Monday, March 31, 2008
The clamor is getting louder for the federal government to “fix” the sub-prime loan problem. Somehow an arm of the government is to order mortgage companies to extend the introductory rates. That such a solution is even discussed is an example of how poorly our populace is educated in economics.
A co-worker told me about a report on TV saying that minorities were sold a greater percentage of sub prime loans, proving that corporations are not only evil but racist. Sub prime loans were created in the first place because companies were coming under fire for not loaning to minorities. The lower introductory payments qualify more people and thus make the numbers look better.
The other result of these loan packages was that everyone could suddenly afford a bigger house up front. And since mortgage brokers and realtors make their commissions as a percentage of the contract price, the two most influential professionals in home sales were pushing their customers down that road. The up-front commission structure for salesmen created an incentive for big loans. The salesman isn’t responsible for the re-payment. No CEO said lets start making bad loans. It happened as a result of the reward structure.
The real culprit in the sub prime fiasco, the real villain is the Department of Education. We pay bureaucrats billions to create an education policy in this country and kids graduate high school without the vaguest idea of why sub-prime loans are risky. Why are we sending kids to school for 13 years on the dime of the tax payer and not teaching them about dimes?
The main reason is that schooling has become a form of social policy, trying to shape society through the minds of the young rather than teaching practicality. A secondary reason is that the education bureaucrats see the world in terms of the academic subjects that led them to Harvard and then to the cushy chair in Washington. Bureaucrats have the luxury of being bad with money because it is easier for them to make money. These kinds of people don’t understand the practical needs of Americans. They are occupied with trying to turn every youngster into a philosopher-king.
There are two chances in life for education, first formally when nothing is at stake but your own time and attention, and secondly in the school of life where decisions have real outcomes. For as much as people will be hurt by the sub prime reality, the lesson of pain will ensure that others wake up and pay attention to their own future economic decisions. It’s the only hope for a better future, because the Department of Education isn’t changing for anyone.
So I'm watching TV and during a commercial I check the baseball scores on ESPN. Surprisingly, the Pirates are leading the Braves, 9-4, in the 9th in the Braves' home opener. Great, I'll go listen to the end of the game on MLB Gameday Audio. I join the broadcast with one out, bottom 9, nobody on, Braves down 9-4.
Marte on the mound
Capps on the mound
Skip Carey comments that setup man Grabow looked sharp in setting down the Braves 1-2-3 in bottom 8, but nowadays, even if your mojo is working, you pitch your one inning and sit down
Pirates 9, Braves 5
Nobody up in the bullpen
SINGLE, 2 RBI
Pirates 9, Braves 7
Runners on 1st and 3rd
FLY OUT, 2 outs
FLY BALL, Skip Carey is dejected, ready to tease the post-game show
LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth converge on the routine fly, both pull up and the ball falls to the turf, tying run scores from first
Pirates 9, Braves 9
FLY OUT, 3 outs
New manager John Russell's message for the longsuffering fans this year was that the team is going to focus on fundamentals, play hard to the last out and do the little things right. Okay. Starting tomorrow.
UPDATE: Bottom 10th. Russell is charged with a visit to the mound for signaling to his catcher to visit the mound. That's the rule but it's never called. Nobody up in the bullpen. I am going to bed.
UPDATE: I didn't. Bucs just hit a homer to take the lead 12-9 and now I am going to bed.
Baseball is a funny game.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
What really spurred this recent recession is the amount of GDP that has been poured into Iraq War movies with no box office results. John Cusack was on Bill Maher Friday. He has an Iraq movie. He calls it “War Inc.” At least this one is a comedy. Cusack spent most of his interview complaining about war profiteering and corporations in general. We all know Cusack to be a man of integrity because he never takes money from corporations. Maher asked Cusack why this movie would work when the others fizzled and Cusack said that people are starting to pay attention to what is happening.
I’ve spent my whole life hearing members of the Left say that people are really starting to wake up and listen to what’s going on. The reality is we’re living in a conservative country. The Presidential campaign demonstrates this every four years. In the Republican primary, each guy tries to portray himself as the conservative and his opponent as the more liberal. You never hear Democrats trying to be the liberal candidate and you never hear them criticize their opponents for being conservative. Instead they do everything they can to make their campaigns about personalities.
I suppose none of this really needs to be said, but wouldn’t it be fun to hear MSNBC ask Obama or Hilary in the next debate if they are more liberal than the other one. Or do you think your opponent is too conservative?
Patriotism is another great issue. After Obama gave the race speech, James Taranto quoted Obama from October telling us why he doesn't wear a flag lapel pin anymore. Flags are a substitute for the real patriotism of discussion. Taranto then points out that Obama had 8 American flags on stage with him when he gave the speech about race. Democrats want to live in this Ivy League world where traditional patriotism is dead and people are starting to pay attention to the evil nature of corporations, but they aren't above running to the flag to save themselves.
