Thursday, March 30, 2006


Peggy Noonan weighs in on the real problem of immigration. Unfortunately she does not offer a solution, and maybe there isn't one.

It's the broad public knowledge, or intuition, in America, that we are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all.

We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways--in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.

We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.

So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good. But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold--they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship.

Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

The genius cluster--Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest--that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen?

We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?

Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.

Do we teach our immigrants that this is what they're joining? That this is the tradition they will now continue, and uphold? Do we, today, act as if this is such a special place? No we don't. American exceptionalism is so yesterday. We don't want to be impolite. We don't want to offend. We don't want to seem narrow. In the age of globalism, honest patriotism seems like a faux pas.

And yet what is true of people is probably true of nations: if you don't have a well-grounded respect for yourself, you won't long sustain a well-grounded respect for others.


25 years ago today. I was in the 6th grade. I don't remember if the teacher had told us or if it came over the loudspeaker. It had only been 2 months since his swearing in and I got into trouble for hanging out in the music room watching it with the 5th grade instead of returning to class after recess. It was certainly one moment of civil disobedience I don't regret. The teacher gave me a stern look when I returned, but later asked me what Reagan said in his speech.

Just a few night ago I watched THE DAY REAGAN WAS SHOT on DVD. It was produced by Oliver Stone so the basis was how Alexander Haig put us on the brink of nuclear war with his pompous attitude. Whatever. Richard Crenna plays Reagan and quite well. He doesn't give that characatured James Brolin impersonation act. Richard Dreyfuss plays Haig crazier than you've ever seen him. I remember the "I'm in charge here" commnent by Haig and even as a kid thought it anything but a power play despite the media's tizzy. Dreyfuss's Haig is like some sort of inquisition cardinal arguing with the rest of priests.

The good news is that with Haig taking all the heat, Ron, Nancy, Howard Baker, George Bush, Cap Weinberger and company all come off as decent people. It made the thing quite compelling despite the conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I bought a stand-alone DVD burner a few weeks ago and have been in the process of turning the old VHS tapes into DVDS. I threw away about 80% of my VHS in 2001, but kept the things that I couldn't ever buy on DVD.

Tonight I'm recording the 1992 Republican Convention and it's notable for a number of things, Pat Buchanan's infamous speech, Reagan's last major address, and Dan Quayle's last major address. I didn't remember that Bob Dole gave a pretty good speech between Quayle and Bush. These days it seems that VPs and Presidents give their speeches on different nights. George W. Bush can be seen with a full head of brown hair sitting next to Barbara in the box.

Everybody is using the "I didn't inhale" line as part of their shtick, at varying degrees of effectiveness. Reagan even refers to Clinton using the now clichéd "slick." Both Quayle and Reagan make plays on Bentson's 1988 line, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." I have already forgot Quayle's, but Reagan took issue with Clinton's likening himself to Thomas Jefferson. "I knew Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson was a friend of mine. Sir, you are no Thomas Jefferson." Great re-use of the line.

I noticed that Quayle's oldest son doesn't clap for anything, even his own father, despite the fact that Marylin and the other kids seem to be enthusiastic. Kay Bailey Hutchison shows up as a state office holder in Texas. Condoleza Rice shows up and speaks earlier that night listed as a former assistant NSA person under Bush 41. Even the new people are older than we think.

A bunch of speakers kept calling for term limits, the line item veto and a Republican congress. Little did they know that Bush's defeat would lead to all of this just two years later. Though, of course, Republicans forgot term limits and the court struck down the line item veto. Yeah the only thing we seemed to have gotten was guys with an (R) next to their name that spend a lot of money. I was so idealistic in 1992.

Leading into Bush 41's speech was a little documentary narrated by Robert Mitchum. Always a fan of Mitchum, I forgot this detail and confirmed it on IMDB. I also learned that Mitchum was one of the few Hollywood guys who supported the war in Vietnam and yet was named as one of the coolest guys in Hollywood in the 1960s by the youth. He was so underrated. When you see what he did with Max Cady in the 1962 CAPE FEAR it makes you realize what an over-the-top performance that DeNiro gave in the 1990 version. NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, OUT OF THE PAST, CROSSFIRE etc. The guy was a minor legend.

Speaking of Hollywood and 1992, I have another tape of Bush speaking around the country the day before the election. On one tape standing behind Bush is Bob Hope and Charlton Heston. We always think of liberal Hollywood, but even 14 years ago, there was still an old-time portion of Hollywood somewhat conservative. By the time Reagan's funeral came around in 2004, I can only remember seeing Mickey Rooney and Scot Baio.

The 1992 convention became notorious in the media, especially because of Buchanan. The media spent two years talking about how it split the party and what not. But this ineffective convention that lead to defeat really set the stage for the 1994 Congressional takeover based on ideas over personalities. The 1992 loss was a blessing in disguise in that we wound up with a decent sized tax cut. But much of what could have been done hasn't been done and since this is the first year where there majority seems to be in trouble, it's criminal how they wasted such an opportunity.

Anyway, 1992 is a classic. I'm glad I didn't throw it away.

CNN Correspondent Goes to Al-Jazeera

How can we tell?

