Friday, June 17, 2005

This proves my point

Neal Stephenson's comments on Star Wars: III support my point that the film would have been better without dialog.

First, Lucas can't write believable dialog. He's been living in Marin County too long. That shot of Darth Vader shouting "Noooooooo!" was an embarrassment for James Earle Jones. I hope he demanded a bonus.

Second, as Stephenson notes, there is so much background that has been developed in other media, cartoons and novels, that if you hadn't prepared extensively, you wouldn't be able to figure out who's who. The complex interplay of various trading federations, clone armies, republicans and rebel groups that has grown up requires too much explication for non-Star Wars geeks to make the film watchable, yet if he hadn't kept the whole picture accurate, he'd have been roasted by those same geeks. The only way out is to have a narrator, because you can't have real people saying things like "Obi-wan, we want you to head the mission to rescue Senator Palpatine, who is being held hostage by the droid general, Grievous, backed by his army of trader federation rebels who are trying to overthrow the Republic. But don't take your illegal padawan, Anakin Skywalker. We couldn't stop him from being made a member of the Jedi council, despite his lack of experience and inability to control his impulses. Besides we suspect that he has violated the Jedi rule of celibacy, with Padmé, who seem to be sharing lavish quarters here in the capital, but we're unable to use the Force to tell for sure. We don't trust Skywalker, but we want you to enlist him to spy on Palpatine after you rescue him, because we don't trust Palpatine either. There is some kind of disturbance in the Force, but we can't detect the dark Sith Lord when he's in our presence. We're confused, unsure and have broomsticks up our butts. Help us, Obi-wan!"

Third, the movie's main asset, it's action is slowed down and confused by the scenes with the Jedi council and between Anakin and Padmé, which only serve to remind us that this is nothing like the reality we Earthers understand. Lucas' understanding of politics is laughably elementary and paranoid. A narrator would make it more plausible. I nominate Dick Durbin.

Iraqi heroes rescue Australian hostage

Belmont Club has the links.

PoETAc justice

Two employees of PETA have been arrested after killing 31 cats and dogs they had "adopted" from animal shelters. Euthanization by PETA is more "ethical" than living in an animal shelter? I hope they don't branch out into the nursing home business.

Ready? Clear your mind

The second item in today's Best of the Web follows the comment I just posted below. In which a reader, Brian Francoeur, is quoted thus:
The anecdotes on the insane, frothing-at-the-mouth liberals venting their spleens made me chuckle. There's nobody more intolerant and narrow-minded than an tolerant and open-minded liberal, is there?

Here's something I've noticed recently: Once I embraced the idea within myself that I wasn't going to even try to be "open-minded and tolerant of all cultures and ideologies" I actually became more open minded and tolerant than I was before!
Taranto thinks this is Zen, but I think it is from the Sermon on the Mount: If any man forces you to go a mile with him (as Romans were entitled to do to Jews), go with him two miles. The anger and resentment disappears, because you have aligned your will with what is rather than opposing what is not. Good advice. Trust the Lord and let go of your anger. It works. President Bush understands this and practices it daily. How else could you be the president without becoming warped by all the hatred.

Peace, Brother.

Confronting the Truth vs. Pretending lies are true.

A Wall Street Journal (subscription only) reporting that Serbians are being shown the true nature of the atrocities done in their names in Bosnia. The current democratic leadership deserves credit for its courage.

Meanwhile, back here at home, Congressman John Conyers held a mock impeachment of President Bush yesterday in which the claim was made prominently that we went to war in Iraq because it was a threat to Israel, along with an allegation "that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an 'insider trading scam' on 9/11--[a charge] that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks.

James Taranto notes:
There's been a spate of stories lately about President Bush's poor poll numbers--the importance of which is a mystery to us, given that the next presidential election is almost 3 1/2 years away, and Bush won't be a candidate in any case. At the same time, the Angry Left seems to be getting less inhibited: witness Howard Dean's various bouts of logorrhea, Charlie Rangel's and Dick Durbin's outrageous Americans-are-Nazis claims, and now this.

