Thursday, August 21, 2008

Georgia, on my mind...

I've been enjoying the Olympics. It may be degrading to the games that speed- walking and trampolining are events, and I'm still unenthused by many other events, but overall, few things are more exciting and inspiring than the Olympic games.

Then there's the news. At least, the headlines. You have to dig if you want news.

Seems like Russia is up to their old tricks. That's what the AP, Reuters, CNN, FOX, ABC/CBS/NBC, MSNBC, etc. are all saying. Russia invaded Georgia. Russian tanks are rolling through Georgian streets threatening people, destroying stuff; Putin is passing the vodka around and sharing a laugh with Medvedev while they both wear bear hats and clank their cycle and hammer together in a maniacal toast.

Well, thankfully, all our mainstream news outlets project approximately the same message, so it is simple enough to turn off the TV. I googled a couple of things.

Have you heard of the places called South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

Neither had I. But I had come to discover that contrary to the TVedia ideas I had that Russia was trying to take over Georgia -- Saddam Hussein into Kuwait style -- Russian troops were actually mostly limited to this defined regional area. It's an area that had apparently declared its independence from Georgia in the 90's, though no one recognized it. It's an area whose people want to be Russian rather than Georgian, or maybe neither.

And, as more first hand accounts started coming out of Ossetia, it turned out that it was Georgia who had built up troops and invaded Ossetia in an attempt to clense it of Russians. Concommitantly built up Russian tanks and troops then invaded (though apparently some Russian troops have been in Ossetia for awhile now) to push them back and actually defend the Ossetian people. Weird, huh?

It was Georgian troops killing Ossetians and bombing buildings, and it was Russian troops defending them. Again, weird. The paranoid in me can't help but wonder about the timing of Georgia suddenly getting a green light on this. The Olympic games, Barak Obama on vacation in Hawaii, McCain now looking tough and enjoying an opinion poll bump. But coincidences do happen.

Quick, what do Georgia and Poland wish they had in common?

Answer: NATO.

Many of these former soviet republics are attempting to fast track into NATO. Thankfully, several NATO member nations are trying to cool off this U.S.-led expansion. Georgia was one of these nations that was initially rejected. This rejection is being condemned by U.S. neocon leaders, like McCain, who insist we lay out a MAP (Membership Action Plan) for Georgia's inclusion.

But can you imagine this situation if the U.S. were bound under NATO through Georgia's inclusion to fight Russian troops over a territory of maybe 80,000 people who want to be Russian anyway? Is that really what we would ask our troops to do? I mean, we (and Israel) already are giving Georgia equipment and support, but what if it were our own Marines over there?

How would you characterize the just cause for that fight?

What about Poland then? Oh yeah, well we're putting Patriot-2 missile installations there. Russia is thrilled. So is Poland. They've been caught between Russian aggression and Western indifference before. So they're signing it into the missle contracts, that we now will legally owe them protection. We're just finding all sorts of ways to tip-toe our way into a hot war with Russia. It's already dawning on me that we're in a new cold war.

I was never a big fan of history, but I remember a take-home point from one of my high school teachers (shout out to Dr. Monahan) that large wars are caused by friendly treaties that drag countries into conflicts. I recall the advice of our Founding Fathers, "avoid entangling alliances." This is not an isolationist position, but a common sense one; a position that the neocon fraternity seems to blatantly undermine.

With the upcoming political conventions, the ensuing debates and a population that is haggling over intangibles like "experience" or "toughness" or "security", I think it's important to pay attention to real actions and policies of candidates (or regimes). Personally, I wish the people of Georgia and Poland the best of luck, but I probably wouldn't fight for them.

Oh yeah, and there's a ton of oil in the Caspian Sea basin... don't forget about that. I knew there had to be a financial reason lurking around here somewhere.

But until then, I'd rather get back to the Olympics...

