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."
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
If you have any experience or information that would help me choose between XM and Sirius satellite radio, please post Comments. You may assume that Howard Stern is not a factor in my decision. My listening preferences are generally conservative talk, ESPN radio, sports talk, blues, smooth jazz, NPR, and classic rock, in roughly that order.
I am on the road for 108 miles a day and I drive through stretches where radio and cell phone signals are poor. Will satellite reception be better? (Dude, I expect a full explanation of the physics.)
UPDATE: In addition to your feedback, I polled my office mates. Three love their XM and two love their Sirius. XM has MLB and is offering XM Radio Online free with purchase right now so I think I will go that way. Thanks for your help.
With all the talk about Haliburton and war profiteering, why does the "peace" profiteering get so little ink?
This report, which comes with a vast archive of supporting material, was embargoed until 10 p.m. Monday and contains the "smoking gun" evidence that Galloway, along with his wife and his chief business associate, were consistent profiteers from Saddam Hussein's regime and its criminal exploitation of the "Oil for Food" program. In particular:
1) Between 1999 and 2003, Galloway personally solicited and received eight oil "allocations" totaling 23 million barrels, which went either to him or to a politicized "charity" of his named the Mariam Appeal.
2) In connection with just one of these allocations, Galloway's wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received about $150,000 directly.
3) A minimum of $446,000 was directed to the Mariam Appeal, which campaigned against the very sanctions from which it was secretly benefiting.
4) Through the connections established by the Galloway and "Mariam" allocations, the Saddam Hussein regime was enabled to reap $1,642,000 in kickbacks or "surcharge" payments.
(For a highly readable explanation of how the Oil-for-Food racket actually worked, see the Adobe Acrobat file on the site http://www.hitchensweb.com/ prepared by my brilliant comrade Michael Weiss and distributed as a leaflet outside the debate in New York.)
It's much more profitable to do business with the mob chieftons than go to war with them. If war does come, you can attach yourself to the anti-war movment and be seen as an idealist although you're just a profiteering cynic.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
'Minuteman' effort moves northwest By John Ritter, USA TODAY
Tue Oct 25,11:08 AM ET
From a parked van, Ben Vaughn and Larry Loop, a couple of middle-aged Vietnam War veterans, peer across a 3-foot-wide drainage ditch - the U.S.-Canadian border.
Two-lane roads run on both sides of the ditch. No fences or barriers are there to keep someone from walking across the border. Houses line the Canadian side of the road, behind them forests and farmland. Vaughn and Loop, members of a volunteer "Minuteman" contingent like those that stirred controversy earlier this year in Arizona, hang out for several hours but see nothing out of the ordinary. It is a far cry from the desert of the U.S.-Mexican border, where undocumented immigrants try to sneak into America every day. That doesn't matter to these Minutemen. They say they're here to make a political statement about the vulnerability of the nation's borders. "If we can help keep some terrorists from coming across that would be great," says Vaughn, 58. "Even just slow them down." The Minuteman presence at nine "posts" along 26 miles of the 4,000-mile northern border's far western sector so far has been uneventful. Minutemen called in once to report a suspicious vehicle, but it turned out to be an unmarked Border Patrol SUV.
Human rights groups say the Minutemen foster immigrant bashing and racial profiling. The ACLU of Washington is monitoring their activities. The Bellingham City Council passed a resolution deploring border vigilantes and Whatcom County, where Lynden is located, is considering one.
This goes to show:
1). How Bush has completely abdicated the conservative agenda on immigration
2). Why Liberals can never be trusted with national security.
You would think the league would want to give the Astros their home field advantage to create a wild TV-friendly environment and to improve the chances of getting Houston back in the series.
The Astros were 36-17 at home when it was closed during the regular season, 15-11 when it was rolled back and 2-0 in games that began indoors and finished in fresh air.
During the regular season, the Astros pick their environment. But during the postseason, the commissioner's office makes that call.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, was to decide Tuesday, when the forecast called for clear skies with a temperature in the low 60s.
"If it's a nice day and no chance of precipitation and it's not overly hot and humid, yeah, we'll open the roof," Solomon said from his office in New York.
That didn't sit well with the Astros.
Monday, October 24, 2005
NEXT UP, ED SULLIVAN
Thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede have one album out, another on the way, a music video, and lots of fans.
Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.
April home-schools the girls, teaching them her own unique perspective on everything from current to historical events. In addition, April's father surrounds the family with symbols of his beliefs — specifically the Nazi swastika. It appears on his belt buckle, on the side of his pick-up truck and he's even registered it as his cattle brand with the Bureau of Livestock Identification.
"Because it's provocative," explains April of the cattle brand, "to him he thinks it's important as a symbol of freedom of speech that he can use it as his cattle brand."
Songs like "Sacrifice" — a tribute to Nazi Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy Fuhrer — clearly show the effect of the girls' upbringing. The lyrics praise Hess as a "man of peace who wouldn't give up."
Prussian Blue supporter Erich Gliebe, operator of one of the nation's most notorious hate music labels, Resistance Records, hopes younger performers like Lynx and Lamb will help expand the base of the White Nationalist cause.
One of Sugg's songs is a fantasy piece about a possible future racial war that goes: "Let the cities burn, let the streets run red, if you ain't white you'll be dead."
"I'd like to compare it to gangsta rap," explained Sugg, "where they glorify, you know, shooting n****** and pimping whores."
This reads like an Onion article, especially with Sugg showing how their lyrics are exactly like those of gangsta rappers. And the tribute to Rudolph Hess is priceless.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
WHO: Howie Mandel
WHAT: eating a burger
WHERE: Topz burger joint in Canoga Park
After the kids' soccer games, we headed for Topz, which we discovered last Saturday. They serve lean burgers on wheat buns with baked french fries, or if you prefer, a burger bowl, which is burger salad in lieu of that nasty bun. Last time I loved the burger, but this time I tried the chili. We were playing our 20Q game and having a grand time when I saw Howie claim the table next to ours. He was later joined by a woman who must have been his wife and an older woman who was surely the other woman's mother. He never cracked a smile the whole time he choked down his burger, so either he wasn't enjoying the company he kept or he found it rather routine.
I thought of the last time I saw him and the first time. The last time I saw Howie Mandel was on Celebrity Poker Showdown. He wasn't much of a player, but he was his usual entertaining self. He had recently outed himself as suffering from OCD and he brought a box of disposable latex gloves with him to the poker game. He was seated next to Meat Loaf, which is never good news to a germaphobe.
The first time I saw Howie was on St Elsewhere, which was one of the finest shows of the 1980s. There aren't many 60-minute dramas I watch anymore, but as a kid, I really enjoyed St Elsewhere and Quincy and Hart to Hart, not to mention the Love Boats and Fantasy Islands of Sunday night. Elsewhere had just enough edge and just enough comedy to really hold my attention. I watched it with mom every Wednesday at 10PM. Howie was good without being the zany Howie from his standup act. Mark Harmon was there as the first prime time character to get the AIDS virus, and early Denzel Washington was there, along with the voice of Knight Riders' car and Norman Lloyd, who fell from the Statue of Liberty in a Hitchcock movie. And who could forget that classic finale in which the entire run was explained away as the daydreams of an autistic child. It was good to see Howie.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
After 9-11, my favorite blogger was probably Andrew Sullivan. He was a must-read everyday and there was hardly a more eloquent supporter for defeating terrorists. At some point in the war, Sullivan started to get on Bush's opposition to gay marriage (He's HIV positive) and it soon trumped everything else. Early last year Katherine Jean Lopez from THE CORNER asked why Andrew doesn't just come out and endorse Kerry and get it over with. He finally did so later in the summer. It was a complete turnaround for a guy who defended Bush so adamantly early on.
My favorite blogger these days is James Taranto. He too has noticed the change in Sullivan and offers an interesting analysis today.
