Thursday, January 31, 2008


It is happening again. I have other things to get done this year and I am getting sucked into the political campaigns.

Ann Coulter again this week on her disgust at Republicans voting for McCain:

Why would any Republican vote for McCain? At least under President Hillary, Republicans in Congress would know that they're supposed to fight back. When
President McCain proposes the same ideas -- tax hikes, liberal judges and Social
Security for illegals -- Republicans in Congress will support "our" president -- just as they supported, if only briefly, Bush's great ideas on amnesty and Harriet Miers.

Republicans who vote for McCain are trying to be cute, like the Democrats were four years ago by voting for the "pragmatic" candidate, Vietnam vet John Kerry. This will turn out to be precisely as clever a gambit as nominating Kerry was, the brilliance of which was revealed on Election Day 2004.

This business about McCain being "the most electable" and "the candidate the Democrats most fear" is a bunch of hooey. It's the same mistake Republicans keep making. You can't beat Democrats by playing their game. Rush has been saying that for 20 years -- the way to beat a liberal is by being a conservative.

I'm just catching up with Thomas Sowell's post-Iowa analysis on the Democrats...

By far the best presentation as a candidate, among all the candidates in both parties, is that of Barack Obama. But if he actually believes even half of the irresponsible nonsense he talks, he would be an utter disaster in the White House.

Among the Democrats, the choice between John Edwards and Barack Obama depends on whether you prefer glib demagoguery in its plain vanilla form or spiced with a little style and color. The choice between both of them and Hillary Clinton depends on whether you prefer male or female demagoguery.

and the Republicans.

When it comes to personal temperament, Governor Romney would rate the highest for his even keel, regardless of what events are swirling around him, with Rudolph Giuliani a close second.

Temperament is far more important for a president than for a candidate. A president has to be on an even keel 24/7, for four long years, despite crises that can break out anywhere in the world at any time.

John McCain trails the pack in the temperament department, with his volatile, arrogant, and abrasive know-it-all attitude. His track record in the Senate is full of the betrayals of Republican supporters that have been the party’s biggest failing over the years and its Achilles heel politically. The elder President Bush’s betrayal of his “no new taxes” pledge was the classic example, but the current President Bush’s attempt to get amnesty for illegal aliens, with Senator McCain’s help, was more of the same. President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon probably cost him the 1976 election and cost the country the disastrous Carter years.

McCain’s betrayals include not only the amnesty bill but also the McCain-Feingold bill that violated the First Amendment for the illusion of “taking money out of politics.” His back-door deal with Democrats on judicial nominations also pulled the rug out from under his party leaders in the Senate.

The White House is not the place for a loose cannon.

I saw some of the Republican debate last night and there didn't appear to be a winner, although Huckabee and Paul were clear losers based simply on the amount of air time. McCain seems to have adopted the Democratic campaign strategy of repeating lies so frequently that they must be true. He also seems to be adopting Giuliani's custom of answering every question with the same answer, in McCain's case that he showed leadership in the military and therefore can solve every problem. His long answer to how he would manage the economy did not mention even remotely how he would manage the economy. I was reminded, however, that he served in the military. Right, and Kerry won three Purple Hearts. I get it. Right, yes, I get it. Yeah, I got it, military experience.

I listened to Bill Clinton making a speech last night and I fear him. He made clear that Hillary loves the children, that she has tirelessly fought for the children with great personal sacrifice, that whatever problem you may have and whatever situation you may find yourself in, with Hillary in charge, government will pay for it, and that Hillary has been instrumental in bringing peace to several foreign lands including Ireland and Senegal. He concluded with a story about a fireman who was serving as a caddy on a course Clinton was playing. On one green, after Clinton's putt, the fireman caddy grabbed his arm "with a vice grip" (I think the Secret Service is supposed to prevent that sort of thing) and told him how Bush didn't care about him, how he can't vote Republican any more, and how Hillary is the only person who really cared about the firefighters and policemen in the wake of 9/11. The way he told the story, it would have taken at least 20 minutes for this incident to play out on the green, while the rest of Clinton's foursome waited on the next tee. In all likelihood, the story is totally made up, or based very loosely on a real event, but I can't prove it, and neither can anybody else, so soon, with multiple retellings, it will be true. The Clintons do that so well. I admire their calculating shrewdness, ruthlessness, and disregard for the facts. I admire and detest it.

This morning I heard her (briefly, for I can't stand the sound of her voice) quoting 1 Corinthians 13: "love is not proud, does not boast, does not envy," etc. The Clintons can talk about love with a straight face and get away with it. That is why I detest and fear them. On another note, I am still trying to figure out why political speech is okay in Democratic congregations and illegal in Republican ones.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


My last installment garnered no comments, not even a certificate of completion from Biff, so these are scaled down reviews of ten films I have seen, all from last year, ranked in order of enjoyment:

JUNO (2007) - the best and most original film of the year that I have seen. I know Ellen Page from HARD CANDY and now she is a few years older and funnier. She creates a character impossible to forget. The script is also unforgettable. I learned that you do not have a story without an antagonist but here it is achieved. There are no bad guys in this story. The dad and stepmom are real people and not caricatures as they would have been in any other teenage movie. The kids are real too with real thoughts and emotions. The situations are funny and true and it never takes the route you expect. Movies like this just feel good to watch.

SERAPHIM FALLS (2007) - FIRST BLOOD meets JOSEY WALES. I liked it a lot despite the peculiar third act in which delusions appear to affect reality. It is mostly Liam Neeson chasing Pierce Brosnan through treacherous terrain - they begin in the snowy mountains, nearly freezing to death, and wind up on the barren plateau with nary the strength to fight. A movie for guys who love movies.

THE LOOKOUT (2007) - interesting study of a one-time golden boy who got himself a little brain damage and now sweeps floors in a bank. He is preyed upon by a band of bank robbers who make him their inside man. The dude from 3rd Rock proves that he has the acting chops to stick around for awhile by creating a nifty character.

3:10 TO YUMA (2007) - it's a good mix of action and psychology that goes terribly haywire in the closing minutes. I know it was written that way long ago, but change it anyways if it sucks that bad. If Ben Wade simply gets on the train, knowing that he will escape later, then it is genius. Instead, we lose the guy we love and Wade kills all his buddies even though he still plans to escape later. I don't get it.

300 (2007) - the visual look of this film is simply astounding. There were a few scenes I played over and over just to look at again. Included in this ritual were the sexy scene with the babely wife and the slow-motion raptuous dance of the nymph. There were also some incredible battle sequences. It is truly a visual delight but I could have done with fewer beasts and mutants. It's basically BRAVEHEART for teenagers.

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007) - sure, it's ridiculous but all guys love a good action pic when handled with care. The plot is a decent shade of realistic armageddon and Justin Long is good as the sidekick. It is the height of silliness when McClain takes out a chopper with a squad car but there are some riveting action sequences to make up for that.

SUPERBAD (2007) - here is a movie made by teenagers for teenagers. It was written by Seth Rogen and his pal when they were thirteen and shelved until they had the power to get it made. It is ten times more crass than it needs to be and there has rarely been a more unlikeable lead character. This is somewhat made up for by the iconic McLovin character who is twice as funny as Napoleon Dynamite. I liked that it was a night-in-the-life tale, which was a SuperCrass version of DAZED AND CONFUSED.

THE SAVAGES (2007) - overrated by a mile but fun to watch two of everyone's favorite actors as siblings. The better film is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME in which Laura Linney plays the sane sibling. In this one, she's kind of nutty. It's a mildly interesting character study but not as good as you are being lead to believe.

1408 (2007) - it's fairly interesting until the way-over-the-top third act. I understand that the Stephen King short-story is mainly the conversation between John Cusack and Samuel Jackson. That is a great scene but it almost doesn't belong in this film since Jackson never reappears after that encounter. Cusack can carry a movie and he does here for long stretches.

THE BEE MOVIE (2007) - it had some good buzz but I was less than charmed. I actually nodded off for a few minutes in the middle. The Seinfeld humor works onstage and in sitcom format but drones on at feature length. If you are a critter that can talk, then just talk to one person, don't go on CNN - that is stretching credulity beyond repair.

Taken from Wired Magazine Issue 16.02 as written by Thomas Hayden.
Morality, spirituality, the meaning of life - science doesn't handle those issues well at all. But that's cool. We have art and religion for that stuff. Science also assumes predictable cause and effect in a world that's a chaotic, bubbling stew of randomness. But that's OK, too. Our approximations are usually good enough. No, the real reason science sucks is that it makes us look bad. It makes us bit players in the Big Story of the universe, and it exposes some key limitations of the human brain.

Look at it this way: Before science, we humans had dominion over Earth, the center of the universe. Now we're just a bunch of hairless apes on a wet rock orbiting a minor star in a marginal galaxy.

