Sunday, July 31, 2005


Here's my Vegas recap if anyone is still interested. I wrote a version when I got back and the computer locked up and I lost the whole thing. This one is a little cards heavy but with enough anecdotes that the nonplayer can sift through for other gems.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The European Problem - Krauthammer
Last Nov. 2 Theo van Gogh, Dutch filmmaker and descendant of the painter, was cycling through Amsterdam. He was accosted by Mohammed Bouyeri, who shot him six times as van Gogh pleaded, "We can still talk about it! Don't do it!" Bouyeri then cut his throat with a kitchen knife, practically severing his head. Bouyeri was not done. He then took a five-page Islamist manifesto and with his knife impaled it on van Gogh's chest.

Bouyeri is no newly arrived immigrant. Nor is he, like the Sept. 11 hijackers, a cosmopolitan terrorist sent abroad to kill. He was born and bred in Holland. Likewise, three of the four London bombers were second-generation Pakistani Brits.

The most remarkable discovery is that Europe's second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants are more radicalized than the first. One reasonably non-political and non-radical Muslim activist, raised in the suburbs of Paris, explained himself (to the Wall Street Journal) as having "immigrated to France at the local maternity ward."

The fact that native-born Muslim Europeans are committing terrorist acts in their own countries shows that this Islamist malignancy long predates Iraq, long predates Afghanistan and long predates Sept. 11, 2001. What Europe had incubated is an enemy within, a threat that for decades Europe simply refused to face.

British Islamists had spoken of a "covenant of security" under which Britain would be spared Islamic terrorism so long as it allowed radical clerics free rein. Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, for example, a Syrian-born, exiled Saudi cleric granted asylum 19 years ago, openly preaches jihad against Britain. He is sought by the press for comment all the time. And, a lovely touch, he actually lives on the British dole -- even though he rejects the idea of British citizenship, saying, "I don't want to become a citizen of Hell."

Nice! The ACLU must love Britain.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Politics is maddening. It's all about being safe and electable and re-electable rather than about being principled. Most Americans are anti-illegal immigrant, anti-gay marriage, and pro-conservative culture. And Bush has the votes to back him up in the Senate. I hope Roberts turns out to be every conservative's dream, but why shy away from fighting a battle that will force liberals to go on record as pro-illegal immigrant, pro-gay marriage, and anti-conservative values? I'm sure Bush has a reason why he says so little about all the things that matter so much to him, but I don't know what it is. Maybe the GOP leadership is content to just continue quietly winning elections, but the point of winning elections is to have your way. I admire his restraint but I also want him to have his way.

If the Left loses the Supreme Court, the Left loses the Culture War. The Left loses the country. For 50 years, the high court has been its indispensable ally in the campaign to remake America into a secular and egalitarian society. The court has served as the battering ram of a social revolution that has to be imposed upon America—because it is hated by most Americans.

No Congress in the 1960s would have voted new rights for criminals or new restrictions on cops. No Congress would have outlawed the death penalty or declared abortion, naked dancing, and homosexual sodomy to be constitutional rights. No Congress would have permitted desecration of the flag, forced busing, or discrimination against white kids at state colleges. No Congress would have outlawed prayer, Bible-reading, and the Ten Commandments from classrooms.

Liberalism had to be imposed by unelected judges who could not be removed by popular vote.

In the Judges War since 1968, which is ultimately about whether we shall be a judicial dictatorship where black robes rule or a democratic republic where the people rule, Republican presidents have failed more often than they have succeeded.

Nixon chose a great justice, Rehnquist. His other choices, Burger, Blackmun, and Powell, all voted for Roe v. Wade. Ford’s lone nominee, Stevens, was a lemon, as was Souter, named by Bush I. Reagan succeeded with Scalia but failed with his affirmative-action choice O’Connor and with Tony Kennedy, elevated when Bork was rejected.

Looking back at the great court battles since 1968, all have involved the character assassination of nominees seen as conservative: Haynsworth, Carswell, Bork, and Thomas. But for Clinton nominees Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, liberal judicial activists both, the Senate Republicans rolled over.

The Left gets it, but many Bush Republicans still don’t. They don’t like moral issues, and they don’t enlist in culture wars. But as the Left has turned the Supreme Court into a judicial tyranny more powerful than the president or Congress in deciding social and moral questions, Republicans have two choices: they can fight the Judges War, or they can lose the war.

Neutrality—a Bush choice of a non-controversial justice—will be, and will be seen by the president’s friends and enemies alike, as a stacking of arms, a surrender, a cowardly retreat in the Culture War.

