Monthly Archives: December 2007

Sara Jane Moore Released From Prison

She’s out.  Sara, now 77, was one of the two women who tried to shoot President Ford on separate occasions in September 1975. 

Moore tried it on September 22, 1975; Squeaky Fromme tried it earlier on September 5.  Fromme, a Charles Manson devotee (unlike Moore, who had her own reasons), is still in prison.

Moore’s shot missed Ford of course.  A bystander saw her and actually pulled her arm before she shot, but she managed to squeeze off a single bullet.

Here’s video of Sara Jane’s failed attempt:

How About Them Red Sox Patriots Celtics?

Not a big basketball fan, but it is worth noting that the Celtics are off to a great seasonal start.  An historical one, if trends continue.  Right now, their winning percentage outpaces that of the 1995-96 Bulls, largely considered to be the best professional basketball team ever.


I don’t know.  The Red Sox took the World Series.  The Patriots are clear favorites for the Super Bowl win.  And now the Celtics.

Sports fans everywhere are going to HATE Boston.

Recommended Reading

Slate’s Top Ten Bush Administration’s Dumbest Legal Arguments of the Year.  It’s a doozy.

Number one:

1. The United States does not torture.

First there was the 2002 torture memo. That was withdrawn. Then there was the December 2004 statement that declared torture "abhorrent." But then there was the new secret 2005 torture memo. But members of Congress were fully briefed about that. Except that they were not. There was Abu Ghraib. There were the destroyed CIA tapes. So you see, the United States does not torture. Except for when it does.

I Am Not Nostradamus

_41209368_ball_203My 2007 predictions from last year (see this earlier post, dated December 26, 2006):

The Red Sox will not win the World Series.  This may not be a startling prediction, but it does serve a function: to prevent me from getting my hopes up.

Wrong.  Happily, wrong.

The Patriots will not win the Super Bowl.

I was right (I was talking about last season, not this one).

The situation in Iraq — particularly the U.S. troop levels will remain more or less the same, unless it doesn’t.  We’ll see a lot of news about involving "temporary" increases and decreases in deployment of troops, but it will more-or-less be the same.

Well, I guess I was wrong.  The "surge" and all.  Still, I think it is "more or less" the same.

The Bush Administration will do an about face on global warming.  Many, however, will wonder if it is just talk or if they are actually prepared to do something about it.


Dick Cheney will have a heart attack, and resign from office.  Elizabeth Dole will be replaced as Vice President.

Wrong.  But he did have a heart fibrulation or something, right?

Second Life will surge in popularity, eclipsing even MySpace.

I think Second Life surged a but, but it didn’t eclipse MySpace.

The "silly season" that will eventually become the 2008 Presidential Election will unofficially kickoff in December 2007.  (The Iowa Caucus actually is in January 2008).

Nope.  It started much earlier.

Joe Biden will announce his run for the presidency, but give up before the end of the year when he doesn’t raise enough money.  Nobody will notice, or even care.

Half right.

Rudy Guiliani will announce and drop out as well, due to his inability to get past questions regarding his personal life.

Half wrong.

Despite far more important news, the entire nation/media will become obsessed with some Terri Schiavo-like story during the summer.  It will not be a missing blonde white girl, nor will it involve a celebrity.  But it will involve a single person and will spark a national debate.  Like — I’ll go on a limb here — the kidnapping of an abortion doctor.

Ummmm….not really.

We’ll also put up with a couple of weeks in May/June where there will seem to be a rash of school shootings a la Columbine.

Nope, not really.

No terrorist attacks in the United States (thank God), although our embassies will be bombed in places not in the Middle East.  (I’m thinking Phillipines).

Half right.

A major plane crash in some Midwest city.  This will not be one of your run-of the-mill crashes at an airport, but something right in the heart of a major city.


Corporate scandals on the upsurge again, starting with Apple Computer.  The Dow’s surge upward is anemic at best.

Well, maybe the subprime mess.  Nah.  Not really.  Wrong again.

Although cloned food has been deemed to be perfectly healthy and safe, many will still be nervous about it, and demand that cloned meats and veggies be labeled as such.


Unexpected celebrity deaths:  Abe Vigoda (okay, it’s not that unexpected), Carol Burnett (car accident), Macauley Culkin (drug overdose), Paul Simon, Roslynn Carter (complications from stroke), James Garner (heart attack) and several drummers from various 1990’s bands.  One of the cast members of Friends will be shot in a restaurant by a deranged fan, starting a national discussion (again) on celebrity stalking.  Reese Witherspoon will get in a near-fatal car accident and have a leg or arm amputated.

Unbelieveably monsterously hideously wrong.

The next winner on American Idol will be a Spanish/Mexican woman from the West Coast, probably Washington.

Not bad prognostication here.  Jordin Sparks (from Arizona) won.  She’s female, but not hispanic.  The runner-up, Blake Lewis, was from Washington.

"You’re The One That I Want" will start off well in the ratings, and then tank.  I’ll still be watching.  By the way, the Broadway show revival of Grease (the grand prize) will suck at levels of suckitude heretofore unknown in theatrical history.

Nailed it!

The Academy Award for Best Picture of 2007 (which will be handed out in 2008) will have the name of an animal in the title.

Doubtful I got this right.  Unless Spiderman 3 gets an unexpected nod.

"24" and "Lost" will be cancelled when ratings fall off, as people get bored of the concept.  Science fiction/space shows will make a comeback.

Wrong on all counts.

Bell bottoms make (yet another) comeback, although this time their renaissance isn’t confined to jeans.

Um, wrong?

UPDATE:  Speaking of prognostication, how about this guy, who wrote on September 17, 2007:

It’s why, absent catastrophic injury, New England can win every football game it plays this season.

