The importance of the Oxford comma is illustrated above. My three topics for today include General Clark, strength competitor Brian Shaw, and the latest in the race for Mayor of New York City. Without the Oxford comma, you might think Wesley Clark was the world’s strongest man and the latest news in the race for mayor. Call me a partisan on that issue.
If you watched the Olympics, you may have seen previews for the abhorrent new reality TV show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” where C-List celebrities compete in military combat situations, sans actual danger. The show is hosted by Wesley Clark, former NATO Commander and 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. As a candidate, Clark denounced the war in Iraq as poorly planned and poorly executed. As a decorated former general, his words carried weight. Clark also adopted progressive domestic policies, and was once thought to have a promising political career ahead of him.
Nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates have sent NBC a letter asking it to take “Stars Earn Stripes” off of the air. Here’s an excerpt:
Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.
Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.
And what an interesting time to glorify war it is, with the tragic and horrifically managed war in Iraq behind us and the equally pointless war in Afghanistan winding down. NBC coverage in London failed to remind us that the only time the United States ever boycotted an Olympics was the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Two long, painful wars and a recruiting age population racked with obesity must make military recruiters jobs’ tougher than ever. When I was in college I considered joining the Marines Officer Candidate School, and likely would have progressed along that track if not for my irregularly high blood pressure, which caused me to fail the medical clearance exam. One of the main pitches Captain Jack used in recruiting me was that once I was in the reserves, I was home free. “No reserves have been called up since Vietnam,” he boasted. As we know all too well, many in the reserves have done four, five or more duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too many have lost their lives, been injured, or suffered serious trauma.
There will always be jingoistic opportunists who think supporting the troops means glorifying war instead of attending to the health needs of the veterans who fight in them. It’s not surprising which side NBC took. It’s more disappointing that Wesley Clark joined it. Maybe next time we have a Democratic primary, we should ask the candidates whether they would pledge not to join shitty reality TV shows upon losing.
UPDATE: Cristina comments below: Folks will be protesting Stars Earn Stripes today:
JOIN the PROTEST outside the NBC OFFICE
West 49thSt, Rockefeller Center, between 5th & 6th Ave.
MONDAY AUGUST 20, at 5 PM
A few days ago I posted a poll on the New York City mayor’s race that showed Speaker Christine Quinn ahead of her Democratic rivals.
The good people of City and State posted an article on Thursday highlighting a different poll. The poll, conducted by Global Media Strategies group, asked New York City voters how many were familiar with the candidates. Unsurprisingly, 94% were familiar with Mayor Bloomberg (who are the 6% who aren’t?), but the numbers were lower for Quinn (70%), Comptroller John Liu (59%), Public Advocate De Blasio (53%), former Democratic nominee Bill Thompson (53%), and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (38%). These numbers track the latest poll results closely, which makes sense, as the candidates share similar favorability numbers. How seriously should we take polls when such a low percentage of voters even know of these candidates, let alone their policies?
Frankly, even these numbers seem high. I know very few people outside of my political friends who could identify all five of these candidates. I touched on the topic of voter awareness in an old post about the 2013 election and Google Trends. According to Google Trends, the public has had little interest in any of these candidates over the past few years, with google searches spiking usually in response to a scandal of some kind. Once the dust settles on the 2012 presidential election these candidates will have an arena to make their case to New York voters, but the data suggests that they still have a lot of work to do.
The New Yorker can be counted one for at least one riveting piece per issue. The July 23rd issue features a gem from Burkhard Bilger, “The Strongest Man in the World.” The article tracks Brian Shaw’s quest to repeat as winner of the 2012 Arnold Strongman Classic and asks the legitimate question of whether Shaw is strongest person the world has ever seen. The development of strongman competitions and the training (and steroids) that accompany them are driving the six foot eight inch, 430 pound Shaw and others to “test the limits of the human body.” For example, the international bench press record was approximately 500 pounds as recently as the mid-20th century. Today, Shaw and several others have bench-pressed over 1100 points. A remarkable tale, well worth the read.