Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Gray Davis never had a chance

Arnold Schwarzenegger proved tonight at the RNC why he was elected the governor of California, giving a fantastic speech that almost had even me convinced I should vote for George W. Bush in November. (Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating about that last part.) It was a rousing tribute to the American dream from a guy who has lived it. (I was even able to forgive the gratitous references to his film career, which my wife suggested could be the basis for a fun drinking game.)

The one strange part was when he said that he became a Republican because he was impressed by Richard Nixon during the 1968 presidential election. He must have been sincere, because few people would invoke Nixon positively for political gain, even among other Republicans. All the scandals aside, many Republicans view Nixon as an apostate because he presided over a massive expansion of the welfare state and enacted wage and price controls. Plus, his policy of detente with the Soviets was largely discredited, if not explicitly so, by Reagan.

I chose to skip the First Lady's speech, but our friends at Fox News indicated that it was pretty unexceptional. And I believe everything I hear on Fox News.

Monday, August 30, 2004


Do you think your tax dollars should pay for a golf course? Perhaps if you are among the almost 12 percent of Americans who golf, you do. The rest of us would perfer government worry about measly little things like police and fire protection, snow removal, etc. Don't ask me to subsidize your hobbies, I won't ask you to subsidize mine.

The war that can't be won

John McCain gave a lackluster if sincere speech tonight at the Republican National Convention, calling for President Bush to be re-elected. He got his biggest applause by bashing Michael Moore, which I found odd--I'm a bit surprised that McCain felt the need to acknowledge the liberal filmmaker's attacks on the president. It was a tacit acknowledgement that Moore's film "Fahrenheit 911" has been effective, which I personally doubt. Plus, considering Moore was in attendance--I believe he's providing a liberal perspective on the convention for USA Today--it probably made his week.

McCain's speech included a tired and cliched defense of the Iraq war and a paean to American ideals. He pointedly avoided criticizing the Democrats and said he believed they are sincere in their desire to vanquish terrorism.

I wonder if McCain was aware that Bush believes we may not be able to win the war on terror.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Goodbye my sweetheart, hello Vietnam

I've taken a dim view of the vets who have impugned John Kerry's service in Vietnam, but I've also believe that Kerry's war record has no bearing on his abilities to be president, and I continue to be nauseated by the way he has prostituted his military service to establish bona fides as a potential commander-in-chief. The Democrats weren't too concerned with who served and who didn't when Bill Clinton ran sans military experience in 1992.

I finally got around to reading Christopher Hitchens' take on the issue in Slate. Hitchens is a hawk in Iraq, backing the decision to topple Saddam Hussein, but he remains steadfast in his belief that Vietnam was an immoral war waged by a dishonest government. Here's a glimpse:

So what if he (Kerry) has been telling the absolute truth all along? In what sense, in other words, does his participation in a shameful war qualify him to be president of the United States? This was a combat of more than 30 years ago, fought with a largely drafted army using indiscriminate tactics and weaponry against a deep-rooted and long-running domestic insurgency. (Agent Orange, for example, was employed to destroy the vegetation in the Mekong Delta and make life easier for the Swift boats.) The experience of having fought in such a war is absolutely useless to any American today and has no bearing on any thinkable fight in which the United States could now become engaged. Thus, only the "character" issues involved are of any weight, and these are extremely difficult and subjective matters. If Kerry doesn't like people disputing his own version of his own gallantry, then it was highly incautious of him to have made it the centerpiece of his appeal.

I would take issue with Hitchen's assertion that service in Vietnam is of no value; I'm sure the experience of combat in Vietnam shaped the character of many of the men who fought in it much the same way that World War II shaped the character of the men who fought that war. The difference is that the World War II vets had the good fortune of fighting in a war that we won, and that was just. But as Hitchens notes, many Vietnam veterans were draftees; they did not choose to take us into that war, and they can't be blamed for its outcome. (And don't think that American soldiers didn't commit atrocities in World War II.) That said, despite what Kerry has implied, the lessons of Vietnam don't have to have been witnessed firsthand to be taken to heart.

