Sunday, May 30, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

One of the all-time greats, as seen in this clip from Blue Velvet, unfortunately not as high a quality as I would have liked, but it will do for now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

She Shoulda Said No-Pt. 3

Previously, Markie sold marijuana to a teenage customer, which caused the deaths of the boy and two of his friends in an automobile accident which left a fourth victim crippled for life. He quickly moved on to Anne, a dancing girl who is working to put her little brother through college. Markie assures her that she can make enough money with him to put her brother through college twice. Her brother arrived later for a visit, expressing concerns for the expense she has incurred on his behalf.

In this episode, Rita reassures Bob, who has suspicions as to his sister's well-being; Markie's ambition results in murder; while Anne finds herself totally immersed in the party life.

This segment is notable for the debut of a young Jack Elam in his first film role, as Raymond, a bodyguard and hit man under the employee of Markie's supplier.

The Hemmorhage

Former child star Gary Coleman is dead at the age of 42 from a brain hemorrhage, but he has left us with a legacy of comedy gold. I'm not only talking about his eight-year stint as Arnold on Diff'rent Strokes, but his run for Governor of California in 2003. When Grey Davis faced recall in that year, Coleman's backers gathered 6500 signatures for a petition and raised 3600 dollars to file the necessary paperwork, in what amounted to a protest of the recall. Gary was joined by a plethora of other celebrities as well as relative unknowns. Above Coleman is pictured with one of his "opponents", porn star Mary Cary.

However, Coleman's run was not only hilarious, but ironic. When he heard Arnold Schwarzenegger was running, he stated that, while he would not withdraw from the race, he would not campaign.

Sure it was a moot point, and nobody would have taken him seriously regardless, but its really too bad, as he would have been closer to Ronald Reagan than anyone else running. He expressed a desire to cut spending and taxes. Its easy to speculate on the absurd notion of what might have happened had he been elected. He would have been chewed up and spat out on the floor of the California Legislature, undoubtedly. There will probably never be another Ronald Reagan in California as it is, but such a position would require a person who demands respect, not laughter, derision, and pity.

Yet, in the face of California's current debt crisis, can there be any doubt that Coleman would have stood head and shoulders above most of the other serious candidates of the day, such as Arianna Huffington? Instead, California has been stuck with a RINO who married into the Kennedy family and seems to forget that he was elected by the people, and has an admittedly thankless job to do, one not best performed by compromise with the same party that has brought California to the brink of ruin.

As a result of Arnold's failures to reign in the excesses of the California Legislature and the unions, among others, California is now saddled with a twenty billion dollar budget deficit. Think about that. A twenty billion dollar, not budget, but budget D-E-F-I-C-I-T!!!! That's three billion dollars more than Kentucky's entire recently passed state budget. And that's a two-year budget, by the way. And that's not all. California's actual total debt, when factoring in things like union pension funds and California's stake in the overall national economy, is a whopping TWO TRILLION DOLLARS!

Yet, the California Legislature's only response is to propose more borrowing, more taxes, and more spending. In other words, just more of the same shit that got them into this mess to begin with, s mess which makes Europe's problems with Greece seem to pale in comparison. There's a reason it seems that way-Greece's debt does pale in comparison. To put it in perspective, suppose that instead of Greece being bankrupt, it were Britain, or Germany. Ponder what that would mean to the EU, and you can see why the US has cause for grave concern.

California is hemorrhaging on life support, and sooner or later somebody somewhere is going to have to pull the plug. Californians might want to think their state is too big to fail, but it may fail regardless. California has already lost many vital businesses to other less intrusive states, with less taxes and regulations, taking with it significant numbers of jobs and their previous contributions to that tax base that just got to be too much for them to be profitable. If something doesn't happen to reverse the current crisis, the once great state of California is doomed. And you know what they always say-as California goes, so goes the nation.

Somewhere Gary Coleman is having the last laugh. But I suspect he's been laughing for a good while now. After all, if they had listened to him at the time, and stuck with it, California would not be in the mess its in now.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ship Of Fools

The Israelis are preparing for a potential confrontation with a group of pro-Palestinian activists operating under the guise of transporting aid to Gaza by way of a "Freedom Flotilla" of cargo ships, led by the symbolically named "Rachel Corrie". The activists claim they are merely trying to deliver school, construction, and medical equipment through the Israeli blockade. The Israelis have assured other nations through diplomatic channels that there is no shortage of aid to Gaza, and that the ships will be urged to dock at the port of Ashdod for inspection, The Israelis are leaving nothing to chance, and will board the ships to search for weapons, explosives, and terrorists. Any Israeli on board the ships will be arrested. Others will be eventually deported, though also jailed if they offer any resistance or attempt other provocations.

One of the ships, the Spirit, was being held in a Cyprus port and not allowed to leave, once Cypriot officials learned its destination and purpose. The Rachel Corrie, a twelve ton cargo ship which was originally a Lithuanian ship purchased by the activists at auction, embarked from Ireland as the symbolic lead ship.

It was named after Rachel Corey, the American activist from Olympia Washington, who was accidentally killed when he she crushed by a bulldozer while acting as a human shield. You can read her true story here, stripped of the propaganda and pretensions to martyrdom. She was a martyr to foolishness and manipulation, and activist groups-actually Palestinian front groups in many cases-continue to use her memory as inspiration and recruiting tool. I do not imagine for one minute they would be adverse to creating another foolishly naive young martyr for their cause, or a whole group of them. Like say, several boat loads of them.

For my money, the IDF is more than welcome to sink the whole damn flotilla. Let it rip. Let them meet these so-called peace activists with a flotilla of warships led by the INS Caterpillar. If they are stupid enough to resist, then they deserve everything they might have coming their way.

Venus Fly-Trap

When questioned about her attire at the French Open, Venus Williams responded that to her, bare is beautiful. Er, okay, if you say so, Venus. I have a sneaking suspicion Miss Williams is not telling the whole story, though. I think that Venus, like many successful athletes, would like to parlay their success into a potential movie career. So how best to go about this?

I think that, like me, Venus has heard this rumor to the effect that someone in Hollywood might be planning a remake of the old classic horror movie The Creature From The Black Lagoon. If I'm right, this might well be Venus's way of premiering her up-coming audition for the title role.

Not as "The Creature", but as "The Black Lagoon".

North Korea Lurching Towards Confrontation With The South

Whatever one might choose to think about the Council On Foreign Relations it is worth your time to read this article from their website and ponder the consequences of the recent attack on a South Korean naval vessel by North Korea that resulted in the deaths of 46 South Korean Navy personnel. Although this happened two months ago, around March 26th, the news is just starting to get out following an international investigation that concluded the North did indeed fire a torpedo that destroyed the South Korean vessel, though it did not score a direct hit. Instead, it exploded under the ship, releasing gas and air pockets that broke the shit up when it hit. Remnants of the torpedo were, according to the report, of North Korean manufacture.

That leaves us to ponder as to why this happened, and the Council has concluded that it likely has something to do with the coming succession. The implication is that this is a way for Kim Jung Il's youngest son and chosen successor to make his bones, in a manner of speaking. It's a time honored tradition in North Korean government circles, it would seem, one by which Kim was himself initiated in the ranks of North Korean elite government society when he was chosen to replace his own father, Kim Il Sung. In his case it resulted in an explosion on a jet which resulted in the deaths of all on board the craft, as well as the murder by North Korean terrorists of a South Korean delegation to Burma.

There are other analysis that goes beyond the succession angle. Mother Jones links to an article that lays the blame on the South and its election of a conservative government that has sought to distance itself from the liberalization of relations attempted by previous South Korean governments over the previous two decades. They also wonder if this is more of a threat by a desperate North, or a way for Kim to assert his toughness in the face of recently past humiliations.

Interestingly, one of the comments at the Mother Jones article gives a unique perspective, from a Korean point of view, regarding the coming succession, that may be more revealing than any of the expert analysis thus far, from "Bub" in South Korea.

I live in Seoul. Some points:

I don't necessarily think Kim Jung Il pulled the trigger. Now that its been pulled he has to deal with it.

In regard to succession: Korea is the first monarchical communist state. There's a reason for that. In general, Koreans don't trust people out side their family. In general, family members have to follow a code of conduct, established by confucianism-Korean Style, that outsiders don't have to respect. In regard to North Korea, that means Kim Jung-Il has to worry about sharks circling as his health declines. Therefore he has to select a family member to succeed him. In Korea, no family member would ever hurt him, but people outside his kin can do anything they want. So succession planning is a big deal. Note that Kim chose the child with the least developed conscience to succeed him. He can kill anyone he wants, just not his father.

