Friday, November 30, 2001

We saw Behind Enemy Lines Friday night and enjoyed ourselves immensely. It is the first patrotic, military film of the post 9/11 era and it works very well, considering that it takes place during one of Clinton's murky, "wars for peace.". It has a heroic, hotdog US Naval aviator forced to survive after being shot down in war torn Bosnia. It has Serbian bad guys who all look like Cro Magnons in cammies. It has a smarmy, French-NATO admiral willing to sacrifice the life of the heroic aviator for political reasons. It has Gene Hackman who really stretches himself as a crusty, but loveable American Admiral who isn't going to stand for that. The film was shot in Slovakia, another Balkan country just a few miles away from the actual venue of the movie.

Coming soon, Black Hawk Down based on a serious, Clinton era blunder which got a number of US Army Rangers killed in Somalia. Rumor has it that the United States may be returning to Somalia very soon to exact a little pay back as part of the War against Terrorism.
CBS News veteran Bernard Goldberg is publishing a book exposing liberal bias in the media. It's a phenomenom which everyone knows about but few in the media want to talk about. Thus, Goldberg's ex-friends at CBS are madder than wet hens.
The controversy over the decision by the town council of Kennsignton, Maryland to ban Santa Claus from the annual tree lighting ceremony continues. Some residents vow to stage a Million Santa March in protest of the decision.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blames the return of federal budget deficits not on the economic slow down or on the costs associated with the war on terrorism, but on President Bush's tax cuts which, except for the rebate checks which Daschle supported, haven't even kicked in yet. No, tax cuts don't cause deficits. But they do contribute to outbreaks of foot in mouth desease among extremist, liberal politicians.
On the subject of post 9/11 films, Fred Barnes suggests that Hollywood take the opportunity to leave off making the usual movies about CIA double dealing, FBI plots, and US military atrocities and make some movies in which Americans are-well-the good guys. Certainly the war again terrorism will produce a wealth of material. I have pitched an idea to a production company with which I have had dealings an idea for a film about US Special Forces soldiers who find themselves traveling about Afghanistan on horseback, thus finding themselves the first US horse cavalry to see combat in about a century. I think of the proposed film as a kind of homage to John Ford's cavalry westerns. Stay tuned in case something comes of it.
The first post 9/11 Hollywood film about America's fight against Middle East terrorism may be in the works. The proposed film, however, will be about America's first war with Middle Eastern terrorists, the Barbary Pirates.

Practically from the beginning of the United States, a group of North African countries preyed on American shipping, demanding tribute, and kidnapping American sailors. Finally tired of these depredations, President Jefferson sent the United States Navy to the North African coast to suppress the Barbary pirates.

Twentieth Century Fox has picked up a screenplay entitled Tripoli. The proposed film would depict the adventures of American diplomat and soldier William Eaton, who set off on an epic five hundred mile trek across the North African desert with a motley army of mercenaries and American Marines with the goal of deposing the pirate ruler of Tripoli (modern Libya) and replacing him with his elder brother, the rightful King. I haven't read the screenplay, but the real life story has all the makings of a cool epic, with battles, political intrigue, and utlimate betrayal. If greenlighted, Tripoli could make a fine piece of cinema.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Bill Press, the former Democrat Party hack from California and liberal yeller on CNN's Crossfire, was on Bill O'Reilly Wendsday night. He told O'Reilly that O'Reilly's No Spin Zone was nothing but spin. The evidence was that O'Reilly dares to criticize, among other people, Hillery Clinton, and is therefore a conservative spinner. I suppose that makes Chris Hitchens and Chris Mathews real goose steppers, brothers in spirit with Joef Goebbels..

Then, in an obvious effort to shove his foot even further down his own throat, Press attributed the popularity of shows like O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to audiences of narrow minded bigots who only want to listen to one point of view. Of course O'Reilly has guests like Press on all the time and Rush takes callers whose views make Karl Marx seem like Milton Friedman. Of course Press would know that, if he actually watched O'Reilly and listened to Rush.
A female, Afghan General disses American feminists in general, and Hillery Clinton in particular. “She cannot defend her own rights against her husband. How can she defend the rights of my country?”