Here's how Hitchens finishes up:

Meanwhile, even odder things are happening to Kerry's "left." Michael Moore, whose film Kerry's people have drawn upon in making cracks about the president and the My Pet Goat moment, repeatedly says that you can't comment on the Iraq war—or at least not in favor of it—if you haven't shown a willingness to send a son to die there. Comes the question—what if you haven't got a son of military age? Comes the next question—should it only be veterans or potential veterans who have a voice in these matters? If so, then what's so bad about American Legion types calling Kerry a traitor to his country? The Democrats have made a rod for their own backs in uncritically applauding their candidate's ramrod-and-salute posture. They have also implicitly subverted one of the most important principles of the republic, which is civilian control over military decisions. And more than that, they have done something eye-rubbingly unprincipled, doing what Reagan and Kissinger could not do: rehabilitating the notion of the Vietnam horror as "a noble cause."

Is that a bomb in your suitcase, or are you just happy to see us

In his column today, George Will discusses the ever-present threat that terrorists will attack the U.S. with a dirty bomb or even worse, a suitcase nuclear bomb, attacks which would make 9/11 seem no worse than a traffic jam. Will questions President Bush's contiued commitment to a Cold War-era missile defense system, but he also doubts that John Kerry will be willing to confront the growing threat posed by North Korea and Iran. Will notes that one of Kerry's advisors on the matter has written that military action against those two nations may be necessary. It's a great time to be an American, huh?

Turning our attention to matters less likely to render vast swathes of American cities uninhabitable, Brad Bumsted says Pennsylvania needs to revive its defunct Crime Commission, now that slot machines have been legalized--and in light of the fact that the governor has appointed a man to head the state's gambling commission who has been accused of having mob ties. Maybe what we need is a new governor.

Finally, if your newspaper regularly leaves you cursing in your morning coffee, you might want to check out Cope's indictment of the state of American journalism and newspapers in particular. I just wish Dave would stop sugarcoating things and finally speak his mind.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Calling all writers

My good friend and fellow blogger Dave Copeland is launching a great new email and Web service for freelance writers like himself. It's going to be a one-stop shop for freelance jobs, tricks of the trade and other information. Anyone interested in freelance work should check it out.

Friday, August 27, 2004

One, two, three, what are we fighting for?

The flap over John Kerry's military record prompts former war correspondent Neil Sheehan to examine how America's Vietnam wounds continue to fester. Sheehan, who clearly is a John Kerry supporter, offers an eloquent defense not only of Kerry but of an entire generation of soldiers who continue to be placed in a category apart from other veterans:

There is a way to honestly confront the reality of Vietnam and yet still honor the men who fought there. One must learn to distinguish between the war and the warrior. It always galls me when I hear the generation of World War II referred to as the "greatest generation.'' They were a great generation, but so were the men who served in Vietnam. The soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen who fought there did so with just as much courage as anyone who fought in World War II. The generation of Vietnam had the ill luck to draw a bad war, an unnecessary and unwinnable war, a tragic, terrible mistake. But valor has a worth of its own, and theirs deserves to be honored and remembered.

If only this could be the last word on the subject.

Idaville's finest

When I was a kid, I loved to read Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. For those unfamiliar with the genre, the short stories centered on Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown, a highly intelligent 10-year-old who solved mysteries in his parents' garage with the help of his tomboyish friend, Sally. Once Encyclopedia had solved the crime, the stories prompted the readers to try to guess at the solution themselves, then turn to a page at the end of book where the mystery was revealed.

