Sunday, December 18, 2005
Let’s return to a simpler America when civilians were forced to jump out of skyscrapers to avoid being burned alive. Let’s stop ruining illegal oil deals between peaceful European countries and sovereign leaders of quasi sectarian Middle East nations? Let’s pass resolutions and sanctions, but let’s not overdo it.
Remember when a terrorist act against Americans was met simply with a swift speech and clinched jaw vowing to get the bottom of whoever did it followed by the bombing of an office building during third-shift custodial's lunch hour and mission accomplished? I, for one, felt delight knowing they probably lost a lot of important paper files and it would take weeks to locate the electronic backups.
Let’s have none of this naïve cowboy shit, you hear me? None of this taking the fight to the enemy, do I make myself clear? Let’s just wait here peaceful like for the next attack and have our speech ready to denounce it. There isn’t a terrorist act ever fashioned that we can’t properly belittle if we have a few hours, a thesaurus, and the kind of president that feels out pain. If the intelligence community would get off their butts we might get to a point where we have the speech ready ahead of the disaster.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Robert Novak, whose syndicated column sparked the CIA leak case and who stormed off a CNN set earlier this year, will join Fox News Channel as a contributor.
Novak, 74, and the network mutually decided not to renew his contract the ends Dec. 31. Fox News Channel confirmed Friday that he would be a contributor to the network beginning in January.
Once one of the most recognizable faces at CNN and one of the few conservative voices there, Novak had fallen out of favor with CNN brass in recent years with his style and the pundit-debate format of shows like "Crossfire" and "The Capital Gang," which he executive produced.
On Capital Gang and Crossfire, CNN used him as a partisan gunslinger, but he and Rowland Evans hosted a great Sunday morning show, EVANS AND NOVAK, that was as thorough and intelligent as the MEET THE PRESS or FOX NEWS SUNDAY. Eventually CNN added liberals Mark Shields and Al Hunt to the lineup and then dropped it completely.
Novak has gained infamy for his role in the Plame ordeal, but more people should read his Washington columns. The Plame thing got out because Novak has some of the best sources in town and has a real good feel on the heartbeat of Washington. He was one of the few to boldly predict that the Republicans would take over both Houses of Congress in 1994 when the Conventional Washington wisdom said that they'd merely make strong gains. His columns are full of the kinds of stories that no one else has. A good example is his latest column in which he explains how Democrats are trying to keep the report on the Clinton era Henry Cisneros scandal sealed.
A recently passed appropriations bill, intended to permit release of this report, was altered behind closed doors to ensure that its politically combustible elements never saw the light of day. But if that happens, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley will still try to force its release. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with oversight of the IRS, he wants the first real investigation of the tax agency.
That investigation would be a long walk into the unknown, with possibly far-reaching consequences. Prominent Democrats in Congress have spent much of the last decade in a campaign to suppress Barrett's report. Its disclosures could dig deeply into concealed Clinton administration scandals. These vital considerations, not the mere continuation of a $58-an-hour independent counsel position, is why Republican lawyer Barrett for a decade would not close down his prosecutor's office.
If this were just about one politician's illicit love life ruining his political career, Barrett would have ended his operation long ago. But an IRS whistleblower told Barrett of an unprecedented coverup. The informant said a regional IRS official had formulated a new rule enabling him to transfer an investigation of Cisneros to Washington to be buried by the Justice Department. Barrett's investigators found Lee Radek, head of Justice's public integrity office, determined to protect President Bill Clinton.
That triggered intensive efforts to get rid of Barrett and suppress his report by three of the toughest Democrats in Congress: Sen. Carl Levin, Sen. Byron Dorgan and Rep. Henry Waxman. At the same time, the powerhouse Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly -- representing not only Cisneros but also the Clintons -- was filing multiple suits with federal appellate judges supervising the independent counsel.
Don't imagine Brian Williams will be covering this one when Scooter Libby still has portions of his body unburned by cigars stubs.
It will be interesting to see how Fox uses Novak.
Jonah Godberg made an interesting point in the latest issue of NR. He says that the world has understood the harsh reality that some innocents die in a war and it’s not immoral. So how can we say the torture of the truly despicable is a worse act? The rationale that the information you get from tortured prisoners is useless is purely anecdotal. There are no measurements.
The issue has also illuminated the two-faced media’s worry about American casualties. A few small atomic weapons could have leveled Baghdad and any other city that we felt harbored terrorists with minimal American losses. Our losses are a result of our humanity. We’re trading our lives to spare the lives of civilians. It would be very easy for someone to measure roughly how many American lives would have been saved had we only bombed from the skies and how many innocent lives would have been lost as a result. And if the media were truly concerned with American casualties foremost, then they would be making the point daily.
The torture issue is an example of how the media wants to make it more difficult for the military to accomplish the mission one the one hand while complaining that the mission is taking too long on the other.
The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses.
Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy's declining strength.
What are the enemy's victories in Iraq? The killing of Americans and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Both are big news in the mainstream media, day in and day out, around the clock.
On the contrary, the American deaths in Iraqi are a fraction of what they have been in other wars in our history.
Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.
Even after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities.
But nobody suggested that we abandon the country. Nobody was foolish enough to think that you could say in advance when you would pull out or that you should encourage your enemies by announcing a timetable.
There has never been the slightest doubt that we would begin pulling troops out of Iraq when it was feasible. Only time and circumstances can tell when that will be. And only irresponsible politicians and the media think otherwise.
I had this same conversation at a poker game a few months ago and again last night at a Christmas Party. Many smart people I know haven't considered war historically and how one-sided our victory in Iraq has been.
They seem to be hung up on the causalities, but none of them can name an amount of casualties that are acceptable for this particular mission, though they all imply that some level of casualties are acceptable, because Clinton's Bosnia action was justifiable and we lost men there.
It takes five minutes for them to get around to Vietnam, but they don’t know the amount of men that died there in comparison. Ultimately, the war is a disaster not because we haven’t achieved anything, but because the media decided the WMD issue was important instead of Saddam violating the Cease Fire of 1991 and breaking the 17 U.N. Resolutions.
It would be fun to write a series of articles framed as news reports about the 1940s in which we took nothing but facts and made Roosevelt look like some sort of blood thirsty conqueror. It would be a snap.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The most sensible comments came from the corrupt William Jefferson, D-LA. I met Mr. Jefferson once when I was working at Tulane and didn't trust him, but that's like saying I met a dog that panted, you kind of expect it. Louisiana politics are notoriously corrupt.
He explained that four classes of people suffered harm post-Katrina:
1. People who chose not to evacuate;
2. People who were required to stay, e.g., emergency workers;
3. People who could not evacuate because old or infirm; and
4. People who could not evacuate because no means to do so, i.e., poor.
Of the fatalities, most were old or sick and already vulnerable. Like a storm blowing through a forest, the weaker branches are the ones that snap (my analogy). The number of healthy poor people who died as a result of Katrina was small, in any event certainly not worthy of the massive outcry. (See previous post.)
He flatly declared that the proximate cause for the suffering in New Orleans was the breach in the levee system, not the failure of this guy or that guy or such-and-such agency or bureaucracy. He stayed focused on learning from and fixing the problems rather than blaming the enemy for political gain, so I had to hand it to him. He took the high road -- although the cynic might say that he does so because of the investigation into his own dubious affairs and therefore needs to recast himself in a favorable light. (What, me skeptical?)
He detailed how 92 percent of the local population, about 1.2 million people, were successfully evacuated, and that's pretty good.
But still, if Bush hadn't caused global warming, none of this would have happened. Hopefully Clinton can take care of that with his "surprise" appearance in Canada. (See "No Class" post.)
How inconvenient for self-important libs and the MSM. And who would have guessed from all the hysterical coverage that the body count came in under 1,000? No matter, just don't report anything that exposes the bias.
