Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pregnant Rumors

I miss Elizabeth Vargas.

This week marks the first in which ABC Nightly News opens with its new anchor, Charles Gibson. I have nothing against Charlie. He is a competent, solid and engaging choice to lead ABC's news flagship.

But I miss Vargas. She was an inspired choice. And ABC cut her loose far too early. I can't help but be worried about the gender signals ABC might (or might not) be sending.

Frankly I've been pissed off about it for several weeks.

I am a man who's enough of a feminist to have loved seeing Vargas on his TV screen every night. (I'm an ABC news guy—I worshiped at the journalistic altar of Peter Jennings.) I thought it was high time that a network nightly news show was helmed by a woman. I was one of the people who groaned that she had to share the honor with Bob Woodruff when the two began their ill-fated, younger, hipper stint as co-anchors just a few months ago. As with Charlie, nothing against Bob whatsoever. I just thought Vargas was top-notch and could easily handle the job herself. She had poise and class and a comprehensive grasp of her duties. And yes, she was, it's true, very beautiful.

And then Woodruff was almost killed in Iraq and is still away, recovering. Vargas announced she was pregnant. And Katie Couric revealed she was leaving NBC's Today Show to take up the news desk at CBS, easily the lowest-rated of the three networks. (Oddly enough, I am not nearly as excited about Couric taking over the CBS desk—I will reserve judgment, but I don't sense the gravitas necessary to pull it off). And just like that, ABC found itself dead last in the ratings and floundering.

Did they give Vargas a chance? Is she really leaving because of her pregnancy or is ABC using that as a convenient smoke screen to push her out? Certainly Vargas has every right to decide what is best for her and her unborn child. If that means leaving a vaulted position voluntarily to care for her health and that of her baby, who are we to judge this working mother? I just hope that's all it is. Originally, when she announced her pregnancy, Vargas had no plans of vacating the anchor desk but for the weeks immediately surrounding the birth. And now she is gone. Permanently.

I don't want to turn Elizabeth Vargas' pregnancy into a referendum on pregnant women in the workplace, but it raises such questions nonetheless. She's not just carrying the weight of a child, she's carrying the weight of a nation of onlookers all wondering if ABC corporate has set gender equality back a few decades.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Superhero Pat Robertson and the Divine Milkshake

Forget Storm and Wolverine. Forget Superman. This summer, there is only one super-hero worth watching.

Not only can he tell a person's sexual orientation just by hearing their voice...not only can he predict when and where violent weather will strike the earth...not only can he hear every word God utters, but now, Pat Robertson can do something no other human being, let alone 73-year-old man, has ever been able to do. He can leg press 2,000 pounds!

Yep, you read right, Pat Robertson, televangelist and Presidential wanna-be can literally leg press (and bench press) a ton!

This from the CBN/700 Club website: "Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg press 2,000 pounds? How does he do it? Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman? One of Pat's secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients."

That's some energy drink!

Sorry Navy SEAL, Florida State University/NFL footballer and all-time record holder Dan Kendra. Pat beat you by more than 665 pounds! And he didn't have to have a specially modified machine to hold all that weight like you needed. Plus, his capillaries didn't burst and blind him like yours did.


But even Robertson himself is a wuss compared to his doctor/trainer who claims to press as much as 2,700 pounds. I don't know the trainer's name, but I'm willing to bet it's Jesus H. Christ--that explains the miracle of Pat's strength and how he hears all of God's juicy scuttlebutt.

As for me, it must be true. I saw it on TV. The same TV on which Robertson has predicted an apocalypse for the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania, personally prayed hurricanes away from American seaboards, called for the assassination of foreign heads of state, told the world Ariel Sharon was struck down by the hand of God himself, and has foreseen devastating tsunamis which will obliterate U.S. coastal cities in the upcoming hurricane season.

Pat, I for one repent of all my liberal talk and pledge to remove all offensive posts from this blog post-haste. Furthermore, I promise to be a good, upstanding, conservative, charismatic Christian once again. Only please don't come and beat the &*%# outta me...you stud.

