bring to the US economy. Adios America y Bienvenue au Quebec!

The Bears Lost the Super Bowl Because the Colts Scored More Points...Or Something

I can’t refuse to comment on the Super Bowl, though I realize it has received way too much hype as it is (Love Smith is black?!). To me, it was an incredibly simple game to analyze:

The Bears’ defense did better than most people expected—they held the Colts to 22 points, which is honorable a) because it was against the best offense in the league/one of the best of all time and b) because their offense couldn’t hold the ball.

The Bears’ offense should be able to score 23, 24 points, it’s just three touchdowns and a field goal, and Devon Hester gave them a head start! But they simply couldn’t muster the points, even gifting the Colts a free 7.

I maintain that the biggest problem the Bears offense had was NOT Rex!! His interceptions/botched snaps happen every game, and they still win. I don’t like to ride Rex—after all, when he’s pressured and/or when first- and second-down run plays leave him with third and long and the whole world knows he’s passing it’s not completely his fault (I’d place it on the o-line and offensive coordinator Ron Turner)—but surely the responsibility for the loss falls on the offense.

No, no, the problem was Cedric Benson’s god-forsaken knee.

By taking our most important running back (I say most important because against the small Colts’ defense Benson’s size and power would have caused havoc, though Thomas Jones had a great game) the gods of sport effectively chopped off a leg of the Bears’ offense. As a result, the Bears couldn't run or hold onto the ball, which meant Peyton Manning had plenty of time to continue those dump off passes and slowly slowly slowly drive his team like a stake into Chicago's heart.

So that’s that: a game that started energetically and slowly deteriorated into a mostly boring Super Bowl, one that certainly was within reach for the Bears.

As many a dummy sportscaster would say, “The Bears just didn’t get it done.”

Or, my favorite: “Well, the Bears really needed some more points.”

Give U2 (and peace) a chance.

This country’s teenagers have a collective problem.

No. I’m not saying that we are slackers. I’m not saying that we are lazy. I’m not saying that we do not have ambition.

(Am I part of this “we” anymore? I just turned 20.)

The problem with college-aged people is that they hate Bono.

I know you hate Bono (even if I don’t really know you). I know you think that you hate U2 because you think that you hate Bono.

As bsto once so eloquently put it “I would like U2 if it weren’t for dude’s (Bono’s) voice.” This hurts my feelings, but this does not hurt my feelings because I especially like Bono outside the context of U2.

This hurts my feelings because I really like U2. I did not have a problem admitting that, because their catalog pre-“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is phenomenal. Can you like a band if you name a period of theirs that you do not like? Sure. I love Radiohead but absolutely hate "Hail to the Thief".

Let me say this now: don't let your hatred for Bono prevent you from listening to U2.

I’m not going to run through a list of their greatest albums and songs, because the list would be extensive and you probably wouldn’t read it, but come on. “The Joshua Tree”, “War”, “Achtung Baby”, “Zooropa”…wow.

I’m not hyping some small band who needs you to buy their records. I know that. You know that. They’re not the next Arcade Fire or Arctic Monkeys, but they are U2. If you listen to any band out today that has a guitar player, you are definitely listening to the Beatles and you are definitely listening to U2 (and you are only PROBABLY listening to Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and/or the Clash).

Listen to Sigur Ros? Thank “With or Without You” and the Edge’s e-bowed guitar. Listen to I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness? Do you like the Rapture? You would really enjoy “Two Hearts Beat as One.” “Where the Streets Have No Name” explains their EP, while “Bullet the Blue Sky” is the blueprint for their LP. Any music with a sense of urgency has to draw its roots to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “I Will Follow.” Even the mainstream folks cannot deny the influence that is U2—Chris Carabba went as far as getting Brian Eno (I know that he is a solo artist in his own right, but he is also a big reason that U2 sounds they way that they do) to work on his latest album (arguably only Carabba’s second-worst), and you can hear that he took a lot of cues from the song “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”

Yet U2 are going under appreciated by the teenage, college-aged and young professional set. Why?

Because these same people are embarrassed to say that they listen to messianic monsieur Bono and his band. They’re missing the point, though. What he does outside of U2 is what he does as mullet-having, blue-sunglasses-wearing, world-saving Bono should not affect the way that you see U2. U2 is just as much the Edge’s band, just as much Larry Mullins Jr.s’ band, and just as much Adam Clayton’s band as it is Bono’s band (in fact, the three had been playing together for awhile and only got Bono after putting out an ad in a paper and asking for singers to audition—they picked Bono because he had a cool guitar). U2 have always sounded huge because they were, for so long, very political. There was a sense of activism and politic in their music because that is what it was all about. There were no illusions of grandeur, and I still do not believe that there are. They simply got big. They’re getting older now, and the music is slowing down and getting softer, but the thought that the world is in trouble is still very omnipresent in all of the band members’ minds.

And even if you think Bono does have a Jesus complex: come on. Do you honestly believe that this man thinks that he is the world’s savior? So what if he gets involved in campaigns to deal with important issues? HIV/AIDS, debt relief in Africa and a peaceful conclusion to the Northern Ireland saga are all very noble causes. We chastise celebrities for not using their money wisely, for not contributing, for being in their own worlds and for not giving back to the communities, yet there is so much backlash at Bono for being “over-involved?” What does that even mean?

