Day By Day

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Once Again We are All Britons

Stand tall, Mr. Brown and the United States will stand with you against Muslim extremism.

Lies Of the Left -- Gore's Junk Science

Al Gore keeps saying that we should abandon pseudo-science and political posturing and face the truth. James M. Taylor calls upon him to practice what he preaches.

Many of the assertions Gore makes in his movie, ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' have been refuted by science, both before and after he made them. Gore can show sincerity in his plea for scientific honesty by publicly acknowledging where science has rebutted his claims.

For example, Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate reported, "Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame."

Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine."

Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.

Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. However, hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."

Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet. But according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, "the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain." In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.

Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming. Yet the Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently, scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.

Each of these cases provides an opportunity for Gore to lead by example in his call for an end to the distortion of science. Will he rise to the occasion? Only time will tell.

Do tell? Will Gore start to tell the truth? Don't hold your breath.

Read it here.

In a related development, Gore has repeatedly denied that he has any interest in running for President. Well, apparently that declaration is now "inoperative."

Ian Murray points to this interesting item:

From the Taipei Times:

Al Gore visit postponed. Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore's speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.

And so it begins?

Read it here.

Immigrants and Crime

Consider this:

Philadelphia is losing one resident a day to violence, recording 196 homicides through the third week of June. That is slightly ahead of the total at this point in 2006, a year that ended with 406 homicides, the most in almost a decade. On the first day of summer alone, six people were killed in Philadelphia in three street shootings.

Nobody really knows for sure what has caused the recent upsurge in murders in east coast cities, but theories abound. Some say it is due to easy availability of firearms; others point to differential police practices. Here in Baltimore people tend to attribute it to the drug trade, but that's just a knee-jerk response, we always blame it on the drug trade.

One theory seems to fit the facts better than the others. All of the cities afflicted by a dramatic rise in homicide rates are ones with relatively few Hispanic immigrants. Other cities, like New York and Los Angeles, that have absorbed large numbers of immigrants, have not seen their homicide rates rise.

AP reports:

PHILADELPHIA - Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities in a bloodstained corridor along the East Coast are seeing a surge in killings, and one of the most provocative explanations offered by criminal-justice experts is this: not enough new immigrants.

The theory holds that waves of hardworking, ambitious immigrants reinvigorate desperately poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods and help keep crime down.

It is a theory that runs counter to the widely held notion that immigrants are a source of crime and disorder.

“New York, Los Angeles, they’re seeing massive immigration — the transformation, really, of their cities from populations around the world,” said Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson. “These are people selecting to go into a country to get ahead, so they’re likely to be working hard and stay out of trouble.”

Read the whole thing here.

Well..., it does seem to fit the facts.

Hating Christians

Anti-Christian bigotry is alive and well. Check out this little gem by Ann Telnaes -- and note she gets in a shot at cavemen too. Guess this is what it takes to win a Pulitzer these days.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cox & Forkum

How to marginalize your party....

Focus guys...., focus! There's a war on.

Bass Jam

Clarke, Miller and Wooten on the same stage. Incredible!

Blasts From the Past -- The CIA Family Jewels

If any of you wish to peruse the recently released CIA "Family Jewels" -- records of illegal spying activities undertaken by the CIA and collected by former Director William Colby -- you can read them here.

I've been scrolling through them and they make interesting, if frustrating [because much has been deleted] reading. Much of the information has been reported in the past, but it is still interesting to see the source documents.

For the NYT commentary on the documents see here.

For a compendium of expert commentary see here.

Brings back memories.

The Bush Economic Miracle Redux

Remember all those scare stories by Clintonian and Reaganite clones to the effect that Bush was bankrupting the country, that the deficit was out of control, that radical inflation or tax hikes would be necessary to restore responsible finance? Of course you do. Those charges were a major campaign theme in 2004 and have helped to fuel the Republican revolt.

Well..., the charges were baseless and the doomsayers were wrong.

Bloomberg reports:

[T]he unexpected surge in tax receipts may pare the budget deficit by 39 percent to $150 billion this fiscal year, causing a relative scarcity of four-week, three-month and six-month bills. The result is the biggest bull market for Treasury bills since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 drove investors to the safety of the securities.

Individual and corporate income tax revenues are growing for a fourth straight year in spite of five rounds of Bush tax cuts totaling about $2 trillion from 2001 to 2006. With less need to borrow, the government has cut sales of bills. The supply, which peaked in March 2005 at $1.06 trillion, fell to $919.1 billion at the end of May and will drop by about $160 billion this quarter, a record.

Treasuries ``are among the best liquid assets in the world, and low deficits keep them scarce, and yields low,'' Robert Mundell, a professor at Columbia University in New York and winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize for economics, said in an e-mailed response to a question.

Yields on three-month bills tumbled last week to a 16-month low of 4.53 percent, about three-quarters of a percentage point lower than the Federal Reserve's 5.25 percent target for the overnight lending rate between banks. The last time bill yields were that far below the federal funds rate was after the terrorist attacks in New York and Arlington, Virginia, in 2001.

`A Heck of a Job'

Along with record highs in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index of large-company shares and the smallest yield premiums on the riskiest corporate bonds in the past month, low bill yields are a sign of confidence.

Read the whole thing here.

I have said it over and over -- in terms of their management of the economy the Bush administration has performed far better than any other administration in living memory.

Once again Bush turns out to be far more competent than his critics.


Don Surber, of course, has his unique take on this story.
Darn you, George Bush. Bloomberg reported that the federal budget deficit is shrinking so fast that there is a shortage of government debt:
He goes on to point out that the same people who insist that there is a financial crisis because it is impossible to grow your way out of a deficit were just a few years ago insisting that there was no crisis in Social Security because the economy would grow its way out of the projected deficit. Funny thing that.

Read Surber's piece here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Republican Death Wish

Well it’s over. The Senate refused to end the restrictionist’s filibuster against the immigration bill. Thus ends the administration’s attempt to reach out to Hispanic voters. There will be consequences, and they are not pretty.

USA Today reports:

SAN ANTONIO — Like no Republican before him, George W. Bush drew Hispanics to the GOP.

In the 2004 election, at least 40% of the voters in the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group backed Bush, double the share of Hispanics who had supported Republican Bob Dole eight years earlier. But the inroads Bush made are vanishing.

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll indicates that Hispanics, by nearly 3 to 1, say they’re Democrats or lean that way. Of those, 59% support the New York senator over her presidential rivals — her strongest showing among any major demographic group and a huge potential asset for early contests in Nevada, Florida, California and other states with large Hispanic populations.

