Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Day Justice Died and Nobody Noticed

Front page of the New York Times? No. Front page of the Washington Post? No. America Blog, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, Juan Cole? No.

Yesterday, for those who were able to find the news, the ICJ ruled that the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica in 1995 was genocide, but that Bosnia wasn´t a responsible party. Apparently, no one cares that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that Serbia wasn´t responsible for the genocide of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.

It´s a curious ruling and has profoundly negative implications for future genocide prosecutions. At least through the ICJ. Other courts like the International Criminal Court, may have greater success in prosecuting state sponsored genocide. But, after yesterday´s ruling, it appears clear that the ICJ is not the place to prosecute states that engage in genocide.

It´s a complicated case and I´ll try to summarize it briefly.

Basically, when Yugoslavia broke up, Bosnia declared independence from the Republic of Serbia. This led to a so-called "civil war" in which Bosnian Serbs formed their own army (the Army of the Serb Republic) with the direct assistance from Serbia proper and, at the behest of Slobodan Milosovic and the Serbian government, proceeded to attack Bosnia and blockade the capital Sarajevo. Over the course of the war, significant genocide and "ethnic cleansing" occurred although only Srebrenica has been isolated as "genocide".

This war, which I mentioned is often referred to as a "civil war", really was a war of aggression by Serbia against Bosnia-Herzegovina. It really couldn´t have been a "civil war" because the state of Bosnia was internationally recognized as an independent entity from Serbia and, under the terms of international law, was thusly a seperate entity.

However, the Court found Serbia innocent on essentially two grounds. One, there was insufficient evidence that Serbia sponsored genocide. And two, Serbia has insufficient control over the Army of the Serb Republic (Bosnian Serb Army) to be found culpable of genocide. The Court did rule that Serbia was guilty of not acting to stop genocide, but that´s a fairly weak compromise.
A lack of Evidence?
Seriously? I mean, yeah, there weren´t exactly Nazi-style documents describing the best method for summarily slaughtering 8,000 people, but the world´s come a long way since 1942. As in, genocidal leaders are clever enough not to write down their intentions for fear of future prosecution. But come on. If a thief walks through a mall and steals 8,000 wallets in 5 hours will the cops ever say, "well, he stole but he didn´t have the intent to steal, it just happened." The argument that the actions proved intent was specifically rejected by the Court in a shocking miscarraige of justice.
In fact, the Court ruled that it was impossible to determine that Serbia had the intent to commit genocide since the Army of the Serb Republic was an "independent" entity. This is a fairly complicated and spurious ruling. If the US were to arm violent Sunni groups to fight the Shiites (oh wait, check, doing that), having full knowledge that those groups would be likely to commit genocide, and then not do anything to stop them, wouldn´t that be de facto sponsorship of genocide? Apparently not. Absent some type of documentary evidence showing that a government funded, trained, and directed a subsidiary army with the intent of committing genocide, then states won´t be found guilty, even if they were sponsors.
This is, without a doubt, a seriously high standard of proof that can basically never be reached. If international courts are going to use this ruling as precedent for future genocide trials, it is unlikely that there will be more convictions for genocide. In fact, this burden of proof calls into question the relevance of jurisprudence vis-a-vis state prosecution for genocide.
International law should serve as a deterrent and punishment for state action first and foremost. But yesterday´s ruling is essentially a guarantee that states won´t be punished for the crime of genocide, individuals that carry out those crimes will.
Insufficient Control
The second part of the ruling was that the Serbian government had insufficient control over the Bosnian Serb Army to be found culpable. This is equally spurious. While there was no "smoking gun" there was ample evidence that Milosevic and the Serbian military apparatus was directly in control of the Army of the Serb Republic.
First, Srpska (the actual name of the aforementioned republic) means "Serb" or "Serb Republic". This has caused some confusion between this small state and Serbia proper, but there can be no doubt that Republika Srpska saw itself as an extension of the Serbian State.
Second, Milosevic firmly established relations between Serbia proper and General Mladic in 1994. This move simultaneously linked the two dictatorial leaders while spurning the actual Bosnian Serb President. While documentary evidence linking the two in military strategy is difficult to impossible to locate, there is ample circumstantial evidence to demonstrate the point. For example, when Bosnia declared its independence in 1992, Mladic blockaded Sarajevo on the orders of Belgrade (i.e. Serbia).
Third, there is no doubt that Serbia knew what Mladic would do and didn´t stop him. The ICJ ruled to this effect yesterday.
The combination of this evidence leads one to the conclusion that Serbia had knowledge of and directed the genocide against Bosnian Muslims. In fact, nothing is more clear about this conflict than that statement. But for an international court of law, the evidence was insufficient to link the Serbian state with the Army of the Serb Republic.
This ruling is not only a failure of justice, it calls into question the relevance of the ICJ in terms of prosecuting genocide. Some have argued that the ICJ was organized to regulate disputes between nations and thus, it´s not the best forum for prosecuting a state for genocide. Perhaps they are correct. Perhaps the International Criminal Court is the appropriate forum for future prosecutions.
No matter. The reality is that for millions of Bosnians, justice wasn´t served. The victimization continued as the ruling exonerated those most responsible and legitmized the actions of the Serbian state during that era. For shame.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tim Hardaway´s Problem with Gay People

