Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.—W. Churchill

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lucas Strikes Again!

So a few buddies and I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, full of expectations that it wouldn't really be all that good. Sure glad it wasn't like I expected - it was much, much worse. How bad? Well, let me count the ways... (no doubt there are spoilers here, so read as you will).

1. Harrison Ford's been taken over by some sort of zombie spirit. That's the only explanation I can give for his most lackluster performance ever. His heart just didn't seem to be in it. He's got a couple of clever lines, but he really should switch back to the caffeinated stuff. Can't hurt...

2. Plot. Who in the world thought this was a good plot. The first movie works so well because it manages to tiptoe along that line between being merely fantastic and being simply ludicrous. This one just goes ludicrous (and is bizarrely complex to boot). Aliens? Who are inter-temporal and all sorts of powerful, but lose a skull to some half-baked conquistador?

3. Any movie that can turn Cate Blanchett into that bad of an actress has, I'll have to admit, really accomplished something. It's like Lucas and Spielberg were watching a Boris and Natasha marathon right before production. When Blanchett gets one of those lifetime achievement awards many years hence, I suspect that this little part may be neatly excised from her history. I'd be happy to have it excised from mine.

4. What was up with the McCarthyism stuff? The first 20 minutes are full of it and then it disappears - the only explanation I can come up with is that it's a way of "balancing" the anti-communist stuff in the rest of the movie. It's odd, but you come away with the sense that the movie doesn't really *like* commies, but there's no equivalent to the famous "Nazis! I hate Nazis!" catch-phrase, especially odd given that there are so many other parts of the movie that are clearly meant to be tributes to the earlier ones. I guess commies are bad, but not that bad.

There are probably many other ways the movie sucks rotten eggs, but that's enough...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Witness to History: Sydney Pollack

Film director Sydney Pollack passed away on Monday. He was a great man, directing Tootsie, of course as well as They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.

Mr. Pollack directed me in one of my films [yes, there were at least two], in Absence of Malice, starring Paul Newman.

That handsome man behind Sally Field's head is me. Although you can't exactly see my face, if you squint, it's almost visible if you watch the scene in the movie. Me, I think my arm looks danged good there, especially since I was wearing my favorite shirt, the white one with blue checks.

As I diligently did my "work" as reporter Tom X [I don't appear in the credits, as I didn't have a line], Mr. Pollack kindly stopped by my desk between takes and said encouragingly, "That's good. Keep on doing what you're doing." So I did.

I'm being playful here, but all of the above is true. With the ten thousand things that are buzzing in every movie director's head, he took the time to make me feel a part of his film. Sydney Pollack was by all accounts a great guy, always with a good word for his people, a genuine artist, and was loved by all who knew him. A true gentleman, and he will be missed. R.I.P.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Julius Caesar Found

...under the Rhône River. This bust was apparently made during Caesar's lifetime, so it's it's thought to be somewhat accurate.











Looks like a cross between Ollie North and Tom Brokaw, doesn't he? That fits--- Caesar was a warrior-journalist, writing highly popular chronicles of his exploits in the Gallic Wars.

Today, he'd be a bestselling author, have a show on Fox News, or be in the White House. Maybe all three.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Founded as a Christian Nation! [?]

Thomas Paine published Age of Reason in 1794, advancing a decidedly unProvidential and therefore unChristian God---remote to the point of disconnectedness---and attacking the Bible as fable and fantasy. He received almost universal condemnation from the new American nation, including from Samuel Adams, erstwhile brewer, semi-"key Founder," and of course, cousin of the 2nd president.

Sam wrote to Paine in 1802:

"[W]hen I heard that you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished and more grieved that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interest of so great a part of the citizens of the United States.

The people of New England, if you will allow me to use a Scripture phrase, are fast returning to their first love. Will you excite among them the spirit of angry controversy, at a time when they are hastening to unity and peace?"


Now, this might indicate that even if there was a re-swell of religious affection happening, the Founding landscape was not one of church-going holy rollers.


Still, Adams adds:

"Our friend, the President of the United States [Thomas Jefferson], has been calumniated for his liberal sentiments, by men who have attributed that liberality to a latent design to promote the cause of infidelity. This and all other slanders have been made without a shadow of proof."

We may read this as indicating that the Founding landscape obliged public figures to keep their religious unorthodoxies to themselves if they wanted to remain public figures. Most of Jefferson's repudiations of Christian orthodoxy appear in his private letters, and only after he'd left office.


Was the United States founded as a Christian Nation? The answer is definitely yes. And definitely no.