Couldn't have said it better myself.
Bah humbug update. Matt Drudge is reporting that the town of Kensington, Maryland has banned Santa Claus from the community's annual Christmas tree lighting. The Town Council decided on the ban after two families complained abouyt "feeling uncomfortable" about the preasence of Ole Saint Nick.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

An interesting article in Spaceref.Com about a proposal which might be the basis of President Bush the Younger's space program. It was advanced at a meeting of the Aerospace Commission by the second man to walk on the moon.
Jack Kemp, who knows something about the subject of tax cuts, explains why if the current stimulus packages now being debated in the Congress is the best the folks on the Hill can come up with, perhaps it is best that there be no stimulus package at all, at least until after the issue is fought over in the 2002 elections.
My sister passed me these verses from an anoynomous poet who surely must be Tenneyson or Kipling reborn:


Two thousand one, nine eleven,
Five thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.

A bearded man with stovepipe hat,
Steps forward saying, "Lets sit, lets chat".

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
"I have a dream!" and once he did,
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray,
Others in khaki, and green then say,
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine",
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear,
"The only thing we have to fear."
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
trust us sir, we've passed that test."

"Courage doesn't hide in caves,
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before,
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist,
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say,
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day.

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports.
Worked our gardens, sang our songs,
Went to church and clipped coupons.

We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought;
Unlike you, great we're not."

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see,
You died for freedom, just like me."

Then, before them all appeared a scene,
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams.
Death, destruction, smoke and dust,
And people working just 'cause they must.

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone.

"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman,
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene,
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised,
The colors high into ashen haze.
The soldiers above had seen it before,
On Iwo Jima back in '44.

The man on sticks studied everything closely,
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly.
"I see pain, I see tears,
I see sorrow - but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives,
Daughters and sons and so many lives,
are suffering now because of this wrong,
But look very closely. You're not really gone.

All of those people, even those who've never met you,
All of their lives, they'll never forget you.
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together, together as one.

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said,
"Take my hand," and from there he led;
Five thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven,

Rob Long writes in the Wall Street Journal that Hollywood is depressed over its place in the vast scheme of things now that Bush is in the White House and especially since September 11th. Long writes, "'I miss Clinton,' a development executive at a television network said to me last week. 'First off, the guy was always in town. I mean, he must have spent half of his eight years in L.A. Second, he listened. Really listened. I remember back then we had a sitcom on the air and one of the actresses on it was really concerned about . . . I don't know, air quality or something . . . and she marched right up to him and started talking air quality policy stuff to him and he just listened for, like, half an hour.'"

A cynic might wonder if the actress was (a) young and good looking and (b) whether this conversation about air quality took place in private, like in her dressing room.

Long goes on to write, "It's true. When Bill Clinton was president, we were more than entertainers and campaign contributors. We were policy makers and deep thinkers. Our ideas on environmental protection and space exploration were sought after by the White House."

I think that Long is kidding himself if he thinks that the Clinton White House took anything Hollywood had to say about public policy seriously. For instance, if Clinton had listened to his friend Tom Hanks about space exploration, the space program of the 1990s would have taken a far different shape. Clinton was the master of pretending that whomever he was talking to was the most important person to him. What he was really interested in, though, was what he could get from people. That could be money or other favors.

