Monthly Archives: February 2006

My Impressions of Mr. Friedman at JHU

In one sense, I was disappointed. His speech was a concise version of the first part of his most recent book, The World is Flat. He basically explained what he calls the levelling of the global playing field, what led to this, and implications for the future. Well, not so much on implications for the future.

However, I’m an auditory learner. Although I’d just finished his book, I felt like I consolidated his teachings by listening to him. Furthermore, he’s a great speaker. He’s a storyteller. He took what was happening in the world today, and explained it in terms everyone could understand, and presented it as this great story of globalization. He did it humorously, sprinkled it with personal anecdotes, and with great changes in voice inflection and volume. Amazing, convincing speaker.

He was right-on with his answers. The things people asked, he’d already thought out the answers way before. Especially when the idiot questioners asked things he’d already addressed in his book. (Oy.)

I did learn some new things. One thing, I don’t remember the thing, but I do remember that Mr. Friedman said he was going to talk about it in his Op-Ed article coming out tomorrow in the New York Times.

Well, I’d love to reference it tomorrow, but unfortunately, all of Mr. Friedman’s articles, and all the other Op-Eds, and stuck behind the subscription wall called Times Select. A pay wall, I must add.

So, in an ironic sense, Mr. Friedman is a little bit behind the times, despite his amazing grasp of the globalizing world. He mentions “uploading” as one of his 10 Flatteners. This is uploading content — like bloggers. Well, interesting statistic: After Times Select went up, I’ve seen approximately zero links to any of Mr. Friedman’s articles.

Now, don’t misunderstand me and think I’m trying to get a “gotcha” moment. Mr. Friedman has a best-selling book out, and people read the paper version of the New York Times, and some people pay for Times Select — he’s still got big clout and big reach. Still, I think the New York Times (not Friedman, I’m sure he wasn’t in charge of this at all), made a mistake. You want your opinions bandied about the blogosphere.

Whenever a speaker mentions that we need great leaders to promote certain things, it ignites a fire in my heart — I want to be that leader. And yet, I always end up chastising my lack of work ethic. But I don’t think it’s that. I think I lack passion. I haven’t found anything that would make me so passionate that it would compel me to amazing action, despite the occasional stirring in my heart. Or, perhaps, I haven’t found it within myself.

In conclusion, I got my book, which I just finished, signed by Mr. Friedman. Pretty cool, I guess. But I’d rather be the guy doing the signing.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith remake

Say, did you hear about the remake they’re doing of Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Well, they’re going to give it the same kind of treatment they gave “Guess Who?” (oh joy, we can’t even say the full title in the remake) where they switched races. Only it’s not race-switching. Living in a post-Brokeback Mountain era in movies, there needs to be a different kind of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Two spies trying to kill each other, but entangled in a forbidden love. I can’t wait for Mr. and Mr. Smith.

Ports and Security

So, Congress finally grows a spine. They’re challenging the Bush administration. They want to stop a deal that will allow Dubai Ports World to manage US ports, which are currently being managed by another foreign company, P&O, a British company.

The truth is, there’s nothing to worry about because of this port deal. Stopping it isn’t going to make us any more secure than we already are (or aren’t). Any information terrorists could gain is already out in the open. The personnel? Paper pushers. American unions still do the loading and unloading. Security is still provided by the Coast Guard, and the US is still managing the security aspects of the port. So, the pundits can stop their posturing.

However, I can’t say, “All is well, Bush is great, Congress bad.” I’ve wanted Congress to grow a spine for a while, but they picked the wrong issue. Still, the Bush administration needs to be more open. Bush can’t just tell us, “Yeah, we had our people look at it. It’s cool. The American people can ignore the issue now.” The case for transparency is made here, U.S. Ports Raise Proxy Problem, by Bruce Schneier. Bruce Schneier is an expert on security and wrote a book called “Sensible Security,” which I highly recommend. In essence, from the article, I gleaned that the secrecy reduces our trust in the government, which erodes the government’s ability to provide effect security for us.

