Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Hunt for Fred Thompson

Any time a candidate with acting chops and right-wing credentials toys with a presidential run you can bet the conservative base begins to tingle with excitement. Such is the case with former “Law and Order” star Fred Thompson, who formed a presidential exploratory committee yesterday causing many Republican faithful to quiver in anticipation.

Things have been looking pretty bleak for the GOP since the '06 elections. None of the front-running presidential candidates have been able to generate much excitement among the conservative base, due to the sin of not being conservative enough. Rudy Giuliani is already taking heat from his former progressive constituents and causing a panic among the right. Mitt Romney’s religion is an obvious stumbling block for many conservatives. And John McCain is just too damn old.

Enter stage left: Fred Thompson, who will no doubt bring his thespian gravitas to bear while vying for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Thompson often garners rhetoric like “presidential” or “strong” and why not? The liberal New York Times once summed up Thompson’s characters in this wise:

"The glowering, hulking Mr. Thompson has played a White House chief of staff, a director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a highly placed F.B.I. agent, a rear admiral, even a senator. When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him."

Oh my gosh, can you say Reagan-esque?

The Republican’s love the idea of someone acting his way through office. Except this seems to work best with former actors dreaming of a larger stage. The current president was last seen way off-script and totally over budget. Fred Thompson on the other hand brings a certain professionalism and experience to the task. He’s even played two former presidents (Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Jackson) while carrying a striking resemblance to Gerald Ford. Hello? The man is pretty much overqualified for the role of real-life president of the United States.

And you know who left the door open for Thompson’s vie for power? Yes, Al Gore. Thompson won the 1994 Tennessee Senatorial election to take Al Gore’s expired seat. Does it get any more delicious than that? The man who could cripple the Democratic Party got his start by replacing the man who once crippled the Democratic Party. That’s like something out of a movie!

The GOP faithful are watching Thompson closely as he prepares to strap on a set and star in a role that will shock you. Yes, you’ve seen him put criminals behind bars. You’ve seen him star along side Alec Baldwin while searching for Sean Connery in a rogue Russian submarine. But you've never seen anything like this. Now Fred Thompson is back, and this time it's personal. Are you ready for his greatest performance yet? Fred Thompson *is* Presidential! Coming soon to a ballot near you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cheney Introduces Cadets to Army Service

Today Dick Cheney gave the commencement address at West Point to a crowd of 20,000. The image of the Vice President, who actively avoided military service during Vietnam, rallying the Cadets was greeted with raucous laughter by most of the country.

Making matters worse, Cheney quickly slipped the moorings of reality while attempting to explain that Iraq is somehow tied to the increasingly nebulous war on terror because that is where the terrorists “have massed.”

Cheney then broke the sense of rapture displayed among the audience by saying “Nobody can promise us we won’t be hit again.” Somewhere a big dog barked.

"The truth is I have terrible dreams at night," Cheney said. "I dream of towers crumbling to the ground. I dream of soldiers sent into action, ill equipped, fighting with leftover equipment, led by corrupt leaders with delusions of....I'm sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, Iraq!"

Many neoconservatives point to Iraq and Vietnam as an example of weak American will. Cheney, whose military record includes five draft deferments to escape serving in the Vietnam War, happily welcomed 978 cadets into the Army many of whom will spend time in Iraq training Iraqi soldiers.

“You did not give in to other priorities as so many others have done,” Cheney said. “Instead you have offered up your time, your youth, in service to this country. And I pledge to have you all out of Iraq as soon as it is politically expedient to do so. For now just trust me on this one.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Losing Our Religion

What's the fastest growing religion in the world? Many people say Islam. But if you're talking about world-views, the fastest growing belief is non-belief whose ranks have swelled considerably over the last few hundred years. A non-believer is anyone who identifies himself as an atheist, agnostic, or a non-believer in God and their population figures might surprise you.

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College, in Claremont, California, puts the number at between five hundred million and seven hundred and fifty million. Although smaller than the three most popular religions, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, that figure is nothing short of miraculous when you consider that non-belief is a relatively recent world-view, with origins in the 18th century.

