Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dodged a bullet there!

Today's Wall Street Journal The Editorial Page email has an item on a story in the New York Times about a brewing "crisis" over John McCain's impending nomination as the Republican candidate for president. Not content with trying to smear McCain with a non-sex sex story, the Old Gray Lady is now trying to question his eligibility to become president. John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone and the Times claims that the internet is abuzz with talk of this "controversy". (Never mind that Congress passed a law to address just this question in 1790.)

What I'm grateful for is that it looks like Hillary won't be the Democratic nominee. Since I put nothing past her, and believe that no tactic is beneath her, I have no trouble envisioning her challenging McCain's eligibility on the grounds that he is not a natural born citizen.

Collectively, we, the United States of America, are getting ready to dodge a HUGE bullet here, folks!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Rest In Peace

It's just coming across the wires, but it looks like National Review founder, William F. Buckley, Jr., has died today.

It is a gross understatement to say that Buckley was a giant of the modern American conservative movement. At points, it seems like he single-handedly kept it going.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscar Picks Revisited

Okay, so the new century's worst - so far - and most boring - so far - Oscars are over. How did I do in my picks for the top six awards?

Surprisingly well - four out of six. I missed Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress and Marion Cotillard for Best Actress (although Cotillard was my dark horse). I will say that these Oscars were pretty easy to pick. It was a foregone conclusion that Javier Bardem would win Best Supporting Actor and that "No Country for Old Men" would win Best Picture. That's a third of my work done for me right there. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis was a pretty safe bet for Best Actor, so that's half my work done.

The big surprise of the show was "The Bourne Ultimatum". It was the second-biggest winner of the night, winning three. I'm glad the awards it won were more of the technical variety. I saw this movie in the theater and I thought it sucked big time. It was a clone of the second movie and we didn't learn very much more about Jason Bourne.

I will say that I think it's a shame that the Academy has such a short memory. I still think they could have bumped Tom Wilkinson for Mark Ruffalo from "Zodiac" for Best Supporting Actor. I think "Zodiac" was a hugely overlooked movie of 2007.

Likewise I thought "Gone, Baby. Gone" deserved much more than the one nomination it garnered. I could easily seen it getting nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director for first-timer Ben Affleck. Think that thought is laughable? Watch "Juno" and while you're watching it recall that the director, lead actress, the writer and indeed the film itself were all deemed by the academy to be among the year's best.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thank goodness it's not just me

Thanks for Chuck Muth's News & Views for this quote from former Reagan speechwriter and sydnicated columnist Peggy Noonan. I read this and am comforted that I am not the only one who thinks Obama is a walking collection of platitudes.

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him 'impossibly eloquent' and say 'he gave me thrills and chills.' But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate.

- Columnist Peggy Noonan

Breaking news

It appears that Ralph Nader has decided to once again run for president.

I think my reaction can best be summed up as follows: a great, big 'who cares?'

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm glad I write this stuff down

I am pretty sure if I looked back through my archives I could find some lines where I pronounced myself bemused by "Obama-nia". I'm glad because this phenomenon is officially starting to get creepy. It definitely left rational a few stops back.

Check out this from the Baltimore Sun political blog (via Taranto, of course):
Just a day before a debate in Texas, Sen. Barack Obama has a head cold.

And about a half-hour into a speech here, the Illinois Democrat announced that he had to take a quick break. "Gotta blow my nose here for a second," Obama said.

Out came a Kleenex (or perhaps it was a hankie), and he wiped his nose.

The near-capacity audience at the Reunion Arena, which his campaign said totaled 17,000, broke out in a slightly awkward applause.

I think I see the problem...

My cousin, Jonathan Birge, posted a comment on this article from the UK's The Times Online. The subject of the article is the modern, single, British woman's difficulty in finding a mate.

Reading the article, I was struck overwhelmingly by one thing: the tone. The tone of the article is amazingly condescending and contemptuous of men. Is it any wonder that none of the men in Ms. Nolan's life are tripping over themselves to meet her at the altar?

I am 40 years old and not married. The main reason I think I am not married is that it's been a long time since I've had a girlfriend that truly understood that an adult relationship is a partnership. Too many women think - and too many man accept - that getting married means getting to boss their husbands around. I'm sorry but I am not accepting applications for that position. I am capable, educated and resourceful. I don't need anyone managing the small details of my life. Thanks.