2008 Predictions

From Safire’s annual column.  The rules: for each item, choose one, all or none.:

1. The business headline of the year will be:

(a) Big Bounce to 15,000 Dow After Soft Landing

(b) Recession Has Brokers Selling Apples for Five Euros on Wall Street

(c) Subprime Mess Was Greatly Exaggerated

(d) China Buys Boeing

My guess: (a)

2. The Academy Award for Best Picture will go to:

(a) “There Will Be Blood”

(b) “Sweeney Todd”

(c) “American Gangster”

(d) “The Kite Runner”

(e) “Charlie Wilson’s War”

My guess: (a)

3. The Roberts Supreme Court will decide that:

(a) gun rights belong to the individual, but the Second Amendment’s key limitation is that gun possession should be “well-regulated”

(b) states can require voter ID to prevent fraud even if it reduces access

(c) lethal injection is not cruel or unusual punishment if it isn’t painful

(d) the “ancient right” of habeas corpus applies to Guantánamo detainees no matter what law Congress passes

My guess: All

4. The fiction sleeper best seller will be:

(a) “Missy,” a first novel by the British playwright Chris Hanna

(b) “Shadow and Light,” by Jonathan Rabb, set in prewar Germany

My guess: None

5. The nonfiction success will be:

(a) “American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the W.P.A.,” by Nick Taylor

(b) “What Do We Do Now?” interregnum advice by Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution

(c) “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History” by Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy’s alter ego

(d) “Basic Brown,” a memoir by Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco

(e) “Human,” by the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga

(f) “Come to Think of It,” by Daniel Schorr

My guess: (f)

6. The media world will be rocked as:

(a) fizzling ratings for a China-dominated ’08 Olympics induce G.E. to sell NBC Universal to cable-departing Time Warner

(b) “pod push-back” by music customers threatens Apple’s dominance of digital music space

(c) Google challenges telecommunications giants by taking steps to provide both telephone and video on the Internet

My guess: (c, although that might happen in 2009)

7. In United States foreign policy debates:

(a) success in Iraq will embarrass cut-and-run Democrats

(b) failure in Iraq will sink stay-the-course Republicans

(c) Iraq muddling along won’t affect the American election

My guess: None (Iraq muddling — which is neither success nor faillure — will affect the election, to the benefit of the Democrats)

8. The de facto dictator truly leaving the political scene this year will be:

(a) Hugo Chávez

(b) Vladimir V. Putin (afflicted by the Time cover jinx)

(c) Robert Mugabe

(d) Fidel Castro

My guess: (d)

9. By year’s end, American diplomats will be negotiating openly with:

(a) Hamas

(b) the Taliban

(c) Iran

My guess: None

10. The two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute appears when:

(a) a free election or civil strife in the West Bank and Gaza brings a unified, neighborly government to the Palestinians

(b) an Ehud Barak-Benjamin Netanyahu rematch results in a majoritarian, rightist coalition victory

(c) the Jerusalem division issue is resolved by expanding the official city limits to embrace two capitals

My guess: None

11. Assuming the Iowa caucuses to be meaningless pollster-media hype, the January primary state with the biggest influence on the outcome of both parties’ nominations will be:

(a) New Hampshire

(b) Michigan

(c) South Carolina

(d) Florida

My guess: (d)

12. The American troop level in Iraq at year’s end will be:

(a) the present 152,000

(b) the pre-surge 130,000

(c) 100,000 and dropping steadily

My guess: (c)

13. The issue most affecting the vote on Election Day will be:

(a) immigration: absorb ’em or deport ’em

(b) taxation: soak the rich or lift all boats

(c) health plans: incentivize or socialize

(d) diplomacy: accommodating realism or extending freedom

My guess: (b)

14. The presidential election will hinge primarily on:

(a) a debate blooper

(b) success or failure in Iraq

(c) Hispanic backlash

(d) a personal scandal

(e) a terror attack on the United States

(f) racism/sexism

(g) the economy, stupid

My guess: (a)

15. The Democratic ticket will be:

(a) Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama

(b) Obama-Clinton

(c) Clinton-Bill Richardson

(d) Obama-Joseph Biden

(e) John Edwards-Dianne Feinstein

My guess: (c)

16. The Republican ticket will be:

(a) Rudolph Giuliani-Mike Huckabee

(b) Mitt Romney-Gen. David Petraeus

(c) John McCain-Michael Bloomberg

My guess: (b)

17. The winning theme in November will be:

(a) time for a change

(b) don’t let them take it away

(c) experience counts

(d) nobody’s perfect

My guess: (a)

18. The election will be decided on:

(a) charisma

(b) experience

(c) character

(d) sex

(e) money

(f) issues

My guess: (c)

19. As 2009 dawns, Americans will face:

(a) a leftward march, with the Clintons in the White House and a Democratic Congress feeling no tax, entitlement or earmark restraint

(b) creative gridlock, as President McCain finds common ground with a centrist Democratic Congress

(c) a stunning G.O.P. conservative resurgence, with the equally long-shot Washington Redskins girding for the 2009 Super Bowl

My guess: (a) more than anything else.

If I remember, I’ll check back on this in one year…..

Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite

According to the Daily News, there is an epidemic in New York:

Amd_bedbugskinA bedbug epidemic has exploded in every corner of New York City – striking even upper East Side luxury apartments owned by Gov. Spitzer’s father, the Daily News has learned.

The blood-sucking nocturnal creatures have infested a Park Ave. penthouse, an artist’s colony in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a $25 million Central Park West duplex and a theater on Broadway, according to victims, exterminators and elected officials.

Once linked to flophouses and fleabags, bedbug outbreaks victimize the rich and poor alike and are spreading panic in some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.

"In the last six months, I’ve treated maternity wards, five-star hotels, movie theaters, taxi garages, investment banks, private schools, white-shoe law firms, Brooklyn apartments in Greenpoint, DUMBO and Cobble Hill, even the chambers of a federal judge," said Jeff Eisenberg, owner of Pest Away Exterminating on the upper West Side.

The numbers are off the charts: In 2004, New Yorkers placed 537 calls to 311 about bedbugs in their homes; the city slapped 82 landlords with bedbug violations, data show.

In the fiscal year that ended in June, 6,889 infestation complaints were logged and 2,008 building owners were hit with summonses.


The small, wingless, rust-colored insects hitch rides on clothing, luggage, furniture, bedding, bookbags, even shoelaces. They’ve been spotted in cabs and limos, as well as on buses and subways.

There’s even talk of creating a Bedbug Task Force, which I think would look hysterical on someone’s resume.

Plays Well With Others

Nice article in the New York Times about the crop of Broadway shows this past year.  The thrust is that star vehicles seem to have been decidely duds this year, while plays featuring ensemble acting are acquiring critical and box office success.  Examples of the former include "Young Frankenstein".  Example of the latter include "The Homcoming", "The Seafarer", "August: Osage County" and Mark Twain’s "Is He Dead?".

Read the whole thing.

The Ten Most Anticipated Movies Of 2008

And — with the possible exception of Cloverfield — there’s not a single one I’m the slightest bit interested in seeing.

Meanwhile, they omitted this movie, which I am interested in seeing:

By the way, I largely agree with Heather about Sweeney Todd, although I have to say that Helena Bonham Carter was atrocious.  I understand that she went a different direction than Angela Lansbury, taking out the comical elements.  The problem was that she didn’t replace that void with, well, anything.  And can she sing?  OMG, no.

