Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Scary Thought

Today I saw a photograph of Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain sitting next to each other at a function at a military base. In today's politically charged environment, you'd think they would be scowling, but instead they were smiling as though they knew something the rest of the world didn't.

I know I can't read minds, but seeing that duo smiling like they were gave me a scary thought. Are they coming out with a Director's Cut of "Gigli"? Then, I thought of the real scary thought. What if Hillary and McCain teamed up as a moderate ticket in 2008? It's entirely possible, folks, and here's how.

First, there's Hillary. She's on the outs with many people in her party for voting in favor of the war resolution giving President Bush the authority to go into Iraq. However, she still has people willing to support her, even if the main party bosses don't. And those people translate into votes. Also, Hillary is trying to appear moderate, which will attract other moderates to her so long as she can keep up the image.

One way she can appear to be more moderate is to hook up politically with someone like John McCain, who is on the outs with his party for the most part. After his 2000 run and with some of the actions he's taken (McCain-Feingold comes to mind), McCain isn't beloved by the Republican base. However, he's still a big hit with moderates, liberal Republicans, and conservative Democrats. Heck, even the media love to call him a "maverick" because of his frequent stances against his own party.

Take a Democrat looking to appear more moderate, add a Republican with moderate credentials, and throw in an electorate tired of partisan bickering, and what do you have? Hillary/McCain 08. Hillary fulfills her dream of being the first female President (provided some liberal whackjob poet doesn't deem her husband to be the first female President), and McCain gets as close to the Oval Office as he'll be able to ever get. And all it will take is for the two of them to be chummy and to lose in the primaries, which may be more likely than we think. Once they're bounced, a PR event can be called, they come out and say they're teaming up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or will be if this comes to pass and people don't wise up to it. I hope and pray I'm wrong, but in a country where a "Friends" spinoff gets beyond one episode without being any good, I'm not betting the farm on it.

Hillary's "Botched Joke"

To kick off her Presidential run, Hillary Clinton came to Iowa (and on a weekend when I was out of town, no less). During a stop in Davenport, Hillary was asked whether she could handle evil men, and she responded that she has experience dealing with "evil and bad men."

This got an interesting reaction from the crowd and from the media. Was she talking about Osama bin Laden...or about Bill Clinton? And that's the thing: nobody really knows what she was talking about or if she really has dealt with evil and bad men. This is going to come as a shock to some of my conservative readers, but I don't think Bill was an evil or a bad man. Frankly, I think he was an intelligent man who was in way over his head on foreign policy and merely average on domestic issues. Does that make him evil? Not really. It does, however, speak volumes as to our ability to pick good Presidents.

I think Hillary caught the same hoof in mouth disease that plagued John Kerry late last year. It sounded to me like Hillary was trying to make a joke, but left off the punchline or didn't deliver the punchline correctly. If you leave your audience wondering if you've told a joke, you didn't tell the joke correctly.

Yet, I can't help but think that this may have been a set-up from the outset. One thing I learned about Hillary during her 2000 Senate run was that she loved to micromanage public events, down to the approval of the audience. Is it truly that farfetched to believe she might put a "ringer" in the audience to help her seem more spontaneous? Not in my world, it's not.

So, the question becomes why would she do something like that. Simple. Hillary wants to build momentum, and she realizes she lacks any real experience that would make her qualified to be President. One of the big issues the President has to deal with is foreign policy, especially as it pertains to the war on terrorism, of which Hillary is pretty much devoid of any experience. So, when the question was asked whether she could handle evil men, she needed a diversion.

Hence, the "botched joke." Humor is often a good way of disarming the audience and diverting attention away from something that might embarass the speaker. In such an early stage of the campaign with so much media attention surrounding her, Hillary needed to buy time to develop a solid approach to such a question, so she told the joke to divert attention at least temporarily and allow her that time to develop a better answer to that question.

So, Hillary's comment about having experience dealing with "evil and bad men" may just be a ruse disguised as a joke. Is it any wonder Hillary doesn't come off as sincere?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cultists vs. Deniers

The global warming debate has always been somewhat personal to some people, but lately the people who believe man is responsible for rising temperatures have taken it to a new level. Several, including Robert Kennedy, Jr., have suggested or even said that anyone who doesn't believe that global warming is real and that man is causing it is akin to Holocaust deniers. In fact, they've started calling global warming skeptics "global warming deniers" to underscore the connection they're trying to make.

Listen, I know you mean well and are trying to show how concerned you are about the status of the planet, but resorting to suggesting people who aren't with you are like David Duke and President Imadinnerjacket is assinine. Reasonable people can disagree on an issue like this, especially when you consider that the matter of whether there actually is global warming hasn't been settled yet. Most scientists agree that it is, but there is still convincing evidence that hasn't been explained away yet. Isn't science about trying to find what we believe to be the facts by looking at the available evidence?

Really, this is nothing new from the faux left. Whenever they believe someone is conserative and, thus, wrong, it's only a matter of time before the Nazi references start flying. To me, it's a sign of the intellectual weakness of their arguments, but it serves another purpose. The faux left thinks of itself as ultra-moral beings who have to save the world from itself. In short, they think they're all Superman and anyone who doesn't agree with them is Lex Luthor.

The problem is I've been following the global warming issue since the early 90s and I've found a number of disturbing trends from those who believe global warming is manmade. Namely, a lack of facts. Time and time again, those who think man is responsible for global warming have been presented with facts that contradict their opinions...and each time they cling to their position, getting more and more shrill in the process. That's why I've started calling people like that Global Warming Cultists because they cling to their notions, no matter how many times they've been disproven, like it was a religion.

Besides, the attempt to link Holocaust deniers with global warming skeptics falls flat. We can find evidence that the Holocaust happened. As of yet, we haven't truly determined with any degree of certainty that global warming is happening. And, no, there is no consensus on the subject, contrary to what the Cultists say.

But let's take it down another alley, using the logic being pushed by the Cultists. They say anyone who denies the reality of global warming is no different than someone who denies the Holocaust exists. Ah, but who was responsible for the Holocaust? That would be the Nazis.

What group sought to undermine or publicly discredit anyone who disagreed with them? The Nazis did that, certainly.

What group resorted to propaganda films to underscore the message that they were the superior creatures? If you said "Nazis," you would be correct.

What group considered anyone who opposed them to be imperfect creatures, not worthy of the least bit of respect? The Nazis.

What group's ideology promoted the state dictating to private industry how it was to do business? Chalk up another one for the Nazis.

Now, for the twist. Everything I've mentioned was not only done by the Nazis...but is currently being done by the Global Warming Cultists.

Class dismissed.

Ann Coulter Has Ruined Publishing!

I was in a Waldenbooks last night and crusing the aisles of my favorite section, Social Sciences. Here you will find a plethora of books dealing with current events, politics, and society. Normally, I can find something that piques my curiousity and makes me want to buy it.

Last night, though, was am exercise in futility. Looking over the titles and subjects of the books, I was disappointed with how devoid of substance the current titles for sale are. Here's a sampling.

- a book making the case for impeaching President Bush, with the first reason being that he "lied to Congress and the American people to get us into a senseless war" (Gee, no bias there.)
- Ann Coulter's latest screed about how immoral liberals are
- a book written by one of Air America's hosts, Sam Seder, talking about how bad things are in this country
- Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior, yet something else to pimp on his shows
- a book whose main point was that America is the cause of all bad things in the world
- two books by Michael Savage with his predictable bombastic style

I'd go on, but then I'd have to take something for nausea.

