Insights and Pot Shots
The Des Moines Register features an interesting article on a poll it commissioned of Iowa Democrats and the potential nominees for 2008. The surprise winner, with 30%, was former Senator, Vice-Presidential candidate and Kennedy-look-a-like, John Edwards. Hillary Clinton finished second with 26%. John Kerry, US Senator, War Veteran and future Trivial Pursuit subject got 12% and Iowa Governor Vilsack got 10%.
The two stories that will come from this are:
1) How much trouble is this for the Clinton Campaign?
2) Is this the start of a serious John Edwards boom?
Starting in reverse, this will generate a small Edwards boomlet. He will get as much free media as the lack of real stories will allow in the next two weeks. He will get more attention from the Hard Left, the Twilight Zone’s Kos-mos for example.
At the end of the day, Edwards is still too untested and lacking in a base to be a major threat. It will take more than one poll to move him to the top tier.
As for Senator Clinton, this poll ought to be very worrisome. Not because of Edwards. Rather she ought be very worried that she lost to someone of considerably lesser status who has a consistent record of opposition to the War in Iraq. Her greatest vulnerability is her continuing support for the war. No other issue has hurt her standing with the Left than the perception that she is triangulating.
Unlike welfare reform or health care or other issue where her husband was able to zig and zag like Walter Payton, support for the war is unacceptable on the Hard Left. Her unwillingness to apologize for her vote for the war and her lack of calls for immediate withdrawal erodes her standing daily.
The Iowa poll is bad news for Senator Clinton because it is great news for the name not included. To steal from Meredith Wilson:
“Oh She’s got trouble… with a capitol G which stands for Gore.”
As noted previously on this page, I believe Gore may well be the strongest candidate to defeat Clinton, a goal for many Democrats that is at least as important as winning in 2008. Gore can unify the anti-war forces with the environmentalists and many of the more moderate pro-capitalist leaders. He is popular with African-Americans and noticably silent on immigration (as far as I have read), suggesting a bit of strategery on his part.
If one combines the anti-war votes represented by Edwards and Kerry, you get 42%. Add Feingold and you get 45%. Even if some of these voters would stay with Edwards, Kerry and Feingold, one can see Gore pulling in the high 30s. That would be a high number for Senator Clinton to beat.
From the comfortable office chair at this moment, it looks like the big winner in Iowa was Al Gore, the non-candidate. Stay tuned for more polls and how the candidates and potential candidates respond. The road to 2008 just gets more and more interesting.
Drudge reports that Paramount has chosen not to mention the name of former VP, Al Gore, anywhere in the posters for the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ Drudge cites a conversation with an anonymous Paramount exec who said that the reason was that the movie isn’t political. Drudge cites an anonymous exec at another studio who attributes the absence of references to Gore as based on market research.
Now Hollywood execs are the only species of semi-sentient life on this planet that are raised to see Truth in the same way vampires regard the Cross. The reason politicians love Hollywood isn’t the millions in contributions or the endless numbers of attractive and cooperative men and women or the chance to be lectured on MIRV missiles and the Indian sub-continent by Richard Dreyfuss and Barbra Streisand… well maybe the moneyhelps. The real reason is that 30 minutes with studio execs and the A list of Hollywood and Duke Cunningham starts looking like St. Francis of Assisi.
Anyway, LA Weekly’s Nikki Finke’s Deadline Daily talked to someone at Paramount and was told that Gore never asked to be on the poster. He was never set to be in the poster and never asked.
Now this may well be true. Gore may have decided that it was not important to get that sort of credit. Certainly, that would be, not just a smart political move, but a a decent and unpolitical move. Just the sort of thing that the New Gore might do.
My bet though, is that the execs at Paramount, armed with focus group data, decided that even though Gore was a powerful factor in the movie and is an internationally known spokesman for environmental concern, he was toxic waste at the box office. They would have felt bad about it, promised that they were forced to by the corporate execs and said ‘never again.’ In other words, they would lie.
Poor Gore, this movie comes st the right time for him to begin the race to Iowa. With a creditfor screenplay, he could have won an Oscar which would have been a huge thing for his 2008 efrforts.
Al Gore is enjoying the sort of popular revival that one associates with other lost monarchs like Napoleon on Elba or Bonny Prince Charlie in France. One really expects an outbreak of folk songs to go with the rallying of Gore supporters like the Scots to the Stuart banner.
Part of this is the romance of Gore’s defeat in 2000. Unlike Kerry, who was clearly beaten in popular votes and in the electoral college (if not in the minds of those who see conspiracies everywhere), Gore conjures the ’stolen election’ memories of Florida. In this view, Gore didn’t lose and is the rightful king in exile (like Charles down to the skirt-chasing predecessor).
Another aspect is that Gore appeals to a range of Democrats, something not true of other contenders such as the Senator from New York. Gore, with his time as VP under Clinton, reminds moderate Democrats of a strong economy, centrist positions on major issues like welfare reform and free trade. At the same time, his outspoken environmentalism and his opposition to the war in Iraq gives him credibility with the hard left, something that Senator Clinton seems to have lost.
Gore has the additional advantage of having already been under the microscope of a national campaign. The Buddhist temple and the ‘inventing the internet’ are yesterday’s news and unlikely to have any effect.
Finally, Gore, in a truly Nixonian move, is discretely marketing himself as the New Gore. Gone is the cautious, earth-toned robotic Gore who sought to be all things to all people. Now we have the true Alpha Democrat, firm of principle and speaking out loudly to the base. Where the New Nixon reinvented himself as accessible and friendly, the New Gore has Dean’s passion without the scream.
Will this work? We shall see. However, I think that this incarnation of Al Gore could be a formidable candidate and would be the odds on favorite to win the 2008 nomination.
