Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mexico Vs. Venezuela

Key Players:

Mexico

Vincente Fox, President

Fox, a former executive, came to power in Mexico as one its first conservative leaders in over a century. After a century of PRI rule, he was elected president under the PAN party (National Action Party). He has tried to work with President Bush on immigration and has openly criticized some US proposals.

Venezuela

Hugo Chavez, President

Chavez, a leftist, came into power in 1998. Chavez, a former soldier, has close ties with Cuba. Considers himself a good friend with Fedel Castro. He has claims he survived a failed coup the Bush Administration backed (White House denies the claim). Chavez himself led two coups against the former Venezuelan government, which landed him in prison for two years.

Conflict:

In the past month, tension between Mexico and Venezuela has reached an all time high. Both countries have pulled out ambassadors out of each others countries. It started when at a recent regional summit; Mexican President Vincente Fox tried pushing a U.S. proposal to introduce a Free Trade Area between all the Americas. The Free Trade Area would knock down barriers between each country and allow for investment in each others markets. The proposal was first introduced in 1994 by former President Clinton. A deadline was set for the end of 2005 for all the countries in the Americas to complete negotiations. The deadline is nowhere near to being met due resistance from Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina.

Fox criticized President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina for their anti-United States stance at the recent regional summit. Chavez in return called Fox a “lapdog” of US Imperialism and accused Fox of disrespecting him. Chavez then went on to say to Fox, “Don't mess with me, Mister, or you'll get stung.” Mexico demanded an apology and that Chavez’s comments “strike at the dignity of the Mexican people.” Later Chavez blamed the US for the rift between Venezuela and Mexico claiming for their “divisionist policies”. Venezuela vice president told Mexico not to hold its breath for an apology.

If I were placing money on this I would bet on…

I believe that this is just an instance of ideas and leadership styles clashing. With the upcoming election in Mexico, it is likely that former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will win. As a result, Mexico will likely move more to the left like Venezuela. That would relieve tension between the two countries. If push came to shove, Mexico would have the advantage in the conflict. Mexico would quickly allie itself with the United States. Venezuela would probably have to call in Fidel and Cuba.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why I don’t take political advice from celebrities

I do believe that everyone should be able to express their opinions, no matter how idiotic they might be, because that is what America is about, freedom of expression. This past election, many celebrities voiced their opinions about who they supported. Most supported John Kerry (no surprise). That is fine, they are allowed to support a candidate, and if I were famous I would too. What bothered me was how they tried to shove it down my throat that they supported John Kerry. We had the best of Hollywood like Cher, Michael Moore, and Barbara Streisand.

Now that the election is over, celebrities have continued their attacks on President Bush. Everyone remembers the comments Kanye West made at the Hurricane Katrina telethon about Bush hating African-Americans. Comments like that make him look kind of foolish. His song “Crack Music” further makes him look uneducated. He raps that Ronald Reagan used drugs to keep African-American quiet. Ronald Reagan personally gave members of the Black Panthers heroin and crack, that is very believable. Fellow rapper 50 Cent has come out against the comments Kanye has made regarding Bush hating African Americans. Kanye West’s statements do not help anyone. At the telethon, I realize he donated his time to raise money for the victims. Other celebraties, like Shaq went down to New Orleans and actually helped people escape New Orleans. I’ll even give Sean Penn credit; he tried to help people get out of the city. What did Kanye West do? Spend probably an hour at the telethon and made a ton of money with CD sales because the comments were highly publicized. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, unless you’re the President of the United States.

Barbra Streisand agreed with Kanye’s statements, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. She has been active champion of liberal causes and one of her recent blog posts on her official website stated:

"If there was ever a time in history to impeach a President of the United States, it would be now. In my opinion, it is two years too late. We should have done this before the election to spare the country the misjudgment, the incompetence and the malfeasance of this administration."

Well if Barbra Streisand says so, we should impeach the president! I would like to think that even John Kerry doesn’t take her seriously. She is an entertainer who became famous for her music and movies, not her political views. If I were a politician, I would distance myself from her because if she actually agrees with you, then that is an indicator that you are too much to the left. Some would say she is out of touch with reality. She cancelled her subscription recently to the LA Times because liberal columnist Robert Sheer was fired and replaced by conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg. Obviously, Ms. Streisand does not believe in diversity of opinions. Oh, I am sure the LA Times will miss her $100 a year. I also wonder if she actually writes her statements on her website.

Free Bird! Need I say more?

I don’t know how anyone can argue that “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the greatest rock ballads of all time. It was written in 1973 and still, 32 years later, shouting it out as a request at concerts has become a music industry joke. Every now and then, a musician will actually play it. I am guilty of this as well. At a Sugar Ray/Goo Goo Dolls concert back in high school, I screamed for them to play it but with no success. It is the classic song of a guy singing to a girl of why he can’t give her a commitment. If only every guy could express himself like this, there would be a lot more understanding in relationships.