One big factor behind the flight from the GOP: a heated debate over immigration in which congressional Republicans’ remarks on illegal immigrants have offended many Hispanic voters.

Emphasis mine.

Read the whole thing here.

As they persist in a pigheaded devotion to what they call the “politics of principle” — a set of positions that is driving them to the margins of the American polity — the cranks in the Republican “base” can’t say they weren’t warned. Like the Democrat “netroots” they are more interested in purifying the party than in responsible government.

If they are upset at President Bush, wait until they get a load of President Hillary!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baghdad -- The Need for Reconciliation

USA Today has a nice piece on the day to day operation of the surge in Baghdad.

Main points:

1) The American presence in neighborhoods is making a big difference:

When this combat outpost, named Casino, was established in January, Ghazaliyah was a battleground. Shiite militias had pushed Sunnis from their homes in this predominantly Sunni neighborhood. That drove many Sunnis to al-Qaeda, concentrated in southern Ghazaliyah, for protection.

Streets were empty and stores closed. Gunfire crackled around the outpost each day. U.S. forces would find 15 bodies a day in the area, many of them victims of sectarian killings, said Joyce....

"Now we have a bad day (when we) find one," Joyce said.

So this is the situation: a Shiite dominated army wants revenge on the Sunnis for atrocities committed in the past and the Sunnis have turned to al Qaeda for protection. Could those hindsighters who claim that disbanding Saddam's army was a blunder please explain how keeping a Sunni/Baathist organization that had committed innumerable atrocities on the Shiite majority, would be in any way better? The situation would just be reversed, and it would be the Shiites who would be harboring al Qaeda.

2) Civilians are benefiting greatly from the presence of American troops. Not only is the level of violence down, attempts by Shiite militias to ethnically cleanse Sunnis out of their neighborhoods have stopped. Americans have become very popular in the Sunni neighborhoods.

3) The presence of American troops has improved the confidence and performance of Iraqi troops.

4) This is very dangerous because it exposes American troops to harm. That's why casualties are up.

5) Both Shiites and Sunnis have unrealistic expectations:

Sunnis in the neighborhood trust Americans over Iraqi soldiers. "Shiites want the Iraqi army on every street corner, which isn't going to happen," Cartee said. "Sunnis want Americans on every corner, which isn't going to happen.
6) The only solution is reconciliation among leaders on sides.

And that is the point of the whole surge.

Read it here.

Turmoil in Iran

There are gas riots taking place in Iran. The government suddenly and arbitrarily imposed gas rationing and the driving public has not responded well. [Look at how the American public responds to gas prices -- drivers around the world are not so different after all] The problem is that, although Iran has plenty of oil, it has no refining capacity and has to import gasoline and this makes the country vulnerable to trade pressures which are being applied.

There is speculation all over the web that these disturbances might represent a prelude to the long-anticipated rising of the Iranian people to overthrow the mullahs.

Not very likely, I would say. We've seen these kinds of violent protests before -- many, many times. And each time there is speculation that this time the mullahs will fall, but they never do.

Pajamas Media has pictures, even moving ones, here.
So does Gateway Pundit..., lots of them here.

For some reason the MSM doesn't report these sorts of things very much. Wonder why?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What the Surge is All About

Responding to the "whack-a-molers" who claim that defeating al Qaeda in one location is meaningless because they will just appear elsewhere, David Kilcullen writes:

These operations are qualitatively different from what we have done before. Our concept is to knock over several insurgent safe havens simultaneously, in order to prevent terrorists relocating their infrastructure from one to another, and to create an operational synergy between what we're doing in Baghdad and what's happening outside. Unlike on previous occasions, we don't plan to leave these areas once they’re secured. These ops will run over months, and the key activity is to stand up viable local security forces in partnership with Iraqi Army and Police, as well as political and economic programs, to permanently secure them. The really decisive activity will be police work, registration of the population and counterintelligence in these areas, to comb out the insurgent sleeper cells and political cells that have "gone quiet" as we moved in, but which will try to survive through the op and emerge later. This will take operational patience, and it will be intelligence-led, and Iraqi government-led. It will probably not make the news (the really important stuff rarely does) but it will be the truly decisive action.

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain – as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Read the whole thing here.

I say it again..., this is a war of liberation, not of conquest and empire.

Diversity and Alienation

Robert Putnam is a man of the Left. When his research into social behavior and diversity revealed uncomfortable truths that might be useful to conservative immigration restrictionists [it seems never to have occurred to him that Democrats might also support immigration restriction, but many of them do] he seriously considered suppressing his findings. He still has not published his full report, delaying publication until he can find counter-arguments to explain away his findings or to suggest correctives.

Read John Leo's article on Putnam's intellectual dishonesty here.

What he found was that:
people [living] in [culturally] diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.”
What struck me upon reading Putnam's description of the alienated inhabitants of diverse environs is that there is nothing new in this. I have seen similar things taking place on college campuses as rising minority enrollments have fostered the development of ethnic cliques that seldom interact with others. My second response was to note that Putnam's description closely resembles the picture of the average Democrat. As numerous studies have shown, on average Democrats tend to be less socially involved than Republicans, contribute less of their time and money to charity, are less politically aware, are less likely to vote, and are more likely to respond positively to reform agendas [thus revealing an intense dissatisfaction with America as it is]. It is Democrats, not Republicans, who have responded en masse to Satan's siren call to "see things as they never were and ask, 'Why Not?'"

If Putnam wants to identify the reasons for the decline of social capital in America, he should look to his ideological allies on the Left, and to the diversity mongers who encourage the kinds of group think that is producing what Arthur Schlesinger called "The Disuniting of America."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Baqubah Update from Michael Yon

Michael Yon reports from the fighting in Baqubah:

American losses include one soldier killed in action, with 21 wounded. One Bradley and one Stryker have been destroyed. The low numbers of friendly casualties have been largely due to the slow, methodical clearing operation where success is not measured against the clock. In meeting after meeting, I have seen Townsend stress to his subordinate commanders the importance of moving deliberately and at their own pace. Given the massive amounts of IEDs that have been found, my guess is that we might have taken dozens more killed by now if the clearing operation had been rushed. Doubtless many American lives have been saved by locals just saying “stop,” and pointing to bombs.

Needless to say, read the whole thing here.

New Evidence on the Origins of Settled Communities

When I was in school Marxism was all the rage among academics -- still is for many of them -- and it colored nearly everything that was thought and said and written. Regarding human origins we were taught that settled communities did not become possible until the beginnings of the "agricultural revolution" [in those days everything had to be a "revolution"] roughly ten thousand years ago.

