Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lance vs. the Frogs

This week events unfolded in France that have again called into question the legitimacy of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories. It took me several days to formulate an opinion on the matter. But fear not dear readers, your opinionated blogger never fails to develop an opinion on any number of issues.

The way I see it, the French are extremely bitter about the fact that a Yankee has come to their back yards for over a half decade and spanked their Bordeaux drinkin’ derrières. The have a national psychosis over hating all things American that they cannot beat. Lance Armstrong should save his breath. He describes his relationship with the French as being of the love/hate variety. I suppose that is true, if by love/hate he means that the French love to hate him. It has nothing to do with his cycling ability. The Frogs certainly didn’t hate Miguel Indurain, a Spaniard, when he won five straight Tours in the 1990s.

Indeed, the French were eventually going to find a way to nail Lance, and in the end the French can go on looking down their noses at all things American. In the absence of “evidence” the French had to grudgingly respect the feat that Armstrong had achieved. Certainly none of their riders have ever been able to achieve such success in their race.

Just as the French have dismissed Lance Armstrong based on the article published in L’Equipe, Americans will completely write off this as an anti-American witch hunt. Because like the French, Americans have a national psychosis about Armstrong also. He is our boy, our king, our champion. He is the conquering hero. He overcame a fatal diagnosis of cancer and went on to not only to return to form in the sport of cycling, but indeed be even better. We refuse to see anything that might disturb this illusory image of Mighty Lance.

So, no, dear anonymous poster, we will not stop wearing the LiveStrong bracelets. We will especially not be persuaded on evidence presented by the liberal French media. Whether Armstrong actual dopes or not is really immaterial. It is my suspicion that he probably did. I would imagine that anyone that finishes in the top 50 in the Tour dopes in one way or another. Even if he does, it does not diminish his accomplishment in my eyes. He was simply the champion in an era of “cheaters”. The Tour is as much about tactics and teamwork, and Lance Armstrong certainly assembled the best team in the history of the Tour and they have executed their tactics better than anyone else ever has.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The difference between an “icon” and an “expert”

Patt Morrison, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent column this week. I believe it fits in quite nicely with the theme that I have been writing about over the last several weeks about special celebrity status and accountability of experts vs. icons. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier that died in Iraq, is an icon. Though she has been treated as a celebrity, she isn’t. Sheehan is a grieving mother with a very understandable gripe with the President of the United States. If you’re an anti-war protester and you’re turning to this woman for guidance and leadership you’re in need of some serious medication and counseling. This is not a woman who should lead the anti-war movement; she isn’t nearly qualified for that. But she is a powerful image that evokes sympathy and outrage. Both of those emotions should be levied in this effort.

This woman is obviously grief stricken. And those on the right, with their kids safely tucked away at some expensive private university, should not judge this person until they have walked a mile in her shoes. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, I don’t see many medals on your lapels. It seems that the most gung-ho are those that have never fought a battle in their lives. They should not rail that Sheehan is dishonoring her son’s memory. How would they know? Even if Casey Sheehan was a proud soldier who believed in his mission to the core of his being, his mother’s protests are totally appropriate. Cindy Sheehan is not trying to honor or dishonor his life; she is trying to protest the circumstances of his death and, in her way, make sure that no more mothers ever feel the way that she does.

I am glad that Sheehan has returned to Texas. The President will have to learn that this issue is NOT going to go away. The nation is not as easily fooled by the lame rhetoric that he throws around. He sounds like a tired old rock star belting out the same putrid clichés over and over again. Someone buy Dubya some leather pants and put him on stage with the Rolling Stones (sorry Mick). The administration needs to realize that the people who oppose the Iraq War are not an insignificant band of pitiful hippies. Not everyone is so easily reduced to stereotypes. Cindy Sheehan and her friends are the tip of the iceberg. The anti-war movement has been emboldened by this icon of anguish.

Likewise, when someone who already has attained celebrity, when they have a pulpit and captive audience from which to espouse an ideology which is not only morally reprehensible but also illegal. When this person is an influential member of a constituency which is closely linked to the President of the United States, is a member of the President’s party, and actively raised money to re-elect the President, I do not believe that his words should be cast aside so lightly. I do not believe that the Reverend Patrick Robertson should be written off as a private citizen; he isn’t. He is a self-proclaimed expert on just about everything.

Pat Robertson is not only the anti-Christian; he is also the most hateful hobgoblin to ever walk the face of this Earth. Like most neo-conservatives he claims to be a devout man, but has not a shred of Christian ethic in him. Neo-cons worship at the altar of American hegemony. They believe to the core of their soul that America is “god’s country” (sorry Bono) and that as such we should be able to impose our beliefs on any banana republic that we want.

The banana republic of the moment is Venezuela. Pat Robertson openly advocated the assassination of President Hugo Chavez. The specifics of his speech are not important because everything he said was rendered total rubbish when he proclaimed that the United States could save itself a ton of money if it just offed Chavez, a critic of U.S. foreign policy.

It seems that Robertson believes that El Presidente is a threat to the United States. He is, apparently, in league with (hold your breath) Fidel Castro. Can we find more ways to lose focus on the war on terror? First we bumble and stumble our way out of Afghanistan and into Iraq. Now we’re going to go all McCarthy on ‘em and take on the commies? Good grief! Are we really back to this again? I thought we were all done with the communists. Have we not already proven that free market societies are far superior to top-down autocracies? If we’re going to take on the communists again, why Cuba, why Chavez? Well, the Chavez part is simple, oil. Venezuela is the world’s fifth most oil-rich nation. Makes you wonder, do we ever get involved in humanitarian missions in countries that don’t have vast reserves of oil.