Monday, May 22, 2006

So Boring the Con of Sony

My review of The DaVinci Code is here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


There are moments in our lives when we have no choice—there is but one door through which we can walk. Other times, while we have choices, the “right” door is obvious to all. Then there are those moments when we are both blessed and cursed with an abundance of choices, each spiced with possibility and potential and we find our progress stymied not by too few opportunities, but by too many.

Such was the month of April.

Returning from a cruise to Mexico at the end of March, my wife, Stephanie and I spent several days in L.A.. It was partly a trip to visit friends and partly a chance to scope out Chapman University where I'd just found out I'd been accepted into the master's program for film school. The school seemed great—a small, intimate campus in large, Spanglish buildings set among the sort of exotic flora only Southern California can produce. I strolled around the campus, spent time grilling both students and professors, sat in on a class and came away with a very nice overall impression. More than anything, however, I was just excited at the thought of being back in a scholastic environment.

That evening, we drove up to Burbank and visited an old friend of Stephanie's who's a Post Production Supervisor at Warner Bros. We were given a fascinating VIP tour, zipping around the lot in his golf cart, ducking in and out of sound stages, wandering around the various sets and peeking in on the Poseidon (the film he was overseeing at the time) post-production spaces—giant mixing stages, the ADR dubbing stages, the score stages, the editing booths, etc. We met the director, Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot, Air Force One, Troy), as well as the producer, Duncan Henderson (Dead Poet's Society, Harry Potter, Master and Commander) and the editor, Peter Honess (Rob Roy, L.A. Confidential). To pull back that curtain and see how the magic is made was a thrilling experience.

The next day we spent in Hollywood with one of my dearest friends, Kris (click on "play video"), an independent producer, writer and actor. His roommate, Tad, who's an agent with ICM, the third largest talent agency in the country, listened politely while I told him about my plans for the future.

And then he tore them apart.

“Why in the world would you want to go to film school?” he asked. “Forget it! It's two years and 80 grand—skip it, move to L.A. right now and just begin working. Sure, you'll start at the very bottom and it sucks, but it's where everyone starts. The key is getting out here as soon as possible, diving right in, and working like hell.”

There was obviously a lot more to it, but you get the gist.

What he said made a lot of sense and needless to say, took the shape of an existential monkey wrench. I thought I had everything planned out—going to film school and then taking Hollywood by storm. But now those plans were in shambles. I called Stephanie's friend at Warner Bros. and asked if I could take him out for breakfast. He agreed. When I asked him about the validity of Tad's advice, he said he couldn't agree more. In the successive days, I interviewed two former production assistants who now cut film trailers—they couldn't agree more. A cinematographer—he couldn't agree more. A script supervisor and screenwriter—she couldn't agree more. And of course Kris was thrilled at the idea—we've wanted to work together for years.

When the acceptance letter for Boston University's graduate film program arrived shortly after we returned home, I felt the glow of satisfaction, but not the thrill of possibility. While the decision was far from made, I knew the direction toward which my heart was inclined.

The Hollywood dream. What a cliché. It is my aspiration, my ambition, dare I say my calling to work in the film industry. If I don't go for it, I'll always wonder what could have happened if I had.

My wife is overwhelmingly supportive. My friends and family are overwhelmingly supportive.

So why is it that at the time of writing this blog, I am turning my back on L.A. and packing my bags for New York City...

* * *

On a Saturday a few weeks ago, Stephanie came in from fetching the mail, her face aglow, a large envelope clutched in her hand. Suddenly, I knew what it had to be. A large envelope was a good sign, right? Surely they don't need large envelopes just to say no?

I grabbed it excitedly, haphazardly ripped the top open, and yanked the contents into the light.

“Dear Mr. Fibbs: I am very pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the MA degree program in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University beginning in the Fall semester, 2006.”


As far as film schools go, NYU might as well be Harvard. It's one of the most exclusive and selective programs in the country. NYU's Film School (technically known as the Tisch School of Arts) boasts such alumni as Billy Crystal, John Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, The Coen Bros., Meg Ryan, Martin Scorsese, and M. Night Shyamalan among hundreds of others.