Even worse, those same cortexes that invented science can't really embrace it. Science describes the world with numbers (ratio of circumference to diameter: pi) and abstractions (particles! waves! particles!). But our intractable brains evolved on a diet of campfire tales. Fantastical explanations (angry gods hurling lightning bolts) and rare events with dramatic outcomes (saber-toothed tiger attacks) make more of an impact on us than statistical norms.

Evolution gave us brains that crave certainty, with irrational fears of crashing in an airplane and a built-in weakness for just-so stories about intelligent design. Meanwhile, the true wonders revealed by the scientific method - species that change into new species over time, continents that float around the planet, a quantum-mechanical world where nothing is for sure - are worse than counterintuitive. To a depressingly large number of us, they're downright threatening.

In other words, thanks to evolution, half of all Americans don't believe in evolution. That's the universe for you: impersonal, uncaring, and ironic.

Who would have thought, a few months ago when Dr. Media pronounced McCain dead, that the headlines today would proclaim him the nominee in waiting?
We're not picking on Zogby, they just offer the best example of the lesson that politics is unpredictable. Their telephone survey of 364 likely Republicans, conducted 7/12-14 last year, showed Fred Thompson with 22% and Rudy Giuliani with 21%, followed by Romney's 11%, McCain at 9% and Huckabee at just 5%. Thompson and Giuliani, who led the national polls all year, are gone. Laggards Romney, McCain and Huckabee are still standing. Remember this in four years: Do not pay attention to national polls in presidential primaries.

Starting today, Romney gets the pairing he wanted. He can cast himself as the conservative alternative to that rascally maverick McCain. Of course the sad news behind all of this is that Hillary Clinton is our next president. I would love to be wrong but I don't see it. Rebuttals welcome.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Early voting has been going on for two weeks. I turned down that offer near the beginning of the process, because I wanted Giuliani, but I wanted McCain to lose even more. That road has one choice, Mitt Romney. It was easy to root for Rudy or Fred, but Romney I'm coming to like out of necessity.

The biggest selling point on McCain seems to be that he can beat Clinton. Nonsense. Mitt Romney was the only person in the last 30 years to give Ted Kennedy a real race for his Senate seat. He was then elected as Governor of Mass. He's had to win over far more people who don't necessarily agree with him than McCain has ever had to do. McCain wins theoritical moderates and Romney has won real ones.

If McCain wins the nomination, should I vote for him?

E's comment earlier that we're really voting for the Supreme Court is dead on. That's why I think we have to defeat McCain in these primaries. McCain has made too many deals with Democrats and he would make a deal for a Justice that they can live with much like Bush nominated Harriet Miers when Harry Reid nodded approval. The difference is that unlike Bush, McCain will never listen to us. That's what campaign finance reform was all about, keep those people quiet so we can do our work in private.

McCain's Supreme Court selection will be another Kennedy or even worse, Souter. McCain will say he had no choice, but that's what he always says, Mr. Let's get things done. We need Mr. Let's get things done Right! McCain won't win any conservative victories, and he won't confront these Democrats in Congress and their legislation. To say he's right on the war doesn't answer why he went after Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy was a real breath of fresh air, a straight talker like McCain pretends to be.

The bigger trouble with McCain is that the party will be defined by what he does. Republicans cannot win every election, so we might as well lose the ones when we nominate a candidate who doesn't share our core values. So much of McCain is a reminder of Bob Dole, an old guy who makes back room deals and kisses and hugs the Clintons more than the Bushes.

I can't vote for the Democrat, but if McCain is the candidate and the election were tomorrow, I would vote for the Libertarian.

UPDATE: Thinking about it more. . . What makes John McCain dangerous is that he really thinks he's a conservative, a pragmatic one. This is a result of being Bob Dole's lieutenant for so long.

He buys into the MSM notion that the problem in Washington is the bickering. Like many he thinks that we need a leader to bring us together. Nonsense. It's the fighting that makes the government a slow moving instrument, and thus a stable one.

He thinks problems should be solved in Washington instead of the heartland. You never hear him talk of solving the problems created in Washington.

I don't know why Florida is a winner-take-all primary. That seems to winnow the field long before necessary. I've been leaning Giuliani but he may not even be in the race still when I cast my vote.

Momentum is one thing and it is being used as spin by the "winner" of all these states where the top two are merely splitting delegates. It would be terrible if McCain/Romney are within a few percentage points of one another yet one of them scoops all the delegates. That seems like a bad way to run this process.

I like McCain's insistence that national security is paramount in these times but I'm not sold on the rest of his package. He seems a decent enough guy usually, but I don't like the way it is so obvious to him that Romney is a buffoon. He would do better to stick with Reagan's eleventh commandment and not talk ill of fellow Republicans. We are supposed to call the other guy "Ozone Man" while remaining united within the large tent of our own party.

McCain is boring as hell to listen to and "experience" is a major turn-off for me, although I appear to be in the minority with that opinion. Any time a candidate righteously touts his/her experience, I puke a little in my mouth and hope he/she gets his/her comeuppance. A = Government is broken; B = I am part of Government; therefore C = I am in position to fix it. Alternate C = I am part of the problem, not the solution.

Reagan came into office when the misery index was high and he made people of both parties believe in a better future and then he made it happen. Obama gets that. His policies are a bit socialist but as a leader, he could do for America what Reagan did a generation ago and usher in a new era in which our differences define us rather than divide us.

The Democratic Party has been broken since JFK took a bullet. They have divided our country, rich against poor, black against white now for four decades. Billary was able to use the black vote to propel them to office but now they no longer can count on it and are courting the Hispanic vote, attempting to create a new division within the party and within our country. Obama more or less shares Billary's politics but his message is so much more inclusive. This guy is our country. He is rich, poor, black, white, American and foreigner all at once. It just feels that he is the right guy for the times. So long as we have military hawks staving off the Islamic jihadist threat, I would be thrilled if we had a president who could work to heal the racial divide that is destroying us from within.

And I'm a Republican, but I can see now how Reagan did it. There are certain times in history when conditions collude to make people put their politics aside and find a new direction for the country. I have always voted Republican but the party is broken. I voted twice for Bush and twice for his father even though I wasn't in love with either candidate, but it was the best my party could offer.

If 2008 comes to the point where the best my party can offer is John McCain, then I have to question if he deserves my unwavering support. If you take foreign policy out of the equation, there are only minor differences between how Democrats and Republicans govern anymore. Give me Newt Gingrich and I vote GOP without hesitation, but offer McCain v Obama and it might be worth the trade to root for the true agent of change, with fingers crossed that national health care just doesn't come to pass. Last time it got close, Gingrich came to the rescue and for a time, defined the GOP. We are in dire need again of being rescued so I'm holding out for 2010. I could certainly live with an Obama administration and a Republican congress. That could be just what our country needs.

Zzzz. My wife fell asleep and I came close. And I wasn't tired when it started.


My parents both tend to vote Republican. My mom voted McCain in today's primary (they voted early) because "he's been around a long time, he knows how things work." She would have voted Obama but couldn't because she is registered Republican. Why? "He seems like an honest man, and it would be good for the country to elect a black president." She is anti-Hillary because Hillary "is a lying b****." She doesn't know much about Romney except that "he is a successful businessman." Giuliani had nothing to say to her beyond 9/11, and that wasn't enough. She admitted knowing next to nothing about where any of the candidates stand on the issues. She said she gets her information primarily from print columnists.

My dad is registered Democrat because his dad was registered Democrat, so he could not vote in the Republican primary. He cast an anti-Hillary vote for Obama and would vote McCain if the election were held today.

Rob is a Romney guy, rabidly anti-Hillary and will go haywire when she is elected.

It was very interesting talking politics with my mom, in particular, how strong and solidly formed her opinions were, based on very little hard information. I think like many voters, she forms casual opinions about the candidates based on what she sees and hears in the media, and those early impressions are sticky. She described each candidate in a word-association sort of way:

Obama - likeable, honest
Hillary - lying b****
McCain - experienced
Romney - successful businessman
Giuliani - 9/11

So each of the candidates (other than Hillary) was able to get their think-of-me-in-this-way label across to her, and unfortunately, in the wake of Bush who refuses to talk to us, a lot of people are responding to Obama who is able to convey personality and warmth. They like the way he talks, they don't seem to notice or care that he isn't saying much, and they don't evaluate or think through the implications of what he does say.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Like many Republicans, I want to like Bush but I don't see enough of him to let me. And for sure he has failed on that component of Leadership 101 that demands frequent repetition of the leader's vision. But nonetheless, I am still audacious enough to believe that history will smile upon Bush as a leader who made principled decisions that he thought were right, in the face of extreme political opposition.

Fred Barnes explains how the surge came to be.

The 20-minute speech on January 10, 2007, was not Bush's most eloquent. And it wasn't greeted with applause. Democrats condemned the surge and Republicans were mostly silent. Polls showing strong public opposition to the war in Iraq were unaffected.