A lot has been made out of Former NBA Heat Point Guard Tim Hardaway stating in a radio interview that he "hated gay people" and that "they shouldn´t be [allowed] in America". I´m sure most everyone has heard this story by now. And his attitude is really no different from what you would expect from across the basketball community (and I´d argue large parts of the Christian community). The NBA responded by banning him from the All-Star game and making a very strong statement against his beliefs.

Now that the crisis is dying down, Hardaway has given an interview with ESPNs Scoop Jackson. The two men grew up together in Chicago and have a life-long friendship, so the sharpness of Jackson´s questions are muted at best (some would call them softballs).

I was reading this interview because I was curious what Hardaway´s defense would be. Turns out, his only real answer is that he should have not told the truth how he really feels. (He claims he doesn´t hate anyone in one of the most random and lame ass cops out of all time, equating his statements to saying you "hate" a certain restaurant.)

At any rate, I wanted to comment on this for two reasons.

First, is the absolute absurdity of this question posed by Scoop Jackson:

"[Your son] is 14 now. How do you handle it if he comes home from school or, better yet, you get a call from a hospital that says that he's been beaten by a group of gay kids in reaction to what you said about them?"

Apparently there are gangs of marauding gay kids running around beating up the straight ones. Funny, I thought hate crimes actually worked the other way.

Second is the distinct similarity between the behavior of a black, homophobic athlete toward gays in the 2000s and a white racist toward blacks in the 1950s. Here´s what Timmy says:

"When we was growing up Scoop, if we saw gay people or whatever, we ran across the street. We got away from them. Our parents, our friends, our families knew that that wasn't right. We didn't want to be around that and they definitely didn't want us kids around it. And it's not that they hated gay people, they just felt they it wasn't right. Let them do what they want to do. And that was my experience when I was growing up. Not acknowledging them....I just don't condone [being gay]."

Isn´t this the exact same thing as racial profiling? Didn´t white racists use to do the same thing back in the 1950´s? Didn´t the good Doctor Reverend Martin Luther King Junior´s words mean anything? Anything at all?

In fact, it goes far beyond any "similarity" and cuts to the heart of discrimination. The process of discrimination is essentially two-fold. First, you dehumanize. Then you justify.

The dehumanization process is quite simple. You see the "other" as wrong, indecent, evil, etc. Whatever does the trick. Genocidal regimes dehumanize best. They take racism/sexism to a whole new level and, over a period of time, see the "other" as inhuman, as animal. Discrimination doesn´t go as far, but the idea is to conceive of the "other" as less human than you.

Dehumanizing can be as simple as "not acknowledging" as Dr. Hardaway practices or could even be "crossing the street". Other, more overt measures have been used. "Blacks not allowed." "Sit on the back of the bus." "Whites only." Etc. You get the idea.