Consider that he has the fundraising base to announce right after the 2006 elections. If the Democrats come out winners, he can claim that it issues such as the war and the environment (issues he dominates) made the difference. If the Republicans manage to break even which would be seen as a Democrat defeat now, Gore could lambast the centrist approach of leaders like Senator Clinton.
An early entry could pre-empt Russ Feingold and give Gore a lock on the hard left of the party. That would allow him to start targeting specific groups and leaders in the party while Senator Clinton fights potential rivals in the center like Governor Warner and Senator Bayh.
Gore vs Clinton? It could be a wonderful fight, not just for the nomination but for the soul of a party.
Of course, Gore may not run. Or he could relapse into his tendency to try to be things he isn’t.
But at this point, that would seem to leave many loyalists feel abandoned and longing for their King across the waters.
This week the city council of Hercules, California has used it power of eminent domain to take land owned by Wal-Mart to prevent the giant retailer from developing the property. For all the debate over the Kelo decision, it strikes me that this is an even more dangerous use of eminent domain.
Where Kelo involved balancing the rights of property owners with the economic needs of a community, the Hercules council expands eminent domain to justify the abolition of a business it dislikes. Such a principle could empower local governments to abolish businesses because they do not pay a ‘living wage’ or don’t provide enough health benefits or are not union shops to name just a few possibilities.
What may be the most disturbing aspect of this affair is that it seems the anti-Wal-Mart forces in Hercules are so blinded by their dislike for Wal-Mart that they are willing to establish a dangerous principle to achieve their ends. If this practice is allowed to spread, no business will be safe. For that matter, no home or neighborhood will be safe.
It should also be remembered that eminent domain, unlike zoning restrictions, will cost the city money. True, the land can be resold but what if the next buyer lacks Wal-Mart’s deep pockets?
The council should show some leadership and rethink this before they do damage to their city and set a dangerous precedent.
The Associated Press covers a reports a study of malpractice suits done by Harvard University and printed in the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. This study provides some ammunition for both sides in the debate over malpractice law suit reform, ensuring that no one will be happy and that we will be no closer to a solution.
The conclusions of the report include:
“About 40 percent of the medical malpractice cases filed in the United States are groundless…”
“The vast majority of those dubious cases were dismissed with no payout to the patient. However, groundless lawsuits still accounted for 15 percent of the money paid out in settlements or verdicts.”
“The study found 3 percent of claims analyzed were filed by patients who had no injury. Of the claims that involved injuries, two-thirds were caused by medical error. But the remaining injury claims, or 37 percent, lacked evidence of a medical mistake, and most of those 72 percent were thrown out or otherwise resolved without a payout to the patient.”
“Altogether, the Harvard researchers reviewed 1,452 malpractice claims randomly selected from five insurance companies. The cases were resolved meaning they ended in a verdict, a settlement or a dismissal between 1984 and 2004. The claims resulted in a combined $449 million in verdicts and settlements.”
The study also confirmed that defending a claim is expensive and long, taking an average of five years to resolve. It also found that for every dollar awarded to patients, about half went to cover lawyers’ fees and other expenses.”
The AP story did not go into the issue of whether the ‘medical error’ was something dangerous. One suspects that there are a good number of cases where there was a mistake but not one that was a major cause of any serious problem.
Sensible people on both sides of this issue should consider that this study demonstrates that there are too many frivolous malpractice suits but that malpractice is more common than doctors might like to admit.
Allowing doctors to sue patients and their lawyers who file what a judge or jury find to be a frivolous suit might be a start.
Another option would be to have judgements for punitive damages for malpractice be awarded to a state’s health care system to fund something like preventative care.
The Tennessee Guerilla Women site links to one of odder organizations to involve itself in the immigration debate. This group, DeleteTheBorder, supports the right of anyone to travel and settle anywhere. Consider this passage from their attack on the Minutemen:
“No one is illegal. All people have a right to travel and migrate wherever they want. Our struggle works toward the liberation of migrant people, women, indigenous people, people of all nationalities, queers and people of color against the violent bigotry of the MinuteMen and we intend to stop their project from going any further.
Migration controls hurt everyone’s freedom and privacy. Some of us are more directly targeted and affected by these policies, but all of our lives are being reshaped by them. We are in this struggle not only to reject and stop these racist attacks, but to move towards a world without borders, a world of liberation for all people.”
Now it would be easy to write this group off as the fringe collective they are. However, in their nuttiness the ‘Delete the Borders’ gang raise some interesting questions that the more mainstream advocates of unlimited (or virtually unlimited) immigration should have to answer.
* How many immigrants into the US, legal or illegal, would be too many? If there is some ‘right’ to pursue the American Dream, why should we stop at 13 million? Why not 20 or 30 million? What would the effects of this level of immigration have on the US? This is not an unreasonable possibility since the next question is…
* Doesn’t the use of the US as a pressure release for the growing population of unemployed people from Mexico, Central and South America reduce the need for those countries to get their economic houses in order? As long as large numbers of citizens can come north to the US to find work and send back dollars, the need for these nations to make the sort of tough economic decisions necessary for real growth will be delayed.
* How do the advocates of essentially open borders rationalize this position with their opposition to NAFTA? While not all the supporters of open borders are critical of free trade programs like NAFTA, most are. Which seems odd. After all, immigration is, economically, the flow of a commodity (labor) from one place to another. In that sense, expanded immigration is the logical next step for free trade.
Here the unlimited immigration advocates find themselves following in the footsteps of the most free market capitalists. Nations are outdated as the world becomes one truly integrated economic system.
According to the Tennessean, the Titans are requesting $1 million for a new scoreboard. This is a reduction from $3.5 million with the team willing to wait until 2007 for the additional funding.
I say, give them the whole thing now, with a proviso.