Summer time can be the worst time for peasantry in Korea. The rice harvest is in the fall, and by now rice stocks are low. The sinking may have been a pre-emptive attempt to get some more attention, so that N. Korea has talks underway by July or August when the population is most desperate, and therefore in less fear of the regime's power, all to negotiate for more aid.

As always, Korean bargaining likes to start out at the extremes, to remind people where things can go and that they aren't afraid to go there.

Just some thoughts.

There are other thoughts elsewhere, by a group of dissident North Korean computer experts, who claim that Kim Jung Il has ordered his military to prepare for war in response to the South's reaction by suspending trade with the North. All the same, Kim denies North Korea's involvement in the attack.

Thus far, little of this has been broached in the mainstream press, but you have to wonder how Obama and the Democratic Congress would react to open hostilities between North and South Korea. It wouldn't take much to draw us right back into the middle of a second Korean War, since we still have troops stationed at the border of the two countries. There may be little they can do to avoid being caught up in it, other than withdrawing our troops-or using the threat of doing so as an inducement to the South to try to reach an accord all the while talking tough with the North in public, but with little chance of making any kind of breakthrough in reality.

China will be little to no help. They do have mining interests in North Korea as well as security concerns, but also they conduct a large, flourishing trade with South Korea-something like one hundred times more than the trade they conduct with the North. Moreover, they fear and loathe the prospect of North Korean refugees. They have every reason in the world to privately harangue the North, but if they are doing so, it doesn't seem to be working. In effect, the North knows they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. China will never cut them loose, and that would seem to be the presumptive wisdom in the halls of Pyongyang. As such, the US is stymied as ever in the region, and the North Korean's have no fear of Obama at any rate.

This is a case study in why most of the time, sanctions don't work and are more to the point counter-productive. While the common person suffers due to them, the people in power continue to live in luxury. Obama will not be an influence here, he will probably be what any of us are-just another spectator. This blog post will have as much influence on Kim Jung Il as our so-called President will at getting the North to relent from its current course. Otherwise, Obama and Congress should simply agree to ease sanctions and hope for the best.

And really, at this point, we might as well go along with that. We might as well take our troops out of there while we're at it. What good is it to have soldiers stationed anywhere if they are never going to be used for anything but set pieces. Simply arm the South and let them do as they will. They have been threatened now with everything from war, to nuclear attack, on down to massive flooding by destruction of North Korean dams. Such a move unfortunately might well result in China not only swarming into North Korea, but eventually the South as well. And don't forget, Japan is also a potential target of North Korea's lunacy.

Its only a matter of time before there is either a major war resulting in massive casualties and destruction, or a resumption in trade with the potential eventually for normalization of relations. But that would be a hard slog, and no one has the will to go there. It would correctly be seen as a reward for bad behavior.

I'm afraid the only other option then is to just take out the whole regime. Blow their infrastructure to kingdom come and just keep pounding them directly at their power centers until the people rise up and join in with the South, or until the Chinese beg us to stop and agree to take on the responsibility of running the country. One things for sure, the last thing China wants is for what should be the ultimate goal-unification of Korea under a democratic republican government with a capitalist economy. That is the kind of scenario that keeps Chinese leaders up at night, and it is why the status quo remains as is, and probably will for some time to come.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Good Wifey

Of all the television shows I watch (and believe it or not, there aren't really that many) my feelings towards The Good Wife is perhaps the strangest. It is well-written, acted, and produced, and directed. But frankly, I wouldn't like any of these people if I knew anybody remotely like them in real life-which I hope I never do. But then again, that just proves the actors bring their A-Game. I don't think we're really supposed to like any of these people. And that is even including the title character, Alicia Florick, a stand-by-your-man kind of politicians wife whose heart isn't really in it.

Will Garnder, one of her bosses at the law firm of Lockhart-Garner, wants to wife her too, and he is in the process of making his case, on up until this season's finale, right up to where Alicia tells him that, before she gets anything started in earnest, she wants to see the plan. Will is sure Alicia will make him a good wifey, and so sends her a text message, just as she is about to join husband Peter Florick on stage in time for him to announce his candidacy for election to his old seat as States Attorney. She freezes in mid-wifey, and we fade out.

Peter is kind of a creep. He had been in jail for using public funds to pay off prostitutes, and his successor, Childs, is out to get him. He failed to make a broader corruption case, so Peter is back in the game, and determined to be not just any old States Attorney, but a great one.

I sense a would-be assassins bullet in his future, somewhere down the line, and maybe even when the series resumes this fall. That would pretty much force Alicia's wifey priorities to reset. Plus, she has her kids to consider. She does love them, at least. I'm glad she does, as I don't like them any more than I do any of the other characters.

I don't know, maybe its the setting-Chicago. Every time I think of it, I think, ahhh, a bunch of Chicago politicos and corrupt attorneys. What's not to hate? How can anything that thrives there to any appreciable degree not be polluted? Unfortunately, this view was reinforced by the current case in play. A corrupt cop was caught and wants to turn states evidence against other corrupt cops in his special unit-a Glenn Child's special undercover drug operation. Right away, Alicia is strongly reproved by an investigating FBI agent that this could raise questions of conflict of interest, but she stays put. Which is unfortunate, because the guy is whacked by a meth dealer, and the main suspects are his allegedly corrupt cop pals. Only it turns out, in what might well be a first on this show, they were clean all along. The guilty party is his wife, who warned the meth dealer of an up-coming bust, and who now wants-and gets-a wrongful death settlement of half a mill, even after the attorneys discover her involvement.

Good ol' Will is philosophical about the matter. All that matters is how good a job they do for their client.

Now I understand the whole attorney-client privilege thing, but really? These high-powered lawyers never heard of the concept of firing their clients, recusing themselves from a case, and referring said client to another attorney? After so long, at what point do you cross the line over from attorney-client confidentiality to the point of unindicted co-conspirator? True, its a moot point, as she received the settlement after they learned the truth. And really, the rough economy has pretty much put the firm in a real bind, especially after former partner Stern left and took half his clients with him. But we are led to believe there was no other action they could have taken regardless, ethically speaking. Undoubtedly, this is going to come back to bite them-and Peter and Alicia-next season, especially since lead investigator Kalinda (a bisexual seemingly torn between one of the allegedly corrupt but amazingly innocent cops and the female FBI agent) let the cat out of the bag to the cop, after he pretty much told her to go to hell when he found out she suspected him of corruption.

This of course just promises to be one of the many areas of tension amongst the characters, but the show dropped the ball in so many ways in the finale, this was almost easy to overlook. I kept watching eagerly, and almost expected a big black pillar of smoke to engulf the press conference at the end of this series finale and fling Peter Florick across the room. Unfortunately, the States Attorney In Black never made an appearance in The Good Wife finale-all we were left with was Cary, who after being dismissed from the firm in the last episode was easily lured over to the dark side by Titus Welliver's character.

Yet, for all of Cary's edgy and menacing sarcasm during the deposition, he never caught on to the bereaved widow's true plan, which would not have been that hard if he or someone else in Child's office had simply considered tracing all the calls the meth dealer had received on the night he killed the corrupt cop, and was then himself killed by that cops partners. Turns out she called the meth dealer from the home of an aged invalid, on the night she was listed as his in-house duty nurse. While the deposition was going on, Gardner and Madame Lockhart were pondering as to whether they made the right decision in hiring Alicia over Cary for the Associate's position. Yep, I would say they did.

As for Peter Florick and Glenn Childs, these are really two oily, slimy characters. They don't just want to beat each other, they want to ruin each others lives and careers. They are absolutely determined to destroy each other, and if necessary, their families along with them. Yet, in one episode, they are seen shaking hands with each other.

Floricks mother, who helped Alicia with the kids while Peter was stewing in prison, is one of these kinds of waspish women who really seem out of place in today's society. She's really a kind of anachronism, a good old fashioned-well, throwback. She looks with disdain on Peter's PR guy, Eli Gold, whom she addresses dismissively as "Mr. Goldman", and is incensed that her son is using a black church in order to gain political points. Not just because of the hypocrisy, but because she is an Episcopalian and her son is allowing this black pastor to discourage Peter from returning to politics by warning him about the seductive nature of power. She confronts the preacher, and tells him, in so many words, that his God has nothing on her, and so he would be well advised to back off.

See now why I don't even like the kids on this show? There's just no way anything from this household can turn out good.

Don't let that throw you, though. The show is good, even if the characters are just-well, two faced lawyers and politicians. True, some of them are not totally evil. Well, all right, none of them are. Some of them are even approaching close to half-way good. You just don't care if they ever cross the line over into the light, because the dark is so much more compelling. Hey, its fucking Chicago, right? Even when these lawyers take a case based on making a positive contribution, you don't see altruism, you see PR.