At last count the school has produced 16 Nobel Prize winners, 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, 13 senators, 56 Congressmen, 25 Academy Award winners, 8 Grammy Award winners, 9 Emmy Award winners, and 8 Tony Award winners. Saul Bellow went here. So did Elihu Root. And Elmer Bernstein. And Bernard Herman. And Neal Simon. And J.D. Salinger. And Alan Greenspan. And Jonas Salk. And now me.

I dreamed but never really hoped to get in. I sent in my application knowing that it would boomerang back to me in the form of a polite but decided refusal. It was my one not-a-shot-in-the-world-but-what-the-hell application.

Except that that isn't what happened. Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

My L.A. advice is solid and difficult to argue with. This is going to cost time and money and certainly blood, sweat and tears. If my Master's doesn't give me a leg up on the ladder to Hollywood creative production, I may, indeed, need to start, once again, at the bottom of the L.A. food chain. All things that, had I settled on the path that led to California in the first place, may have, to a large degree, been avoided. I know they're right.

And yet...

Here, now, at this point in my life...at this point in our lives...this is what's right for Stephanie and me. Her job couldn't be more thrilled for her. They've agreed to let her work out of New York. As a Manager of Media Relations for a large space advocacy non-profit, this is the mother-load. She will be going from a small, luke-warn media market to one of the most monolithic and dynamic in the world. While not technically a promotion, it is a move of inestimable advantage.

Every few days we pinch ourselves. Manhattan...soon we'll be living in Manhattan! It is a change we can't wait to embrace. A friend told me the other day that New York City is going to be overwhelming. That's OK, I answered, we've been underwhelmed for long enough. We can't wait to feel the rhythm and pulse of the great city, to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of America's most vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis. To stroll the boulevards, discover the best-kept-secret delis, take in Broadway shows, trade our cars in for the subway (especially nice with today's gas prices), and, of course, immerse ourselves in NYU's phenomenal film school.

L.A. isn't going anywhere. But this moment may never come again. These are tandem chances of a lifetime—extraordinary opportunities we dare not let slip through our fingers. This is a special occasion in which we have both been given the chance to pursue our dreams and reach for our unique stars—and do it together.

I know it's only a matter of time until I find myself in L.A., working with friends already established and creating the magic we all know we have within us. Perhaps the wait will be only the length of graduate school. Film school will give me the necessary connections, allow me to enhance my teaching options, build my resume and, God forbid, allow me to fall back on something later in life. I don't want to lose my focus on ALL that I want out of life—and film school was always one facet of that dream. Hollywood isn't going anywhere—it will still be waiting for me. However long it takes, that, it seems, is another metamorphosis and another post.

* * *

I've started another blog to chronicle my film school adventures: The Film Snob. I’m not quite sure of the shape this blog will take. I see colors and sense patterns, but don’t yet see the latticework that will make up the structure.

It will not resemble this blog, which is usually updated only once every week or two, generally with substantive and protracted posts. Instead, I envision The Film Snob to more resemble the traditional blog—updated often with short posts about remarkable events that took place over the course of the day or week directly relating to my experiences in film school. Additionally, it will be more professional in nature. I will maintain The Ready Room for my more personal topics.

You may notice when you go there, that I've already posted quite a bit. The entries are composed of several posts from this blog that cross-pollinated well, copies of my film reviews for DVDFanatic, as well as a few film related articles that I wrote for The Colorado Springs Gazette during my time at the newspaper. The most recent post is a 2005 New York Times article that proclaims a Cinema Studies MA as the new MBA. It's a fascinating read.

I may not have much more to say on it for the next few months of preparation but will, no doubt, have no end of things to talk about come September.

Monday, May 15, 2006


This weekend, my wife and I were confirmed into the Episcopal church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. It's a step we had been considering for quite some time. In fact, we took all the necessary steps for confirmation last year but wanted to give it some more time and prayer. With substantial life changes looming on the horizon (more on this in the next few days), we decided we wanted to be confirmed with the Grace and St. Stephen's parish, where we've been attending for nearly two years. The service was held at the seat of Colorado's diocese, Denver's St. John's Cathedral.

