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December 31, 2006

Life imitates art

Bond movies are art, right?

Casino Royale star Mads Mikkelsen faces a grilling by cops -- after taking part in an allegedly illegal poker tournament.

Mads, who plays villain Le Chiffre in the 007 flick, got into trouble in his native Denmark after the card game in Copehagen’s Club Dakota.

He wiped the floor with local aces and even used the same hand of two jacks that defeated Bond in Casino Royale.

But although there were no cash prizes, he now faces a fine because the club allegedly broke licensing rules.

Jackie Danicki sums it up perfectly, IMO.

Because God knows the police have nothing better to do than go around arresting people for playing cards.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all. I resolve to blog more frequently in 2007. Seriously!!

December 30, 2006

Great news!

No, not this. This.

One of our most frequent posters here finally has his own blog, and it's about time. Check him out.

December 29, 2006

Edwards for president

John Edwards launched his presidential campaign yesterday from his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wait, what? He's not from New Orleans? Then why is he there? I guess he thinks that having those dozen or so black kids in the background raking and shoveling in front of his own 10,000 square foot North Carolina estate wouldn't be quite the kind of backdrop he was looking for.

Yes, it's a cheesy photo op, and cheesy photo ops are part and parcel of the political process. Edwards' theatrics in the Ninth Ward were simply par for the course, but I do find it amusing that the lefty bloggers who howled in outrage every time Bush or Giuliani "exploited" the victims of 9/11are reacting to Edwards' use of Katrina victims as props with fawning euphoria.

Doesn't matter. Let me be the first to say that the guy doesn't stand a chance. Be honest, would you buy a used car from this guy? I wouldn't. (And I don't say that just because he's a Democrat. I'd happily buy a used car from John Kerry, for example. Hell, I'd probably get the deal of my life. Kerry would probably even fall for the ol' "two tens for a five" trick.) Let's face it, Edwards may be the greatest candidate in the history of Christendom, but he's still going to come across as a slick, blow-dried trial lawyer to a large swath of the electorate.

So what does Edwards have on the plus side of the ledger to offset that perception? His accomplishments? His resume? His achievements in the Senate? El Zippo.

Historically, the Senate is a very poor proving ground for the White House. Edwards had only a single term in the Senate, and he quit to run for VP in 2004 in large part because he was deeply unpopular in his own state, and was very likely facing electoral defeat. He'll be going into 2008 essentially unemployed, from a political standpoint, an no real assets besides nice hair.

Ezra Klein also watched Edwards announcement, and thinks that "[h]is campaign would certainly like to lead in the polls, but Edwards seemed more interested in leading a movement."

I got a similar impression. Perhaps Edwards is aiming to become the next Jesse Jackson or Ross Perot. Or perhaps he's merely running for vice president again, knowing that his only path to the White House leads through Number One Observatory Circle. Either way, Edwards' speech struck me as someone who wants to be president one day, but is savvy enough to understand that 2008 is not his year.

What do you guys think?

How times have changed

I got into a pointless political argument with some dinner companions the other night. The whole thing was emblematic of the way I've repeatedly been drawn into such morasses during the Bush years. Had my dinner companions been content simply to pronounce Bush a poor president and the war in Iraq a failure, we would have all agreed and happily eaten dinner together.

But no, for some reason they were absolutely compelled to proclaim Bush not merely bad, but the worst president in history, and were quite insistent about it. When asked what made him so, the answer was predictable, I suppose -- the war in Iraq, which itself was the worst war in the history of our Republic.

Now this I found astonishing, since my debate opponents were easily old enough to remember the Vietnam war. But Vietnam was "better," they insisted, and would not hear otherwise. What made it better, I asked? A failed war in a conflict in which we had no business, that resulted in more than 50,000 American dead, many of them draftees rather than volunteers? By what measure, I asked, was Vietnam "better?"

Well they hemmed and hawed and cast about for a while, and finally the answer came back (are you ready for this?) The Vietnam war was "better," they said because of the draft. More Americans might have died, but they died "more democratically," you see, since a conscripted army presumably represents a more diverse cross section of the populace. I personally think they were glamorizing the "democratic" aspect of Vietnam-era conscription, as the powerful and connected were always able to get a better deal than someone from the wrong side of the tracks, draft or no.

But they went even further. They argued that the draft should be reinstated. If we had more sons and daughters of the rich and powerful dying in Iraq, it would increase pressure to end the war, as it did in Vietnam... after 20 years, of course... and nearly 60,000 dead... but still.