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Something John Derbyshire blogged yesterday got me to thinking.
A few inconsequential "rollback" exercises aside (Grenada, El Salvador), the Cold War was a war of containment. The object was to prevent the advance of totalitarian communism, most especially its futher advance into Europe, then seen as the heartland of Western Civ. The bet we placed was that communism was such a lousy way of organizing a society that it would eventually turn into something else, something less threatening. The bet worked with Russia.

Islamofascism is much less of a threat -- economically, militarily, and culturally -- than communism. Why would containment not work just as well, with the expectation that these societies would crumble and change even faster than the communists did? We'd need to be vigilant against fanatical terrorists of the 9/11 type, and against moves in the MME to develop nuclear weapons. The second of those must surely be easy, though -- just a matter of decent intelligence and an occasional Osirak-type military action. For the first, we need to keep out foreign Islamofascists the way we used to keep out foreign communists, and to keep a close watch on any home-grown ones we might produce, and to publicly demonize Islamofascism -- teaching our kids that it's evil, turning out movies and TV dramas that show it as an enemy, and so on. (Where is our Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. for this "new Cold War"?) Now THAT would be using the Cold War as a model! Unfortunately, it would fly in the face of all the dogmas of tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism that our society nowadays holds to be precious and inviolable.

Bush 41 took a lot of heat a few years ago for "not finishing the job in Iraq" by liberals opposed to finishing the job in 2003. I think Derb's thinking here mirrors Bush 41's thinking back then. He pretty much beat Saddam up, but rather than create a power vacuum with Iran next door, he decided that containing Hussein would result in fewer lives lost and more stability in the region. I think Bush made a reasonable decision at the time. The containment approach was also essential considering Congress had only authorized Bush to follow the charter of the United Nations and they didn't have the stomach for much more than getting Hussein out of Kuwait and away from the Saudi border.

What Bush 41 didn't anticipate was being defeated for re-election. Clinton had no desire to keep Saddam to the cease-fire agreement. Saddam was constantly pushing the limits of the no-fly zone and shooting at allied planes. He was skimming money out of the oil for food program. Clinton let his violations go on without punishment or worry. His administration was far more concerned with religious Zealots minding their own business in Waco, Texas. And, of course, if we're talking about how U.S. action creates terrorists we cannot forget that the Waco debacle resulted in Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing.

One essential reason for removing Saddam in 2003, and no administration official can say it out loud, is that Republicans cannot take for granted that future Democrats in the White House will focus on containment. In the post Vietnam era, Democrats no longer have the stomach to back up their threats with action, and therefore the world knows that American interests will not be fought for. Democrats will solve European problems like Serbia or Caribbean problems like Haiti, but they will not take hard stand on American interests. We may think that these tin horn dictators are ignorant of our ways, but they understand the division with American politics enough that they can just wait Republicans out for a Democrat.

By going to Iraq and letting the Iraqi people re-shape their own future, it keeps Democrats from backing down. If one is elected in 2008 it will make them take the Middle East situation more seriously. A failure in Iraq post Saddam will be the failure of whatever president is at the helm.

Had a Republican like Dewey or Taft been President at the end of World War II, the Russian/American problem may have taken a different track. The cold war may have ended before it began. But since Truman invented containment, it became the Democrat alternative to all-out war up and through 1968 and the Vietnam protests. By the time Carter came around, containment meant little more than boycotting the Olympics. Reagan ended the cold war not just by out-spending them, but spending enough money that they realized he was serious about fighting if it came to that. It was the "evil empire" attitude that made them think seriously. His idea of containment had muscle behind it.

Without Reagan, I'm sure that Russia would have had to evolve their economy to makeup for the scarcity that communism creates. I'm sure it would be more open today than it was in 1980. But I'm not sure it would have dissolved already. I tend to think modern day Russian would be more like China with more economic freedom but still little political freedom. Look at Castro and how he can survive after 45 years of American sanctions. The economic part is important, but the muscle part is what makes the change.

The Democrat party is split down the middle between moderates that will fight an enemy to America and lefties that consider America the villain in any confrontation. Since the moderates cannot win without the lefties, they end up having to back down to get elected. Liberal Blogs like Daily Kos hate Hilary Clinton for trying to take the moderate position on Iraq. Don't even mention Joe Lieberman around there. Among the grass roots, Howard Dean is considered the savior of the party.

Which brings up the question if American leftists hate war, why don’t they show the strength that prevents most wars? Because they hate American power more than they hate war. That’s why instead of honoring the troops they focus on the failures and casualty rates. They’d rather see a long war with more dying that discredits America than a quick war that emboldens America. Remember how they predicted mass casualties before we invaded Iraq and then showed not the least bit of relief when we stormed Baghdad mostly unhindered? It’s not all Democrats that feel this way, it’s probably a minority, but that minority is essential to their coalition.

Containment only works if everyone is on board. This reality means that Republicans have to fight more direct wars with unconditional surrender rather than sit back and let Democrats lose the peace.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Legendary "Star Wars" film creator George Lucas told a packed house the United States is a provincial country with a culture that has invaded the world via Hollywood.

"As long as there has been a talking Hollywood, Hollywood has had a huge impact on the rest of the world," Lucas said as he discussed his films and enhancing education with computer technology.

"I hate to say it, but television is one of the most popular exports," Lucas said.

People see shows such as "Dallas," about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.

"They say that is what I want to be," Lucas said. "That destabilizes a lot of the world."

"There has been a conflict going on for thousands of years between the haves and the have-nots, and now we are in a position for the first time to show the have-nots what they do not have."

So Hollywood is exporting Americanism and doggone if it doesn't make people want to be Americans. Funny that he had to cite a 20 year old TV show to make his point about modern films.

George Lucas grew up as a middle class kid and became a billionaire by doing the things that he naturally loved doing. The world is full of artists and potential filmmakers with more talent that he, and yet they're trapped under the boot of poverty or some dictator and usually both. The export of American culture has helped end some of the repressive regimes and the job isn't over. Even Hollywood that does all it can to show capitalism as equal to corruption cannot hide the fact that people are free in so many ways.

Lucas made a daring trilogy in his youth that used classical Roman politics to create a cold war parable about good and evil. It was not only great entertainment, but it was uniquely American in its outlook. Sometime after he finished that project he turned to technology and created the best visual effects company in the world. Now you'd think that his success would tell him something about his fellow citizens and the country that made it possible. You'd think that a country that could defeat the Reds and the Nazis in one century could be elevated above "provincial."

I said last year that the problem with the prequels was that the originals were about a young man's struggle and that mirrored Lucas' own struggle as a young filmmaker. The second batch is about a spoiled whiney kid that wants to be recognized for his genius or else. And the movies empathize with the brat a little too much. This speech has helped me realize that Lucas couldn't make the old films again because he doesn't believe in good and evil anymore. It's not that Darth Vader was evil, but that he was a product of a bad environment. I think that's why he intentionally defiled his own films with those cheesy Special Edition scenes and effects. He's struggling with being famous for a mythology that he no longer believes in.

Later in the piece, Nancy Pelosi compares Lucas to Mozart and though lofty it's an interesting comparison, except Mozart died without going through a re-evaluation of his life's work. Since Mozart was more of a regional figure than a worldwide star, what if he had re-worked all his music at the end of his life and all we had to remember him by were the sad attempts at bettering that work which were already great?

Lucas was a protégé of Coppola, who was a talented Bolshevik. It's very possible that Lucas too considered himself a man of the left, but was apolitical enough in his youth that he didn't realize the implications of having good and evil characters. It's certainly not chic in a post 9-11 world. So like Spielberg his early movies were temperamentally conservative, but when he became more politically aware, he went a different direction as movie maker.

My biggest fear is that the gifted M. Night Shyamalan will someday succumb to the same peer pressure and decide to be fashionable instead of interesting. His early work reminds me so much of Lucas and Spielberg that my gut says that he will have a struggle with the same forces.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The highest court should be heavily biased in favor of letting the decisions of the lower courts stand.

By The Associated PressTuesday, March 21, 2006

(AP) - Highlights of actions taken Monday by the Supreme Court. The justices:

Declined to take up an appeal from a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who claimed taxpayers in National Football League cities have been coerced into helping build costly new stadiums.

Refused to consider tossing out a $50 million damage award against Philip Morris USA to the family of a two-pack-a-day California smoker who died of cancer.

Affirmed a lower court decision against a photographer who claimed a federal decency law violated her free-speech rights to post pictures of sadomasochistic sexual behavior on the Web.

Declined to give Jonathan Pollard, now serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, access to records that could bolster his case for presidential clemency.

Said they would not consider reinstating Robert O. Marshall's death sentence in New Jersey in a case that inspired a best-selling book, "Blind Faith."

Refused to consider an appeal from former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, who wants to withdraw his 1998 guilty plea to tax conspiracy.

Turned down a case that sought to open U.S. presidential elections to voters in Puerto Rico.

Refused to consider an appeal from Florida death row inmate William Van Poyck over DNA testing.

Part of the pleasure of “The O’Reilly Factor” is knowing that O’Reilly is a guy with a temper, and he might lose it. He reddens, sits up, and presses the guest, who may begin to stammer helplessly (in which case O’Reilly usually pulls back), or to backpedal and make excuses, in the manner of Richard Rosenbaum (in which case O’Reilly keeps boring in), or to insult O’Reilly (in which case O’Reilly may begin yelling—the big payoff). He’s the beat cop for the American neighborhood, who may have been a little excessive at times, may occasionally have run afoul of Internal Affairs, but law-abiding folks trust him because they know he’s on their side. His liberal guests are like suspects he’s pulled over: in the end, he’s probably just going to frisk them and let them go with a genial warning, but if they try anything, well, he carries a nightstick for a reason.

That's a great piece of writing. It captures the show pretty well. Remember how Angry O'Reilly got at that little Bunny Rabbit Phil Donahue last year. Phil was blathering on about whether Bill would send his own kids to fight in Iraq and Bill said he would fight in Iraq himself. Donahue kept on with the Left's favorite hobby horse about how we're sending mere children to Iraq to fight. It's a great liberal slight-of-hand to make the argument about sending kids, becuase the defender either has to pipe in immediately that we're not sending kids, but well-trained adults, otherwise the liberal wins everytime regardless of what's said from then on.

O'Reilly took a different track. He has a relative of some sort, a nephew I think, fighting in Iraq. He somehow took Donahue's comment as a stain upon the service of that nephew and he threatened to run Donahue off the show. The whole thing seemed bizarre to me. Why do you invite Donahue on the show only to threaten to run him off like an umpire when he's just simply being the same Donahue we all know, rich and guilty as hell about it? I can't imagine Donahue intentionally insulting anyone, but here is O'Reilly all indignant. He even ran the segment the next night like a dog prancing around the chipmunk that he killed and brought home. I'm sure he thought he was standing up for his nephew and servicemen in general, but I just couldn't make the leap with him.

To me Bill O'Reilly is the essence of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, sort of. I started watching the Factor sometime in 1999, I think. I enjoyed it most leading up to the 2000 election. I think I watched it nearly every night for a year. I even read THE NO SPIN ZONE soon after it was published. I loved the way O'Reilly stood up to nonsense.

But after that election, I realized that O'Reilly just has too many axes to grind. He constantly plays the underdog, trying to be my defender. He has a policy solution for everything if we'd only listen, and thus he's the anti-Libertarian. People can't simply live their lives without government intervention, because O'Reilly has to many injustices to right.

After I had already tired of his shtick, he published WHO'S LOOKING OUT FOR YOU?, a rhetorical question I assumed with O'Reilly as the hero. I can imagine that book is list after list of populist pining for things that the big boys are denying the poor working class slob. And I'm supposed to tune in as that working class slob so O'Reilly can explain the legislation that will cure me.

I think I would have totally forgotten about O'Reilly except that his ratings have grown and the Left totally hates him, I assume, because people watch and he's to the Right of Tom Brokaw. That alone makes me tune in from time to time, but only if I'm on the computer and I want background noise.

When Rush Limbaugh started taking the country by storm in the early 1990s, many people thought he was just a fad and his listeners and bunch of dupes. But Rush has remained interesting and unique despite the many rightwing hybrids that followed. Rush can inspire people to be proud of their freedom and their country and he can captivate an audience talking about almost anything..

When I listen to Rush, I tire of the callers that either want to kiss his ass or make personal attacks. It's much more interesting just to hear him read news stories and comment. Once in a while a caller will make good retorts to Rush and Rush can get flummoxed and it's interesting to watch the match play out. In January I was going to the bank and an articulate caller that sounded black was getting the Left's talking points out rather well. Republicans were in the bosom of corporations and the war was for oil and what not. He wasn't going to sway any conservatives with his talk, but he got it out in a way that was impressive just the same. Instead of dismissing him, Rush treated him respectfully as he will usually do with anyone that doesn't just start attacking him personally. He asked the caller questions about what else was wrong with America and then the caller stepped into a bear trap.

The caller said, "I think it's harmful when religion plays too big a place in politics."

Rush said, "See folks, this is why I'm the host. I'm sure many of you would have been done with this caller already, but I knew if we waited long enough, we'd hit the jackpot. I totally agree. I think Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton play way too significant of a role in American politics and it harms people."

At that point the smart and articulate caller was done for. He couldn't make his point about Bush, because he had to explain why Jackson and Sharpton were different. Where O'Reilly would have yelled and called him a bigot, Rush simply pointed out how Christianity is a danger and scourge of the secular mainstream unless it originates from race pimps. A total Judo move that other Right-of-Center hosts couldn't make so gracefully. I don't see O'Reilly doing pulling that off.

Long ago, Rush appeared on the CNBC show Donahue/Posner. Posner being this Russian communist "journalist" propagandist that existed simply for the state to run messages through. Donahue loved the guy and treated him as some sort of objective thinker. Rush made a flippant comment on the show about how there were more communists working in American journalism than Republicans. Posner said name one and Rush named Posner. Phil got a big kick out of it and Rush came back to the show several times. The last time Rush appeared the topic was a typical class warfare message about how the rich got richer in the 1980s. Rush reminded Phil and the audience that Phil was quite wealthy himself and much of it came in the 1980s defending the little guy. Why not give that money back to the little guy, asked Rush. Point made. Phil wasn't happy about the observation and Rush was never invited back. O'Reilly should have been watching.

It's great to see O'Reilly make the Left mad and it's not like he doesn't take on issues that are important or even noble, but he lacks the grace and humor to make his points stick. Everything is doom and gloom and I better tune in every night so he can save me by strong-arming some politician to do the right thing. We're not the Czechs in 1938 or the Polish in 1939. We don't need another Dick Morris convinced that every human foible is cured by a roll call vote. Have fun with these self-important liberals that want to save humanity from itself instead of becoming a right-0f center version of the same.

Now maybe the discord is only in my own ear as I grow more libertarian, but I find that both politicians and commentators are so convinced that we'll choke on our own spit save for them. It doesn't make good government nor good television. And yet, I'll still tune in from time to time anyway, because O'Reilly is still an American original and as an oppositional figure quite compelling at times even if not altogether satisfying.