Since the late 90s, the publishing industry has gotten into publishing hatchet jobs written by hacks because they realized people wanted to read that sort of thing. And I'll admit I thought it was a good thing during the Clinton years to have books like High Crimes and Misdemeanors by Ann Coulter and Unlimited Access by Gary Aldrich out there for public consumption, mainly because I was convinced Bill Clinton was getting away with crimes. Even then, though, I shied away from conspiracy theory books saying Bill and Hillary orchestrated Vince Foster's murder or from books that were venomously partisan.

Once George W. Bush got elected, the books seemed to change their political bent. Sure, you'd still find the "Democrats suck" books out there, but now you'd find "Republicans suck" books along side of them. To compete with the shrillness of the opposite side, both sides amped up the nasty rhetoric and saw some of their books hit the best seller lists. That motivates both sides to keep up the nastiness and build on it.

But not every book is a best seller, leaving the dregs to take up space in bookstores.

Although it gives me hope that any schmuck can put fingers to keyboard and write a book (especially considering that I hope to become one of those schmucks someday), I have to wonder where the thoughtful books are. I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't seen them for a while now. Even Coulter has gone from somewhat sensible commentator to snarky mistress of controversy. And others don't even go through that transformation. What that leaves is the bitterness that modern politics always brings to the surface.

I walked out of Waldenbooks disheartened, but not all that surprised. We're to blame for this because we provide a market for the nutjobs with a political ax to grind to deliver their venomous dissertations on why their ideological opponents suck on ice. If we want to get back to a point where real debate can occur on the bookshelves, we need to insist on a more balanced approach to addressing the issues brought up in the books themselves. Will it happen? I don't know.

But I do know that my reading list is going to be shorter until it does.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hollywood Just Doesn't Get It

Dakota Fanning's new film "Hounddog" is having trouble getting a buyer. The film has been getting horrible reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, which is said to be causing the reluctance. But I have a different reason.

It's because of the 12 year old girl played by Fanning getting raped in the film.

Hollywood lives in its own little world and seems to be divorced, or at the very least legally separated, from the rest of us. Come on, who really thought "The Dukes of Hazzard" needed the big screen treatment? Time after time, movie goers have to choose between the 7:10 showing of complete crap and the 7:25 showing of other complete crap.

And when they're not trying to recycle bad ideas into even worse movies, Hollywood seems hellbent on "saving" us, Hollywood style. Some of the films that have come out in the past decade have been more morality tales than films, trying to get us to follow their way of thinking. More often than not, there isn't much morality in their morality tales. "American Beauty" glamorized the midlife crisis and adult-teen sexual relations. "Brokeback Mountain" was a love story about two married men having a gay affair. And now "Hounddog" advances a scene where a 12 year old gets raped. And from early indications, the scene really wasn't that important to the film.

Know that that is, boys and girls? That's called exploitation. Granted, Hollywood has exploited the talents of children for decades, but it still doesn't make it right. And with "Hounddog" somebody had to green-light it and then shoot the footage and get Dakota Fanning and her parents to consent to it. Even if the scene isn't that graphic, the idea of it should disturb people, especially parents. How in the heck did the filmmaker think this would go over with the public?

I'm no Hollywood insider (and given what I've seen coming out of there, I'm glad for that), but I can tell you that it's no coincidence that theater revenues are dropping. We go to movies to be entertained and to escape the real world. (Of course, the Internet does the same thing for a lot cheaper, but I digress.) When Hollywood can't do either, the money's not going to be there. Even if Americans aren't so swift on a number of things, we still know right and wrong and quality from crap.

So, keep pumping out the stinkbombs and faux morality tales. Just try to look surprised when you make less money than an air conditioner salesman at Ice Station Zero.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Restoring Our Stature in the World

Something that has been on the faux left's mind for months has been what they believe is our faltering image in the world. They claim President Bush's war on terrorism and Iraq has "squandered" the world's good will after 9/11. And they lament over this and suggest that Bush start using diplomacy instead of "cowboy diplomacy" to achieve results.

Of course, they'd be right...if they weren't so oblivious about world diplomacy.

Let's lay out some facts here.

1) The majority of the world hates us and will continue to hate us regardless of what we do. The United Nations is full of representatives of countries who blame us for their problems. Whether it's the spread of AIDS in Africa or poverty around the world, we're the source of all evil to these folks. Of course, their solution is that we need to send them more money which they'll promptly ensure doesn't get anywhere near the people who need it. Do you honestly think these countries will stop hating us if we follow the faux liberal approach? I don't.

2) We tried diplomacy before we invaded Iraq. The faux left always seems to jump over this point when they bash Bush for the Second Iraq War. We went to the UN, hat in hand, asking them for their help...and they refused, citing a lack of evidence that Iraq was in violation of the 1991 UN cease fire it signed to stop the First Gulf War. Of course, Kofi Anan and his son were both taking money under the table from Saddam and the UN sent Mr. Magoo to do the weapons inspections, but that's Bush's fault, right? It has to be because he DARED to hold Iraq accountable to the cease fire and actually took offense at Iraq's attempt to kill his father and shoot down our planes in the 90s.

3) Some of our "allies" have betrayed us. When we tried to go the diplomatic route and make the argument to go into Iraq, some of our allies (France, Germany, and Russia) came out strongly against it, citing the same reasons the UN did. But it turns out all three were making money off Saddam being in power, so they had a vested interest in us failing. When some of our allies put their own financial security above world security, these are not the people we need to be impressing.

4) The terrorists don't want to talk. Wesley Clark thinks we should open dialogue with the countires in the Middle East to resolve tensions there. One tiny problem there, Wes. They don't want to talk to us honestly to resolve things in a diplomatic fashion. Iran wants us dead. Syria wants us to fail in Iraq. Saudi Arabia tolerates us as long as we keep buying their oil. Not exactly the way to set a strong foundation of diplomacy.

5) Diplomacy fails against liars. Remember when Bill Clinton tried to be nice to North Korea's Kim Jong Il? They had an agreement that North Korea wouldn't start developing nuclear technology. We cajoled him, we promised him perks for agreeing, and delivered on those promises for freebies. And guess what? It didn't work because Kim Jong Il lied to us. That's the thing about diplomacy: it only works when both sides are willing to deal honestly with each other. If one side comes to the table willing to lie to get what it wants, the diplomatic effort will fail. We saw it with Kim Jong Il. We saw it with Yassir Arafat. And we'll see it with Iran, Syria, and the terrorists.

So, I wouldn't put too much stock in the faux left's concern about our world image. Seems to me the rest of the world needs to work on its own world image before we do.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

There's No Crying in Politics!

John Kerry announced today that he would not seek the Democrat nomination for President in 2008. In an emotional speech before the Senate, Kerry swore to make up for his vote in favor of the Congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq in 2002.

Gee. On top of being a traitor, a flip-flopper, a poor comedian, and a loser, he's now a crybaby? It's a good thing he lost in 2004 or there's no telling what kind of touchy-feely crap he'd be pulling in the White House.

Either way, it's a bittersweet moment knowing that Kerry won't be running for President in 2008. On the one hand, it's good because he's not that strong a candidate. Not only was he inept in the face of criticism, such as the Swift Boat Vets ads and the image that he is a flip-flopper, but he never really got how to connect with people outside of his party. In 2004, Democrats were all about "We're not Bush." In fact, Kerry even said that as a reason to vote for him. Oooooh, sor-ray. People want to vote for someone, not against someone, and Kerry never really made a solid argument why people should vote for him.

On the other hand, it's bad that Kerry's not running. Why? My John Kerry impression is fairly good, and now I won't get a chance to use it that much now...

