Thursday, May 31, 2007


I have never thought that John Edwards has any chance at all of being the next President of the United States because he is such a phony. Actors (Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson) and pro wrestlers (Gov. Ventura) are phonies too, but they can separate themselves from their roles. Trial lawyers come to believe their own personas. That could be a problem for Giuliani too - he is far too eager to refer back to his public role in the wake of 9/11.

All-time loser Bob Shrum recounts the following story in his new book, excerpted by TIME.
[During Kerry's process to select a running mate,] Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else—that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before—and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else.

Kerry said that he wished he'd never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut.

But politicians can't go with their gut, because everything is political. Voters, however, can.

What is even worse than telling that story twice as a super hush-hush secret (and who knows how many other times) is that it is almost certainly not true. But lawyers are not bound to the truth, they serve the interests of their client, and is his case his client was him.

As for Mr. Shrum, I can't see how throwing his former client Edwards under the bus is going to be good for business.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The new issue came today. Under "THE WEEK" column:

*Add "enforcing border security" to the list of jobs Americans won't do.

*Possibly next on the list: voting for John McCain.

Find out where you rank in the world by simply entering your annual income.

If nothing else it should demonstrate that Americans should stop wining about the "horrible" economy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


It's official. Angelina Jolie will play Dagney Taggart in the 2008 film version of the cult novel. The script is reported to be 129 pages on a source work that could easily be a 12-15 hour mini-series. So much for the 80 page John Galt speech.

The contest questions are:

1. How will Hollywood downplay the rightwing message of the film? What major components of the message will be dropped?

2. How will Hollywood insert a leftwing message into the film? Will they overplay Rand's opposition to religion or will they add some new element?
THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDERER by Janet Malcolm (A Book Review)

Joe McGinniss put himself on the map writing the classic 1969 book, THE SELLING OF A PRESIDENT. That book detailed how Richard Nixon was sold to the public like any other consumer product. It’s worth reading if you can find a copy. The Nixon book was such a hit and McGinniss was so young he couldn’t find material good enough to follow it up and his next few books were mediocre.

Determined to find another worthy subject, he tackled the case of Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, a man accused of killing his wife and children. That story became the bestselling FATAL VISION and this book, THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDERER, chronicles the techniques that McGinniss used to get close to McDonald, and how he pretended to support McDonald through the years of legal proceedings although he always thought him to be guilty and wanted a guilty verdict for a better book. McGinniss’ technique led to unfettered access to legal files, evidence, but most importantly access to McDonald. They’d drink together, strategize together and were pals during the experience.

The central question is how far can a journalist go to get the story? Although a jury found McDonald guilty of murder, a later jury found in favor of McDonald in his suit against McGuinniss because they felt that his techniques were so underhanded and self-serving that even a murderer deserved better. The book shows the divide between the win-at-any-cost media and the public that grows weary of the techniques used against people to create news. Does the public have the right to know enough that journalists can lie to subjects to bring the story to press?

This short book makes you question a number of journalistic techniques and it doesn’t hurt either that McDonald has strong supporters and could possibly be innocent of the murders, at least in the context of this book.

Victor Davis Hanson won't have it that the sky is falling and America's preeminence is fading and soon lost.

We are a naysaying culture. It helped me to read THE KNOWING-DOING GAP by Pfeffer and Sutton which makes the point that in our culture, people get ahead more by sounding smart than by being smart, and that one sounds smarter by criticizing and tearing down than by supporting and building up. We are also kind of anti-authority which helps to explain the strange guilt and ambivalence we feel about being the world's superpower.

One who stands for something is more easily assailed than one who stands for nothing, which explains most political campaigns in a nutshell.

But back on point, the greatness of America is that all of us is better and smarter and more capable than any of us, but only under conditions where any of us can contribute, and that unique framework is what will keep America great where other nations and causes and leaders and cultures fail.

Our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.

Take oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.

But if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly. None of their countries have a middle class or a culture of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new knowledge.

Russia and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is getting rid of it.

True, the economies of China and India have made amazing progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all the social and cultural problems that we long ago addressed in the 20th century.

The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less state control are preferrable to the European status quo.

In truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers the entire world.

A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit -- or religion, tribe or class -- mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?

Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.

In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success -- but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable as America.

That brings us to the United States' greatest strength: radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts, always believing we're on the verge of extinction. And so, to "renew," "reinvent" or "save" America, we whip ourselves up about "wars" on poverty, drugs and cancer; space "races;" missile "gaps;" literacy "crusades;" and
"campaigns" against litter, waste and smoking.

In other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid that we must change and improve in order to survive. And thus we usually do -- just in time.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Now this is impressive.

This review is a bit overdue. I needed to clear some space on my digital voice recorder and discovered this 10-minute recording from my way in to work on July 6, 2004. Here is my review as I recorded it at that time.

The book has new age underpinnings – it doesn’t try to hide that – and it eliminates or avoids or ignores the notion of good and evil. The “love and light” stuff at the end suggests a new age theology that there is no good and evil, there is only good, or that “good” and “evil” are just arbitrary and subjective values that we assign to stuff, labels that have no objective weight.

Now I know that if I get in my car and get on the turnpike and head west, I’m going to get to Harrisburg. Now if my car is a construct, and the highway is a construct, and Harrisburg is a construct, then what’s the practical difference? I still need to get in the car and drive west to Harrisburg, and when I get there, I’ll transact with others who share my construct. Whether “real” or “construct” is philosophical banter.

That there is a spirit realm, and noncorporeal activity taking place all the time all around us, is not a revelatory notion to this Bible-believing Christian. In fact, that unseen spirit world of warring favorable and unfavorable spirit beings is at the core of a biblical belief system. The difference is that from a biblical perspective I understand that there is a necessary distinction between body, soul, mind, matter. I recommend Bruce Wilkinson’s BEYOND AND BACK for a good treatment of this subject.

The first 100 pages were a little dry. Now I understand, having read the rest of the book, that the author himself has paranormal abilities and has experienced paranormal experiences and didn’t want to lead with that, he wanted to lead with the theory, so as not to discredit himself as a crackpot in the early pages. I understand his approach and I don’t disagree with it.

OK, to the point: What is the practical import of this book? So it’s a holographic universe, it’s malleable, the future is not fixed – so what? How does that change my thinking, how does that change my outlook, how does that change my daily practice, and what does it tell me about the meaning of life? As a Bible-believing Christian, I will say that the conclusion that there is no judgment, that we all get to come around and do it again, and that maybe I need to be a promiscuous Asian woman in my next life to make up for imbalances in this life is to me a trivialization of this life. I further point out that ideology has consequences, that trivializing the value, purpose, meaning of my life would (and did) have real, and in my current view unfortunate and negative, implications. From a holographic perspective, one might argue that the Universe got me to where it wanted me as the perfect result of my perfect path. Fair enough, as far as it goes.

The holographic universe is a VERY sophisticated universe. It’s clever, creative, interactive, iterative, sophisticated, robust, diverse, forgiving, malleable, pliant, intensely personal yet all-inclusive. Where does all that creativity come from, if not from a Creator? Where does such a level of sophistication come from? Where does the Grand Consciousness of the Universe reside? Who is the author? What is its origin? Where is it going? What’s the point?

The notion that we retain our unique personhood when we enter into the expansiveness of the God-consciousness is consistent with Christian belief. What’s not consistent is that everyone ends up in the same place. Christians believe some go to heaven and some go to hell, two discrete places with their own unique characteristics, and if some people see the light, go through the tunnel and then get sent back, then they did not approach the judgment seat of God, they did not enter heaven. They would know if they had, and it would change everything.

You say, “This is interesting! Fascinating! Mind-bending!” and it is. It is interesting, fascinating, and mind-bending. But so what? What do I do with it? You know, if I can design my next life, and decide that I need to incorporate some poverty or some mass murder to balance me out as a person, then that argues for an absence of some absolute morality. It argues for Self on the throne, which is new age-ism in a nutshell. Now granted, new age thinking isn’t new, it’s very old, my point is that these Self-indulgent lies have been around for a long time, that we should just simply do our best (however We define that, and with plenty of wiggle room), meditate, expand our thinking, try to reach a Higher Plane of Consciousness, and everything is going to be all right. That’s a load of hooey from where I sit. Ultimately there is no joy and no lasting victory in that.

