Thursday, April 19, 2007

The scene in Virginia

It's human nature to try to find meaning in seemingly random, horrific situations. We don't understand why a young man felt he had to walk across the Virginia Tech campus and open fire, killing 32 people and then himself. We probably will never know.

That's not going to stop us from asking questions, of course. But we have to remember something: 32 people are dead. The rampant speculation - much of it generated by the media in its rush to "get the story" - is creating a large amount of heat while shedding precious little light.

Let's stop guessing. Stop trying to place blame, and figure out how to fix things for the future. Realize that sometimes you can't plan for the unthinkable and the irrational. Yes, there were clues and warning signs throughout the past years - extremely disturbing clues - but these things often don't have meaning in and of themselves until you're given a horrible reason to add them all together.

We do need insight into what led to the tragic murders at Virginia Tech. We do need to understand why the lives of 32 people were suddenly, needlessly ended. But stop pawing blindly at any stray mote, and don't try to add meaning where there is none.

Carrasco is right: Trying to now blame movies, and in the process showing your own cultural ignorance, is lazy, it's foolish, and it's beside the point. Movies - or video games, Web sites, books or whatever will be picked up on next - aren't to blame for the deaths of 32 people on a college campus; that lies with a single, sociopathic gunman, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.

This teacup ride is making me sick

Keep an ear out and listen for this latest bit of rhetoric to come out of the Bush administration. I'll bet my "dirty liberal" membership card that they will begin beating this drum hard, telling Iraq - and by extension, the American people - that we never promised to send more troops or to actually clean up the mess we made.

Instead, the administration will first make it seem as if Iraqis are responsible for the problems in Iraq, and then will try to say the idea of not sending more troops was their idea in the first place.

This is how the spin begins, with distraction and misinformation.

And call me paranoid, but do you think there was any coincidence that this happened the same day Alberto Gonzalez began testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Gates in Iraq to spur reconciliation

By Lolita C. Baldor
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Defense Secretary Robert Gates slipped into Iraq Thursday to warn Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment to a military buildup there is not open-ended.

Gates said the political tumult in Washington over financing the military presence in Iraq shows that both the American public and the Bush administration are running out of patience with the war. He was speaking to reporters in Israel just before his quick flight to Baghdad.

"I would like to see faster progress," he said, adding that momentum by the Iraqi government on political reconciliation as well as legislation on sharing oil revenue would "begin the process to send a message that the leaders are beginning to work together."

He said that, in turn, would create an environment in which violence could be reduced.

Underscoring the urgency in controlling the violence, police said a suicide car bomber rammed into a fuel truck in central Baghdad only hours before Gates' arrival, killing at least 11 people. The attack came a day after one of the bloodiest days in Baghdad since the U.S. troop increase began nine weeks ago, with four strikes killing more than 180 people.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Hi. I'm Kurt Vonnegut'

It's always sad when we lose one of the good ones.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was a renowned author, a dedicated humanist and, by all accounts, just generally a really nice guy with something important he had to share with you. His death yesterday - due apparently to complications from recent brain injuries sustained in a fall - leaves an empty space no one will ever really be able to fill.

For all the important ideas he produced and seeded in our psyches, it seems silly that the thing that most endeared Vonnegut to me was his cameo appearance in Back to School. At one point, rich-guy-gone-back-to-college Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) has hired Vonnegut to write a report on himself for a class. Vonnegut shows up to drop off the report, and in a later scene the teacher gives Thornton an "F" and tells him:

Diane: Whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!

[cut to Thornton's dorm suite]
Thornton: [on the phone] ... and another thing, Vonnegut! I'm gonna stop payment on the check!

[Kurt, unheard, responds]
Thornton: Fuck me? Hey, Kurt, can you read lips? Fuck you! Next time I'll call Robert Ludlum!

[hangs up]

For some reason, I think Vonnegut must've gotten a kick out of that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

'Which order are we talking about?'

I've got to admit, I like Barack Obama and it's almost completely for superficial reasons. He comes off as a hip, smart, relaxed and confident guy who says all the right things - basically, the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to date. Or hell, the sort of dude you'd want to date yourself.

But his recent comments on The Late Show with David Letterman just shot him up another 25 points on my personal Candidatetometer. You, Mr. Obama, have Evel Knievel-sized balls. You don't have the track-record some of the other candidates do, but you've got balls.

Here's a breakdown from the New York Times:

The Obama-Clinton Ticket?

By Jeff Zeleny

It’s not uncommon, at least in some Democratic circles, to ponder the possibilities of a joint presidential ticket of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. And in most conversations, the names are listed in precisely that order.

But when that question is raised on tonight’s Late Show with David Letterman, Senator Obama asks for a bit of clarity.

“That would be a powerful ticket,” Mr. Letterman says of the two senators. “Undeniably that would be a powerful ticket.”

Mr. Obama replies: “Which order are we talking about?”

You just know that ended with a bad night for Bill.

Image cropped from a MSNBC illustration