The second step is to justify. Some people have used "science" to argue that blacks aren´t as intelligent, for example, or that gay is a choice. Others say that their "-ism" isn´t harmful and that the discriminated group is just complaining. Others say "stick with your own kind, don´t come to white neighborhoods, why do you have to insist on making this a problem...". Others carry the justification process farther and say, "it´s against nature or God" or more personally, "those [discriminated against groups] are denying me of my fair opportunity in this world."

Whatever the flavor of the month, the point remains the same. The justification process is one that inflicts greater discriminatory harm while assuaging any personal feelings of guilt or remorse.

The current wave of heterosexism (homophobia) that is particularly dominant in the black community is exactly the same in function and effect as overt anti-black racism. But hey, don´t take my word for it. Just read the words of Coretta Scott King:

"Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

Or, Dr. King´s most profound of messages:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

So thanks Tim Hardaway, for reminding us all that we have a lot of work left to do.

A few bits from the week

Well, the job, I think, it going to get more bearable. There seems to be a bit of a power struggle going on (hard to tell since it´s in Spanish) and I seem to be part of what´s being fought over. Basically, there is one faction that sees me as an incredibly valuable resource and not just for my English skills, but also for my analytical abilities and formal training. I´m not sure what faction is going to win, but one direct result is that I have been tasked with writing two reports, one of which I´m already on top of (see: Indonesia, forest protection). So that´s the good news.

The bad news is that the other faction doesn´t see me as terribly valuable. To them, I think they wonder what good I can possibly bring and they just seem a bit afronted by my presence. This is compounded because I´m the only person on my level with a Master´s degree and that status elevates me a bit in meetings and other official capacities (I don´t take notes, someone else at my level does). Of course, my gut feeling is that the total Loba (she wolf, refers to low-class ho) who is the Admin Assistant is the one spreading the word that I´m no good. As I believe I inferred before, it seems she wanted my job and didn´t get it.

At any rate, now that I actually have work to do, I´m going to put my nose to the grinder. I care not about the office politics, but I do want to do the best that I can and get the most out of this less than ideal position. The way I see it, I´m in a "prove yourself" trial period. So the quality of the work that I do now is going to have a huge impact on the rival factions currently gossiping slovenly over the direction of the company.

(God I hate office life.)


Well, it´s official. One of my wife´s uncles has lung cancer and it´s already spread to his brain and kidneys. They´re not even going to try chemotherapy.

Doctors give him 3-6 months to live. The cancer is fairly advanced and there is no cure. The hope now is that the brain cancer kills him and not the lung cancer because dying from lung cancer is distinctly unpleasant (your lungs stop working and you can´t inhale - you suffocate).

My hope is that this will be an example to the rest of my wife´s family that smokes and have smoked for 30+ years. Her uncle has smoked since he was 16 and he´s almost 70. It doesn´t take a genius to figure out why he has cancer. That being said, there are other people in this family (my father in law, for example) who have roughly the same history. Now´s the time to change for good.


Well, the British and Danes finally started pulled out of Iraq. What are the odds that Bush launched the 21,500 new soldiers plan because Blair told him he was pulling out? This is leaving the US on a very uncomfortable island.

That coupled with the latest intensification of the insurgent war effort (new focus on helicopters, chlorine - chemical - bombs, better coordinated attacks, roadside bombs targeted at puncturing armored vehicles, and counterfeit US army uniforms being among the new strategies) bodes ill for US forces. Especially when the "new" troops being sent at part of Bush´s "escalation" plan don´t have enough rifles to actually fight the damn war (never mind body armor).

Either way, I believe the short answer is: We´re F*cked.

Bend over boys.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The New Job

Well, I have to say, all things considered, that the new job did not start off with a bang. More like a fizzle. I’m now in the second week and more disorganization has struck. This morning, when I arrived, I was told that I had to move desks because someone important was coming that needed a better desk than the ¼ inch table that I am currently using. They’re having space problems, which is a bit ridiculous since they just remodeled a 10 floor building to suit their needs and it’s clearly not enough.