We are spirit, yes. Our sensitivity to the spirit realm is muted by the fact that we are also flesh. Agreed. We can have greater contact with the spirit realm than most of us presently do. No question. HOWEVER, the equation and implications become much different, and arguably more profound, if we allow for the existence of a spirit realm and good and evil, allow for the existence of a spirit realm warring for souls. Now that makes it personal without losing the rest, and it adds the important dimension of caring what happens to others, not just my Self. Call me a simpleton, but the biblical construct of a spirit realm warring for souls, God vs. Satan, good vs. evil, makes more sense of most of the phenomena described in the book than does a holographic universe. Indeed, the holographic universe is just one more attempt to tell God how he is allowed to behave, which as I say is nothing new or different, it just incorporates the latest gadgets.

I certainly agree that there is more potential power and energy in one cubic centimeter of “empty” space than we would know what to do with, but what is it? What is that energy, who is it, where does it come from? That causes me, just me, to fear the judgment, the wrath of God, for “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” The quest for “Higher Consciousness” can only hope at best to bring me to a point of higher consciousness (putting aside the pride and conceit inherent in the very quest). The quest for God, on the other hand, can bring eternal riches, pleasures untold, joy forevermore, which is a different and I think better thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing any of the phenomena the author reported. All that stuff is well documented. I’m just saying that it matters which theory we lay on top of it to explain it and to bring it home. A life that is founded on the premise that there is no right and wrong, no good and evil, no contingent outcome or final destination, is going to be a very different life than a life that is founded on competing premises.

Yes, buddhas have a point. Yes, yogis have a point. Yes, Muslims and shamans have a point, and Christians have a point. But at the end of the day, at most only one of them is going to be right, correct in full, and if the Christian turns out to be right, then everyone else is writing their own miserable script for the sake of autonomy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


We have all kinds of politicians out there insisting that they are the next Ronald Reagan. They invoke his name, they quote him, claim to have been his friend. But one thing that most of them do not have is Reagan's connection with the grassroots, his connection and identification with the people generally. This is one of the things that's sorely missing in the Republican presidential field right now. People are weighing in on them, they're having opinions because they are the candidates, but Reagan was able to go over the heads of the media, and he connected with people, one on one.

Whether he's speaking to 10,000, 20 million, 500 or whatever, Reagan was able to connect with people in that regard. There are few people on our side that have the ability to do that. Many of the Republican candidates today lack this. McCain, among others, comes to mind. They're sort of a talk at us group, rather than a group that actually connects.

If that doesn't get to the heart of it, I don't know what.

This is just a short section of a long piece about how the elites in Washington hate the grass roots and how the immigration bill is bringing it out. I don't get to listen to Rush much anymore, but reading this post makes me miss the opportunity even more. It's long but worth reading the whole thing.

Tuesday in our Fantasy League, the Team called Chi-Town picked up Boof Bonser, a Minnesota pitcher that you probably don’t know if you don’t play fantasy baseball. Dude drafted Bonser back in March and sent him packing after a disappointing April. Now Bosner is doing better in May and Chi-Town took a gamble. Also this season, Chi-town picked up two of my relievers as I did some roster shifts to improve my pitching staff.

A shift in philosophy (I wanted better starters and sacrificed relievers) resulted in an absorption from elsewhere (Ah, those relievers are just what I need to fill out my roster). The same thing happens in politics especially in an age of sophisticated polling.

Much was made of the Religious Right’s behavior in the Terry Shaivo situation, mostly because it offended the media. Barely mentioned and scarcely remembered was that Jesse Jackson made an appearance near the end of the drama and he took the “Let her Live” side. Why would an overtly pro-choice Democrat do such a thing?

I didn’t hear a single pundit speculate on his actions, but it seemed obvious to me. The media puts down religious conservatives constantly, but applauds religious liberals. It’s not their views the media hates, it’s who they vote for. If religious conservatives had shifted to Kerry in 2004 it wouldn’t be their intolerance we’d hear about, but their compassion. The Left is perfectly happy with religion as long as it serves their own purpose and they would like nothing better than absorbing religious conservatives disillusioned with Republicans. Look at the pro-gun Democrats elected to Congress in 2006, only 12 years after the Democrats pushed for the Brady Bill to “save lives.”

I’ve long thought that the Religious Right was a good balance to the Religious Left in politics. There’s not a thing that Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell could say that was more harmful than the indignant actions of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I may wince when they say it, but the choice between the two groups was an easy one.

As an semi-urban non-churchgoer I’m less and less inclined to care about social issues. I figure sin is the problem of the sinner. I won’t be judged for other’s mistakes, but only my own. I come down as a libertarian mostly, but I don’t like Democrats that want Libertarian social policy only when it serves their interest groups. They don’t care about a “woman’s right to choose.” They care about that voting block. And since that voting block doesn’t want individual choice on the other libertarian things like schools, Social Security, taxes etc. they don’t either. They don't wring their hands over purity of purpose. Make no mistake the Democrats would shift their position on abortion or any number of things if it guaranteed electoral success. That’s why Jesse Jackson was hanging out with Shaivo. As soon as the media can convince Republicans to shed their allies in the Christian Right, the Left will gobble up whoever they can. That’s how you build a coalition.

Preposterous? Then how do you account for a party that enslaved blacks and spent 100 years enforcing Jim Crow only to redefine themselves as the party of affirmative action and race sensitivity? Woodrow Wilson was the President of Princeton University and a segregationist. Dwight Eisenhower enforced the integration in Little Rock.

And consider that all the new forms of Puritanism are leftwing in nature, political correctness, environmentalism, anti-smoking, etc. Modern liberalism is built on secular religion anyway, so why not make Christ a figurehead again if it gets you some votes. They’ve already tried it somewhat with slogans like “What would Jesus Drive?”

I was listening to Glenn Beck Tuesday and James Dobson called. I’ve heard of his group, Focus on the family, but this is only the second time I had heard or seen him in interviews. Dobson called because he says that he was misquoted by the media last week when they reported that he couldn’t support Fred Thompson for President because he wasn’t enough of a Christian. Dobson says that’s total hogwash, he likes Thompson, but hasn’t decided who to support. He also likes Mitt Romney. He could vote for either. Then he said plainly that he could not support Rudy Guiliani or John McCain.

I don’t know how influential Dobson is. I do know that Falwell is gone and Dobson is the only younger preacher I can name. Is he the barometer of the Christian Conservative vote? If so, then Guliani has handled himself poorly. He should have tackled the abortion issue with greater care. I think Rudy can win as a pro-choice candidate if he can find common ground with pro-life voters.

He should have said: Late term abortion is infanticide. Babies that can live outside the womb should be given the opportunity to do so. As President, I will do everything in my power to end the killing of those babies. Although I am personally pro-choice when it comes to early term abortions, Roe v. Wade is bad law and people deserve the right to have a vote on the issue. I think sensible people can disagree, but our system is democratic and judge-made law like Roe v. Wade is poison to democracy.

The Christian Right or gun owners or free market economists are not holding the Republican Party hostage they are members that are doing their own part to help create a big enough coalition to win elections. We can kick any of them out for some sort of purity of purpose, but we’ll be without them in clutch situations or worse, they will be picked up by the other team. Who is going to replace them? What block of voters in America can offset the loss of religious conservatives?

The reason the exit polls and pundits were wrong on Election Day 2004 is because the samples were wrong. In 2000, the evangelical vote was depressed after the weekend revelation that George W. Bush had a DUI. It was the difference in popular vote costing him about 2% and nearly the election. Using these same models in 2004, pollsters were unprepared for the re-entry of evangelicals and they called many states wrongly that afternoon and were surprised at the actual results. Horse Race Blog predicted this scenario a week earlier. He showed how 2004 was in Bush’s favor because the Democrats has gotten everyone out in 2000 and couldn’t do much better in 2004, while Bush had a lot more supporters to energize.

In short, the Democrats have no ideological purity. They do what it takes to win elections. Christian, gun-toting Health Schuler was elected to the House of Representative as a Democrat in 2006. It won’t take many switchovers to make the Democrats the majority party and those voters will be hard to get back. If the Republicans want to win elections and put forward any kind of conservative agenda then they can’t ignore this important block. The party of Lincoln gets no credit for freeing the slaves. What will be the legacy of the Party of Reagan?

Rudy Guliani is a fighter and I feel confident that he has the will to beat the terrorists. He doesn’t cower to the media and he explains himself much better than Bush. But if Dobson isn’t sold, I fear neither will a large group of voters. Maybe they will hold their breath and vote for Rudy anyway in the general election because they don’t want President Hilary or maybe just enough of them sit home that 2000 plays itself out again and this time we lose.