Humbled in size by the massive architecture and ornate surroundings, we found ourselves in the front, kneeling. The choir sounded like something medieval, ethereal. The bishop, resplendent in his robes and mitre sat before us. I closed my eyes and felt the comfortable weight of his hands resting atop my head.

"Strengthen, O Lord, your servant, Brandon with your Holy Spirit; empower him for your service; and sustain him all the days of his life."

A moment later I caught a whiff of the sweet-smelling oil he applied to my forehead in the form of the cross. It was a sublime and moving experience.

Please rejoice with us as we continue our wondrous journey of faith.

Code Red!

I was recently at a friend's blog, reading his take on the current DaVinci Code scandal when I came across a commenter there who wrote, "I do believe that this (The DaVinci Code) is the biggest threat to Christianity ever."


Not trying to pick a fight with my friend or upset the person who left the comment, but is it too much to ask for a little historical perspective?

A bigger threat than say, the Roman or Jewish oppressions, the Gnostic gospels or the brutal persecution of millions of believers worldwide throughout history? Frankly, I'm one of those people who think that the church is often its own worst enemy. A bigger threat than say, the Crusades, the Inquisition, wayward Medieval Popes, or pedophile priests? A bigger threat than you and I not reflecting the love of Christ to our neighbor?

For too many Christians, this weekend's release of The DaVinci Code is the ultimate assault on thier faith, the latest in a long line of products from a Hollywood system whose sole reason for existence is to wipe Christianity from the map.

Everywhere you turn, it seems that somebody is railing against this film and the book upon which it is based. The Vatican has denounced it. There must be a dozen anti-DaVinci Code books on Christian bookstore shelves. Churches everywhere, including the one in which I was raised, are speaking out against it from their pulpits. Barbara Nicolosi, a Christian filmmaker and educator whom I admire and who has linked to this blog in the past, is livid that The DaVinci Code has been made. "This film is based on a book that wears its heresy and blasphemy as a badge of honor, and I intend to stay far away from it." A Catholic who perhaps feels ganged up on more than most, she has made it her life’s ambition to discredit and destroy this film.

Don't get me wrong. These are all great folks who feel, for one reason or another, threatened by this and want, in all sincerity, to spare themselves and others from the poison they see in it.

But are they stopping anything? Are they really helping at all?

The novel has sold more than 40 million copies. An estimated 100 million people or more have read it or at least know its plot. It is an undeniable cultural phenomenon and will be on the cultural radar screen for a long time to come. Like it or not, you cannot ignore The DaVinci Code.

This sort of Christian response to a film happens every few years or so. I'm not talking about films like Brokeback Mountain or Harry Potter. These films challenge Christian morality. I'm talking about the films that challenge the very tenets of Christianity itself. The last time I remember this sort of fervor was for Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (which, interestingly enough, deals with some of the same themes).

The response is acidic. Scathing diatribes are issued generally without any interest in actually seeing the thing they are attacking. There are marches. And lots of signs. And lots of screaming and yelling. And occasionally a violent altercation or two.

And who does this convince to stay away from the theater? The choir. It certainly doesn't curtail the public at large. In fact, they're all the more intrigued because of the controversy. All publicity is good publicity. When The Last Temptation of Christ was released in 1988, the studio reported a measurable boost at the box office directly attributed to the free publicity garnered by protesting Christians.

Belligerence rarely works. Why? It is more for the speaker than for the listener.

Frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Yes, I've read the book and enjoyed it thoroughly. No, it is not written by a master craftsman of the English language, but if Dan Brown knows one thing, it's how to move the plot and set up cliffhanger moments. That the book is a page-turner that you can't put down is an understatement. Perhaps the juvenile writing may have hamstrung the novel had it not been for Brown's subject matter. Part religious text, part thriller, part detective story, the plot about a cover-up of one of humanity's most prized beliefs is, if anything, compelling.