In other news, I listened to Kathleen Blanco testifying on Capitol Hill last night on C-SPAN Radio. Talk about the Peter Principle! She was terrifically unimpressive. I don't think she answered a single question specifically -- all generalities, platitudes, evasion, denials, and finger-pointing. It is clear she is in way over her head. Say what you will about Mike Brown, when he testified, he gave names, dates, documented facts, and his own professional opinions. At least you knew what he was saying.
What's funny about these hearings, and all congressional hearings, is that the congresspersons don't really care how, or whether, the subject answers their questions. They just want to get their stilted, harassing questions on the record. One of the Republican congressmen was most concerned about Blanco pronouncing his name correctly, and constantly interrupted her replies. A Democrat congresswoman asked a lengthy, four-part question that no person could have answered without taking notes. She used almost all of her time asking the question. All the questions were political and it was all posturing on both sides. Why must we go through this silly, tedious exercise? Isn't that what Hannity & Colmes is for?
Statistics Suggest Race Not a Factor in Katrina Deaths
By Nathan Burchfiel CNSNews.com Correspondent
December 14, 2005
Statistics released by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals suggest that fewer than half of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were black, and that whites died at the highest rate of all races in New Orleans.
Liberals in the aftermath of the storm were quick to allege that the Bush administration delayed its response to the catastrophe because most of the victims ere black.
Damu Smith, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network, in September said that the federal government "ignored us, they forgot about us ... because we look like we look." Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in October said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn't fit to help the storm's victims because "there are not enough blacks high up in FEMA" and added that, "certainly the Red Cross is the same." Rapper Kanye West used his time on NBC's telethon for the hurricane victims to charge that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
But the state's demographic information suggests that whites in New Orleans died at a higher rate than minorities. According to the 2000 census, whites make up 28 percent of the city's population, but the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals indicates that whites constitute 36.6 percent of the storm's fatalities in the city.
African-Americans make up 67.25 percent of the population and 59.1 percent of the deceased. Other minorities constitute approximately 5 percent of the population and represented 4.3 percent of the storm's fatalities.
Overall for the state, 658 bodies have been identified. Forty-seven percent were African-American and 42 percent were Caucasian. The remaining bodies were either non-black minorities or undetermined. An additional 247 victims have not been identified, so their demographic information has not been released.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Pryor shown most in the concert films. My favorite was LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP. He recounts the episode where he caught on fire claiming that he mixed some 2% and whole milk, dipped a cookie in and it blew up.
BLAZZING SADDLES (1974) - Richard Pryor didn't appear but was brought on as a writer according to Mel Brooks so that they could get away with the racial humor. Brooks said that Pryor wrote the Mongo parts of the film.
SILVER STREAK (1976) - Gene Wilder stars as the normal guy who witnesses a murder while traveling on a cross-country train. Pryor appears midway through and the whole tone of the film changes. Pryor is funny and helpful to Wilder in a way that makes him immediately lovable. This is one that I can watch over and over again.
STIR CRAZY (1980) - Wilder and Pryor re-team for a film that I saw 20 times when I was a youngster, but it probably doesn't hold up as well as the first one. This time the pair are sent to jail for a bank robbery they didn't do. Wilder learns that he's a natural at riding the bucking bronco and that helps in their escape.
SOME KIND OF HERO (1982) - This wasn't seen by many. It begins with Pryor taken prisoner during Vietnam. They make him sign a confession for his atrocities and when he returns home after the war, the Army makes him suffer for doing so. It's an interesting serious role for Pryor although it wasn't a great movie.
THE TOY (1983) - Pryor and Jackie Gleason wasted talent in this silly movie about the spoiled boy that they both love.
SUPERMAN III (1983) - This movie ruined the Superman franchise with the big hook being Pryor skimming off fractions of cents to embezzle (later played to hilarity in Office Space) and the bad guys making some sort of kryptonite type substance that doesn't kill superman, but turns him into a jerk.
You never see former Republican presidents pulling this kind of b.s.
Bill Clinton to Surprise U.N. Conference
Friday, 09-Dec-2005 8:10AM
MONTREAL - A contentious U.N. climate conference entered its final day Friday with the long-term future undecided in the fight against global warming, and with a surprise visitor on tap to rally the "pro-Kyoto" forces.
Bill Clinton, who as president championed the Kyoto Protocol clamping controls on "greenhouse gases," was scheduled to speak at the conference Friday afternoon - in an unofficial capacity but potentially at a critical point in backroom talks involving the U.S. delegation.
The U.S. envoys, representing a Bush administration that renounced the Kyoto pact, were said to be displeased by the 11th-hour surprise, although there was no formal protest, according to an official in the Canadian government, the conference host.
How much of a "surprise" is this going to be when it's a lead story in today's press? O how they love him, as he expresses his patriotism by undermining the administration.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
We were lucky that we decided to travel to Venice on Saturday. If we had chosen Friday we may have thwarted because of the general strike. Our train was delayed over an hour on Saturday morning and I had to wonder if it was due to the late night boozing the general strike no doubt brought about. The train trip to Venice was nice especially since it was snowing outside and it gave me an opportunity to read Raymond Chandler’s THE LITTLE SISTER. It was the last Philip Marlowe novel that I hadn’t read and I’ve been saving it for years for a special time. Chandler only wrote seven altogether and I squandered the first four in a month back in 1993. I also took along a Travis McGee and a Nero Wolfe having started the tradition of reading American detective books on the 2003 trip when I brought the Dashiell Hammet Omnibus and read RED HARVEST AND THE DAIN CURSE.
It couldn’t have been more miserable when we arrived. The snow had turned to rain meaning that we got all of the cold along with the moisture we could have done without. Venice only has 60,000 residents, I read. Everyone else commutes into the city each day. A greater number of tourists sleep each night on these small islands than do Venetians. It makes the whole thing more like a theme park and less like a community.
I wasn’t surprised by the architecture or the canals. They are well documented in movies and TV. I wasn’t prepared for the sidewalks and little squares in and around the smaller canals. It gave the city a real intimate feel. Our hotel was located in a maze of such little alleyways and the directions on the website to the hotel were incorrect. One of the hotel reviews stated that it was worth taking the 50 Euro taxi rather than the 4 Euro waterbus because the Taxi got you to a private little landing in front of the hotel. I just couldn’t see paying 40 more Euro when I would probably get lost anyway the first time we left the hotel.
Their directions hinged on locating a square that was actually on the opposite side of our hotel. Luckily we had the DK Italy book with a street by street breakdown of Venice. It didn’t have our street but we were able to head in a particular direction and eventually find a landmark. It was like an old video game I use to have where you are inside the maze without benefit of the bird eye view.
Nighttime came to Italy about 5pm each evening and with our delayed train trip it was almost dark by the time we were settled into our room. The greatest thing about being in Venice is that it’s small enough that you can walk to the important places in little time. We could get to the Rialto Bridge and cross it in about 3 minutes. It took another 10-15 to get to the famed San Marco Square.
From the time we crossed the Rialto Bidge the path to San Marco square became a shopping mall. Every upscale and medium scale and even cheap store was located on either side of these narrow sidewalks. Put everyone’s umbrella into the equation and you have a comic picture of “excuse me” and duckings. We were warned that Venice was flooding with all the rain and my sneakers got soaked enough that I bought the 12 Euro pair of boots before the night ended.
I was told and read many places that Italian food in Italy was different than Italian food in America. I suppose that is true, but it wasn’t to the degree that I was expecting. This may have been because I was only in the bigger cities that were more likely to cater to tourists. It may also be because many American Italian restaurants have slowly introduced more authentic Italian cuisine to the point where the difference is becoming blurred. When I was a kid Spaghetti and Meatballs were Italian. Now I can get Chicken Florentine at Carrabbas and Pasta Milano at Macaroni Grill. One dish that was new to me was Gnocchi. Tiny dumplings served with the same sauce that you’d put on pasta. I liked it enough that I vowed to make it from scratch if I could find a recipe. Trish even brought a package back from the Italian market in Rome. The punch ine was seeing two varieties for sale in Publix on Sunday morning when we returned. Sometimes the exotic is right in front of your face if you bother to look.