Remember that next time you hear the self-righteous lecture on alternate forms of patriotism.
Let no one think this is simply some self-congratulatory blog about one's pal. Nay, I say to thee, nay! Rather, I seek to extol the virtues of my pal Tom this month, as he has just turned 39. Additionally, I would like to promote the talents, skills, and abilities of a true American. 39 is a big age for many reasons. It is truly the end of ones "youthful" years and the beginning of authentic manhood. Carl Jung believed that a man did not even begin to grow into wholeness until 40. Therefore, it's a big age and crossing over the threshold from mere knowledge to wisdom in it's full expression. It is also a great time to reflect and give credit where it is due. To no small measure, Tom has taught me a great deal. He has a great many life-lessons to impart and also has a wonderful capacity for synthesizing complex data into a coherent whole that gets to heart of the matter. One need not look any further than the contents of this blog to get a glimmer of the understanding of his superior intellect. Tom is also my faithful friend and advisor. No matter how crazy or monotonous or tedious my life becomes, Tom is there to listen and offer sound advice 1000 times better than most shrinks and pastors I've consulted with in the past. Tom is a fantastc poker player and a wonderful poet. Tom was the first person I ever knew who read National Review and could, with some manner of authority, tell me the difference between a liberal and a conservative. Tom spent an entire weekend convincing me why I am conservative and why I should vote conservative. I could go on and on. However, I think that no other tribute could better capture what I am attempting to convey better than a collection of the man's own quotes. So without further ramblings, here is the:
TOM ON DONUTS
"You take something that is normally good for you, like bread, and then you deep fry it in saturated fat and later sprinkle sugar on it. This is an idiotic invention."
TOM ON THE LEXUS
"It's All Marketing..."
TOM ON the MICROSOFT CORPORATION
"You can only screw people so many times before they are fed up with it. The market will take care of that company. It's only a matter of time."
TOM ON MAYO
"Oh yeah, I'm going to say, 'Hey, make me a sandwich, put some fat on it and while you're at it make it saturated...' Forget it!"
TOM ON GIVING A GUY A BEATING
TOM ON T.V. SHOWS BEING MADE INTO MOVIES
TOM ON PERSONAL FINANCE
"Let's face it, if you're not saving for the future, then you're screwed. The idea that the government can take care of me when I'm old is preposterous. Save 10% of your salary or it's cat food and cardboard boxes for you."
TOM ON THE PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE
TOM ON THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY
"Sure they've got good ideas, but voting for them is not the answer. You might as well vote the communist ticket for all the good it'll do."
TOM ON McCAIN
TOM ON HAVING CHILDREN
TOM ON CONSTRUCTION WORKERS
TOM ON MEN (TO WOMEN WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT MEN)
TOM ON EX-WIVES
TOM ON CRUSTACEANS and PORK
TOM ON A QUITE RETIREMENT IN THE COUNTRY
TOM ON WOMEN
Friday, March 28, 2008
Slate reports, as every other reporter should have and didn't, that the first sermon Obama heard Rev. Wright preach, the one that made him cry and won him over, contained the same themes of evil white rule and corrupt US policymaking that Obama claims to somehow never have heard in 20 years - despite writing about them in his first book.
All the media will tell us about McCain is that he wants 100 years of war in Iraq (which he doesn't, and he didn't say -- he wants a continuing US presence like in Kuwait or South Korea) and that he will be a "third term for Bush" - which even the New York Times concedes is overly simplistic. A bit of fresh air to see the Times giving McCain credit (not on the front page, of course, but you take what you can get) for what he actually did say this week.
The third McCain speech was delivered on Wednesday. It is as personal, nuanced and ambitious a speech as any made by a presidential candidate this year.
McCain noted that we are not only fighting a war on terror. The world is seeing a growing split between liberal democracies and growing autocracies. We are seeing a world in which great power rivalries — with China, Russia and Iran — have to be managed and soothed.
Moreover, the U.S. is not the sole hegemon. Power is widely distributed among many rising nations. McCain’s core purpose in the speech was to revive the foreign policy tradition that has jumped parties but that has been associated with people like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, Dean Acheson, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
In this tradition, a strong America is the key to world peace, but America’s role is as a leading player in an international system. America didn’t defeat communism, McCain said Wednesday, the American-led global community did. This is the tradition that Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment has been describing for a decade.
McCain offered to build new pillars for that system — a League of Democracies, a new nuclear nonproliferation regime and a successor to the Kyoto treaty. In stabilizing Asia and the Middle East, he would rely more on democracies like Turkey, India, Israel and Iraq, and less on Mubarak and Musharraf.
Unlike the realists, McCain believes other nations have to be judged according to how they treat their own citizens. Unlike the Bush administration in its first few years, he believes global treaties cannot solely be evaluated according to a narrow definition of the American interest. The U.S. also has to protect the fabric of the international system.