There’s a long way to go before November 2008, but my personal enthusiasm for Rudy is being overshadowed by a feeling that he can’t hold the coalition together. He needs to work hard on convincing religious conservatives that he’s their man or Bill Clinton is back to chasing skirts in the White House, my tax cuts expire, and terrorists feel comfort that nothing too bad will happen to them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Venezuela will back Hollywood actor Danny Glover's directing debut, providing 18 of the 30 million dollars needed to produce his film on an Haitian independence hero, industry sources said Tuesday.

"Lethal Weapon" co-star Glover, 60, currently on a speaking tour of Caracas, has supported Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' political revolution since he was first elected in 1998, as well as the creation last year of Venezuela's Villa del Cine (Film Town), Variety magazine said Tuesday.

On launching Villa del Cine, the anti-US Chavez administration said it intended to do battle with "the Hollywood film dictatorship."

Doesn't Danny Glover know that he will forever be blacklisted in Hollywood for his overt communism? I saw Ed Harris, Nick Nolte and Amy Madigan sit on their hands at the Oscars because Elia Kazan hurt innocent people. They wouldn't dare prove Kazan right by letting actual communists work.

It ain't a witch hunt if the witch is a witch. . .
Against his doctor's advice, a stooped and feeble Sen. Mario Gallegos arrives at the state Capitol each day, just to make sure the Senate does not take up a bill that would require voters to produce ID at the polls.

And when the rigors of the job start to wear on the Houston Democrat, whose body is trying to reject a liver transplanted four months ago, he retires to a hospital-style bed - donated by a Republican colleague - in a room next to the Senate chamber.

The Republicans pushing the voter ID bill say illegal immigrants are voting in Texas elections and must be stopped. But Democrats say thousands of legal residents will lose the right to vote because they lack proper identification. Opponents of the measure - including Gallegos, a Mexican-American - say minorities, the elderly and the poor are less likely than others to have driver's licenses or other documents.

Most of Gallegos' Houston-area constituents are black or Hispanic, and about a quarter of them live in poverty. About one in five speak little or no English.

With same day registration, plenty of vans, and a deal with the airlines, Democrats will soon import voters from all over the world. It's more cost-effective than running TV ads. And it's worth dying for.

and John Podhoretz take on it
These comprehensive legislative solutions - the sorts of bills that run hundreds of pages in length and are written in impenetrable gobbledygook - are almost always disastrous.

They are jerry-rigged, rickety affairs whose language is inexact and imprecise by design. They often do the opposite of what they are intended to do. The best (or worst) example is the big 1996 bill that was intended to slice away regulation from the telecom industry - and merely ended up handing out gifts to big companies.

Critics of the immigration bill have already gone through it with a fine-tooth comb and found dozens of instances in which tough-sounding provisions are revised and undercut pages later.

Here's a doozy, uncovered by talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt. While the bill starts off with language that suggests no goodies will flow to illegals until the border is strengthened by fencing and more patrol agents, other language - 260 pages later - seems to remove the trigger from the trigger mechanism.

That contradiction is surely intentional - the act of a clever liberal congressional staffer who was surreptitiously trying to remove a provision that was added to satisfy the complaints of conservative senators.

That's pernicious and disturbing - and par for the course with one of these comprehensive bills. It violates the central principle of representative government - which is not only that the people should govern themselves, but that the governing law written by their representatives should mean what it says.

You can't defend illegal immigration citing the need of more workers without addressing the damage done by minimum wage and welfare provisions that make too many people in this country un-productive. Let's put the low skilled labor to work in this country first, saving the tax payer's money, before we pretend that we have a labor shortage.

Much of this is really an attempt to skirt federal employment laws that are many times unproductive. Rather than cheat by hiring illegals, companies need to have the incentive to defeat unproductive labor laws in Washington. Hiring illegals is the path of least resistence that is no more than a stopgap that doesn't address the longterm problems of having a segment of citizens in this country not reaching their potential.

Every illegal hired somewhere is yet another citizen that is left on the dole for you and me to pay for.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

43 of 43

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," (Jimmy) Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Probably just wishful thinking on his part, but if true then Carter moves up a spot to 42 of 43. Look for future comments about Lyndon Johnson and James Madison.

Friday, May 18, 2007


PC World presents the all-time greatest Internet hoaxes. I know a woman in her 60s who repeatedly forwards all kinds of useless drivel to me and dozens of other victims and I think she fell for about 19 of these.

From The Corner:

Ted Kennedy on Immigration [Mark Krikorian]

1965: "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs."

1986: "This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this."

2007: "Now it is time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system."

If the government is unable to secure the borders and punish criminals that enter our country illegally, why should we think they can be competent on education, social security and health care. Securing our nation is one of the few things that the constitution requires of the government.

How many employees are given more responsibilities when they cannot even meet the requirements of their job description?

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Excerpt from his new book.

Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

He wants endless debate on protecting the nation but only action on global warming. Inherent in his philosophy is the idea that debate takes time and we have all the time in the world to sit and contemplate the people trying to kill us, but we must protect the pretty polar bear now.

For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.

More closed questions. Hardly anyone thinks it was a good idea to stop a madman before he developed a nuclear weapon, which George Tenant says in his new book would have been operational by 2007.

In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.

Shallow from the man that invented the internet where media is more interactive than ever before. The Left never decried media ownership and one-directional information when liberals were the only voice in media. Now that talk radio is dominated by the Right and FoxNews offers an alternative to “Republicans are starving children” message, we’re in danger.

In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics.

We critics of campaign finance reform said up front that money will never leave politics, the criminalization of money in politics will only create more independent counsels. If Gore wants ideas to flourish and image-based ad campaigns to end then he needs to support term limits. If people are coming and going in Washington then the only thing that is constant will be ideas.

As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government. In the study, I pointed out the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason.

This is a valid point, but if you want logic and reason to be the keystone to political debate then you have to behave differently during a debate. Thomas Sowell made an astute observation back in March. He says that there is no longer interaction in these forums of debate.

Usually either the hosts or the guests have predetermined positions on issues, and they are not about to change them.

Regardless of what the issue is, do not expect either a liberal or a conservative to say: "You know, I never thought of it that way. I agree with you."

That could leave a lot of silence, unless somebody had another topic ready to go. More important, whoever went over to "the enemy" would lose his standing as a liberal or conservative.

If either a guest or the host has a pointed question that cuts to the heart of the issue at hand, the first thing the person on the receiving end is likely to do is sidestep the question, saying something like "That's not the real issue" -- and go back to expounding his prepackaged talking points.

All that you learn from watching these kinds of "debates" is how clever some people are, how fast on their feet, and how big a supply of rhetoric they have.

Gore again:

We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.

Earlier Gore wants a debate and now he wants to end debate by eliminating people who don’t approach problems with his worldview. They’re cynical and they confuse people who want to agree with him. He has all the answers.

Wouldn’t reason suggest that if we try and try a particular approach and fail the approach doesn’t work? Where is the reason behind having government continue to run failing schools? Why do we keep trying to spend money to end poverty? Why does Gore say Bush’s tax cuts cost money when revenue increased?

If Gore is serious about “respect for the rule of reason” he needs to fight to eliminate the excesses that Democrats and the welfare state have contributed. He calls the other side cynical but will tell you that the government can run the best schools and spend their way out of poverty when practice has shown that neither works. Who is really clinging to superstition when it comes to the welfare state?

Let’s have some fun with a paragraph:

And what if an individual citizen or group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television?

Why must it be television? Are there no other ways to express one’s self?

Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion.

Back in the old days before media conglomeration, citizens had their own TV channels where they could opine for hours. Now, we have to “resort” to raising money.

But too often they are not allowed to do even that. tried to buy an ad for the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast to express opposition to Bush's economic policy, which was then being debated by Congress. CBS told MoveOn that "issue advocacy" was not permissible.

Gore spoke to a group of captive Chinese during his global warming movie and didn’t even remind the viewer that Chinese audiences are told what to think. Gore opposed the liberation of Iraq where in millions of former slaves now practice free speech. No, real free speech is what one is allowed to say during the Super Bowl.

Then, CBS, having refused the MoveOn ad, began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the president's controversial proposal. So MoveOn complained, and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporarily, I mean it was removed until the White House complained, and CBS immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.
For a guy that’s pining for reasoned debate, Gore plays a trick here. You’d have to read this section a few times before you realized that Bush didn’t run an ad during the Super Bowl he ran ads on CBS at other times. Gore is saying that since Bush’s ads run at other times, MOVEON should be able to run their’s during the Super Bowl. Let’s move back to 1992 when a Special 60 Minutes ran right after the Super Bowl where Bill and Hillary were allowed to spend 30 minutes refuting the bimbo eruptions. His campaign was sagging and that saved him. What Republican was ever given such a boost by CBS?