I confess I have to scratch my head when people level charges of blasphemy at the book (and now the movie). Yes, there are wild historical inaccuracies. Yes, the book is rife with situations, allegations, and supposed actual events taken out of context. Yes, Brown has taken a fringe conspiracy theory and spun in into the mainstream. Yes, in doing so he occasionally challenges both Biblical tenets and established church history.

However, I think that the primary issue Christians have with The DaVinci Code is, frankly, misplaced. Fellow Christians, exactly what is so scandalous about the possibility that Christ was married or even that He bore children? Is there anything in the Scriptures that says He couldn't? Didn't? Wouldn't? There isn't. Do I believe it occurred? I do not. I find it difficult to believe that God, wrapped in human flesh, could find a person with whom His divinity was so comfortable that He would take such a large step as marriage. But then again, the Bible is replete with proclamations of Christ’s deep and powerful love for His disciples—a love not contextualized as the same sort of love He has for each and every one of us. And let's not forget Mary, His human mother, with whom God the Father found exceeding favor. While the lack of evidence in Scripture for Him being married is, on some level, an indication that He bucked the overwhelming cultural trends of His day and remained single, the lack of confirmation can hardly be seen as proof of His singleness. Would the fact that Jesus Christ married really mess with our theology that much? Would it in any way alter the Christian's salvation or the way in which they relate to each other or the world? I think not.

I realize there are other issues, specifically relating to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and claims on Christ's divinity or smear campaigns against women (some truth to that one, folks!), etc. But these things are merely historically inaccurate, not heretical. We do not and should not hold to Church history, no matter how established, with the same fervor with which we hold to Biblical texts. To elevate one sullies the other.

In the end, what Dan Brown has shown is not that Christians are lacking faith but that they are lacking a proper grasp of their own Church history. Christians may know their Bible but do they know the story behind it? This novel/movie should encourage us all to be better students of that history.

And even if you think that heretical, even if you think I am making allowances for the Devil, it all comes down to one very simple and very forthright issue--it's a novel. Meaning it is fiction. End of story.

This book and this movie are not going away. And a ton of people are going to go see it, whether you want them to or not. While choosing not to go see the film is a perfectly acceptable and for some, Holy Spirit led decision, I, for one, plan on seeing it as soon as it comes out. Like the "Harry Potter" novels (which I also read...and loved) I do not believe in addressing that which you have not personally investigated. You cannot develop a thoughtful and strategic reaction to the book or film if you are simply going off of hearsay and word of mouth.

See the film and use it as a springboard for conversation with those in your life regarding your faith and its roots. The reach of this film will mean it will raise countless such opportunities. Christians need to spend less time being combative and more time recognizing and engaging moments of opportunity to advance the cause of truth.

God, I am pretty sure, is not afraid of The DaVinci Code. I doubt very much that He sees it as “the greatest threat to Christianity ever.” He has had far, far worse things written and said about Him. He's God; He can take it. And when He reaches the end of His omnipotent rope, I think He's more than capable of defending Himself.

From Dan Brown to Ron Howard to Tom Hanks, God loves the people who made this film and those people who will watch it and bite into its lies. And He loves the truth seeker, even the one whose pursuit of truth has led him temporarily astray. Knowing what this film is about and being willing to discuss it is the first step in aiding that search. Attacking the makers of this film is not the right way to go about confronting misinterpretations, especially not when it is done in God's name.

St. Peter wrote,” Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." Exactly.

I am only suggesting that the Christian community consider and be willing to take part in the greater cultural discussion about the film and the book, rather than dig in their heels with the reactionary approach of noisy protests and organized boycotts, as is so often the case. If Christians hope for secular culture to take part in discussions about "their" movies, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Passion of The Christ, the least we can do is be willing to return the favor.

Besides, you want to talk about movies that threaten the very fabric of Christendom and our witness for it, just watch Left Behind or The Omega Code. Now there are some films worth protesting...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Generally Unwise

This morning, President Bush nominated Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be the next chief of the CIA after Porter Goss' unexpected and abrupt departure last week.

While it's true that a handful of military officers have served in the post, the position is intended for a civilian. Our government has set aside these delineations intentionally. Our constitutional framework believes it is inherently dangerous for military officers to be in positions where their authority and control may muddle the waters between defense and politics. Civilians, from the Commander in Chief down oversee the military, not visa-versa.

