Thursday, April 18, 2002

ZoNotes: I Love My Spurs

Cries of eclectic joy resonated all over the land as the San Antonio Spurs overcame a tough Utah rally to valiantly pull away 86-84 at the vaunted Delta Center. Tony Parker, a rookie from France, would not surrender, and hit an acrobatic layup before time expired to propel the Men in Black to the #2 seed and a playoff series against the always-tough Seattle Supersonics. Gametime is Saturday at 4:30 in the spacious confines of the Alamodome!

The Cowboys' Burden
So on the way home from work yesterday I'm listening to SportsTalk 980's John Thompson show. The big man was out of town, so former Redskin Doc Walker and Al Koken were in the studio trash-talking about the Dallas Cowboys. You know, the usual insults -- "America's Most Wanted," "The best years are over," "You only watch the games to see who's getting indicted next" -- etc., etc. Now, alot of this is run of the mill Redskin trash talking. Of course, being that the Redskins have lost the last 9 games to the Boys, it doesn't particularly matter that the best years are allegedly over. In fact, every time the Boys win, the day after in DC is a glorious exercise in state pride. An interesting facet of the Boys-Skins rivalry is that Dallas -- no matter how good, or bad -- will beat Washington. It's not just that the Skins lose, it's how they lose to Dallas. Remember the disastrous 1989 season, when the Boys went 1-15? Guess who that win was against? And where? Yep, against the Skins, in Washington -- the famous no-penalty 10-3 game. Or what about 1999's season opener, when the Skins built a 35-14 lead, only to shave Darrell Green get torched by Troy Aikman and Rocket Ismail in overtime, 41-35? Or, what about 1991, when the Boys came to RFK and destroyed Washington's bid for an undefeated season? And for the older ZoNoters, what about 1974, when Clint "I punched Roger Staubach" Longley, Clint freakin' Longley, led the Boys to a comeback victory over the Skins...on Thanksgiving? Or when Don Meredith beat the Skins in 1967 with a pierced lung?
Ok, you ask, what about the lawbreaking stuff? That is so 1998 -- and don't count Nate Newton's cocaine and marjuana adventure, which took place a full year after he left football. I have two words for the Skins: Dexter. Manley. There are 5, count 'em, 5 Super Bowl trophies sitting in Dallas. Nine NFC championships. NFC East Division banners lying around like so many spare tires. Three of the NFL's greatest running backs, its most imposing offensive lineman (Larry Allen), its most gritty safety (Darren Woodson), a quarterback of storybook proportions (Roger Staubauch), an innovatively enterprising owner (Jerry Jones), and the game's prettiest cheerleaders?
They said they were looking forward to the Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas. Oh, all this talk about
"looking forward" really spices it up. What, do you think us Dallas fans aren't looking forward to it either? Why the hell do you think Dallas is 9-0 in the last 4 years and 10-2 in the last six against Washington? The game is on our calendar, too. How many Skins fans are there in Dallas? .....................
Now, how many Dallas fans are there in Washington? Enough to relish the piercing joy of unadulterated victory, that's how many. Wearing the blue star isn't easy -- only a very precious few have had the honor of wearing it and coaching the squad -- but somebody has to take the mantle. When the Boys are good, they get all the attention. If they are bad, they get all the attention. Ask Houston fans. The Oilers went from 1986-93 with consecutive playoff appearances. That's stunning consistency. But who remembers that, when everybody's asking "What's happening to Dallas?" Why does Texas Stadium have a hole in it? So God can watch his team play.

Top 5 Albums, Ever
What's the difficulty with Top 5 lists? The common gripe is that no one list is completely definitive. That's a lie. This list is good because I said so. And what more would you need than a guranteed, brand-spankin' certified ZoNotes stamp of approval? And what of this "evidence" people want when lists come out. Lists arent' about "what people think", it's about what they like! As if you needed any justification:
5. Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi
4. No Fences -- Garth Brooks
3. Four -- Led Zeppelin
2. Sgt. Pepper's -- Beatles
1. Hard Day's Night -- Beatles
Egads! The Baby Boomers hath doth hijacketh the list! Other notables on a list could also include -- Michael Jackson's Thriller, Madonna's Immaculate Collection, any George Strait album, Dr. Dre's The Chronic, and others.

"Overcoming your rival occasionally compensates for other shortcomings."

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

ZoNotes: If Tomorrow Never Comes...will she know how much I love her?