The other thing Gore does here is refer to the White House running ads. The White House is a branch of government, they don’t run ads. Bush’s campaign funded by the same kind of people that fund MOVEON provide that money. Gore who wants an end to chicanery is trying to create a David and Goliath image where none exists.

Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.

Doesn’t he realize that having a government that caters to your every need is why people are so apathetic? You have to be a contributor, a tax payer to appreciate the mechanizations of government. How does he expect these neophytes to participate? Are they not asking him for enough goodies? Ah, they aren’t angry enough about global warming.
Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.

Get this. It’s not that people have become more sophisticated about politics and political power, but they have become too cynical to listen to his “experts.” Wasn’t this the party and generation that promoted the idea of “Question Authority?” Now that they are running the show, we need to shut up and follow like sheep.

Much maligned in the liberal press (and even in the libertarian blogs) Jerry led an eventful life. I was listening to NPR today concerning the passing of Rev. Falwell. They couldn't wait to unload on the fellow and go on and on about how he "twisted the Bible" and should have just "quietly preached Jesus' teachings" instead of stubbornly standing up for his beliefs.

Now I am the first to stand up for my own Christian beliefs as well as deride others (because I grew up with it every minute) who attempt to force it down my throat. But Jerry and the Christian Conservative movement did a lot for the overall conservative political movement as well as Republications in general. When I was a lad, if it wasn't local elections, we didn't hear nor care much about politics. Who was elected Sheriff seemed to matter much more than who was elected Congressman or President. Jerry opened our eyes and made us see different.

Yes, he enraged me with his holier than thou attitude at times. Yes, he made me shake my head at his crazy statements (especially to my other pal Larry Flint). But Jerry drew a moral line in the sand and said, "This is where we stand. Cross no further." He certainly said less inflammatory things than I often heard from Pentecostal pastors growing up. And no more shocking than from leftist preachers like Jessie and Sharpton. It is just the left weren't used to hearing those things without the sugar coating of relativism. Moral absolutes were regarded as "uncool" and certainly "unintellectual." But there is indeed a comfort in the "old time religion" and certainty of a God who has it all in hand leading us on in a grand master plan.

Sail on Jerry....Sail on....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Tony Blankley sums up the odds-on bleak choices for President.

If it is Rudy and Hillary, and now Bloomberg, we could be looking at a three-way race between three moderately liberal to leftist New Yorkers running for president in a right-of-center country with no even moderately conservative candidate. And should Sen. Obama surprisingly get the Democratic nomination, then we would substitute for the secret leftist publicly centrist Hillary Milhous, a completely inexperienced African-American possibly former Muslim, partially Indonesian-raised, Harvard-trained Kennedyesque candidate.

Therein, lies the three-party freak show that is likely to produce the next president of the United States during this early period of the Age of Islamist Terror in which we live. And yet, we live in hope that ours is a providentially guided country.


On Michael Smerconish's AM talk radio program this morning, he talked with a Clemson University professor who published an article last summer on the "five second rule," that is, the rule that if you retrieve the food you dropped on the floor within five seconds, you can still eat it.

He cleaned, and then applied a salmonella-laden solution to, three common flooring materials: ceramic tile, hardwood flooring, and a tightly woven carpet. He selected salmonella because it is the most prevalent cause of food-borne illness. Then he and his students dropped bologna and white bread onto the three surfaces to test the speed at which the salmonella was absorbed by the food products. They found that contamination occurred at a hazardous level almost immediately, with harmful levels of contamination in the first few seconds. They found no significant additional contamination after 60 seconds. They also found, to the professor's surprise, that salmonella bacteria persisted on the uncleaned surfaces for 28 days, and that contamination was more substantial on the hard surfaces than on the carpet, due to the salmonella solution being absorbed more deeply into the carpet, leaving less of it on the surface to contact the food.

The professor said he has also recently tested "double dipping" and found significant levels of bacteria transfer in the double dip compared to single dipping, proving George Costanza wrong. That research is not yet published.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

APRIL 2007 Movie Reviews

*** Superior Film
** Solid Effort
* Same ole
# Sleep Aid

(Editor’s Note: Written before the recent French Election.)

Not long ago Dude said that he didn’t give up Perrier after our run-in with the French. For me, overpriced Perrier was easy to give up and not drinking French wine was a pleasure. The only thing that I couldn’t and didn’t give up. . . French films. Of continental European cinema, the French seem to please me more than any other. The next two films are two good reasons of why.

***PICKPOCKET (1959)
– Robert Bresson didn’t make many movies, but he’s revered as a master among a sub group of auteur critics. PICKPOCKET is a barely 75 minutes and with so little dialogue it’s more like a silent movie than a foreign language one. Our hero has a compulsion for picking pockets and he has no moral qualms about doing so. The money scene has our hero and two confederates working a train station ballet like. After the film I watched Paul Schrader’s introduction in which I learned that Bresson uses non-actors which means Bresson is one hell of a director because it worked and that usually doesn’t.

***Le SAMURAI (1967)
This is a great film noir that I had never heard of until Netflix recommended it. Alain Delon stars as the hired assassin who is spotted leaving a job. The police suspect him and that suspicion worries the mob that hired him enough that they try to kill him first rather than get caught in the web. I had never heard of director, Jean-Pierre Melville, but it turns out he was an actor in Godard’s BREATHLESS, the famous French new wave film. Melville now has my attention and I’ll try a few more.

**VOLVER (2006)
– The most enjoyable Almodovar film of the four or so I’ve yet seen. Penelope Cruz, her daughter, sister, mother and aunt are struggling with their past and their future. I’ve seen enough of his work now that I can safely say that Almodovar is incapable of showing a normal and healthy male/female relationship. TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN is about a guy who kidnaps a girl and turns her into his lover. TALK TO HER has a male nurse raping the comatose girl who gets pregnant and wakes up. In ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, mother and father are divorced because father is now a drag queen. VOLVER gives us the incest story that nearly repeats itself. Here if you step away from the gentle flow and your rooting for Penelope Cruz, much of the plot is laughable and yet Almodovar’s slight of hand makes it all seem so reasonable. That is a remarkable talent.

*WHO GETS TO CALL IT ART? (2003) – I thought this was going to be a documentary about the politics behind the modern art movement. Instead it’s a movie about a guy who actually got to decide if it was art or not, MET curator Henry Geldzahler. So the title should have been a declarative instead of a question. The movie is much in the mold of MAYOR OF SUNSET STRIP another obscure 60s figure that was nonetheless in the middle of much that was happening. The best part of the movie is the little vignettes with pop artists from the 1960s and how Henry was involved in their discovery and fame.

*SUPERMAN II (Richard Donner cut) (1982+2006) – When the original Superman was released to DVD a few years ago, Richard Donner said that he had shot more than half of Superman II simultaneously with the first movie but was fired after the first film was complete. Richard Lester took over and scrapped most of Donner’s footage. Fans on the internet started clamoring to see the Donner version and the studio yielded and hired a guy to put all that footage together. Despite the fact that Donner has to use a good portion of the Lester footage to bring his work to completion, the new cut is different in certain plot points, but not so different overall. I watched it with comic book guru, Sir Saunders, and he wasn’t convinced it was any better than Lester. I think that’s about right.

*ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968) – Several years ago with the release U-571, I asked co-workers to name their favorite submarine film. It’s hard to compare eras and even languages, but those who had seen DAS BOOT liked it best, followed by most who had seen HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. Those of us who had seen RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP or OPERATION TOKYO discussed those for a while too. I even remember a guy standing up for CRIMSON TIDE. One guy was adamant to the point of conviction that ICE STATION ZEBRA was without a doubt the best. I figured that kind of passion was worth giving it a look someday. When Howard Hughes bought the Dessert Inn and purchased that Vegas TV station he made them run ICE STATION ZEBRA constantly. So I watched it while recovering from surgery. I found it a little pretentious actually with an overture and intermission despite being less than 3 hours. Rock Hudson is predictably solid as the captain. Jim Brown plays a badass Marine Officer in wooden manner. Patrick McGoohan shines as usual as an Intelligence guy along with Ernest Borgnine playing a Russian of all things. It was overlong and dated, and not charming dated like a 40s movie, with chessy sets that left no doubt that these actors were sleeping in their own beds each night. It’s a shame the plugger left the company because I wanted to ask him what exactly he liked so much. Maybe the worst Submarine film I have ever seen although not without some TOWERING INFERNO like entertainment value.