I was stunned, of course. I'm appalled by the notion of a draft in general, but even more shocked at the logic that says 50,000 casualties are preferable to 3,000 so long as there are a few more Yale graduates thrown in the mix. Also interesting was that the quality of a conscripted military didn't even seem relevant to them. Indeed, their entire argument for reinstating the draft seems to have been to create a poison pill that would prevent the military from being used at all. Fascinating, isn't it?

Now I know that most Democrats do not wish to revive the draft, Charlie Rangel notwithstanding. Still, the fact that a significant component of the anti-war left has now embraced the draft as a means to opposing the war is further evidence of how screwed-up and bass-ackwards political discourse has become in our country.

December 27, 2006

Fun Ford facts

In honor of our fallen 38th president, here are some Gerald Ford-related trivia that some people might not know.

  • Ford was a former model, and has appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan.
  • He was a member of the Warren commission, which investigated the JFK assassination.
  • He was the only president never to be elected to the office of president or vice president (but he served in both.)
  • He was old.

If anyone can think of any more good ones, please feel free to add them.

December 21, 2006

Today's Hanukkah post

In honor of the current holiday, today's featured word is "chutzpah."

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson asked a federal judge Wednesday not to force him to testify in the CIA leak case and accused former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of trying to harass him on the witness stand. ... "Mr. Libby should not be permitted to compel Mr. Wilson's testimony at trial either for the purpose of harassing Mr. Wilson or to gain an advantage in the civil case," Wilson's attorneys wrote.
Is that how it works? Anytime you're faced with an inconvenient subpoena you can just "ask" the judge to let you off the hook? I can understand why Wilson, whose story has more holes than a Dunkin' Donuts, would want to avoid cross-examination under oath, but this tactic requires bigger and shinier balls than an aluminum Christmas tree.

The real war on Christmas

All right, I'll admit that I find the ubiquity of the tepid "Happy Holidays" euphemism a bit tiresome, but that's the extent of it. It doesn't even rise to the level of an "annoyance" for me. (I'm more annoyed every morning in the coffee shop when I invariably get in line behind some girl who orders a pumpkin spice soy vanilla latte with half skim milk, two Equals® and a Splenda®, when all I want is a large black.)

And the "Happy Holidays" crowd is certainly less annoying than the culture warriors who are convinced this is all part of a concerted "war on Christmas." Think about it, people. This PC crowd isn't about to wage war on anything. The most you could expect from them is a vaguely worded U.N. resolution against Christmas. War? Gimme a break.

So I just stay out of that fight altogether. Nonetheless, there are still sinister forces at work which really do undermine this very important holiday and rob it of its significance in subtle yet undeniable ways. I'm talking about white lights. I'm sick to death of BORING white bloody lights already.

Granted, part of this is a result of my own upbringing. I'm rebelling against my mom's draconian "all white light" policy. I have very fond, warm and fuzzy memories of Christmas being a dazzling, almost psychedelic festival of rainbow-colored incandescence, both inside our house and out. Then, when I was still a very young age, Mom decided that such displays were tacky and garish. She decided that miniature white lights on the tree were tasteful and refined.

To be fair to mom, this was back in the late sixties, and she was reacting to admitted abominations such as this:

I was sad when she decided to donate the aluminum tree to my first-grade classroom, but she did have a point. The problem is that her white light "phase" turned out not to be a passing trend at all, but a new way of life. Thirty-five years out, and she's still as color-averse as Johnny Cash at a funeral.

And it's not just her, it's everyone. White lights are all over the place. Not only in people's homes, but in public squares, city sidewalks, restaurants, used car lots, you name it. Even worse, more and more public places have taken to leaving the white lights up year-round. This, of course, even further erodes the special, celebratory nature of Christmas light displays.

The time has come, people, to take a stand. What is this, Christmas or a Chili's parking lot? We have to decide once and for all. And this year I'm taking a stand. Our Christmas tree is lit entirely in blue, and the front porch is a brilliant beacon of every single color I could lay my hands on -- except for white. There are no white lights anywhere in or near my house. Not one.

Take that.

December 18, 2006

Bush's America vs. post-Kyoto Europe

I've long believed that European leaders were smart enough to recognize that the arbitrary goals and timetables of the Kyoto accords were wholly unrealistic and probably unworkable. Nonetheless, they made a calculated decision to sign on anyway, knowing the political goodwill generated from such empty posturing would make it worthwhile.

Seems like they were right. For fifteen years now, Western lefties and greenies have enjoyed portraying Europe as the caring, conscientious steward of the planet, while demonizing the U.S. as a reckless climate-wrecker.