Maybe it's like the Yankee fans that were too tough on Mantle for not being DiMaggio. O'Reilly isn't Rush, regardless of how many long balls he hits. Rush's tongue races the field timing the fly ball just right and making it look easy, while O'Reilly can be seen having it out with the umpire at the plate, probably right, but indignant enough that you watch for the confrontation rather than to win the game.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Paul Haggis, the Canadian director of "Crash", this year's Oscar winner for best picture, will lead a protest in Hollywood this weekend against the war in Iraq, now three years old, organizers said.

The Canadian director, whose gritty racial drama won three Oscars in the March 5 Academy Awards ceremony, will be flanked by US actors Martin Sheen and Maria Bello and singer and social activist Harry Belafonte.

What do you want to bet that Haggis is marching simply to get his LIGS (Liberal In Good Standing) card back after beating sentinmental favorite, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?

No true bleeding heart liberal would have dared made Matt Dillon heroic at the end of CRASH. How about making Hilary Swank's mother a lazy welfare cheat in MILLION DOLLAR BABY? This guy is simply trying to save his reputattion.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Just when you think you've seen everything there is to see in baseball, how about today's games in the WBC Round 2.

In the early game, heavily favored Venezuela gets pounded by Cuba, 7-2. The game turned in the 6th inning on a ground ball that slipped between the buttons into 10-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel's jersey. He played it off his chest and then there was no ball to throw to first. Next batter, Vizquel boots a sure double play, and the third guy smacks a 3-run homer on the way to a 5-run inning that puts the game away.

In the second game, it's Japan 3, USA 3 in the top of the 8th, bases loaded for Japan, 1 out, speedster on third. Fly ball to short left. Runner tags and scores easily on a weak throw. Buck Martinez comes out of the dugout to appeal at third. Second base umpire calls safe. Martinez appeals to the home plate umpire, an American. Home plate ump overrules second base ump and calls the runner out, three outs. Replay shows the runner did not leave early. USA wins 4-3 on a walkoff bases-loaded single.

Tell me again, why isn't replay used in baseball? Most baseball calls are easy in super slo-mo. By the time the crew chief gets his headset on, the right call will be speaking to him.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down with Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with the velocity of a major league fastball.

The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers _ including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

The brouhaha gathered steam Friday when Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, Granma, called the sign-waving "a cowardly incident." Cuba's Revolutionary Sports Movement exhorted Cubans to demonstrate in Havana late Friday, saying U.S. and Puerto Rican authorities were involved in "the cynical counterrevolutionary provocations."

The Cuba situation has upset me for a long time, but can only smile when the Cuban government calls such a protest a cowardly act. We all know the cowardly act is a leader that won't allow dissent.

I was watched Bill Maher's new show tonight. It's the left wing version of Dennis Miller's CNBC show practically stealing his whole format minus the chimp. Maher was relentless about Bush, and Halburton and the war and not once did Bush's SS men run in and pull the plug. Castro loving Hollywood types should maybe take note.
The Cuban Baseball Federation, in a statement released Friday in San Juan, said authorities failed to provide security and preserve the spirit of the sporting event, and "evidently had no intention of doing so."

The Cubans considered withdrawing from the tournament because of "the lack of security and respect" but decided to remain after Puerto Rican promoters made guarantees, the federation said in a statement without elaborating.

An anti-Castro Web site,, identified the protester only as Enrique, and carried his own account of the incident.

"The Cubans were upset with the incident that happened last night, and they want to make sure it doesn't happen again," said John Blundell, spokesman of Major League Baseball, which helped establish the tournament. "We are doing everything that we can to ensure the safety of fans and the delegations."

Anything funny about that quote from Blundell? "The Cubans were upset with the incident. . ." Which Cubans were upset? The ones losing their grip on the country or those under the tyranny?

But secondly, what does his last quote mean? That kind of brilliant double-speak is going to come in handy when major league baseball allows Barry Bonds to play baseball this year despite his cheating.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


My house is almost ready to go to market. I'm leaning against using an agent, because they get big bucks that I'd rather see riding on my own hip. But they do know the market and I thought they might have a better idea of target price and what not. Yesterday I met with a married couple from Remax. They gave me the subtle version of the hard sell. They came with an impressive packet full of material, but their 5% commission is a bit much. In fact, I could list the house myself and not sell it for 9 months and still make more money.

Today Al from Century 21 came by to meet me. I was changing the lightbulb on the front porch when he walked up all unassuming. He just stood and waited for me to finish. I took him through the house with the tour and he gave me a similar packet of information with comps and what not. He asked how long I thought it would be and I said it would be done in the next few weeks. He was wearing a name tage that Al Osuna.

Tom: Wasn't there a ballplayer named Al Osuna. He played for the White Sox.
Al: You're thinking of Antonio Osuna.
Tom: That's right, but I seem to remember an Al Osuna too.
Al: Yeah, I retired from baseball and do Real Estate full time now.
Tom: So you use to play ball? ( His deadpan delivery made me think he was joking)
Al: Yeah, I played with the Astros. I'm familiar with the area from Spring Training.
Tom: Middle Reliever?
Al: Yeah
Tom: I think I had you in the baseball league.
Al: I was a cheap guy that could fill out a roster.
Tom: You had a great WHIP. (He laughs)
Al: I haven't played in a long time. I started getting into real estate back then and I don't think I'd be in it now without baseball.
Tom: You use to eat up some innings.
Al: Yeah. You want me to call you in a few weeks?
Tom: That's not a bad idea. Your number is in this packet?
Al: Yeah
Tom: We'll talk soon.