In other words, given the last 300 years there are roughly half as many non-believers as Christians. Forget about Islam, or any other number of so-called expanding religions, non-belief's rate of increase dwarfs them all.

Non-belief has one unique element on its side; it can draw numbers from any religion, while it is extremely unlikely that a practicing Christian will ever convert to another faith. It is more likely that they will abandon their faith altogether.

A leading theory explains the sharp rise in non-belief by advances in food production, health care, and housing. Non-belief is especially prevalent in Europe and other modern countries (except America, of course). In countries where food is scarce, health care is lacking, and life is more precarious, religious belief remains high. Perhaps man truly cannot serve both God and money.

I've witnessed how security affects religion first-hand. I once took a mission trip to a Haitian village where there was at least one funeral a day for someone who died probably from lack of food or basic health care. The Christians in that village worshiped God with a passion and sincerity I have never found among even the most feverish American Christian, probably because they really believed their fate depended upon God’s grace.

In countries like Haiti many continue to starve or are afflicted with disease, and they pray all the more while people in modern, secular countries have longer life spans, higher per-capita-income, and higher literacy rates than their counterparts. The correlation is often made between high non-religious populations and higher societal health. Does religion augment an unhealthy society? Or does a healthy society naturally do away with the need religion? Is the increase in unbelief responsible for so-called healthier societies? Or did the healthy societies come first? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The results, however, are unambiguous.

Here in America preachers like Rick Warren, a man not wanting for food, will have you believe that there is a purpose for your life. Many find it comforting to take that idea one step further and believe there is a reason for everything. But for every one person who runs in this direction, many more run towards pragmatism. There is simply too much injustice in the world for most people to cope with and praying about it doesn’t seem to yield much fruit. Perhaps what makes unbelief so popular is in its miracle: people are fed, and cured, when other people resolve to make it happen. Perhaps non-believers are people who believe in what people can do.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Ever since the horrific shooting of 33 students at Virginia Tech the news media has monitored the college's progress very closely. The questions have been asked: will the VT students be able to pick up the pieces and move on? What will their transition into the working world like?

Recently a report was released showing how veterans returning from Iraq face an increased risk of suicide because of lack of psychological care available at many VA clinics. Many facilities lack a 24 hour staff, adequate screening for mental problems, or properly trained workers. Meanwhile one-third of returning veterans report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Here are questions the media almost never asks: how will these returning Iraq war vets pick up the pieces and move on? What will their transition into the working world be like?

The response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech bore the ostentatious earmarks of our response to the Iraq War. For Virginia Tech many sports figures donned the university's maroon and gold baseball cap in a display of solidarity. For Iraq people placed pretty yellow ribbons on the back of their cars. These gestures are honorable, they are a good place to start, but they accomplish little unless accompanied by some solid action.

In the case of Virginia Tech this would mean a little less media drama and more of a serious discussion about gun control in this country. In the case of Iraq it would be less focus on rhetoric and more on the reality for the men and women of the armed forces who bear almost all of the weight of what President Bush has labeled "the great ideological struggle of the 21st century."

Is it right that a troubled young man can acquire automatic weapons and end the lives of 33 hopeful students? Does that horror not only require adequate grieving but a sober look at the circumstances that allowed it and how we can prevent such a thing in the future?

Is it right that young men and women who volunteer to serve their country be led into a war without proper planning and oversight; asked to fight with inadequate equipment; asked to return home to inadequate medical care? Shouldn't this horror require not only accountability a demand for change?

It seems our society is long on sympathy, and short on empathy. What I mean by that is we have no trouble showing our support to a group of people or a cause, but that response almost always lacks the power of true change. As Virginia Tech students graduate, and veterans return home from Iraq, their transition into the world will be closely watched. Rather than spectating, we need to answer the call to answer the hard questions put before us.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Review of Spiderman 3

It sucked.