We go ahead and approve the money, and the Titans agree to rewrite provisions in the contract with Nashville that make it almost impossible for the city to host events at the Coliseum and to give us more dates.
As I remember (and I will admit this might not be entirely accurate), Nashville gets three dates each year to host events, the revenues from which are to offset the $1 million annual upkeep expenses that the city pays.
So far, this provision has resulted in little revenue because other provisions in the contract make it difficult for the city schedule events.
Why not give the Titans the money and revise the deal? We might not just get a better deal on the events, we might get more dates.
If the Ttitans are unwilling to negotiate, that would speak volumes about their real regard for Nashville. It might also serve to inspire questions about how these provisions got into the contract.
ABC is reporting that Karl Rove is losing his domestic policy duties.
This is the most positive sign that the Bush Administration is serious about making changes.
There is a small controversy over at Mike Kopp’s blog http://tennesseepoliticalpulse.blogspot.com/ resulting from Mr. Kopp having deleted several posts responding to his thread ‘A footnote on Mohammed Cartoons.’ The comments he deleted seem to relate to the accuracy of some of his statements about Bill Hobbs and to Mr. Kopp’s own comments about his motivation for calling the attention of the Tennessean to this issue.
Now it is Mr. Kopp’s blog so he is entitled to do with it as he wishes.
I do find one aspect of this to be deliciously ironic though. During the 2000 presidential race a memo surfaced from the Gore for President campaign of 1988. The memo, written by one of Gore’s Tennessee advisers, warned about the candidate’s tendency to exaggerate about certain types of things. At that time the Vice President was being hurt by questions relating to exactly this sort of thing. In that context, the memo was more than a little harmful to the Gore campaign.
The author of that memo was, I believe,… Mike Kopp.
If so, it seems that he has figured out how one way to deal with inconvenient thoughts.
Just when things look bleak for the Right, the New Republic OnLine’s Rob Anderson offers a review of an upcoming book by Cindy Sheehan and a number of other opponents of the American military.
There is little history of anti-militarism in American history like the loathing of many on the hard left since the Viet Nam era. To be sure, there was always a strong opposition to spending on the military in peace time which explains the pathetic state of the army in 1917 and 1941. The anti-imperialists of the late 19th and early 20th century opposed a large navy and bitterly fought against involvement in the Philippines. Abraham Lincoln was a powerful critic of the Mexican War. But in each case the opposition was to the policy not to the troops.
For all the domestic opposition to America’s use of its military for 200 years, there was never such a prolonged and venmous hostility to the armed forces as we have seen since Viet Nam. From branding troops in Viet Nam as ‘baby killers’ to Joel Stein’s recent LA Times article where he wrote “I don’t support our troops,” the hard left has come to identify the American military as both a source of evil in our policy making and as immoral agents of that same evil.
Anderson provides quotes so provocative that this book will certainly play a key role for both sides in the 2006 elections. For example, here are quotes Anderson pulls from the book:
Louis and Marti Hiken write, “The military is having a tough time meeting its recruitment goals. There are not enough troops available to send to Iraq.” And a sentence later, here is the advice they offer young Americans: “The best advice we can give is not to join in the first place.”
Paul Rockwell argues that “[r]efusing to enlist is more than a career decision. It is a moral and political act, a contribution to the burgeoning, international movement for a better, more peaceful world.”
Not only that, but joining the military is unpatriotic, writes Rae Abileah of the antiwar women’s group Code Pink: “[I]t takes more honor and courage to dedicate one’s life to working for social change. Teachers, community organizers, activists, engineers, public defense attorneys, lobbyists, and artists are the true patriots.”
Anderson rightly observes that by the argument of the book, there would be no military. To suggest that this would improve the world’s prospects for peace is as mad as the idea that mainstream Democrats will support such silliness.
This is where Cindy Sheehan and her fellow travellers come to the aid of the Right. To the extent that the Cindy Sheehan / moveon.org wing of the Left can control who the Democrats nominate in House and Senate races, the safer the Republican majority becomes.
Tennessee offers a small example of this. The withdrawal of Senator Kurita has prompted some criticism from people on the Left that Congressman Ford is too moderate. In Tennessee that won’t hurt him in a primary but in other states, to suggest that the book’s arguments are wrong could be fatal for moderate and even some liberal Democrats.
The criticisms made by Cindy Sheehan and her collaborators do not aid the cause of Peace. To the extent that they are able to reduce enlistments, they only make the world less safe. Happily, this book will have little effect.
The more serious result of this approach is how it distorts the political process. To the extent that the anti-military factions of the Democrat party shape the public’s perceptions of the party as a whole, the less likely the Democrats are to regain power. The less credible the Democrats seem on defense, the less competitive elections will become in an age of state-sponsored terrorism.
Drudge links to a piece in the Opinion Journal by Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, detailing examples of cases where scientists who support the theory of global warming, scientific journals and the media have worked to prevent scientific evidence of flaws in the theory of global warming.
Scientific research is a tricky area to study because so much of the media coverage is done by reporters with limited familiarity with the issues. Additionally, like any academic debate, personalities and politics often sway scientists when evidence ought be the issue.
Lindzen makes an important point that there is important evidence that is not being heard. Before we restructure our economy or empower government to impose more regulations, we need to look seriously at evidence from all sides.
This is one of those times that it is good to remember one of my political laws:
Just because someone represents a greedy and ruthless position doesn’t mean they are wrong. Just because someone loves puppies and flowers and the little guy doesn’t make them right.
Mickey Kaus over at Kausfiles makes this delightful point about Dan Schorr and the reliably anti-Bush coverage at NPR:
Eroded Schorr: Daniel Schorr on NPR, explaining why Bush might want to change the subject from his administration’s ongoing troubles by blustering against Iran, noted that even as Bush addressed the issue at Johns Hopkins immigrants were “massing around the country against his immigration policy.” … Er, weren’t they massing for Bush’s immigration policy (and against the House Republicans’ policy)? Just askin’! … But why let these tedious Inside-the-Beltway nuances get in the way when there’s some smug NPR Bush-bashing to do? 1:08 A.M.
