Thursday, June 26, 2008


YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! SUPREME COURT RULES THAT 2ND AMENDMENT IS AN "INDIVIDUAL RIGHT"

By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled for the first time Thursday that the Constitution protects an individual right to own guns, in a 5-4 decision that is likely to reverberate nationwide and spawn wide controversy over firearms control. The momentous decision striking down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban came on the last day of the 2007-2008 term. From the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia declared for the majority that the Second Amendment provides an "individual right to have and use arms in the home."
Well, yippy-yah-yeah, my friends and neighbors. What we good folks here in the South fought and died for is now the "law of the land" for the first time in U.S. History. Sometimes, the supreme court gets it right, I must say. It will be interesting in how this plays out now in the Presidential campaign politics. As a card carrying member of the NRA I am privy to their newsletter. Their take was thusly:

"Anti-gun politicians can no longer deny that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right," said NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox. "All law-abiding Americans have a fundamental, God-given right to defend themselves in their homes. Washington, D.C. must now respect that right."

For Heaven's sake, this took that long to figure it all out I guess?! Of course the Founding Fathers meant the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right, otherwise what is the point? What is going to be interesting now is to see if the crime rate in D.C. declines as it has done in states that have instituted a concealed weapon's permit authority for private, law-abiding citizens. I for one am going to purchase a new gun just to celebrate. What was equally hilarious is to watch how quickly Barack Obama came out to agree with the ruling by saying, "today's ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country." What the heck does that mean? He went on to say that "common sense" gun laws to protect our "youth" was still needed. Wow, how far the dems have come from the days of Dekakus who said in a live debate with Bush1, that "Only the police and the military should have guns." What is further interesting is that 71% of Americans polled believed the constitution spells out an "individuals" right to have guns. That is a lot given the fact that you cannot get 71% of Americans to agree on anything. But frankly the real reason I'm happy about today's decision, is that it keeps letting me pair my two favorite things which is eloquently dramatized in this video:


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

THE BIG COURT

Mark Levin today on the Corner:
Let me put this bluntly — every time the Supreme Court meets in secret conference, it sits as a constitutional convention, rewriting the Constitution at will.

I couldn't put it better. Andy McCarthy has a lot to say about Kennedy v. Louisiana.

Eighth Amendment Question: Isn't Brutally Raping an Eight-year-old More Cruel Than Lethal Injection?

Even if you agree with their bottom line, do Justice Kennedy and the justices in Kennedy v. Louisiana have a clue about how offensive it is to write this line in rationalizing why a man who has savagely raped his eight-year-old step-daughter should not be executed by the humane process of lethal objection:

"Evolving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person[.]"

And as for their "proportional" punishment argue, I think it's silly on its face — read the almost unreadable (because it's so excruciating) account of the rape and ask yourself whether it is really "disproportionate" to administer lethal-objection execution to a man who committed this type of barbaric a sexual assault on a child.

But let's give him that one for argument's sake. The Eighth Amendment talks about punishment that is cruel. First, punishment does not become cruel just because it's disproportionate. And second, are we really striving here for proportionality? If a crime is cruel — as it clearly was in this case — wouldn't a proportionate punishment also have to be cruel, and thus in violation of the Eighth Amendment?

Too logical for the court.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

OBAMA'S VP

I opined on McCain's pick, here is Obama's.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is my obvious choice. He is a seasoned and shrewed politician, former prosecutor and mayor, charming, life of the party, a gifted orator, who appeals to working-class whites in an important state. He is very liberal and very popular. He is scandal free, or close enough. He is relentlessly dedicated to the talking points memo -- whatever it may happen to say, he will repeat it ad nauseum with a smile. He plays well on TV. The biggest hurdle is that he was a strong Hillary supporter, so she would have to set him free with her blessing. Rendell says he wants to serve out his second term and then go home, but that's what they all say.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THINKING ABOUT McCAIN'S VP PICK

I was driving home last night as Gore was introducing Obama to a raucous crowd in Detroit. Obama draws large, raucous crowds. McCain draws two dozen old ladies to the fire hall. McCain is going to have to use his VP selection, and his VP selection process, to fire up some enthusiasm.

I would bet that one of the following is going to be his pick, and I would hope that he is in no great hurry to make the pick. In this case, the more focus groups and polling, the better. He has to get this right.

