Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Its traditional to do lists at the end of the year. Best movies, best books, "person of the year", etc. Everyone has their own opinions. Offer mine you say? All right..but you asked for it:

Movie (err..film) of the Year - I can only go by what I've actually seen. So I'll have to go with a movie I just saw a couple of days ago..."Return of the King". Its a powerful, dramatic telling of the third installment of Tolkien's trilogy. Ian McKellen makes you really believe he IS Gandalf - the white wizard. The ascension of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) to the throne leads to the ultimate battle for the fate of Middle Earth. The movie lasts over three hours and you could hear a pin drop in the crowded theater the entire time.

Runner Up - "School of Rock". This movie was hilarious and great fun.

2. Book of the Year - So many good books...so little time. But Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" is a page turning thriller with a highly controversial subject. The quest for the Holy Grail by American professor Robert Langdon turns into a breakneck dash across France and England trying to stay ahead of the police, the Catholic church, and unknown enemies. The book opens with a dramatic murder at the Louvre and the story takes off from there. Brown reminds me of Michael Crichton with his blending of science, culture, and fiction. A superb read for anyone.

Runner Up - "The Gates of the Alamo" Harrigan's blending of well told fiction with historical accuracy makes you believe you were there at the Alamo fighting off Santa Ana's army against impossible odds.

Politician of the Year - George W. Bush is a clear winner here. Its hard to find anyone who agrees with everything he does (including me). But his strong leadership makes him the strongest American president since Reagan's first term.

Runner Up - Arnold Schwarzenegger and his improbable victory in California's wild and crazy recall election caps the American dream for this Austrian immigrant. Funny thing is that I think he'll be a superb governator..err, governor.

Music Video of the Year Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is especially poignant following his unfortunate death. I've never been a huge fan of his music, but Cash is a legend and talent like his doesn't come along every day.

Grace Under Pressure Award - American diplomat Paul Bremer has an impossible job to do in Iraq...and he's doing it well.

Guts Award - American soldiers endure sniping and organized terrorist resistance in Iraq. They are doing a difficult job and deserve the highest commendations from all of us for doing it well.

Runner up - New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is aggressively promoting an anti-corruption drive in what is perhaps America's most corrupt big city. This man has a big brass pair.

College Football Player of the Year - has to be Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. His surprisingly efficient and gutsy performance took the college football world by storm.

Runner up - Pittsburgh receiver Larry Fitzgerald is an incredible talent. In four years he'll be the best wide receiver in the NFL.

NFL Player of the Year - Kansas City's Priest Holmes has had an incredible year and might very well lead his team to the Super Bowl.

Runner Up - Indianopolis quarterback Peyton Manning

NBA Player of the Year - New Jersey's Jason Kidd is the best point guard of his generation. He's a winner and a leader.

Runner Up - Minnesota's Kevin Garnett can flat out take over a game.

Wife of the Year - I only have one.....and I'd pick her anyway. Congratulations honey!

Of course no list is complete without a few negative awards:

Loser of the Year - a lot of competition in this area. But the winner is...Saddam Hussein who saw his multi-billion dollar stash and brutal rule come to end.

Runners Up - France's king of appeasement Jacques Chirac and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who saw his prestige plummet to all time lows (and thats saying something)

Foot in Mouth Award - Howard Dean must have great leg muscles. Confederate flag, capture of Saddam, etc. Every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. This makes him more endearing to his legions of internet Starbucks drinkers but how will it go over in prime time?

Coach Who Deserved To Get Fired - Oakland's Bill Callahan lost control of his team and made some bizarre and mysterious public comments and personnel moves.

Dumbass Award - Michael Jackson. In spite of past problems and negative publicity regarding his practice of allowing young boys to sleep in his bed...he keeps doing it and now is on trial for his life.

Remember------you asked for it.

Tacitus has an excellent post on Zimbabwe's troubles. The murderous, thuggish regime of Robert Mugabe is wreaking havoc on what had potential to be a prosperous example of post-colonial rule. Very, very sad.

Bill Safire has made some predictions for the New Year. Ok Bill, I'll play!

1. Next tyranny to feel the force of U.S. liberation: (a) North Korea; (b) Iran; (c) Syria; (d) Venezuela.
Safire says: None
I say: Agreed. The military needs time to replenish its ranks and re-supply.

2. Iraq will (a) split up, like all Gaul, into three parts; (b) defeat the insurgents and emerge a rudimentary democracy; (c) succumb to a Sunni coup.

Safire says: B
I say: Have to agree again. There is too much at stake for us and the Iraqis.

