Monday, January 29, 2007

American Idle - The New Season

Yes, American Idle is back for another season. Yes, I purposely misspelled the last word for a couple of reasons. One is that the number of people that show up who obviously have nothing better to do. The second is that I don't want to run afoul of using a trademarked name in my blog. In this age of litigation gone wild, I just can't be too careful, especially if Simon has had a bad day...

My wife, son, and I watched the New York auditions over the weekend (recorded, of course – to fast-forward through the commercials and the screeching sour notes). It was mentioned that the show had not held auditions in the area for some time, and I think they could have passed for another couple of years. The people that they selected to make the trip to Hollyweird didn't really seem to me to having the right stuff to make it all the way. But while the train wrecks were not necessarily classic, they did stand out as being downright awful!

Never have I seen so many people think that not only did they have talent, but they could sing on-key! Of course, nothing was further from the truth. And then they would argue that they should have another chance, that they can do better, it's their dream, and all of the other rubbish that people will say when they don't get their way. But there were a couple of standouts in this category.

The first one was the gentleman (and I use the term loosely) that wore a chinchilla boa and promptly declared that he was a superstar. When confronted with the fact that he wasn't a superstar (yet) unless he made it through this round and won the contest, he had the audacity to state that he was absolutely a superstar. He knew this because his family, his friends, and his therapist all said so. Ooooooooookkkkkkkk.......NEXT!! Of course, he cussed out everyone in sight, asked to see Simon's work visa, and generally made an ass of himself. At least he has the attitude of a superstar if not the talent....

The second was a woman who stated up front that she should be the next American Idle even though she admitted that she didn't have any talent for singing whatsoever. Her argument was that if she would be taught how to sing, her success would show that she would was truly deserving of the title of American Idle. While innovative, her argument didn't pass the laugh test, and she was shown the door.

While we were talking about the show later, I thought of how many people we didn't see on the show, and that all we saw were the best and worst of the auditions. Of course, people like to watch the crashes, and try to pick out the eventual winner. The mediocre get lost in the shuffle.

So the next thought that I had on the subject was unless you are really, really good, why on earth would you want to try out for this type of a talent competition? Unless you are a person that thrives on failure, why would you think or believe that you would have a chance? Then it hit me...

These people have been brainwashed into believing that if they think good thoughts and just try, then they will get anything that they want. This is an outgrowth of the low standards that the schools have in order to build up self-esteem. Thus, any effort is rewarded with a good grade or whatever the person is trying to achieve. No wonder some of these people looked shocked when they were told that their audition was abysmal, pathetic, and downright horrible. Almost makes you sorry for them once you understand that this could be one of the first doses of reality that these people had to face. Almost...

I'm not going to go on a rant about our society's obsession with self-esteem, the school's lack of higher standards, or the inability of people to grow up in the real world. Instead, look around you in the world that you inhabit, the people you come in contact with, and then wonder how it got to be this way. I have a short, one word answer for you....


'Nough said. Rant over. Flame on!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

That seems to be the question of the century.  War in Iraq, terrorist attacks worldwide, nuclear weapons development and missile testing by questionable nations run by despots & dictators are just the tip of the iceberg.  So what's really going on?  Why can't we all get along and have some peace in the world?

I don't profess to be a professional in psychiatry, nor am I an anthropologist.  But there are observations that I have made over the years, and classes taken in psychology & human behavior which seem to explain some of the reasons why the world seems to be going to Hell on the express train.  Then there is the history of the human race that overshadows it all.

Ah, history!!  Constantly repeated, and the human race never learns from it's mistakes.  Throughout the entire recorded history of the human race, there has been conflict and war.  Causes of this bloodshed are many as they are varied.  But these conflicts seem to boil down to three causes:  Power, wealth, and to a lesser extent,(dare I write it) sex.  Hmm....sounds like the typical human, doesn't it?

Should you care to look back at ancient history, you would find many wars fought over land (power & wealth), trade (ditto), and women.  Think of the Trojan War, and you'll get the idea.  However, power craved by various rulers throughout history has made and destroyed countless nations.  Let's fast forward to the current world situation.

