23 January 2007

The State of the Union is Strong?

At least according to the president it is.

Even with his approval rating at an all time low and with just 26% of Americans feeling that the country is headed in the right direction, Mr. Bush trudged on tonight in his State of the Union address. The smirk, the bravado, and the style wavered only slightly.

The rhetoric stayed much the same, too. With lines like "we can go forward with confidence... our cause in the world is right" and "out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy... with an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East," he's clearly living in world of denial. What's more, the President's clearly still a fan of fear mongering. The strategy is clear: create sound bites that let Americans know that if we don't get the bad guys, the bad guys are hell bent on coming here and getting us. And the only way to get the bad guys? Of course it's the path we're on right now, no matter what the truth of the matter is.

22 January 2007


Eric Boehlert has a great piece over at Media Matters about the media's unhealthy obsession with the 2008 Presidential election.

Citing the media's eruption over the recent "news" that Senators Obama and Clinton have formed presidential exploratory committees, Boehlert writes that the media has effectively extended the presidential election season, which was once a coveted, once-every-four-year period for journalists, into a feeding frenzy that started well over two years before the election is even set to occur and that has produced very little substantial news. Just seven years ago when George W. Bush announced that he was forming an exploratory committee, Boehlert writes, The New York Times published a tiny 900 word story on page 14. However, he notes that The Times "played the Obama exploratory announcement prominently above the fold on Page 1."

Pretty interesting stuff...

I think a lot of this early coverage, which often lacks substance or truth or a combination of the two, could have a few negative effects on the early candidates. They say all press is good press, but I'm not sure that's really the case in this situation. The media is so saturated with stories of Obama, Clinton, the election, etc. that the news watching public might hear or read a little more than they want to learn, whether it be true or even really newsworthy or not, about certain candidates that all of this coverage might negatively sway opinions. There's going to be so much press over the next 20-some months that journalists corroborating false reports or printing irrelevant reports might have a big impact come election time. Just some thoughts...

20 January 2007

My Library

One of my best buds asked me recently to suggest some new reading material. She just finished a book, her first in a while, and felt like she’d been slacking on her reading lately. We have a lot of similar tastes in music, books, movies, life in general…so I thought, hell yes, I’d love to suggest a book or two. I came home and started looking over my bookshelves…what to suggest? What would catch her interests and really captivate her? What would she truly relate to?

Then it struck…I’d never noticed this in my book selections before, and I’m positive it’s not a result of conscious decision making, but I don’t have a single fiction book (that I’ve already read) besides Alice in Quantum Land (and I don’t think this really counts since SteveG made me read it) that is narrated from the point of view of a female character. Even those books written by female authors that are part of my collection are narrated from the male character’s perspective.

I’m not sure yet of the source of this phenomenon. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a result of my subconscious likes and dislikes when choosing reading material. It’s entirely possible that I choose books that fit into the categories that have been engrained in my mind as masculine and exciting by years of socialization. But, I think it’s also possible that it’s not only that these books appeal to me more on some level but that they are simply more prevalent. Books written from the female perspective seem (and I’m basing only on personal experience which is woefully limited) to be geared toward teens, seem to tell stories that appeal to teenage and twenty-something women. I’m sure I’m generalizing and that there are many, many novels from the female perspective that I’ve not been exposed to, but do they appeal to a male audience…can I relate without making a conscious effort to do so?

What do ya’ll think?

12 January 2007

Can anyone tell me???

So this week there’s been a lot of conversation about the administration’s new plans for Iraq. A “surge” is what they call it. According to Condi, this isn’t an “escalation” it’s an “augmentation” of our effort…what beautiful word play. 20,000 more troops and a few billion more dollars to achieve “victory in Iraq,” but it’s not an escalation because our goals remain the same. Now…this line of bs is enough to make my blood boil in and of itself, but my real question is this: What does the phrase “victory in Iraq” mean? I know the party line, victory is achieved when Iraq can govern and defend itself. But who really believes this can happen at this point…or at any point in the next 10 year or so? We’ve created a perpetual battleground. Our foes will continue to funnel money and bodies into Iraq so long as we maintain a presence there, but if we leave, the country, and possibly the region, completely goes to shit. So, again, what does victory look like? Is it a matter of cutting our losses, or is there something more to be had? I won’t pretend to know the answers, I just feel the need to ask the questions. The one thing I do believe, we can’t do it alone, and the only ones who hold enough of a stake in the region to make a real difference…well, we’re not talking to them right now.

Quote of the Day

During a meeting with members of the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confessed to the panel that he was "no expert on Iraq", going as far as to say that he was "no expert on military matters" in general.

Hmmm... something about that confession seems really puzzling to me. The guy has 26 years of experience in intelligence, with both the CIA and National Security Council. He's been a pretty high ranking official for quite some time. Yet, during all of those years, he never picked up a smidge of military expertice, let alone a much better grasp on the situation in Iraq than what's held by the American public. Wouldn't it have been a better move by Dubya, considering the current state of affairs in Iraq and the rest of the world, to tap a real expert on all things Iraqi or even all thing military to lead the D.O.D? I'm not doubting Gates' experience, but one would think that if the president was serious about winning the war, if "winning" is even a legitimate option anymore, that he would've gone the way of someone with a little more military intelligence.