COLIN POWELL
He's been out of Washington for a while and can come in fresh. He is respected across the political spectrum. He bucked neocon thinking on more than one occasion. He is a statesman, knowledgeable, accomplished and well spoken. However, liberals will be quick to point out that he went to bat for the evil Bush at the U.N. and parroted Bush's lies. Powell is a career military guy but no fan of war. He plays up McCain's only solid advantages, in foreign policy and political experience. He's at least as black as Obama and a known quantity to whites. I think he strikes the right balance. Con: He's 71, and does not bring the youth to the ticket that McCain's advisors might think he needs. Hillary has already proven that running on experience vs. change is a losing proposition, although the conventional wisdom is that experience is more of a positive in the general election, and moreover Hillary didn't really have the experience that she claimed to have. Powell can pay tribute to McCain's service to his country in a way that McCain himself cannot.

JOE LIEBERMAN
This would be the bold, attention-grabbing pick. It would bolster McCain's bipartisan reputation, which would play well to moderates but further antagonize conservatives. McCain has been photographed with Lieberman more often than with anybody but his wife. They seem to be friends and cut of the same cloth. I think the two would enjoy campaigning together, and that itself would bring some much-needed vitality to the campaign. Lieberman is sober and likable despite being totally out of whack with conservatives on social issues. He is a familiar name and face, having run with Gore and flipped to Independent in his last campaign. He is a maverick, and I think Americans (maybe just men) like that. As the lone dissenter, he emphasizes the cut-and-run policies of the left that most Americans (men?) inherently despise if you cast them as surrender/choosing to lose rather than sparing American lives and treasure. He has never grossly offended anyone but Democrats. He can deliver a Zell Miller-type indictment of what the Democratic Party has become at the GOP convention.

MITT ROMNEY
I just don't think it's Mitt's time. Conservatives came around to him only because they had to when Thompson was a no-show. Politically McCain needs to win it in the middle, by being who he is, and count on the right to turn out for him because they can't bear the thought of an Obama presidency. I think moving right is a mistake for McCain. The hard red states will remain red; he needs Ohio and Wisconsin and New Hampshire and Minnesota where Independents carry the day. We'll see Mitt again next time around and I don't like his chances then either.

CONDI RICE
She is intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable -- and a close ally of Bush. That alone disqualifies her I think. One might argue that he should include her on the short list just to make the point that he is willing to consider qualified blacks and women, but I think even considering a high ranking Bush official on his ticket would be a mistake politically. I don't think she wants the job, although that's what everyone says before they get asked, and then, hmm, it's one short step from the presidency, how can you refuse. I think America is closer to electing an African-American or a woman to the presidency than a scholar. I like her a lot but politically she is the wrong choice.

I have listed them above in my order of likelihood. What I think he should do is pick Lieberman. What I think he will do is pick Gen. Powell as a somewhat safer choice.

Who am I missing? Why am I wrong? Do tell.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BARACK CAN SAY, BUT CAN YOU?

It is interesting to listen to Barack Obama discuss a subject that when others have brought it up, they have been called "racist" or "traitors." From the Associated Press:

CHICAGO — Barack Obama celebrated Father’s Day by calling on black fathers, who he said are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” to become active in raising their children.

“They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it,” the Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday at a largely black church in his hometown.

Reminding the congregation of his firsthand experience growing up without a father, Obama said he was lucky to have loving grandparents who helped his mother. He got support, second chances and scholarships that helped him get an education. Obama’s father left when he was 2.

“A lot of children don’t get those chances. There is no margin for error in their lives,” said Obama, an Illinois senator.

“I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls,” added Obama, whose daughters, Sasha and Malia, and his wife, Michelle, watched from the audience.

In my first child development class in my Doctoral program we read a terrible book entitled, "There are No Fathers Here" about the plight of two young boys in the intercity Chicago housing projects (now which have been torn down). After reading the book and being a new father I simply asked myself, "Where is their father?" It seemed to me that my own sons would have been in an equally dire situation had I abandoned them at birth. However, through hardwork, family support and committment to my responsibilities, my sons are thriving. When I brought this fact up in class, I was nearly kicked out of school for my obvious "racist" ideas. Wow! It's nice to be proven correct, even if it is 15 years after the fact. What I was saying and what Barack is saying now, are about the same, in fact Barack Obama is even more harsh than I was.

Recently, Juan Williams NPR commentator in his book "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It " comments about this issue. Bill Cosby also had much to say on this subject at the NAACP meeting last year and was labeled a "traitor."