Let's start with Islamic terrorists.  Should they die killing the infidel, i.e., become a martyr, their religious leaders state that they will sit on the right hand of Allah (a position of power), be fed dates and other delicacies (wealth), and receive 72 virgins to pleasure them throughout eternity (sex).  Considering that most of the suicide bombers that are blowing themselves up are poor, illiterate, and desperate, this seems like the triple play to paradise.

How about Iran's leader?  He's looking for favor from Allah if he manages to wipe Israel off the map.  Huge bonus points for killing all of the Jews.  If he succeeds and dies in the attempt, he gets to sit even closer to Allah, and gets more delicious food to eat.  Sorry, your limit is still 72 unless Allah decides to supersize your order...

In another part of the world, how about Kim Jong Il?  He wants and needs power like a drug.  Power is what keeps him the leader of North Korea and its people.  He learned this from his father, and fully intends to keep it as long as he is alive.  What does he gain from it?  Everything that he desires and more.  And if he can get more, he will.

What about all of the other dictators & despots?  Being in those powerful positions means that they control a country and its people.  It also brings great wealth, so if something goes wrong, they can then flee to a friendly country to live out the rest of their lives (or at least as long as the gold lasts).  This last is what happened to Idi Amin.  He fled Uganda and ended up in (are you ready for this?) Saudi Arabia!  He stayed in exile for over 20 years before dying in Saudi Arabia.  And I doubt that he was lonely for female company.

Last, let's travel back to the Middle East to the late Saddam Hussien.  Take the chapter of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.  As stated in a previous post, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was motivated by money.  To quote from the post:

Kuwait heavily financed Iraq in the war with Iran in the amount of a $14 Billion loan. Iraq was not in a position to repay the loan, and Kuwait was not going to forgive the debt.

There is an old saying that's very true - "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  And in the case of many of the countries worldwide, there are no limits to what these rulers can and will do.

So how do we get along with these countries & rulers that just don't want to get along with other countries?  Diplomacy can only go so far, especially if one of the countries is not intending to honor any agreements or treaties.  The dreaded Useless Nations can pass ridiculous resolutions, silly sanctions, and corny condemnations.  All of these really don't mean much - there are plenty of countries that will help the target country get by (Saddam sure did with a little help from his friends).  So what's next?

One of the solutions to this was put forth in the comments section of the same post.  The "Just Peacemaking" theory is one solution put forth by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which is a Quaker-based organization, and was described by Dan as:

... one point behind Just Peacemaking theory is that peace need not be something desired by both sides. For instance, in Nicaragua, the Contras were terrorists trying to overthrow the Ortega presidency. They didn't care about peace, they went around killing, raping and "disappearing" those who stood in their way.

But while they didn't care about peace, they DID have their own interests at stake. THAT's the primary idea behind Just Peacemaking theory. Every entity has their own interests at stake. The idea is, find their interests and make them see that it is not in their own best interests to continue down the paths of violence.

In Nicaragua, the Contras were receiving funding from the US. So, peacemakers realized that if US and world citizens were in the villages being attacked by the contras, the contras would not be likely to attack. Not because they cared a thing about American peacemakers, but because they were aware of political realities enough to know that if they killed Americans, their funding (already tenuous) would certainly go away.

It's actually fairly cool. Even if you're not a pacifist, this approach makes a great deal of sense if you want to avoid the expense of war (it was a whole lot cheaper to have the Witnesses for Peace go to Nicaragua than it would have been to fund an army to fight the Contras - and more effective).

While this approach sounds appealing, and probably more cost-effective than a war, but this will not work in all situations.  The particular situation that I'm referring to is the suicide bombers listed above - they are driven by religious fervor and the promise of an eternity in Paradise.  They do not have the self-preservation motivation as the Contras listed above.  The same statement could also be applied to the current leadership in Iran should they continue on the course they have set out for themselves.

So what is the answer for one country (or people) getting along with another?  That depends on the country and situation.

If a country is reasonable in negotiations through diplomacy & compromise, great!  Agreements can be worked out to the mutual advantage of each, and peace can be enjoyed by both countries.  Otherwise...

A final note:  I do not believe that the human condition will ever experience peace throughout the world at the same time.  At least not in this life...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Colts Win!!!


It's really going to be fun - two of my favorite teams will be playing in the Superbowl, but I'm leaning toward the Colts.  I'm looking forward to a good game.

And I know that Teresa's happy!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

She's Running!!