The "agricultural revolution" theory had the virtue of intellectual coherence, even elegance. It linked together the rise of agriculture [the material base] with the beginnings of social stratification, the specialization of work, the rise of warfare, the first state organizations, the start of organized religions, and a host of other things in a simple explanatory framework. The only problem was, no matter how much archaeologists and prehistorians struggled to torture the hard evidence dug out of the ground to fit their theories, there were always a lot of things that could not easily be explained away.

The recent collapse of the Soviet system, and general disillusionment with Marxism, has opened the way for contrary evidence to be considered. Today the "agricultural revolution" is no longer in vogue and new areas of investigation are being explored. One intriguing change is a new appreciation of the importance of coastal environments, especially wetlands. These extremely rich environments seem to have provide populations with sufficient resources so support settled communities and a degree of social complexity long before the coming of agriculture. Now, a stunning find, has pushed the beginnings of settled communities and social complexity far back, not just before agriculture, but before the first anatomically modern humans appeared [roughly 200,000 years ago].

The Times has the story:

Our earliest ancestors gave up hunter-gathering and took to a settled life up to 400,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to controversial research.

The accepted timescale of Man’s evolution is being challenged by a German archaeologist who claims to have found evidence that Homo erectus — mankind’s early ancestor, who migrated from Africa to Asia and Europe — began living in settled communities long before the accepted time of 10,000 years ago.

The point at which settlement actually took place is the first critical stage in humanity’s cultural development.

Helmut Ziegert, of the Institute of Archaeology at Hamburg University, says that the evidence can be found at excavated sites in North and East Africa, in the remains of stone huts and tools created by upright man for fishing and butchery.

Professor Ziegert claims that the thousands of blades, scrapers, hand axes and other tools found at sites such as Budrinna, on the shore of the extinct Lake Fezzan in southwest Libya, and at Melka Konture, along the River Awash in Ethiopia, provide evidence of organised societies.

He believes that such sites show small communities of 40 or 50 people, with abundant water resources to exploit for constant harvests.

The implications for our knowledge of human evolution — and of our intellectual and social beginnings — are “profound” and a “staggering shift”, he said.

Read the whole thing here.

Of course this is extremely controversial and much work needs to be done before it will be accepted, but if it is eventually confirmed it could well usher in a new "paradigm shift" and the rise of a new scientific consensus to replace the now-discredited Marxist model that dominated the field for so long.

Hitch on "Rage Boy"

Christopher Hitchens explains why we must never, never, never, never, never attempt to accommodate the demands of Islamist protesters.

We are incessantly told that the removal of the Saddam Hussein despotism has inflamed the world's Muslims against us and made Iraq hospitable to terrorism, for all the world as if Baathism had not been pumping out jihadist rhetoric for the past decade (as it still does from Damascus, allied to Tehran). But how are we to know what will incite such rage? A caricature published in Copenhagen appears to do it. A crass remark from Josef Ratzinger (leader of an anti-war church) seems to have the same effect. A rumor from Guantanamo will convulse Peshawar, the Muslim press preaches that the Jews brought down the Twin Towers, and a single citation in a British honors list will cause the Iranian state-run press to repeat its claim that the British government—along with the Israelis, of course—paid Salman Rushdie to write The Satanic Verses to begin with. Exactly how is such a mentality to be placated?

We may have to put up with the Rage Boys of the world, but we ought not to do their work for them, and we must not cry before we have been hurt....

Rage Boy keenly looks forward to anger, while we worriedly anticipate trouble, and fret about etiquette, and prepare the next retreat. If taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean living at the pleasure of Rage Boy, and that I am not prepared to do.

Nor am I.

Read the whole thing here.

Nancy Drew

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours yesterday watching Nancy Drew. I had seen a couple of the old Thirties films starring Bonita Granville, but hadn’t paid them much attention and don’t remember them well. I completely missed the TV series, and of course I had never read the books produced by the ink-stained wretches at the Stratemeyer Syndicate [although I did avidly read the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Frank Armstrong, the Motorboat Boys, and other such nonsense]. So I was familiar with the tropes of the genre and wasn’t expecting much. Not so “She”. As a young girl she had devoured the Drew canon and was primed for the experience, and she wasn’t disappointed. I have seldom seen her enjoy a film so much as this. She wasn’t the only one. Most of the audience was women accompanied by girl children and they gave the film a standing ovation at the end. Talk about a chick flick.

I enjoyed it too, but distanced myself by viewing it as a satire, both on the conventions of syndicated youth stories and on today’s teen and Hollywood culture. There are a number of knowing digs at both – at one point when the plot takes a particularly illogical turn, one of the characters (in best post-modern style) comments, “that was non-linear”. On another occasion Nancy wanders into a film shoot and speaks so sensibly in the midst of chaos that Bruce Willis [in a cameo] asks her to direct the movie, promising to get rid of the current overwrought director “in a second.” There is even a sly reference to the shopping scene in “Pretty Woman”.

The basic dramatic device used is the “fish out of water” scenario, which places old-fashioned Nancy Drew in perplexing situations when she confronts contemporary California culture. Nancy (Emma Roberts – Eric’s daughter, Julia’s niece) comes from a small town that still retains the old thirties-forties cultural styles of dress, speech, and comportment. She is unfailingly polite in dealing with adults, even criminals; she drives a “roadster” and refuses to exceed the speed limit; her relationship with her doting boyfriend, Ned (Max Thieriot) is chaste and respectful. What a relief! In that world everything revolves around Nancy -- even adult authorities defer to her judgment and criminals actually thank her for catching them. Then her father (Tate Donovan) takes a job in Los Angeles, and suddenly Nancy is plunged into the Twenty-First Century. Hilarity ensues.

Nancy’s father had, typically, allowed her to choose where they would live in L.A. and, naturally, she chose a house with a mystery attached. It had once belonged to an old movie star from the 1970’s [Oh, how old that makes me feel!) who had died under mysterious circumstances. The house set is filled with visual references to “Sunset Boulevard” and perhaps to “Rebel Without a Cause” [which was partly filmed on the same location]. Tension is provided by the fact that Nancy has promised her dad to stop “sleuthing.” Of course Nancy is unable to resist investigating the mystery and the plot unfolds cliché after cliché. There is the first day at school with the mean girls, the creepy caretaker, the evil big-shot, the SUV-driving thugs, the damsel in distress. Of course super-competent Nancy easily conquers all. No surprises, lots of coincidences, no character development to speak of, no real sense of danger, a script filled with illogical inconsistencies -- who cares? It is a romp. Miss Roberts as Nancy is a refreshing screen presence – lovely, feminine, polite, smart, and respectful toward others – and there are some really nice performances by Pat Carroll, Barry Bostwick, and especially Josh Flitter who adds a zany thread as a short, fat twelve-year-old would-be lothario.

