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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Just a quick little post to give you your "pick up" for the day, before Adam beats me to it. (You'll see why I mention him in a moment.)

Here's the story:

A former Harvard University professor and cancer researcher named Weldong Xu (in the Westernized order of names) persuaded his friends and acquaintances to donate $600,000 for a SARS research institute. Xu was scamming them -- in fact, he was arrested while having a screaming match with one of his "donors" in the cancer center's cafeteria.

That's pretty good, but that's not the good part.

The good part is that Xu "invested" all the money in a Nigerian business offer that would yield him a $50 million profit on his ill-gotten gains. Police continue to try to explain to Xu that he has been scammed by the Nigerians, but he refuses to believe it.

I think the only measured, reasonable response to this sad story of betrayal is:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

(sigh) (wipe tears from eyes) Ahhh.

Frickin' idiot. (snort)


 9:14 AM

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Not Having Anything To Say

I don't really have anything to say today. It's really remarkable, actually. Once I declared politics "out of bounds" for this blog, a great deal of the bitterness that spurred my blogging quickly dried up. It leaves me with the important things in my life, all of which have been actually taking up my time, as opposed to the false taking-up-time that comes from blogging about them. Maybe I'll get around to it soon. The ideas that I could actually take the time to write about aren't worth reading.

For instance, here are some thoughts that have flitted across my brain in the last hour:

-- I really like Senator John McCain

-- The Mighty Clouds of Joy are absolutely amazing

-- It's hard to go back to "regular" music after you listen to good gospel music for a while; it all sounds too thin

-- Oranges taste very good, but they are not satisfying

-- The kid sounded like he needed a nap, but Shannon was in good spirits

-- the inherent power of the district courts is one of the great vestiges of "hidden" power left in America

-- the Astros "cheated" by hiring Clemens

-- my eyebrows could use a trim

-- it's been a while since I've blogged

-- this is a strange list; I sure think of the damndest things while I'm working

None of these ideas is worth writing down, much less posting on an internet site for the world to read.

So I won't. I'll try to think of something worth writing, and write that instead.


 1:43 PM

Saturday, March 27, 2004

On days like today

On days like today, I think it pays to take some time and list some things that you are truly grateful for.

1. The earth has not been struck by a deadly meteor. At least, not since humans came down from the trees. And all Hollywood movies aside, it remains unlikely to happen in the next couple of years, so that's a big relief right there.

2. I live in a country where the necessities of life are easily obtained. In fact, the necessities of life are peddled at low, low prices by a friendly corporate conglomerate whose most recent commercial features a smiley face as James Bond, determined to protect America by rolling back high prices.

3. Should I ever have erectile dysfunction, there are competing products to take care of that problem. There is a downside, however -- I have to watch commercials for these products, and endure their boilerplate warnings about consulting a doctor if the erection does not subside in a matter of hours. But these commercials are unintentionally hilarious, which is something else to be grateful for. So on balance, it's all a good thing.

4. eBay: a sort of garage sale on demand; a swap meet on a scale that our mercantile forefathers could never have imagined. I got it in my head that I wanted a copy of a Sgt. Barry Sadler single, and I was able to effortlessly satisfy that thoroughly ridiculous desire, without the sort of delay that would cause me to rethink why I wanted to spend good money on a Sgt. Barry Sadler single.

5. Leprosy is not really a factor in everyday life anymore, except as a cliche. So we've got that going for us.

6. After twenty years of trying, Microsoft finally released an operating system that doesn't crash every time you try to do two things at once. You can now use two Microsoft programs at once without seeing the Blue Screen of Death. So, they're still an evil empire bent on monopolizing the world, but at least their monopolistic product is better than it used to be.

7. It is highly unlikely that gravity will suddenly come to an end, but when it does, good strong rope is readily available. See #2.