And like I said, maybe that's just the way its supposed to be.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

24 Series Finale-Out With A Whimper

To be clear, some of last night's series finale was top-notch television. Daliah Hassan's initial confrontation with President Allison Taylor, when she found out Taylor had concealed the involvement of the Russians in her husband's murder, was intense, with Taylor threatening to attack the Iranian Republic of Kamistan with the full force of the US military if Dalia refused to sign the peace treaty.

Other great moments involved Chloe and Jack. In one such case, this ended with Chloe talking Jack out of assassinating Russian President Subarov. Jack and Chloe's interactions here was notably moving, and you had to love the moment when Logan, having lured Subarov to his impending doom, was left with egg on his face, not quite sure how to explain how he had gotten the wrong impression there was a spy among his people. Up until then, Jack had trained his gun sights on Logan threatening to kill him right there if he didn't play along.

Another great scene involving Logan was towards the end, when, having killed his lackey Pillar once it was obvious their plan had fallen apart, he then attempted suicide-and ended up in all probability with severe brain damage.

These scenes and a few others however were the exceptions, not the rule, to a two-hour overall lackluster series finale. This season was almost like a great novel, but in all the wrong ways. In a novel, you have the climax and then the anti-climax. Unfortunately, the season began building up to the climax at about episode 16, and culminated in the true climax at episodes 21, when Jack avenged himself on the Russian assassin that killed his beloved Renee, and in 22, when he killed the Russian ambassador that ordered her murder, along with almost his entire security detachment. He found out about the ambassador's involvement by his kidnapping and intimidation of Logan, and by bugginh Logan he learned of Subarov's involvement. He then made his plans to kill the Russian President.

But by this point, something seemed to let out the steam. The series finale was more anti-climactic, to the point that in many ways it was a let down. Although that scene with Chloe was intense, and moving, it was also the point when Jack started to get control of himself. Maybe Chloe was right, he decided. Maybe he should listen to her and go about things the right way. It was a rational decision on his part, but other than the comical scene where Jack was insisting that Chloe shoot him to make it look good ("Shoot me! Damn it Chloe, we're running out of time!"), it was still a let-down.

It was also unrealistic on so many levels it was almost frightening in itself once you realized where it was going. Unfortunately the fright was in the realization that a once great show was not going to go out the way it should.

For one thing, the building from where Jack intended to assassinate Subarov was completely abandoned, was never vetted by CTU or any other security force, and so it was unguarded. Despite the fact that it was in firing range of the UN, Jack somehow managed to find just the right room from which to have a bird's eye view of Logan's office-and Logan himself, in perfect range of Jack's line of fire. It was absurd, frankly.

And then there was the moment when Allison Taylor stepped forward to sign the peace treaty, following Subarov and Dalia Hassan. The show tried to create an atmosphere of tension, but you knew-not almost knew, you knew period-that she was not going to sign. On top of that, she fingered the Russians as responsible for President Hassan's murder, right there in front of the assembled UN delegation, in full view of the press and on live television. For a President of the US, or any high-ranking officials, this would amount to the actions of a deranged person, or at the very least a criminally irresponsible one. I realize it was meant to be dramatic, but it was a dramatization of the completely absurd, which is no virtue.

There was almost no violence in the finale, precious few deaths, and what little there was seemed like it was strained, just inserted for the sake of action. It almost all centered around Pillar. Jack spared his life after taking him hostage, but knocked him unconscious after Pillar begged for his life by invoking his family and his little girl. When Jack was taken into custody, after Chloe shot him, he mumbled something from his stretcher. When Pillar bent down to hear what he was saying, Jack bit his ear off, something that was meant ostensibly to create enough confusion for Chloe to leave with the evidence he had just handed over to her-but really it was just put in there gratuitously out of the perceived need for something violent to happen. It was a mirror of something Jack did to a captor in Season Three which proved popular with the fans, so evidently the writers decided to recycle it. Unfortunately, this time it didn't work. Pillar retrieved the evidence anyway, before Chloe could release it to the press, and to all the US government agencies, in an effort to make sure it was not suppressed.

But then Taylor is given the evidence by Logan, who in handing it over to her stupidly sealed his doom. When Taylor heard the part Jack recorded about why he had taken the steps he had, in a recorded message to his daughter-but which sounded like Jack actually intended for Taylor to hear it-you could see it working on her conscience. Suspense went out the window from that moment on.

Jack was kidnapped by a private security force working under Logan's direction, but when Taylor finally caught wind of her senses, she ordered the operation halted, right before the assassin was about to put the final bullet in Jack's skull. She and Jack then had a heart to heart, with her declaring her intentions to tender her resignation and turn herself over to the AG. She then advised Jack to leave the country. Both the Russians and the US government would be after him. After extracting a promise from Chloe to make sure her daughter and granddaughter were protected, Jack made ready to depart the scene, after thanking Chloe for the many times through the years she had watched his back.

Chloe then ordered the feed cut from the surveillance camera at the scene, and the series ended with a close-up shot of Jack's face looking up into the camera, then fading out.

There's going to be a movie, and I realize that a lot of this was intended as a set-up for that, but its unfortunate that the series ended on such a relatively subdued note for the sake of a feature film.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost-Split Ends

I'm sure there will be a lot of head scratching, spinning, and bitching. The folks at Lost pulled one over on us last night. They have said multiple times that the characters of Lost are not dead folks who are stuck on a kind of island purgatory. I wonder if those questions gave them the idea to have it turn out that the Sideways World was just that-not so much a purgatory, but a place for the "Lost" souls to get together and say goodbye one last time before they finally let go and were then able to, in the words of the ghost of Christian Shepherd, "move on".

I pretty much figured this out when the hospitalized Sun and husband Jin were visited by cop Sawyer, and Jin told him cryptically "we'll see you there". It was such an out-of-place remark, what else could it mean? I hoped I was wrong, but by then the cat was, for me, out of the bag. The phrase was in fact uttered numerous times by various characters, and it left me with a sinking feeling every time I heard it.

On the island, Jack actually joined with Flocke in the latter's project of sabotaging the island, by sending Desmond down into the source of the light. Desmond moved a big rock which allowed the light to sink down into a hole, and from that point on, the island began to shake and fall apart, with big sections just sliding off into the sea.

This set up the final battle between Jack and Flocke, who was now vulnerable. The change in the island had in fact transformed him into a flesh and blood creature, but he was more than holding his own against a weakened Jack, and was in fact about to slice his neck, after having already delivered a stab that would prove fatal-until Kate shot him, whereupon Jack sent Flocke tumbling to his death.

Kate then joined Sawyer to catch the Ajira flight off the island along with Miles, Richard, Claire, and Lapidus, who survived the sinking of the sub and who must have the lungs of a sperm whale. Ben and Hugo decided to stay put along with Jack, who, as I suspected he might, passed on the power as protector of the island. I had not suspected he would pass it on to Hurley, but I was not that surprised either. Jack then went down into the cavern and after much difficulty-he was mortally wounded, remember-he replaced the rock Desmond had removed.

When Hugo and Ben lifted the rope, they brought up Desmond, who was exhausted and seemed close to death himself. Jack later is seen making his way out of the cave, and looking up at the sight of the Ajira plane. Or was it flight 815 passing safely overhead? That I wasn't too clear on.

It was stated at some point though, by Christian Shepherd, that Jack had created the island world with all his Jacob derived goodness. I might have heard that wrong, because what I didn't get out of the whole thing was exactly why.

I'm not a big fan of those kinds of endings. The idea of a ghost world where people don't know they're ghosts, in a world that is so complex and fleshed out you even have instances where people commit crimes, are arrested, are murdered, and hospitalized, they go to their daily jobs, visit friends and families, go to parties and concerts, carry on romantic relationships, get married, and even give birth, doesn't add up.

It turns out though that Jack Shepherd's son in the Sideways world, did not really exist. He was an illusion, meant to help Jack's departed spirit come to grips with-I don't know, loss, responsibility, belonging-who knows?

To be sure, it was well-written, and touching in parts, right there at the end and in other parts as well. Eloise was not willing to let go, so she did not appear at the church, nor did Widmore, and I do not think Daniel did either. It seemed that Desmond promised Eloise, who was seemingly aware from the beginning, that he would not take Daniel. I guess he would let him find his way on his own.

Others whom I do not recall appearing at the church was Miles. So was he dead, or was his presence an illusion, like Jack's son, only in his case meant to help Sawyer come to grips with his demise? And how did Sawyer's demise happen, as well as Kate's and Claire's, all of whom escaped the island with Miles, but who are by this time clearly dead. Lapidus also did not appear at the church, nor did Richard Alpert, who at one point on the island started finally showing signs of aging-a gray hair.

