Monday, September 18, 2006

It's official...

...the Redskins suck.

I got to watch the game last night. In Spanish, of course. And I have to say, if it's not obvious to Coach Gibbs that Mark Brunell is D-O-N-E, then our problems are much deeper than just who's under center. Because Brunell has been terrible and he isn't getting better.

But not only is he statistically a nightmare (going back to week 17 last season, he's been just awful), but even more worrisome, he's completely failed in two key areas: mobility and smarts. While he clearly can't run anymore, it's becoming apparent that he just doesn't understand the offense he's running - even calling a confusion time out last night. Not only that, he has absolutely no touch on his deep throws (see last night's lofted INT at the 1 yard line) and can't throw on the run. I have a bad feeling about this season.


While there seems to be a lot of discussion about the hiring strategies of the Bush administration for "post-war" Iraq (a laughable term if there ever was one), I'm going to leave that story for others. To me, it's old news. In fact, it's more shocking to me that people are actually surprised by this. I mean, we did have a former Bush roommate turned horse track official in charge of FEMA during the gravest natural disaster in US history. And we all know how well that worked out.

No, instead, I want to focus on two stories of importance.

First, and more briefly, Time magazine has a cover story that's essentially a big, "what if..." story about a possible US invasion of Iran. There's been some rumblings about this before that I've mostly dismissed as unrealistic conjecture, but now I'm not so sure.

I've always said that there's no way that the US could invade Iran or North Korea because we're in too deep in Iraq and Afghanistan and we don't have the troops. But, reading the tea leaves, I think a few things are in the mix. First, as the time story makes clear, active war planning is underway. This doesn't appear to be the routine type of war planning you see frequently. No, this one included a "Ready to Deploy Order". The Navy has been ordered to be ready by October 1. What was really startling was that the order was followed by a second command to review the Navy's long standing war plan for blockading two Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.

Would Bush really go ahead and do it? I think he just might. There are several factors that influence this perspective:

-Bush labelled Iran one part of the "axis of evil"
-Bush has hired James Baker III's strategy company to "fix" Iraq
-Iran is actively defying the administration over its nuclear capabilities
-The administration is wildly overstating Iran's WMD capabilities, much like the did with Iraq

Could this be a "wag the dog" situation? Bush's post 9/11 rememberance popularity bounce has crashed down to earth and he's once again below 40% (which is where he's been since as long as I can remember). The war in Iraq is getting worse. We're losing in Afghanistan. And by all counts it looks like a very real possibility that the GOP could lose the Senate, if not the House in November.

I don't know. I won't make any grandiose predictions. But it does look like Mr. Torture is a Good Idea is on the verge of leading our nation into another great misadventure.

For shame.


Ah, the Pope. Didn't take long for him to stir up the old controversy, now did it? For all of those who hoped for a more "moderate" or "liberal" Pope, keep dreaming. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For those not fully briefed about the weekend's missteps, the Pope gave a speech about the West's commitment to secularism (it's his pud boy) and briefly touching on radicalism in religion and how it breeds violence and is anti-thetical to the Word. He cited as examples some Protestant business from long past and, more notably, quoted a Byzantine emperor who referred to Islam as "evil and inhuman". I, for one, can't seem to understand how the quote fit into the context of his speech (although, in all fairness, I haven't seen the speech), but I can say, without a doubt, that the use of the quotation was just about as colassally stupid as one can get.

Now, I happen to have a bit of inside information on this one as one of my Spanish classmates works at the Vatican embassy and is a personal friend of the Pope (from the same place in Germany, while a pre-Pope mentored my classmate, etc). And all due defenses of the Pope's speech (it's not like he actually said that Islam is "evil"), there does seem to be an outbreak of fundamental stupidity.

Realists used to say, "see the world as it truly is, not as you want it to be." Helpful words, if not a bit nihilistic at times.

In politics, those words are absolutely vital. And the Muslim "world as it truly is" is one of the most hyper-paranoid and politicized of all time. You can't say anything negative about Islam without risk of having a Fatwa put on your head these days. Radicalism abounds in all religions (re: my disgust with American Christian Fundamentalism), but it's found in the absolute worst form in the Muslim world of today. The fact that the world's worst form of terrorism and repression of human rights (the rights of women primarily) are found in the Muslim world should come as no surprise.

What matters most, as I wrote in July 2005, is that there is a widespread perception that Islam is under assault from the West. True or not, statements from the Pope, in context or out, only serve to fuel the belief in the uneducated and easily manipulated Muslim world that the West is readying for a "new crusade" (our wonderful President pretty much gave creedence to that belief a few years back).

In fact, it is quite troublesome that the Pope and his crew don't have the minimum amount of common sense to realize that inflammatory quotations about Islam, no matter the context, are likely to be used by the forces of "evil" in the world to inflame Muslims and spark more violence. The defense that it was an "academic" speech to a specific audience is so incredibily ignorant of the Pope's position in the world as to belie credibility.

Presidents, UN Secretary General's, and Pope's don't have license to give "academic" speeches. EVERYTHING they say is on the public record. And, they have a responsibility to be careful and responsible with their speech, especially when discussing a religion with more self-confidence issues than the average teenage girl.

Of course, the Pope could have helped the situation if he had just said, "I'm sorry if I offended anyone with my remarks. I had no intention of slandering Islam. It's a wonderful religion that helps millions of people have a relationship with God," and left it at that. Instead, in all his arrogance, he said, "I'm sorry for the reaction."



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