Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain's Choice for VP: Political Cynicism (update)

Yesterday I posted my initial thoughts about John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. After listening to several pundits, reading several articles (both online and in print), talking to some friends and family, and, most importantly, thinking about the issue for myself, I thought that I'd add a few more thoughts on the nomination.

I thought that John McCain was supposed to be a "maverick". I guess that we're supposed to be impressed by his decision to choose someone from outside of Washington who has "history" of going against party insiders. But let's take a closer look at that. First, there is a thin line between being a maverick and being reckless. Yes, Gov. Palin comes from way outside of Washington; so far outside, in fact, that it will be interesting to see if she knows much, if anything, about national (let alone international) issues. In fact, Palin herself said just a month or so ago that she didn't even know what the Vice President does! Speaking on CNBC's Kudlow & Co., Palin said:

As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.
And this is the person that Sen. McCain wants to be our Vice President, a heartbeat away from the Presidency? I'll be interested to hear Gov. Palin's plans for healthcare, renewable energy (after all, Alaska's oil won't last forever), and social security reform. How would Gov. Palin handle the Russian invasion of Georgia, Iran's nuclear ambitions, or the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Of course, I already know that she's pro-NRA, anti-abortion, and opposed to gay rights.

As to this notion that she has a "history" of fighting political corruption and going against party insiders, there is both truth and exaggeration in the claim. Yes, she won the job as Alaska's governor by challenging the old guard and taking on political corruption and for that she should be applauded. Of course, it is worth noting that the incumbent governor that Palin defeated was, according to polls conducted in Alaska, the most unpopular governor in the country with an approval rating of just 14%! And just how politically difficult was it really to kill the "bridge to nowhere" given that it was being built at the behest of (and to honor) now-indicted Senator Ted Stevens and made Alaska somewhat of a laughing stock to the rest of the country? It is also worth noting that she apparently expressed support for the bridge until it became a national symbol of wasteful spending.

And let's not forget that the Alaskan legislature, just a few weeks ago, launched an ethics inquiry aimed at Gov. Palin. The charge is that she fired Alaska's public safety commissioner because he, in turn, had refused to fire a state trooper who was going through a messy divorce with Gov. Palin's sister.

One of the most disturbing things that I've heard over the last 24 hours is the Republican drumbeat recitation that Gov. Palin has as much or more experience as Barack Obama. Huh? If I understand the argument, it is that Sen. Obama has only been an attorney, community activist and organizer, law school lecturer (not to mention president of the Harvard Law Review), state legislator, and United States Senator, while Gov. Palin has, in her capacity as mayor and now governor, actually managed something. I'm sorry, but I don't buy that argument. First, the town that Gov. Palin led was only 25% bigger than my high school. Viewed another way, the town of Wasilla, Alaska, has only about 10% as many people as the number of people who worked in the World Trade Center on any given day before 9/11. I don't accept, for a moment, that her experience as mayor of Wasilla was, in any way, comparable to that of either Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden. Similarly, with regard to her role as governor of Alaska, again recall that Alaska's population is about 670,000 (I don't think that number includes moose...), only about 85% of the population of Indianapolis. Indianapolis has had some terrific mayors (Bill Hudnut, Steve Goldsmith, Bart Peterson), but I don't think that any of them would necessarily have had the experience to be Vice President, let alone President. In fact, in his acceptance speech Thursday night, the audience at Mile High Stadium was equal to about 12% of the entire population of Alaska! And, don't forget, that the Gov. Palin's much-ballyhooed gubernatorial experience comprises a whopping 20 months! So, frankly, to anyone who tries to equate Gov. Palin's "experience" with that of either Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden, all I can say is stop smoking whatever you're smoking. (I will commend the Republicans for managing to get their political supporters on the same page and stick to their "talking points" even if it does make them look foolish.)

One thing that does scare me is how appealing Gov. Palin (and her husband) may be to certain segments of the electorate. The fact that she hunts (moose, no less) and fishes will, at least to some, far outweigh the fact that she has no experience dealing with national or international issues. She will certainly be a counterpoint to Sen. Obama's alleged elitism (which, I hope, the Democratic Convention put to rest). I just hope that people decide to vote based on the issues and not just on which candidate looks more like them or which candidate they'd prefer to have over for a beer and a mooseburger.

I think that The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully described Sen. McCain's choice very well:

This is what McCain does with his first big executive decision? Seriously, does anyone reading this believe McCain looked at his lineup of potential running mates and honestly said, "You know, I really think Sarah Palin is the Republican best suited to serve as my vice president?"

Of course not.

Instead, it appears he looked at the polls and focus groups and decided to play politics with the most important decision he'll make during this campaign.

Unless the rest of the world is missing something, it seems clear McCain's decision was made for blatant, pandering reasons -- a desperate attempt to win over women, especially disaffected Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters, while puckering up to conservatives.

Sen. McCain is supposed to be a maverick and his pick of Gov. Palin is supposed to demonstrate that. Instead, the pick demonstrates that Sen. McCain is resorting to the worst kind of focus-group politics, in this case gender politics, to win the Presidency. I'd so hoped that the efforts of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton would have begun to put an end to that kind of political cynicism. I guess that Sen. McCain the Republicans haven't gotten the memo yet. Hopefully, come November, they will learn the hard way.

This is the second post in a series. Part one was posted on August 29, 2008.


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Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Choice for VP: Political Cynicism

So John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I'm sure that we'll hear much about this choice and Gov. Palin over the next few days, but I wanted to offer a few quick thoughts (I just heard the news in the last half hour or so).

First, my initial reaction is that Sen. McCain's choice is exceedingly cynical, albeit perhaps politically savvy. Is Gov. Palin qualified? I don't know; I don't know much about her and I suspect that you don't either. Is Gov. Palin the most qualified person available? I seriously doubt that she is even among the most qualified candidates, let alone the most qualified candidate. Moreover, I don't think that she was chosen because of the importance of her home state of Alaska; after all, Alaska's 3 electoral votes almost always go to the Republican candidate anyway. No, the reason that Gov. Palin has been added to the ticket is simple: She is a woman. Sen. McCain is trying to capture some of the disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton and trying to get some of the moderate Republican soccer moms to keep from crossing over and voting for Obama. I'm sure that the Republican spin machine will spout all kinds of reasons as to why Gov. Palin was the best choice, but I, for one, will take some convincing. And, to the extent that she was chosen simply because she is a woman (or if that fact was a major component to the decision-making process), then I find it to be very cynical, not to mention depressing. I thought that what both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton were trying to prove is that neither race nor gender should be deciding factors.