So how is it that Obama is now being cheered for his "leadership" on this issue?
NOBAMA

Will anyone with a microphone ever ask Obama what qualifies him to be POTUS? NRO did the investigation that was sitting there waiting lo these many months to be done, and found that, surprise, Obama's ability to get people excited about Obama is all he has ever really accomplished. Unfortunately, he is very good at that, though. Tom, I am not a subscriber - are you able to forward me the article? Hopefully someone with a broader readership and whose name is not Hannity will pick up on the NRO piece, but I ain't holding my breath.

When it comes to lasting accomplishments, Obama's list isn't very long. His greatest hits seem to have been a successful effort to convince the city of Chicago to locate a jobs placement office on the far South Side and his part in a drive to push the city to clean asbestos out of a housing project in the same area. What else? A few other things; nothing big. [Through the course of my investigation] I got the sense that Obama's greatest talent was his ability to convince people to believe that it was possible to change things, not to actually bring about much change himself.

Obama has been selling the message of change since his organizer days. His gift, then and now, was to convince people to believe in him. Obama, not long out of college, didn't have much experience to qualify him to be an organizer. But he was black — a threshold qualification for this particular job — and he seemed able almost to work magic on those he encountered. "He didn't have experience," Augustine-Herron told me, "but he had a sensitivity that allowed us to believe that he could do that job."

In the media age, does personality trump policy? Is it more important to be a charismatic leader than to have a proven record of effective leadership? Do we hire now based on potential rather than performance? Is a well run campaign sufficient qualification for office? Interesting times.

My hope is that Obama is peaking, and that he can only become less popular, not more, as people get to know him. My fear is that he is so engaging that everything else matters less, and that compared to the awkward lump of porridge that is John McCain, and the lukewarmness he engenders among right-leaning voters, Obama's charm and rhetoric will shine too brightly to overcome. I especially fear this in light of the two or three appointments to SCOTUS that the next president will make.

But it's not a fear that is really fear, the kind that makes one noticeably afraid, not like a snake at the ankle or a crazed killer with knife aloft behind the refrigerator door.

I preferred being on vacation with no news. It was simpler. I like simple. Just the waves lapping at the beach and occasionally a bird snatching a fish, that was pretty good.

Friday, June 13, 2008

INTERLEAGUE WOES

Among many strange matchups this weekend, the Pirates visit Baltimore as interleague play resumes. I am thinking of catching a game at Camden Yards (an 80-minute drive) despite the Pirates' grotesque history vs. AL teams.

SS Jack Wilson says, take away interleague play and the Pirates wouldn't be a sub-.500 team year after year.

"Interleague play," he said. "Look it up. That's our season every year."

Well, here comes their season. They are trying to get to .500 tonight for the sixth time this season. It would be the latest in a season that they have been .500 since 1999 when they pretended to compete for the division with a losing record only because the division was so bad. The Bucs play the O's tonight for the start of 15 consecutive games against the American League. History does not like their chances.

The Pirates are 57-94 since interleague play began in 1997, a .377 winning percentage that is by far the worst in Major League Baseball. That includes a 20-54 in American League parks, as well as a cumulative .250 average and 10 measly home runs from their designated hitters.

37 games under .500 in interleague play - WOW. Tonight is a good time to turn the tide. If they win tonight I may go tomorrow night or Sunday. It's Father's Day, and I should get what I want, but it's also my anniversary which argues against a road trip with the boys.

UPDATE: Bucs lose 5-run lead Friday night and 9th inning lead Saturday night. Interleague woes continue.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

DUDE'S REVIEWS

My backlog has reached over 20 titles so I've split them up into two lists - one is the recent stuff and this one compiles the classics:

OLD YELLER (1957) - This film holds up very well fifty years later and is still the definitive story of a boy and his dog. As a kid, I was tearing up when the boy had to shoot the dog but this time it was the ensuing lecture from dad that moved me - same movie viewed thirty years apart. The best stories speak to everyone. I was impressed by the animal scenes, from wild hog fighting to stumbling cows. The direction is simple and capable, allowing the work to stand up for half a century and beyond.

CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) - I've wanted to see this ever since hearing Cliff Huxtable proclaim it his favorite movie during an episode of The Cosby Show. It doesn't disappoint, though the film-making style firmly dates it to the mid-30s. It's based on a popular novel of the day so the story is strong, and young Errol Flynn is a revelation in his first film role. It reminded me of BEN HUR in that it is an epic tale about how you can't keep a good man down. I loved the bit where Blood was able to purchase the babe just as she once purchased him. It's a good tale ripe for the remaking.