Congress can go through it’s dog and pony show because that’s what they’re elected for. Yet, I have concerns about their ability to represent us. The Dems are raising a big stink about this to outflank Bush on national security. And guess what? It’s fucking working. More trust Dems in Congress than Bush on national security. The Republicans are left to scramble. However, it’s unfortunate that this is happening because these Congressmen are raising a big stink over something they probably know nothing about. Like I said, it’s just political posturing — from both sides of the aisle. We need Bush to be more transparent, but I don’t think Congress really cares. They only care about the midterm elections. (And their prospects for ’08 too.)

One more thing: This deal is a good thing. First off, breaking off the deal will reduce our security. Despite its faults, the United Arab Emirates is an ally in the War on Terror. Think of the insult it is for this to happen. Think of the UAE men who won’t be getting those jobs. Moreover, having a proper middle class is key to sustaining a democracy. We need to encourage economic growth in Arab countries in order to foster a middle class — one who will clamor for freedom.

Sketch Sketchy

Why are “sketch” and “sketchy” all the rage with the kids today? By the way, “sketch” has not entered my vernacular. I do utilize “sketchy” from time to time, but only in truly appropriate contexts. Like that sketchy Korean karoake bar. I doubt most people have truly run across a sketchy character, but they’re more than willing to apply the label to persons who have various descriptive words that could be far more applicable to them — ranging from creepy to stalker-ish to unwholesome. It’s a vague contemporary label that’s being overused. In increasing its versatility to meet the needs of a slang word, its connotations have been reduced. It’s a more general word, and therefore more useless, unless you want to seem hip and with it, and if so, by all means, go ahead and overuse it.

I am unaware of when sketchy was reduced to sketch. I think it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. However, it could merely be a difference in regional dialect and slang. When I visited Santa Barbara, they used “sketch” a lot. Are “sketch” and “sketchy” synonyms? Or has the abbreviation of the word given it new connotations. In reality, I think the time saved by reducing “sketchy” to “sketch” is misleading, or rather, non-existant. When using “sketch,” one feels more necessity to prefix it with filler words, such as “so” or “hella” or “mad”. At least, when applying it to people. To me, it’s easy to say, “He was sketchy,” than “He was sketch.” However, I have a feeling that it’s only me who has this notion. I think I’m just trying to compensate for the loss of syllables on my own.

I wonder if we’ve taken our shortening of words to an extreme. Like “delish” and “delicious”. That’s another topic for another day. For today, I’ll be satisfied with my ruminations on “sketch” and “sketchy”.

Discourse on my 19th Year

No. No discourse. Just a happy birthday wish from me to me. I’m surprised at the number of facebook comments that I got. Totally clogged up my e-mail.

My birthday kinda snuck up on me this year; I wasn’t prepared for it.

Since it’s my birthday, I’ll take a break from the heavier things in life and just enjoy it for a second. No political worries. No philosophical worries.

Book Recommendations

I really enjoyed Lawless World by Philippe Sands. It presents an… well, I don’t want to say unpartisan, because it is partisan, but very much so in the case for international law. What it isn’t is knee-jerk Bush-bashing. It doesn’t only talk about Iraq, though, as it covers the WTO and investor’s rights and whatnot. Anyway, I’m slightly tired and there’s no way I’ll do it justice right now in a short synopsis. Basically, if you want to be informed about some aspects of international law and how it relates to the post-9/11 situation in the US, read this book. It certainly was an eye-opener for me.

The Prince by Machiavelli is a classic. I just finished it for my Political Philosophy class. Machiavelli can be laugh out loud hilarious at times, if you read him closely with the right frame of mind.

Finally, I’ll recommend The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I’m not done with it yet, and I haven’t passed judgment on his policy ideas. However, he does a good job of informing the uninformed about globalization. That’s called journalism.

4 Killed In Jewish Riots

Jewish protests over cartoons in the Muslim world turned deadly today, as American troops were forced to fire upon the protesters, killing four. The Bush administration refused to comment on the incident, prompting further protest.

The protests occured after an Iranian newspaper held a Holocaust cartoon contest in response to the publishing of 12 comics in a Danish newspaper. They hoped to offend the sensibilities of the West, and they got precisely the response they wanted.