8. I have a healthy son, with a good healthy set of lungs that allow him to make his distemper known.

 12:00 PM

Thursday, March 25, 2004

A Light In The Darkness

Sometimes the world seems like a dark and dangerous place, a gristmill designed to grind us down and crush our spirit. But then you read something that really gives you hope, and it helps you make it through another day.

I feel that way about "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Laughing Man" from Salinger's "Nine Stories." But I also feel that way about this news story.

A fellow passenger recognized [Richard] Simmons on Wednesday night at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport as he was waiting for a flight to Los Angeles, police said.

The man "made the off-hand comment, 'Hey everybody. It's Richard Simmons. Let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s,"' said Phoenix police Sgt. Tom Osborne. "Mr. Simmons took exception to it and walked over to the other passenger and apparently slapped him in the face."



 11:10 AM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Dudley's Day In Court

Dudley Hiibel had his day in court today, and there are a couple of articles about the oral argument here and here. The best line of all comes from Dahlia Lithwick, who responds to Scalia's contention that "suspicious" people have the obligation to "come forward" and assist the police:

We all seem to want to live in the world inhabited by most of the justices: where our names are private, and no one needs to incriminate themselves—unless some policeman decides they are suspicious. Then, there is a duty, a responsibility, a constitution-negating requirement that you come forward—to use Scalia's formulation—and cooperate. This idea that the "suspicious people" (read: dark-skinned, poor, urban etc.) have some heightened duty to cooperate with the police is utterly backward, in light of the police's historical treatment of them. It's a shame Justice Clarence Thomas doesn't speak today. One can imagine that he has at least some idea of what it means to hold "suspicious" people to a different constitutional standard.

Heh, heh, heh.

By the way, Dudley's going to lose this one. The whole case turns on whether you look at it from the point of view of the cop or the stopped citizen -- "is it reasonable to refuse to give your name?" vs. "what business did the cop have asking for the ID?" -- and at least five justices are looking at it as a "what's so bad about giving your name" case. That will be a shame. The Terry doctrine is that even if there is no probable cause to think a crime is being committed, a cop can do a quick, cursory search of a citizen when the cop has "reasonable suspicion" that something is up -- but the justification for Terry was that the cop had the right to protect his own safety. Officer Dove had the right to pat down Dudley, check the truck for weapons, look at the ground to see what was there. But he would not have been safer if he had known Dudley's name.

 1:12 PM
...and then my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

A new milestone this morning. I was getting ready to leave for work, so I gathered my briefcase, lunch and travel mug of coffee. Jonah saw me doing this, so he said "Bye bye" and waved. I was so amazed and proud that Jonah had said "bye bye" without prompting, and that he understood the significance of me gathering my stuff. What a genius! He understood that I was leaving him and said "bye bye" to me!

And then my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

 8:39 AM

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Best Performances Of All Time

Yesterday my friend Mike asked me one of those questions that are so wonderful they cause you to stew and percolate and debate for days. Well, they cause me to stew and percolate and debate. They might cause you to shrug.

Here it is: Mike wanted to know what I thought were the five best film performances of all time. The gist of his question was that he essentially wanted to "calibrate" his appreciation of film acting, by knowing what performances he could call a "10." I hemmed and hawed. There is just no good or immediate answer, because sometimes it is so hard to distinguish the performance from the rest of the movie. For instance, sometimes a great performance can be attributed to a great script. And because film acting can be cut together from multiple takes, the director has a strong hand in the result. But most importantly, there is no good or immediate answer to what constitutes "the best" in acting.

I decided to offer several lists, but I refuse to offer exclusivity. There's no way to rank this stuff.

First, we're talking about a single performance. But if Mike had asked, I would say that the following actors have demonstrated true greatness through the breadth and quality of their work, even if none of the individual performances were quite good enough to be among the top five of all time:

Robert Duvall (The Apostle, Tender Mercies, The Great Santini, Godfather I and II, Sling Blade, Days of Thunder)
Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, Midnight Cowboy, Wag the Dog, Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer, Sleepers)
Robert DeNiro (Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Godfather II, Meet the Parents, A Bronx Tale, Wag the Dog)
Chris Cooper (Adaptation, Lone Star, Great Expectations, American Beauty)
Meryl Streep (Ironweed, The River Wild, Postcards from the Edge, Kramer vs. Kramer, Adaptation, Silkwood, Manhattan)

Of course, I have left out performances from the above list. Don't point out my oversights, just go to the Internet Movie Database and watch every film that these actors have done -- or at least all of their films from their "glory days."