3. First to fall from power will be (a) Little China's Chen Shui-bian, whose two-China campaign oratory on Taiwan is asking for trouble with Big China; (b) Pakistan's Musharraf, double-crossed by his Islamist military; (c) the U.S.'s Bush, after abandoning fiscal restraint; (d) Russia's Putin as his electorate miraculously awakens; (e) Cuba's Castro.

Safire says: E
I say: B Pakistan's leader is a walking assassination attempt.

4. Long-overdue exoneration will come to embattled media megastar (a) Martha Stewart; (b) Michael Jackson; (c) Kenneth Lay; (d) Pete Rose.

Safire says: A
I say: D Its time for Pete Rose to be in the Hall of Fame

5. The economy will (a) see a booming 13,000 Dow and 3,000 Nasdaq; (b) grow more slowly as a weakening dollar drives up interest rates; (c) be rocked by the abuse of manipulative derivatives in hedge funds.

Safire says: All the above
I say: Agreed. (Even though I don't know what the hell a hedge fund is)

6. The fiction best seller will be (a) "Retribution" by Jilliane Hoffman; (b) "Confessions of a Bigamist" by Kate Lehrer; (c) "Flying Crows" by Jim Lehrer (presumably one of Kate's husbands).

Safire says: B
I Say: Agreed. I'm intrigued already

7. The nonfiction sleeper will be (a) "Inside — A Public and Private Life" by Joseph Califano Jr.; (b) Carl Zimmer's brainy "Soul Made Flesh"; (c) Michael Korda's biography of U. S. Grant; (d) Gertrude Himmelfarb's "The Roads to Modernity."

Safire says: A
I say: C .. but maybe that's the history guy's wishful thinking

8. The scientific advance of the year will be (a) age retardation enhanced by memory protection; (b) a single pill combining erectile dysfunction treatment with a fast-acting aphrodisiac; (c) neuroscientists' creation of a unified field theory of the brain; (d) the awakening of geneticists to the liberating study of bioethics.

Safire says: D
I say: D (even though B would be pretty cool)

9. Best-Picture Oscar: (a) Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain"; (b) Edward Zwick's "The Last Samurai"; (c) Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River"; (d) Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation"; (e) Gary Ross's "Seabiscuit." (This is the category I'm good at.)

Safire says: C
I say: E (just a hunch)

10. Bush's domestic initiative will be (a) Social Security personal accounts; (b) community college scholarships; (c) a moon colony; (d) snowmobile restrictions in Florida parks.

Safire says: B
I say: Agreed..and a welcome initiative at that

11. The U.S. Supreme Court (a) will decide that the rights of alien detainees in Guantánamo have not been violated; (b) will deadlock, 4-4 (Scalia recused), in the Pledge of Allegiance case, thereby temporarily affirming the Ninth Circuit decision declaring "under God" in the pledge unconstitutional; (c) in Tennessee v. Lane will uphold a state's immunity to lawsuits, limiting federal power in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Safire says: All
I say: All but B. I just can't imagine the court doing this

12. Howard Dean will (a) sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and breeze to a boring nomination; (b) lose to Gephardt in Iowa and do worse than expected in N.H., leading to a long race; (c) transform himself into the centrist, affable "new Dean"; (d) angrily bolt and form a third party if the nomination is denied him.

Safire says: B
I say: Agreed. This is going to be a tougher race than the Deaniacs think right now

13. The "October surprise" affecting our election will be (a) the capture of bin Laden in Yemen; (b) the daring escape of Saddam; (c) a major terror attack in the U.S.; (d) finding a buried bag of anthrax in Tikrit.

Safire says: C
I say: A. I just have a feeling Bin Laden can't hide forever

14. Debating Cheney on TV will be the Democratic running mate (a) Wes Clark; (b) Bob Graham; (c) Bill Richardson; (d) Dianne Feinstein; (e) John Edwards; (f) Carl Levin.

Safire says: B
I say: C..if the Democratic nominee is smart. Richardson is a winner

15. The next secretary of state will be (a) Richard Holbrooke; (b) Paul Bremer; (c) Donald Rumsfeld; (d) John Kerry.

Safire says: B
I say: None of these. It'll be Condoleeza Rice.

16. Israel, staunchly supported during the U.S. election year, will (a) build its security barrier including the Ariel salient and the Jordan Valley; (b) undermine Arafat by negotiating territory with Syria after Assad quiets Hezbollah in occupied Lebanon; (c) close down illegal outposts before "redeploying" settlers out of Gaza.

Safire says: A
I Say: Agreed. The Israeli government will do whatever it takes to help Bush win re-election.

Lets see how we do Bill!


Thursday, December 25, 2003

Its 3:15 a.m. and we are finally done getting all the Christmas gifts put out. The stockings are done and the new foosball table is set up downstairs. I'm totally exhausted yet feeling very satisfied. For some reason it seems even more important this year for everyone to have a good Christmas. I stopped in and looked at the kids sleeping and looked at Lee all asleep in our bed. I feel a sense of joy...a sense of peace....a sense of remembrance.

