Saturday, June 30, 2007


Not flinching an inch, Ann Coulter responded to her critics in her latest column, titled "That Was No Lady -- That Was My Husband." Ms. Coulter is not everyone's "cup of tea," to say the least. However, in this "kerfluffle," she is not in the wrong. She correctly points out that Elizabeth Edwards' "call-in" when she was promoting her book on Hardball was an obvious "sandbag" job. Even if it wasn't "planned," (as if!) Chris Matthews didn't have to let her stay on, uninterrupted, for so long. Here's an excerpt from Coulter:

I can only speak to the first 45 minutes of Elizabeth Edwards' harangue, but it mostly consisted of utterly dishonest renditions of things I had said on my "Good Morning America" interview this week and a column I wrote four years ago. (You can't rush Edwards' "rapid response team"!) She claimed I had launched unprovoked attacks on the Edwards' dead son and called for a terrorist attack on her husband.

These are bald-faced lies, and the mainstream media knows they are lies. Yet they were repeated ad nauseam on Wednesday by The Associated Press, the AOL pop-up window, CNN, NBC and -- stunningly -- the host of the lowest-rated cable show himself, who personally told me he knew the truth.

She then cites the full sentence that she said on GMA, which referred to a joke she told about Edwards six months ago: "But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack -- so I've learned my lesson: If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot." That is SARCASM, people!

Ann Coulter is a political commentator/satirist. She uses sarcasm and an acerbic wit to get her points across. She can make some people laugh, while angering others. Edwards' taking "offense" at her is feigned political posturing. Coulter did not attack Edwards' late son, she attacked Edwards' repeated use of his late son as a political prop. She quotes Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who ran the Kerry campaign, from his book"No Excuses":

"(Kerry) was even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else -- that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before -- and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."

She then cites several instances, dating back to his '98 senate campaign, where Edwards mentions his late son. She also explains how the whole thing got started:

" a column about the Democratic candidates for president written in 2003, I pointed out that the Democrats refused to discuss the economy or the war, but had recently 'discovered a surprise campaign issue: It turns out that several of them have had a death in the family.'

Among several examples of Democrats talking about a death in the family on the campaign trail was this one:

John Edwards injects his son's fatal car accident into his campaign by demanding that everyone notice how he refuses to inject his son's fatal car accident into his campaign."

Ms. Coulter occasionally says things that make me wince, but they also provoke me to look deeper into an issue. She is correct about Edwards, but he has the liberal MSM on his side. Coulter is hated by liberals, and considered offensive by many moderates and conservatives. It's probably the NY'er in me, but I'm not ashamed to say I'm a fan of hers, which doesn't mean I don't criticize her when I feel like it.

Here are links to three posts, from the right, center, and left, respetively:

Rob Port has an excerpt I didn't post here.

Melinda W. has an independent's perspective, and was maliciously flagged!

Rebecca L. responds to an email she got from Elizabeth Edwards about Coulter.

Friday, June 29, 2007

"Pander-Fest" Democratic Debate at Howard University

I was going to write about the latest Ann Coulter "kerfluffle" with Edwards, but I caught the Democratic debate on PBS, and wrote some contemporaneous thoughts. I'm bundling them into a post, so forgive the disjointed nature of the commentary. I want to get back to analyzing Ms. Coulter's latest column.

The debate was held at Howard University, a historically Black college. Tavis Smiley was the moderator, and he did a good job of it. The format was three questioners, with one minute responses from each candidate, with Tavis having discretion to alter the format.

When introducing the candidates, several people in the crowd shouted "Obama!" Several of the candidates cited Obama as an example of the "progress made" by Blacks in the US, during the debate.

Candidates who used the word "Black": Biden and Mike Gravel, who actually said "Black African Americans." It should be a minor thing, but there are many who dislike the word "Black" used for Americans of African descent.

Gravel was awesome; a wild card in this group. He and Kucinich were the only ones who didn't seem to pander to the crowd.

On AIDS, Gov.Richardson said "We have to use needles." He also referred to American Blacks as "Africans," but these were simple slip-ups, I think. Kucinich wants to "take the profit out of health care (I'm paraphrasing)," and Gravel went him one further, calling for an end to the "war on drugs," a theme he pounded all night, to a chilly reception.

Hillary came off strong on the AIDS question, and Biden disclosed that he and Obama both have been tested for AIDS. Obama jumped in after Biden's comment, saying that he and his wife got tested while visiting Africa.

Sen. Edwards railed against the 15% capital gains tax rate. Do tell, how much of his income falls into that category? All of the candidates supported taxing the rich more. Gravel said it would never happen, calling for abolition of the income tax. Hillary proposed raising the cap on Social Security taxable income, citing Warren Buffet, who wants to pay Social Security tax on his full millions of dollars of yearly income. The current cap on Social Security tax is the first $95,000 of personal income.