The Italian dinner breaks down into courses.
AntiPasto – Appetizers like Brushetta
First Course – A pasta of some kind or Gnocchi or Rissoto
Second Course – Fish, Steak or poultry
After that on the menu were sections labeled Salads, Desserts and pizzas. I would order from these and try to guess where in the meal they would show up.
We found after a while that you could skip the second course. Meat was not only the most expensive but also the most boring. The food at the restaurants was all the same quality whether you paid $10 or $30 for dinner. When we got to Rome we just started eating at the same restaurant near the hotel every night. They had a big menu and plenty of variety to keep it fresh. The couple who owned the place saw enough of us that we went from getting the formal “arrivederci” to the friendly “ciao” by the end of our trip.
Some highlights were the spaghetti and tomato sauce from the first night mixed with a hint of pepperocini powder. It wasn’t too hot and yet gave the dish a distinctive kick that I intend trying to duplicate. The bruschetta in Rome was the best I have ever had, seasoned tomatoes and uncooked mozzarella on the top of Texas-like toast. If I could figure out the seasoning it will be a great party dish.
And although I criticized the meat for being over-priced the Italians cook steak just right. They don’t ask you how you want your steak they just bring it medium rare and it tasted perfect the three times I tried it.
The pizza was hit or miss. We found a place near the hotel in Venice that spread the dough by hand and the pizzas were the best we tried. It tasted like good ole New York Pizza. Other locations seemed to buy the pizza offsite and microwave it into a rubbery mess. None of it tasted like Pizza Hut, thank the good lord. And I think that is why people say the pizza in Italy is different. I don’t like to eat that fast food pizza if I can help it, so I think I was more at home with the Italian variety.
We did the Gondola ride on Sunday morning and it was touristy and overpriced, but a must none-the-less. Our boat was run by a father and son team and since most boats were solo, I surmised that the son may hang out with his dad on weekends to learn the family business.
We also saw this old Byzantine looking church on Sunday and the palace that housed the Venetian government during the years it was an independent city-state. The palace was connected to a prison that would allow tribunals to send guys right to the can after sentencing.
I often times pay the extra money to get the audio tour to different museums, but the experience is hit or miss. It worked out best at the Guggenheim, but I nearly passed out listening to the painstaking detail of how the old government of Venice worked. The dramatic voice would explain what happened in every room and constantly speak of “The Doge” who was some sort of magistrate ruler of the city. I like history and this was just plain dull.
San Marco square also had a healthy bird population that would make Hitchcock shudder.
On Sunday night Trish and walked about 25 minutes to get back to the train station area so that we could visit the casino. Located upstairs from some sort of hotel, the once casino in Venice looks like it could rolled into a hidden room if the cops came to bust the place up. The roulette tables, and slot machines were authentic, but nothing else in the rooms said casino. You could imagine the whole thing packed up and tomorrow the place was some sort of suite for visiting royalty. Trish played slots and won 40. I lost about 20 playing roulette. No poker, of course.
I took the first photo of Trish and I couldn't quite decide how I wanted to frame it. How much head room did I want versus how much of the buildings did I wants to see? Looking at the verticals gave me the idea for the second photo where Trish gets a Hitchcock cameo.
NEXT TO ROME. . .
Being forced to recognize that there are different points of view helps make bright young conservatives such good debaters. They learn early on the limited persuasiveness of shouting at someone with whom they disagree, "You're an idiot." Of necessity they have to develop the ability to cast their arguments in ways that appeal to those starting from very different premises. . . .
Liberals can be wonderful people, and boon companions, but they often have a hard time dealing with people of opposing views--especially when they cannot dismiss them out of hand as idiots. Too often they have spent their entire adult lives surrounded almost entirely by those who think just like them, and it comes naturally to dismiss those of other views as intellectually or morally challenged.
It's true. I can debate the war one against five and not get a better retort than "Bush Lied." They quote the media quoting the 911 Commission Report and when you offer the unreported parts they stare blankly.
General Motors' CEO Rick Wagoner, had a rather whiny piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, blaming G.M.'s problems on, well, pretty much everybody except G.M.'s management.
I talked about this with a friend the other day. He's no foreign-car snob: He drives a Dodge Ram pickup. But he said that he'd had it with lousy G.M. products, and probably would never go back.
General Motors finds itself in the same position as Schlitz beer. Once a top brand, Schlitz gradually lowered the quality of its product, through a series of individually imperceptible cost-cutting moves, until one day consumers woke up and said, "This beer tastes lousy," and abandoned it. The brand has never recovered, despite a couple of campaigns aimed at telling consumers (in more polite terms), "Hey, we don't taste like watered-down horse pee anymore!"
Quality slippage is too common and I think it comes from the short-term thinking linked with mobile executives and stock options. If companies offered stock options that weren't redeemable for 10 years, you'd see a lot more long-term thinking. It would have to take a board of directors insisting on it.
Monday, December 05, 2005
In Florence for the First Three Days
I'll probably write 20 pages about observations and experiences, but it would be too cumbersome to publish it here. For Junto Boys, I’ll try to keep it to political, cultural and historical observations the best I can.
Delta showed every reason why they are going belly-up. The plane seemed ancient with scattered movie screens with everyone watching the same thing. The headset audio was wretched. The people on the plane were nice and helpful, but the check-in staff in Rome coming back was horrible and we never did get any kind of explanation for our two-hour delay going over. I might fly Delta again if the travel time is under two hours, but I’m probably through with them for good.
We had a great location in Florence. We were by the river with a five minute walk to the Duomo which is the skyline landmark of the city.
I saw a great documentary on the Medici family a year or so ago and this was the city they owned for 300 years. They were the patrons of Leonardo and Michelangelo and Raphael and they even produced a few Pope’s, one of which hired Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.
I was first aware of Florence when I saw the 1960s Disney film ESCAPADE IN FLORENCE. It wasn’t much of a movie, but I was a kid and they were riding motor scooters all through the city and the plot wrapped around some art thefts and it always stuck in my mind that I needed to see Florence to see these paintings. Their main Museum is the Uffizi and we could walk there in 5 minutes. All the big Renaissance artists were present as were a bunch of medieval painters, but it was a big disappointment to me.
Medieval art is not much to look at, with its flat surfaces and endless unidentified saints with their not too subtle halos overhead. But the renaissance work only seemed to add a third dimensional quality and little to the plot line. One of the few exceptions was Leonardo’s “Annunciation.” His use of lines and distance was very captivating.
Much of the rest played out like an art class where every painter of the day gave us his version of Madonna and Child with a 5 year-old midget posing as the baby Jesus. The other assignment seemed to be creating the most tortured looking Christ either on the cross or on his way to calvary. It’s not like they didn’t have enough material from the New Testament to choose from. Some of this art was literally made for headboards and given to lucky couples as a wedding gift. It would certainly spoil the mood to put it politely.
On the last day we made the obligatory trip to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s “David.” I’m not a big sculpture fan and it’s not a very big museum despite the fact that it’s priced like an all-day ticket. I’ve seen so many replicas of David that I already knew what it looked like. Mom even had a small one in the living room when I was a kid. There were two big replicas of David around town, one in the place where the original one use to stand near the Uffizi and one on a hill across the river. I’m here to say that no replica does the thing justice.
The original is 12 feet tall and made of the cleanest whitest marble. You first see it at a distance and it’s beautiful. As you walk closer you start to notice details and it loses none of its magic.
The Academia also housed the “prisoners” statues that Michelangelo never finished or decided they were better undone. They really look like people trying to escape the marble. Michelangelo is a genius that lives up to the hype. It was just as evident looking at the Sistine Chapel ceiling later in Rome and comparing it to the Sistine chapel walls painted by others. His work seems to tell a story with action whereas his contemporaries were posing people for a picture.