I tip my glass to everyone. May this day bring the kind of happiness to others as it does to me.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Its almost time for our Christmas Eve dinner. The turkey is done and the stuffing is in the oven. The table is laid out with all kinds of goodies. Karen Carpenter's beautiful voice is piping throughout the house over the new stereo I got my lovely wife for our anniversary.

The kids are anxious and excited. They are allowed to open one gift tonight...but which one will it be? Will they be able to sleep tonight? Christmas day is sooooo exciting for kids..ok, its exciting for me too!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.


Happy Anniversary Baby 

Today is not only Christmas Eve for me. It is our sixth wedding anniversary. Six years can seem like an eternity or just yesterday. Today it seems like both.

People I know tend to view marriage as some kind of romantic fairy tale or as some boring, stodgy institution that people fall into. Many of us know that these extremes can't begin to tell the tale.

In six years of marriage it sometimes seems like we've seen it all. Six years ago I quit the job of a lifetime, gathered up my children, and moved to Louisiana to start a new life with my wife. Six of us lived in a small three bedroom rental house in a Slidell, LA suburb until we were able to move into a home of our own.

In those six years we have raised children with all the joy and pain that entails, endured heartache we could never have imagined, moved across the country, danced the night away,suffered financial problems, sat up all night talking, bought new cars and a new home, changed jobs, laughed until tears ran down our cheeks, cried until we thought we could cry no more, made and lost friends, fought together and fought each other, attended rock concerts and funerals, comforted each other, teased each other, yelled at each other and cried on each other's shoulder, had thousands of phone calls to each other, kissed thousands of times, hugged just as many, made various lifestyle changes, folded laundry together, overcome our vastly different tastes in food, gone to school conferences and events, and slept in the same bed for over 2000 nights.

No one has shared as much with me as she has. No one has endured with me what we have endured. She changed my life and I'm a better person because of it. We've endured...we've thrived...we've survived.

Thats what marriage is all about.

Whats wrong with you people? Fake Christmas trees instead of the real thing?

In 1990, half of all trees on display in U.S. households were real. By last year, that figure was down to 30%. Americans bought 12 million fewer live trees last year than they had a decade earlier; that amounts to a one-third drop in sales.
Final figures for this year are not in, but the anecdotal evidence looks grim: In Hawaii, lots were still so full Tuesday that vendors were giving trees away. In Texas, for the first time, the official tree of the state House of Representatives was fake — and made in China.

I know they are easier to mess with and you can use them year after year. But nothing beats the smell and feel of a real live tree!

A nice reminder that while some of us are lucky to be spending Christmas Eve with our families, others are working and doing the things that make this country work.

If you're reading this and...
...you just came in from sitting on a windswept lookout starring through binoculars;
If you are standing vigil to protect your mates somewhere far from your home;
If you are mopping up late in the mess hall, while everyone else enjoys the feast you've prepared;
If you drew the short straw and have to pull guard duty;
If you are taking a quick break from the chaos of the emergency room;
If you are spending this eve in the Fire House instead of your house;
If you are the one who volunteered to lock up or stay late so someone else could be with family;
If you are living without cover and in danger hoping to find a key link or hear an explicit warning or simply chasing a dead end;
If you are in a patrol car alone and pulling an extra shift because Orange is the color of the day;
If you are someone I failed to mention, but you're one of the millions of people doing one of the thousands of thankless jobs on this Christmas Eve that make an abstract such as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness a tangible for the rest of us...
Thank you and may God bless you.

Amen brother.

Yet another Christmas remembrance by J. Bottum can be read here. This guy is so good I feel like I'm there.

And the next year as well, I was almost in tears as I walked home, listening to the dry snow crunch beneath the black rubber overshoes my father made us wear, and with nothing but a Christmas card to give my mother after the store where I'd planned to get her genuine rhinestone earrings closed earlier than I expected on Christmas Eve. But while I was trudging past the almost deserted Christmas-tree shop in the school parking lot, a salesman suddenly leaned over the fence to ask if I wanted a wreath. "I don't have enough money left," I said. "That's okay, kid," he answered. "We're closing up here. Give it to your mother.

It's Christmas."

And so it is.

David Broder writes about the joy of Christmas, childhood, and coming of age.

There is a reason why Christmas revolves around children, and it is not solely because it celebrates the birth of the Christ child. The holiday spirit of giving finds its fullest expression in the faces of the young ones, those who are trusting enough to believe that their wishes will be fulfilled.

And often they are. A sled, a doll, a game can bring such rapture to a child that everyone else around the tree is lifted into the same sublime state of perfect bliss. That is the magic of this holiday season.