*THE ILLUSIONIST (2006) – Companion move to THE PRESTIGE, where another guy becomes a magician back in the old days. Edward Norton plays a smart Edward Norton, Jessica Biel plays Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti plays a police chief. It’s kind of like a Mamet film with slight of hand and cons and what not. I heard it wasn’t good compared to THE PRESITGE, but it was alright actually although it fades from the mind quickly.

– If you saw The Last Samurai then you know how Hollywood makes a movie in period Japan. Just replace sword fights with pretty girls and you have the essence. It was certainly better than the preposterous Cruise movie and a decent example of characters living through an era that ends abruptly. Ken Watanabe trades his Samurai sword for business clothing and he makes a decent hero to our precious geisha.

*THE BREAKUP (2006) – Vince Vaughn is perfect as the loutish boyfriend who half listens to and usually disappoints his girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston. Aniston is also perfectly cast as the girl easy to fall for due to her cuteness but impossible to stay with due to her stick in the mud personality. This was marketed as a big comedy, but it deals seriously with a number of the issues between people who break up. Aniston didn’t really want to split from Vaughn, but his insensitivity made her play hardball. Instead of apologizing, Vaughn escalated the fight and refused to budge. Trish commented that it must have been funny that they were dating while making a movie splitting. I replied that Vaughn must have thought, wow I’m with Brad Pitt’s ex-wife. And then a few months later, wow I can see why she’s Brad Pitt’s ex-wife. Trish, who has a soft spot for Aniston, thought my comment cruel and I promised never to repeat it to Aniston.

**WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1989) – Had this movie come after critics “discovered” Eastwood in UNFORGIVEN it probably would have received much better marks. 18 years later is holds up quite well like many of his underappreciated films from the 1980s. Eastwood plays a character loosely based on director, John Huston, and it means that he has more dialogue than any three typical Eastwood films. The plot revolves around whether Eastwood can bag an elephant before he has to commence shooting his “African Queen” movie. I especially enjoyed the scene where he tells the lady that she is much too pretty to interrupt, mostly because Dude once did a pretty good impression of that scene when we were sitting around at his house.

Friday, May 11, 2007

RUDY - ??

Forced by political pressures to declare his position one way or the other, Giuliani affirmed to a crowd at Houston Baptist University that he is pro-choice although he believes abortion is "morally wrong." I am confused by this for a number of reasons.

1. It may not have been necessary. Saying "I will appoint strict constructionist judges, which is how these issues should be decided" which is code to pro-values conservatives, may have been sufficient. But he is kind of stuck because he has funded abortion out of his own budget and (if you can believe some recent reporting) out of his own pocket, or his wife's. He does have to answer for that.

2. It seems politically stupid. His pro-choice, pro-Scalia position seems logically inconsistent (it's not, but it seems that way) and loses both pro-life and pro-choice voters. Moreover, most observers believe he cannot get the nomination without the support of "the base" which is decidedly pro-life in the Reagan tradition.

3. He cedes the values vote to Romney or whichever late entrant (Gingrich? Romney?) is able to pick it up.

4. It threatens to make him a single-issue candidate on an issue that is a loser nationally. See also Bush's 28 percent approval rating. His "I'll take it to Abu" rallying cry is not resonating right now with a strong majority of voters.

5. He repeatedly fails to raise the larger issues, that we are a nation of laws, a federation where decisions should be delegated to the states wherever appropriate, that we have a duty to preserve the separation of powers, and that representative government should be representative not dictatorial. Or it may just be that you don't get a chance to explain what you think in our sound bite culture.

6. The political miscalculation calls his judgment into question, and sound judgment is a key quality that voters look for in a presidential candidate.

Good day for Mitt Romney but frankly I am becoming resigned to the fact that Hillary is our next president. Someone please make it not so.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


It was once said that a conservative is a liberal that was mugged. It’s easy to conclude that no one at the PBS show FRONTLINE has been mugged. Tuesday’s show was on the injustice of sentencing Juvenile murders to life without parole. Ten years ago they would have produced a show on juvenile murders getting the death penalty and had experts tell you why they should instead get life sentences.

The parents and siblings of the perps are shown distraught that their loved one will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. One rich Denver couple cannot even take a winter home in the sunshine because they will miss their Sunday prison visits. A sister of another shooter cries on camera, “why would they do this, it was an accident?” Defense attorneys have never seen such a sad kid as the defendant. Calm law school professors say that it serves no purpose other than vengeance.

On the other side, we have the vindictive parents that insist no matter how many tears or law professors they produce, their son’s killer is not getting out of prison. You see not an ounce of warmth from any of them.

Then the tears from the murderer’s sister again and then law professor again saying that victims have a lot of political power although these tough laws are unjust.

They interview the perps in jail, some of them 8 or 10 years after their crime. They were only 16, how did they know what they were doing? We’re made to feel claustrophobic in their prisons and we’re made to feel lucky that justice didn’t strike down on us so unfairly. It’s tough on their family. It’s cruel. Ah, it’s cruel.

The founders in the constitution came out against “cruel and unusual punishment” and yet the death penalty was legal, because they thought life in prison was cruel not death. I don’t think that was the point FRONTLINE was were trying to make, but they made it anyway.

FRONTLINE took the classic ideological track by finding the most sympathetic convicts they could dig up. The first guy had been in prison for 10 years, he with the Denver parents. He seemed smart and in a bad situation when his friend killed his mother and he said that he was so shocked that he passed out and fell into her pool of blood. Maybe. Another dude who helped the murderer move the body fingered our convict to lighten his own sentence. Mitigating circumstances, I suppose. But what can we really believe? All convicts are innocent, right? They didn’t interview any jurors to get that side.

The second fella shot a high school classmate when he was supposed to sell him his gun. The convict never planned on selling the gun and he even admits it. He was says that he was going to get the money and then skedaddle, but that doesn’t ring true. The victim was an athlete and the thief wasn’t just going to go quietly without chin music. He obviously had to shoot the guy in order to get away with the money. We see him in prison as a religious person who turned a new leaf. The victim’s mother said that he should have found religion earlier.

The third guy is described as a pipsqueak who was ratted out by two confederates after their carjacking escapade resulted in the gunshot death of a 17 year old kid. FRONTLINE was appalled that he was kept in a badass prison in solitary, but even angrier that they weren’t allowed to interview him. They didn’t seem so angry that they couldn’t interview the people who were killed. They did show an older interview taped by Human Rights Watch where the little darling explained that the government’s trump up charge that he was a gang leader got him the tougher prison facility.

We hear psychobabble throughout about how these kids are too young to understand what they were doing. Were interviewers never 16? Did they think that murder was no big deal when they went to school? What is this Leftwing compulsion to write everyone a pass for their abhorrent behavior?

It didn’t work for me. Even the most sympathetic murderers they could find coupled with the coldest victim’s mother couldn’t convince me that the law was wrong. That liberals are quacking means just the opposite, the system is running better than I thought.

James Taranto posted an editorial from the New York Times in which they insisted that terrorists be given a jury trial through our judicial system with lawyers, witnesses, discovery and all the accoutrements crime suspects are use to in our system. Taranto said that he was too lazy to look it up, but he bets he could easily find dozens of cases where the New York Times is indicting our judicial system as unfair and they only prefer it now because it will treat these terrorists easier than a military tribunal.

This is kind of the heart of everything we’re dealing with in the world. There are no bad people to the Left, just opportunities for rehabilitation. That’s why when one of them becomes a victim of terrorism they can’t fathom it. Michael Moore asked why would the terrorists hit blue state New York. They can’t imagine that the angry Islamists are anything but disgruntled liberals taking capitalist injustice into their own hands.

Liberals exist to shake their head at wrong-doing and explain that it’s due to lack of funding to education, job training etc. They can’t be held responsible is either overt or covert, but it’s there time and again. The liberal media is using the historically low casualty rate in Iraq to make the case that we can’t win. They cannot bring themselves to fight or root for their country because they are torn about what their country stands for. A Bush victory anywhere is one point against their world view.

We were hearing a different tune right after 9-11 when liberals had been mugged. They did become conservatives for a short time. But once the heat of the moment wore off, they went back to explaining away all the uncomfortable things that contradict their views of multiculturalism and the military industrial complex. They who were once ready to fight and urged the fight ahead, we’re finding bogeymen in Haliburton and conspiracy theories about how Bush wanted to remake the world. They started saying that he either used Iraq as an excuse or let 9-11 occur so his nefarious plan could move forward.