WIFE VERSUS SECRETARY (1936) - This film is throwaway fluff of the highest order. Clark Gable's rakish persona is used well as everyone assumes he is doing it with his Jean Harlow secretary but he truly is madly in love with his Myrna Loy wife. All is well until Loy gets the seeds of doubt planted in her by her mother and then everything seems suspicious. Loy eventually packs her bags, leading to a great scene where secretary talks her down before wife leaves for good. It ends well with the two ladies sharing a knowing look as the baton is passed back to its rightful owner.

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975) - I got interested in Peter Weir's filmography after loving DEAD POET'S SOCIETY and though I sought out THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS and even THE PLUMBER at that time, this title remained unseen by me until recently. It's an odd piece of work - languid, haunting - but the end result really works. Four girls go missing during an outing and three disappear without a trace. Even though one girl is found, she has no memory of the event. Weir suggests a sort of primal supernatural pull by the titular rock which draws the girls ever higher until they figuratively merge with the angels. Caffeinate beforehand, but check it out.

THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943) - It's a likable enough film but it takes itself so seriously and piles on the self-righteousness to the point where you think you just watched a public service announcement after its brief 74-minute running time. There's not much in the way of story - it begins with 20 minutes of barroom blather but really gets going once the posse sets out to lynch Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn. There is some good tension in the scenes in which the condemned try to talk their way out of the sentence imposed upon them by majority rule. It could have used some more story in the coda rather than simply having Henry Fonda read the dead man's letter and shaming everyone as we fade to black. It's a powerful sentiment but if you want to send a message, use Western Union.

GREMLINS (1984) - Now that we are well into the digital age, the puppets in this film come off as cute relics of Hollywood past at best and amateurish at worst. The film is silly and pure 80s, but what I like about it is that it serves well as a child's introduction to the horror genre. I watched it with my daughter who won't watch anything with blood in it. We saw a televised version which was cut so that even the grizzly kitchen massacre scene had all of the gremlin blood edited out. It was after watching this film that she finally figured out why I sometimes refer to the kids as gremlins and why I never, ever feed them after midnight.

TRUE GRIT (1969) - I also watched this with my daughter who was unhappy when some blood was spilled in a few places. We had a good laugh over a bit of dialogue in which the Duke mentions shooting a fella and leaving a scar on the villain's lower lip. Young Dennis Hopper asks what he was aiming for and Duke barks out "His upper lip!" I liked the girl in the main role. It's an actress you don't see much and maybe she wasn't great here, but I believed the character. Yet it was Wayne who got the Oscar nod even though his character isn't completely likable after a long career of better performances and roles. Sure, it's watchable but is it anybody's favorite John Wayne film? I would even prefer THE SHOOTIST to this in the late-stage Duke list of favorites.

THE KID (1921) - The film that inspired the Coogan Law and made a superstar of Charlie Chaplin is not as entertaining as I hoped it would be. There are moments of brilliance as with any Chaplin outing but the comedy takes back seat to the pathos and there are so many better films in Chaplin's future which I have already seen, that this one failed to touch me.

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) - I had never actually seen this prequel, and although everyone knows it is the weakest of the series, I still wanted to catch up with it now that there is renewed hoopla with the franchise. I expected I would like it but it came as a surprise how bad the film really is. It is much less fun and plenty more annoying than the first and third installments. There is no plausible reason why Indy keeps trying to romance the girl other than she is around. She is one of the most annoying female leads in any movie ever and we already know that the romance does not survive as we have already seen him a short time later with Marion. Speilberg must have made this one with dollar signs for pupils because it doesn't make any sense.

CLAMBAKE (1967) - Another Tivo offering that became a family night feature. It is regarded as one of Elvis' weakest films and I can't argue, although it is fun nevertheless and gives the kids insight into the Elvis phenomenon. Though still handsome, we are not far removed from the days of fat Elvis and are a mere decade removed from dead Elvis. Shelley Fabares is delicious as the love interest. What a looker! The entire production is amateur hour and by this time, the Elvis songs were not meaningful, so watch it only as a 60s artifact.

Monday, June 09, 2008

SOME BOOKS AND MOVIES

Sometimes I will be glancing at the bookshelf and see something that I forgot I owned. The other night I glanced at CADDIE FOR LIFE by John Feinstein. It’s the story of Tom Watson’s lifelong caddie, Bruce Edwards, and his demise from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The story is a great tribute to a regular guy who happened to be a pioneering touring caddie. I bought the book from the library’s used book store in a stack of so many that I had forgotten about it. Feinstein is a superb writer if you like golf. He’s also frequently on NPR talking with Robert Siegel about sports of the week.