A North Carolinian Canvasser Experiences New Hampshire

Yes, I know:

If you’ve never seen New England blanketed with two feet of snow, you have missed out on one of life’s glories. The already picturesque towns and even the cities take on a Christmas card/gingerbread village look that, combined with the crisp coolness and fresh air, way surpasses the two-dimensional Currier and Ives.

And when the snow is actually falling, even the dirtiest urban industrial zones take on an expectant silence, where all the brown and gray crusty crud piles from former storms get coated with fresh white blanket and the streets and sidewalks become pristine self-cleaned carpets. Your nose tickles. Everyone seems happier.

Read the whole thing.  Nice pictures, too.

When I was up there, we were only visited by one canvasser — a Ron Paul guy.  He really shouldn’t have been there — my Mom lives in an apartment building where you have to be buzzed in.

But the political TV ads and yard signs were out in full force, and politics was very much in the cold new Hampshire air.  Many candidates and their ralies were within 15 to 20 minutes drive, even though it was Christmastime.  Hillary and Chelsea bought Christmas presents on Main Street of my hometown.

It’s not like it used to be though.  The candidates rarely go door-to-door themselves nowadays.  But it is still retail politics at its core.  A shame the rest of the country can’t experience it.

Squandering America’s Leadership

Today’s New York Times editorial says everything that needs to be said in these four simple paragraphs:

There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

But keep in mind:

Glenn Greenwald reminds us the Democrats have been complicit in the Administration’s illegal spying, in waging illegal wars, in creating a CIA monster, in sanctioning torture, in destroying the 4th Amendment, in illegal kidnappings and detentions and the assault on habeas corpus, and in creating kangaroo courts. As much as the Administration’s arrogant defiance and contempt for the rule of law, the Democrat’s meek protests and their refusals time and again to stand up to these outrages dismayed their supporters and created a sense of helplessness, a feeling there is nothing our political institutions can or will do to do cure this sickness.

Forget Dropping Balls

The best New Year’s I’ve ever had was in Madrid Spain.  In the Nocheviela ("Old Night") festivities, people gathered in the town plaza and, by tradition, ate a grape for each of the 12 bell tolls.

You’re supposed to wear red underwear too — for good luck in the coming year — but I didn’t.  A few days later my passport was stolen.

About Time

They’re finally making the Fred Astaire-Cyd Charrise movie musical The Bandwagon (which features the song "That’s Entertainment") into a stage musical.

Best of all, it looks like some of the film’s weakest moments were those which were added by the studio after Comden and Green left the project.  The stage musical will be more faithful to the original movie that didn’t get made.


Worst Cliches Of 2007

Michigan’s Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie compiled a list of overused and tiresome phrases and cliches after receiving thousands of submissions.  It is suggested that we retire this phrases.

They are as follows (in order from worst to not-as-worse):

PERFECT STORM — a phrase used to describe any event that comes together as a result of other events

WEBINAR — A seminar on the web.  I confess to having never heard this but I agree with this guy:

"Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything." — Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.

Yeah, I hate e-anything and i-anything too.

WATERBOARDING — Refering to torture, not boogie boarding on water.  Sadly, I don’t think we can get rid of this word just yet, as it is in the news.

ORGANIC — Overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as "natural".  You can see it on everything from shampoo to cereal to dog food.

WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING — Creative use of words to hide meaning.  I actually kinda like this phrase.

AUTHORED — "Author" is a noun, not a verb.  You don’t meet people who "paintered" a painting, yes?

POST 9/11 — Yeah, I’m sick of this one too.

SURGE — No longer refers to electrical power or storms.  Just military.  And about everything else.

GIVE BACK — As in, "I just wanted to give back…", meaning to contribute to the community.

‘BLANK’ is the new ‘BLANK’ or ‘X’ is the new ‘Y’ — As in, "50 is the new 30" or "Orange is the new pink" or "Thursday night is the new Friday night" and so on and so on….

BLACK FRIDAY — The day after Thanksgiving when everyone goes shopping (followed by the equally annoying phrase "Cyber Monday", when everyone does there online shopping)

BACK IN THE DAY — It used to mean decades ago, but now people are using it to refer to a few years ago — like, "Back in the day when phones didn’t have built-in cameras…."

RANDOM — Teenagers use this alot, e.g., "That guy is so random".  I don’t know what it means in that context.

SWEET — Like "awesome", but sweeter.

DECIMATE — People have been using this word wrong for years.  It actually means to destroy one-tenth of something.  If I "decimate" you, I’m not really doing much damage.  Unfortunately, people use it to mean "annihalate" which is total devestation.

EMOTIONAL — Overused by reporters to describe a scene or a news story or a person.

POP — Overused on decorating shows, as in, "The addition of the red wainscotting really makes this room POP".

IT IS WHAT IT IS — Well, duuuuh!

UNDER THE BUS — Where people get thrown a lot these days.

Anything Happen When I Was Away?

Political assassinations?  Tigers on the loose?  Stuff like that?

UPDATE:  In case you missed, Channel 4 obtained new footage of the Bhutto assassination, showing that — contrary to the official government statement — she was struck by an assassin’s bullet before the bomb went off.

Merry Xmas, Y’all

Headin off in a few hours to New Hampshire.  Gone for a week.  Won’t probably blog much.  It’s Xmas.

I was going to do this really awesome thing where you could track my whereabouts in realtime online as I drive through Virginia, up to Albany, and across Vermont.  Would have shown my EXACT location on a Google map, my altitude, how fast I’m going, etc.

But I couldn’t get the technology to work.  Almost did, and if I had another couple days of free time, maybe I coulda done it.  Oh well.

Be good, everyone.  Have happy holidays.

“Don’t Tase Me Bro”

That’s the catch phrase — the "Where’s The Beef" if you will — of 2007.

The Phoenix has a list of other catch phrases of the year, and when/how to use them.

Here’s the entry for the aforementioned DTMB:

CATCH PHRASE “Don’t Tase me, bro!”
ORIGINAL CONTEXT “By the time 2008 rolls around,” wrote our own Adam Reilly in September, “ ‘Don’t Tase me, bro!’ will have made ‘Where’s the beef?’ look downright timeless.” How wrong can an eagle-eyed and otherwise-faultless media correspondent be? Campus robo-cops may have given University of Florida student Andrew Meyer no quarter when he disrupted a speech by John “Mussolini” Kerry, but a grateful nation took him to its heart. Meyer’s blubbered and futile cry for mercy reaches out Job-like from the core of the human condition: who among us, threatened with the imminent application of reality’s mega-voltage zap gun, has not thought or uttered something similar?
USE IN EVERYDAY LIFE AS a retort to any perceived attempt to intimidate or apply pressure of an authoritarian nature.
EXAMPLE “Hey, this is a disabled parking space! You’re not disabled!”
“Don’t Tase me, bro.”