Well, I had forgotten all about Encylopedia Brown until recently, when I discovered these hilariously subversive spoofs. They are spot-on. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The lesser of two evils is still evil

Here's a review of a book, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim," that details how the Reagan Administration helped to unite the world's Islamic jihadi movements against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Islamists were financed and armed by the CIA, and we know all too well, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the jihadists turned on the United States and our allies in the Muslim world. The reviewer notes that supporting the Islamic reistance wasn't just good Cold War politics; the Soviets ravaged Afghanistan, destroying most of the nation's buildings, driving millions from their homes and lacing the countryside with land mines. Nonetheless, this episode should provide us with a cautionary tale about the perils of realpolitik, and serve as another reminder of the ways in which our erstwhile "friends" can quickly become enemies.

Everything right is wrong

Here's an interesting and funny blog.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tear-jerker alert

This will leave a lump in your throat.

Casualties of war

Former U.S. Sen Bob Dole, who was permanently disabled by wounds sustained during World War II, has disparaged John Kerry's war record. It was a low moment, in my opinion, from a man who I thought had more class. What if Democrats had tried to do the same to him in 1996?

Setting fire to the truth

This New York Times op-ed debunks claims by New York City firefighters and police that they are underpaid. New York’s finest and bravest have said they may demonstrate outside the GOP convention to draw national attention to their supposed plight. It’s good to know the Republicans won’t be the only ones spreading false propaganda that week.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Stepford First Lady

Michael Kinsley, in an op-ed that ran in today's Trib but appeared last week in the Washington Post, pokes holes in the logic that Laura Bush uses to defend her husband's position on stem cell research. Kinsley, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, also takes a nice broadside at conservative opposition to stem cell research:

Bush is supposed to think that these clumps of a few dozen cells are every bit as human as the people who will suffer or die from diseases that stem cells could cure. He had better believe that, because stem-cell research uses embryos being discarded by fertility clinics and doesn't actually add to the embryonic death toll at all. Only a deep conviction about the humanity of these microscopic dots -- which have fewer human characteristics than a potato -- could justify sacrificing real human lives to make the purely symbolic point that these dots are human too.

I'm not convinced that stem cell research is going to be as an effective a wedge issue as Democrats hope it will be, because I'm not sure much of the public really understands the science behind it or the potential it holds. But it is a stark reminder that we have an administration captive to fundamentalist ideologues who seem to have the same regard for science as did the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages.

Unsportsmanlike conduct

Eric Heyl reminds his readers in today's Trib that the Rooneys promised they would not use public funds to build an amphitheater next to Heinz Field. We now know what their promises are worth.

Also in today's Trib (and a lot of other papers as well) is George Will, noting the absurdity of the campaign finance laws.

Feeding at the trough

The Rooney family has done plenty for Pittsburgh over the years, but as of late they seem to be doing a lot of suckling at the public teat. The Trib reported yesterday that Gov. Rendell's latest spending spree, including $4 million for the Steelers' proposed amphitheater next to Heinz Field, has rankled some state legislators, who correctly believe that public money shouldn't be funneled to help private businesses. It was bad enough that tax dollars helped build Heinz Field and PNC Park; it's even worse that it's being used to underwrite commercial development between the two stadiums.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Shop 'till you drop that brick in your hand

New York City has figured out how to keep protesters in line during the GOP convention: Give them a button that will allow them to get discounts at restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. I can't say anything to top the New York Times' droll assessment of the idea:

If only the Romanovs had thought of this.

It seems to me that people who already are inclined to protest peacefully don't need any incentives to do so, and those inclined toward violence--like the anarchists who trashed Seattle some years ago during a WTO meeting--aren't going to be dissuaded by the opportunity to get a break on an order of riblets at Applebee's. In fact, I think this program will make them even angrier.

Speaking of politics, John Kerry criticized a MoveOn.org ad that slammed George W. Bush for avoiding combat duty in Vietnam by serving in the Texas Air National Guard, but he refused to criticize retired military leaders who are doing the same thing in public appearances. John McCain said the ad in question is inappropriate and a disservice to members of the National Guard fighting in Iraq. Actually, with all due respect to the senator, that comment is a disservice to today's National Guard men and women, who are asked to do far more than their Vietnam-era counterparts.

