Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shouldn't this be a question that is asked on the campaign trail?

You know, I don't necessarily like the campaigns for the next President starting already. BUT, since the candidates did not take my counsel (well, at least most of them didn't) and have already thrown their hat into the ring, it's time to get into campaign mode.

SO I ask you: don't you think, in light of the comments made by the Senate majority leader last week regarding his view that our efforts in Iraq are a lost cause, that SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE would want to ask the declared candidates their view on the issue?

I mean, Reid really upped the ante last week. He clearly presented a view that could easily be formed into a yes-no question for everyone with aspirations of being the Commander-in-Chief of this country's military and the the chief foreign policy course-setter of the country: "do you believe the Iraq war is lost?"

Let's see how his fellow Dems would answer that question. Not only do I think that the majors will find a new way to say "next question" in 300 words or more, but I have a funny feeling they won't be quick to send Reid a thank-you basket.

YOU KNOW, this whole war issue is leading me to become less of a fan of representative democracy as a form of government. While it is certain that the war in Iraq was the main reason for a good number of the votes that helped hand Congressional control to the Dems this past November, it was not the only issue. Yet the Dems keep using the results from November as a club over the head, causing (in my opinion) more damage to the image of America abroad than anything that has happened in Iraq. The lessons of VietNam are coming back to roost (the way to defeat our army is political, not on the battlefield), but this time it is against an enemy that does not abide by the structure of a state that we could wage a full war against.

I just don't get the Dems' "big picture" on this one. Granted, they hate Bush, and would love to taint the entirety of his administration by forcing us to abandon our stake in Iraq before we had seen it through to completion. But what else does this do for them? Forget the fact that a withdrawal from Iraq would likely be a crushing blow to that entire region's hopes for stability, potentially resulting in the massacre of millions of people--what about here and the institutions of this country?

--WHY would anybody want to sign up to join a military that doesn't even have the support of the country's legislature? And let's be clear: SUPPORT for the military doesn't mean being shy about employing them to do their job. SUPPORT means acting in your best conscience to ensure the troops have everything at their disposal to do the job that they are tasked. IF Reid, Pelosi and others think that the war is lost, then they have one course of action: cut the funds. Period. ANYTHING other than that action or full legislative agreement with the President's strategy is not support for the troops--it is double-talk to undermine a political adversary.

--WHAT is going to happen to the world's oil-based economy when a good part of that oil supply is held hostage by that region? I understand that we NEED to move away from oil. . .but we can't do that tomorrow. Or even the next tomorrow. . .or the next one thousand tomorrows. And that is for this country--what about for some other places that aren't as technologically advanced as we are? "Losing" in Iraq makes that entire region vulnerable to political upheaval, increasing the risk to the free-flow of oil that helps grease the global marketplace. Even if this country had "alternatives" in place, we would still feel a pinch (or more) from the countries that were fully reliant on oil trade.

--WHERE do people from other countries go to find inspiration and hope if we fail to live up to the promise of democracy? Here is my rudimentary boil-down of the ideologies that will be at war in the 21st century, in much the same manner that totalitarianism and democracy were at war for the 20th century: hope in this life versus despair in this life. America, and other functioning democracies in this world, provide their citizens with the hope of making a better life for themselves while still of this earth. But if democracy is proven to be an empty suit--or at least to lack the backbone to stand up for itself in the face of aggression--then what "hope" do the oppressed have of making a better life for themselves and their families here on earth? That lack of hope feeds into despair. . .which feeds into the ideology that promotes the destruction of life here on earth in order to meet a supposed salvation in the afterlife. WE CAN'T LET THIS IDEOLOGY GAIN ANY MORE TRACTION!!! Democracy must thrive, and must continue to grow it's influence throughout the world--especially in places where oppression has been the order of the day for so long. To allow those oppressed peoples to remain "in the dark" about the beauty of democracy is to hurt the cause of goodness in some not insignificant manner. Every democracy we gain is worth an unquantifiable value in the long-term struggle against the forces of oppression and despair.

--WHO is going to value us as a partner for the future if we let the interests of an entire country go by the wayside because of some difficult times? Isolationism proved to be a flawed policy--and that was back when the world wasn't truly "global" in the way it did business. If our current allies decide they can do better than to have a finicky (or double-speaking) America on their team, we will essentially have isolationism thrust upon us--a truly dire scenario for our economy!

Okay, so I branched off a little bit on this one. But I just get SO WORKED UP about the Dems' strategy on this issue. Either cut off the funding and force the troops to come home, and be willing to suffer the consequences of that action, or tend to the OTHER business of the country while the military builds towards success in Iraq. That's what your job as a member of Congress is. If you want to determine foreign policy for this country, WIN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION for crying out loud--but don't attack our current policy while you lack the will to implement an Constitutionally-acceptable alternative.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

again: unintended consequences

First of all, the tragedy: what a stunningly senseless loss of life at Virginia Tech. My prayers go out to all those who have been/will be affected by the actions of the gunman on that day.