Tomorrow be on the lookout for the Top 5 Albums, Ever list. The tabulation is complete!

Maximum Defensive Effort
This week is the National Football League's college draft, with my Dallas Cowboys set to pick with the #6 slot in the first round. I figure that the Boys will take either Texas CB Quentin Jammer or Oklahoma safety Roy Williams with the pick. Owner Jerry Jones, who I initially didn't take kindly to in 1989 when he dispensed with Tom Landry as one does a pair of dirty socks, earned my respect with a cavalier attitude and a penchant for taking risks. However, this offseason he has surprised me with his prudence, using Dallas' cap space smartly and constructing what should be a Top 10 defense next season -- DE Le'Roi Glover, LB Kevin Hardy, re-signing ubersaftey Darren Woodson and LB Dat Nguyen, and sending out to pasture headcases like Kareem Larrimore.

Tonight, I am the Law...
In an utterance to fellow Hoya alum Aaron Ammerman (F'00), I stated that Georgetown's fame can be a product of its infamy. How? Well, it requires an explanation deeper than just one sentence. For those interested in my thinking, I'll email you later. Today, Professor Anthony Clark Arend asserts that the U.S. needs a "legal" justification to take out Saddam Hussein. His argument seems to include any realistic contingency for American intervention -- self defense, anticipatory self-defense, and previous Security Council resolutions. My main objection to all of this is the uselessness of certain segments of international law. The UN is a collection of the worst elements in modern society -- the North Koreas, Zimbabwes, and Iraqs of the global street. However, they are accorded legitimacy and use the international soap box to criticize the world's better countries -- namely, the U.S. Retaliating off an Article 51 contingency -- self-defense in response to an attack -- is a risky proposition. The U.S., if it knows that Saddam has fully capable nuclear weapons and is prepared to use them, shouldn't have to wait to attack merely to conform with norms. Anticipatory self-defense, otherwise known as "preemptive strike," has an underlying element of surprise. A model for this is the Israeli airstrike on Saddam's reactor in Osirak -- which was roundly condemned by the international community. So, not only would notifying UN members a) give away strategic surprise, it would b) still most likely be received negatively by the very states set to benefit from a nuke-deprived Iraq. Third point -- pre-existing Security Council resolutions. Arend rightfully notes that relying on Resolution 687 as a rationale for continuing military action against Iraq strains the original point of the document. However, by citing that the Security Council is unlikely to revisit the issue, to me it seems like a unilateral decision outside the UNSC is easier to make. Why? Any new resolution would have to overcome not 1, but 3 veto threats in ascending order of likelihood -- France, Russia, and China. That's 3 of the famous "P5" permanent members -- Britain and the U.S. would vote yes. Since the bulk of forces would come from these two countries anyway, why not simply bypass the Security Council and move alone?

The Flight of the Cardinals, The Shells of Cassino
Pope John Paul II's call to bring the American cardinals to the Vatican to address the latest priest crisis is on its face a good move. By summoning the heads to Rome, the Vatican is taking what one could call a leadership role in figuring out how to expel priests guilty of sexual abuse. Of course, this high-profile meeting has some crippling flaws that could undermine any serious effort to expunge rogue priests.
As ZoMother Victoria Vergara pointed out, by singling out the American problem, the Church leaves concealed the discovery of abuses in other parts of the world -- Africa, Latin America, and Europe included. Not to excuse the American cardinals, but if you take the unprecedented step of singling our guys out, you might as well convene the full cardinalship. Second, the key here is what form the remedy will take. If the Vatican enunciates a clear, unambiguous policy to correct the problems that face the flock, then we are on the road to solving the problem. However, if the meeting is a band-aid measure designed simply to alleviate pressure, then calling the cardinals to Rome will be much ado about nothing. The Church has survived many things -- the insurrectionist Reformation, numerous wars, the Holocaust, the shelling of Cassino in World War II, etc., etc. However, it risks a succession crisis and a schism conundrum if this deteriorates into a war of tangents. The conservative faction shouldn't use this to purge every single liberal priest, nor should the Church's left use this as a trojan horse to revisit the ideas of women in the priesthood and priests marrying. The focus, at the moment, should be on the rogue priests. Otherwise, we in the flock will suffer from negative momentum and a crisis of faith.

"Taking risks is not the same as taking chances."

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

ZoNotes: I am a man of constant sorrow...