But the president, as best I could tell, wasn't looking for affirmation. He was focused solely on victory in Iraq. The surge may achieve that. And if it does, Bush's decision to spurn public opinion and the pressure of politics and intensify the war in Iraq will surely be regarded as the greatest of his presidency.

There are different kinds of leadership authority. Leading purely from "positional authority," based on one's title or rank or position in the organizational hierarchy, is generally regarded to be weak and unsustainable. But when your rank is POTUS and you're gone in Jan 2009 in any case, one could argue that he has made greatly effective use of his positional authority. His (many) opponents could (and do) argue that he has overstepped his authority, but the Founders put a lot of authority, on purpose, in the singular person of the presidency and Congress established term limits post-FDR to limit the amount of damage that any one president could do.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I was pretty sure I had seen Sir's figure before.

Enhanced video of classic lumbering Bigfoot sequence. And again.

Bigfoot links.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Interesting photo. If it is "just a rock" as NASA claims, why not send "Spirit" over to investigate?
NASA'S Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this westward view from atop a low plateau where Spirit spent the closing months of 2007. Several bloggers and other enthusiasts have pointed to a tiny structure (red circle) on the Martian surface as a human figure and thus evidence of life on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Yes it is true that our human psychology leads us to see shapes and images where only an ambiguous shape is present (such as in clouds and inkblots) but wouldn't it be wonderful and interesting if it really were an ancient statue?


Isn't all the affection really directed toward Bill? Is there really a presidential candidate named Hillary Clinton? The thing that is so aggravating about the Clintons is that their shenanigans work. They buy an empty house in New York, Hillary becomes New York's new senator in a landslide win, and suddenly she's a credible candidate for president. Ridiculous but true.

CHARLESTON, SC—After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race, saying he "could no longer resist the urge."

"My fellow Americans, I am sick and tired of not being president," said Clinton, introducing his wife at a "Hillary '08" rally. "For seven agonizing years, I have sat idly by as others experienced the joys of campaigning, debating, and interacting with the people of this great nation, and I simply cannot take it anymore. I have to be president again. I have to."

Clinton called Hillary Clinton a "wonderful wife and worthy political adversary," and warmly shook her hand as she approached the podium.

Clinton told reporters Tuesday that seeing so many "Clinton '08" posters "really got [him] thinking," and said that the fact that he was already wearing a suit, and smiling and waving on the campaign trail was an added motivator.

"For too long has this nation been deprived of a Bill Clinton presidency, and for too long have I been deprived of being president. Now I get to experience all these wonderful things again myself."

"And the applause," Clinton added. "I look forward to the endless roar of applause perhaps most of all."

Since his announcement two days ago, Clinton has raised a staggering $550 million. He has also surged in national polls, rising from a mere 2 percent prior to his candidacy to a commanding 94 percent, ahead of former front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who are now tied with 3 percent each. John Edwards withdrew from the race Tuesday.

Clinton also noted that, if elected, the timing would be perfect for his family, as his wife has recently expressed a desire to move back to the D.C. area.

Friday, January 25, 2008


John Kerry, the Democratic Party's 2004 nominee for president, took aim at Bill Clinton Friday, telling the National Journal the former president does "not have a license to abuse the truth."

The Massachusetts senator, who endorsed Barack Obama's White House bid earlier this month, said Clinton's criticisms of the Illinois senator have been "over the top," and suggested the former president is getting "frantic."

Targeting Clinton's recent spate of attacks on Obama, Kerry said, "I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. …I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it's been over the top.

"I think it's very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that," Kerry added. "When somebody's coming on strong and they are growing, people get a little frantic, and I think people have seen this sort of franticness in the air, if you will."

Bill does have a license to abuse the truth and you gave it to him during the impeachment trial.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani made liberal statements and did liberal things in their pasts, but they were governing as political minorities. Taken in that context their accomplishments were extraordinary. What makes John McCain so repugnant is that he’s from Goldwater country and could have been a leading conservative spokesman instead of a toady for the New York Times. I have more reason to believe Mitt and Rudy would spend their time winning conservative issues instead of hammering out deals for liberal ones.

The Republicans that are jumping on the global warming bandwagon are reminiscent of the Democrats who supported the war in 2002. Both groups are afraid of being on the wrong side of a popular issue. The difference is that the press will never turn on the environmental effort no matter how ridiculous it becomes. It will simply drift away.

As far as the war, I think the debate moderators aren’t approaching the Democrats correctly. They keep allowing this canard that Bush lied about the war and they are victims of his treachery. Clinton and Edwards read the same intelligence as Bush and they were free to come to different conclusions. Florida Democrat Senator, Bob Graham voted against the war saying he didn’t think the case was strong enough.

It probably doesn’t make much difference to Democrats, because they don’t value having strong leadership, but what does it say for candidates so ready to find a consensus rather than follow their ideals? I do think it’s funny how they can’t decide if Bush is a dolt or if he’s the most politically devious politician in America. I guess it’s partly answered by those who understand the conflict and thus blame Cheney for everything war related and paint Bush as his Charlie McCarthy. The best way to lose to your opponent is to misunderestimate him.

Bill Clinton calls Obama’s opposition to the war a fairytale. What is the media’s obsession with Bill Clinton? Why do they allow him to redefine his own record according to whatever makes him look good at the time? You’d think their radar would be up for a guy who lied before a grand jury. Nixon spent his waning years writing books about foreign policy not spinning his own accomplishments. When is the first reporter going to ask Clinton straight out why would anyone believe him about anything?

If the Democrats nominate Hilary over Obama the decision will date back to the time in which Democrats rallied behind Clinton during the impeachment and thus cast their lot with personality over honesty. A Clinton impeachment should have resulted in President Gore and a much different decade, one more to their liking. If they continue to back the Clintons this time around they will be giving up a chance to support the best candidate they are likely to have for a generation.

“Some mistakes you never stop paying for.”- Roby Hobbes, The Natural
ONCE (2007) – A Movie Review

Bad movies can be easily reviewed by describing misfire scenes and phony dialogue. Good movies are a little tougher, because you have to describe why it works for you. Remarkable movies are nearly impossible, because remarkable movies make the simple sublime. ONCE convinced me that good movies can still be made with a small budget, a simple script and a few honest performances.

Guy, a talented struggling Dublin street musician meets Girl, a piano playing Czech immigrant. What happens next has to be seen to be appreciated. It’s best described as honest or real or at least warm. The leads were both musicians who had never acted but you’d think they were the two biggest stars in Ireland.

Of all the Junto Boys I am probably the least interested in music, and the music here is great. As a musical I would certainly take it over CHICAGO, HAIRSPRAY, and THE PRODUCERS. Though I have a lot of movies yet to see, ONCE is so far the best film I have seen in 2007. I'll comment again after seeing Juno, No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood.

The Writer’s Strike

I think the WGA made a mistake dealing with Letterman separately. Jay Leno was in no way going to stay off the air with Letterman on, union or no. I saw Colbert, and Kimmel tonight and I don’t think any of these shows really miss the writers. In fact, for Colbert a loss of writers means the most annoying segments are gone. Rush Limbaugh does 3 hours a day with no writers and a small research staff. How did it become the norm for these shows to have 10 scribes?

Al Michaels

I keep thinking about what Dennis Miller said on his radio show last summer. Miller said that Al Michaels doesn’t eat vegetables, in fact, Al’s wife hasn’t seen him eat a single vegetable in the 35 years she has known him. That’s a large amount of food not to eat. I guess tomatoes and avocados are fruit so that helps a little, but maybe he won’t eat those either. No Peta campaigns for Al.

Dem VP

Maybe I blogged this earlier. I’m too lazy to check. I think the Democrat nominee has to pick a strong national security running mate. It’s the only thing lacking in their resumes. This is what Bush did when he picked Dick Chenney. I think Hilary has already chosen Wesley Clark in her head. Obama needs a tough guy more than she does. An interesting darkhorse is that General that bungled Iraq, Richard Sanchez. He can blame the whole thing on Bush like every other Democrat. E’s recent theory that McCain could land there does make sense. He’s never showed loyalty before so why now?

Heath Ledger

With Lohan, Spears etc. in and out of rehab, Ledger takes us by surprise. No tabloid told us that this guy was drug dependent. So much is made of the young Hollywood lifestyle and how that leads to tragedy, but what if it’s the other way around. Maybe people who are emotionally or chemically unstable are lead into showbiz because they need to fill that emptiness with public adulation.

Like Dude I have seen 3 of his movies, but only one in common, A KNIGHT’S TALE. I enjoyed 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, a high school version of taming of the shrew. I also saw Mel Gibson’s PATRIOT which is entertaining enough despite the historical inaccuracies, length, and script problems.