Seriously, the bad part about it is that Kerry won't have to give up his Senate seat to run, thus he'll be in the Senate until he's defeated (unlikely in the People's Republic of Massachusetts) or he retires. In either case, he's there, thus depriving Massachusetts a chance to elect some new blood. That may not seem like a problem to some Democrats, but it is. Kerry represents the worst of the modern liberal mindset: that they are entitled to walk the halls of power because of their ideology, not because of their merit. And they will be damned if they give up their power to anyone, let alone to anyone who might share their ideology, but have good ideas that might actually help improve things.

This is one of the things I hate about modern politics. Those who win elections tend to stay in power without considering what their presence actually does for the country. I'm sure Kerry would say that he's serving Massachusetts and the country by serving in the Senate, but let's not overlook the fact that Kerry doesn't often show up for work, but still gets paid like he does. That's not the American way, and it's not the way real Americans make money.

But it's the way John Kerry does (well, that, and marrying rich widows). And it's attitudes like his that have turned America from a shining example to a mockery. Fortunately, we won't have to find out what a Kerry Presidency would be like at least for now.

And unlike Kerry, I won't be shedding a tear over it.

The American Response to the Democrat Response

After reading the text of the Democrat response to the President's State of the Union Address as delivered by Senator Jim Webb, I was once again struck by how detatched from reality Democrats seem to be as it pertains to the economy and foreign policy. Let's let Webb's words speak for themselves:

When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Since when are companies required to fairly share the profits? I would remind Senator Webb that his party boasts some of the richest members of Congress, making far more than the average American on a daily basis, too, for doing far less. If Webb and his cohorts are concerned about the difference between the pay grades of CEOs and janitors, they could take the bold step of giving up their fortunes to help bring up the average workers' salaries.

But then that would mean they would actually do something other than complain.

Meanwhile, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the great economy. We're at record low unemployment, far lower than the "great Clinton economy" I might add. People are keeping more of what they earn, which helps the economy in numerous ways. And the country's manufacturing base has been shrinking for a while now because we've moved away from manufacturing and more into a service-based economy. That was happening before Bush was President, and nothing you can do will fix it after Bush leaves office.

Now, let's take on the Democrats' concerns about American foreign policy.

The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The Democrats have no business criticizing Bush's foreign policy, considering their last President empowered al Qaeda repeatedly with his ineffective handling of international terrorism. Not to mention, they gave China and North Korea green lights to do whatever they wanted without us doing anything about it. And let's not forget that if Clinton had held Saddam Hussein accountable to the terms of the 1991 UN cease fire he signed to end the first Gulf War, there wouldn't have been the need for a second Gulf War.

But at least the rest of the world was our friends, right? Not so much. They loved Bill Clinton for being so willing to try to please them, but that didn't make them our friends. It made them our masters.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

Okay, let me get this straight. The current plan is faulty, but we should use it along with an as-yet undefined Democrat strategy to forge a new plan? Sorry, Senator, but I don't buy it. Your party has advanced the notion that we should just pull up stakes and leave Iraq to fend for itself. That in and of itself would be a new direction: reverse. If we leave before Iraq is secure, we leave it open for other Middle Eastern countries, like Iran, to sweep in and take it over. Then, we will be left with twice the problems we have now.

So, you'll excuse me if I don't think your party's ideas are worth that much, Senator. They've been discredited time and time again by history, but you insist that they'll work this time. Let me save you, and us, a lot of trouble and give away the ending.

Your party's ideas will fail and leave us weaker as a result.

That's not American, Senator. And I will not stand for it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Federal Health Insurance? No Thanks...

In President Bush's State of the Union Address, he pushed for federal involvement in providing Americans access to health insurance. Some believe this is the only way to help people, especially the elderly or those who need expensive treatments. Others believe it will lead to lower standards and higher costs, which defeats the purpose of any such legislation.

Me? I'm just wondering when it became the federal government's responsibility to provide medical insurance to anyone. Regardless of whether it's means-tested or just throwing money at people in the hopes they'll invest it in medical insurance, it doesn't matter to me. Any federal involvement in health care, even health insurance, will hurt us more than it will heal.

The current system is broken in spots. Rising drug costs, outrageous malpractice suits and insurance costs, HMOs, the list goes on and on of things that need to be fixed. Yet, our system, broken as it may be, is still one of the best in the world and I believe it's because we allow for competition. In economics, whenever you have two or more people providing the same service for different entities, innovation thrives.

That innovation does not thrive in a government-run health insurance system because government doesn't understand the laws of supply and demand. Whenever they need more money, they can order more be printed or they can fudge budget numbers to make things work out. And unless there's another government out there to compete with the one we have right now, there's no reason for the fed to change. They're the only game in town and we're all playing.

Not only is allowing the government any power to establish or administer health insurance a HUGE power grab, it's an exercise in stupidity. Think about it. The federal government can't even balance a budget honestly. What makes you think they'll be able to complete a health insurance claim?

Mr. President, I know your heart's in the right place, but I have to question your judgment. Giving everyone affordable health insurance only puts the burden on those who produce without giving the non-producers a reason to change their ways. Compassion should come not out of force, but out of love or desire to do good by those who need good the most. The fed doesn't know compassion; all it knows is bureaucracy.

So, Mr. President, thank you for your offer, but I'll pass. I'd prefer to be the one to control my health insurance decisions. Nothing personal. I just think I can do the job better than somebody in Washington, DC, who doesn't even know me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ole Blue Eyes Is Back

I just finished reading The Way You Wear Your Hat by Bill Zehme about the late Frank Sinatra. I was one of those people who came to appreciate Sinatra's body of work after he had passed away, but it wasn't until I read Zehme's book that I came to appreciate the man behind the music.

Sinatra may not have invented cool, but he came closest to perfecting it. His life and lifestyle made the papers, but they also made for a code of conduct for men everywhere who were willing to learn it. Tipping, women, love, friendship, fashion...the Chairman was a walking copy of Esquire. And he lived like the giant among men that he was. Zehme's book outlines the rules of life Sinatra lived by, as demonstrated in the words he said and in the actions he took. This wasn't some New Age philosophy dreamed up in a boardroom; this was Sinatra's life.

After reading it, I was struck by a few things, but one of the most stunning was the fact that there aren't many men like Sinatra around anymore. Men in this country have lost a lot of what it means to be a man and to live life like a man. Those of my gender who have heard the call are slowly turning the tide against men who are almost ashamed to be men. That's something the faux left and rabid feminists have done in the past couple of decades, and it's worked wonders for them. That is, until men stopped feeling bad about being who they are. Real men are tired of the political correctness, the finger-pointing at men as the cause of every dumb issue that comes down the pike, the expectation that men must act like less than men to be considered civilized. And we're not going to take it anymore.

It will be a challenge, but I hope more men pick up on what the Chairman taught us. Sinatra may be gone, but his life lessons are as sharp as ever, and The Way You Wear Your Hat proves that Sinatra's legacy will last well beyond his years.

As it should for such a legendary man.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What's So Fair About the Fairness Doctrine?

With Democrats coming back into power, we're being treated to the reintroduction of certain issues, like "sensible gun control laws," that people haven't considered (i.e. they haven't cared about) for years. One of those ideas is the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

For those of you with a life, the Fairness Doctrine requires broadcast media to give equal time to controversial subjects. The FCC decided in 1949 that those who used the public airwaves had an obligation to give all sides of an issue a fair shake in the marketplace of ideas because they were afraid that some broadcasters would monopolize the airwaves with just one viewpoint. In 1987, Congress passed a bill that would have made it law, but President Reagan vetoed it. Now, with Democrats controlling one house of Congress outright, just as they did after Bill Clinton was elected, they're bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.

On the surface, it doesn't seem like that bad an idea to give all viewpoints of a controversial issue. An informed electorate is essential to our republic. (Now, if only more people actually would take the time to be informed...) However, I don't think that's the main reason why Democrats push the Fairness Doctrine so hard when they have a little bit of political leverage.