Instantly, Jews across America rioted. They firebombed the Iranian embassy, as well as some other countries’ embassies, including the Australian embassy, which they mistook for Kazakhstan’s embassy. Then, they realized that Kazakhstan didn’t publish any cartoons, but they justified their actions by pointing out that the Kazakhstan government didn’t apologize for the comics published in Iran.

European countries instantly condemned the publishing of the cartoon strips. “We were so wrong to publish the cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammed. Now, we realize the error of freedom of speech. From now on, freedom of speech will be banned. Also, all women will wear burkhas and not be allowed to learn how to read,” said Jacques Chirac, president of France.

After watching all of this on CNN, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sounded triumphant, “Now we see the hypocrisy of the West. I’m gonna go finish my atomic bomb now and wipe Israel off the map.”

[Note: This is satire.]

[EDIT: Fixed spelling error.]

Sunday (a few days before my birthday) Linkage

Lloyd directed me to this Washington Post article: U.S. unit masters art of counterinsurgency. There is hope in Iraq if we can duplicate success like this. Yet, much of the trouble in Iraq seems to be things we should’ve figured out in the first place. Things I figured my government had figured out. I mean, like language training. What most heartened me was mentioning treating the Iraqis with respect. If you treat your prisoners like shit, of course you’re going to breed more terrorists.

I’m a little bit late on this Scientific American article, Scientific American: Getting a Leg Up on Land, which came out last December. It talks about new discoveries of how fish evolved into land-dwelling animals. It’s very interesting how they bring different threads of research, like research on genes and research on fossils, to illustrate this evolution. Evolution isn’t rampant speculation; it’s a careful theory. And fish evolving legs completely destroys the “microevolution vs. macroevolution” distinction that creationists like to use.

From The Believer, A Soldier Upon a Hard Campaign. Wither satire. He says the world is so absurd that it does the work of a satirist already. Then, where does that leave one room to write satire? Of course, the article talks about more than that. It’s quite a humorous read, as well.

I just stumbled upon this article, After Neoconservatism from the New York Times. It’s by Francis Fukuyama. I think he’s going to be a speaker in the Foreign Affairs Symposium we’re having at Hopkins. Anyway, by just stumbled upon, I mean I’m only on the second page. His use of the phrase “realistic Wilsonianism” really attracted me, as I had recently mentioned to Lloyd that we need a more “patient Bush Doctrine.” (“If it isn’t oxymoronic,” I didn’t hesitate to add.)

Pool Tournament

Today, I went to a 9-ball billiards tournament. That was definitely the most time I’ve spent playing pool; although I used to spend a lot of time playing pool in my basement when I lived in Colorado. (If not for this, I wouldn’t retain this base level pool skill that I can rely on even after not playing for a month, which still leaves me a better pool player than the unenlightened masses.)

How did it go? Not very well. We played five games in each match. I played three matches. I went 5-0, 1-4, and 2-3, giving me 8 points total, which is rather disappointing but not very surprising. However, there was one match in which I made very difficult shot on the nine-ball into the side pocket, but managed to scratch at the same time. If I had not scratched, that would’ve gave me a wild card spot in the double-elimination tournament (round-robin first round), or so I tell myself. In reality, I played how I played and I don’t delude myself into thinking one shot would’ve made a huge difference because I didn’t know the English to use to not scratch on that shot in the first place. Anyway, this probably makes no sense to you who don’t play pool.

Suffice it to say, even if I had made it to the second round of things, I would’ve been eliminated very quickly. That being said, this is only my first year, and I didn’t come in with any high expectations because I’m only a freshman, and I haven’t practiced much. It gives me time to improve, though. So, now, I say this… If I am still at JHU in 4 years, I will win that tournament.

The Baltimore Sun (and perhaps the rest of the media) is officially a joke

Yes, officially. Today’s Baltimore Sun, headline news, most important article of the day: “Cheney Accepts Blame”. Alright, then in the little “Inside” box on the left-hand corner, under the World heading: “New Photos Published — An Australian television network broadcasts previously unseen pictures of Iraqi prioners at Abu Ghraib prison being mistreated by U.S. soldiers in 2003.”