If I were to get married, it would almost certainly not be to an American or Western woman. As evidenced in this article, their expectations are wholly unrealistic.

For a tongue-in-cheek look at the high cost of marriage, check out

Nice shootin', Tex!

Make that, "Nice shootin', Lake Erie!"

I just got this from CNN's Breaking News e-mail alert service:

-- The U.S. Navy successfully shot down an inoperable spy satellite before it crashed to Earth, the Pentagon confirms.

Tonight, on its crew's first attempt, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie successfully shot down the remains of that spy satellite that was falling to Earth. I read earlier in the day where today was the first of nine or ten ten minute windows the crew of Lake Erie would get at the crippled bird.

I am sure the Navy will be glad for the Chinese to find out that we nailed it the first time out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

To do what, exactly?

From professional gadfly Michael Moore comes this helpful suggestion: "Bring Fidel to the Oscars".

Oh, Michael! What would we do without the likes of you, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Al Franken?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Modest Proposal, Part Deux

I don't play the lottery. If you do any reading about them at all, you'll find that they are a regressive tax. This is because the people who can least afford to play the lottery are the ones who play it the most. I certainly don't think the government should sponsor such revenue-generating mechanisms.

However, more than that, what drives me nuts is having to wait in line at the convenience store or gas station behind some idiot that is trying to buy lottery tickets! If they must be sold, lottery tickets should be sold via automated vending machines. Don't make me late while you chase your stupid get-rich-quick schemes.

Besides, research shows most lottery winners end up broke again anyway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oscar 2008

Now that it looks like there is going to be a deal in place to end the writer's strike, some of TV's biggest shows can get back to work. It also means that we will get a real Academy Awards show, not something like the train wreck that passed for the People's Choice Awards this year.

I think I have an annual tradition of picking the big six Oscar categories. And if I don't, then I am going to start one - now.

So far this year I have seen four of the five Best Picture nominees and I plan on watching "Juno" before the show, so at least I should be prepared. Of course, given the numerous travesties the Academy has betrayed on us over the years ("Forrest Gump" over "The Shawshank Redemption" in 1994, "Titanic" over "L.A. Confidential" in 1997, "Shakespeare in Love" over "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, and "Gladiator" over "Traffic" in 2000), that really doesn't mean much.

(Oh, and while I am here, can I just take a minute to say that I hope that Allan Carr is rotting in hell for ruining all awards shows. In 1989, Carr, a successful Broadway producer, was hired to produce the 61st Academy Awards. This show is widely regarded as one of the worst in Academy history. Among other things (such as Rob Lowe singing a duet of "Proud Mary" with an actress portraying Snow White), Carr decided that the fragile egos of Hollywood stars couldn't handle the logical implications of the phrase "And the winner is..." He changed the phrasing to "And the Oscar goes to..." For some inexplicable reason, the phrasing not only stuck, it spread so that now the standard phrasing for ALL awards shows is "And the _____ goes to..." and I hate it. So thanks, Allan Carr, you douche.)

Best Supporting Actress - Ruby Dee, "American Ganster". Even though she was barely in the movie and doesn't deserve the nomination in my opinion, I think Ruby Dee will win by process of elimination. I haven't seen it but I reckon her strongest competition is Cate Blanchett ("I'm Not There", the Dylan biopic) but Blanchett is a double-nominee (Best Actress, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" ) and a very recent winner for "The Aviator". Tilda Swinton is in less of "Michael Clayton" than Ruby Dee is in "American Gangster", and her performance is hardly compelling - especially next to her male co-stars. Saoirse Ronan from "Atonement" is probably the one bright spot of that dreadful two hours and ten minutes, but is too young to win. My dark horse in this category is Amy Ryan from the vastly underrated "Gone, Baby Gone".

Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men". This one is no real contest. If you are going to make a bet, bet the farm on Bardem. "No Country for Old Men" is a fine film and he's the best thing in it as the other-worldy killer, Anton Chigurh. Bardem's main competition is from Casey Affleck who plays Robert Ford in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". I don't think there is much point in discussing the rest of the field. The winner should be one of these two men.

("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" didn't get that much buzz and it's a shame. It's a bit long at 2 hours and 37 minutes, but a highly compelling film that is told in the style of a Ken Burns film with gorgeous cinematography from Best Cinematography favorite - for "James" or "No Country for Old Men" - Roger Deakins.)

