Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Saturday, February 21, 2004

Growing the Threat of Binge Drinking

As part of its continuing effort to make binge drinking the demon scourge of college, the College of Alcohol Studies has a new study showing a "significantly" higher chance of a college girl being raped. What constitutes significant? Three, four, ten times more often? No.

Most significantly, women from colleges with medium and high binge-drinking rates had more than a 1.5-fold increased chance of being raped while intoxicated than those from schools with low binge- drinking rates.

So drinking heavily increases the chances of being raped? Really? Did they find any other significant factors?

Other significant risk factors for rape were being under 21 years old, white, residing in sorority houses, using illicit drugs and binge drinking in high school.

Clearly, women under the age of 21 should not be allowed to go to college. While we're at it, ban sororities.

I don't want to make fun of rape or rape victims. Far from it. The s**t that has been happening at the University of Colorado turns my stomach. Chemical castration seems to be the minimal penalty in my book for rape.

The problem is that studies like this, creates an excuse for the rapist, being a victim of drinking and the social pressures of binge drinking. It marginalizes rape from being a heinous offense, to being a "secondhand effect" of binge drinking.

The goal is clearly to demonize what CAS considers to be, "the number one public health problem among college students ? associated with a range of consequences that include lower grades, vandalism and physical and sexual violence."

This is what they consider "binge drinking":

College student binge drinking, as defined by College Alcohol Study researchers, is the consumption of five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.

Note that there is no time constraint on the consumption of the drinks. 5 drinks in an hour or 5 drinks in five hours. It doesn't make a difference in the definition. As long as they are consecutive.

Friday, February 20, 2004

National Guard or Vietnam

So it appears that the people who are most upset by Kerry's 'Nam protests or Bush's service in the National Guard are those who have already decided to support the other guy (Via Totten) and just like to have one more reason to pile on.

I don't care, and at the risk of speaking for a lot of people who are Gen-X and beyond I don't think a lot of others in my demographic really do. This whole non-issue has struck me as some stale baby-boomer navel-gazing thing to rehash everything regarding that time period when the boomers were young and believed they were changing the world.

My uncle served in Vietnam, and my dad (a few years younger) was in the Pennsylvania National Guard. My uncle was already in the military while my dad was in college in the late 60s. My uncle hadn't yet gone over to Vietnam, but had heard enough. When my dad was nearing graduation, he talked to him about the situation, saying that he might just sign up and get it out of the way rather than chance the draft or getting into the National Guard. My uncle told him flat out no, and to do whatever it takes to avoid going over there. My dad got lucky, and I'm grateful.

Parody or Pathetic Cannibalism?

This story has been going around the blogs for a reason. It is something out of the Onion or the good old days of National Lampoon. Women protesting a production of "The Vagina Monologues" for not being sufficiently inclusive of all women:

They silently stood hand in hand with gray duct tape pasted across their lips and "Vagina Warriors" emblazoned on the back of their white shirts. The front of the shirts had different messages: "Warning: Hostile Vagina," "Not all vaginas are skinny, white + straight" and "My cunt is not represented here."

About 10 people gathered in front of Agate Hall on Friday to protest what they called a lack of representation of different kinds of women in "The Vagina Monologues" production, which ran Thursday through Saturday at the Agate Hall auditorium.

In flyers handed out to audience members at the show, University graduate Nicole Sangsuree Barrett wrote that while there was "diversity" in the show, it was minimal. Women of "a variety of skin colors, body sizes, abilities and gender expressions" were not adequately represented, she said.

"I would just like to call attention to the fact that this could have been a more diverse cast, but a safe and welcoming environment was not created for people that I consider to be 'underrepresented,'" Barrett said in the statement.

I'm stumped. Did they run out of other things to be pissed off about? I mean, I just can't think of a good one-liner to address this. The follow-up story just adds to it. There was a meeting later to discuss the issue. You just have to read the articles and look at the pictures. I'm starting to believe that while irony may not be dead, parody is.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Water In Boulder

When you think of the historically corrupt, scandal plagued, morally bankrupt programs in college (basketball and football) -- UNLV, SMU, throw a dart at any SEC team in any given year, it is amazing how the University of Colorado keeps slipping through the consciousness. There is a history of corruption that goes back to the 60s at Colorado. Now Sports Illustrated has detailed allegations of rape, sex parties and all sorts of partying to get high school recruits. (Print Subscription to SI req'd. and you may need a strong stomach)