Unconstitutional Gifts

The AP reports:

Motorists may be in for a surprise if they spot flashing red lights in their rearview mirrors in this Sacramento suburb [Rancho Cordova] during the holiday season.

Police are stopping law-abiding motorists and rewarding their good driving with $5 Starbucks gift cards.

A traffic officer came up with the idea to "promote the holiday spirit and enhance goodwill between the traffic unit and the motoring public," police Sgt. Tim Curran said….

It’s a nice idea (well, not really — see below), but it’s unconstitutional.  When a police officer forces you to stop, that a "seizure", defined as a situation "when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen." Under the Fourth Amendment, such seizures must be reasonable.  There are two categories of "reasonable" seizures: (1) when the officers has a reasonable suspicion that the person he "seized" has commited a crime (including a traffic violation); and (2) an administrative need relating to security or crime prevention (such as airport screening). Neither is present here, so the stop violates the Fourth Amendment.

I also don’t think it’s very nice.  I’m sorry, but most people don’t enjoy the experience of those flashing red light behind them, and being pulled over by an officer.  And a Starbucks gift certificate ain’t going to make them feel better.

But here’s my question….

What if the driver refuses to stop and just keeps driving, albeit below the speed limit?  Can he be charged with a crime (i.e., "fleeing law enforcement")?

Miss America: Reality Check?

Hat-tip to Heather Handy Heather Maple-dew-Who, who has the low-down.

It’s a four-part "reality series" on TLC, starring all 52 Miss America contestants.  According to the TLC release:

The premiere episode begins when the 52 state winners arrive at the mansion in full pageant regalia – dresses, sashes and crowns. Immediately they meet their host Michael Urie who delivers the painful news that Miss America is perceived as being outdated in contemporary society. Quickly crushed, their hopes are restored when they discover that TLC is giving Miss America a makeover! Everything the girls have spent their entire lives training for is about to change.

Through a series of events and challenges, the girls will be retrained with the new criteria for Miss America and be put to the test. This is meant to revolutionize not only their look, but the whole package – their attitude, how they carry themselves and the way they relate to the everyday world.

[Emphasis mine].

Here’s how it reads from the Miss America PR department:

For the first time in history, MISS AMERICA: REALITY CHECK brings all 52 contestants together to live under one roof to undo everything they have learned about pageant basics and determine if their smarts, attitudes and looks hold up in contemporary society.  Led by host Urie, the girls participate in an intense set of events and challenges designed to prepare them for the finale event, a renewed competition that will redefine what it takes to be Miss America, a relatable and individual ‘it girl’ who can connect with today’s modern woman.

That all sounds well and good, but I wonder if that is just hype for the TLC show (and, by extension, the pageant).  I was curious to see exactly what this "new criteria" is for the competition, and at the Miss America website, it looks pretty much the same (in fact, it is the same — the current website page is from 2006):

Finals Competition Scoring

The scoring for the Miss America Finals Competition is weighted accordingly:

  • Composite Score – 30% (Top 10)
  • Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit – 20% (Top 10)
  • Evening Wear – 20% (Top 10)
  • Talent – 30% (Top 5)
  • On-stage Question (Top 3)
  • Final Ballot – Each judge ranks the final three contestants in the order he/she believes they should each finish. The outcome of the pageant is based solely on the point totals resulting from the final ballot.

Now, perhaps I am missing something.  After all, this only shows the weight given each category and not what criteria is set out within each category.  I still don’t know exactly what the judges are charged with looking for, or how it differs from previous years.

I guess I’ll have to watch TLC to find out.

Top Ten Bushisms Of 2007

Compiled by Daniel Kurtzman:

10. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it." –interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

9. "I fully understand those who say you can’t win this thing militarily. That’s exactly what the United States military says, that you can’t win this military." –on the need for political progress in Iraq, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 2007

8. "One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be." –on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

7. "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." –addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit. Later, in the same speech: "As John Howard accurately noted when he went to thank the Austrian troops there last year…" –referring to Australian troops as "Austrian troops," Sept. 7, 2007

6. "My relationship with this good man is where I’ve been focused, and that’s where my concentration is. And I don’t regret any other aspect of it. And so I — we filled a lot of space together." –on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2007

5. "You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 — 1976." –to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007

4. "The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m a Commander Guy." –deciding he is no longer just "The Decider," Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007

3. "Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets." –Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007

2. "There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible." –Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007

1. "As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." –on the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2007

And by the way, Time’s Person of the Year is no longer "You."  It’s Putin.

The Clampetts Of Hollywood Keep Spawning

They got birth control in Lweezeena?

UPDATE:  The news of Jamie-Lynn Spear’s pregnancy (at age 16) has caused Britney and Jamie-Lynn’s mother to postpone completion of her book on parenting

I’ll type that again, just in case you missed it.

The news of Jamie-Lynn Spear’s pregnancy (at age 16) has caused Britney and Jamie-Lynn’s mother to postpone completion of her book on parenting!

Let me type that again, and say it in a slightly different way.

The woman who passed on her maternal instincts to her custody-challenged no-baby-seatbelt daughter Britney, and her 16-year-old pregnancy other daughter Jamie Lynn, will have to delay a parenting book.

The book was to be published by a Christian book publisher.

The jokes write themselves…

Back To The Videotape

The story of the destroyed torture tapes is back in the news, and this time, the White House isn’t looking as clean.

Earlier, it had been reported that the White House (specifically, Harriet Miers) had advised against destroying the tapes, which is the correct legal advice.

Now, the facts are a litte fuzzier:

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some other officials assert that no one at the White House advocated destroying the tapes. Those officials acknowledged, however, that no White House lawyer gave a direct order to preserve the tapes or advised that destroying them would be illegal.


Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

Given what we now know about Gonzales — and especially Addington — I find it hard to believe that they would advocate preserving the tapes.

BREAKING NEWS — Apparently, they’re burning documents as well:

ArtfireoeobwindowcnnFirefighters battled thick smoke and flames Wednesday inside the historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, which houses the vice president’s ceremonial offices.

They used axes to break windows on the third floor of the ornate building shortly after the blaze broke out after 9 a.m.

Within an hour, smoke had stopped pouring from the building.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s working offices are in the West Wing of the White House, and he was not in the EEOB at the time of the fire.