As for Paine himself, the full correspondence may be found here. Paine even claims to have saved the revolutionary French from atheism! Who'd a-thunk it?

A few excerpts:


"There is however one point of union wherein all religions meet, and that is in the first article of every man's creed, and of every nation's creed, that has any creed at all: I believe in God. Those who rest here, and there are millions who do, cannot be wrong as far as their creed goes. Those who choose to go further may be wrong, for it is impossible that all can be right, since there is so much contradiction among them. The first therefore are, in my opinion, on the safest side.

...I have but one God....

Since I began this letter, for I write it by piece-meal as I have leisure, I have seen the four letters that passed between you and John Adams. In your first letter you say, 'Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy.'

"Why, my dear friend, this is exactly my religion, and is the whole of it. That you may have an idea that the "Age of Reason" (for I believe you have not read it) inculcates this reverential fear and love of the Deity I will give you a paragraph from it.

'Do we want to contemplate His power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate His wisdom: We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate His munificence? We see it in the abundance with which He fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate His mercy? We see it in His not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful.'

"As I am fully with you in your first part, that respecting the Deity, so am I in your second, that of universal philanthropy; by which I do not mean merely the sentimental benevolence of wishing well, but the practical benevolence of doing good. We cannot serve the Deity in the manner we serve those who cannot do without that service. He needs no service from us. We can add nothing to eternity. But it is in our power to render a service acceptable to Him, and that is not by praying, but by endeavoring to make his creatures happy."


This is the God of Deism---unremarkable in today's world of mushy theistic secularism, but Paine stood virtually alone with Him in the Founding era. Even Jefferson himself, who was supportive of Paine's freedom of conscience [and who shared Paine's disdain for things like the concept of the Trinity and the miracles of the Bible], believed in a Providential God who was quite interested in man's affairs, a God Who smiled on the virtuous and withheld His favor from the wicked. Jefferson was no Deist, and people should stop saying it, because it's not true.

More on that later perhaps, but one need only look at the Jefferson Memorial for starters. Jefferson says "I tremble for my country" at the thought that his just and providential God might not abide the obscenity of slavery for very long.

Was Jefferson's God---the God of the Founding---the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham? Not exactly. But He was no other God than the God of the Bible, either. Not Aristotle's, not Tom Paine's, not even Albert Einstein's.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Jews Killed Kennedy

...according to the leftist Daily Kos, anyway. Hmmmm, I didn't know that.

Now in fairness, it's only in a "diary," which is different than the main page. Still, it's been up for weeks, and LGF has been all over it. Rest assured, if the conservative Red State site [which uses the same format] were hosting such paranoia and bigotry, they'd be spat upon for it, and rightfully so.

And so, Daily Kos, I spit on you, and rightfully so. First your people chased out all the Hillary supporters in favor of Obama, and now this ugliness from the left's most influential website, the cradle of the "reality-based" community.

Reality, indeed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Ox Gored, and Gored Good


I'm a strong believer in civility and I'm a strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy, but that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple days...---Barack Obama, US Senator and apparent Democrat nominee for President




Dang, where I come from, folks listen to what a man's saying and not just how he says it. Maybe they honestly don't believe what you honestly believe, dude---that you can talk radicals out of murdering for their cause. Perhaps people of good conscience can disagree.

You're damn liars and disagreeing with me is dividing our country, is what I hear you saying here, Senator, and not all that civilly, really.

Now, where I come from is Pennsylvania, a "swing" state that you'll need to carry to be elected.

Make your case to those voters, Senator, without calling the other fellows liars and dividers, even if they are. That would be the most liberal and unifying thing to do. Walk the walk that you talk, and by the way, save your real outrage for the murderers in this world, not your fellow Americans. When will you raise up your genuine passion---if you have any---and your demonstrated ability to move your fellow Americans, against murder and tyranny and not just against words you don't like?

You're going to need that passion, concentrated to the best of your ability, if you hope to be any kind of president and leader of the free world at all.

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Bye Bye Huck: Thank God We Never Got to Know Ye

Even though I disagree with almost everything Barack Obama stands for [yeah, yeah, I know---what does he stand for?], I'd have voted for him if Mike Huckabee had been the GOP nominee, for a number of reasons.

Via The Hill via NRO:

During a speech to the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky Friday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joked to the audience that an offstage noise was Barack Obama avoiding gunfire.

'That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak. Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.'



I can excuse a lot of stupidity in American politics, but this is the lowest this year for either party, and nothing's in second place. Assassination has been a palpable concern for black leaders and presidential candidates since the nightmares of April and June of 1968, and Barack Obama is of course both of these things.


