Monday, May 23, 2005

Star Wars

I just saw Episode III Revenge of the Sith. My initial reaction is that while far better than Episode's I and II, it was inferior to IV and V. It has very well constructed CGI landscapes and well choreographed action sequences.

However, George Lucas should not be allowed to write dialouge and the rumors that Tom Stoppard reworked the screenplay only suggests how awful the original must have been. Also, Hayden Christensen must be immediately kicked out of the Screen Actors Guild and never be allowed in front of a camera again. He makes an early Stallone look smooth and an early Arnold look eriudite.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


There has been an extensive amount of coverage on the Republican's attempts to do away with the filibuster in the Senate so they can confirm a very small number of judicial nominees. This is one of the most "Penny Wise Pound Foolish" ideas that I have seen some legislators come up with in a long while.

Perhaps Priscilla Owen is to radical (or reactionary) for the court. Perhaps she is as mainstream as Bill Frist suggests. In the end she is irrelevant to the significant issue here. By listening to the religious and social conservative activitists who are demanding these actions, Frist (who desperately wants to be President and thinks this is how he can get there) and his collegues are threatening a significant constitutional guarantee on our liberty. The rules of the Senate, inlcuding the filibuster, for them to deliberate and find consensus and compromise. Traditionally the Senate's role was to moderate the actions of the House of Representatives. Even when the Democrats held significant majorities in both houses of Congress, the rules of the Senate forced a legislative outcome that was more the creation of statesmen than of ideologues.

Robert Bennett, a Republican Senator from Utah is quoted in the Washington Post "Once we [Republicans] try to change the rules with 51 votes, the precedent is on the table," he said. "If Hillary Clinton becomes president with a Democratic Senate and wants to appoint Lani Guinier to the Supreme Court, Harry Reid could make that happen with 51 votes."

The activists driving the end of the filibuster assume incorrectly that the Republican Party will continue to be a majority party in the Senate and will continue to support their positions indefinately. History would suggest that they are certainly incorrect on the first assumption and likely incorrect on the second. Newt Gingrich's 1994 election victory was the first time the Republican party had held a mojority in the House of Representatives since before the Great Depression. Many felt that the Democrats would never lose the House and they were wrong. Those that assume a eternal continuation of Republican rule in the Congress are also wrong. The pendulum will swing the other way.

This is why mucking about with the Senate rules is such a stupic idea. So what if Owens can not be confirmed for the Federal Bench. She is far less important than the continuation of the role of the Senate in the legislative process.

I really hope that McCain, Nelson, Snowe and the others working for a compromise are successful. That would truly good for the country.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Blogs vs. MSM

The discussion of the conflict or competition between blogs and the Mainstream Media has been raging in both for over a year now. In the New York Times Adam Cohen argues that there should be code of ethics for bloggers as there is for journalists. He argues that since Dan Rather and Eason Jordan were in effect driven out of their jobs by bloggers for violating standards, the bloggers should be held to similar standards. The problem with this arguement from within the flagship of the MSM is that it sounds like they are trying to curtail this new form of communication ignoring the fact that their own standards did nothing to identify or punish violaters such as Dan Rather. If not for the blogs, noone would have seriously questioned that story. Not because they all wanted Bush to lose and Kerry to win, but because Rather and 60 Minutes are icons and the danger in going after icons is extreme and more than likely no one would have dared. I am a big believer in high standards for people, especially in areas where they claim some degree of professionalism. The issues however, are rather broad.

What these ethical standards are is somewhat difficult to define and who they apply to is equally murky. Should this blog, read by maybe a dozen people who all know me personally be held to the same standards as Wonkette or Daily Kos or Instapundit, each of whom have thousands of daily readers.

Even then, generally, blogs and the news media do different things. Blogs are more like the editorial page of the newspaper, a page which historically has had the least connection to journalistic ethics and more to political ideology than the rest of the paper. Bloggers, like me, comment on the world around them rather than reporting news. The expression of opinion is fundamentally different than reporting the news. This issue has traction within the MSM largely because they are uncomfortable with people suggesting that the way they are doing their jobs is less than professional. Rather than attacking bloggers, perhaps they should instead try and do their jobs better which would obviate this issue all together.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

New Movies

The season of cheesey horror films seems to be abating. There have been a number of well made films created largely for adults in theaters over the past couple of weeks. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Interpreter, and Kingdom of Heaven. While very different films, one can watch them and not feel ripped off after it is over. With Kingdom of Heaven, there was a little bit of an attempt to make a political statement about the current state of affairs in Israel but it was not overly blatant or annoying. I don't mind films with politics, I just want them to be logical and consistent with the plot. I also want the film makers to respect me as an audience member and let me deal with the political or social agenda of the film within the context of the film. I no longer watch Oliver Stone movies for this reason. Towards the end of hims films (the ones I have watched) there is a moment when some character does a "What have we learned" speech just in case anyone missed it.

I have watched many a movie that was silly, stupic, logically inconsistent, poorly written acted directed or made or all of the above. But I will not be condecended to by the film maker.

Just my thought.

Also, I have seen trailers for a new film called Night Watch, which is a Russian film that was one of the highest grossing films in Russian history. It looks to be an interesting apocalyptic fantasy with a conflict between good and evil (though the trailer does not make it clear who is who). It should be an interesting change from standard Hollywood fair. Hopefully, they will present it in Russian with subtitles and not dubbed into English.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ideas in the Academy

David Horowitz has been a gadfly for Higher Education for some time now with his Academic Bill of Rights and other efforts to promote intellectual or more correctly ideological diversity at colleges and universities. I have often found Horowitz to be somewhat overblown in his rhetoric and I find ideologues of all stripes to be rather tiresome.

He does have a point about the ideological purity on many campuses. As a conservative, if a somewhat moderate one, I understand that most of the people I work with disagree with me on many if not most issues. That in and of itself does not concern me, but when the singleness of mind takes shape to bring about action then it does worry me because there is very little in the ways of checks and balances.

Recently at Washington State University, an African American student wrote, directed and performed in a play entitled "Passion of the Musical" which was by all accounts offensive to many in content and presentation. Many in attendance, I was not one of them, protested the performance by interrupting and causing disruptions. The university president went so far as to support the protesters.

I did not see the play, and thus can not speak authoritatively about the content, if the descriptions in the school newspaper and elsewhere then it is not something that I am particularly interested in seeing. The commentary about the production has been mixed with many arguing that the student has the right to express himself under the Constitution's guarantee of Free Speech. Many more though including several in the university's administration have suggested that need to outlaw "Hate Speech" is more important.

My response to those who would silence unpopular or offensive speech is that that is what the First Amendment is there for. To protect offensvie speech in particular. When the KKK wanted to march through largely Jewish neighborhoods in Illinois, they were given a permit. Why? Not because the local officials agreed with them or secretly wanted to promote their message, but because it was their right.

In this country people have the right be stupid and to say stupid things and to be offensive. There is however, no protection against being offended. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that you can not offend me or that I can not offend you. Universities, and in particular public universities, have no business attempting to regulate speech on their campuses or within the student bodies. To do so in Unconstitutional and Unamerican.

Horowitz may be an annoying gadfly who sometimes gets in his own way with the bambastic nature of his rhetoric. But, he might just be right on some of his points.