McCain opened his speech with a description of his father leaving home on the day of Pearl Harbor, and then being gone for much of the next four years. He harkened back repeatedly to the accomplishments of the Truman administration.
In so doing, he signaled that the foreign policy debate of the coming months will be very different from the one of the past six years. Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she made a mistake in claiming that she came under hostile fire in Bosnia 12 years ago, as rival Sen. Barack Obama's campaign continued to challenge her credibility.
"So I made a mistake," she said. "That happens. It proves I'm human, which you know, for some people, is a revelation."
Regardless of who becomes president it has been a pleasure watching Hilary try to do those old Clinton things that are no longer allowed. You forget whether or not the car keys are in the office. You don't forget sniper fire.
I love the old, "It proves I'm human" business. Implying that honest people really aren't human. Or is she saying that she is mentally deranged constantly dreaming up alternate universes? She just can't leave well enough alone, can she?
Just as the electorate wonders about the soundness of Obama's judgment with Wright, Hilary comes along to show voters that hers isn't all that sharp either. To lie about something meaningless and verifiable at this point in the game is minor league.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Bucs used 123 different lineups last season, proving that they could lose in more ways than any other team.
Fox News guest says 55% of American men refuse to even consider voting for Hillary Clinton because of the sound of her voice. Count me in that column. The perpetually haywire Lis Wiehl goes haywire and makes his point.
And check out the embedded ad that appeared beneath MSNBC.com's archived video of Obama's race speech. I am still laughing.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I wish I could say "I told you so" but I don't think I told you at the time. I recorded a note on my digital voice recorder in the car, and like many such notes, it never made it here.
On Feb 8, 2007 I listened to an interview of Rev. Jeremiah Wright on XM's black power channel 169. The interviewer/host was a member of Rev. Wright's church.
1. You can say whatever you like about "snippets" and "context" and understanding the plight of the black man in America, but what I heard that day, if I had to characterize him in five words or less, was an angry black man.
2. When I got home I told my wife what I had heard on the radio and that there was no chance, once the media reported on the theology being preached at Obama's church, that Obama could be elected POTUS. Right or wrong, Americans are not going to elect an angry black man.
3. The argument now is whether Obama is himself an angry black man. At the time I didn't see how you could separate him from that characterization. Churches are volunteer organizations, and adults vote with their feet. Longtime membership suggests that one ascribes to the teachings of the church because there is always another church down the block.
4. I don't disagree with all the individual comments that have Hannity and others so upset. The country *is* run by rich white people. We *do* have a history of institutionalized racism in America. And we are not hearing the comments in context. If, for example, by "God damn America!" Rev. Wright means that America was founded on biblical principles and that God, in the Bible, has made clear that he can and will remove his blessing from a nation that strays from his will, then I've heard the same thing preached with less fire in white churches.
5. I don't deny blacks their anger or sense of injustice. It is real and I cannot speak to it because that has not been my experience. I am part of the privileged class by accident of birth.
6. That does not disqualify me, however, from speaking *about* it. If we are really going to talk about race, then blacks and sympathizers can't shut me up just because I'm not black. If I'm wrong, let's find out by talking it through. If Obama wants to have the discussion then let's have it. None of us is post-racial. Race and racism are hard realities in American culture.
7. The key point for me, however, is that what I heard out of Rev. Wright's mouth was not biblical, or more precisely, was selectively biblical. The United Church of Christ minister did not mention Christ in his long-winded remarks. His message was not the message of Christ but that the white male European brand of Christianity is racist and unjust. He spoke repeatedly of "black theology" as if Christ and Christian doctrine were not color-blind, and as if the term needed no explanation, justification, or definition. His theology at its heart is the simple quest for social justice, which, while a biblical truth ("seek His kingdom and His righteousness," care for the poor and needy, minister your gifts unto others, give and it will be given to you, love thy neighbor), ignores or minimizes, at least in what I heard, core Christian doctrine of salvation by faith through grace, propitiation, redemption, sanctification. . . none of that, just that "the founders of our country were slaveholders and rapists." Where in that is the light of the world?
8. His remarks were in response to a question asking him to explain to the listeners what Trinity UCC was all about.
9. I must consider what I heard to be a representative sample of what one would hear in Obama's church.
10. In any event, his worldview was clear: whitey is evil.
11. Obama cannot run from that. There is nowhere to hide.
12. My point is not to argue whether whitey is evil. My point is that America will not elect an angry black man.
13. Anyone who regularly attends a church supports the pastor generally through their attendance and supports him directly through their tithe or contributions. Obama did both. Galatians 6:6 (paraphrased): "pay those who instruct you in the truth."
14. I left a church that, after 8 years, I found I no longer agreed with. I made the difficult decision to pull my kids from their familiar routine and their Sunday school friends and begin the unpleasant task of church-hunting. That's what you do when you disagree with what your church is about. In the name of integrity, you cannot sit in a church that you fundamentally disagree with.