This began as a ballad without the guitar solos at the end, and the band recorded it that way for the first time in 1972. Guitarist Allen Collins had been working on the song on and off for the previous 2 years. At the time of recording, the song was only 7 1/2 minutes long, but throughout the next year, Collins continued to refine the song until it was recorded for the final cut of the album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd in 1973.

Collins wrote the music long before Ronnie Van Zant came up with lyrics for it. Van Zant finally got inspired one night and had Collins and Gary Rossington play it over and over until he wrote the words. Skynyrd has played this only as an instrumental since the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Later, his brother, Johnny, took his place. For a while, he wouldn't sing it - the band played it as an instrumental and the crowd would sing the words. Now you think Lynyrd Skynyrd, you think “Free Bird”.

Most people are surprised to discover that I am a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. They are, in fact, my favorite band. If you know me, then you know I listen to anything and everything, except country music. Forgive me for not getting into songs with lyrics like “She broke my heart, so I broke her jaw”. You can thank Varsity Blues for those words. I enjoy classic country with Buck Owens and Johnny Cash. Those songs actually tell more stories than just every song now about drinking and fighting and riding cowboys. But still, people are surprised when they find out that I am a Skynyrd fanatic. They after all sound very much country. But this is how I respond. They are Southern Rock, not country and don’t you forget it. Songs like “Simple Man”, another classic ballad, and “What’s Your Name?” are blared from my speakers and my roommates must endure. And it’s not like I’m torturing them. Ronnie Van Zant’s voice has a slight twang but it is a twang of velvet.

And I’ve come to an important decision, one my roommates have already agreed to. At my funeral, please play “Free Bird”. It speaks of the inability to stay in one place for very long and trying to find something more. And hopefully, just hopefully, people will sing along and hold up their lighters and talk about my funeral for years to come, because 32 years later after it was first written, I’m still talking about “Free Bird” and how there is nothing like it. Much like me.

Crips leader to be put to death

Stanly “Tookie” Williams sits on death row waiting for a miracle to save his life tomorrow. Waiting for a miracle that the four people he was convicted of murdering never received. After his appeal with CA State Supreme Court was rejected, Williams’ last hope is Governor Schwarzenegger. The California Governor could grant Williams clemency, which would commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since being sentenced to death in 1981, Williams has changed his life. He has spoken out against gang violence and has written children’s books giving the profits to anti-gang groups.

What strikes me as odd is there are so many people who are actively trying to save this man? Professor McAdams of the Warrior blog points outs that many have Sympathy for the Killers, Not the Victims. This man was one of the founders of the Crips, one of the most well known and notorious gangs in the United States. While, Tookie (I wonder how he got that nickname) now might be anti-gangs, the Crips are still heavily involved in urban warfare, drug sales and recently violent take-over robberies and warehouse burglaries. How many lives have been shattered because of this man?

Many families have been devastated by Williams’ action such as the families of the four murdered victims. Who speaks for the dead? Surely it’s not the protesters who are advocating for Williams’ clemency. The four murdered victims were not killed by accident or in the heat of passion, they were brutally killed. One victim was shot twice in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun while face down on the floor. Williams is scheduled to be put to death tomorrow by lethal injection, a lot nicer of a way to go than having your head blown off. Please, excuse me if I don’t rush to this man’s aid.

**Update**
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency for Williams.

An Unholy Alliance

Everyone seems to know of the unholy, and slightly disturbing, alliance between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. It is impossible to walk past a magazine rack without seeing the sickeningly affectionate couple on the front cover of at least one publication with that nickname in bold letters that causes bile in my throat: TomKat.

It seems unnatural for these two people to be together and completely unexpected. And yet, despite the unsettling relationship, people can't stop buying magazines with these two on the cover. Like all historic days, I remember the day the relationship was announced. I was sitting at my desk when Melissa stormed in, screaming in a deafening roar that TomKat was an abomination against God. And now with the expectation of their baby, sickeningly nicknamed Tomkitten, press coverage of the couple has reached ridiculous levels.

CNN debated whether the relationship was a hoax. The pregnancy was a top news story on major television networks, as if it was the second coming of Christ. Websites claim that Kat has been brainwashed by Tom's religion, scientology, or that there was a contract between the two that would ensure marriage for at least five years. Others are convinced that this entire monstrosity is a desperate attempt to gain publicity. If publicity is what the couple wanted, they certainly succeeded to an insane degree.

Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch, screaming that he is in love keeps replaying as a short clip. His now infamous interview with Matt Lauer in which the actor claimed that he knew the history of psychiatry is now mentioned whenever Cruise's craziness is discussed. In case anyone missed the book in stores, the title is "Dr. Tom Cruise's History of Psychiatry."

Still, people can't get enough. Everything about TomKat moved so quickly: making out for the cameras, becoming engaged, TomKat with child. I hope the fadeaway comes and goes as quickly as most Hollywood marriages or I won't ever be able to watch "Dawson's Creek" or "Vanilla Sky" again without throwing up.