For all its silliness the whole thing worked, and worked well, as light entertainment. In this age of assaultive media it was really nice to sit through a film that was not designed to offend or shock the audience, that didn’t degenerate into a political rant; a youth-oriented flick that did not make adults look like fools, and a story of female empowerment that did not denigrate men. That is worth something…, a lot.

I understand that there is at least one sequel being planned. I sure hope so, and so does “She”. We’ll pay to see it gladly.

The Ungougers

Lileks nails it again:

I’ve been watching the price of gas drop all weekend. It seems like it’s adjusted on the hour. I’ll never understand how a load of gas the station bought at a higher price last week can sell for less today. I mean, I can understand why they'd charge more for gas they bought last week at a lower price - they're evil and bad. But this charging less for something they bought at a higher price - it makes no sense. Sure, blame it on "economics" or something, give me that ridiculous explanation about how you're actually paying the replacement cost of the next load (yeah, right, that sounds logical) but it’s obvious they’re ungouging us. Well, I’m tired of being unjerked around by these guys. I want the pumps to show what they paid for the load I’m putting in my car, just so I know how many pennies they’re not getting.

Unbloody ungoniffs. I want an investigation.

Me, too.

Read Lileks' "Bleat" here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


E-mail is wonderful. I just received this from one of my correspondents. It was taken on Laurel Mountain, where I spent much of my childhood. I used to play right around these falls.

Ah, memories!

Harbor Views

It was sand-sculpting day at the Inner Harbor. I had things to do later in the afternoon but I got down to check out the early efforts. These are just rough blocking out of the images. It would be interesting to see how they turned out, but duty calls....

And of course there were other things going on at the Harbor.

Funny, I don't remember them being this big.

A Not So Mighty Star Vehicle

We will be giving "A Mighty Heart" a pass -- in part because I am sick and tired of Angelina Jolie and her antics, but mostly because of stuff like this:

The writer is Asra Nomani, who worked with Danny Pearl.

For me, watching the movie was like having people enter my home, rearrange the furniture and reprogram my memory. I'd known it was a gamble when I agreed to help with a Hollywood version of Danny's kidnapping, but I'd done it because I thought the movie had the potential to be meaningful. I'd hoped it could honor the man I'd worked alongside for nine years at the Journal by explaining why he was so passionate about his work as a reporter. I'd hoped that it would tell the story of the unique team of law enforcement agents, government officials and journalists -- of varying religions, nationalities and cultures -- that had searched for him. And I hoped it could spark a search for the truth behind Danny's death.

But the moviemakers and their PR machine seemed intent on two very different and much shallower goals: creating a mega-star vehicle for Angelina Jolie, who plays Mariane, and promoting the glib and cliched idea that both Danny and Mariane were "ordinary heroes."

I think Danny would have rolled his eyes at that.

Read it here.

And of course, there's the usual blame the US for terrorism crap. I'm not kidding. Here's Libertas on the film.

This tragic and important story is told by director Michael Winterbottom in a quasi-documentary style complete with skaky cam, jump cuts, idle chatter, and a willful determination to see Jolie win an Oscar and not portray jihadists as the dangerous madmen they are....

The only “terrorist” behavior shown on screen is done by our side. Our government teams up with the Pakistan anti-terrorism squad to find Pearl and along the way the “good” guys torture, threaten, and even talk about how much they enjoy it. We only see Daniel Pearl through photographs sent by his kidnappers. Their treatment of him is never dramatized and Winterbottom doesn’t even bother to let us hear Pearl’s execution videotape, much less see it.
And there's this from Debbie Schussel:

As one would expect from the Jolie-Pitts, "A Mighty Heart" is mostly NOT about the Al-Qaeda murder of Daniel Pearl, killed in cold blood specifically because he was a Jew. In fact, the movie minimizes that, instead repeatedly blaming America for its treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners as the reason Pearl was cut into the ten pieces like a slaughtered chicken, the state in which his body was found. (That's no surprise, given that the Jolie-Pitts hired as "A Mighty Heart's" director, Michael Winterbottom, who also directed the propaganda fake-umentary, "The Road to Guantanamo.") In "A Mighty Heart," we see no depiction at all of Pearl's captivity or even kidnapping by Qaeda thugs, but for a few re-enactments of tiny parts of the famous Pearl video.

Most shocking, we get an onscreen repeat of the oft-told Muslim myth that 4,000 Jews didn't show up for work at the World Trade Center on 9/11, because the Jews planned the attacks. The movie provides no refutation of this myth or any indication that it is invalid. (It shouldn't be shocking, though, given Jolie's anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activities.)

And instead of depictions of Daniel Pearl's treatment at the hand of Muslims, Jolie/Pitt repeatedly hit you over the head with a baseball bat that the hero--not the murderers--in the Daniel Pearl story is a Muslim, a Pakistani Police Captain.


Paramount has done a disservice to Danny Pearl, to the country, and to film art with this stuff. I will not support it.

Zimbabwe Update

More currency collapse in Mad Bobby Mugabe's Maoist/racist hell on earth:

Bloomberg reports:

Zimbabwe's dollar plummeted 67 percent on the black market this week, forcing some retailers and gasoline stations in the capital, Harare, to stop trading.

The currency, officially pegged at 250 against the U.S. dollar, sold for as much as 300,000 a dollar on the streets, where most Zimbabweans exchange their foreign currency, money traders said. It has depreciated from 100,000 earlier this week and from 3,000 to the dollar on Jan. 20.


Inflation in Zimbabwe, the world's fastest-shrinking economy, accelerated to 4,530 percent in May, according to NMBZ Holdings Ltd., a Zimbabwean bank. The nation's statistics agency hasn't released figures for May yet.

The southern African nation is in its eighth successive year of recession after President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black subsistence farmers denied land during white rule. That slashed export earnings, sparking shortages of everything from motor fuel to the country's staple food, corn meal.

Read it here.

Well, at least he stuck it to whitey.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Alien Invaders

Fish that will jump and hit you up side you head.

Amazing videos of the Asian Carp invasion:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Indy Returns

That's right, Indiana Jones returns for a fourth film, scheduled to open next May. Harrison Ford is back in adventure gear. Jim Broadbent has signed on. I can hardly wait.

Read about it here.

Mike Bloomberg, Dangerous Utopian

Jonah Goldberg has a nice piece over at NRO on why the fundamental assumptions behind a Bloomberg candidacy are dangerously utopian.