We also toured the Medici palace that is currently used as a government building. Not worth the price or time really. We went to the church where Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante, and Machiavelli are buried. It was like an Italian version of Westminster Abbey.
Just walking the city was fun and we shopped at a nearby market for breakfast and Trish enjoyed Buffalo Mozzarella every morning for a fraction of the U.S. cost. I bought an Italian leather hat the first morning so as not to give myself away as an American with the baseball cap. Nearly everyone made us for Americans anyway what with my non-Italian leather bomber jacket. They’d start speaking English to us from 15 feet away.
We saw “David” on a Friday during the first of two general strikes we witnessed in Italy. It has something to do with the upcoming election and it was a great example of the European love of socialism. The Galleria closed at 1:45 that day because of the strike and we would have missed “David” entirely if we had not showed up early. We happened along a demonstration in the square behind the Galleria and it was right out of some movie from the 1940s with the old fashion platform speakers and guys shaking their fists and speaking like the revolution was on its way. We saw peace flags all over the place and even red hammer and sickle flags. It was kind of disturbing to think that they could get a rally up for communism after their history of fascism. It goes to show that any segment of the population is ready to trade liberty for the iron boot promising a bowl of warm gruel.
These people were so much like the fringe element that could be seen protesting on C-Span right before the Republican convention in 2004. On a positive note, the rally didn't bring a big crowd and the audience didn’t respond to any of the speakers despite the obvious pauses looking for it. I didn’t even have to know Italian to know the crowd wasn’t engaged enough to care. It seemed kind of funny that day as you can see by my mocking photo. It was less funny the second time in Rome.
I’m not sure what the Italian tax rate is to support the welfare state, but the taxes aren’t coming from alcohol sales. You can buy a decent bottle of red wine at any market for less than 3 Euros. Hard liquor was cheap too. I wasn’t surprised that the European spirits like Scotch and Vodka were cheaper, but even Kentucky Bourbon cost less than here. Only beer seemed to be about the same price.
In Rome the following Friday I saw a woman pushing a stroller and complaining to her husband that he had put the Soviet flag in the stroller instead of carrying it himself. It seemed to be in her way. Anything for the revolution, but wives must carry the instruments of protest. You’d be hard pressed to find a picture of a Soviet citizen pushing a stroller through Red Square in the 1980s, a wasteful luxury to the Bolsheviks. Just having to carry that baby would probably turn that lady into a counter-revolutionary. I might have told her so if I spoke Italian.
Next Time . . . Venice
Friday, December 02, 2005
This poll asked businesspersons to share their favorite quotes. If you like pithy quotes, as I do, you might enjoy their replies.
My own favorite: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he will stand before kings; he will not stand before mean men." (Proverbs 22:29, quoted frequently to Ben Franklin by his father.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Bush goes public with his NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR VICTORY IN IRAQ, here. Nothing new, and in some respects political, revisionist, and disingenuous, but at least he finally, formally answered the call. Now the burden is on his opponents to explain why we should pull out, in terms other than "Bush's approval rating is below 40 percent" and "Bush lied, kids died!"
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
I am thankful for an administration that has the nads to wage war and the restraint to avoid getting into a pissing match about it. Someday I hope to be thankful for an honest policy debate.
The ever-reliable Hanson writes today about the Democrats' talking point strategy. They are hindered by the fact that the polls are uncertain and by the fact that they must wait until after things happen to talk about what they would have done differently. (The fact that they are wrong does not hinder; they overcome that through repetition and lack of conscience.)
[T]hese more astute Democrats are not sure that the Iraqi gambit might not work, especially with the December election coming up, the public trial of Saddam, the growth of the Iraqi security forces, and the changed attitudes in Europe, Jordan, and Lebanon. Many talk a lot about Vietnam circa 1967 but deep down and in silence most have mixed emotions about Saigon 1975.
For now Democrats stammer, sputter, and go the Bush shoulda / coulda route — not quite ready to take the McGovern sharp turn, forever waiting on polls and events on the ground in Iraq, always unsure whether peace and democracy will come before the 2,500th American fatality. Yet as they hedge — on television praising Congressmen Murtha who advocates withdrawal, but making sure they vote overwhelmingly on the record to reject his advice — they should consider some critical questions.
First, are the metrics of this war in the terrorists’ or our favor? Are the Iraqi security forces growing or shrinking? Are elections postponed or on schedule? Are Europe, Jordan, Lebanon, and others more or less sympathetic to a war against Islamic terrorism in Iraq? Are bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi more or less popular or secure after we removed Saddam? Is al Qaeda in a strengthened or weakened position? Is the Arab world more or less receptive to democracy in the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, and the West Bank? And is the United States more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack as we go into our fifth year since September 11? I ask those questions in all sincerity since the conventional wisdom — compared to the true wisdom and compassion of those valiantly fighting the terrorists under the most impossible of conditions — is that we are losing in Iraq, our enemies are emboldened, and the Arab world has turned against us. But if we forget the banality of New York Times columnists, the admonitions of NPR experts, and the daily rants of a Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, or Al Gore, more sober and street-smart Democrats are in fact not so sure of these answers.
So these wiser ones wait and hedge their wagers. They give full rein to the usefully idiotic and irresponsible in their midst, but make no move yet to undo what thousands of brave American soldiers have accomplished in Iraq.
What exactly is that? Despite acrimony at home, the politics of two national elections and a third on the horizon, and the slander of war crimes and incompetence, those on the battlefield of Iraq have almost pulled off the unthinkable — the restructuring of the politics of the Middle East in less than three years.
And for now that is still a strong hand to bet against.
Ledeen writes shame, shame on Bush for not advancing the strategic argument he rightly and capably made at the onset of war.
Alas, we have no policy to support regime change in Tehran or Damascus. Indeed, there is no policy at all, four long years after 9/11. A State Department official recently assured me that there were regular meetings on Iran, although there is still no consensus on what to do. Whether this is paralysis or appeasement is hard to say, but it is certainly no way to wage a war on terror.
If we were able to get past the basic strategic error — reflected in the national debate as in our conduct on the ground in Iraq — we might yet see that we hold the winning cards. Freedom has indeed spread throughout the region. Contrary to the confident predictions of many experts, many, perhaps most, Arabs and Muslims crave democracy, and are willing to take enormous risks to win it. Syria has received several devastating blows to its hegemony in Lebanon as the result of a popular prising. The Egyptians and the Saudis have to at least pretend to hold free elections. The Iranian people are being beaten, tortured and killed as never before, but most every week there are large-scale demonstrations, reaching even to the oil-producing regions without which the mullahcracy would be brought to the verge of collapse.
And there is an encouraging surge of pro-democracy enthusiasm in Syria itself. These people are the gravediggers of the old tyrannical order in the Middle East, and they deserve our help.
The main arguments against this policy are that the repressive regimes in Damascus and Tehran are firmly in control; that any meddling we do will backfire, driving potential democrats to the side of the regimes in a spasm of indignant nationalism; and that the democracy movements are poorly led, thus destined to fail.
The people who are saying these things — in the universities, the State Department, National Security Council and the Intelligence Community — said much the same about our support for democratic revolution inside the Soviet Empire shortly before its collapse. They forgot Machiavelli's lesson that tyranny is the most unstable form of government, and they forgot how much the world changes when the United States moves against its enemies.
Most experts thought Ronald Reagan was out of his mind when he undertook to bring down the Soviet Empire, and hardly a man alive believed that democratic revolution could bring down dictators in Georgia, the Ukraine, and Serbia. All these dictatorships were overthrown by a small active proportion of the population; in Iran, according to the regime's own public opinion polls, the overwhelming majority hate the mullahs.
Why should it be more difficult to remove the Iranian Supreme Leader and the Syrian dictator than it was to send Mikhail Gorbachev into early retirement?