Even more troubling, if Hayden were confirmed, it would mean that military officers would be in control of all the major spy agencies—from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency and now the CIA.

Not to mention that it was Hayden who ran the NSA and oversaw the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program, regarded by many as blatantly illegal.

The last thing we need is the impression, let alone the reality, that the CIA and the other surveillance agencies are little more than arms of the Department of Defense.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Forgive Me a Conservative Moment

Under withering condemnation of his job as Secretary of Defense by his former generals, Donald Rumsfeld was continually buffeted by protesters yesterday, one after another, at a speech at the Southern Center for International Studies. Some stood and turned their backs on him, others shouted angry accusations, and one man, an ex-CIA operative accused him of being a liar. The mostly supportive crowd booed them.

As gutsy as those protesters were and as much as I admire their pluck, it was not their accusations, but Rumsfeld's response that really took my breath away.

“You know, that charge has been leveled against the President for one reason or another,” he said as one of the protesters was dragged out of the room by guards, “and it is...so wrong...and so unfair...and so destructive in a free system where people need to trust each other and government. The idea that people in government are lying about something is fundamentally destructive of that trust...”

Excuse me?!

Has the esteemed Secretary of Defense ever bothered to read anything our founding fathers wrote? Apparently not. If he had, he'd have realized that government is nothing more than a necessary evil, a constant and grave threat to our freedoms, and must never, NEVER be trusted. The citizens of this country must watch their government with a hyper-vigilance, ever mindful that power corrupts and that it is only through excessive stewardship that the interests of the everyman will be maintained. What's that line from V for Vendetta--people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. Exactly.

A lack of trust is destructive in a democracy, Mr. Secretary? Nonsense. It is a bedrock of everything we hold dear. To trust blindly is destructive. To not confront corruption and menace when it rears its head in our own halls of power is both capricious and national suicide.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dying with a Wimper

Frankly, I'm delighted with yesterday's verdict in Zacarias Moussaoui's trial. The last thing I wanted was for Moussaoui to be a martyr. Besides, I just didn't buy either the prosecution's or Moussaoui's own stories about his hand in 9/11.

Oh he's a bad guy and would certainly hurt Americans if he could, but a 9/11 mastermind who was stopped only inches from his goal of another Sept. 11th massacre? Please. He's a monster only in his own mind. Let him die now with a wimper instead of a roar.

Finally, we can be done with this ludicrous show trial which has done little more than divert all our attentions from the real fact that we are no closer to capturing Osama bin Laden today than we were five years ago.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Death of the SUV

Last night I attended a lecture at Colorado College, just a few blocks from my apartment, where economist and author, Steven Levitt was speaking. Levitt, the co-author of the bestselling book, "Freakonomics," drew a huge crowd to discuss his unique (some would say, rogue) way of looking at economics as it cross-pollinates with other disciplines such as sociology, psychology and even religion. Always fascinating and often controversial, Levitt's wide range of studies include everything from crime, politics and even sports.

Steven Levitt

Freakonomics, which has been a New York Times bestseller for over a year now, draws unbelievable (until you look at his data) economic behavior correlations between such random and diverse groups as school teachers and sumo wrestlers and the KKK and real-estate agents. It also examines the quantifiable link between legalized abortion and a drop in the crime rate, and the business model of drug dealing.

Levitt took questions at the end of his lecture but had to cut himself short long before I was ever able to ask mine—how would his economic model play with the current energy crisis? But I think I know what his answer may have been. I got clues from how he answered other current event questions, namely illegal immigration (“The more people paying into and purchasing things in an economy is always a good thing. Economically, the legality of their presence is irrelevant. Besides, I doubt so many people would be up in arms if these illegal immigrants came from Poland or some other location in Europe. This anti-immigrant anger is simply because they're Mexican.”) and the war on drugs (“You want to destroy the war on drugs, then you have two very simple options—crack down severally on the consumer instead of the distributor thus cutting off the demand or legalize drugs immediately.”)