The rise of conservative talk radio began around the time of Clinton's first term as President, and one of the most effective critics of the Clinton Administration and Democrats in general was Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has spawned other conservative and near-conservative talk radio hosts, most who are highly critical of the Democrats. Under a revitalized Fairness Doctrine, the stations that carry their shows would be required to run radio shows that would counter what the conservative talk radio shows say.

The problem is liberal talk radio thusfar hasn't found a strong enough calling to be a balancing force. Air America has proven to be somewhat of a failure that has been leaking money and losing talent. Sure, you can find local folks to fill in some of the gaps, but on a national level, the call for liberal talk radio isn't that great. What that does is force radio stations to take on shows that may not bring in the revenue of a Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck and may not get the listenership of those shows, thus defeating the purpose of the Fairness Doctrine and costing radio stations money in the process. Unless Democrats want to force people to listen to Al Franken, it won't work. Then again, such legislation would raise Air America's listenership significantly...

But let's not forget there is another form of broadcast media, television. So far, Democrats haven't explained what the Fairness Doctrine would do to the big three networks. Cable TV is exempt from the terms of the FCC for now, but don't be surprised if something doesn't come down the pike bringing them under the FCC if the Democrats are successful in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. Anyway, broadcast TV is subject to the FCC, but no one's explaining how they would be impacted. Surely they wouldn't be exempt from it, so they would have to play by the rules the Democrats want to strengthen.

As much as I would love to see someone be like a Dan Ackroyd character to Katie Couric's Jane Curtain, ala 70s era SNL "Weekend Update", it wouldn't necessarilly make things fair due to time constraints. To give equal time to the war in Iraq or any social issue in the news would take up time in a 20+ minute newscast, with commercials taking up the remainder of the time. And considering the networks are concerned about ratings, that would limit the number of subjects being covered, thus defeating the purpose of the Fairness Doctrine again.

There is a fundamental question being ignored in the discussion of the Fairness Doctrine: is it even necessary anymore? These days, people have multiple sources for information, and talk radio and TV news are only a fraction of the sources. Most people today go to the Internet for their news, and it's a lot faster than waiting for the next talk radio or TV news shows to update us on the day's events. Plus, we can tailor our news to our tastes using the Internet, something the networks can't do yet and probably never will. When we can cater to our wants and the network media can't duplicate it, that renders the Fairness Doctrine null and void because we can find our own balance, whether it comes from DailyKos or from Free Republic. Forcing broadcast media sources to give all sides of an issue when most people don't use the broadcast media by and large is an exercise in futility.

So, why do Democrats want to strengthen the Fairness Doctrine? The only thing I can think of is politics because it doesn't appear they give a damn about really helping people be informed about controversial subjects.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary's In. Now What?

Not even a few hours after I posted that Hillary Clinton was thinking about running for President, she goes and announces she's in. Yes, that's the kind of power I have in politics...

Seriously, it was foregone conclusion she was going to run sooner or later, but now that she's committed to it, I have a question. Does it matter anymore?

To Democrats, it certainly matters. With Hillary in the race, campaign dynamics change. Susan Estrich has said in the past that Bill and Hillary "suck the oxygen out of the room" and it's still true. Backers who were biding their time waiting for Hillary to jump in now can throw their support behind her, leaving also-rans like Al Gore, John Kerry, Joseph Biden, Tom Vilsack, and Bill Richardson to fend for scraps. She can also draw supporters away from other bigger hitters, like John Edwards and Barack Obama. Now, the race for the nomination in 2008 is a three person race.

On the other hand, Hillary jumping in may energize the anti-Clinton base within the Democrat Party. As popular as the Clintons remain, they are starting to make enemies in their midst. Many grassroots Democrats I've talked to are less than enthused about Hillary because they either see her as a Bush-like politician or as part of the problem with why they've had relatively bad luck since 2000. And both sides are right. Will it be enough to dethrone Queen Hillary? We'll see.

For Republicans, Hillary's hat toss in the ring matters because they can resurrect their anti-Clinton rhetoric. (Who says Republicans aren't into recycling?) As it stands, they need something to energize their base, which has been dissatisfied with the party as of late. Now, they have a figure to hate again. Regardless of whether you're a Bible-thumping Christian conservative or a liberal Republican just to the right of Joe Lieberman, you don't really want a Clinton wandering the halls of the White House.

Now, for the people outside of the major parties. To us, I don't think it really matters because we've seen Hillary's song and dance before. From "standing by her man" to standing up to Bush's troop surge idea, Hillary has never really nailed down a position for very long on that many issues, and certainly not on issues that matter to average Americans. She just doesn't seem to be genuine, which is still important to voters. If you thought John Kerry flip-flopped, Republican ads about Hillary will make him look like a rank amateur.

The real test will be the Iowa Caucuses. For the time being, Iowans are still the kingmakers, as it were, on the political front since we hold the first contests in the campaign season. We pay attention to candidates who can appeal to us, who inspire us, who are real. Hillary has a full year to warm Iowans up to her. We'll see if she can or if we tell her to pack it in early.

My Kingdom for a Candidate!

In a move that shocked no one (mainly because no one was paying enough attention to be shocked), New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson threw his hat into the ring for consideration for the Democrat Party's nomination. Just what we needed.

Is it just me, or have the quality of candidates for the highest office in the country gone down in recent years? So far, the Democrats have John Edwards, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton (maybe), John Kerry, Al Gore (maybe), former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, and now Richardson. And I'm sure I've missed one or two candidates at least.

The Republicans aren't much better. John McCain? Rudy Giuliani? Mitt Romney? Ron Paul? Newt Gingrich (maybe)? Tom Tancredo? And I'm sure I've missed on or two candidates at least there, too.

Out of all of those candidates, running or on the fence, that I've mentioned, each one has at least one thing working against them. Scandal, lack of a high profile, lack of money, or in the case of Gore and Kerry, general thickheadedness, even the good candidates are going to be hamstrung, leaving us with the political equivalent of survival of the fittest to give us the candidates.

But are they truly the fittest to lead the country? Hardly. Ever since George H. W. Bush, we haven't had a President we could look up to, but we had three we could ridicule and look down on. And whomever comes out of the nomination process will probably be the same way. The good candidates get knocked out early due to lack of money or some made-up scandal that ultimately wouldn't impact their ability to lead. And when you eliminate the good folks, you're left with the dregs.

Isn't it about time we elevate our expectations of who gets to be President? After all, that person will be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. Shouldn't we expect someone holding that office to shy away from being the punchline of jokes?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mr. Fitzgerald, Meet Mr. Nifong

The case against Lawrence "Scooter" Libby is about to go to trial, and things are starting to get interesting. Libby's lawyer has pushed for critics of the Bush Adminsitration to be removed from jury consideration, which had lead to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to push for critics of the Administration to be allowed on the jury.

Now, I can understand why Libby's lawyer is looking to get Bush critics off the jury because allowing them could taint the jury's decision. And in today's nitro-charged political environment, it's getting harder and harder for people to overcome their political biases and be objective.

What I can't understand is Fitzgerald's response. The purpose of a jury is to objectively review the evidence and render a verdict based on that evidence. To throw politics into this situation where a man's life would be impacted by a conviction is disturbing to say the least. But it's not unexpected. We've seen that sort of thing happen before, and not too long ago.

Michael Nifong, anyone?

Nifong's folly involved the lives of three Duke lacrosse players and an increasingly unreliable plaintiff, but is motivated at least in some part by politics, whether it be of race or of class. Fitzgerald's folly is based more on national politics, but is no less disgusting.