I’m not calling for anyone to lay off of Bono. I’m just asking that you would give, at the very least, U2’s ‘80s catalog a chance. Pick up their greatest hits set from the ‘80s. Don’t think about how much you dislike Bono (for whatever reason that I know you do). Just listen to one of rock’s best drum and bass interplay, one of rock’s most visionary guitarists and one of rock’s best vocalists ever. Sometimes they are flag-waving protesters, and sometimes they are lovesick, homesick young men, but they will always be one of the ‘80s most endearing and boundary-transcending bands. At this rate, though, they will lose that distinction, because so many young people write them off because of a couple of bad recent releases and because of Bono’s activism (which some may see as superficial, even if it has been his—and the band’s—modus operandi since their inception).

U2 has a huge, unfair strike permanently against them: they're popular. Sure, they put out stadium rock now, but they got popular because of they offered so many people a message to believe in when not much was worth believing in. They told America, on the "Joshua Tree", just how great this country is.

Sometimes, we forget that. Yes, we forget that this is indeed a great nation, but we also forget that U2 are famous because they actually do stand for something.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

What Does Your Soul Look LIke?

I’ve learned quite a bit this semester. The conservatives in China are on the left (think about it—they’re the ones all for communism), and the “progressives”, who want the nation to become capitalist, so they are on the right. Also, Chinese women are said to be losing many rights that they gained during the Communist Revolution. Prior to the Revolution, they were seen as objects (many men had multiple wives), but during the Revolution on, they were seen as equals (as the picture below shows). Now, though, with communism breaking down and quasi-capitalism taking place, pornographic ads are littering China and women are again being painted as objects.

The other day, during Japanese class, we were talking about a hypothetical situation in which the story’s main character overhears Japanese people talking about the him, and he remarks on how they spoke loud because they did not think that he Japanese. In another part of the story, an American asks the main character for directions, even though the main character was from Japan and did not speak any English.

My teacher asked “why do you think that the other Japanese people talked loudly about why he was Japanese?” I replied that “maybe they knew he was Japanese but thought that he did not speak Japanese.”
This confused her. She asked “How could he be Japanese and not understand Japanese?”
I told her “Maybe they assumed his parents came to America and he was born. You know, a Japanese-American. Many of my friends are Japanese-American.”
She replied by saying that “all Japanese know how to speak Japanese.”

This, to me, shows that we are indeed losing the way of our ancestors. Sure, we go through the rituals (mochi pounding and visits to the temple on New Years Day), but we can no longer even naturally speak their languages. Really, though, isn’t culture more than just language? Isn’t it who we are? Isn’t it where we’re from? Isn’t it what we believe in? Isn’t it the reason that we believe in what we believe in? Then, the question again comes up: How can we know any of these things if we could not even speak the language that our ancestors spoke. How can we really know that we’re from Japan if we can’t speak the language and ask? How can we really know that the Shinto and Buddhist doctrines are embedded in our parent’s lessons that they themselves adopted from their parents if we cannot understand the language that the Shinto and Buddhist doctrines are in (I know Buddhism is an Indian-based religion).

Then it comes back to asking if it really matters if we speak the language. Who cares if we can’t question it and make certain when we know in our hearts and were told by way of mouth. Isn’t this the way that history was passed down by our ancestors? Isn’t what’s important in our hearts all that really matters?

Then, our human nature gets hold of us. We want to know that what we hold dear is true. How can we find out, though, if we can’t even speak the language to ask?

Of course it’s cyclical. I don’t think I ever want to reach the answer to this dilemma, because then I think I’d know more about myself than I’d ever care to. Isn’t that the problem though?

But why wouldn’t it be the problem? Isn’t life fun because of all the mysteries it presents us?

But don’t we want to try and figure out these mysteries? Isn’t that the point of life?

Is there an actual point? I don’t know. But does it really matter? When there is a point, when we have goals, we usually reach them, stand proud of ourselves for a few minutes, and then ask ourselves “What’s next?”

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Real Isreali-Palestinian Conflict is Stupid, and Here

One of the first things I asked a Palestinian-American friend of mine recently, when I found out about her ethnic background, was how devout a Muslim she was. “That’s weird,” she said, “that’s always the first thing everyone asks me when they find out I’m Arab.”

I asked her if that bothered her. “Not really. It’s just that all of a sudden my Muslim identity has become very public,” she said.

Ok, Ok. I asked a stereotypically loaded question, maybe akin to asking Josh, “How many pairs of chopsticks do you have?” But was it really that bad? Was I falling into line with mainstream narrow minded America and judging this girl, my classmate and friend, simply by her brown skin and religion? No way.

At least, I don’t see it that way. I see it as a product of today’s socio-global culture (if it wasn’t a term before, it is now). The fact of the matter is that the War on Terror and Globalization have teamed up to make Islam and the Arab world an interest on the top of every Westerner’s mind. And truthfully, it’s based on precedent and common reason.

Consider the fascination with Eastern European languages during the Cold War: it makes sense that we should be curious about our supposed dialectical antithesis.

In other words, my question wasn’t shallow or demeaning. It was important and educational. The sheer rubbing of perspectives, as we sat and chatted, was conducive to developing both of our broader mindsets and views on the world.

Now, we gracefully evaded emotional issues on Palestine and Israel, but we were able to talk about the way those issues are displayed around the country. I mentioned how, at Stanford University, the campus has recently burst into near-riotous squabbling about the conflict. Students are writing grosser and more groundless, passionate messages in the newspaper and in letters to the editor everyday.

How virulent both sides are, to frame the situation and inevitably lose sight of practical purpose! How similar both sides are, in their emotionally driven arguments and fallacy-ridden propaganda machines! How irrational both sides are, to promulgate peace behind pamphlets of insidious generalizations and groundless jeremiads!

My friend and I sat on the porch of JJ, though it was dark and below 30 degrees. We were both cold, both tired. It was late.

What else is there to say?