Saturday, March 22, 2003

Disturbing. I know I'm anti-American and un-patriotic and objectively pro-Hussein and all that, but has anyone else felt really uncomfortable watching the news, as if they were watching a high school kid beat the shit out of a third-grader. There is such a mismatch on display for the world that it simply looks cruel. What possible threat could this country have been to us? Look at the news! Just look at it. We decimate Baghdad, and they fire a couple of missiles which don't reach their targets. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that Iraq is so feeble because it means the troops are in less danger. But it really looks cruel that we're annihilating this poor, broken country that can't even defend itself. And for what?

The only thing that's more disturbing is how some people really seem to get off on this stuff. Atrios called it a "wargasm", and that's exactly what it is. It sickens me. This whole war sickens me.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Maintenance. I'm having some trouble with my comments, so please forgive me if things aren't working too well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Drew on a Mobile. Last night, Jenna, Lima Beanz, Mosco and I watched Talk Radio, a little-known film by Oliver Stone. Mosco and I were the only ones who managed to stay awake, though. Those two are just... I don't know. It's sad.

Anyway, on the way home, I was listening to 610 WIP, the sports station. There was a guy on, I think his name was Steve Fredericks. He was talking about the war. He said that the time for debate is passed, but he wanted to talk about how people were feeling about this war. He was telling everyone about his wife, who's apparently petty scared about the can of worms that's about to be opened. He talked about not knowing what's going to happen, and about how the aftershocks of this war will be with us for years to come. I think it's a pretty picotal moment in history, and in a lot of way, it's going to define everything that comes after it for a long time. I think that's reason enough to be scared.

So I did what I never do, and I called in. I held on the line as several callers tried to engage Steve in a debate on the merits. One guy started alking about social inequalities in America, arguing that the Administration should focus its attention on this country for a change. Another guy argued that the threat posed by Saddam made this war necessary. Steve didn't want to talk about any of this stuff. He's right, it's a done deal, so what's the point? But then he took my call. "Drew on a mobile." I told him that I was scared about this war, and I told him about Mike.

I think I've mentioned Mike on this site before. Mike used to be in Big Fantastic, one of the bands that I'm in now. Mike was the singer. A couple of years ago, Rich, Chris, and I got together and decided that Mike just wasn't cutting it. He didn't have any musical background, and it made it very difficult for him to keep up with some of Chris's more complex songs. It was a difficult decision, because Mike was more dedicated to that band than any of us, and he worked harder at it than any of us. It was especially difficult for Chris, who was very close friends with Mike. But we fired him. So he joined the Marines.

Mike has always liked to tease me about this, saying that if anything ever happened to him, it would be my fault. Mike was primarily responsible for getting me into the band in the first place, so I guess he felt pretty betrayed by the whole thing. I never really let it bother me too much. I mean, I didn't know he was ging to join the Marines, and it was his choice anyway. But lately, since he left for Kuwait, I've been thinking about him a lot. I've been thinking about him damn near every day. I had trouble sleeping last night.

Since he lefted the band, my relationship with Mike has been a bit rocky. Sometimes I can be a real asshole, and I've said some pretty shitty things about Mike, and I've said some pretty shitty things to him. I can't stop thinking about that these days. I know it isn't really my fault that he joined the Marines, but I feel responsible anyway. Sometimes, it can be pretty hard to be an atheist. Sometimes, when a family member dies, or when someone you care about is facing a tough situation that you can't help them through, you yearn for the peace and comfort that prayer can bring. I call that a "crisis of faithlessness", and it's been something I've been going through a lot lately.

I didn't pray last night, as I tossed and turned, trying to sleep, thinking about Mike. But I hoped and wished that he would come home safely. Even if it's not prayer, maybe that's enough. And even though I don't agree with the war that our president has asked him to fight, I hoped and wished for him to kick ass while he's there.

When people talk about anti-war protesters who don't support the troops, like Steve on the radio did last night, I just think about Mike. I'm going to write Mike a letter today, and I'm going to tell him a lot of this stuff. I'm going to wish him well. I'm going to tell him that his friends and his country are proud of and grateful for the job he's doing over there. I'm not going to mention what I think of our president, or what I think of this war, or the protests I've gone to and the one I might go to tomorrow. At this point, it just doesn't matter any more. I think that's what people mean by "support the troops", and that's what I'm going to do.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Alterman on The Daily Show. Did anyone catch Eric Alterman on The Daily Show last night? I didn't either. I was watching The Salton Sea with Lima Beanz, Jenna, and Mosco. Pretty good flick, I think. I would have been able to follow it a bit better if I hadn't had so much beer during the Flyers' terrific 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. That was a hell of a game. I did my old "two beers per period" routine, that I usually save for the playoffs, but that was easily the single biggest game of the season for the Flyers, and it was St. Patrick's Day, so I figured I'd bring it back. Plus, I'm on Spring Break.