Monday, November 21, 2005
I did purchase XM Radio and am loving it. It paid for the first month tonight as I enjoyed via C-SPAN Radio an uninterrupted hour of stimulating discussion on the Alito nomination by scholars from the conservative Concerned Women for America, conservative Heritage Foundation and libertarian CATO Institute.
I agree with the libertarian view that Congress is engaged in entire categories of activities that are unconstitutional, and with the notion that if you put good lawyers on the bench with a bias toward letting the Constitution speak for itself and toward dealing with the narrow, technical issues of law brought before them, you will get good, sound, common-sense legal decisions. Concerned Women for America just wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. I want good traditionalist legal minds on the bench and then I am happy to let results take care of themselves.
I found the conservative/libertarian debate much more stimulating than most conservative/liberal debate, the latter being much more ideological and much less intellectually honest.
Here's what the venerable Abe Lincoln had to say about too much power residing in the Supreme Court and the politicization of the Court:
[T]he candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.
On Bush bashing, gay marriage, and the rule of law:
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the poeple who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself, and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it....
By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.
On the 24-hour news cycle:
My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.
Quotes from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address at the onset of civil war, in THE ESSENTIAL ABRAHAM LINCOLN, John Gabriel Hunt, ed., Portland House, 1993.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Bush lied and we shouldn't have gone to war. But had we not gone to war, we wouldn't know Bush lied. (Of course, that assumes they really do believe Bush lied, and it puts aside their own naivete and gullibility for having believed the lies.)
We now know Saddam didn't have WMD stockpiles, but the only reason we know
it with any certainty is that we crushed his regime.
I was too busy working the event over the weekend to see that Peter Drucker passed away. His books on management were full of wisdom and insight and he created a lot of imitators. The WSJ published some "best of" pieces from articles he wrote for them over the years. Here are some highlights of the highlights:
The first and easily the most common sin is the worship of high profit margins and of "premium pricing." . . . GM's troubles--and those of the entire U.S. automobile industry--are, in large measure, also the result of the fixation on profit margin. By 1970, the Volkswagen Beetle had taken almost 10% of the American market, showing there was U.S. demand for a small and fuel-efficient car. A few years later, after the first "oil crisis," that market had become very large and was growing fast. Yet the U.S. auto makers were quite content for many years to leave it to the Japanese, as small-car profit margins appeared to be so much lower than those for big cars.
The lesson: The worship of premium pricing always creates a market for the competitor. And high profit margins do not equal maximum profits. Total profit is profit margin multiplied by turnover. Maximum profit is thus obtained by the profit margin that yields the largest total profit flow, and that is usually the profit margin that produces optimum market standing.
It's the essence of why Wal-Mart became bigger than Sears.
These few very large salaries are being explained by the "need" to pay the "market price" for executives. But this is nonsense. Every executive knows perfectly well that it is the internal logic of a hierarchical structure that explains them. . . . Money is a status symbol which defines an executive's place in the corporate hierarchy. And the more levels there are the more pay does the man at the top have to get. This rewards people for creating additional levels of management. . . . Yet levels of management should be kept to the minimum. . . .
It's similar in government, though power not money grow as more levels of management are created.
Businessmen owe it to themselves and owe it to society to hammer home that there is no such thing as "profit." There are only "costs": costs of doing business and costs of staying in business; costs of labor and raw materials, and costs of capital; costs of today's jobs and costs of tomorrow's jobs and tomorrow's pensions.
There is no conflict between "profit" and "social responsibility." To earn enough to cover the genuine costs which only the so-called "profit" can cover, is economic and social responsibility--indeed, it is the specific social and economic responsibility of business. It is not the business that earns a profit adequate to its genuine costs of capital, to the risks of tomorrow and to the needs of tomorrow's worker and pensioner that "rips off" society. It is the business that fails to do so.
He will be missed.
Since Bush got blamed for Katrina, can he take the credit for 2 1/2 months without a murder in New Orleans?
NEW ORLEANS - A woman was stabbed to death in what police say is the
first slaying in the city since Hurricane Katrina.
Police said they found the woman dead inside the home of New Orleans poet Jon Newlin, 56. Newlin had been beaten, they said, and was in critical condition at a hospital.
Friends told authorities they discovered the two Tuesday when they went to Newlin's home. Newlin hadn't shown up for a breakfast date with a friend or work at a French Quarter bookstore that day.
One or both of the victims may have known their attacker, police spokesman Juan Barnes said. The woman's name was not released.
The killing is the 205th for the city this year, compared with 225 by the same time last year, police said. The previous killing in New Orleans was on Aug. 27, two days before the hurricane struck.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Another story the media won't report: the air and water are much cleaner now than they were a generation ago. This is just the latest report. Cleaner, cleaner, cleaner, just about everywhere you test. But nooo, big business just wants to kill us and reap their evil profits.
Since 1970 there has been an 84 percent decline in emissions of sulphur
dioxide and a 37 percent fall in nitrogen oxide emissions, the gases largely to
blame for creating acid rain.
You can't get away from T.O. news around here. He was even a big story on Rush last week. Yet I hadn't read the inside scoop until here.
In a related video link, I guess I should not have been surprised to see Jesse Jackson at T.O.'s side. What will Jesse Jackson not do to keep his name in the news?
Speaking of Rush, he got skewered a couple of years ago for suggesting on ESPN that McNabb was overrated, that he got a pass because he is black. The evidence keeps coming in that Rush was right again. Poor decisions, poor play, and poor game management by McNabb has absolutely sunk the Eagles in several games this year.
But who cares. The Steelers look good at 7-2.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Today's Big Story comes from down the road in Lititz, Pa. After keeping his 14-year-old girlfriend out all night, her parents called him to their house to confront him. He was packing, and things got heated, and from what I hear, he shot the mom and the dad in the head with at least one of the girl's two siblings looking on. He took off with the girl, an Amber Alert was issued, and they were just apprehended in Indiana. A friend from church lives down the block from the crime scene. Dude, you may remember Lititz as the town where we picked up our tuxes and stopped in a soda fountain drugstore straight out of 1954.
Earlier this week, another guy from Lititz shot a cop and later got shot by the cops.
Lititz is a delightful small town, largely affluent and nearly all white. Stuff like this used to happen from time to time in the questionable neighborhoods I lived in in New Orleans, but now it seems the whole world is going mad. I don't know if that's really true or if it just seems that way as I age.
You won't hear a closing sentence like this on the floor of the Senate any time soon, but you should. Pat Buchanan's longstanding positions on immigration are making more and more sense as events unfolds.
Major social disorder can arise from seismic movements in any one of these four geological strata: human nature, religion, race, foreignness. More than one might be implicated. In these recent French riots, I think all four have been.
The moral of this story is that maintaining a peaceful, harmonious social order isn't easy even under optimal conditions. To introduce extra causes of disorder into your society by importing great masses of foreigners of different races, speaking different languages, and practicing different religions, is foolish. Under some special historical circumstances, you might pull it off, but the odds are long against you. That it will result in your having a better society is not very probable. That it will end with
insurrections like the one we have been seeing in France, is quite probable. That any of this needs saying is a measure of how far postindustrial man has drifted from the simplest, most obvious of truths about human nature and human society.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Another fine article by Victor Davis Hanson. Radical Islamicists kill and must therefore be killed. The justification for war in Iraq is straightforward, defensible, and right. Yet even its own proponents won't say so.
Meanwhile, Westerners far too rarely publicly denounce radical Islam for its sick, anti-Semitic, anti-female, anti-American, and anti-modernist rhetoric. Just imagine the liberal response if across the globe Christians had beheaded schoolgirls, taken over schoolhouses to kill students, and shot school teachers as we have witnessed radical Muslims doing these past few months.
Instead, the world—if it is to save its present liberal system of free trade, safe travel, easy and unfettered communications, and growing commitment to constitutional government—must begin seeing radical Islamism as a universal pathology rather than reactions to regional grievances, if it is ever to destroy it materially and refute it ideologically.
