Wednesday, March 29, 2006
A Failure of Opportunity
I wrote this after I lost my job. My intent was to flesh it out, expand it to about 2000 words, and see if it was something that could be sold. It never felt quite good enough and I never had the opportunity to edit it and add enough meat to make it worth the attempt; but it also encapsulated my feelings about our current problems with Iran.
So, without the proper editing and a little lighter than it should be, I offer it up here with some small apology and hopes that it makes up for the American Idol post that I’ll be writing tomorrow…
It has become popular to suggest that war represents a failure of imagination on behalf of a country’s leadership. Somehow every political situation should have a non-violent, non-military diplomatic solution that achieves optimal results while avoiding blood shed. This is tripe--a utopian delusion unsupported by an adult’s view of the world.
War quite regularly represents a failure of opportunity; it is often the recognition of the immediacy of a crisis coupled with no feasible compromise position. Was there, magically, a non-military solution to Hitler’s attempted conquests or Japan’s dream of a co-prosperity sphere? The difficulty is in knowing whether the opportunities for peaceful resolution have run dry.
Today the West is facing that question in its pursuit of a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran--an ideal solution that may not exist.
Iran is openly and aggressively seeking to become a nuclear power while hiding behind the scant and irregular camouflage of a peaceful uses excuse. The intentional provocation is not something that can be ignored by anyone who seriously fears nuclear proliferation. In a specific sense, a nuclear Iran would mean destabilization in a region where we have significant humanitarian, economic, and political interests; in a much greater sense it would open the gates to other counties’ nuclear ambitions by making it clear that the Western powers won’t act to stop proliferation.
One of the quiet purposes of the war in Iraq was to create opportunity and influence where they didn’t previously exist--to give the United States and her allies leverage in finding non-violent ways to enforce our national security concerns. Middle Eastern dictatorships and theocracies were given a demonstration of the US military’s destructive power, our leadership’s willingness to topple enemy governments, and our national will to stick through significant loss of American lives. It was (and continues to be) an expensive effort that ha yielded mixed results.
Certainly some hostile nations have been more pliant in finding ways to support our war on terror (militant Islam), and, arguably, Libya’s new move to openness and the changes in Lebanon probably wouldn’t have happened if regional leaders did not have renewed faith in America’s strength of will. But it’s questionable as to whether this newfound influence is long lasting or whether changes go deeper than a sort of superficial support in our hunt for terrorists.
Ignoring Iran would do nothing to ensure that our influence remains strong, mooting one of the arguments for involvement in Iraq. A nuclear armed Iran would work directly to undermine our mission in Iraq, would hamper our influence in the region, would give cover to anti-Israeli actions, would threaten to interfere with oil production, and would represent a serious foreign policy failure for every Western nation (most especially the United States).
The failure of imagination is not in being incapable of finding a peaceful solution; the failure is in not seeing the potential hazards of failing to enforce the West’s national security needs. The simple fact is this: the West cannot accept an Iran that has the capacity to produce and potentially sell nuclear weapons. At the same time Iran is showing no willingness to abandon their ambitions and UN sanctions would be an unreliable (and probably ineffective) solution. Middle ground for diplomatic maneuvering is a pretty small bit of real estate.
There may yet be hope. There may yet be a way to find a non-military solution to a problem that by all appearances has no happy answers. The immediacy of Iran’s nuclear program and unwillingness to halt enrichment, though, has to lead serious minds to one conclusion: we are facing a failure of opportunity to find a peaceful resolution. This failure may lead us directly into an unwanted confrontation with Iran, but it won’t be because our leaders lack sufficient imagination to solve the problem; it will be because this is a deadly serious issue in which there is almost no room for compromise.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The Collision of Strange Obsessions
My Mark Lanegan obsession is well-documented throughout this site. My American Idol obsession is, sadly, well-documented throughout this site. Now, my obsessions come together in some strange convergence of stars.
In USA Today‘s review of the American Idol singers from last week, Don Waller had this little nugget about Chris Daughtry.
Makes me happy just thinking about it…
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Not Even Half a Victory
Thoughts about the pending release of Abdul Rahman, the man who faced the death penalty in Afghanistan for converting to from Islam to Christianity.
First, that he is to be released on what is, essentially, a technicality (lack of evidence?) isn’t a good thing. It’s a loss in the sense that it doesn’t change legal precedent in Afghanistan--it was merely a maneuver to save the Afghanistan government from a confrontation with the United States.