Second, there are certain performances that achieve some of their greatness because the Casting Gods shone down upon the casting director on the day that the actor was signed. These performances are truly great, but some of that greatness comes from the actor imbuing the role with his or her distinct personality. That is, the actor displayed little or no "range," but still managed to come up with a great performance. I don't knock these performances for that, but I think they should be given their own category. They include:

John Wayne in The Searchers
Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird
Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
Paul Scofield in A Man For All Seasons
Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot

Third, there are certain performances that are excellent examples of a distinct style of performance. Though these performances may seem dated in some ways, or may seem limited to a certain genre, they are really wonderful examples of an actor understanding the demands of his or her genre and making the most of it.

Peter O'Toole, playing the Epic Hero in Lawrence of Arabia
Anthony Hopkins, playing the Villain in Silence of the Lambs
Buster Keaton, playing Silent Comedy in The General
Harrison Ford, playing the Action Hero in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Donald O'Connor, playing Musical Comedy in Singin' In The Rain

Fourth, there are the performances where an actor makes the Brave Choice to play someone who is (1) physically challenged, (2) mentally challenged, or (3) addicted. I see these performances as often overrated, because these roles often call for less on the part of the actor than more subtle roles. Nevertheless, they deserve a category of their own, because even if it is a stunt, it's an impressive stunt:

Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot
Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
I can't think of more than two that deserve mention. I hate Brave Choice movies.

But finally, I come down to a few performances that I think exemplify the very height of film acting -- no asterisks, no explanations, no nothing. These are performances that turn the amp to 11.

Al Pacino in The Godfather I and II
Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot
Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves
Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies
Halle Berry in Monster's Ball

Bonus Question: I named few actresses. Why is that? Discuss. Be sure to mention (1) the dearth of good roles for women, (2) the entrenched power structure that requires actresses to begin as sexy ingenues before moving (if they can) to "meaty" roles, (3) my own sexism, (4) girls just don't act good.

 5:50 PM

Thursday, March 18, 2004

It's Official

We have "bye-bye."

I repeat, we have "bye-bye."

Film at 11.


 1:50 PM
How to be a Dad
Part 38,231 in a Continuing Series

(1) Wake up. Your son cries because he is awake and wants to be liberated from his crib. It is 6:27 AM. You don't even have to look because what you brought home from the hospital fifteen months ago is the world's most expensive -- and most precise -- alarm clock. Shannon is still immobile. She has a higher tolerance for this sort of thing, so there's still a chance she can get some more sleep. So, get up, stumble into the nursery and get the day's first jolt of energy when your son gets a big, broad smile when he sees you.

Special tip: I know you're tired, but don't step on the cat during the above tasks or you'll get a very different jolt of energy.

(2) Put out the fires. Diaper? No noxious fumes, so it's better to do breakfast first and diaper later. If you do the diaper first, he'll put up such a fight that Shannon will wake up. The kid doesn't know from patience yet. Instead, take the kid into the kitchen (watch out for the cat!) and pour him a sippy cup full of milk. That will satisfy him enough for you to set him down so that you can make his breakfast.

(3) Make breakfast. Breakfast will consist of a scrambled egg eaten ravenously and something else that will probably be ignored as a deep personal insult. Focus on the egg first, because that's a sure thing. Show your son the egg. Hand him the egg. He enjoys playing with the egg. Take the egg from him, which will involve a deep personal insult. Give him his favorite pair of pajama bottoms -- insult forgiven, as he tries to suck his sippy cup, his thumb, and his pajamas all at the same time.