That being said, the lack of organization is not the only problem. In fact, I’m beginning to have grave reservations about this job, or, I should say, this aspect of my career options. While it’s only the first week, the following are my initial concerns:

1. My co-workers have made me feel like an outcast foreigner who shouldn’t be here. This is obviously a concern completely unrelated to the career path or job functions, but it should be mentioned. I have yet to have a personal conversation with anyone (i.e. a conversation where it wasn’t them asking me to do something), nor have I received more than one or two friendly greetings. In fact, the only people that have been friendly at all are the receptionist (it’s her job), the HR staff (their jobs as well), and one of my bosses (she seems genuinely nice).

Now this may change in the long run, but I’d have to say that if it were me (and indeed, I’ve been in their place), I would at least try to be welcoming. But between the language barrier, the novelty of adding a gringo to this department, and the general cliquishness, well, I feel pretty damn unwelcome.

Of course, as of this week, there are several other gringos on this floor, so maybe I’ll make friends and we’ll form our own little clique. Because that looks like that’s the only way I’m going to start having lunch with anyone but myself.

2. I’m not confident this program is going to work. I know it’s early but I’ve been trained to analyze and that’s what I’ve done. The goals of the program from the Colombian view are to increase jobs with sustainable forest exploitation. The measures for that are fairly simple and easy to verify. But from the American side, the goal is first and foremost to replace coca production with licit crop production. That’s not going to work. In fact, the whole idea of crop substitution as a remedy to coca production is a joke. These programs will show modest gains, but they can never remove the incentive to grow coca. The financial returns from illicit crop production are just too high and can never be matched.

That being said, bringing new jobs to the rural poor is a good thing. And this program will probably help thousands of rural poor. So I can feel good about that. However, I’m not certain the US government is going to be overjoyed unless they see a reduction in coca production in the targeted areas. And that bodes ill for the long term longevity of the program.

This is critically important because under the rubric of a 5-year USAID contract a company called Chemotics successfully lobbied the Colombian government to change the forestry law resulting in the Forestry Law 2006. This was a horrible thing for Colombia as, among other things, it opened the doors for large, well funded companies to exploit forest resources. More on this in a future post.

The end result of this process is that it will make it more difficult for small and medium enterprises to compete, as well as giving incentives to private landowners to lease their forests to large multinationals that have no care for sustainability. If we end this program prematurely, which is a distinct possibility; it seems apparent that the enterprises we gave assistance to will not be able to survive against powerful internationals.

Basically, the point is that I feel we’re pissing into the wind, to put it as crassly as possible. Successfully changing the law to enable greater exploitation ultimately wasn’t such a hot idea if your goal was to help the rural poor.

3. Government contracting is akin to “project management”. I’m an analyst by nature. It’s what I do, almost instinctually, and it’s what you learn to do in graduate school (or you refine your abilities). So, to be suddenly put in a position where my basic responsibilities include pushing paper across desks and writing quarterly reports on our achievements, well, it’s not exactly going to satisfy my analytical passions.

In fact, the whole idea of project management is really just glorified administration. And I’m pretty sure I went to grad school so that I wouldn’t have to live, once again, in the administrative world. But apparently not. So, given that at least 50% of my responsibilities will be administrative in nature, I find it hard to see me being intellectually satisfied in this position.

(And yeah, people always say, “admin work is part of every job” or “you have to start somewhere” and maybe they’re right. But for the love of God, I’m almost 32 years old and I’ve spent the vast majority of my working life pushing other people’s papers across my desk. It’s high time I had some actual responsibilities that couldn’t be performed by a non-Spanish speaking chimpanzee.)

4. Government contracting companies operate like small start-ups no matter the size. Competitive bidding is great for the taxpayer. It reduces costs and forces companies to provide services to the government at very low prices. The drawback, of course, is that company margins are necessarily low meaning that the support they provide employees is correspondingly low. Salaries are one area where low level employees are clearly disadvantaged, but also everyday needs (like white copy paper and other office supplies) are always in short supply.

(I don’t know the margins for my current company, but the previous contractor I worked for was looking at margins in the single dollars per hour billed. Something in the range of $2.50/hour billed. The cumulative effect is that upper level employees got huge bonuses while the lower level got a nice fat $1,000 or about 1/20th of our direct bosses. Hardly fair considering that we spent roughly the same amount of overtime slaving away in what was a required capacity.)