Hey, Sun, this is YOUR JOB! Look, we got torture going on in Guantanamo. We got hearings going on over government failure during Katrina. But “Lawmakers grill Chertoff” is below the fold. And what’s the top news story of the day? “Cheney Accepts Blame.” It’s a joke. It’s the saddest fucking joke ever.

Face it, the news media is failing the American people. I say this not as a lame media-bashing blogger, but as an American citizen. I say this as an American citizen who demands to know more about what’s really important. I want to know what my government has done in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. I want to know why it took so long for the government to respond to Katrina. Instead, all I get is the blame game in the latter story, and a story about an Australian news outlet regarding the former. I want to know, not to play the blame game, and try to attack the Bush administration. I want to know in order to force the government to fix what’s going on. I want to know if the anti-torture bill has had any effect. Believe it or not, public opinion does have some sway on politicians. If the news media did its job, the American people could help fix these things merely by voicing their disgust.

I honestly think this issue warrants my accusatory tone. As a citizen of America, I honestly believe the news media is failing the American people.

Also, please read Lloyd’s entry, “on torture, american-style.”

Cheney Accidentally Shoots Hunting Buddy; Media Miffed

So, Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend while quail-hunting, and because he doesn’t immediately notify the media, the media is attempting to rip him to shreds. Well, guess what? If I accidentally shot my friend, I would not be all giddy to talk to the media either.

Anyway, when I heard the story, I don’t know what people found so funny about a guy being shot in the face. I don’t find hunting accidents particularly humorous, even if they involve famous persons in politics. Then again, America’s Funniest Home Videos is still on the air. Maybe next time, Scott McClellan can accidentally kick a reporter in the balls. Or fall off a trampoline. Now that, that might be news worthy.

“Cosmic Illusion” Song

I called it the Cosmic Illusion Song in my notebook, but I may change the name. I wrote this a while back… 08/12/05. All I have memorized is the chorus, and I find it strangely soothing to sing the song. Anyway, here’s the chorus:

Good is evil; evil is good. Once you know this, you know more than you should.

All is one; and one is all. Once you know this, you know nothing at all.

Sky is ground; ground is sky. This is the truth that is also a lie.

3 Tamed, and 2 Untamed Emotions

Tamed McCarthyism: I was reading “The World is Flat” by Tom Friedman and I came across this line from Karl Marx, “All that is solid melts into air.” That line from Marx was a test question on my first sociology midterm last semester. Maybe the only two people who managed to get the question right were not commie bastards but Friedman fans.

Tamed deja vu: Again, I was reading “The World is Flat” and I came across the name N. Gregory Mankiw. I thought, “Hey, that sounds familiar.” So, I grabbed my Econ book and realized that this guy wrote my econ book. I later read on and find out Tom Friedman acknowledges that he is the author of a popular college economics textbook. Not so coincidental after all.

Tamed immorality: I was doing today’s Jumble. It’s a word puzzle in the newspaper in which you have to unscramble words. Then, you take some designated letters from those words and unscramble those letters to get the answer to a dumb joke. So, I unscrambled some letters to make the word TOKES. I thought, hm, that sounds like a word, but I’m not sure. So, I looked it up. Lo and behold, it was a word related to marijuana use. That’s funny, I thought, I can’t believe the newspaper would let them get away with that. Then, when I couldn’t figure out the final unscramble, I realized that the word was STOKE, not TOKES.

Untamed anger: Five page paper due tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. McDonald.

Untamed sorrow: Lloyd’s entry for today, “i need to be reminded“.

My New Abortion Soundbite

I got to use my new soundbite (catchphrase?) on abortion not too long ago in a real conversation. It was really cool because I thought of it a while back, and I was just itching to be able to say it. Enough preamble, here it is: “I’m not pro-choice; I’m pro-abortion under extenuating circumstances.” Pretty crafty, eh? It’s not quite bumper sticker material, but it does the job. Lots of people will disagree with my statement, but it still puts me within the mainstream of America.

Fascists in Denmark

From the New York Times, At Mecca Meeting, Cartoon Outrage Crystallized [registration required]:

“At first, the agitation was limited to Denmark. Ahmed Akkari, 28, a Lebanese-born Dane, acts as spokesman for the European Committee for Honoring the Prophet, an umbrella group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations to press the Danish government into action over the cartoons.