Schorr couldn’t possibly have failed to notice that the President has been at odds with much of his party on this issue for months.
Why preserve the pretense? George Soros has plenty of money and with Airless America ready to relocate to Oregon where physician assisted suicide is legal, why not just let the DNC fund it?
Moveon.org could sponsor All Things Considered. They could rename it All (Left) Wings Considered. Nina Totenberg’s interesting legal pieces could be sponsored by the Trial Lawyers.
That would be real Truth in Advertising.
French President Jacques Chirac’s decision this week to kill his government’s plan to create a new class of temporary jobs for young workers is a cautionary tale for those who want to turn the US into a more European social democracy. The cost of the European model for its citizens, turning vast numbers of people into wards of the state is clearly seen in the attitudes of the protesters.
Despite high unemployment among the young and a national economy that is generally stagnant, burdened by uncompetitive labor practices, incredible agricultural subsidies and high taxes, the protesters want assurances of employment that meets their wishes. Is the economy capable of producing enough of these jobs? Can businesses be competitive in such a climate? None of that matters to a generation born to the idea that the Rights of Man include middle class wages, a 34 hour week and mistress breaks (the French being the French after all).
For all America’s problems, we are in far better shape than France. Compared to more economically progressive European nations, not to mention the vibrant economies around the world, France is looking more and more like a coming basket case.
Americans ought worry that the ever-expanding Rights industry here will have the same effect on our national character. Now we hear that health care is a Right. Possibly so. But then, isn’t clothing a Right? Transportation? Communications? Cell phones for all.
The real danger is not the public policy argument. Let the advocates for a ‘living wage’ and the free market advocates duke it out. That is why we have elections.
No the real danger is that we will end up like France with every argument being about someone’s Right to something. The French seem perilously close to discovering that too many Rights end up costing people the Rights that matter.
On my recent trip to Memphis for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference I got to thinking about the economic impact of mississippi’s casinos. Mississippi’s success with casinos has encouraged some in Tennessee to push for changing the state Constitution to allow casinos here. Opponents fear that casinos will lead to more problem gamblers, damage to the tourism industry and other harmful outcomes.
Clearly the revenues provided by casinos would be a great benefit to Tennessee. Additional revenues could lead to reduction in the state sales tax, more investments in the state’s economic infrastructure or money for education, health care and other programs. However, opposition to casinos is formidable and the process for amending the state’s constitution is cumbersome, favoring those who do not want casinos.
There is, however, a way that Tennessee could benefit from casinos without ever allowing them in the state.
I suggest that Tennessee amend its Constitution to require that the state allow the operation of casinos should Mississippi fail to send Tennessee 1/4 of the revenue from its casinos in any year.
Currently Mississippi benefits tremendously from its proximity to Memphis while Tennessee gains little from the presence of the casinos. To the extent that the casinos increase crime and create more problem gamblers, Tennessee gets little to cover our costs.
Even those who oppose casinos in Tennessee can see the logic in this position. We forgo taking the bulk of Mississippi’s casino business (who would go to Tunica over Memphis or Nashville?) and Mississippi compensates us for our expenses resulting from their casinos and for our willingness to not build casinos.
Now people (especially in Mississippi) may call this unfair. And, one could see it that way. However, if this is in Tennessee’s best interests, shouldn’t that be our guide?
Chances this will happen? Few.
The Financial Times reports that top officials of Dubai are being advised by… former President (and husband of port deal critic) Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton, former US president, advised top officials from Dubai two weeks ago on how to address growing US concerns over the acquisition of five US container terminals by DP World.
Mr Clinton, who this week called the United Arab Emirates a good ally to America, advised Dubais leaders to propose a 45-day delay to allow for an intensive investigation of the acquisition, according to his spokesman.
Mr Clintons contact with Dubai on the issue underscores the relationship he has developed with the United Arab Emirates since leaving office. In 2002, he was paid $300,000 (252,000) to address a summit in Dubai.
There is nothing illegal about this but it does remind one of why the Clintons can never be allowed to return to the White House except with an invitation and with Secret Service agents counting the silver.
Hillary mugs for the cameras and plays to the masses against the deal while Bill keeps the Dubai money funnel open.
More totally unprincipled and cynical Clintonism. Will they never go away?
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ column links to a Survey USA feature that lists the approval ratings of every Governor and Senator.
Senator Frist has a 53% to 38% rating while Senator Alexander has a 56% to 30% rating.
Governor Bredesen has a 53% to 42% rating.
Check it out to see which Governors and Senators are doing well and which aren’t. For example, Governors Taft, Murkowski and Blanco have all the love and respect of three social diseases.
It is also interesting to note that only three Senators have negative ratings while lots of Senators are in deficit.
Mike Kopp, Democrat political activist and blogger at Tennessee Political Pulse, offers an interesting bit of revisionist history in a piece that is devoted to debunking rumors that Cooper won’t run this year. For the record, this sort of rumor starts about certain Congressmen all the time and generally has all the credibility of Larry Daughtrey’s usual column on why, despite the Democrats almost unbroken domination of state government, all Tennessee’s problems are the fault of Republicans.
What is more interesting is a particular line in Kopp’s piece:
I helped him in 1994 when he was the only Democrat who had the balls to run hard for Al Gore’s old Senate seat against the GOP tsunami that washed the blue out of most of Tennessee, and I helped him again when he ran for Congress and won in 2002.