In terms of the latter example, he admitted that legalizing drugs was a horrible idea, at least, he said, in terms of the higher class narcotics such as crack cocaine. While he is confident that legalization would do the trick, no one has the political will (or moral resolve for that matter) to deal with the fallout such a choice would incur. Legalizing drugs would obliterate their street value, remove the gang equation, negate the violence that accompanies their sale, and provide an added national income in the form of exorbitantly high taxes that could be stamped on every purchase. However, he said, what would happen first is that the initial generation who experienced legalized narcotics would become hopelessly addicted. Preceding generations would learn from their self-destruction and cast aside drugs altogether, but not before all hope was lost for the vanguard generation. So, in an economic cost/benefit analysis, while legalization would take care of the problem in the long term, it would create short term ramifications that no one is willing to endure.

The cost/benefit analysis issue brought me back to our current energy crisis. Somehow I have a feeling that, given his “short term pain for long term gain” perspective, Levitt's opinion might mirror author Thomas Friedman's...and, incidentally, my own.

You see, I have a rather unique perspective on our current energy crisis—I am happy it's here and I only want it to get worse.

Before you burn me in cyber-effigy, allow me to explain myself. I see our current energy woes not as a curse, but as a blessing in disguise—an unprecedented opportunity to make a real and lasting change for our country if our government and its citizenry has the courage and fortitude to do what it takes—short term pain for long term gain.

Right now, we're ignoring the energy crisis, slapping the national equivalent of band-aids on a patient whose body is being eaten away by leprosy and patting ourselves on the back for our phenomenal life-saving technique.

What we need to do is let the patient die.

Think about it. By doing nothing but treating the symptom instead of the root problem we are merely perpetuating the burden for future generations. What we need is what Freidman refers to as a “'geo-green' strategy that would marry geopolitics, energy policy and environmentalism.”

Thomas Friedman

What we are currently doing is financing both sides in the war on terrorism and bolstering some of the worst governments on the planet—throwing monstrous amounts of cash at both our military juggernaut and the very jihadists we seek to overthrow—through our gasoline purchases. We continue to buy vast amounts of oil from the same countries who support those with whom we are “at war” (I put war in quotations because the “War on Terrorism” is the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. Wars are waged against definable enemies with delineated borders through quantifiable progress to a foreseeable endgame. This “war” has none of those). Furthermore, the oil boom is entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, to say nothing of setting up a global tug-of-war with China.

And all of this ignores what we've now known for years, that by doing nothing to reduce our county's appetite for oil, we are only hastening the impending ecological crisis. It used to be that those who cried that the environmental sky was falling were regarded as kooks. Now, with the avalanche of data we possess on our fragile planet and our surprising ability to harm it, the kooks are those who continue to deny it. The longer we wait to do something, the worse it's going to get.

Today, there are about 800 million cars on the road. In just under a half century (as China and India flex their economic muscle), that number is expected to be closer to 3.3 billion. Quadruple the cars means quadruple the devastating pollutant emissions. We have got to do something to create cleaner, less gas-hungry vehicles right now.

Which is where our current gas prices come in.

Left alone to rise, high prices (which unsubsidized Europe has had for years) will force consumers to abandon their gas-guzzling SUVs for more economical forms of transportation. It's the 70s all over again. Even if they don't adopt mass transit, it will encourage the purchasing of more energy efficient cars such as hybrids. Moreover, R&D into cleaner, alternate fuel source vehicles will become a matter of necessity rather than simply political hot air—research that will, no doubt, spill over from transportation into all areas of our country's energy needs.

Imagine a world in which America's hunger does not involve ingesting the natural resources of the Middle East, where we are not beholden to or dependent on any other country for our energy sustenance.

In the words of John Lennon, it's easy if you try.

Sure, high gas prices hurt me every time I visit the pump. But temporary pain is nothing compared to long term gain—or, in this case, long term pain. It's a price I'm willing to pay.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Truthiness to Power

Want to see Stephen Colbert roast the President? Click here.

Double your pleasure? Good God, this is the scariest thing I've ever seen!

Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus