Friday, April 28, 2006

Movie star Andy Garcia's controversial new movie The Lost City has been banned in parts of South America because it depicts romantic revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in a terrible light. The Ocean's Twelve star spent years trying to get the project made, only for film festival bosses and cinema chains to shun the movie because it tells the truth about the Marxist guerilla leader and the Cubans slayed as he fought to revolutionize the country and hand Fidel Castro leadership.

Garcia, who wrote, directed and stars in the film, says, "There have been festivals that wouldn't show it. That will continue to happen from people who don't want to see the image of Che be tarnished and from people who support the Castro regime. He still has a lot of supporters out there. Some people think Castro is a savior, that he looks out for the kids and the poor. It's a bunch of hogwash.

In the 45 years since Castro came to power, Cuba has been in the top three countries for human rights abuses for 43 of those years. People turn a blind eye to his atrocities."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


A Senate committee Wednesday announced an investigation into taxes paid by major oil companies and asked the Internal Revenue Service for the companies' tax returns.

The Senate Finance Committee promised "a comprehensive review of the federal taxes paid" by the oil companies on their record profits last year.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee's chairman, said the panel was concerned about high profits and executive compensation at oil companies.

"I want to make sure the oil companies aren't taking a speed pass by the tax man," said Grassley in a statement.

With gasoline prices soaring and oil companies announcing record profits, "it's relevant to know what the real financial picture is for this industry," Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said.

I'm no fan of the IRS, but the point of having that agency is to de-politicize the tax collecting process. If we let Senators get into the business of overseeing individual or corporate tax records then we're but a step away from politicians using the power of government and tax laws to target their political opponents.

It's laughable hearing about excess profits. Oil companies have to be successful in order to continue to provide oil, something we all need. The more money they make, the more successful they are. The idea that they only need to be successful enough to deliver the oil without offending us too much is downright nonsense. Oil price is a component of supply and demand. The U.S. government has through its policies limited the supply of gasoline through environmental legislation and we're all paying the price at the pumps for that alone.

If we must dig into the records, I'd like to see a clear breakdown of how many gallons of gasoline Exxon sold last year and how much money they made on each gallon versus how much local, state and federal governments made on each gallon. Here in Orlando the total tax bill for a gallon of gas is over 39 cents. If Senators are going to blame someone for the high price of gasoline, it would only be fair to breakdown the government's own culpability.

An economist should have no trouble figuring out the real cost of gas if the supply were unfettered by legislation, the environment were not a factor and taxes on the end result were nil. That's the number we should be looking at and then deciding whether the government intrusion is worth the final price.

The Media looks at the price of gas, but not the overall cost of energy comparied to income.
But what's more interesting about these stories is what they don't tell you. For example, the Associated Press reports that "surveys indicate drivers won't be easing off on their mileage, using even more gas than a year ago." Now why is that? If prices are rising, one would expect consumers would use less.

The answer might be in some of the long-term trends that the short-term media lens is too cramped to see. Energy prices may be rising, but energy itself is much less important to consumers and to the overall economy than it once was.

According to the Bureau of Economic Affairs ( see chart here), American consumer spending on energy as a fraction of total personal consumption has declined considerably since 1980. Whereas 25 years ago, one in every ten consumer dollars was spent on energy, today it's one in every 16. In other words, what it takes to heat and cool our homes and drive to and from our jobs and vacation destinations is relatively less costly than it was then.

The same media scenerio plays out with cancer. We keep hearing about rising cancer rates and theories that everything causes cancer. Meanwhile, American longevity has increased so much in the last century that Social Security is bankrupting us.

Monday, April 24, 2006

GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK (2005) (A Movie Review)

Making my way through the list of 2005 award winners brought the acclaimed George Clooney offering. Clooney decided to shoot the film in that period black and white to resemble the way we may have seen clips of Edward R. Murrow on TV.

The point of the movie is to drive home for the umpteenth time that Joe McCarthy was a louse and he nearly ruined America. Thankfully, Clooney assumes we already know this about McCarthy so here we simply see Murrow take issue with wild and unsubstantiated statements made by McCarthy. It was a hell of an idea that Murrow had, really. I suppose Clooney was dismayed that John Kerry’s many misstatements about his war record weren’t fully covered during the 2004 campaign and he wanted to remind the press that they have duty to uncover the real record. When McCarthy claimed that 200 people in the state department were agents of the Soviet Union, I kept thinking about John Kerry claim that he was on an illegal mission to Cambodia sanctioned by the Nixon Administration during the Christmas of 1968. It was seered in his memory, was it not? Where was Murrow to ask Kerry why President-elect Nixon wielded such power? Good job, Clooney, you made your point well.

My favorite part of the film were the nuances that captured the flavor of 1950s culture and corporate life. That Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. must pretend not to be married in order to retain their CBS jobs provides a few laughs. The smoking commercials add nice flavor as well.

The shame of Joe McCarthy is that he has become the goat that the Left uses to stain the entire anti-communist era in America. It’s the equivalent of summing up the whole Civil Rights struggle based on Jesse Jackson’s race-pimping and corporate shakedowns. Every big cause has its opportunists and that the Left continues to return to McCarthy would suggest that he was the last powerful man to try those tactics when they themselves have learned to use them oh so sweetly.

If Clooney must make a point about the red scare, I’d like to see him tackle the Chambers/Hiss case which was actually a much bigger deal back when the intelligencia pegged Hiss as an innocent man. That outrage has quietly faded since the release of the Venona Papers. Coincidently, the release of the Venona Papers showed that McCarthy's claim of numerous communists in the state Department was just about right although he never knew it.

What a shame that Clooney is mired in bugaboos when he is such a talented and engaging screen personality with a great eye for directing. Movies last forever while fashionable causes gently fade away. I, for one, am glad that Cary Grant didn't spend his time making a film about FDR's court packing scheme or his supposed foreknowledge of Pear Harbor.

PS: Dude's comment about using the real McCarthy made me realize another point. It's to Clooney's credit that he'd let the real McCarthy speak. Clooney's issues with that aspect of the cold war are honest enough that he doesn't need the Randy Quaid to play up all the caricatured aspects that the Left would have loved. The result was that we were able to decide how much of a menace he really was and the real McCarthy hardly seemed dangerous compared to the monster we always hear about. He seems about as opportunistic as any current guy on Capitol Hill.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Some of you may remember the story I told last summer about Sir Saunders testifying in the Logan Young case in Memphis. Young was the Alabama Football booster convicted of racketeering, also known as paying a poor kid to play at Bama. It looks like Young stayed out of jail and then. . .
The morning of April 11, a housekeeper arrived at 226 East Goodwyn St. for her typical Tuesday shift at (Logan) Young's home. She noticed blood throughout the house, and when she peeked into Young's bedroom a bit before 9 a.m., she found him dead on the floor. In a 911 call released last week, the housekeeper, identified only as "Amy," said Young had been beaten to death.

Memphis police arrived within minutes, but they could not study the scene or handle objects in the house until receiving permission from Young's family or obtaining a warrant. Memphis Police public information officer Sgt. Vince Higgins said that process took much of Tuesday morning. In the interim, he said, officers observed the scene and began to draw conclusions.

Hearing what they were saying, and seeing TV crews and newspaper reporters gathering outside the home, Higgins decided to make a statement. He described Young's death as "brutal" and said police would need dental and fingerprint records to identify the body, which appeared to be the victim of a homicide.

"That was a mistake," Higgins said this past Thursday. "We probably gave out too much information too soon, and it was obviously inaccurate."

After a two-day investigation, police and the local medical examiner's office ruled the death accidental, saying Young died from blunt force trauma after slipping on an interior staircase and bashing his head on an iron post at the bottom.

Higgins said investigators found no forensic evidence of a homicide, no signs of forced entry, robbery or a struggle existed, and only one set of bloody shoe prints was discovered.

Police surmised that Young stumbled from his kitchen to his bathroom to his bedroom in the next few hours, employing newspapers and towels to stop the bleeding. A source with knowledge of the investigation told the Sentinel that Young was taking blood thinners and diuretics to help heal from an October kidney transplant; the medicine would have made stopping the bleeding difficult.

That's the official story anyway. The article also says that people are dubious of the Memphis police's findings.

Friday, April 21, 2006

IMMIGRATION: A contrary Libertarian opinion

There are a lot of arguments to be made that unfettered illegal immigration is a tremedous strain on our culture which could eventually lead America away from the tenants of its founding and on to the cozy and then lukewarm bath of mediocrity. America moreso than any country invented its own culture and it can re-invent the culture to the tune of how many voters want to be trendy rather than savvy.