(Author's note for additional reading: The Russia/U.S. via Georgia situation,
Poland/U.S. missile agreement, and U.S. Global Military presence.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Coovo's College Experience . . . & Summer

Like many other blog-related promises I have made since we started this thing, I totally blew it in NYC. Instead of trying to come back right away and make up for it, I gathered my thoughts and am going to start over and recall what was a very memorable summer. This is a post I had started at the end of the semester:

At first I thought I would write a comprehensive and funny post detailing all the differences between my first college experience (GO FLYERS!!) and my new one. However, my dueling editors Roller and Ryan, thought that should be saved for my first novel. Seriously folks. Today, I'm typing this on my laptop in Chipotle when 15 years ago we all bided our time waiting for each person to finish with the Brother 1400. I don't know how people blogged back then.

The biggest concern I had going back to school was the age factor. I'm 32 but I have enough (tons) of gray hairs that despite my teen-like physique I have been mistaken for a 40 year-old before. I was thinking that the majority of grad students would be like 23-25, with maybe a few older stragglers like myself. And from that standpoint I was pretty much right on. What I didn't foresee was having combined grad and undergrad classes. Now, we're talking me and 20 year olds. Yikes.

It was the third day of class when the gap became apparent. One of my teachers says, "anyone know who Todd Marinovich is?" My hand shoots up thinking "Duh." The only other person who knew was a U of I football player and "he sorta knew the name." This includes all the mid-20 grads and the stragglers like myself.

My other professor put it best when towards the end of the semester he said that his problem was that he keeps getting new students who remarkably stay the same age as the old ones and though he gets older, he still feels like he's 27. Ditto. I don't tend to look at myself as that much older, one, because I don't spend a lot of time looking at myself and, two, I don't have a lot of the things older people have: Wife and kids, a house, a car, socks.

But this Marinovich thing shook me up. So I looked it up. If he left USC in '91, then a grad student who graduated college in '07 who was 22 would have been . . . 6. So the undergrads--never mind, commence age-complex. It was then that the freshmen (and freshwomen) equipped with their braces, pony tails and jeans tucked into their boots started sticking out like pro wrestlers at Star trek convention. Even though I lived (and still live) in grad housing I was becoming convinced that everyone was 15 years younger than me. I mean even my teacher in Sports Law, who was a law student, was younger than me, and with only two other grad students in a class 45, I constantly overheard talk that made me feel as if I needed to look for my Geritol.

Though the complex probably won't ever entirely go away, I am no longer consumed by it. I'm fine with it. I think the thing that finally made me stop obsessing was the news that my youngest cousin (by 13 years) is enrolling here in the fall as a sophomore. Age is like the weather, you can't stop it. You can only roll out a tarp or put a roof over the field and keep trying to play ball.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Everybody Must Get Stoned!!

Well once again, Bob Dylan and Iran are in disagreement.

According to a recent article in the BBC, Iran has taken a critical leap into the future with its suspension of "death by stoning" from its arsenal of execution options. In other recent news, it has been discovered that the earth orbits the sun, not the other way around.
  • In case you were wondering how someone is stoned to death, males are buried up to their waists and have their hands tied behind their backs. Females are buried up to their necks. Stones shouldn't be too big, lest they kill the person too quickly.
  • In the last year a man was stoned to death for adultery. From what I've read, it looks like stoning is a pretty common punishment for adultery. In the U.S., it's possible that you'll get divorced and pay alimony, but that could always be supplemented with the profits from your reality show.
  • Notice how Iran says it's "suspending" the practice? Not banning, not eliminating... suspending. It's like... To Be Continued...
  • The Taliban were eager to piggy-back on the story, releasing this statement "The Taliban also does not practice death by stoning. Of course, this is because we have banned both throwing and stones."
  • My wife thinks this story isn't newsworthy because we still execute people here, so why does the method of execution make a difference. She may (may!) have a point, but I thought of the Taliban line right when I heard the story and couldn't resist.
So you tell me, is this newsworthy? Would it be hypocritical for our nation to criticize Iran's methods of execution, when we still send people to the "Texas Toaster"?