I believe in magic...do you? :)

John Derbyshire has an interesting, take on some traditional Christmas carols here. If you like to mix politics and the holidays..check it out!

Deck the Halls
Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Sing of Michael Jackson's folly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Dons he soon his jail apparel,
Fa la la, fa la la, fa la la.
The DA's got him over a barrel!
Fa la la la la, la la la la.



Tuesday, December 23, 2003

There aren't a lot of athletes that I really admire anymore. But read this story about Brett Favre's performance a day after the death of his father and tell me that this isn't a special man. He's a fierce competitor, a leader, and has guts by the bucket.

One play later, tight end Wesley Walls leaped for a 22-yard score in the back of the end zone. Favre jumped into Walls’ arms for a lengthy hug.
“I just said, ’I love you,”’ said Walls, who scored his first TD with the Packers. “He played an amazing game for us, and we all felt we had to do the same for him. Sometimes in special circumstances, you make special plays. I think it’s fair to say we were inspired by Irv.”
Favre completed his first nine passes, including a perfect 23-yard TD pass down the Packers’ sideline to Walker, before throwing an intentional incompletion out of the end zone. He then completed his next three, hitting Walker again when the receiver outmuscled two defenders for a 43-yard TD catch.

Give me Brett Favre on my team any day...and it doesn't have to be a football team.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year....in many languages found here. A sample:

(Japanese) - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
(Korean) - Chuk Sung Tan
Sung Tan Chuk Ha.
(Lithuanian) - Linksmu Kaledu
linksmu sventu Kaledu ir Laimingu Nauju Metu
(Norwegian) - God Jul Og Godt Nytt Aar
(Peru) - Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo
(Philippines) - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
(Polish) - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia i szczesliwego Nowego Roku
(Portuguese) - Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo
Feliz Natal e propero Ano Novo
(Romanian) - Sarbatori Fericite. La Multi Ani
(Russian) - S prazdnikom Rozdestva Hristova i s Novim Godom
(Serbian) - Hristos se rodi
(Serb-Croatian) - Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina
(Spanish) - Feliz Navidad y prospero Año Nuevo


Monday, December 22, 2003

There are times when I am really glad that I'm a guy. Reading this is one of those times!

The nurse said, "Oh my, you are fully dilated and I can feel the head in the canal. Your waters are broken." This was only about 30 seconds since she last checked me. That's what I call transition. (I also was relieved to know what the pressure and wetness were.)
At this point I blanked out and focused on the voices and the feelings inside my body. I literally left my body and was floating above in a dark haze. People were telling me I had to push and to do it NOW! So I did, then suddenly the pushing stopped itself and hit a wall. The pressure turned into a burning and stretching sensation and I let out a scream as they yelled "push DAWN, PUSH". I pushed as hard as I could and I literally felt the baby's head, shoulders and body slide out.

Now doesn't that sound like fun?

Michael Graham writes here of a son that sounds a little like my own.

All the while, Mencken is utterly oblivious. Has he ever even heard this song before? Why won't he look at the music? Doesn't he see the crowd of people watching him...oh, no! Not the finger! And not the NOSE!

And to think I could've had that vasectomy for just 300 bucks...


Then there's the basic angst of being the parent of a nine-year-old boy. Is there any creature on Earth more biologically inclined toward destruction? His mind works like the latest technology from the Pentagon: Any unassuming household item can immediately be converted into a weapon. Last Christmas during his church-pageant debut as a shepherd, my son's Star Wars-inspired stick work with his shepherd's hook caused an off-duty EMT in the audience to nervously inch closer to the stage.

Been there and done that Michael :)

Actually, my son is a great kid, he really is. Would you like to meet him? He's over by the refreshments table — he's the boy with the jelly donut stuck to the seat of his brand-new pants.

I think I already have!

I wonder if anyone else remembers this episode of M.A.S.H.? Its classic M.A.S.H...bittersweet, thought-provoking and somehow touching.

With Christmas approaching, Hawkeye takes the opportunity to write a letter home during a lull in the rigours of the operating theatre. News includes Radar's attempts to mail a jeep home, piece by piece, Trapper's breaking of the rules to vaccinate local Korean children, and Father Malcahy's attempts to bring Christmas cheer with popcorn strings

I've read this article by J. Bottum before. His childhood memory of a Christmas Eve in South Dakota is somehow powerfully stirring. Toward the end of his essay he tells of rounding up strays and meeting a woman all alone on Christmas Eve.

Her eyes were quick and black. "I don't see many people, here about," she chirruped, like a winter bird. "Come in and get warm. I'll make some coffee. No, you're a little young for coffee. I'll put some water on for tea, and there're the cookies I made in case someone came by." But I was proud of bringing back one of the strays and wouldn't wait. I shied away from her outstretched hand and galloped back.

