Friday, September 29, 2006

What, no "Miserable Failure" too?

Today’s Associated Press story begins:

Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri condemned President Bush in a video statement released Friday, calling him a failure and a liar. "Why don't you tell them how many million citizens of America and its allies you intend to kill in search of the imaginary victory and in breathless pursuit of the mirage towards which you are driving your people's sons in order increase your profits?" al-Zawahri said in a portion of the video released by the Virginia-based IntelCenter.

I have a comment and a question.

The comment: If Osama bin Laden is alive, why is this al-Zawahri guy always the one on tape? Especially after the speculation last week about bin Laden’s supposed death. Hummm. Maybe he has achieved room temperature.

The question: Do the left-wing conspiracy theorists cringe when they hear someone like al-Zawahri parrot their lines about Bush profiteering or do they see it as confirmation?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Real Bill Clinton

What a punk Bill Clinton is and what an embarrassment for this country. The dog ate his homework too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BOOK REPORT: “Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing 'We Want Willkie!' Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World”

"Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing 'We Want Willkie!' Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World" is written by Charles Peters who is the founder and former editor-in-chief of liberal The Washington Monthly. I cast a light on an underappreciated figure in American history, Wendell Willkie.

This is the second book I have read about a specific political race or campaign. The first was James Chace's "1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -The Election that Changed the Country". Beyond my general political junkieness, what drew me to this book is that I would like to read Philip Roth’s novel "The Plot Against America" and feel I need to know the real history before venturing into the arena of fiction.

I see many similarities between our time and that of the late 1930’s. And I see uncanny political parallels too.

The Left’s opposition to President Bush and the Iraq War is of a certain kind. That kind of thinking has been around my entire life in the form of their similar opposition to a vigorous waging of the Cold War. But the isolationist Right’s opposition is an unfamiliar circumstance for me. I am aware of the America First movement before World War II but as with anyone looking back, there is a tendency to neglect losing ideologies in history. We tend to see their defeat as inevitable when they usually were actually going concerns in their day.

Peters' thesis is as follows:

Now Wendell Willkie would never be president; but it is arguable that his impact on this country and the world was greater than that of most men who actually held the office. At a crucial moment in history, he stood for the right things at the right time. His nomination as the Republican presidential candidate meant that Roosevelt could get away in an election year with doing what had to be done to keep Britain from falling to Hitler and to prepare this country for the great war it would soon have to fight. Before he died, Willkie said to a friend, "If I could write my own epitaph and I could choose between 'Here lies an unimportant president' or 'Here lies one who contributed to saving freedom at a moment of great peril,' I would prefer the latter."

I need to do more study before I accept his premise entirely. Willkie certainly played a key role in getting the draft and Lend Lease passed. But the margins were so close in each case that many people can make the same claim about their support.

The book is a quick read, only about 195 pages without notes. The author’s style is very readable and he does a good job of taking the reader back to that era.

Friday, September 15, 2006

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "The Black Dahlia" wilts

The Black Dahlia is a good-looking movie. But saying that about a movie is like saying a girl has a nice personality. She doesn’t really do it for you; same thing with this movie. It has good-looking stars, including the reemergence of Mia Kirshner, also know as the deliciously evil and cunning Mandy from "24". It has Scarlett Johansson mailing in her performance and Hilary Swank doing her best late-1940’s bisexual vamp pose. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart are the male leads. Director Brian De Palma makes a visually satisfying film that like cotton candy has little substance. Save your money at the theater and wait for it to come on cable.

Look: 8
Story: 3
Acting: 5
Goal: 4
Intangibles: 3
Overall: 5
The above scores are based on a 10-point scale.
  • Look has to do with the visual artistry of the film.
  • Story rates the how compelling the film’s plot is.
  • Acting rates the overall performances of the actors.
  • Goal measures the success of the film at accomplishing its goal… does a comedy make you laugh, does a thriller cause goose bumps.
  • Intangibles score any special circumstances or accomplishments the movie deserves to be recognized for.
  • Overall rating is not an average of the other categories, just this reviewer’s impression of the entire work and how I would rate the film to a friend.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Going, going, Gonzo

Word came out today that the Arizona Diamondbacks are not going to pick up Luis Gonzalez’s $10 million option for 2007, effectively making him a free agent at the end of the year.

If Luis Gonzalez really wants to make a run at 3,000 hits, he does need to leave the Arizona Diamondbacks. It will take him at least 3 full seasons to reach the mark. Perhaps his boyhood hometown Tampa could accommodate such a personal goal. But the Diamondbacks have a real shot at dominating the National League West for years to come with the young players coming up from their farm system.

He is my favorite player and I would like to see him achieve those milestones that might earn him a spot in Cooperstown. But the D-Backs are my favorite team and right now, they need to continue with the youth movement.

Thanks for the memories Gonzo. Good luck with another team next year.

Egos cloud clear repudiation of nativist immigration rhetoric

I am a little surprised by the size of the Len Munsil victory over Don Goldwater (49.5% to 40.7%) in the Republican gubernatorial contest.

