Thursday, April 30, 2009

Actress Bea Arthur dies; theme to 'Maude' still torments me

Last weekend, a family spokesman announced that long-time television actress Bea Arthur had died of cancer. She starred in two long-running series, The Golden Girls and Maude. She won two Emmy Awards for her work.

I never really watched either show. I am sure they were entertaining, but they did not appeal to me. Our personal tastes can be quite subjective, and her shows were not up my alley.

I hope I am not being insensitive, but one aspect of her work did leave a mark on me. The theme song to Maude is one of those songs I can never get out of my mind once I think of it. When the tune starts, it repeats itself over and over and over again. It is like it is on one continuous loop.

The ironic thing is that for a television sitcom, the song really is not that bad. Sung by Donny Hathaway, it has some spunk.

It is not as bad as the theme to Three's Company.

My brain turns into a cement block when I hear that one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not everybody applauds President Obama's first 100 days

We are about 100 days through President Barack Obama's tenure. There have been lots of comments regarding his performance with most of them being good. However, in reporting these comments, it is difficult to trust the mainstream media. Obama had most media outlets in his back pocket during last year's campaign and the start of his presidency.

However, 'The Tennessean' published a round up of comments regarding the major issues of the day in its April 26 edition. Because most of the good comments have been reported over and over again, I thought I would post some of the negative comments. After all, given 'The Tennessean’s' leanings, it is unlikely we will see something like this for a while.

About the economy:

"President Obama – the man – is as impressive a politician as I have ever seen. His economic policies are across-the-board as bad as or worse than President Nixon's, Carter's, or perhaps Hoover's. We, as a nation, will be able to witness firsthand the consequences of a gigantic clash between substance and form." -- Arthur B. Laffer, former Reagan adviser and head of Laffer Associates.

About foreign relations:

"President Obama's inexperience and naivete about foreign policy matters could not be more glaring. His frequent denigration of our great country, his embrace of Third World tyrants, and his shameless campaign to become president of the world is starting to make Carter's presidency look even better." -- Carol M. Swain, professor of law and political science, Vanderbilt University.

About bipartisanship:

"President Obama has governed in a partisan fashion. That is no surprise, since we live in a partisan era. Many complain about it, but the upside is that the Democrats are now accountable for the future growth of the economy. The public, as a result, can now hold them accountable in the 2010 and 2012 elections. That is what democracy is all about." -- John Geer, professor of political science, Vanderbilt University.

About the environment:

"Check the White House Energy and Environment Web page and it's obvious the Obama administration is fully on board the Kyoto Protocol gravy train. Conventional sources that produce virtually all of our energy will be taxed or regulated into oblivion to provide generous handouts to all those favored underperforming fairy dust technologies." -- Mike Kimmitt of Franklin, retired oil and gas industry executive.

Those are the negative comments. To read the positive comments, visit 'The Tennessean's' web site here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

If the Titans can make it through the first six games, 2009 could be another successful season

I know I am a little late on this, but the National Football League released its schedule a week or so ago. Here is the schedule for the Tennessee Titans:

Sept. 10 -- at Pittsburgh
Sept. 20 -- vs. Houston
Sept. 27 -- at New York Jets
Oct. 4 -- at Jacksonville
Oct. 11 -- vs. Indianapolis
Oct. 18 -- at New England
Nov. 1 -- vs. Jacksonville
Nov. 8 -- at San Francisco
Nov. 15 -- vs. Buffalo
Nov. 23 -- at Houston
Nov. 29 -- vs. Arizona
Dec. 6 -- at Indianapolis
Dec. 13 -- vs. St. Louis
Dec. 20 -- vs. Miami
Dec. 25 -- vs. San Diego
Jan. 03 -- at Seattle

The first thing a person notices is that the Titans have moved up in the world when it comes to games played in prime time. The Titans visit Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh on Thursday, Sept. 10 to kickoff the season. Additional prime time games are at home against Indianapolis (Oct. 11), at Houston (Nov. 23), and vs. San Diego (Dec. 25)

The Titans' road schedule is challenging. Four of the first six games are on the road, plus there are two trips to the West Coast. That is a lot of time to spend in an airplane and do not underestimate the impact those long trips have on players.