The Judges War is about Bush’s legacy and America’s future. No issue is more crucial. Whether America is kept safe for Christianity is more important than whether Iraq is made safe for democracy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I don't know if this is making news outside Pennsylvania. Our Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll attended, uninvited, the funeral of a killed U.S. serviceman and told attendees the government of Pennsylvania is against the war and handed out business cards in case there was anything she could do for folks.

She came under fire to issue a public apology, which she did - read it here. In the letter she emphasizes how she "supports the troops." In what way? By telling their widows the dead soldiers went "beyond the call of duty"? (see 5th paragraph of letter) Isn't getting killed by enemy fire right in the center of the call of duty? Doesn't the insinuation that his death was unnecessary nullify the apology and compound the injury?

In classic Democrat fashion, Knoll supports the troops by saying she supports the troops, and she can't even say that without a dig.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


On the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq that the first point of reference is, once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away to use a vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats. And no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And can I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people, by implication, suggesting we shouldn't have done that? When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy, not just in Iraq, but Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq, a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations, when Al-Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now, I don't know the mind of the terrorist. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts are, and the objective facts are as I've cited, the objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And, indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life; this is about the perverted use of the principles of a great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse, through a perverted ideology, of people and their murder.


New York Times
July 10, 2001
The Declining Terrorist Threat

WASHINGTON -- Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.

None of these beliefs are based in fact. much of the New York Times' reporting.
The greatest risk is clear: if you are drilling for oil in Colombia — or in nations like Ecuador, Nigeria or Indonesia — you should take appropriate precautions; otherwise Americans have little to fear.

Although high-profile incidents have fostered the perception that terrorism is becoming more lethal, the numbers say otherwise, and early signs suggest that the decade beginning in 2000 will continue the downward trend. A major reason for the decline is the current reluctance of countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya, which once eagerly backed terrorist groups, to provide safe havens, funding and training.

I am not soft on terrorism, just anti-strong.

I am not soft on terrorism; I believe strongly in remaining prepared to confront it. However, when the threat of terrorism is used to justify everything from building a missile defense to violating constitutional rights (as in the case of some Arab-Americans imprisoned without charge), it is time to take a deep breath and reflect on why we are so fearful.

Part of the blame can be assigned to 24-hour broadcast news operations too eager to find a dramatic story line in the events of the day and to pundits who repeat myths while ignoring clear empirical data. Politicians of both parties are also guilty. They warn constituents of dire threats and then appropriate money for redundant military installations and new government investigators and agents.

Finally, there are bureaucracies in the military and in intelligence agencies that are desperate to find an enemy to justify budget growth. In the 1980's, when international terrorism was at its zenith, NATO and the United States European Command pooh-poohed the notion of preparing to fight terrorists. They were too busy preparing to fight the Soviets. With the evil empire gone, they "discovered" terrorism as an important priority.

I hope for a world where facts, not fiction, determine our policy. While terrorism is not vanquished, in a world where thousands of nuclear warheads are still aimed across the continents, terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way.

Larry C. Johnson is a former State Department counterterrorism specialist.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I wrote my Representative in Congress, Republican Ric Keller and my Democrat Senator Bill Nelson about that land grab in Connecticut. I cannot find the letter I wrote. It must be on one of the other computers. But here is the Keller reply: (Still waiting for Nelson)
Thank you for recently contacting my office regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling on Kelo v. City of New London. Your views are important, and I thank you for taking the time to share them with me.

On June 23, 2005, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision on Kelo v. City of New London. In a 5-4 vote, the Court upheld the use of eminent domain, allowing state and local governments to take citizens' homes and turn them over to corporations and private developers to generate tax revenue.

Let me first express my disappointment and firm opposition to this ruling. I am adamantly opposed to this decision by the Supreme Court and will support legislation in the House of Representatives that will blunt this decision.

Recently, the House of Representatives attached an amendment to the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill that would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. I was proud to support this amendment when it passed the House.

I also supported House Resolution 340, condemning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. This important resolution urges state and local governments to refrain from using this decision as a complete freedom for abuse of eminent domain. It also emphasizes the ability of Congress to address this matter legislatively to prevent abuse of individual property rights. I was also proud to cast my vote in favor of this amendment when it cleared the House.