July Makes a Cameo
Today DC is set to break records, as the temps hit the 90 mark. Interesting how the citizens of this fine city cringe at the thought of a day past 85.

Talking With the Enemy
Here is the new liberal spin on the Israeli-Palestinian war, gaining momentum on the left as a justification of meeting with Yasser Arafat. "You don't negotiate with your friends, you do with your enemies." This is about as machiavellian liberal commentators will sound, a shot of Jack Daniels in an otherwise constant stream of Evian. The problem, mainly, is that there's a consistency dilemma that liberals run up against. The argument stands on two pillars -- the first, that you cannot choose your adversary's chief negotiator. This is a logical starting point, basically asserting that Israeli PM Ariel Sharon cannot realistically hope to replace Arafat as a negotiating partner. This, of course, ignores the crowbar that the Clinton (F'68) Administration put to then-PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999, when former Clinton campaign operative James Carville went to help Labor candidate Ehud Barak. That is choosing a negotiator, or at least showing a preference, if I've ever seen one. Maybe we should add a corollary -- that only great powers can choose their enemies' negotiators.
The second pillar is that you assume that the other side's definition of "peace" is the same as yours. In this case, the map doesn't lie. Judging by Arafat's behavior and the endorsement of homicide bombers by "moderate" Arab states, Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and is an interim goal on the way to a final solution -- complete destruction of the state of Israel. So, while peace for Labor doves like Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is a Palestinian flag flying over Ramallah, peace for Arafat, al Aqsa, Hamas, and Tanzim is the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and 6 million Jewish corpses.
Yet another problem with this line of thinking is that the U.S. isn't negotiating with al-Qaeda, nor did the Allies negotiate with Germany in 1945. In fact, when the remnants of the Wermacht went to the Allies to "discuss terms," he was told that there weren't any to haggle over. This is not to dispel completely the idea of negotiations -- it is to better gauge when they are appropriate. Neither the Israelis or the PLO will seriously entertain a lasting settlement until one of their armies suffers decisive defeat in the field. The Israelis were closer in their latest West Bank offensive than they have ever been to seriously uprooting and suffocating the asymmetric terrorist threat. When they showed an inkling of withdrawal, they were hit with a homicide bomber in Jerusalem.

The Soldiers' Lament
In two countries, similar only in their ties to the U.S., former military officers of dubious infamy are elected to their countries' highest office. Enjoying mass domestic popular support yet presenting complex strategic difficulties to decisionmakers in Washington, one is a staunch ally and the other is a regional pariah. Certain observers deride the ally and support the pariah, even though both won landslide elections. They do so vigorously, asserting one is a "historical accident" and the other a "democratically elected" legitimate ruler. Sitting in Miraflores and Tel Aviv, I wonder what these two former officers are thinking right now. Fear? Relief? Frustration? Defiance?
Aaron Ammerman (F'00) has his thoughts on the coup that wasn't, describing a process I've coined as the "semigolpe":
"The Hugo Chavez that woke up this
morning is not the Hugo Chavez that went to sleep
last Thursday. Is it possible that layers of
blubbery insulation (the institutional arteriosclerosis
of cronyism) really did prevent Mr. Chavez from
realizing that he was significantly removed from what
the Venezuelan street wanted out of their national
I think the chiefs of staff did the right thing by
not permanently deposing their president. It sets
the right precedent for the other thugocracies of
the south. Their actions indicate that the
revolution is not born out of hatred for the personality,
but in revolt of his politics. "The Hugo Chavez who
is not President is not a bad guy; he has the same
right to watch futbol and drink beer as any other
citizen, but he is not permitted to run the
country." Even with the counterrevolution, I think there is
still a basis for Chavez to deal honorably with the
My original point, to which I shall now return, is
that news accounts everywhere describe Chavez as
"humbled and chastened." Think about it, after being
swept back into power, shouldn't he think that he
is godlike? that regardless of what the forces
opposed to him do, the masses will rise up and rescue
him? That seems more natural.
One of the interesting points I see is that the
Venezuelan popoulation that approved of the
counter-coup did not do so as a result of pro-Chavez
inclinations, but rather because the process by which he
was ousted offended their democratic instincts. This
can and should be construed as a positive in
Washington, even if democracy returns an anti-American
demagogue to power.
A lot of what-ifs remain. What if Chavez had
resigned willingly due to widespread public disgust?
What if Chavez's resignation had been lawfully
tendered to the National Assembly, as required by law?
What if Carmona hadn't overestimated the popular
dissatisfaction with Chavez? What if Cuban troops had
landed to reinstall Chavez?
On the bright side, the U.S. is not as horrifically
on the hook as it could have been. Thank goodness
we didn't have an active hand in Chavez's premature
and short-lived downfall. Because honestly, we
should have rioting in the streets here then... If, of
all the regimes in the world, VENEZUELA was the
target of a sophistimicated covert operation by the
U.S. intelligence apparatchiks, our own elected
officials deserve prompt and immediate defenestration.
What's that? You finally realized there are
non-friendly governments out there that pose a
significant threat to American security? And you overthrew
Now we are on the cusp of opportunity for
American-Venezuelan relations... If the U.S. had no
influence in Chavez's ouster, now would be a great time to
extend an olive branch to him. To say, "we're
really sorry about the way you were treated this
weekend, but on the bright side, you're still alive. Can
we work out a modus vivendi here? You suffer some
legitimacy problems right now, and the U.S.
standing shoulder to shoulder with you may keep that head
on those shoulders."
He's vulnerable. We need to exploit that."