Second, had Rahman been executed it would have represented one of America’s biggest setbacks: an ideological setback that proves that meaningful change in the Middle East remains illusory. Our purpose in the Middle East isn’t to establish an empire, but to establish ideological changes that make the Middle East a breeding ground for a more liberal Islam rather than bloodthirsty terrorists.
Third, with the issue essentially undecided (Rahman will be released because of that technicality not because of a new sense of religious tolerance), it leaves a sense that the only reason the man will live is because of America’s direct influence and continued presence in the region. That hardly stands as a victory for American or for the hopes of expanding liberalism in the Middle East.
This might be me being too cynical or even letting a little bit of defeatism creep into my mind, but I feel this as a huge loss for our side and a win for the militant Islamists.
Update: Read Roger Fraley’s intelligent dissent in the comments and then check out his post.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
No Apolgies Needed (Updated)
Drudge is flashing ultra-big headlines because President Bush makes John Green, an influential ABC News producer, sick. It says so right there in a private email that Green sent.
So what? Green isn’t allowed to have personal opinions about public figures? Green isn’t allowed to share those feelings with his friends? I’m hoping Green deals with this situation with something resembling a backbone--not because I agree with him, but because this isn’t news and it isn’t relevant.
Bush makes Green want to puke. So the hell what? Unless there were some tidbit of information that painted Green in a bad light professionally--that he was intentionally killing stories that might show the Pres. in a good light, for instance--then he should stand up and say that he has a right to express his opinions.
But in this age of the fake mea culpa, I wonder what road he’ll take?
If I were Green, I would issue a press release saying that no apologies were necessary, that no explanation was needed, and that the only black mark in this whole story goes to Drudge for meaninglessly printing a person’s private emails.
But, certainly, no apologies.
Update: For example, I can’t stand Roy Moore. He makes me want to puke. So there.
A Little Free Speech Fun
Fred Phelps faces no consequences for (metaphorically) pissing on the funeral services of soldiers killed in abroad. Those soldiers’ families and friends have to deal with his chanting and his posters because they don’t have a choice--although I’m certain that the urge to pop him a good one right in the nose has to be overwhelming.
“Thank God for Dead Soldiers”
I wonder whether protesting funerals is actually protected speech (although the Rocky would disagree with me on the subject)? Protected speech is a way of preserving the rights of the people to protest actions of the government and public figures, not a way of ensuring that a person can say whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever forum they want. Phelps wouldn’t be welcome (or protected) if he stepped into my home and began protesting: God Hates Daves. Phelps wouldn’t be protected if he were to storm into a church during a wedding--an occasion more similar to a funeral than might first seem evident--and protested the union.
So Phelps doesn’t have the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever forum he wants. The only question is where that line should be drawn, and I have no problem with the idea that it should be drawn far enough away that the grieving parents and spouses and children shouldn’t have to hear Phelps’ vitriol.
I’m prepared to admit that I’m just justifying my own bias, but it would still take an explanation of where that line between free speech and harassment should be drawn. Especially when a political activist can be sentenced to 45 days in jail for wearing shirts that were meant as a political protest during a court appearance.
Shareef Aleem says (and wears) things that I don’t agree with, but aren’t nearly as reprehensible as anything Fred Phelps has said. Both of them are engaging in some kind of political protest, though. I just find it interesting that violating the dignity and decorum of the court is punishable with a short stint in jail while violating the dignity and decorum of a funeral is a form of protected speech.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Coming Soon to a Porn Site Near You
Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
The New Democrat Strategy: Broadband and Circuses
Democrats plan to gain market share the old fashioned way: promise free stuff. If the Drudge-linked article is right, the left is planning to raise the minimum wage (damn the economic consequence or the simple fact that there are very, very few people working at a minimum wage job who support a family or even themselves wholly on that income), guaranty inexpensive access to broadband (whether this is the job incubator that they expect is wildly open to question), nationalized health care within five years (again, regardless of the actual cost or effect that a Hillary-style system would have on health care in the United States), and further protection and enshrinement of the Social Security welfare program with no privatization, heritability, or long term stability (which they don’t say, but which is entirely true).