So since these people did not appear at the church-admittedly I might have missed them, or some of them-were they still alive?

Perhaps the most touching sequence at the church involved Ben, who didn't feel as though he should go inside. He asked John Locke to forgive him, which Locke did. Hugo then tried and failed to get Ben to come inside, and told Ben he was a great number two, whereupon Ben told him he had been a great number one. So we are left to wonder, just how many years have really passed? Hugo had asked Ben to be his helper on the island when he replaced Jack as guardian. How did they die? Did they die on the island? Did Hugo have someone to replace him as the island guardian? How did Kate, Sawyer, and Claire die?

I want to believe the Sideways World was real, and that when the Lost characters died, they somehow became attached to their sideways world counterparts, and it took Desmond Hume to reawaken them and allow their spirits to move on, but at the same time, once that was accomplished, the Sideways people went on with their lives the same as ever. I know that's probably not an accurate rendering of what the writers intended. In fact they seem to have gone out of their ways with some statements, such as Christian telling Jack that some of the people there died before he did, but some of them died longer after he did.

Whatever explanation or meaning you want to attach to it, one thing is sure-there's going to be a lot of bitching on the forums today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost-It Only Ends Once, And Tonight's The Night

Television fans can be amusing and in some cases aggravating. There has been no shortage of weepy complainers over recent revelations in Lost. In some cases, this has been due to some long-standing mysteries being answered with a nod and a shrug, as opposed to a ten-minute soliloquy. The writers are not at fault here, for that you can blame ABC for limiting the final season to eighteen episodes as opposed to the standard twenty-two episode season. The traditional back nine is now the back five and one half. The writers are doing the best they can with what Disney has given them to work with.

Thus we learned, with what amounted to throwaway lines, that-

*The whispers heard on the island were the spirits of the dead who were damned by their crimes and stuck forever on the island-revealed to Hugo by one of those damned spirits, Michael Dawson.

*The reasons for the numbers assigned to the castaways and the "candidates" (to replace Jacob as guardian of the island) were because "Jacob has a thing for numbers"-as revealed by the Smoke Monster-as-John Flocke to Sawyer.

(so why do those numbers keep cropping up all over the place)

*Kate's names was crossed off the cave wall because she became adoptive mother to Claire's son Aaron, according to Jacob, who went on to tell Kate that "it's only chalk lines on a wall" and that she could have the job if she wanted it.

(So why wasn't the name Kwon crossed out, since Sun and Jin also became parents? To their own child, at that.)

There have been other inconsistencies. If MIB and his adoptive mother died two thousand years ago, why were their skeletons described by Jack Shepherd as fifty years old, based on the way they were dressed?

If Jacob was born two thousand years ago, to a Latin speaking Roman mother named Claudia, why was he named Jacob-a Christian and/or Jewish name? If he was born more like fifteen hundred years ago or so, this would be more consistent.

But there's no way to explain how the Black Rock could set sail in 1843, be ransacked by pirates and disappear in 1845, yet somehow turn up to bring a bound Richard Alpert to the island in 1867.

This is not just writing by committee, this is a rush job, and again, its the fault of ABC and Disney, not the writers.

Still, there are some things that are just what they are, and the fans should chill out. The most vociferous objections has been as to the identities of Jacob and the Man In Black. It turns out they are not the same schizophrenic entity, as I had speculated. Nor are they gods, as many felt they must be. Nor are they the Biblical Jacob and Esau, as a good many others were convinced. They were simply fraternal twins who were in one case blessed, the other cursed, with an awesome power and responsibility.

We have yet to determine what the island is, or what its power and purpose is. Is it really a spiritual place, a metaphorical cork to keep evil contained and prevented from ravaging the world? Or is it just a place of awesome electro-magnetic power, one that can do amazing things when tapped into, even to the point of absorbing a person's essence as in the case of MIB? Yet at the same time, a natural and scientifically explainable though currently misunderstood and unknown phenomenon.

I am hoping is is the later, and that Jacob has been misled by his deluded mother, which owing to the times this all began would be perfectly understandable.

Jack is the new guardian of the island. He is presumably Jacob's replacement, if we take the events of the last episode at face value. So much for my theory of Sun and Jin taking on the mantle of Jacob and MIB and then making peace between the warring and opposite energies of the island. Then again, I keep coming back to what MIB told Jacob during the season finale of season five.

"it always ends the same".

And Jacobs reply-

"It only ends once. Everything before that is just progress."

Is it possible that Kate could take on the mantle of the Smoke Monster and reach that accord with and through Jack, thus bringing the seemingly eternal struggle to an end at last?

Or is it possible it could end up as a twist, with Jin and Sun, or their ghosts, taking on the mantle after all? Or is it even possible that their Sideways time counterparts could end up taking it on? After all, Jacob didn't put any limits on Jack's acceptance of the responsibility. When Jack asked him how long he would have to do this, Jacob replied, "as long as you can". That might not be long.

He's also decided that Jack and the others can kill MIB, though he's not sure how they're going to do that, of even if they can. But he is certain MIB is going to try to kill them, and now that the choice has been made, the other castaways no longer are protected by Jacob's rules pertaining to MIB killing the candidates. Now he can and will try to do so.

Ben is obviously working to gain MIB's trust in order to betray him. Miles has the walkie talkies taken from Widmore, whom Ben killed in the last episode in order to keep Widmore from spilling the beans about how important Desmond Hume is.

And in another inconsistency, Flocke promised Ben he would give him control over the island in return for his help, and then later told him he intended to destroy the island using Desmond in some unclear manner. Of course, first he has to find out where he is.

That leaves the Sideways World. It's not an alternate universe at all, you see, its the world as it would be if Jacob has never become involved with the lives of the losties, and it exists precisely because of the explosion of the nuclear bomb at the end of the last season, which resulted in the destruction of the island before the time of the initial crash of the airline that brought the Losties to the island. This was accomplished through the magic of time travel, and created a kind of wrinkle in time.

There, in that seemingly alternate universe, Desmond is trying to get all the sideways world losties to remember their island lives. In the case of Hugo, he has successfully given him total recall, of everything that happened on the island universe. It will be interesting to see how Desmond goes about bringing them all together, but what will be even more interesting to find out, is why. Is his actions really all that benign, or is there a more sinister motivation?

Regardless of what questions are or are not answered, it should be something to see. I just hope people aren't too disappointed. After all, you can't please everybody.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

She Should Have Said No (1949) Pt. 2 of 8

In Part One, we met "Markie", a marijuana dealer who seems to have cornered the market in 1940'2 Los Angeles. Everybody who was a pot-head in those days knew who Markie was, and knew he could always supply their needs, would do so directly and personally-and yet the clueless cops of those days seemed to be at their wits end as to how to bust up this apparently one man city-wide enterprise. For that matter, they didn't even seem to know who he was.

Tragedy resulted in our last episode, when a young teenager out for laughs with his friends reluctantly agreed to pay five dollars for Markie's marijuana, which he left for him in the change slot of a pay phone. Driving on the LA Streets in wild abandon, an accident resulted which killed him, and two of his friends. The lone survivor was a girl who ended up losing both legs.

Now, in this episode, Markie has his sights set on Annie, a beautiful, naive showgirl who only wants to put her little brother through college. The evil dope pusher moves in pretty quickly, and hilarity ensues.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Holiday For Harvey

This Saturday is May 22nd, which means that if you live in California, it's-Harvey Milk Day! Harvey Milk was the first openly gay American politician, a San Francisco Supervisor and self-proclaimed "Mayor of Castro Street". Had he not been assassinated some thirty one years ago, he would have been eighty years old on May 22nd of this year.

In recognition of his contributions, California has named this Saturday as the first state holiday in his honor. Naturally, the former New York native will be especially honored in his adopted home of San Francisco, where, on Castro Street itself, Ben And Jerry's Cow Mobile will introduce a special dairy concoction in his honor-The Harvey Milkshake.

Now I don't know what this entails, but I would like to try my hand at creating my own special recipe in honor of Mr. Milk, so those of us who do not live in California can also honor his memory. I call it-The Harvey Milkshake Chill-laxer. Here's the recipe:

*One glass of buttermilk (leave out in sun in enclosed glass jar for three days prior to preparing the recipe)
*The pulp of three overripe bananas
*One cup of week old used Crisco or other week old used shortening or leftover cooking oil
*One whole clove of garlic
*Two cups of Limburger cheese
*The yolk of four eggs, preferably one month out of date
*Optional-Milk of Magnesia to taste

The day before intended consumption, mix all ingredients thoroughly in a blender on high speed, then freeze overnight. Take out of freezer one hour before consumption but leave in refrigerator to allow for some thawing. Remove into a large pitcher and pass out to guests.