However, if the Titans can at least break even on the road, the schedule is friendlier down the stretch. Four of their final six games are at home, including three in a row in December. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the schedule is that the Titans do not play any divisional opponents after their twelfth game.

This schedule has 11-5 written all over it. However, that is not necessarily good news. The American Football Conference is packed with good teams. In fact, New England missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record last year.

The Titans have a lot of work to do. The new season will be here before we know it.

Let's hope they are ready.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The forgotten war?

President Barack Obama recently stated his intention to increase America's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. He has committed more U.S. military personnel to it and has lobbied other countries to increase their involvement, too.

With all the controversy surrounding the Iraq War, many have remarked that the Afghanistan War has become a forgotten war in some respects. Until the last few months, the media definitely had focused more on Iraq.

I guess I can understand that point of view because the mainstream media has the resources and power to influence the public's attention span. If the focus is on one story night after night, it sucks us into it.

However, this approach has done a tremendous disservice to the troops serving in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been an important battleground throughout the war on terror, and the decision to de-emphasize the reporting of it has been a real shame.

With the president's decision to boost America's commitment there, the war is now returning to center stage. I would like to think that most of us understand why this war is so important.

If the Afghanistan government were to be taken back over by the Taliban, the country will once again be a safe place for terrorists. The 9/11 attacks were masterminded there primarily because the Taliban gave aid and comfort to al-Qaida.

Though the United States booted the Taliban from power in the weeks following 9/11, the group has been gradually re-organizing and is a substantial threat to the country's stability.

This may be an odd example, but I fear that we may be witnessing a playing out of the Aesop fable titled 'The Tortoise and the Hare.' In that fable, the tortoise and hare raced each other. The hare was convinced of his invincibility and ran out to a substantial lead.

However, the tortoise kept slowly plugging along, and eventually won the race because the hare lacked the commitment to do what it took to win.

Could this now be happening? The United States initially raced out to a large lead when we routed the Taliban back in 2001. Most of us thought the war was won, and we believed the rest of our time there would be spent assisting the new government.

Despite being routed, the Taliban regrouped and slowly began re-establishing itself. Eight years later, we are fighting the same people we thought we had vanquished.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is whether or not the American public will have the backbone to be patient while this war unfolds. Remember, President Obama has not presented a specific timeline regarding how long our commitment in Afghanistan will be.

If this commitment lasts for years, will the president be dragged down by it?

President Bush was certainly dragged down by Iraq. 'The New York Times' wasted no time in trying to apply the adjective 'quagmire' to the Iraq War. Of course, 'The Times' was attempting to evoke the Vietnam War when it implied Iraq was becoming a 'quagmire.'

Because the paper has been so friendly to Obama, I am not anticipating any knee-jerk reactions from it regarding Afghanistan. There is a zero percent chance that the term 'quagmire' will be applied.

However, as long as we are in our recession, I believe most of America will give Obama the benefit of the doubt on Afghanistan. Right now, folks are too focused on their bank accounts to get very concerned about something happening on the other side of the world.

I can't decide whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's easy to inexpensively find 'Casablanca' on DVD

Many people dislike Walmart for a variety of reasons (some of which are legitimate). However, the store has been an indispensable resource as I have built up my DVD collection.

Last Saturday, I found Casablanca there for only $7. It included the film, a documentary hosted by Lauren Bacall, and the original movie trailer. Most importantly, it was the black and white version of the film, and not the horrible colorized version that Ted Turner put out back in the '80s. The colors in that version almost burned out my retinas.

If I were a high school history teacher, I would require my students to watch this film. I know we should not make a habit of relying on Hollywood to give us a civics' lesson. However, the film does make important statements about the folly of isolationism and the need for self-sacrifice.