Please know that I will continue to fight in Congress to protect consumers' property rights. Again, thank you for writing. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


Ric Keller
Member of Congress

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I've been hearing two main arguments: (1) We should not be there and should withdraw, and (2) we are there so we must do what is necessary to win. Lately I'm hearing a third, (3) because we are there, we must withdraw. It's not a new argument, just getting new ink. It is the argument that suicide bombers are motivated by the desire to get rid of Western occupation, and that more Western occupation produces easier recruitment for suicide bombers. For example, there were no suicide bombers from Iraq before occupation, now there are lots. There are none from Sudan despite its brutal Muslim regime. There are lots from Saudi Arabia. It argues that withdrawal would relieve the threat - something Bush is not prepared to agree with. The argument is presently cogently, backed by hard data, here.

Expect Dems to borrow heavily from Pat Buchanan in its campaign rhetoric next year. And do not expect Bush to have good counterarguments beyond what he has already said.

For me, I have a hard time getting past the simple logic that when somebody punches you, you must punch back. The question has always been whether Iraq was the right enemy. The adminstration has never explained its (real) strategic reason for choosing Iraq. I'm sure they have a strategy, but Americans do not know what it is, and that has always troubled me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


The reason Mr. Biden speaks well of Sandra Day O'Connor is precisely because she was merely "open-minded" and never developed a higher structure to her thought.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Here is an interesting take on why America has become so unwilling to wage war.

By a margin of 69 percent to 29 percent, Americans view the level of casualties in Iraq as "unacceptable." And yet by historical standards, in the sweep of U.S. history, the Iraq casualties - about 1,750 killed in the past 27 months - are, to put it bluntly, negligible.

During the Civil War, Union forces lost 360,000 men, out of a population of 22 million. Which is to say, almost 2 percent of the entire Northern population was killed in four years. Yet President Abraham Lincoln hung on to his support and was re-elected by a landslide in 1864. Of course, public opinion polling and television didn't exist back then.

But there's another factor, too: big families. In 1860, more than half the population of the U.S. was under 19. It's a cold fact that if there are a lot of kids around the household, it's easier to give some over to war. But the long-term trend toward smaller families has undercut this demographic "surplus."

A majority of Americans didn't say Vietnam wasn't worth fighting for until August 1968, by which time some 30,000 American soldiers had been killed. So while Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War was one-hundredth as costly as Lincoln's Civil War, on a relative basis - the 36th president, unlike the 16th president, was thwarted in his bid for re-election.

By 1965, the share of under-19-year-olds had fallen sharply, to 37 percent. So in 'Nam, each combat fatality - magnified, of course, by the media - was felt more strongly. Today, the under-19 percentage is down to 27. Families that once had five or six kids now have a couple at most. Poll numbers on Iraq - and plummeting enlistment rates - show the impact of demography on the polity.

In 1994, Edward Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., surveyed the U.S. experience in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia and concluded, in a Foreign Affairs article, that America had entered its "post-heroic" era, in which the public would have a permanently low tolerance for casualties.

In his piece, Luttwak considered possible responses to this new reality, such as recruiting more non-Americans, a la the French Foreign Legion, or learning to ignore "tragedies and horrific atrocities" when they occur around the world. In this Luttwakian scenario, the U.S. would need either mercenaries or a less interventionist agenda.

Bush, and probably most Americans, would likely reject both those options. In which case, the challenge to be faced is squaring a heroic foreign policy with a post- heroic demography.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video.

I own 40 or so titles. I only purchase family films that the kids will watch repeatedly. The only mature films in my catalog were received as gifts.

2. Last film I bought.

The Incredibles (2004)

3. Last film I watched.

War of the Worlds (2005)

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order).

Jaws (1975) made me like movies. An early movie-going experience that made me produce more adrenaline than my tiny body could possibly process without fleeing for my life. Made me understand what movies are all about.

The Terminator (1984) made me like action movies. It's a cliche now, but the inhuman villiain that cannot be stopped was fresh then. When the metallic skeleton arose from the pyre, I knew I was watching a masterpiece. Yet the hero finds a way to destroy the villain, without waiting around for seemingly innocuous viruses to do the job for her.

Beaue Geste (1939) made me like old movies. One of the first b/w films I ever watched that kept me interested start to finish and even made me misty at the end. I love the story and the relationship of the brothers, and especially Gary Cooper's beautiful gesture.

Goodfellas (1990) made me understand relativity. This was the singularly fastest three hours I have ever experienced. I don't think I blinked more than twenty times and when the end credits rolled, I had to take a moment to remember that I was some bloke sitting in a theatre. I have never been so absorbed in a book or movie like this.

