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Category Archives: commentary

I came to pro-wrestling fandom through a rather odd route. Stefan Gagne, one of the best and most respected anime fanfiction writers of all time, started a group fic by the name of Magical Troubleshooting Crossover Fighting Federation Ultra. The premise of the series was to put anime/manga/video game characters into a sports entertainment setting, with all the interpersonal melodrama and character instability that implies. The fic lost a lot of fans due to pro-wrestling’s tendency toward rapid change leading to some characters ending up in a very different place than canon, but I still regard it as one of the best fanfics ever written.

Then one day Gagne himself posted Ultra vs. The WWF parts one and two. Still the high point of the series, scenes included a hilarious in hindsight bit of trash talking in which Mortal Kombat’s Johnny Cage insulted pro-wrestling by calling The Rock an actor, King of Fighter’s eternal student, Yabuki Shingo begging the Rock to train him, and Edge and Christian beating Capcom’s succubus sisters, Morrigan and Lilith, by submission.

About a year before that, I had seen the infamous Insane Clown Posse video, Stranglemania. I was not a wrestling fan at that point, but even then, and even with ICP’s utter mutilation of the matches, I knew there was something fascinating about this guy I was watching, Cactus Jack. When I found out the character Mankind, mentioned in Ultra vs. The WWF, was the same man, I decided to try watching actual WWF programming.

I came for Mick Foley. I stayed for the Hardy Boys, the Dudley Boys (AKA Team 3D,) and Edge and Christian. This seemingly never-ending three-way feud had me glued to the TV, and to smark websites when I was in Korea. Little did I know I would be watching Edge fight one or both of the Hardy brothers for nigh on ten years, both in and out of character.

The Hardys and the Dudleys are now in TNA, and Edge… Edge, this past Monday, retired from the sport as the World Heavyweight Champion. In fact the three-way tag team feud has produced a whopping 18 World Championships: 2 for Christian, 5 for Jeff Hardy, and 11 for Edge.

As wrestlers have come and gone, there are only a small handful of performers whom I have truly and honestly missed: The Rock, Rob Van Dam before he joined TNA, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley before he became a self-parody, Hayabusa. He’s only been gone since Friday, and I can honestly say Edge will be part of that group. Thank you, Mr. Copeland.

The United States is a very introverted society. What I mean by this is that we tend to view every international incident through the prism of American politics. Take, for example, our four most recent military engagements: Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Most Americans tend to group the first and last together as “The Democrats’ Wars” and the middle two as “The Republicans’ Wars,” and to correspondingly view them through that partisan lens. Certainly there is no shortage of principled people who were consistently opposed or consistently supportive regardless of party affiliation. These people are respectable even if I disagree with them.

Admittedly, I’m being a little unfair as most people acknowledge that Afghanistan is different; our national interest in there is (or at least was) obvious to anyone who is not a blinkered anti-American ideologue. That leaves Bosnia, Iraq, and Libya. A lot of Americans tend to group the conflicts by the party of the President who got us into the conflict, in which case it is Iraq which stands out from the pack.

I submit that it is Libya which is the outlier for one simple reason; in Bosnia and Iraq we were dealing with a peaceful citizenry which was systematically being terrorized by a violent lunatic. The same was true of Afghanistan, even if humanitarian impulses were not the US’s primary motivation. The same is also true of Syria, Iran, Sudan, etc, though certainly not of Egypt and Tunisia, whose dictators stepped down with minimal violence.

What sets Libya apart from these conflicts is not that Qaddhafi is not a violent lunatic or an oppressive dictator; it is that the uprising is decidedly not peaceful. Whether we like him and his administration or not, Qaddhafi is the recognized leader of a sovereign nation who is simply putting down an armed rebellion. This is not a humanitarian crisis on the same level as Assad and Ahmadinejad firing on peaceful protesters or Hussein and Milosevic exterminating populations who aren’t even doing that much. Every state has the right to defend itself against armed insurgency, whether the rest of the world likes who’s in charge or not.

It’s one thing to intervene when an actual humanitarian crisis is taking place. It is an entirely different prospect to actively take sides in someone else’s civil war. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t root for the insurgents (though there is a legitimate question as to their ideology) but if we want to intervene somewhere on humanitarian grounds, we should be focusing on Iran and Syria, not Libya.


The other news that came out this week concerned the infamous Goldstone Report, in which a UN “investigation” alleged that Israel was systematically committing war crimes, specifically the intentional targeting of civilians during raids on Palestinian terror camps. The report was lauded by anti-Zionists and anti-Semites as the smoking gun which finally proved Israel’s guilt. Finally, the anti-Zionists had proof that the Palestinians were simple freedom fighters, undeserving of the terrorist label affixed to them by the Zionist conspiracy.