15. For Obama to sit under Rev. Wright for *20 years* speaks loudly that he either agrees with him, or that he didn't agree with him and lacks integrity. Neither is good for his electability.
16. His way out of this is Clintonesque -- if we come to believe that his affiliation with Rev. Wright was not so much a spiritual decision as a practical one, one of political opportunism, knowing he needed to connect with and serve Chicago's black community to further his political ambitions and knowing Rev. Wright had the contacts and the clout to help him do that.
17. That would make him less the great post-racial unifier and more your standard politician, but he's going to become that anyway, it's just a matter of public opinion catching up to political reality. He's an ambitious empty suit whose magic is that he helps me feel good about myself, but ultimately he's a self-interested self-promoter, and what else would he be.
18. He has the gift of making it unseemly for me to ask whether he's ever actually done anything important. His magic is wearing off due to the need for news content during this long hiatus in the primaries schedule.
19. I don't understand how he made it this far without this story surfacing. It's been out there forever. I would like to see some reporting on why this story wasn't reported until now. Maybe that would advance this discussion of race that we're supposed to have.
20. Obama is the blank slate upon which we are asked to color our dreams. As stories like these fill the news and he has to respond to them, he risks becoming a real person, with complexities and tensions, which is not good for his electability.
21. Here we are, still 7 1/2 months from Election Day, and Obama was out campaigning for President 13 1/2 months ago. This thing has been going on for so long already, and we have so much longer to go.
22. The Democrats are stuck with two poor candidates for President and I can only hope that they are about to do what the party does best: lose an election that they were all set up to win. Even the great gift of an economic collapse may not be enough to save them.
23. I am on record that the detestable Hillary Clinton will be our next president -- in large part, I think, because she wants it the most. The math is not in her favor and neither are her "unfavorable" ratings, but I still fear her lust for power and the Clintons' lack of conscience.
24. I hope the net effect of the Rev. Wright story, what changes the calculus of this election, is that good people are reminded that character matters and leadership is about trust, which I hope will be enough to keep Hillary Clinton and her band of pirates out of the White House.
He is supposed to be the post racial candidate. The guy who will let us get on with life in a colorblind society. We didn't want another Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton and yet his Reverend Wright is worse than either one. He's a Christian Louis Farrakan.
How did Obama explain his association with Wright? He threw his own grandmother under the bus.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
If such talk makes Barrak Obama cringe then why does he seek it out?
I could go on line by line, but the only real point of his speech was to convince people that he's beyond this kind of racial division and he clearly is not. This is the only line that really matters.
Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
What white candidate could withstand an association with such a character? Obama can only survive if he is allowed a double standard. And if he is allowed the double standard then he isn't the post-racial candidate that makes him so appealing. How can Obama bring the nation together if he supports someone who is helping to divide it?
I can't see swing voters putting him in the white house. The question is whether the super delegates can see it.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
There are only so many ways to tackle the evil corporate polluter on film and I’m getting convinced that they’ve all been utilized. Here George Clooney works as a “fixer” for a law firm and we learn through the course of the movie he was once a solid litigator, but the head of the firm, Sydney Pollack, saw his genius in another capacity and that’s his current role. A key deficiency is that we don’t really see him fix anything. And what we see him do doesn’t seem like any particular talent that would require a litigator when a paralegal or a PI could do the same job.
George Clooney is a charming actor, but it’s becoming clear he has two screen personas, the semi-rouge with a charming gleam in his eye and the same guy without the gleam. I can see how his oafish performance delighted the Academy in the ridiculous and boring SYRIANA, but in Michael Clayton he doesn’t even lose his finger nails. It’s just Clooney being Clooney. Tilda Swinton seems like a fine actress herself, but her nomination and win is just as equally baffling. Her role is pivotal to the plot, but her actual screen presence is minimal and not particularly dynamic. Further working against their nominations is the stellar work on the under-hyped Tom Wilkinson, that trudges along movie after movie bringing something unique and thoughtful nearly every time.
What seems to set Michael Clayton apart from other films of its kind is staging. This world has a sort of bleak tone where no one ever has much to smile about despite the fact that nearly every character on both sides of the big case is living well.
Without ruining the plot, I’ll say there are a couple of nefarious acts late in the picture and if you think about their plausibility it’s hard to take the total film seriously. I still enjoyed it enough. I would say that it succeeds in ways that other films of this sub-genre do not. But it’s hardly groundbreaking or worthy of a Best Picture nod.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Men's Journal does a wonderful Job of exploring the life and times of Chris McCandless in condensed form, so I will not bore you with the repeat of all that here. Rather, I wanted to speak a bit about the book and the movie (They are equally wonderful) and a little about my own experiences.