We suspect there's a connection here: The liberal media are persuading liberal pols that President Bush is in trouble with the public. The pols therefore conclude that the public is on their side, and this emboldens them to . . . well, in our opinion, to behave like total jackasses.

Supporting the Troops

Daniel Henninger asks "Is America losing the will to fight [the war on terrorism]?"

It may be. The media are like wind and water. Public opinion might withstand the big blows, but it's the steady drip, drip, drip that does the major damage, hidden from view until it's too late, and we wake up thinking that all we need to stop it is to close Guantanamo, pull out of Iraq, and become isolationists. Henninger addresses this conclusion:
If we removed our troops from Iraq, the terror would not stop. But the U.S. news of innocent civilians blown up in Iraq would move to the unread round-up columns. Then, in a way, the phenomenon of terror would indeed shrink--to this:

"December 2004: A powerful explosion ripped through a market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines yesterday, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58."

According to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (established after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing), there have been about 8,300 terrorist bombings in the world the past 10 years. They have killed more than 10,000 human beings and injured--often appallingly, one assumes--some 43,000 people. (There are separate tallies for arson, kidnapping, hijacking, etc. September 11 is listed as an "unconventional attack.")
Fortunately we still have men and women who see clearly what is at stake and what is needed, like Bill Whittle:
This is the poison that will eventually kill us all. I should spend an hour a day prostrate and thanking God I was born an American. How many struggle and die for this privilege?

But there is hope for us. We can change. I can change, and I am as stubborn a cuss as they come. And there is hope here, on these pages. Not my pages -- I’m but a speck of flotsam in an electronic ocean. But these pages, these ghostly pages pulled from the ether down highways of colored light. These pages may be able to save us.

Because now, for the first time in human history, a small person can talk to millions. The defeatism and cynicism of our betters is no longer the only voice we hear. Now, for the first time, we common people, we citizens, can speak directly to each other about life within the Sanctuary, and those unseen people, those builders and maintainers of decency and civilization have at their command a tool with which to make their voices heard. We can patrol and repair these crumbling walls from within and man the gates ourselves.

There are millions of us. Millions. And we do not have to go gently into that good night.
If you needed a reason to start a blog or post a comment on one, you have one now.

I salute the men and women who serve this country, who look terrorism in the eye and don't flinch or make excuses for it. I love them like my own children. I pray for them. Those who, like Dick Durbin, care more about the human rights of terrorists than those of the innocents they blow up on a daily basis don't deserve to be defended by such heroes. He is vermin.

This is another of those times in our history that try mens' souls. Our media and many of our leaders are failing the test. The left has no loyalty left. They loudly denounce anyone who impugns their patriotism, but it only calls more attention to their words and actions, and when one examines these, one must conclude that such criticisms are true.

I hope somewhere someone is compiling an archive of Durbin's anti-American rants and that they come back to haunt him in due course. For a senator to so reflexively accept the worst slurs against our troops is beneath contempt. He needs to resign. If I were a Senate Democrat I'd want him removed from my leadership and censured, but then, I'll never sink to being a Senate Democrat.

Update: Austin Bay is concerned about this fading of support too. He criticizes the Administration for not making its case more forcefully. As I hear it, Bush is scheduled to start doing so, but when the MSM won't cover his speeches or does so with clips that weaken his message, it's an uphill climb. Once again, why isn't Rupert Murdoch putting a half-hour news show edited down from Brit Hume's program on the Fox broadcast network? The time this would take from local stations might hurt at first, but I think that Brit could knock the other three network news shows out of the running pretty quickly, and more than make up revenues lost. The Utah Fox affiliate has its local news on at 9:00 p.m. so it must figure that news isn't a bad investment. If they had Hume's program on just before their primetime lineup, they might be pleasantly surprised.

Oy veh!

MasterCard has suffered a major security breach:
MasterCard International Inc. has begun notifying member banks of a security breach which could expose more than 40 million cards of all brands to fraud, according to a person familiar with the matter. The breach involves about 13.9 million MasterCard-branded cards.