What really got me was the photo of Heath with his 2 year old daughter clutching his leg. She held on tight like she was afraid to lose him. Ten other guys can play the Joker, but that little girl only has him. That thought may not have occurred to me a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

HEATH LEDGER (1979-2008)

It's always strange when a famous person dies at the peak of their earning power. Rarely is it someone whose birthday came a full decade after my own. I don't know much about Ledger but I did notice in the past year that whenever I saw him in a photo, he looked like a hobo. I figured it was an eccentric actor thing. Looking over his filmography, I was surprised to find I have only seen him in three films:

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Monster's Ball (2001)
A Knight's Tale (2001)

I was introduced to A KNIGHT'S TALE on DVD at Disneyland by coworker, Lucy Zolcerovich, who hailed from Czechoslovakia. The film was shot near her hometown. I loved the movie and I have seen it at least twice more since. Ledger was good in it. There was something about both the way he looks and behaves that has always reminded me of John Stamper and I always think of John whenever I see Ledger. Although I don't see John much anymore, I know from photos that siring a child has not turned him into a hobo, so the similarity only goes so far.

I saw MONSTER'S BALL in the theatre when it was a small word-of-mouth film and not yet an Oscar winner. Billy Bob Thornton (pre-BAD NEWS BEARS) was delivering fine performances in all his films and this was no exception. It was Halle Berry that won the statue, and Ledger was fine too in a mopey role.

It will be BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN that people think of when they remember Ledger. The film is good enough that it will not be soon forgotten, and Ledger's performance is standout. It's too bad he missed out on the Oscar since there won't be any more chances. He really nails the character - a taciturn guy who feels strong emotion but has no outlet for it beyond the time he spends on Brokeback Mountain with his special dude. It may have stood forever as Ledger's career achievement or perhaps it would have served as the launch of a luminous career as an eminent film actor.

I'm sure I will see THE DARK KNIGHT, which will serve as his swan song. I know he is filming with Terry Gilliam but I doubt if there's enough footage as yet to salvage the film without recasting and reshooting. The details surrounding his death are interesting. I don't anticipate it will be ruled suicide. Nobody offs themselves with a masseuse en route. It's always intriguing when somebody dies young. I told Mason that whenever somebody dies young, it is usually because of a bad heart or it is drug-related. Then I gave him his heart medicine, secretly thankful that he never listens to me.

You heard it here first. McCain will be bitter when he gets dumped (again) by the GOP, and he's old and it's his last chance to grab power, and Hillary is not going to run with Obama (they are too alike ideologically), and therefore........ Clinton/McCain '08 beats Rudy or Romney in a walk. McCain turns Independent and the bipartisan ticket dominates the middle of the electorate. Be very afraid.

This long, detailed, heavily linked article suggests that the Huckster owes his remarkable weight loss to gastric bypass surgery, which would mean that his current fame is built on a total fraud.

Even if Governor Huckabee had lost weight by having bariatric surgery, there would be no shame in that,” says Alice Stewart, press secretary for the Mike Huckabee exploratory Committee. “[But the] fact is that the governor’s weight loss program was very well documented by the media. Steve Barnes of Time magazine interviewed the governor as well as his doctors.”

This curious response reads more like an admission of bariatric surgery than a denial.

If he lost 75 lbs. in six months through diet and exercise, that's inspiring and he is a true success story. If he is lying about that, he should be publicly disgraced and quickly forgotten.

UPDATE: To be fair, there are plenty of rebuttals, like this one. Just as Kerry could have put the issue of his war wounds to rest by disclosing his medical history and his release papers, Huckabee could make his case by being more direct and forthcoming about the details of his dramatic weight loss.

In any event, Huckabee could be gone from the race by the time you finish reading this post, so just go back to whatever you were doing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Mitt Romney on Fox News Sunday, on stimulating the economy by cutting taxes and incentivizing business investment rather than stimulating Doritos sales. I hope to see Giuliani win winner-take-all Florida and then get back to Romney vs. Giuliani like we were promised. Me would like to see McCain fade, and quickly.

WALLACE: Democrats say that your plan and also President Bush's don't give any money to the 50 million Americans who at this point don't pay taxes.
And according to the Democrats, not only could those 50 million Americans use it, but they're also more likely to spend the money, which is the whole point of a rebate system.

ROMNEY: Well, my system is primarily based on trying to create jobs, not handing out cash to individuals. I do lower the lowest income tax bracket from 10 percent to 7.5 percent. And that helps, of course, people at the low economic level.
The heart of what I'm doing is trying to get businesses to become more active, buying capital equipment, trying to get businesses to grow in this country and to create more jobs, because the best -- obviously, the best antidote to having an economic slowdown is growth in the business sector, creating jobs, putting more people at work and, of course, that generates more income for everybody.

WALLACE: But what about those 50 million -- or perhaps it would be less with your Social Security break -- who don't pay any taxes? Nothing for them?

ROMNEY: Well, it's jobs. It's focused on jobs. And certainly, what you want to do is provide the incentives to help companies to be creating new jobs.
I think the number of 50 million strikes a little high. But for those that are not paying any taxes at all, simply writing a check doesn't seem to me to be the right course to follow.

FEMA handed out cash after Katrina. I don't remember that working so well. Government does not produce, it only consumes, and government solutions are almost always inefficient. But government employees vote Democrat, so Democrats like government programs. I heard Hillary the other day running down a long list of government handouts, regulations and controls that would mark her presidency. Please no.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Here are ten films I've seen since my last list, ranked in order of enjoyment. Another list is in the works.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) - This is one of those movies that I've mostly seen even though I'd never actually sat down and watched it from beginning to end. I rectified that deficiency last December by watching it with the kids. It is classic scene after classic scene adding up to a perennial favorite. I love the nostalgic feel and the familial tone yet with sprinkles of dark humor such as the visit with Santa at the mall. This film is really a treat and I expect to watch it several more times over the years as the kids get older and learn to appreciate it in new ways.

APOCALYPTO (2006) - Loved it. Many aspects of the story reminded me of a half-written story that's been in my head for two decades. This is one of those magical films that immerses you completely into a foreign world, showing the beauty and savagery of another civilization. The makeup and costumes are astounding. The lack of familiar faces and the use of subtitles are ingenious in keeping us in this world as observers without the subtle wink from the filmmakers begging us to suspend our disbelief. Act I introduces us to characters and situations and includes some surprising humor. Act II reminds me of PASSION OF THE CHRIST with the extended death march to the Mayan temple. Act III becomes THE NAKED PREY and all three acts are effective and wondrous. The story is simple but it perfectly sums up a culture that has been under-explored in film history.

SPEED (1994) - I saw this upon its initial release and loved it for being an unabashed adrenaline ride. It is still plenty fun although a little more ridiculous. The dialogue is plain silly - there is one instance on the speeding bus where two passengers are shouting and one asks "would you like to step outside?" That is so silly that it must have been on purpose. Keanu's lines are not much better. But, hey, we don't watch action movies for the dialogue and this one delivers on its titular promise.

BLACK SNAKE MOAN (2007) - This film is unique and interesting enough to get a recommendation from me. It is basically taking the blues and turning it into a film with plenty of music to set the tone. Christina Ricci is the neighborhood tramp who falls into Samuel Jackson's life just as he is abandoned by his wife. Ricci is injured and unwholesome besides so Jackson appoints himself as her salvation. He nurses her back to health, then chains her to the radiator so he can exorcise the demons that drive her to nymphomania. It's kooky but works anyways. Jackson's preacher pal is a great character in this story. The only part of the story that didn't work for me is the burgeoning romance between Jackson's character and the town pharmacist. I would have rather that subplot been purged.

ZODIAC (2007) - Marci watched this with her folks over Thanksgiving and I tried to pay attention from the other room as I played in a poker tournament. My review is qualified since I wasn't giving the film my total attention, but I can still give it an unqualified thumbs up. I've liked all of David Fincher's films - he has a great way with atmosphere and subtle creepiness. He delivers here with a creepy subtext underscoring even the most basic expository scenes. It is always a pleasure to find a well-crafted film made for adults. I will definitely watch this again some day.

RESCUE DAWN (2006) - It's not the best Herzog film although it is probably his most mainstream effort. I have a man-crush on both Herzog and Christian Bale so there was no doubt I would seek this out. It is entirely watchable and entertaining, though it suffers from the usual biopic by needing to stick to the actual story at the expense of what may be more fun or interesting to watch. In a supporting effort, Steve Zahn proves himself capable after one too many zany buddy roles. Bale punishes himself by losing a ton of weight and eating maggots.

LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (1997) - Before the fictionalized RESCUE DAWN, there was this documentary, also by Werner Herzog. Dieter Demler is an interesting fellow and here, he gives a first-person account of his desire to become an American fighter pilot, his capture, subsequent imprisonment and torture at the hand of the Viet Cong. You can tell that Herzog has great reverence for his Bavarian mate.