I bought the book a couple of years ago by mistake after purchasing several Jack London novels at a used book store. I scooped up Whitefang and what I thought was "Call of the Wild." When I got the book home I was disappointed at first until I read the back cover and the first few pages then was hooked. I immediately resonated with this story. It was so powerful and heartbreaking while at the same time, so familiar. I had no idea they had made a movie until I saw it on Tom's Netflix list and was happy to see it was about to release to DVD. I just saw the movie tonight with my son, Donovan.
In 1991, I had just completed my B.A. in Psych from UWF and was completely clueless as to what to do. I can remember that May sitting on a beach with Tom and asking him for advice. I wanted to go be a sailor (don't laugh), but felt the call of responsibility and could not bear to disappoint my family, particularly my grandfather. I had a comforting talk with Tom but could not make any real decision at that point. A few days later, on impulse, I enrolled in the "Chapman School of Seamanship" and moved down to the area with my crazy Uncle Dwight. He was in the middle of a major psychotic break, although I didn't know it at the time. I stayed for about 2 months, but never started the school. My Uncle would rant and rave every night about the various organizations and groups who were organizing against him (now I realize this was a bit of foreshadowing of things to come). I dreamed of a life on the sea, away from everyone and everything. After having enough of my Uncle (who at one point would not let me leave his house and held me there under the threat of a gun for a hour or two until he fell asleep thinking I had decided to stay) I left and returned to Bonifay. I drove all night and walked into my parents house that morning (October 1991) and the phone was ringing. I answered it and it was Prof. Rick Parr from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He said he had gotten my application I had sent prior to graduation and wanted me to come up there to do my Masters in Counseling. Flattered and thankful (to have someone point me in a direction) I accepted, got married that December, then moved a week later. 17 years later, I am now a Professor and Psychologist myself, having fulfilled my own academic life and what I felt was duty to my family. I divorced and remarried during those years, had two sons, lived in 5 different cities and houses, and have about 8 years to go before my own sons are both grown.
When I read the book, Into the Wild (and later Jack London's novels) I was profoundly moved by what they each said. I was in awe of the fool-hearty courage of Chris McCandless. I have often thought about my own call of the wild and wondered what would have happened had my Uncle been a bit more stable and I had a bit more courage (or less sense). Perhaps, I wouldn't be here to write this blog. I've had many "wilderness" experiences before. Most recently was my Vision Quest experience of sleeping out in the deep Canadian wild for a week alone, which was among the top 3 most life altering experiences I've ever had. I think what moved me about Chris's story is the fact that he had the courage to live what I had/have so yearned to do and live myself. I think it is the quintessential story of men; perhaps of human beings. To run away from responsibility, to risk everything for a idea, to fore-go what society tells us is the correct or right thing to do, and simply exist in a moment to moment fashion without any rules or labels or "gotta do's" on our list.
I often think about Steven the sailor. Living in some alternate universe. I imagine him lonely and sad, feeling a failure for not having lived up to his families ideals. But sometimes I wish I could contact him and tell him how lucky and wonderful he is. I wonder if he made it, became a sea captain, and pilots a ship around the world. I wonder if he could find moments of happiness. In 8 years I'll be free of my final bit of responsibilities, having had my career, raised my kids, and had my marriages. I wonder if I will then, finally answer the call of the wild or will I be too old, too happy with my wife, too scared, too happy right where I am to do such a foolish thing----thinking that such adventures are for the young only. Or will I find some middle ground and simply go on sabbatical for a year or two, walking the Earth, and having a grand adventure but returning to what really matters. To what the movie and book and perhaps what Chris were trying to communicate all along----that what is truly of value is not just the adventure, but more importantly, that we have those around who are awake enough and love us enough to share the adventure.
"People say that what we're seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. What we seek is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel that rapture of being alive".
Monday, March 10, 2008
It's 3AM and the White House phone is ringing. Let us pray the phone is on Bill's side of the bed. He actually has real experience in diplomacy. Hillary promises only rhetoric but Billary pledges results. In listing her myriad foreign policy accomplishments during her tenure in the White House, Senator Clinton waxed nostalgic about how she brokered peace between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Now, Lord Trimble offers ... the rest of the story.
Hillary Clinton had no direct role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and is a "wee bit silly" for exaggerating the part she played, according to Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of the province.
"I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player."
But seriously, what does that guy know? He does not represent the views of the American people.
"I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland."
But negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the grueling political talks over the years.
Lord Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, in 1998. Conall McDevitt, an SDLP negotiator and aide to Mr Hume during the talks, said: "There would have been no contact with her either in person or on the phone. I was with Hume regularly during calls in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement when he was taking calls from the White House and they were invariably coming from the president."
Central to Mrs Clinton’s claim of an important Northern Ireland role is a meeting she attended in Belfast with a group of women from cross-community groups. "I actually went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did," she said in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 6th.
"I remember a meeting that I pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall there, bringing together for the first time Catholics and Protestants from both traditions, having them sitting in a room where they had never been before with each other because they don’t go to school together, they don’t live together and it was only in large measure because I really asked them to come that they were there.
