Sunday, February 4, 2007

2007 Brit Awards and Iraq

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on February 1st 2007 in Metro Eireann
by Charles Laffiteau

Today, I would like to discuss two very different subjects; recent developments in both the Iraq war and the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” as well as the 2007 Brit Awards.

The earlier scepticism I expressed about the new administration strategies of increasing the number of troops in Iraq and doubling the amount of reconstruction aid was repeated by many Republicans on Capitol Hill when Bush’s top cabinet officials went there to testify in support of these proposals. Republican stalwarts like Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana took a very dim view of the President’s “new” approach and the reasons behind it that he had outlined in a nationally televised speech on January 10th.

Senator Lugar said, “The president and his team should explain what objectives we are trying to achieve if forces are expanded, where and how they will be used, why such as strategy will succeed.”

Senator Hagel went much further by flatly stating, “I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out. I will resist it.”

If respected members of Bush’s own party don’t believe these strategies will work, you don’t need me to tell you what the Democrats now in control of Congress think about these proposals.

In the “war on terror” the Bush administration has also made a stunning turnaround by finally agreeing to give a secret court jurisdiction over the National Security Administration’s (NSA) oft criticized wiretapping program.

Many respected Republicans, such as Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, had been highly critical of the NSA’s practice of eavesdropping without warrants on thousands of Americans whose international phone calls the NSA suspected might have ties to terrorism.

Thirteen months have gone by since this program was first revealed to exist and the Bush administration has repeated defended it as being constitutional under the President’s “war powers” authority granted him by Congress, a contention that most Congressional representatives dispute.

It would appear that the Bush administration has finally realized that it’s appeal of an earlier Federal Court ruling declaring the program illegal and unconstitutional was not likely to succeed and it wanted to head off another adverse judicial ruling on the matter.

The fact that the President had clearly overstepped his authority by sanctioning such an indiscriminate wiretapping program is still likely to be the subject of Congressional hearings later this year.

I was recently asked to vote for my picks among the various nominees for the 2007 Brit Awards.

Now why, you ask, would an American Republican postgraduate student, living in Dublin Ireland (not the UK), who writes mainly about US politics and foreign policy, be asked to cast a vote for the top British music groups and artists?

Well, you will just have to wait till next month, after the awards show broadcast on Valentines Day for me to explain exactly why I was asked to do this. For now, let us suffice to say that I am a huge fan of music in general, (regardless of where it originates) with a particular love for Jazz, Rock, Blues, Popular and Alternative styles.

I will now risk the wrath of some of my readers by telling you who I voted for, so you can ascertain how “Insynch” (remember them?) I am with other voters at picking the winners. Of course, I think you’re a winner just for being nominated for this prestigious British music award, not to mention being honoured on a music awards show whose entire proceeds go to charity.

Starting with the Brits, I first voted for Jarvis Crocker as Best British Male Solo Artist instead of another personal favourite, Lemar.

Not an easy choice there or with my selection for Best British Female Solo Artist of Corinne Bailey Rae over Amy Winehouse.

Best British Group wasn’t much easier, but I had to give the nod to Snow Patrol instead of their arch-rivals, Razorlight.

For the MasterCard British Album I went with the Arctic Monkeys in a narrow decision over Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black tour de force second album.

Fill My Little World by The Feeling was another tough pick in the Best British Single category over Lily Allen’s Smile.

But Lily Allen was the clear winner as the top British Breakthrough Act, thanks to her album entitled Alright Still.

Finally, I chose Muse narrowly over the Guillemots in the Best British Live Act class.

Among the international awards nominees, I made an extremely difficult pick of Bob Dylan over a personal favourite, Damien Rice, in the International Solo Artist field, mainly because I have never regarded Damien Rice as simply a male solo artist act.

Pink, on the other hand was an easy choice for Best International Female Solo Artist as was The Killers Sam’s Town as Best International Album.

Much, much tougher to pick a winner though, between The Flaming Lips and my long time favourites, the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Best International Group. I went with the Flaming Lips on the strength of their performance at Vicar Street last November, even though the Chili Peppers are ever present as part of my laptop’s screensaver.

Last but not least, I chose Gnarls Barkley over Orson as the top International Breakthrough Group; mainly because I’ve seen Gnarls live and haven’t yet been able to see Orson in concert.

So there you have it, my picks as the Brit Awards winners in each category. You’ll still have to wait a bit though, before you find out why I was asked to vote and how accurate my picks turn out to be.

If you disagree with my selections, that’s OK, because I believe when it comes to music, to each his (or her) own.