Her hair was the same thin shade of gray as the weather-beaten pickets of the fence around her frozen garden. She had a way with horses, and she was alone on Christmas Eve.
There is little in my life I regret as much as that I would not stay for just one cookie, just one cup of tea.

No one should be alone on Christmas.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it! I like shopping...trying to find that perfect gift for the people in my life who have given me so much in the past year. Gifts can't possibly make up for the love I receive from my family and friends. But I like to think about them while I'm wandering the aisles, fighting the crowds, trying to find a place to park, and perusing the merchandise.

I like Christmas music. It brings back memories of my childhood...warm memories and good ones. It touches me somewhere inside. Everyone has their own taste but I like the Carpenters and Nat King Cole's takes on holiday tunes..two magnificent voices that were taken from us too soon.

I love watching the kids at Christmas. To tell you the truth, its the one time in the year when I feel something like a little kid myself. I love the excitement in their faces, the way they squeal with delight, seeing them sit around the Christmas tree in their pajamas.

I love the traditions and the decorations. I like driving down the street or looking out the windows of our house and seeing brightly decorated houses. I like seeing Christmas trees shining in windows.

Christmas is a celebration of sacred birth and new hope.

Keep your bah humbug to yourself. Merry Christmas!

In this win for consumers and privacy a federal court ruled that the R.I.A.A. could not issue subpoenas for suspected music "pirates" without going through a judge.

This makes sense. I can't issue a subpoena if I think my neighbor stole my lawn mower. Why should the recording industry be give powers under the law that other companies and private citizens don't have? I find comfort in the judicial system being between the R.I.A.A. and suspected "pirates".

The recording industry still doesn't "get it". Even though ITunes has sold 25 million downloads, "legal" music downloads are still dwarfed by "illegal" ones. Why you say?

First of all, to be honest, there are a lot of people who will never pay for what they can get for free. In the conceivable future there is no way the recording industry is going to be able to shut down Kazaa, Grokster, and the host of other peer-to-peer sites.

But will a lot of downloaders switch to a "legal" music downloading service given the chance? Of course they will. People want to see their favorite artists fairly compensated for their work and no one wants one of those nasty R.I.A.A. lawsuits. So what will it take?

1. A better price - I think 99 cents a song is still too much. This is about what you would pay per song if you went to the store and bought the CD. But there is no packaging, no physical CD, no advertising. Shouldn't the consumer reap the benefits of that. Show me 50 cent legal downloads and I think you'll see movement.

2. No silly restrictions - If I pay for a song its mine. I should be able to burn it to CD, use it on my home network, slap it into my IPOD or whatever else I want to do with it. Stop trying to solve this issue with ridiculous digital rights mousetraps and sell your product!

3. Speed - let me download your song at high speed. No interruptions, no turtle paced hourglass downloads.

4. Make a lot of songs free - songs that are 30 years old shouldn't be priced the same as today's top 10 hits. A lot of them should be extremely cheap or even free.

As long as the stuffed shirts at the record companies are in the death grip of the $18 CD and $1 song with multiple restrictions, "legal" music downloading is going nowhere.

I'm usually a hard-ass when it comes to people who commit murder. I've never been able to muster a lot of sympathy for someone who could just snuff out the life of another human being. When its a person who has taken multiple lives my heart is even harder. I didn't bat an eyelash at Ted Bundy's execution, found poetic justice in Jeffrey Dahmer's death, and wish Gary Ridgeway would've gotten to see the executioner's table instead of watching cable TV in prison.

But in the case of Beltway sniper teenager Lee Malvo I find myself opposing his possible execution. His youth and the presence of a dominant male figure like John Muhammad. This kid could never have planned crimes like this and I tend to believe that Muhammad had some sort of hold on him. Where was his family? What happened to this kid?

I do think that he was old enough to know right from wrong. The lives he took in such a cold, wanton way can never be replaced. Let this pathetic young man think about that for the rest of his life.

Time announced its "Person of The Year" and this year's choice is "The American Soldier". Certainly the American military has had a profound effect on the world in the past year.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told TIME, "they have purple hair and an earring, and they've never walked with another person in step in their life. And suddenly they get this training, in a matter of weeks, and they become part of a unit, a team. They're all sizes and shapes, and they're different ages, and they're different races, and you cannot help when you work with them but come away feeling that that is really a special thing that this country has."

American soldiers are tending the peace in the Balkans, Korea, Western Europe, and Japan. They are still pacifying Afghanistan and nurturing that nation's fragile government. They demolished Iraq's army and captured a hated dictator.