Both of those themes are as important today as they were back then.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pat DiNizio impressively pays tribute to Buddy Holly on CD

As regular readers of this blog know, I like music. However, I am sure most of you have noticed that I rarely write about current music. Sometime around 1994, I lost interest in the current music scene and became content with the music of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Because of this, I am especially grateful to a co-worker who exposed me to a compact disc by Pat DiNizio who put out a record of nothing but Buddy Holly covers. I like Holly's music a lot, and DiNizio did a great job. He was able to interpret the music in a fresh way without losing the original essence of the songs. Appropriately enough, the title of the album is Pat DiNizio/Buddy Holly.

His achievement is not always an easy one to pull off. For every good album of covers (for example, Bob Seger's Smokin' O.P.'S), there are others that fail (for example, Michael Bolton's disemboweling of the song "[Sittin' On] The Dock of the Bay").

For those wanting more information about his album, click here.

By the way, DiNizio is best known for his work with the Smithereens (in case you did not already know).

Monday, April 20, 2009

If you think taxes are too high, then Janeane Garofalo says you're a racist

On April 15, demonstrators around the nation protested our country's current tax system by participating in gatherings called "tea parties." I did not participate in one, but I have plenty of problems with our current tax structure. The Internal Revenue Service's tax code is way too complex, and many people are taxed so much that it creates legitimate hardship in their lives.

I thought the "tea parties" were an interesting way to express displeasure, and the first amendment certainly protects the rights of the protesters to state their points. There were plenty of comments after these rallies, but the most laughable ones were made by actress/comedian Janeane Garofalo.

She said this on Keith Olbermann's show on MSNBC:

"Let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don't know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks."

Those are pretty remarkable comments. First of all, when did Garofalo gain the track record and credentials to be taken seriously as a pundit about taxes and race relations? I know she did some talk radio stuff, but there is no way she should be a credible resource for a news program that airs during prime time.

Of course, we are talking about Keith Olbermann's program. Though I enjoy his writings on baseball, he has no business hosting a news program. He does not attempt to present impartial discussions regarding the issues of the day. It has been embarrassing watching him sell out to the Obama administration. If it was physically possible for him to get pregnant and deliver a child with the president as the father, I am convinced he would do it.

As for Garofalo, the most damaging thing she said in her comments was to play the race card. There were scores of different ways to critique the demonstrations, but she took an amateurish approach and blamed it on race.

Her comments are exactly why many people are hesitant to enter into meaningful discussions about the racial climate in America. People are afraid they will be branded a racist if the people they are having the dialogue with do not agree with their comments.

And that is a crying shame.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

For a family friend

At various stages of my life, I have been told that it is always important to be nice to people.

There are a lot of reasons to do that, but a common reason I always hear is that one act of kindness may be the very gesture that gets another person through the day.

Of course, we usually do not realize when we do that because it is impossible to look inside another person's heart. However, there are times when a life dedicated to niceness can be measured.

I thought of that recently when WSMV's Dan Miller died of an apparent heart attack. For people my age, Miller had been a presence in our lives since we were in kindergarten. Except for a few years when he worked in California, he was always waiting for us in our living room each weeknight.

Like many of you, I watched and read the dozens of tributes dedicated to him. However, there was one in particular that stands out in my mind.

Retired WTVF anchorman Chris Clark said that Miller was a genuinely nice man and that came through to viewers.

Keep in mind that Clark and Miller were rivals for decades when it came to local news. Broadcast journalism (and all journalism for that matter) is a fiercely competitive business and can be quite cut throat. If Miller's rivals can say that about him, what should it tell us as well? Maybe nice guys can finish first.

As I discussed his death with a friend, he related that as a boy the world's bad news was a little easier to swallow because it was reported by Miller. He could not explain why. It just had that impact on him.