Psycho (1960) made me realize that films shape reality. Jaws works the same way with swimming as Psycho works with showering. You cannot do either without scenes from these films haunting your subconscience.

5. If you could Be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?

I suppose the obvious answer is Atticus Finch, since he is the most upstanding guy ever.

Any Jimmy Stewart role works here, especially the real-life Glenn Miller, or the dude from Strategic Air Command, both coming with that sweetheart June Allyson as a wife before she got the runs.

Cary Grant from Charade or Gunga Din would be kind of fun.

It wouldn't be so bad to be Ferris Bueller.


1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video.

I rarely purchase movies because I rarely watch one more than once. I probably own about a dozen, most of them received as gifts, and have another 100+ on the shelves that I purge from time to time, knowing I won’t get to them or because I taped them long ago and no longer have interest. Once in a while I’ll look at the listings on AMC or Turner and tape a couple of classic films that I've never seen.

2. Last film I bought.

GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, at a library book sale. That was months ago. Haven’t watched it yet. A woman I know heard me excitedly explain the purchase to my six-year-old and found that quite amusing.

Update 7/13/05: Have since purchased Spider-Man 2 which everyone seemed to like. Also purchased The Incredibles and a 4-pack of the original Herbie movies.

3. Last film I watched.


IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (without) – borrowed this from mom-in-law and found after 2 hours that she had clipped off the ending. But I got the gist – girl dumps that boy for this boy.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order).

Movies I’ve watched over and over:

JAWS – I love all the characters in this movie – Brody, Quint, the mayor, Dreyfuss, Brody’s wife, and Bruce.





My wife’s favorite movie is WHEN HARRY MET SALLY so I’ve seen that many times but only as a condition of marriage.

Generally I prefer slow-moving old movies with lots of dialogue and overblown characters. I like action movies that are not stupid and westerns.

5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?

Bond. James Bond.

I found this on Terry Teachout a few weeks ago and have been meaning to post it with my own answers. Please do so yourself.

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video.

40 or so

2. Last film I bought.

I think the last thing was Miller’s Crossing. I buy very few these days choosing to rent them on Netflix instead.

3. Last film I watched.

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) Otto Preminger

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order).

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – I can’t believe they’ve never done this as a stage play. It’s mostly dialogue and yet it seems action packed. Bogart is at his cynical best. Sydney Greenstreet is captivating. Peter Lorre is oddly amusing. John Huston first directorial effort.

MILLER’S CROSSING (1990) – The Cohen Brothers witty take-off on Dashiell Hammett’s novel THE GLASS KEY. Great cinematography by Barry Sonefeld.

RIO BRAVO (1959)– My favorite Western. Great Cast of the veteran gunfighter (John Wayne) his sidekick (Dean Martin) the old man (Walter Brennan) and young gun (Ricky Nelson) that team up for justice. Angie Dickenson never looked better as the girlfriend. Howard Hawks last great film.

REAR WINDOW (1954) – My favorite Hitchock film. I know what happens and yet I still love the moment when Grace Kelly is finally won over to Stewart’s POV.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) – Full of that Americana stuff that I just dig with a kind of darkness that it doesn’t get any credit for.

5. If you could Be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?

Thinking about this question I realized that most characters are more fun to watch than to be. In fact, so many interesting characters face one pain the ass after another. Imagine having to be Tom Joad or LB Jefferies or Roger Thornhill or Indiana Jones or Tom Reagan.

Sky Masterson from GUYS AND DOLLS isn’t bad. He gets to shoot some dice and then he gets Jean Simmons. He spikes her milk with rum and she doesn’t even mind.

I’ve always liked the Gregory Peck character from ROMAN HOLIDAY. The movie begins with a poker game. Through dialogue you realize that he’s so broke that he’s stuck working in the Roman office of an American newspaper. It doesn’t seem like a hardship considering that he has a nice veranda to see the city and that regular card game. He even gets to meet and woo Audrey Hepburn. The downside is that returning to all of those things wouldn’t be so exciting once Hepburn returns to her unnamed European country.

It would be somewhat fun to be SAM SPADE and get to say things like. . . “Mrs. Spade didn’t raise any kids dippy enough to makes guesses in front of a District Attorney, Assistant District Attorney and a Stenographer.”

Sunday, July 03, 2005


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

. . . (grievances) . . .

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. --And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Einstein's theory of relativity turns 100 today. Doesn't seem like that long.