And was there any doubt that she wouldn't?

In case you missed the big announcement. Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) announced her intentions to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for the 2008 Presidential race. 

At the moment, the pundits are picking HRC to win the nomination.  Obama doesn't have the fundraising potential that the HRC machine does, and not enough experience in government.  HRC has Bill, but all the baggage to go along with it.  So who's it going to be?

To be honest with you, I do think the United States is ready for the first woman or first black president.  Just not either of these two.

I've already mentioned my opposition to HRC in previous posts (here, here, and here) for various reasons.  Her history in politics and her actions as First Lady leave much to be desired (don't break the china - it's going to New York with me...)

Obama rose from law professor to state senator to United States senator in less than a decade. He is the only African-American now serving in the Senate and only the third since Reconstruction.  Is he attractive to voters?  Yes, but two years in the US Senate may not be enough experience for some of the hard-core Democrats who feel that Obama may not be the right person to toe the party line.  But then again, this just might be what the Democrats need to get their act together.

Only time will tell...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Clinton's to Blame for Iraq!!

Amy Proctor has an article posted on her site which is extremely interesting, and highlights the hypocrisy that is the Democratic Party (or at least an extremely short attention-span & memory problems).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Iraq, Iran, al-Qaeda, and the United States

Behind the curve again, but I really wanted to see how the reactions of the media, Congress, and the public would be to President Bush's speech in which he laid out plans for Iraq before I threw in my 2 1/2 cents worth in a long post...

Last week, President Bush announced that there would some 22,000 troops sent to Iraq to stabilize the region and to assist the Iraqis in securing their country. Is this too little, too late? Many people out there think that this could be the case, and that opinion includes all the political spectrum - left, right, conservative, liberal, and everyone in between. One poll stated 60% opposed, and another stated 70%.

In many respects, it depends on how the troops are deployed, and what "Rules of Engagement" (ROE) they would have to follow. Considering that the previous ROE handicapped our troops in protecting themselves and restricted what they could do, the new ROE is a welcome relief. But our troops will still need to watch their backs as the media & arm-chair generals second guess every move that they make & every round they fire while ducking sniper fire & IED explosions.

I've stated in previous posts that I am not thrilled that we are in Iraq, but in some respects, it was inevitable that the United States would be drawn into the Middle East in some sort of prolonged military action. What!?! No, I'm not kidding, but very serious. Lest you forget, the United States is extremely concerned about the stability of the Middle East. Besides the new terrorist concerns, there is still the energy sources of the Middle East that the economy of the United States (and the majority of the world) depend upon. Of course, this is only one person's opinion, but bear with me.

Those of you may remember that in 1979, the Shah of Iran fled the country as Islamic revolutionists established the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Shah ended up in the United States for treatment of cancer, and the newly established Iranian government demanded that the Shah be extradited to Iran for trial and execution. This led to the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran as the United States refused to hand over the dying Shah. A rescue operation was mounted By President Carter, but it failed miserably. On January 20, 1981, twenty minutes after the newly elected President Reagan's inaugural address, the hostages were released after having spent 444 days in captivity.

Iran was having other problems besides worrying about what President Reagan would do about the hostages. Iraq's Saddam Hussein, seeing the political turmoil in Iran and sensing weakness, attacked Iran in September 1980. The land war was extremely brutal, with massive casualties being incurred on both sides due to chemical weaponry and human wave attacks. Also, Iran and Iraq both attacked shipping in the Persian Gulf, and the United States conducted military operations in order to protect the shipping of neutral nations as well as that of United States concerns. The war between Iran & Iraq lasted 8 years, and set up the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq 2 years later.

The Iran/Iraq war devastated the economies of both countries. According to Wikipedia, Kuwait heavily financed Iraq in the war with Iran in the amount of a $14 Billion loan. Iraq was not in a position to repay the loan, and Kuwait was not going to forgive the debt. Wikipedia further states:

Iraq's civil and military debt was higher than its state budget. On the other hand, with its vast oil reserves, Kuwait was regarded as one of the world's wealthiest and most economically stable countries. The Iraqi government clearly realized that by occupying Kuwait, it will be able to solve its financial problems. Due to its relatively small size, Kuwait was seen by Baghdad as an easy target.