Leading the SI charge is Rick Reilly, their back page columnist and Colorado alum. There is nothing more dangerous to a program, then a pissed off alum who can trumpet his outrage to a national audience. (See, also -- St. Bonaventure basketball team, 2002-2003 and Wojnarowski, Adrian at

The University of Colorado administration had been slow to react to everything that has been happening around the football program. The coach, Gary Barnett came back to Colorado saying he was going to clean things up after Neuheisel bolted. Instead, he has been revealed to be an even bigger sleaze (or at least sloppier and more obvious) or has worked so hard to build walls to create plausible deniability for absolutely everything going on in the football program. Still he seemed to be surviving.

The rape allegations regarding a female walk-on, led to Barnett's downfall. His bizarre otherworldly response.

Barnett told reporters Tuesday that Hnida never told him about a sexual assault and he knew of no evidence to back up her claim.

He said the football program tried to make Hnida comfortable and had provided extra precautions when she told him about a stalker. But he also bluntly criticized Hnida's ability.

"It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful," he said. "Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

That was the final straw. He pushed it from circus to debacle. Barnett later apologized -- after he was placed on administrative leave by the school -- for his "insensitivity" but claimed that his words were taken out of context.

Barnett will be gone in short while from Colorado. The only issues will be how much will they have to pay him, and how much blame he will be willing to absorb. I suspect there will be a direct correlation to the money he receives in a buy-out.

Big XII scandals in the last year: Colorado in football; Baylor, Iowa State and Missouri in basketball

SEC scandals in the last year: Alabama (two) football; Georgia basketball.

I'd say the Big XII is in the lead right now.

Return of and Farewell to the Abbouds

Way, way back in the first couple months of this blog, I posted about Michael and Elie Abboud. Two brothers who made a good living from inner-city groceries then check cashing, and expanded to a major check kiting scam -- $280 million in a 3 month period. The also turned out to have a lot of unpaid taxes. These brothers were politically active and prolific donors to local, state and federal candidates.

To push his issues on a national level, Abboud created the National Arab American Business Association, or NAABA. The group's mission was to support Arab-American business owners, but Abboud also used it for his political causes.

In January of 1998, Abboud, as the head of NAABA, and James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, accompanied three members of Congress on a political fact-finding trip to Syria.

Abboud's profile was high enough for him to be noticed by a president.

In 1998, as President Clinton launched into a speech at an Arab-American conference in Washington, he thanked several people and groups for their support.

One of the first people he mentioned was Elie Abboud.

NAABA's site hasn't been updated since about May or June 2002.

When they were finally indicted in June 2002, their lawyers wasted no time playing up their ethnicity:

But the Abbouds' lawyers said that the brothers, who are Lebanese, are innocent victims of overzealous authorities' ethnic profiling in the aftermath of last year's terrorist attacks.

"It's more than just a coincidence that they began investigating them after Sept. 11," said James Willis, Michel Abboud's attorney.

Actually, the investigations began in 2000. Most big fraud cases like this take time before they move.

Well the trial recently took place and the jury verdict came in on Tuesday.

A federal jury Tuesday convicted a pair of politically connected brothers of floating more than $300 million in bad checks.

The jury deliberated about six hours before convicting Elie and Michel Abboud of more than 70 counts each involving conspiracy, bank fraud, money laundering and tax violations.

Of course the brothers still maintain their innocence and maintain the real reason the feds came after them was race.

"I still believe everything that we did in our system was authorized and computed daily by the banks, and we were charged for every overdraft," Elie Abboud said after the verdict. "The banks followed our every move. This is a biased decision. They saw that we were Arab-Americans, that we deal with millions of dollars a day, and went with that."

The brothers are looking at around 10 years in prison.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Accountability: +/- 20 Years

I went to Case Law School yesterday evening for a lecture (and a free hour of CLE). It was the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center Lecture in Global Legal Reform. The speaker was Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute & George Soros Foundation. Neier is a big dog in the human/civil rights circles. He was a founder and executive director of Human Rights Watch, and at the ACLU (including 8 years as national director). Naturally, I had never heard of him until I received a postcard on the event from my alma mater.

The topic of the lecture was "Accountability for State Crimes: The Past Twenty Years and the Next Twenty Years." The crowd was about 35% students, 50% lawyers and people associated with the local ACLU who were notified of the speaker, and about 15% Case professors.