One of the oddest, and saddest, stories on the World Wide Web over the past few years has been the transformation of Andrew Sullivan. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, he emerged as an eloquent supporter of America's war against Islamist terrorists; although we had disagreed with him about various domestic matters pre-9/11, we offered him "three cheers" in a Sept. 17, 2001, item. Perhaps he was a bit overenthusiastically militant at times, but that is a sin of which this column has probably not been totally innocent either.
Sometime in the past two years, though, Sullivan turned into a fervent supporter of the "rights" of terrorists. His blog now consists largely of post after post bewailing the "torture" and "abuse" of the enemy. There are some important issues here, but Sullivan ignores crucial distinctions, treating Guantanamo as if it were the same as Abu Ghraib, illegal combatants as if they were legitimate prisoners of war. He even went so far as to endorse Sen. Dick Durbin's outrageous comparison of American servicemen to Nazis.
From there, Taranto demonstrates Sullivan's distaste for the use of fake menstrual blood at GITMO and why Sullivan's own repulsion at it makes it such an effective tool. Taranto cites seven instances of Sullivan's outrage about it.
Note how when Sullivan (or most anyone else) writes about this, it's always "fake menstrual blood," never just "fake blood." Lots of people are squeamish about blood, but the suggestion here is that there is something sordid about menstruation.
This is nonsense. A woman's reproductive cycle is natural and normal. Girls realize this within hours of hitting puberty, but it takes longer for boys to figure out. To a preteen male, the news that women have periods is unsettling. But boys eventually become men, and most of them have intimate relationships with women, which helps to demystify the female reproductive system. To a mature man, menstruation is not a horror.
There are, however, exceptions--adult men who remain strangers to the female body. Among them are homosexual men who identify as gay at a young age and thus do not have heterosexual experiences. Also among them are single men from sexually repressed cultures, such as fundamentalist Islamic ones, in which contact between the sexes is rigidly policed. Many of America's enemy prisoners fall into the latter category. If the mere idea of "fake menstrual blood" discombobulates Andrew Sullivan so, it stands to reason that its actual employment might be an excellent way to break the enemy's resistance.
If you don't read Taranto, I would suggest you give it a go. I don't get to THE CORNER everyday or even INSTAPUNDIT, but a day that I don't read Taranto is a busy day indeed. Taranto combines a unique look at the world as in the Sullivan example and he makes me laugh at something nearly everyday.
1. James Taranto
2. The Corner
4. Power Line
5. The Dynamist
1. Thomas Sowell
2. Jay Nordlinger
3. Bob Novak
4. Mark Steyn
5. Walter Williams
(Of Course DRUDGE is a must every 2 hours, but I don't know how you categorize him.)
Friday, October 21, 2005
It's a lot easier to get there when every refresh, Back, comment, etc. adds a hit, but still, 10,000 is a big number. Congratulations J-Boys!
I heard Dick Morris on the radio yesterday being interviewed by local host, Pat Campbell. He was in town book signing to promote Hilary v Condi. That sounded interesting but I had no intention of fighting I-4 traffic at rush hour to get to the East Colonial Barnes and Noble by 7pm. As it turned out, Sean needed a ride to Winter Park to pick up his ailing car so I found myself not far from the book signing at a quarter to seven.
I arrived almost exactly at 7pm, and Morris had a giant tour bus outside with his name and a large picture of the book cover. New York Times Bestselling authors live a little like rock stars it turns out. When I entered a college-aged clerk had a stack of all the Morris books and she said that he would autograph any one of them. I wasn't much interested in the newest book. I already agree that Condi would be a great candidate if she would run. I picked up his Machiavelli book and thought about buying it, but then I decided on OFF WITH THEIR HEADS his 2003 book. I walked to the counter to purchase it and then changed my mind. I didn't need another book. I would listen to the talk and then go.
Morris was still swilling delectables inside the bus by 7:15 when Trish called with news that she had to work later than planned. As she was telling me about the intern that didn't finish the flyer he was supposed to make, Morris came riding up the escalator shorter than any man in the building, and paunchier than the sitdown FoxNews interviews would suggest. Trish kept talking and asked why I wasn't responding, not knowing that I was in a crowd of people and I didn't want to interrupt Dick who was only 15 to 20 feet away. He began apologizing for being late. The event was scheduled for 7pm but he told a radio audience 7:30 so he decided he would do two talks. I remember him saying 7 early that morning so he must have gotten confused on the drive home interview.
Dick Morris is uniquely interesting in these times as the man who worked for Clinton in the 1990s, but isn't a committed liberal. He spoke of the differences between Bill and Hilary and how people are angered that he's "against" the Clintons. He says it's not like he appreciates Jack and Bobby and doesn't like Ted. Bill and Hilary share no DNA. Morris slyly took credit for many Clinton accomplishments through the evening like Welfare Reform, earned income tax credit etc. But he also criticized Bill for not prosecuting the War on Terror in the 90s. He thinks Bill is a great engaging guy who went into politics because he likes adulation and the warmth of crowds. Hilary he says is nothing but a socialist that wants to re-distribute wealth.
His main message though was Condi will run for President if we say we want her to run. He quotes Churchill who says that some people are born great, others strive to greatness, and some have greatness thrust on them. He also cited the Eisenhower example of a person who didn't actively run for office and didn't even say whether he was a Republican or Democrat and he won the New Hampshire primary anyway. He joked that No means No on a date, but not in politics.
His talk was shortened and he said he was going to sign some books, give a longer talk at 7:30 and then sign some more. Enough of what he said was interesting and the line wasn't long so I decided to buy a book for signature. I was about six people away from the signing when he decided to halt autographs and talk some more. This put me standing on the left hand side during his talk and as his eyes scanned the crowd, he made eye contact with me frequently. I couldn't figure out if I was the right height or just listening intently enough that I made a good anchor on that side of the room.
His talk was much the same as the first but he was relaxed far more the second time. He was more gregarious and he told more jokes and had a disarming laugh that made us all join in on several occasions. In the second talk he went on about Condi more and how we should form local groups to try and draft her for president. He seems to be using the book tour to promote a grass roots effort. He also told us that a radio caller had called him a Judas for what he did to the Clintons. He said that he never kissed Clinton. He laughed and we joined him.
He said the indictment against Tom Delay by Ronnie Earl was nonsense. All politicians do what Delay did. But he also thinks that Delay should be prosecuted for his gerrymadering that's ruining democracy. According to Morris, there are now only 20 competitive districts in the House of Representatives due to Delay. He asked me to hold up my copy of OFF WITH THEIR HEADS as he said this earlier book would explain it better. He didn't mention that the current situation began when courts started gerrymandering districts to create black congressmen before the Republican takeover. That sucked out so many obvious voters that many Democrats had trouble keeping their once safe seats.
The best question came from a leftwing woman who said that she thought the war was immoral when children didn't have health insurance and the environment was so terrible. Another woman wanted to answer the woman and she started to say that her son just returned from Iraq and didn't agree, but Morris said that he would answer the question because it was his book signing.
He began by telling her that she had a lot of courage asking that question in this crowd and that he would personally ensure her security which brought a big laugh from the crowd. He explained that Saddam Hussein as far as genocidal maniacs was on of the worst in history and the war saved lives a freed an enslaved nation. There were no weapons of mass destruction, but everyone thought there were weapons. He said that Bill Clinton told him back in the 90s that Saddam had these weapons.
As far as health insurance, he and Clinton found $10 billion to ensure every kid in America and much of the money was sent back because states didn't need it all. He and Clinton also setup the earned income child credit so that every family would get enough money back to rise to over the poverty level. He was angry that John Edwards was proposing this in the last campaign when it's been law since the 1990s. Now on the environment he told the poor woman that Bush has been horrible and began to explain to us that global warming is making hurricanes worse and Bush won't address it. He said that if it weren't for the war he would oppose Bush because of his record here. It got to the heart of Morris' view on politics. In his world, every human crisis can be addressed through the political process. That the Earth is getting hotter and it has no human cause, doesn't mean that we cannot cool that darn thing down with enough legislation.