KNOCKED UP (2007) - This film didn't work at all for me. I really liked THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. I think Steve Carell really carried it with his genuine portrayal. The buddy interplay between Seth Rogan and Paul Ruud was fantastic in that film but it is stretched a bit thin here. I didn't believe for a minute that the Heigl character, after being portrayed as career ambitious, would want to both keep the baby and try to fall in love with Rogan. Seth was likable enough but there was absolutely no reason for a career woman to want to schlep him along just because he donated sperm. There were several scenes (such as the extended conversation with the bouncer) that just didn't belong in the film and were only included because they must have been fun to shoot. The next film I watch will be SUPERBAD and I'm hoping for an improvement over this one. I know it was the comedy sensation of '07 and it was a critics' darling and all, but I just don't see why.

LIGHT SLEEPER (1992) - I remember reading about this film in Premiere Magazine way back when so it's always remained in the back of my mind as something I would like to see. So, lying in bed with no Tivo, I am at the mercy of whatever is coming on IFC and one Saturday morning, there it was, commercial-free. Willem Dafoe plays an interesting character who is still a high class drug dealer even after he's kicked the habit himself. It's a good stable job with a nice income which frees him to write in his spare time. Susan Sarandon is his boss who is preparing to leave the business for a new industry, leading Dafoe to question where his life is heading. In the end, the premise is more interesting than the execution of the story, which climaxes similar to TAXI DRIVER, written 15 years prior by the same guy.

THE WILD BLUE YONDER (2005) - I read an article about this film a couple of years ago in the LA Times and was intrigued. Herzog had procured NASA footage from an expedition below the Antarctic ice and married it with some mundane footage depicting life on an orbiting space shuttle. The gag is that these astronauts are going to Europa to explore its liquid atmosphere. The film's running length is mostly boring footage set to nice music and it adds up to a very dull film.

He's already being compared to Kennedy so why not Reagan too. Even though he is too liberal for any of us to vote for, here is more reason to like the guy and offer him up as America's consolation prize:


Pirates' GM: Losing just isn't enough anymore. We need a new wrinkle. I've got it - how about if we hire the very personification of the downturn of our franchise and groom him to one day run the show! Bwah-hah-hah, now they'll see that we mean business!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I have a backlog of movies back to early November. Here are few to chew on:

THE PAINTED VEIL (2007) – Just when you thought the world was finished adapting Somerset Maugham books to the screen, Edward Norton and Naomi Watts give it one more try. Maugham was big in his day and a lot of his work was made into movies in the 1930s ands 1940s. This story was a Greta Garbo vehicle way back. Here Norton plays a British doctor working in China in the 1920s. Watts is forced to marry Norton by her parents during the first 10 minutes of the movie. She soon falls for the married Liev Schreiber and is discovered by her husband. Norton gives her the choice of accompanying him on a trip to the heart of China to cure a cholera epidemic or face the public humiliation of a divorce. She makes the trip and while there Watts sees the goodness in her husband as he heals the sick and she eventually falls in love with him. The movie is a reminder of the limits of modern drama in the anything goes era. The fact that someone’s reputation meant something in the old days made situations like these perilous. People use to need redemption and that could make a whole story. It can still theoretically work in a period piece with the right tone of seriousness, but this movie does not achieve it. If you like the subject matter or Maugham novels give it a try. Otherwise you’re not missing anything.

DOWN IN THE VALLEY (2005) - Edward Norton again. This time he’s a modern day cowboy with a secret. He quits his job at the filling station to tag along with a group high school kids going to the beach. Norton goes because of Evan Rachel Wood and they soon begin a love affair. Wood’s father, the always solid David Morse, doesn’t like him much but Norton easily wins over her brother Rory Culkin with his cowboy ways. Bruce Dern and Geoffrey Lewis show up later in small roles. I’m not sure what drew this many decent actors to the material. Norton plays the cowboy in a Gary Cooper sort of aw shucks way which works for what it’s worth, but the relationship with Wood never seems real. Her continued affection for him makes less sense as you get to know him. Independent films are allowed to be more unpredictable, but like so many indies, this movie uses that freedom to be surprising rather than authentic and the last 20 minutes or so are not believable. In retrospect, the cowboy’s secret must have been what drew Norton to the material. He just didn’t get a decent third act to go with it.

A MIGHTY HEART (2007) –The western press prides itself by writing of the enemy in equal terms with America. If nothing else a Daniel Pearl movie should remind the press which side they are on. Pearl was just trying to get the story, but he was an American to the terrorists and just as worthy of death as a soldier in uniform. Angelina Jolie plays Pearl’s wife in this film and she sorts out what happened to him. Jolie is decent as the protagonist, but we know the ending already so the slow reveal feels more like a delay than plot points. I think it will be a long time before a terrorist movie can compete with United 93.

BLACK BOOK (2006) – Paul Verhoeven returns to The Netherlands to helm this story about the Dutch resistance during World War II. The main character Rachel is a Jew who died her hair blonde to pass as gentile and woo German officers for the intelligence it would bring the resistance. Later in the film her German notices her dark roots and pegs her for a Jew but doesn’t care. Are there no dark haired gentiles in Holland? The film is very episodic with locales and characters changing often especially before our heroine settles in with her own Nazi. It has an extended epilogue and at 145 minutes, there was ample room to cut another 20 minutes. Still, it’s pretty entertaining and Verhoeven’s Hollywood experience shows, because although the film is shot in Dutch, it looks and feels very Hollywood.

SUPERBAD (2007) – Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen have an ability to mix the profane with the heartwarming and SuperBad continues the tradition of 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Two high school kids lament their impending separation as they get ready to go off to college. Their final exploits together include scoring alcohol for the big party and winning over the girls they like. Those desires are real ones and it makes you root for the characters. But much of the action is farcical including a subplot involving a couple of sheriff deputies. Still, I laughed a lot and the relationship with the principles was touching.

KNOCKED UP (2007) – It’s hard to figure out what Katherine Heigl would see in Seth Rogen’s bum character in the first place, but after a one night stand they’re going to have to get to know each other, because Ms. Heigl is having his baby. Crude jokes notwithstanding, the film has real heart summed up in Rogen seeking advice from his father played by Harold Ramis. Ramis doesn’t have any advice. He’s been divorced 3 times. He just knows that he loves his son. About every ten years someone comes along and redefines comedy with a new style, Mel Brooks in the 1970s, the Airplane guys in the 1980s, the Farrelly Brothers in the 1990s and now Apatow/Rogen. What we know is they all burn bright and after a couple of films wear out a little with familiarity. I wonder how long they have.

DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) – I pushed this to the top of the list after I bought the HD DVD player. A decent enough high school film with funny moments, but I wouldn’t have guessed that Richard Linklater was behind it if I saw it on TV. Supporting performances by Parker Posey as the nasty upperclassman, Ben Affleck as the bully, and Mathew McConaughey as the graduate that can’t stop hanging out with High School kids. The leads are people we hardly recognize. It all takes place during the evening of the last day of school. Had I watched it in a batch of other high school films I don’t think I would have pegged it as the classic it is supposed to be.

LAND OF THE PHAROAHS (1955) – A rare Howard Hawks bomb that broke the streak of 10 or 12 hits in a row, this movie put Hawks into a 4 year sabbatical in the mid 1950s. I had never sought it out prior, but I recently read a Howard Hawks biography and figured I might as well give it a whirl. A mostly British cast is led by Jack Hawkins as the Pharaoh. James Robertson plays the architect that he enslaves to build him a tomb in the form of a great pyramid that will be impossible to rob. Joan Collins stirs things up midway as the girl from Cyprus that Hawkins makes his second wife. There is a great anecdote in the Hawks book about Joan partying it up so much during the production that she gained 10 pounds and they had to disguise it. Martin Scorsese considers it a guilty pleasure. It’s not a terrible movie but not exciting either.

THE DINNER GAME (1998) – French film based on a stage play and it feels like one with almost all the action taking place at a single Paris apartment. Every week a group of snooty Frenchmen hold a dinner trying to bring a guest who is the biggest idiot of the night. The movie is how this idea backfires against a publisher who lures an accountant/idiot to dinner. The accountant makes the publishers life all the worse and yet teaches us all some humanity. A bonus is the movie is only 78 minutes long so it’s not stretched like the material would be with a Hollywood production.

RESCUE DAWN (2006) – Based on the story of Deiter Dengler, a German kid during World War II who decided to become a pilot after watching the allies bomb his country. Dengler immigrates to American and becomes a Vietnam era flyer shot down on his first mission. Director Werner Herzog had already made a documentary of this material a few years prior. Christian Bale leads and Jeremy Davies co-stars for Dude’s double take. I was expecting more with a Bale/Herzog collaboration, but it’s still a good enough movie worth seeing. English language makes it more accessible too. Except for a scene knocking the CIA late in the action, the movie is surprisingly pro-American. Didn’t someone tell the German Herzog that Brian DePalma and Oliver Stone would have made the other side the good guys?