Best Actress - Julie Christie, "Away from Her". Christie's lone Oscar win came 42 years ago (for a film of which I have never heard, "Darling") and I hear she is very good in this. I think Cate Blanchett, nominated for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age", suffers twice for being a double-nominee and her recent win. (That and the simple fact that "The Golden Age" isn't as good as "Elizabeth".) Ellen Page from "Juno" is in the "It's-An-Honor-Just-Being-Nominated" club. I don't think anyone saw Laura Linney in "The Savages" but she's usually good in about everything she does. I think the dark horse here is Marion Cotillard for the Edith Piaf biopic, "La Vie En Rose".

Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood". I saw this movie and I didn't like it. Once again, Paul Thomas Anderson has made a compelling, artful film about characters that I couldn't give two flying f*cks about. Daniel Day-Lewis' character in "Blood" is a complete shit. I just didn't get it at all. George Clooney is very watchable in "Michael Clayton" but, again, he has a recent win. I get the sense Johnny Depp will win an Oscar one day, but not for "Sweeney Todd". I don't think anyone saw either Tommy Lee Jones in "In The Valley Of Elah" or Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises".

Best Director - Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country For Old Men". Since I think "No Country For Old Men" will win Best Picture, I think the Coens should win this award for this addition to their already considerable pantheon. I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a immense talent with no direction and sense of what makes a good story. He's like an uber-precocious three-year old behind the wheel of a Mack truck.

Best Picture - "No Country for Old Men". I didn't get "There Will Be Blood". I thought "Atonement" sucked. "Michael Clayton" was a taut, watchable legal thriller, but didn't quite hit a home run with me. I haven't seen "Juno" yet but I can't imagine I will like it more than "No Country For Old Men". I just read the book last month and really enjoyed this dark tale from the border of one unlucky guy who stumbles across the remains of a drug deal gone wrong. The movie, in the more than capable hands of the Coen brothers, does not disappoint either. Far from it!

Well, there are my picks. I will be back after the show to see how I did.

An all-too plausible scenario

Thanks to my Dad for sending me this article. Sadly, this scenario looks all too possible. The only silver lining that I can see is that it should provide some vindication to President Bush eight years after Florida. Americans will see once again that there is no depth to which the Democrats, and especially the Clintons, will not sink in their quest for power.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I'm shocked, shocked!

How positively, well, Clinto- actually, it's not either. It's Gore-ian.

Five months after all Democratic candidates agreed Florida and Michigan wouldn't get delegates to the August presidential convention, Hillary Clinton now says they should--a reversal that would benefit her now that she has won both states, unchallenged, following Tuesday's Florida primary...

The likelihood that it will come to this is low--although then again, so was the likelihood that the 2000 presidential election would turn the way it did in Florida. That analogy is on target in another way: If Mrs. Clinton does need Michigan and Florida to win the nomination, and she does wage a fight to honor their credentials, she will have behaved just as the Democratic Party and the Gore campaign did in Florida in 2000.

Having lost a heartbreakingly narrow election, Gore and the Dems [sic] sought to change the rules after the fact in order to provide him a margin of victory... (emphasis added)

This is just too much

From the Orwell was an optimist file, have a look at this.

This should be interesting

I am going to have to keep my eye on this. Oh, yes, indeed.

Be afraid

In my post-Super Tuesday, er, post, I acknowledged John McCain's front-runner status. That is a fact. But that doesn't mean that McCain deserves to be the Republican front-runner. I was pretty surprised and a bit disheartened to hear of Mitt Romney's suspension of his campaign. I know he didn't show that well on Super Tuesday, but it still strikes me as premature.

Back to McCain, though. Shouldn't limited-government conservatives and libertarians be wary of a guy that is so enthusiastically embraced by the likes of The New York Times and CNN?

A little levity

Lest I be accused of never trying to lighten the mood around here, have this.

This is just plain silly

Check out this story from California about a blan on a blood drive (yes, you read that right) at San Jose State University.

San Jose State University's decision this week to ban blood drives on the 30,000-student campus over discrimination concerns is drawing a gush of criticism from local blood banks.

Stanford Blood Center officials said they actually agree with San Jose State President Don Kassing that the federal Food and Drug Administration is wrong to prohibit blood donations from gay men....

By law, people who want to give blood must be screened for a variety of potential risk factors. For instance, people aren't allowed to donate within a year of getting a tattoo.

