Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bits N Pieces

Gaddhafi loses a son and some other family in a NATO attack.  I dunno - I'm finding it a little hard to work up any real sympathy for the crazy old bastard.  No matter what you think about the international intervention in the Libyan civil war, there is something satisfying in knowing that there is a price to be paid for raining misery and horror down upon the citizens of your nation, and that despots can't ALWAYS hide behind some sanctimoniously maximal definition of sovereignty to commit the worst sort of crimes.  Here's hoping he spends his remaining days in a cell in The Hague.

By far the more worrisome bit of news is that the fighting has spilled out of Libya and into Tunisia.  Remember, the great western fear, from Israel to Lebanon to Iraq to Iran is "regional destabilization", and there really isn't anything more effectively destabilizing than a shooting war.  If other nations in the region decide to get involved, it will not bode well for Gaddhafi's longevity, but in the longer term the list of potential good outcomes is substantially shorter than the list of poor ones.

Another authoritarian "President for Life" offers window dressing to his restive young population, only to find the rebellion growing all around him, leading to the inevitable "crackdown" using soldiers and tanks against unarmed demonstrators with the predictable stunning loss of life.  These things can go two ways, either the cost is too high and the rebellion fizzles (see Iran, Green Revolution) or the utter bleakness of the future drives the people to absorb the losses and stay in the streets, as an outcome that preserves the status quo is simply to grim to consider.

What will the international community do?  How much murder will they allow al - Assad to get away with?  How many defections of Baath party members, conscript troops and the intelligentsia will it take before they take more than the most innocuous of actions?  Syria is a regional odd duck, without oil but with great political and strategic importance, analogous to a so-called "swing voter".  And in an unusual case of strange bedfellows, both Iran and Israel will work every avenue to preserve the al - Assad dictatorship.  Squeezed between Israel, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the one thing the region insists upon from Syria is a reliable stability enforced by a brutal police state.  Any radical political change there, whether Islamist or Democratic is viewed with fear and deep concern.  The likelihood of any international consensus on real action against the Syrian political leadership is zero, and as the desperation of the Syrian people grows, the horror and brutality will increase, and the world will once again look away in burning shame.

Already, less than 90 days after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, we're seeing sweeping political changes that have a real chance of changing the abiding, hidebound dynamic.  In every direction, while the risks are real, so, at long last, are the chances of a breakthrough.  In rapid succession this week we have seen the political reconciliation of the Palestinian leadership and the opening of the Rafah crossing into Gaza.  In the first case, regardless of what the feckless and deeply biased Israeli and American negotiators say about Hamas, the Palestinian people, just like every other population, has the right to choose their political leadership.  And the fact that Hamas and Fatah have allowed themselves to be manipulated into factions speaks poorly of both their political skills and their focus.  Typically, the various factions in a rebel or separatist movement hold together until after they accomplish their political goals, then they break down and start squabbling for wealth or power.  The measure of how successful the movement actually was is in whether these squabbles are waged with ballots or bullets.  It is important at this time of sweeping change and demands for basic civil rights throughout the region that the Palestinian leadership demonstrate an ability to stand together, in both their demands for rights as basic as citizenship and in their tactics, for the world is moving toward a readiness to support them, if they can just demonstrate they are not murderers and butchers.

And at last, an opportunity for the people in Gaza to engage in real commerce, buy and sell goods, receive international aid, food and medicine, along with the chance to rebuild lives and towns and businesses, will be something the world can look on as a positive change.  The brutal Israeli blockade and embargo against those long-suffering people could not have been enforced without Egyptian complicity, and it is wonderful to see the people of Egypt speaking with one voice, saying that they will not contribute to the collective punishment of their neighbors any longer.

The Giants:
One month into the season the Giants are 13-13, four and a half games behind the surprising Rockies.  Their starting center fielder, third baseman and number five starting pitcher are on the disabled list, and as a team they are batting .241 and have committed 18 errors.  Just as last year, they struggle mightily to score runs, and this year their pitching, while still better than average, seems a bit more human, and so the margin of error is even smaller.  I don't honestly know what it says about this team, but yesterday the Giants pitchers walked 9 and hit another 3, a total of 12 free baserunners, and still somehow managed to hold the Nationals to a single run, allowing a San Francisco 2-1 victory.  Is that amazingly dreadful pitching, or amazingly resilient?  Can it be both?  How many games can you expect to win scoring 2 runs?  This could be a very long, hard to watch season, and if they aren't careful it could be over by the all star break.  Colorado won't play .700 ball all year, but it might take 94 or even 95 wins to take the division, and you just can't get there if you play .500 ball for too long.

Tee Vee:
I'm not sure about The Event.  I keep watching it, even though none of the characters are believable, or even likable.  Initially, I found Sean to be interesting and sympathetic, but watching him work through the ship in Murmansk with his pistol like he's suddenly some kind of commando was jarring, and kind of silly.  The abrupt change in Sophia from interstellar statesman to brutal invader doesn't make a lot of sense, and frankly I'm glad to see President Martinez incapacitated.  The man was seriously stupid.  Hasn't made a single good decision or judgement from the get go.  Leila is just deadweight, and Michael can't seem to decide what he wants, so perhaps he is the most believable character.  And while I originally found Blake to be predictably loathsome, he's actually one of the richer characters, while Vice President Jarvis is completely one dimensional as the cowardly villain who pretty much can't do anything right.

Even with all that, I keep watching.  The premise is great, and while the initial thinly-veiled commentary on Guantanamo and the "War on Terror" was interesting, we're well past any valuable insights and into a straight-up fantasy adventure.  And while it's hard to see how the premise extends into the next season (just a covert war between the Aliens and the Humans?  What happens when the rest of them get here?), I'm definitely going to stick around and see how this one turns out.

Meanwhile, after a slow start, Justified has built this season's story arc into a powerful, compelling replay of an ancient Harlan County feud, with all the intensity you'd expect by an Elmore Leonard exploration of love and hate in the Holler.  Maggs Bennett is an amazing character and you simply cannot take your eyes off Boyd Crowder.  This year Raylan finds himself all alone, as Art will no longer protect him in the Marshal's Service and even Eva has abandoned him for Boyd.  Drawn back together in extremis, Raylan and Winona try to plan some kind of future for themselves outside of Harlan County, even as they know that the same dynamic that tore them apart the first time will do so again.

This is an example of what Tee Vee can be, when the best writers contribute compelling stories with rich characters and a finely drawn sense of place.  It is quite simply not to be missed.

1 comment:

  1. I'm finding it a little hard to work up any real sympathy for the crazy old bastard. No matter what you think about the international intervention in the Libyan civil war, there is something satisfying in knowing that there is a price to be paid for raining misery and horror down upon the citizens of your nation

    I'm with you 100%. I mean we're talking about a man who'd rather murder his own people than give up even an ounce power. He's pretty despicable.