As is common in the wake of such events, people talk. And people in the public eye talk publicly. Today, my focus is on Sen. Barack Obama, who has made quite a bit of a splash with his talk in Milwaukee on Monday night, where he of course felt compelled to mention the events at Blacksburg from earlier in the day. He brought something new to the table, though, essentially saying that racial intolerance, outsourcing, and an underperforming public school system are all forms of violence.

Um. . .no.

Racial intolerance is intolerable. Underperforming public schools are unfortunate and should be made a part of our history--as in "no longer present in the here and now". Outsourcing. . .doesn't even belong on this list. Granted, it sucks when your job is "outsourced". . .but is there any evil lurking behind a business that decides to make a move that might bring them more profit? Some people would call that capitalism--and unless there is some form of exploitation involved, I can't really bring myself to decry outsourcing.

Violence, while both intolerable and unfortunate, is SOOO MUCH WORSE! To say violence is on a whole other level than things that are intolerable and unfortunate is only a beginning.

Decent Americans understand that bigotry is uncivil. Decent Americans understand that it is an outrage that a good portion of our school-age children will not get the mental stimulation and support that young minds need and deserve from their classrooms.

But most decent Americans DON'T understand violence--or at least they shouldn't. The whats, whys and hows of violence should all be a mystery because we should feel, as a country, that no situation, no matter how strange, will end in violence. We definitely shouldn't think that a Monday morning on a college campus will result in extraordinary amounts of violence.

To compare the gross human depradation that found a messenger on Monday morning with ANY aspect of our society that stops short of the destruction of innocent life makes for theater of the worst kind. And I call it theater because Obama was trying to get a reaction, plain and simple. Does anybody honestly think that Obama considers outsourcing nearly as bad as mass murder? Why even apply the same word to describe them?

The irony here, of course, is that Obama was trying to draw out the fact that we, as a society, have become desensitized to violence, which is one of the reasons why it still exists. Or so is his opinion.

Hmmm. . .

MAYBE if talking heads didn't try to water down the meaning of the word "violence" by using it to describe things that are distinctly NOT violent, we might actually gain some sensitivity back.

I can't even begin to describe how big of a stumble this is for Obama. His chief qualification so far for his candidacy has been his "eloquence"--or at least that's all I have seen. When he makes oratorical blotches like this, it only brings more light to the fact that he is a political lightweight on the national scene. The VaTech rampage was a tragedy in its own right--it didn't need the name Don Imus attached to it to make it repulsive to decent people.

But according to Obama, the two totally incomparable "episodes" are catchwords for violence.

Or maybe Obama was just way out of his league.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Idol blogging

It had to happen. My favorite TV show, coupled with my favorite hobby--a date made in heaven.

I've got TONS of thoughts about this season's AI, but I'm going to start with one of my favorite overall topics: hypocrisy.

"Idol" Reject Is Trying to Screw the Show

Posted by TMZ Staff (link, with fairly unfavorable photos, here)

Paris Bennett votes for Sanjaya Malakar -- and she hopes it'll take down "American Idol."Last season's petite powerhouse phoned into the "Tone E Fly Morning Show" in Minneapolis today, and called "Idol" "a joke," and said she and a few other contestants are using the Web site to screw with the results. "We want to see him [Sanjaya] win because it'll kind of prove that 'American Idol' is kind of losing its taste," says Bennett, "it kinda isn't going for talent anymore and more for popularity."

This is so sad. Bennett, as you may recall, was a darling of the show last year, making it all the way to the final 5. She may have had the same degree of vocal talent as any of the other 4 (although I personally thought Kat McPhee was in a vocal class all her own), but it wasn't a clear landslide. And the show ISN'T simply about pipes--it's about performing. And although Bennett showed a great degree of savvy on the stage, and was really entertaining to watch, her counterparts were equally skilled at "bringing it home" to the audience. Honestly, any of the top 5 from last year's show would have been good Idols, although it appears that Chris Daughtry is the one with the most commercially marketable niche.

But THIS YEAR'S show is not deserving of her ire. Of the 7 remaining contestants, 4 of them(Melinda, LeKisha, Jordin and Phil) have voices at least on-par with Bennett's; 2 of the remaining guys are very entertaining (Blake and Chris--in fact, Blake is REALLY entertaining!). So which one of these "deserving" contestants get her vote? That would be none, since she--supposedly along with other contestants, but I'd be interested to know who--conspires with a good chunk of Idol-hating America to keep Sanjaya--the least-talented vocal performer of the bunch--in the running.

Sanjaya's popularity is this not hard-to-comprehend monster that I think will run out of steam in the next 2 weeks or so. Heck, he's riding a lot of the same vibe that got Justin Guarini all the way into the FINALS of season 1. Sanjaya would probably still be in the contest even if it wasn't for sites like If only we could know...

But people like Bennett-who are MAKING the show more about popularity than about talent-- shouldn't rail against the very same sword that they are wielding.

Here's my question to young Ms Bennett: what are you trying to prove? Do you want the vehicle that could have turned into a launching pad for your vocal career to lose all form of credibility? And how can you know that YOU were kept around last because America thought you had real talent? Maybe you were last year's Sanjaya? It happens about every year, doesn't it? And it certainly wasn't Kat, or Chris, or Elliot, or eventual winner Taylor. . .hmmm.