When he finished, the line began again and I got closer to having my OFF WITH THEIR HEADS inscribed. The gentleman two up handed Dick a large piece of paper currency and it seemed to surprise him. The guy wanted him to take the money for the draft Condi effort Morris had proposed. Dick explained that he could help by buying the book or he should take that money and form a club on his own. The guy left confused, I think. The girl in front of me told Dick that she was a socialist. I suppose she wanted a reaction considering that Dick had called Hilary one earlier. Instead, he said that she was about to get a Senator. Bernie Sanders of Vermont would no doubt be replacing Jim Jeffords.
When I got to the table he shook my hand and asked if I had been in the military, my hair being too long to be a current member. I guess I have that sort of look. I said no, but my dad was in the Army and I was born on a military base. He said that my dad had done a great thing. I guess it was a line he was dying to use on me before I let him down. I said that I enjoyed seeing him on FoxNews. His opinions were original and insightful. He thanked me and I asked what political books influenced him. He told me that if I wanted to run for office I should read his Machiavelli book. I said that I had seen it downstairs but I was interested in what books were an influence to him from a analytical perspective. He said that no book influenced him, it was his own experience in politics that taught him what he knows.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, JUST NOT TODAY
There's a great old joke that used to be told in the church where I grew up. A preacher began to "get the spirit" one Sunday morning. "Who here loves the lord?" he said to the packed church. "Amen, brother, we do!" shouted the congregation. "Who wants to go to heaven?" "We do, brother, amen!" shouted the congregation. "And who'd like to go today?" Silence....
I certainly have no doubt of my eternal rewards; nevertheless, I'd like to make my life here and now also as pleasurable and healthy as possible. In that light, paly Tom keeps posting comments about diets. Based on my many years of eating and reading, this passage from pal, Andrew Weil, MD is keen to the issue at hand:
The aging process is a natural part of life, and growing old is not something to deny, avoid or be afraid of. However, taking some simple steps now - no matter what your age - can help to make the physical and mental changes that accompany aging easier to handle. Regular exercise is an important step in the right direction, and one that can help lessen the risk of disease, promote quality sleep and increase energy. Daily physical activity completes an optimum approach to aging well, along with a sound diet, activities that stimulate your mind and maintaining social connections. Make sure that whatever type of exercise (or exercises) you decide to engage in, your body receives a workout for the heart, as well as for bones and muscles. Walking, strength training, yoga and T'ai Chi are some good choices...As we age, our memory may fade and we can become more forgetful. Help keep your mental capacity healthy. Remember that Ginkgo biloba and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid which helps support a healthy nervous system, was shown to help maintain memory. Ginkgo increases circulation to both the brain and extremities, and helps maintain healthy circulation throughout the body.
In other news, regular exercise helps with brain plasticity (the brains ability to recover from illness and change/adapt to novel situations). Most recent studies continue to support a "use it or lose it" kind of philosophy. The more you read, write, challenge your mind with new and novel stimuli, the more likely you are to remain sharp during your lifetime.
As for immortality, I feel as Kevin did during our previous discussion after my book review. I don't think true immortality is ever possible in a material form (at least not in the current understanding of how the universe works). However, living even another 50 years or 100 years would be wonderful. If anything, simply to satisfy my curiosity. I want to visit the first moonbase. Additionally, I'd enjoy making love to my wife in zero gravity.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
Boy did I pick the wrong Sunday for my first visit to Heinz Field as the Steelers fell in OT to the Jags. With Big Ben and Hines Ward sidelined, what a miserable offensive performance. 1 for 12 on third down conversions. Tommy Maddox 11 for 28 with 3 picks and a fumble prior to what could have been a game winning FG in OT. Rushing game 30 carries for 74 yards. 31.7 yards per punt. A missed field goal. I don't think Tommy Maddox is going to get another start in Pittsburgh for a long long time. He was bad from start to finish and I have no idea why he didn't get yanked. A Steelers punt return for a TD and a bunch of pass interference calls on Jax made the final score respectable, but what a horrible display.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
How many times do we have to hear how the human element of umpires is better than the technology that gets it right? The Umps blew game 2 in Chicago and today miss the Catcher's interference that would have resulted in a bases loaded with 1 out situation instead of the inning ending double play. I don't really care who wins this series but I'm feeling pretty bad for Mike Scoscia.
In a long season, the bad calls probably even out, but in the playoffs, every bad call is magnified by a factor of 162/7. They put umpires in the outfield, why can't they put one in the press box and give him the ability to over rule critical calls?
And what's with the romance of every umpire having their own strike zone? Remember when Maddux and Glavine had a different strike zone than everyone else?
We have wild cards, interleague play, steroids, domes, night games in Wrigley, 2 divisions, 3 divisions, free agency, and yet the superstition of the wonderful human element lives on. Or maybe it's just the Umpires Union.
UPDATE: ESPN re-ran a story of Don Deckinger, the umpire famous for blowing a call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Seriee that cost St. Louis the title. They showed and read the nasty email some of which threatened his life. They had sad music and Don had a long face and his poor wife spoke about the incident. I certainly didn't come away from that story thinking that the "human element" in umpiring is all that rewarding as a sports fan.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
I've been hearing the same disturbing news now for the past several months. Nearly daily a news item goes out from somewhere around the world. Here's todays:
Next human pandemic "inevitable," says U.S. scientist...The next human pandemic is "inevitable" and the world must prepare now against bird flu and other potentially deadly viruses, a top U.S. government scientist said on Saturday. "It's been over 30 years since we've had a pandemic, so inevitably we are going to have a pandemic within a reasonable period of time," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
What is this all about? Was the X-Files correct? Is the government preparing us for an alien virus? Is it Chicken Little Syndrome? Or is this just liberal/press scare tactics; attempting to find news on a slow news cycle?
Friday, October 14, 2005
There is very little evidence that Harriet Miers is a judicial conservative, and there are some warnings that she is not. Miers is said rarely to have raised her voice in the Bush administration’s internal policy debates, but it is known that she was a strong defender of racial preferences when they were being challenged before the Supreme Court. In the end, her influence helped sway the Bush administration to file a brief defending those preferences, which, in turn, helped sway the Court to uphold them.
Miers’s own career as a lawyer shows a strong tendency to identify with local elites and establishments, to go along with prevailing ideas, and to avoid doing anything that might cause unpleasantness or rock the boat. These are useful personality traits, but they are not the traits of a Scalia or a Thomas — the kind of justice this president led conservatives to expect.
“The president trusts her,” is not a good enough argument. The president has trusted a lot of people, some of whom have worked out fine, others less so. To which category will Harriet Miers belong? It is possible that the confirmation hearings will shed light on that question. But we doubt it, given the ease with which nominees can sidestep searching questions.
What, then, should be done? Some conservatives have called on the president to withdraw her nomination, and a few have urged senators to vote against her. If the president withdrew the nomination, we believe that he would seek a replacement who could unite conservatives — as he no doubt expected Miers to unite them. But that nominee would be tarnished, perhaps fatally, by the suspicion that the president was forced to pander to the Right. The president, moreover, surely does not want to risk looking less than strong and steadfast. The prudent course is for Miers to withdraw her own nomination in the interests of the president she loyally serves. The president could then start over. Both he and his party would probably benefit from having the clear fight over the direction of the courts that only a new nominee would allow. But for that to happen, some conservative senators are going to have to send a diplomatic message to the White House.
And conservatives and the White House will have to restore their working relationship. Some hard and ill-considered words have been said on both sides, but it is time for all involved to follow their interests, instead of their resentments.
David Brooks said last night that the conservative movement is an intellectual one usually in opposition to the Republicans, but that argument has mostly been silenced the last ten years. The Miers nomination reopened the traditional schism.