I'm glad to see Romney win one. I have to admit that Huckabee was good in his concession speech. 8 years ago the Bush coronation yielded no real opposition. McCain was just becoming known and every other candidate was a single issue guy with no real chance. This year we have 5 guys that would be good in a debate, although by my count only 3 that wouldn't annoy me half the time.

It's like a broken record hearing these guys talk about how they are going to reform Washington. If 12 years of a Republican Congress couldn't do it, how are one of these guys going to do it with a Democrat Congress? I would be honest as a candidate and say that America works best with a divided government and with the Democrats in charge of Congress, a Republican President is a must. Otherwise all of the excess spending of the Bush years will look tame compared to the spending the Democrats are promising.

UPDATE: Dick Morris is on TV saying that John Edwards can't win and he's fracturing the party. He thinks that Obama should call Edwards and offer him the VP slot before the Florida Primary. He thinks that would make them sweep the ticket.

Morris is always interesting but he is a master of the moment. He takes whatever happens on any given day and extrapolates into the entire future. If Obama gets the nomination he is going to have to get a strong foreign policy Veep, much like Bush took Cheney. I think Hillary has already figured this out and plans to select General Wesley Clark. Now Clark might be too mobbed up with the Clintons for Obama's selection, but General Sanchez is trying to regain his reputation as a failure in Iraq by criticizing Bush. If Sanchez gets enough attention the Democrats could use him to boost Obama and get an Hispanic V.P to boot. I haven't read anyone else say this but I think it makes sense.

Kerry lost in 2004 because the world is a dangerous place and Kerry tried to slogan his way to the white house using the word strength and saluting at the convention. He kept calling himself a soldier when no Navy man would ever do so. The media ignored his detractors and let him define himself anyway he wanted, but the public didn't buy it. The Democrats can be winning on every other issue but will still lose the election if the world seems like a dangerous place. I don't think a typical boiler plate liberal V.P. would bring anything to the Democrat ticket. An actual soldier or someone else with real defense credentials would make up the gap. Edwards is yesterday's news. Obama needs a tough guy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

McCain Problem

You might have seen this since Drudge linked it. Mark Levin makes a concise case as to why McCain is a big mistake.
McCain-Feingold — the most brazen frontal assault on political speech since Buckley v. Valeo.

McCain-Kennedy — the most far-reaching amnesty program in American history.

McCain-Lieberman — the most onerous and intrusive attack on American industry — through reporting, regulating, and taxing authority of greenhouse gases — in American history.

McCain-Kennedy-Edwards — the biggest boon to the trial bar since the tobacco settlement, under the rubric of a patients’ bill of rights.

McCain-Reimportantion of Drugs — a significant blow to pharmaceutical research and development, not to mention consumer safety (hey Rudy, pay attention, see link).

And McCain’s stated opposition to the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts was largely based on socialist, class-warfare rhetoric — tax cuts for the rich, not for the middle class. The public record is full of these statements. Today, he recalls only his insistence on accompanying spending cuts.

Moreover, Iraq is an important battle in our war against the Islamo-fascist threat. But the war is a global war, and it most certainly includes the continental United States, which, after all, was struck on 9/11. How does McCain fare in that regard?

McCain-ACLU — the unprecedented granting of due-process rights to unlawful enemy combatants (terrorists).

McCain has repeatedly called for the immediate closing of Guantanamo Bay and the introduction of al-Qaeda terrorists into our own prisons — despite the legal rights they would immediately gain and the burdens of managing such a dangerous population.

While McCain proudly and repeatedly points to his battles with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had to rebuild the U.S. military and fight a complex war, where was McCain in the lead-up to the war — when the military was being dangerously downsized by the Clinton administration and McCain’s friend, former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen? Where was McCain when the CIA was in desperate need of attention? Also, McCain was apparently in the dark about al-Qaeda like most of Washington, despite a decade of warnings.

Levin is the famous F. Lee Levin that Rush refers to. He has his own show broadcast out of WABC. You can listen for free on the net. Try it out. He's an interesting guy.

Funny note: McCain paid for advertising on the web space where this article blasted him.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Good article here by a woman who says it's OK for men to want really bad to be President, but it is freaking out women that Hillary is so ambitious.

Does anyone really like her? I mean really like her, resonate with her, think she's pretty cool. I just don't know what to make of it when I see crowds cheering behind her at campaign rallies. What are they cheering about? Who cheers for this person? I find her viscerally repulsive and so I suppose it's a natural human bias to think that others would as well. I like to look at women and when I see her I don't feel like I am looking at one. Chelsea strikes me the same way. There is a weird asexuality about them. I think Bill has more sex appeal than both of them combined, and it's well documented that I'm not the only one.
I'm routinely struck by the number of Democrats who talk about her as though they were caught in a relationship with someone who initially looked good on paper but somehow never elicited a chemical attraction.

No wonder Clinton cried this week (or almost cried or pretended to cry or programmed her neural interface to register emotion at approximately 0900 hours on Jan. 7).

Now that's funny. I don't have much to say about the article except that the writing is good, and that I like (in a desperate sort of way) articles that pretend for one reason or another that Hillary might not be our next president.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I know I'm preaching to the choir but some of this stuff reads like parody even though it is really happening:

"I think we're slipping toward a recession," Clinton said. "A couple of people that I met on the street, they work in construction. They tell me it's slowed down."

Don't trust the numbers that come out of Washington or the nation's leading economists - the only way to know for certain if we are in a slowdown is to ask high school dropouts. She's so of the people. I'm sure Hillary making conversation with hardhats is akin to Bush 41 using a grocery scanner - she powers through it knowing the cameras are on.

A man shouted through an opening in the wall that his wife was illegal.
"No woman is illegal," Clinton said, to cheers.

Clue me in if you have any idea what that even means. Her brain works like Robocop's - she was forced to come up with one snappy sound bite that would appeal to both Hispanics and females concurrently. And who the hell cheers that line? Those people should be rounded up and deported so they can come back better educated.

"We treat these problems as if one is guacamole and one is chips, when ... they both go together," she said.

Again, I'm in the dark on this one. She had to work in a Mexican food reference I guess. We attack these problems like we're trying to crack open a pinata with an unfried flauta. No, too obscure. What will the people, the hardhats, understand? Chips and salsa. No, that's too American. What about that green shit they serve on Mexican buffets? Yeah. Should I swallow the g sound to come off as more authentic? I'd better ask my pollsters.


Some great lines by Rich Lowry today that ring true.

Hillary is on the path to victory...
Clinton won women and lost men, but 57 percent of voters were women. The most important number is that Clinton won Democrats by 11 points, while Obama won independents. Winning members of your own party never stirs the imagination of the media; it's merely the path to a presidential nomination.

and Obama can't hide forever.

Ultimately, the problem for Obama is that he is promising something that is impossible -- a harmonic convergence of the country around what, at bottom, is an utterly conventional liberal policy agenda.
For now, voters have hit "pause" on the Obama movement. They are going to examine their choices more closely before sweeping a not-yet-one-term senator with no real substantive accomplishments into the White House on a wave of emotion. For those who expect a certain sobriety of the American electorate, it's cause for hope.

Hillary is going to win. I don't like it -- my face contorts involuntarily every time I hear her voice -- but I don't see how it will be otherwise.

Two UK singles meet. "You complete me." They become lovers, get married, find that they are fraternal twins separated at birth. Ouch. They annul the marriage.
The pair were separated at birth, adopted by two different families and neither was told they had a twin and when they met they unwittingly fell in love with each other.

How freaky is that.

Ralph Peters understands that the point of war is to kill as many of your enemy as possible and demoralize the ones left alive.

We dropped 20 tons of bombs on 40 terrorist targets yesterday, including safe houses, weapons caches and IED factories. In a late-afternoon exchange with The Post, Gen. David Petraeus characterized our current ops as "executing aggressively, pursuing tenaciously."

The headlines at home? "Nine American Soldiers Killed." No mention of progress or a fleeing enemy on the front pages. Just dead soldiers.

Harry Reid and friends so wanted failure that they declared it so before it even began. Now, a great silence. Where is big mouth Murtha lately?

Determined to elect a Democrat president, the "mainstream" media simply won't accept our success. "Impartial" journalists find a dark cloud in every silver lining in Iraq. And the would-be candidates themselves continue to insist that we should abandon Iraq immediately - as if time had stood still for the past year - while hoping desperately for a catastrophe in Baghdad before November.

They assail Bush for sending troops off to die. But what a far greater offense to hope that they do, for your political gain.
Oh, and the left turned out to be dead wrong, as usual. We hadn't created an unlimited supply of terrorists. In fact, the supply turned out to be very finite, to al Qaeda's chagrin. And killing them worked. (One of the great untold stories of 2007 was the number of al Qaeda corpses.) And our former enemies have been killing them for us.