In case anyone cares what I think, neither man's war record--or lack thereof--is relevant today. Here's what I wrote about the subject in May in Pulp. (second item)

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Dahlia Lithwick dispels the myth that liberal judges improperly "make" law while conservative judges merely "interpret" the Constitution.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

At least it's not raining

Check out this bleak assessment of the war in Iraq:

John Kerry says that, if elected president, he'd persuade our allies—the ones Bush blew off—to come help (or bail) us out. Kerry would certainly be an abler diplomat than Bush; he would repair tattered alliances, and the benefits would likely be substantial in many aspects of international politics. But it's unclear how even Kerry would lure reluctant leaders to send significant numbers of combat troops into what they see as the quagmire of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to be muddling through with neither a military strategy for beating the insurgents nor a political strategy for securing Iraq's stability.

Bush seems to have gone into this war without any notion that he was popping the lid off a Jack-in-a-box—that toppling Saddam and destroying the Baath Party (however laudable) would also uncork decades of pent-up ethnic and tribal tensions. If his advisers were better briefed, they took no steps to quell the likely postwar conflicts. They didn't send more troops to keep order (either in defiance or in ignorance of historic precedent). More to the point here, they didn't seek out the various ethnic leaders or offer them incentives to join a new political order. They didn't, for that matter, formulate a new political order. (Perhaps they thought Ahmad Chalabi had that department under control.)

Taking its toll

One summer when I was in college, I interned in the district office of state Rep. Jess Stairs (R-Acme). I quickly learned that jobs as toll collectors on the Pennsylvania Turnpike were in great demand--people regularly came into the office to ask if Stairs could use his influence to get them a job with the Turnpike Commission.

Well, now I understand why. According to the Trib, toll collectors are paid $18.50 an hour. If the Trib's math is correct, that's $38,000 a year. (Sixty grand with overtime, the Trib says.) And union officials are angry that the commission--like most private employers--is expecting the collectors to pay a greater share of their health insurance. My heart bleeds.

Tolls on the turnpike recently increased 42 percent. Keep that in mind the next time you hand over your quarters to a toll collector. If he or she has a smile on their face, you'll know why.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

North Shore news

Do you remember how the mayor and Pirates and Steelers officials promised that the new stadiums would spur development on the North Shore and lure businesses there? Well, they were right--another company may open an office there. Unfortunately, the company in question merely would move from Downtown to the North Shore. Similarly, Equitable and Del Monte are moving their offices to the North Shore from Downtown. So in other words, no new jobs are being created; they are just being shifted around. Well done, Mayor Murphy.

And in other North Shore news, Pittsburgh parking magnate Merrill Stabile calls the Pirates and Steelers on their hippocrisy in opposing his bid to open a casino on the North Shore. I'm not thrilled the city is going to be cursed with one of these things, as you well know, but I just don't buy the sports teams' arguments against locating one on the North Shore. I think it's really about their desire to control all development that takes place between their two taxpayer-financed stadiums.

Here's what Stabile told the PG:

"Basically, this crowd generated by this facility will be far more sedate than any of the tailgating crowds generated by the sports teams," he said.

"[Casino patrons] will drive in, park their cars, go inside and you won't see them again. They won't be out in the parking lots drinking cans of Iron City Light and roasting kielbasa, not that there's anything wrong with that. My point is that this won't in any way diminish [the environment]."

Attn: Joe King

The New Republic tells us that the nation has too many firefighters. Unfortunately, John Kerry is pandering to firefighters unions by promising federal funds to hire 100,000 more firefighters nationwide. Writer Gregg Easterbrook supports his thesis with these facts:

In 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 48 percent fewer building fires in the United States than in 1977, though there were substantially more buildings. From 1977 to 2002, civilian deaths in fires declined 46 percent and deaths of firefighters declined 38 percent. The trends of fewer fires, fewer civilian deaths, and fewer firefighter deaths hold for almost every year of the past quarter-century except 2001, the year of September 11. Stricter building codes, the proliferation of smoke detectors, and the fact that most new commercial structures and many new homes have built-in sprinkler systems has led to a big drop in the incidence and severity of building fires.