You're pretty much on autopilot in making the egg, which is good because it will be another hour before you get any coffee. Realize that your son is -- for the first time -- fascinated by the process of scrambling the egg. It's probably because no one ever introduced him to the egg before. Pick him up and let him take a look. He is dismayed that you have cracked his egg, but fascinated by all the stuff that came out of it. Give him the shell to examine. He enjoys playing with it and examining it, but he only has about three seconds before you realize that you have just handed a orally-fixated toddler something that is crawling with salmonella. Ditch the egg, clean your son's hands. Don't let the egg burn! Apologize to the cat for stepping on her.

Arrange events so that there is a confluence of kid, egg and high chair.

(4) Find something else to feed the kid. Now you've got the fire out, and it's time to contemplate what else to feed the kid. All past successes have now been rejected as deep personal insults, so you know that you can't serve him pancakes, waffles, toast, toast with cream cheese, toast with jelly, toast with cream cheese and jelly, grapes, carrots, goldfish crackers or leftover beef stew.

Open the fridge and stare inside. Think about how you will probably blog about this morning. That will make you think about someone you had a crush on in college, who is now a successful writer with her own blog. This will necessarily lead to a "where are they now" about your past girlfriends. Answer: happily married, with children. There aren't that many past girlfriends, so you wonder "where are they now" about all the women you had a crush on but never had the guts to pursue. Crush. Weak.

Applesauce!

It works. No deep personal insult felt.

(5) Compare yourself to Julius Caesar. It's a bad habit, and a weird one, and you need to break that bad, weird habit, but you do it anyway.

HIM: By the time he was your age, Caesar had conquered Gaul and enshrined himself in human history.
ME: You visited Gaul once and didn't care much for it. But, you made breakfast for your little guy.
VERDICT: Tie.

 9:35 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sometimes I just get so tired.

I could talk about the mini-furor over Kerry's claim that he is the preferred candidate of foreign leaders -- a claim explained in this article -- the Right's attack on Kerry for saying this, and the article in last week's Economist that frankly discusses why the vast majority of people around the world (leaders and "plebes") would clearly prefer Kerry to Bush. To summarize that article, the rest of the world believes that Bush is a lying sack of sh*t, and that he would be thrown out by any country that wasn't willfully numb, but Americans believe Bush must be telling the truth because it is obvious that Bush believes his own lies. That is, unless you have the air of used-car-salesman about you (e.g. Clinton), you must be completely virtuous in all ways. This is a country that learned nothing from the Nixon administration, nothing from Vietnam. Do we have to have tapes of Dubya saying bad words? (They already exist, by the way.)

I could go into all that, but I won't. It's like crack. If you want the hookup to political stuff, you should read Atrios and Talking Points Memo and The Note. There's not really any point in regurgitating the same stuff, except to ensure that the five or six people that read this blog catch the latest juicy stories. Like this one, which takes the AWOL story to a new level. But though it provides an electric jolt, it is hollow and self-defeating. Like crack.

Of course, there is a very legitimate argument that the thing to do when your civilization is collapsing, like Spalding Gray said, is to use history as your art. And there is much to use as the raw materials. I see a nation that has divided into two camps, and though I am still a young man, I suspect that this is something new -- or at least something that hasn't been seen in a century. America is far more evenly divided than in the Vietnam era, as popular discontent brews and the press regresses into a daycare full of weak and mumbling toddlers, waiting to be spoonfed by the grownups, afraid of saying anything worth hearing because that would alienate advertisers. America is being deafened by a murder of crows, each cawing louder so that they won't be lost in the din, each motivated by the fear of silence. And yet this clamor is not a unifying force. Unlike in the past, when both Americas listened to the same Walter Cronkite, the two worlds now get their news from different sources, read different books, check different Internet sites, and listen to different pundits. In fact, when I have conversations with people from the Red camp, I am amazed at how little of the negative facts they know about the Bush administration -- not that they discount those facts as part of their overall analysis, but that they never hear them in the first place. Yet, the same is true of the Blues, whose reflexive attitude against the Bush administration veers into the same "Clinton said it so it must be wrong" error that hampered the Bush folks. America is Balkanizing itself, and it scares me. Genuinely.