If Pakistan were seriously to disavow terrorism and not see it as an asset in its rivalry with India and as a means to vent anti-Western angst, then Osama bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri, and their lieutenants would be hunted down tomorrow.
If the petrolopolis of Saudi Arabia would cease its financial support of Wahhabi radicals, most terrorists could scarcely travel or organize operations.
If there were sane governments in Syria and Iran, then there would be little refuge left for al Qaeda, and the money and shelter that now protects the beleaguered and motley collection of ex-Saddamites, Hezbollah, and al Qaedists would cease.
So in large part four nations stand in the way of eradicating much of the global spread of jihadism — and it is no accident that either oil or nuclear weapons have won a global free pass for three of them. And it is no accident that we don’t have a means to wean ourselves off Middle East oil or as yet stop Iran from becoming the second Islamic nuclear nation.
Our leaders must explain far more cogently and in some detail — rather than merely assert — to the Western public the nature of the threat we face, and how our strategy will prevail.
When the American public is still bickering over WMDs rather than relieved that the culprit for the first World Trade Center bombing can no longer find official welcome in Baghdad; or when our pundits seem more worried about Halliburton than the changes in nuclear attitudes in Libya and Pakistan; or when the media mostly ignores a greater percentage of voters turning out for a free national election in the heart of the ancient caliphate than during most election years in the United States — something has gone terribly, tragically wrong here at home.
Former President Jimmy Carter yesterday condemned all abortions and chastised his party for its intolerance of candidates and nominees who oppose abortion.
"These things impact other issues on which [Mr. Bush] and I basically agree," the Georgia Democrat said. "I've never been convinced, if you let me inject my Christianity into it, that Jesus Christ would approve abortion."
Mr. Carter said his party's congressional leadership only hurts Democrats by making a rigid pro-abortion rights stand the criterion for assessing judicial nominees.
"I have always thought it was not in the mainstream of the American public to be extremely liberal on many issues," Mr. Carter said. "I think our party's leaders -- some of them -- are overemphasizing the abortion issue."
WHAT HE SAID THEN:
Running for president in 1976 -- just three years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision -- Mr. Carter took a moderate stance.
"I think abortion is wrong and that the government ought never do anything to encourage abortion," he said during that campaign. "But I do not favor a constitutional amendment which would prohibit all abortions, nor one that would give states [a] local option to ban abortions."
WHAT HE SAID YESTERDAY:
Democrats must "let the deeply religious people and the moderates on social issues like abortion feel that the Democratic party cares about them and understands them," he said, adding that many Democrats, like him, "have some concern about, say, late-term abortions, where you kill a baby as it's emerging from its mother's womb."
Either Carter is secretly ill and his evangelical side is worried that his abortion stance will keep him out of heaven, or he read Freakonomics and realizes that abortion is eroding the natural Democrat base.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I just checked out the new Google Print (beta) at print.google.com and the results of my two or three searches turned up some very recent material that is surely protected by copyright.
My visit there reminds me to recommend Google Scholar (beta) to my scholarly chums - scholar.google.com. I use it from time to time to find academic treatments of narrow subjects, and while it is no substitute for my local academic library with all their various databases and personal assistance, it's not bad in a pinch.
Francis Fukuyama in the WSJ.
One year ago today, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh had his throat ritually slit by Mohamed Bouyeri, a Muslim born in Holland who spoke fluent Dutch. This event has totally transformed Dutch politics, leading to stepped-up police controls that have now virtually shut off new immigration there. Together with the July 7 bombings in London (also perpetrated by second generation Muslims who were British citizens), this event should also change dramatically our view of the nature of the threat from radical Islamism.
We have tended to see jihadist terrorism as something produced in dysfunctional parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Middle East, and exported to Western countries. Protecting ourselves is a matter either of walling ourselves off, or, for the Bush administration, going "over there" and trying to fix the problem at its source by promoting democracy.
There is good reason for thinking, however, that a critical source of contemporary radical Islamism lies not in the Middle East, but in Western Europe. In addition to Bouyeri and the London bombers, the March 11 Madrid bombers and ringleaders of the September 11 attacks such as Mohamed Atta were radicalized in Europe. In the Netherlands, where upwards of 6% of the population is Muslim, there is plenty of radicalism despite the fact that Holland is both modern and democratic. And there exists no option for walling the Netherlands off from this problem.
It's worth reading this article in its entirety.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
James Taranto has an interesting analysis.
Democratic senators are transparently playing to the party's moonbat base, who've been taunting them for years demanding that they "stand up" to the Bush administration and who were demoralized when they didn't get the indictment for the war that they wanted for "Fitzmas"--the Angry Left nickname for the day indictments were handed up in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle.
The problem with such base-rallying stunts is that they rally the other side's base too. President Clinton, an advocate of free trade, capital punishment and welfare reform, was never popular with the hard left of the Democratic Party, but they were his most fervent defenders once impeachment was on the table.
President Bush has just had a rough month with his political base; the Harriet Miers misstep brought to the surface disagreements over other matters such as spending and immigration. He repaired much of the damage with the excellent appointment of Sam Alito on Monday, and the Democrats now look to be finishing the job for him.
Republicans should welcome anything that rallies the bases of both parties, for two reasons. First, the Republican base is bigger (see election results, 2004). Second, the Democratic base is totally insane. These people are now, according to the Village Voice, touting Cindy Sheehan for president. Democrats love to mock the Republican base for believing the Bible is true. Democratic basemen believe "Fahrenheit 9/11" is true!
Conservatives get their way and get the fight they want, or so they think. If the real fight turns out to be conservative Republicans vs. less conservative Republicans, the party could be the loser.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
+SHOOTING WAR (200) – Time film critic Richard Schickel directed this documentary on how cameramen shot film during World War II. Hundreds of camera operators were unleashed in the middle of the fighting to bring whatever they could back and many died trying to do it. I was surprised at the amount of valuable footage that exists. My granfather fought in the Pacific and his brother the tail gunner was shot down over Europe. This movie gives a good record of what those young warriors witnessed. Thankfully, many of the cameramen are still with us and Schickel’s interviews are every bit as interesting as the footage itself. Produced by Steven Spielberg, this movie opens and is bridged by a bearded civil war looking Tom Hanks. Steven Ambrose also pops up with little facts ala History Channel. The movie needs neither Hanks nor Ambrose. They both tend to give the piece a TV feel when the movie is compelling for its honest simplicity alone.
+CRASH (2005) – Word of Paul Haggis script work on MILLION DOLLAR BABY must have gotten around Hollywood way before the release of the film, because CRASH was released just a few months after the Oscars. I thought his script for the first film was decent, but Eastwood’s smooth direction and cast plussed it up. The essence of Million Dollar Baby was getting you think different about the hot button issue of mercy killing. The hot button issue in CRASH is race and ethnicity and Haggis shows you how those elements enter the lives of many different kinds of people. He shows how white liberals deal with the fear of minorities, how vocally racist cops can be colorblind in moments of danger, how Muslims and Hispanics are viewed by everyone, and how professional blacks have to deal with their current world and the one they came from. The movie follows the same structure of two other L.A. films, SHORT CUTS and MAGNOLIA, where a bunch of characters live their lives intersecting with one another. And although I liked both of the aforementioned films, the device here actually weakens the material, because Haggis is trying something more ambitious than Altman or PT Anderson and the continual happenchance meetings between these few characters is jolting in a film that seems more like real life than the others. The biggest success of CRASH are the original and honest characters that don't make it into movies often enough. That helps make up for the conventionality of the resolution.
Z CHANNEL: A Magnificent Obesession (2004) – Zan Cassavettes, daughter of John and Gena and sister of Nick directs this compelling documentary about a popular L.A. pay channel that outperformed HBO and Showtime in the 70s and 80s. The real story isn’t the channel though, but its mad genius program selector, Jerry Harvey. Harvey practically invented the director’s cut by allowing noted directors to resurrect the versions the Studios hated. Uncut versions of Bertolucci’s 1900, Cimino’s HEVEAN’S GATE, and Visconti’s THE LEOPARD debuted on the Z CHANNEL. Quite probably, those versions wouldn’t exist today without Harvey. Harvey also helped make the career of young filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch by showing their films. Harvey’s showing of Paul Verhoeven’s European films led to the director making films in Hollywood. Eventually, the big players got tired of competing with little Z and used money muscle to outspend their little competitor in movie acquisition. Harvey met his own fate.