Krauthammer said that the committee will have problems showing how ill equipped this lady is to handle the job, because if they ask her the kinds of tough questions the average person doesn't know, the average person will be insulted and feel that Miers is being badgered.
Stamper says give me Luttig though he'd happily accept Janice Rogers Brown.
I love Ray Kurzweil ever since his wonderful tome, "The Age of Spiritual Machines." He is among an elite group which constitutes my favorite edition of philosopher/scientist, the "Futurist." I love to imagine what life will be like in the far future, but also am filled with curiosity as to what will happen in the near future. In this, his latest book, Kurzweil states that we are embarking upon a new revolution in medical science. His book is quite exhaustive and does a good job of distilling much of the latest research into three basic pillars or "bridges" as he calls them.
1. We are now in the process of understanding what supplements are necessary for life extention and what we must eat (how we must eat) in order to live longer.
This is where we are now and I'll not bore you with these particulars.
2. We are about to cross a bridge of wildly new Bio-technology. This will meld genetics with medicine. For decades Doctors understood that certain medicines worked better on some and less well on others. They are now beginning to understand that minor variations in body chemistry (which is largely dictated by our genes) is to blame for this phenomena. Kurzweil states that within 10-15 years, you will have your personal genome sequenced. This will be fed into a computer. When a diagnosis is made, a tailor-made medicine for that particular ailment will be manufactured on-sight (or at your local pharmacy). This will allow for more efficient medicines. Secondly, because of the advances in gene-sequencing, the first truly broad spectrum anti-viral medication will be developed. He states that it took us over 12 years to sequence the genome of the HIV virus, while it took only 30 days to sequence SARS virus (which is why he claims it was contained and a vaccine developed so quickly). Additionally, stem cells will be tailored to your own bodily ailments. For example, say you have a heart condition, you'll take several stem cell injections designed to turn into heart cells over a years time. Over that time, the stem cells will replace your damaged heart cells. Soon, your heart will be that of a 20 year old, even if you have a 80 year old body.
3. The last bridge he talks about is Nano-technology, which is every sci-fi fans dream. He states that nano-tech will arrive fully within 20-30 years. Imagine microscopic machines able to rebuild your cells from the inside out or detect cancer before it can spread. Nano-tech will enable you body to regenerate constantly, daily. It will enable you to regenerate severed limbs within minutes after an accident. What if your brain is damaged? Since you will "upload" your memory patterns into a computer daily for safe keeping, the nano-tech can access the back-up of your memories and download them into your newly repaired brain. Very wild.
My one question is of a psychological nature. If we live forever, will it inhibit growth in ourselves or others? I can see a profound change in my Father (for the better) since his dad died in '99. My Father has grown up, taken on responsibility, increased his self-worth, and seemed to find new meaning in his life. When his Dad was there holding the reigns (and purse strings) he had no reason to move out of a delayed adolescence he had been trapped in for decades. If we live forever, will we just be caught in the same complexes and same emotional triangles forever? Of will an entire new age of psychological/emotional complexity be born?
Back in the early 90's when I lived in Chicago, the Honorable Richard M. Daley decided to help the plight of the poor by tearing down public housing. He came up with (probably not his idea but he took it as his own) the plan to "redistribute" the cities poor among the sub-burbs. The idea was that you took poor folks and moved them to middle and upper middle class neighborhoods. Then the city helped them buy a house and get a job. The suburbs hated the idea and the "black leadership" derided the idea as racist. Strangely enough it worked. Now those folks are graduating children from college today and the former crack houses of the public housing district are luxury, waterfront apartments.
Now we have this to happen...
Hurricane Katrina has swept away more than New Orleans buildings: Nearly four in 10 city residents who sought help from the Red Cross say they don't plan to move back, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds. (Related: Poll results)
What we have here is a major redistribution of a crime ridden cities population. I believe New Orleans will become a more peaceful, less crime ridden, better place to live now that it's poor have been redistributed. It will be very interesting to follow the fortunes of those who refuse to return. I will bet dollar for dollar that they will thrive and florish on their own. The liberals want them to move back because if they show that government help wasn't needed then it will prove that their big government programs are baloney.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Both games came down to calls in the 9th inning. The Angels were totally ripped off on a third strike call. It should have been extra innings. If the Angels lose this series, they'll never forget that call. This was the second down to the wire game for these teams. It's turning out to be a great series.
Even the Astros were impacted bythe umps. With men on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out trailing 5-2, Brad Ausmus was facing Jason Isringhausen 2-0 and Izzy located the next two pitches down in prarie dog territory and the home plate ump considered them both strikes. I've seen low strikes but this was crazy. Ausmus wound up with a meaningless SF rather than the walk he deserved. It could have easily been bases loaded with one out and then who knows?
The best umps work the playoffs? Maybe we should give the best umps some time off in late September to refresh. They need it.
The White House is saying that they nominated Miers because other candidates refused the nomination. Priscilla Owen is saying that she wasn't asked. Bush is also pumping up the fact that Miers is religious.
President Bush said Wednesday his advisers were telling conservatives about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' religious beliefs because they are interested in her background and "part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."
"People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers," Bush told reporters at the White House. "They want to know Harriet Miers' background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion."
I know I've been the Junto Boys crank lately with my Miers concerns and baseball opinions, but the more the White House talks about Miers the more I wish we could get another nominee.
The religious thing is supposed to be some sort of code word that she's pro-life. Other sources have said as much in the last week or so. I don't want a pro-life justice, I want a justice that overturns Roe v. Wade because it's a bad law. Roe has not only changed national politics, but it has given the court carte blanche to find whatever it likes in the constitution to the point where they totally ignore what the consititution actually says in cases like Kelo.
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
If the government could take private property to turn over to other private entities, the framers could have said "public and/or private use." To pretend it does anyway is the kind of abuse that has resulted from decisions like ROE v. WADE and other mysterious "constitutional rights."
I've read other things that suggest that she is a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. I'd much rather have it the other way. O'Connor was disappointing in cases like the University of Michigan affirmative action decision, but the White House was no better. They totally ducked the issue and Harriet Miers was probably a part of that debacle. O'Connor was on the right side of the Kelo decision, though, and I'd like to hear Miers weigh in on that one. Abortion may be grizzley, but the effects are hardest on those who choose it personally. Affirmative Action not only hurts qualified people that are passed over, it hurts the people it aims to help by putting them in situations where they're not equipped to compete with their contemporaries.
Miers herself is an affirmative action nominee because Bush wanted another female on the court. It's a shame that we give Martin Luther King a holiday and play his speech every year about judging a person's insides and then turn around and promote people based on some characteristic of their biology. And yet still he could have chosen Priscilla Owen if he absolutely needed a woman and she could have held her own. Miers seems to be a reliable vote on ROE, which the court is still a vote short on, and she'll otherwise be struggling like those quota students at the University of Michigan when it comes to writing opinions.
Two things made Bush a must in the last election. Kerry would have folded up the WAR ON TERROR tent, and he would have nominated justices that would have further eroded the meaning of the constitutional document. This open seat was an opportunity to replace O'Connor with someone that loves the Constitution more than their own inclinations.
After stumping in 2000 that campaign finance reform was unconsitutional, he refused to veto it as President, saying that the court would do so for him. So why didn't he nominate a justice with a real record on Freedom of Speech issues to see it through? Put that down with the question of why he thought we needed to expand medicare, expand the department of education, promote the searching Granny instead of Abdul and generally disappoint us with his domestic policy.
The ALCS game last night was actually pretty good. The Angels prove themselves to be scrappy again. Maybe that series will go seven.