He correctly focuses in on

Bloomberg’s clichéd call for a New Politics. This shtick exploits democracy’s Achilles’s heel — the same that Mussolini and Hitler exploited to dramatic effect. Bloomberg has cast himself as a man of action who will fix our broken political system by transcending partisan differences.


Bloomberg’s dream of a New Politics transcending partisan bickering is deeply seductive. Who wouldn’t want to live in a society where government just did good things without interference from special interests and other forces of selfishness? A big part of John F. Kennedy’s appeal was his claim to represent a New Politics based on what Bloomberg now calls “managerial competence.” As JFK said: “Most of the problems ... that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” best left to the best and brightest, starting with JFK himself.

That was nonsense then, and it’s nonsense now. Calling it “managerial competence” won’t make political decision-making any less political.


Democracy isn’t about agreement, but disagreement. People have different interests and ideals. Getting rid of parties — or “transcending” them — won’t get rid of disagreements. To believe otherwise is the height of utopianism.

Obviously, Bloomberg is no Mussolini or Hitler. He’s not even a dime-store JFK. But if this “man of action” thinks he has the “managerial competence” to take the politics out of politics, he’s as utopian as they come and deserves to be president of no place.
Well said!

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our Guys Want to Kill Them, and That's the Plan!

Anybody with a slightest interest in what's happening in Iraq should be reading Michael Yon's dispatches. Right now he's reporting from deep inside Baqubah and the fighting is fierce. An excerpt:
The heat is intense for the enemy and for us. Soldiers, during any chance, would lay-down during the heat of day, and in complete body armor and helmets, fall asleep in the dirt. I took photos of course. Our guys are tough. The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. That’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan.

A positive indicator on the 19th and the 20th is that most local people apparently are happy that al Qaeda is being trapped and killed. Civilians are pointing out IEDs and enemy fighters, so that’s not working so well for al Qaeda. Clearly, I cannot do a census, but that says something about the locals.

Check him out here.

Then there's this from Michael Gordon, whom Yon cites in his piece:

The American effort got off to a slow start in the morning when blowing sand precluded reconnaissance and medevac flights. But as the weather cleared, the soldiers advanced into the western section of the city. Soldiers said they had received useful tips from some residents on the location of buried bombs and booby-trapped houses. In the Mufrek neighborhood, several residents said they had been terrorized for months by Qaeda fighters, who commandeered houses to use as positions to shoot at American forces.


While the soldiers searched the houses, loud explosions rumbled through the city. Americans were using satellite-guided bombs and rockets where underground bombs were believed to have been buried. The American troops have found 25 improvised explosive devices and have destroyed five homes that were rigged with explosives, the military said in a statement.

Not all the buried bombs were found in time. At least three have exploded, in one case overturning a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and in another damaging a heavily armored Buffalo mine-clearing vehicle. One American soldier has been killed and 12 wounded in those attacks.

In a statement, the American military said it had killed 41 Qaeda operatives. Some wounded insurgents were reported to have escaped when they were taken into a nearby home by a group of woman and children, and American troops held their fire.

The Americans said they had not found any indication that insurgent fighters had fled Baquba.

Read the whole thing here.

Yon has been reporting for several days now that al Qaeda seems to have decided to make a stand in Baqubah and had booby-trapped the entire town. But he also reported that our troops have evolved tactics to handle just such a situation. From these reports it sounds like things are working out well for us, bad for al Qaeda.

It sounds as though Bush has finally found his Grant.

AFI Does It Again

Once again the American Film Institute has issued a list of top something or others. This year it's the all-time greatest [in the opinion of their panel] movies.

There was a lot of stability at the top -- eight of the top ten films from a decade ago retained that status, although there was some shuffling around. Citizen Kane retained its top spot. I don't disagree with any of them except for Vertigo, which wasn't even Hitchcock's best film.

Only four new films from the past decade made the list -- Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, The Sixth Sense, and Fellowship of the Ring. Funny, I wouldn't have named any of them in my top 100.

And nineteen older films were included for the first time while twenty-three were dropped. Here's the list:

[A]dditions to the list: "The General," "Intolerance," "Nashville," "Sullivan's Travels," "Cabaret," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" "The Shawshank Redemption," "In The Heat of the Night," "All the President's Men," "Spartacus," "Sunrise," "A Night at the Opera," "12 Angry Men," "Swing Time," "Sophie's Choice," "The Last Picture Show," "Do the Right Thing," "Blade Runner" and "Toy Story."


Titles that didn't make the cut this time: "Doctor Zhivago," "Birth of a Nation," "From Here to Eternity," "Amadeus," "All Quiet on the Western Front," "The Third Man," "Fantasia," "Rebel Without a Cause," "Stagecoach," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Manchurian Candidate," "An American in Paris," "Wuthering Heights," "Dances With Wolves," "Giant," "Fargo," "Mutiny on the Bounty," the 1931 "Frankenstein," "Patton," "The Jazz Singer," "My Fair Lady," "A Place in the Sun" and "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."

Among the displacements I don't have many major disagreements. Birth of A Nation is a more important film than Intolerance, but racial sensibilities must be served and Griffith is too important to ignore altogether. Shawshank is probably better than Fargo, but it is a close call and the Coens deserve a place somewhere on the list. Blade Runner is better than Close Encounters, by a wide margin, so that's a good choice. It's nice to see Keaton's General be recognized but it was sad to see The Jazz Singer go away -- it's one of the most important films of all time, but it offends racial sensibilities. Is Cabaret really better than My Fair Lady? I think not. The only really outrageous loss was The Third Man, which should be in anyone's top ten.

Well -- that's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Read the Variety article here.

Jessica Alba Gets It!

In a recent interview with Para Todos magazine, the lovely lady had this to say:

Alba is my last name and I'm proud of that. But that's it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I'm American. Throughout my whole life, I've never felt connected to one particular race or heritage, nor did I feel accepted by any. If you break it down, I'm less Latina than Cameron Diaz, whose father is Cuban. But people don't call her Latina because she's blonde…

My grandfather was the only Mexican at his college, the only Hispanic person at work and the only one at the all-white country club. He tried to forget his Mexican roots, because he never wanted his kids to be made to feel different in America. He and my grandmother didn't speak Spanish to their children. Now, as a third-generation American, I feel as if I have finally cut loose.

My whole life, when I was growing up, not one race has ever accepted me, ... So I never felt connected or attached to any race specifically. I had a very American upbringing, I feel American, and I don't speak Spanish. So, to say that I'm a Latin actress, OK, but it's not fitting; it would be insincere.