There is another thing that connects Nifong and Fitzgerald: their cases are woefully weak. The more we dig into the Duke lacrosse team case and the Libby case, the more we see that they're not operating from a position of strength. That may explain why they're injecting politics into the legal process. After all, if they stack the jury with people predisposed to believe the worst about the defendants, it's going to be that much easier to get a conviction, which vindicates them to some extent. And justice? Well, justice can just take a back seat to their desire for a conviction.

Justice isn't being served by Fitzgerald; it's being distorted for personal reasons. It's a good thing Lady Justice is blindfolded so she doesn't have to see what people like Fitzgerald and Nifong are doing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Global Warming? Not So Much

President Bush is said to be unveiling a plan to address global warming during his annual State of the Union Address. The controversy isn't that he's addressing it, but that some people think he's changing course on his position on global warming.

This is as good a time as any for me to address global warming. I don't discount the notion that man has some impact on the world. Having said that, I don't think it's as great as some would have us believe. There are many factors that can explain the relatively small increases to global temperatures, not the least of which being our big buddy in the sky, the Sun. Seems there's been increased solar activity over the past few years, and what does the Sun do, boys and girls? Among other things, it heats our planet.

Of course, you'll find people who will follow the Al Gore line of thought that we're on the verge of a global crisis, if not already in it. His film "An Inconvenient Truth" and companion book of the same name lays out a bleak future unless we change course on global climate change. There are a lot of people who see Gore as a scientist trapped in a former politician's body, and they're welcome to do it. The thing is Al Gore is the Kevin Federline of environmental science. Having watched Gore operate since the early 90s, I can tell you he's no scientist. He crams before big events so he sounds intelligent. But quoting facts doesn't make you intelligent in and of itself. It's in the application of those facts that intelligence comes through.

And so far, Gore hasn't shown me that he's able to apply the facts he quotes. Unfortunately, neither have the people who follow Gore's line of thinking.

The entire global warming debate within the scientific community is interesting to watch because you get to see how much politics has infiltrated the scientific realm. Those who don't follow a certain line (namely, that man is responsible for global warming) are threatened or maligned as being bought and paid for by Big Business. Granted, there probably are because the suggestions being made as to possible ways to combat global warming would negatively impact their sales. But I'm also sure there are scientists on the "global warming is manmade" side who are bought and paid for by similar interests.

The thing about global warming that gets lost in all of this is that science does allow for disagreement...or it did before global warming. Now, we're seeing the scientific community at odds with one another over something that, if it's happening, has truly global implications. The more we squabble, the less we get done.

But perhaps that's the most convincing evidence that global warming isn't as serious a problem as some would lead us to believe.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Delusions of Adequacy

I admit I like watching "American Idol." There you get to see young talent given a shot to shine, talent that is almost there, and people you have to wonder why they thought they had talent. Of course, I'm in no position to talk about singing talent, but even I know when people are not going to make it.

That leads me to the topic of this blog entry. At one point or another, we've all deluded ourselves into thinking we are better than we are at something. It's a defense mechanism for our egos, but it has a tendancy to blind us to reality. Then, when someone tells us that we were subpar, one of two things will happen: 1) the delusions will continue, even stronger than before, or 2) there will be a huge emotional crush where the victim comes to grips with the facts. More often than not, though, the former is what happens because we're afraid to admit we're not good at something, and the trend continues.

Ego is a funny thing. Those who have a lot of it can be some of the most emotionally fragile people out there when it comes to criticism. Just look at John Kerry. Those who don't have a lot of it can also be emotionally fragile, but not in the way the egotist is. Either way, it can be both fun and sad to watch people handle their failures.

Some people ask me why I'm so humble. I chalk a lot of it up to my parents for teaching me it's okay to be proud of your accomplishments, but it's not okay to believe your accomplishments make you better than anyone else. After all, there will always be someone out there who might be able to do what you do better than you can do it.

Another reason is because I understand that what I do isn't all that special in the grand scheme of things. I write columns that entertain and inform. Big deal. There are thousands upon thousands of people who do what I do, and I'm pretty sure some of them are better than I am. I'm proud of what I do to an extent, but I never stop thinking that I can be better. That's the difference between someone who thinks he or she is a superstar right now and someone who will become a superstar in time.

Plus, it's a great way to keep yourself grounded. So many people out there lose sight of who they really are once they get sucked up by even modest fame. I don't ever want to be like that. If I get a little recognition for what I do, I'm happy. If I get a lot, I'll be happy so long as I don't stop being me. If I never get recognized for my writing, no biggie. I don't write to make a name for myself; I write because I love to do it. And if others enjoy my writing as much as I love to write, all the better. As long as I keep the creative juices flowing without them making me drunk with ego, I'll be fine no matter what happens.

Golden (Globes) Slumbers

I caught a little bit of the Golden Globes last night. Wow. The prestige of the Oscars with the heart of the Blockbuster Movie Awards.

We're in the middle of what is called "award season" because it seems there's an award show every couple of weeks or so. And each award show tries to be more glamorous than the last. But when you boil it down, all award shows on this level have one thing in common: stroking egos. Actors and actresses make their livings off pretending to be other people. Some, like George Clooney, take this fact in stride and stay grounded. Most, unfortunately, let their celebrity go to their heads. When that happens, everything revolves around feeding the ego monster.

A prime example of this is the Oscars. Back in the day, the Acadamy Awards were a big deal, but they were covered with a sense of perspective. The coverage was balanced between recognizing the honored and ensuring it didn't overwhelm and become elevated to the level of serious news.

Today? We get stories about the Oscars a week or two prior to the event, about who's wearing what, who's throwing after parties, how "local folks" celebrate the Oscars, how to throw an Oscar party, and so on. Then, there's the hours of pre-Oscar coverage where interviewers talk to celebrities and ask such burning questions as "Who are you wearing?" Then, after the event, we get a couple of days talking about who won, encouraging people to go out to see the Oscar winners, and how much fun the after parties were. And let's not overlook the advertising before and after the Oscars for the films nominated for various awards.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Golden Raspberries, or the Razzies as they're called. They celebrate the worst performances on film and they actually have a ceremony around the time of the Oscars. They don't go to extremes to hype it because of the novelty of the concept, and media types just gobble it up year after year. They do it right.

Maybe the Oscars could pick up a thing or two from the Razzies.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Democrats Are Time Lords!

Well, not really, but they have been playing fast and loose with the concept of time lately.

First, there's Nancy Pelosi's "first 100 hours" pledge. When she was campaigning on behalf of Democrats, she promised Americans that she would bring six key pieces of legislation to a vote in the House within the first 100 days. Then, once Democrats got control of the House, they spent a lot of time...not fulfilling Pelosi's pledge. By her own standards, she's accomplished about half of her goals in 20 hours because she's not counting hours when the actual business of legislation goes on. Ah, but in real time, taking out weekends and time when Congress isn't in session, it's closer to the 100 than it is to the 20.

Then, there's Steny Hoyer's demand that House members work a full work week. All fine and good, right? That is, until there was a major football game on the Monday after they took power...and Congress took the day off. Wow! No word on if they worked that Saturday to make up for the day off they took.

I got to thinking about these situations and what they mean from a larger sense. Certainly, the Democrats can't be hypocrites or liars because they came to power on the back of them being different than the Republicans. So, there's only one logical explanation.

They are time travellers.

It's entirely possible that Nancy Pelosi has a TARDIS, the time travel machine used in "Dr. Who", in her office so that when something important has to be done, she jumps into it, sets the controls, and goes backwards or forwards in time to make sure it gets done. It's the only way.

