Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The More Things Change

America has had great parties, but they exist no longer…I cannot conceive a more wretched sight in the world than that presented by different coteries (they do not deserve the name of parties) which now divide the [United States].

“It is a shame to see what coarse insults, what petty slanders and what impudent calumnies fill the papers that serve as their mouthpieces.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, “On Great and Small Parties,” (1831)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Newt: The Phony War

"We have two choices: We can find a way to be reasonable and surrender, or we can defeat them." - Newt Gingrich

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Random Werewolf Thoughts

1981 holds a place in my heart as the best year ever for werewolf movies. Three of the best werewolf movies ever made -- The Howling, Wolfen, and An American Werewolf in London -- were all released that year.

The Howling, based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, was released in April, 1981. From IMDB: "Eye-popping special effects highlight an updated werewolf story. TV newswoman, Karen White, [played by Dee Wallace, who also played the mother in Cujo - kw] goes on a retreat after a traumatic incident with a serial killer. But is she really safe? And what should she fear more: regaining her memory or the creepy residents of "The Colony?"

Wolfen, based on the novel by Whitley Strieber, was released in July, 1981. It featured the best cast of the three movies, with Albert Finney, Edward James Olmos and Gregory Hines. From IMDB: " A city cop [Finney] is assigned to solve a bizarre set of violent murders where it appears that the victoms were killed by animals. In his pursuit he learns of an Indian legend about wolf spirits."

An American Werewolf in London, directed by John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) was released in August, 1981, and is the best-made of the three. It stars David Naughton ("I drink Dr. Pepper and I'm proud...") and Griffin Dunne, who plays Naughton's best friend and werewolf victim who keeps returning, in a hilariously ever-more-decomposing state. From IMDB: "Two American students are on a walking tour of England and are attacked by a Werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The Werewolf is killed, but reverts to it's human form, and the townspeople are able to deny it's existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on 4 feet at first, but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he find a way to die to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural death."

Even though they were released within months of each other, the three movies approach the traditional werewolf legend from different perspectives. If you ever want to have a "werewolf movie weekend," these three have to be on the schedule.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Riot is an Ugly Thing

"A riot is an ugly thing... undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun!" -- Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), "Young Frankenstein" (1974)

One of the worst riots in US history occurred in 1863. During the New York City Draft Riots, more than 100 people were killed and dozens of buildings burned and destroyed. The rioting was in response to strict draft laws imposed by Abraham Lincoln to bolster Union troops.

All male citizens between twenty and thirty-five and all unmarried men between thirty-five and forty-five years of age were subject to military duty. The federal government entered all eligible men into a lottery.

The rioters -- mainly poor Irish -- were enraged at one provision of the draft law: Those who could afford to hire a substitute or pay the government three hundred dollars might avoid enlistment.


Segue to today's global warming debate. One of the tactics that global warming alarmist celebrities such as Al Gore (or performers at the recent "Live Earth" concerts) use is to purchase "carbon offsets." They live their lives any way they want, using ten times as much energy as the average citizen, then investing in companies that claim to plant trees or provide solar panels to third world countries, or some such. (Aren't they just outsourcing their own climate damage to poor people?)

In essence, the rich can pollute or use as much energy as they want, because they can buy "carbon offsets," while the rest of us have to change our lifestyles to accomodate their demands. "Do what I say, not what I do" has never been better illustrated. Many people refer to the concerts and the celebrity musicians' lifestyles as "private jets for climate change."

Like the Civil War draft laws, once again the rich can buy their way out of the responsibilities that they are desperately trying to impose on the rest of us -- If we let them make up the rules of the game.

So far hypocrites like Al Gore and Madonna (who uses 100 times the amount of energy the average Briton uses, according to one report) have been able to slide by with the "carbon offset" gimmick. The media refuse to point out the blatant violation of principle these energy hogs casually ignore.

So, while a riot is an ugly thing, will future historians talk about the "Carbon Riots" of the early 21st century?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Pork Merchants

Robert Novak wrote recently about a minor skirmish over earmarks in Congress. The battle's not about whether or not Congress will continue to spend our money for political purposes -- remember the $315 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska -- but a battle as to who will get the most.