For this she has been excoriated by ethnic activists who are trying to erect and maintain barriers to assimilation. Yet, Ms. Alba epitomizes what we think of as the American dream -- representing an immigrant family whose members chose to play by the rules, worked hard, assimilated, got a good education, moved into the national mainstream, and reaped the rewards of their efforts. Read about it here.

Similarly, Bill Cosby has been widely denounced by prominent Black activists for urging young people to assimilate to the American mainstream and Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently come under fire for telling Latinos to assimilate.

Many commentators have found this disturbing and are alarmed by the development of a large, well-organized, and determinedly separatist Latino movement. But I am not so worried.

The creation of imagined ethnic identities and the erection of separate communities of resentment are nothing new in America. The most persistent of these -- think of the Pennsylvania Dutch who have maintained a separate identity for centuries -- are shunted to the margins. Others, like the Irish Catholics, maintained their position on the margins for generations, but have gradually moved toward the mainstream and as they did, their fortunes improved. Others, like the late nineteenth-century Jewish influx, moved rapidly toward the mainstream and quickly ascended to positions of real power and influence within our national institutions.

A generation ago Arthur Schlesinger warned about the "Disuniting of America." His alarm was well-intentioned and founded in cogent analysis of the ethnic enthusiasms that emerged out of the civil rights movement, but the phenomenon was nothing new. The disuniting and reuniting of America has been going on for centuries. There is no reason to assume that the latest wave of immigrants will be much different from those who arrived in the past.

The Man Who Changed it All

Many years ago a friend of mine showed up at my doorstep carrying an armful of books. "I was cleaning out my bookshelves and thought you might appreciate these," she said and handed me several "Baseball Abstracts". That was my introduction to one of the most fascinating minds of our times -- Bill James, the man who changed everything we thought we knew about our national pastime. The WSJ has a nice profile on James and the sabremetric revolution he represents.

Starting in 1977 with his first Baseball Abstract, Mr. James transformed a century's worth of conventional wisdom and forever altered the way ballplayers are judged. Applying the scientific method to the game, he and a band of amateur analysts who Mr. James termed sabermetricians (for the Society for American Baseball Research) attempted to answer through objective statistical analysis what factors led to scoring runs and winning games--and which players contributed most to those goals. Mr. James, for instance, has long held that the ability to get on base was underrated and that the sacrifice bunt was overrated. After gaining a wide following among fans, his work started to influence at least a few baseball general managers, a process chronicled in "Moneyball," the 2003 best seller by Michael Lewis about the Oakland Athletics and General Manager Billy Beane.

Now, more than 20 books of his own later, Mr. James has a desk in Fenway Park and a title, senior baseball operations adviser. So what does he do for the team? "I see it as being my job to ensure as much as I can that we act on the basis of actual evidence."

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why You-Tube is So Revolutionary

Check out this performance of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" by Anna Netrebko.

Then hear it sung by Maria Callas.

All for free. Italian opera, performed by Greek and Russian artists on French and German media with announcers speaking English.

What a wonder-filled world!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Save the Suburbs!

Paul Jacobs takes on the New Urbanists who want to destroy the bucolic splendor of his suburban existence. Like most planners, these guys want to cram more people into managed urban communities in the interest of greater efficiency. Thank goodness there are suburban and rural environs where people can still escape their malignant influence.

Read Jacob's article here.

Kiran and the Bee

Kiran Chetry has changed a lot in the past year. She got married, had a kid, and left FOX News for CNN. She still hasn't learned how to conduct an interview though. Here she is trying to deal with the thirteen year old winner of the national spelling bee.

Better luck next time Kiran.

Tall Ships At the Harbor

Yesterday was a gorgeous day at the Inner Harbor. The weather was great, clear and in the seventies, and several tall ships were in town.

The ships brought plenty of peeps into the hood.

I wandered around with a camera, just soaking in the atmosphere.

The street scene is constantly changing. Never saw this guy before. Stopped and listened for a while. Nice! Hope he becomes a fixture.

There was even a tall ship from Canuckistan. You had to look for it. They were berthed behind the Aquarium, seemed to be in a bit of disarray, and weren't inviting people on board.

The backside of the National Aquarium.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Ai pledch aliyens to di fleg / Of di Yunaited Esteits of America."

One of my favorite writers is Cullen Murphy. Former editor of the Wilson Quarterly, then the Atlantic, he now is an editor at large for Vanity Fair. What endears him to me, though, is the fact that for a quarter of a century he scripted, and his father drew, the Prince Valiant comic strip. Murphy’s training was as a medievalist and he knows his history. With regard to the current immigration debate he has some interesting things to say.

Immigration restrictionists often make a facile comparison between the United States and the Roman Empire in its late stages. Rome, so the argument goes, failed to secure its borders and allowed the influx of barbarian peoples who undermined the integrity of the Roman state and brought about its collapse. As Murphy points out, this neat account hardly corresponds with the historical reality.

Rome, Murphy notes, was a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society. Its borders were indistinct and highly permeable. What is more, they served as dynamic regions where strong cultural interchange took place transforming both the Roman and the barbarian populations. They were crucibles, not lines in the sand.

And it’s the same with us, for all the vigilantes grimly uncoiling barbed wire in the desert. What does “border” even mean? Global communications and electronic capital flows have brought borders into the fourth, fifth and nth dimensions. Hadrian’s Wall today would have to be supplemented by Hadrian’s Firewall.

American borders aren’t quite where the map shows them, anyway. For national security purposes, they extend to the docks of Rotterdam and Hong Kong and as high as satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Some borders have simply disappeared. Consider the transnational revolution wrought by the ATM machine. For corporations, borders are a figure of speech.

What is far more important than the borders is the fact that Rome was a gigantic assimilation machine, turning outsiders into insiders.

The U.S., too, is an assimilation machine, though one whose efficiency we tend to doubt in the present, and to acknowledge only in hindsight. Looking back, we now know that the U.S. managed to accommodate the huge waves of immigration in the 1850s, the 1880s, the first decade of the 1900s and the 1980s — despite skepticism at each of those moments that it ever could. Every age doubts that it retains the absorptive capacity of ages past, just as every age fails to remember the human heartache and wrenching adjustments that past immigration entailed.

And all of this suggests to Murphy that we are learning false lessons from the Rome/America analogy.

In the end, the example of Rome suggests that the most effective long-term stance toward the outside lies less in building walls than in strengthening the foundation of our own society — bolstering not just such tangible structures as education and healthcare and a government free of corruption but also intangible values such as equality, the entrepreneurial spirit and the principles of access and opportunity. If we take care of this, much else will take care of itself.