During the introductions, it was mentioned that the Cox International Law Center with a grant from the Open Society Institute had opened the International War Crimes Research Office, and on March 20 it would open a War Crimes Research Internet site. There was of course many kind words said about the activities of the OSI, especially in Central Europe. Here's a counterpoint to their work there.

I stayed for the lecture and the very brief Q&A, but skipped the reception when I saw the line for the small amount of food. Plus, there was absolutely no one there I knew. Instead, I popped over to the Barking Spider Tavern for a couple drafts of Newcastle while writing up my notes that I am posting.

Neier starts by stating that among the reasons for accountability for state crimes, he sees two primary and a secondary purpose to it. The primaries are matters of individual responsibility for the crimes committed by the leaders and the actual perpetrators; and to secure collective political responsibility by those who facilitated or permitted such crimes to occur. (I am unsure if he means the people of the state where the crimes took place, or the other governments in the world that didn't intervene.) The secondary purpose is to deter future state crimes, which he reluctantly concedes is not easily accomplished.

He then rattles off a long list of state leaders who have or are facing criminal proceedings in the last 20 years. Neier places the start date for the past 20 years at 1983 in Argentina with the "Truth Commission" that led to the "Justice Process" regarding the "disappearances" that occurred in the 70s.

He mentions South Africa in the context of how the peaceful transition of the government could not have taken place absent an amnesty provision. He seems quite uncomfortable with the reality. Well aware that it was the only way to avoid a bloody conflict, but still troubled.

The subject of the International Commission Tribunal on Yugoslavia is a subject with which he is very familiar. So much so, that Neier, while admitting that Bush I and his Secretary of State Eagleburger supported the formation (at the end of Bush's term), he details it as being for entirely cynical reasons. Perhaps so, but they still did it. He then complains how the UN Security Council which had approved the formation failed to appoint a prosecutor for 14 months. To this, he doesn't mention the Clinton administration, nor does he assign any blame to the US. The only administration he blames for this delay is John Majors in England -- who he says wanted to end the whole thing. (It's a subtle bias that I noticed, an overall refusal to mention the Clinton administration or assign any responsibility for the situations or problems. He almost skips it entirely.)

As to how the ICT on the former Yugoslavia survived Neier cites two reasons. The finally named prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, who pushed forward and actually indicted leaders. The other was Tony Blair coming to power in England, and his willingness to commit troops to enter the former Yugoslavia. Neier goes on for a bit about the success of this ICT, ignoring the fact that the trial has dragged out and Milosevic's new popularity and sympathy back Serbia. Not to mention the resurgence of anti-Western nationalists there.

The next big achievement over the last 20 years, is the International Criminal Court. The first thing he notes about it, is that, unlike the ad hoc tribunals, the ICC lacks retroactive power. That is, it can only act against a country for actions taken after the country ratifies it. Neier notes this, with some sadness, that the ICC faces such jurisdictional issues.

Nevertheless, Neier, feels it is a significant achievement. The first actions expected from the ICC will be prosecution of the militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After that, Uganda's rebels. On the matter of Uganda, he explains that the ICC will carry more weight than the Ugandan courts because many of the rebel leaders facing prosecutions fled to other African countries. Those other countries who are shielding the leaders, he says would be more willing to turn them over to the ICC. (Why? What is the threat/incentive of turning over war criminals they have ties to, other than looking like nice guys? He never explains.)

As part of his argument in support of the ICC's importance in the world, Neier points out that within 3 months after the Congo ratified the ICC, all 5 nations that had sent forces into the country to loot and fight withdrew. He says there is no direct evidence that it was because of the ICC ratification, but the timing is something that can't be ignored. (Hmm. I wonder if he feels the same sort of connection can be drawn to Libya abandoning its WMD program, Iran agreeing to inspections by the nuclear powerplant inspections, North Korea conceding to multinational negotiations, and more cooperation from Syria following the Iraq war?)

The limitations of the ICC according to Neier are more because of resources, logistics and time. In his view, the ICC couldn't handle more than 3 conflicts at any one time. Additionally, the prosecutions would have to be limited to mainly upper level leaders because no more than 20 people in a particular conflict would actually be able to be prosecuted. This is because the ICC prosecutors would be working mostly on evidence gathering. Another obvious limit is the issue of gaining custody of the defendants. (Neier wouldn't say it directly, but the question really is: what country would be willing to make their military forces available as the threat to extract the defendants.) He then complains that it is here that the Bush Administration's "hostility" to the ICC damages the institution. (Again, the unsaid implication being no US military backing for the ICC.)