I recently saw THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the PT Anderson movie starring Daniel Day Lewis. I find Lewis a very compelling actor and I was happy to see him win the Oscar. But now that I’ve seen the movie, I don’t think it was one of his better performances. It just seems too much like “acting” to me. He was eccentric in GANGS OF NEW YORK, but what an intense character opposite Leo. Here he’s the lead throughout and no one really matches him in tone and style. I guess the title is a play on “no blood for oil” since it’s based on Upton Sinclair’s novel OIL. Sinclair was an old radical, one of those turn of the century kind that hated capitalism and was always trying to “expose” its worst facets. The evils of capitalism are manifested in our hero’s greed and his eventual madness from wanting more. It’s typical of the genre really. Greed works well in so many movies, but it’s the tail that wags the dog here and I think the beloved recluse D.D. Lewis’ got this movie a lot more ink than it would have gotten had it starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman. That means I have seen 4 of the 5 Best Picture nominees now and I think the Academy picked the best of the four. I only have Atonement left. Soon.

I’m still reading NIXONLAND, a library book I started in Panama City when Trish and I spent the weekend with Sir Saunders and gang. It’s written by Rick Perlstein, the same guy who wrote an objective view of Goldwater’s campaign, although he is politically leftwing. He’s not so easy on Nixon though, or I should say he’s not as gracious to conservatives this time. I don’t know whether I will beat the library’s deadline or whether I want to.

What’s funny is his Goldwater book, universally praised, wound up out of print. Now with the new book out, you can only a buy his first book used and not for less than $100. Right now the cheapest paperback is $160. I suppose I should set up an Amazon account and sell my copy. I bought it at a used bookstore a year ago for $5. The same phenomenon happened in February when William F. Buckley died. Rush Limbaugh recommended his book “Let us Talk of Many Things” and that Out of Print book immediately sold out followed by used copies for $199. The book is still selling used for $60. It came down after a re-print was announced for October. Ebay has become an alternate form of renting. I have a couple of times bought items to rent for view and then sold them back. Before DVD, I bought a an old OOP VHS copy of the Walter Mathau movie HPSCOTCH for $32, watched it and then re-sold it for $46. I turned my LAST DAYS OF DISCO dvd into $80 when it went out of print.

Big businesses are really good at economies of scale and small businesses are good at customer service. Only a growing government with burdensome regulations can put small business out of business for all time.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

RECOUNT A Movie Review

RECOUNT is an HBO movie about the 2000 election. Kevin Spacey stars as the Gore lawyer who becomes a key player in the recount fight. It’s a compelling movie in so many ways, but it’s too often dishonest about the actual events. If you didn’t know the history well you’d be certain that Gore had an idealist staff trying to do the right thing while Republicans had a ruthless machine set to fix it for Bush. That theme is summed up with a meeting between Warren Christopher (John Hurt) and James Baker (Tom Wilkinson). Hurt expects that they are going to negotiate the details of the recount. Baker says that there is no negotiation. If Bush wins the recount the election is over. Christopher says ok and the meeting ends. Christopher is treated as an idealist only interested in how America looks while Baker wants to win.

The Gore team decision to mine for votes in predominantly Democrat counties is not treated as the least bit opportunist and when a Republican on TV suggests it, the movie treats it as just another talking point and of no substance. Spacey and Leary sit in a bar late in the film and Spacey delivers the big line that sums of the theme. “I want to know who won this election, who won it?” But in the action of the film Spacey doesn’t want to know who won it, but how it can be won for Gore.

The trickiest part for the producers was how to blame the Supreme Court decision on Republicans when Democrats brought the matter to court in the first place. They do this by showing James Baker filing some sort of Federal lawsuit early in the film because he knows the Florida Supreme Court is full of lefties and he knows the case will find its way there. And though Baker’s suit goes nowhere and the U.S. court responds to the decision by the Florida court, we’re supposed to blame Baker for his earlier appraisal.