One or two other quick thoughts on the nomination. Over the last few months (and, in particular, the last few days during the Democratic convention), we've heard Republican supporters repeat ad nauseum that Sen. Obama does not have the experience to be President. (As to this point, I thought that Al Gore's comparison showing that Sen. Obama has almost the exact same experience as Abraham Lincoln was interesting.) So, let's assume for the sake of argument that experience is a legitimate issue (I'm sure I'll blog on that subject another time). What does it tell us about Sen. McCain's campaign that his choice for Vice President has been a governor (of the 47th most populous state in the nation) for only two years and before that she was the mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470)! Now, consider that Sen. McCain, if elected, will be the oldest person to take office for a first time as President (3 years older than Ronald Reagan). The old cliche is that the Vice President is just a heartbeat away from the Presidency. So, in the eyes of Sen. McCain, a woman who has been Governor of state with a tiny population for two years (and mayor of a small town before that) is qualified and has the experience to be a heartbeat away while the oldest person elected sits in the Oval Office?

Think about it this way: The choice of a running mate is the first real "presidential" decision a candidate makes. Barack Obama chose Joseph Biden, a 6-term United States Senator with experience in areas that Sen. Obama is arguably lacking (including serving as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Committee). Sen. McCain, by contrast, chooses a virtually unknown Governor with virtually no experience (and certainly no national experience). Based on these choices, which candidate, Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain, do you trust to surround themself with more competent people to help them make the decisions that will be so important to our country?

Just a few quick notes about Gov. Palin that I'm sure we'll hear over and over during the campaign:

  • She is married to a Yup'ik Eskimo.
  • She has five children (including a 4-month old with Down syndrome and a 19-year old son serving in the Army [scheduled to be deployed to Iraq soon]).
  • She is apparently a hunter and a life-long member of the NRA.
  • She is anti-abortion.
  • She was runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant.

Yup, Gov. Palin is the person that I want sitting a heartbeat away from the Presidency....

This is part one of a series. Part two was posted August 30, 2008.

Edited August 30, 2008 to add link to part two.


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Banning Good Player Sends Wrong Message to Kids

By now I'm sure that most people have heard about Jericho Scott, the 9-year old baseball player from New Haven, Connecticut that has been prevented from pitching because he is too good. (For information, including some video, please take a look at ESPN's article.) The decision by the league is wrong in so many ways that it is almost unfathomable. I wanted to discuss a few of my thoughts on the subject.

First, it is important to note that there has not been any allegation that Jericho has hurt anybody. He hasn't beaned another player. Instead, the allegation appears to simply be that he throws too hard and, thus, the other kids will be afraid and/or the other kids won't have success when they bat against Jericho. To both of those concerns, I say, tough.

I remember playing baseball as a 9-year old (the first year that kids pitched in our league). I pitched. Badly. I hit other players. Oops. But I wasn't banned. Other kids pitched well. They threw hard. But neither I nor anyone else on my team complained because the other pitcher was too good. No, we got into the batter's box and tried. When one of us got a hit off one of the good pitchers, we were excited. That was what sports was all about. And I remember the first time that I saw a curveball. It scared the %$^&@# out of me. But again, I didn't cry foul.

Think what message the league has sent to Jericho. They've told him that skill, whether obtained by practice or genetics, is to be punished rather than rewarded. And they've told him that feelings are more important than good sportsmanship. Just imagine if this was the local spelling bee instead of baseball. Can you imagine a kid being banned from the spelling bee because he (or she) spent too much time practicing or knew too many words? That situation isn't really any different than that facing Jericho Scott. (And don't tell me that the situation is different because a kid might get hurt. First, remember that nobody has alleged that Jericho has hit anybody [which speaks to his control and skill]. Second, any thrown pitch has a chance to hurt a kid. Third, and most importantly, batted balls [not to mention thrown bats] also have a great chance to hurt kids. No, this is not about safety at all; it's about protecting the egos of other kids who might strike out against Jericho and it's about protecting the egos of the parents who might be forced to watch their child strike out.)

My 8-year-old son plays soccer. I've seen some kids kick the ball pretty hard, especially at goal. But I can't imagine trying to get one of those kids (or his team) thrown out of the league for kicking too hard. Nor could I envision the league penalizing a player who could dribble too well. My 8-year-old daughter is a competitive cheerleader. I can't imagine her team walking off the mat because another team had a girl who could tumble or fly better than her team.

As long as you are playing within the rules of the sport, then skill should be rewarded, not feared. And that is a troubling part of the message being sent to the kids on the other teams. Rather than tell those kids that they need to suck it up and try their best, they are told to quit. Rather than tell those kids to try to hit off Jericho and use it as a learning experience and opportunity to get better, they are told that adults will remove obstacles to their success. (It is also worth noting that, with 8 teams in the league, each batter will face Jericho very infrequently...) I wonder: Will those parents try to get school teachers to give easier spelling tests? Will they demand that the fastest runners not be allowed to compete in relay races and the tallest kids not be allowed to play basketball? I thought that sports was supposed to be about learning to develop your own potential, not a race to the lowest common denominator. Gee, I know. Let's keep the best pitchers out of the game. We can also bench the best hitters. The fastest kids shouldn't have a chance to outrun anybody and the kids who can catch or throw well should also be pushed aside. Is that really the world that we want for our children?

Some have suggested that the simple answer is for Jericho to "play up" (that is, play in the league for older kids). That solution is fine if Jericho wants to play up. But just as a child who does well in school shouldn't be forced to skip a grade, Jericho shouldn't be forced to play up if he doesn't want to. It is also worth noting that there are two real problems with having Jericho play up (not to mention the bad message that forcing him to play up sends to the other kids in the "younger" league). First, Jericho is a 9-year-old kid. Is he emotionally mature enough to play with older kids? Just because he can throw the ball hard doesn't mean that he should be sharing a bench with a 13-year-old (while Jericho is discussing Ben 10 or Star Wars or whatever he likes, the other kids on the bench might be discussing girls or drugs or something that would be wholly inappropriate for a 9-year-old). Secondly, while Jericho may be a great pitcher, we don't know what his other skills are like. For all we know, his batting and throwing skills or his knowledge and understanding of the game may be no better than average for his age group. Forcing him to play up could actually impede his ability to develop these other skills at an age appropriate pace.