Moreover, the environment is one that I find particularly grating. Part of this is because I’ve been a bit spoiled by my law firm experiences and all the lavish support that they provide, but also because I find the typical government contractor somewhere wedged between obnoxiously self-righteous that they’re doing good things for the world (always dubious to found your confidence on government projects) and naive about the direction of those programs.

In fact, one key area of difference that existed between me and my former government contracting co-workers was that I seemed to be the only one who regularly questioned the value of the projects we worked on. Nothing has changed in that capacity. For whatever reason, my co-workers here seem to have resolved whatever questions they may have had about this program and are working diligently to pursue the best administrative strategy they can. But I just can’t seem to get past the big picture. For me, analyzing the big picture is more interesting and relevant than the microcosm of program administration.

5. I’m a political scientist with a specialization in International Relations, not an Agronomist or a Development scholar. I’ve mentioned this to several people and the universal response is, “you’re a smart guy, you’ll learn quick and won’t have any problems.” With all due respect, I wasn’t having a crisis of confidence. Really. What I was trying to express is that had I wanted to be an Agronomist, I would have opted for that career choice. Equally had I been really interested in development, I would have specialized in that for my masters. But I didn’t. I did a general IR masters because I wanted the flexibility to study conflicts, treaties, international organizations, and other such things. Development and sustainable forestry were far from the world in which I wanted to live and remain so.

This doesn’t mean that I’m displeased to have this opportunity. On the contrary, this is a good opportunity to get some real experience in government contracting and in sustainable development. That being said, I’m fairly convinced that the microcosm of Forest Management, while interesting in some capacity, is clearly not going to hold my interest. It also seems a bit ridiculous that I live in Colombia, the country with the gravest refugee problem on this hemisphere, with an ongoing conflict, and a myriad of social-political problems and the work that I end up finding is in Forestry. What were the odds?

Ultimately, the point is that this just isn’t what I specifically chose to do. This is just the first opportunity that came along and I accepted it. I worry about this because I don’t want to set myself on a course that is ultimately going to lead me down a road I don’t want to go. Nor do I want to accumulate a wealth of experience that will typecast me and restrict future options. At the same time, I wonder how this experience is going to translate for a future in a NGO that works with refugees or conflict issues. And I also worry that perhaps life in NGOs is more or less the same as it is here. Maybe they do little more than project administration as well. Maybe you just don’t get the opportunity to write in any other capacity than that of the university professor. And maybe that’s the ultimate answer to my ultimate question.

I don’t really know. But I do know that I’m not working in the capacity that I desire and that I look forward to two things each week: my Intro to IR class and the weekend. So maybe that’s all that needs to be said. (PhD applications due in December…)

***This post could easily be criticized in the following manners: I’ve critiqued the business world; quit bitching and be grateful you have a job; and/or, relax a little. All of these are valid in their own way and I’m definitely not foreclosing the possibility that this job will turn out well for me. These are just initial reactions and, if nothing else, working in an actual business has reminded me of just how little love I have for the business world. But, I reserve the right to change my mind at any point, without notice.***

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The New Job

Well, at long last, I have finally started my new job. I received the call, out of the blue, that my documents were ready and that I could come pick them up. The lack of communication with these people was maddening and, as I’m finding out, it’s intrinsic to the job here. But whatever, at least it finally happened.

I was quite nervous about this job before I started and I’m still a bit nervous. Between reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman, recently watching the documentary The Corporation and teaching International Relations (with an excessive focus on national interest and state motivation), I’ve become extremely suspect of US led attempts to “help” poorer, less advantaged countries. This concern is especially acute when it comes to Colombia as the aid programs are marketed as “for the Colombian people”, but are unapologetically derived from the US desire to reduce and ultimately eliminate coca production and the attending cocaine product that floods the streets of America.

Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, though, as the point is that poor Colombians need help and anti-narcotic motivated aid is better than no aid. But, as I’m working on a “sustainable development” project, I’m extremely interested in actually verifying that it actually is environmentally sustainable before I jump into the forest exploitation business. I highlight the word “environmentally” because I have quickly realized that “sustainable” is often used to indicate that the program is economically sustainable, in that it won’t require a continuous input of funds from the North after the initial contract period. The people that work on these things are quite clever and apparently have taken the language/rhetoric lessons of the Bush administration to heart. Call it something it isn’t, continue to insist that it is that thing, and enough people will believe you that you won’t have to suffer the criticism of your ultra-hyper aggressive policies.

At any rate, I´m still in the investigation process. As this is my first week and I’m working in “the Colombian way” as my boss put it, I haven’t had much to do aside from read about the projects, company, and “sustainable forestry” in general. I’ve also been reading up on a recent change in Colombian law (which has necessitated translations from Spanish to English as the US media basically ignored the huge change in Colombian law) and I’m writing a comprehensive document with my analysis of all aspects of our development environment. This paper may not translate to anything useful for the company directly, but it will help me to organize my thoughts, understand the projects and implementation of those projects, as well as providing what I hope is interesting material for the blog. Plus, I’m reserving judgement about this program until I have researched and read enough, so hopefully when I do post my analysis, it will be comprehensive and conclusive.

The team I’m working with, for the most part, have either been cold or outright unfriendly to me. My sweet wife tells me that it doesn’t mean anything because there’s an obvious language barrier. When we were living in London, for example, she always ate lunch alone at her job because it was difficult to fit into another language and culture. So, she told me not to worry, that these things take time. Of course, I’m really just looking for another Roving Alcoholic to entertain me.

Finally, this place is fully immersed in Chibchumbia (disorganization, Colombian style). Last Friday, I spoke with at least 3 of the HR team about my starting time. As I have class from 7-10:30 am on Mondays, I told each one of them that I would be at the office at 11 am for induction. Each one confirmed the time. On Monday morning, each one called me at different times asking when I was coming in. Then, when I finally got here, nothing was ready for me. No computer, no phone, no nothing. Just an empty desk with two telephone books.

It’s now Thursday and I have a computer with internet access but no access to the file system or an email account, nor can I send things to the printer. Essentially, it’s like I just brought my laptop to work with me so I could surf the web. The phone is lower on my priority list. Maybe next week things will get a bit better.

At any rate, as I really have nothing to do and my bosses aren’t here to give instructions, I’m going to continue translating into English a brief very critical of the new Forestry Law. At the very least, I’m improving my Spanish and my resume at the same time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chinese government is destroying Tibetan Culture

I have to be totally honest that I really don't know that much about Tibet. I do know that China is a human rights abusing regime that we (the world) have essentially chosen to lay with because there doesn't appear to be any other alternative. But I urge everyone to this Rolling Stone article entitled "The End of Tibet".

I must warn you though. It's a tough, tough read. The Chinese really come across as bastards and rightfully so. It's also a really depressing article because it left me with the feeling that no matter what we do (people, NGOs, governments), the end is near for Tibet. The Chinese have cleverly and ruthlessly instituted a campaign that will see the eradication of Tibetan culture within the next 20 years.

The article also contains a link to an organization that is actively trying to use the Beijing 2008 Olympics as a forum to highlight the Tibetan Genocide. Please go there. Do something that they suggest. If we are truly living in a globalized world, and we are all citizens of the world, then we owe it to our fellow citizens to act now. Even if it already might be too late.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Recap

Well, after the first quarter, I thought last night's Super Bowl was going to be one of the best all time. I mean, it started with a bang, went back and forth for an entire quarter, and was legitimately exciting. But things went from great to good to bad to worse in about 2 minutes 12 seconds and now is likely to be remembered as one of the dullest Super Bowls of the new millennium.

At any rate, congrats to the Indianapolis Colts for making me as good a predictor as Peter King (although the Don of all bad predictions nailed last night's game, as did every other sportswriter in the known world...). I have to say, I thought that the Colts just played a whole lot better than the Bears, especially at the line of scrimmage. The Bears just had no way of stopping Jeff Saturday and the Colts run game and that doomed them (I'm going to go punch myself in the head repeatedly for the next hour now). Congrats America, we now have the least favorable Super Bowl champs of the decade!