Then again, there are people who think Al Gore is an environmental scientist and Michael Moore makes documentaries, so maybe I'd better just stick with the liars and hypocrites explanation.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Nifong's Folly

One of the key players in the Duke rape case, District Attorney Michael Nifong, requested to recuse himself from the case, and the North Carolina Attorney General's office has agreed to take over the case for him. The AG's office has said it will take a while to sort through the evidence and has promised not to comment on the case during this process.

On the one hand, Nifong getting out of the case is good because now the three Duke lacrosse players may get a fair shake. When you accuse someone of sexual assault, you walk a fine line legally because once you make the accusation, it's impossible to take back. Lives are ruined by false accusations of sexual assault, just as they're ruined by false accusations of child molestation. You can be legally exonerated, but there will always be that lingering doubt that won't ever go away.

On the other hand, Nifong may be trying to get off easy by asking to be removed from the case. After all, he got what he wanted from the situation, namely reelection in a predominantly African-American district. And he used more than a little class warfare to do it. Now that he's won reelection, he doesn't really need the Duke case anymore, so he was looking for a way to get out without losing the case he made famous. So, he hands off the case and walks away. Sure, this could open him up to legal consequences, such as being sued by the students and their families or being disbarred, but it doesn't really matter. He's made his name and can file bankruptcy, thus protecting him from having to pay anything. And now that he's well-known (for the wrong reasons), he might even score a spot on talk shows as a "legal expert."

The sad thing is that Nifong may actually get away with ruining the lives of many just to make his life a little more cushy. I'd say he's bound for a life of guilt, but then again, he IS a lawyer...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tale Spins

The recent Senate hearing involving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and California Senator Barbara Boxer has gotten a lot of play recently in conservative blogging circles. In particular was a contentious exchange where Senator Boxer points out that Dr. Rice doesn't have any children and, thus, will not pay any personal price for the war in Iraq.

When I first read the text of the exchange, the first thing I thought of was how odd it was that Boxer would have made the point she did at that point in time. The way it was phrased sounded as though Boxer took up the claim advanced by members of the faux left that Dr. Rice is gay, which would explain why she's still single. Conservatives have blasted Boxer for making an anti-feminist statement, a notion that Dr. Rice and the Bush Administration have also picked up. Boxer denies this, stating she was merely trying to establish a rapport with Dr. Rice and that her statements weren't anti-feminist, but were twisted to make them sound like they were.

And both sides are spinning the event to their ends.

First off, Boxer's statement really wasn't anti-feminist. Granted, it really didn't have much of a place in the hearing, but that alone didn't make it anti-feminist. The point Boxer made was valid. Dr. Rice doesn't really have the same personal stake in the war in Iraq that a family sending a son or daughter or a husband or wife to war has. Could it have been phrased better? Absolutely. Did it sound like something you'd find on DailyKos? Yep. Was the statement anti-feminist? Not at all.

Now, onto Boxer's explanation that people were trying to twist what she said. Sorry, but that doesn't fly with me because the statement left itself open to interpretation. When you have a statement that can be taken in more than one way, you can't really complain when someone does take it in a way that it wasn't intended. Besides, after the number your party did with Newt Gingrich's "wither on the vine" comment, you really don't have room to talk about people taking your words out of context.

In other words, Democrats and Republicans have meat to bash the other side with, and the truth is getting harder to determine amid all the spin. Both Rice and Boxer should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of discussing the Iraq war as adults, they both resort to childish behavior and taunts to set up strawman arguments they can easily knock down. And that doesn't serve anyone in the short or the long run.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's Not Going to Work

Not even a day after President Bush went on national television to unveil his plan to send over 20,000 soldiers to Iraq, I heard a familiar refrain from the faux left.

"It's not going to work."

"It hasn't worked before, and it's not going to work now."

"Bush is compounding his mistake by sending in more troops."

Why is it familiar? I heard a similar sentiment when Bush initially sent troops into Iraq.

"It's not going to work."

"Iraq didn't attack us. Why should we attack Iraq?"

"It's going to be a quagmire."

Even after our military defeated Saddam's army within 3 weeks, we heard our strategy in Iraq was subpar.

"It's not going to work."

"Saddam was contained."

"Iraq didn't have any WMDs."

When the Iraqis were setting up their new government, we heard it all over again.

"It's not going to work."

"People will be afraid to go out and vote due to the insurgents."

"They're going to elect religious radicals that hate America."

See the pattern? No matter what the President does or advocates, the faux left is going to say it's not going to work. But there's another pattern that gets overlooked.

They're almost always wrong.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why Bush Is Only Half Right About Iraq

It's a matter of minutes after President Bush gave his address to the nation regarding his plan to send over 20,000 more troops to Iraq. He addressed many valid points of concern, even accepting responsibility for failures in Iraq. A bold move, given the change in the political environment.

But therein lies the larger problem with our Iraq strategy. Politics.

I can't say when the war in Iraq first became politicized or even who started it, but once politics got injected, things started to go to Hell in a handbasket. And whomever started it should be ashamed. War isn't about polling numbers; there are actual human lives at stake, people who have loved ones and friends who feel an emotional void when one of our military comes home maimed or killed.

On the ground in Iraq, politics is just as big a problem. Our soldiers are being tied down by rules and regulations not designed to win, but designed to be politically correct. And if a soldier doesn't play by the PC rules, he or she is condemned in the media or at home. After all, we can't offend those who want to kill us, can we?

Essentially, our military is having to fight a war on multiple fronts, with one of them being the home front. When we let politicians run wars, they end in failure. Vietnam proved that. And like it or not, we're on the verge of losing Iraq like we did Vietnam for the same reason.

Listen, it doesn't matter if you like or dislike the President. It doesn't matter if you think Iraq was a huge military blunder. We're IN Iraq now and we owe it to the men and women risking their lives there so we don't risk ours here to take the politics out of warfare and let them do the job they signed up to do.

Bush's plan to send more troops is sound militarilly, but it's only half the battle. Until we get the politicians out of the soldiers' way, we'll continue to lose ground, and possibly the war.

Power Play or Power Outage?

President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq in a "surge" in an attempt to bring order to the country. But the surge may have run into a roadblock in the form of legislation introduced by Masschusetts Senator Ted Kennedy which would deny funding for the troops unless Congress agrees.

At first glance, this seems like a slam dunk for the Democrats. With their control of Congress, it means they control expenditures under the Constitution and, thus, can withhold funds. And I have to admit they have a point to an extent. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how Kennedy's bill gets debated and whether it will pass Constitutional muster, since the President has the power to wage war under the Constitution and Kennedy's bill could be seen as a Congressional attempt to usurp that power.

But this potential Constitutional conflict has some potential pitfalls as well. From purely a public relations standpoint, the Kennedy bill can backfire quickly because it sets Democrats up to look like partisan obstructionists using troops for a purely political purpose. People may not like the course the war has taken, but I'm not sure they'll stand for using the troops as political pawns. I truly believe that's one reason Republicans lost control of Congress: voters believed Republicans used the troops to further their own political ends.

There's another pitfall to consider. Seems the new Democratic leadership has said in the past that they support troop increases. Nancy Pelosi said on "Meet the Press" that she supported an increase to troop levels. And Harry Reid said last month that he also supported such an increase. And now...they're saying they don't. That's a pretty big hurdle to overcome, and so far they haven't come across with any reason why they're changing their minds.

Finally, there's an expectation of Democrats right now. They swept into power promising to make government work for the people again. They promised a change in leadership style, but the Kennedy bill shows they really don't. Once they got into power again, they started to throw their weight around instead of building consensus. Not a very good way to kick off an atmosphere of cooperation...

It will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand on this. Although Kennedy's bill has at least some Constitutional grounding, it may not go over too well with the voters, and it could cost them control of Congress in 2008.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Thin ISN'T In?