"It's never too late, unless you're the one with the watch." -- Rene Cortes, Jr (Dad)

Monday, April 15, 2002

ZoNotes: Whoooohoaaahh Laredo, Don't Let Her Go. Just take her by the heart and let the wheels turn slow.....

The Taxman Cometh
The man sticks us today.

So many things went wrong this weekend in the coup/counter-coup of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The comedy of errors that followed the swearing-in of interim President Carmona should be a textbook case for all Latin American militaries planning to depose thug leftist presidents --
1.Expel the problem -- Once Chavez resigned, the rightist military officers should have either shot Chavez or put him on a plane to Havana immediately. Shuffling him from island to island didn't work, and the more his supporters knew he was alive, the more they protested.
2. Unity of action -- This coup revealed that there ismore than one faction in the military -- pro-Chavez thugs and anti-Chavez freedom fighters. Unfortunately, President Carmona underestimated the split in the armed forces and overreached, dissolving Congress and the 1999 Constitution without any real contingency plan.
3.The Cubans --- Venezuela offers Cuban strongman Fidel Castro a free hand in the Americas. He gets cheap oil and gets to play Chavez like a puppet -- for the former paratroop commander isn't necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer.
4.The regional leaders' fear-- None of the countries that refused to back the "constitutional interruption" did so for any love of Chavez. However, they are afraid about the precedent the coup would have set for their own tenuous positions. Remember, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo came to power only after Alberto Fujimori and his security chief Vladimiro Montesinos left the political scene. Chile, Brazil, and Argentina still have credible military forces who could reassert, shall we say, constitutional fortitude, if the democratically-elected leadership falters. So, taking all of this into consideration, the Organization of American states opted not to support the interim government.

All in all, a very disappointing outcome to what had the makings of a nice turn away from communist-inspired thuggery.

Don't Call It A Comeback...
...he's been here before. And he'll be here again. Heading into Sunday's final round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, the world's top 7 golfers all had a realistic chance of making a run. However, in a final round one can only call "disastrous," Tiger Woods crushed his opposition and strode to his third Masters title in 5 years, finishing up with a solid 12-under par finish. Every one of Woods' "contemporaries" bogeyed and 3-putted their way to oblivion. Classically infamous moments from Sunday will include Ernie Els "shooting at the bushes" on #13, Vijay Singh's nightmarish consecutive shots in the water that had him shooting a 9 on the par 5 #15, Phil Mickelson's 0-for-3-for-birdie run at a crucial juncture in the tournament, and Retief Goosen's 18-holes-to-hell game that had him thinking by #12 "well, maybe I can play for second..." Woods, on the other hand, had a wonderful 3 shot at #15 that helped secure birdie, a par-saving gutcruncher putt at #16, and adept manuvering at #17, even though he bogeyed. Hell, you knew on Saturday that Woods was going to win, after going from 6 shots off the lead at 6-under to the co-lead at 11-under. The competition resorted to its "holy s^&*" game, and Woods was in the zone. ZoNotes is amazed.

Party On, Dude
Many thanks to Pete Renz (C'00), Daniel Alvarez (F'00) and Simon Torres (F'00) for hosting a happenin' gathering at their place in Crystal City on Saturday. Aaron Ammerman (F'00) and I had a great time downing blue margaritas and eating fried chicken.

"The lower the goal you set, the less likely you will reach it."