Good News, the Navy Acted and the Captain is Safe Finally. So where do we go from here?

Well, it was a happy ending.  The good captain of the Maersk Alabama is safe, and three of the Pirates are dead.  We will only have to foot the bill to imprison one of them.  Yeah!  Thanks to the Navy.

I was reading one report that explained that the Navy had approached the President three times during negotiations, and had received permission to take necessary actions.  This is where I have the problem.  It is not appropriate to manage these types of situations from a desk thousands of miles away.  Obama should have ceded control of the situation to the commander on the scene from the beginning of the situation giving him authority to take any necessary action to save the life of the captain.

Having to repeatedly ask Washington for permission to act put the captain’s life in further jeopardy.  As I said in my earlier post, this was why the Navy was not in a position to end the situation when the Captain jumped into the water the first time.

The captain had done exactly what a hostage should do in a situation like this.  He had separated himself from his captors giving the Navy the perfect opportunity to end the situation.  However, not having permission to do so, the Navy sat back and allowed him to be captured again.  He was really lucky the pirates did not shoot him in the water.

So, a couple of days later, after finally receiving permission to take punitive action, and when it appeared the captain’s life way in danger, the Navy resolved the situation, in a way that it could have been done earlier.

Now, the press will focus on the fact that these ‘boys’ who were killed and the one that was captured were only 16 years old.  The press will play this up regardless of the fact that this is a country where boys are forced to grow up earlier.  Often they are carrying AK-47s by the time they are 10 years old, and the life expectancy in Somalia is 48.

The prates are now threatening to kill any Americans that are captured in the future.  The truth is they will probably leave any ship flying a U.S. flag alone because it has been shown to be very unprofitable to attack them, and profit is what this is all about.

The other part of the solution, is for the Navy and Marines to take a couple of months, and destroy as many of these pirates and their bases of operation as possible.  We know where they are, they have to be where their boats are, and without the boats, they are no longer pirates.  After destroying their infrastructure, it will simply be a matter of assigning a couple of ships and their compliment of helicopters and support craft to patrol the area and a few armed Predators to make sure we know which boats are in the area and what they are doing.

Failure to Act

Off the horn of Africa, a drama has taken place which I am afraid will turn out to be an example of what Americans will learn to expect from the Obama administration.  Last night Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk cargo ship Alabama (the ship that had been taken by pirates only to be freed after he heroically offered to accompany the pirates as a hostage) leapt from the boat in a bid to save himself

It is important to note, that these pirates and their hostage are currently in a lifeboat with their hostage.  It is out of fuel, and simply floating in the Indian Ocean.  So, what happened when the captain tried to escape in the night by attempting to swim to a U.S. Navy destroyer?  The pirates caught him and brought him back on board.  The U.S. Navy reported that it happened so quickly they could not provide assistance.

Translation: The Navy was not ready and in position to act when they had the opportunity to save the captain, they did not have the authorization to use deadly force against the pirates if they had been in position to do so.

I talked to a friend about this yesterday.  I told him that I believed that these pirates would eventually surrender, and that for the first time in history, we would do nothing to them, and they would eventually be released.  Historically, piracy has been one of the most punitively punished crimes in the world.  In fact, the first time the U.S. fought a war abroad, it involved piracy and the attempt to end it in the Mediterranean Sea.  Pirates are hung, shot, downed and keel-hauled (the Alabama has a big-assed keel), and rightfully so.

When this happened to a U.S. ship, Navy Seals should have been immediately provided to the destroyer overseeing the situation.  They should have been deployed in the small support boats from the destroyer to surround and curtail the movements of the pirates, and given the right to use deadly force.  Once it was realized that the pirates were adrift in a boat with a hostage, it should have only been a matter of time.

After the pirate boat was surrounded, the seals with appropriate Barrett M107 .50 Caliber sniper rifles should have simply waited until they all had a shot that did not include Captain Phillips.  This would definitely include any time he was not on the boat, especially an escape attempt in which he was in the water and swimming.  In fact, that may have been a good time to employ a weapon that involved an area of effect (one that goes ‘Boom!’) on the pirate boat.

My point is, I suspect that the Navy did not act because it was not prepared to do so.  The only reason that makes any sense to me is that they had not received the authorization to use deadly force at that time.  This would be the same authorization that would be expected to be given to any local police force in the U.S. in a similar hostage situation.

This inaction, and the attitude that kept the Navy from being able to do what was right and necessary at the time will be a hallmark of our foreign policy for the next four to eight years.

My thoughts and prayers are with the captain and his family.  I just hope action is taken to save his life soon.

American Idol Top 8 Results Show, Season 8, Wednesday April 8, 2009

Find my latest American Idol article here.

For some reason the judges did not seem to know that Frankie Avalon was going to be on the show tonight.  Right.  Unfortunately, he had old, tired voice.