I think this speaks for itself.

Where there's a Will...

Conservative columnist George Will turns in a great piece today about the administration's bungling of the war on terror. Here are some highlights:

On portions of the interstate highway system, electric message signs over the highway -- signs that usually communicate information about road repair work ahead or the exits for sports venues -- now say: "Report Suspicious Activity 1-800-492-TIPS." But for many Americans, the suspicious activity they think they detect is by the federal government.

In formulating and publicizing its policies regarding homeland security, the Bush administration must take seriously a fact it deplores:

Regarding the war on terror, a minority, but a sizable minority, believes that the government's words and deeds merit deep skepticism. The hard core of this minority is the Michael Moore-Howard Dean cohort of fanatics, but the minority is much larger than that and it will become even larger unless the administration worries about its sensibilities. For example, if a terrorism alert is based on intelligence some of which is years old, the government should say so immediately.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In the interest of fairness...

Mickey Kaus points out in his Slate blog that it's still not entirely clear who leaked the name of an Al Qaeda mole.

War on terror goes to the dogs

Apparently, the Bush administration doesn't think children are sufficiently scared of terrorism, so its launching a campaign to get kids to pester their parents about whether they have enough duct tape and bottled water. The campaign even includes a Homeland Security mascot: an American shephard. By the way, I heard a report on NPR that said there is no breed of dog known as the American shephard. There is a North American shephard, which is not recognized by the American Kennel Club. I suppose they could have selected a German shephard, but that might have drawn some unwelcome comparisons.

Never forget

In case you are wondering why the government still hunts Nazis 60 years after World War II ended, read this man's story. Kudos to the Trib for putting things into perspective.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

War crimes

A retired Sharon steelworker is accused of having been a Nazi SS concentration camp died, and his neighbors are understandably upset to learn that someone they regarded as a good neighbor may have been complicit in the systematic extermination of millions of innocent people. The man, Anton Geiser, 79, faces deportation; here's what one neighbor had to say:

"I can't believe they're doing this to these great people. ... Sixty years later you're going to persecute this poor guy?"

Sorry, there's no statute of limitations on murder, and certainly none on genocide. Last night on television news I heard someone offer the classic defense on Geiser's behalf: He was only following orders. First, we don't know whether these accusations are true, and like every U.S. citizen--he still is a citizen--he is innocent until proven guilty. But if he did serve in the death camps, then he has no defense. The war crimes trials following World War II established that soldiers are not relieved of their responsibility for committing illegal or immoral acts merely because they were following the orders of a superior. It's the same defense offered by some of the U.S. soldiers accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. You don't exchange your conscience for your uniform.

Having said that, what happened at Abu Ghraib is a reminder of why we should wage war reluctantly, and only when necessary. War is dehumanizing, and it can lead even good men and women to do bad things. We've all heard stories from grandparents, uncles and other relatives who fought in World War II of Japanese prisoners burned alive, of German prisoners whose tongues were cut off when they stuck them out at their captors. That war we had to fight; the one in Iraq, we did not. Here's hoping that in the future, our leaders, whoever they may be, can recognize the difference.

The Hamster and the Mole

Here's a funny take on Kerry's hamster heroics. And the fallout continues over the U.S. outing an Al Qaeda mole.

Monday, August 09, 2004


British and Pakistani officials are steaming because the U.S. apparently outed an Al Qaeda member who had been arrested and was being used as part of an email sting operation to nab other terrorists. The implication is the American officials were anxious to justify to the public the increase in the terror alert level, which had come under attack in the wake of revelations that some of the intelligence it was based on was 3 years old. The problem is not that old information was used--it's now clear that Al Qaeda sometimes spends years planning attacks--but that the government was, as always, not as forthcoming as it could have been in explaining the need for the heightened state of alert. So once again, the administration's credibility came under fire, and it apparently reacted by letting loose too much information, proving there is still an adequate supply of irony in Washington.