I wish that I could say that the warmth and niceness of Miller was a common trait in broadcast journalism, but I cannot. It seems that a lot of the current leaders in the field depend too much on smarminess and confrontation.

While I agree that confrontation is sometimes a necessary weapon when reporting the truth, much of it these days is misused as blatant grandstanding. It is used as a cheap trick to gain our attention for a few seconds. It is all a bunch of noise.

Unfortunately, these people do not understand what it takes to have a meaningful impact on people's lives. Most people want hardworking broadcasters and journalists that care enough about them to tell the truth.

I think that was a key in Miller's success. Because of this, he was a person that we welcomed into our living rooms in the evening and into our bedrooms when we watched the late news. He was a member of our extended family.

The grandstanders will never enjoy this intimacy, and when they die, I doubt it will touch their viewers the way Miller's death impacted his. I know that sounds harsh, but just because something is harsh, it does not mean it is untrue.

How would people react if Bill O'Reilly suddenly died? Or Keith Olbermann?

They would be missed, but viewers would move on to the next big thing. Their lasting impact would be minimal.

I never met Dan Miller and that is too bad. It is not every day that a 35-year relationship ends even if it was an indirect one.

I would not want to be the one who replaces Miller at WSMV. Whoever it is, I hope he took plenty of notes about the man who just left.

The shoes are enormous.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'The Joshua Tree' by U2 is emotional, personal and vivid

Even a casual listen of The Joshua Tree reveals that it is an intensely personal album. Themes of love, faith, and America reverberate throughout it. However, by embracing a more commercial approach to record making, U2 produced not only an intelligent record, but one that sounded great on the radio. It was now possible to cruise to the Irish band.

Most Americans first became aware of the band in 1983 when they released War. However, that album was the culmination of seven years of hard work. The band started in 1976 when the four members were still in high school. In 1980, they released their first album Boy and then released October the following year.

However, after releasing October, the band was on the verge of breaking up. Lead singer Bono, guitarist the Edge, and drummer Larry Mullin, Jr., each questioned whether rock and roll was a godly use of their talents. All three are Christians, and their doubts nearly ended the band. The Edge was the last of the three to decide to stay, and once he made his decision, their career took off.

Their next release was War and was their commercial breakthrough in the United States. They followed that up with The Unforgettable Fire in 1985, which many considered a step backward. In fact, one book listed the album as one of the fifty worst albums of all time.

However, superstardom arrived with The Joshua Tree. Blending radio-friendly hooks with personal subject matter, U2 arrived as the next big thing in 1987. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With or Without You" both hit the top of the single's chart.

Bono once said that "I Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For" is more about doubt than faith. If nothing else, the song is about the dissatisfaction of this world when knowing that heaven awaits. Even the faith people currently contain in their heart pales when compared to the next life.

"With or Without You" revisits an often-told rock and roll tale. The "love too much to let go" idea is a standard rock and roll theme, but the band handled it well. The Edge's jagged guitar work blended nicely with lyrics full of imagery about breaking, tearing, and pain.

Perhaps the album's best song is "One Tree Hill." Written as a eulogy for a friend who died in a motorcycle wreck, the song communicates the pain of loss with the hope of one day being re-united. The song climaxes with Revelation-type imagery: "I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky/And the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill."

In addition, "Where the Streets Have No Name," "In God's Country," and "Trip Through Your Wires" all received heavy radio airplay.

The album's massive success followed the same general pattern of the breakout albums of Bruce Springsteen and Prince a few years earlier. Springsteen and Prince were artists who had enjoyed both commercial and critical success early in their careers. However, they took the next step in popularity when they took their imaginative lyrics and merged them with more commercial melodies. This allowed them to penetrate a much larger audience.

U2 gets on some folks' nerves because they are too serious or they are perceived as taking themselves too seriously. While it is true that they should lighten up every now and then, it is hard to criticize anybody because they are too sincere. We live in an age of fluff and marketing manipulation. Even if you do not like their music, they deserve a pat on the back for at least trying to make a difference.