However you slice it, PBS needs to be kept on the air so we can continue to see where the heart of liberalism lies. Without that pocket of Jacobins, I would hold the belief that we can win this war together when, in truth, too many don’t mind losing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Barry Bonds has been at the centre of baseball's ongoing steroids controversy, but never has admitted to knowingly taking steroids.

Curt Schilling must have thought otherwise during an interview with Boston-based sports radio station WEEI.

"He (Bonds) admitted he used steroids. There's no gray area," Schilling said on WEEI. "He (Bonds) admitted cheating on his wife, cheating on taxes and cheating on the game."

"Hank Aaron not being there, the commissioner (Bud Selig) not knowing where he's going to be, it's sad," Schilling told WEEI. "I don't care if he's black, green, purple or yellow or whatever. It's just unfortunate there's good people and bad people."

Best of yesterday:

National Review editorial:

Something like half a million young French people are estimated to be living in southern England. The Kent Corridor from London to Dover is known ironically as “France’s Silicon Valley.” And for every Parisian exile ten actual Parisians still seethe under high taxes and think about emigration. That sums up why Sarkozy won Sunday’s election.

Rich Lowry:

Fifteen years ago, France had a per capita GDP that was 83 percent of that of the United States; now it is 71 percent.

A 35-hour work week, mandates that make it expensive to hire new employees, liberal welfare payments, and vacation policy — all combine to make France the world’s slacker. According to one economist, an average worker in America will work 30 percent more hours than the average worker in France during his career. That is, if the Frenchman works at all. Astonishingly, only 41 percent of French adults work, “one of the lowest labor-participation rates in the world,” the Financial Times reports.

The perpetual French growth industry is government. At 54 percent of GDP, the state is large even by European standards. A quarter of French workers are employed by the government, double the rate of 1970. Not surprisingly, a nation of bureaucrats has not proven itself supple nor innovative.

Mark Steyn:

In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired.... France illustrates how absolute welfare corrupts absolutely.... London is now the seventh biggest French-speaking city in the world.... [France] is no longer a society in which you can fulfill your economic potential.

Bonus Material: Matthew Parris in The Australian on the overstated threat of Islam:

Islam doesn't work.... Serious, committed Islamists are most unlikely to succeed within any structures but their own. Their own, meanwhile, are notoriously inefficient and corrupt. Only by lucky coincidence have much of the world's known petrocarbons been found beneath Islamic nations, giving them what temporary influence they wield.... We are hugely overestimating our supposed enemy.... Containment, not confrontation, is the wisest policy.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Ken Burns meets the most ethical Congress in history
Latino activists object that the 14-hour series - which traces the war's impact on four separate U.S. cities - contained no stories about Hispanic-Americans. They demanded that Burns - creator of such acclaimed documentaries as "The Civil War," "Baseball" and "Jazz" - re-edit the programs to include a Latino presence.

When PBS and Burns offered to run supplementary material about Latinos and Native Americans, rather than re-edit the work, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus rejected the offer - with Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), the chairman, calling it "a knife in [our] heart."

The caucus then passed a resolution demanding that the film be re-edited; its members also threatened PBS with a funding cut and threatened to pressure the series' corporate sponsors.

PBS still insists the series will air without re-editing. But the network or Burns may have caved in: Filmmaker Victor Galan, who was hired to shoot added material, insisted to the newspaper Conexion that his footage "will be incorporated into the existing series," not presented separately.

Needless to say, there's pretty rank hypocrisy here in congressional liberals - who two years ago charged that Republican appointees were politically slanting PBS programming - now demanding a slant of their own.

Yet not a single cry of "censorship" or "chilling effect" is to be heard.

The last 12 years did seem funny. Finally, Congress is back to normal.

Sober analysis from Mark Steyn on the French situation.
Just as Frau Merkel proved not to be Germany's Thatcher, I would be surprised if Nicolas Sarkozy turned out to be France's Reagan. Not because he doesn't have Reaganite tendencies but because the French electorate, like the Germans, aren't there yet. M Sarkozy did well in the first round because he co-opted many of Jean-Marie Le Pen's concerns. I don't mean the fascism and the anti-Semitism and the oven jokes. It's a tribute to the shriveling of the French political sphere that, by the time of the last presidential election in 2002, an antiquated perennial loser was able to catapult himself into second place. But, in an advanced technocratic state, where almost any issue worth talking about has been ruled beyond the scope of partisan politics, you might as well throw away terms like "left" and "right."

The discontented citizenry often complain about the lack of croissance — that's not a basket of crescent-shaped buttery breakfast pastries invented to mark Christendom's victory over Islam at the gates of Vienna in 1693, but the French word for "growth." The Fifth Republic has entirely missed out on the Reagan-Thatcher booms of the last quarter-century: its over-protected and over-regulated economy has led to permanently high unemployment and a lack of entrepreneurial energy, not to mention various social tensions from the blazing Citroens and Renaults lighting up the sky every night to entire suburbs that have effectively seceded from France to join the new Caliphate.

If you hire a 20-year-old and take a dislike to his work three months in, tough: chances are you're stuck with him till mid-century. In France's immobilized economy, it's all but impossible to get fired. Which is why it's all but impossible to get hired. Especially if you belong to that first category of "youths" from the Muslim ghettos, where unemployment is around 40 to 50 per cent. The second group of "youths" — the Sorbonne set — protesting the proposed new, more flexible labor law ought to be able to understand that it's both necessary to the nation and, indeed, in their own self-interest: they are after all their nation's elite. Yet they're like lemmings striking over the right to a steeper cliff — and, naturally, the political class caved in to them.

London is now the seventh biggest French-speaking city in the world. These are young talented dynamic people who like the same things about France the British and American tourists do — the vin, the cuisine, the couture, the Provencal farmhouses and the Cote d'Azur's topless beaches — but have concluded that it is no longer a society in which you can fulfill your economic potential. They would presumably be Sarkozy supporters, but, like many who feel the odds are stacked against them, they chose in the end to bail out.

As for those who remain, they're sick of crime and unemployment and on the whole could do with rather fewer Muslims on the streets, but they're not yet willing to give up on the economic protectionism and lavish social programs that lead, inexorably, to the crime and unemployment and a general economic and demographic decline leaving the nation dependent on mass immigration and accelerating Islamization.

Jim Hoagland on Sarkozy
His victory benefited greatly from the mistakes of Ségolène Royal, his Socialist opponent. An initially favorable electorate came to see her as incompetent and a shrew. In their televised debate Wednesday, Sarkozy brilliantly adapted Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope strategy by laying back and conserving his composure while Royal flailed wildly at him.

His victory benefited greatly from the mistakes of Ségolène Royal, his Socialist opponent. An initially favorable electorate came to see her as incompetent and a shrew. In their televised debate Wednesday, Sarkozy brilliantly adapted Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope strategy by laying back and conserving his composure while Royal flailed wildly at him.

Youthful and energetic at 52 and short in physical stature, Sarkozy -- the son of a Hungarian immigrant -- originally struck many in France as an unlikely president. But the force of his personality comes through in even casual encounters, and he can be an electrifying speaker on the stump. He considers one of the greatest accomplishments of the campaign his willingness to address politically incorrect topics such as endemic crime and violence in immigrant-inhabited ghettos.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


All week long, I've been seeing headlines about how the foxy Socialist was going to win the French presidency. It seemed a fait accompli until the votes were actually counted in favor of the pro-American guy. So what gives? Does the French press utilize the same wishful thinking tactics as us or was our press only printing the poll results that it hoped was true? Or was this simply a Dewey Defeats Truman moment of the outcome falling at the far edge of the polling margin of error? I'm truly miffed - someone please elucidate.

The latest poll on Bonds:
*Are you rooting for Bonds to break the home-run record, or do you hope Bonds falls short of it?


Blacks 74%
Whites 28%

Falls Short:
Blacks 18%
Whites 60%

*Do you think he's been treated unfairly mainly because of his (race), mainly because of his (personality), or mainly because of his (alleged use of steroids)?


Blacks 27%
Whites 1%


Blacks 21%
Whites 26%


Blacks 41%
Whites 66%

Jayson Stark "Racial issues hover over the chase" on
Look at these numbers. The poll says 74 percent of black fans want Bonds to break this record. And nearly half of all black fans think Bonds has been given a raw deal. And a quarter of those fans think that raw deal is all about race -- not steroids or anything else.

We're not so sure they're right in attributing the alleged mistreatment of this particular historical figure to racially charged motives. But for nearly all white fans who think Bonds has been treated unfairly to say race has nothing to do with it is stunning. We say to those fans: You're kidding yourselves if that's what you truly think.