The military has been used in humanitarian operations, as peacekeepers, and in combat operations. They do an extraordinary job at these difficult tasks. Young American men and women join the military for a variety of reasons. But for whatever reason they join, they become part of something bigger than themselves and are now the world's vanguard of freedom.

Almost 500 American soldiers have died in the invasion and aftermath of the war with Iraq. Given the size, scope, and enemy this is a small number. But each of those 500 had wives, brothers, sisters, parents, friends, and colleagues. Their sacrifice is breathtaking and we should all be profoundly grateful.

Congratulations and thanks to all of the men and women who sacrifice for our country.


Monday, December 15, 2003

Howard Dean's presidential candidacy is sure looking a lot less viable than it did just a week ago. His antiwar position and strident anti-Bush rhetoric fired up the Democratic base and has now made him a front runner for the Democratic nomination. Now those positions are looking a lot less marketable. Its going to be hard for him to answer this simple statement..."Gov. Dean, if your position had prevailed, Saddam Hussein would still be in charge of Iraq, threatening his neighbors, and torturing and murdering his people. How can you argue that this is the moral and correct position?"

He says on his website:

Now, when America should be at the height of its influence, we find ourselves, too often, isolated and resented. America should never be afraid to act alone when necessary. But we must not choose unilateral action as our weapon of first resort. Leaders of the current administration seem to believe that nothing can be gained from working with nations that have stood by our side as allies for generations. They are wrong, and they are leading America in a radical and dangerous direction. We need to get back on the right path.

Our allies have been a fundamental source of strength for more than half a century. And yet the current administration has often acted as if our alliances are no longer important. Look at the record: Almost two years passed between September 11 and NATO assuming the leadership of a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. More than six months have gone by between the fall of Baghdad and any serious consideration of a NATO role in Iraq.

It can, at times, be challenging, even frustrating, to obtain the cooperation of allies. But, as history shows, America is most successful in achieving our national aims when our allies are by our side.

Gov. Dean, I am sure you are a persuasive fellow. But I don't think any amount of cajoling would have persuaded Russia, Germany, or especially France to join the coalition in Iraq. France was for all practical purposes in bed with Saddam. A restatement of your position could be:

"I don't think we should ever take any action unless France and Germany agree with us"

Obviously it is always better to have allies in any endeavor. But sometimes our allies have goals and aims at cross purposes with American interests. Iraq was one of those situations.

I think that view of the world is going to sell about as well as raising taxes on every single middle class American.

Dean is weakened by this. God help him if Ossama Bin Laden is captured.


Sunday, December 14, 2003

Congratulations to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White for winning the Heisman Trophy. White went from playing 8-man football at a small high school through serious knee injuries on his way to the top honor in college football. He was the best player on the regular season's best team. His numbers are phenomenal. They say he doesn't have the stats to make it in the pros. Maybe not. I'll believe that more when the NFL has a "heart-meter" or "gut-meter" to measure some other vital statistics.

The capture of Saddam Hussein has the entire country buzzing today. This is incredible news! A mass mudering despot is caught cowering in a farmhouse hole like a trapped rat. It is somewhat rare that a dictator of his viciousness is brought to justice. Hitler killed himself, Caucesceau was killed on the streets, and Stalin died a peaceful death.

It sounds like good old fashioned police work and intelligence ran him down. With all of our weaponry, satellites, and technology its interrogations and detective work that finally does the job. Congrats to the entire U.S. military for a job well done!

It sounds like Saddam will be put on trial in Iraq. This is as it should be. The majority of his crimes were committed against the Iraqi people. He should be given an open and fair trial..then he should be executed. The death penalty may not deter common street thugs but it should serve notice to murderous tyrants the world over. You cannot kill your own people with impunity, attack your neighbors, and destabilize an entire region without consequence. He can visit that special place in hell reserved for mass murders. Saddam...meet Pol Pot. Saddam..meet Joseph Stalin. Saddam...meet Adolf Hitler.

Sic Semper Tyrannis baby! :)


Thursday, December 11, 2003

I'm always coming across funny and entertaining things online. Some are nifty....some are cute..some are funny. This one just cracks me up!


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Yeah! I'm all for this.

WASHINGTON -- Congress on Monday approved the first national effort to stem the flood of unwanted e-mail pitches offering prescription drugs, cheap loans and other come-ons.
President Bush has indicated he intends to sign the measure into law. Indeed the White House revamped its own e-mail system this summer over a flood of so-called spam.

The internet is a wonderful tool. Access to information and the ability to communicate with others have revolutionized the world in the past ten years. Like many technologies it is difficult to imagine how we ever got by without it. E-mail is one of the crown jewels of the internet and it has been dirtied by spammers. Most e-mail I get is a variety of come-ons, sales pitches, sex ads, and downright scams. I know this law won't stop it entirely but it sure can't hurt!


