Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Greatest Of All Time

Joe Frazier showed up on Howard Stern this morning. Noteworthy not for the interview -- although not in as bad a shape as Ali, Smokin' Joe is a difficult interview at best at this point and thousands of violent punches to the skull have taken their toll -- but for the memories evoked of "The Fight Of The (Last) Century."

March 8, 1971. Madison Square Garden.

Boxing in general, and heavyweight boxing in particular, hasn't been close to such a pinnacle since and will all but certainly continue the descent away from it into the future.

If there was ever a time and a place in the history of sports to which I would dearly love to time travel and be an eyewitness, this was it.

The Funniest Show on TV

In case you hadn't noticed, The Office is no longer the funniest show on television.

Not that it's any less funny.

I had my doubts last May that the show would be able to pull off the difficult task of keeping things on track once the Jim & Pam romantic tension had been released.

I was wrong about that. By mixing in some new blood from the Stamford office -- then one by one giving all but Karen and Andy the boot (for now, anyway) -- the show has been able to keep all the balls in the air. The last three episodes in particular ("Benihana Christmas," "Back From Vacation," and "Sales Teams") have been comic genius.

Unbeknownst to our Scranton crew, however, a new show, set up the interstate in New York, has quietly lapped them.

30 Rock is now the funniest show on television.

It began life as a vehicle for Alec Baldwin's deadpan -- and it surely remains that. But it also became a vehicle for Tracy Morgan's insanity, Rachel Dratch's one-off cameos, and the most killer combination of subtle humor (the faux-Springsteen soundtrack accompanying Liz Lemon's bridge & tunnel boyfriend on screen was the moment I fully realized that something special was up here) and over-the-top larfs since the heyday of The Simpsons.

Last weeks episode, "The Rural Juror" was when the show finally hauled itself all the way to the top of the heap and planted its flag. The guy who posted this clip on YouTube had it right: "When 'Barbara Walters' said 'curly haired surfer named Roberta' I laughed so hard I almost coughed up blood."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

More Of The Same

We have now officially moved through the looking glass in Washington. Given the overwhelming message at the (voting) polls in November and in the (public opinion) polls since then (and long before then) that the American public has seen enough of George Bush’s Iraq fiasco, Dear Leader’s response this week was ... to escalate the war.

There can be little doubt at this point that 43’s place in history will be among the very worst Presidents that this nation has produced. His arrogance and incompetence seem to continue unabashed and unabated by the mess he has created through both his actions and his inactions.

Actions – Time will tell if this latest escalation will merely be a footnote in the larger tale, or if it will actively add to the morass, but can anyone legitimately argue at this point that it will certainly work? Or that there is even a reasonable likelihood that it will work? Even a growing chorus of Republican critics have their doubts.

The argument is that by adding troops into Baghdad a critical mass can be reached that will pacify the city, and thereby the country, and allow the political leadership in Iraq to gain a foothold and move the nation towards a political stasis and then towards the beacon of democracy that Dear Leader has always envisioned.

Is it even necessary to poke holes in that argument? Or is it completely self-deflating? First, 20,000 additional troops (and bear in mind that these are not “new” troops – any increase is made up of extending the deployment of troops in country or accelerating the redeployment of troops which had been rotated out for refitting – there are no “new” troops available to send in) are merely a fraction of the number necessary to do what is being proposed ( remember that the original numbers bandied about were in the 50-70K range – still too few at that).

Second, if the pacification of Baghdad should by some miracle be successful, previous attempts at this sort of thing (don’t be fooled by the “New” in “New Way Forward,” there is nothing new about this strategy) have shown that the evildoers will just move elsewhere in the country and either do evil there or bide their time before drifting back into Baghdad. Pacifying the city will roil the rest of the country and vice-versa. Short of an unattainably massive occupation force, the pacification horse is out of the barn.

Third, the execution of Saddam Hussein was just the latest indication that the nominal “political leadership” of Iraq is a joke. The Maliki government is a puppet all right, but 3,000+ dead and $350 billion+ spent hasn’t even bought us a puppet – he’s the puppet of Moktada al Sadr.

Inactions – The subtext underlying all of this fiasco-making in the Middle East is the time we continue to lose by trying to either dig out or dig deeper into the Iraq-sized hole. The greatest national security issue facing this nation is not new – in fact it is no different than it was when Gerald Ford put his finger on it in 1975. We are far too dependent upon the most volatile region in the world for too large a chunk of our energy needs. As long as we are so dependent on Middle East oil, we will never be able to step back from a region we don’t understand or otherwise care about. While we have wasted lives and treasure in Iraq, it may well turn out that the time we’ve wasted is even more valuable.