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER (2005) – Joan Allen stars as the abandoned wife trying to cope with hard liquor and the attentions of ex-ballplayer, Kevin Costner. Her four mostly grown daughters also pose their challenges along the way. It’s seeming like Costner is only good at playing jocks and ex jocks, but boy is he good at it. Allen is probably one of the better actresses of the day and this is the kind of role that should see her nominated. Costner has no shot at the same, but he holds his own in every scene with her. The film itself is lifted by the two leads, because otherwise the material isn’t terribly good.
TOMBSTONE (1993) – Our library evidently would rather compete with Blockbuster than Border’s because you have to pass through the sea of DVDs before getting to the books. I picked up Tombstone on the way to Hemingway not having seen it since its release. Kurt Russell stars as Wyatt Earp, but the money role is Doc Holliday played by Val Kilmer. Russell doesn’t make many classics, but he has a good feeling about scripts and he usually winds up in passably entertaining fare like this. Although the sets and costumes look fine, the movie doesn’t seem period real, but maybe that helped it outperform at the box office. It made $56 million which is about the same as Kevin Costner’s OPEN RANGE made in 2003. A lot of noticeable faces appear in this movie including a pre-stardom Billy Bob Thorton. At the time I remember many people telling me they loved this movie, although I didn’t really care for it all that much. A second viewing ten years hasn’t changed my opinion.
WINGSPAN (2001) – McCartney produced this documentary about his 1970s band I think because he wanted to remember Linda. It’s a family affair with his daughter doing the interviewing and Paul explaining the origins and dissolution of the band. There’s a lot of great tour video and Paul goes in depth on each album and how it came to be produced.
+THE MACHINST (2004) – All I knew was that Christian Bale was supposed to have lost a ton of weight for the role and that is evident when you see his shirtless body. I can’t imagine the experience was good for his health especially since he put it back on for Batman this summer. That said, The Machinst was a surprisingly great find. It’s a mystery for the audience because situations change and you have to discover with the character what is actually happening. It also has a few real touching moments that are all the more poignant by the end. Some might think it gimmicky, but I consider it clever.
BORN TO KILL (1947) – After Lawrence Tierney appeared in Reservoir Dogs, I read an interview he gave and he sounded like such a tough guy that I wanted to see one of his old movies. This wasn’t a bad choice. Here Tierney co-stars with Claire Trevor and is directed by Robert Wise. Not the typical noir movie because there is so much daylight, but Tierney is indeed one tough mother. This is a great one to show your daughter when warning of the dangers of chasing the bad boy. AllMovie.com seems to think it’s worth 4 stars, but I think they give it an extra star for being noir. The plot is basically some psycho that kills people for every little slight and a woman that is attracted to him because of it. There are some interesting character performances that may be worth an extra half star at most.
WALT: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH (2001) – This documentary was produced and aired on ABC for Walt’s Centennial. Dick Van Dyke does a good job with narration and in many ways it’s the best video biography ever produced by the company that bears his name. My biggest disappointment is the way they handle Walt’s politics in general and especially HUAC. We see Walt telling the committee that he’s had some communist agitation in his unions and we hear Van Dyke tells us that Walt was politically naïve. Nuts, I say. Union Leader Herb Sorrel was indeed agitating and taking his orders from the party. Not long ago Hollywood could have pretended that it was a witch hunt and a lot of innocent people were branded communists, but the release of the Venona papers in the mid 1990s provides the evidence of who was on what Soviet payroll. If anyone was politically naïve, it was those idealists that were taking money from a totalitarian government every bit as vicious as the Nazis. So, besides the fact that the movie has to apologize for Walt's politics, the rest of it is alright.
FAHRENHEIT 911 (2004) – Bowling for Columbine may have been manipulative propaganda, but at least it was funny. I may have disagreed with his premise, but it’s always fun seeing even-keeled professionals be confronted by that wooly mammoth. The audacity of taking those shot up kids to K-Mart is at least interesting. And the cartoon in that film was ridiculous and yet made me laugh anyway. The problem with all of his films is that they lack a clean narrative. BOWLING couldn’t decide if it was anti-gun or just anti-American shock media. Here the FAHRENHEIT is the worst of all worlds. There are scant laughs and the focus shifts on a dime. It has the feeling that it was rushed into theatres as a device to defeat Bush rather than a device to entertain. It made over $100 million, and about 10x the amount of BOLWING, proving that Bush hatred will fuel the box office more so than Clinton love or Kerry love.
+FAHRENHYPE (2004) – Dick Morris helped write and Ron Silver provides the voice over in this very effective refutation of the Michael Moore movie. They pretty much go point by point showing Moore’s deceptions and outright lies. The phony pipeline and the Bush relationship with the Saudis is dealt with extensively. Maybe more effective is the soldier that lost his arms explaining that Moore never visited Walter Reed Medical Center and that his interview was actually with NBCs Brian Williams. Unlike the portrayal in the film, this soldier is not bitter about what happened to him. The Oregon state trooper tells us that he was shot for another documentary and Moore was no where near that one either. He’s not too happy with the conclusions either. The film also talks to soldiers and families that have real love for the military. This movie is better than other debunking films like Michael Moore Hates America and Celcius 41.11.
WIMBLEDON (2005) – Typically predictable piece with Kirsten Dunst graduating from Spidergirlfriend to adult enough to romance the somewhat older guy. Trish is usually requesting comedies and there are so few good ones that star anyone still living. This is more or less a slight comedy with serious parts like Pretty Woman. Paul Bettany is the aging British tennis star ready to retire when meeting Dunst revitalizes his career. If the movie has any model it’s NOTTING HILL from a few years ago. Somewhat obscure Brit gets involved with famous yank. Remember the kooky roommate from HILL? That character is re-written here as brother of our hero who has made a living betting against the brother. John Farveau is the agent trying to make a dime off the resurgent Bettany. Sam Neill drops the Australlian accent to be Dunst’s driving father. It was mindless alright, especially the gratuitous shots following the tennis ball like a video game. You always hope to be surprised by a winning film like LOVE ACTUALLY, but Wimbledon is a reminder that most movies disappoint.
BATMAN BEGINS (2005) –I haven’t cared much for the character of Batman since I outgrew the campy TV show around age 11. I found Tim Burton’s two movies to be nonsense. Christopher Nolan finally gets it right. One of the most important elements here is his background, something we get with Spiderman, Superman and all the other mans. These filmmakers understand that it’s easier to identify with a character when you see the journey that led them to modern day. The second big strength is the superb cast of supporting characters, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson and the never off-key Morgan Freeman. And Christian Bale is certainly good as our hero. How did he put on the weight so quickly after the MACHINIST? The weakest link is Katie Holmes that suffers even months after the publicity stunt with Cruise. She is professionally cute, but too young looking to be believable as the Gotham DA. This could be a good series if Nolan and the cast want to continue.
Three words: Interstate Commerce Clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, known as the Commerce Clause, empowers the United States Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
Courts and commentators have tended to discuss each of these three areas as a separate power granted to Congress. It is therefore common to see references to the Foreign Commerce Clause, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and the Indian Commerce Clause, each of which refers to the power granted to Congress in this section.
The use of the Commerce Clause by Congress to justify its legislative power over citizens has been the subject of long, intense political controversy. Interpretation of the sixteen words of the Commerce Clause has helped define the balance of power between the federal government and individual states. As such, it has a direct impact on the lives of US citizens.