"And I wasn’t sure it was going to be very successful and finally a Catholic woman on one side of the table said, ’You know, every time my husband leaves for work in the morning I worry he won’t come home at night.
"And then a Protestant woman on the other side said, ’Every time my son tries to go out at night I worry he won’t come home again’. And suddenly instead of seeing each other as caricatures and stereotypes they saw each other as human beings and the slow, hard work of peace-making could move forward."
That is a touching story, almost certainly a work of fiction. If she had been campaigning in Texas, the women in the parable would have been rival tequila distillers; if in Georgia, then crack head widows. She believes this meeting actually took place, just like her husband believes he used to see churches in black communities burn to the ground when he was a child.
There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on the Christmas tree lights in November 1995. The former First Lady appears to be referring a 50-minute event the same day, arranged by the US Consulate, the same day at the Lamp Lighter Café.
The "Belfast Telegraph" reported the next day that the café meeting was crammed with reporters, cameramen and Secret Service agents. Conversation "seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times" and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew "so nice and hot".
Among those attending were women from groups representing single parents, relationship counselors, youth workers and a cultural society. In her 2003 autobiography "Living History", Mrs Clinton wrote about the meeting in some detail but made no claim that it was significant.
Here is a lovely photograph of Mrs. Clinton playing at tea with the ladies of Sinn Fein:
Steven King, a negotiator with Lord Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party, argued that Mrs Clinton might even have helped delay the chances of peace. "She was invited along to some pre-arranged meetings but I don’t think she exactly brought anybody together that hadn’t been brought together already," he said. Mrs Clinton was "a cheerleader for the Irish republican side of the argument", he added.
"She really lost all credibility on Bill Clinton’s last visit to Northern Ireland [in December 2000] when she hugged and kissed [Sinn Fein leaders] Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness."
So, it's not so much that she was brokering peace, but that she was clearly playing favorites, lavishing affection on the players whom she most admired in the altercation.
Responding to inquiries from this newspaper, Hillary Clinton’s campaign issued a statement responding to the comments from Mr Hume. "I am quite surprised that anyone would suggest that Hillary Clinton did not perform important foreign policy work as First Lady," the statement said.Imagine Joe Montana's wife showing up at camp the year after he retired, expecting to get the nod at quarterback for the upcoming season. She had spent the past several years discussing strategy with Joe after every game, had traveled with him to all the road games, discussing football with the other wives. She feels she is now ready to step up and assume the role that her husband has vacated. She has the "experience" because she has "been there". And shame on anyone for thinking she can't handle the job just because she is a woman.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
O-ba-ma! is a very beatable candidate, and I was hoping to see Hillary get put away in OH and TX. Again look to the British press to summarize things very plainly. Hillary will do anything to become president, and in politics, ambition trumps diplomacy.
The danger, I think, for Mr Obama is that the kitchen sink volley of the last week has revealed a central truth about the Democratic contest: she wants it more. In politics, it's not necessarily the better person who gets the top job, but the one who is really, really desperate for it and willing to go to any lengths to get it.
For Mrs Clinton - and for her momentarily quiet husband - this is it. This is the alpha and omega of their existence; the sacred mission at the heart of their life's journey. They will do anything to get there. Mr Obama has time on his side - at only 46 he will be a leader of the Democratic party for 20 years or more.
In another clever move after this week's primaries, Mrs Clinton showed she perhaps senses this disparity of political hunger when she mooted the idea of a “dream ticket” for the Democrats - she as the presidential candidate, Mr Obama as the vice-president.
It makes perfect sense for her and might, if he thinks really hard about it, suit him. If they win in November, he is the heir apparent when she ultimately steps down. If they lose, he is the immediate successor.
And after another week or two like the last, Mr Obama may finally decide it's better to have Mrs Clinton on his side than have her throwing the plumbing at him.
Gary Hart weighs in.
One of those rules [of politics] is this: Do not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. This is a hyper-truth where the presidential contest is concerned.
By saying [through her "3 a.m." ad] that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her.
They are tired of not being president and they're not gonna take it any more. And if we don't pony up, they'll tear down the party. What was missing from the news coverage of the stupid Scotsman thing the last two days is that she IS a monster.
Friday, March 07, 2008
OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959) - My first taste of Blake Edwards was in the 1980s, and I could never figure out why producers kept giving him the keys to the movie-making machine. Those films were dreadful but this one is pure delight. It is ten years older than me but doesn't show its age at all - it has a thoroughly modern feel to it, is very funny, and has plenty of story, populated by characters with whom we are happy to spend time. You can't help but love Cary Grant doing his thing and as a bonus, you get Tony Curtis doing his thing alongside. This one stands the 50-years-later test.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2007) - This is one for the time capsule - a fine portrait of the dozen or so men who made history by walking on the moon in the twentieth century, telling their story nearly four decades later. Curiously, Neil Armstrong opted out, which is a real shame, but there is some priceless footage of his parents on "What's My Line" in the early 60s being asked how they would feel if their son became the first man to walk on the moon. The stories these guys tell must be heard and yet to a man they feel as if they were just the lucky ones to be the individuals actually experiencing what was truly a shared experience for all of mankind. The footage the filmmakers use is simply astounding. I was born the day we launched for the moon and as a kid, I was very interested in the space program. I am still fascinated by it to no end and I'm so glad this film was made before these men are laid to rest as footnotes to history.