Well, it turns out that now Goldstone, himself is admitting that the report is flawed. He admits that there is little to no evidence that Israel intentionally targeted civilians, while the evidence that Hamas did such is so obvious as to not need pointing out.

Really, I have little to add that hasn’t been covered by Jeffrey Goldberg, or the ever enlightening Ricochet Community. Goldberg’s pithy, “Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to retract a blood libel, once it has been broadcast across the world,” really says all there is to say about this. To say that Goldstone’s apology is insufficient is an understatement on par with saying the galaxy is “quite large.”

The part of Goldstone’s retraction which really makes me rage is this:

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion.

In other words, Israel was accused of war crimes because no one could prove they hadn’t done it! I don’t know about South Africa, where Goldstone served as a judge at the time of the report, but in most of the civilized world we have a standard usually stated as, “Innocent until proven guilty beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt.” What this means is that if you can’t affirmatively prove a person committed a crime you must assume they did not. Of course it’s common knowledge to anyone who pays attention that the UN routinely ignores any rules of justice, impartiality, or common sense where Israel is concerned.

Of course, that is far from the only idiotic thing Goldstone says in the retraction. Anyone who honestly expects Hamas to transparently cooperate with a war crimes investigation is too stupid to run a lemonade stand. Similarly, anyone who expects Israel to cooperate fully with a UNHRC investigation is shamefully ignorant of the committee’s record of open anti-Semitism. Goldstone tries to pass the buck by blaming Israel’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, while studiously ignoring the plain fact that Israel had absolutely no reason to trust a organization whose anti-Israel bias was so blatant and so odious that President Bush refused to send an ambassador to the committee. Bush feared that American cooperation would legitimize a council on “human rights” that gives Libya and Cuba seats, but accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity.” He was right. President Obama’s reversal of this refusal of recognition was the first of many foreign policy mistakes, and unlike most of his other naive blunders this one has not been undone.

And in the end, as I pointed out above, Israel was right not to trust the investigators who took a guilty until proven innocent approach to Israel and went on to publish a report which provided legitimacy to terrorist organizations, and caused thousands of useful idiots to excuse the intentional slaughter of who knows how many innocents, not the least of which is the beheading of a three month old baby.

Goldstone has committed slander against an entire nation, and in the process put not only its legitimacy but its very existence in jeopardy. He will have to do a lot more than this to make up for the damage he’s done.

It’s sad that after almost 90 years of existence, the NFL still has no idea who their target audience is. In a poorly received attempt to seem “hip” the Superbowl featured Christina Aguilera singing the national anthem, and the Black Eyed Peas doing the halftime show. Both of these choices proved to be embarrassments.

In fairness, Christina Aguilera can sing her proverbial ass off. Unfortunately for the NFL that’s exactly what she did. Flubbing the lines to The Star Spangled Banner, while a tad unprofessional, can easily be hand-waved away as mere nerves. Unfortunately (I’m using that word a lot) the lyrical gaffe was far from her most egregious error. In fact, I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out to me later because I couldn’t understand the words, because she had completely obliterated the melody with the sort of vocal histrionics which has made modern R&B unlistenable. This was the culmination of a trend in which singers forget that they are supposed to lead the crowd in singing the anthem rather than perform it themselves. Even then, though, most “performers” still sing the song mostly straight, usually restricting their egos to a bit of melisma in the “land of the free” line. Beyonce and the Zac Brown band deserve credit for resisting even that temptation. Aguilera simply embarrassed herself, and arguably disrespected the national anthem.

Now on to the Black Eyed Peas. Really, a funny bit of wikipedia vandalism summed it up better than I ever could: The Black Eyed Peas’ halftime show displayed less professionalism than the average high school musical. Will.I.Am couldn’t resist changing the lyrics to one song to throw in unwanted politics, Fergie barked like an old lady, and those other two guys were… present. The only two high points of their show were the sudden, unexplained appearance by Slash, and the look on my parents’ faces when I informed them that the band hadn’t even played their worst song.

The problem with the show isn’t just that the Black Eyed Peas are bad, it’s that they don’t belong there. The NFL’s audience consists primarily of working class and middle class white males. This isn’t to say that women, minorities, and rich people don’t watch, but when the chips fall we all know who pro-football’s fanbase is. This is why the halftime shows that have worked best have been blue-collar rock acts: Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, U2. Prince was a bit of a stretch, but even he had the good sense to put together a rockin’ set list instead of trying to force his more R&B flavored stuff on the audience. The point is that pro football has a sort of aura of blue collar, “clinging to their guns and religion,” middle America. Petty and Springsteen fit this image, as do U2, the Stones, and to a lesser extent Paul McCartney despite not being American.

Naturally this goes double when the game is Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay. Thank God the game itself was great, because the music could hardly have been worse.