Danny Sherridan has the Cardinals as 8-5 favorites over the Astros in the NLCS. That's a good price to bet on Houston. Not only has a wild card team won the World Series the last two years, but Tony LaRussa is due his usual fall. Just like Bobby Cox, LaRussa always seems to find a way to lose in the playoffs. Remember the A's in the late 1980s? They lost to the Dodgers in five games in 1988, and were swept by the Reds in 1990. They did win in 1989, but would it have happened without the earthquake that allowed LaRussa to throw Dave Stewart and Bob Welch twice? LaRussa was swept last year by Boston after almost losing to Houston in their seven game series. Houston has three solid pitchers and a lineup that gets the big hit. Houston played like a team of destiny on Sunday while St. Louis was babysitting the Triple A Padres. I would bet the Astros if it were even money. 8-5 is a big gift.
The artist "questioned the purpose of public monuments and their meaning in contemporary society." Talk about biting the hand that feeds.
Is this a fitting tribute to one of Victoria's greatest historical figures? Either they care about honoring La Trobe or they don't, but is it necessary to dishonor him so the artist can call attention to himself instead? If you don't want to spend tax money on a statue, then don't, but spending tax money to stand your great man on his head? Surely there is another way to advance the public debate. If the point was "no more spending on public monuments," why not enact the freeze before this one?
I'm with Yoda -- either "do or not do," but not "do upside down."
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Rodriguez, whose fielding error led to the tying run for the Angels in their Game 2 victory, certainly didn't leave much of an impression with his bat.
He was hitless in Monday night's 5-3 loss that sent the Yankees home for the year, and finished the five-game series with no RBI and a .133 batting average.
He felt he let his teammates down.
"I played great baseball all year, and I played like a dog the last five days. I can't put it into words. This is as low as it gets. I felt good, I saw the ball well," Rodriguez said. "If I would have contributed some, maybe we would be moving on to Chicago.
"I've got to take a long look in the mirror because I didn't do my part. I mean, you win and lose as a team, but I didn't show up."
He wasn't the only one.
Gary Sheffield, quiet most of the series, had three hits in Game 5, but all singles. He didn't have an extra-base hit in the series and drove in only two runs.
Hideki Matsui had a similar five games.
In the Yankees' final at-bat of 2005, Matsui grounded out with two on. Rodriguez had already grounded into a double play earlier in the inning.
Of 11 runners the Yankees left on base, Matsui stranded eight. He was 4-for-20 in the series and had only one RBI, on a home run.
More evidence of my minority opinion that you cannot buy championships. The Yankees use to have clutch hitters and scrappy players that came through in big games. Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill along with Bernie, Jeter and Posada use to come through in tight situations.
The Yankees either traded for those players or developed them. Of that group, only Jeter is a Hall-of Famer, but they're all more dedicated players than the bunch New York has now. Sheffield, Rodriguez and Matsui played like a bunch of Hessians. Giambi did slightly better this year but he's been a bust for the most part since his signing.
Instead of paying big money for Brown, Pavano, Johnson and Wright, the Yankees would have been better keeping Pettite and Clemens and maybe even gulp. . . David Wells.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Another heavweight against.
For half a century, liberals have corrupted the courts by turning them into an instrument of radical social change on questions -- school prayer, abortion, busing, the death penalty -- that properly belong to the elected branches of government. Conservatives have opposed this arrogation of the legislative role and called for restoration of the purely interpretive role of the court. To nominate someone whose adult life reveals no record of even participation in debates about constitutional interpretation is an insult to the institution and to that vision of the institution.
There are 1,084,504 lawyers in the United States. What distinguishes Harriet Miers from any of them, other than her connection with the president? To have selected her, when conservative jurisprudence has J. Harvie Wilkinson, Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell and at least a dozen others on a bench deeper than that of the New York Yankees, is scandalous.
What's great about this process is that conservatives like Krauthammer aren’t arguing her beliefs but her qualifications. You'd never hear a debate like this on the Left. As long as a nominee supports convenience store abortions they’re in. The Left is missing a big chance to criticize a Bush nominee here, because they'd rather have a lightweight than Luttig.
I missed his speech but read the transcript. Better late than never, Bush explains we're answering the call of history by:
1. Preventing attacks before they occur through the intelligence agencies.
2. Denying weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and to their terrorist allies.
3. Denying radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. (Syria and Iran again put on notice here, to applause. Not a good day for them.)
4. Denying the militants control of any nation. To those who would cut and run, a question: Would the U.S. be more safe or less safe with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq and its resources?
5. Denying the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. This is a difficult and long-term project with no alternative. Freedom there means freedom here.
Bush reminds us that this war must be won, which will require long-term sacrifice and commitment. The upshot is that candidates in 2006 and 2008 will be required to take sides on the most important policy issue of our day. I expect we will hear much of this speech again in the January 2006 State of the Union Address.
UPDATE: Cardboard cutouts of three Democrat leaders appeared with the following speech bubbles attached.
"The president went into Iraq under a false premise, without a plan, and has totally mismanaged our involvement," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Now he is trying to justify his actions with a series of excuses." Still not sure what her strategy would have been, despite two and a half years to come up with something.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Bush "continues to invent a false link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of Sept. 11." Putting aside that you can't "continue" to "invent" something, I don't see anything in Bush's remarks that links the war in Iraq to September 11 specifically. The speech places both the war in Iraq and September 11 in the larger context of terrorists' ambitions of regional subjugation. Still not sure what his strategy would have been, despite two and a half years and an urgent mandate to come up with something.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Bush "has offered America a false choice, between resolve and retreat." He did offer that choice. For it to be a false choice, there must be some middle option. What is it?
UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson makes the point.
Yes, America is divided about Left/Right politics and over occasional antiwar street theater. But on the major issue of the war on terror and Iraq, most critics have very few ideas of doing anything other than what we are doing right now. The result is a strange consensus that few speak about — but fewer still wish to undo.
I recently enjoyed CATCH ME IF YOU CAN starring Tom and Leonardo. Yesterday my firm presented a seminar at the Four Seasons Philadelphia. In the meeting room next door, Frank Abagnale gave a luncheon discussion to representatives of the financial services industry on identity theft. I was engaged in my own event and did not get to see, hear, or meet Mr. Abagnale, but from the promotional placards and the materials on the registration desk, I gathered he was pitching a software product. I love this country.
In other news, I found out one of my colleagues here knows Harriet Miers. Any questions you'd like me to ask him?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Daly Thoughts, speaking as an engineer, does a nice job giving voice to the disgruntled conservatives re Miers. (Oct 4 post, "Anger, Explained.")
This is one reason that there is the system of checks and balances in place, with Senate confirmation. Confirmation makes it so there is not the potential for a single point of failure. The President’s judgement is one potential failure point. Perhaps a President did give way to the temptation for cronyism. Perhaps a President was acting in good faith but was in error in having confidence in a nominee. If the Senate is doing its job of advise and consent properly, the confirmation process should protect against those situations; it would take both a failure (of intent or of judgement) by the President and a failure (of intent or judgement) of the Senate for an unqualified, incapable Justice to be seated. However, if the Senate is deferring to the President for that judgement, then we are back to a single point of failure.
The Supreme Court is too important for a single point of failure. I have no problem with the President’s familiarity and confidence in Ms. Miers playing into his decision to nominate her, but the Senate should act with no deference towards that familiarity and confidence. If Senators have that confidence on their own, independently, then that is also fine. There still would not be a single failure point. So if I have “no problem with the President’s familiarity and confidence in Ms. Miers playing into his decision to nominate her,” why am I troubled by her nomination?
Because if the only reason for the nomination is that confidence, then we are already downstream of one of the two failure points. If the President is not acting in good faith (which I do not believe– I think he does believe Ms. Miers will be a fine Justice) or if the President has erred in his own evaluation (which I do not know) then we are one step away– a single failure point– from a big mistake. It goes against my engineering background to be comfortable when a system designed with defense in depth is testing the bounds of a single failure point before a complete system breakdown. And I am not convinced that the Senate will act as a second check.