Or maybe, just maybe, you'd think that Bush would've pressured his nominee to beef up his knowledge of Iraq before allowing him to take over at the Pentagon. Oh wait, that's right, Gates had that chance when he was a member of the James Baker's Iraq Study Group. I guess that several month long crash course didn't really do much.

09 January 2007

Talk about faith...

If you haven't been there already, check out this discussion out on the Playground. Right my alley.

06 January 2007

Plug-and-Play Diplomats

Dubya made some interesting moves this week, a shake-up, if you will. Seems that Negroponte will soon be Condi’s number two replaced by a yet-to-be-named crony. Our illustrious ambassador to Iraq looks to be moving into Bolton’s old post at the UN. The administrations two top generals are also stepping down and being replaced. I don’t know much about diplomacy and I don’t know much about politics, but it seems to me that experience really doesn’t matter. It seems to me that qualifications for the job don’t really matter. It looks like the decision has been made by this administration that diplomats and generals are simply plug-and-play. It’s like that game with the ball under one of the three cups…where will the dip end up? You did it here, you can do it there. We’ll just pluck you from this post, drop you in that. It’s not a demotion, it just is what it is…I don’t know, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

05 January 2007

Thanks Bill

An era in the history of Pittsburgh sports has come to an end. And as a die-hard yinzer (read: Steeler fan) through and through, I've got to admit I'm deeply, deeply saddened by it. After 15 great, yet sometimes rocky, years as the head coach of the Steelers, 11 winning records, 2 AFC titles, and a Vince Lombardi Trophy, Bill Cowher has decided to resign, hoping to retreat to North Carolina to spend more time with his wife and 3 daughters.

Perhaps more than any other sports team in the nation, the Steelers franchise is their city, is Pittsburgh, personified. Hardworking, blue collar, tough, resilient, proud yet incredibly humble: the Steelers and the Rooney family, like the working class people of the city, cherish those traits like none other. And in his 15 years as head coach Bill Cowher, the jaw-jutting native son who succeeded a legend in former coach Chuck Noll, has typified the organization and the city. He's been a tough, hardworking teacher and coach. Like the city of Pittsburgh, which has tried for years to pull itself out of the failures of industrialization, he's been resilient, enduring a number of losing seasons on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl Championship. He's been humble in the face of immense accomplishments, and even during losing campaigns, proud of the time and effort his players and assistants put in. Above all, Bill Cowher has been respected not only as a solid leader, but also as a man. Players attest that even though a fuming Cowher, with his trademark jaw out and spit flying from his mouth, was usually the first guy to be in your face after a mishap on the field, he was also almost always the first to slap your helmet after a job well done.

Coach Cowher has been the only head coach that I, and a host of other Steelers fans, have known. And while it's almost inevitible that Bill will one day seek another head coaching job in the NFL, I know that my fellow yinzers and I will always hold a special place in our black and gold hearts for him. Earlier today Cowher told members of the media, " You can take the people out of Pittsburgh, but you will never take the Pittsburgh out of the people. I'm one of you." Well Coach, no matter where you go, we'll always be damn glad to have you. Thanks for the memories.

03 January 2007

I don't know...

I don’t know… I don’t know what life’s supposed to be or where I’m supposed to go. I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years, or even next year. I don’t know if I’m to be an MBA, a philosopher, a carpenter, a space cadet. I don’t really know why I’m blessed with such wonderful friends or why I’ve been so lucky to have the amazing experiences I’ve had. I don’t know how I got the fortunate lot in life that I did. I don’t know the right way to go about finding a job. I definitely don’t know the first thing about choosing a grad school. I don’t know if everyone has one love of their life or 50 million of them. I don’t know how to make money or if I want to make money. Hell, I don’t even know if the shit that I don’t know even matters. But that’s really not the point, is it? I mean, there’s a lot out there that I don’t know and never will know, but the important stuff is the stuff I have figured out…or at least I’m starting to figure out. I do know that there’s nothing more important than good friends and caring family and that I should never, ever do anything to alienate them. I do know that a cup of coffee matters in the morning and that sunshine usually makes you feel better, too. I do know that life’s an intermittent spattering of high points that we have to cherish…and the rest is filling the voids between, hopefully productively, playfully, and happily. The highpoints are weekends with good friends. The highpoints are sips of good wine or hearty beer. The high points are steak dinners and passing a piece with certain friends. The highpoints are festive holiday meals and nights in the hot tub with dad drinking beer. We have to fill the gaps between the good hugs, the cuddles and the passionate kisses…the gap between the great books and new ideas with real life. We fill the gaps with going to work, reading the mundane, catching the news, and office happy hours. The trick is to keep the gaps short and real life light and entertaining…that way you have some stories to tell your friends on those amazing weekends and evenings. That’s about all I know.