The New York fashion world is taking a look at their models, but in a different way. To duplicate their European peers, they're starting to set guidelines about how thin their models are.

Before you dismiss this as frivilous, think about it. Many models today are dangerously thin, and they do as much as they can to stay that thin. After all, the fashion world is cutthroat. Any model who is older or fatter is in danger of losing his or most often her job.

Now, there's a shot we might actually see models that better represent the way most people look. As I'm sure you've heard in the media, America is fighting an obesity epidemic. Yet, what do we see? Thin models on magazine covers! Talk about a disconnect!

There is another benefit to the fashion world coming to grips with the thin models they use. For decades, impressionable young women have starved themselves to try to emulate the models they see in magazines and the female stars they idolize. This creates a twisted perception of ideal body image and puts these young women in danger. With more realistic models, this can save any number of girls from unhealthy and potentially deadly eating disorders. That alone is worthy of praise.

For once, the world of style has some substance.

Monday, January 8, 2007

I'm in Love with My Car

I recently had to buy a different car because the transmission was going out on it. That gave me an opportunity to explore the relationship between a man and his car.

For as long as I've owned a car, I've loved to drive. It wasn't just about getting from point A to point B; it was about how I felt behind the wheel, knowing that I had control of a powerful machine at my feet and fingertips. I didn't understand the mechanics, and I still don't, but I knew enough to know there was magic to be had by starting up the engine.

As I got out on my own, driving became more of a necessity than a pleasure. I had places to go: to the store, to work, to the laundromat. At that time, driving lost the magic it held for me as a teenager.

Then I had..."The Car." It was black with red trim, was sleek and shiny, and it got me where I wanted to go fast. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it and that love affair never died until my car did. In retrospect, it wasn't so much that the car was anything special. It was how it reawakened my love of driving for fun.

I've owned a number of used cars over the years, and each one has held a special place in my heart. Whether it was the 1975 Pontiac Ventura I bought for $550 in the mid-80s or the two minivans I owned for a time, no matter how much work needed to be done on them, no matter how many times they broke down, no matter how much money I spent on parts to get them to run just one more time, I was hooked. I am a driver.

I eventually settled on a silver 2003 Chrysler Sebring, and once I got behind the wheel I felt the familiar rush of hearing the engine roar as it shifted from gear to gear in perfect harmony. I smiled as the car went around curves with ease, almost begging me to punch it at the next straightaway.

Yep, I'm a driver. And I will be one until the day I die.

A Movie You MUST See

The concept of a "must see" movie has been out there for a number of years, usually to signify a film that is particularly well-made or has a great message. I don't pay attention to this most of the time because either the "must see" movie is one that doesn't interest me or it's usually useless hype.

But in the case of "Obsession" the concept applies. I know I'm behind the curve on this one, but I saw this documentary about the face of radical Islam and how it's infiltrated the world and it opened my eyes to a number of matters that I'd never considered before. My opinion of Islam prior to watching "Obsession" was that it was only the fringe elements that were taking part in the terrorism and anti-American sentiments. Afterwards, I'm not so sure anymore.

The thing that ultimately turned the corner for me was seeing what an allegedly moderate Muslim leader said immediately after 9/11...and what he said in front of his fellow Muslims at a conference. The leader talked about how he issued a statement after 9/11 saying murdering innocents in the pursuit of jihad was not consistent with Islam, but in front of his fellow Muslims, he said something completely different, suggesting that it was okay to kill innocents to please Allah.

And all the while, we're being played for fools.

Regardless of your opinions on the war on terrorism, make it a point to see "Obsession" if for no other reason than to see who we're up against.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Battle of the Hollywood Stars

Geez. What's with all of the famous people going after one another lately? Donald Trump vs. Rosie O'Donnell. Angelina Jolie vs. Madonna. Michael Moore vs. Mrs. Fields. It's getting to the point where you can't open up a supermarket tabloid without seeing celebrities going after one another.

The crazy thing is that most of the talk about these celebrities going after each other isn't coming from the tabloids. It's coming from the mainstream media. In recent years, the media have become paparazzi, obsessing over the lives of the rich, famous, and attractive, while letting more serious news stories go untouched or underreported.

Take the situation with Trump and Rosie, for example. When compared to something like Darfur, does anyone really care what a junior-grade not-so-great Gatsby and an overweight out lesbian who's known more for insulting people on "The View" than for adding something significant to society? From a wider perspective, no. But from the media's perspective, the Rosie-Trump war is more important.

Of course, the media will tell us that they're only giving us what we ask. If that were the case, "Celebrity Boxing" would have never made it to air and we'd see nothing but "American Idol," "Survivor," and "CSI." Come to think of it, that is pretty much what we're seeing. But the point is we're not really asking for this stuff. Of course, we're not asking for any of the more substantive stuff, either.

Maybe the media can take a cue from what Glenn Beck does on his radio and TV programs and his magazine Fusion. He combines the fluff stories with the hard news to create what he calls "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment," hence the name of his magazine. Admittedly, I am a Glenn Beck fan, but not because I'm in total agreement with him. It's because his approach to world events is refreshing and unpredictable. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity hammer on news stories with a predictable line of thought. Beck, not so much. Some people get turned off by the way Beck does his show, but when you consider his ratings have gone up during times when conservative talk radio audiences have shrunk, he's doing something right.

Something we can do while the media try to catch up is to demand more of ourselves. Just because the media thinks we want to hear about some star squabbling with another star doesn't mean we have to pay attention to it like a car crash. We should move along as quickly as possible and let the particulars involved settle the matter instead of being rubberneckers.

And while we're at it, let's pay attention to the big news stories out there. The terrorists who want us dead love it when we're distracted by fluff stories because it means we're too engrossed to engage them, thus they get the drop on us. And let's be honest here, there isn't anything about the Jolie-Madonna controversy that trumps the fact people want us dead. Anybody who says differently is either delusional or Jolie's or Madonna's PR agents.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Breaking Through or Crashing Into the "Marble Ceiling"?

Nancy Pelosi's rise to be Speaker of the House is historical in that she is the first woman to ever be Speaker of the House. That fact hasn't been lost on her, as she and the media continue to reference it. She has referred to her rise in power as "breaking through the marble ceiling" and hopes that she will be a role model for "daughters and granddaughters."

I'm not denying it's a big deal, but I'm not quite ready to bestow accolades on Pelosi just yet. Call it a character flaw, but I've never been one to think that the first to do something is an automatic ticket to my respect. I look at what impact it had being the first to do something. The first doctor to successfully perform a heart transplant is pretty significant. The first doctor to sneak out for an afternoon tee time? Not so much.

Let's not forget not every first isn't successful. Bill Clinton was the first Baby Boomer President and his Presidency was riddled with scandal, lies, and mediocrity. The first woman to be Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was ineffective. (She was tricked by Kim Jong Il!) The first version of "Gigli" still stinks. Get the picture?

So, I'm going to withhold judgment on Pelosi being Speaker of the House until we start seeing results. If she comes across and accomplishes some significant initiatives, she'll earn my respect. If she doesn't do much, her "breaking through the marble ceiling" becomes little more than a historical footnote.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Then What?

Oprah Winfrey's bringing hope to South Africa. She's spending a good chunk of change to start an all-girls school in South Africa for the best and brightest girls with potential. And she means it; only 4% of those who apply will be allowed to attend.

I'm not a big Oprah fan by any stretch of the imagination, but even I have to give her a tip of the hat for her actions. But I do have one tiny concern. Then what?

What about the other 96% of the girls who didn't make the cut? What about 100% of the African boys? What happens after the 4% graduate from the school? Nobody talks about any of that.