Hollywood people are rather susceptable to this kind of manipulation. Being in the business of make believe, many Hollywood types nurture feelings of insecurity. They want to be taken seriously about serious things. That's why many actors and actresses find themselves promoting causes which for the most part they know nothing about. We really wish they would stop and concentrate on making quality films and TV shows. Entertainment is a very important undertaking and, properly pursued, an honorable craft. Bringing joy to the lives of audiences is a socially healthy thing. Harry Potter, for instance, will do more good than every starlet testifying before congress about alar in apples combined. The more people in Hollywood realize this, the happier everyone will be.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Congressman Ken Bentsen (D) Texas, nephew to Lloyd Bentsen, Senator, Vice Presidential Candidate, and Clinton's first Secretary of the Treasury, wants to become a Senator himself. He is running for the seat held by Phil Gramm, who is retiring next year. This is a good thing on several levals. Primarily it is a good thing because it will liberate the 25th District of Texas from his misrepresentation. Bentsen, unlike his uncle, has been a nonentity in the House of Representatives, toeing the Democrat Party line for the most part, not offering an original piece of legislation of even an original thought. He runs as a moderate and operates in Washington as a liberal. When he looses his run for the Senate and retires to private life, he will not be missed.
Thomas Bray writes that the feminists are irate that George W. Bush has liberated the women of Afghanistan. And well they might, for Bray writes, "By providing the muscle to topple the Taliban, the Bush administration has done more for women's liberation in Afghanistan than the professional feminists ever did. Women are shedding their burkhas, meeting publicly and sending their daughters back to school in the liberated areas." Not that Afghanistan has become the feminist ideal. But the leap from not being able to go out, go to work, and go to school to being able to do all of those things is a greater feat than anyone could have imagined even weeks ago. One wonders if Osama bin Ladin, in whatever hole he is hiding in, appreciates the irony.

Nocturne sold to Hollywood! Unfortunately not the thrilling novel of suspense coauthored by yours truly, but rather a video game featuring monsters and demons.
Political cluelessness update. Former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin send an American flag flown on the International Space Station to the American Physical Society's Robert Park as a thank you gift. The problem is that Park is a vehement opponent of the space station and indeed of all human space flight. In the meantime, Nasa Watch's Keith Cowling, a space station supporter, albeit a vehement critic of Dan Goldin, didn't get his flag. No doubt there was a mailing mixup.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol has joined the luddite chorus calling for a blanket ban on all human cloning in a short polemic in today's online Weekly Standard. Unfortunately he doesn't make a distinction between reproductive cloning, the creation of carbon copies of human beings, and therapuetic cloning, which would create cells and even replacement organs to better fight deseases. I could certainly support a moratorium on the former since there are ethical and safety issues which have to be worked through. But I am at my wit's end trying to figure out what is so horrible about the latter. It is as if anti-cloning people have the additude that there's a divine edict against using cloning as a tool to aleviate human suffering. People thought the same about vaccination, for example.

Perhaps Bill Kristol, a man I have a great deal of respect for, would explain himself. What princible is so important that he feels it necessary to prolong human suffering and needless death? Kistol states, "At least some effort should be made to achieve a ban more quickly, if only to put the lie to the fatalistic notion that the progress of science is unstoppable and legislative efforts are merely symbolic or even foolish." Gee wizz, we wouldn't want to avoid stopping the progress of science, would we? I wonder what other potential breakthroughs Kristol is in favor of stopping, just to prove that they can be?
Here’s my obligatory commentary on Harry Potter. I first became aware of the phenomenon a couple of years ago when I heard that there was a series of children’s fantasy novels which were actually luring children away from their video games and televisions and into reading. I wasn’t, at first, tempted to read the books myself. There are not enough hours in the day to do what I have to do, not to mention what I want to do. Besides, being in early middle age, I imagined that I wasn’t in Harry’s demographic group. Fortunately a friend of my wife and myself persisted in insisting that I must read Harry Potter. So-more to shut her up than anything else-I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Several days and four books later, I emerged from the magical world of Hogworts simply wild about Harry. The Harry Potter books are filled with wonder and magic such as rarely seen in literature. I compare them very favorably to The Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz. And the movie, now breaking all box office records, was even great. The scene of the Quidditch match is worth the price of admission. Harry, besides being a wizard, is an unlikely school jock. Scrawny, short, and with thick glasses, he turns out to be a wiz (so to speak) at a game that’s sort of like rugby played on flying broomsticks.

There’s only two sad things related to Harry Potter that begs mentioning. One is that there seems to be a group of rather narrow-minded fundamentalists who are under the delusion that Harry Potter is a plot to turn their children’s souls to the devil. Besides misreading the books, where good and evil are clearly defined, these “Christians” are playing into the stereotype of people of faith as being a bunch of bigoted kill joys. They should lighten up. Harry Potter is not going to cause children to engage in blood sacrifices or participate in sacred orgies.