MasterCard traced the breach to Tucson-based CardSystems Solutions Inc., a third-party processor of payment card data, which processes transactions on behalf of financial institutions and merchants. (Italics added)
Are we going to have to create an FDA-type agency to assure us that software and services using the internet are safe and beneficial?

Europe, the Sick Man of Europe

Historian, Paul Johnson:
There is another still more fundamental factor in the EU malaise. Europe has turned its back not only on the U.S. and the future of capitalism, but also on its own historic past. Europe was essentially a creation of the marriage between Greco-Roman culture and Christianity. Brussels has, in effect, repudiated both. There was no mention of Europe's Christian origins in the ill-fated Constitution, and Europe's Strasbourg Parliament has insisted that a practicing Catholic cannot hold office as the EU Justice Commissioner.

Equally, what strikes the observer about the actual workings of Brussels is the stifling, insufferable materialism of their outlook. The last Continental statesman who grasped the historical and cultural context of European unity was Charles de Gaulle. He wanted "the Europe of the Fatherlands (L'Europe des patries)" and at one of his press conferences I recall him referring to "L'Europe de Dante, de Goethe et de Chateaubriand." I interrupted: "Et de Shakespeare, mon General?" He agreed: "Oui! Shakespeare aussi!"

No leading member of the EU elite would use such language today. The EU has no intellectual content. Great writers have no role to play in it, even indirectly, nor have great thinkers or scientists. It is not the Europe of Aquinas, Luther or Calvin--or the Europe of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Half a century ago, Robert Schumann, first of the founding fathers, often referred in his speeches to Kant and St. Thomas More, Dante and the poet Paul Valery. To him--he said explicitly--building Europe was a "great moral issue." He spoke of "the Soul of Europe." Such thoughts and expressions strike no chord in Brussels today.

In short, the EU is not a living body, with a mind and spirit and animating soul. And unless it finds such nonmaterial but essential dimensions, it will soon be a dead body, the symbolic corpse of a dying continent.

Is Marijuana the new alcohol?

USA Today reports that the states who had passed laws permitting medical marijuana are not backing down after the Supreme Court ruled that they were preempted by federal law. George Will reports the arguments for and against continuing to outlaw marijuana. Comparing marijuana to alcohol is to ignore the great cost to society of the latter. I doubt there are good figures on the loss in productivity alone, but common sense suggests that it must be huge. Then you'd have to add the deaths caused by drunk driving, the spouse and child abuse committted while under the influence, the medical costs and the property damage and tax funds required to support those whose "providers" have defaulted. There is no way to monetize the pain and suffering caused by alcohol.

Yet people continue to demand that we need more varieties of recreational drugs. Can't we at least have a cost-benefit analysis of these things before we adopt them nation-wide?

Spirit of our time?

Browsing today's Memeorandum,I was struck by the way the stories seem to all move in a negative direction. Perhaps the main meme of our age is skepticism. News isn't news if it doesn't make somebody look bad, or question what we thought we knew. Is this really what people need from news media? What's so bad about reporting the good we're doing around the world? Is this what journalism has become, just a whiny old grandma who casts a pall over everything in life? If so, the sooner we replace it as a profession, the better off we'll be.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More Mitt Momentum

Power Line, citing a Robert Novak column, points to another reason why 2008 might be Romney's year to run for president: Bush fatigue. That seems plausible as the media, Congress and President Bush all seem to be losing trust.

I only hope protestant ministers don't screw it up for him, by attacking his religion obsessively, as they do outside LDS General Conferences. Some national coverage of that behavior might be worse for evangelicals than for Mormons, which would only benefit the left.

No god in this fight

Given quantum physics and Einstein's theories, the idea of a personal god like the one depicted in the Old Testament, shouldn't seem so strange and irrational as critics of religion would like us to think. If evolution of life on earth is accepted, why should it be so strange to believe that the same process has occurred before, even in another universe. Recently I read or heard a statement by a cosmologist that it might be possible to create a new universe in the laboratory. What would that make the researcher who does it?

