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25 June 2009

The Most Eventful Week Ever

Wow... what a week to take a vacation. This week has been one of the most eventful in recent history. It seems that everyday--honestly, every hour--some major event or turning point takes place. And, naturally, this is the week that I am lax in my updates.

Monday and Tuesday I was in Florence, South Carolina, where I was supposed to be getting things packed for my eventual move out of there. Instead, I spent most of both of those days listening to WJMX News Talk 970 AM while playing Pac-Man Championship Edition and Hexic on my XBox 360. It was actually an enlightening odyssey--I learned about Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels thanks to his mildly obnoxious show--and I was kept up-to-date with the major issues of the day.

So here, in a brief, annotated list, are what I consider to be the major events of this past week (in no particular order):

1.) The Health Care debate

As you can probably guess, I am opposed to government-run health care for a variety of reasons. Regardless of whether or not it's a good thing (and I don't think it is, even though I openly cede that health insurance is way too expensive), it's simply not the government's responsibility to run the health industry anymore than it should run the financial or automotive industries. I don't know what the solution is, but it's definitely not government-owned and -operated health care.

2.) The Iranian Revolution (2009)

There has been a huge amount of discussion about this issue, most of it circulating around President Obama's rather cautious and lukewarm way of addressing the revolution taking place in Iran right now. While I don't agree entirely with the way the President has handled things, I can definitely see the wisdom in his "wait-and-see" approach, unlike most conservative commentators. I do think Obama should have given moral and verbal support to Iranian protesters sooner and more decisively, but it's an immensely complicated situation. Then again, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, when former President Ronald Reagan gave his support for the Polish Solidarity movement in the 1980s, it significantly and markedly improved the morale of those fighting against the Soviet Union. Words can be extremely powerful. Obama knows this better than most anyone else. I just wish he had used them a bit more forcefully for something that really matters.

3.) The Waxman-Markey Bill - A.K.A. "Crap 'n' No-More-Trade"

I have to be honest--I have no idea why this ridiculous energy bill is called "cap-and-trade." I should probably do more reading on the issue, but I know a bad idea when I see one.

Look--I'm not saying that global warming (or cooling) isn't happening. I'm not saying that we should go out and trash the environment and dump toxic waste into rivers. We as a society decide what is an acceptable level of pollution and we have to manage our resources wisely.

But think about it this way: there is, by no means, a concensus on global warming. Also, global warming and cooling have occured naturally for thousands of years. For example, around the year 1000, much of Northern Europe was coming out of a small-scale Ice Age that led to gradual warming and improved crop production. In fact, the increase of crop production allowed for the growth of an urban, merchant class, which very slowly led to capitalism.

If global warming did something that great, maybe we should consider it in a more positive light. The Arctic Ocean is becoming the next geopolitical playground. The opening of the Arctic will create some conflict and some new headaches, especially because Russia is involved, but it will also give access to untapped natural resources, namely oil and natural gas. And those National Geographic nuts will have tons of barely-explored ocean to photograph.

And, again, no one is even sure if global warming is happening. Slick green advertising and feel-good carbon offsets have many fooled, and panicky scientists and former vice-presidents can't wait to tell us how quickly Manhattan is going to be submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean, but we've been hearing alarmists predict doom for decades. The only difference is that now it's finally become fashionable. The intersection between the environmental movement and pop culture would be pretty fascinating to consider, but I won't go into it here.

That's all to say that we probably shouldn't be doubling the price of energy to fight against something that is perfectly natural and might not be happening, anyway. But, you know.

This bit of news really disappointed. All weekend and earlier this week I had been hearing about Governor Sanford's mysterious disappearance. As you all know, I am a huge fan of South Carolina's governor and have followed his political career with a great deal of interest. So at first I was willing to give our wayward governor the benefit of the doubt. I initially suspected that he had gone to blow off some steam after experiencing a tough session of the legislature and heaps of national scrutiny. In fact, I figured the only reason that anyone even noticed is because he's caught so much flak lately for his resistance to the federal government's stimulus money--a step I still applaud, especially in light of the fact that the States are losing more and more of their power in our federal system. Anyway, it was a dumb move not to tell anyone where he was going, but, hey--this is South Carolina. If someone doesn't go on a spontaneous camping trip it's odd.