Later I looked Al Osuna up and he was right. I had Antonio Osuna, who had a much better WHIP.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


When movies began to shift to the left it wouldn’t necessarily bother you to see a businessman or corporation as a villain. It was still a fresh idea. Fred MacMurray played a great cad in THE APARTMENT. Steve McQueen managed to be the hero and the villain in the THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.

The Military Industrial Complex was also ripe for satire and villainy. After so many heroic World War II film, DR. STRANGELOVE was a nice dose of balance.

And who didn’t like to see Sidney Poitier give it to the man in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT after so many blacks in film history were subservient to whitey?

Wasn’t it fun to watch Katharine Hepburn outsmart and out-lawyer Spencer Tracy in ADAM’S RIB?

Wasn’t it interesting to see Al Pacino play a non stereotypical homosexual in a mainstream movie like DOG DAY AFTERNOON?

None of the above movies were offensive and they were all believable and progressive at the same time. The intention may or may not have been to push the political dialogue to the left, but they didn’t hit you over the head with social policy, they just showed you characters behaving rationally in the context of good storytelling.

From what I’ve read, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN could fit into the same tradition of the aforementioned films. The problem is that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was stale before it was even made. Although it’s in some ways very original, it’s not surprising. We already know that society is the villain in this one without reading any further than the premise.

Remember when Jonathan Demme stuck to the novel of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and let his psycho be a homosexual? He was so in danger of losing his liberal card that he was made to atone by making PHILADELPHIA. And his movies have been right on the PC plantation ever since.

PASSION OF THE CHRIST was ignored by the Academy and called anti-Semitic on the basis of a line or two while others simple dismissed it as too violent. But suicide bomber movies like PARADISE NOW are nominated in all their glory.

The problem with movies isn’t that they’re liberal, but that they’re so reliably liberal that they have nothing original left to say. Given a list of characters and their situations and you can almost write the movie yourself.

A few months ago we were playing poker and I was in the minority defending the war in Iraq. The same guys that talk in the familiar center-left talking points concerning that issue have been relentless in their lampooning of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. There was debate as to whether KK, JJ or KJ should be referred to as a Brokeback Mountain hand. Lately in another game I’ve been playing in, a player has been quoting “I don’t know how to quit you” when he’s on a draw and faces a tough bet. He’ll use the accent and he always gets a big laugh. It’s not insignificant that when I first knew him in the late 1990s he invited us all to his birthday party at a pizza joint that he was also using as a charity event for Aids. And the same guy has two gay brothers for crying out loud.

When Ang Lee accused the Christian Right of calculated silence on his movie, he was simply too self-involved to realize that the people offended by movies like his are the least likely to watch movies anyway. The average parent is probably more offended by the kids cussing in BAD NEWS BEARS.

The reason so many people are teasing BROKEBACK is that we’ve been given such a steady diet of the same PC tribulations that they cease to be tribulations anymore. Issue movies are no longer stories with complex heroes and villains, but too often the same black and white good guys and bad guys that the Left has always ridiculed in the old rightwing movies.

The result for people like me who like movies is that I wind up seeing them on DVD or HBO if at all. It’s not a boycott, but casual indifference.

Some people in Hollywood understand this enough that they make more even-handed movies. For as much as a Bolshevik as Tim Robbins is personally, he does a good job of making his rightwing characters real people. Bob Roberts was a much more appealing character than we could have expected even if he was the bad guy. I thought DEAD MAN WALKING was so even-handed that I was surprised to find that the intent was for me to feel sorry for Sean Penn. Even CRADLE WILL ROCK makes Bill Murray’s anti-communist character more human and sympathetic than any others I could name.

Now maybe Robbins is so secure in his beliefs that he doesn’t think he needs to create cartoon villains or obvious heroes to make his points. That so many others do so is maybe a sign of insecurity in those beliefs. One of the Greeks maybe Aristotle said that all ideas should be freely expressed among the educated even those ideas that seem obviously wrong because experience shows that so many seemingly wrong ideas turned out to be right and without discussing bad ideas it’s hard to remember the merits of the good ideas in the first place. In other words, the biggest champion of the truth is an open dialogue.

I don’t mind political movies, even ones I disagree with. I admire someone like Clooney for tackling political subjects although I think his postulating that this act is noble, dangerous, and somehow career threatening is overstated to the point of comedy. What the movies lack is an open-dialogue that doesn’t even need to seek the truth, but it just needs to provide some variety.

The New York Times has a great article on how Vermont is a beautiful place that people are fleeing.
Vermont, with a population of about 620,000, now has the lowest birth rate among states. Three-quarters of its public schools have lost children since 2000.

While Vermont's population of young people shrinks, the number of older residents is multiplying because Vermont increasingly attracts retirees from other states. It is now the second-oldest state, behind Maine. Arthur Woolf, an economist at the University of Vermont, said that by 2030, there would be only two working-age Vermonters for every retiree.