Frankly, I’ve seen more than enough of an expansion in government programs and costs under a not-so-fiscally-conservative Republican president. I fear the economic fallout from this plan if it were fully implemented. The bump in taxes (on top of what I would consider to be an expected rollback of the more recent tax cuts) would be enough to send us into a recession--which, of course, would lower tax receipts and cause the left to cry for more tax increases to continue funding all of these indispensable programs. And every government program, once funded, becomes indispensable to someone who either has a job or an ideology at stake.
In my more cynical moments, I’ve come to believe that the GOP stands for the slow destruction of the American economy and the Democrats stand for something a little more immediate.
Good God, what I wouldn’t give for a fiscal conservative in the White House with balls enough to say that the government doesn’t represent the solutions to all of our problems. Someone who will say, in all honesty, that no the government isn’t going to baby us or coddle us or make it so bad things never happen to us. Someone who admits that the bigger the bureaucracy, the more inefficient the organization, the more expensive the end result, and the less likely the results are to be completely satisfactory. Someone who won’t try to buy my vote with a new government spending program.
Crazy dream, no?
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
American Idol: Mar. 14
Oh, damn. Stevie Wonder.
I just called to say shut the hell up and shove that ebony and ivory right up your Ma Cheri Amour. If you take my meaning.
Ace sings “Do I Do” while Stevie battles blindness and live. Which is nice or just sort of awkward. Whichever. It’s a mediocre performance of a perfectly putrid song. It delves a little too deeply into the “I can sound like Stevie” well.
Randy is unimpressed. Paula is an idiot. Simon makes mean sounds.
So, yeah, I understand why other people like Stevie Wonder’s music. I’m just not one of them. In fact, my bias against these songs is so strong that I’m pretty sure I won’t be particularly objective about these performances.
Just so you know.
Does it occur to anyone that Kellie Pickler, that naughty little minx, isn’t very bright? Singing “Blame it on the Sun”, she almost managed to sound good. Not quite, though. She goes flat a few times, sounds tentative, and looks gorgeous. Not that her looking gorgeous will make Wonder any happier with the singing of the song.
Since he’s blind, you see.
Randy is underwhelmed. Paula agrees with Randy about the song and with me about the gorgeousness. Simon agrees with Randy on the song and disagrees about the gorgeousness.
Poor little minx.
Then we get Elliott--to be known henceforth as the “crier"--singing “Knock Me Off My Feet.” Starting the thing seated was an error; his problem playing to both the crowd and the camera while seated was almost comical. He does, though, sound better than the others. I wonder why he was so tentative throughout, though.
Randy is polite, although not completely impressed. Paula just strokes a little Elliott ego. Simon goes the Randy route.
Mandrisa. I love this woman and her laugh. Her performance of “Don’t You Worry About the Thing” started rough, but really hit me when she attacked the big notes. Very nicely done. Maybe not quite, as Randy notes, “amazing,” but very good. Paula and Simon both agree that it was the best so far.
The thought of Bucky singing “Superstitious” is pretty funny, to tell the truth. It just doesn’t fit him or his style. Amazingly, he actually has the voice and the attitude to carry it off, makes only a few mistakes, and makes up for it by injecting just a taste of southern rock personality. I enjoyed it.
Rand didn’t like the vocals but enjoyed the performance. Paula was polite. Simon actually liked the song, but took the opportunity to brutalize Bucky’s hair.
“Lately” as interpreted by Melissa McGhee is a gift to insomniacs (somewhat like my writing style). Boring even through its impressive awfulness. On top of inept, she forgot the lyrics. Ouch.
Randy is nicer than I am. Paula is nicer than Melissa deserves. Simon is even nicer.
Shocking. What were they watching?
Lisa Tucker is boring in another way entirely. She sounds good enough in a bland and typical way. I didn’t get any connection or emotion, though, and she hit a really nasty note in the middle. Whish is why it’s so surprising that Randy says such nice things, Paula said even nicer things, and Simon really seemed to love it.
Kevin. I’m not even bothering with this bit except to note that a whiny twelve-year-old singing “Part Time Lover” is strangely disturbing. Creepy even--especially when combined with his stiff stage presence.
Bizarre. Is he just here for comic relief?
Randy laughs and enjoyed it more than I did. Paula, too. Simon is perfectly cruel--and the little Muppet deserves the jibe.
I don’t like chirpy. I really don’t. Katharine is chirpy. Lucky for her, she sounded good enough to make me forget the pre-song interview. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t actually enjoy the song or her singing. I just think that, with the exception of some sharp moments toward the end, she did a bang up job of interpretation. Randy, Paula, and Simon all agree. A lot. Except they probably enjoyed the thing.