The rise of AIDS in the 1980s prompted the FDA to prohibit donations from men who had sex with men any time after 1977. These days, groups such as the American Red Cross say that lifetime prohibition is excessive, since modern blood testing will catch any diseases contracted more than three weeks before the donation.

That's right. In order not to discriminate against people who engage in risky sexual behavior, potentally putting the blood supply at risk, the university is going to ban blood drives on campus.

Is it it me or does that just seem dumb?


Here's another item from the priceless "The Editorial Page" (formerly WSJ's "Best of the Web"). I'm not even sure what the heck Rosie is talking about. How in the world is her staph infection George Bush's fault?

I love the use of the psychological terminology to suggest a criminal level of violation. I love it when whiny b*tches like Al Franken, Paul Krugman, and Susan Sontag throw around this kind of hyperbole. Usually it's because they have been forced to listen to people say less than hateful things about George Bush, and, well, those things just can't be true, so the people who said them must be liars or accomplices in the vast, right-wing conspiracy, and, well, ooh! I am going to hold my breath until you make them stop!

Writing on the Puffington Host, Rosie O'Donnell makes the following case against George W. Bush:
President Bush almost killed me. It's true, and I have the scars to prove it--multiple scars that are part of the public record--you saw them in magazines and on my show, and you can see them on my blog frequently--no twelve year wait required.

It was 2000, and the Republican National Convention was on television. The whole affair felt something like a home invasion, with a chronically smirking and arrogant George W. Bush as ringleader. Not wishing to be robbed of my optimism and hope at the time--or to tumble into depression and despair--I shut off the TV and decided to go fishing.

I needed gear, so I went to the store and bought a few things, including a knife, which I used to cut the price tags off of the fishing poles.

Now, I could have stabbed myself 100 times in the hand and not managed to do the damage I did with that one poke to the inside of my middle finger. I went all out, though, and got everything--skin, ligaments, tendons, nerves. Maximum impact, including a particularly nasty staph infection that almost left me dead.

That's my personal war story from the demoralizing Bush years...

Uh, wait. This happened in 2000, right? That was still the Clinton years.

Yeah, these guys are that good.

So often I will come across a passage that captures how I feel about an issue or a political figure. All too often I come across those passages in Wall Street Journal's James Taranto's "The Editorial Page" (formerly "Best of the Web").

Here is the T-man on Obama:

Mitt Romney's greatest shortcoming as a presidential candidate was his lack of passion. "I love data," he told The Wall Street Journal in November. "You may ask me questions about topics that I haven't studied in depth. I'll be happy to give you my assessment of what I think at this point. But before I would actually make a decision on a very important topic, I would really study it in depth."

Romney has been faulted for lacking "authenticity," but this is probably unfair. He is--authentically--a cool technocrat, a management consultant at heart. But a leader, as opposed to a manager, needs not just analytical skills but also intuition and emotion, not just information but also conviction. He needs to be able to consult his gut as well as the data when deciding how to proceed.

Romney, in the end, failed to inspire. By contrast, Barack Obama is nothing but inspiring--so inspiring that it is becoming deeply creepy. The Boston Globe reports on a new music video touting Obama:

Inspired by the speech Barack Obama delivered in Nashua the night of the state primary, [of the Black Eyed Peas] set Obama's text to simple guitar and a soulful melody, recruited 36 artists to appear in a music video that was conceived, shot, and edited over three days last week, and posted "Yes We Can" online over the weekend. . .

The split-screen video features clips of the candidate speaking alongside shots of R&B singer John Legend, actress Scarlett Johansson, rapper Common, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, actor-singer Nick Cannon, rocker Ed Kowalczyk, and others echoing Obama's spoken words in song. set the song's tempo to synch up with the New Hampshire audience, which supplies the song's rhythm with chants of "We want change, we want change!" . . .

"I do think it allows people an accessible way into politics," Jesse Dylan said. "Rallies can be dry, but Will has taken the words and dramatized them with these wonderful artists and it gives people an easy way to become passionate."

The video, which you can watch here, depicts people who appear to be in some sort of trance as they mouth along with Obama's various rhetorical flourishes from his speeches, then repeat the mantra "Yes, we can." The whole thing has the feel of a cult of personality.