I think the group song might have been live again tonight because it was the musical train wreck that we have come to expect from the show.  I hope that was not the best recorded version of that song that they could produce.

Then we were abused by the musical stylings of Flo Rida.  For a show where the judges are so in tune with the types of songs that its audience wants to hear, I find it hard to believe that they do not know better than to force the same musical abominations on their audience every week.  I am completely sure that they do this on purpose and knowingly at the expense of their audience.  I am not sure, however, why they do it.  Either these groups and their labels are paying Fox an ungodly amount of money for this service and exposure, or these groups must be from labels that Fox has some monetary stake in.  No other explanation makes sense, because I am sure Idol could have its pick of legitimate artists.

Kelly Pickler was on the show tonight.  I guess the show blew its wad having Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Davis Cook in the last few weeks.  Her voice was whiny and screechy in a way that affected your back for most of the song.  She was off pitch, and when the verses went down the song got too low for her.  It was a mess.  I don’t think I will be wasting any money on tickets to one of her shows anytime soon.

When it came time to kick someone off, Ryan’s feeble attempts to be clever and add suspense to the show were more clumsy than ever.  I was surprised to see that Anoop was in the bottom three, but I guess he didn’t really do anything to stand out from the pack.  It was no surprise to see Scott join them. Then Lil joined the other two, and I wasn’t surprised. 

I was surprised (and disappointed) to hear the judges say that they would use their save on one of these contestants.  I assume they are talking about Lil, but it is time for them to drop their agenda.  She is just not that good of a singer, and it is time for her to go in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, she got to sit down as soon as Pickler sang.  Scott was off the show, and the world was right.  There was no judges save for Scott, though they threatened it.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

As much as I despise him, I’ve decided to go a little Andy Rooney with my post today.

As I was driving into work today, I looked up to see a message flashing on one of the permanent traffic information boards that are spaced about every five miles apart on my drive through Fort Worth on my way to work. 

Sometime these signs contain useful or even important information.  They will let me know a few days ahead when there will be scheduled road repair or if a NASCAR race will be affecting traffic that week.  Often there are Amber Alert messages regarding missing children or elderly.  When I see these messages, I make a mental note of their content in case I actually see the car that is wanted or matches the description.  This seems like a great use of technology to me.  Sometimes there is an accident ahead that is significant enough to warrant a warning on the signs.  Those days I take an alternate route.

However, there are also the days when someone is put in charge of the sign who feels like things need to be tricked-up a little.  I have grown used to the “Buckle Up” admonition, and the polite desire that I “Have a Nice Day,” but every now and then some joker feels the need to say something different.  These messages sometimes encourage me to pay attention to road workers even if there is no road work to pay attention to.  In other cases, I have been encouraged to vote.

The only real affect that I have noticed from innocuous messages such as these, is that they affect the flow of traffic as people feel like they have to slow down to read them.  It seems to me that when signs are used in this manner that they defeat the purpose of having the sign in the first place.  I have even seen accidents shortly before getting to the signs that were probably caused by people breaking to read the signs while other people trying to read the signs hit them in the rear.

This morning as I drove to work, I was greeted with a message informing me that it is Work Zone Awareness Week.  I looked this up in the internet, and not only is it Work Zone Awareness Week, it is National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This struck me as a little odd.  Of course, there were no work zones on my twenty mile trip to work for me to be aware of, but that was not all.  I suddenly thought, “Pretty soon we are going to have a week for everything.”  But, there are only 52 weeks in a year.  So, is ‘Work Zone Awareness’ in the top 52 things that I need to be worried about.  I find that hard to believe.

So, I assume there must be some serious overlap here.  Every week must have multiple causes that are competing to make sure that I am aware of them.  In the cacophony of causes something is lost.  I am just not able to care that much about all of this stuff, and  regardless of that, I always try to be safe when I am driving down the road anyway. 

So what is the real purposed of National Work Zone Awareness Week?  I can only assume it is three fold.  1) To give the folks that sit at a desk in a boring job at the highway department something to do.  2) To provide revenues to advertising agencies that have won lucrative government contracts to promote these types of things. 3) To assure that my drive home from work takes a little longer as people slow down to read the ‘very important’ message that has been provided for our edification.

American Idol Top 8, Tuesday April 7, 2009, Season 8

Find my latest American Idol article here.
The theme this week was ‘Songs from the Year they were Born.’  This was encouraging because I thought we had a chance to hear some popular music from the 80s and early 90s.  Unfortunately, the contestants, for the most part, chose poorly.
I have a friend who has commented on the fact that the show needs to be paced better so that the singers at the end get a fair hearing from the judges.  Never was that more apparent than tonight.  Adam deserved to get his fair share of praise at the end, but he did not.
Danny Gokey, “Stand By Me”– I hated the beginning of the song.  It was out of tune, and the arrangement was awful.  It paled in comparison to Mickey Gilley or any else who has every sung the sung the song.  Then, the beat picked up, and I didn’t like it any better.  He never seemed to be on top of the notes.  It just seemed weird, and seemed like something out of a variety show.  I normally like what he does, but not that.  I hope going first, and not doing well does not damage him too much.