“Mr. Akkari said the group had worked for more than two months in Denmark without eliciting any response. ‘We collected 17,000 signatures and delivered them to the office of the prime minister, we saw the minister of culture, we talked to the editor of the Jyllands-Posten, we took many steps within Denmark, but could get no action,’ Mr. Akkari said, referring to the newspaper that published the cartoons. He added that the prime minister’s office had not even responded to the petition.”

Here we have a fundamental misunderstanding about the way government should work. We have a group called the “European Committee for Honoring the Prophet.” It should more properly be called the “European Committee for Policing People’s Thoughts So We Don’t Get Offended (Honoring the Prophet Chapter).” I exaggerate. It is perfectly legitimate to have a group like this. What is not right, as I stressed yesterday, is that group attempting to pressure the government to stifle the free press. It’s not the government being unresponsive to the people; it’s as if Christian groups attempted to force the US government to apologize over something the New York Times wrote.

It is rather unfortunate that European newspapers published the comics. It was a bad move. The Islamofascists try to say that this is a concerted attack by the West against Islam. We must do well to remember that it is not.

In fact, after mulling over it for a while, one of the better responses the Bush administration could have released could’ve said something like, “We recognize that a Danish paper published offensive images. However, the US government has no authority to issue an apology over something an independent paper printed. The offensive comics were created by individuals. They do not represent the West anymore than suicide bombers represent Islam.”

I think I made it longer than it needed to be but basically it says what I want it to say. It notes the offensiveness of the comics, but it doesn’t concede the freedom of the press.

Before I finish up this entry, I must reinforce the label of Islamofascism. These leaders who whip up outrage against the Western governments because of the comics are for the most part fascists. They are saying people cannot be trusted with free speech because they may defame Islam. Unfortunately, people saying offensive things is a part of free speech. However, you have the power to ignore them. What you can’t do is get the government to shut them up. That’s fascism. That’s wrong.

Reframing the Cartoon Debate: The Role of Government

In case you haven’t heard, a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons, which portrayed Muhammed, the Prophet of Islam. (If you have heard, skip to the next paragraph. I just don’t want to leave anyone behind.) These cartoons didn’t portray Muhammed in a very positive light, including one image that had the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. The cartoons have provoked protest in the parts of the Muslim world. Some of these protests have taken the form of violence, including the firebombing of embassies. Some European newspapers published the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish paper, reasoning that they were making a stand for free speech. Only one major American newspaper has published any of the cartoons.

There are many different angles people take on the cartoon issue. They use it as an opportunity to attack liberals, conservatives, Muslims, the West, and Morgan Freeman. In the West, we say protesting is okay, but it’s not okay to resort to violence. Debating about the violence line in protesting is not what we should be doing.

That’s why it’s so laughable when people try to play the analogy game. They say things along the lines of, “A Christian wouldn’t firebomb an embassy over someone making a painting of the Virgin Mary out of elephant dung.” Yet, it’s not true to say the West is immune to violent protests. I just heard recently a story about people throwing rocks at Neo-Nazis staging a demonstration. Granted, this isn’t on the same scale, but it’s not about the scale. It’s not about the line of violence being crossed.

Here’s the problem: An independent newspaper prints offensive cartoons, and the Islamofascists riot against Western governments. The press is free. It’s perfectly fine to protest the paper. It’s not okay to tell the government to impose religious sensitivity laws.

That’s why they’re Islamofascists. They want to impose fascism. They want the government to impose their beliefs on other people. That’s what’s not okay.

It’s also perfectly fine for American papers to decide not to print the 12 cartoons. In fact, it’s good that they’re sensitive to Muslims. What would not be okay is if the American government told the newspapers not to print the comics.

I’m not going to call anyone a hypocrite. I’m not going to go off on any tangents. (It’s rather hard to confine myself to this topic, but I feel it is too important to stray towards anything else.) I’m not going to make a judgment about the West or Islam. The role of government is the issue. The peoples of every nation have the right to a free press, period. I don’t care if you’re Muslim, Christian, Neo-Nazi, or just an offended average Joe: Leave the government out if you have a dispute with the press.