I'd have a much harder time praying, if I thought of God in terms like the Nicene Creed, without body, parts or passions, everywhere and nowhere, all powerful, immaterial. That's as good a description of nothing as I can think of.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Every John, Dick and Harry is shooting his mouth off.

You'd think they'd have noticed what happened to the Tom who used to be their leader in the Senate, but the meltdown just seems to accelerate.

Yesterday Senator Dick Durbin lost his mind and claimed that treatment of detainees at Guantanamo sounded like the treatment prisoners received in the Nazi Concentration Camps, Soviet Gulag or Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. You'd think he'd remember who these people are, before he draws analogies to jailed political dissidents or Jews, but the Democrat frenzy of desperation just doesn't seem to be going away.

Today he refused to back off, and the blogs are eating his lunch. Even Mort Kondracke thinks the Dems are losing it.

Between the obstructionism toward judicial appointees and the bizarre rhetoric from Durbin and Howard Dean, why should anybody respect these people? If they want to have a debate about this stuff, fine, but who is inclined to discuss anything with such angry and nasty people? With Democratic leadership and news media like this, the Republicans don't need to fight back.

This is 1972 all over again. Nixon didn't need the Plumbers or dirty tricks against McGovern. All he needed to do was sit by and watch the Dems continue to self-destruct, but by being so paranoid, he handed them the 1976 election on a platter. I hope the Republicans can control their own outrage and impulses this time.

It never was going to be this easy.

Europe's constitution has been rejected in France and the Netherlands.

There's an old story that if you put a crab in a bowl it will crawl out easily, but if you put two in, they'll remain because whenever one makes progress toward getting out the other will pull it back in. I don't know if that's true with crabs but it may be true for European nations.

Creating a single nation out of a bunch of separate ones is difficult. It took the U.S. three wars to do it and they had nowhere near the history of the various European state. This Union is composed of countries who have fought with each other throughout their histories, and their "government" right now just a bureaucracy. I'm not sure that Europeans are ready to trust each other enough to accept a truly common government.

Robert Samuelson's piece linked above is also based on the falling birthrates among these nations, which is certainly possible. It would be ironic if the West having defeated the Muslims at the gates of Vienna in the fifteenth century should end up submitting through assimilation.

The New Libel

Jews have been victims of the Blood Libel for decades. Mormons have been subjected to the libel that they are not Christians. Now it's the turn of conservative Christians to be libeled as wannabe theocrats, which when you think about it, implies that they want to overthrow the Constitution and deny the First Amendment regarding freedom of religion. That's tantamount to an accusation of conspiracy to commit treason. That's apparently how the appellation "christer."

Biochemistry IS Nanotechnology

I watched this speech on television the other night. Dr. Weiner explained how a meter long string of DNA is contained within a bacterium measured in nanometers, while keeping the various gene segments available to the organism in a kind of RAM setup, i.e. each segment is available for access without having to unspool the whole genome and scan through it to find the information the cell needs. Tape is sequentially accessed. Hard disks are randomly accessed, and so is our DNA. The way this is done is unimaginably ingenious, yet we are told it's the result of a vast string of coincidences longer than the genome itself.

Instapundit links to this report about nanomachines for cleaning out arterial plaque. I could use some of that, but I doubt it will be available in my lifetime.

What keeps occurring to me about all this is that human beings think they're so clever in developing tiny machines out of silicon, when there are already molecule-scale machines at work in every living cell. One must ask, "If I found one of these silicon machines, how would I know it was made by an intelligent being rather than the result of evolution?" We see archeologists hold up chunks of flint all the time which they say were produce by flint napping by human ancestors. How do they know that these didn't just evolve or occur by chance? The logic that makes us draw the obvious conclusion when we see flint spearheads and arrowheads is, however, anathema to evolutionary biologists when intelligent design is mentioned. The difference is billions of years of chance. Because such time spans are unimaginably huge, we're told that they can explain anything; that Nature doesn't really tend toward entropy at the local level, but creates life, a creative force that brings higher levels of order out of chaos. I've been told that this is not a violation of thermodynamics because in the universe as a whole, entropy is increasing. Yet how does one square that with the existence of gravity?