Gulp down quickly. Very, very quickly. Follow as quickly as possible with an ice-cold can of Coca-Cola.

Happy Harvey Day, everyone. And to certain of you spoilsports that are threatening to keep your kids home from school if their schools plan on honoring Harvey Milk, and to those school board members who are saying your school districts will not recognize the holiday-don't be a hater. Share one of my Harvey Milkshakes with the kids, and chill the fuck out.

When Even Huffington Post Readers Are Outraged-

You know its time for our clueless representatives in Congress to take heed. That is especially true of those, mainly Democrats, who gave a standing ovation to Mexican President Calderon when he stood on the floor of Congress and criticized the Arizona illegal immigration enforcement law-which is almost identical to federal law in almost every particular. I read through several of the comments, though not all. Out of all the ones I did read, more than twenty, I never read one comment that supported Calderon's position, or defended the shameful behavior of Congress. Kudos to the HuffPo, by the way, for pointing out that the majority of those giving the standing ovation were in fact Democrats.

Obama of course earlier joined with Calderon in condemning the law of a sovereign state aiming to protect its own border, something that would be unnecessary if the US would simply enforce one of the few federal laws on the books which it has not only the right to enforce, but is in fact obligated to enforce. When the federal government spends its time trying to impose laws for which it has no constitutional mandate, need, or right to impose, and in the meantime ignores its constitutional duties to do those things it is supposed to be required to do, is it any wonder our Congress maintains such abysmally low approval ratings and on such a consistent basis?

Of course, Congress and this worthless President could care less that Arizona is becoming more of a war zone, especially along the border regions. Calderon even had the temerity to suggest that our gun laws were responsible for the violence in his country. Well, if that's true, here's a simple solution. Close the border, motherfucker. You know seal it tight as a drum, the way you hypocrites seal your southern border with Central America to keep out illegal immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

George W. Bush was wrong about the Axis of Evil. The real Axis of evil, from a purely American perspective, is the government of Mexico, the Catholic Church, the Democratic Party, and while we're at it let's throw in a good helping of business leaders and ranchers who just can't get enough of this shit.

I wonder if John McCain might have been one of the few Republicans to stand and cheer Calderon, assuming he was there and not back in Arizona trying to save his worthless ass. God I hope its on tape if he was there, and if he did.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Perfect Image For Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

I knew I would like Samizdata the minute I saw it.After all, how could you not love a cabal of British and European libertarians? Should one of them take part in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, you should expect the thin line between genius and insanity to blur-and they did not disappoint.

Fundamentalist Islam permits the use of symbols in art, but not the representation of the images of living things, which even in non-religious art is viewed as idolatry-the worship of the creature instead of the creator. This is especially true and all the more blasphemous when the image is of a reputed religious figure.

Natalie, one of the blogs contributors, came up with a brilliant compromise, one that actually meets the standards of Islam, then turns right around and gives it a good hearty "fuck you". This might well cause an intellectual discussion among Muslim imams-what ones are capable of any form of rational thought that doesn't involve manipulating their more naive and gullible followers to feed their insatiable power lust. The rest of them might well not need a suicide vest, as their heads are liable to explode in what passes for mid-thought.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to copy her drawing of Mohammed, but its just as well. It would be worth your time to see it for yourself here.

There's no need to see anymore. There may be funnier drawings of Mohammed done this day. There may be more insulting ones. There will certainly be ones that run the gamut from insane to surreal. But I seriously doubt that any will rise to the level of the sublime, as this one does.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Disavowed By Molly Norris, While A Muslim Tool Chimes In

Here is what an obviously upset Molly Norris has to say about it on her website-

I did NOT 'declare' May 20 to be "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." I made a cartoon about the television show South Park being censored. (I wish that was what our energies were going toward -- protesting's threat to Comedy Central, and Comedy Central's over reaction to it which set America on a slippery slope toward censorship!)

At any rate, my satirical poster, with a fake 'group' behind it (Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor) was taken seriously, hijacked and made viral.

I never started a facebook page; I never set up any place for pepole to send drawings to and I never recieved any drawings (I see that two European graduate students and another woman started the facebook pages).

My one-off cartoon does not work well as a long-term plan. The vitriol this 'day' has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place. Only Viacom and Revolution Muslim are to blame, so...draw them instead!

I apologize to people of Muslim faith and ask that this 'day' be called off.

Thank you to those who are turning this crazy thing into an opportunity for dialogue.

Oh, and screw all of you who are mad at me for not leading a 'movement'. My cartoon was the beginning and end of what I had to say about this creepy, historic censorship. (By the way, where is Cowardly Central now? Pretty dang quiet. Guess they can dish it out but can't take it.)


P.S. The nicest email I have received have been from Muslims.

I am sure that I am not the only blogger to receive the following e-mail from Miss Norris, which appeared in my comments for this post-

Yes I have asked this 'event' to be cancelled, too.
More info on my site:

Although I am reasonably certain a great many other bloggers probably received the exact same e-mail, it would seem as though many of them just didn't get it. Or perhaps they purposely chose to ignore it. I would like to think better of Andrew Breitbart, yet in this post one of his fellow site bloggers, Andrew Mellon, purposely credits Miss Norris for starting the movement, with no caveat so far as I can see as to her true intentions.

As for her true reasons, I can only speculate. I take her at her word that she never intended for this to go viral, and that her intentions was purely satirical and aimed more at Comedy Central's cowardly decision to censor one of its own programs in response to a perceived threat from an Islamic organization. She might well at the same time be motivated by fear of assault on her self or her family, or for that matter she might have professional concerns. If so, this is all certainly understandable, and it is not for us to judge.

I will gladly, however, judge another comment that came just yesterday on the comments of the same post. Here it is in its entirety, from someone who identifies himself as Ramez Kakakhel-

Extremists exist everywhere they aren't limited to religion. Yes, Muslims are too much conservative about their religion and that sometimes raises issues but this doesn't mean every single one of them is that way.
All we ask for is " Please, Don't make fun of our religious figures". And I think this isn't much to ask there are millions of things the world can talk, chat, joke, argue, draw about. Whats the problem in leaving one, just-one thing of all those aside??
May be I will never be able to find out the answer. But you know it kind of feels bad when you request for a small thing and one is not even willing to fulfill that. I am a person that will add you to category of "not people" and go on living with the situation but not everyone does too than...
Whatever, Thanks for not participating for whatever reasons.
@mollydolly5 I respect your views in this regard.

Notice please the implied threat. He will go on living with the "situation" but not everyone "does too than". I will let my response to Mr. "Kakakhel stand on its own merits.


Okay I can answer your question for you, albeit with a question. Why should Mohammed get any kind of special consideration that is not generally afforded to Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, or innumerable pagan Gods and Goddesses, the adherents of whom have every bit as much respect and devotion towards as you do towards Mohammed, or Allah?

The main thing is, the radicals bring this disrespect on themselves and on their religion. If they had just blown it off when the Danish cartoonist drew Mohammed, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. Believe it or not, their reaction is an inducement for people to disrespect them. Especially when they go around trying to burn down people's houses, issuing fatwas against them, and all others sorts of madness.

You all need to lighten up. If Mohammed and Allah are really all that great, they aren't going to be harmed by a cartoon, regardless of how insulting.

By the way, as I like to point out, there is a rich history of art dedicated to depictions of Mohammed. I have seen them and posted them. Admittedly, they are from Persia, thus probably Shiite, and I am aware there is some major differences. That being said, the artwork exists. Some of them are artistic renderings of Mohammed touring hell accompanied by the Buraq, and viewing the different people who are destined to endure eternity in hell. These are mainly women who have acted immodestly in one regard or another, which is another unfortunate aspect that leaves your religion rife for satire.

Whether you like it or not, America is and will remain a secular society with a very rich tradition of free speech, which includes criticism and satire, including of religious figures and religion itself.

Your religion is special only to you. You cannot expect to come here and be treated as though your faith deserves special consideration and protection above all others and expect us to take you seriously.

I could have added that if I had my way about it he and his ilk would not be here at all, but I was not in the mood at the time to start a dialogue with this person, who obviously thinks his religion should be treated with a degree of respect none others are either subject to or deserving of.

How long will it be before these fucktards are "politely requesting" that we refrain from outdoor barbecues involving meat from swine because one of them might inadvertently stumble on the scene and be subjected to the fumes? How long before they want minarets in every city to blare out the call to prayer five times a day and that when it does so everyone else should refrain from their daily business out of respect? How long before they demand that girls in public schools attended by Muslim children dress according to their definition of modesty?