Well check this out. Since 2000, tax credits and other market incentives have kept CO2 emissions barely above 2% in the U.S., while under the strict limits and mandates of Kyoto, European emissions have grown at more than twice this rate.

Heh, pretty funny, huh? Maybe there's still a thing or two those Europeans can learn from us cowboy rubes after all.

December 17, 2006

Is it just me?

Or are Time's "Person of the Year" getting lamer and lamer?

December 14, 2006

Stuff in the news

It's hard to believe that we soon won't have Kofi Annan to kick around anymore. And as much I enjoyed kicking him around, I won't be able to resist a certain amount of nostalgia for his tenure as Secretary General. It's hard to imagine a better embodiment for the corruption and inefficacy of the world body than Mr. Annan.

Meanwhile, there's lots of breathless speculation about the health of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson. South Dakota has a Republican governor, so if Johnson is incapacitated, it could (officially) throw the balance of power back to the Republican, handing them a Cheney-breaking, 50-50 tie.

Or that's the theory, anyway. Sounds to me like the whole health scare might have been a bit overblown. Either way, I doubt it matters much, since it takes 60 votes to do anything controversial in the Senate these days. And if Johnson has to bail, the Dems will probably push for that ridiculous "power sharing" thing that Trent Lott negotiated the last time we had a 50-50 split (although technically, it would be a 50-48 split, since two of the Dems are actually "Independents.")

December 08, 2006

Two great dead people

When I was an undergraduate in college I used to carry around a photo of Jeane Kirkpatrick in my wallet. No, I am not joking. And yes, I am a dweeb. I was never a big wallet photo person, but for a period of time in the mid-80s I carried around pictures of exactly four people: Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr. and Jeane Kirkpatrick.

So how did JK make the cut? I think it was her unapologetic defense of American interests, combined with her unapologetic opposition to tyranny. Back during the 1980s, when the term still actually carried some meaning, Ms. Kirkpatrick was often referred to as a neoconservative. The rationale for doing so was that she was an unabashed fan of Humphreyism and the New Deal, but nonetheless believed we had to aggressively confront the Soviet menace.

It's fascinating that none of the obits I've read of the former ambassador have included the term "neocon," but it's probably because the popular media has perverted the definition to describe anyone who supported the war in Iraq. John Bolton was one of the few people in recent history who understood that the American ambassador to the United Nation's job is to represent the American policy at the U.N. rather than vice versa. It sucks that we have to say goodbye to two of them in the same week.

While on the topic of great dead people, I should also say a word or two about Milton Friedman, whose death came too close to my Thanksgiving vacation for me to draft a proper obit. I'm not entirely sure why Friedman didn't make the cut for a wallet photo, but he was hands down my favorite economist. Yes, I know it's terribly geeky to even have a favorite economist, but Milton was special. I read his "Capitalism and Freedom" when I was a college freshman. That one book did more to shape my political views than any other single influence. It was only later that I learned that our current president, one Ronald Wilson Reagan, was also a fan of Friedman's. That was the beginning of it all for me.

And the coolest thing about Uncle Miltie? He was still writing Op-Eds for the Wall Street Journal right up until the day he died. I'll leave you now with a link to a terrific video from the Milton Friedman Choir.

December 07, 2006

Wow, I've just noticed...

... that the less I post, the more my hit count goes up.

I think I may be onto something here.

The ISG report

So what do you do when you realize you're over your head in Iraq, in part because you lacked a proper understanding of the intricacies of the many regional ethnic, and sectarian tensions that have characterized the region for centuries? You ask Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan what to do, of course! And thus was the Iraq Study Group born.

I finally finished their report, and found no huge surprises. The prose reminded me of nothing more than the stuff you churned out in high school when you were trying to expand twenty words worth of content into a thousand word essay.

So I'm going to spare you all that, and provide you with the highly distilled, CN executive summary of the ISG report:

The Iraq Study Group Report

Get the hell out of Dodge.

(PS -- It's all Israel's fault.)

The End

December 01, 2006

Clinton and Obama

According to one report, Hillary Clinton may decide to back out of the 2008 presidential race should Barack Obama jump in. In part, this is the result of a growing recognition that HRC peaked too early. Way too early, as in 5 or 6 years.

But it strikes me that the Democrats could do a lot worse. Obama is bright, articulate, moderate, charismatic, and has broad-based appeal. And if he loses, the Democrats can simply blame racism. It's a win-win.

So what does it mean...

...when you wake up two mornings in a row with Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" running through your head?