Monday, December 08, 2003

We all know that there are some really sick people in this world...disturbed people, angry people, dysfunctional people. But this has to take the cake.

To the family next door, Armin Meiwes seemed the perfect neighbour. He mowed their lawn, repaired their car and even invited them round for dinner.
Other residents in the small German town of Rotenburg also believed there was nothing odd about the 42-year-old computer expert, whose light burned late into the night inside his creaking mansion. Yesterday, however, Meiwes appeared in court charged with killing - and then frying and eating - another man.

In one of the most extraordinary trials in German criminal history, the self-confessed cannibal admitted that he had met a 43-year-old Berlin engineer, Bernd Brandes, after advertising on the internet, and had chopped him up and eaten him.

I'm sickened that there is at least one person out there with the desire to kill and eat another human being. I'm even sicker than there is someone who is willing to die so that someone else can do this.

There aren't any sufficient words in the English language to describe my reaction to this. The standard "oh my god" will have to do.


Sunday, December 07, 2003

I took my boys to see "The Last Samurai" yesterday. We were all excited to go see it. We had watched all the trailers and clips online and I'd read a couple of reviews.

The Last Samurai stars Tom Cruise as Capt. Nathan Ahlgren, a former American military officer who had done tours of battle in the Civil War and under Col. Custer in the Indian campaigns. Ahlgren is a drunk living off his fame and trying to forget what he's seen and what he's done. He is offered a large sum of money to go to Japan and train the modernizing Japan's imperial army to battle against the Samurai warriors who are resisting the changes taking place in Japan.

Ahlgren finds himself training an army of conscripts and caught up in Japanese politics. The young emperor cannot seem to assert himself in the conflict between the westernized business class and the Samurais who treasure Japan's traditions. When Ahlgren leads his ill prepared army into battle he is captured by the Samurais, but not before killing several of them including the leader's brother-in-law.

Ken Watanabe stars as Yatsumoto, the leader of the Samurais. Wantanabe brings a commanding and compelling performance to the screen. He uses Ahlgren to practice his English and the two adversaries develop a rapport. Ahlgren finds the simplicity, honor, and discipline of the Samurai life appealing and over the long winter grows to love this simple people and their code of honor. He switches sides and helps lead the Samurai in a hopeless battle against the Emperor's imperial legions.

The parallels between the Samurai and the Indians that Ahlgren fought against are obvious. The forces of modernity battle against those who want to preserve and older, simpler way of life. History tells us that the modernity side always wins but we can't help cheering for the underdog.

There is something about the Samurai way that is instructive even in this day and time. Love your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Fight for what is right. Live a life of service to your fellow man. We can't ever go back but we can let our past show us something about ourselves. We don't have to wear armor and ride off to slay the enemy. But we can treasure the ideals of honesty, love, and honor.

Ahlgren's time with Samurais changed him and allowed him to become the man he always wanted to be but could not find. That is the real message of the film. There is a purpose for everyone and their talents and abilities. Everyone can't travel across the world to find it. So we have to search and find it within ourselves.

You can read much better reviews of this movie here and here.

This film has Oscar written all over it. Let me put in an early vote for Ken Wantanabe. His performance was simply fantastic. Cruise was his usual brilliant self. The cinematography was beautiful, and at times, stunning. This one goes into my DVD collection whenever it comes out.

I visited the "Dollar Store" today for this first time (at least since I moved to Washington over two years ago). As we browsed the "everything is a dollar" aisles my lovely wife said, "there's gotta be a blog post here". I'm happy to oblige!

Its amazing what you can find for a dollar..socks, shaving cream, hair care products, tape dispensers, calendars, pot holders, hand towels, wrapping paper, sketch pads, cleaning products, etc. With our little red basket we quickly managed to find 32 items that we thought were worth a dollar.

I was amused by some of the products. "Vitene" shampoo was shamelessly packaged to resemble "Pantene". "Aqua Blue" aftershave lotion revealed a strong visual similarity to "Aqua Velva". I'm just imagining some twenty something marketing whizzes sitting around in their rolled up white shirts and thinking, "Hey, lets name it Aqua Blue. The suckers will never notice the difference!"

Whats next? "Getway Computers"? Wait..you might have a hard time making a computer you can sell for a dollar. How about Tampox tampons? Heavensman Mayonnaise? Garber Baby Food? Felger's Coffee? The possibilities are endless!

I wonder what the business model is for that store. Some of the items look like they are worth more than a buck. To balance that out some don't look like they're worth 10 cents. This article puts the economics of this kind of store in some kind of perspective.

