Thursday, December 19, 2002

ZoNotes: Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind? What about Laredo?

Plagues of Saddam
The urgent, serious sounding media tell us about the possibility -- indeed, the certainty -- that Iraq will torch the land once the coalition forces led by the U.S. move against Saddam Hussein. We've seen a bit of this back in 1991 when Saddam, his forces routed, resorted to ecoterrorism by torching the Kuwaiti oil fields, triggering an "environomic" calamity.

Granted, this could alter the state of international public opinion in favor of Baghdad, but is the sympathy of Mexico and Syria on the UN Security Council worth the total dismemberment of Iraq as a whole? Saddam knows what nodes to attack in the minds of the antiwar, anti-American Left. Show it starving children (never mind that they starve to build presidential palaces), bring sycophantic American actors to the country (and show them nothing), speak forbiddingly of destruction (as antiaircraft weaponry violate the no-fly zone), and the more appeasement-minded sophisticates will turn and denounce the West for its inhumane mistreatment of Iraq.

Plus, if "world opinion" in Berlin and Paris is so amenable to Iraqi manipulation, is it worth having on our side in the first place? Charles Krauthammer has an excellent piece in the latest The National Interest about the consequences of the unipolar era. I recommend you read it to understand the unprecedented nature and duration of American unipolarity.

"Love is the crocodile on the river of desire."-- Bhartrhari, 625

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

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ZoNotes: Just Another Tequila Sunrise...

Buffy Recap
Great. Episode. Last. Night. The folks at UPN treated us to a new episode before Christmas, and it did not disappoint. Buffy's encounter with the Turok-Han supervampire and her subsequent inability to defeat it at the construction site reminds me of two plot devices used earlier in other films. Again, the show's creative team stuck faithful to continuity by visiting the Christmas tree lot where Buffy originally encountered the First Evil in the Season 3 episode, "Amends."
Now, for the analogies:

1. The Turok-Han vamp bears a strong physical resemblence and profile with the "infected" uber-vampires in the Wesley Snipes flick Blade 2. The strengths are eerily similar -- the Turok-Han was impervious to Buffy's stake, much like the genetically-altered vamps in Blade 2 had a special protective bone structure around the heart. Only sunlight can stop the Blade vamps, ditto for the Turok-Han. Plus, the fight scenes last night are a step up in sophistication.

2. Buffy's showdown with the supervamp at the end of the show also reminded me of the final lightsaber duel in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke gets torn asunder by Darth Vader. The settings are broadly similar -- in Empire its the industrial carbon chamber and the Cloud City skyline, and with every faceoff Vader gets stronger. In Buffy, we see our protagonist limping to a construction site, where her best moves are defensive and merely parry thrusts. The supervamp renders her unconscious.

Buffy's dream-state sequence involving her mother did a great job of planting seeds of doubt. Why should Buffy fight if evil is persistent? Ah, but is its persistence an excuse to leave it be?

The return of Giles with three potential Slayers also offers us pause -- is he really Giles, or merely a ruse generated by the First?

Buffy's subsequent speech to her friends at the end of the episode, I think, wasn't supposed to be rousing. The speech was a hard, grim acceptance of the likely cost of defeating the First Evil. It was very much a walk-through-the-valley-of-the-shadow-of death type moment instead of a St. Crispin's Day boast.

The Zos
ZoNotes is preparing its year-ending awards. Nominees in these categories are welcomed!

The Game-Changer (ZoNotes' version of Person of the Year)
Sporting Moment of the Year
Political Breakthrough of the Year
The "He Said WHAT?" Award
Wordplay of the Year
Song of the Year
Album of the Year
The Popcorn Butter Award: Best Movie
The "I'm Reading it Too," Book of the Year
The "Fire Him -- NOW!" Award

"The three stages of a man's life:
1. He believes in Santa Claus
2. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus
3. He is Santa Claus."