THE PRESIDENT'S LADY (1953) - Another Tivo offering, not even available as yet on DVD. I was not familiar with the film but was intrigued by the subject matter, as I had a slight familiarity with the real-life predicament faced by President Andrew Jackson during his political heyday. Here, Chuck Heston is Jackson, a rough and tumble frontiersman/lawyer. Dawn Howell look-a-like, Susan Hayward is his lady, Rachel. It turns out that her divorce from Mr Prick is not quite formalized at the time she weds Jackson and this causes grievous scandal and torment for the couple as his political capital soars. His enemies use her against him at every opportunity until she dies just weeks before his inauguration. I really liked the film. I like depictions of strong marriages after seeing umpteen thousand variants of the marriage doomed to fail. Hayward is winning and ranks up there with June Allyson of THE GLENN MILLER STORY on my short list of all-time favorite movie wives. The third act is a bit rushed but it is a nice story up until his reluctant call to the presidency.
STARDUST (2007) - It's a bit cluttered and overlong but I was charmed nonetheless. There is a straightforward hero quest story at work with a smattering of interesting characters who pop in and out. The first scenes with DeNiro were great but he wears out his welcome soon after. There are some wonderful moments, including a fencing duel with a discombobulated corpse, and there is some great humor - it all adds up to a lot of fun.
THE PARENT TRAP (1961) - I saw this on the last day of school when I was in 2nd grade and fell madly in love with Hayley Mills. At the time, I didn't even question why she had a British accent as both the Boston girl and the Monterey tomboy. I think I even considered this my favorite film until it was superseded by STRIPES about five years later. It is still a worthy family classic even if I notice now that it drags a bit at times. They do a fine job of populating the screen with two girls using but one actress. Mason was fooled - when we saw another Hayley Mills film soon after, he asked if it was one of the sisters from this movie.
CORPSE BRIDE (2005) - Technically, this film is a masterpiece. Even though I knew it was stop-motion, about half an hour in, I had convinced myself that it is actually CG. But no, it truly is stop-motion, an art form that has no real necessity to exist any longer other than it is so magical when done well. I thought the first act was brilliant but once we leave the drab real world and enter the colorful underworld, it falls into that familiar Tim Burton pacing problem where everything looks really great but we stop caring much about what is actually transpiring. I love Danny Elfman to no end but after CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and this film, I am ready for him to quit lyrics for awhile and just go back to underscoring. The ending didn't make sense to me because everybody seemed so happy in the underworld, but then the heroine gets to go to heaven, making me feel bad for all the dead people who are left behind. Will their world be so cheery the next day knowing that there is a greater reward than just being dead forever?
CUBE (1997) - I had not heard of this film until it recently came to my attention and sounded interesting. It is trying to be a psychological study with a high concept on a shoestring budget but it overshoots the target in my opinion. A group of disparate strangers awaken in a giant cube and are forced to find their way to freedom, knowing that one false move is instant death. They make a big point about how each of them was "chosen" for some individual talent and that they must all work together to survive, but then infighting brings them down as they seemingly prove that theory wrong by killing one another. There is a nugget of a great concept here and I believe this film will be much better the day it is remade by someone like Darren Aronofsky.
IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962) - This film is both supremely silly and lots of fun. It is worth watching once but that will prove plenty. There are some laughably bad effects interspersed and you have never seen such bad process shots of people running in place in front of rear-projected images of apocalypse. The absolute best take-away from this movie is the song that Maurice Chevalier sings while stranded in a tree with a jaguar above and a flood below. He sings "Enjoy It" while cooking bird eggs for the gang - it has become a catch-phrase now for me and Cadence. Whenever one of us starts complaining about something, the other can instruct the sourpuss in a giddy French accent to basically stop bitching and enjoy it. The cat is gnawing on your toe? - Enjoy it! He's got nine of them to go - so enjoy it!
I MARRIED A WITCH (1942) - Tivo recorded it and Mason asked to watch it because he wonders if witches are real. He sat through the whole thing, which wasn't too tough at a brisk 77 minutes. There were a couple of laughs but not many. It seems like it should have been much funnier. There were some lame special effects, a shrewish Susan Hayward, and overall, not much to recommend.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (2007) - ENCHANTED was sold out so we wound up here. It was exactly as expected, maybe a bit more watchable even. Talking critters conquer pop culture but learn to despise the life of excess and crave the stability they left behind. It is the feature length examination of a minor subplot from PINOCCHIO.