I am not shocked by the victory of Randy Graf over Steve Huffman and Mike Hellon in the GOP Congressional District 8 primary in southern Arizona. Nativist Graf scored 43.2% this time arounf, practically identical to his 2004 total of 42.5% against incumbent Jim Kolbe. Meanwhile, the regular Republican vote was split between Huffman (37.2%) and Hellon (12.2%). The Tom Tancredo clone took the nomination because the mainstream conservatives split their votes. Image the storyline that should have been written about the 2006 Arizona Republican primary… the hardline anti-immigrant message falls flat in a frontline border state.

With defeats of Goldwater and Graf, the proponents would have the undeniable case to make that the Tancredo take on immigration reform is a loser. But the egos of the sane wing of the Republican Party snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Moreover, Graf is a much weaker candidate in the general election than Steve Huffman would have been. It would be a shame if the GOP loses the U.S. House of Representative majority by one vote and that vote is cast by newly elected Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona CD8).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Primary Day in Arizona

Today is Primary Day in Arizona with only two big races… GOP governor and GOP Congressional District 8. Barry Goldwater’s nephew Don Goldwater is running for governor with a nativist message on immigration. His opponent is Len Munsil, the former head of the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative advocacy group. Strangely enough, Munsil has been tagged as the establishment candidate, even scoring an endorsement by Sen. John McCain.

I voted for Munsil. I have no idea how this race is going to pan out. Both candidates were generally unknown to the typical Republican primary voter a few months ago. The message-suppressing Clean Elections regime in Arizona has not done much to change that situation. Goldwater benefits from his famous name while Munsil benefits from his years building a social conservative grassroots network.

How does turnout impact the race? I think a high turnout most likely helps Goldwater with his name recognition(?) and demagogic message. Munsil’s loyal supporters will show up for their man.

We have yet to see in Arizona a tidal wave of support (or opposition) to a candidate based on the immigration issue. Today’s vote might be the first, especially in CD8.

In that southern Arizona congressional district, the Republicans are about to hand a longtime GOP U.S. House seat to the Democrats. The seat now held by Congressman Jim Kolbe is a nominally Republican district though populated by a more moderate breed of Republican than the ones you find in the Phoenix area.

The two establishment, mainstream GOP candidates are state Rep. Steve Huffman and former Republican National Committeeman Mike Hellon. Former state Rep. Randy Graf is the immigrant-baiting, nativist candidate who registered 40% against Jim Kolbe in the 2004 GOP primary.

I’m afraid that this will be yet another example of two (or more) regular Republicans splitting the mainstream vote and allowing a Buchananite to take the primary with under 40%. Because the district is squishy anyway, this is a recipe for a Democrat pick-up. The GOP doesn’t have seats it can give away this year. But it looks like we are.

Speaker Pelosi anyone?

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: The Path to 9/11, Part 2

I was impressed by the final night of the ABC mini-series “The Path to 9/11”. I was less impressed with the casting decision on the Vice President Cheney character. Yikes! Just because Cheney is balding and has gray hair, does he have to be a doddering old man?

The Condi Rice characterization wasn’t the body-blow that the Sandy Berger characterization was.

Was Richard Clark really “in charge” of the meeting on the day of the attacks? It looks like Cheney and Rice were spectators in that meeting.

Look: 6
Story: 9
Acting: 6
Goal: 10
Intangibles: 9
Overall: 8.5

The above scores are based on a 10-point scale.
  • Look has to do with the visual artistry of the film.
  • Story rates the how compelling the film’s plot is.
  • Acting rates the overall performances of the actors.
  • Goal measures the success of the film at accomplishing its goal… does a comedy make you laugh, does a thriller cause goose bumps.
  • Intangibles score any special circumstances or accomplishments the movie deserves to be recognized for.
  • Overall rating is not an average of the other categories, just this reviewer’s impression of the entire work and how I would rate the film to a friend.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Think twice about campaign promises

To commemorate Primary Day in Arizona, enjoy this joke about the campaign-season mindset of our public servants.

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the man.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. He thinks he even sees Che Guevara and Fidel Castro playing a round ahead of his foursome.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it’s time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

"Now it's time to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers the senator.

"Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.

What happened?"

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning... today you voted."

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: The Path to 9/11, Part 1

I have watched the first 2½ hours of the 3 hours first night of ABC’s “The Path to 9/11” mini-series. For the life of me, I can’t understand the tactics of the Clintonistas to first alter the film and then attempt to censor it by pressuring ABC to pull the entire program. It amazes me that they would want to suppress the entire 5-hour mini-series in order to protect their legacy project.

It was regrettable for ABC to cave in like it did. Even though their edits were small and not worthy of all the controversy, they seemed to allow the Clintonistas to frame their production as a partisan hit piece rather than a balance portrayal of why we are at war now. Regardless, seeing the edits in their context doesn’t really bother me much. What remains is still important for every American to see.