Like I said in the previous post, although I don't care to participate in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day partly due to concerns for my own safety and that of my family, I will only be pushed so far, and I do not take threats lightly, nor should anyone else. As such, I wish good fortune to any who might wish to participate in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, and if there was a winner, I might well post it. Otherwise I might just post my favorites.

After all, the main reason I personally won't participate is, simply, I can't draw worth a shit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rand Paul Wins-I Shrug

I never bothered to endorse a candidate in the Kentucky Senate primary, for a couple of reasons. One, such endorsements from such small-time, relatively obscure blogs as mine read like the height of hubris. But mainly, I wasn't sure who I preferred from a purely tactical standpoint, or for that matter as a matter of policy preference. By and large, I prefer Paul, if I'd somehow felt that I absolutely had to express a preference. Yet, had Greyson won the primary, I would have gladly supported him.

But that's all tea over the bridge now. Rand Paul has won, by a significant landslide. As of this post, I had yet to read as to the winner of the Democratic primary, but I suspect it is going to be Attorney General Jack Conway over Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo.

This is no surprise. Conway is the preferred choice, it would seem, at least by certain members the press, who went out of their way in very obvious fashion to try to derail Mongiardo's candidacy by referring to the campaign as a contest of personalities between two candidates with very little difference in substance.

Yet, those differences were significant. Mongiardo is against the Health Care Bill. He is against Cap And Trade. He is in favor of clean coal technology. Those issues alone constitute a wide gulf between the two candidates, even though Mongiardo in every other sense is as left-of-center to outright liberal as Conway. Yet, those significant differences in the two might well have been enough to spell the difference to the more conservative Kentucky Democratic voters to the point it may have limited Conways wins to the Lexington to Louisville corridor. The onus was on Mongiardo and his supporters to insure that those differences were spelled out, but he waited too long. On top of that he might have suffered from the perception that he was the most progressive of the two, as he was the first major Kentucky politician-and in fact was one of the few-to support Barak Obama in the presidential primaries over Hillary Clinton

If I am right, and Conway is the victor, the Kentucky Press might have done their cause a disservice. Conway, as the most ostensibly liberal candidate of the two in a state that tends to vote Republican in national elections (although the state is predominantly Democrat), might well be the weaker candidate in the fall against Rand Paul, who I must say might well be the weaker of the two candidates between he and Trey Greyson.

It all boils down to the Independents of Kentucky, as always, as well as conservative Democrats. My feeling is they are the ones who might have trended towards Mongiardo, while I have my doubts they would do the same for Conway. Had Greyson won, I could easily predict he would be the next Kentucky Senator, especially against Conway. But Rand Paul, despite his margin of victory-which he certainly owes to Sarah Palin and, especially, the Tea Party movement-carries some baggage that might not play as well in the general election, and he is going to be a huge target from forces outside the state determined to put the Senate seat currently held by the retiring Jim Bunning in the hands of Democrats.

It might be a mistake for them to complain about Paul's national security and foreign policy positions (to say nothing of hypocritical), as according to Paul the greatest national security threat comes from the southern border and illegal immigration-which should be seen as stating an obvious fact. Instead, it will be used as an example of Paul's "unrealistic" global views and of his "isolationist" tendencies.

Kentuckians for the most part will probably not agree with Paul on stated position that the US should not be the policeman of the world and that we need to disentangle ourselves from global politics to the extent that we have become so ensnared. However, this is highly unlikely to result in greater traction for the Democratic candidate. What will hurt Paul with Kentucky voters is his stand against such monoliths as the Department of Agriculture and, especially, farm subsidies.

I should note here that I am in disagreement with Paul on this issue myself, as I am a supporter of farm subsidies for reasons of economic security, though I think the program could be run much more fairly and efficiently than it has been in the past. On the other hand, this is a federal program we are talking about, so I should probably shoot myself for expecting anything that would nearly approach a level of acceptable competence and integrity.

The problem with farmers could probably be solved by placing a moratorium on taxes on family farms worth less than four million dollars and on companies that sell farm equipment, and by ending the progressive nightmare that is the Inheritance Tax (death tax), so in reality me and Paul are not so much divided as we are at differing levels of acceptance of what is practical and what is not.

There are other things, to be sure, but for the most part, Kentucky voters have a big choice to make. Do they want to support a flawed Republican with strong libertarian tendencies? Or, do they want to vote in a Democrat who will be a rubber-stamp for the Democratic Congress and for Barak Obama?

At the end of the day, I am hoping they will support Paul, over either Conway or Mongiardo, either one of who would be a consistently liberal vote for the Democratic Party agenda, though this is most certainly and especially true of Conway.

Mitch McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky and the Senate Minority leader, just got a huge smackdown with the election of Paul over his preferred candidate, Secretary of State Greyson. However, he has vowed to support Paul in the general election, as has the GOP in general. I hope they stick to that vow, but I also hope that Paul sticks to his principles and doesn't allow himself to be co-opted by McConnell's Washington inside-the-beltway crowd, who can be a very corrupting influence.

All the same, Paul if he wins will probably have to moderate some of his stands, if he is going to be a successful Senator. Unfortunately, the sausage making that is American politics involves bringing some of that pork back home. Paul should come to realize that this is just bringing tax dollars back to where they belong, in however unfair and flawed a manner, and work towards making sure any such pork is worthwhile, necessary, and serves a general greater purpose for the citizens of the state, and is not just a means to funnel money into the pockets of public officials and political hacks.

It is impossible for anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to enter politics and not end up stained to some degree.

Monday, May 17, 2010

American Muslim Rima Fakih Wins The Miss USA Title, And Then-

I agree with Michelle Malkin when she points out that most people would have come under serious scrutiny and some criticism for making such statements as Miss Michigan Rima Fakih made in the Miss USA Pageant to the effect that birth control is a controlled substance, and that it should be covered by insurance because it is expensive. It would be hard to imagine anybody giving such incomprehensible answers like that winning such a high-profile beauty pageant, especially when she almost fell on her ass during the evening gown competition.

I can even agree with Malkin in that there is at least a good possibility that Miss Oklahoma, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, lost the title (though she did come in as first runner up) because of her answer to judge Oscar Nunez's question about the illegal immigration law recently passed by Arizona. Although stating that she is against racial profiling, she supports the law in principle as a matter of states rights.

We can quibble about all of that, but its really going several bridges too far, and in fact clear over the edge, to accuse Miss Fakih of being a terrorist supporter of Hezbollah, and its veering into the territory of the bat-shit insane to suggest that her triumph at the pageant was somehow instigated as a plot to help these violent Islamic extremists, who according to this theory actually funded and supported her through the auspices of a relative with connections to the radical terrorist group.

The genius who dreamed up this delusion is a self-styled reporter of some stripe named Debbie Schlussel, who for some strange reason thinks this is an example of an Islamic terrorist group trying to fit into American society in an effort to one day destroy it. She actually compared it to 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta going to strip clubs and drinking alcohol. That's all very interesting. There must be something about those strip clubs, seeing as how Rima has danced at one at some point prior to the contest. There are even photos currently circulating of her-one of her doing a pole dance, one with bills shoved down her top, etc.

Never mind that most of the Islamic radicals Miss Fakih is supposedly sympathetic to would gladly gang-rape her brutally prior to removing her head. Or perhaps they would be merely content to savagely carve up her legs and breasts and douse her face in a good acid bath and leave her alive as an example of what might happen to a woman who violates their precious religious tenets. The woman might well be a target as we speak. Nor would it help her cause in the least that after coming to the US from Lebanon, she attended a Catholic school.

Speaking personally, and honestly, I don't trust any Muslim any further than I could throw one, and I certainly don't trust them nearly as far as I would dearly love to throw a good damn many of them. But that's beside the point. I don't live with them, nor are they a part of my circle or my family. Miss Fakih would do well to adopt my level of mistrust towards them from this point forward. However we might feel about the legitimacy of her win of the Pageant, which is these days more of a monument to the ego of Donald Trump than anything else, we should certainly recognize that it took a certain level of courage for this woman from Dearborn, Michigan, home to probably the largest Muslim community in the US, to even enter this damn contest to begin with. We should wish her well and hope that she keeps her head attached, and without any lifetime scars for what might actually prove to be a foolhardy move on her part.

Yet, for all Miss Schlussel's assurances that Rima Fakih's run for the title was funded by terrorists, that close family members are members of that terrorist group, and have killed Israeli citizens, and that Donald Trump is a dhimmi who allowed her uncle to more or less buy the title, every link she provides in her post to "prove" her points seems to link to her own earlier posts on the subject. Not to say there aren't other blogs making these accusations. Here is one billing itself as a Jewish Internet Defense League. So what are their sources, you ask? Thaaat's right, Miss Schlussel, of course.