One more point that I'd like to make. I mentioned this story to my 8-year-old son. I told him that Jericho was a very good pitcher who threw very hard and that the other kids couldn't hit his pitches and some might be scared. And I told him that the league kicked Jericho out. My son's response: "That's not fair." When I asked why it wasn't fair, my son said that Jericho should be allowed to play and, most importantly, he recognized that sometimes other kids would be better. I asked him how he would feel if there was a player so good that he couldn't get a hit. My son's reply? "That's how the game works." Too bad adults aren't always as wise as kids.


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Lucas Oil Stadium: A Fan's Perspective

Last night, I attended my first "game" at Lucas Oil Stadium. I put "game" in quotation marks because I don't consider pre-season NFL games to be real games; rather they are bad excuses for NFL owners to wrangle a few extra (well, more than a few) dollars out of the fans. But that is a discussion for another day. More importantly, between last week's walkaround and last night's game, I've now had a chance to really look at and think about Indianapolis' new stadium and thought that I'd offer a few thoughts.

First, for the record, I intend for this post to be the last time that I refer to "Lucas Oil Stadium" again. I'll probably call it the "The Luke" or "The Stadium" or "Peyton's Place" or "That Great Big Brick Building Downtown That Replaced the Dome" but I won't call it "Lucas Oil Stadium". Sorry. Frankly, I've always had problems with naming rights for stadiums, but I recognize that the almighty dollar requires sacrifices like naming stadiums after local dignitaries or the team (can you imagine the Yankees playing at "Trump Stadium" or the Bears playing at "Geico Insurance Field"?).

So, I can live with the name that a city gives to a stadium so long as the name rolls off the tongue easily enough and bears some relation to the city. Conseco Fieldhouse and the RCA Dome were each named for major companies in the Indianapolis economy and the Pepsi Coliseum is at least easy to say and named for a product with which everyone is familiar (me, I'd prefer the Coke Coliseum...). But Lucas Oil? It doesn't really roll of the tongue, now does it? I could have lived with Lucas Stadium (sounds like it was named for someone), but throwing in the word "Oil" just destroys it. And have you ever looked at the logo for Lucas Oil? Come on, a 5th-grader with PhotoShop could come up with a better logo (not to mention one that looks like it was designed some time since the invention of, oh, I don't know, the internal combustion engine?). Wrigley Field: cool. US Cellular Field: yuck. Soldier Field: cool. Minute Maid Park: yuck. Ford Field: cool. Lucas Oil Stadium? You decide. I thought that Denver's approach made a lot of sense: Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. Invesco got their naming rights and everyone can still call the place Mile High Stadium. On the opposite end of the spectrum, how many times has the baseball stadium in San Francisco changed names (SBC Park, Pacific Bell Park, AT&T Park)? If Lucas Oil is bought will it become Pennzoil Stadium or Quaker State Stadium?

I'm still curious to know why a local Indianapolis company didn't step up and acquire the naming rights (in particular, Eli Lilly).

Apparently, Lucas Oil doesn't want the stadium to be called "The Luke" because one of their big competitors is Luke Oil. Tough. Mr. Lucas should have thought of that when he threw his money at our stadium.

Finally, just for the record, I noticed last night that you can purchase Lucas Oil t-shirts and hats and oil products at the game. Just what I want to do: Buy a quart of oil for my dragster while I'm at a Colts game. I wonder: How does Lucas Oil taste on bratwurst?

And now we return to our regularly schedul ... er ... the review portion of this post.

So let's talk about The Luke (and I'm going to try to order these comments in the order that a visitor will encounter things, not necessarily importance). The first thing that you notice about the stadium is that it's big. No, think bigger than that. If you drive into downtown Indianapolis on the Airport Expressway, you'll get an idea of just how massive the structure is. And it dwarfs the Hoosier Dome two blocks away. The architects were also very smart to use brick on the exterior of the stadium; it helps give it a much warmer feel, more like a stadium and less like a generic government facility.

One criticism, though, can be leveled at the exterior and that involves parking. I thought that the stadium was supposed to have a large parking lot for tailgating. It does have a large parking lot, but apparently the only people who can use that lot are those with suites or club seats and those people (at least the ones in the suites) seem least likely to tailgate before a game. For last night's pre-season game, the stadium appeared nearly full, but the parking lot was, if not empty, certainly not full. I also learned that, even with all of that parking, there is no on site parking for disabled fans. That so much parking is set aside for the VIPs with no thought given to who might need parking is at best a poor decision and at worst shameful.

Inside, The Luke provides quite a "wow" factor (mostly good "wows" but a few bad ones, too). The stadium is so different from the Hoosier Dome, it's hard to explain. Try this: The Dome is to The Luke as a warehouse is to an upscale shopping mall? I'm not sure if I can capture it better than that. Picture this, though: At the Dome, the concourses surrounding the stadium were simply concrete walkways with concession stands every-so-often. No aesthetics to speak of. At The Luke, the concourses may be concrete, but between decorated walls, pillars, and ceilings, neon lights and product placements, there is much more of a "finished" feel to the place (except for some of the concrete floors that seem very unfinished). At the Dome, you would walk from here to there; at The Luke, when walking from here to there, you might actually find yourself looking at something other than the floor or the back in front of you.

The main entrance plaza at The Luke includes a stage (and the band kept playing until time for the pre-game festivities). And unlike at the Dome where you could only see into the stadium through the walkways to the seats, the entire north end plaza is open to the stadium, so you can see down to the field from the stage, concession stands, and bar. This was one of the biggest "wow" moments at the stadium.

We thought about taking the elevator to one of the upper levels just to look around (we got to the game very early), but there was a huge line to go up the escalator (I read this morning that the line was nearly 20 minutes long). That will need to be corrected (apparently there are ramps to the upper levels, but I didn't know that and didn't see the ramps). So, I'll have to wait for another day to look around from higher up. I will say that if you are offered "nose bleed" seats at The Luke, you may have a better vantage point if you charter a plane and fly over the game. Yes, the nose bleed seats are that high up. If you sit up by the south window, you might want to bring oxygen to the game.

There appear to be more concession stands with more choices. That's good. Some of them are even "dressed up" (one has an exterior to make it look like an old fashioned diner). And the food that we had was pretty good. Last week I tried a pork tenderloin (a Hoosier favorite) and it was better than average (and I've certainly had a lot worse) and the cheeseburger that I had last night was quite good. The onion rings and fries were forgettable, but the chicken tenders were large and decent (and not overly greasy).