I look forward to finishing the mini-series tonight. Something tells me that Condi Rice would have benefited from a similar campaign to rescue her reputation. We’ll see how the actress who portrayed Sherry Palmer in “24” does with our now-Secretary of State.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

PREDICTIONS & PUNDITRY: Democrats could lose by winning

I have a sneaking suspicion that if the Democrats do take a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, they will almost certainly guarantee a GOP victory in the 2008 presidential contest. Why? They will be placed in the position of having to actually deliver legislation concerning real issues like the Global War on Terrorism.

But I believe their Bush Derangement Syndrome is so complete, they will not be able to present a sane, capable and trustworthy face to the voters over the next two years. They will be unable to stop themselves from launching their own jihad against the Bush/Cheney/Haliburton/Neo-Con regime with impeachment hearings on how President Bush "lied" about some such thing.

Such an unseemly, undignified and nakedly partisan attack on President Bush will create a backlash and ensure a Republican recovery in 2008.

However, if the GOP holds on to the House, the Democrats remain out of power and they will be free to continue their non-specific agenda of attack while offering no real alternate solutions. This keeps them viable for the 2008 contest.

It is a little bit like the dilemma that Democrats faced in 1999. If President Bill Clinton were convicted and removed from office after impeachment, a President Al Gore would have most certainly prevailed in the 2000 election over Governor George W. Bush or whichever Republican captured the nomination.

Democrats need to be careful what they wish for at the 2006 polls.

Win in 2006, lose in 2008.

(Unless they really want to govern and not just take off after Bush… nah, govern, shmuvern.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

SHOW STOPPER: "The Beatles Love" by Cirque du Soleil

Over the Labor Day weekend, I was in Las Vegas and went to see the new Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show "Love" at the Mirage. The show replaces the Siegfried & Roy show that has ended due to Roy’s tragic injury from one of his tigers.

I have been to 3 other Cirque du Soleil shows and this one too is full of the manic dancing and acrobatic exploits of dozens of performers. But the real star of the show is the music which was remixed by Beatles-producer George Martin and his son Giles. Familiar songs are stripped of their vocals that are then replaced by the vocals of other songs. One of the memorable instances of this was the use of instrumentality of Ringo’s Good Night, the final song on the White Album, along with the vocals of Ringo’s Octopus’s Garden, from Abbey Road. Elements from three and four songs are often mixed.

I get the impression that there will be other Beatles-themed shows in the future because so much of the Beatles catalogue was ignored.

Overall, a great show. I highly recommend it on your next visit to the sin city.

BOOK REPORT: “Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism” by Dore Gold

A book I recently completed was Dore Gold’s “Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism”. It is an excellent source for the history of the Wahhabi movement and how the Saudi royal family has been accommodating Islamic radicalism not just for decades but for centuries. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to know the ideological and theological underpinnings of the Sunni extremism exemplified by Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

BOOK REPORT: "Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years" by Rich Lowry

The most recent book I read was "Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years" by Rich Lowry of National Review. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I thought it was necessary to remind myself of what was going in the 1990’s that left us so vulnerable to terrorist attack. I understand that the ABC’s special mini-series "The Path to 9/11" is going to be tough but honest about the Clinton Administration’s record on combating terrorism. I have the two-part, five-hour special programmed on my TiVo. I’ll blog on it after I see it.

I am very interested to see how Penny Johnson Jerald portrays Condoleezza Rice in the mini-series. The last thing I saw her in was when she played the ambitious, duplicitous and estranged First Lady to President David Palmer (played by Dennis Haysbert) in the outstanding FOX TV show "24". She also played Kasidy Yates, the wife of Captain Sisko, on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine".

Back to the Lowry book. It’s a quick read and is a good primer on the litany of Clinton policy and character sins while president. I recommend it.

First Post of the "Willet Creek Dam" Blog

Thank you for visiting the Willet Creek Dam Blog. This blog's title is taken from the 1939 Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington that, among other things, centers around good old fashioned graft and corruption in federal appropriations legislation during the Great Depression.

Appointed caretaker Sen. Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, inadvertantly stumbles across the scam when he proposes establishing a national boys camp on a patch of land near the head waters of Willet Creek in Terry Canyon. This is right where the local Taylor political machine has bought up land in advance of the creation of the Willet Creek Dam by Congress. The famous one-man filibuster scene follows.

Willet Creek Dam is provided by an Arizona-based public affairs professional who does a lot of work with my state’s legislative leaders, governor and executive departments. I also have close dealings with Arizona’s congressional delegation. Therefore, much of this blog will focus on Arizona and national political happenings. I am also very interested in international affairs and world and American political history.

To get a flavor for my politics, here are my votes in all primaries and elections for president since I have been old enough to vote.

2008 Presidential Election: John McCain
2008 Presidential Primary: Mitt Romney
2004 Presidential Election: George W. Bush
2004 Presidential Primary: George W. Bush
2000 Presidential Election: George W. Bush
2000 Presidential Primary: George W. Bush
1996 Presidential Election: Robert Dole
1996 Presidential Primary: Steve Forbes
1992 Presidential Election: George H. W. Bush
1992 Presidential Primary: George H. W. Bush
1988 Presidential Election: George H. W. Bush
1988 Presidential Primary: Jack Kemp

I sometimes might meander away from politics and comment on books, movies, TV programs, sports and other pop culture topics.