Anyway, I caught The Daily Show at 10am this morning, and it will be on again sometime this afternoon too, I think. Eric Alterman was terrific. I was a little worried that the interview wouldn't go very well. The Daily Show, I think, is a pretty tough gig if you're a news person and not an entertainment person. I've seen some top news guys have a lot of trouble finding the line between news and comedy, and end up embarrassing themselves on that show. Not everyone can do what Jon Stewart does, and that is to present the news through humor. In the long tradition of comedy-news, the usual approach is to take the news and make it funny. But Sewart does something a little different: he uses comedy as a tool to present the news. Enter a bona fide news person who thinks "Joke news show on Comedy Central" and the results can sometimes be disastrous. But Alterman navigated it masterfully. He was both funny and effective.

Speaking of Alterman, I finished What Liberal Media? some time ago, but haven't gotten around to saying anything about it. No time like present. I thought it was an excellent book. I thought some sections might have been a little tighter, but overall, the effect was staggering. While there wasn't too much in it that I didn't already know, the effect of putting all of that material together in one place was like a punch in the gut. It was, in a lot of ways, a very depressing read. It exposed the true depths to which the national media have fallen. Yet, it also offers hope that this enduring myth of liberal media bias can be fought with hard facts and meticulous research. Many of the reviews I have seen of the book since it's publication have been highly encouraging. It seems clear that there is at least a small group of reporters, columnists, and commentators who understand what has happened. For those people, this book is a call to arms.

But the enduring myth (or Big Lie) of liberal media bias is only one battlefield in a larger war. One need only recall that so-called press conference the president staged recently to realize how timid and ineffectual the media have become. Traditionally, the press was supposed to be a check on government people. Journalists were supposed to take the side of the people against the government as a means of keeping the government honest. There are very few journalists willing to take that role any longer. It's no surprise that Bush evaded those few tough questions he got during the press conference. There is a long tradition in this country for politicians of all stripes to attempt to sidestep uncomfortable questions. But the press should at least try to pin him down, if for no other reason than to make clear that this man is refusing to answer this question. The press corps did not do this at all, and they have refused since day one to hold Bush to the same standard to which Clinton was held.

I'm not saying that all of these reporters are Republican hacks deliberately aiding the administration in its attempts to lead (or rather, mislead) America into an unnecessary and illegal war. But they have abandoned their traditional role as advocates for truth, openness, and accountability in government. This is a dangerous development for all Americans. All power corrupts, as they say, and journalism should act as a real check against that power. When it doesn't, it acts as a real tempation for presidents, hidden from the eye of public scrutiny, to abuse that power. The same goes for both parties. Put a Democrat in the White House, cloak him in secrecy, shield him from the public, and he will also abuse his power. It's a bipartisan problem that I simply don't know how to fix.

What Liberal Media? is, at least, a start.

I've loaned the book to my friend Lima Beanz, and I urge everyone to read it. We can't fix these problems unless we really understand how the media operate. This book is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Monday, March 17, 2003

The Bond Project: License to Kill. The second and, sadly, final Bond film to star Timothy Dalton has the distinction of being possibly the most widely and vociferously loathed film of the entire series. Which is odd, because in my humble opinion, it is undoubtedly the single best.

Sure, it’s not a “typical” Bond film. Sure, Bond has entirely lost the cool detachment that we’ve come to know. Bond has gone rogue and is being pursued by his own government. Bond is driven entirely by personal motivations, not by duty. Are those bad things? It’s for those reasons, among others, that I love this movie so much.

It probably has the best story of any in the franchise, just because there are so many competing interests and goals at work. Bond is simply trying to get revenge for his friend Felix (who is making his last appearance in the series). But that quickly gets a lot more complicated when Bond’s obsession begins stepping on some other toes. Bond also infiltrates his target’s organization to create mistrust between Sanchez and his top lieutenants. This is a perfect set-up to provide all of the action that is required of a Bond film (and this one delivers), with a lot more meat to keep the audience interested between explosions.

That’s my theory, if you’re interested, about why this film is so vehemently despised. The last thing most people want in a Bond film is a plot that requires even a modicum of thought or effort to follow. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is far from complicated, but it’s not mindless popcorn action-movie stuff. Most Bond movies are, even some of the good ones. So, this Bond movie, which actually is a pretty good movie in its own right, does not deliver the kind of entertainment most people look for in a Bond film. But that doesn’t make it bad, does it?