Resources: The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, The Rolling Stone Album Guide; 'The Joshua Tree' liner notes

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I don't understand Minnesota politics

On Monday, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Democrat Al Franken and against Republican Norm Coleman regarding who should be the winner of the disputed U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, according to

This really is not the main point of this posting, so if you want to read more about it click here.

The main point is that the election for this seat took place last November (that's five months ago, folks), and it is only now winding down. However, Coleman could appeal the decision and drag this out even more.

If I were a Minnesota citizen, I would be embarrassed. Before this, Florida was the gold standard when it came to botching elections, but Minnesota is gaining ground.

Of course, the big question is: Why would anybody want Al Franken to be their senator?

But that's another story for another time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's too bad Kenny Perry lost the Masters

I spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon lying on the couch watching the final round of the Masters. For golf fans, it was pretty compelling stuff.

For years, fans have wanted to see Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson paired together in the fourth round of a major championship. Of course, that happened Sunday, and both of them put on a show. Mickelson shot a 30 on the front nine en route to a 67. Woods started slowly but shot a 68. However, it was too little, too late for both.

I was pulling for Kenny Perry, and the way he lost was heartbreaking. He was playing in the final group, and after making a short birdie putt on the 16th hole, he had a two-shot lead with two holes to go. Given how consistent he had been all week, it looked good for him, but he faded. He lost in a playoff to Angel Cabrera.

Perry is from Franklin, Ky., and from what I understand, he has several ties to Middle Tennessee. I heard him on The Sports Zone 104.5 radio station before the tournament, and he appeared quite likeable.

I have heard several "experts" say that he choked. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but if somebody is going to say he choked, then it must be emphasized that he was not the only one who did. Woods bogeyed the final two holes and lost any chance to be in the playoff. Mickelson put his ball in the water on the 12th and missed painfully short putts on the 15th and 17th.

I don't hear anybody saying Woods and Mickelson choked, but if Perry did, those two certainly did as well.

It was a tough loss, but Perry has a lot to be proud of. Hopefully, the sting of this loss will fade, and he can remember all the good things he did in the tournament.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A season of darkness

For people of faith worldwide, this time of year is always a period of intense personal reflection.

Christians are currently observing a holiday period that deals with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jewish people are observing Passover, and there are other faiths that are engaged in special religious services.

With so much focus on spirituality, one might expect our society to be going through a period of enlightenment. However, this is not happening at all.

In the last six weeks or so, there have been a series of mass killings in America that have been shocking and senseless.

On the first Friday in April, a man walked into an immigration services center in New York and killed 13 people before killing himself.

On March 29, two similar crimes took place. In Santa Clara, Calif., a man killed his two children and three other relatives before killing himself. In Carthage, N.C., a man walked into a health and rehabilitation center and murdered eight people before being shot down by police.

On March 10, a man killed 10 in Alabama before committing suicide. Also last month, a man murdered four Oakland, Calif., police officers.

I wish I could say that these mass killings were a new phenomenon, but we all know that is not true. Whether it was the holocaust during World War II or the killing fields of Cambodia during Pol Pot's reign, crimes against humanity on a grand scale are nothing new.

While these recent crimes do not reach the level of those two examples, do not tell that to the victim’s loved ones. When somebody a person loves is a victim of a killer, it does not matter how large the scope of the crime is.

The frequency of these current crimes is unnerving. Sometimes, we will hear about "copy cat" crimes where a specific crime will inspire others to commit the same type of crime. Many times, this inspiration occurs on a subconscious level so it can be difficult to detect whether a person is planning an outburst.

I do not know if these current crimes fit under the "copy cat" category, but to use an old cliché, when one domino tumbles it makes it that much easier for the next one to fall.

In the aftermath of these crimes, we have heard some of the same old tired arguments regarding how easy it is to get guns.

Some will likely look to our government for help, but I do not see how stiffening already tough gun laws can help these situations. If a person is determined to kill somebody, they will do what it takes to get a gun.

