Smoking Trees in Belize: July 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eli should call play action here

Be back in the fall.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Challenging the Klingons for interstellar domination

Christine Amanpour is a renowned journalist, most famous for her tenure at CNN. Rising to prominence for her coverage of the first Iraq war, she has since covered Bosnia and the Middle East extensively. If there’s a war zone, you could expect Amanpour to be on site. Born in London, but raised in Tehran, she later went back to England to attend an elite girls school. In 1979 the Iranian Revolution forced her Shah-friendly family out of the country. That year Christine enrolled at University of Rhode Island beginning her career in journalism.

Twenty years later Amanpour married James Rubin, no slouch himself. Rubin served as an Assistant Secretary of State under Clinton, hosted his own show on PBS, an advised the campaigns of Kerry and Hillary Clinton. In terms of power couples mixing politics and media, Rubin and Amanpour match these previously discussed duos. For some reason these couples are intriguing, certainly their intellect and prestige make them compelling, but the elusive question is their mutual influence. When Rubin discusses Iraq policy with Dan Senor, one wonders how much their moral compass is influenced by Campell Brown and Christine Amanpour. These relationships do not carry the attendant troubles of illicit ones, as long as the duties and coverages remain separate like Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan, all is well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Feces and Foreign Policy

In 1856 Congress passed the Guano Islands Act under the presidential approval of Franklin Pierce. The legislation authorizes Americans to establish possession of otherwise unclaimed and uninhabited islands containing the coveted guano. Deposits of guano were prevalent in the Pacific Ocean, and the US government eyed the valuable fertilizer. The most intriguing part of the imperialist legislation was its creation of insular areas. In the days of “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!” it was widely assumed that any land that came under the purview of America, would be a part of America. Therefore, territories that ripened into states could expect to woven into the fabric of federalism. The insular areas are treated to the same designation as our rural brethren; “unincorporated areas.”
The Guano Act has a uniquely American take on land possession. The act allows for citizens to claim the islands, extract the guano, and then release the land to property purgatory. What’s the fuss over guano? According to Ace, it’s a $1.4 billion-a-year industry.

Judging a book by its cover

A while back ago Obama was seen on a tarmac holding Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World. The book raises eyebrows, not due to its content, but its author. In this election, Obama walks a fine line between his diversity appealing to some, and scaring others. The Islama-phobia in America has Obama fending off all Madrassa claims and asserting his Christian faith. His efforts have hurt Muslim Americans, once a supportive voting bloc. With his efforts so obvious, one wonders why Obama would let himself be seen with a potentially misinterpreted book. The title, and suspiciously Islamic author, rile fears of the isolationist minded. To others, Zakaria’s book is a prescient glimpse into a more competitive global power struggle. Many say the book is not a morbid American apocalyptic, but rather a realist assessment at pending challenges America faces in its struggle to stay atop the global food chain.

Fareed Zakaria was born in Mumbai, India into an intellectual household. His father was an Islamic scholar and a sometime politician, his mother, editor of the Sunday Times of India. Fareed attended elite private schools and got his BA at Yale. Later earning his Doctorate in Government at Harvard, Zakaria has become an influential columnist, author, and political program host. Though pigeon-holed as a liberal by some, Zakaria actually espouses moderate, and most significantly, realist, approaches to government. His article for Newsweek in October of 2001 was hailed as a superb analysis of the pending struggle. Zakaria is a significant voice in our current political environment, kudos to Obama for intellectual engagement, but his most important goal should be avoiding media musket balls.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rocket Fuel

The epic fall of the Rocket continues. McNamee’s bombshell allegation of needles with Clemen’s DNA shatters the last ounce of doubt any reasonable person had. Surely there are questions about chain of custody and preservation; McNamee had these things for around 7 years, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict Clemens in the court of public opinion. I guess no one can reach O.J. status short of double homicide, but Clemens has reached the bottom of the slide. Lies, statutory accusations, and juice, have made Roger Clemens the libel-proof plaintiff.

Friday, July 4, 2008

American muscle over British pluck

Happy Independence Day

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Freedom of Speech

The above pictured individual is Florida attorney Jack Thompson. One of the most controversial lawyers in the state, Thompson has burnished a reputation as a fighter against obscenity, violent lyrics, and shoot-em up video games. A born again Christian based in Coral Gables, Thompson is a strong advocate for morality laws designed to protect our decency. His prominence stems from his notorious campaign against Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew’s 1989 “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.” Due to his disgust at the raunchy lyrics, and his belief the album violated obscenity laws, Thompson wrote a letter requesting an investigation by then State Attorney, Janet Reno. For some reason, Reno declined to take action. For one, she most likely has some distaste for Thompson. In 1988 when they ran against each other for State Attorney, Thompson handed her a note at a public event asking her to note whether she was homo, bi, or heterosexual. Reno put her hand on his shoulder and said, “”I’m only interested in virile men. That’s why I’m not attracted to you.” Thompson then went to the police to file a complaint for battery.

Most likely Reno decided not to press on, not because of her personal animosity for Thompson, but rather her belief that the work of 2 Live Crew might be in poor taste, but was not “obscene.” Emboldened rather than defeated, Thompson personally sent copies of the album and lyrics to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. A judge agreed and obscenity prosecutions got under way in South Florida. Eventually overturned in Federal Court, the proceedings rocketed 2 Live Crew to international stardom. Thompson then embarked on an eternal quest to rid the US of every dirty rap song and GTA series video game. The video game industry has been his main target, perhaps not without some merit to his claims. Lately though, the news for Thompson has been bad as he struggles to keep his bar license. Embroiled with the Bar Association for much of his career, he tells of story of ideological suppression, they claim 27 violations of personal misconduct, enough to warrant a 10 year license suspension. After decades of seeking to suppress freedom of speech, Thompson now stands to lose his pedestal, perhaps in part to his vociferous Christian zealotry. His message might bother some, but he is constitutionally justified in his battle;”I enjoy doing what I do and I think I’ve got a First Amendment right to annoy people and participate in the public square in the cultural war.”

No Cold War in the Desert

This week we will celebrate the 4th of July. For America it is a chance to celebrate our independence and marvel at our progress. Our nation sits at the brink of a historical presidential election, one with individuals considered 3/5 of citizen for the first 100 years of independence. However despite the warm feelings of refreshed democracy, certain troubling events lay on the horizon. Being inextricably tied to Israeli foreign policy, the rumblings between Tehran and Jerusalem spell trouble for the United States. Last week Israel flexed and preened for the world with a large scale air force exercise. Iran isn’t backing down, which puts the US amidst the proverbial rock and a hard spot. The animosity between the two countries is palpable and certain to rock the political boat. The US election would be viewed through a different perspective by many if the US were being drawn into another Middle Eastern dispute. Perhaps some would be assuaged by McCain’s assured ability to be Commander in Chief. Others might be sickened by the cycle of warfare and seek a new approach to diplomacy. One thing is guaranteed, this election will be unique and unpredictable, just like the Middle East.