Then we found out he went to Argentina. Oh, okay--our governor is gallavanting down Mexico way without telling anyone or leaving anybody in charge. The press is going to have a field day with that. So imagine my shock when my older brother sent me a snarky e-mail with one of the governor's lurid (and clumsy) love e-mails to his spicey señorita.

Naturally, there's a lot of speculation about what the governor is going to do. Is he going to resign? And, naturally, the liberal news media is slobbering more than they do over Obama about the whole affair (pardon my wording), pointing out with disgusting glee the fact that Sanford argued that former President Bill Clinton should have been impeached on moral grounds in addition to the rather small crime of lying to the American people and committing perjury.

But I'm not going to defend Sanford. What he did is absolutely wrong and I do feel betrayed. Sanford is exactly the kind of politician America needs right now, the kind of politician who can and will stand up against overweening government control. But we need our leaders in the fight against federal oppression to be legitimate, upstanding leaders. They can't be flawless, because they aren't, you know, Jesus, but they need to refrain from fooling around while married or from taking kick-backs or any number of things that always seem to seduce politicians.

Honestly, I don't know what to think. I still completely agree with Sanford's political and economic philosophy. In this case, his personal actions actually don't have any bearing on those ideals. At the same time, the honorable--if foolish--thing to do would be to step down as governor. But I'm a realist--while that might be the best move ideologically and morally, it would be disastrous in the larger scheme of state and national politics. Sanford might lose a great deal of his moral legitimacy, but his political credibility, at least when it comes to balancing a budget, is still untarnished. After his term is up, though, that should be it.

Ultimately, Sanford came clean and never explicitly lied to the people of South Carolina, although one could certainly make the argument that he implicitly mislead us by maintaining his public persona as a family man and loving husband. He did not lie on the stand or before a grand jury. It's a small detail, I know, and I am not making any excuses for his behavior. I lost a hero today.

5.) Michael Jackson Died

This event was what prompted me finally to write this overview of the week's happenings. I found out about this around 8:45 tonight. The sad thing is, I was more shocked and dismayed by this news than I was about Mark Sanford's infidelity. That probably says something negative about where our priorities lie as a nation (or, more accurately, where my priorities lie as a person), but maybe not. Michael Jackson made millions of people happy--and he made millions--and that's pretty significant.

It's weird, though, because I'm not a huge Michael Jackson fan. Yet I had a more visceral and emotional reaction to his death than I did to Brad Delp's, the former lead singer of one of my favorite bands of all time, Boston. Boston was one of those bands that has autobiographical significance for me, as I really got into the group during my transformative years--college. D. Rowland and I listened to "Billie Jean" while getting ready for church in the morning, which was one of those random and odd college rituals, but it was never like Thriller was the soundtrack to my life. I probably spent more time philosophizing internally while listening to "More Than a Feeling" than any other song in existance (and it's a little sad that such an overplayed AOR hit was one of the most important songs in my life). Heck, I've probably listened to Kansas's Leftoverture more hours than I have to all of Michael Jackson's discography combined.

So it's kind of weird that I was so schocked, but I think I know why: Michael Jackson was a cultural force unto himself. His death is like the death of Elvis or John Lennon. It almost marks the end of an era. In many ways, Jackson is the last great superstar. Think about it--who else alive right now was more influential, or even well-known? There are no more rock stars. Michael Jackson was the last great performer. Oh, sure, Taylor Swift is cute and popular right now. The guys from Def Leppard are still doing stuff, and they sold a ton of records (see also: Taylor Swift). But Michael Jackson was special in a way that I can't articulate. I'm sure Chuck Klosterman will have something to say, so I'll leave it to him.

That, in a nutshell, is the week in review. I will try to make up for some lost time this weekend with some original material as well as some great articles D. Rowland submitted--like the African-American legislator who proposed a bill outlawing all flavored cigarettes... except menthols.

Only in America.

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