The movie is about the power of choice and the ironic thing is that it grossed $150 million over the first weekend, proving people, like me, will watch anything. This movie is a cinematic horn-of-plenty featuring no less than three villians, two damsels in distress, two super heroes, a cosmic sludge with transformational powers, and one James Cromwell sighting.

When it's all said and done "Spiderman 3" manages to nullify its powers and settles safely into "Superman Returns" land, where, by the end of the movie the viewer is wondering what the hell just happened.

For example, the film gives you villain Flint Marco who has been a victim of circumstance, leading to a life of crime. You get a chance to see how he really does care for his daughter and how he would probably do things better if he could. So it only follows that, later, when he is transformed into Sandman, essentially a second chance on life, he goes on a city-wide killing spree. In-fact, Sandman grows so powerful
the writers couldn't figure out how to kill him off. He simply floats away at the end of the movie after Spiderman forgives him.


Topher Grace has no place in this movie. His smarmy, frat boy vibe ruins the whole feel of this thing. He later becomes Venom, shoehorned into one of the most uninspired action film endings ever.

When not screwing up the antagonists the film gives you healthy doses of Peter Parker, Mary Jane, and the James Franco character whining about crap. Peter Parker is sabotaged by a crawling black substance from space which transforms the quiet geek into a some type of mean-spirited funk master.


"Spiderman 3' wins a Poochy Award for being completely overblown and void of any substance. By the end of the movie you're just begging for someone to die.

I eagerly await this summer's next, huge comic book movie. Yes, I'm talking about the "Fantastic Four" sequel which proves Hollywood's singular ability to create money ex nihilo (Latin for: out of bullshit). Just the fact that they've made a sequel from what was one of the worst movies of 2005 should insult you deeply. This time they've conjured up the Silver Surfer, voiced by Lawrence Fishburne and played by a T-1000 from "Terminator 2." Also scattered about the plot are Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and that bald guy from "The Shield." Should be great.

Scotty's Ashes Lost in Mountains After Brief Star Trek

The cremated remains of James Doohan ("Scotty" of Star Trek fame) and 200 others, were lost in the mountains of New Mexico after a brief trip into space.

Family and friends had waited over two years to send Doohan's remains into space. A UP Aerospace rocket launched on April 28 with its payload, went into sub-orbital flight, and then vanished. The flight was successful, but the rocket's components, along with the ashes, parachuted into New Mexico's mountainous landscape and have not been found.

"The steep canyons and mountain terrain reflects the radio frequency making directional finding almost impossible," wrote UP Aerospace president Jerry Larson at Live Science Blogs.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Four Years Ago Iraq Mission Accomplished

Four years ago today combat operations in Iraq ended, marked in a speech by President Bush on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003. Bush, who rode in the back of an S-3 Viking which landed on the carrier, spoke in front of a large banner which declared "mission accomplished" and began the speech by declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," Bush declared. He also noted the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan. "You are homeward bound," Bush said to the men and women aboard the Abraham Lincoln.

And, as if in a dream, it all turned out to be exactly as the President said. The banner was perhaps a premonition. The war, like wars of old, ended with the words of the President. Like World War Two, it ended on the deck of a mighty ship. The symbolism was acute. American marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen returned home and grew old with their families. They watched their children grow old with them. They drove their cars under the haze of beautiful American summers. They spent Christmases decorating trees and gathering family members in front of the fireplace.

Iraq moved from years of oppression and division and became a healthy model of Democracy in the Middle East. Iraq influences the entire region as it once did. The oppressed peoples in neighboring countries see what is happening and the call of freedom resonates in every heart. It rings across the entire Middle East. Iran's days of sponsoring terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons are over. Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in a two-state solution long advocated by President Bush. The Middle East, long a hotbed for crisis and violence, has become a flowering Democracy ruled by peace.

And I trace this all back to that fateful speech by our stalwart President. His bold vision, enacted at a moments notice, with only the slightest logistical thought, with merely a moment's logical reflection, has changed the world forever. It all started with Iraq. Americans were able to wage war and go shopping at the same time. The Iraqi oil revenues paid for it all.