And who doesn't like a dig at the Times?
And a final note: The [New York] Post had over a week's advance warning of Operation Phantom Phoenix, but didn't publish it. We don't share our nation's secrets with our enemies.

The candidates and most of the media are trying to remove Iraq and national defense as an issue because they so utterly fail on it. There is one main reason (among lots of others, but one main one) to keep that party out of office, and I hope that one reason resonates again by election day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Daniel Casse from Commentary:
It was a remarkable thing to see how Mike Huckabee worked his way out of a clever question about whether he really believes women should submit graciously to their husbands, as has been widely reported. He made jokes, clarified the context, but then explicated the Biblical verse from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians without ever sounding defensive. There has never been a politician in America who knows how to mix religion and politics, Scripture and personal belief the way Huckabee
does, and in doing so, he shows how awkward and foolish Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Ralph Reed were. There is so much politically to dislike about Huckabee, but he is formidable.

His "The gates of hell with the terrorists" was a good example of this.

Why can't we nominate Huck to a debate season with Christopher Hitchens?

-"NOT FOR PROFIT BUT FOR PATRIOTISM" - John McCain, South Carolina Republican debate 2007. Referring to his service in the Navy.

Yuk. Why must he denigrate free enterprise? Because Romney made money in business? I'm sure that McCain is a millionaire without somehow staining his hands with profit.

Tom, I seem to recall you referencing somebody's axiom that any institution that is not expressly conservative tends to become overtly liberal. So if the US is heading the way of Britain, let's hope we don't get there this year. According to poll results, readers of the UK's Daily Mail prefer that the next US president be Obama (42%) or Hillary (38%). That's a combined 80%. Mitt leads all Republicans with 7%.

Our policy is no TVs in the bedrooms. Sounds like we might need to extend the policy to cover a host of other items.

Leggett & Platt Inc. plans to sell a tricked-out bed, which was on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show, incorporating features like wireless Internet connectivity, an iPod dock, a surround sound speaker system, LCD projector, dual temperature controls and DVR capability.

Leggett & Platt said the bed also comes with a vibration-detection feature that will elevate that half of the bed 7 degrees if a user is snoring and then return to the original position once the snoring stops.

The company expects the Starry Night to be available in the first half of 2009 for $20,000 to $50,000 depending on which features a buyer chooses.

"I know it sounds like a lot, but you show me somebody that sleeps in a bed with someone that snores; I will show you a person that thinks $20,000 is a very small amount to pay to solve that problem," [a VP] said.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


The You Tube video made me like Thompson more than before he even entered the race and squandered what could have been momentum. He's too much of a long shot to pin any hopes on. I didn't see enough of the debate to know what annoyed you guys about him. I thought the ABC one was coming on later and I was watching Clemens on 60 Minutes and missed the beginning of the one on Fox News.

Guiliani gets my Florida vote, though I will switch to Romney if he's in any kind of fight with McCain or Huck for first place.

Romney is a decent guy. I'd hire him to run my company. He says the right things, maybe a little too polished, but Democrats couldn't rib him the way they do Bush.

Seeing McCain give his speech, I feel so bad for those arms that can't lift above his head. He even has good things to say once in a while, but he's so much into scoring points and making deals that he would frustrate me to no end as President.

The good thing about Huckabee is nominating him will convince the party never to nominate anyone like him ever again.

I don't understand the Democrats love affair with Hillary. Here they have Obama that actually converses with people and they would throw him over for another candidate that talks down to the electorate. Didn't they learn from Kerry and Gore? Policy wise there probably wouldn't be much difference and he can appeal to just the kinds of voters she will turn off.

I listened to a Zogby guy being called to task this morning for projecting Obama as a 10- to 12-point winner in NH. He talked about the 18 percent of NH voters who say they decided at the last minute, and theorized that with Obama the presumptive big winner on the Dem side, Independents voted in the Republican primary instead, where their thought their vote would matter more, which drained from Obama, lifted McCain, and artificially lifted Hillary.

I still believe in Hillary's inevitability, for better or worse. The Clinton machine is too powerful, relentless and totally without conscience.

Victor Davis Hanson nails it as usual:

Again, never underestimate the Clintonian team.

Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a complete focus-group/poll-driven/handler make-over. And to the degree she sticks to it, she will do fine. As we heard tonight, Hillary has now “found her voice”; she suddenly speaks more slowly, there are more bite-the-lip-like pauses, and she has been reminded not to go into frenetic panic mode or hit that screech-owl high note as much. She will seek out interviews, welcome questions, and be empathetic, accessible, and sensitive to the public.

Her New Hampshire victory speech was almost anti-Hillary (at least until the last two seconds of the old Hillary shrill-shouting): slow, deliberate, empathetic, a lot of personal voice — and Bill finally off the stage.Note that she thanked her mother and almost everyone else imaginable (even Biden, Dodd, etc.), but not Bill! — who, of course, in albatross fashion, blew up again on his stump, and ranted on about himself and how he has suffered so for the rest of us.

A final note: The campaign talking heads and opinion makers this season have been lousy, about the worst in memory — especially the “she’s won, she’s lost, she’s won...” feeding frenzy, and then writing the silly “end of the Clinton era” essays — all based on a few thousand Iowans, some bad polls in New Hampshire, and catch-up to what some other wrong pundit wrote an hour earlier. And remember, these are “experts” who pontificated each week on the real Iraq war.

They remind one of the ridiculous gnashing tropical carp, splashing about in Saddam’s old Baghdad pond.

Women vote overwhelmingly for the Democrat in the general election, and the Democrat who appeals most strongly to women will be in a very good position in November. That is why Obama's strong showing among women was such big news after Iowa, and why Hillary showed the makings of a tear the other day in New Hampshire: I am woman, see me cry. And the question that was asked was too perfect to be random: How do you do it? How do you maintain your makeup (used exclusively by women) and hair style (a uniquely female concern) during the grueling campaign calendar? It was a scripted moment to appeal to women. I have to hand it to them, the Clintons are good. Repulsive but good.
Note when she “opened her heart” there was an enhancing soft light around her, and her make-up was understated and pastelish — an aura effect.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


The Navy says they were an eyelash away from blasting Iranian boats out of the water early Sunday morning. Ralph "Where you cannot be loved, you must be feared" Peters says they should have done so.

Sunday's incident wasn't a one-off event improvised by the local yokels after a long Saturday night at the hookah bar. It was blessed and carefully planned in Tehran and had practical as well as political goals.

At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guards' naval arm was testing our responses: How soon do the American weapons radars activate? At what range do the lasers begin to track targets? How close can a small vessel get to a major American warship? How do the Americans respond to possible mines? Can we use phony mines to steer them into real ones? How long does it take an American commander to make a decision? Above all: Does an American commander have the courage to make a decision on his own? When he doesn't have time to deflect responsibility onto his superiors?

And it wasn't just some madrassa dropout with salt spray on his glasses scribbling notes on the lead Iranian boat. On shore, the Iranians would've had all their intelligence facilities tuned in to map our electronic profile as our ships prepared to defend themselves. Rent-a-Russian military experts would've been on hand to assist with the newest gear purchased from Moscow.

The Iranians may even have had an escalation plan, in case we opened fire. President Ahmedinejad and his posse may seem contemptible to Washington, but the Iranians think several moves ahead of us: We play checkers, they play chess.

On Sunday, the Iranians tested us. We failed. They'll probe us again. And every time we fail to react decisively, we raise the number of future US casualties.

Remember the USS Cole? You bet the Iranians do. They plan to better that attack by an order of magnitude.

Tactically, if we had blasted them, the Iranians would have learned just as much as if we had not. But strategically, they would have learned something very important for them to know about our willingness to respond to antagonism.

We should have sunk every one of them. Not because we're warmongers. But because the Iranians had made threats, verbal and physical, that amounted to acts of war. When will we learn that resolute action taken early saves vast amounts of blood and treasure later?

Oh, from Washington's perspective we did the right thing by "exercising restraint." But Washington's perspective doesn't amount to a gum wrapper in a gutter. What matters is what the Iranians think.

They now believe that the Bush administration, our military and the entire United States are afraid of them.

Aren't we?

Monday, January 07, 2008


Ten professional writers answered that question. Following are some excerpts.

Mark Amerika

The short answer is yes, but as I suggest in my new book, META/DATA, we probably need to expand the concept of writing to take into account new forms of online communication as well as emerging styles of digital rhetoric. This means that the educational approach to writing is also becoming more complex, because it's not just one (alphabetically oriented) literacy that informs successful written communication but a few others as well, most notably visual design literacy and computer/networking literacy.