The Spacey people gasp when they read the verdict and they scratch their heads when the court says that this case is not to be used as a precedent that it counts for this election and this election only. In a piece of exposition, one staffer pipes up that it’s the first time in the history of the court this has ever happened. This is made out to be sinister when any constitutional lawyer knows that the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t like to make rulings in overtly political cases, especially elections. This is strictly for self-preservation. Nothing in the constitution gives the court any particular power. Neither the legislative nor the executive branch even has to listen to the court. It’s become a tradition in this country that we do listen, but pushing too many boundaries is not a recipe for long term success. The one point barely remarked upon is the real quandary Democrats faced when it went to the high court. Liberals have counted on the court to give them most of the things voters do not want. Gore sends a message in the movie not to knock the court. It’s treated as statesmanlike instead of opportunistic. If Democrats stopped believing in the court then they would lose the only reliable leftward tilt this country has seen in the last 40 years. It’s pretty obvious to me that the Supremes weren’t happy with the Florida ruling and would have been happier to see this settled in the state legislature. They took the case to undo a bad ruling, but didn’t want the baggage of deciding future elections.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the film is Ed Begley Jr. as David Boise, the eccentric and brilliant lawyer for the Gore side. He’s a bit clumsy but lovable. One of the least enjoyable parts is the cartoon performance of Laura Dern as Katherine Harris. The case can be made that Harris was a political lightweight, but Dern plays her as a na├»ve fool easily led down the wrong path by a shrewd political operative. The tone is way too farcical for the rest of the film.

We only see the candidates from behind or hear them on the other end of the telephone. Removed is Gore’s odd vocal tone and kindergarten teacher way of talking to people. Bush, on the other hand, sounds like a cowboy character actor needing directions to Amarillo. Repeated in the film is the exchange between the two when Gore takes back his concession. The thing about the exchange that I remember from the time is Bush irritated that Gore takes the concession back and Gore saying, “You don’t have to get snippy.” I found that so appropriate from Gore, such a schoolmarm thing to say. I could even hear it in my head imagining the way he would say it all indignant. There isn’t a very masculine way to get that line out, but the producers tried their best here and it sounds like the wrong choice of words for the tone they use.

The movie doesn’t make someone like Jim Baker unlikable. Baker is talented and charming as a facade for his villainy. Talking to another Republican operative later in the film he admits that he was once a Democrat. Asked to tell the story he says his wife had died when he was 40 and a Republican friend asked him to help on his congressional campaign. Baker told the friend he was a Democrat, but the friend just didn’t want to see him so upset, so Baker joined up. When asked who that man was, Baker motions toward a picture of Bush 41. It’s a lot more subtle way of suggesting Baker is stealing the election for personal reasons and it makes him likable without making his side seem worthy of the office.

You do get the impression that the people fighting on both sides are doing so more to win the game than for the person or ideology that person represents. I think that’s a pretty honest portrayal of the way politics works on the inside. So even if the history here is selective, the process seems about right and it’s worth watching for that reason if nothing else.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A NOT-SO-CONFIDENTIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF JOHN MCCAIN

Reason for Referral:

John McCain was referred by the Junto Boys for a Psychological Evaluation to assess his mental fitness to become the next President of the United States.

Sources of Information and Procedures Employed:

Psychological Evaluation of Dr. Fernando Barral (Spanish/Cuban Psychiatrist who had interviewed McCain at the Hanoi Hilton)
The Real McCain (A Biography) by Cliff Schechter
Dr. Jeffrey L. Moore and Dr. Michael R. Ambrose, Navy Physicians who examined McCain upon his return to US Soil and evaluated him for the next 20 years as part of a longitudinal Prisoner of War Study program.
Thousands of Hours of Video, Audio, and Print Interviews
The Congressional Senate Record
Commentary and Comments from Friends and Colleagues
Analysis by the Junto Boys and other Bloggers

NOTE: John McCain released everything about his repeated cancer surgeries and general Medical records recently. However, he won't release his psychiatric records, which hold clues to the effect of his Vietnam captivity, which included two years in solitary confinement. It is well documented that the sort of treatment McCain endured can harm the mind. (What would the American people be more harmed by, a President with a physical ailment such as cancer, or an imbalanced, hostile, potentially dangerous person but functional enough to get through the election?)

Background Information:

McCain was born August 29, 1936 in Coco Solo in the U.S controlled Panama Canal Zone (Some Constitutional scholars have argued that this would not make McCain "native born" and thus ineligible for the Presidential post. While others have argued that being American controlled territory makes it "American Soil" which passes the Constitutional litmus test) . After high school graduation in 1954, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1958 (He followed in his Father's footsteps who was a Naval Admiral). McCain became a Captain in the United States Navy. On October 26, 1967, McCain was shot down over Vietnam, and was held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi for five-and-a-half years, mostly in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. (This certainly meets the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, of which there is no evidence that McCain was ever treated). He was released from captivity in 1973. He was honorably discharged upon his retirement from the Navy in 1981.

During his military career he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
He is married to Cindy Hensley McCain. When John Jacob Rhodes, the longtime congressman from Arizona's First Congressional district, announced his retirement, McCain successfully ran for the seat in 1982. In 1986, upon Senator Barry Goldwater's retirement, McCain was elected to succeed him.