There are many admirable things about Jim Cooper, to be sure. He is honest, well informed on the issues and took on Hillary Clinton over health care, helping to defeat her plans for a government take-over. However, Cooper was most assuredly not “…the only Democrat who had the balls to run hard for Al Gore’s old Senate seat against the GOP tsunami that washed the blue out of most of Tennessee,” but rather the anointed choice of his party. Kopp seems to want to make Cooper into some sort of martyr, selflessly giving his life and congressional seat to stand alone in the path of an onrushing train (or red truck).
The truth is that Cooper was running for the seat from the moment that Governor McWherter selected his crony Harlan Matthews to replace Gore. And, when Cooper began his quest, there were no signs of a GOP tsunami. That would take a couple of years and the Clinton health plan, which it should be noted, was defeated and disgraced by Jim Cooper as well as Republicans. If memory serves me correctly, Cooper was some 20 points ahead of his likely Republican rival as late as December of 2003. Whatever the numbers, Cooper was certainly no underdog when the race began.
One wonders if Mr. Kopp was one of the people who ‘helped’ Cooper by advising him to pick fights with the unions and senior citizens or to use ‘The Hunt for Fred in October’ as a theme.
Congressman Cooper is a good and decent man and Nashville could do far worse for a Representative (and frequently has) but Mr. Kopp does him no favors with this Oliver Stone-ish rewrite of history.
Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University delivered a speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently and, as reported by the BBC, his conclusions, even if they are only 50% accurate, will have profound consequences for everyone.
Tuljapurkak predicts that we will add an avarage of one year to the human life span per year over the next 20 years. In the US, that would mean an agerage life span of just under a century and even longer in other places. Developing countries would see similar gains.
The consequences of such a shift would be felt in every aspect of life. For example, the retirement age would have to expand. Social Security, in its current form, would be unmanagable with more than one recipient per worker. to preserve the current level of benefits, he projects a retirement age of 85. Develpping nations would face even more challenges.
This may well be an overly optimistic (or pessimistic) scenario. As a cautionary tale about the real power of demographics to reshape our world, its implications are well worth contemplating. We are not to the point of looking to ‘Logan’s Run’ as a guide but unless we think more broadly about issues from immigration to retirement planning to our image of our working lives to how we will care for such a growing population of people who need care, we will face a grim future brought on by our triumphs in caring for people.
Mansoor Ijaz has a commentary in today’s LA Times that should be read by anyone interested in the relationship between Islam and the West.
Ijaz offers three ‘Truths’ which he says Muslim leaders must face. His Truths may not be all-encompassing but they are insightful and important for non-Mulims to comprehend too.
The first truth is that most Muslim ideologues are hypocrites. What has Osama bin Laden done for the victims of the 2004 tsunami or the shattered families who lost everything in the Pakistani earthquake last year? He did not build one school, offer one loaf of bread or pay for one vaccination. And yet he, not the devout Muslim doctors from California and Iowa who repair broken limbs and lives in the snowy peaks of Kashmir, speaks the loudest for what Muslims allegedly stand for. He has succeeded in presenting himself as the defender of Islam’s poor, and the Western media has taken his jihadist message all the way to the bank.
In other words, whatever needs that bin Laden and others like him fill for Muslims, this has little to do with the teachings of Muhammed and, he in fact is distracting much of Islam from those teachings. This is a point that Christians, with the Wars of the Reformation, the Inquisition and numerous other instances ought to appreciate.
The second truth one that the West needs to come to grips with is that there is no such human persona as a “moderate Muslim.” You either believe in the oneness of God or you don’t. You either believe in the teachings of his prophet or you don’t. You either learn those teachings and apply them to the circumstances of life in the country you have chosen to live in, or you shouldn’t live there.
This may well be the tipping point for Muslims. A Muslim does not compromise on his religion but he practices that faith within the context of his world or he moves. There is no compulsion to spread Islam by violence or to impose its values. This seems to be a particularly Western way of looking at the role of Religion within society. However, it should be remembered that for years Muslim leaders would allow conquored peoples the option to keep their religion as long as they were willing to be taxed in ways not applicable to Muslims.
In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam’s mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islam’s holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down.
Here Ijaz dares to speak a Truth that even many in the West dislike admitting. The idea that one world view, in the case the Western Intellectual Tradition or the ‘Dead White European Men’ as some critics have fashioned it, may have triumphed is more than those who hold to a relativist view of cultures can accept. Ijaz sees this as keeping faith with Islamic belief. He might not agree but part of this may reflect Western influences on Muhammed’s world and the ties between Islam and Judaism and Christianity
First district Congressman Bill Jenkins announced today that he will not seek re-election. Congressman Jenkins has admirably served since the retirement of Congressman Jimmy Quillen.
Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey has taken his name out of consideration. The current list of contenders includes Representative David Davis, Anne Pope and former Representative Richard Venable. Other names that have floated around include former Senator Jim Holcomb.
The first point of interest in this story involves the US Senate race. The addition of a multi-candidate primary to replace Congressman Jenkins should heavily increase the voter turnout in the district. Which candidate will benefit should be a source of speculation for weeks. A good sign will be whether Congressman Jenkins takes sides and to what extent.
At the same time, the sudden need for a primary should make it harder for the Senate candidates to raise money in the First and to recruit volunteers.
Another point of interest is how this reshapes the Tennessee Republican lineup for statewide office. Since the Republican tidalwave of 1994, the two East Tennessee seats have been held by men who did not seek statewide office. The new Congressman from the First District may be someone who would like to run statewide. A Congressman from East Tennessee would have a big advantage in a Gubenatorial or Senate primary.
This primary will be well worth watching, in its own right and for the effects on other races.
The Search for Culture
The London Sun Online reports that Tom Cruise, the noted actor, thinker and gourmet has said that he will eat the PLACENTA after fianc??e Katie Holmes has their baby.”
The actor, 43 who wants her to give birth in silence according to his Scientology cult rules said: Im gonna eat the placenta, too.