I was shocked when I first read this insanity on Popehat, but I was relieved as well as amused when I read the Jawa's Report's Howie sarcastically relate how, in reality, it's all a Zionist plot to subvert unsuspecting Muslims. Evidently never one to pass up an opportunity to excoriate the right, Jonathon Turley pointed to Howie's post as evidence of how unhinged the right is. Or at least he did until I pointed out to him that it was obviously sarcasm. I assume that's why he removed the link. (Sorry about that, guys. You know what they say about no bad publicity). As if that's not bad enough, to further make his point about how bad the right is, Turley links to yet another post that turns out to have been made, on another blog, by the same Debbie Schlussel who got this insanity started. And now, in another amazing development, since I further pointed this out to him, Jonathon has removed that link as well. You could at least say thank you, Jonathon.

Nor is Jonathon Turley the sole offender. Below The Beltway also seems to imply that Debbie Schlussel is typical of the right, and that the accusations of Islamic terrorism funding a run for the Miss USA pageant is widely believed by conservatives.

The most amusing irony of all of this is that, in excoriating the right as bat-shit insane, the left through these leftist bloggers do what it always manages to do best-prove that they are, in fact, the ones who are bat-shit insane.

I think the Anchoress said it best of all. Our society is degenerating to the point that we might be in the throes of a psychotic breakdown. A good first clue to that is the fact that you can't escape the poisonous political atmosphere of the current times anywhere. It's even infested beauty pageants. What kind of judge asks contestants to answer such loaded questions, aiming at obvious answers. And note how, thus far, it is progressive advocates who are asking the questions aiming to promote leftist causes. First Perez Hilton with Carrie Prejean over gay marriage, and now Oscar Nunez with Rima Fakih over immigration law, of all things.

What the hell is next? I can just see it now. "Do you think Barak Obama's detractors are basically racists?" "Do you think George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes?"

Hell, make me a judge, I know what I would ask. "Do you agree with me that Democrats should be encouraged to get abortions as often as possible?"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Elena Kagan-Is This Obama's Harriet Myers Moment?

To a federalist minded person, the nomination of Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court is the stuff of which nightmares are made. Not only is she a progressive, she is a progressive with absolutely no judicial experience. To any person with no judicial experience, there is little if any inclination to respect judicial precedent. The overriding factor in making a decision is more prone to be based on what the person thinks the law should be-not what is actually stated and allowed (or not) in the Constitution. This can be a problem with a conservative jurist as well, but at least most conservatives tend to be originalists, who do not so much "interpret" the words of the constitution as though that document were some arcane work filled with hidden mystical symbols that must needs be decoded, but as a work that literally means what it says-if it says anything at all on the matter before the court. Progressives are a little bit more-shall we say, "creative", when it comes to what is or is not in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Take a progressive-especially a progressive lawyer-with no judicial experience, and you have the possibility of all kinds of legal mischief, possibly rising to the level of outright misconduct. Respect for judicial precedent is dependent on the failure or success of the last case argued before any given court. A judge merely applies the law-well, in theory. Granted, many decisions made by seasoned jurists can also be questionable and flawed. They too can be influenced by sentiment. They are only human. But a lawyer is-well, I guess they're human too, but that's beside the point.

Lawyers are gamers. They are in it to win it. Judges are referees. If a referee calls a foul, he's right most of the time, whereas the offending player will usually make the attempt to deny the foul, or blame the opposing player. This will last all of two seconds, and the decision of the referee will usually stand. Put a player in that position of referee, and it doesn't matter how well versed he is in the rules of the game. He just can't be objective. It's not in his nature. Moreover, it is just not in his training. Being a referee takes a whole new set of skill sets. In its own way, it takes experience, and a practice and training that is in its own every bit as grueling as that required to be a player.

This nomination might well be Obama's Harriet Myers moment. Whereas a surprising number of conservative politicians, activists, and pundits excoriated George W. Bush for the appointment of Myers, due to her seeming lack of qualifications, Kagan is likewise coming under fire from progressives for much the same reason. In her case, though, there is a very strong feeling that she might not be really all that progressive. Some have called into question her hiring practices both at Harvard and as Obams's recent Solicitor General. In both cases, her record of minority hiring was lackluster at best. In neither instance did she hire any qualified African Americans. Also, according to this article on the Huffington Post, Kagan might not share the judicial philosophy of late Justice Thurgood Marshall (for whom she worked as a clerk) that Obama and others assumes she does.

She has also made the statement that there is no constitutional right to gay marriage. Which, duh-there's no constitutional right to marriage of any type-period. The closest one can come to an inference of a perceived right to gay marriage is under the Equal Protection clause. This however does not negate her statement as to the validity of a constitutional right or lack thereof to gay marriage, nor does her statement intimate that she would decide against such a constitutional right based on Equal Protection. She is, of course, playing word games, but the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and other progressives, are not concerned about that. They want, they demand, open advocacy. Just one more example of the overt politicization of the judicial process.

Then, finally, we get to the meat and potatoes of the reason for this appointment-her support for the "unitary executive", that poisonous mushroom that has corrupted the office of the presidency since at least the days of Richard Nixon, and has infected all holders of the office since that time, Republicans and Democrats alike. Obama is no exception. Power corrupts, but if you don't have enough, it leaves a deep, gnawing hunger that could lead to a soul-devouring binge should it ever become available.

This then is not a mere sign of a thoughtful, drawn out judicial process. This appointment is an indication of Barak Obama's appetite for power coming to the fore. He's like a kid at MacDonalds looking at all the pictures and thinking he wants one of everything on the menu, but he wants to make damn sure he gets the one that comes with the toys first and foremost.

Then, as the Crank Files points out, there might be another reason. As Solicitor General, Kagan argued before the Court in an attempt to uphold the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Law. She failed, and of course this led to Obama's petulant dressing down of the Court during the last State of The Union. The appointment of Kagan might be a way of sticking a thumb in the collective eye of the conservative wing of the court to whom his remarks were truly aimed.

All told, Kagan might not be the worse pick Obama could come up with from a conservative perspective. Some progressives at least consider her a moderate when it comes to such things as immigration law. By and large, however, it's pretty obvious that whoever Obama picks is going to be a progressive, and will probably support the vast majority of his agenda-except for those things that support a unitary executive, perhaps. Otherwise, I don't know that there's anything worth fighting about here, from a conservative standpoint.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mullah Omar Captured By Pakistan-Or Was He?

I don't know whether this is bullshit or the truth, but according to this report, Mullah Omar has been captured and is being held in protective custody by the ISI-Pakistani Intelligence. He was captured in Karachi, and has been held since at least the past Monday. The source of this report? Colonel Oliver North.

So what's going on? According to Big Government, this might lead to a peace agreement, predicated on a cease-fire, with the potential that Omar will be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia.

Omar has been the leader of the Taliban since prior to and including the days of the 9/11 attacks. If this is true, its a really big deal. So why is it being kept secret? Some people think the secrecy might be an attempt to prevent further social disturbances. The following of Omar and The Taliban is such that it could lead to widespread riots and violence.

The weird thing is, there is no indication that anyone at the White House or the State Department has any knowledge whatsoever about this. But if it is true, its got to come out sooner or later.

H/T: The Jawa Report

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Iron Man Is A Rino

I've just about had it with grown-ups going on about Iron Man, with bloggers on the right insisting he's some kind of conservative or libertarian hero, while one progressive blogger plays alone with the meme by insisting that the main villain of Iron Man II is, in fact, Tony Stark himself. It's time to come up for just a little bit of air all the way around.

In the first Iron Man, Tony Stark, after suffering a debilitating, life-threatening injury, decided to devote his incredible wealth, resources, and talents to doing good, to make up for all of the destruction he had caused as the boss and inventive genius of Stark International. What were the evil deeds which caused him to want to turn his life around, the mistakes he wanted to rectify? He had created weapons for the US military. So I think we can just on that account alone say goodbye to his conservative credentials. Not that conservatives really are war-mongers who want to bring bloodshed and destruction on the world for no purposes other than power and personal enrichment. But conservatives do understand that as long as there exists people in this world who hold positions of power and who act in brutal, even insanely violent ways to hold and expand that power, such people have to be met with firm and steady opposition. Sometimes, diplomacy, even hard diplomacy, really is not always enough after all. Not very often, in fact.

But now we're up to the current installment, Iron Man II, in which Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., is appearing before a Senate Committee headed by-hey it's Gary Shandling's Show, with Gary playing the role of Arlen Specter-under a different name, of course, but still a Pennsylvania Senator of no clear party affiliation. He insists that Stark should hand his Iron Man invention over to the US military.

