Saturday, December 02, 2006

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

This should keep me busy for a while.

1. import list into Excel.
2. Sort by size.
3. Mark books read.
4. Read, mark, read, mark...
4. Weep like my brother during the "lava-roasted Annakin" scene when there are no worlds left to conquer.

All lists like this have their biases. In my hardcore sci-fi days I was frequently told, "you're not a REAL sf fan unless you've read [x]." Sometimes, I enjoyed the book recommended; other times, I wondered what the dude was smoking to think it was worth anyone's time.

There are many reasons to read a book: entertainment, nourishment, knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, distraction, titillation, self-justification, outrage, etc. Some reasons are better than others, but I know I couldn't survive on an exclusive diet of classics - every so often I need a technothriller or a farce.

What would you add/remove on this list, and why? I don't see the Bible listed, for example - a ridiculous omission for anyone hoping to understand Western culture, whether or not you're Christian. Ditto the Koran; who would fight - or oppose - the philosophical front of the War on Terror without understanding a foundational text of the enemy?

Consider: 1001 books works out to one book every month for 83 and a half years, or two a month for 42 years (approximately). At my age, that's the latter. Do I really want to commit the totality of my free time to this list?

In a word, no. So I'm accepting suggestions.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Homosexualist Alert

The BBC reports that singer Elton John had words for Australian PM John Howard.

This from the guy who will probably sing "Goodbye, Cuba's Rose" at Fidel's funeral.

Perhaps Elton and John could settle their differences in a boxing ring.

Saturday night's all right for fighting, is it not?

'Apocalypto' Now?

Fox News says 'Apocalypto' Is More 'Mad Max' Than Mayan.

Bummer.

I was looking forward to this movie. Gibson even had a Maya scholar consulting him. But the result, while I'm sure will be visually stunning, will also be visually numbing.

I like a good "heads roll" shot as much as the next drive-in movie fan. But there does come a saturation point, at which you either tune out in disgust, or tune out disgust itself.

Rome had a similar choice to make. They went with the latter, and their coliseum became drenched with the blood of countless victims, even as they diminished daily as a people.

Fighting, and killing, in defense of your self, family, homeland, ideals, freedoms - that's one thing. Hunting for food, again, there's a point to it. But killing as spectator sport? It's an adrenaline rush with no value or purpose.

Unlike old Rome, at least Gibson's body count is virtual...

For now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Traffic Magnet

I try to write something marginally serious, and get bupkis.

Guess I'll have to break out the big guns.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Andrew Sullivan: Homosexualist

Ace of Spades calls Sullivan out on his own addlepated hypocrisy.

Won't do much good - Sullivan never met a criticism he didn't go nuclear over - but it's nice to see the ranks of people seeing Sullivan for what he is.

If only to see Andrew's head explode like that dude on SCANNERS, I'm pushing hard for a Romney/Santorum 2008 ticket.

Looking forward to 2008

We've had a few weeks to digest the house and senate races, and the subsequent scramble for the reshuffled "deck chairs on the Hindenburg," still in progress.

I've read many recaps of What Happened. Most agree that it was a referendum on President Bush and the war in Iraq.

But I'm not so sure.

Many of the Republican officeholders who lost, frankly, deserved to. The problem was that they all came up for reelection at the same time. In a year when even one less loss in the GOP column would have led to a Dick Cheney-led tiebreaking majority, we had such luminaries as Lincoln Chafee and Mike DeWine up for re-election, and George Allen spending too much thought on his 2008 presidential hopes than on his 2006 challenger. I like Jim Talent and Rick Santorum, but their seats were given priority handling as well.

Sen. Chuck Schumer played a smart game of candidate selection, going for raw numbers more than ideological purity. Jim Webb in Virginia, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania - neither are Hillary Clinton liberals. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton liberals such as Jimmy Carter's son in Nevada got stomped convincingly.

The House, too, was played using a "just win" strategy by Rahm Emmanuel, who only supported candidates who had a chance of winning, and who were adept at pulling in serious financing. Ideology mattered less than sheer winnability. This ruthless strategy resulted in victories in seats that would have otherwise been safe holds for the GOP.