I saw Hill taking notes during Gravel's denying of "outsourcing" as a problem. She said it was, especially for NY. She didn't say that NY's outsourcing problem is to other US states, not India or Mexico. Kucinich wants to cancel NAFTA, WTO, and use environmental, and human rights standards to determine our trade policy. A wacky idea, but it sounds good to any "compassionate" person.

Hill wants a "no-fly zone" in Darfur. Biden wanted ground troops, if that fails. All of the candidates agreed with the "NFZ" prescription, except Gravel, who said "We need a president with moral judgement. Most of the other candidates up here have shown that they lack that."

I wouldn't go that far, but it was quite the pander-fest. I didn't scratch the surface of the hypocrisy in evidence. There were some good points made, as well, even by Hillary, as I stated above. I can't pick a winner, though. It was just too much out of my frame of reference.

I'll explain that in another post, but I'm looking forward to comments on my commentary.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Double Whack on Giuliani: Hill and Bloomy "Make Their Intentions Known"

Well, whaddaya know? Bloomberg has quit the Republican party. What does this mean? It means that he wants to run for president, with somewhat more credibility than Ross Perot had in '92. The question is "who will he hurt more," the Repuplican or Democrat candidate? The answer is that he will hurt the Democrat more, unless the Republican candidate is Rudy Giuliani. Rudy is the only candidate who is truly vulnerable to Bloomberg's "moderate" Republican image, which was a sham from the start, to be honest. Rudy's support with moderates rests on his stance on abortion and gay rights, and Bloomberg is his equal on these issues to most "moderates," of either party.

Plus, Bloomberg doesn't have to win, to defeat Rudy. He just has to siphon off enough votes as an "independent" to give Hillary, or any Dem that doesn't self-destruct a victory. Where Perot peeled off votes from GHW Bush's conservative base, or a part of it, Bloomy could take off the vaunted "swing voters" that may have liked Rudy more than some likely Democrat candidates.

You know who I'm talkin' about, right?

In case you don't, let me mention the new commercial by the Hillary campaign, spoofing the "Sopranos" finale. It all seems light-hearted, except for the glaring Italian-American gangster, played by the actor who played "Johnny Sack," a character who died of cancer on the HBO series. This is a double slap at Giuliani, who famously dropped out of the NY Senate race against Hillary because of colon cancer. The scary Italian gives Bill and Hil a menacing look of disgust, and the threat of physical violence is supplied by the parallels to the final scene of the "Sopranos" show, which was a topic of great debate last week.

Bloomy's quitting the GOP is giving cover to Hillary's thinly disguised ethnic attack on her biggest opponent, in the news. The "Clinton/Sopranos" commercial is being reported, but not critically. The Clinton machine won't be stopped, and they seem to have Bloomberg's unwitting (?) help, just as they had Perot's in Bill's day. ABC's overnight news has been running clips of Perot, back to back with stories of Bloomberg's "independent" departure from his adopted party, between replaying Hill's "Sopranos" commercial.

I want to see where this all ends up. It's getting ugly, early.

PS: I posted this on Gather last night, and today these two stories split the front page of my hometown paper, the NY Post. They didn't try to tie them together, as I did in this post. The part about Bloomy covering Hil's "ethnic attack" may be a reach, but the look in Vince Curatola's eyes as he glares at them is a direct reference to the "hate Clinton" crowd. They are hoping that this will inspire a "backlash" of goodwill, similar to what Bill got in his impeachment days.

Fantastic Four: "Rise of the Silver Surfer" Movie Review, by a Cosmic Old Comic Book Fan

This post of mine was recently featured on Gather Essentials: Movies, so I thought I'd crosspost it here.

The second chapter of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four franchise introduces movie audiences to the Silver Surfer, an iconic hero from the "silver age" of comics (1955-1970, according to Pat, at the great Silver Age Comics blog). The ads for the movie often seem to promote the Surfer more than the Fantastic Four (or "FF," for the rest of this review), with good reason. The story is a grand retelling of his first appearance, and his origin.

With relatively few lines, but lots of action, the Surfer stole the show. I'm biased, but I thought his acting was among the best in the movie. The character was "played," with heavy CGI, by Doug Jones, with the voice done by Lawrence Fishburne. The effect was stunning, and his scenes were much more dramatic than the "slapstick" mood of many of the FF's. I smell a spinoff in the making.

Of course, this was the route that the Surfer took back in the late '60's, getting his own comic book series shortly after his debut in the pages of the FF. This parallels the spinoff of Electra from the Daredevil franchise, both in comics and movies. The interesting thing is that neither Electra or the Surfer comic series lasted very long, in their first incarnations. Because both characters were critically acclaimed, and immensely popular with comic book fans, they have both had resurgences over time, and longer-running series. Hence, their translation into movie "stars" is understandable.

The storyline of the movie combines elements from different FF stories, including the wedding of Reed and Sue, as shown in the trailers and commercials, so I'm not spoiling anything. I just want to point out that at their wedding in the original comic, all of their super-hero friends were there. They could have had Prof. Xavier in attendence, and maybe Peter Parker could have been there, taking press photos, in the movie. If Stan Lee gets a cameo, why can't some of his other super-hero creations?

I also got a sense of "rushing" the storyline, similar to the first FF movie. I understand the need to change the story somewhat in a movie adaption. This is still a classic story, though, and sometimes it doesn't quite come off as such on the screen. Again, that's a 45 year old comic fan's bias. I was amused by the comedic interplay between the FF, because that was an essential part of the comic book. Still, I don't think we'd see Sue Storm naked in public in any FF comic book from the 1960's (not that I'm complaining, mind you).

The movie is entertaining, and should be popular with wider audiences than "comic book fans." I would recommend it for the effects alone, but there's more to it than that. these are effects based on ideas from 40 years ago, updated, and finally able to be done right on film. The super powered gags are tied in to the ability to make it look realistic, to an acceptable degree. In this they succeed, in spite of some wooden acting (I won't name names; decide for yourself).

I have one final complaint, which applies to the first movie as well: the final battle scene was way to short, and way too simply ended. I don't know whether it was done to "leave us wanting more," but it echoes my earlier concerns about "the need to change the story somewhat." Signifigant storylines picked up from the last movie remain unexplained, probably awaiting the "Dr. Doom" spinoff.

All criticism notwithstanding, I still recommend this movie for parents to share with their kids, because of the great characters it introduces. I don't just mean the Silver Surfer, but his master, the planet-devouring Galactus. (I'm looking forward to seeing his classic clash with Ego, the Living Planet in future FF or Surfer movies-oops, there's the comic fan again!) Marvel Comics has one of the richest collections of epic stories and iconic characters in the world. It is gratifying to see them "come to life" on the silver screen with images that surpass anything possible in the '60's or '70's cinema.

As Marvel spreads into the movie business, one can expect bombs and hits, but there will never be a shortage of old ideas to tap. They did a pretty good job with this one, and if it doesn't "have legs" at the box office, I hope that the Silver Surfer still gets a solo movie. He has been analyzed as everything from Jesus to Lucifer, with Galactus being God.

See the movie if you want to know why. As I said, Marvel has some awesome and epic stories to tell.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Should there be a great tax revolution in the US? The cost of full compliance with tax laws is often greater than the penalty for violating it in some way. I'm talking about finding a way to tax the "off the books" economy, which involves not only illegal immigrants, but an equal, or greater number of legal citizens. There is also the issue of farm subsidies, and other corporate welfare. Don't get me started about the theft of Social Security tax revenue, putting it into the general fund, because that gets into the spending side! Taxpayers who live in high-tax states like NY should be on the front lines of this battle, because we have some of the most regressive taxes in the nation, such as the cigarette tax. Imagine how hard it is for a poor person to afford seven dollars a day for cigs, when they want them more than food? The worst part is that the government makes more off of a pack of cigs than the tobacco company, but still has the balls to sue them for "health care" costs of indigent smokers. They haven't even spent the settlement revenue on health care! That's why I'm talking about another tax revolution. The lying and cheating that is enshrined in our tax code needs to be demolished. The breaking of any of these wide-ranging scandals could be the next "big thing." I'm patiently prodding for the next big "break," and hoping for a revolution.

When it comes, don't say I didn't predict it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Recent History of U.S. "Imperialism"

This is a response to those who call the U.S. "imperialist." After WW II, the U.S. had troops stationed around the world. Thousands of them remain to this day in the defeated Axis powers; Germany, Italy, and Japan. Do we have any "imperial" power over any of these nations? There is a history of the U.S. leaving a country, when formally asked to. All of the aforementioned nations are democratic, but Amir Taheri cites some different examples:

...In fact, the Americans have never tried to stay in any country against its wishes.

In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle decided to take his country out of the military part of NATO and asked the Americans to close their bases in France. President Lyndon Johnson immediately complied, ending more than two decades of U.S military presence on French soil.

In 1969, Col. Moammar Khadafy, who had just seized power in Tripoli, asked the United States to close its vast Wheels base, a key part of NATO's strategy in the Mediterranean. President Richard Nixon complied immediately.

In 1979, the new Khomeinist regime in Iran demanded the closure of 27 U.S.-operated listening posts set up under the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) along the Irano-Soviet borders to monitor Soviet missile tests. President Jimmy Carter complied, although both the Soviet Union and the United Nations had sanctioned the listening posts.

In the 1980s, the United States gave up several bases in a number of countries, including Subic Bay in the Philippines. It also withdrew its military personnel from Pakistan after the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) lapsed into oblivion. In 2002, America withdrew its troops and materiel from Saudi Arabia after the government in Riyadh demanded it.

Missing from his list is Vietnam, in which the US Congress removed support against the will of the South Vietnamese people. If you disagree with that asessment, you can add it to Taheri's list. The notion that the U.S. is somehow "imperialist" is proven false by history.

Read Taheri's complete column to get his take on how this relates to Iraq.