Second of all, before the Peyton Manning fan club starts sucking each others Popsicles, let's just put that whole MVP award in a closet somewhere. The Colts won because they controlled the line of scrimmage and Joseph Addai had a very nice game of 150+ yards. Manning got the MVP because of two things: 1. He's Manning and, 2. there was no other clear stats victor. I say "stats victor" because Addai didn't score and looked only average in the run category. Blame the Colts system for that (they split the RB job between two guys), but Addai was the MVP in my book. Take him out of that game and the Colts aren't wearing down the Bears defense with long drives and I don't think they're winning.

Third, I think the Bears offensive coordinator either needs a stiff talking to or should be outright fired. You've got a young, inexperienced QB facing a stiff pass rush IN THE SUPER BOWL and you don't have any check down routes on any plays in the first 3 quarters? WTF? That should go in the HOF for WTFery. I found the Bears offensive game plan outright remorseful. Nothing like giving the other guys the Vince Lombardi trophy, now is there?

Also, good thing God's on the Colts side. That must mean he hates the Bears, huh?

(See Irsay, Jim for more on this. The Colts owner had the audacity to credit God for the championship which I find to be disingenuous for at least 5 reasons:

1. Like God gives a damn about football when we got a damn conflagration of death exploding in the Middle East, not to mention the Sudan.
2. Like God is really going to get out there and give a little something extra to one team over the other.
3. Praising God discredits the hard work of the winning players. They might be men of faith, but faith alone isn't going to get your a Super Bowl victory. Hard work is. And I'd say there's plenty of evidence to suggest that faith isn't required to win a Super Bowl.
4. It's disrespectful to the other team. By implication, divine intervention in one team's cause relatively deprives the other of similar gains. Thus, God plays favorites with his children. I thought the bible suggests he only does that with his angels...
5. Why can't football just be a game? Why does God have to be a part of every public utterance around a football, baseball, or basketball game? Look, I get it. God digs sports. But I don't get the sense that he's much of a partisan gambler or anything, so please, just shut the f*ck up already.

*Aside, I have no problem with someone saying the following, "Well, it's been a tough year or so, but with God's help, we've been able to get through it, keep focused and work hard. So the fact that we were able overcome those obstacles and win the Super Bowl is a testament to our faith.")

The Super Bowl ads totally sucked. In fact, they're getting worse. I was particularly unimpressed by the "funny" ads that were not terribly amusing and caused no more than a brief smile. I'm not sure what's going on here. Either Super Bowl ads are getting less funny or mainstream America's sense of humor is getting worse. Peter King found the lions in the field ad "brilliant" whereas I found it mildly interesting as it did slightly raise the corners of my lips.

Plus, did you know that the Super Bowl was the first to have two black head coaches? I don't know how I missed that one. Good thing Coca-Cola was there to remind me.

(Aside #2: I'm not sure if it's my general inclination that America is way too preoccupied with race or if there was more to this story. Maybe football really is an old white man's game and maybe there is something huge about breaking the color barrier, but I just didn't feel that to be the case. To me, it just seemed like "the story" the media decided to roll with. A lot of spin, not much substance from what I read.

I also think that America's preoccupation with race just needs to die a slow death. I'm not generally in favor of things that actively divide our country, especially when those things are relatively minor compared to the vast racial, sexual, and religious discrimination that is still present across the globe, not to mention the deep problems of abject poverty and the violence that it breeds.)

At any rate, I would have to conclude that the Super Bowl experience for non-partisan football fans has much worsened in the last 12 months. We had a relatively mediocre champion (worst run defense of all time), with hyperventilating evangelicals accepting the trophy, a completely unlikeable MVP, no advertisements with any humor value or cultural significance, and 12 months of continuous reminders that yeah, the Colts actually won the Super Bowl. I think I'm going to continuously induce vomiting until I pass out in a puddle of my own piddle.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Decidedly Good News and a Super Bowl Pick

Sometimes in life, you find opportunities and sometimes opportunities find you. I was fairly convinced after not hearing from the company I interviewed with in November for almost a month, that they weren't going to complete the process to legalize my work status. I had called several times, was never able to talk with the my contact there, and figured that was that. So I took the job at Javeriana and started looking for other opportunities.