In some respects, gun laws remind me of the prohibition laws of the early 20th century. The purpose of prohibition was to outlaw alcohol production and consumption, but it never really worked. People with the means to make and drink alcohol still found a way to do it.

When trying to understand these recent killings, maybe we should look at them in the context of the spiritual holidays currently being observed. Just about every religion revolves around the battle of good versus evil.

The pressures of the world back us all into a corner at some point. When these pressures come, we have a choice. Are we going to remain committed to doing the right thing no matter how difficult the situation?

Or, are we going to break and lash out at the things that have us in the corner?

The answer seems easy, but is it really?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Behavior of the Apostles verifies Jesus and the Resurrection

(Note: 'The Nightly Daily' is taking a break for the holiday season. Look for new material on Monday, April 13. Please take time to consider the events that will be commemorated in the coming days. As always, thanks for reading.)

On Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

For Christians, the Resurrection is the pivotal event of our faith. If it were not for this event, Christianity would crumble and could easily be classified as the biggest hoax of all time.

Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have been just another false prophet who did not deliver on what He promised.

I know these are strong words, but it is impossible for me to over-emphasize this holiday's importance.

For all the hype that Christmas receives, the Resurrection’s importance dwarfs it and then some. Simply put, deciding whether Jesus rose from the dead or not is the most important question a person will ever answer.

When analyzing whether Jesus rose, one of the most compelling pieces of evidence supporting this event is the behavior of those closest to Him.

When Jesus was arrested and crucified, His disciples ran for their lives. They were terrified, and Peter went as far as to publicly deny Him three times.

Some are quick to criticize Peter, but we should all know better. When the heat is on, it is part of our human nature to want to save our own skin, and that is all he was doing.

All Christians at some point have denied Jesus only it was not documented in the best-selling book of all time so people could read about it throughout the centuries. Jesus forgave Peter and that is good enough for me.

The main point here is that the disciples had hit rock bottom. Their Master was dead, and they were terrified for their lives because of threats from religious leaders, Roman authorities, and the public in general.

However, compare their behavior at this point to their behavior only a few days later. Not only did they stop running, but they began to actively proclaim the Gospel, knowing it would bring them suffering and hardship.

What could have caused such a reversal in just a few short days? They met the resurrected Jesus.

As previously stated, they fled with fear after Jesus was arrested and crucified. It would have taken a supernatural event to cause such a dramatic turnaround.

This is exactly what happened. The reality of Jesus' Resurrection hit them right between the eyes. Despite the torture and hardship that awaited them, they willingly took the Gospel into the world.

Consider for a moment what these men were undertaking. These men were basically peasants with no power, and they were going to challenge the most powerful empire in the world.

The message they would carry would rattle society, and if nothing else, history shows us the Romans were not patient when it came to events that caused instability within their empire.

Again, why would they do this? Because they were absolutely certain what they believed in was true. The reality of the Resurrection of Jesus cemented His teachings in their hearts.

People don’t suffer and die for something they know to be a lie or a hoax. A person would be insane to willingly suffer in the ways these men suffered if they knew it was all a lie. These men faced public humiliation in ways that have been rarely experienced.

History is littered with people who committed to a cause but then jumped ship as soon as it got tough.

However, it did not work that way with the disciples. They did not compromise. They knew what was true, and their commitment impacts us thousands of years later.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Another quote of the day

"Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals...except the weasel." -- Homer Simpson of The Simpsons.

Me need to laugh.

Me need to laugh now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quote of the day

"Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I've failed as much as I've succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life, and I wish you my kind of success." -- spoken by the character 'Dicky Fox' in the film Jerry McGuire.

I have always felt lukewarm about Tom Cruise's film history. For every good one like Rain Man there is a bad one like Days of Thunder. However, Jerry McGuire is excellent, and this quote offers pretty good advice. I do not know about the 'wife' part of it because I have never been married, but the quote has some nice balance to it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Obama the hawk?