Ms Bennett showed a great degree of composure in the competition last year. Too bad she seems to have lost that skill now that the lights are shining on another group of performers.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The law of unintended consequences

First of all, HAPPY EASTER! May you and your family enjoy this very special day--and may you be teaching your younger ones the true meaning of this day.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program:

I'm a semi-big fan of golf.

I LOVE playing the game, although I rarely find myself with enough time to get to the course anymore. But believe you me, when I finally make it big financially (no doubt through my blogging enterprise--tee hee), I am going to spend a good deal of time on the golf course.

And I somewhat love watching golf on TV. Although I may not be a week-in, week-out watcher of the tournaments, I probably watch more golf than the average guy.

The word "somewhat" above gets thrown out when it comes to The Masters. I truly enjoy watching that tournament. The course, the golf, the lineup of players. . .it's the best of golf viewing, bar none.

Or at least that was my opinion until this year.

Color me a non-fan of "Tigerproofing", the process of changing Augusta so that Tiger Woods, the best golfer in the game today, doesn't continue to walk away with record-low scores and enough green jackets to sew his own golf hole.

Now I'm all about increasing competition! And I don't mind saying that Tiger is not my favorite golfer--I don't hate him, mind you, but I will almost always find myself rooting for whatever competition he has that week, if for no other reason than I am a sympathetic sucker for the underdog. And let's face it--if you find yourself up against Tiger for a tournament title, you are an underdog. Maybe even an extraordinary underdog, so complete is Tiger's reign on the golf world.

But "Tigerproofing", especially at Augusta, has not increased the competition. In fact, the added length has taken all but about 20 players out of contention before the first ball is even teed up. One of those handful of players still in the running, of course, is Tiger. Not among that handful of players are Mike Weir, a former champion at Augusta, and David Toms, who won a classic match against Phil Mickelson in Georgia 6 years ago to bring home a major title. Their ilk are almost afterthoughts, relegated to posting "nice" scores and finishing early enough on Sunday afternoon to be able to watch the real drama of the leaders hitting the final 7 holes from the clubhouse locker room.

But more than being counterproductive to the cause, the changes to the golf course have led to some U.S. Open-like scoring from the field. And I, for one, don't really care to watch the U.S. Open. I have no desire to watch the best golfers in the world struggling for par because it's just not good TV.

Augusta, among the majors, was always different. The last 27 holes of the Masters used to bring out some of the most invigorating viewing from any sport (perhaps made doubly so because folks who actually watch televised golf are pretty dedicated fans of the sport). My brother wrote a few weeks ago about the great stretch of sports-watching upcoming, which included March Madness and Opening Day in baseball. The Masters used to be the crown jewel of that collection, because no matter how good the Madness was (and I LOVE the Madness!), the Masters almost always topped it as pure spectator spectacle.

Not anymore. The likelihood of being "wowed" by the low scores posted on holes 13 and 15 is getting smaller. The chance of watching someone piece together a 30 on the back nine to surge into the lead on Sunday afternoon--like Nicklaus did in '86 to win his 6th jacket--is practically nil.

Maybe some of it is the weather, I'll give you that. However, I still don't think there's any way that this field, in these same conditions, playing the course as it was back in 1995, for example, would be over par.

How ironic that the best hole to watch now is the 12th, a simple-looking par 3, all of 170 yards when played to its full length. Mostly unchanged by the hand of Tigerproofing, it still brings out some of the best drama in the sport.

Of course, only a handful of players will REALLY be actors in the Masters drama by the time they hit the 12th on Sunday afternoon.

One of them, of course, will be Tiger Woods. Because no matter how much you "Tigerproof" the sport, he will be at the top of the leaderboard. He's that good.

But I won't be watching his historic run for his 5th green jacket with baited breath at home. Tigerproofing, as a strategy, is that bad--it has ruined what used to be one of my favorite events to watch.

And that's not Tiger's fault. All he is is a phenomenal talent.

But the masters of the Augusta National Committee didn't want to embrace his talent and let their tournament be used as a springboard to some historic performances. So instead they contrived a system that nearly guarantees his supremacy for the next decade or so while making the weekend almost entirely devoid of "the little men" of golf. You know, the ones that we casual players can identify with.

Which brings me to my point: sometimes, every once in a while, some ONE comes along that is just better at their "job" than has ever been seen before. That talent should be recognized and celebrated--not cursed and minimized. If we fail to recognize the best in us as a human race, then we give no reason for people to become specialists in their field.

And by the way: the really special people will find a way to overcome whatever obstacles are in their place. Tiger has proven that. He'll keep bringing home green jackets more frequently than the mailman brings me bills for my cellphone, regardless of what the folks at Augusta do to their course.

That is, until some other amazing talent emerges on the scene that can handle Tiger at that course.

I wonder what ANC will do then?

UPDATE: so maybe the weather did have a lot to do with the scores. Today, in much better conditions, a third of the field shot par or better, and there was more than a little excitement in the back nine play today. Best of all: Zach Johnson is a guy I can really get behind. He showed some steely nerves today, and the kind of humility that you love to see. This was a good way to end the tournament!