We aren't the first to make that observation. The other day one Kathleen Geier, who says she voted for Obama and considers him "a good progressive," took to the liberal TPMCafe site to declare that she is "increasingly weirded out by some of Obama's supporters":

She quotes from a Sacramento Bee article that she (and we) found "unsettling":

"He looked at me, and the look in his eyes was worth 1,000 words," said [Kim] Mack, now a regional field organizer. Obama hugged her and whispered something in her ear--she was so thrilled she doesn't remember what it was. . .

She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama--something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone.

As Geier notes, "this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign":

The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity--the Obama volunteers speak of "coming to Obama" in the same way born-again Christians talk about "coming to Jesus."

But he's not Jesus! He's not going to magically enable us to transcend the bitter partisanship that is tearing this country apart.

ABC's Jake Tapper notes other enthusiasts and detractors from the enthusiasm, all on the Democratic left. "I've been following politics since I was about 5," Chris Matthews tells the New York Observer. "I've never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament."

On the other side, Times Joe Klein writes that there is "something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism" of the Obama campaign, which "all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is." Adds the dyspeptic leftist James Wolcott:

Perhaps it's my atheism at work but I found myself increasingly wary of and resistant to the salvational fervor of the Obama campaign, the idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria. . . I don't look to politics for transcendence and self-certification.

What are we to make of Obama himself in the midst of all this adulation? A cynic would say that he is a manipulator if not a demagogue, exploiting the gullible to further his own ambitions. A more charitable view is that his intentions are all to the good, that he has simply figured out how to tap into a genuine desire for inspiration in politics, and that if elected he will use his political powers to do good for the country.

Each view seems plausible, but which is correct? Does anyone know Barack Obama well enough to say? And if not, isn't he the candidate who has a problem with authenticity?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Not-so-Super Tuesday

Is that what we will have to call it now that it's the-Day-After-Super-Tuesday (otherwise known as Wednesday) and all is not settled in the races for the Democratic and Republican nominations?

I think conventional wisdom still holds. Other than key wins in [her "home" state of] New York and California, Hillary Clinton didn't seem to win much of anything. Obama, even though he is behind on delegates, seems to be the Democrat with all the momentum.

However, I am deeply troubled by Obama's campaign. My main misgiving is that he articulates next to nothing about his policy positions. I listen to his ads and try as I might all I can hear are cliches. He talks about ending war and letting diplomacy and peace work. This is all fine and dandy but tells us little about how President Obama would treat with those who would use our willingness to try diplomacy to deceive us and inflict damage on us.

Obama says that he has a plan to for universal health coverage, but try as I might, I have yet to hear him say what that plan is. And for a task as monumental as that, you can bet the devil will be in the details.

He talks endlessly about change but advocating change for change's sake is dangerous and stupid. I only support those changes that make sense; that seem a reasonable solution to an existing problem. Unless I know what changes a candidate is proposing, it seems reckless to support someone who advocates plain-old "change".

To put it as simply as I know how, Obama hasn't told me enough about how he will govern, nor does he have enough of a record for me to deduce how he will govern, for me to consider giving him my vote.

Obama's campaign also smacks of hubris. Obama and his supporters act as is he is the first candidate ever to run on such a vacuous platform of "peace" and "let's change the world". This is typical baby boomer narcissism. What's dangerous is that I sense an almost Kennedy-like (John, the good one) enthusiasm for his candidacy. It's dangerous because I am not convinced these people know what they are supporting. Perhaps Obama's amorphousness is his genius. By being nothing, he can be whatever any voter wants him to be. By supporting nothing and speaking only in the broadest of terms, surely he must be on the right side of my issue, mustn't he?

I think Obama is also displaying signs of hubris by concentrating on the young and minority votes. There is a reason successful campaigns don't place their eggs in these baskets. Traditionally, these groups do not turn out to vote in heavy enough numbers to guarantee victory. There is a reason successful campaign target marrieds-with-children and senior citizens.

I don't know if it's just me. Isn't this what shrinks call transference? I am talking about my fervent desire to not have Hillary Clinton return to the White House. I think I am may be transferring my wish on to the population as a whole. So maybe that is why I think that there seems to be a groundswell movement, unnamed and unspoken, to deny her the White House. I get the sense Republicans would brave a President Obama to not have to endure a President Clinton redux. And perhaps Democrats wouldn't complain so loudly under a President McCain.

Ah, the politics of despair.

Monday, February 04, 2008

And you thought it was just the United States...

....that was cranking out generation after generation of dimwits? Not hardly. Check out this story.