Did Lucas get help?

If this is true, Spielberg should have given Lucas a lot more. The film was an embarrassment to the writer, Lucas himself. A real friend would have conducted an intervention and pressed him to hire a screenwriter.

As a commenter on writes:
Lucas, however, may be one of the worst writers in recent memory. Some have claimed the Lucas brought in another writer to help with the romantic subplot between Anakin and Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). This is quite believable: The dialogue seems as if it's been written by a fourteen-year-old girl. It's painful and embarrassing to watch; it's funny; yet, it's supposed to be emotional and painful in another way entirely.
Ouch! Sadly he's spot on.

The movie has grossed $400 million so far, so Lucas is off the hook. We go to these films for the special effects and the spectacle of an alternate reality. I say again, the movie would have been better without dialogue, told by a narrator.

I'm not a fascist.

Boycotts are apparently OK for liberal causes, but if Christians engage in one, it's a new Blacklist. Pardon me?

I thought that Hollywood was engaged in business, which means that you're supposed to pay attention to what your customers want. Unfortunately, a lot of the current crop of Hollywood types see themselves much like journalists--somehow appointed to decide what kind of entertainment the rest of us should have. Of course, that means sex, profanity, violence, liberal politics and more sex. When a significant group of the audience tells the sponsors of television shows they don't like the shows they're underwriting, and the sponsors withdraw support--Yikes! It's McCarthy all over again! The Constitution is threatened! Christians, or, in the newest dismissive name, "Christers" are the new Fascists! (Or is that Fascisters?)

Of course, since broadcast television depends upon people inviting you into their homes, maybe you don't want to behave in such a way that they show you the door. The response of the networks has been the old tried and true formula: more sex and sleaze.

A lot of people I know are either eliminating TV from their homes or severely limiting it. With kids at home, I think they may be right. I like television. I watch the History Channel and the Science Channel with Brit Hume every day. I also like sports. But I notice that there's a kind of inertia involved once you turn the set on. As a friend of mine used to say, "I like sports programming and crime shows . . . but when I'm tired, I'll watch anything." Boredom and tiredness leads us to "see what's on" rather than doing something that requires thought. Hey, it made Johnny Carson a showbiz legend!

But people are starting to catch on. They like TV but not this trend. They see it as a form of indoctrination of their children contrary to what they're trying to teach them. If they choose to take it out on sponsors, it's their right to do so, just as it was the right of Hollywood types in the 70s to boycott table grapes to show solidarity with Cesar Chavez' union. Calling them Fascists will not bring them back.

James Lileks also notes the use of the F word:
“Religious fascism.”

One of the mantras you hear invoked from time to time is “words mean something.” But they obviously don’t. When intelligent men can make such a specious observation you realize that “fascism” has ceased to mean anything at all, and exists now as an all-purpose slur, a tar-soaked brush to slap on anything you don’t like. Whether the Soup Nazi actually believes in exterminating the Jews and bending the nation towards race-based collectivism and militarism is irrelevant; what matters is that he doesn’t want to give you some of that yummy chowder.
Read the whole thing. As James says, words should mean something. In the case of Kaplan and "Fascist," it means the speaker is dishonest.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why We Fight

A wrap-up on the war from a Yezidi grandfather near Dohuk, Iraq: "My children's children are was worth it."

What's preventing the media from reporting stories like this? Skepticism and holding power accountable are all well and good, but why does does news coverage always seem to focus on making America look bad?

Tsunami or Not Tsunami? That is the question.

Bad pun. I apologize.

We spent last Christmas as guests of our son's in-laws in a cottage just at the mouth of Coos Bay, Oregon, not far up the coast from the site of a Richter 7.4 earthquake about 80 miles off the coast at Eureka, California. So I paid attention when I heard there was a tsunami alert along the whole west coast tonight, especially since our hosts live near there, but probably too high up to be affected by a wave of 30 feet. Apparently the quake wasn't the type that produces tsunamis, and the warning was cancelled shortly after it was issued.