McCain touts himself as a conservative on many fiscal issues, but moderate on social issues causing some conservatives to ridicule him as a Republican In Name Only (AKA RINO). His appeal during the 2000 presidential campaign was based on style and personal image rather than any label of liberal, conservative, moderate or libertarian (Although McCain touts his Maverick image like a medal of honor, this inability to be true to a core belief system may indicate a profound identity crisis and inability to truly know himself. Further, it may suggest an over identification with the personal, or public image, and may lead to a crisis of identity at any time).

McCain is often called a "maverick senator" because of his willingness to break with the party line. (This could also be seen as readily willing and able to betray those he formerly allied with). He was one of only four Republicans in the entire U.S. Congress to vote against the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. He was the only Republican senator to vote against the Telecommunications Act of 1995, which he called "the biggest rip-off since the Teapot Dome Scandal." He was also the only Republican senator to vote against the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, which phased out many of the farming subsidy programs put into place during the Great Depression. His concerns over global warming and other environmental issues have also put him at odds with the Bush administration and other Republicans. In addition, he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, reaffirming his position as a social moderate. (AKA Flip-Flopper).

A new biography about the GOP Presidential nominee, The Real McCain by Cliff Schechter, reveals a disturbing incident in which a hot-headed John McCain humiliated his wife in front of campaign aides and the press with a monumental blow-up. According to the book, "Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, 'You're getting a little thin up there.' McCain's face reddened, and he responded, 'At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c--t.' [EXPLETIVE IS NOT DELETED OR MODIFIED IN THE BOOK] McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days."

Personality Functioning:

During the 1999, Republican primary, Aubrey Immelman, reviewed a variety of previously cited reports on John McCain. Medical records released in 1999 indicated that, psychologically, Arizona senator John McCain is the most scrutinized presidential candidate in U.S. history. The senator participated in a prisoner-of-war study for 20 years following his release in 1973, undergoing extensive physical and mental evaluations. In their report, Dr. Jeffrey L. Moore and Dr. Michael R. Ambrose, conclude, "[Sen. McCain] has been subject to an extensive battery of psychological tests and following his last examination in 1993, we judged him to be in good physical and mental health."

The first account of McCain’s psychological functioning that I have been able to find in the public record is an ideologically skewed diatribe published Jan. 24, 1970 in Havana. The article reports the clinical impressions of Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist living in Cuba who had interviewed McCain during his captivity in Hanoi. Barral recounted his impressions of McCain (Currently Barral runs a small restaurant in Cuba where he has proudly framed his Psychological Evaluation of John McCain). Barral was surprised when his North Vietnamese handlers offered to arrange for him to interview a captured pilot. Two days later he was taken to the office of the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in Hanoi. The future Republican presidential nominee walked in unchained, Barral said, wearing an overall and a towel around his neck. The two men sat down over coffee and oranges with a translator. McCain "seemed very sure of himself and happy to talk," said Barral, who identified himself only as a Spanish psychiatrist, not mentioning that he worked for the Cuban state security services. McCain described how surprised he had been when he was shot down over Hanoi in October 1967 and landed in the middle of a lake in the city. He was injured when he ejected, breaking several limbs, and was dumped into a cell with no medical treatment for several days. He also described his career in the military, mentioned that his father was an admiral and head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and said his wife was a model. He was in better condition by the time Barral saw him, but he didn't earn much sympathy from the Spaniard. Barral described him in the article as "an insensitive individual without human depth," who showed no remorse for his bombing of civilians. "I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport," he added. McCain recalled the interview years later in his memoirs, Faith of My Fathers, describing Barral as "a Cuban propagandist masquerading as a psychiatrist and moonlighting as a journalist." McCain and other POWs have alleged that several Cuban agents were involved in the torture of American prisoners, but none has ever been positively identified. The allegation was vehemently denied by Fidel Castro in a recent newspaper column that called it "completely unethical." Cuba was a firm ally of North Vietnam and maintained an embassy in Hanoi. But though Cuban troops and military advisers famously participated in conflicts in Africa, none was ever sent to fight in the Vietnam War. Barral says he was not sent there by the Cuban government with any propaganda purpose in mind. "It was my own initiative, and it was never my plan to interview a prisoner," he said. Although he didn't give away any secrets, McCain recognizes that he violated the military's Code of Conduct in agreeing to be interviewed. The code advises American prisoners of war to give only name, rank, service number and date of birth. Under interrogation captured military personnel should "evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.
This patently invalid psychological profile characterized McCain as psychologically balanced yet egotistical and insensitive to his "criminal acts" of war, and hardened to the plight of his Vietnamese victims. Taken at face value, Dr. Barral’s impressions suggest a narcissistic, sadistic character structure.