The Iraq War was one of the defining issues in last year's presidential campaign, and Barack Obama's opposition to it earned him many votes.

Despite the war's merits, it remains unpopular with a large section of the American people. With Obama now installed as president, most expect it to come to an end sooner rather than later.

His opposition to the conflict certainly was popular with the far left constituency of the Democratic Party. Many people are experiencing war fatigue and want our soldiers out of that region of the world.

However, while there was a lot of debate about Iraq last year, discussions about Afghanistan were quieter. When pressed about that region, Obama did say that the emphasis of the war on terror should be in Afghanistan and not Iraq.

The reporting of this did not get nearly as much exposure as the Iraq debate did. When most Americans voted last year, I believe they thought that most of our troops would be coming home with an Obama victory.

Well, guess again.

Last week, the president announced that he was sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. When making the announcement, he said that the Taliban and al-Qaida must be stopped.

He said his goal was to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the terrorist network that is along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In other words, we will be fighting a war there for the foreseeable future with no timetable regarding when it might end.

In the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, troops quickly descended on Afghanistan and booted the Taliban from power. Because the Taliban was providing refuge for al-Qaida, a significant dent was made in international terrorism.

However, as the years have passed, violence has been on the increase. American military deaths rose there by 35 percent in 2008, according to figures published by the Associated Press.

I agree with Obama that if we are truly committed to a war on terror, it is time to finish off the Taliban and al-Qaida once and for all. To do that, there are two big questions that need answering.

The first one: Will the United States receive enough support from the international community to accomplish this? Right now, there are approximately 65,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, and more than half of them are from the United States. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are currently turning up the heat on the United Nations and NATO for more support.

The bottom line is we need support from the international community to succeed. My confidence in the United Nations is tepid at best. It is a weak-kneed organization that often emphasizes style more than substance. Hopefully, NATO will be responsive.

The second question is: Will the American people have the backbone to support this effort? Based on what I have witnessed in the last year or so, the chances are 50-50 at best.

With the plunging economy, many Americans do not have the time or patience to endure another major military effort. We are not in a hawkish mood, and President Obama hardly fits the description of a hawk.

However, Obama is correct that the war on terror would receive a major setback if the Taliban were to regain power in Afghanistan. Another government that supports terrorists would be in place.

Given the fervor of religious extremists in that area, the last thing we need is another government that helps them achieve their goals.

If we do not fight them now, we certainly will fight them in the future.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One out of four isn't bad...right?

Back on March 19, I made my picks regarding who I thought would reach the final four in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I picked North Carolina, Missouri, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. So, how did I do?

Not so good. The only school I got right was North Carolina, but I was very close to getting all four. Missouri, Louisville, and Pittsburgh all made it to the regional finals before losing. Close but no cigar.

Michigan State, Connecticut and Villanova will join Carolina in the final four. Since Carolina has brought me this far, I am going to stick with them to win the title. As long as guard Ty Lawson is healthy, I don't see how the Tar Heels will get beat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sean Penn as Larry Fine? Could be...

Sean Penn is one of the best actors of this generation. There can be no debating that. His body of work speaks for itself.

However, when there were reports that he may play the role of 'Larry Fine' in a film about the Three Stooges, I didn't think it was a good fit. In the film, Jim Carrey is expected to play Curley and Benicio del Torro may play Moe.

Then again, my own personal prejudices may be clouding my judgment. I do not agree with Penn's politics, and it is sometimes difficult to separate a person's value system from what his job is.

If this film does take place, it will certainly be fascinating. Like most men my age, I grew up watching the Stooges. When I was a boy, television stations in Nashville and Huntsville, Ala., fed us a steady diet of Stooges on Sunday mornings.

But as I wrote a couple of paragraphs ago, maybe I am totally off base here. Maybe Penn will walk away with the Academy Award for Best Actor for his gut-wrenching portrayal of Larry.