White fans are kidding themselves to think race has nothing to do with it? That’s hard hitting, Stark. You might lose your job for saying such a taboo thing what with the white majority attacking any detractors. I would have taken the less risky path of saying that there are parallels to the OJ jury where to certain people nothing Bonds does is worthy of censure.

Stark’s understanding of race in America will prove itself out when Rafael Palmeiro makes the Hall of Fame and Barry Bonds is denied.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


A friend that works at the ESPN club called a few days ago. He brought up Barry Bonds and how one of the hosts at the club asked why we put up with Gaylord Perry’s admitted cheating but we’re down on Bonds for suspected cheating. He thought the guy made a good point. I think that comparison contains a major flaw.

What Gaylord Perry was doing could be detected and caught by the umpire or opposing manager and Perry was always taking the risk of getting caught. Perry’s deviousness was largely gamesmanship. He wasn’t out there cheating every time, because he would have been out of business. The well-known cheater can take the opposition out of their game by making them think too much about it. The hitters wonder what’s coming and the manager spends more time observing Perry than contemplating a hit-and-run situation.

For Bonds to be equivalent there had to be a component that allowed an umpire or opposing manager to lodge an investigation. The players association wouldn’t consent to such testing so Bonds was in the clear to do as he wished without repercussions. This got me to thinking though.

What if an opposing manager or umpire were allowed this equalizer? The opposing manager wants to challenge a player’s legitimacy and make him take a urine test. The umpire makes this offer to the player: You can leave the game and miss a week of playing time and forgo the urine test or you can take the test and stay in the game. If the test comes back positive your team forfeits the game and any game you played in between the time of the test and the results. So that it doesn’t get out of hand, managers are only allowed a set number of challenges per game or per year. That would make it difficult for steroids to proliferate without ever having to test anyone and it would make steroids close in relations to doctoring pitches. It would also side step the 5th amendment issue by allowing any player to leave the game instead of taking the test.


Today’s New York Times writes about the Mitchell commission looking into baseball.

Officials from the commissioner’s office declined to comment yesterday on any phase of the Mitchell investigation, including which players might be asked to appear. League officials and union officials both said they were unaware of which players had been or would be asked to speak to Mr. Mitchell. A union official said the union, in the past, had received copies of letters Mr. Mitchell sent to former players.

Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants slugger who is 13 home runs shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s career record, will most likely not be asked to meet with the panel soon, according to a person briefed on the investigation. Mr. Bonds is under federal investigation over possible perjury during grand-jury testimony in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case, which involved the distribution of steroids to elite athletes in a wide range of sports.

Mr. Bonds’s lawyer, Michael Rains, said in an interview that Mr. Bonds would decline to speak to the panel if he would risk incriminating himself.

The investigation has left baseball in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide how to celebrate the moment if and when Mr. Bonds breaks Mr. Aaron’s record; it is highly unlikely that the questions surrounding his actions will be resolved by the time that homer is hit.

I’ve written much about Pete Rose and how gambling only brings the possibility of cheating, but do you guys remember how Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were both banned from baseball for a year in the early 1970s because they were hired by a legal casino? Mantle wasn't even playing ball anymore. What danger did he pose? What it is about Bonds relationship with BALCO that isn’t deserving of the same penalty? Why doesn’t a reporter ask Bud Selig if Mays and Mantle were treated unfairly and why Bonds relationship with BALCO gets a pass?

A few years ago reporters and columnists were pretty down on Bonds. Now that he is set to break the record there is a lot of moral equivalence going on. I think the sports media took their cue early on from the political media that reports every impropriety hoping to break a Woodward/Bernstein kind of scandal. Baseball reporters were at first indignant and called for a tougher response. But now that baseball has been ineffectual reporters have backed down.

The political media can ruin a Nixon but the government itself will never lose its power and influence. Scandal in Washington is followed by reconciliation and more news stories. But if baseball is shown to be tainted, people can just stop watching. The sports media makes a living off baseball and they have a big stake in creating an atmosphere of legitimacy.

Networks, reporters, newspapers, players, coaches, and owners are all in the same business and the tensions that sometimes arise between them are personality driven. The Boston beat writers can keep Ted Williams off their ballot costing him the MVP, but they won't do much more. Maybe the same reporters will keep Bonds out of the HOF. That will be interesting to see.
For now, Bonds trot to the Home Run record is the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I’ve been watching Tucker Carlson this morning filling in the Imus time slot. If you didn’t follow politics and parties and you had to form an opinion about things from watching MSNBC, the conservative commentators Tucker Carlson, Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan would convince you that the Iraq war was begun by a liberal because they all see it as a disaster and they see the President as a bungler.

I’ll admit that I’ve never liked Carlson and enjoyed that moment where Jon Stewart ragged on him about Crossfire. I would have rather seen him do that to James Carville, but you can’t have everything. It does say a lot about the state of the media when a liberal goes on a liberal network to attack a token conservative about being a punching bag on a liberal network.

Scarborough no doubt sees opportunism in his criticism of Bush. He’s always been that way. It’s hard to know what his true convictions are in general. I’m sure he could have been elected to Congress in a liberal district had he run there instead of Pensacola. Having met him on three different occasions when he was running the first time back in 1994, he was nothing but pure ambition. He was a lot like Bill Clinton and there were many a rumor that he would only be able to go so far in politics because of Clinton-like bimbo eruptions that would dog him at some point. The ambition had to take him in a different direction and it did. If Keith Obermann can stay on the air with his dismal ratings, Scarborough doesn’t mind playing into the same prejudices.

There is no doubt that if Scarborough and Carlson were on Fox they would be singing a different tune. They know they’re marginal characters on MSNBC with no constituency among the news executives. By taking the PC route on the war they make themselves palatable. Identifying with your captors gets you a warm meal and makes you feel a part of something.

Pat Buchanan is a different story. He’s a man of real conviction that was against the war from the beginning. That has certainly helped his airtime, but it’s not why he espouses what he does.

Fox found a way to differentiate itself in the marketplace and all of the other outlets can’t compete because they cannot get beyond their world views. For instance, Dan Rather wants in his heart to be the most objective journalist that he can be. But he’s predisposed to see conservatives as people of privilege and when documents surface that show Bush in this light he cannot see that it’s too good to be true, because it confirms truth as he knows it. How else could someone remark, “fake but accurate”?

Chris Mathews hated the Swift Boat Veterans and wouldn’t give them the time of day. He would go on about what a hero Kerry was and how patriotic his service was, but didn’t see the contradiction of how the same could be said of all the Swfites that he discounted. That he wouldn’t even give these veterans time on his show to debate the matter shows a worldview again. Do you think the media would have taken the same approach had a group of oilmen come forward to say that Bush was a terrible driller who overstated his business acumen? Or more currently, do you think that Mathews will eschew people who take issue with the “America’s Mayor” reputation of Guliani? Do you think people who come forward with examples of how Guiliani embellished his importance in NYC will be banned from the Mathews show?

What it demonstrates is the problem that other news networks have in gaining a foothold on Fox. They thought that they could mitigate the popularity of the conservative approach by adding token conservatives to their lineup, but in practice it has been like adding a cup of hot water to the polar ice caps. At first it feels a little different and then the new water is assimilated with little effect.

Fox is in the enviable position of being the only alternate to the Eastern Establishment view of the country and world. Fox welcomes more liberal dissent on their network than conservative dissent that you are likely to see all day on the other networks combined. Mara Liason, Juan Williams, Morton Kondracke, Susan Estrich, Alan Colmes, Greta Van Susteren, Harold Ford, Bob Beckel, Jeff Birnbaum, Gerladine Ferraro, Eleanor Clift and Geraldo Rivera are all paid Fox News contributors. It actually helps the channel quite a bit because it’s cathartic to hear conservatives finally get to refute liberals after being helpless for so many years. I don’t think the channel would work nearly as well if it were merely bobbleheads. We tune in to hear the calm ACLU man get yelled at by O’Reilly.

It’s harder to enjoy the channel as a liberal not because their side doesn’t get a dog in the fight, but that they hate to hear the other side getting equal footing in the discussion, think the Swifties. To them it’s like a step back in time before they had all of these issues worked out for themselves. To liberals debate is whether the government should control the price of gasoline or just give it away free to people who make less than a certain amount of money. The idea that some wildcatter is risking everything to find oil would never occur to them. Or that the money that Exxon makes is dwarfed by the amount of taxes that gasoline brings the government is insignificant to them.