However, there were some serious kinks that need to be ironed out of the concessions. First, the prices seemed a bit steep on some things and stupid on others. The cheeseburger was $7.50, which seemed a bit high, but probably within the outer reaches of acceptability. The popcorn, on the other hand, was not. If I recall, at the Dome, there was a choice of a bucket of popcorn (think large movie popcorn) or a giant souvenir bucket (where you're really paying for the bucket). I don't recall how much the souvenir bucket was, but I think it was in the $8-10 range. We got one, just to have, but often got a bucket of popcorn to share (and I think it was about $4, but could have been a bit more). At The Luke, popcorn comes in a cardboard "megaphone" (maybe a foot tall with a 4-inch diameter at the top; it doesn't look like much popcorn) for $4.75 or the souvenir bucket for $12! The megaphone is way too expensive for way too little and the souvenir bucket is too expensive. There should be a choice in between. Oh, well.

We also had to settle for cheeseburgers because the machine that makes the Philly steak sandwiches was broken. More troubling was the fact that we had to wait nearly 20 minutes for those two cheeseburgers! Somehow, the concession operator was woefully unprepared for the demand. Chicken tenders, fries, and onion rings were being served up quickly enough, but if you dared to order a cheeseburger, you were in for quite a wait. And I still don't understand why people were being told to stick their hands in their beers when they complained that there was too much head... Yeah, when I'm at a game, I really want to stick my hand in my beer.

Jumping ahead briefly: The concessions were served with nice cardboard cartons to carry everything. However, when we were finished, I wanted to throw away the cartons (they were large and there's only so much room to sit), but I had to walk all the way out to the main concourse to find a trash can (and when I did, it was full). There should be trash cans in the walkways leading to the seats.

Speaking of the seats, those in The Luke are much nicer than those at the Dome. They are wider, have more leg room, and have cup holders mounted on the seat in front (instead of on the armrest). And somehow, they simply felt more comfortable. Back at the Dome, we sat where the stands begin to curve (just a bit) toward the endzone; as a result, two of our seats were much narrower than others and not all of our group could ... um ... er ... fit ... into some of those seats (at least not comfortably). That problem is gone (at least for our seats).

The design of the stadium also now includes far more levels of seating with walkways running between seating levels. This has the benefit of raising the seats of those sitting higher up by a little bit so that they can see over those in front. Plexiglas has been used in place of metal railings in many places which should also help with the view. As a place to watch a game, The Luke should be terrific (at least for football; I'll reserve judgment for basketball).

Still talking about seats, there were two things that seemed a bit problematic. I understand that people who pay for club seats get "more"; they get the best field location and they get cushioned seats. But I don't like the idea of the Plexiglas railings that separated our section of the stands from the club seats next to us. There are even two aisles running right next to each other separated by Plexiglas. It's a bit like the nobility is afraid to brush up against the commoners. Come on, I showered before the game and I don't think that I have anything contagious. We all understand that there are "haves" and "have lesses", but there is no reason to rub it in. And on that note, the way that the ushers were quite rudely directing people who mistakenly thought that they could get from here to there by walking through the club seat area was unacceptable. First, there should be signs directing people so that they don't walk down a hallway only to be turned back. Second, the ushers should always be polite. Third, why can't people walk through a concourse to get to their seat (especially when the main concourse is very crowded)? Again, why rub in the "we've got more"? Perhaps the club seats should have a private entrance where those folks don't even have to see the rest of us? Maybe hang a giant curtain between us and them? I understand that they're paying more, and should get more, but should they get more at the expense of others who not only get less but get it less conveniently? I don't think so.

And now back to the stadium. Back at the Dome, I often used my binoculars to look at the replay screens. They were small, far away, and very grainy (high tech in 1984; embarrassing by 2008). Not at The Luke. In fact, my mother had to keep tearing her eyes away from the giant screens and back to the field. It was almost too easy to watch the game on the screen and not on the field. I almost can't wait for the first controversial replay call so that we can see very clearly what really happened on the field. One bit of disappointment with the big screens was that they weren't being used to display stats. I thought that 1/4 of the screen was going to be used for stats during the game. Instead, it was just used for advertising.

Speaking of advertising, the stadium is, essentially, one giant ad. Between the 2nd and 3rd levels of the stadium is a giant "ribbon" screen (essentially a digital display screen that virtually circles the stadium). Occasionally, the screen would have some interesting information on it, but by and large it was used for brightly colored animated advertising. Cool for a few minutes, but I tried to tune it out pretty quickly. However, the motion and bright lights could, from time to time, be distracting. I'd like to see the ribbon also get used for things relevant to the game now and then. The scoreboard itself is much cooler than at the Dome, with the ability to show the teams' logos (in color, no less) and in a much easier to read typeface. However, it can be hard to actually find the scoreboard with the ads pressing in from both sides. I'll simply have to train my eye to look to the right spot.

During last week's open house, I was very worried that The Luke would be much quieter than the Dome (which could be absolutely deafening and definitely had a direct impact on the game; you could watch other teams struggle to communicate when we got really loud). After last night's pre-season game, I'm still a bit worried about the noise level, but not as worried. I don't think that it can possibly be as loud as the Dome, but I don't think that it will be quiet, either. I guess that says something about our fans rather than the stadium. (I went to a game in Detroit at Ford Field a few years ago. During the 1st quarter, the Lions were [gasp] beating the Colts, but the 20 or so Colts fans in attendance were far louder than the stadium full of Lions fans. It was the quietest stadium I'd ever ... um ... heard?)

OK. Nearly done. A few more quick "cool" items. First (obviously) is the roof. Watching it open was cool. Sorry, I can't quite come up with a better word. It was cool. The same can be said for the north window (which is massive). The unfortunate thing about the north window is that it will only provide a view of downtown to those sitting in certain parts of the city (or to TV audiences, I suppose). For us, when we look through the north window we see the sky; then again, after 24 years in the Dome, seeing the sky from a football game is pretty wild. Even with the roof open, I'm not sure that I felt like I was outside; maybe it's because of the overhangs above us; maybe it's because the roof is so high; or maybe it's because of the massive crossbeams that the roof rests on. So I felt as if I was kinda-in, kinda-out. That is, until I felt the breeze! Once the north window opened, a fairly strong breeze began to fill the stadium. What was really strange was that the division and Super Bowl banners hung from the rafters were blowing in different directions at the same time. All I can guess is that the wind comes in and then swirls around. That should make life interesting for kickers.