But it's like crack.

I am slowly coming to the realization that I have problems of my own that deserve a higher priority. That my passion for politics is a form of personal evasion. That there are more important things than being the eight-hundredth blogger to link to a political story.

I keep thinking about the song "Music and Politics" from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a jazz-hip-hop tune where the MC (Michael Franti, now part of Spearhead) riffs about how his mind gets swamped by neverending thoughts about music and politics, both of which have the semblance of importance but which get in the way of deeper understanding. (The song is available at the iTunes Music Store.)

"If ever I could stop thinking about
Music and Politics
I would tell you that music is the expression of emotion
And that politics is merely the decoy of perception"

(Funny aside -- when trying to find a link for the album, I found a 1997 article that talks about how the album has remained relevant despite being recorded in 1992 -- though the author thought two sentiments had become dated: "George Bush has got to go" and the songs protesting the Gulf War. It's a damn shame that the worm has turned and the album has become fully relevant again.)

But that's the point -- there it is again. Like Franti, I'm addicted to music and politics. It seems like I could sit all day and listen to music and talk about how amazing it is, and I could inhale music like a suffocating man, and write for hours about how inspiring it is to me. If I allowed myself, I could spend $500 a month on music, easily, and burn ten discs a month of music mixes. And I could rage and rage again at the hypocrisy and lies of the political world, and write biting commentaries on the Web and carry on bitter conversations with my friends.

But none of it -- not one bit of it -- is half as important as making a scrambled egg for Jonah this morning. Or the gentle, unspoken trades where Shannon and I take care of Jonah so the other can catch up on sleep. Or the tired, exhilarated feeling when I go for a run with the dog. And it's been a devastating adjustment process to realize that the things which make me feel passionate can also be a poor use of my time. I have been running myself ragged, and thought it was justified because I wasn't "wasting" my time. But there's more to life than not wasting it.

That's what I should write about.

If ever I could stop thinking about music and politics, I would tell you that none of us have enough time.

I would tell you that the limited supply of time is not the saddest thing in the world, nor a demon that we must fight to the death out of a sense of honor and valor and despair.

I would tell you that I embraced the finite world and -- much to my surprise -- I felt relief.

If ever I could stop thinking about music and politics.

 10:06 AM

Friday, March 12, 2004

More on religious absolutism: God Hates Shrimp.

 2:06 PM
The wolves are eating each other. Check out this transcript from House Speaker Dennis Hastert's press briefing yesterday, regarding a new transportation bill that costs more than Bush wants but less than most legislators want:

"Q: You met with the administration yesterday. Did they say they would support the target number?

Speaker Hastert: We need to go forward, we need to go to conference with the Senate, and then if they want to be involved in that conference, they certainly will be able to be involved in it.

Q: But did they say they would sign?

Hastert: They didn't make a commitment.

Q: Did they say they would veto it?

Hastert: They didn't say they would veto it.

Q: Is that with the President or with the people?

Hastert: That is with the President. I don't deal with his people anymore.

///

Q: Sir, what did you mean by that last comment: That was with the President; I don't deal with his people anymore?

Hastert: Well, we weren't getting straight numbers from his people, and they changed their mind in the middle of the process. So we are going to do what we feel we need to do.

Q: Just on this issue or on --

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Or in general?

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Sir --

Q: What kind of numbers were you getting from them?

Hastert: Different numbers.

Q: Different from?

Hastert: Where they added up."


For longtime readers of Paul Krugman's column, that is just delicious. This administration will lie, lie, lie in the hopes that no one will check the numbers. And is everyone enjoying the 2.8 million jobs that are being added this year?