Thus, Iraq invaded Kuwait as a move calculated to erase its debts, and secure the revenue generated by the Kuwaiti oil fields. Of another concern would be an expanded access to the Persian Gulf through port facilities.

Saudi Arabia was understandably nervous with potentially hostile Iraqi troops on its border. Armed with a United Nations resolution and the Saudi government's blessing, a United States led coalition began deploying to Saudi Arabia to defend Saudi Arabia from invasion and to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

It was during this time that Osama bin Laden, a seasoned leader of Mujahideen from Afghanistan, offered the services of his organization to the Saudi government to repel any invasion by the Iraqi forces. He was turned down as the Saudi government went with the United States led coalition. Wikipedia goes on to say:

Bin Laden considered this a treacherous deed. He believed that the presence of foreign troops in the "land of the two mosques" (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. After speaking publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops he was quickly forced into exile to Sudan and on April 9, 1994 his Saudi citizenship was revoked....Shortly afterwards, the movement that came to be known as al-Qaeda was formed.

So now at the end of the first Gulf War, we have three known enemies in the Middle East: Iraq (for driving them from Kuwait), Iran (for military activities during the Iran/Iraq War), and al-Qaeda (for defiling the Islamic homeland). A dangerous mix, indeed...

During the time leading up to September 11, 2001, Iraq's Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at the world by violating numerous United Nation resolutions, genocide via chemical weapons, etc... In 1993, the first World Trade Center bombing occurred, which was financed by al-Qaeda. Iran, I believe, was quietly funding terrorist organizations like Hamas to provide distraction from it's own agenda of developing nuclear weapons and this missiles to deliver them. Various terrorist attacks such as those on the USS Cole in 2000, nightclubs frequented by US servicemen, and bombings of US embassies around the world were largely ignored even though there were casualties. That was about to change...

September 11, 2001 changed everything about how the Middle East was viewed, especially when linked to terrorism. No longer could these violent acts be swept under the rug as before - the attacks had come to our neighborhood. The War on Terrorism had begun.

Fast forward to today's events: The United States is in Iraq, having replaced Saddam Hussein's dictatorship with a fledgling democracy. Iran is saber-rattling with the threat of developing nuclear weapons and has it's eye on Iraq. And al-Qaeda is in the background, quietly planning the next attack.

So here's the bottom line:

The United States must succeed in Iraq, i.e., to leave Iraq with a fully functioning government able to defend itself from enemies within and outside of its borders. There are several reasons why the above must be achieved:

1) National and international pride and credibility. There, I've said it. For a superpower to enter into an engagement such as this and not complete the job destroys our credibility with the international community. Being defeated in an effort that we claim to be at the core of our country, i.e., the pursuit of freedom and self-determination, will render the US as a 2nd rate country with a cap pistol.

2) If the US does not succeed, this country will be perceived by our enemies as being weak. That will embolden terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to redouble their efforts to disrupt the activities of this country (private and governmental) through increasing attacks on US assets in both international and domestic locations.

3) Iran chomping at the bit to take over Iraq (or at least make it a puppet government) is a frightening prospect. If they succeed, this action would further destabilize the Middle East. It's bad enough that Iran has nuclear ambitions and an apocalyptic leader stating that another country/people should be wiped off the face of the earth. But could you image the territory and natural resources that Iran would then control? If you thought gas prices were bad last summer, get ready for some severe pricing increases both here and abroad. And the rest of the Middle Eastern countries would be forced to cater to Iran's will.

4) We've already seen Sunni and Shiite violence under these conditions, but could you imagine if there were absolutely no authority, no law, no government for keeping the peace? Civilian casualty counts would skyrocket as religious fighting would increase by leaps and bounds. The killing fields of Cambodia come to mind...

5) Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda could find homes in which to establish training camps. This would allow them to plan, plot, and train in relative peace & security to inflict casualties upon the rest of the world.

Yes, it is in all of our interests that the United States succeed in Iraq. This will mean keeping our troops there for some time, and whether or not an extra 20,000 or so will make a difference will depend on how they are deployed and the ROE that they can operate under. The United States cannot fail, not only for our sake, but for the sake of millions of people in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The real question in much of this is:

Will our politicians, our duly elected leaders, grow backbones, have the intestinal fortitude, and suck it up, i.e., put aside political agendas, to do the right thing for the United States and the rest of the world?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cat's New Year's Resolutions

This was sent to me by "Santa Paws," who somehow found a super-secret file with the cat's New Year resolutions.  How the cats managed to type all this in is beyond me, especially since they tend to eat the computer mouse... 