Another interesting feature are the field-level suites at the south endzone. Yes, there are a set of suits at field level with just a 4-foot high (give or take) padded wall separating the fans from the playing field. As a place to watch a game, those seats are probably pretty lousy, but as a way to get into the game when the action is on the south end of the field, those seats (big leather recliners, it looked like) should be wild. I just hope that the people in those suites get super loud and super obnoxious (everything short of throwing beer, I guess) when the other team has the ball on that end of the field.

I do feel sorry for businesses close to the Dome. The Luke is only a few blocks away, but as parking seems to be shifting much further south and west, I'm afraid that many of those businesses may be losing out (I suspect that Nordstrom will be sending out a search party for my mother by mid-season). Restaurants and bars near the Dome may still do OK, but I think that stores in Circle Center Mall will suffer.

I also think that the City of Indianapolis is going to have to spend some money to clean up some of the streets and buildings around The Luke. The revitalization that is so evident in much of downtown is much less evident on some of the streets and alleys south of the stadium where many people are parking. As this will be a point of reference for Indianapolis for out-of-town visitors, this will be an area that needs to be addressed by the City.

Well, I know that I've made a lot of criticisms. Please don't take this post wrong and think that I don't like the stadium. I do and I'm looking forward to years of exciting games. But, as I'm sure that it will be garnering rave reviews from numerous quarters, I thought that it was worth the effort to at least point out a few problems, especially ones that can be easily corrected. Just as the Colts have a pre-season, so to, I guess, do the stadium operators. Hopefully, by the time the Colts host the Bears to open the 2008 season, the kinks will be worked out and The Luke will be ready.


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Tolerance Remains an Elusive Goal

I'm sure that many of you have read about the Florida high school principal who not only refused to help a student who was being taunted by other students because she was gay, but who actually told her that her sexual orientation was "wrong" and then "outed" that student to her parents, told her to stay away from other students, and then suspended her friends when they wore gay pride shirts and buttons as a sign of support. (See the AP story which has been reprinted numerous places.) I find this story so disturbing on so many levels, I'm not really sure what to address or which element offends me most. So, I'll start at the beginning.

First, I cannot believe that any school official would ever knowingly allow a student to be taunted. Isn't part of the role of the school to protect children? How mad would you be if your child came home and said that she was being taunted at school but the principal wouldn't do anything about it? We'd all be outraged if the principal's reasoning was the student's race or religion; but why are some people willing to treat the student's sexual orientation differently? Is it OK to string a gay man up on a fence post and leave him to die just because he's gay?

While I can understand the principal's desire (although I completely disagree) to set the student "straight" (pun intended), I cannot believe that he would tell her that her lifestyle is "wrong". Sure, if what she was doing was illegal or dangerous then "wrong" might be appropriate, but telling a teenager that being a lesbian is wrong is no better than telling a Jewish student that his religious choice is wrong, telling a Republican that his political affiliation was wrong, or making any pronouncement related to a student's other conscious and personal choices. How offended would you be if your child came home and told you that the principal told her that her religious affiliation or political affiliation was "wrong". Why is her sexual orientation any different?

And I cannot believe that the principal "outed" the student to her parents. I'd be curious to know if he did it out of a sense of moral superiority (as in, "if her parents know, they'll "fix" the problem") or malice (as, in, "if her parents know, they'll beat some sense into her") or xenophobia (as in, "if her parents know, maybe they'll move her out of my school where I won't have to deal with her"). But what right did the principal have to give this type of information to the student's parents? Would you feel differently if the principal told the parents that the student had expressed an interest in a different religious viewpoint or was seen wearing a campaign button for a political party different from the parents' choice? What if the principal told the parents that their daughter's boyfriend was of a different race or different socio-economic class? I'm sure that teachers and school administrators learn private information about students all the time, but so long as that information does not impact upon illegal conduct or poor performance in school, then by what right are the school administrators disclosing that information to the parents?

I'm not even sure how to address the principal's telling the student to stay away from other students. Was he afraid that homosexuality was contagious or that she would rape other kids?

High school is difficult enough for most students, even without worrying about coming to terms with their sexual orientation. But to have the school principal tell you that you're "wrong", tell your parents, and punish your friends...? How much more difficult can life get?

And let's talk about those friends for a moment. I have a hard time believing that there are many principals left in America who aren't somewhat familiar with the limited free speech rights still available to students. Of course, the most famous case dealing with the subject is Tinker v. Des Moines, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of students to wear black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. In that case, the Court noted that students do not "shed their constitutional rights when the enter the schoolhouse door." But apparently, the principal at one Florida school was either unfamiliar with this doctrine or simply thought that it didn't restrict his behavior, at least not when the issue was ... gasp ... homosexuality. Once again, can you imagine a principal suspending students for wearing a t-shirt endorsing the politician of their choosing? For wearing a button opposing the war in Iraq or supporting Greenpeace? So how could anyone think that it was OK for the principal to suspend students for simply wearing shirts or buttons to support their friend? I'd be curious to know if the principal stops students from wearing shirts or hats with Confederate flags?

And, if all of that wasn't bad enough, the principal starting asking students whether they were gay or associated with gay students. Apparently, this principal went to the McCarthy school of government administration which conveniently ignores such fundamental concepts as privacy rights and the constitutional right to freely of associate. Of course, all of that pales in comparison to the fact that the principal apparently lifted students' clothing to see if they'd written "Gay Pride" or "GP" on their skin. How would you feel if you learned that the principal at your daughter's school had lifted your daughter's shirt to see if she had written "Obama for President" or "WWJD" on her skin?

Also I can't let the reaction of the citizens of the town go without comment. They are religious people. Fine. They think that homosexuality is wrong. Fine. I'm not telling them that they should change their own particular views, religious or otherwise. They can feel and think however they want about homosexuality. That is one of the joys of America. You are free to be an idiotic, homophobic bigot if you want to. But you cannot force those beliefs upon others. The AP article says that townsfolk feel as if outsiders are forcing beliefs on them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, they are simply being told that they can't force their beliefs on everyone who happens to share their town. Stop for a minute and ask if the situation would be any different if, instead of homosexuality, the issue was race or religion. Would anybody think it OK for the community to burn a cross on the yard of the new black or Jewish neighbors? They don't have to invite the girl over to dinner or let their son or daughter date her. They don't even have to talk to her. But she is still entitled to the same constitutional rights and protections as the rest of the community.

The principal went way beyond what was right, let alone legal. That is terrible. But the support that the townsfolk expressed for his actions is, perhaps, worse, because it demonstrates a complete failure to comprehend constitutional rights, including the right to be different. It is somewhat ironic that this lack of understanding comes to light with regard to the failings of the educational system. It makes me wonder what else the people in that part of Florida have been (or not been) taught. I wonder if they still think that slavery was a good idea?

