Saturday, January 20, 2007

State of the Disunion

With the upcoming "State of the Union" address to the Congress and the American people, this Constitutionally mandated tradition seems almost ridiculous in the modern with 24-hour news channels and live television, Americans and the world pretty much knows the state of our union without having to be fed propaganda from a president who lives in a reality of his own making. So, will it be any surprise that he will be eye twitching and smirking his way through another "State of the Union" as he tries to spin and spin propaganda to "catapult the truth". And what is with his facial twitches? I always saw it as his body's betrayal of untruthful statements. Watch when he smirks and twitches his eyebrows. Pay attention to what he's saying when it occurs, because it reveals a lot about him. You can bet your last dollar that each time he smirks, there's a lie in there somewhere.

So, what is the state of our union? It's divisive and indifferent. We have a war on but no one seems to pay any attention. The military is talking about seeking recruits in MEXICO! What does that say about our country of 300 million Americans that we can't find enough recruits to fight a war that over 70% of the American people supported back in 2003? In 1991, we had half a million soldiers in Saudi Arabia to evict Iraq from Kuwait. Twelve years later, Rumsfeld thought they could show their shock and awe by having a blitzkrieg force of 150,000 troops even though some generals requested at least double that number. So now we're at the point where Bush has finally admitted that the Iraq war hasn't gone as the neo-cons had planned and is requesting an additional 21,500 troop "surge" as though he were doubling down a bad bet like a person with a serious gambling addiction. Some soldiers and Marines are on their third tours of duty. Are we saying that we can't find enough people ("fresh meat") to fight this war that most supported just 4 years ago? What does that say about our country? Conservatives like to tell people that criticizing our government during a war sends a message to our enemies that emboldens them, thus they consider it an act of treason to even criticize our government...yet that is the essence of freedom. However, what kind of message does it send our enemies when we keep sending the same people back to the war zone in third and fourth and fifth tours of duty and that we're seeking recruits in Mexico with promises of becoming an American citizen? The world knows we have 300 million they probably think we are truly a cowardice country if we can't even get 1% of our population to fight in a war that 70% supported! Talk about emboldening our enemies! All they have to do is watch "Black Hawk Down" to get inspiration on how to wear down our disinclination towards fighting a foreign war.

In just two years, I believe Americans will rejoice that the toxic Texan is flushed back to his cess pool that is Crawford and hope that he lives the rest of his days in obscurity. The war may or may not rage on under a new administration, but Bush is guaranteed a place in our nation's history as the worst president ever. His legacy will be summed up by three events: 9/11, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina. That is to say...he will be remembered as the president in which the worst national security breach, the worst natural disaster, and the worst national policy blunder all occurred under his incompetent watch. Added to that is a squandering of the Clinton-era surplus into the largest deficits ever (surpassing even the Reagan record) with our future rival China holding our debts. All partisan fervor aside...would you want your potential enemy to hold your economic well being in their hands? If not, then why allow China and Saudi Arabia to continue to hold America's economy hostage? No, the state of our union is not strong, it is not united. We are living on a bubble that can pop at any moment, and when it does, may God help us all, because it's not going to be pretty...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Idolatry

It's January, and you know what that means. I mean, besides the next season of American Idol. That's right. The president will give his annual "state of the union" address to both houses of Congress, even though everyone already knows what the state of our union is...

However, for the first time in his administration, we will see a Democrat sitting behind the president, and not only that...someone worth looking at to begin with. That's the looks department, Cheney and Bush can't compete with Nancy Pelosi!

Watching the first two shows of "American Idol", I can't help but wonder if some of those contestants are delusional or do they not have any pride of self at all that allows them to embarrass themselves on television with claims of being great singers, even though they just got over a cold or their throats are dry or it's a case of bad nerves. Excuses! But is that any different from our own president, who has made excuse after excuse about why Iraq has not been the kind of "flower-throwing, chocolate-giving, shock and awe, razzle dazzle, mission accomplished" type of success that he and fellow Kool-Aid drinkers in his administration and the corporate media have claimed it would be. What is the nature of such delusions? Why do we tolerate it so? Sure, it gets plenty of laughs on a show like "American Idol", but in the real world, people are dying, lives are disrupted, and money is being spent on delusions that could be better used elsewhere.

I hate to break it to you, my fellow American citizens, but what we have in our president as evidenced by his recent address to the American people, is someone who is living beyond reality and that's dangerous. We all know how he was an alcoholic until age 40 when his wife gave him the ultimatum "It's the booze or me". Too bad he chose Laura and went cold turkey. Had he chose the booze, our world probably would have been a lot better off in the very capable hands of a President Al Gore or President John McCain these past 6 years. But, he did what he did and we are all to suffer for his delusions about what constitutes victory, his ignorance about history of guerrilla warfare (empire states can never win in the long run over a guerrilla army fighting for its freedom), and his inability to process the truth.