Part of the charm of that cottage was the fact that it looked almost directly on the ocean, but the weather was mild at the time. That coast must be pretty fearsome during a storm. The Oregon Coast shows the effects of pounding from huge winds and waves, which is what makes it so gorgeous. While we were there the news about the South Asian tsunami came. Nothing like being only yards from the shore to bring stories like that home.

I've always thought it would be nice to live beside the sea, but after seeing programs about the potential for mega-landslides from Hawaii and the Canary Islands, I think I might prefer to live close enough to visit on weekends.

Can a video of a live Giant Squid be far behind?

A new type of deep ocean observer, coupled with an electronic faux jellyfish, has captured video of a large squid of unidentified type at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. An expert cephalopod scientist has said that the squid in the video "has body and tentacle characteristics different from any known squids."

This is new technology, a camera which just sits on the bottom and takes infrared and red light photos triggered by passing creatures and send them to the surface. It's bait is also something new, imitating bioluminescence bursts given off by jellyfish when they are being attacked. Cool.

Is The Big Bang Still happening?

If the expansion of space-time is accelerating, would the discovery of new galaxies in areas of empty space suggest that the explosion that began the universe in a singularity is still happening? It would be neat to be a cosmologist right now.

Great Balls of . . . Eeeww!

This gets the soundbite of the day award: Giant Balls of 'Snot' Explain Ocean Mystery.

Justice Thomas Griffith

I'm conflicted about the confirmation of Thomas Griffith to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He's a fellow Mormon and Utahn, but I don't understand how he got away with practicing law without being admitted to the Utah Bar and without paying his dues to the D.C. bar. I suppose he never had to practice before a Utah Court and could if he did, could associate with local counsel, but that doesn't change the fact that he was practicing law in Utah when he advised BYU.

I don't like it when prominent people think they're above the law because they're too important, and that's what this looks like. However, he's been nominated before and didn't make it out of the Judiciary Committee in 2004, and I think he's taken the point. Bar Associations are pretty generous at forgiving violations where no actual harm was done. There was no proof that he wasn't qualified by training and experience, so I would expect the bars involved to not make too big a deal of his missteps. Yet, I still have a nagging doubt about his devotion to enforcing the laws.

The Social Security Trap

One of the main problems with Social Security is that it was created on 1930s demographics. As life expectancy extends the plan's sustainability will decrease. The Democrats are not likely to ever adknowledge this or do anything about it except to support higher payroll taxes, at least until the Baby Boom have died out to the point that there is no political advantage in catering to them. The Boomers are the ones who should confront the coming crash and do something about it. Perhaps the best thing would be to base retirement age on health and working ability of each individual. It was never meant to give retirees a free ride when they have the ability to support themselves, but it has become one, and it rewards those who live longer than the norm while those who don't make it to 67 get shortchanged.

Great Moments in Lawyering

Michael Jackson's attorney has announced that Jacko will end his slumber parties with young kids and their families, "because it makes him vulnerable to false charges," not to mention true ones.
Mesereau said he believes that Jackson will continue to be "a convenient target for people who want to extract money or build careers at his expense."
Good advice. The question remains, however, whether Jackson will follow it.

I watched about a half an hour of the network special interview with Michael Jackson and I was convinced that this guy's life is a tragedy, and a sickening one at that. What kind of healthy person has his face whittled to the point where he looks like it was burned off and was reconstructed by heroic surgeons. Hannibal Lecter couldn't have maimed him any more than he has done to himself. Doesn't the name of his estate, Neverland, tell you anything about his development? The fact that he invites young boys into his home for slumber parties, whether he molests them or not, suggests that he strongly identifies with Petter Pan, the boy would refused to grow up and led a gang called the Lost Boys. [Follow that link to see what I'm talking about.]

Give him time. He'll backslide.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Life is too short . . .

to waste it reading columns from blockheads like Frank Rich.