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John McCain Was a POW!

Did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during Vietnam? Of course you did. Anyone who has paid any attention to politics over, oh, I don't know, maybe the last 20 years or so, knows that Sen. McCain was a POW. But does that give him a free pass on any and all election issues? Unfortunately, his staff seems to think so.

For example, a question has arisen about whether Sen. McCain had the opportunity to hear (or be told) the questions posed to Sen. Obama by Rick Warren during last weekend's "Am I a Good Enough Christian" conference. (Was anybody else offended by an evangelical minister getting to question the candidates like that? I've worked on a post on that topic, but I just can't get the tone right...). Who knows. Maybe Sen. McCain was given the questions in advance, maybe not. I'd like to take him at his word when he says that he didn't have an advantage. But it isn't enough for Sen. McCain's campaign to simply ask the public to trust Sen. McCain. Nope. Instead, his spokeswoman, Nicole Wallace, in response to allegations that Sen. McCain knew some of the questions in advance said: "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous..." (emphasis added). What, precisely, does Sen. McCain's status as a former POW have to do with whether he would cheat? Are we to presume that, because Sen. McCain was a POW thirty-five years ago, he wouldn't lie or cheat today? I didn't know that being a POW turned someone into a sin-free saint. And, as a fellow blogger noted: "the insinuation that a former prisoner of war would never cheat is in and of itself outrageous. Just ask [McCain's] first wife." Ouch.

Similarly, when Sen. McCain was unable to recall how many houses he owned (and remember, he also said that the threshold to be considered rich was $5,000,000!), his aide Brian Rogers told The Washington Post: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison." Ah, so because Sen. McCain was a POW thirty-five years ago, he shouldn't be expected to know how many houses he owns today. Just out of curiosity, do you know how many houses you own? I suspect you do. In fact, I suspect that you can recall virtually every house you've ever lived in (certainly by street name if not by address, too). But not Sen. McCain. He may remember the Hanoi Hilton (circa 1967) but he can't quite recall how many houses he owns today.

But these aren't the only examples of Sen. McCain playing the POW card, simply the most recent (I'd say twice in a week is fairly excessive, but hey, that's just me). In the past, Sen. McCain has fallen back on his POW legacy as a knee jerk response to duck discussion of substantive issues or to defend his lack of familiarity with American pop culture:
  • When Elizabeth Edwards (wife [or is that soon-to-be ex-wife] of John Edwards) criticized Sen. McCain's health care proposals and noted that McCain had always been the beneficiary of government health care, Sen. McCain's response was to claim that he knew what inadequate health care was because he'd gotten it from "another government".

  • Sen. McCain ridiculed Sen. Clinton's proposal to fund a museum honoring Woodstock (I'll admit that I might have ridiculed that idea too), not by noting simply that it was a waste of money, but rather by saying that he didn't know why Woodstock should be honored because he was "tied up" and missed Woodstock.

  • Sen. McCain has recently said that his favorite song is Dancing Queen by ABBA because his musical taste "stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile". Of course, the missile hit his plane in 1967, he was released in 1973, and Dancing Queen wasn't released until 1975, so I'm not quite sure what being a POW had to do with his liking ABBA (who, according to many music critics, was successful as a counterpoint to the musical styles of 60s...).

And just remember how angry many people were when General Wesley Clark said that Sen. McCain's time as a POW had no relevance to being Commander-in-Chief. I find it interesting that being a POW is, at least according to Sen. McCain's supporters, relevant to being President but a convenient excuse to forget how many homes he has and a reason not to discuss health care policy. In other words, he is using the POW card as a club and a shield, especially when he wants to deflect attention from an actual discussion of issues.

For the record, I (and most voters) understand that Sen. McCain was a POW. We value his service to our country and we understand that those years in captivity helped form the values and judgments and opinions that are at the core of his personality and goals today. Fine. We get it. But enough is enough. How the North Vietnamese treated Sen. McCain has nothing to do with whether he would lie or cheat, should have no bearing on his views on health care for working class Americans (let alone Iraq war veterans; remember that Sen. McCain voted against increased education grants for veterans), should not prevent him from knowing just how wealthy and privileged he really is, or from connecting with the American electorate through some familiarity with modern pop culture. Then, again, given that Sen. McCain "has never felt the particular need to e-mail" (his words...) and is "illiterate" when it comes to the Internet (again, his words), can we really expect him to have much of a feel for life in modern America? So just how out of touch with America is this man who wants to be our President and who thinks that only those with more than $5,000,000 are rich and can't be bothered to know how many houses he owns? Do we really want him in the White House?

Shouldn't the President be at least a little bit in tune with America today and not be stuck in the America that he left behind when his plane was shot down?

One more point: After the treatment that John Kerry got in 2004, I'll be curious to see how Sen. McCain's supporters react when Sen. McCain's service is questioned by groups like Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain (note that I'm not endorsing or agreeing with that group at all; but if it was fair to drag Sen. Kerry's career through the mud, then people shouldn't protest if Sen. McCain get similar treatment). We got a glimmer of this with the reaction to General Clark's comments. It wasn't pretty, was it?

I just wish that we could stop talking about what candidates did way back when, who they were friends with way back when, whether they tried drugs way back when, or any of the host of other red herrings that have nothing to do with what the candidates propose to do when they become President. Let's look forward, not back. Let's force our candidates to stop relying on old crutches, cudgels, and cliches, and force them to address the real issues facing our country with concrete answers and detailed policies.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, let's stop questioning the patriotism of someone who has a different viewpoint. Both of the candidates want what is best for America; they just differ on what that is and how best to achieve it. But because one candidate has a different view, be it on a domestic or forign policy issue, that candidate is no less patriotic than the other. Sen. McCain wants to keep fighting in Iraq. OK. Good for him. I disagree. So does Sen. Obama. But both Sen. Obama and I are as patriotic as Sen. McCain and just because we disagree with the war does not make us any less patriotic. In fact, I could agrue that not wanting to allow American soldiers to die to fight someone else's civil war (not to mention forcing future generations to pay for that war) is more patriotic than fighting that war to its bloody conclusion, but that's precisely where I don't want to go. Thus, I'm willing to recognize Sen. McCain's patriotism if he is willing to recognize mine and that of Sen. Obama. If Sen. McCain cannot come to terms with the notion of patriots disagreeing on policy, then I'm truly frightened of what a McCain presidency might look like. Oh, wait. I know what it would look like; it would like like the last 7 years under President Bush.