“Living for the City” was a good choice for Taylor Hicks. It fits his style and his voice, and his performance was a damned fine thing. Kind of the polar opposite of the Muppet boy. The only bad thing for him is that his vocals got a little lost behind the rest of the production. I actually enjoyed the performance and the song and Hicks’ smile after it was all done.
Either he has a lot of supporters in the crowd or the audience really loves this guy. Randy, Paula, and Simon are all in his corner, too. I think Paula was almost in tears.
Paris Bennett is my favorite on the show--a girl who I think could grow up to be a hell of an artist. She has the best voice in the contest, she can perform, and she has a unique spark that really sets her apart. She’s running right with Hicks for best of the evening; the crowd and the judges absolutely love her.
After all that, Chris rocks out in what has to be the most aggressive performance in the history of the show. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice change of pace for the show and it proves that there’s room for a little bit of individuality in the show. I was expecting a let down, but I got a really nice surprise.
Best of the night? Maybe not quite, but damned good.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
We’re On the Road…
...And we’re gunnin’ for the Buddha. We know his name and he mustn’t get away…
Which is probably an inappropriate song to be singing at a moment like this.
Sorry about that.
No Great Loss
I’m not sayin’ we should break out the bubbly. I’m not sayin’ this is precisely a moment to celebrate. I am sayin’ that he won’t be much missed.
Apparently he died of natural causes; this is one of those times where more, ahem, unnatural causes might have been more appropriate.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Just Because I Wanted To (Pt. 1)
Occasionally the topic of gay and lesbian couples adopting kids wanders through the news. So, to reduce a complex subject to a few simple statements, I just wanted to add my thoughts to the mix.
Simple statement 1: Some of the worst parents I’ve known have been heterosexual. For that matter, some of the worst foster parents that I’ve known have been heterosexual and highly religious.
Simple statement 2: One of the best sets of parents that I’ve known was gay. My experience is limited, I admit, but these two made an exceptional impression on me.
Simple statement 3: I have yet to see any data to convince me that having gay parents is in any way harmful to their children.
Providing kids with a stable, loving home seems to be a pretty good goal. If that stable, loving home happens to have supportive, caring, same sex parents, I don’t see that as a bad thing.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
American Idol: Mar. 9
So, yeah, the new Bo Bice song is sort of like rock. Only with all the rock sucked out, leaving an empty, rockless husk of a song. If you take my meaning.
Luckily, Kellie is, indeed, a naughty little minx, which is enough to keep me happy.
While we wish Kinnick happy things in an American Idol-less future, and note that she handled her ouster with grace, I also have to thank Bryan for finding the one thing in my Oscar coverage that made me think that I might not be a complete waste at this whole writing thing.
And then we can say goodbye to Will, too. Which, for me, is a happy thing. Not that I wish the guy ill, but he’s no freakin’ American Idol, I tell you.
Ayla, on the other hand, I’ll miss. Mostly because she’s aggressive and focused and a little more interesting than most of the rest of the crowd. I didn’t think she would make it too far into the show, but I enjoyed watching her perform.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The Zomby Psychic Friends Network Finally Comes Through
A report coming in from the Zomby Psychic Friends Network indicates an interesting little bit of information coming up tomorrow morning.
The message is still a little hazy, but the ZPFN is working hard to ferret out the details of a surprising educational opportunity for a Colorado politician…
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Academy Awards Notes
First, answering the question: why is David watching the Oscars? Still too damned tired from the trip to get up and start working, lazy enough that I don’t want to change the chanel, and, damn, that Nicole Kidman is hot.
Second, answering the question: will Jon Stewart suck? Well, let’s just say that it’s been a rough start, but that Bjork outfit/Cheney hunting incident joke actually made me guilty. I did, however, have the good sense to feel guilty.
So, Clooney wins the Best Supporting Actor and takes the moment to really cement the theme for the evening. Hollywood: Proudly out of touch with the rest of America. Clooney can be something approximating gracious, he can be funny, he’s talented, and he is certainly a good looking man. What he isn’t is subtle or nuanced concerning his political beliefs.
Much more enjoyable was Ben Stiller’s moment in a green screen suit, moving disturbingly across stage, in the “belief” that he was moving against a green screen and appeared to be a disembodied head to the people at home. Funny stuff from a guy who can sell a moment beautifully.