Would Ms. Miers be a serious contender for the position in absence of her personal experience with the President? I am skeptical, yet it is very possible that she will be supported by many, if not most, Senators out of deference to him. I take the Constitution too seriously to be happy with that.
And it is not just Republicans in the Senate who cause me to be skeptical over the Senate’s potential for acting as a good check here. It has been reported that Ms. Miers was among the names given to the President by Sen. Reid as acceptable by the Democrats. Perhaps, like the President, Sen. Reid and others have, through their own experiences with Ms. Miers, developed confidence in her that transcends her resume. If so, then that is fine to me. However, on this I am skeptical. I think it is significantly more likely that her name was presented due to political calculation. Again, I take the Constitution too seriously to be happy with that.
The second way this nomination irks me is relevant to me as a conservative. I have seen it argued that the right was itching for a fight over this nomination, and are disappointed that we did not get a nominee who would trigger such a fight. I come close to falling into this mold, although I would put it differently. I was not itching for a fight. I was, however, itching for a debate.
Are Justices such as Scalia and Thomas now considered unconfirmable? Are such Justices now considered out of the mainstream? To many on the left, the answer is an unequivocable “yes.” However, the President campaigned on nominating Justices in their mold, so why on earth should the left’s position be accepted in this regard? It angers me that the President is avoiding this debate. I can accept my side losing a debate. I have a much harder time with my side losing by default for fear of engaging in a debate. Are we at the point where the only conservative Justice that can be confirmed is a stealth conservative? Prove it to me. If we have such a debate, and the public rejects our views and abandons supporting us on the merits, then we do not deserve conservatives on the bench.
Something is very wrong with our approach if we feel we have to sneak someone through. And if we are acting like we are trying to sneak someone through, we should not be surprised if the public picks up on this and regards us with suspicion. We are who we are, we believe what we believe. Choose. That is the way it should be.
The third way in which the nomination grates on me is relevant to me as an amateur Republican strategist. A Supreme Court nomination is a political opportunity. It would be wrong to make a nomination purely on political calculations just as it would be wrong to make a nomination purely on personal confidences. However, there is nothing wrong with using political concerns as a differentiator between qualified potential nominees. And in this case, the political concerns work against the nominee. The nomination has divided the President’s supporters, rather than unifying and exciting them. The nomination has provided the Democrats with reasons for opposing, should they choose to do so, that will not come with a political cost. Should Senator Nelson (pick whichever of the two you like) decide to oppose Ms. Miers, he will be able to do so in a manner that is unlikely to hurt his re-election campaign. The Democrats have been working the cronyism meme against the President already, and this nomination provides, fairly or not, more ammunition for them. It is as if the President has gone out of his way to make things more difficult for his party’s candidates in the coming elections. Is it any suprise that Republicans, like me, are ticked about this?
Ten years from now, it is very possible that Justice Miers, should she attain confirmation, will have proven herself to be an exceptional Supreme Court judge, especially in the eyes of a conservative Republican such as me. Even if this does end up being the case, it will not change my views of this nomination. It sets a bad
precedent. It avoids a debate that should take place. And it hurt the party of my preference politically. No matter how it ends up, it was a bad nomination.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
But President Bush has put himself in the awkward position of asking his base to trust him at precisely the moment the base was expecting Bush to demonstrate their trust was well-founded in the first place.
The press will spend a lot of time wondering what the Democrats will do. But for now the more interesting question is, what will the Republicans do?
Miers may not be the intellectual giant the elites on both sides seem to want, but she managed a large law firm (an elected position, and no small feat), headed up the Texas ABA (elected, no small feat), and rose to White House Counsel (no small feat), so she is no slouch. It may be a pick from weakness, as they say, but one that achieves the dual objectives of shifting the judicial philosophy of the court without a bitter political fight, and I see the practical wisdom in that. Again I hand it to Bush for not doing what everyone says he must, should, and will do. Rove really is the master of conceiving and implementing simple, focused, top-level strategies with a minimum of systemic friction. That is really hard to do and he does it well. Remember, the top-level strategy is to shift the court from activist to originalist. Change the machinery and a change in output naturally follows. This nomination helps secure the important change in philosophy while avoiding the bitter fight over particular outcomes. The more I think about it, the more I think this was a really smart choice. Bush picked a reliable ally whom his opponents are on record supporting. Bush the dunce outsmarts the geniuses once again.
UPDATE from The American Thinker:
The right is starting to sound like the left - shrill and reactionary. Take
a tip from the master, George Bush - ignore them, it really tees them off. The
right is also being coopted by the left, as is revealed in the Miers situation,
into valuing words more than deeds - that's the root of their shallowness.
JULES DASSIN FILM FESTIVAL
+ NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) – Director Jules Dassin fled to England with the blacklist cold on his trail and he got to make this classic along the way. Richard Widmark is quite effective as the nightclub tout, petty crook, big dreamer hoping to make his fortune one way or the other. Gene Tierney is underutilized as his girlfriend. The rest of the cast is mostly British and therefore above average. There is nothing like the time period when men are chasing each other through alleys wearing suits, ties and hard sole shoes. The DVD features a comparison of the British and American versions which ran different lengths and had different musical scores. The DVD also has Jules Dassin explaining the circumstances of making the film saying that he didn’t know he was making a film noir and didn’t even know the term until years later when he was making films in France. Dassin comes off as gentle old man and his explanation of the blacklist leaves out the part where he was an actual communist.
+ RIFIFI (1955) – Jules Dassin hops over to France for this heist film that Dassin insists wasn’t influenced by THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. Jean Servais (So that old Cubs catcher was French) stars as Tony Stephanos a thief just released from jail and isn’t ready to return. But then some dame lets him down and he says what the hell, let’s try one more caper. Joined by 3 companions, Stephanos comes up with a brilliant plan to knock over a jeweler in the middle of night. Everything goes well, but. . . This is a well done film that moves so well you forget the subtitles and focus on action. The theft itself is intricate and mostly silent. Dassin plays one of the thieves and does an apt job of direction.
NEVER ON SUNDAY (1960) – Jules Dassin makes it as far as Greece this time just barely evading the blacklist cops. The title is reference to a Greek prostitute, Illia (Melina Mercouri) that only dates men she likes and never on Sunday. Now the Sunday ban isn’t to worship God or even Joseph Stalin, but a way for her to have a party and invite all of her “friends” without the work thing getting in the way. Mercouri is quite vivacious and sexy, though a little fun-house scary in the face, but despite that or maybe because of it she was nominated for an academy award. Dassin casts himself as an American named “Homer” because his father loved everything about the Greek culture. Dassin comes off as a sitcomy Everett Sloan without the range. He speaks in English while much of the cast speaks in their native Greek. Illia speaks according to who she is talking to. Homer is excited to learn that Illia loves Greek tragedy, but horrified that she sees her own happy ending in each play. Therefore, Homer decides to become her teacher to suppress the carnal and develop her mind. It’s a decent enough idea on the Pygmalion premise, but it has none of the flair of Dassin’s film noir work.
TOPKAPI (1964) – Dassin had four years and only made it as far as Turkey, but he has American financing this time what with Joe McCarthy dead and Lyndon Johnson creating the Great Society. Shamefully, Dassin was much better on the run. This is considered some sort of parody of Riffifi with another caper planned this time for comedic effect. I seem to remember Hoffman and Beatty trying a spoof that worked about as well as this one in the late 80s. Since it’s so chic to be blacklisted and many never got the opportunity, Dassin is able to assemble a great cast of vicarious protestors, Maxmillian Schell, Peter Ustinov, and Robert Morley in addition to Melina Mercouri who had the decency to marry Dassin two years later. Now I thought smoking took its toll on Gene Tierney and Lana Turner, but Mercouri in four short years looks like she’d be better cast in front of a crystal ball telling Tony Nelson and Jeannie their future. Here she plays the closest thing the movie has to a romantic lead.