Without the premise of corporate evil and sectarian overreach much of the major media would not even know how to write a news story and the liberal audiences wouldn’t even think they were hearing actual news. And we’re the simpletons.

I caught the second half of the debate last night so I missed all the Iraq/Iran stuff but I caught enough to form some opinions.

My thought going into these early debates, a full year and a half before the general election, was that we are going to have candidate fatigue before the thing even really gets started. And then with so many states clamoring toward the front end of the primaries, my fear was that we end up with two regrettable candidates who were able to raise the most money. But having watched half a debate and started to hear how the candidates want to position themselves and watched them perform before a live crowd and a camera and a national audience and have to think on their feet and deliver their messages, I wonder whether this prolonged campaign might be a good thing, that the protracted testing period will deliver thoroughly vetted candidates to an informed electorate -- or as informed as it wants to be -- which is the way it should be.

ROMNEY was the big winner in my opinion, helped by the fact that he was relatively unknown and executed his plan well. He followed up his strong perfomance on Leno with a strong performance here. He came across as savvy, confident, comfortable and presidential. He does appear somewhat smug but maybe he can back that up. I would recommend less hair gel because my first visual impression of him was "slick" which is certainly not what he wants to convey. I liked his answers and his demeanor and he came across as a man of substance, style and character. He gets the biggest bump I think.

GIULIANI strikes me as tough but undisciplined. He did not seem to have a plan, other than to remind us at every turn that he lowered crime in New York and pulled America up after 9/11. How he could get tripped up by the abortion question that he knew would be coming is beyond me. I think I know what he was trying to say -- that he would appoint strict constructionist judges and let the chips fall where they may -- and I think that's the right answer -- but if that's what he was trying to say, he didn't say it very well. Debates are about delivering your message regardless of what the question is, and he needed to get that point across clearly, and the fact that he couldn't get it across even in reply to a direct question about it, well, that was confusing to say the least. "I'll appoint judges and justices who will be true to their consitutional role, and maybe they'll overturn a decision like Roe v. Wade and maybe they won't, and I will respect the process either way." I think that's a rational position that would satisfy the base, so just say it that way.

McCAIN strikes me as he always does, as a career politician who conveys that his biggest strength is that he's a career politician. I don't want someone who has a history of bipartisanship, I want someone who takes thoughtful, conscientious positions and stands his ground against career politicians.

HUNTER, BROWNBACK, HUCKABEE, GILMORE and THOMPSON did not distinguish or differentiate themselves and are the longest of long shots.

TANCREDO differentiated himself but on the secondary issue of immigration. His answer to every question was securing the border, which may be important, but isn't important enough to elect a president on that issue alone. Plus he failed to make eye contact with the audience, which his handlers should have taken care of.

PAUL gave some thoughtful and different answers but he too needs to work on his stage presence. He did not make a splash, unless that was the sound of him going in the tank.

The other winners were NEWT and FRED THOMPSON. Newt got the best gig of the night, evaluating everybody else on Fox News immediately following the debate, with the spotlight on him alone and with the benefit of hindsight. And Fred has the benefit of shaping his message in response to the returns on these early debates without saying anything now that he'd have to clean up later. He will continue to enjoy "backup quarterback" popularity whose favorable ratings will look great until he takes the field, fails to score and starts hearing the boos.

Who gets my vote if the election were held today? Giuliani. But what I like about this process is that my vote can change, and probably will, and maybe more than once. I like Romney's platform of "strength" -- strong military, strong economy and strong families -- which is nothing new and precisely why I like it, but I need to see and hear more of him.

I really wish CHENEY were participating in these debates but oh well.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005 ****1/2) Sure, there's the uncomfortable scene of butt sex to get through, but in the end, this film lives up to the hype. It's a really nice story of the choices people make in their lives which lead them in a certain direction versus the direction they wish they had taken. I thought it would be a movie about gay cowboys but it's not - it's really a movie about bi shepherds. Each fella marries and lives the socially accepted life but they return for trysts on Brokeback Mountain whenever the whim strikes. This film could have easily been laughable but incredibly strong writing, acting, and directing pulls it together into a classic. Ledger creates an enduring character and the scene in which he visits Jake's parents is a lesson in quality filmmaking.

CHILDREN OF MEN (2006 ****1/2) Nifty little dystopian vision of the near future in which everyone is barren but nobody really knows why, so they bide their final days on earth persecuting one another for various reasons. The story arc is predictable but it still manages to feel new. Clive Owens could easily play a strong-jawed hero but here he is sort of a lackey pressed into action when a baby-bearing breeder is ushered to his care. The scene in which both the state militia and the armed uprising halt aggression as the baby is taken to safety is really classy. The car chase and childbirth scenes are incredible and I was pleased the producers included a making-of vignette of both scenes on the DVD.

WALK THE LINE (2005 ****) I hoped to like this film and I wound up thinking it was really great. The only downside is that in any biopic, the story is limited to the events of a person's life which sometimes doesn't make for the strongest thematic circle of action. So far as a straightforward accounting of a fella's life, this one was nicely done. The dad was a good character and all the seminal life events were depicted. I was really impressed with the singing performed by the two leads and I thought Phoenix looked enough like Cash to buy him in the role. What really knocked me out was the decades long courtship between Johnny and June - that's one of the best love stories I've ever seen, since it was so unlike any movie romance we've seen before. Reese deservedly won an Oscar for her role, which in my opinion is one of the greatest female characters in film history.

ROXANNE(1987 ****1/2) I loved this film upon its release and I wanted to watch it with my daughter, though maybe she's a smidge too young for some of the humor. All the parts I remember are still there but some of the other stuff doesn't work so well. Some of the classic scenes, like the bar insult scene, haven't aged all that well and seem a bit more forced than I remember, but overall the smart script and funny gags win in the end, ensuring this film will still retain value as one of the great comedies of the '80s.

SPLASH (1984 ****) This is just a delightful film which suffers only in that it is not aging gracefully. It's the first Touchstone release, it's the first Tom Hanks film worth a damn, it's proof that Opie can direct, and it's the reason all your kids' friends are named Madison. It's a worthy comedy classic and fun to revisit every decade.

CASINO ROYALE (2006 ****) This is the best Bond film in decades but that shouldn't be confused with being one of the best films in decades. There is no special brand of genius on display here despite all the accolades heaped on it. Kudos to Daniel Craig for knocking it out of the park in his first at bat - he really set himself up to fail but came through like Gibbie vs Eck. It is tremendously satisfying to see the Bond franchise get a sorely needed reboot and I look forward to more good outings from Craig and Company.

BORAT (2006 ****) My friends have been begging me to see this as if their talking about it at parties would ruin it for me. I warmed up by renting an episode of THE ALI G SHOW in which Cohen portrays two other characters besides Borat. I found Ali G by far the most entertaining of the three, but Borat was first to get a feature. I was familiar with some of the schtick from the HBO show, so a few scenes in the film felt like retreads. I was impressed how the entire story had a throughline resembling a plot - I thought that was a nice way to thread the disparate scenes. I was in shock when Borat put a bag on Pamela Anderson at the end - I felt really bad for her and couldn't find the humor in assault. I've got to admit there are plenty of laughs here, but overall, the humor is just a little too crass for my taste.

MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007 ***) This film wasn't horrible but I happened to see many better films recently so it ranks fairly low on the list. It was kind of fun and thank god it did not center around some gang of farmyard, jungle, backalley, or Antarctic animals. The middle of the story was just flat out weird and didn't really work very well. I was really pretty bored with the whole affair until the third act pulled everything together and made what came before seem bearable. I saw this in glorious 3D, a far better rendering of the technology than the old red/blue glasses of yore.

IGBY GOES DOWN (2002 ***1/2) This film came recommended from brother Steve. It began promisingly but never won me over. A bunch of stuff happens but none of it seems to lead anywhere which made me think it was some sort of semi-autobiographical portrait of an artist who managed to convince someone in Hollywood to produce his story. Ryan Phillippe is the biggest blank slate working in film today - he has no screen presence and I continue to be bored by his portrayals.

SYRIANA (2005 ****) This is a film I might enjoy some day, but it put me to sleep two nights in a row and that's all I have to work off presently. When the closing credits woke me, I rewound to watch the final scene, and completely missing the message, I rewound even further to seek context, but it was no help. It's a smart film, and I loved the Matt Damon rant about squandering the greatest natural resource the world has ever known, and I will never forget Clooney getting his fingernails ripped out, but what good is a smart film if it puts the viewer to sleep?