I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. Im going to eat the cord and the placenta right there.
Perhaps Cruise is hoping to sink his teeth into a major dramatic role like playing the lead in the prequel ‘Silence of the Lambs IV, The Early Recipes.’
One wants to ask whether this curious culinary inspiration (you have to admit it would make a cool episode of Iron Chef) is related to Cruise’s belief in Scientology. There are endless cartoon possibilites but sadly, to pursue them might bring one into the clutches of Mike Kopp and John Spragens.
Suffice to say that Cruise may finally have found his comic voice. Just because it is unintentional doesn’t make it less funny, just painfully funny.
Drudge links to a story from Breitbart about remarks made by George Lucas while receiving an award from the World Affairs Council.
Among the insights from the father of Jar Jar Binks is this:
“…the United States is a provincial country with a culture that has invaded the world via Hollywood.”
“I hate to say it, but television is one of the most popular exports,” Lucas said.
People see shows such as “Dallas,” about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.
“They say that is what I want to be,” Lucas said. “That destabilizes a lot of the world.”
And the Lucas solution:
An onus is on film makers to be careful with the messages they send because they speak “with a very loud voice,” the famed movie director said.
Gee, and I thought that film was art and that artists were supposed to be anything but careful.
That Nancy Pelosi was on hand to present the father of the Ewoks with his award just made the whole spectacle more delicious.
There is a great deal here to consider but two points of particular interest.
First, Obi Wan seems to suggest that American customs and values are somehow harmful to other cultures. There is a stunning condescencion to such a proposition. A few seasons of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and marriage will collapse in Mecca? Triple features of ‘Porky’s,’ ‘Animal House’ and ‘America Grafitti’ will corrupt the teens of Finland?
Gee, if that were true, do you think that Lucas would speak out on Hollywood’s responsibility for teen pregnancy or drug abuse? Are Americans less corruptible or does it matter less that we lose our souls?
One also must note with dripping irony that the French are the most voluable critics of American Cultural Imperialism. A nation that has its own language police and bizarre rules about ‘acceptable’ foreign words has more problems than a few American movies.
Second, the spread of American culture around the globe has not been accomplished by force. Unlike England waging the opium wars to open China to trade or the efforts of Muhammed’s followers to impose Islamic culture on the peoples that their crusades conquored, America has simply made our movies, tv and other aspects of our culture available to willing consumers.
American cultural imperialism is a myth made popular by a combination of those who are on the losing end in the marketplace of ideas and the ‘blame America first, then blame America some more and then blame America at the wrapup kegger’ crowd. Lucas, in failing to note that no one uses the Force to make people want American culture, aligns himself with the latter group.
Finally, Lucas is possibly the most implausible of messengers for this nonsense. After all, his vision for the Star Wars franchise has been to construct a whole mythology around his universe. As High Priest of the Star Wars religion, he has labored tirelessly to market Star Wars as movies, toys, bric-a-brac and, most notalby, as a Tolkien-esque cultural icon.
Oh well, Lucas may well be the ideal spokesman for this leftist nonsense. After all, as a wise man once said “The Force can have a powerful influence on the weakminded.” Lucas will fit in well with the moveon.org crowd and the French intellectuals.
Over at Kausfiles, Mickey Kaus has a great take on the Left’s love affair with the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and how it is a metaphor for their inability to craft a winning message to the heartland.
2. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S. of the sort that consistently hurts Democrats (and others who believe it): B.S. is B.S.. Bloggers are allowed to point it out (he says defensively)–especially if it’s B.S. the mainstream press has no particular interest in pointing out (because it kills the story, or because they’ll seem homophobic).** But this B.S. falls into a special category: the sort of gratifying myth that in the past has helped lull liberals (and gay rights activists who may or may not be liberals) into wild overconfidence. Remember when Democrats actually believed that Fahrenheit would help push Bush out of office? It didn’t work out that way. Moore’s film didn’t change many minds in part because, as York puts it, it “never reached audiences that had the power to defeat the president at the polls.” Despite all the “heartland” hype, it was a blue-state movie. York notes that Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ–a mirror-image “red state” movie that did well where Fahrenheit did badly, badly where Fahrenheit did well–prefigured the 2004 results, in that it attracted an audience roughly roughly three times the size of Fahrenheit’s (or six times Brokeback’s!).
Much of Democratic politics seems to now consist of embracing and fanning similarly comforting, but ultimately deceptive, liberal memes. Enron has fatally damaged Bush, Abu Ghraib has fatally damaged Bush, Katrina has fatally damaged Bush, Abramoff has fatally damaged Bush, the Plame investigation will fatally damage Bush–you can catch the latest allegedly devastating issue every day on Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and frequently in the NYT). If you believe the hype–if you don’t compare Michael Moore’s box office with Mel Gibson’s box office, in effect–you’ll believe that Democrats don’t need to change to win. They just need to push all these hot memes forcefully. If you don’t believe the hype–if you think that netroots Dems are too often like the Iraqi Sunnis who think they’re a majority–you’ll look for a Bill Clinton-like alternative with greater red-state appeal.
Kaus is so spot-on that Republicans ought feel lucky that the Democrat response will probably be to find Kaus guilty of heresy and burn him at the metaphorical stake.
Republicans ought not take too much comfort in this. There is a not-to-subtle message here for us too. The Mel Gibson vote may be much larger than the Michael Moore vote but it isn’t a clear majority. I think Kaus misses a point on how many Red staters and other Conservative-leaning voters, especially young ones, don’t oppose homosexual behavior and are actually supportive of gay rights.
Just because they don’t want to sit through another relationship movie doesn’t mean all, or even most, Red staters are homophobic. That message is worth note by both parties.