NAME OF THE ROSE (1986) – Based on the Umberto Eco novel I wanted to read, but not before seeing the film. Sean Connery stars as the medieval sleuth monk William of Baskerville and Christian Slater his young novice. I suppose the Baskerville reference is supposed to make Connery a dark-age version of Sherlock Holmes. F Murray Abraham shows up in the last quarter as an inquisitor that’s tangled with Connery in the past. The mystery centers on Aristotle’s lost section of his Poetics dealing with Comedy that history knows as forgotten, but may just exist in this particular monastery. That plot alone would have been enough for a film, and therefore the Abraham character is more of a distraction because he becomes an added element rather than a solution to the mystery. I’m sure the novel was able to develop him a great deal, but here he seems extraneous.
PARIS, TEXAS (1983) Wim Wenders film written by Sam Shepherd about loss and redemption. Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell play brothers who’ve been apart since Stanton disappeared 4 years prior. The movie opens with Stanton found by a Texas doctor and Stockwell leaving L.A. to re-connect. Stockwell and his European wife (Aurore Clement) have been raising the son of Stanton and Natasja Kinski, who aptly plays southern rather than her natural European. It was the Ry Cooder score that brought my attention to the film and its accolades (It won the Palm d’Or), but at 2 ½ hours the first two hours seem to be a long prologue to the last 30 minutes which is quite compelling. Plenty of vistas of Texas early on that add to length. It makes a big deal about the tension between Stockwell and wife and the potential of losing their adopted son though it receives neither resolution nor comment by the end. The acting is good, but the unconventional non-Hollywood ending probably has as much to do with its praise as anything else.
BEYOND THE SEA (2004) – Very few straight-forward biopics these days. Much like Kevin Kline Cole Porter film, Da Lovely, Beyond the Sea stresses gimmick as much as life happenings. It’s nothing for Spacey to have conversation with the actor playing the younger version of himself. Spacey is interesting as Darin and Bosworth is appealing as Sandra Dee, but their relationship continues in the film past the historical fact which must have been a surprise to Darin’s next wife. It’s a movie that can be missed without any heartache.
SECRET HONOR (1984) – Phillip Baker Hall, the actor named like a dormitory stars as Dick Nixon in this one-character film. It was probably more poignant coming a decade after Watergate when recent history was still remembered. Hall is good, although he neither resembles nor sounds like Nixon. The script is a bit rambling as most one-character pieces are. Still it’s not an altogether bad 90 minutes. Robert Altman gets credit for trying to make films that others wouldn’t bother with.
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1939) – This is only one of two Rathbone as Sherlock movies actually set in Victorian Times. They made 11 or so other films set in the 1940s. I liked the movies as a kid and tried it again here, but have since found the superiority of the Jeremy Brett BBC TV series. Ida Lupino shows up as the ingénue before smoking gave her that harsh voice and look.
ZERO EFFECT (1998) Bill Pullman stars as bizarre private eye with sidekick Ben Stiller as his legman. It’s another off-beat choice that I should have skipped. I was hooked by the private eye angle although Pullman is usually annoying. Stiller isn’t all that funny. I can hardly even remember the point looking back at it.
HOOP DREAMS (1994) – New to DVD and my first viewing since the theatre more than 10 years ago. With all of the straight to the air reality programs this is interesting because they shot it 4 years of footage before editing began. The commentary track is worthwhile because they explain how the picture came to be and how the circumstances on the characters lives changed their original plans. It began as 30-minute idea they hoped to land on PBS and became a 3 hour film. The shame of this transfer is that is was shot on video and then blown up to 35mm for the big screen. Why didn’t they just release the actual video on the DVD. The 35mm transfer back to video doesn’t look like film, but a muddy transfer.
MEDIUM COOL (1969) – Robert Forrester stars as a film cameraman for one of the local Chicago news stations during the summer of 1968. The Robert Kennedy assassination is dealt with as is the eventual notorious Democrat Convention that happened that year in Chicago. Haskell Wexler shot scenes of his movie during actual Vietnam protests so we get to see real National Guardsmen club the occasional hippy. The movie is quirky like many 60s films. Wexler tends toward the documentary approach with handheld camera and talking heads early on before it becomes more like a regular movie. It has an ad-libbed feel throughout and not much happens so there really is no way to end it easily. He decided on the full circle approach by mimicking the opening scene.
MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT (1956) – I read the novel last year and though it seems a bit predictable, it was an influential book in the 1950s when men were struggling with self-doubt during the post-war period. Though there is a tendency to always say that the book is better, this is a faithful and strong adaptation of the material leaving in all the main characters and many of the minor ones. The only real difference is how the movie reveals information in a slightly different order and how the wife reacts to the husband’s confession. Gregory Peck plays former Army captain struggling with the Manhattan rat race. Jennifer Jones plays the wife that doesn’t understand what the war did to her husband. Though tame by today’s standards, the subject matter of this film must have been courageous in its time. It didn’t need to be 150 minutes, but I suppose the war didn’t need to be four years. Where's my bomb, Oppenheimer?
KING CREOLE (1958) – Elvis is in his pre-Army rebellious era here and it ranks with his best performances although the plot is a bit preposterous. Elvis is denied graduation from high school for being late on the last day of class. With his father out-of-work, it’s up to the future king to go and make a living and since he can sing a little, he might just become a New Orleans nightclub sensation. The cast is first rate. Walter Mathau plays the owner of a rival club and the feared crime boss of the city. The other club owner is played by Paul Stewart from Citizen Kane. He also gets to romance the Elvis sister. Dean Jagger plays the father in such a old movie gee shucks way that you can't believe he co-exists in the same universe as hip Elvis. Young Vic Morrow plays the street hood that leads Elvis astray. In a convoluted plot that makes little sense when you scratch your head later, Mathau tries to blackmail Elvis to going to work for him. Elvis also gets a love triangle, an element where he’s somewhat responsible for an attack on his father, and redemption in the most unbelievable fashion. Directed by Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, this is considered by some to be the best Elvis movie ever made. I tend to like the underrated Loving You or Jailhouse Rock better.
IN GOOD COMPANY (2005) - The reliably good Dennis Quaid is demoted at work after a corporate takeover. His new boss is the winning Topher Grace, a decent guy who struggles because he isn’t cutthroat enough for his ambition. Scarlett Johanssen, a better than average flavor of the year, plays Quaid’s daughter who winds up in a secret romance with Grace. That crazy Phillip Baker Hall has a small role as a potential client of Quaid’s. Despite the deus ex machina, it’s a level above the sort of thing we usually expect from this kind of material.
THE MISSING (2003) – I give Ron Howard the benefit of the doubt even when I don’t like the trailer or plot outline for a film. He usually brings something extra to the table, but even he cannot save this PC statement masquerading as a film. Cate Blanchett plays a frontier “medicine woman” with a couple of illegitimate kids and a horny ranch hand that she refuses to marry. Up comes her father Tommy Lee Jones with his usual scowl dressed like an Indian because you see he left the family years ago, broke the mother’s heart, and settled with the red man and his ways. A good thing that Jones returns because the older daughter is kidnapped by a pack of outlaws and Indians that intend to sell their catch south of the border into some sort of slavery prostitution. Of course, Blanchett doesn’t forgive Jones at all and tells him so much right before the kidnapping, so that she has to eat those words when it turns out that he is the only other man on the frontier that can track the scoundrels that did this. The movie begins with heavy doses of Blanchett’s anachronistic Murphy Brown style feminism, but after the kidnapping, that’s mostly relegated to memory so that we can learn the Indian ways which include some blarney about Blanchett losing her hairbrush on the hunt and the bad Indians finding it so that they can put a curse on her. The curse is a wicked one, giving her a horrendous fever, but she is luckily saved by Tommy Lee Jones and his talisman cure. As usual the movie comes down to one of those showdowns where the invincible villains are beaten by the short stack.