Mission accomplished. We're 32 items richer and 33 bucks poorer. Don't you just love Christmas? :)

I scored a "49" on this test given by the legendary (ahem) Dr. Phil. According to the results I:

41 TO 50 POINTS: Others see you as fresh, lively, charming, amusing, practical, and always interesting; someone who's constantly in the center of attention, but sufficiently well-balanced not to let it go to their head. They also see you as kind, considerate, and understanding; someone who'll always cheer them up and help them out.

Aw shucks.

Do you know the names of Santa's reindeers? Are you sure? Check this out.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

I'd hate to see what would've happened if this lady's fries had been cold too!

HOUSTON, Dec. 4 — A Texas woman was sentenced to 10 years in jail Thursday for running over the manager of a McDonald’s with her car because she wanted mayonnaise on her cheeseburger.

Ten years in prison over a damned cheeseburger. Some things just defy belief.

I just finished watching trailers of "The Last Samurai" . It looks like a great movie and so far is getting excellent reviews. I'm looking forward to seeing it! I have a soft spot for these violent movies that emphasize duty, honor, and country. I loved Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" and "The Last Samurai" seems cut out of similiar cloth.

Love the Cruise quote from the movie trailer:
"A man does what he can until his destiny is revealed"

I think my destiny is to see this movie! :)


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Want an example of political correctness run amok? Check this out!

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

Give me a break!

Ever see the movie "Good Morning Vietnam"? The film portrayed the Vietnam War era antics of military disc jockey Adrian Cronauer. Robin Williams played the lead role and showed us a manic Cronauer screaming, "Good Morning Vietnam"! as he played 60's hits for the troops in the field.

Where is Cronauer now you say? According to this article in the Washington Post he is a communications lawyer just licensed to practice before the Supreme Court. His law school tuition was financed by profits from the movie. It sure is great to be an American isn't it? :)

I have had a running dialogue with my brother on the issue of whether or not the Democrats would be smart to nominate Howard Dean for president. I think he's unelectable and will struggle to win in the South and the Midwestern swing states. My brother thinks that he's just as electable as those boring moderates and that they might as well nominate someone with fire in his belly.

This young writer in the Yale Daily News fears a Dean candidacy. He sees several problems with Dean as a national candidate:

Dean fancies himself a fiscal conservative for his budget-balancing successes as the governor of Vermont. Kudos to Dean, but the accomplishment hardly qualifies him as a fiscal conservative. For ordinary Americans, fiscal conservatism doesn't just mean spending restraint, it means tax leniency. And in that dangerous realm for Democrats, Howard Dean has cast himself as less a Bill Clinton than a Walter Mondale, vowing to repeal the Bush tax cuts in their entirety. Newsflash to Dean: promising to punish the middle class is less fiscal discipline than political lunacy.

It is hard to see how raising almost everyone's taxes is a winning strategy in a national campaign just as the economy is starting to recover. Good luck selling that one.

What makes Dean most dangerous for Democrats is not so much that he talks like a tax-hiker or even that he walks like an alternative lifestyles-lover, but that he looks like a real girly-man on national security. Democrats have been struggling to show they can be strong on defense for the past 35 years. On nearly every other issue the American people trust Democrats more than Republicans. But on national security, Democrats still bear the mark of the beast (George McGovern). It's called the Democratic Defense Credibility Gap, and Dean's nomination will give it another 30-year shelf life.

Dean talks the "softest" of any major Democrat on national security and defense issues. That may play well in Vermont and in San Francisco. How will it play in West Virginia? Michigan? Florida?

Dean has run a fantastic campaign by tapping into a very real anger that exists among many Democrats, including this one. I believe Dean when he says he wants to be the candidate for everybody, even guys with Confederate flags on the backs of their pickup trucks. Unfortunately, the reality is that Dean can only be the candidate for people with Darwin fishes on the backs of their Volvos and rainbow decals on the backs of their Jettas. He's not a bad guy, but if he's our standard bearer, Democrats are in deep poop.

Its the people that drive pickup trucks, SUVs, and mini vans that he's going to have a problem with. His stands on national defense and security are dangerous in this time. Voters will see that.

Unless the situation changes dramatically in the next year, Bush would defeat Dean in a landslide.

Want to know how you can write for a living? John Scalzi has some pretty good advice here. But about that talent part.......

I've been sick for the last 24 hours or so. It seems like some kind of flu bug or something. I've felt weak, tired, had a headache, etc. Damn, I hate being sick!

I usually feel bad once or twice a year. I don't enjoy it one little bit! (of course...who does?). I hate missing work and I hate even more the guilty feeling I have when I do miss work! I hate the decision making process about whether or not to call into work. Its 1:15 a.m. and I'm sitting here deciding whether or not to call into work in the morning.

Whats a guy to do?


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