According to the Tenth Amendment, the federal government of the United States only has the power to regulate matters specifically delegated to it by the Constitution. Other powers are reserved to the States, or to the people. The Commerce Clause is one of those few powers specifically delegated to the federal government and thus its interpretation is very important in determining the scope of federal legislative power.
If the supreme court will interpret the constitution and strictly apply the 10th amendment, true freedom would return to the people. I nearly ran off the road with laughter today when an NPR commentator actually said, "...and Alito, who is very right wing, is also very pro-States' rights..." To me that is so telling of the liberal left that "States' rights" is seen as extreme. Another wonderful ruling by Alito is his desire to prohibit congresses power to regulate firearms. He wanted to strike down the law banning machine guns. I think we should heavy punish criminals who violently use guns, but this was a great ruling and a wonderful exercise of 2nd amendment interpretation.
During my tenure with the Federal Government in the Bureau of Prisons, I found that about 80-90% of ever crime committed made some reference to the "Interstate Commerce Clause" as to why and how this particular crime was a "Federal Crime." Much of the failed "war of drugs" would collapse if this ICC was more strictly and narrowly interpreted. Finally, a supreme court justice I can really sink my teeth into :-)
What is going on? The hysteria on this is starting to reach all time high. I first heard about this 18 months ago. Is it a scientific conspiracy by biologists and big-pharma to increase Federal spending for them? Why is this "pandemic" being labeled as "inevitable". I just don't understand the reasoning behind it and I've really looked and researched it. It's maddening! Help!!
Jonah Goldberg says what I was trying to get at in my comment to Tom's celebrity sighting a week or two ago.
I know some folks around here [at National Review Online] are friends or friendly with him. But I am consistently amazed people take him as seriously as they do. He is brilliant, but he is also a deeply amoral pragmatist. The problem with analysts like him is that their insights are only useful when self-interest isn't in play. Since they have loyalty to no larger ideas or principles, they can be acute observers of politics. But such Machiavellianism is also a hindrance, because principles and a moral vision also help us notice when we're letting our self-interest intrude. When they are absent, self-interest reigns supreme.
WHO: Cuba Gooding Jr
WHERE: my front yard
The Jacksons and the Funkhousers came over early with their two kids apiece and we imbibed and improvised dinner while we waited for Marci to get home. Once everybody was fed, we headed out for the first leg of trick-or-treating with beverage of choice in hand (in cup). We made the circuit and were heading back to the residence for a potty break slash refill. We had left our house dark in the interim, and as we approached, we passed a couple pushing a baby stroller near the base of our driveway. I offered a cheery HAPPY HALLOWEEN and the greeting was returned by Rod TIllwell.
Monday, October 31, 2005
I like lists.
Animal Farm George Orwell - Poignant.
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler - Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels remind me of what Roger Ebert said about movies. I'm jealous of anyone who hasn't yet read them for the first time.
The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger - I didn't think I'd like it all that much and was surprised.
The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald - The best book assigned to me in college.
Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding - A great story to read before adulthood.
1984George Orwell - Probably the best book on this list.
Rabbit, RunJohn Updike - I read the four-book series a few years ago.
Red HarvestDashiell Hammett - The inspiration for Yojimbo, Fist Full of Dollars and Last Man Standing. Hammett only wrote 5 novels and they're all gems.
Started and didn't finish:
An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser -YAWN
Appointment in Samarra John O'Hara - I liked it but got distracted. Will revisit
Catch-22 Joseph Heller - It's supposed to be hilarious but I didn't laugh in the first 100 pages.
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck - I didn't have time to finish it and relied on the Cliffs Notes
The Moviegoer Walker Percy - There is an interesting scene early on where our hero spots William Holden walking in the French Quarter. I don't remember much else.
On the RoadJack Kerouac - Probably better in its day.
The Sun Also RisesErnest Hemingway - I keep trying this and I can't make myself finish it.
Tropic of CancerHenry Miller - Just plain stream of consciousness - I don't think anyone would have read it without the vulgarity.
I heard many good things about this film and a few bad. How you like it depends on how receptive you are to the melodrama that is heavily dished. I really liked it. There were a lot of great moments which welled up some real emotion in me. It wasn't all that believable, but it had me at hello and I enjoyed the ride.
Just the opposite - this film never captured my full attention. It was overly serious and just not all that exciting. It reminded me a little of ANGELA'S ASHES which just kept showing me things happening in a crowded apartment without showing me anything terribly interesting.
This may not be a great film, but I enjoy Phillip Seymour Hoffman enough to give it a look, and I liked it. A guy I went to a Dodgers game with a couple of years ago had a bit role, so I've been wanting to see it. It was not exactly a fast-moving story, but Hoffman sells the character and we watch his descent. The story begins with him soon after his wife has killed herself. He is really depressed and ends up addicted to sniffing gasoline. To explain away the smell on him, he makes up a story that he flies toy planes. The lie grows and he soon finds some meaning in the toy plane flying community, but ultimately there is no Hollywood ending. It is an interesting character study.
Another ultra-violent Asian movie, this time out of South Korea. Lots of stars at Netflix and an intriguing premise was enough to get me to bite. I didn't like it and don't recommend it.
Again I followed great reviews hoping to find an indie gem. I wasn't all that impressed, though it did give me a good glimpse of the next James Bond.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Saturday, October 29, 2005
When you remind Democrats that Bill Clinton lied to a Grand Jury and wasn’t indicted they come back with the James Carville mantra that it was only about sex and this is about national security. But the prosecutor can find no national security issue here, just that Libby said that he heard Plame’s name from reporters and not Dick Cheney as his email suggests. And let’s get it straight. Bill Clinton’s lies were a result on his frequent attacks on women not just consensual sex. Monica Lewinsky came to light while investigating Paul Jones harassment complaint. So unless Democrats want to step forward and say that attacking women is peachy, these situations look more similar.
Why did Libby lie? I think he was trying to keep Cheney’s name out of the papers, because although it was no crime for Cheney to tell his own chief of staff, the press doesn’t let such details stop them from exacting their pint of blood. And the press would have known immediately, just like we knew who was being indicted hours before the announcement yesterday.
And speaking of National Security, didn’t Sandy Berger get caught stealing top secret documents? Where were the screaming Democrats a few months ago? Missing documents that made the 9-11 commission report incomplete may have been more meaningful than Libby’s fib.
Richard Errett Smalley, a gifted chemist who shared a Nobel Prize for the discovery of buckyballs, helped pioneer the field of nanotechnology and became Houston's most notable scientist, died this afternoon after a six-year struggle with cancer. He was 62.
Smalley possessed prodigious talent both within the lab, where he cobbled individual atoms together like tinker toys, and outside academia after he won science's greatest prize. In the decade since he became a Nobel laureate, Smalley pushed Rice University and Houston to the forefront of nanotechnology research.
The buckyball's discovery helped fuel today's explosion of nanotechnology research, in which scientists are racing to exploit the unique properties of myriad nanomaterials, with applications for everything from medicine to bulletproof vests.
The chairman of Rice's board of governors at the time, William Barnett, recalled Smalley agonizing over whom to give the 10 tickets he had received for the awards banquet in Sweden. Barnett said Smalley gave two to his son, Chad, who later told his father he was bringing his mom, one of Smalley's ex-wives. Smalley had three.
"I think his reaction was, 'Oh lord, now I've got to ask the other one,'" Barnett said. "The Swedes were so taken with this, the joke going around the banquet was that they were going to tell Rick, if they had only known this in advance, they would have awarded him the peace prize as well."
"In a way, cancer is so simple and so natural," Smalley said. "The older you get, this is just one of the things that happens as the clock ticks."
He seems like an interesting guy all-around.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
A host of happy conservatives other than Hugh Hewitt. Praise be to Will and Kristol for their immediate distaste and to Krauthammer who laid out the plan for her withdrawl.
Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications.
President Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down. He blamed her withdrawal on calls in the Senate for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege.
"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House _ disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers _ and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."