Murphy is right, at least as regards his understanding of ancient Rome, and I think he has got the current situation just about right. What is important is not maintaining the borders, but strengthening the mechanisms of assimilation within the US itself. We should not be wasting our time building fences. Instead we should be building a stronger society.

Read Murphy’s editorial here.

The title, cited by Murphy, is a phonetic representation of the Pledge of Allegiance. It comes from cards handed out at naturalization ceremonies.

Killing Children

This lovely young lady is dead -- her father had her killed. Her sister lives in constant fear for her own life. Such is life and death under Sharia.

From the Daily Mail:

She has no family to turn to, few friends, and has to lie to new acquaintances about who she is and where she is from. She is constantly looking over her shoulder.

"My life will always be at risk," says 22-year-old Bekhal. "There are people in my community who want to see me dead, and they will not rest until I am. I will never be safe. I wear the veil so no one can recognise me."

It is a desperately lonely and isolated existence, but at least she is alive - unlike her younger sister Banaz.

Both young women brought "shame" on their strict Muslim Iraqi Kurdish family by disobeying their father Mahmod.

Bekhal, 22, ran away aged 16 rather than agree to an arranged marriage to a cousin in Iraq.

She survived an attempted killing by her brother, but her sister Banaz, 20, paid the ultimate price for leaving her own arranged marriage and then falling in love with an "unsuitable man" of her own choice.

On the orders of her 52-year-old father and uncle, Ari Mahmod, 50, she was strangled with a bootlace by Kurdish assassins, her body stuffed in a suitcase and buried six feet down in the garden of a house belonging to an associate in Birmingham.

Two of the murderers, who fled back to Iraq after this horrific so-called "honour killing", have since boasted of raping Banaz before she died in January 2006.

Remember, the Kurds are supposed to be the good guys.

Al Gore is Upset

Ryan Lizza has a very sympathetic profile of Al Gore in the latest New Republic [here]. The NR has been in Gore's pocket for a very long time, so long in fact that it can no longer recognize just how very, very repulsive and arrogant their hero is.

For one thing, Gore is so full of himself that he is insufferably rude.

A few nights earlier, I had watched Charlie Rose interview Gore at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and, during a few exchanges, Gore turned the tables on him, pointedly asking Rose to clarify a rambling statement, which the host then struggled to explain. Similarly, several times during a recent TV interview with Diane Sawyer, Gore gently ridiculed her for asking about the 2008 horserace or his weight, rather than the substance of his book. "Listen to your questions," he admonished at one point. Gore believes he has written a serious book, and he is in no mood to suffer fools. The night before our meeting, I had a nightmare about the interview.
[emphasis mine]

What a guy, that Al -- and as for Ryan, I hope the emotional trial of being in the awesome presence of his hero didn't cause him to be incontinent.

Not only is Al full of himself, he's full of fecal matter.

Gore thinks in terms of systems. He isn't content merely to describe a problem, but rather tries to understand the underlying structures that enable it. This was true of his early forays into ecology, his reinventing government effort in the Clinton years, and his strategic thinking on arms control and foreign policy generally....

Lately, Gore has also taken a systems view of the Bush years. The story of the structural dysfunction behind the last six-and-a-half years begins, according to Gore, with a brief history of the relationship between the press and democracy.
Basically, Big Al says [authoritatively, of course] that the problem is that TV replaced print as the primary information system for most people. The result was a managed, one-way flow of information that replaced the earlier dialogue of democracy.

That's right, Al -- before TV political elites couldn't control information flow, "the people" had full access to information systems, and Bush won because his managers were able to make him seem so damn good in front of a camera.

And Gore has nothing but contempt for today's political process. According to him politics is irrevocably broken, candidates are helpless in the grasp of their managers, and there is no real national dialogue, either between parties or within them.

Do tell! What about the healthy spirit of dissension that is currently frustrating political elites in both parties? It seems that throughout the TV age -- roughly 1960 to the present -- American political culture has been characterized more by dissension and dialogue than mindless conformity and elite manipulation. Remember the Sixties, Al? Vietnam and Watergate? The collapse of Keynesianism? The Reagan revolution? The current resistance to globalization? All that and more?

It is striking to note that Al's incomprehension of his own times is matched by his confidence that his simplistic systems approach explains all.

What an insufferable and arrogant fool! I'm glad he lost.

Since Gore does not suffer fools gladly, he must be filled with self-loathing, either that or completely blind to his own faults. I suspect the latter.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mr. Brooks Delivers

“She Who Must Not Be Named” and I finally saw a pretty good movie -- one we could enjoy.

For the past few weeks we have been going to critically acclaimed films that were just plain awful. Last week it was “Knocked Up”; the week before it was “Waitress” – bad films both of them, but popular with critics because they had overtones that spoke to the critics’ personal and political concerns.

“Mr. Brooks” is something completely different – a finely crafted thriller that resonates with great films of the past, especially those of Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most famous moments in movie history is that scene in Psycho where Tony Perkins' character has finished cleaning up after the shower murder and is disposing of the evidence. He gathers it, puts it in the trunk of Janet Leigh’s car, and then hides the car in a swamp. The moment comes when the car is slowly sinking to the bottom of a swampy pond, but then stops. We see anxiety flash briefly across Perkins’ face before the car resumes its descent. In that brief moment we, the audience, realize that Hitchcock has played a nasty trick on us -- we are rooting for and identifying with the bad guy, the sexual pervert nutso killer.

In “Rear Window” Hitchcock does it to us again – telling the story through the eyes of a sick, twisted peeping Tom – Jimmy Stewart. He presents the pervert so sympathetically that we are drawn in and only later realize that Hitchcock has played another nasty trick on us. And then there’s “Vertigo” which is even sicker.

Critics have lavished praise on all these films. It seems that they like to be the butt of sick jokes when they are well-done – at least they used to. Today’s critics take themselves far too seriously to appreciate being jerked around, besides, they’ve seen the joke before. They’re either too jaded or too self-regarding to enjoy the old Hitchcockian moral reversal tales.

And that is just what “Mr. Brooks” is. The title character, brilliantly played by Kevin Costner, is rich, accomplished – a pillar of the community. He is also a serial killer addicted to murder. Like Hillary Clinton, Mr. Brooks has an invisible friend to which he regularly speaks. This mischievous inner daemon, who represents the dark side of Mr. Brooks’ character, is played by the marvelous William Hurt. The interaction between these two fine actors as they contemplate each and every action, is a wonder to behold. Both men are at the top of their game and soon we are sympathizing with them.