To me, it is unpatriotic to question another's patriotism just because you disagree; after all, disagreement and discussion of those disagreements is precisely what the democratic process is all about.


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Monday, August 18, 2008

Political Ads: Obama (from

As the campaign season gets more active, I hope to take more time to offer my own two cents. I also want to try to provide links to the more interesting (whether bad or good...) campaign ads that I come across. So, as a starting point, take a look at this ad from

The ad sums up so many things so concisely. I particularly like the guy apologizing to his mom. I suspect that many children of Republican households will be living that exact moment this fall. At least I hope so.

Oh, one more thing. I know that a lot of people criticize Barack Obama for the whole "hope thing". I'm curious. What, exactly, is wrong with hope? And what, precisely, is wrong with hope, especially when it replaces cynicism, mistrust, disinterest, and other ills facing both our country and our political system? Hope may not be the answer to everything, but then again, isn't hope the starting point for most things?


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Pro-Life Support for Obama

I just read a very interesting essay by Frank Schaeffer, a long-time pro-life advocate, expressing why he will be voting for Barack Obama this November. The essay is well worth reading.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Buy an iPhone (at least not yet)

If you're thinking about buying an iPhone ... don't. At least not yet. Not until Apple solves a major problem with the iPhone that is rendering the phones unusable for many people.

I'll explain the problem (and Apple's lack of response) in a minute, but first a bit of background.

Way back in the '80s, I inadvertently became a "Mac" guy. It's a long story that isn't worth going into, but from 1986-1988 I was maintaining Macs, teaching students how to use Macs, and programming for Macs. I even attended a Mac programming conference and served on a host committee for another Mac conference. I even got to play with a Lisa (click... go to lunch... click... go to dinner... click... hey, it did something)! And yes I got teased by my PC- and mainframe-oriented friends. I say all this so that you don't think that I've always had an irrational bias against Macs or Apple. Anyway, when I was a Mac guy I recognized that the Mac had several very big advantages over the PC (remember, this was still the days of DOS), but, even with the early WYSIWYG technology, the mouse, and everything else, I still preferred the PC. Don't get me wrong: I wasn't a Microsoft junkie by any means. I just preferred DOS and my PC (a Compaq portable weighing in at a nifty 22 pounds) to the Mac.

Now, jump forward way too many years. I still prefer Windows to the Mac, although I will readily admit that my current preference is based largely on familiarity with Windows and a corresponding lack of familiarity with the Mac.

One of my criticism of Apple products, both then and now, was that Apple seemed to think that they knew what you wanted to do better than you did and didn't really allow you to customize things the way you wanted them to be. Microsoft has developed this bad habit in Microsoft Office, but Windows itself is much more open. (I know, I know. Lots of Mac folks out there will tell me how wrong I am; maybe I am. I don't know. All I can do is tell you my perception of Macs).

So, until I bought my first iPod a few years ago, I'd never owned an Apple product. For what it's worth, I've loved my iPods. But I've always felt that they weren't as customizable as they should be (come on, it took Apple until last year to allow you to change how songs and artists were sorted and there's still no way to delete a song from the iPod). And I really hate iTunes (although it is slowly getting better, it is still inferior to a number of other music catalogs and players).

Thus, when I bought a first generation iPhone last winter, it was the first Apple "computer" that I'd purchased (somehow an iPhone seems more "computer-like" than an iPod). And I loved my iPhone. But there was a fairly major flaw. It didn't have a to do list. And it didn't have any games. It was a great piece of hardware, but unless I wanted to hack it ("jailbreak"), I couldn't add anything to it other than the software installed by Apple. That was frustrating.

When the iPhone 3G came out last month I was excited. Yes, it had a GPS; yes it connected via the 3G network; yes it did this and that differently. But the really exciting thing about the iPhone 3G was the App Store and the ability to buy and install third party applications. When I bought my new iPhone I immediately started downloading and trying some of these "apps". Lots of great free utilities and games were available and I paid for a few more (Super Monkey Ball and Labyrinth are really cool on the iPhone). I even found a program and workaround that lets me sync my Outlook tasks to the iPhone (not a perfect solution, but at least a stopgap until a more elegant solution becomes available). Every now and then my iPhone would lock up or an app would fail to run, but hey, it's a computer. I expect the occasional crash. Reboot and go.

My biggest complaint with the iPhone was how long it took to Sync with my computer. Every time I connected my iPhone to my computer, iTunes wanted to back up my iPhone. Great idea, but each backup took between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Who has time to wait 2 hours for their phone to back up. So, I got into the habit of cancelling backups, syncing the phone, and going about my business. No harm, no foul.

And then my iPhone died. I was updating an App when suddenly the iPhone rebooted. During the reboot process, the screen turns black and a silver or white Apple logo appears. Usually, the logo disappears after a minute or five and the iPhone is up and running. Not this time. I waited and waited and waited and wai... OK. You get the idea. No luck. So I rebooted the iPhone. Same result. Waited longer. No dice. Tried again. Same thing. Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh!

On my way home from work, I stopped at the Apple Store. The geniuses at the "Genius Bar" (come on... is Apple serious?) were totally flummoxed. None of them had seen this problem before. Finally, one told me that the only thing that he could think to do was to do a "factory restore" which would erase all my data, but that I could simply restore from my backups. Oops. But what was my choice? Factory restore or no phone. So I told him to go ahead. I waited around for a while and then the "genius" (nice guy, but...) told me that the restore didn't work at which point he gave me a new iPhone.

I spent most of that evening setting up my new iPhone. I had to reenter lots of my settings, re-sync my music and apps and contacts and calendar. A pain in the ass, but oh, well. Then, the next day, I noticed that the iPhone was not connecting via WiFi. Nothing that I could do would let the phone use a WiFi connection. I called Apple's tech support. They were stumped and decided it must be a hardware problem. So, back to the Apple Store I went and, after a fairly brief stay, walked out with iPhone 3G #3. Another night of syncing and restoring and so on and so forth, although this time it was quicker because I'd made a backup of the faulty iPhone the night before. The next morning at the office I connected my iPhone to my office computer to sync there and, as the sync finished, the iPhone rebooted ... and died. I've since learned that the black screen with the Apple logo is not-so-affectionately known as the "Screen of Death" (at least Windows' Blue Screen of Death provides an error code that you can use for debugging). Yet another visit to the Apple store (the geniuses still claimed to have never heard of or seen this problem) and iPhone #4 was ready to go.