This is the scenario that has conservatives creaming on their keyboards. Stark is refusing to hand it over, claiming it as his own private property, otherwise boasting that he has privatized world peace, and generally making an obnoxious ass out of himself. In the real world, he would be hit with a contempt of Congress charge. To say nothing of the fact that anything he invented through the auspices of Stark International, by nature of his arrangement with the US government as a military contractor, might well be legitimately considered government property. Senator Shandling, if he really had his stuff together, could probably pull out the terms of Starks contracts to point this out in no uncertain terms.

And while I can appreciate anybody that has the balls to ridicule and lash out at a bunch of elitist Senators (who actually just want Stark's invention in order to make gobs of money for one of their favored contractors-an inept fool named Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell-as well as themselves), and while I certainly appreciate and agree with Stark's stated appeal to property rights, that doesn't change the fact that he is on pretty shaky ground here. Nor is his stance necessarily all that conservative.

Liberals could also easily approve of Stark's obstinate refusal to turn his Iron Man armor design over to the military, who might actually use it to-gasp-kill people.

Of course, there's more going on here than a defense against big government encroachment, from the conservative point of view, and even more than a fear of a government abuse of a powerful weapon and technology against some poor, misunderstood, dictatorial regime with whom we would be better served by engaging in diplomacy, from the liberal standpoint. Stark has bigger fish to fry than mere political or ideological considerations. He is dying. The device he invented to keep his heart beating is now poisoning his blood. That's why he's being such an ass in this movie. It's not because he's such a maverick. It's because he's scared to death that he won't be able to come up with a solution to his problem. Of course, he does, by-wait for it-inventing a new element, one which evidently negates the poisonous effects of the chest device. I kid you not. Tony Stark then is not a conservative. Tony Stark is not a progressive. Tony Stark is God. No wonder he's so fucking arrogant.

Before all this though, Stark is genuinely concerned that his better days are far behind him, and he starts to booze it up, leading to an ignominious defeat at the hands of the Russian villain, Mickey Roarke's Whiplash (who somehow has morphed from his beginnings as a glorified assassin and executioner for the criminal Maggia to some kind of tortured, brilliant physicist) who later at the behest of the aforementioned Justin Hammer creates a robot army, which is ultimately dispatched by Stark and his friend and partner James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), otherwise known as War Machine.

Rhodes tries to get into Tony's head and bring him down to earth, as does his newly minted CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but nothing seems to work. Not even Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury can reason with Stark, who tells Fury he's not interested in joining his super-powered boy band.

Fury, incidentally, has little to do with the plot of this movie, but is there to provide a teaser for the upcoming Avengers movie. This is likewise the case with Scarlet Johanson's Black Widow, who also provides a degree of window dressing of an alluring nature, yet otherwise adds little to the overall basic plot of this film.

And the worse part of this is, future generations of movie archivists and historians might well be hard pressed to explain exactly what Jackson's and Johannson's roles are in a way that will make any sense-particularly if the Avengers movie turns out to be a stink bomb. In effect, time devoted to roles such as this, such as they are, helped degrade what could have been a pretty decent B+ film down to C- territory, and that makes such cumbersome character additions even harder to defend, even if the Avengers movie turns out to be an unqualified success.

The worse shame of it all is, it could have been a better flick than even a B+. Jon Favreau (the director who is, incidentally, not the speechwriter of Barak Obama of the same name) seems determined to keep his films from being just another batch of CGI love fests. He is intensely interested in character development, and in establishing a fidelity to the original comic book mythology, which by the way had its origins in the sixties, during the conflict in Vietnam-not Afghanistan. Naturally, that had to change, or Tony Stark, who really is a mortal man after all, might have to have a second armor plated device just to walk. And then there's the prospect that beryllium underwear would not really be an adequate nor a comfortable substitute for Depenz.

Other than this one understandable change, however, it is a crying shame that Marvel seems determined to avoid pursuing the Demon In A Bottle storyline, where Stark becomes an alcoholic sot (which in the comic led to Stark some years later suffering from a relapse that resulted in him losing his company to the villainous Obadiah Stane, and also was the impetus for his temporary replacement as Iron Man by James Rhodes-who then went on to become War Machine when Stark recovered). The Monte Carlo segment, unfortunately, is as far down that road as the movies seem fated to go, which is really too bad. For all the CGI and the determination to produce a quality product, it seems the movies haven't really evolved as far as the comic book itself. Where the comic book seems geared towards older teenagers, college students, and young adults, the movies by necessity are marketed, to a large degree, to the eight to twelve year old demographic. Hollywood, as ever, is actually well behind the curve.

Because of this, its not very likely we will see anytime soon a movie based on a superhero comic that delves deeply into such dark territories as alcohol or drug abuse, nor any other such personal character flaws. More's the pity, as film by its nature possesses the potential to have a huge artistic impact. Heroes are people too. Nor are they always good people. A hero who takes it upon himself to fight crime and in some cases save the world, so to speak, would by his very nature have to be a flawed individual on some level. It is not a stretch to see such a person eventually engaging in substance abuse, or any other number of self-destructive behaviors. Fantasy is one thing, but reality-that can be a bitch if not faced head on. Portraying such a thing on film can only be negative if it is shown as a good thing, or if it is portrayed in such a way that its overall negative effects are minimal.

I don't guess I would be too much of an ass by ending this with what might or might not be a spoiler, depending on how faithful to the comic book Marvel and Favreau intend to be. Pepper Potts eventually gets married, but not to Tony Stark. She becomes married to Happy Hogan, who is played in this movie in a cameo by director Favreau.

In another, more important development, however-one that is also pretty unlikely to be adapted to the screen-Tony Stark, in the comic books, shows his true colors. He's not a conservative at all. Nor is he God, not by any stretch. He is, in fact-a fascist, a man who wants to register all super-powered beings, by name and ability, for the good of the world. Yes, you read that right. Tony Stark, in a story line called Civil War, wanted to tax, spend, and regulate all super-powered beings.

It gets even better than that though. He wants to pay superheroes a government subsidized salary. Hell, as many super-powered beings as there are in the Marvel Universe, that would really explode the deficit. Why worry about TARP? The GM bailout and Health Care Reform bill costs would be peanuts compared to the taxpayer money involved in such a regulatory scheme, which would probably necessitate an entirely new Cabinet level government department.

Yeah, this guy Tony Stark is about as conservative as-well, as Arlen Specter. But then again, Iron Man is after all an anagram-for Rino Man.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Republican Civil War Comes To Kentucky

To all of you out there who are convinced that the Tea Party movement is nothing but an organ of the Republican Party, a concoction to attack the Democratic Party and Congress, and the Obama Administration, the following video should go some way toward putting that lie to rest for good.

To be sure, the Tea Party is very much in opposition to the Democrats, Obama, and increased government size, power, and spending. But that is far and away from being the whole story. It also represents a struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, a struggle which might in the long run be in some respects divisive.

Nowhere is this more true than in Kentucky, where there will be this year an election to fill the Senate seat of retiring GOP Senator Jim Bunning (one of the most conservative Senators). There are four candidates, two from each party. The Democratic primary is between current Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo (who ran a strong race against Bunning in 2004) and the current Kentucky State Attorney General Jack Conway.

The Republican race is between Rand Paul (son of Texas House of Representatives member and former presidential candidate Ron Paul), and current Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Grayson is supported by the senior Senator from Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and by other mainstream members of the Republican Party leadership.

Rand Paul, on the other hand, has the support of such luminaries as Sarah Palin-and the Tea Party movement.

Enter Doctor James Dobson of Focus On The Family, who initially supported Grayson. That is, he did, until he allegedly learned-according to him-that he had been lied to, that Rand Paul's views had been misrepresented to him, whereupon he switched his allegiance to Greyson.

It's really quite remarkable, as the implication here is that the Republican Party leadership is so desperate to defeat Paul-who is far ahead of Grayson in the polls-that they are willing to deceive a long-time prominent and influential ally and supporter in order to do so. Maybe their concern is fueled in part by worries Paul will not be able to win a general election match-up between Conway or Mongiardo. I think, however, there is a distinct possibility that just don't like the direction the Tea Party might take the Republican Party should they ever take control of it.

What you are seeing is the potential for a major split in the Republican Party somewhere down the road, much akin to the 1964 Goldwater debacle, when the party was also split between conservatives and moderates. This time, the result will only be different if the Tea party takes control, and the so-called "moderate" wing of the party relinquishes that control for the good of party unity. Because one way or another, that wing is going down. It is just up to them, do they want to go down as willing junior partners of a grassroots conservative victory movement, or do they just want to go down period. That's totally up to them, but one thing I know, the Bushes, McCains and McConnells of the GOP have had their day in the sun, and that sun is about to set.