The line was met with laughter.



Both Huckabee and the NRA brass owe Sen. Obama an apology bigtime. And Gov. Huckabee needs to get off the GOP stage immediately, and for the foreseeable future. I suspect I shall never hear the words "President" and "Huckabee" in the same sentence ever again, thankfully. But if I do, either me or the GOP is going to have to go.

Now, to consolidate the vote of the evangelical right, the Republican Party might consider it clever to slip Rev. Huckabee a speaker's slot at its convention in September. But of such small symbolisms [think Jimmy Carter and Michael Moore sitting together at John Kerry's coronation], elections are lost, and rightfully so.

As David St. Hubbins once noted, there's a fine line between stupid and clever. Me, I don't even think there's a fine line here. People know.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The New Cold War"

Thomas L. Friedman of the NYT takes a lot of ridicule from both left and right, depending on whose ox he gores. But he's an original thinker, and most importantly, he's one of the very few who actually travels to all the corners of the earth and talks with the people who live there before he pontificates on the problems of mankind.

Tom Friedman puts himself wherever the rubber meets the road. No ivory-tower type or bland theorist. He has earned every man's ear.

This is one of his very best, IMO. Excerpted here, but his entire essay is worth your time:

The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the Cold War. Yes, the next U.S. president is going to be a Cold War president - but this Cold War is with Iran.

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today - the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their nonstate allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, "In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S."

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

THE TICKET?



...asks Drudge.

Oh, I sure hope so. In the merger business, we call it putting two turkeys together trying to make an eagle...


Like most everybody else, my initial prediction was Hillary, but my call for her #2 would still the best for the Democrats.

Evan Bayh. Even more now, since he's a Hillary ally who was pretty obviously positioning himself as her VP, he'd help heal the Demo HRC-BHO* rift better than any "dream" ticket.

A two-term Democrat governor from Republican Indiana and now its junior senator, a centrist with impeccable credentials and qualifications [he cut taxes, fer crissakes!], I have to admit Evan Bayh had a shot at my vote for president regardless of the GOP nominee was, but he decided not to run.

In this day of leftists and radicals claiming the American center, I have a weakness for good ole-fashioned Democrats, the few that are left. He'd balance the ticket between wack and not so wack, bigtime. Word up, BHO*.

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*Sen. Obama is the victim of bad initials. As much as using Barack Obama's "H"-for"Hussein" might be considered pejorative or racist or associating him with jihadists or Islam or certain exterminated Iraqi dictators, not using it seems even more pejorative. Even if his lovely missus has confirmed to the national press that yes, he is and he does.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Obama Shies Away Again

The most interesting thing about this blog post at Commentary is the first comment, by Michael J. Totten. The subject is the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas declaring its preference for Obama as some sort of new JFK. Totten writes:

Obama could easily make this go away: “Hamas will be VERY sorry if I am America’s president. They need to be careful what they wish for.” He doesn’t have to say anything else, but I doubt it occurs to anyone on his staff to go after Hamas instead of McCain. To me, that’s the obvious fix. What could McCain possibly say after that?



Simple. Elegant.

Sen. Obama had a chance to repudiate Hamas—at no cost to his candidacy. And once again Obama shied away from, just once, a spontaneous Sista Soulja moment, not to mention it would have been the right thing to do. They are murderers.

But Obama’s instincts took him elsewhere, to attack McCain. So much for “new politics.” So far, he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, as the saying goes about the Middle East.


Michael J. Totten rules. The honest man’s honest man. Do visit his website http://www.michaeltotten.com. [Uncompensated endorsement.]

Totten has traveled the Middle East so much in the past 5 years that for practical purposes, he lives there, especially Lebanon, where the Islamicist rubber meets the Western road. The force of his honesty is such that the local freepaper [lefty, unlistenable altrock, bodypiercing and personal escort ads, etc.], the LA Weekly, published him regularly.

So, when a commenter appreciatively wrote, "McCain could actually use that," Totten replied:

Both Obama and McCain can take my advice. It’s free!


If I had to guess, Totten would decline an offer from either campaign to join as a paid advisor, as it would put his impartiality in doubt for the rest of his career. He's a journalist in the highest sense of the word---in the only sense of the word, and in fact, his Middle East travels are financed by freelance sales of his articles and his blog tipjar.

Nobody owns Michael J. Totten, and that's the highest praise I can give to any man.

Even when Totten writes stuff I don't want to hear, I listen. He's earned my respect and my trust. The Western world---and the world all over---ignores him at its peril. And its folly.

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