He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their prepresidential careers, and this president, particularly, is not disposed to such reflections.
Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers' nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers' name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists.
In addition, the president has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution. The forfeiture occurred March 27, 2002, when, in a private act betokening an uneasy conscience, he signed the McCain-Feingold law expanding government regulation of the timing, quantity and content of political speech. The day before the 2000 Iowa caucuses he was asked -- to insure a considered response from him, he had been told in advance he would be asked -- whether McCain-Feingold's core purposes are unconstitutional. He unhesitatingly said, ``I agree.'' Asked if he thought presidents have a duty, pursuant to their oath to defend the Constitution, to make an independent judgment about the constitutionality of bills and to veto those he thinks unconstitutional, he briskly said, ``I do.''
Under the rubric of ``diversity'' -- nowadays, the first refuge of intellectually disreputable impulses -- the president announced, surely without fathoming the implications, his belief in identity politics and its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation. Identity politics holds that one's essential attributes are genetic, biological, ethnic or chromosomal -- that one's nature and understanding are decisively shaped by race, ethnicity or gender. Categorical representation holds that the interests of a group can only be understood, empathized with and represented by a member of that group.
The crowning absurdity of the president's wallowing in such nonsense is the obvious assumption that the Supreme Court is, like a legislature, an institution of representation. This from a president who, introducing Miers, deplored judges who ``legislate from the bench.''
It might sound harsh, but I can't find anything to disagree with.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Bush said Tuesday that the possibility of an avian flu pandemic is among the reasons he wants Congress to give him the power to use the nation's military in law enforcement roles in the United States.
"I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world," he told reporters during a Rose Garden news conference.
Such an deadly event would raise difficult questions, such as how a quarantine might be enforced, he said.
"One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move," he said. "So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have."
People who catch the worst strain of avian flu can die of viral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, according to mayoclinic.com.
The disease has killed tens of millions of birds in Asia.
My worst fears of an imperial presidency are coming true. This is the single worst idea I've heard in years. Does anyone remember WACO or Ruby Ridge? What happens when we get a president distracted like Clinton by Oval Office antics? Man, where are the checks and balances when you need them?
We thought he was funny, but we were 8. Maybe we just thought it was funny that a grown man could be called Nipsey.
RIP to this blast from the past
The cancer done got him at last
This great game show author of verse
Has a date in the back of a hearse.
Just heard Tom DeLay tell Rush (paraphrasing) that the Texas D.A. is "a bully" who has indicted "13 or 15" political enemies and "everyone is afraid of him but I'm not afraid of him -- I see him for what he is." He said this indictment has unified the Republicans in Congress at a time when internal rifts were causing incohesion. He said the Republican majority in the House is set to introduce legislation that will decrease spending, decrease taxes, increase oil production through new refining capacity and new drilling, send ANWR to the Senate, increase border patrol, and enforce immigration laws -- all in the next eight weeks.
Those are the right issues. We shall see whether the Congressional majority can deliver and whether the Senate will cooperate.
On its face, the selection of Harriet Miers is a very curious choice. Hillary has been out there campaigning on the theme that Bush is carrying out an "unprecedented consolidation of power" that threatens everything that is good and decent about anything. And then Bush nominates his personal attorney from Texas for the Supreme Court. What's up with that?
Possible explanation #1. Bush knows her and trusts her and that should be enough.
That's well and good, but it sells out his base who wanted the fight. Conservatives wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity to apply the chokehold to a weakened opponent.
2. Bush didn't want a tough Senate fight he feared he might lose.
See above, plus he wouldn't have lost.
3. Bush believes he can count on a conservative evangelical Christian to generally do the right thing with the cases before her.
If she is truly Christian (accepting Christ as Savior, serving Him as Lord, and seeking His direction in matters large and small), truly evangelical, and truly conservative, I would generally agree. Some say part of Bush's agenda is to keep America safe for Christianity. Personally I think that's silly. Christianity does best under conditions of persecution and difficulty.
4. All Bush wants is what he has always said he wants -- a jurist who will try to rightly apply the Constitution according to its words and original intent, with due regard for valid legislative process and without regard for her own preferred outcomes.
I could suggest, as others are doing, a number of other alternative explanations, but I think this one nails it. With Bush the simplest answer is usually right. He confounds his enemies and friends alike by saying what he's going to do and then doing it, without a lot of pomp or commentary. That is not how it's supposed to work in Washington, and it riles up the Beltway crowd. Where's the intrigue? The nuance!
Still there is real risk here for the GOP. It is a basic rule of strategy that, for it to be effective, your side must know what your strategy is. Bush violates that rule at every turn. Invested conservatives are steamed, which threatens the tremendous grassroots effort that propelled him to re-election. A lot of conservatives are feeling today like Bush sold them out by not nominating a purebred conservative and forcing the issue, and strong feelings go beyond right and wrong.
Bush's agenda in simplest terms is to shift the balance of the high court from activist to originalist. My first reaction to the Miers announcement was disappointment, but when all is said and done, I will not be surprised if Bush has succeeded in implementing his agenda by focusing tightly on that narrow objective. The framers got it right, and if the high court can successfully return to the real intentions of the framers (not the redefinitions the court, media, and academia have foisted upon us in recent decades), we will see saner decisions that reflect a more traditionalist view and that restore the original spirit of America.
I hope once the Bill Kristols of the world calm down and take a step back, they will agree. It may not make for good TV and may not provide the kind of fodder the political columnists were hoping for, but how 'bout we just get the result we wanted without all the drama? That would be fine with me.
UPDATE: The American Thinker caught up to me today in this excellent article.
In part, I think these conservatives have unwittingly adopted the Democrats’ playbook, seeing bombast and ‘gotcha’ verbal games as the essence of political combat. Victory for them is seeing the enemy bloodied and humiliated. They mistake the momentary thrill of triumph in combat, however evanescent, for lasting victory where it counts: a Supreme Court comprised of Justices who will assemble majorities for decisions reflecting the original intent of the Founders.
You knew this was coming.
GADSDEN, Ala. -- Roy Moore, who became a hero to the religious right after being ousted as Alabama's chief justice for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, announced Monday that he is running for
governor in 2006.
Moore's candidacy could set up a showdown with Gov. Bob Riley, a fellow Republican, and turn the Ten Commandments dispute into a central campaign issue in this Bible Belt state.
Two Democrats, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and former Gov. Don Siegelman, are already running. The Republican and Democratic primaries are June 6.
Moore, 58, said that if elected, he has no plans to relocate the Ten Commandments monument from its new home at a church in Gadsden.
"But I'll tell you what I will do. I will defend the right of every citizen of this state -- including judges, coaches, teachers, city, county and state officials -- to acknowledge God as the sovereign source of law, liberty and government," he said.
In 2000, Alabama voters elected Moore as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and the next summer he had a 5,300-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building. A federal judge ordered Moore to remove it as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, but Moore refused.
His fellow justices had the monument moved to a storage site out of public view. And in November 2003, a state judicial court kicked Moore out of office for defying the
Moore took appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost at every level.
Since then, he has traveled the country, speaking to church and conservative groups and promoting his book about the controversy, "So Help Me God."
To those who have criticized him as a one-issue candidate, Moore said Monday that his main issue is summed up by his campaign theme: "Return Alabama to the people."
Moore signed a giant copy of his campaign platform that called for limiting legislators to three terms, barring lawmakers from holding two state jobs, ending annual tax reappraisals of property and imposing new penalties on businesses that employ illegal immigrants.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Here's a funny post from James Taranto:
Having It Both Ways
From an editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (intelligent as a post!):
Washington's Democratic senators split on the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the United States, with Patty Murray voting to confirm and Maria Cantwell to reject. Each of them was right.
All we can say is, we wish Murray had voted "no" and Cantwell had voted "yes." It would have been more interesting to read the P-I editorial explaining why they were both wrong.