Once I'd finally let my anger boil over and I'd calmed down (at least a bit), I started researching the issue online. Guess what? I was not the only iPhone user to see a Screen of Death. In fact, it appears that literally hundreds of people have experienced the same problem and reported about it online. How many more have had the same problem but don't participate in online forums to discuss the issue? As I read more and more, I learned that all across the country people had been taking their iPhones to Apple stores and been given new iPhones when the geniuses couldn't solve the problem. I learned that people who called Apple tech support to report the problem encountered support techs who claimed that they'd never heard of this problem happening. And I learned that Apple has not commented on the problem at all, not even to acknowledge the problem and say, "Gee, sorry, but we're working on a fix." In fact, not only has Apple been silent on the issue, they've taken to editing posts on their discussion forums to delete criticism of Apple from posts discussing this issue. (One user posted [on another site] screenshots of a before and after post, where is statement that Apple's failure to address the issue was irresponsible was deleted from his post.)

Thankfully, several people have identified a few methods that usually work that allow a user to perform a factory reset without having to exchange the iPhone for a new one. The problems with those solutions are that: (a) you have to have a good backup (and remember how long backups take) and (b) the process of performing the factory reset and then restoring the iPhone usually takes somewhere between 3 and 6 hours. That's right. Every time my iPhone crashes, I'm without my phone for 3-6 hours (and that assumes that I took the 2 hours to back up my phone before it crashed). And so far, I've gone through the reset and restore process about 10 times.

And just so you don't think that I'm making all of this up, take a look at this post on Apple's website (427 posts and 21,000+ views as of the time of this post) or the articles Troubleshooting iPhone and iPod touch issues and Second thoughts about iPhone 2.0? posted on MacWorld. But nothing from Apple. One of the really amazing things is to read the posts from longtime Apple fans who say that this debacle has damaged their faith and support in Apple.

To the best of the community's ability to figure out what's going on (remember, Apple isn't helping), it appears that somehow when the iPhone installs or updates an app, it may get interrupted or the app installation gets corrupted. The problem does not appear to be with the apps themselves; rather, the problem is in the installation or updating process. Many people have elected not to install any apps from the App Store on the iPhone. That seems to solve the problem for some. But I haven't installed any apps that way for a while and I still get crashes from apps installed or updated through iTunes.

The best advice that anyone has come up with is to simply not use any apps on the iPhone (or to use a very small number of apps). While that may be sound advice, the suggestion that a user not use a main feature of the phone is a bit like saying here's this great new computer, but don't install any software on it.

So, for the time being, I've decided to recommend to people that they not buy an iPhone. I'm fairly certain that Apple will solve the problem eventually, but who knows when. In the meantime, I'm walking on eggshells using my iPhone afraid of yet another crash. This weekend, I plan to completely reset my iPhone, delete all of my apps, and start from scratch. I'm going to load a bare minimum of apps until Apple solves the problem. I just hope that day is sooner rather than later; if not, I suspect that I will be a party to somebody's class action lawsuit against Apple. Who knows? Maybe I'll be the lead Plaintiff.

Oh, and if anybody at AT&T is reading this, you need to put some pressure on Apple, because it won't be long before people like me start asking for service credits because of the amount of time that our phones (mine was purchased at an AT&T store) are out of service.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russian Double Standards: Chechnya and South Ossetia

Do you remember a few years ago when Russia was engaged in a full scale assault on Chechnya that resulted in the virtual destruction of Chechnya's capital Grozny? At the time, numerous world leaders criticized Russian actions in Chechnya, in particular the use of excessive force against primarily civilian targets. Russia's response? Chechnya was an internal part of Russia and therefore not a proper subject for world commentary or criticism.

Yet over the last few days, Russia intervened in the internal dispute between Georgia and its "breakaway" republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I'm not suggesting that Georgia's conduct with regard to these two areas was appropriate. Frankly, I don't know enough about the relations among the ethnic groups, the long-standing disputes, or the governmental systems involved to say whether the Georgians or Ossetians and Abkhazis or even the Russians are the "good guys". But I do find it interesting (in a troubling sort of way) how quickly and readily Russia intervened in Georgia's internal affairs (and how, exactly, did Russia mobilize that much manpower and equipment that fast for a conflict that apparently flared up unexpectedly?). Can you imagine how Russia would have reacted had anybody intervened to help the Chechens?

So what is the difference between Chechnya and South Ossetia/Abkhazia? Simple. Russia, like it or not, is still a superpower (or at least pseudo-superpower) and can pretty much get away with flexing its muscles however it wants. Just like the world voiced distress but did nothing when China flexed its muscles in Tibet, the world will criticize Russia while Georgia is pummelled. Perhaps, though, this episode will make more people realize that Russia's ambitions are not in line with those of the west, especially considering Russian calls for the ouster of Georgia's democratically elected president. Despite what Russia may want the world to think, it is not a democracy and its actions in Georgia seem to demonstrate that Russia is uncomfortable with western-allied democracies on its borders.

One other item that I've come across in news related to the ongoing dispute: It appears that Israel has been organizing special flights to Georgia, not just to evacuate Israelis from Georgia, but also to help some of the estimated 12,000 Georgian Jews who want to escape the area of conflict and emigrate to Israel. This calls to mind the efforts by Israel to help Jews escape Ethiopia back in the 80s. Can you imagine any other country (especially one of the Muslim countries) offering to help resettle those trapped by the fighting?


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LibraryThing: "Moscow Rules"

I updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of Moscow Rules [Gabriel Allon #8] by Daniel Silva. I'm now reading The Assassin [Ryan Kealy #2] by Andrew Britton.


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Thursday, August 7, 2008

LibraryThing: "Eye of the Archangel" and "The Secret Servant"

I updated my LibraryThing catalog with two new reviews: Eye of the Archangel [Mallory and Morse #2] by Forrest DeVoe, Jr. and The Secret Servant [Gabriel Allon #7] by Daniel Silva. I'm currently reading Moscow Rules [Gabriel Allon #8] by Daniel Silva.


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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Still Alive...

Well summer is just about over and with the end of summer will come an end to summer vacations. More importantly, with the end of summer will come the real beginning of the Presidential election season. I've had a number of things that I've wanted to write about but somehow most of those issues seemed untimely or premature. Thus, I elected to hold my thoughts until the campaign got into full swing. Plus, I'll admit, that I've had a number of other things going on this summer that have kept my blogging to a minimum (come on, it's hard to blog from the the beach at Hilton Head or from Grand Teton National Park). Anyway, I'm still alive and I still have things to say...

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