According to Novak's article, in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) regularly proposes amendments to remove earmarks from Interior and Financial Services bills. As you might expect, the House regularly votes these amendments down; this is money they've worked hard to spend.

But one earmark-removing amendment passed: a $129,000 grant to the Perfect Christmas Tree project in Mitchell County, North Carolina. In recent years the area has lost over 2500 textile, furniture and other manufacturing sector jobs to outsourcing. With entrepreneurial development as a primary focus, the project has created 30 individual small businesses. The project also serves as a scholarship tool, with a portion of royalties received from product sales used to fund a scholarship program is to combat the alarmingly low student retention rate at Mitchell High School, the only high school in the county.

The reason for the "cost-cutting" measure? The grant was requested by a young conservative, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who has fought to make earmarks more transparent, or open to public inspection. McHenry thought this relatively low-cost, relatively productive earmark of his own would sail through like all the others.

Instead, to quote Novak, "[the] amendment [to not fund McHenry's project] passed by a large margin, 249 to 174, with support from more than 140 Democrats who had never previously dreamed of voting against any earmark.

"The message was clear: Any member who opposes our corrupt system of favors and earmarks becomes persona non grata with the appropriations committee and his pork-barreling colleagues. It is, naturally, out of the question for such an uncooperative member to get his own earmarks. McHenry was humiliated but given a lesson on congressional power."

Congress no longer considers its job as passing effective legislation. They have become pork merchants, using our money to buy votes that they can't earn honestly. Anyone who tries to prevent them from spending our money is punished. Republicans and Democrats alike are sucked into this vile game, regardless of their good intentions when they first go to Washington D.C.

If ever there was an argument for term limits, this is it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gore the Mountebank*

"We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth." -- Al Gore, "The Assault on Reason"

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. -- James M. Taylor, "Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny," Chicago Sun-Times, June 30, 2007.

Read the entire Chicago Sun-Times article here.


*mountebank - "a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc"

Newt: "I'd be willing to be president."

Lloyd Grove has an article in the Washington Post today, giving one of the better-balanced pieces I've ever seen about Newt Gingrich.

Some highlights from the article:

On running for President: He says he'll give his final answer by Oct. 1.

On waiting so late to announce his candidacy: Gingrich, for his part, dismisses warnings that October will be too late for a non-billionaire to jump into the race and raise the necessary cash. "Do you know the approximate size of the U.S. economy? About $14 trillion. ... if you assume we live in a country of 300 million people, a substantial number of whom will not have contributed to anybody, we'll have to see. Assume for a minute that one of the three [Republican] front-runners collapses. How many supporters does that make available?"

On Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulani: Gingrich has been carefully cultivating key Republican constituencies, especially Christian activists who might balk at nominating a formerly liberal Mormon who claims to have seen the light or a pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control, occasionally cross-dressing, thrice-married Yankees fan.

On John McCain: "I like John," Gingrich says, "but the combination of McCain-Feingold [the widely despised campaign finance law] and McCain-Kennedy [the hated immigration bill] is a tad heavy."

On Fred Thompson: "I think he becomes the establishment alternative," Gingrich says. "I've been fond of Fred ever since 'The Hunt for Red October.' I think he was totally convincing as an admiral."

On his marital infidelities: [Newt] had already taken the extraordinary step of going on right-wing evangelical leader James Dobson's radio show to admit committing the sin of adultery..."It's like talking to your mom. There are things in life you just don't want to go home and tell mom. But it was my intuitive judgment that this was a room I had to walk through. If I never walked through it, I'd always be on the other side of the door."

Newt has huge ideas about changing government, and the presidency is only a small part, a possible step in that process: "I want to make sure by the time we're done that in 511,000 elective positions" -- apparently the whole of U.S. officialdom -- "there are people who understand the 21st century, understand American civilization, and have fundamentally changed government at all levels."

"And if, in that process, I become president -- that's fine."