I checked out the odds before this week's elimination and after to see how they changed. Bodog actually updates the odds between performances and still ranks David Archuleta as the prohibitive favorite. You would have to bet $2.50 for a $1 return if he goes on to win the competition. The other 15 contestants ranked like this for every dollar wagered:
David Cook $2.05
Brooke White $2.36
Carly Smithson $2.50
Kady Malloy $2.56
David Hernandez $3.50
Michael Johns $4.00
Kristy Lee Cook $5.00
Jason Castro $6.00
Chikezie Eze $7.50
Ramiele Malubay $8.00
Asia'h Epperson $14.00
Syesha Mercado $15.35
Danny Noriega $100.00
Amanda Overmyer $100.00
Luke Menard $100.00
The names in red were eliminated this week. I thought all four were easy to predict. It surprises me to see that Kady Malloy was ranked so generously. David Cook's stock got a tremendous boost with his brilliant electric guitar rendition of Lionel Ritchie's Hello. That was the only song I've heard so far that sounded like it should be on the radio. Archuleta's Imagine got a lot of hype last week for its brilliance. I like the kid plenty, but he is only my fourth favorite guy behind Cook, Johns, and Castro. I don't know how you eliminate any of those guys. They very well could comprise the top four if they at some point stop eliminating people by gender. The only girls that have a shot at the top four are Malubay, Smithson, and Brooke White, but I don't like any of them as much as the fourth best guy.
So after the Thursday broadcast, Archuleta is still the odds-on favorite with a $1.30 wager bringing a $1 return. The remainder of the top 12 rounds out like this:
Carly Smithson $5.03
Michael Johns $7.25
Jason Castro $10.09
Ramiele Malubay $14.17
Brooke White $17.25
Syesha Mercado $19.00
David Cook $25.52
Kristy Lee Cook $75.00
David Hernandez $75.00
Amanda Overmyer $125.00
Chikezie Eze $200.00
It's funny how people became bigger longshots despite having a good week, like Brooke dropping from third overall to sixth. And how the heck does David Cook drop in the rankings? If I was putting money down at this point, I would definitely take those 25.52:1 odds. At some point, the vote will be more indicative of the country's taste because at this point, Simon is still leading the vote with comments such as "I would be absolutely amazed if you made it through to next week." And then it is no surprise when that guy is eliminated the following week. It will eventually get down to half a dozen singers with no major flaws in their game and the judges are going to say they were all brilliant and then people will vote for their favorite rather than Simon's. I think Archuleta could fall by the wayside in the top three because Johns and Cook have already developed stage persona while Archuleta is still relying on his fresh-faced kid interpretation of songs.
Anyways, I'll check back in at the top six and here is my fearless prediction, assuming we are still eliminating one of each gender up until then:
Looks like the Left-wing kook fringe Hippy terrorists who are against all-that-is-holy, have come out of the wood work. Hmmm? I wonder how the mainstream media will play this? I wonder how long it would take President Obama or President Clinton to pardon these "nobel" patriots. Perhaps they will get a nice ambassadorship when Pres. Obama goes on his dictatorial pan-Middle East goodwill tour. From the AP Newswire:
Capitol Hill offices received letters Thursday containing a photo of the
Times Square military recruiting office before it was bombed and including the claim "We Did It."...The envelope also contained a packet of approximately 10 sheets of paper that seemed to be a political manifesto railing against the Iraq war and a booklet. The aide didn't know what the booklet was. A second aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said similar letters arrived in as many as 10 offices.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
So far the only campaign signs I have seen were the rare Ron Paul sign, typically homemade. All that is about to change.
Her March 4 wins will encourage Clinton--or her surrogates--to blast away at Obama. And though Obama earlier in the campaign demonstrated an ability to absorb attacks and stick to his own game plan, he may--after Ohio and Texas--feel pressure to respond in kind. Certainly, he cannot be a punching bag for six weeks. So there will be blood, and Pennsylvania will be the battlefield.
The candidates have been campaigning for over a year and I haven't seen or heard a campaign ad locally. A couple weeks from now I will wish that were still the case. It's a good time to own a radio or TV station or civic arena in Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Based on how the person died, or at least the popular legend of how s/he died, match the person with the object most likely to have prevented the death:
1 - Greek dramatist, Aeschylus
2 - Astronomer, Tycho Brahe
3 - Gangster, Al Capone
4 - Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra
5 - Chemist, Marie Curie
6 - Distiller, Jack Daniel
7 - Actor, James Dean
8 - Croc Hunter, Steve Irwin
9 - President, Thomas Jefferson
10 - Author, Virginia Woolf
A - urinal
B - steel toed boot
C - radiation suit
D - snake bite kit
E - anti-diarrhea medicine
F - protective hard hat
G - life jacket
H - underwater shark cage
I - penicillin
J - seat belt
How did you do? Check the comments for the key.