Erik Davis

Many of the changes in the book industry and print publications are more obviously related to the rise of the internet. One of the worst developments for me has been the increasing brevity of print pieces, something I do blame largely on the fast-moving, novelty-driven blip culture of the internet and the blogosphere. When I started writing for music magazines, I wrote 2000-plus-word articles about (then) relatively obscure bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. Now I write 125-word reviews for Blender. I don't even try to play the game of penning celebrity-driven profiles in mainstream music mags anymore, where feature lengths have shrunk all around and the topics seem more driven by the publicists.

Shrinking space has definitely worked against my job satisfaction. ...

I'm really sick of opinions and of most of what passes for online debate. Even the more artful rhetorical elements of argument and debate are rarely seen amidst the food fights, the generic argumentative “moves,” the poor syntax, and the often lame attempts to bring a “fresh take” to a topic. This is not an encouraging environment from which to speak from the heart or the soul or whatever it is that makes living, breathing prose an actual source of sustenance and spiritual strength.

Mark Dery

Who, exactly, is making a living shoveling prose online? Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds? Jason Kottke? Josh Marshall? To the best of my knowledge, only a vanishingly tiny number of bloggers are able to eke out an existence through their blogging, much less turn a healthy profit.

For now, visions of getting rich through self-publishing look a lot like envelope-stuffing for the cognitive elite — or at least for insomniacs with enough time and bandwidth to run their legs to stumps in their electronic hamster wheels, posting and answering comments 24/7. As a venerable hack toiling in the fields of academe, I love the idea of being King of All Media without even wearing pants, which is why I hope that some new-media wonk like Jason Calacanis or Jeff Jarvis finds the Holy Grail of self-winding journalism — i.e., figuring out how to make online writing self-supporting.

Meanwhile, the sour smell of fear is in the air. Reporting — especially investigative reporting, the lifeblood of a truly adversarial press — is labor-intensive, money-sucking stuff, yet even The New York Times can't figure out how to charge for its content in the Age of Rip, Burn, and Remix. To be sure, newspapers are hemorrhaging readers to the Web, and fewer and fewer Americans care about current events and the world outside their own skulls. But the other part of the problem is that Generation Download thinks information wants to be free, everywhere and always, even if some ink-stained wretch wept tears of blood to create it. ...

As someone who once survived (albeit barely) as a freelancer, I can say with some authority that the freelance writer is going the way of the Quagga. Well, at least one species of freelance writer: the public intellectual who writes for a well-educated, culturally literate reader whose historical memory doesn't begin with Dawson's Landing. ...

Also, information overload and time famine encourage a sort of flat, depthless style, indebted to online blurblets, that's spreading like kudzu across the landscape of American prose. (The English, by contrast, preserve a smarter, more literary voice online, rich in character; not for nothing are Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens two of the web's best stylists.) I can't read people like Malcolm Gladwell, whose bajillion-selling success is no surprise when you consider that he aspires to a sort of in-flight magazine weightlessness, just the sort of thing for anxious middle managers who want it all explained for them in the space of a New York-to-Chicago flight. The English language dies screaming on the pages of Gladwell's books, and between the covers of every other bestseller whose subtitle begins, "How..." ...

I dearly loathe Jarvis's implication that all writing, online or off, should sound like water-cooler conversation; that content is all that matters; that foppish literati should stop sylphing around and submit to the tyranny of the pyramid lead; and that any mind that can't squeeze its thoughts into bullet points should just die. This is the beige, soul-crushing logic of the PowerPoint mind. What will happen, I wonder, when we have to write for the postage-stamp screen of the iPhone? The age of IM prose is waiting in the wings...

We're drowning in yak, and it's getting harder and harder to hear the insightful voices through all the media cacophony. Oscar Wilde would be just another forlorn blogger out on the media asteroid belt in our day, constantly checking his SiteMeter's Average Hits Per Day and Average Visit Length.

Also, the Digital Age puts the middlebrow masses on the bleeding edge. ...

we live in times of chaos and complexity, and the future of writing and reading is deeply uncertain. Reading and writing are solitary activities. The web enables us to write in public and, maybe one day, strike off the shackles of cubicle hell and get rich living by our wits. Sometimes I think we're just about to turn that cultural corner. Then I step onto the New York subway, where most of the car is talking nonstop on cellphones. Time was when people would have occupied their idle hours between the covers of a book. No more. We've turned the psyche inside out, exteriorizing our egos, extruding our selves into public space and filling our inner vacuums with white noise.

Adam Parfrey

The internet has made research much easier, which is both good and bad. It's good not to be forced to go libraries to fact check and throw together bibliographic references. But it's bad not to be forced to do this, since it diminishes the possibility of accidental discovery. Physically browsing on library stacks and at used bookstores can lead to extraordinary discoveries. One can also discover extraordinary things online, too, but the physical process of doing so is somehow more personally gratifying.

The internet has both broadened and limited audiences for books at the same time. People outside urban centers can now find offbeat books that personally intrigue them. But the interest in physical books overall seems diminished by the satiation of curiosity by a simple search on the internet, and the distraction of limitless data smog.

I like the internet and computers for their ability to make writers of nearly everyone. I don't like the internet and computers for their ability to make sloppy and thoughtless writers of nearly everyone.

Douglas Rushkoff

I'd say that it's great for writing as a cultural behavior, but maybe not for people who made their livings creating text. There's a whole lot more text out there, and only so much time to read all this stuff. People spend a lot of their time reading text on screens, and don't necessarily want to come home and read text on a page after that. Reading a hundred emails is really enough daily reading for anyone.

The book industry isn't what it used to be, but I don't blame that on the internet. It's really the fault of media conglomeration. Authors are no longer respected in the same way, books are treated more like magazines with firm expiration dates, and writers who simply write really well don't get deals as quickly as disgraced celebrities or get-rich-quick gurus.

This makes it harder for writers to make a living writing. To write professionally means being able to craft sentences and paragraphs and articles and books that communicate as literature. Those who care about such things should rise to the top.

But I think many writers — even good ones — will have to accept the fact that books can be loss-leaders or break-even propositions in a highly mediated world where showing up in person generates the most income.

John Shirley

A recent study suggested that young people read approximately half as much as young people did before the advent of the internet and videogames. While there are enormous bookstores, teeming with books, chain stores and online book dealing now dominate the book trade and it may be that there are fewer booksellers overall. A lot of fine books are published but, on the whole, publishers push for the predictable profit far more than they used to, which means they prefer predictable books. Editors are no longer permitted to make decisions on their own. They must consult marketing departments before buying a book. Book production has become ever more like television production: subordinate to trendiness, and the anxiety of executives.

And in my opinion this is partly because a generation intellectually concussed by the impact of the internet and other hyperactive, attention-deficit media, is assumed, probably rightly, to want superficial reading.

I know people earnestly involved in producing dramas for iPod download and transmission to iPhones. Obviously, productions of that sort are oriented to small images in easy-to-absorb bites. Episodes are often only a few minutes long. Or even shorter. Broadband drama, produced to be seen on the internet, is also attention-deficit-oriented. I've written for episodic television and have known the frustration of writers told to cut their "one hour" episodes down to 42 minutes, so that more commercials can be crammed in. Losing ten minutes of drama takes a toll on the writing of a one hour show — just imagine the toll taken by being restricted to three-minute episodes. Story development becomes staccato, pointlessly violent (because that translates well to the form), childishly melodramatic, simple minded to the extreme. ...

Same goes for blogs. They'd better be short thoughts or — for the most part — few will trouble to read them. The internet is always tugging at you to move on, surf on, check this and that, talk to three people at once. How do you maintain long thoughts, how do you stretch out intellectually, in those conditions? Sometimes at places like The Well, perhaps, people are more thoughtful. But in general, online readers are prone to be attention challenged.

Michael Simmons

Telephonic communication was quicker and easier. ...

The world of LOL and iirc and this hideous perpetual junior high language has not encouraged quality-lit. Have you looked at my former employer the L.A. Weekly lately? It's created by illiterates promoting bad and overpriced music, art, film, etc. There's a glut of so-called writers and if they're 22 and have big tits, many editors will give them work before I get any. It's no coincidence that my payments and assignments for freelancing have diminished in the last 8 years. ...

Everything was better before this glut of machinery entered my life. It's quadrupled my monthly bills and swamps me with useless information.

No, it hasn't fired my imagination but, yes, I can't get no satisfaction.

Edward Champion

While it is true that this great speed has come at the expense of long-form pieces and even months-long reporting, I believe the very limitations of this current system are capable of creating ambition rather than stifling it.

If the internet was committing some kind of cultural genocide for any piece of writing that was over twenty pages, why then has the number of books published increased over the past fifteen years?

The Internet is forcing some old dogs to learn new tricks. That is what America is all about, what America does better than other countries, and why American content dominates the Web. Is the Internet good for writers? Good for some. But that misses the point: the Internet is good for readers.