The chief prosecutor of the ICC, according to Neier, believes the real accomplishment of the ICC will be to get the ICC signatories to do their own work and prosecutions in their own courts. He later notes that most of the signatories are already some form of democratic government that really don't need the ICC for their leaders. (So the point of the ICC over establishing ad hoc tribunals when necessary is?)

Looking back has taken most of the lecture. He now begins to look forward. Neier seems optimistic. He feels that accountability and attention to state crimes will prevent the same type of state crimes of the 20th century from happening in the next 10-20 years. (Um, China, North Korea, Cuba mean anything? Of course there is no attention or accountability in these countries. So, I guess they don't count.)

As an example of attention and accountability, Neier says that it is unlikely that we will see the US take actions like it did in Vietnam that led to massacres and bombing of civilians, and he rattles off the list. The direct implication, of course, is that the US committed war crimes, that the ICC would now prosecute. (By that logic, couldn't the bombing of Dresden and the nuclear bombs released in Hiroshima and Nagasaki be war crimes?)

He then concedes, though, that in the last 3 US military actions -- Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq -- the US military made a concerted effort to avoid civilian casualties. Then almost as an aside he says that the they could have done even more. Neier makes no mention of the technological advances that allow better methods to avoid civilian casualties.

For the next 20 years, he sees the biggest problem will be the financing of international prosecutions. (Doesn't this suggest that ad hoc prosecutions continue to be the way to go since they will get direct allocations from the supporters with a definite end?) Neier envisions the way to finance this through a "Global Fund for Justice," modeled on the "The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria" that could operate on only $500 million per year.

As he speculates further, he notes that the limits of the ICC suggests the idea of establishing regional tribunals around the world. A compliment to the ICC, or a sort of "lower court" making the ICC capable of handling appeals and becoming a global supreme court.

(Why is it those on the left seem so virulently opposed to globalized trade, but so eager to embrace any form of international bureaucracy? Then there's the way they immediately seek the courts rather than the actual government representatives for their purposes. A cynic might think it's a way to circumvent the general public and the public's will.)

He concedes, though, that unless the US ratifies the ICC, the idea of regional tribunals will never get beyond imagination.

The lecture ends, and there is time for only a couple questions.

The first question is a softball as to whether the Guantanamo Bay detentions are consistent under the Geneva Convention.

He simply says, "no." Silence. The room laughs a little. Then he explains that they are inconsistent because the US did not directly capture the detainees. They were captured by Northern Alliance warlords in Afghanistan and the US military bought them without knowing if they were actually members of Al Queda. According to Neier, under the GC, if there is a question as to their status there must be a hearing for each detainee. How he knows all of them were obtained this way is not explained. He continues that since some have been released, it is clear they were not all members of Al Queda. (Of course, since they were released, doesn't that suggest a hearing took place? The issue is then more of the speed and transparency of the hearings. Something a little more nebulous under the GC I'm guessing.)

The next question is, "What are the mechanisms to insure ICC impartiality?"

To this, he gives a rather simple answer. That the impartiality mechanisms are not much different from any court. Presumably he means those of a war crimes tribunal, and not that of the standard jury pool.

The final question is, "How does the US benefit from signing the ICC?"

This actually flummoxes Neier. He seems somewhat taken aback by the question, as if it is a truism that ratifying the ICC benefits the US. He stumbles a bit before he says that it would be a signal to other countries that it believes in the rule of law internationally. He picks up steam, and states that the US hostility to international agreements such as the ICC, Kyoto, and the UN is seen as a cause of anti-Americanism.

(That's the reason? Who sees that as the reason? You? The various NGOs that condemn the US at all times? You can see the students in the crowd, shift a bit at that. The older crowd just nods. Interesting. )

He continues by referring to the LeMonde headline on September 12, 2001 that said, "We are all Americans." He says that there was such worldwide outpourings of support for the US, but in the 2 plus years since, it has been lost. The Bush administration has aroused needless antagonism around the world by its actions.

(Huh? It is clear that the only reaction from the US that would have made him happy, was to do nothing. Not to take any military action against anyone. Settle for worldwide condemnation of the actions, and look for reasons why the US is hated.)

The lecture ends on that note. I have to say, if that is his hope for the ICC, then it becomes even more important not to ratify it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Would This Be My Nephew?

