Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ever since I started this blog, I have stated that President Bush (and Vice-President Cheney) will ultimately be remembered as visionary and successful. Of course, while I was just a kid, my father told me all about how badly the country wanted to forget Harry Truman. Today, Truman is considered one of the finest presidents in our history.

In an unprecedented battle of the speeches today, President Obama and former Veep Cheney squared off against one another. Obviously, I was anticipating Cheney's remarks more and he absolutely did not disappoint. In fact, the only regret I have about his speech is that he didn't give it last year, while he was still in office and the election had not yet been held.

For what seemed to be the first time (although, knowing the mainstream media, it's possible it's not), the former Vice-President laid out his defense of the Bush administrations rationale for how they they kept this country attack-free since 9/11. I found his remarks concise, thorough and void of any rhetoric. His comments about the New York Times, as well as his disagreements with the Left, were on the mark and deserved.

Here is the part of the speech I enjoyed the most:

The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions, and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. When just a single clue that goes unlearned … one lead that goes unpursued … can bring on catastrophe – it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.

Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy. Apparently using the term “war” where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as, quote, “Overseas contingency operations.” In the event of another terrorist attack on America, the Homeland Security Department assures us it will be ready for this, quote, “man-made disaster” – never mind that the whole Department was created for the purpose of protecting Americans from terrorist attack.

And when you hear that there are no more, quote, “enemy combatants,” as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are – or what they would do if we let them loose.


If you would like to read the rest of the speech - and I urge all of you to (even those who contend that Cheney is the second coming of Darth Vader) - please click here.

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Okay, I have refrained from speaking about my one guilty pleasure - American Idol - for too long. Like most people who follow the show, I too was stunned when Chris Allen walked away as the winner. But I wasn't disappointed. Actually, I voted for Adam Lambert. I felt he was the best consistently and he deserved the victory. But I also really liked Chris Allen as well. I found that his rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine" was among the finest performances ever on the show (second only to Lambert's "Mad World" for this season's best).

Furthermore, I was particularly impressed with Chris' reaction to winning. Clearly, he (like most of us) felt that Adam was a shoo-in. But to have the first thing come out of his mouth me "Adam deserves this," was just priceless.

I will say that both Adam and Chris will go far. Adam can either go for Broadway gold or he could (and perhaps should) become the new lead singer for Queen. Maybe his performance last night with the band was an audition?

Chris, on the other hand, offers more contemporary potential. To me, he is a mix between the Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson and America lead singer Gerry Beckley. Last night also proved that Chris could have a future on the country charts as well, after that wonderful duet with Keith Urban (Mr. Nicole Kidman).

Regardless, I wholly enjoyed season 8 and can't wait for season 9 to begin in January. However, there are a few changes I would like to see made to the show:

1. Get rid of the 4th judge - as far as I'm concerned, it can be either Kara DioGuardi or Randy Jackson who should leave. Randy, because I can stand just so many "dog"s, "alight"s and "dude, you can really sing"s. As for Kara, I began to dislike her the minute she showed her immaturity when "Bikini girl" auditioned. Last night's striptease just hammered down the last nail for me.

2. Revert to a top 24 instead of this year's top 36 - it's just too disconcerting to see so many people lose in one night. By having a top 36, they broke it down to 12 people perform each week and only 3 move on (although, at the end of the third week, they chose 3 "wild cards"). By going back to a top 24, like they had in years past, only four get voted off each week until it gets down to the top 12.

3. Only let Simon critique the contestants - I know this will never happen, but does anyone truly believe that America is swayed by the triumverate of Randy, Kara and Paula? No offense to Ms. Abdul - who at times was spot on and far better this year than in years past - but only Simon knows what works for the voters. any times, I (and others I know as well) simply fast-forward through the first three and stop just to listen to Simon.


After all, each week, Randy says either "I wasn't feelin' it, dawg", "That wasn't right for me for you" and "Dude, you can sing the phone book" (or "you can really sing"). 99 times out of 100, Kara will completely agree with Randy and will add some industry catchphrase, like "you really got chops" or some slang, hip expression to show she has "cred" (which she tries way to hard to pull off). As for Paula, well Paula is Paula and her sole job is too make the bad news not so bad and to tell the singers how pretty/handsome they are (even when they look like crap).

So, those are a couple of suggestions to improve American Idol for next year. Oh yeah, no more gay jokes, Ryan. Please?

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Well, this was a trying week in Shayneblog land. My social life is up in flames and I'm perpetually tired and sad because of it. But on the other hand, I absolutely love the new car I just bought. It's a 2009 Nissan Altima and it's loaded with everything they offer (except a navigational system - because those who know me know I never get lost, unless I'm in Boston).

I chose the Altima because #1 - I had a Sentra and a Quest and loved them both. Neither one of them ever gave me any trouble, 2 - my last car was a Chevy Malibu (GM, of course) that rarely didn't give me trouble (and needed a lost of work that I didn't want to have to pay for) and #3 - the dealer - Star Nissan in Niles, IL (if you go, ask for Bill Werner, a true mench) - was exceptional in every step.

One of the cars I considered was the Chevy HHR, which I think is awesomely cool looking. But with the exception of my first car (a '77 Pontiac Grand Prix), I never owned a GM that didn't disappoint me. Furthermore, the dealership I went to (I will not mention them by name) was less than honest and seemed so desperate to sell me a car they took no interest in what I was looking for. Of course, given the current state of GM, I suppose I can't really blame them.

I did get an argument from a liberal friend (who drives a Honda, by the way) because, as he put it, "as a Conservative, I - more than anyone - should by American!" Well first of all, my car was built in Tennessee, by American workers. Secondly, as a Conservative, I'm not necessarily pro-union (I'm not really against them, either). Thirdly, why should I support a company that has failed to keep up with the competition and spends 40% more on labor costs than do it's Japanese counterparts? Since the vehicles are very similarly priced, which one is better built? Take away the labor costs and the Nissan is a $13,000 car and the Chevy is a $7,000 car.

No comparison.

So to sum up, by buying the Altima, I am supporting American workers, getting more bang for the buck, supporting a dealership that knows how to treat customers and am driving a dream car. Of course, none of this wouldn't have been possible had my mother survived and truthfully, although my relationship was far less then stellar, I'd trade that car (and all the money I have) for her to still be alive.

So to you Mom, I say "thank you."

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