And some of the best reporters working today -- Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank -- actually do the legwork and prove why Bush is lying his ass off in his new campaign speech when he says that Kerry wanted to "gut" intelligence spending. Kerry proposed a 1% decrease in intelligence spending. 1%. Congressional Republicans passed a bill that year ended up cutting three times as much from the same program.

Conservative British journal The Economist just devoted a significant amount of space to assessing whether Kerry is liberal, and comes to the conclusion that he is moderate. Their tangible irritation at reaching this conclusion is probably moderated by their hard-earned dislike of Bush. The Economist is all about hard-nosed British sensibility and realism, and Bush simply lies too much for their tastes.

So. It's going to be an interesting ten and a half months.

 12:47 PM

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I had a disturbing realization today. If you don't find it earth-shaking, that's okay. It's one of those notions that some people seem to understand innately while others of us have to learn it the hard way.

I sometimes have an initial reaction that a person is just "evil," but "evil" has always been in quotes. That is, I have always suspected that if I were given the chance, I would eventually reach a point where I understood that person and the evil would be diminished accordingly. Maybe not Hitler, but any normal person. But I have now discovered that I can understand why someone does what he does, understand his terrible background and his tragic injuries, and still come to the conclusion that the person is evil, pure evil, hollow-black evil. Not misunderstood, not misguided, not "sick." Evil.

I have been doing pro bono work for Child Protective Services.

I have been defending the State's efforts to terminate the parental rights of people that hurt children.

And I never really understood the human animal before now.

 8:38 PM
In Memoriam

I was saddened to hear that Spalding Gray's death has been confirmed. I have long been a fan of "Swimming to Cambodia" and Gray's remarkable performance as the Stage Manager in the Tony-award-winning production of "Our Town" at Lincoln Center -- a performance he recounts humorously in "Monster in a Box." ("You don't want me," he told the producer. "You want Garrison Keillor.") "Monster in a Box" is not quite as good as "Swimming to Cambodia," but it is excellent, and "Terrors of Pleasure" was also a flawed gem. I've been less enamored of his more recent material, such as "Gray's Anatomy," and apparently that was a large part of his problem. Not my opinion particularly, but people's opinions generally. Audiences liked his material less and less, which made him more and more depressed, which made audiences like him even less, and so on.

When the audiences stop loving you, it's a very hard adjustment to make. Some -- like my musical theater teacher in college -- make the transition gracefully, and teach their students that the most important rule of life is to be kind to people on the way up because you will encounter them again on your way down. Others -- like the Coreys Feldman and Haim -- shill their autographs at conventions for $15 a pop. Gray had a lifelong struggle with depression, and when he find no comfort in his work, found a terrible sort of comfort in the East River.

One of the most interesting things he ever said was in one of his first shows -- "Sex and Death to the Age 14." He recounted how he had grown desperate that art could ever mean anything in our society, which he perceived to be a civilization in rapid decline into a new Dark Age. Someone gave him the advice that the last artists in Rome -- as the Vandals were running rampant -- were the historians, who tried to record what had happened for later people to understand. Gray took that to heart, and made history his Art by creating snapshots of our world as it now stands. The monologues weren't always brilliant -- sometimes his narcissism overran his words like kudzu -- but Gray was always honest, and there is no doubt in my mind that people two hundred years from now could read his work and find an accurate view of who we were, and why.

Requiscat in pace.

 8:51 AM

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Fun 4 Kidz

You know, if any of you were wondering what would be a fun gift to get Jonah, this would be an excellent choice. It's the "Ten Plagues" Finger Puppets, designed to help your child learn the Ten Plagues in a fun and interactive way. All your friends are there, in fun and wacky cartoon form, from "Lice" and "Boils" to "Darkness" (what looks like a turn-of-the-century "pickaninny") and a figure with downcast eyes to represent "Newborn" -- or, more specifically, the brutal slaughter thereof. What fun! Jonah's a little dubious of his stuffed giraffe, but I'm sure that he would really take to a screaming, pus-covered finger puppet named "Boils."