Everyone in the Bush administration seems to have received and read the memo because they are all reciting the same party line about Robertson being an individual citizen and being allowed to say anything he wants. They go on to say that they don’t assassinate foreign leaders in complying with an executive order handed down by President Gerald Ford. Well, it is good that they made their stance abundantly clear. I just have one tiny little beef. Robertson is an individual citizen? I don’t think so. This man is extremely influential among religious conservatives. President Chavez is coming to the United States next month for a United Nations General Assembly meeting and this “Christian” fundamentalist has issued a fatwah against him. Make no mistake, what Pat Robertson did in making this statement was exactly akin to what Osama bin Laden does. He has urged his followers to take matters into their own hands. Also, let’s be clear about one more thing, Pat Robertson knew exactly what he was doing.

We can fight a war on terror. We can be righteous and on the side of all that is good and right with the world, but not while trolls like Robertson make outrageous statements and his friends in government don’t take him to task for them. Is this war worth winning if we sink as low as our enemies? I know the position advocated by Robertson is not the policy of our federal government, but President Bush needs to publicly scold his ally in the clearest possible terms, not just distance himself from the comments. He needs to stand up and say that Robertson’s comments were foolish and the ramblings of an ignorant ideology of evil. Would he say any less about bin Laden?

As for you in the press, get with the program. Cindy Sheehan is an individual citizen expressing her opinion. Don’t grill her for insights into strategic foreign policy information. Pat Robertson on the other hand is an “expert” on everything. Fry him up with your morning bacon! Take him to task for what he says and how he says it. His influence has merits among a deranged constituency in this country. It is time to hold him accountable for this. Sure, he can say whatever he wants, but he should be challenged on it. Do your job Tucker Carlson, you twerp!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Osama Yo Mama! How you been?

It has generally been my modus operandi to give my perspective on events that are actively being covered in the press. Issues that, for good or for bad, are getting a lot of coverage. I try to discuss both the topic and the quality of the coverage. My idea for today is to write something a bit different, and cover something that is not getting nearly enough press and talk about why it is being overlooked.

Osama bin Laden! Anyone remember this half man, half pig (oh yeah, that was a direct stab at his fanatical style of Islam, baby!)? So, how do I know that Osama has all but disappeared from the press? Well, aside from the fact that I am a famous know-it-all, I decided to do a word search on Yahoo! News. I searched under the term “Osama bin Laden”. I came up with an incredible 19 news articles. I find this to be outrageous considering that Yahoo! News regularly includes articles from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, in addition to every major newspaper in the United States and a good number of fairly random news sources. So how does this rate as compared with other celebrity evil-doers? Well, Saddam Hussein rates 93 articles and “Karl Rove” rates a measly 6 articles. (but this is another outrageous topic for another day). Meanwhile, Michael Jackson, public enemy number one that he is, rates 2,816 news articles and “Carrot Top” the most likely of all terrorist suspects (if for no other then his comedy routine could be argued to be torture under the Geneva Convention) rates 71 articles.

So, how can it be that Iraq is the frontline in the war on terror and yet Osama bin Laden is all but forgotten? At what point did we decide to shift our focus from the war on Al Qaeda to Iraq, which has never had any relationship whatsoever with the terrorist super group? It is my belief that this is clearly a result of the capable skills of Paul Wolfowitz, and his ability to shift the focus of world attention and unity to the non-issue of Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz worked in the first Bush administration during the Gulf War. He and his neo-conservative compatriots had eagerly lobbied then President H.W. Bush to take down Saddam Hussein. The neo-con doctrine of pre-emption, they claimed, gave the U.S. the right to impose democracy on the world and use force if necessary to achieve that end. Basically, carry a big stick and use it at our sole discretion. I don’t know what neighborhood you grew up in, but where I come from, we call that a bully. So, we stopped short of taking down Al Qaeda’s leaders and turned our target sights on Iraq, a place that was run by a sociopath with a napoleon complex, but was no harbor for terrorist.

Alas, that was Iraq, the 2003 model. Iraq the 2005 model is the frontline of the war on terror. Like the jealous lover who is convinced that his partner is up to no good and the jealousy in turn drives the lover into the arms of another. The terror problems in Iraq are entirely our own making. We fucked it up (sorry mom). We saw it coming, any idiot could have predicted what was coming. Anyone who has paid attention to the Middle East during the last 40 years could have predicted that insurgents would flood from far and wide into Iraq to fight what they perceive as the next in a long series of Crusades. To Muslims this battle is being fought on two fronts, in Palestine by the Israelis and in the wider region by the United States. They don’t separate these two, they see no distinction, nor should they.

The administration sold us this cockamamie story which was not supported by any evidence except for the kind of intelligence that really doesn’t make you feel very good inside. It is the kind of evidence you wouldn’t place much faith in when betting the kids’ college fund at the sports book at Caesar’s Palace. So why on Earth would you send American’s to die in Iraq? I know this has all been said many times, but I wonder how we could take our eyes off the ball just as it was crossing the plate. We were in Afghanistan, we had world opinion on our side, the Taliban were scrambling into the mountains like antelope fleeing a Lion, and Osama bin Laden was on the run. Some evidence supports the case that we had Al Qaeda’s top leadership surrounded at Tora Bora and yet we failed to catch him.

Remember Osama bin Laden! Don’t lose focus on him. I don’t mean Osama the swine, I mean Osama the movement, the terror movement, Osama the poster child in fanatical eyes who resists the imperial crusaders. This is the war on terror, not the side show that is going on in Iraq.