Nathan Moore just called to say that Catherine Jennifer Moore arrived just over an hour ago. Catherine and her mother Sarah are both doing well. Catherine is 20″ long and weighs 7 lb and 11 1/2 oz and is in excellent health.
Welcome Catherine Jennifer… you have two wonderful parents and many great friends.
Pictures are coming soon.
The news from the mine disaster in West Virginia is bad. This tragedy hits me particularly hard because I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky. My Grandfather was a miner and ran the company store. My Grandmother raised four children in coal camps. I went to school with the children of miners.
There is something about the lives of men and women who disappear under the earth for hours in dangerous and difficult conditions that commands respect. The nature of the work and the isolated world of the mountains where the coal is found ensure that it is never going to pay workers a wage that is comparable to its risks. Still, they stay because they are bound to their families and to their communities.
Long after we left Kentucky, my Mother was always terribly upset by stories of mine disasters. Her memories of the loss of friends or parents of her students would come back with terrible effect.
I pray for these miners and their families in a deeply personal way because they could be my friends and family. I know and love these people and their world. They are victims of history, geography and the worst that one can find from both big business and big government. Yet they are people of amazing Faith and deep ties to friends and family.
Ann Coulter was forced to end a speech at the University of Connecticut halfway through the scheduled 30 minutes on Wednesday due to heckling by students. This is just one more in a continuing series of instances where college administrators fail to defend the principle of free speech when it applies to unpopular (that means Conservative) speech.
Personally, I don’t blame the students. They are young and easily lead astray by good intentions. I blame the administrations for not zealously defending free speech. The students who attempt to shout down legitimate speakers should be punished for their own good. They need to learn that if you deprive someone of their right to speak (and of others to listen), then you should pay a price for your willingness to do that.
We are seeing too many instances of students being allowed to shut down speakers at a time when colleges are being infected with speech codes that punish ‘hate speech,’ a delightful phrase that is best defined as ‘anything conservative that I don’t like.’
I caught ‘Capote’ last night and enjoyed it enormously. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is striking as Capote. His ability to diminish himself (in real life he is much larger than Capote) when he dominates a room is impressive. After too many ’serious’ films where Pacino and Dustin Hoffman chew scenery like it was taffy, such effective underplaying is refreshing and fun to watch. It reminded me of Robert Duvall disappearing into Tom Hagen or any of his other roles.
Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper are excellent. The chilly scenes of Kansas are a wonderful metaphor for the nature of both the story of the murders and of the story of the author and his book.
See it. In a world of Rocky XVI, the Matrix IC and countless Baldwin movies, it restores one’s faith in film as an art.
I played a lot of chess in high school and I really love the game. This story in the LA Times the other day is a far cry from chess club after school but it is interesting and funny. The lede is soooo good.
BERLIN Martin “Amok” Thomas is jabbing a right, but Frank “so-cool-he-doesn’t-need-a-nickname” Stoldt is as elusive as a ribbon in the wind. He can’t be hit.
The gloves come off, and the men hurry across the canvas to the chessboard. (You heard it right.) Amok took a couple of body shots, and he’s breathing hard, but he’d better focus. That Stoldt, though, everyone in the gym knows he’s this warrior-thinker, slamming the speed clock, cunningly moving his queen amid unraveling bandages and dripping sweat, daring Amok to leave him a sliver of opportunity.
Velcro rips. Amok slides back into his Everlast gloves, bites down on his mouthpiece, dances along the ropes. His king’s in trouble, and his punches couldn’t knock lint off a jacket. Stoldt floats toward him like a cloud of big hurt.
Donald Sensing highlights the news that Bruce Willis is making a film about American soldiers in Iraq from the novel perspective that we are the good guys.
Mr. Sensing rightly anticipates that Hollywood and the major critics will dislike the film. I will go him one further and suggest that Willis will be criticized for aping John Wayne, who produced ‘The Green Berets’ as a response to the negative image of American troops in Viet Nam. Frank Rich, the once-feared theatre critic and now discount Maureen Dowd (but with less testosterone) will see in the film another proof that Iraq IS Viet Nam.
Depending on when the film is released, it will be interesting to see how it plays in places like Macomb County, Michigan, home to Reagan Democrats and one of the most watched bellweather spots in America.
The news just gets worse over at CNN.
Declining ratings… the X-files…
Now, Mickey Kaus over at Kausfiles makes delicious fun of the North Korean government’s spin on CNN’s footage of an execution. That second paragraph doesn’t sound too out of place.
And Drudge reports that CNN has fired a switchboard operator for losing his temper with a caller who was expressing unhappiness about the ‘X’ superimposed over Vice President Cheney’s face.
Let us stipulate that this silliness is unrelated to the issue of media bias on one side or the other. While one prays this will be quickly forgotten, such hope is probably optimistic.
More importantly, the disarray at CNN deserves mention because of the role the network plays here and around the world. While I prefer Fox, I watch CNN and value its capabilities.
What seems to be missing is the sort of visionary, if erratic, leadership that came from Ted Turner. Rather than trying to fit a mold, CNN needs to get back to a less conventional approach. In my opinion, one big reason Fox kills CNN in the ratings is that it is edgier, less warm and fuzzy, more like the old CNN. Come home Ted, even us Conservatives only need so much Bill O’Reilly.
The LA Times offers an article on the making of Rocky VI. This is the story of an aging, ill-remembered star striving desperately to make a comeback by returning to his shining moment. And that’s the movie too.
The article is worth the time just for some of the jokes being made about it. Which is more than we can say about the movie.
The really sad thing about Rocky VI, VII, VIII, IX or X (Rocky XXX = maximum YUCK!!!) is that Stallone won’t let the franchise die an even marginally honorable death. Bogart and Bergman never did ‘Casablanca II’ however tempting the money was and however much we would have loved to see how they wold get back together. And ‘Rocky’ ain’t ‘Casablanca.’ But the original film was good enough to deserve better than being reduced to a joke.