I give the Dems - and Schumer and Emmanuel in particular - credit for making the most of their opportunities. However, the opportunities were there only because individual GOP legislators, and the GOP-led legislature as a whole, failed miserably with their base, and offered nothing of value to the electorate beyond "we're not Democrats." Financial and ethical scandals hit Republicans differently, because when our scandals become public, we cut them loose. (Duke Cunningham? gone. Mark Foley? gone, even as the country applauded Dem Gerry Studds, who refused to give up his seat in the face of far worse charges. Tom DeLay? Gone. Democrat William Jefferson? Still insisting he's got a place in Congress, despite cash hidden in his office freezer.)

Dems often claim they're more ethical. But from Bill Clinton on down, when charged with corruption or even caught red-handed, they double down and circle the wagons, while the Republicans more often than not lead the effort to push their own out the door.

The problem in 2006 is that too many Republicans at once deserved the heave-ho. We shoot ourselves in the foot, we can't blame the press for taking advantage. As Hugh Hewitt has said, "if it's not close, they can't cheat." We let it get close by our own leaders' actions. Even Denny Hastert, GOP Speaker twice as long as Newt Gingrich, threw away his speakership by (1) becoming well known this year, for (2) defending corruption. Worse yet, he went to the wall battling the executive branch over William Jefferson.

The GOP legislature in 2006 was not just awash in well-publicized corruption. It was hamstrung by its own stupidity.

Now What?

So now we have Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid. Pelosi promised the most ethical congress in history, which ended before it begins in January - she pushed John Murtha for majority leader, and is still pushing Alcee Hastings over Jane Harmon as Intelligence Committee chair. Her first big move as Speaker-elect was stomped like a Napa valley grape. meanwhile, Harry Reid, simply by being Majority leader, is evidence of corruption at the top.

Looking at the next two years, there are two possibilities: the Democrats will learn from the GOP's mistakes, work with President Bush, get things passed, and claim credit for "getting the country working again." The president has already indicated an interest in working with the new congress to enact his agenda, and immigration reform is one area where he may have better luck with the Dems than with the GOP. (Not in a good way, I fear.) There will undoubtedly be clashes, over judicial and other appointments, but in many ways Bush is a Big Government politician, and the Dems rarely met a spending bill they didn't like.

However...

The Democrats have been out of power for 12 years. Some feel they were robbed in 1994, and have been robbed every 2 years since, and they have twelve years of catching up to do now that they are back where they BELONG.

Even when they were in the minority, the Democrats - with forty years of uninterrupted ownership of the House - never stopped acting like a majority party. They were used to being in charge, and always treated the House as their own, but were being denied their chairmanships by "a tantrum" (Peter Jennings) that renewed itself five more times before the people finally "got smart again" (Bill Clinton) and returned to the proper, natural order.

The temptation to play catch-up will be great. With idiots like John Conyers in a position to play Let's Impeach the President in an actual committee room, rather than in the basement with a plastic gavel, the next two years could become a melange of investigations, hearings, witch hunts, and paybacks.

If that happens, then 2006 will be the best thing that could have happened to the GOP. Losing in an off-year election means there are two years to see what the Democrats have learned in their twelve years in the minority. If they indulge their instincts, then 2008 will see them destroyed.

One thing that may mitigate that instinct: there are some preservation-minded folks who know the danger. They are vested in reclaiming the White House in two years, and that means putting their best face forward. (Just my premature opinion, but if they nominate Hillary, they will lose. Badly. Likewise John Kerry. Senators often win the nomination but rarely win the presidency.) If the smart and ruthless likes of Rahm Emmanuel manage to kneecap the Conyers wing of their party, they might be able to hold or expand their numbers in the House, regardless of what happens with the presidency.

As bad as the GOP was this year, they still didn't lose as big as they could have. They lost some good people, but also a lot of well-deserved dead wood. I dearly hope that the GOP will clean its own house, regroup, and re-sell itself to the American people, led by a new presidential nominee who represents the best the party can offer.

But that's another topic.