Smoke could be seen from the White House driveway.

Blackwater Shoots The New York Times’ Dog

The New York Times has been reporting how the security firm, Blackwater, has been going around shooting innocent people in Baghdad for no good reason.

And guess what happened last week?

The U.S. embassy in Iraq is investigating another deadly shooting incident involving its Blackwater bodyguards — this time of the New York Times’s dog.

Staff at the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau said Blackwater bodyguards shot Hentish dead last week before a visit by a U.S. diplomat to the Times compound.

Blackwater is saying that the dog was a threat of some sort, but the State Department is investigating and taking it "very seriously".

Playing The Victim

Conservatives often like to play the victim over imaginary threats (i.e., the left-wing conspiracy to attack Christmas [the so-called "War On Christmas"]), and I find that (for some reason) very very amusing.

Some conservatives, however, let their imagination run away with them:

A Princeton University junior who claimed to have been beaten by two men in black ski caps for his conservative views….

Of course, Nava’s "beating" was Exhibit A throughout the conservative punditry about how craaaazy liberals are.  Brit Hume of Fox News led off his "Grapevine" report with the case (video here).  Instapundit linked to the story, claiming it showed that conservatives were now living under a "climate of fear".

But a few days later, the "victim" of the attack….

…admitted on Monday that he made up the attack, according to Princeton Township police officials.

Francisco Nava, 23, told police that he was attacked on Friday evening, two days after he and three other students belonging to a conservative group, the Anscombe Society, had received threatening e-mail messages, according to the university. The society opposes premarital sex and advocates for a return to more traditional morality in society. A politics professor who serves as an unofficial adviser to the group, Robert P. George, also received e-mail threats.

So much for that meme.

[Note: it’s not the first time a conservative college activitst claimed — falsely — to have been beaten up by "liberal thugs"]

How Loony Is Huckabee?

In 1998, then-Arkansas-governor Huckabee wrote a book entitled Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture Of Violence, spawned from a March 24, 1998, school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

In Kids Who Kill, Huckabee argued that school shootings were the product of a society in decline, a decline marked (and caused) by abortion, pornography, media violence, out-of-wedlock sex, divorce, drug use, and, of course, homosexuality. Huckabee and his coauthor bemoaned the "demoralization of America," observing, "Despite all our prosperity, pomp, and power, the vaunted American experiment in liberty seems to be disintegrating before our very eyes." Huckabee, who was governor at the time and a well-known social conservative, blasted away at those whom he held responsible for America’s ills, and he took a rather tough stand against government social programs and their advocates. In lamenting the "cultural conflicts" besetting the country, he wrote,

Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities.

Excuse me?  Environmentalism is besetting the country, leading kids to shoot other kids?

Of course, when you consider that Huckabee himself has a "kid who killed" (his son, as a Boy Scout camp counselor, once hung a stray dog — apparently just to watch it die), one wonders what kind of moral depravity is going on inside the Huckabee home.

FOR FURTHER READING via Perrspectives — the Top 20 Moments of Huckabee Extremism:

    1. Huckabee Enables the Politically-Motivated Parole of Repeat Rapist/Murderer
    2. Huckabee Offers Faith-Based Pardons
    3. Huckabee Undermines the Teaching of Evolution
    4. Huckabee Speaks for God
    5. Huckabee Speaks to God
    6. Huckabee Claims God Behind His Rise in the Polls
    7. Huckabee Proclaims His Theology Degree a Unique Qualification to Fight Terrorism
    8. Huckabee Flip-Flops, Calls for Federal Abortion Ban
    9. Huckabee Calls for Consumption Tax, Abolition of the IRS
    10. Huckabee Vows to Take Nation Back for Christ
    11. Huckabee Declares Culture War in 1998 Book
    12. Huckabee Declares Women Should Graciously Submit to Their Husbands
    13. Huckabee Predicts Victory over Islam at the End of Times
    14. Huckabee Boasts About Theology Degree He Doesn’t Have
    15. Huckabee Destroys His State Computer Records – and Church Sermons
    16. Huckabee Offers State Appointments in Exchange for Gifts
    17. Huckabee Uses Wedding Registries to Furnish New Home
    18. Huckabee Offers Clemency to Repeat DWI Offender (and GOP Donor)
    19. Huckabee Intervenes to Save Dog-Killing Son from Legal Jeopardy

My, Aren’t We Vain!


NEW YORK (AP) – More Americans are Googling themselves – and many are checking out their friends, co-workers and romantic interests, too.

In a report Sunday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said 47 percent of U.S. adult Internet users have looked for information about themselves through Google or another search engine.

That is more than twice the 22 percent of users who did in 2002, but Pew senior research specialist Mary Madden was surprised the growth wasn’t higher.

"Yes it’s doubled, but it’s still the case that there’s a big chunk of Internet users who have never done this simple act of plugging their name with search engines," she said. "Certainly awareness has increased, but I don’t know it’s necessarily kept pace with the amount of content we post about ourselves or what others post about us."

Fascists Everywhere

Via Sadly, No!, a look at the dustcover of Jonah Goldberg’s forthcoming book entitled "Liberal Fascists".

This is the book that Jonah himself described back in March with these words:

My book isn’t like Dinesh’s latest book. It isn’t like any Ann Coulter book. It isn’t what the Amazon description says or what the Economist claims it is. Or what Frank Rich imagines it is. It is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

(Emphasis mine).



Let’s take a closer look…


That, apparently, is what passes for "very serious, thoughtful" and non-Ann Coulterish scholarly works these days: characterizing female grade school teachers as "friendly" versions of Nazis.

Ladies and gents, meet the new quintessential fascists….

UPDATE:  Yeah, right .  Well-researched

UPDATE:  How about this?  Hitler was a liberal because he was a vegetarian…


To his credit, Jonah argues that people who are concerned with health issues aren’t fascist per se, but rather that people who want to ban trans fats merely have fascist tendencies.

Which makes a difference.

Also, this:


Got to love that "primacy of race" thing.  Yes, Hitler believed that "the Aryan race was superior" and the New Left believes that "all races are equal".  And they since they’re BOTH concerned about "race", BOTH groups get thrown in the "primacy of race" bin and are painted as equivalents.