The judges liked it, and I was confused.

Kris Allen, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”– This seemed like the Big Band version of this song.  The arrangement was, once again, very weird.  The original to this song was very edgy, but the horns in this version seemed to neuter it, even though Kris put as much edge on his voice as he could.  The vocal was good. He was on pitch, and had great diction as usual, but the arrangement just seemed unbalanced.  It was not bad, but was my least favorite thing he has done.

The judges hated the arrangement as much as I did.

Lil Rounds, “What’s Love Got to With It”– I thought she started well, but she was flat again pretty early in the song.  It seemed sort of like a karaoke bar version of the song early on, but when she got to the chorus, it got a lot better.  As she moved up into her registry and projected, her notes were more on pitch and her tone sounded better.  She has never been one of the best in this competition, but tonight was the best that she has done in a few weeks.

The judges agreed with me again.  Good judges.  Have a cookie.

Anoop Desai, “True Colors”– I worried about him being able to do justice to this song, but he started it well.  This song is a great choice because it is a singer’s song and a vocal showcase if you do it right.  When the drums came in and it sped up, I liked it a little less, but for the most part, it was good.  It was my favorite up to this point, but that is not saying a whole lot.

The judges liked it for the most part, but Simon was right to point out that it was not all that.

Scott MacIntyre, “The Search is Over”– Just as with Kris, I was impressed to see that he also could play the guitar as well as the piano.  My first thought was, “Boy he took all the edge off of this song.”  It was a little like Barry Manilow sings Survivor.  It paled in comparison, and the big falsetto notes made me cringe in pain.  All in all the vocal was not that bad except for that one big note (that was a big mistake), and the times when he was flat.  The problem with Scott is that he has less musical range than anyone on the show.  You could just play the same performance every week, because that is what you are going to get.  And, he never takes it to another level.

The judges were mixed at best.  Randy was spot on when he said that it was just OK, and that is not enough at this point.

Allison Iraheta, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”– When I head that she was going to sing this song, I thought, “I’d like to hear her sing this well.”  Her main problem is that she tries a little too hard to be cool.  The chorus was the best part, and the big note sounded very good.  It was easily the best thing so far this evening, but again, this night has not been the best ever on the show.

The judges loved the vocal.  Simon and Randy gave her great advice when the talked about the need for her to be more personable.  That means putting down your guard, and trying a little less hard to be cool.

Matt Giraud, “Part Time Lover”– I thought the start was going to be weird, but I ended up liking it.  When the song took off, it got even better.  The style of this song was perfect for him.  In places, it was a little rough as he went down in his registry, but for the most part it was very good. The best he has done in a few weeks.

The judges got a little carried away with their praise.

Adam Lambert, “Mad World”– His vocals were off the chart, once again.  It was similar, but still different from the Gary Jules version of the song.  I liked the tender, and ominous style that Adam delivered in this song.  I want to know what he cannot sing.

Simon was the only one who commented, but he gave a standing ovation.

If I had to choose a bottom three this week, it would be Scott, Danny and Lil.  I would choose Scott to go home.

 

 

 

American Idol Top 9 Results Show, April 1, 2009, Season 8

Find my latest American Idol article here.

Before the show started, I asked my wife, “Do you think the producers of this show can resist the whole April Fools cheesiness?”  Obviously, they could not.  They divided up the contestants into groups of three, then Ryan hinted that one of the groups contained the bottom three, even though it obviously did not.  I turned to my wife, and said immediately that they would be taking one out of each group.  Then, they came back from break, and did the same thing that they always do, and took one out of east group.  April Fools? 

I was frightened when we were informed by Ryan that a “Lady Gaga” was there to sing.  Nothing good could come from that.  On the other hand, it was great to hear the group do a great Journey song (“Don’t Stop Believing”) even if it was lip-synched.

David Cook sounded great, and I predict that he will be the next truly successful American Idol.  The ‘oohs’ might have been a little off, but at least he really sang it.

When it can time to get down to the bottom three, Megan smarted off to Simon, and told him that she just did not care.  Megan did some crazy bird-walk to the bottom three chairs that simply confused me, and made me like her less.  Allison was in the bottom three again, though I am not sure why, unless it’s that people just do not like her smoker’s voice even though she seems to use it well.  Anoop was in the bottom three, and he took the news in a classy way as opposed to the way Megan handled it.

When Lady Gaga came out, all I could hear in my head was Simon saying, “What the Hell was that?”  It was simply ludicrous.  To call that performance indulgent would be that greatest understatement ever.

After that tripe, Allison was quickly sent to safety.  Most happily Megan was sent home.  Simon cruelly told her that her last performance would not make a difference to whether she would stay or go.  Good.