I am just... overwhelmed. I can't keep up with this. I'm good -- oh, yes, I'm very good -- but I just can't write stuff this funny.

 2:06 PM

Friday, March 05, 2004

Two new interesting legal issues today, an old Supreme Court matter and a new one.

First, the charming discoveries that are being found in Justice Harry Blackmun's papers, which have just been unsealed. Blackmun kept thousands of papers, including the notes that were passed on the bench. The most inflammatory are the papers describing the behind-the-scenes wrangling over Roe in 1972 and the war for the heart and mind of swing-vote Kennedy during Roe II: This Time It's Personal (a.k.a. Planned Parenthood v. Casey).

But the best one is a note delivered to Blackmun during an oral argument in 1973. If there is anything that summarizes the Court, judges generally, and the legal profession as a whole, it is this note. Imagine the solemnity as a law clerk tiptoes up to Justice Blackmun during the argument and delivers...

"V.P. Agnew Just Resigned!! Mets 2 Reds 0."

The second issue is Dudley Hiibel. Everyone needs to know about Dudley.

Dudley Hiibel: Marlboro-Man-Nevada-rancher-turned-patriotic-defender-of-rights.
Dudley Hiibel: drunken-redneck-pain-in-the-ass-who-should-just-give-his-damn-name-to-the-cop.

Which is he? See the police video for yourself. Importantly, you should not believe any of the heated opinion or rhetoric until you watch it and form your own opinion. No extreme statement about this video is likely to be wholly correct.

I think the following is a pretty fair assessment of the events, but again, watch the video for yourself.

1. Someone calls the cops and says that a guy is fighting with a woman in his truck. Earnest young Deputy Dove (most assuredly no relation) goes looking for him. Deputy Dove is played by Scott Wolf from Party of Five.

2. Drunken cowboy Dudley is parked by the side of the road. There are skid marks, but the truck is correctly parked. Dudley (played by veteran character actor James Gammon) is calm and talking to his 17-year-old daughter, who is in the passenger seat. She was mad earlier and started hitting him; apparently this is why the cops were called.

3. Deputy Do-Right pulls up and asks Dudley to come over the car. Dudley complies, though he keeps checking to see if he is illegally parked, because he has no idea why the cop is there. The cop demands Dudley's ID. Dudley is surprised, and sees no reason why he should hand over an ID. (His daughter had been driving.) The cop repeatedly demands the ID, Dudley repeatedly refuses and suggests that Officer Do-Right arrest him because the cop is clearly already disposed to do so. Officer Do-Right arrests Dudley and puts him in the back seat of the car; Dudley cooperates with the pat-down.

4. A second squad car pulls up, and two cops go get the daughter out of the truck. She has been screaming "NO!" as her father was arrested. She ends up roughly thrown to the ground, though it's not clear (to my eyes) whether she fell, or was thrown, or both. Dudley starts loudly saying (though not yelling) "Oh, big man. What a big man you are."

Dudley was fined $250 for resisting arrest. That conviction was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which held 4-3 that the statute permitting officers to demand identification was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment because the new world order after 9-11 requires police officers to be more bold in their investigations. Dudley has appealed to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case this Term.

An interesting explanation of the case (and a brief summary of the relevant Terry standard) is contained in Dahlia Lithwick's essay in Slate, as well as links to some of the more heated rhetoric in the op-ed pages and the amicus briefs. And you can read all the relevant stuff on Dudley's website.

As Dahlia puts it, why is your name so private? But, as others would put it, what business did the cops have arresting Dudley for not giving his name, when there was clearly nothing going on? That's the issue. Is this like the Gestapo or the Soviets demanding "your papers"?

Now, having been as neutral as I can thus far, let me say this:

Dudley Hiibel's arrest is a goddamned travesty of justice that should have caused riots across the country, and the fact that the Nevada Supreme Court building is still standing is an infuriating indictment of America's numb passivity. Deppity Do-Rite's arrogance makes my blood boil, and even if Dudley was drunk, he was the cleverest drunk I've ever seen. Good answers for every question, cooperative where necessary, a damn fine civil rights defendant.