With that said, I will delve into specifics tomorrow.

Why Racial Profiling Doesn’t Make Us More Secure

From Yahoo! News: Bush: U.S. Surveillance Helped Stop Attack. I’m not really interested in the article; I’m interested in this buried within it:

“‘Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on Sept. 11, Khalid Sheik Mohammed sought out young men from Southeast Asia — whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion,’ Bush said.”

There you have it, hard evidence for why racial profiling won’t make us any safer, even against the plans of Muslim terrorists.


Let’s talk about something light-hearted before I return to global politics and the like.

I reminisced for about 2 seconds about SkiFree today. In case you don’t know, SkiFree was a game for Windows 3.1, where you ski around for a while until a monster with stick limbs eats you. Spark any memories? Well, if you’re a SkiFree fan, check out The Most Officialest SkiFree Home Page!.

What made me crack up was this e-mail the creator of SkiFree received:

“If this is the correct person, please tell me why the stupid fucking monster comes out from nowhere and eats my main guy before he gets to the bottom of the hill. Nothing personal, but this is Sunday morning & I really did not like the idea of getting eaten by the monster this early. What I am really trying to say is fix the program or stop making games for the likes of me, who can’t win. Actually, you ruined my day. Have a nice one, THE WOODMAN”

Jihad Declared on Morgan Freeman

Not only does the Koran forbid making graven images of Muhammed, but it prohibits making graven images of the one true God, aka Allah.

In Bruce Almighty, Morgan Freeman portrayed God. This is horrible blasphemy. I think because the Holocaust didn’t happen, we can make a good case that slavery didn’t happen either. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but it just means it’s especially blasphemous to have Morgan Freeman be God. Thus, I have declared a jihad on Morgan Freeman.

At the same time, I have declared a jihad on all the members of Monty Python because they made an image of God in their movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. What horrid blasphemy. I think I shall go firebomb an embassy in retaliation. I don’t understand how they can be so interolerant of my beliefs. I must threaten people with violence in order to show them how intolerant they are.

Also, I think Jesus should be jailed for hate speech because of what he said about the Pharisees. He goes into a temple, a holy place, and then upends the tables. What blasphemy. Too bad that happened two thousand years ago so we can’t actually put him in jail. Still, I think our government should issue an apology for something it’s not responsible for. Obviously, no one should critique religion for any reason. It’s so intolerant to make any comment about religion.

As a Christian, I must say that Jesus would agree with me. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. That means not saying anything bad about them, preaching political correctness, and allowing them to develop nuclear weapons.

Man, all this hate by West has me so worked up. I think I’ll make up some more cartoons and then use them to incite hatred against the West. Only it’s not really hatred because it’s directed against the West. That type of hatred is okay. Anything else is intolerant.

So anyway: Death to the infidels! Death to Morgan Freeman!

In case you can’t tell, this is satire.

If you want my real opinion, I think the Bush administration’s statement should have read: “Free speech, bitches.” Either that, or, “It’s a fucking cartoon. Get over it.”

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for this problem. Yes, we need democracy in the Middle East, but everyone needs to realize that it won’t automatically solve everything. It will take time. There will be some injustices, but you can’t solve all of the world’s injustices at once. Slavery existed in the United States, yet we were a democracy. It took us hundreds of years to get where we are and we’re still not perfect — most of America is still homophobic. So, look at the sorry state of the Middle East today. It will take longer for them to arrive at the point we’re at now. Still, nothing can get done unless we take the first steps. Nothing will get done unless we stand up against bullies like the President of Iran, unless the world stands in unity against dictatorship, and we promote freedom throughout the land.

If you’re unwilling to take that first step, then you’ve already lost. You’ve already declared defeat. You’ve declared that certain people are too barbaric to handle their own freedom. You might as well declare a jihad on Morgan Freeman and dance in the streets after a successful terrorist attack.

And anyone can go ahead and call me intolerant if they want. Because I am. I am intolerant against the forces of evil.

02/10/06 – EDIT: Strikethrough that last section. Written in haste. The information is not presented well and in an unpersuasive combative tone. Still, you should’ve seen some of the stuff I wrote and deleted before writing that. It was even worse. I’m getting better at editing myself, but I still have a way to go before I’m ready for primetime.