Sondheim Dismembers Sweeney

Good series of articles in yesterday’s New York Times about the cuts made to bring the stage musical Sweeney Todd to the screen.  For example:

After 20 years of directors and deals falling by the wayside, Mr. Burton and the screenwriter John Logan came along with an idea for retelling the story in more cinematic terms. First, there would be no chorus commenting on the action in song; the singing would be done entirely by the principals. This meant cutting or truncating all ensemble numbers, a major element of the stage production, which had a chorus of 18. Out went “The Letter,” “City on Fire” and two-thirds of “God, That’s Good!” Even the show’s opening number and recurrent theme, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” which was to be sung by the ghosts of Sweeney’s victims as the movie progressed, was dropped just before filming. Happily, the song’s “Dies Irae” climax and creepy, buzzing string figures — Mr. Sondheim’s tribute to the film composer Bernard Herrmann — remain as underscoring.

The filmmakers also suggested cutting most of the sunnier songs that offered relief onstage but would be hard to film interestingly or would dissipate the desired atmosphere of unrelenting dread. Out went “Ah, Miss,” “Kiss Me” and “Parlor Songs.” To keep the movie under two hours (the stage show lasts about three) most of the songs that did remain were trimmed by about 20 percent, Mr. Sondheim estimated. In all fewer than 10 of the stage show’s 25 major numbers survived substantially intact.

It’s clear from the articles that Sondheim was instrumental (no pun intended) in making these cuts, and were it not for his blessing, I would probably have reservations.  As he notes, some of the numbers simply would not work on the big screen, lest the film be over three hours long.

It’s not set to open until later this week, but skippy the bush kangaroo (and his wife) saw an advanced screening and enjoyed it:

we think that any concern that the younger generation don’t relate to musicals will be put to rest (pun intended) by this film. because we think that the same audience that loves to watch the splatter fest of rob zombie films will enjoy the gallons of blood flowing in this feel-good film of the holiday season.

tim burton does wonderful things with camera shots, angles and movement, which certainly helps in several of sondheim’s more plodding musical soliloquies …and the art direction by dante ferretti is definitely as much a star as johnny depp or burton-squeeze helene bonham carter.

the london that ferretti creates onscreen is not necessarily historically accurate victorian london, but rather jeckyll-and-hyde jack-the-ripper haammer-horror classic london. and it works thrillingly well.

luckily for the integrity of art, depp, bonham carter and the other cast members (including alan rickman, timothy spall and borat) sing their own songs. luckily for us, they sing not only well, but with passion and great control. we were worried that depp would "talk sing" his way thru this tour-de-force role, but the man can belt it out!

which makes the free-flowing gallons of blood spurting out of the necks of sweeney’s victims in the middle of the arias all the more disturbing. the musical convention of real life stopping while characters burst into song is completely turned on its head, which is both delightful and grotesque. while depp sings about his lost wife and his need for revenge in a stylist, stagey musical approach, the actors who play his victims very realistically shudder and gurgle as blood squirts out of their necks. the result is rather like watching michael myers doing a number from "singing in the rain" as he slaughters everyone in halloween.

Okay then.

Tuna Christmas

From The Winston-Salem Journal, on the subject of Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance’s production of "Tuna Christmas"

Once again, director Jamie Lawrence knows just how to tap body language and voice inflection to convey character after character. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the same actor can inhabit so many different personalities.

Well, credit is certainly due to Jamie Lawson for his direction and vision, but as for tapping the body language and voice inflection?  That kudos goes to Gray Smith and Tim Swift.  Twenty-two over-the-top eccentric charactors, portrayed by just two guys.  Each one got its own unique stamp in the laugh-filled holiday fest.

For those who missed, not to worry.  It’s running again next weekend.  Get yer tickets soon, fer itsa sellin’ faster ‘n blazers at the DQ on a scorcher.

Typepad Update

Sporadic blogging.  Something up with Typepad.  Bear with me while they fix the technical difficulties…

UPDATE:  Problems fixed.  For the record, it wasn’t Typepad.  It was some coding I did this weekend for the site.  Grrrrrr…..

UPDATE NO. 2:  Hmmmm.  It’s now listing all my posts for the past several months on the lefthand column….

Lieberman Endorses McCain

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., just endorsed Republican John McCain’s bid for the presidency, Saying:

"I know it’s unusual for a Democrat to be endorsing a Republican…"

Except for one thing Sen. Lieberman — you’re not Democrat.

UPDATE:  Ned Lamont, the Democrat that Lieberman defeated in 2006, says:

During our debate last year, Senator Lieberman intoned that he wanted to "elect a Democratic President in 2008," and that my election would "frustrate and defeat our hope of doing that." With his endorsement of John McCain today, it is now clear that Joe Lieberman is the one working to defeat our hopes.

Yup, that’s what Lieberman said:

The Huckabee Backlash

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:  Typepad seems to be on the fritz.  I’m still posting, but nothing is showing.  I guess they’re working on it….

It’s kind of amusing to watch the GOP punditry lash out against Huckabee.  For years, they have courted the Christian conservative vote if only to get people like Bush in office.  People like Bush make a lot of promises about stopping abortion, keeping gays from getting married, and so on, but nothing happens.  You know why?  It’s a ruse to get the Christian conservative vote.

Now, along comes Huckabee, a TRUE Christian conservative himself, and all of a sudden you have GOP pundits screaming for the hills and even threatening to vote Democratic if Huckabee wins the GOP nomination.

Here is Dan Riehl on the prospect of a Huckabee nomination:

That Presidential “R” in 2008 will stand for nothing I believe in. The guy is slick but doesn’t even look competent. And if Republican primary voters are that stupid, they deserve to lose next Fall. To pass over McCain, Thompson, Romney and Giuliani ONLY because someone’s slick and a Jesus Freak, which makes him your average televangelist – forget it.

Regular readers of Dan Riehl will blanche at the phrase "Jesus Freak" to describe a Christian conservative.  He was quite happy with the rhetoric of christian conservatism, up until Huckabee of course.

Conservative writers are even exuding that kind of elitism that they usually claim belongs to liberals, as in this "Go Back To Dogpatch"-like advice to Huckabee from the conservative Corner:

That bait shop on the lake — it’s looking good. You’ll be surrounded by nice neighbors, real Christians, and you can be the smartest guy in the room. You can go out running every morning. Remember Huck — Jesus wouldn’t be dumb enough to go into politics.You were right on that one. Maybe it’s not what he wants from you either.

Then there is columnist Peggy Noonan who, although critical of Huckabee, makes an interesting (and true) observation about his impact on the GOP:

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I’m just not sure he’d be pure enough to make it in this party. I’m not sure he’d be considered good enough.

Sully is right:

Every complacent secular Republican who has scorned those of us worried about the fundie right is beginning to squirm in the face of Huckabee’s surge.