Without more working people, Mr. Douglas said, "we won't have tax revenue for anything other than public education and Medicaid. There'll be no money for anything else."

This is an economics question. You get the behavior you subsidize. Vermont was once a conservative state, but the influx of outsiders over the last 30 years turned it into a bastion of socialism. So today their population is shifting toward those who most benefit from socialism, the elderly. Meanwhile, productive citizens and companies are moving to the places that they are valued.
Jennifer Black of Walden, Vt., now in Stoneham, Mass., said she contemplated returning, with two children for Vermont's schools. But jobs for her husband, a defense industry engineer, are "hard to come by" in Vermont, as are some conveniences.

"When I'm up there visiting, I think I would love to live up there," said Ms. Black, 36. "The air's so fresh." But, she added, "you have to drive half an hour to a grocery store. I can walk to a grocery store from here. There's a place where my kids can take swimming lessons readily available here."

Jennifer Black probably considers herself an environmentalist and she'd probably tell you that she hates the idea of drilling in ANWR, but when it comes to her own family, she wants a grocery stores and community pools. What she wants is urban sprawl just like everyone else.
And Daniel M. Fogel, the University of Vermont's president, says some have not grasped the seriousness of the problem. They believe a shrinking population will prevent overdevelopment, but these "antisprawl folks are the very people who tend to value very highly the environmental protections and the social programs, which the state is not going to be able to afford if the working population shrinks," Mr. Fogel said.

Here is Vermont's problem. When the biggest voice of reason in your state is a college president, you know you're living behind the iron curtain. "Hey listen to me. I want the people's paradise too, but we need nasty filthy littering human beings to foot the bill."

Not much action this month. Too much poker and reading

- Sam Peckinpah’s follow-up to THE WILD BUNCH packs just one blood-letting scene and that’s the death of a large dessert lizard intended for food. Jason Robards is his usual solid as the title character and some decent characters actors like Slim Pickens and David Warner help too, but I don’t understand this movie’s reputation as a classic. The overly broad comedy coupled with the overdone death of the west theme doesn’t bring any freshness to either. The great MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE was savaged by critics for much less than this. Of his films I have liked THE GETAWAY most followed by RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and then the WILD BUNCH, but I didn’t love any of them. I saw STRAW DOGS last year and was pretty disappointed. Either his films are too dated or I just don’t respond.

JUNEBUG (2005) – After torturing Trish with some of my recent art house choices, she was quite happy that I selected this film. The story of a city sophisticate returning to his rural North Carolina roots could be full of Doc Hollywood gags and Hee Haw references but it was instead a very human picture. Amy Adams is getting the buzz because she plays the most hyper of the characters and steals most scenes, but a lot can be said for the rest of the cast that lets her do it gracefully. The underrated Scott Wilson plays the father as a typical southern patriarch dealing with an overbearing wife. Wilson was the other killer in the 60s docudrama IN COLD BLOOD. He was also a victim of Charlize in MONSTER, the one that made me want to see her fry post haste. What’s exceptional about the film is the way Alessandro Nivola’s son character has mixed emotions throughout about family and obligation. Most movies would simply give him anger or cowardice or some simply emotion to play off for 90 minutes. Here we get to see him make the struggle that probably led to his leaving in the first place. Celia Weston is the mother character that you’ll recognize from other movies and TV shows.

+METROPOLITAN (1990) – It was finally released a few weeks ago on DVD, Criterion Collection even. I wonder if that was the holdup, they needed to dig up some extras. It’s a story about some college aged Manhattan kids who are back for Christmas holidays participating in the debutante season. A kid less rich is befriended by the group and he’s in a sense the audience’s eyes and ears to that world. I didn’t even like it when I first rented it in 1995. I thought it was slow and without much point. The following year it came up in conversation at work and I was surprised how many lines I had remembered. I decided that it was deceptively witty and when I revisited it soon after I became a big fan and still am. For all the times I’ve seen it, this was the first time in letterbox. Director Whit Stillman gave commentary joined by the editor and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols. The film was made super low budget and they detail that process in the commentary. One of the most interesting things is that these kinds of rich kids are usually the villains in movies. Here they’re quite human despite the money.

LORD OF WAR (2005) – It begins as a comedy on the arms industry and it’s quite effective, but midway through Nick Cage develops a conscience of sorts and this turns the film into a sermon. Shortly after the reform, Cage snaps out of his worry and becomes just as numb as before. You realize later that Cage has a moment of clarity simply because the audience likes him too much and the political points are being lost. But since the movie has no where to go with a reformed Cage he simply reverts. Ethan Hawke shows up as the federal agent assigned to bring Cage down and boy does that guy need a hamburger. The way Cage bounces from concerned husband and father to indifferent crook is a major flaw and the ending doesn’t pack the intended punch. If the filmmakers simply had the guts to make Cage aloof all the way through with no consequences, this could have been a classic black comedy. Otherwise they should have simply made another Syriana.