Super Bowl Commercials: A Dying Tradition

The ads this year for the Super Bowl were decidedly uncreative and lackluster. This makes it at least three years in a row of mediocre commercials. What happened? Could they not take the pressure? With so many people watching for the commercials, did they crack?

Is it part of our sequel culture? Unafraid to try anything bold and creative? I think not. I think it’s part of a different trend.

The art of the commercial is dying. It is going the way of the sitcom. It’s not just the Super Bowl commercials that suck but all commercials. Face it, the 30-second (or 15-second) ad spot is a pretty inefficient way to sell things. People wander away during commercials. It’s harder to hit your target audiences.

The invention of digital video recorders (TiVo for those of you who say Kleenex instead of tissue) puts another nail in the coffin for the commercial. The iPod now has video capabilities. The commercial is no longer needed to fund the show if you can just buy it. TV shows will be available on-demand.

Even if this trend I see in worsening commercials turns out to be a trough instead of a trend, the commercial will still die. Still, the commercial gave us cultural icons. It gave us the Budweiser frogs, the Meow Mix song. Pepsi, here’s a tip: Ditch the hip hop, give us an old-fashioned jingle. Ah, who am I kidding, does it really matter? Even Geico seems to be falling off with its latest spots featuring the amiable accented Gecko.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few good ads, like the FedEx one, but none especially memorable. If you don’t believe me, revisit this entry in a month.

Another year of this exercise in ad mediocrity and no one will be watching the Super Bowl just for the commercials. It won’t be worth it.

Another five years to ten years, though, and the commercial itself will be a thing of the past.

It’s unfortunate. I really love the commercial as an art form. It’s the thing I miss most about TV when I haven’t watched it for a while.

Super Bowl XL

Personally, I think the Super Bowl should be a holiday. I mean, everyone should get the next Monday off. We could replace Columbus Day. He discovered America how long ago? Old news, old news. Or, we could replace Labor Day. I mean, after the 1980’s, the labor movement was dead anyway. Why should we celebrate it? It’s almost a holiday celebrating Socialism. The Super Bowl is infinitely more American than either of those two holidays, or even both of them combined. It celebrates two distinctly American things that every American is obligated to love: football and commercialism. That’s why it should be a holiday.

Democracy, Terror, and Hamas

It’ll be interesting to see how things play out with the recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Those saying that this victory by a terrorist organization fundamentally destroys Bush’s rationale that democracy brings peace may have spoken too soon.

The Palestinian Authority faces a budget crisis. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun today, “the Palestinian Authority put off paying the January salaries of 137,000 government employees yesterday for at least two weeks as it struggles to find new sources of funding.” The World Bank is withholding aid. The US and the European Union threaten to withhold aid.

If Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism, they could face a huge economic crisis. People will be out of jobs. A big question is: Will they blame the West, or will they blame their elected leaders?

When I read Dispatch from Hamastan, I got the impression that the voters weren’t overwhelmed with all of Hamas’s platform. What stood out for me especially was that “one post-election poll found that as many as three out of four Palestinians hope Hamas will step back from its calls for armed conflict with Israel.”

As things are going, it seems as if Hamas will not recognize Israel, even to prevent such a budget crisis. Or at least, so said senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. [NY Times article, registration required.]

I hope the West, and perhaps the rest of the world, shows solidarity in using their economic sticks against Hamas if Hamas does not do what it needs to do. Perhaps with strikes, demonstrations, or riots, on hand, Hamas will be forced to do so. If the violent extremists are truly a minority, we will see the real power of democracy, and what it means to be accountable to the people.

Unless, the answer to the question I posed early on is that the people will blame the West for their troubles. Even if this happens, withholding economic aid is the right course of action, lest the world legitimize terrorism. In fact, I would propose an increase in economic aid if Hamas recognizes Israel and rejects terror, just as an added incentive — a carrot as counterweight to the stick.

My faith in the power of democracy, as always, remains unshaken, and will remain resolute no matter what the consequences of this crisis. Even the most volatile democracy is always preferable to the most peaceful tyranny.