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

ZoNotes: Sweet Blogs Are Made of These

Whole Lott-a Trouble Goin' On
Sen. Lott's interview on BET last night was the political equivalent of scoring a meaningless touchdown to cover the spread. The problem I have, and I think many have, is that the apologies or whatever it is you wish to call them, don't mean much because Lott himself doesn't actually believe what he is saying. There was more honesty in his homage to Sen. Thurmond a week and a half ago than there has been at any juncture since.

Now Lott, I think, should have done the thing most politicians and famous people do when they get in trouble. Before vast right wing conspiracies, before independent councils, before Jennifer Flowers, there was Jimmy Swaggart, disgraced televangelist. His confession was a thing of drama and beauty.


It was Swaggart more than anybody else who perfected the art of the modern ongoing mea culpa. His is the blueprint, a classic not only for its groveling prostration, but for its raw emotion. Politicians these days don't seem to have the relish for that kind of stuff. If Lott had done the equivalent earlier on, instead of offering piecemeal commentary, he wouldn't have the GOP sharks lurking after him.

Like I said, I didn't, do not, and will not believe anything he says after what he said immediately after he praised Thurmond.

And the Senate? The problem with the erstwhile quiet Dems, indeed, the entire Senate, is that you have 100 presidents-in-waiting, never mind that we haven't had a President come out of the Senate in years. It is a clique unlike any other in the United States. It just happens to be that Lott was caught in a rare moment of honesty."

Shameless Self-Promotion
Because if I won't do it, who will? Check out the letters to the editor section of The National Interest, on sale at fine bookstores everywhere. I think I'm the first guy ever, ever, to mention Buffy in the pages of that journal! Check it out to see why.

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned."--Paul Valery

Monday, December 16, 2002

ZoNotes: She's Gonna Leave You With A Smile...

Coincidence, Fame
I was in Jacksonville on Thursday and Friday attending an emergency response/homeland security conference, and I got two good stories and three short digests out of my attendance. However, on the way back to Baltimore-Washington International on Friday night, I sat with recording artist Alih Jey. Yep, that is her name. From what Ms. Jey told me on our flight back on Southwest Airlines Flight 1024, her album was released on -- of all dates -- Sept. 11, 2001. Her album sales have been somewhat modest, 25,000 was her estimate, but she seemed very nice and approachable for a singer.

Which, of course, begs the question I know all of you will ask -- why on earth was Ms. Jey flying on Flight 1024 on Southwest Airlines, sitting with the Ratus Raceus variant of the human species? Being your man on the spot, I asked. She replied that this was the best fare she could find to visit her friend in Virginia.

Needless to say, I made a shameless plug for ZoNotes, because in this world, you spread your own jelly on the biscuit!. Remember that life lesson, kids!

Is Caracas Burning?
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is one of the few Latin American leftists in the last 50 years to have the might of the armed forces on his side. Even with that, his rule has become messy and disfigured, marred by an effective general strike and a splinter in the military that has both sides armed to the teeth. Chavez successfully weathered a coup attempt in April when the rightist forces deposing him overreached and lost the faith of the uniformed men who pull the strings in modern Venezuela.

Even if Chavez breaks the strike, he has multiple problems his Bolivarian bombast cannot solve. Beyond oil, Venezuela has little to offer in the global marketplace. Unemployment and poverty have not been addressed, only as canards to perpetuate Chavez's authoritarian rule. His flirtations with Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein have netted nothing but the discontent of the United States and the trepidation of fellow states in the Americas.

Maybe Chavez is the way he is because he's a paratrooper. I explored that dynamic earlier this year. Again, the wild card here is the combination of a recalcitrant element of the armed forces and an effective civil reaction. Chavez has his supporters, and is willing to fight to the last of them to stay in power.

If Chavez's popular support is so enduring, why doesn't he schedule early elections? Judging by his support in the streets, would he not win a plebicite? Or, does Chavez fear a Pinochetian Rejection, underestimating the nature of domestic discontent?

Keep your eyes peeled. In the short term, this may have more consequences down the road than Iraq, at least until January.

"Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do."--Jean-Paul Sartre