Whatever. The point is that this is one of the very few movies in the Bond franchise that is legitimately good in its own right. Dalton delivers the best ever lead performance in a Bond film, the script is layered and well-constructed, and the direction is top-notch. This represents the high water mark of the entire francise. In addition to being the last Timothy Dalton film, it was also the last film directed by John Glen, who had directed every Bond film since For Your Eyes Only. The future would bring ups and downs, as always, but I doubt it will ever produce a film as strong as this one.

Bottom Line: Best Bond film ever, its many detractors notwithstanding.

The Bond Project continues with GoldenEye.
Spring Break. Sorry posting has been light the last few days, but I'm on Spring Break right now. No, I haven't run off to some exotic locale surrounded by hundreds of college girls in various stages of having gone wild, but I do have some time off from school, and that's good enough for me. I'm catching up on some important movie viewing that I've been neglecting lately. My friend Tucker loaned me The Untouchables and Diner, the latter of which is on at this very moment. The most important thing, though, is that on Saturday night Lima Beanz, the Duke and I finally beat Final Fantasy X. Afterwards we went to Finnegan's Wake in Philly and met up with a bunch of other people, including some friends of mine from school. I love bringing my law school friends and my other friends together, but they don't really mingle much. Nevermind.

It's a great week for Spring Break, because Mosco from Wisconsin is back in town for the week. Once again, he's promising to restart his blog. He has a new digital camera, so you might be able to see an extremely unflattering picture of yours truly on that site in the near future. That's something to... uh, look forward to..., I guess. Whatever.

Anyway, blogging might be light for the remainder of the week, because I won't be sitting in class all day with a wireless internet connection at my disposal. But I'm still here, so please pop in from time to time.
What is a Diplomatic Solution in Iraq? I was just reading this article in Newsweek which included this quote: "The majority of those polled seemed to believe that time is running out for a diplomatic solution..." The article was about the latest poll numbers regarding the the imminent war in Iraq. As usual, the poll results were conflicting and not entirely clear, but the article represented it as confirming that Americans overwhelmingly support this war. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

For months now Bush has been pounding his chest about the need to pursue "diplomacy". I don't know what the fuck he think he means when he says that, because there hasn't been a single moment of genuine diplomacy regarding Iraq since Bush came to power. Yesterday was a big diplomatic summer in the Azores with the UK and Spain. Well, that's diplomacy there, right? Sort of. I mean, this White House has employed loads of diplomacy in its pathetic failure of an attempt to get UN support for an invasion of Iraq. That's the diplomacy we've seen, and that's what diplomacy is: trying to urge other countries to act in accordance with your interests. But does constitute a "diplomatic solution"?

It depends on how you define the problem, and this is where the genius of the Bush administration steps in. The problem is not that Saddam Hussein has WMDs, or whatever. The problem is merely that the UN won't authorize war with Iraq. The US has employed diplomacy, badly, to try to find a "diplomatic solution" to the problem of procuring UN authorization. The alternative to this diplomatic approach, presumably, is to attack the UN in order to get their authorization to attack Iraq. So, yes, Bush is pursuing a diplomatic solution to our problem with the UN, and that's a good thing. He's failing miserably, embarrassing himself every day, and alienating every ally this country ever had. In other words, he's inept to the point of impeachability, and has done more damage to this country than any president since Herbert Hoover. But at least he isn't invading the UN.

But what about Iraq? Let's pretend we had a president who wasn't a blood-thirsty warmonger, who didn't constantly lie to the American people about his own goals and policies, and who didn't have unhealthy obsession with Saddam Hussein. Let's say, oh, Clinton! What would Clinton have done if faced wit this same crisis over Iraq? Well, like any man who understands the horrors of warfare, and who values innocent human life irrespective of color, religion, or national origin, Clinton would pursue a "diplomatic solution" before consigning hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians to oblivion. In other words, Clinton would attempt to settle our dispute with Saddam Hussein through non-military means first. Then, if that failed, he would reluctantly invade. Looking at the state of things in the world today, he would probably say that the inspections have gone fairly well so far, and we've achieved soome encouraging results. So, there's no reason to give up on them just yet. Clinton would no doubt support tough benchmarks and explicit deadlines for compliance. If Clinton's diplomatic solution in Iraq failed, he would be forced to adopt a military solution, and he would attempt to get authorization from the UN. I don't think, under those circumstances, Clinton would have had any difficulty at all in obtaining the "diplomatic solution" with the UN that Bush has failed, and ultimately given up on.

Just a little reminder to all of you what a good president looks like.