Ah, but what is truth? I love the line from the film "Dead Poet's Society": "Truth like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold." What is truth? Can all the propaganda in the world turn something into "the truth"? Well...from historical examples we have the communists in the Soviet Union that believed with all their hearts that their centrally planned economy was working and able to compete with free market capitalism. They ignored the facts from the provinces that people weren't really working too hard, that store shelves were constantly empty, that people waited in long lines to buy rationed products...they ignored truth in favor of the communist lie. Gorbachev realized that the lie didn't serve the national interest and tried to rectify their system, but it was too little too late. What he did in allowing truth and new freedoms under glastnost and perestroika was to unleash an unstoppable tidal wave that ended in the fall of the Iron curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Empire by 1991.

Another example...the Nazi Germans saw the D-Day invasion being launched and decided to let Hitler sleep in rather than tell him the truth, which would only launch him into a tirade. So, I ask again...what good is truth if we don't hold our leaders to it? Why would we even continue to follow such a leader who is incapable of handling the truth and basing sound policy on such truth? Why be delusional?

But maybe that's what appeals to us about "American Idol". We love our delusions and the fame it brings us. We care more about the access to fame and potential fortune, that it doesn't matter if we can't sing or act or find weapons of mass destruction. We are all distracted by our ego's desire for an imaginary outcome that has little bearing in reality. That's not good news, folks. A society cannot survive for long on delusions of grandeur. Our army isn't seeing a surge in recruits. They are now looking for recruits in Mexico to fight our war as some soldiers are now in their 3rd, 4th, or even 5th tours of duty in Iraq. We owe it to ourselves and our future well being to wake up to reality. A reality that our president is already off in la-la land and probably needs to be strait-jacketed. We should learn from history. After all, Osama Bin Laden's big dream is to see the demise of the USA similar to the demise of the USSR. If that happens, he will claim a huge victory in that militant and fundamentalist Islam is "mightier than the communistic and capitalistic empires." That spells out a scary future for our entire planet.

But folks, don't let me keep you from your "American Idol"! Sweet dreams...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blood Diamond

Rare is the film that "wows" me through the entire film, from beginning to end. "Blood Diamond" is that film. Though some critics may have derided it as too much of a message movie wrapped in the "action-adventure" genre...but what would they rather have, another mindless Steven Segal film? In "Blood Diamond", an excellent point is made that while America was obsessed with President Clinton's sex life, the tiny west African nation of Sierra Leone was in the midst of a bloody civil war that killed over half a million people and left two million as refugees. Think for a minute back to 1998 and 1999. What did the news media focus on while this war was raging on and Osama bin Laden was plotting his next move? That's right...Monica Lewinsky was deemed such a crisis that media outfits didn't have time to devote to real news of tragedy. Another Rwanda was in the making, but we couldn't take our eyes off the infamously stained Gap blue dress.

This film also makes the point that our materialistic greed towards the beautiful, shiny object that every American girl wants to show off to her friends has contributed to the death and violence of people in a developing world nation. If more people knew that people lost limbs or lives over this precious stone, would they still want them? If the answer is yes, what does that say about our humanity and values?

Anyhow, in "Blood Diamond", Leonardo DiCaprio plays a "soldier of fortune" from "Rhodesia" (he refuses to call it Zimbabwe) who works for the diamond cartel Van de Kamp (can anyone say "De Beers"?). Like Jack T. Colton in "Romancing the Stone", he is obsessed to get his hands on the large diamond that was found and hidden by Djimon Hounsou, a decent fisherman and family man who is forced to work in a mining camp by the leader of a rebellious group. Into the mix is photographer/reporter Jennifer Connally (always gorgeous, even in a war zone!). When DiCaprio and Connally meet, their worldview clashes immediately. Connally, the idealistic American, and DiCaprio, the cynical and war-weary independent agent who's not above using anyone and everyone to get him to the diamond in the rough. The dialogue between them snaps and sizzles. I especially like how DiCaprio describes the African situation: that the corrupt political leaders pillage their own countries resources to amass a personal fortune that will buy them a life of luxury in exile and how the rebel groups fighting against the government don't really want to inherit the problems of actually running a government. So, everyone gets lost in the shuffle and he's seen enough of the hell that is Africa to want his ticket off the continent.

And hell it is! The fighting scenes offer a glimpse of true hell on earth, where people are mowed down in the crossfire between government troops and renegade groups. Most of us in the western world have no idea how much our materialistic greed has made a living hell for the people in the developing world, where their lives hold little value to anyone in power or fighting for power. Throughout this film, there's a lot of running around, violent moments, but in between are the real gems where we get an education in the diamond industry and how the big diamond companies are complicit in the violence as they arrange semi-automatic weapons to be sold to rebel groups to scare the government into offering them exclusive deals on the diamond trade. When a company or foreign country funds both sides of a conflict, they are the evil puppetmasters in which human life has no value. If this film awakens people's awareness of world events beyond our often-shallow news stories, then it's a huge service to humanity. Critics can gripe all they want about this "message movie", but the film isn't preachy. It offers plenty of action, violence, and twists of any well made action film, but this one goes deeper into our hearts of darkness. You can't ask for a better motion picture experience than that. Highly recommended!