My human will never let me eat their pet hamster, and I am at peace with that.

I will not slurp fish food from the surface of the aquarium

I will not eat large numbers of assorted bugs, then come home and throw them up so the humans can see that I'm getting plenty of roughage.

I will not lean way over to drink out of the tub, fall in, and then pelt right for the box of clumping cat litter. (It took FOREVER to get the stuff out of my fur.)

I will not use the bathtub to store live mice for late-night snacks.

We will not play "Herd of Thundering Wildebeests Stampeding Across the Plains of the Serengeti" over any humans' bed while they're trying to sleep.

I cannot leap through closed windows to catch birds outside. If I forget this and bonk my head on the window and fall behind the couch in my attempt, I will not get up and do the same thing again.

I will not assume the patio door is open when I race outside to chase leaves.

I will not stick my paw into any container to see if there is something in it. If I do, I will not hiss and scratch when my human has to shave me to get the rubber cement out of my fur.

If I bite the cactus, it will bite back.

When it rains, it will be raining on all sides of the house.

It is not necessary to check every door.

I will not play "dead cat on the stairs" while people are trying to bring in groceries or laundry, or else one of these days, it will really come true.

When the humans play darts, I will not leap into the air and attempt to catch them.

I will not swat my human's head repeatedly when they are on the family room floor trying to do sit ups.

When my human is typing at the computer, their forearms are *not* a hammock.

Computer and TV screens do not exist to backlight my lovely tail.

I will not puff my entire body to twice its size for no reason after my human has watched a horror movie.

I will not stand on the bathroom counter, stare down the hall, and growl at NOTHING after my human has watched the X-Files.

I will not drag dirty socks onto the bed at night and then yell at the top of my lungs so that my humans can admire my "kill."

I will not perch on my human's chest in the middle of the night and stare until they wake up.

I will not walk on the key board when my human is writing important adagfsg gdjag ;ln.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dems First 100 Hours

The Dems are in charge, and thus far, the agenda that they have set does not impress me. There isn't much that seems to be new. The majority of the bills now before Congress have already been in committees before the first of the year, and need to be voted on. Here's the list:

  • Introducing legislation intended to curb the power of lobbyists.
  • Committing to no new deficit spending.
  • Fully enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
  • Raising the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Pelosi pledged that there will be no congressional pay raises until the minimum wage is upped.
  • Enacting legislation allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies over prescription drug costs for Medicare.
  • Promoting and increasing funding for stem cell research.
  • Cutting interest rates on college loans by 50%.
  • Beginning to roll back subsidies to oil companies.
  • Fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security.

What I'm afraid of is that once they run out of steam on these issues, they will turn their attention to their thinly veiled threat of impeachment proceedings. This will be the wrong action to take in my opinion. The Dems ran on a platform of being different than Republicans, and this would be an opportune moment to show leadership instead of vindictiveness. After all, what would the point be (and political advantage) of trying to impeach a sitting lame-duck President? None, if you get right down to it. All this would do is be viewed as a revenge investigation for Clinton's impeachment investigation, and would further polarize the nation. Thus, this will probably be far down on the list for the Dems to start up

But the radicals are pushing for impeachment, cutting funding for the troops & bringing them home before the job is done, Patriot Act revisions/scrapping, terrorist rights, and the like. So far, these are not on Congress's short list. And that's going to anger the radicals. Already I've heard a sound bite of Cindy Sheehan carrying on about her pet project, and I know that's only going to be the beginning. After all, the Dems stirred up the radical left base of their party to get elected, and these people want satisfaction.

But what is missing is also important. Illegal immigration, for instance, is nowhere to be found on any agenda, and probably won't anytime soon. And if possible, it will be ignored until the next election. I also don't see any "America First" programs from the economic side either to protect the American worker from unfair and predatory business practices by other countries and companies. Lost in this is any comment on world affairs & policies concerning Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda, and any other threats to the United States.

Yes, it will be very interesting to see if the Dems are really the leaders that they tell everyone they are, or the same stinkers that got voted out of office twelve years ago...