Several months ago, I started another blog with a bunch of my friends from Pitt, devoted to covering Pitt sports (well basketball and football). Lee has apparently been spreading the gospel and has helped to set up a couple other blogs for friends and family. This is the latest

WANT THE SCOOP ON THE NEXT BIG STORM? Or do you just want to know how much snow or rain will fall? This site provides in-depth weather forecasting and analysis whenever storms threaten the I-95 Corridor and areas in the northeast including WASHINGTON, BALTIMORE, PHILADELPHIA and CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA. Get the inside story on what the public and private forecasters WON'T tell you about the weather.

This would make me an uncle.

A-Rod to the Yanks

I was going to let this go, but...

And, Lee, just to add to your agony.

Free-agent pitcher Greg Maddux will sign with the New York Yankees sometime later this week, according to a report on New York's WABC-TV.

The Bergen Record, a New Jersey newspaper, reported that the Yankees have offered Maddux a deal and that the pitcher is mulling it over, but has yet to agree.

So, Alex Rodriguez will come to the Yankees and move to 3rd base. My reaction to this is not completely dissimilar to my reaction in 1999 when the Yankees got Roger Clemens from the Blue Jays. Mixed.

As most of you know, I'm a Yankee fan. But I am also a fan of the game itself. With the Yankees, that can present something of a conflict.

The Yankees had just come off winning the World Series 4-1 over San Diego, and a season where they had set a record for number of games won in a season. Then the Yankees go out and get Roger Clemens. I mean, when the offer is there you have to take it. It was such a deal, but it almost seemed unfair. I got over it, but there was a little bit of awkwardness.

As a Yankee fan, how can I not be thrilled. Arguably the best player in the game will be a Yankee. Add in the tizzy this sends Red Sox nation into -- I think the best quote I read was from Derek Lowe

"I'm thinking, Aaron Boone's done it to us twice in four months," said Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe. "The first time with that homer in the playoffs. Now him getting hurt opened the door for Rodriguez."

You want to know part of why the Red Sox blew it, go read Gammons (quick summary: let it get too public, too many egos, and Red Sox ownership had to pick a fight with the Players Union).

Now the mixed feelings. I kind of wanted A-Rod stuck in Texas -- punishment for clearly going for the cash over the chance to win when he was a free agent. I wanted to see him spin in a few years why he didn't exercise his right to void the last few years of the contract to reenter the free agent market -- and forfeit a lot of cash. I wanted Texas to pay for helping to drive up salaries.

Also, I wanted Rodriguez to stay at shortstop. He would have been able to go down as the greatest shortstop since Honus Wagner. With a position change, it makes it difficult to place him at a position as an all-time great (presuming his career continues in the same direction). Seriously, it's hard to bounce Mike Schmidt from the list of best 3rd baseman ever, when he will only play there for a little more than half his career.

Of course winning solves most problems, so I expect that will help me get over my initial mixed feelings. Well that and the first bit of insane ranting/angst from Red Sox fans that will just make me grin and laugh.

Of course the Yanks now need a second baseman. Some are already considering the possibilities.

All For A Guy In Jail?

I guess he had a certain quality

A bitter feud between two women vying for an inmate's affection resulted in a four-car crash six months ago that killed one of the romantic rivals and her young son and led yesterday to the other's arrest.

Pittsburgh homicide detectives yesterday afternoon surprised an unsuspecting Jamie Upshur and charged her with criminal homicide in the Aug. 10 deaths of Timira Brown and her 4-year-old son, Taymon.

Police said witness accounts and information about the women's violent, five-month dispute quickly led detectives to believe foul play was at the center of the crash.
Police said Upshur was speeding south on Route 28, first beside Brown's car and then behind it. Upshur's car struck Brown's station wagon, and both vehicles then crossed the center line and collided with oncoming traffic, police said.

Four cars in all were involved in the accident. Brown, 25, a school bus driver from the North Side, was killed instantly. Her son died three days later at Children's Hospital.

Six people, including Upshur, were injured. April Johnson was a passenger in Upshur's car, Brown's daughter, Jadion, who was a year old at the time, was in her car.
The two had been feuding since March, when Brown discovered she and Upshur had been visiting the same man in the Allegheny County Jail.

Accusations flew back and forth. Vandalizing cars, breaking windows, protection orders. All for some guy in prison. Yeesh.

Try Again

Geez, I've been lazy over here. Too much happening with Pitt basketball.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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