Tension comes from three sources. Early in the film, Mr. Brooks makes a mistake, one that threatens to expose his secrets. Soon he is being blackmailed by a twisted peeping Tom and would-be serial killer, poorly played by Dane Cook, who wants not money but a piece of the action. And then there is a second threat – a troubled police detective, played adequately by Demi Moore. She’s having marital problems, has father issues, is being stalked by a murderous criminal, and for years has been obsessively trying to bring the serial killer to justice, whew! She’s smart and is closing in on Mr. Brooks even as her stalker closes in on her. Mr. Brooks likes her, which complicates things. Finally there is Mr. Brooks’ daughter, played by Danielle Panabaker. She seems to have inherited her dad’s bloodlust and is being investigated by police with regard to a brutal murder at her college. Midway through the film Mr. Brooks begins to believe that someday she plans to add him to her list of victims. Got all that?

So the question is – can Mr. Brooks and his alter ego, Marshall, resolve the problem of the blackmailer, elude the detective who is sniffing on their trail while simultaneously saving her from her many problems, protect his daughter from the law, while fending off her potentially murderous intentions toward him, preserve his own secrets and freedom, and perhaps escape from his addiction? Of course he can, he's Kevin Costner.

We’ve seen each of these characters many times before -- the troubled detective; the charismatic super-criminal; the malevolent but seemingly charming child; the sleazy, stupid blackmailer; the hunter who becomes the hunted. One can imagine the jaded critic saying, “Oh no, not that one again!” But what makes “Mr. Brooks” interesting is the way these well-worn elements are woven into a complex, but entertaining whole. Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon have produced an enjoyable cinematic experience, which these days is no small accomplishment.

Mr. Brooks is an easy, non-challenging film that seeks only to entertain. Plot twists are telegraphed well in advance and Mr. Brooks is terrifyingly efficient in using his special talents to solve the complex array of problems facing him. There is a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from letting these well-worn tropes wash over you. “Mr. Brooks is a seductive film, it draws you in. But remember as you soak it all in – you are rooting for the bad guy; a very, very bad guy.

When you get home afterwards, take a shower. I did.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goodbye Mr. Wizard

Another icon of my childhood has passed away. Don Herbert ["Mr Wizard" to us kids] has gone to that great studio in the sky.

I always wondered, was he perhaps something of a pyromaniac or did he just understand that his audience, mostly young boys, really liked to see things blow up real good?

Read about him here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Neocatechumenates at the Gates of Vienna

The secularization of European elites and the aggressiveness of the continent's Muslim population has produced a popular revival of Christianity -- not so much the old state churches, but evangelical upstarts. Christianity. Despite fears that Europe is turning into Eurabia, Christianity has proven to be surprisingly durable.

Philip Jenkins writes:

[T]he rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than within European Catholicism, where new religious currents have become a potent force. Examples include movements such as the Focolare, the Emmanuel Community, and the Neocatechumenate Way, all of which are committed to a re-evangelization of Europe. These movements use charismatic styles of worship and devotion that would seem more at home in an American Pentecostal church, but at the same time they are thoroughly Catholic. Though most of these movements originated in Spain and Italy, they have subsequently spread throughout Europe and across the Catholic world. Their influence over the younger clergy and lay leaders who will shape the church in the next generation is surprisingly strong.

Similar trends are at work within the Protestant churches of Northern and Western Europe.

Read it here.

This is how the Reformation got off the ground. Maybe European Christianity can rise from the ashes. We will see..., we will see.

What really caught my attention in this article was this stunning quote:

Jürgen Habermas, a veteran leftist German philosopher stunned his admirers not long ago by proclaiming, “Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”
If the secularists have lost Habermas, they've lost the fight. It will be fun watching them try to discredit one of their former heroes.

Globalization 101

Sebastian Mallaby notes an interesting shift taking place. He starts by telling the plain truth:

Anyone who understands Globalization 101 knows that immigration, including large-scale unskilled immigration, is a fact of the modern world. Mexican laborers who migrate to the United States stand to see their wages triple or more: No amount of border security is going to keep them from coming. Chasing down and deporting illegal workers is costly to U.S. taxpayers, cruel to immigrants, disruptive for U.S. employers, expensive for U.S. consumers -- and, most of all, futile. People who yell "amnesty" merely reveal that they don't understand the world we live in.
The immigration issue has scrambled the usual positions of the parties. Regarding the Republicans he writes:

[T]he Republican Party, which prides itself on understanding globalization when it comes to capital flows or trade, is blind to the global labor market.
He points out that, while Bush and McCain are talking reasonably about immigration, the other candidates are not. The current front-runner, Mayor Giuliani, suggests with every speech he gives on the subject of immigration or health care that he is a total economic ignoramus.

And what about the Democrats:

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is sounding less bad on globalization than might have been expected. After last year's midterm elections, the Democrats seemed ready to turn against trade and foreign investment. They have duly forced dubious labor standards into trade pacts with Peru and Panama, and they have failed so far to renew the president's authority to negotiate trade deals, which expires at the end of this month. But the bill emerging from Congress on the process for putting inward investment through a security review resists the temptation for paranoid obstructionism. And leading Democrats have indicated that they'll support the Doha round of global trade talks if negotiators can revive it.

And what about immigration?

Compared with the immigrant bashing that has dominated Republican presidential debates, Democratic presidential hopefuls have sounded sweetly reasonable. With the exception of the no-hoper Dennis Kucinich, none has pressed protectionist themes. There is no equivalent to the Dick Gephardt of 1988, who won the Iowa caucuses on an anti-trade ticket.

Instead, the Democratic candidates are focusing on helping the economy's losers without restricting trade, which is exactly what they should be doing.

Indeed! It's been a long time since the Democrats have taken a reasonable position on much of anything, but maybe, just maybe, they are beginning to realize that with the power of governing comes great responsibility.

We can hope.

As the Republican Party spirals into the swamp of nativist insanity, Democrats are beginning to sound reasonable. If this keeps on, I may have to reconsider my vote.

Read the whole article here.


One of my readers makes strong objections to my use of the term "nativist insanity". Perhaps that's too strong a term, but the similarity between the rhetoric of today's restrictionists and past nativist movements is unmistakable and the political divisiveness the movement has engendered threatens to marginalize the entire Republican party. In political terms, that is insane.

The situation raises a ticklish dilemma. Either we must marginalize the restrictionists or we must reassess nativists movements of the past. How many of you would be willing to say that the anti-immigration movements of the past had good and legitimate reasons for wanting to keep the Italians, the Jews, the Irish and other immigrant groups out of the country or the Blacks down on the farm and out of the cities?

Think about it.