Well, Thursday, they called. The process is finished, they said. And they asked me to come in on Friday. So I went in on Friday, we worked out the details for the visa and I spoke with my now future boss (again) and he said not to worry about Javeriana, that we'll work something out between the two of us. They asked me to come in on Monday to pick up the package I have to take to the Ministry of External Relations and, assuming all goes well, I'll have my visa on Tuesday. The next step of the process is for them to resend my documents to the US embassy, negotiate salary, and receive final approval. That process should take between 7-10 working days. Which means, that within two weeks, I should be starting my new job.

I owe all of this to the new HR manager that they hired in the beginning of January. Not only does she speak near perfect English, she obviously knows how to get things done. She explained that normally it takes 2 months to get the documents from the government, but that she has a friend on the inside, so it took like 2 weeks. This is about 22-44 weeks different from what the old HR person had told my future boss. So bully for her.

At any rate, as I've learned here in Colombia, I'm definitely not counting my chickens until they hatch. I won't feel like this job is mine until I have a work contract, with a salary, and a start date in hand. Things can and do go wrong here all the time and since it's already been almost 3 months since my interview, I'm not basing my hopes on the timetable I laid out above. But, I do feel pretty good about this since it's with a major company in my field, the work should be very important for Colombia, and I'm going to be able to improve my Spanish in a mixed office. Should be a great learning experience, if nothing else.

Of course, my life looks to be very complicated for the next 4 months as I'll be splitting time between Javeriana and ARD, but I trust that my future boss and I will work out a solution. I realized when talking with him in person, that he just doesn't do very well in English over the phone. In person, he was very apologetic and when I offered to talk with my boss at Javeriana about getting someone to take one or two of my classes, he adamantly said no, that we would work something out, since he had given me the OK to take that job for the short term. At any rate, I'm still going to design another course for Javeriana as well as I want to continue with my academic development and the University is planning on having one of the IR courses at night so that more students can take it. So that's a good thing.


Ok, now to the Super Bowl. I've thought long and hard about this and I've really tried to be objective. But when it comes down to it, I just can't go with the Colts. I have the following reasons:

1. My conscious just couldn't take it. Against the Patriots (arrogant winners of 3 recent Super Bowls), I could root for the Colts. But against the Bears? I don't think so. The Bears are too lovable and really don't have anyone not to root for. Even Tank Johnson (aka Mr. Firearm) is worth pulling for, even if it is just to see if he pulls a sidearm out of his shorts and shoots Manning in the back. My point is, the Bears are just so much more interesting than the Colts. And, I hate rooting for Manning. I want to root for the Manning face. (Plus, my very good friend in Chicago would never forgive me if I rooted against his Bears.)

2. The weather. One reason I waited to make a prediction is because I wanted to see what the playing conditions were going to look like. It makes a huge difference to a team like the Colts, but for the Bears, not so much. And, today, Miami is expecting wind and rain. That's good for the Bears, bad for the Colts.

3. Everyone, and I mean everyone, thinks this will be a walkover win for the Colts. That means that I should immediately call Vegas and put money down on the Bears. Because one thing that I know to be true, professional predictions of Super Bowl victors are almost universally wrong (See Bucs, Tampa Bay vs. Raiders, Oakland).

4. I don't trust the Colts Defense. This story has been spun masterfully by ESPN's Sports Guy and I won't go into too much detail here. But, the bottom line is, the Colts D didn't get miraculously better in the last month. They were smart and played two one-dimensional teams and gave up 30+ to the only team that had a balanced offense. One thing the Bears do is mix the run with the pass quite well and I think the Colts give up a lot of points in this one.

5. Last, but not least, defense wins Championships and the Bears got the D to do the job. I expect Urlacher and Briggs to be all over the field, dominating the Colts TE, which will be the difference. Take away the middle of the field and I don't expect the Colts to move the ball with the authority that they're used to. And if they can't move the football and drives stall, then Manning has to take more risks. That's a bad idea against a very opportunistic Bears defense that can, and I think will, score points in this game.

Bring on the Manning Face.

Bears 30 - Colts 22

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