Oh, and then he gave out an award for something or other to somebody or other. Wasn’t very interested in that part.
Wow. Naomi Watts is strikingly beautiful. Her dress, though, was terrifying. Ugly in cut, color, and little, sewed on bits of mangled fabric.
Now, a third question for the night (with no answer in hand): does the crowd in Hollywood ("Proudly Out of Touch With the Rest of America") think, “Oh, isn’t that a quaint song? And, my, what large breasts,” when Dolly Parton comes out and sings about Jesus? Just curious.
Hilariously, the John Stewart Scientology joke may not have been greeted warmly by some members of the academy. I wonder if they’ll burn any theaters down, stab a few straggling actors, or riot in hopes that L. Ron Hubbard’s religion be handled more kindly in the future.
And then some stuff happened. Most of it best missed, even better forgotten.
Oh, and if you want to read funnier, famouser, and, probably, cuter people talking about the awards, check this out.
And then some more stuff happened.
jOh, and if you want to read a funnier, famouser, and, I’ve seen the pictures, slightly cuter guy talking about not talking about the awards, check this out.
So, the first time I’ve actually watched the award in some time, and I not only can’t get into the show, but I have no idea what’s going on. But Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell make it almost worth staying awake during the Best Make-Up award that goes as sort of a consolation prize to one of the actual, honest-to-God, popular movies of the year, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
And then some more Jon Stewart happened.
Michelle Williams deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, by the way. Her performance in Brokeback Mountain was phenomenal--truly moving. Rachel Weisz, unfortunately, won the award for the “We Hate Big Pharma” movie, Constant Gardener. Weisz was good, though the movie failed to move me, but she wasn’t as good as Williams. At least, she certainly wasn’t as believable.
And then some Lauren Bacall happened. And it was bad. Embarassingly, sadly bad as she stumbled and groped her way through an introduction to a short tribute to film noir. Which brings me to my non-Oscar moment for the moment: go see Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang when it comes out on DVD.
More Jon Stewart happened, more light politics happened, more masturbatory self-congratulations…
Then penguin flick won Best Documentary Feature, a deserved win for a movie about how much “God hate’s penguins.” That, unfortunately, gave ‘way to J Lo talking about Crash. Irritating.
And then some music happened.
And then some Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves happened.
As more time and more presentations go by, there is really only one thing to say about this year’s Academy Awards: damn, this show sucks. It is boring, filled with pasted on glitz, and utterly removed from “glamorous.” Certainly, there are beautiful people wearing clothes enough finery to fund the entire New Orleans re-building effort. Yet, while wallowing in their wealth and fame, they preach, sneer, and condescend, so sure they are that they are better than us. So sure that they are more intelligent, more moral creatures with the right answers to the world’s complex problems.
Fame is a religion and its greatest adherents worship themselves powerfully.
From Patrick (in the comments):
Indeed and stuff.
On a positive note, Lily Tomlin is still hilarious, still sharp, and still wonderful.
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” was, by contrast, the worst musical performance of the night. Not that the others were spectacular, mind, just that this one was a little lower down the list. Which is, of course, why it won Best Original Song. At least the incoherent acceptance speach was a passionately and honestly happy thing without the normal trappings of Hollywood elitism.
And then Jennifer Garner’s boobies happened.
Wow. I mean, definitely the high point of the evening for me. Wow. Jennifer Garner’s boobies deserve an award of their own.
Okay, enough of that…
Although, I can’t help but note that it’s a serious downer to have George Clooney come back out and then talk about the year’s deceased, some of whom had passed without my notice.
Luckily, shortly after, the director of Tsotsi enlivened things again. Another wonderful, heartfelt--if overly short--speech.
For Best Actor, I was pulling for Heath Ledger since his was the best performance I personally saw this year. Having not seen Philip Seymour Hoffman’s turn in Capote, I’m not willing to comment on how deserving he was of the win. I will say, though, that he has been consistently exceptional throughout his career--so good for him.
Yeah, so John Travolta. Used to have a career, right? Then he didn’t, then he did, then he didn’t…
Shut up, Reese.
Ang Lee’s win for Brokeback was, I believe, well-deserved. In many ways, this was a political win, I’m sure; still, his direction and artistic vision was well worth note.
After the end bit: Check this out.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Domino: A Ten Point Review
Page 1 of 1 pages
© 2005 by the authors of ResurrectionSong. All rights reserved.
Powered by ExpressionEngine