The second is the Harry’s author, J.K. Rowling, intends to only write seven books, each for a year at Hogworts School of Wizardry. There will be no books about Harry as an adult. I can understand this desire to move on. But I think Ms. Rowling may want to go into hiding after publishing the seventh book if she really thinks her fans are going to be satisfied. Arthur Conan Doyle, sick of writing Sherlock Holmes stories, killed off his most famous character and thought that was the end of it. He found himself hounded by fans until he was forced to literally bring back Holmes from the dead. So many it be with Harry Potter.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

A company called Advanced Cell Technology seems to have cloned the first human embryo, This has raised a ruckus, barely muted by news of the war, along with renewed calls for blanket bans on human cloning. There are some ethical and safety issues on repoductive cloning, which is the creation of a human being, which have to be addressed before it's allowed. However, therapeutic cloning, which could do things like create pancreatic cells to cure diabetes or nerve cells to repair damaged spinal cords, ought not to be held back out of political considerations. The potential to cure human suffering is too great to engage in wrangling.
The protean ex Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich hosted a documentary on medical errors tonight on Fox News. One of the fascinating aspects of Newt's documentary is that it avoided the breathless air of scandal and finger wagging with which news shows usually approach subjects like this. The show actually examined a host of real world solutions hospitals are using to address the problem. The key seems to be rapid and accurate desimination of information via computer networks.
Geraldo Rivera's new role as ace war corespondent for Fox News has, at the very least, a great deal of entertainment value. I've seen two of his reports so far. One was from a dirt track he called "the road of death", not because the US Air Force had bombed the hell out of a bunch of Taliban there, but because four unfortunate journalists were bushwacked and murdered there. The other was from a bunker filled with a "witch's brew" of terror and death, which is to say chemicals designed to kill lots of people. Both stories were filed with a kind of breathless enthusiasm which has to be seen to be believed.

Now Geraldo did his best work as a foreign corespondent before his tabloid TV days, when he was one of the few reporters who was not chastising the Israelis for attacking terrorists in Lebanon. So I was willing to give him a chance until he appeared on Bill O'Reilly. He basically blamed 9/11 on people who wanted to send Bill Clinton to Levenworth. The theory is that if all those FBI agents had not been unearthing the latest dirt on the Boy President, they would have gone after Osama and presumably stopped the attack. The problem of course is that the record shows that Clinton was about as interested in going after terrorists as he is in entering a monastery. Time and time again, starting with the first attack on the World Trade Center, to the assault on the USS Cole, Clinton's reaction ranged from feckless to nonexistent. Clinton will be remembered as a man who was one part Warren Harding and one part Neville Chamberlain. And that's only just, in my humble opinion.
It seems that the Red Chinese have stumbled upon the notion that a great power, a status to which they aspire, is necessarily a space faring power. Just as the Romans built their empire with roads, the British theirs with sailing ships, and the United States theirs with the air plane, the super powers of the 21st Century will build their empires with space craft:

China Announces Future Space Plans

The only surprise in this report is the year 2005 date for the first Chinese manned flight. I think they'll put up a man before then, possibly some time next year. Also, while it looks like the Red Chinese are setting their sights on the Moon, there doesn't seem to be a Chinese equivilent of Kennedy's "when this decade is out" challenge. I don't think we'll see Chinese taikionauts singing The East is Red on the lunar surface any time soon. A pity, in a way. There would be nothing like a good space race to light a fire under America's own dysfunctional space program. See my old Space Policy Digest article on the subject:

Lets Challenge the Chinese to a Space Race
George Will has a splendid piece today on the State Department's feckless policy on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict:

Powell's Intrusion
First a little about myself. My name is Mark R. Whittington. I’m a writer and computer analyst residing in Houston, Texas. Along with my wife Chantal I’m the author of an espionoge thriller, entitled Nocturne. I have an alternate history novel coming up, entitled Children of Apollo. To learn more about both, as well as information on how to buy copies, see below:

The Nocturne Home Page

This page is going to be devoted to my random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me. I hope you all enjoy the reading as much as I’m going to enjoy the writing.