Sly, do us a favor, let Rocky go to his great reward with a shread of dignity. You owe the big palooka that much. If you have to do another sequel, how about ‘Demolition Man II.’
Drudge announces that US Weekly has locked up a Pulitzer for reporting by breaking the tragic news that Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have split.
I cannot imagine how Thanksgiving can be saved. Already teens are doubtlessly pouring into the streets weeping and tearing at their clothes (no wait, that’s just ‘fashion’). This is worse than the breakups of Marilyn Monroe and Artie Miller, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton or even Lucy and Desi.
Rumor has it that John McCain will hold hearings to see if the couple can be ‘encouraged to reconcile’ in the face of federal legislation by the senior senator from Arizona mandating drug testing for rock stars.
Perhaps the Reverend Jackson will descend on the Simpson / Lachey home and work for reconciliation.
60 Minutes is doing a great segment on issues relating to whether or not to rebuild New Orleans. The pictures of the changes in the land between NO and the gulf before and after Katrina were shocking. The projection that the city will be totally surrounded by the Gulf within 90 years ought to give pause to plans for a major rebuilding of the city.
At the same time, NBC is launching its own disaster with a remake of ‘The Poseidon Adventure.’ The original was a pretty bad film, despite the presence of very talented actors like Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters, Ernest Borgnine and Jack Albertson (that’s three or four Academy Award winners).
The remake seems to include terrorists, quaint inside jokes (the captain is named Paul Gallico, who was the author of the novel) and a list of ‘where are they now’ actors including Rutger Hauer, Steve Guttenberg and one of the Baldwins.
Ideas like this make you wish someone would take all the produces who greenlight dreck like this and load then onto an ocean liner and sink it. Sadly, there is an inexhaustable supply of these Robert Evans-wannabes and we would run out of ships long before we got them all.
The New York Times Magazine carries an excellent (and long) article on genius children and whether we do enough to develop their gifts or we do too much.
The article offers a short history of American efforts to identify and nurture genius. Well worth the time to read it, especially if you are planning to have children.
Breitbart reports that French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres has proposed ‘European Cinema Weeks’ to a gathering of European Culture Ministers. The idea would be to create specific weeks when certain locations would only show European films.
Apparently the High Priests of European Culture see the preference of average Europeans for American movies as another threat to the public welfare. In other words, Gaston, the Brussels elite know best for you. This is no surprise given previous jihads by EU commissioners on public threats like haggis and the bagpipes.
Two points seem most notable.
First, the ideology of the nanny state knows no bounds. Given time, those who know best for us will regulate our food, our work, our exercise (for me that would help), our leisure and pretty much everything else. That is why government must be limited to the thing that only government can do. Otherwise, someone will find a ‘need’ that justifies their gaining power over others.
Second, it is the sign of a weak society that it feels the need to restrict its own people’s access to other cultures. Rather than make better (or at least, more popular) movies, the EU approach is to limit access to desirable films and limit the consumer to the preferences of the Elite. The same thing goes for the French elites in their opposition to McDonalds and other elements of American culture.
This would be silly if it weren’t so serious. The idea that a government would want to force its people to watch certain movies, good and bad, just because they are made there speaks to a deeper problem for a society.
And, by the way, do Jerry Lewis movies count as American or French?
This is Londonreports that there is a new reality tv show being filmed in Britain that involves an elaborate hoax where nine people will be tricked into believing that they are going to be space tourists. A set from Clint Eastwood’s ‘Space Cowboys’ will be used.
Since it is unlikely anyone will be voted off the shuttle (”Watch the first step. Its a doozy.), one wonders where the drama will be generated. That is until the cast ‘returns’ to earth and realizes how they were duped.
While this is such an elaborate stunt (if somewhat based on the 1978 film ‘Capricorn 1) that you have to admire the chutzpa of the producers, you have to think that this will get dull quickly.
Some nameless, smooth and very tan NBC executive (they clone them in secret facilities at Industrial Light and Magic) got the chance to do what many Americans would give up a limb to do and gave the axe to Martha Stewart. Well… to Martha Stewart’s Apprentice tv show.
Whether NBC replaces this unhappy show with more dreck or the next ‘Hill Street Blues’ or ‘Barney Miller’ will have to wait until next year. I would not bet the farm on the latter possibility. Still, there is less Martha Stewart in public and that is, as someone says, A Good Thing.
I caught George Clooney’s ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ recently. I give it high marks for film making and acting. Clooney’s grainy black and white photography mixes so well with original footage that I kept marveling at how seamless the film was. David Strathairn, an actor I have admired since ‘The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd’ finally has a role worthy of his talent. Clooney is quite nice as Murrow’s producer, Fred Friendly. Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. give marvelous support.
Sadly, the film wastes all these fine performances and technical brilliance in its efforts to be part of Hollywood’s campaign to rewrite American history by ignoring the environment which hatched the odious Senator for Wisconsin. The real danger of a Joe McCarthy doesn’t exist when times are safe. McCarthyism can only flourish in an environment of fear, such as was created by the activities of people like the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss.
Why can’t there be a serious movie about McCarthyism that admits that there were dangerous efforts to betray the United States by people who sincerely believed that the Soviet Union was a preferable poitical system and that the fear generated by this threat made McCarthy possible? At a time when organized terrorism poses the sort of threat that gives rise to McCarthy-like behavior, we need a true understanding of history, not cardboard villans.
Jack Shafer at Slate offers an excellent example of the shortcomings of this in the movie here.
The dangers of McCarthy-like behavior are too great to treat so simply. The dangers posed by by the people who created the environment that McCarthy exploited need to be understood too. The harm done by their ‘the end justifies the means’ behavior ought be a warning to true believers everywhere.