Is this an example of the administration using threats of terrorism for political gain? I fear it is something worse--sheer incompetence.

Also on the homeland security front, Slate tells us that Dick Cheney, as secretary of defense in 1992, squelched a plan for the reorganization of the nation's intelligence apparatus that was remarkably similar to the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. I don't have an opinion as to whether the recommendations are good or bad, but as the author suggests, this little bit of history helps us understand why President Bush has only been lukewarm in his support of the commission's recommendations.

For some lunacy closer to home, the city of Pittsburgh is going to give away almost an acre of land in the Hill District to the city Housing Authority, which will then allow a private developer to build and manage town homes for low-income seniors. The authority will own the land; the developer will own the buildings, but will pay no property taxes. Where do I sign up?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The five-finger discount

Apparently Wal-Mart's low prices aren't low enough for some people. Here' s an article about some of the hidden costs of doing business with the world's largest retailer.

Swimming pools and presidents

Bill Steigerwald tells us about a unique--for Pittsburgh--private-public partnership that has saved a Mt. Washinton swimming pool. It's an example of what the city will need to do if it wants to return to the land of fiscal solvency. Business as usual isn't going to cut it anymore, no matter what Joe King says.

It's not online, but I recommend picking up the September issue of Esquire for conservative writer Tucker Carlson's ambivalent essay about President Bush. Carlson basically says he will vote for Bush or no one, but no one still has a shot at getting his vote. Carlson criticizes Bush for failing to return to Washington immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, for failing to make the government more responsive to terror threats and, of course, for going to war in Iraq. Here's a great few lines: "As he has managed and mismanaged the war in Iraq, Bush has proved stubborn, uncommunicative, and slow to adapt to changing realities. His enemies cite these qualities as evidence of Bush's arrogance. But Bush isn't inflexible because he's arrogant. He's inflexible because he's weak."

Carlson said that because Bush was uncertain about how to fight the war on terror, he fell prey to advisors who were convinced that we could remake the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein. Carlson also concludes that Bush is a poor public speaker not because he is dumb but because he is insecure. That makes sense when you consider that most people who followed Bush's tenure as Texas governor were shocked to see how poorly he accorded himself as a speaker when he ran for president. Perhaps he was not ready to be president...

Friday, August 06, 2004

Principles and pragmatism

A lot of Democrats are trying to stop Ralph Nader from getting on the ballot in some states, including Pennsylvania, and a lot of Republicans are trying to help him get on so he will siphon votes from Kerry. I sympathize with my fellow Democrats but I believe there is a greater principle at stake here. While I hope Kerry wins, I believe that the monopoly the two parties share over the political process, from presidential debates to ballot access to fundraising, poses a danger to our democracy, and thus I believe in the right of any third-party candidate to gain access to the ballot. I believe that there are enough differences between the parties--and Bush and Kerry--that it does matter who wins. But let's face it--on many key issues Republicans and Democrats are fighting at the margins. One of the reasons we have no serious third parties is our winner-take-all electoral system; but the two parties have added plenty of barriers to perpetuate their stranglehold on political power. (Including the requirements for ballot access.) And that should give us all pause.

Fester, whose opinions I respect if not always share, is looking into a challenge of Nader's signatures. Here is my response:

I'm sorry; I want Bush defeated and Kerry elected like you, but I think Ralph Nader, so long as he does follow the rules, deserves a spot on the ballot, as do any other third party candidates. I understand that Republicans are trying to help Nader to get on the ballot in some states, in the hopes that he will be a spoiler, and I understand that carries potential for much chicanery. If you care about the integrity of the process, then I respect your efforts; I just hate to see Nader's signatures challenged because as Democrats we fear the impact he will have on the election.