So is Sadly No:

In this light, the horror at Huck’s rise is completely understandable. The GOP simply loved having the “idiot” vote as long as the idiots kept supporting tax-cuttin’ anti-gubmint candidates. When they start switching their support to someone who hasn’t been as faithful a supply-sider, then the economic elite will well and fully freak out.

As a Democrat, I am of course salivating at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination.

Sadly, even a win in Iowa (a distinct possibility) won’t be enough to sustain him.

But it’s nice to dream.

UPDATE:  The email letter to conservative pundit Rich Lowry gets to the heart of the schism that the GOP now finds itself in:

Rich, I think what a lot of evangelicals may be missing here is that many non-evangelical conservatives are completely baffled, and frustrated, by the amount of support for the non-conservative Bush-channeling Huckabee.  When we sit back and look at the amount of frustration and consternation that Bush has caused among conservatives, and then see Huckabee (who represents everything bad about Bush, with few of his positive characteristics) gaining the support of a fourth of our party, we have to ask ourselves why.  The most obvious answer seems to be that he is attracting so much support because he is the only evangelical candidate in the race. To many conservatives, well at least to me, this idea that we should betray conservative principles in order to support a candidate with the right religious credentials is more than shocking, it is abhorrent, and the result is an anti-evangelical backlash.  I consider myself a social conservative, and share so much common ground with evangelicals that it truly hurts me to see the strain being placed on our relationship.  But as long as their power is used to push a statist non-conservative candidate on our party, we will not be seeing eye-to-eye.


Well, well, well….

Look how much the Bush Administration has spent for paper-shredding over the past few years.


Each bar off the vertical axis represents $500,000 dollars.

John Cook:

In 2000, the feds spent $452,807 to make unpleasant truths go away; by 2006, the "Cheney Effect" had bumped that number up to $2.9 million. And by halfway through 2007, the feds almost matched that number, with $2.7 million and counting. Pretty much says it all.

Class Warfare

Bush wonders why he’s not getting credit for the increase in wealth because if his tax plan.

Thanks to Krugman and Yglesius, we can see why — graphically.  The reason people don’t tout the benefir it because from Bush’s tax plans hits strongers for less the 10% of Americans.  And that 10%?  The uber-rich:


The Mitchell Report

I wasn’t going to address this, but I had the same thoughts as Volokh conspiracy blogger Ilya Somin (also a Bosox fan), so I might as well dive in:

Unfortunately, the prominence of Yankees stars in the Report and the near-absence of Red Sox stars raises the question of whether Senator George Mitchell, the Report’s primary author, was compromised by his status as a Boston Red Sox director. Was he deliberately targeting Yankees players and/or purposely overlooking offenses by Red Sox?

Somin goes on to answer his own question with a "no".  Mitchell, he argues, has "made a career of serving as an elder statesman/conflict mediator from Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", and is unlikely to risk that reputation because of his connection to the Red Sox.

Okay, I’ll buy that.

By the way, former Red Sox on "the list" include [Eric] Gagne, [Mo] Vaughn, [Roger] Clemens, Mike Stanton, Mike Lansing, Manny Alexander, Jose Manzanillo, Jeremy Giambi, [Brendan] Donnelly, Kent Mercker, Chris Donnels.

Glad to see Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, and Nomar Garciaperra — rumored to be on the list — are in fact not listed.

I have little else to say about The Mitchell Report (full report — 409 pages in pdf format) other than what everybody else is saying (including the report itself).  The use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is casting a pall on the enjoyability of the game, and it’s high time (past time, in fact) that baseball does something about it.  The report is a launching-off point for serious revisions to the rules, and hopefully everybody — owners, managers, and (most crucially) the baseball unions — will get behind it.

Obama Edges Ahead In New Hampshire

Sen. Barack Obama "has come from behind to turn the Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire into a toss-up," according to a new Concord Monitor poll. Obama leads with 32%, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton at 31%, John Edwards at 18% and Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.

Key finding:

"The poll suggests that the Democratic race could hinge on the turnout of undeclared voters, who aren’t registered with either political party. Much of Obama’s backing comes from undeclared voters, while registered Democrats make up the bulk of Clinton’s support. In New Hampshire, undeclared voters can vote in either party primary, giving them sway in both contests."

Maybe They Weren’t Terrorists?

The Miami "Seas of David" terror bust was such an important blow in the War on Terror that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales himself gave a press conference in July of 2006. Federal agents had stopped a plot to blow up the Sears Tower, he said. The group had planned to "accomplish attacks against America," the FBI’s deputy director said at Gonzales side. "We pre-empted their plot."

At the time, many — including myself — felt that it was a lot of hype.  A bunch of Muslims with tough talk amongst themselves, and absolutely no means to carry out such an attack.  It was unclear whether the group really had any plans themselves, or whether they got all their ideas from the FBI informant. When the FBI raided the Temple, FBI agents found only one knife and a blackjack. The group trained by shooting paintball guns in the woods.

Apparently, your peers in the jury agreed.  The government’s case ended yesterday with one exoneration and six mistrials.

Bush Will Veto Ban On Waterboarding

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a ban on torture. Actually, per The Gavel, the House adopted the Army’s rules prohibiting torture for other agencies. Seems the Army doesn’t want to condone a practice that could be used on our soldiers. Not Bush, though. He will veto that ban:

The White House vowed to veto the measure. Limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

Casualties Of War

The other statistic:

More than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment for mental problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, an official said during a hearing on suicides.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s deputy chief of patient care, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the department’s suicide hotline has received more than 6,000 calls from veterans or their families since it was established in July.

Patriots Proud Of Defeating Whoever That Last Team Was

From The Onion:

FOXBOROUGH, MA—Patriots quarterback Tom Brady diplomatically emphasized that defeating whoever it was they had just played gave him and his teammates a great sense of accomplishment during his post-game press conference Sunday. "It’s always very satisfying to got out there and get a win against…against those guys," Brady said, adding that it was a mistake to take those other guys for granted as they were capable of making a few plays. "They definitely had some sort of game plan, and they were running around fairly fast out there. We overcame a lot to triumph over, uh, you know, them." According to Brady, the Patriots still need to correct a number of mistakes during the week’s practices, execute better, and prepare for that one team they have to defeat next.

Additions To Webcam

I’ve had three webcams to the right hand "Live Webcams" column.

(1) Lindsey Lights, a live shot of the well-known house in Ontario Canada with an incredible light display set to music (you’re better off, however, watching the live video stream when it is up and running)

Here’s a Youtube of last year’s display:

(2) Some webcam in Lewisville, pretty close to my house.

(3)  NASA TV

Meteor Shower Alert

For those of you who have never seen a meteor shower, it’s really beautiful.