A lot of people come to this country not to be Americans, but to make more money. And there is something about their pursuit of this money that seems to be lost in the debate. As a Follower of libertarian thought, I have been surprised that a number of libertarians are perfectly happy with no borders at all. Traditional liberals have said that illegals are thriving in this country because they will work for less and they are therefore depressing wages. Libertarians make the case that it's only happening because the government has arificially created a minimum wage that doesn't take into consideration people's actual job skills. So they both agree on the lower wages, one thinks it is peachy, while the other thinks it's trecherous.

Minimum wage is typical populist nonsense masquerading as compassion, no doubt, but if we let Mexicans illegally do this work on the cheap we will depress wages enough that Congress will see poverty. Citizen taxpayers will have to make up the difference in government programs, first to the old workers that lost their jobs and then to the new illegals that have trouble living on the new wage. Children of illegals that pay no taxes are are freely attending public schools all over the country, for instance.

Businesses have been inching to the Left as they realize that corporate welfare is actually a pretty good substitute for profit-earning, because it's money you can collect without having to do that rough and tumble competition fight. Letting corporations hire illegals and then putting the effects back on the tax payer is hidden corporate welfare and that might be one the reasons that this fight has been so tepid. Democrats love welfare and Republicans love corporations.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


So it goes at the NY Times:


Published: April 13, 2006

Editors' Note

A front-page article in some copies on Sunday reported that a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney said he had been authorized to disclose to a reporter that one of the key judgments in a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium." The assertion about the aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., was based on a court filing last Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor overseeing the indictment of Mr. Libby in the C.I.A. leak case.
Yesterday, Mr. Fitzgerald filed a letter with the court correcting his original filing to say Mr. Libby had been authorized to disclose "some of the key judgments of the N.I.E., and that the N.I.E. stated that Iraq was vigorously trying to procure uranium." This revised account of his filing undercut a basis of the Times article — that Mr. Libby testified that he had been told to overstate the significance of the intelligence about uranium.

Although Mr. Fitzgerald formally filed his corrective yesterday, accounts of it were provided to some news organizations on Tuesday night, and were the basis for news articles yesterday. The Times did not publish one, as other organizations did, because a telephone message and an e-mail message about the court filing went unnoticed at the newspaper. An article on the filing appears today, on Page A17. (Go to Article)

It's that last paragraph that's hilarious. They missed the court filing and then buried on page 17 when they got around to it. Paper of record, ha.

Monday, April 10, 2006


If you ever needed proof that the media pushes a position rather than seeks to learn truth go no further than Bush's speech at John Hopkins University. After his speech the floor was opened to questions by students that were more interesting and thoughtful than anything you'd see from the pros. Instead of the usual going through the motions, Bush was suprised at the thoughtfullness of the queries.
My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions. Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?

Can you imagine the media even bringing up the subject without the saying "Haliburton."
--I also feel very strongly about freedom, although I see it in terms of human trafficking. Your administration takes a very strong stance against prostitution. Because of that you do not disperse funds to a lot of very effective NGOs around the world who pragmatically combat sex trafficking by working with existing prostitution networks. There's no evidence right now that proves either legalizing prostitution or criminalizing prostitution has any effect in the change of sex-trafficking cases. Have you considered changing your ideas about prostitution for the purposes of helping either save or keep people from being enslaved in sex prostitution?

--You haven't spoken directly about economic development this morning. And I would like to know where economic development lies on your priority list? And also, looking at countries that maybe haven't, in your words, gotten everything right in terms of political stability or democratization, is holding development funds -- keeping development funds from those countries actually counterproductive? Because if you can help the country to develop economically, maybe some of these underlying tensions might dissipate.

--I'm a first-year master's candidate. In two years, the American political system will face a unique moment in its history, for, in fact, a sitting Vice President will decline the nomination for the presidency. What are the implications for the Republican Party, your legacy, and, if you could choose, who would your successor be? Thank you

Thursday, April 06, 2006


We took the kids to see Ben Franklin at the public library yesterday. He is making the rounds for his 300th birthday. We took two biographies and THE WIT AND WISDOM OF BEN FRANKLIN for him to sign and he had the signature nailed. He drew a good crowd and the kids seemed to know a lot about him. I like to do stuff like that.