I strongly support the police, because they have a damned hard job. But Deppity Do-Rite was full of hisself and out of line. That's a problem, but a young cop getting out of line is not cause for a revolution. The real problem is that the police had a videotape to watch -- no he-said-perp-said confusion here -- and instead of dropping the charge, the police continued to press charges. And four justices of the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed with over-the-top rhetoric about 9/11. I think we can all agree that Dudley may have been drunk, but he sure as hell wasn't in al-Qaida. (No news on whether Safire will claim that there is evidence that Dudley had links to Saddam Hussein.)

And now for the inflammatory quote to wrap it up:

"When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned." -- Rev. Martin Niemoller


 10:04 AM

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

You know, it's hard to stand up for a film when you read this kind of stuff on MSNBC:

John Debney, who composed the music for “The Passion of the Christ,” says he did battle with Satan while scoring the flick.

Debney had written music for a number of movies such as “Liar, Liar,” “Spy Kids,” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” — but he says he was visited by the devil while writing the score for the film about the last hours of Jesus Christ.

“I had never before subscribed to the idea that maybe Satan is a real person, but I can attest that he was in my room a lot and I know that he hit everyone on this production,” Debney said, according to a lengthy interview that ran on Assist News Service, a Christian news agency.

Debney claims that Satan’s image kept appearing on his computer screen while he was trying to compose music. “The first time it happened, it scared me,” he said. “Once I got over the initial shock of that, I learned to work around it and learned to reboot the computers and so I would start talking to him. . . . The computers froze for about the tenth time [one] day and it was about nine o’clock at night and so I got really mad and I told Satan to manifest himself and I said, ‘Let’s go out into the parking lot and let’s go.’ It was a seed change in me. I knew that this was war. I am not a physical person, but I was really angry on this occasion.”

Debney’s spokesman confirms to The Scoop that the composer did, indeed, say those things.


Listen, man, don't freak out. Periodic appearances of Satan are not a bug, they're a feature. Microsoft is just increasing the functionality of the system by bundling it with the forces of the Dark Lord. For instance, Microsoft Office now includes Word 2004, Excel 2004, and Eternal Torture At The Spiteful Hands Of A Fallen Angel (formerly known as Powerpoint).

If you're having problems with freezes, perhaps you should uninstall any third-party software.

Remaining issues:

(1) I would be interested to know if Dave has ever suffered from this kind of problem while doing a film score. And if so, how did you resolve them?

(2) What on earth made Mel choose the composer from "I Know What You Did Last Summer" to do the score for "The Passion?" Let the "Jesus Chainsaw Massacre" jokes flow with renewed vigor!

 3:49 PM
Constitutional Marriage Amendment

I think that Protestants for the Common Good has done a good job of drafting a constitutional amendment that will establish, once and for all, that marriage is sacred and must not be rewritten by activist courts. With God's help, we will get this passed and protect our families against indecency. Remember, this is not idle speculation. According to Gary Bauer, a major study by Oxford University has proven that homosexuality is three times more deadly than smoking. "This is not opinion, this is documented medical fact." Mr. Bauer didn't provide any information about the "major study," but I'm sure he's right. He wears a sweater and is frequently photographed with his wife and children.

So, here's the draft. Write your congressman and let him know that you want his support for this amendment.

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between
one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in
addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron
11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a
virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut
22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be
forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the
constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be
construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry
the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or
deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one
shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law.
(Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your
town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with
him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men
young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of
course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)


 8:48 AM

Monday, March 01, 2004

The most boring Oscars in memory. The only upset of any kind was that Lord of the Rings won Best Adapted Screenplay. (The thinking was that it would win most of others, but lose that one.) Of course, the juggernaut swept through.

Thank God we had taquitos, or it would have been a total loss.

 1:38 PM

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