It’s that time of year: the annual Geminid Meteor Shower, and astronomers are saying it’s a "great year" to view it.  This is because, unlike last year, the moon will be in crescent phase (rather than a full moon), making the night sky darker and the meteors easier to see. 

Under normal conditions on the night of maximum activity, with ideal dark-sky conditions, at least 60 to 120 Geminid meteors can be expected to burst across the sky every hour on the average, on the peak night. 

The Geminid Meteor Shower is very popular, because the meteors last longer in the sky (travelling half as fast as other meteors in other showers) making them easier to catch.  Once you’ve seen a few, and at peak times, it kind of looks like field mice scurrying across the night sky.

Although you can probably see the shower any night this week (if you know where and when to look), the peak night is December 13-14.

If you’re lucky, you might even catch an "earth grazer", which is quite different from a typical streak-across-the-sky meteor.  Earthgrazers are much larger and slower, having entered the earth’s atmosphere.  It’s a slow-moving ball of fire.  It often gets mistaken for a UFO.  Here’s what one looks like:

Earthgrazers are usually low in the horizon.  But pretty rare.

So how do you know where and when to look?  Well, the meteors eminate from the Gemini constellation.  Gemini will start to come above the horizon — in the east-to-northeast — at twilight.  You might be able to catch a few meteors even that early. 

Gemini should be easy to find, if you can find Orion’s belt.  Take a look at this picture below to see where Castor and Pollux are in relation to Orion’s belt (Try to envision this picture without the labels and lines).  Generally, you will find this in the eastern sky (lower in the eastern sky if you are going out earlier; higher if you are going out later).


(Just a note — I think Mars — not depicted in the map — will be in there somewhere, so don’t let it throw you.  You can tell Mars by its reddish tint).

10 pm will be a decent viewing time, and 2 am is probably optimal, since Gemini will be almost directly overhead and the radiant path of the meteors will be visible.  Unfortunately, the moon will be rising starting at about 1:30 am, so that tends to make them harder to see.

The meteors will appear to emanate from the star Castor in the Gemini constellation, but here’s the thing — you probably won’t see them if you look right at Castor. After sunset, you should face generally east and look halfway up.   You won’t need binoculars or a telescope (in fact, those devices limit your field of vision — you often "catch" meteors out of the corner of your eye).  Obviously, the further you are from ambient light (from the city), the better.

Happy skywatching!

Review: New “Barney VI” Film Is A Dog

Bcam07beazleyEver since Barney Bush made his first Christmas movie, it has become an annual tradition to be enjoyed by an ever dwindling selective audience.  In fact, the only people who are still interested in the "Barney" Christmas movies are probably the Bush family themselves.

This year’s Barney movie, with the subtitle "Holiday In The National Parks", does nothing more than make this reviewer convinced that it is time to retire the franchise.

Don’t get me wrong: it is exciting to see such a celebrity-packed movie.  And the surprises never end.  Look!  It’s Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne!  Wow! 

And who can forget the dynamic performace of the Director of the National Park Service, Mary Bomar.

Even Tony Blair makes an appearance, noting that he, like Barney himself, is a "Scot".  It’s funny because it’s true!

And country music star Alan Jackson makes an appearance as well, probably because he was in the White House on the day they happened to shoot the video.

And of course, President Bush, Laura Bush, and even the Bush twins appear in the film, although not in the same scene or room.  (Apparently, they don’t get along with each other).

But as exciting as it is to see people like the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, the film gets bogged down in its rather tiresome theme — the same theme that runs through in all the previous Barney films.  The audience is tortured with seemingless endless shots of Barney and Miss Beazely running through the White House, pushing a Christmas ornament (how many times have we seen that before).  And endless montages of White House decorations being put up.  Scenes like that can’t possibly hold a candle to the sheer excitement and thrill that one sees when the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, graces the screen.

The plot is loosely based on a White-House-dog-makes-good theme.  In the opening scene, President Bush explains to Barney that the White House is designated a national park.  At that point, Barney, for reasons not entirely explained or explored, desires to become an honorary Junior Park Ranger. 

But Barney’s dreams are not easily attainable.  From his meetings with the frightfully exciting Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, as well as the equally enthralling Director of the National Park Service, Mary Bomar, we learn that in order to become a Junior Park Ranger, you must "come up with a big idea to help shine the spotlight on the parks".

Discouraged by this news, Barney runs to the Bush twins, where Jenna reminds him that she became engaged in a national park.  Following a bizarre (and somewhat uncomfortable) dream sequence in which Barney envisions being married to Miss Beazley, Barney runs around the White House for, like, the umpteenth time, while people around him are putting up Christmas decorations.

And not "running around" in a particularly interesting/comical way, like Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci in "Home Alone".  Nope, just running around.  Up and down the newly-cleaned floors of the White House.

Apparently, "running around" was all that was needed to become meet the criteria, because — SPOILER ALERT! —  Barney and Miss Beazly are sworn in as Junior Park Rangers.  I guess (although it’s not made clear) their "big idea" was to have the national parks serve as places for doggie weddings.

To this reviewer, I found the whole "Junior Park Ranger" plot line a little far-fetched.  I seriously doubted that the United States Government would bestow such a title on a couple of terriors (not to be confused with "terrorists"), even if they are the President’s terrorists terriors.  But more importantly, I didn’t care

Bcam07mrsbushThe performances by Barney and Miss Beazley were predictably cute, but the human performaces were stilted.  I honestly believe that the part of Mrs. Laura Bush was actually a computer generated effect, or possibly Cesar Romero reviving his "Joker" character from the hit TV series Batman.

Much of the film was shot from the viewpoint of Barney, with the human actors looking into the camera and talking to the camera as if it was Barney.  That may have been "cutting edge" for the first Barney film several years ago, but now it is hackneyed and forced.

The soundtrack, largely provided by the "President’s Own" United States Marine Corps Band was jazzy and uplifting and definitely had a Christmas appeal, but it couldn’t save this film.

And the biggest sin of all — at times it seemed as if the whole film was just one giant public relations advertisement for the National Park Service, and had nothing to do with Christmas.

For these reasons, I give the film two large paws down.

If one can endure the entire 7-minute waste, there is a "Cannonball Run" type outtake at the end.  It seems that when Barney was filming his scene with the President of the United States, Barney ran off!  Hahahahahahahahaha!   You see, they were filming the scene, and the dog ran away!  And the President had to say "Come here, Barney" because his dog had run out of camerashot!!  I mean, who could have predicted that outtake?  Pure comedy gold!