HIDE AND SEEK (2005) – That horror film where DeNiro’s little girl seems eerie is alright for the genre, but not entirely satisfying. They do a decent enough job of fooling the audience for a spell, but the movie only has one way to end once you guess it. I suppose most will do so somewhere before we’re supposed to be surprised.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


This use to be an anticipated event for me, but I feel so indifferent this year. I saw Crash on DVD and I haven't seen any of the other Best Picture nominees. My gut is that I'll enjoy CAPOTE the most and that I'll admire GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK despite the politics, while Munich and Brokeback will be less impressive.

First, I don't understand why Ang Lee continues to be treated as a major film artist. Now I didn't see his early Chinese language films and I'm told they're pretty good, but his stuff in the last ten years is overrated in my mind. I liked SENSE AND SENSIBILITY enough, but could ICE STORM been more depressing? Could CROUCHING TIGER been more silly. Could THE HULK have been slower? Now probably any director would have been nominated for BROKEBACK, but I don't get the Ang Lee glow just the same.

I think MUNICH puts a different spin on SCHINDLER'S LIST. I originally thought SCHINDLER was Spielberg getting in touch with his Jewish heritage, but to make a movie about the Munich situation and base it on the discredited book Vengeance means that even Schindler's was less about oppression and more about fashion. It wasn't that Jews were victims, but that they were victims of Nazis. Or maybe the holocaust is important because America ignored it. It's our shame. Now that we're Israel's biggest supporters and in a sense doing what some wish we would have done sooner than 1945, it doesn't count for squat either. I mean doesn't it seem like the fashionable just sit back and wait for America to take a position so that they can take the other side?

One more thing. . . This suicide bomber film, PARADISE NOW, makes Pat Buchanan 1992 convention speech about the culture war seem naive and understated. It's one thing to make endless McCarthy demon pieces, but to treat the murder of women and children as a valid political statement and its participants as normal people is diseased. What was it about the Holocaust that they didn't like again?

Friday, March 03, 2006


I suppose this only helps its Oscar chances. From today's New York Post.
March 2, 2006 -- The makers of the gay cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain"
were too rough on sheep, an animal-rights group charged yesterday.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


For the low low price of $10 I was given the opportunity to try seven varieties of single malt scotch last night. They began light and fruity and ended dark and smoky, each having its own character and flavor traits or that's what I was told. I did like some better than others but I wasn't tasting basil in one and roses in another. It tasted a lot like whisky.

Leading the taste fest was a mid 30s distributor dude who wore the satan version of goatee and clothing that looked dress-up for a beach campfire. He wore an odd necklace made of a leather strap and dangling from the end was rocky thing that suggested a talisman. Also on hand was a fortyish dame of Mediterranean descent that looked every bit the party girl back in her day. She was dressed better than the dude wearing an expensive enough black outfit, but still acted the party girl by showing as much cleavage as possible even if it meant carrying her arms in such a way. She worked for the company that owns several distilleries that comprise the Johnny Walker family.

The tasting started 20 minutes late so the guys that showed up 20 minutes earlier started doing shots and were toasted enough that one was trying to get the phone number of a waitress and another one was trying to stump the experts about the production of scotch. My favorite of his questions was "Does the residual sugar in a cask of scotch effect its viscosity." The satan dude simply said pass. The women stuck somewhere between girl and lady attempted an answer, but this being an hour into the event and she having tried 7 varieties of scotch and all of 102 pounds, the eyes were having trouble staying open. The question came from behind me and since I couldn't see the dude asking it, her eyes as she answered made me think that they were slowly hypnotizing her.

The beach guy explained that single malt results only from the best stock on any given year. The rest of the scotch is use to blend a more consistent though less expensive product. Johnny Walker Red is a combination of around 20 different scotches anywhere from 3-8 years old. Johnny Walker Black is from 20 different kinds at least 12 years old. The expensive Blue Label Johnny Walker has some Scotch aged around 50 years

I also learned that single malt isn’t the same as single barrel. Single malt simply has to come from the same batch. The explanation as to why some of the stock is better than the rest wasn’t quite explained to my satisfaction. He kept saying it was like stew where once it’s cooked to a peak level it’s perfect to eat, but the stew cooked not quite enough or just too much has to be blended together to make an even product. The stew that is cooked just right becomes single malt. I should have asked him why they don’t cook it all to the peak levels, but you could only get in so many questions before the next round of fire water was burning your tongue.

The expensive scotch prices of today are a result of scotch’s decline in popularity about 20 years ago. Now that scotch is back, the older varieties are scarce because production had dropped due to demand. You can blame the Japanese that consume the stuff in great numbers.

The owner told me of his woes. He owns but four stores and the big ABC chain is buying in such bulk that he’s getting squeezed. He told me of a champagne brand that he could get at wholesale for $29 that ABC was selling for $28. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he should make ABC his wholesaler. He also kept pushing people to see his Metro West store that stocks 700 kinds of beer. That I might try.

I think the intent of the evening was to get me interested in buying a bottle of scotch especially since I was given a $5 coupon to do so. The reality is that I tasted so many different kinds of straight whisky that I’d just as soon not see another glass for 6 months. Even something you like has its limits. I can’t even imagine drinking anything the color of iced tea. But if I do ever buy the vile stuff again, I might try something he called Highland Park. It reminded me of bourbon with a thick smoky taste and the burning aftertaste that reminded me of those Fire sticks we use to buy at 7-11 in our youth.