More credible than Barral’s account are references in the McCain campaign’s 1999 released report to "a histrionic pattern of personality adjustment." According to the Associated Press, Dr. Ambrose, director of the Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies, explained that this meant "an outgoing personality." Although this oversimplified definition of the personality pattern sounds less ominous than "histrionic," the psychiatric label is no cause for concern when viewed in context. True, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) has a classification for "histrionic personality disorder," but it is worth noting that McCain’s examiners did not use the term "disorder."

Thus, we can safely conclude that the doctors’ particular choice of words merely reflects their professional—if clumsily phrased—determination that John McCain, within the parameters of well-adjusted personality functioning, possesses some facets of histrionic personality—most likely his distinctively outgoing, extroverted personal style. This assessment reflects my own analysis of McCain’s personality although I would add that McCain appears to exhibit an undercurrent of hostility and anger. This may be most recently evidenced by his reaction-formation defensive responses when he smiles menacingly at the camera after making a sarcastic comparison between himself and his Democratic opponent Barack Obama.

Within days of his release and return to America, McCain wrote the following account of his captivity, which was published in U.S. News and World Report - May 14, 1973:
"I think it was on the fourth day [after being shot down] that two guards came in, instead of one. One of them pulled back the blanket to show the other guard my injury. I looked at my knee. It was about the size of a football . . . when I saw it, I said to the guard, 'O.K., get the officer' . . . an officer came in after a few minutes. It was the man that we came to know very well as 'The Bug.' He was a psychotic torturer, one of the worst fiends that we had to deal with. I said, 'O.K., I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.'"

McCain now says it was only a coincidence that at the same time he was offering "military information" in exchange for special medical treatment, his captors discovered that his father was Adm. John S. McCain Jr., commander of all U.S. forces in Europe and soon-to-be commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, including Vietnam.

Upon learning about McCain's father, the communists, in an unprecedented move, rushed McCain to one of their military hospitals where he received treatment not available for other U.S. prisoners of war.

This informative news broadcast lends further evidence for the instability of John McCain:


McCain Vows To Replace Secret Service With His Own Bare Fists

DIAGNOSTIC IMPRESSIONS:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying ordeal (such as 2 years in solitary confinement and 6 years of POW captivity) that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb (especially in relation to people with whom they used to be close), lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was deliberately initiated by another person, as in a mugging or a kidnapping. Most people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks. Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the street. A person having a flashback may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic incident is happening all over again.

Not every traumatized person develops full-blown or even minor PTSD. Symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the incident but occasionally emerge years afterward. They must last more than a month to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.

John McCain likely met all the Criteria for PTSD. If he is cured of this illness (which actually has a rather high cure/remission rate when properly treated) why will he not release his psychological records? How is this off limits?

Recommendations:

Although John McCain has not exhibited gross signs of violence or other indications that he may spontaneously become mentally imbalanced, it is the profound lack of supporting evidence for his treatment and successful remission of this illness that is most troublesome. In addition, McCain was eager to give up information to the enemy (i.e. compromise) when pressured. Further, it is likely that John McCain harbors deep resentment toward his captors and may embroil the USA in a even more pointless war against an enemy (the Communists) long since vanquished. Therefore, all voters are advised to vote for Libertarian 3rd party candidate, Bob Barr.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

MAZZONE

I saw the alternate Fox game yesterday, the Reds and the Braves. With Psycho off the network, Thom Brennaman was teamed with Leo Mazzone of all people. Mazzone was great. He explained pitching like Jim Kaat, the best pitcher/broadcaster in my lifetime. But like that lady at the Wynn, his voice did not match his face.

It wasn't just his voice that threw me. I covered Braves Spring Training for three years in the early 2000s, and Mazzone acted so shy I didn't ask him for an interview. He didn't seem to talk to anyone pre-game. On top of that, he has that rocking idiosyncrasy that would suggest some sort of stutter or measure of inarticulation. On the contrary, he is smooth voiced, expresses thoughts more clearly than most and doesn't seem the least bit shy.

I heard him for an inning or two before I put it together. He gave it away with a story about how much credit he got for Kevin Millwood when Glavine and Maddux were just as influential to the young pitcher.

I was busy cooking for company and couldn't pay full attention to the game, but I look forward to seeing the alternate game more often. I have always liked Brennamen and Mazzone beats the tar out of McCarver.