The Straight Talk Express

John McCain knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of the George W. Bush attack machine. You'll recall that during the 2000 Republican primaries, Team Bush implied that he was unstable, that his wife was a pill-popper and that he had fathered a black child out of wedlock. (A charge that carried particular weight where it was leveled--South Carolina.) So it's understandable that he's a little touchy to see the same thing being done to John Kerry. Wonkette is kind enough to translate his reaction for us.

Now, one the one hand, I didn't like the way Kerry used his combat experience as a club against George W. Bush over the fact that Bush evaded combat during Vietnam by joining the Texas Air National Guard. But neither is it right for Bush--or his supporters, as appears to be the case with this little brouhaha--to slander what appears to be an honorable service record on Kerry's part.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The village idiot

Look who's blogging now.

In other news, the wife and I saw "The Village" this week, and I liked it, though not as much as M. Night Shymalan's previous effort, "Signs." (Note: Spoilers to follow.) Some critics are beginning to dismiss Shymalan as a one-trick pony because all his movies have some kind of surprise twist or ending. I think that's a bit simplistic; each of his films has its own unique, intricate plotline and characters. One characteristic common to all his films, besides the twist, which is more mult-layered in "The Village," is that all his films involve people who are nursing wounded psyches or struggling with their place in life, from Bruce Willis' loss of faith in himself in "The Sixth Sense" to Mel Gibson's loss of faith in God in "Signs." Similarly, the elders in "The Village" have all retreated from the modern world because of their inability to deal with the pain of having lost loved ones to violence. In that sense, Shymalan's films follow in the tradition of great horror films and literature (though none of his films qualify as horror) in revealing that nothing in the outside world is as dark and terrifying as what we find inside each other.

Life, liberty and property

The Trib celebrates that the Michigan Supreme Court has overturned a 20-year ruling that allowed government to use eminent domain to forcibly buy property from one private owner and sell it to another in the name of economic development. It is constitutionally acceptable for governments to require owners to sell their private property for a public purpose, such as a road or a school, but using eminent domain to favor one private economic interest over another--an all too common practice in communities nationwide over the past several decades--is an abuse of power. The court in this case said that if government has the power to force you to sell your property because it deems another owner can better serve the public good, then the right to own private property is under constant threat. Amen.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Sense of security

The story about the latest security warnings continues to unfold. And here's an interesting and quirky blog.

In the echo chamber department, this story in the PG tells us that Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore each attracts a like-minded audience, meaning that neither is likely changing any opinions. My only hope is that each man's partisans is willing from time to time to seek out contradictory opinions.

And does anyone think this is going to help John Kerry?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

You can't please everyone

Check out Kunstler's take on Kerry's speech. And there's a new eyesore.

Also, in Slate, Timothy Noah discusses what has become the Democrats' wedge issue for this year's presidential election: stem cell research. As Noah writes, the topic is becoming code for what many perceive to be this administration's antipathy toward scientific research in favor of religious dogma.

And finally, in the Keystone Kops department, the Washington Post tells us that the intelligence used to raise the threat level at financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and D.C. is three years old. Next I hear the government is going to tell people they may want to be careful if they plan to visit the Twin Towers. By the way, I heard New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg perpetuate the fiction that the terrorists are attacking us because they hate our freedom. Please. We need an honest accounting of the terrorists' motives. That's not to suggest we can negotiate with them, or try to appease them. But there's nothing wrong with evaluating our Middle East policies. If I'm going to risk my life everytime I step into a skyscraper or get on an airplane, I want it to damn well be worth it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

My better half

OK, so maybe I'm biased, but check out my wife's excellent article about the impact that city and school district budget cuts are having on Beltzhoover.

In other matters, here's an interesting take on Kerry's convention speech. William Saletan argues that not only has Bush united the left--something the left can't seem to do on its own--but that he may be losing the center. We can only hope.