Then again, Oprah's not the only ones. In recent years, we've seen some pretty heavy hitters start going to and talking about Africa. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and now Oprah. And before them, we had Band Aid and USA For Africa. And yet, nothing seems to be improving in Africa.

I think it revolves around how the world sees Africa. For centuries, we've treated Africa like that weird cousin we only see at Christmas and at family reunions: we acknowledge they exist, but try not to spend that much time thinking about them. This is a shame because we are not doing Africa any favors by keeping the people at arm's length, or more appropriately, at ocean's length.

Part of the reason we keep our distance is because we don't understand Africa. Most of the continent is primative by modern standards (meaning they don't know who Paris Hilton is), and we're not in any hurry to get ourselves up to speed. It's this lack of understanding that leads to many of the short-sighted attempts to help in Africa, like the ones I referenced earlier. What winds up happening is we do all the legwork to get food or money to Africa...and we don't follow through to make sure the food and money gets to the needy. We keep doing just enough to give ourselves warm fuzzies, but not enough to improve the situation.

At some point, we're going to have to do more than give Africa a passing glance every couple of decades. Look at the various problems they deal with on a daily basis. Drought. Hunger. Poverty. The spread of AIDS. War between tribes. The laundry list goes on and on. Addressing even one of them is going to take a lot of work, let alone addressing all of them. But we have to start sometime.

And if Oprah is the one who starts it, more power to her.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Nothing for Something

When the Democrats took control of Congress, something odd happened.


For all the gloom and doom predicted from the right about what would happen when Democrats would take back Congress, today's first day was...boring. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave a big speech about breaking the "granite ceiling" and how "daughters and granddaughters" would benefit from her ascension. Keith Ellison got swore in using the Koran and God didn't smite us. And the "first 100 hours" started with a lot of fanfare, but not a lot of action.

Could this be a sign of things to come? Are we going to be treated to big promises and little accomplishments? Hey, it's DC. Of course we're going to be treated to that.

Pelosi promised more cooperation and less partisanship. Personally, I hope she makes good on that promise because we've seen the divide between Democrats and Republicans get wider than Steven Tyler's mouthguard. It's not hard to see that we need to close that divide, and a change in leadership at the Congressional level might just be the catalyst.

Then again, the Democrats might just go the other way and stick it to the Republicans, like the Republicans stuck it to them for 12 years. And let me tell you, if the Democrats do that and the Republicans complain, they're both hypocrites. Let's not forget it was 2004 when the Democrats proposed a "Minority Party Bill of Rights" to the Republicans that got rejected. Now, Republicans are doing the same, and from the way it sounds, Democrats will reject the new version.

In other words, nothing changed, and nothing will happen.

And the Democrats ran on a platform of change?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Is Obama Getting Swift-Boated?

Barack Obama is considered by many to be a frontrunner for the Democrat nomination for President in 2008. He hasn't announced yet, but he's making the rounds as though he is. And when that happens, there are bound to be people who will run against him, even at this early stage.

But is Barack Obama getting undermined by his own party? Judging from what has happened so far, it's entirely possible. First, New York Times columnist/terminal PMS sufferer Maureen Dowd went after Obama for his inexperience and, of all things, his ears. Now, sections from his first book where he admits to doing cocaine are surfacing. There are also rumors of a potentially illegal land deal. (Gee, where have I heard that before...)

As much as this sounds like black helicopter stuff (or to be politically correct, African-American helicopter stuff), I'm thinking it's not a coincidence. Whenever something like this happens this early in the political process, one has to wonder who benefits.

The Republicans? On the one hand, it would eliminate a potentially popular and persuasive candidate. On the other, it would look too much like a political hit because it's too obvious. Not to mention, the Republicans are still reeling from November's elections. To do something like this requires much more foresight and planning than the GOP has shown recently.

The Democrats? Not quite as obvious, but not the right answer either. Democrats are just finding out how polished Obama is as a candidate. He's no slouch and can really make an impact early on. Plus, there is an anti-Hillary sentiment within Democrat ranks, so I doubt Democrats as a whole would turn on Obama.

But individual Democrats might. Joe Biden, Al Gore, and John Kerry are out because few people are even paying attention to them these days. Dennis Kucinich? Definitely not. John Edwards? I don't think the kids he channels would let him do it.

When you peel away the layers, only one person stands to gain the most from Obama being out early, and that's Hillary Clinton. She has worked hard to get positioned just right for the nomination, including making sure the DNC has her faithful or those who could be replaced by a Clintonite in key roles. Obama poses a serious threat to her dream of being the first female President. And don't thnk for a moment that she's not above doing it.

The seal on this deal came from an upcoming New York Times interview where Hillary is asked about Obama's chances in the 2008 race for Democrat candidate. She said she likes him and thinks he has a good shot to go far, but that he would fade early. Was that a statement of opinion or a shot across Obama's bow? If taken by itself, it could be just a statement of opinion. But when put into perspective, Obama may feel what John Kerry did in 2004 with the Swift Boat Vets.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Just Whistlin' Past the Graveyard

Have you ever known somebody who always throws a bucket of cold water on any great idea or situation that arises? No matter what, this person is always saying or doing something that takes the steam right out of any momentum you might have had.

This came to mind recently in the aftermath of the execution of Saddam Hussein. Some out there, including Amnesty International, felt the need to express their concern and outrage at Saddam's execution. (By the way, Amnesty International, Mumia Abu Jamal sends his love.) AI expressed their opposition to his death by hanging and even floated a trial balloon that his trial was rigged. Others have suggested that we should have stopped the execution from taking place.

Last time I checked, we weren't the ones who rendered the verdict or approved the punishment. That stuff was done by Iraq. We didn't have a say in any of it, so complaining to us about our inactivity on the matter wouldn't have mattered.

Which leads me to another interesting observation. Seems the people who think we shouldn't have gotten involved in Iraq are some of the same people saying we should have gotten involved in Iraq to stop Saddam's execution. I guess it all depends on what you want to accomplish...

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the grousing masses, but it doesn't really matter. Saddam's dead, and he's not coming back for a "do over." He's gone. Get over it. Move on with your life and thank the Iraqis that they were willing to bring justice to a man who certainly deserved what he got.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Of Iraq and Arbitrary Numbers

The media have been abuzz with the news that the 3000th American soldier dying in Iraq. And before that, they were abuzz with the news that more American soldiers died in Iraq than the number of those who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And before that, it was another "milestone."

But have you really wondered why the media fixate on the numbers they do? From a purely political standpoint, it's meant to undermine the war effort. Since they can't seem to get the President to kowtow to the allegedly superior anti-war mindset, they'll do their best to turn the tide of public opinion against Bush. And it's worked. Because many Americans are "too busy" to stay up on the events in Iraq, and most media outlets don't do that well on foreign news coverage, we have to dig for the truth many times.

But there's another reason. With each new "milestone" comes a story. And if there's one thing the media have to have, it's a continuous stream of news, especially in the 24/7 news environment we find ourselves in today. They do the same thing with polls they conduct. By creating news, they never run out and it bolsters the power they have over their audience. After all, since they're creating the news, they can control what is reported and how it's reported. (On a side note, if the media are supposed to be tools of the Bush Administration, how come there's so much negative reporting on the war in Iraq?)

Overall, though, I don't buy into the notion that we have to keep track of the number of deaths in Iraq and make a big deal about the next "milestone." It's not that I don't value the lives of those who are serving this country. Actually, it's because I do that I don't believe their deaths should be reduced to numbers by the media. Does the 1st person killed in Iraq mean any less than the 3001st? To most people, the answer is no. To the media, they don't even consider the former to be important in the now, and the latter will be important only until the next body count comes in.

Way to support the troops, media folks!